When I saw my beloved Tina appear on “The L Word: Generation Q,” liquid rainbows rapidly fell out of my eyeballs and splashed right into my glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I could hear The Indigo Girls begin to play “Closer To Fine” softly in the background. My lesbian wings, which have been clipped since March 8th of 2009 (the date the original rendition of our favorite show displayed its finale on sad homosexual television sets across the nation), suddenly grew back.
I didn’t expect to have this kind of reaction to Tina. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always adored Tina, but I’ll be the first to admit it: I Took Tina For Granted™.
I’m pleading guilty for not fully appreciating Tina in the original series. Call the dyke police and file a report. Lock me up in a Sapphic Cell and throw away the key. (Actually maybe *don’t* do that, because that doesn’t sound like a punishment, that actually sounds like my version of paradise). In fact, upon seeing Tina’s face (and new super chic strawberry blonde hair) for the first time in “Generation Q,” I was hit with a wild epiphany that I believe has rendered me to the next stage of maturity as a woman: Tina was a selfless saint. She sat in the sidelines and let Bette be the star of show. She carried their goddamn baby, which, I’ve been told, is pretty damn intense. I mean, pushing a child out of your vagina and then letting that little twerp SUCK milk out of your tits for several months? That’s no easy feat.
But Tina did it.
Tina did it, and she did it without complaint. And while I most definitely plan on carrying a baby, birthing it, and letting it live off my tit milk one day, I plan on doing it with immense complaint. I plan on bitching my way through the whole process! (But I’m not Saint Tina. I’m Nasty Zara.)
But enough about the old Bette and Tina. If you clicked into this article you ~clearly~ know their history. They were lovers who stopped having sex. They were lovers who struggled to get their eggs preg. They were lovers who withstood the plague of cheating (multiple times). They were lovers who had a child and battled over that child and co-parented that child. They were lovers who had hot sex and hate sex and love sex. They were lovers who broke up and got back together and decided to get the hell out of Los Angeles.
Until they decided to break up again.
My mother used to tell me: “You’ll always have that one big relationship. Even if it doesn’t last forever, it will be the BIGGEST relationship of your life.” I never knew what she meant — until I had That One Big Relationship. The kind that strips you so deeply of your emotional energy you’re nothing but a lifeless shell when they leave you. The kind that sends you flying so high up into the sky, to the point where you’re lounging on the prettiest pink clouds in heaven only to be tossed off that pink cloud and hurled back to earth so aggressively you break through the concrete of the roughest pavement in all of New York and end up falling into the fieriest pit of hell weeping in fetal position over your scorched skin and broken limbs.
The kind with a lifetime worth of breakups and makeups. The kind that no matter what happens, you have so much history together. You’ll be spiritually bound together for life, even if you live on separate sides of the world — the kind that brings out the best in you, the worst in you, and the absolute craziest in you.
When, in episode 6, Tina explains to Angelica why she had to leave Mama B — because, basically, she didn’t have her own identity; her whole life circled around this sparkly, self-assured star, and she needed to be a whole person, not just a ripple of glimmer in the pool of Bette magic — I actually sobbed. What really struck me is that you can tell that Tina doesn’t resent Bette for being this lustrous star. In fact, she admires Bette for her radiance. So, rather than place blame on Bette for taking up so much space, she takes accountability for her part in the demise of their relationship. She explains that she allowed herself to grow too comfortable in the shadows. She became a background actor on the Bette and Tina show. Her essence became blurry, and she knew the only way she could find her own shine was to step into her own spotlight. You can’t share the spotlight with a woman like Bette. Bette will hog the light without meaning to. It’s what we love about her: the way her glow works overtime. But when you’re with a woman like Bette, if you haven’t fully nurtured your own sparkle yet, it will get lost in Bette’s sequin-scaled soul.
So she had to go. And I respect that.
But I also respect Bette’s very real pain. I respect that even though Tina had to get away from Bette to find out who she was as an independent entity, it still hurts. Being left hurts. Even if you’re a power source like Bette.
When Tina walks into Bette’s apartment, you can instantly tell they are something much deeper than mere exes. They are a family. And shit , family is the most complicated dynamic in the world, isn’t it? They waste no time diving into the family baggage, either. Bette is upset that Tina didn’t come to Kit’s funeral, she should have been there, goddamn it! And through welled up eyes, Tina says it was too confusing for her to come, but you know deep down Tina knows she should have been there. She regrets it. But we all f*ck up, babe. We all hurt the people we love the most. Sometimes we have to. To protect ourselves.
But just the raw honesty in that scene — seeing two hurt people who still would take a bullet for each other despite their arduous history — was so goddamn beautiful. It was beautiful because it was so human. And isn’t that why we consume art? Isn’t art supposed to represent humanity in all of its flawed truth? And remind us that we are humans, not robots slogging through the eight-hour workday?
The kind of kick in the stomach that happens to you when you’re in grade school, and a soccer ball hits you so hard in that lonely space in between your rib-cage it temporarily knocks the wind out of you, but you’re too embarrassed to let anyone know that, and you don’t want to draw more attention to yourself, because you feel stupid for thinking you would win this game. But you didn’t win, you got injured in this game, so you pretend to smile and laugh and say you’re okay when really you can’t breathe and you just want your mom.
The way Bette tried to laugh and say it was wonderful (and she probably is happy for her, but also heartbroken and feeling dumb because maybe she secretly thought something could happen again?) was so painful and relatable to watch. Tina was so gentle and empathetic, and it was so hard for her to explain the situation to Bette, because she loves Bette and knows her like the back of her hand; she knows this will break Bette. It was all so intense. So nuanced. So true.
I don’t know what Bette and Tina’s future holds. All I know is their love story will never end. It can’t. A real love story doesn’t stop when the romantic love dissipates; it evolves into something else. Something just as deep as romantic love. It evolves into this unconditional family-level love. You’ll still fight and hate each other sometimes. Anyone who knows you that well will sometimes hate you, because they know when you’re being a dick. They know when you’re lying through your teeth (no matter how bleached they are). They know when you’re settling for less. That’s why you need to keep those people around. They keep you real. They keep you honest. They keep you you.