Tuesday, August 29, 2006

blonde lesbian

Yesterday, for the very first time in my whole entire life, I was mistaken as a lesbian.

Why this happened yesterday of all days has me completely baffled. I mean, I spent four years at "Queer in a Year or Your Money Back" Sarah Lawrence. I know tons of lesbians (some of my best friends are lesbians!) and have spent plenty of time with/among lesbians. In college I took women's Studies courses, every goddamn paper I ever wrote was about gender & stuff, and even spent a semester learning about the cannon of Gay & Lesbian Literature. I visited the lesbian bar, drank chamomile tea at the lesbian coffeeshop, marched in Boston's Gay Pride parade, and in my Sarah Lawrence days, I even adopted some lesbianic aphorisms, including making reference to straight people as "hets" and "breeders." And despite all of this, I still was never once mistaken for actually being a lesbian.

Yesterday, however, while sitting outside JP Licks located in the very lesbianic center of Jamaica Plain (commonly referred to as Gay P) a man approached me and my friend Jen as we chatted over coffee. We were quite clearly engrossed in our conversation--I hadn't seen the girl in over a year!--and in my opinion, we were quite clearly uninterested in making “friends.” Mr. Intrusive Straight Man decided to interrupt us anyway.

“Excuse me, may I ask you a question?” Mr. Intrusive Straight Man said. He had walked right up to Jen where we sat at a patio table, close to the entrance of the store and far away from where he was standing on the sidewalk . He didn't really look at me, and I couldn't really hear what he was saying. Perhaps Jen, who is about the cutest baby-dyke you ever saw, seemed more approachable. She sports a short faux hawk and is always riding her bike all over the place--she looks like a cute, indie-rock little boy. In any case, the Mr. Intrusive Straight Man was black and he wore a red shirt, and had some sort of accent. His English was broken and strangely proper, and I at first, I couldn’t really understand what he was saying.

"I want to ask of you a question," Mr. Intrusive Straight Man said, hemming and hawing, a bit.
"Okay," said Jen. When he still didn't respond, she rolled her eye and said to me, "Ugh, I think I know where this is going."

"I just want to ask you a question if I may," Mr. Intrusive Straight Man repeated.

"Yes, that's fine, dude, go ahead," she said.

"I want to ask you, what is it that you feel as love between two women?"

My jaw dropped. What? "Is he asking us why we're lesbians?" I said to Jen, incredulous.

"I think so," she laughed, her face exploding into a smile as she leaned back and started clapping her hands because this was so funny. That's the other thing about Jen, she's so laid back and cool. "I get this shit all the time, Kitty, it's okay, let me handle this."

"I just want to ask, when there are two women, what is it that they feel between them?" He just kept asking the same question, over and over, repeating himself in his confusing English. At first his stumbling sentences sounded innocent, but then they began sound mocking. There was something about his tone, his posture, his implication that I didn't like. It made me feel uncomfortable, and my gut was telling me to make him go away as quickly as possible, that if we didn't end the conversation immediately, he was either going to a) try to turn us straight, or b) start talking about Jesus. Or maybe something worse.

"Okay. That's enough. We're busy," I said. "Can you please leave us alone now? We're trying to have a conversation here."” I gave him attitude, lots of mean, lesbian attitude.

And he just kept standing there, stammering on at us, like we were exotic and slightly frightening creatures at the zoo.

"I just want to know, what is it that you feel between two women. I just wanted to ask you a question..." he repeated, this time acting a little huffy, as though he really wanted to know, and had every right to ask and be curious.

"Yeah, well you're gonna have to ask somebody else," I said. "Don't worry, there are plenty of lesbians in JP, I'm sure you'll have no problem."

It was really fucking annoying, I have to say.

I hear comments from men every day. Some days are worse than others, and some days, if I happen to be walking out and about a lot, and it happens to be warm, and I happen to be wearing my long blonde hair down and a short little skirt, I hear comments all day. These comments are are invasive, intrusive, and they make me feel vulnerable and angry. They nibble away at my self confidence, erode my freedom of motion, and make me feel as small as I did the very first time I was sexually harassed when I was only fifteen years old. And for the past year or so, I have been analyzing this state of being, this strange and uncomfortable existence, thinking constantly about how being blonde changes these dynamics, makes the comments worse or more intrusive, less respectful or more frightening.

But I have never dealt with intrusion or comments like these.

As he walked away, he mumbled something about writing a book (yeah, I am too, buddy), acted like we were making a big deal out of nothing for blowing him off. But it was a big deal. It was a big, invasive, inappropriate deal. Why anybody would think it okay to interrupt us, and ask us what it feels like to love one another, as though we were freaks, as though there arenÂ’t thousands of lesbians loving one another every day, in the exact same way that men love women, or that men love other men, is wildly inappropriate, and 100% none of his goddamn business. And I didn't like his tone. He had the same look on his face that men get after you ignore their calls of"hey sexy", and right before they say "hey you stuck-up bitch, who the fuck do you think you are???"

And I'm not even a lesbian, I was just having coffee with one! Imagine how I'd feel if this happened to me every day?

Perhaps the next title of my next book should be Undercover Dyke: My Personal Quest to See if Lesbians Have More Fun.

1 comment:

Rhea said...

Sorry you had to endure that creep. I know what you're talking about in terms of men harassing you. Many years ago, when I was more 'feminine' looking I was harassed walking down the streets. For many years, I have adopted a much more androgynous/lesbian look and I am invisible to these men now. What a relief!