The disadvantages of being a lesbian, (or whatever it is you think I am).
Friday a strange wind was blowing, both exhilarating and stirring somehow, a wind that took me, the Boy and his friend to a favourite restaurant. Our South American waitress was a beautiful and vivacious lady, with music in her every word. She was not having a very good day though and it showed in her service. Although I am fast gaining a reputation for being outspoken on the subject of injustice, this day, I was the soul of patience. It became clear that this lovely woman thought I was a lesbian, clear in the way she laid her warm hand on mine, smiled at me, her gaze direct and intimate and crystal clear when she hugged and kissed me, gave me a bag of cookies when I left. Somehow, I found myself in a box.
I am not a lesbian. It would not shame me if I was but would certainly complicate my relationship with Himself. I took her attention as the compliment it was and was very happy to accept her cookies, we all enjoyed those. I get this a lot though, mistaken identity. Not too long ago, I was the recipient of a free book, from a large and well-known bookstore, due to the same mistaken identity. The book I was especially happy to be given, being written on a subject I am interested in, Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare. It is a glimpse into their interesting relationship, platonic in nature and of mutual benefit. I imagine that Shakespeare must have speculated about his monarch’s sexuality, as she was a woman who made her own mould. The young woman of the bookstore was kind, helpful and very engaging, passionate about books but perhaps more.
My passions are many but are not expressed in Sapphic relationships and it has long been a puzzle as to why I am seen this way, until recently. I know that everyone, no matter how open minded and keen not to judge the proverbial book by it’s cover, does. Some would argue that this is essential, this quick assessment of people. It’s worth considering that it helps us organise a vast body of sensory information relating to people, warns us of potential dangers (ie; friend or foe) and is very useful, perhaps, in determining the relative strengths of a mate. Experience has taught me to be more of a, “take a quick visual / character snapshot but be prepared to modify that image” person.
I fear many people are not like this though, many sorting you at hyper speed into whatever box they deem you suited, never to be re-sorted. Clearly, I am being put in the lesbian box. So, what is a lesbian? That does sound ridiculous doesn’t it? Let me put it another way, what do I have in common with Ellen de Generes, Meredith Baxter, Eleanor Roosevelt and KD Lang? I am just guessing now, but I think expressing your own idea of femininity or womanhood, being unafraid to show strength and possibly having short hair has something to do with it. If this is the shoe, then I have to admit that it fits and I do wear it. As I said at the start, I don’t mind this particular label, as I am comfortable with my identity. If there is a problem, it is in the very nature of the boxes we are put, and do put others in. A box is limiting, does not have space for variation, and does not allow for growth. If that box is secured with prejudice or ignorance, then it can seem impossible to break free of it.
In reality, we are only as boxed in as we choose to be. We can also choose to ignore people’s attempts to stereotype, confound their efforts to categorise. Nevertheless, the boxy tendency is prevalent and will affect how others interact with us. I would say I have been guilty of this same compelling tendency, to some degree, in most of my relationships. I am remembering what a surprise it was to me, a long time after I got to know Himself, to discover that he didn’t love the outdoors. You see, I had put him in a box, the box of a countryside loving, outdoorsy, natural living kind of guy. I made assumptions (and this is at the core of all stereotypes) based on the job he did, namely, that of Gamekeeper. I watched him set off each day, striding across the heathery hills in all weather and I assumed, I just assumed he loved to be a part of all that. I think it was our one and only experience of camping that finally burst this bubble. Himself hated camping, he hated everything about it from the cramped and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, the work of tent set up to the tedious tasks of fetching water and food preparation au naturel. We lasted one day and never repeated the experience. I discovered that he loves nature, loves the outdoors but mainly from the perspective of a solid, comfortable, centrally heated home, or to take a stroll in fine weather with the knowledge of the solid home to return to.
That’s the thing about putting people in a box, it’s a bit like the solid home Himself needs in order to “enjoy” the countryside – slotting people into a category is easy and makes us feel secure, becomes the solid home for our assumptions. The truth is, doing this doesn’t involve any real thinking, or even real experience. When we succumb to boxing, we close down, stop questioning and consequently, don’t grow. Our assumptions prevent us from really knowing others, seeing them in all their beautiful, unique, contradictory, glorious humanity.
So to you beautiful lesbian lady, thank you for your delicious cookies but thank you especially for your warmth, the warmth that was the spark for these words.
ⓒ S. Marian, Nov. 15, 2011