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Her family had come to the United States from Chile when she was 2 to escape Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship and to pursue the traditional American dream.
While studying for her master's degree at UC Berkeley, she met a charismatic Chilean exile and fiction writer named Roberto Leni at a salsa club in San Francisco.
Is it our imaginations, or are wives and girlfriends ditching their men and falling in love with other women?
She'd recently separated from her husband of 12 years, and the friends streaming in now were eager to meet her new love, who, on this night, was the pirate in the three-cornered hat carving pumpkins outside.
Single again at 36, Gomez-Barris dated a few men, none seriously.
"They were not so sure of themselves in their careers or financially," she says.
"What blew me away was that afterward, Judith held me to her chest. And I thought, 'Maybe I can get all the things I want now.'" Lately, a new kind of sisterly love seems to be in the air.
In the past few years, Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon left a boyfriend after a decade and a half and started dating a woman (and talked openly about it).
"I made more money and was struggling to balance my work and home life." "Immersed," is how Leni puts it. All her friends were professors, and eventually I was obsolete. I was brought up among torture survivors, and the most important values were in the emotional realm of human experience, to soothe and support." His noble ideals unfortunately clashed with day-to-day realities.
They kicked off their shoes and ran, laughing, through the rising tide.
"At that point, things were charged with sex," Gomez-Barris remembers.
They had met in 2004 and admired each other's scholarly accomplishments, occasionally finding themselves at the same campus parties.
But while they shared an affinity for politics and social justice, they were seemingly miles apart in their private lives.