In the scene I just read from Mary Renault’s 1959 novel, The Charioteer, the young gay man, Laurie, is having a pint with a medical student (Laurie has been wounded in WW II, which is still going on, and is recovering in hospital). Laurie suspects the medical student is also gay and realizes that the man is probably giving him signs.

“This was not the first time he (Laurie) had touched the fringe he was touching now. He knew the techniques of mild evasion and casual escape. Though the Charles episode had been disillusioning, he hadn’t given up hope of finding himself clubbable after all. This time, he had briefly thought the right moment had come. But, after all, no: and after all, it was no one’s business but his own.” (p. 112, Pantheon hard cover)

The scene continues with Laurie not divulging anything to the medical student; in fact, he deliberately misleads him by speaking about an acquaintance who recently married a woman.

I’m not exactly sure why Laurie doesn’t confide in this man, but I understand his reluctance to join. It’s predicated on such a deep need for companionship that it’s almost not worth the risk to come out and then be disappointed. Over and over again, I have faced this same situation – not that I’m not out constantly and all the time, because I am, but each version of club I seek out usually ends up being unsatisfying for various reasons. It is a fallacy that people will find each other interesting just because they’re all lesbian moms, or femmes who love butches, or whatever it is, and I have proved this to myself quite thoroughly. Still, I need those lesbian moms, even if some of them are golf lesbians* and I need those femmes who love butches even if some of them are teenage boys. Straight people know perfectly well they’re not going to like every single other straight person; when the pool of potential friends who really “get” you is way, way smaller, the potential for deep hurt is all the greater,  since there just aren’t that many of you to chose from to begin with and the aforementioned straight people usually just make things worse, even when they don’t mean to.

I need to be around other queers. I need to know what other queers are doing and I need to be in regular contact with them. It is an immutable fact of who I am that there are certain key needs that I can only meet by rubbing up against a bunch of queers. Sometimes, especially here in the burbs, I get the feeling that other suburban queers find my insistence on these matters to be just a bit shrill, just a bit juvenile. After all, we’re all adults here, we can certainly be friends with straight people – we are, after all, exactly like straight people, especially straight parents, except we happen to be queer – and we can arrange for our various needs to be met by the community in which we have placed or found ourselves. I think some of these feelings may be genuine on the part of my fellow suburban queers, some may be denial and internalized homophobia, but personally, I don’t find that I can go for long without a serious dose of queerness. I love talking with my straight friends about parenting and lots of other things that are relevant to my life, but there is always going to be a point where I begin to censor myself, either because I – rightly or wrongly – feel the other person won’t understand (and it’s too tedious or painful to explain), or because I don’t want to give away any queer national secrets to someone who doesn’t deserve them and won’t treat them respectfully.

My ex used to accuse me of only wanting to be around people exactly like me – an accusation I’ve examined over time, probably a little too thoroughly (we were breaking up, after all). It’s actually somewhat true, in that I don’t particularly enjoy the situation I outlined above, where I’m always explaining or pleading with or trying to understand the other person without any return whatsoever (a good description of why I’m not with my ex anymore). I am now extremely happy with my Beau, and we are definitely not exactly alike, because I will let you know right now that I do not wear camo, I don’t know how to use a chop saw, and I don’t begin to pine and sigh at the beginning of deer season. How we are similar, however, is the important part, and that has to do with the way we see the world, the things we observe around us, our senses of humor, and the things we agree on that are essential to a life well lived.

Those things are hard to get in a husband, by golly, and, I think, maybe even harder to get in a club.

In my wise oldish age, I guess I’ve more or less come to the conclusion that you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you get what you need. And by trying, I mean fucking relax and don’t be so darn persnickety about the whole thing. Wonderful things present themselves, and if I am feeling more or less content in my own skin and identity, it won’t feel so painful if members of, say, the group of femmes I have high hopes for, are all in their early 20s and into being vegans and are super crafty and don’t a one of them have kids and I end up feeling like The Crone of the Ages. Ha! Ha! So what! I might get a new recipe, a pretty little dream pillow, and a boost of youthful exuberance that makes me smile. And I’ve been around queers, which is always like a vitamin.

This is not to say I don’t get grumpy a lot. Just so you know.

*Golf lesbians are coming to town.
I contemplate this with a frown.
They drive SUVs
And they show off their knees
The whole god damn thing gets me down.

Published in: on June 2, 2009 at 2:44 AM  Leave a Comment  

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