Romi Marie, as she’s known professionally and on social media, has now separated from her above-mentioned husband. She recently talked with GO in an exclusive interview to set the record straight (pun!) on her upcoming divorce, her drinking, her impulsiveness and how she learned the hard way that being an open book is too real for a reality show.
GO: You’ve separated from your husband, Dusty, and you’re getting divorced. It’s kind of a private time. What made you decide to do an interview now?
Romi: The last time people saw me on the show, I got married. And that was not taken very well. I got a lot of hate just for being with someone I needed and wanted because the relationship hurt my girlfriend, Kelsey. Everyone judged me and that’s fine—I put myself in that situation and I understand it. But I became very surprised by the amount of criticism and hate that I received. It was very hurtful. It’s been a hard year. I didn’t think the community could be so judgmental.
I dated Dusty seven years ago, when I was dealing with the loss of my father. He came back into my life two years ago. We had a lot of unfinished business that I felt I needed to finish. Did I need to get married? Maybe not. We fought and we struggled; we couldn’t make it work. He and I separated about a month ago. We both grappled with the decision to divorce, but he’s been supportive of me.
GO: Why were you caught so off-guard by the online uproar? Can you understand why there might be a sense of betrayal among viewers who knew you as a lesbian?
Romi: Obviously I learned the hard way that being open about who I am is going to be criticized. But I don’t know how to hide anything. I’m just out there. I’m not the first or the only woman who slept with a man but still identified as gay. I understand that people wanted me to be a lesbian, because of the show. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to be myself because it’s real. “The Real L Word” was supposed to be a place where we could tell our real stories. In real life, there’s confusion; there’s heartache; there are identity problems. Are we gay, are we straight, are we masculine, are we feminine? We all go through these things. Am I going to fall apart over being hated? No. But, yes, it did hurt me. And the people I’m with have to take a beating since I’m in the public eye. That hurts, too. Dusty is an absolutely amazing person. He’s just a guy who tried to love me and I’m a whole lot to fucking handle. He doesn’t deserve to be insulted or put down. I was just being really honest—and that has opened us up to criticism.
GO: If we’re being honest, some of your decisions—especially in Season 3—came off as hella impulsive.
Romi: I am impulsive. I’m not going to deny that. I’m impulsive and crazy. I love hard; I follow my heart. And I’m bipolar. But [the show] put all of it out there in the most chopped-up way. The timing, the sequence of events, and what they presented was not the story that I was telling. For legal reasons, I’m not allowed to disclose how the story really went, but I have to clear this up about my wedding. I did not get married on the same day as Whitney and Sada on the show. I married Dusty in Las Vegas a month before they got married. The show portrayed it as if I got married on the same day as Whitney. There was never any marriage competition, which is how they characterized it. It wasn’t done to outshine anyone.
GO: Do you embrace being impulsive, or do you think it’s something you need to work on?
Romi: I think there are a thousand things I need to work on. Apparently, [the producers] thought I would be a good person to follow because I am impulsive. I’m not stupid—I get that. Now I’m just stepping away and getting back to being me. I’m going to continue to make mistakes. I’m going to continue to be impulsive. But I can pick myself back up and keep on going.
GO: Based on the personal attacks you’ve experienced, do you think lesbians are biased against bisexuals?
Romi: I have many [lesbian] friends who would date a bisexual woman. It’s OK when the bisexual is with a woman. But if the bisexual goes back to a man, then it’s suddenly not OK. There are all these rules that dictate being within the group—but only in the way the group wants it. It’s funny, nobody had any opinions when some cast members were fucking each other over, or sleeping with multiple women. Instead, they would get called a cool ‘whatever’ … the Shane character. You’re the player. You’re the hot girl. That’s cool, right?
GO: One of the many casualties of “The Real L Word” was your friendship with Whitney and her wife, Sada. Are you on good terms with anyone from the show?
Romi: Whitney and Sada and I have a real history. Most people don’t know that Sada was my best friend. We were inseparable. My love for her is huge. We’re not necessarily in the same place in our lives, and we don’t have the friendship we had before, because Whitney and I are not friends. But I respect the fact that she is Sada’s wife, and I respect their marriage. I will say that Whitney’s marriage is beautiful. I’m happy for them. And I’m happy that they’re together. I’m friends with Cori [McGinn-Boccumini], Kacy [Boccumini], Stamie [Karakasidis] and Tracy. Rose Garcia is my best friend in the entire world. Rose and I do a radio show together. And Kelsey [Chavarria] is in my life today. She’s an incredibly good friend. If I’m that bad, then why are all these people still in my life?
GO: Knowing what you know now, would you have done “The Real L Word”?
Romi: No, I would not. I’m clearly comfortable being on camera, but over the past few years, I have lost a lot of my privacy. I no longer want my life to be watched. I’m way too crazy to have a camera on me. It ends up being messy and it gets read wrong. Some of the others know how to present the persona that they want. Whether they’re lying or bullshitting or giving the audience the personality they want to see, I’ve got to give them credit. Because they kept that up, there’s a part of themselves that nobody is going to know.
GO: Which cast member was the most successful at keeping her mask up?
Romi: There are some people, but I would really rather not say. Let’s just say that some people are “made.” They’re made into what they’re supposed to be, if that makes sense. I am so horrible at that.
