I was sitting in a local coffee dispensary, writing the first draft of a blog post in my Moleskine notebook and enjoying a latte (full caffeine, whole milk, five packets of raw sugar … I’m hardcore like that, it’s just the way I roll). This particular establishment had once been known as a meeting place for lesbians; but over the years the herd has thinned and rather than a flock of femmes or a bevy of butches you’re more likely to see a gaggle of high school girls being incredulous and astonished about everything!, or important business men taking important business calls about important business things and ignoring the barista who’s trying to take their order, gathered at the watering hole.
So it came as no surprise when I heard two young lesbians at the table next to me lamenting the decline of “our” coffee shop from lesbian hot-spot to gay-friendly neighborhood joint.
“This sucks,” said one to the other. “There’s nothing but fucking straight people here anymore.”
When I glanced up at them, smiling in commiseration, she turned to me and said, “Oh, sorry!”
“No problem,” I replied, assuming she thought she’d disrupted my writing or offended me by swearing.
“I didn’t mean anything,” she continued. “It’s not like I have something against straight people.”
I looked at her, momentarily confused, until what she was saying finally hit me. “No, I’m gay!”
Now she was the one who looked confused. “You are? Wow, I totally couldn’t tell.”
“Yeah,” her friend chimed in. “Me neither. Totally.”
Suddenly I was stricken with writer’s block and my latte tasted of despair. Totally.
That evening I recounted the disturbing episode to a friend. “No wonder I can’t meet anyone,” I whined. “My own people don’t even know I’m one of them!”
“I didn’t know you were gay when I met you either,” she confessed.
“That’s different,” I told her. “You’re straight.”
“When I first saw you,” she said. “I thought you were a soccer mom or something.”
Please don’t misconstrue any of what I’ve said as a disdain or contempt for the heteronormative community. I love my Straights! I am like the Kathy Griffin of lesbians … except I don’t do stand-up, make a lot of money, piss off celebrities, my mother isn’t an alcoholic and I look way better when I’m not wearing make-up.
I know a lot of gay people say things like … There’s a guy at work who’s straight or I had a straight roommate in college once or I think Chelsea Handler is so funny! … in an attempt to “relate” to heterosexuals. And I’m sure when we do, it sounds just as ridiculous as meeting someone who’s Japanese and blurting out, “I love origami!”
But my experience is a little different. In the summer of 2010, three weeks after my 17-year relationship imploded, a car accident left me with an ankle too badly broken to even hobble. Since neither my Ex nor I enjoyed hiking, camping or wymyn’s music festivals, we’d drifted apart from most of the lesbian-couple friends we’d once had (for those who don’t know, The Rules of Lesbian Relationships state that once you enter into one, you must phase out activities that involve things such as fun, in favor of forced marches and sleeping in the dirt). So when it ended I found myself separated from the lesbian herd, stranded in the vast desolation of South Orange County. I was lost and alone.
But then a kind woman found me. She took me in and gave me a place to sleep, she fed me, she bathed me, she got me drunk. I ate at her table, I played with her children and she made me feel like part of her family. There were social gatherings with friends who were fun and friendly and got me drunk. Eventually, she even stopped locking up her jewelry when I was alone in the house.
That woman was a heterosexual.
I’m not shocked that straight people don’t know I’m gay. Typically the only indicator I display is the silver ring on my right thumb — not the most conspicuous piece of signage. A few years ago however, when my hair was short, they were much more adept at picking-up on my lesbianisoty, sometimes saying, “I knew it! My gaydar’s always been really great!” And by “gaydar,” I can only assume they meant guessing that inch-long, purple, spiky hair might be favored by lesbians, because they were really great at doing that! It’s weird though, now that my hair is longer and blonde and I’ve learned to use some basic tools (blow-dryer, round-brush, thing that’s a blow-dryer and a round-brush combined together), I don’t meet as many straight people with really great gaydar.
I’m not really all that surprised when other gay people don’t know I’m a lesbian because I’m not the best at just spotting other gay people, either; and I usually have to do the eye-contact thing. My lesbian-detection abilities are weakest at the bank or Target or a shopping mall — places that I think of as out of context. So it stands to reason that there are others like me who have trouble getting a signal in certain areas. But when I’m in a recognized lesbian-zone (eg, hiking trails, softball fields, The Home Depot) — places that are in context, I’m a little bewildered. Has my lesbi-mojo slipped so far that even in a lesbian(ish) coffee shop I’m undetectable to other lesbians?
The eye-contact thing …
… is when two gay people see each, their eyes meet and in that moment, however brief, a message passes between them saying, “Hello. I see that you are gay. I too am gay.” I’ve describe this “telepathy” to heterosexuals who also claimed to have it, they are mistaken however. They may correctly identify someone and think “Hello. I see that you are lesbian. I am one of those straight people who can tell.” But, straight people make accurate guesses based on outward appearance, while gays can do it without such signs. Also, the lesbian looking back at you is thinking, “Wow, good guess. Were my cargo shorts your first clue?”
And now that we’ve got my mojo all beat down and weak, let’s throw that soccer mom comment at it and see if we can kill it, shall we? But don’t jump to any anti-soccer mom conclusions about me just yet. The truth is I like soccer moms. A lot. I have this image of a tired woman schlepping around her screaming brood and their tangled accumulation of sports equipment, turning up the stereo in the minivan to try and drown out the incessant noise and the voice in her head that won’t stop asking is this the life you always dreamed of?
Maybe I’m just a romantic, or maybe I watch too much porn, but I want to take Soccer Mom away from all that. If it’s the former, then I’ll meet her at work or perhaps the gym, she’ll find me witty and charismatic and strangely intriguing. We’ll become fast friends and there will be a montage of us walking on the beach with our pants rolled up to the knee, laughing together over drinks and one where we both reach for something at the same time, our fingers touch, our eyes meet and then we both look quickly away, played over a song like Corrine Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On. Eventually she’ll confess that she has feelings for me but that it’s too complicated because of the kids and the custody fight with her bastard of an ex-husband. She’ll say “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this” and walk out of the apartment, leaving me standing there feeling hurt and alone … only to burst back through the door a minute later saying, “Who am I kidding?” as she throws her arms around me and kisses me (dear heterosexuals, you’ve just been introduced to the basic plot line of almost every lesbian romance movie on the market … we have movies too, and they’re just as cheesy as yours!). If it’s the latter, I’ll show up at her house to do some repair work inexplicably wearing 5” pumps and carrying a toolbox full of sex toys (there’s a Snap-on Tools joke in there, but this post is already getting too long), and we will commence to fuck like monkeys as soon as the bowchicabowow music starts (dear uhhh … oh hell, you all already know … everyone watches this crap).
So you see, my anguish has nothing to do with an aversion to either heterosexuals or mother’s of children involved in organized sports. It’s that I now feel my self-image is distorted and my self-perception on par with that of Donald Trump. By allowing my hair to grow did I inadvertently don some kind of lesbian cloak of invisibility? Did the time I spent living with the heterosexuals alter my chemical pheromones that alert others gays to my presence among them? Do I not exude the aura of self-assured, devilishly-charming lesbian romance-movie character I imagine? After living in South Orange County for so long could I have absorbed the appearance and mannerisms of a soccer mom without even realizing it? Is it possible that the Stepford Wives phenomenon rumor is actually true?
My mind reels with self-doubt, unanswered questions and thoughts of the Wahl clippers gathering dust on the top shelf of my closet.