The first lesbian I ever met was in college. Her name was Anne, she was from upstate New York, and she was hilarious.
She was also the shortest girl at Fredonia. You’d have to look around to find where the funny came from, each time. I think she sat in the back, just so we would.
She always had something to say to me. I was flattered, because I’d always [thought I was] the funny girl in high school, and here was Anne, who could crack me up just by looking at a person.
The funniest part was, while I was in college, I didn’t know a lesbian from a dorm custodian or a mermaid. And, that is not a sexist slur. I really had no clue that the freshman corridor style building where I lived with my roommate was heavily populated with covert couples. Back then, I knew less than nothing about anything.
We had lunch in the dining hall one time, she sitting down to join me. The conversation turned a bit ribald, but that was Anne. I took her bold faced references to anatomy in stride; having been an art major, life class for me had been a daily ritual, and I could handle talking about body parts. Plus, Anne was nothing if not earnest, and she looked like your favorite little sister, even if you didn’t have one.
Another one actually lived in my dorm. She was down that hallway, where the couples were. Her hair was jet black, thick, and curly. I think she was part Indian. Her name was Camille, and we would look at fine art photos and write poetry. We were friends. I began to notice that her roommate would look at me sidelong, so I decided that I was in the wrong place and backed away. Growing up around cousins and friends who were sisters taught me that.
My first college boyfriend was a closet homosexual. Of course, he did not tell me this. I had to figure it all out, years later, when the light finally went on in my head and the real world opened its doors and asked me why I was the last to know.
In the years following college, my identity was built around waiting tables and working short shifts and living in a squalid apartment. This was when I found out about life. In the restaurant biz, I met at least two lesbians. They were on the cook line, and one night they asked me to join them out. We all met up and attended a local performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” There were five of us, and I was the only straight person in the party.
Afterwards, we went to a local mixed bar. As soon as I stepped across the threshhold, a girl I recognized as always appearing at the gigs I played in the local 50s – 60s band walked right up to me and asked me to dance. Back then, I didn’t dance at all, let alone with a woman, so I declined. But, there certainly was plenty to see and hear in the mixed bar. I found a spot in the shadows, between two pinball machines, and watched everybody.
Eventually, one of the guys in our party asked me if I was uncomfortable. I said yes, apologetically. He walked me to my car. They never asked me to join them again, but I remained on really good terms with the whole crew. One of the girls even gave me a cassette tape of songs as a gift, and let me come over to her house so she could teach me how to bondo my car.
Having been raised amongst strict sectarian Fundamentalists, all of this being said probably comes as a startling declaration to many who knew me years ago. Some of them still only whisper about gay people. Still others openly confront everything they represent. But, I, being in the nagging habit of speaking for myself, have this to say:
Given my personal history with human relationships, if I had to choose between a room full of lacquered, spray-painted, trend-set bimbos on a girls’ night out and a Tv room of lesbians having a conversation, I’d choose the latter, hands down. Why?
Because, when a girl is in the company of a lesbian, there’s never any competition for the attention of men. In fact, the whole man in the room dynamic just ain’t happening. Consequently, there’s no underhanded passive aggression; there’s no sniping. There’s no “Theng-kew!” when the real emotion is: “Grrrowf!”. Everything is as you see it. A girl can actually relax. Plus, there’s far more likely to be a stimulating conversation about ideas and mind expanding subjects in such a room than there would ever hope to be in that other one. And, everybody knows that any self-respecting pseudo-intellectual female needs that kind of company.
It feels a lot like the kind of conversation you have with the men you know who are married, until you can’t go any further with it because of the convention and the respect you have for their wives. And, you wish you could, and not because of the whole sexual intimacy factor. There are just lines drawn around those relationships. And, you wish there weren’t.
Yes; I know that, categorically speaking, it is simple minded to assume that all lesbians avoid face paint and hair spray. Likewise, straight women are not all stupid. But, hopefully, most readers will get the larger point (which is that I am a superficial sap with no style.)
Get this part straight, however. I am not physically attracted to women. Yep; the boys have me, hands down, head to foot. I’m a man’s woman. But, let’s give some time of day to the girls who live in that realm just outside of their reach. It must be nice to be in charge of your own little world. I can respect a reality like that.
And, while we’re at it, could we make room for everybody? Yes; even the bimbos. Sooner or later, we’ll all need each other. There’ll be a sick call, or a crisis. Or, maybe just a pay it forward moment that takes us beyond ourselves. And, it might come in the form of somebody who hails from a walk of life that just isn’t a part of our own, personal DNA. I’ll tell you one thing: when that day comes, you won’t be thinking about anything else. You’ll just be grateful to receive human compassion. Which is kind of why I wrote this thing in the first place.
Can we get a “Hear! Hear!” for the hims and the hers?
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo