So, last night i was walking home after a great evening. I’d done a bit of stand-up comedy for the first time in, like, a year, and it went really well. A bunch of my friends came, people from all areas of my life–a few radical feminists, some of my school friends, some of the beautiful people from that little twelve-step road i travel–like that. And they all laughed, and so did the other people in the club, i had such a great time. i was totally nervous, but i’d’ve been even MORE nervous had I NOT been nervous. you know?
Then my buddy H. and i went out for something to eat. Carbs. I had mac ‘n’ cheese at ten at night. with bacon. She had a chicken sandwich. we shared her fries. we talked about politics and comedy and women and our pornified culture– lots of the comics added some porn talk to their sets, and it wasn’t too awful, but it was significant enough to be quite distressing. Where have we gone? Why are we referencing porn as if it’s a cool thing? One guy tried to critique it, sort of, but mostly people just talked about it as if it was just commonplace and not problematic. It is commonplace, but it’s really problematic. everyone in it is reduced to bits. organs, holes, fluid. the pain and fear women experience is ‘disappeared’ or made to seem like desire and excitement. People (men and women both) last night made fun of their own or their sons use of pornography, but they didn’t make it the subject of their jokes, just the context, kind of, as if it’s just a regular thing that everyone does and likes. I made eye contact with a woman at another table when one of the comics was doing some porny thing, and we agreed that this wasn’t funny. This was indicative of some serious backlash.
anyhow, so H and i talked a little of that, and a little bit about our friendship and how much we like it, we’ve known each other for a few years now, but are just ramping up the intimacy now. Not sexual intimacy, either, we’re gonna be the kind of friends, as she says, who “could be lovers at any time, but never will be”. I like that in a buddy. Anyhow, I walked her home, then I walked home.
Along the way, I passed a couple of men. Now, usually, when i’m walking along and I pass men, they will look at me as if they are making eye contact, and then as we are passing each other, i notice that his eyes are either looking right through me, or past me. I’m an obvious lesbian in my forties, it makes me invisible to men. it’s like shopping at IKEA, kind of. You know, you can do ANYTHING in IKEA . No one sees anyone else, we’re all looking at the furniture with names that have umlauts over the vowels, and measuring the shelving units and picking up a gazillion tealights and ice cube trays shaped like hearts and shit like that. You could run through the store naked singing Janis Joplin songs and no one would pay you any attention. That’s what it’s like being a middle-aged lesbian among men.
But last night, the guys I passed made eye contact! and acknowledged my existence! weird. The first one nodded, and I nodded back. The second one nodded and smiled, and I said “g’d evenin'” and he looked startled and turned to look at me again and said, “I thought you were a guy!.”
He sounded angry. or at least annoyed
I replied, “happens a lot”, and walked on. then i realized that all those men, the ones who nodded and smiled at me, they thought i was a guy, too.
It has been happening more. Even at the womens worlds conference last week, at a presentation, I asked a question and the moderator pointed to me and said, “We’ll hear from this gentleman” and I looked around and said, “i’m not a gentleman” — in a gentle way. I knew she’d be embarrassed, and I didn’t want her to be. She was kind of mortified, and apologized a couple of times. I do not look like a man, by the way, and i’m not particularly butch. But I don’t make any effort to look like a woman, either. no makeup, and usually I wear boxy t-shirts and kind of baggy jeans. I look like a lesbian. Or a rural woman (who are often heterosexual, but have short hair and wear no make up and like that–and there are the urban dykes who iron their hair and wear makeup and stuff–i’m often flirting with totally the wrong people–it’s embarrassing).
anyhow. this guy, last night, he sounded annoyed. why was he annoyed? did he think i was trying to fool him? did he think i wanted to BE a man? Was he mad because he’d acknowledged someone as an equal and i was only a woman after all? Buddy was black, too, and I am white, was he mad because a man with white-skin privilege acknowledged him as a peer and she turned out to be a mere woman after all? Am I reading too much into this encounter? was he only surprised and not mad at all? and what did that mean about the other guys i met along my way last night? every man I met nodded and said hello in some fashion or other. Every one. Today as I was out running, every man I met (‘cept the guy who lives in my building who i met outside) glanced at me and slid his gaze away before I could make eye contact. Every one.
i gotta go now, but i’ll tell you another time bout this guy i met in a few years ago at the steam room at the community centre . tonight i’m going to a radical feminist party. lucky me! i’m gonna wear the same clothes i had on last night, pretty much, and all those people are gonna know i am a woman. it’s good to belong.