When you come out as a lesbian and amicably divorce your husband/creative partner at age 37, as High Maintenance co-creator Katja Blichfeld did, a certain number looks a little different. “[It] feels like a second adolescence. I’m staring at 40 and feel like I’m 13,” Blichfeld, who turns 40 next month, tells Refinery29’s co-founder and global editor-in-chief Christene Barberich on the season finale of UnStyled.
That second adolescence includes Blichfeld’s first serious girlfriend. “The main thing is, I've feel like there's no part of myself that's off limits or covered up anymore,” she says of her significant other. “Just that in and of itself – that's a huge thing. It changes everything. That makes me lighter. I’m not carrying around that burden. She's very communicative, and really dialed in emotionally.”
Blichfeld, a unique brand of creative New York celebrity thanks to the brilliance and popularity of High Maintenance (a web series turned beloved HBO series), publicly shared her early-middle-age coming-out via a viral essay published back in January on Vogue.com.
Nearly a year later, Blichfeld still hears from readers, some who also came out in their 30s, 40s and beyond, for whom that essay resonated deeply. “My story, turns out, was not super unique,” she says. “That's why I wanted to say something; it seems that it helps some people feel less alone, and that's been nice.”
Before she was ready to disclose something so personal with the world or find that girlfriend, however, Blichfeld had to negotiate and reframe her most intimate connections, especially with her husband and High Maintenance co-creator Ben Sinclair – and to figure out what her new life might look like, and what the old one even meant.
“There was a weird moment when I was ending things with Ben, and changing my life... a vague, abstract confusion for a second, like wait, what does this mean? Have I not been true to myself, is that what’s been going on? I got real existential,” she says. “Over time, I’ve unraveled a lot of that, and have come to realize: No, I wasn’t living a lie.”
“I wasn’t so deeply buried in the closet or something,” she continued. “I just never, for some reason, had ever given myself permission for real romantic relationships with women, or to identify as a queer person.”
For much more of Katja and Christene’s talk – how weed is her anti-anxiety med of choice, how her very first short film (at age 9) had a “Just Say No” message, the power of self-taught artists and entrepreneurs, and details on season 3 of High Maintenance – click here and subscribe to UnStyled via Apple Podcasts today.