My First LesbianDedicated to Cap'n Dyke and El.
I came of age in a south emerging from lingering effects of Civil War reconstruction. A slow moving, very conservative place. I can remember segregated help wanted ads and was in high school when it was desegregated - oddly enough when they stopped busing. Along with the residual racism, it was a also place where gays weren't yet called "gay". "Coming out of the closet" meant emerging with a sweater you just took off the hanger. Secrecy was still the order of the day for most LGBT folks. Queer as Folk and The L Word were still in a galaxy far, far away - or in New York or San Francisco (where they wore flowers in their hair).
I tell you these things to help frame what I'll tell you next...
I met my first lesbian as an 18-year old college student at the University of Kentucky.
At the time, I was the production manager for UK's student newspaper. I went to work each night around 9 pm and finished up in the wee hours of the morning when we shipped the paste ups to the printer. My "staff" was comprised solely of women - a typist, a proofreader, and a "copy girl" who trundled stories from the newsroom to the production room and helped out with whatever else needed to be done. We all enjoyed each other's company and in the process, learned quite a bit about each other's lives.
One night, as I made my way across the hall to the newsroom, I glanced up to see a couple locked in a tight embrace in the shadowy hallway. As my eyes adjusted to the poor light, I realized that one of the embracees was Copy Girl and the other was not her boyfriend - as I might have expected - but another woman.
I kept walking, not wanting to intrude, but my mind was spinning just a little. I thought, "What the hell was that all about?"
I didn't say anything about it nor did I treat her any differently - although I admit I was curious about the relationship.
Because we worked late, I often drove Copy Girl home to keep her off the lonely streets in the sometimes gritty student ghetto where she lived. As I pulled up to her house one morning, I recognized her lover sitting on the front porch. Copy Girl walked up to the house and an argument started between her and Lover. From what I gathered, Lover didn't exactly cotton to Copy Girl riding home with a man.
I drove away, but again kept thinking to myself, "What the hell was that all about?"
The next night, Copy Girl arrived with Lover in tow. She introduced us and Lover shook my hand with all the enthusiasm of convict pumping the hand of her executioner. After Copy Girl's quick peck on the cheek, Lover fled the place like it was on fire.
Although I hadn't asked, Copy Girl explained Lover was a "radical feminist lesbian" in the mold of Andrea Dworkin and virulently anti-male to boot - the polar opposite of Copy Girl who seemed to enjoy the company of nearly everyone she met, male or female.
After that first meeting, Copy Girl brought Lover along every night. Through periodic discussions, I learned this was Copy Girl's way of inching herself out of the closet while trying to convince Lover that not all men wanted to harm her. While I didn't mind being the conduit for this grand experiment, it sometimes left me feeling confused.
On several occasions, I inadvertently insulted Lover with some innocuous comment. Each time, Copy Girl explained that she didn't think I'd actually done anything, but that Lover sometimes acted that way toward her as well. I also learned that Lover viewed me as competition for Copy Girl's affections - a really solid base for our "relationship" as you can imagine.
Over the months, Lover slowly loosened - but almost imperceptibly. She no longer waited up for Copy Girl to come home and after three months she began to nod to me whenever we met. At about six months, she floored me by actually saying, "Hello" in a strangled croak. She said that simple hello with such dread I wasn't sure whether it was a breakthrough or the result of torture.
Finally, Copy Girl arrived with Lover on the last day of school and hugged me goodbye for the summer. Then, Lover approaching me warily as a cat, slowly raised her arms and grabbed me in the most awkward and masculine hug I've ever received. As she released me, she stepped back and said, "I just want you to know I don't hate you, I just don't like you."
When they walked arm in arm down the hallway and out the door, I thought to myself, "What the hell was that all about?"
Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Saturday, September 16, 2006