Karen (52) and Michelle (64), who live in Northern California, have the kind of love story that steamy romance novels are made of. Their connection was immediate, and although their story had many plot twists and turns, they always found their way back to each other. The founding couple behind the clothing line Haute Butch, with Karen serving as designer, recently shared with us their fireworks-filled love story:
Black Lesbian Love Lab (BL3): How long have you been together?
Michelle: We always answer that by saying, it depends on how you count. We have one of those relationships where we were together or not together and then not together for decades. We got married in April 2004.
BL3: How did you meet?
Michelle: I was with another woman after Karen just got out of the Navy to be with her lover. My partner really wanted us to meet Karen. We went over and I remembered we were sitting on the couch. Karen walked out of the back and was adjusting her belt. She looked at me and I looked at her and thought, ‘Oh boy we’re in trouble.’ It was instant attraction. She went into the kitchen. Flustered, I followed her! Our energy was just pinging off each other.
Karen: I was going through the same thing when I saw her knowing I was in a relationship. I didn’t want to keep looking at her, that’s why I went into the kitchen.
Michelle: It was one of those really scandalous situations in our community. We were kind of sneaking around and frankly seeing each other. We got busted! Karen got all of her clothes thrown out in the front yard, bleached and set on fire. It was pretty bad. We were together four years after we got busted. And then we split up.
BL3: Why did you break up?
Karen: We were both actively engaged in addiction—mostly alcohol and cocaine. I’ve been sober for 28 years.
Michelle: We followed each other in recovery and I’ve been 27 years sober.