GO: Next hot topic: Are you seeing anyone now?
Romi: I am not seeing anybody now. This is actually the first time in a really long time that I’m living in a house by myself. I’ve been rather codependent my whole life. In my past few relationships, I was the one taking care of the other person. I tend to gravitate toward people I want to save. But I don’t want to teach anyone anything anymore. I’m tired, if I can say that in the nicest way.
GO: With women, in general, there’s the maternal thing. But with lesbians, there’s also an additional masculine hero complex. And when those two meet, it’s a perfect storm of codependent dysfunction.
Romi: Yes! I have that. Totally, totally, yes. The next person I go for is going to add something to make my life better, not harder. I’m not saying financially … but God, I would love for someone to take me on a date, let me just say that. I would really love dinner and a movie.
GO: What does your dinner-and-a-movie Dream Date look like?
Romi: I don’t want to be with men. I know that right now. I never know what life will bring me, but at this point, I really prefer women. I love women. I miss women.
GO: Is that the driving force behind your divorce?
Romi: I would say that half of the divorce is because it wasn’t working out and we weren’t happy. And the other half is because I want to go back to women.
GO: So, are you solidly in the middle of bisexuality?
Romi: I feel like I could love whoever. I really could. If I met the right person, and it happened to be a guy, I’m in because that’s the right person for me. Am I sexually attracted to men more than women? No. Am I emotionally attracted to men more than women? No, I’m not. That’s why I’ve been with women for most of my life.
GO: Where do you think you fall on the spectrum? 50-50? 60-40? Let’s quantify this, once and for all … because why not?
Romi: There is a very slim chance that I would go back to a guy.
GO: Do I hear 90-10?
Romi: Yeah, 90-10. But you know what? I don’t care what you want to call me or where I am on the scale, if I’m gay or bi or a fucking idiot.
GO: Did you know that they’re working on adding “fucking idiot” to the end of LGBT? We’re going to be “LGBTFI” from now on.
Romi: [Laughs] I’m looking for love like everyone else. There’s no right way—it’s just life. And it’s hard to come out to your lesbian circle that you like a guy, just as it is for someone to come out as gay to their straight friends. There’s a B in LGBT. It stands for bisexuality. It’s real. So, if your friend is going through something like that, be there for them. At the last Gay Pride, someone said about me, “Why is she at Gay Pride?” Am I not allowed to support gay rights? Am I not allowed to be present at Pride? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Now that I’m back with women, they’re saying, “Oh, she’s back.” Well, I never went away. I was in a relationship.
GO: Would you consider getting back together with Kelsey, or has that ship sailed?
Romi: You know, you can never say never. Kelsey was definitely the girl, the Love. She was a big one. We’ve been through so much together, and she knows me so well. She’s so beautiful and forgiving and loving. She went through a lot, all from doing nothing except loving me. This past year really did a number on the two of us. We really wanted to be friends. That’s a big thing with lesbians; you love somebody that hard, you want to keep her in your life. Whether we’re together or not together, she’s one of my favorite people in the world.
GO: You quit drinking in the last season. How’s that going? People are talking because you’ve been photographed with a drink.
Romi: That’s another topic I’ve been questioned about. I quit drinking for two and a half years, and I started drinking again last year. I think at the time, I needed to quit because I was self-medicating and that was a problem. When I had the camera on me and I was blacking out, it hit me in the middle of all this—and I thought, “I’m not going to do this with the camera on me.”
So, I told the producers that I wasn’t going to drink anymore. I got sober, which allowed me to be my real self. It kept me sane through the [taping] process. This past year, I started to drink casually with my husband and my family but not in clubs. I have no desire to be in the club scene. But I do enjoy drinking with my friends and family.
GO: Do you think of yourself as an alcoholic or a social drinker who has to be extra-vigilant about your limits and certain situations?
Romi: I don’t know. I’m still figuring that out. I’m scared of it and I’m cautious. I was in AA when I was 13 years old, so it’s my struggle and it’s hard. Right now, there are no problems. I’m not going out and I don’t crave alcohol. I can black out if I’m in the wrong place, or if I’m trying to numb myself. So, I just have to be very cautious. I have to think about it more than other people. At no point would I risk falling apart again.
GO: It sounds like you’ve turned the corner. Maybe it has something to do with putting your 20s behind you. How old are you now?
Romi: I’m 31 and I definitely feel older. Your 20s are a weird freaking time. But they’re weirder when you end up on a reality show. And they’re even weirder when you’re as weird as I am. I’m excited about my 30s; I’m excited about my life. I’m so happy that the show is over. I get to meet new people. I get to embark on relationships and friendships. And no one’s watching me.
GO: Every time we see you, your hair is different. What color is it these days?
Romi: [Laughs] I tried to shave it yesterday, but my poor mother was crying, saying, “No!” It’s bleached on top and brown on the bottom.
GO: Your hair is like a barometer of what’s going on in your mind.
Romi: Oh, you know I’m going through something in my life when my hair changes drastically.
GO: You know what? We’ll keep an eye on your hair. If it doesn’t change for a whole month, we’ll know you’ve found peace.
Romi: [Laughs] Yes!