The dance was a big deal for me. Gay activities, specifically those that are lesbian-related, are something that Mel totally eschews… and has since before we’ve been together. Much of it has to do with wanting to avoid specific women with whom she’d had relationships, or their friends, as well as some bar-type acquaintances. Her hatred for one woman in particular is well known to me. Some of it has to do with being uncomfortable in her skin. Anyone who has experienced a change in size over the years probably can understand this. (Certainly, I do… it’s part of why I don’t want to attend my 20 year high school reunion this year.) The rest of it has to do with the ‘been there, done that’ credo. As Mel puts it, “I lived the life, but it’s so not about who I am.”
Although this is a medium-sized city, it’s a very small town. Eventually, you run into the people you have no desire to see. It’s one thing when you have nothing to say to them, but another altogether when you still feel almost homicidal towards them for their past transgressions. I think everyone has at least one or two people like that in their lives… you hate them forever. And of course, you avoid places where you think they’ll be, if for no other reason than to keep yourself from killing them.
Not having the same level of discomfort on these issues that Mel has, it’s been difficult to have a true understanding of how she feels about it. She does not want to go to public events that are gay related. In the time we’ve been together, we haven’t really ever participated in lesbian events or activities as a couple. We haven’t been a part of the gay community. We haven’t ever been to a gay bar together. Not that it’s about bars. I could care less about bars. I’ve explained many times that it’s not about going to bars but more about us being out together in gay venues as a couple. Until recently, she’s flat-out refused to go.
I fell in love with her and came out as a result. I was never part of the gay community previously. We don’t have many friends – gay or straight – that we’ve made together, as a couple. Mel doesn’t believe that being gay should be a criteria in the friendships we make. Neither do I, but in some ways it is easier. I’ve felt it’s okay for her to choose to not be a part of the gay community since she’d already been a part of it and had the experience… by herself and with others. But not with me. At the same time, my going out without her has not really been an option. The few times I’ve been out with my lesbian friends, and have gone to a party or a bar without her where gay women were present have caused major discord.
Last year, Mel was camping with friends during pride weekend and I had stayed home to see off a friend who was visiting from out of town and leaving the next afternoon. As it happened, I had an invitation from one of my friends to come over for drinks after my visitor left and then go down to the women’s dance with them. I told Mel that I was going to the dance just before she left to go camping. I was pretty excited about going but she felt that I’d stayed home intentionally in order to go the dance and then rubbed her nose in it just before left. Since the incident has been the subject of many heated discussions since, I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I’d not told her before she left and she’d found out later I’d gone to the dance.
Early on in our relationship, I thought maybe this was just about her pain and disillusionment because of past experiences. That certainly is part of it. Then I thought, maybe she didn’t want be seen out with me, her fat-assed girlfriend. I got past that pretty quick because I never really thought it would be true, but I had to check anyway. Finally, I arrived at T-R-U-S-T. Really, she trusts me more than she ever has anyone else but she doesn’t trust most people. Especially lesbians. She trusts me, but she can’t help her fear that I’ll be caught up in the dyke life (because it’s new to me) and be lost. Lost to some other woman. This brings tears to my eyes, that her trust and emotions were played so hard and damaged so terribly that she is that mistrustful. It makes me damned mad, too. Both because she’s been hurt and because I’m not some young, fickle bitch that would allow my head to be turned so easily, much less trash a long term relationship.
I love her more than I’ve loved anyone in my life. We’re committed to each other and have exchanged rings. We’re in the process of investigating how to legally protect our future legal, financial and health care rights together. There’s just this one thing… For the most part, I’ve tried to let it ride and not rock the boat. After all, in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? There are other things that a far more important, so I’m not sure it does. It’s a recurring issue though, appearing in one form or another everytime we have a disagreement. I don’t want it to be our undoing. I’ve felt isolated, disconnected and have pretty much said either come along, or let me go alone with your trust in me. I’ve tried hard to convince her to let the anxiety go, asking her to put it aside so that we can grow as a couple. That we either needed to develop and pursue more interests together as a couple, or to acknowledge we each have separate interests and encourage each other to pursue them by ourselves.
Finally, about two weeks ago, things really came to a head and we hashed through again. This time Mel agreed that she would try. That she would go out with me to gay venues. We decided to start with Gay Pride weekend.
We didn’t go to the dyke march which was before the dance, but we did go to the dance. Since dance was sponsored by the local african-american dyke group, for once, the black women outnumbered the white. We enjoyed the view together, there were some sharp women there. We only ran into a few people we knew but none were people that Mel preferred to avoid, so that was good. The bar manager of the VFW post where the dance was held is a friend of mine from high school. We had a drink with him. Another woman I went to high school with was there and this was the first time I’d seen her since high school. She and my bar manager friend tried to convince me to go to our high school reunion in July, saying we’d have a gay couples table at the dinner dance. Hhrrmph… don’t know about that.
After about two hours, the dance was kind of dead. It turned out that was because most of the activity was over at Bar A, where there was a drag king show going on. Bar A is the big lesbian hang out, but primarily for younger women. We decided to leave the dance. As we walked toward the car I started to say “How about we go…” Mel finished my sentence with “to Bar A?” My jaw dropped open. I told her that I wasn’t going to push my luck and that I was actually going to suggest we go for coffee. Then Mel said, “I’d go to Bar B if you want.” Bar B is the dive for old, tired lesbians. It has a pool table, a juke box and half the women in there still sport a mullet. So we went to Bar B, had a drink, amused ourselves over the outdated fashion sense of some of the other patrons, and then went home. It was really a nice evening.
The next day we went to the gay pride parade…