Life-Changing Women’s Week

Living in the suburbs, things are nice. We are lucky enough to have a backyard, with a wonderful apple tree, a large yew, a gorgeous dogwood and magnolia. Yesterday, walking the dog, I made him wait for a long time as I enjoyed a catbird, nestled in a tall, bushy rhododendron, going through its entire repertoire: cardinal, sparrow, blue jay, sparrow, cardinal, blue jay, cardinal, cardinal…. It’s quiet and safe here, and the air is a lot fresher than in Boston. Our house is in pretty good repair and we have lovely neighbors. It’s comfortable.

Years can pass.

Years can pass where you put off the effort that it takes to pay attention to parts of yourself that aren’t fed in the suburbs. You think everything’s ok. You have daily tasks, you’re working, the dog needs surgery, your older son has a rough patch but now seems to be doing quite well in college, your younger son drives you crazy ever since he got the i-phone that he is now never without and that has supplanted reading, conversation, participating in household chores and sleep. Your old parents live down the street and their care takes up a lot of time. Your cat has now lost six collars to his active outdoor life, a life you worry about seeing as how a neighbor just one street over saw a coyote at 7am, just trotting along. Cats have been disappearing, sad fliers on telephone poles.

Everything’s fine, though. Normal.

Earlier this month, for the third year in a row, I went to Provincetown during Women’s Week for a writing retreat. It’s always a blissful time; this year, it was revelatory.

I drove down on Friday, and Tex was to come along on the plane later in the week. In the car, suburbs behind me, my mind more or less exploded. Everything I saw and heard made me think – about my writing, two novels knocking around in my head, about the organizing work I’ve been doing, about life, about being queer. By the time I got to our rental, I was in a state. My creativity, no, my queer creativity had roared back into life and had completely taken over. I spent most of the week indoors writing, keeping reading company with Felice Picano (Like People In History) and Richard Rodriguez (Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography), doing puzzles, crocheting, writing, writing. Tex got there, and I kept beavering away. But every time I went out, something magical happened. I met a butch/femme couple who remembered my reading from last year, and was anxious to buy another book with one of my stories in it. Tex and I met another couple who have been together 37 years and who were truly some of the nicest women we’d ever met, and then we kept running into them all over town, and every time we did, Tex and I felt as though we had been blessed, because their presence was so profoundly healing. Another couple we met made us laugh so hard in Toys of Eros with their shenanigans that we almost forewent going to see Karen Williams that evening, but are so glad we didn’t, because she is such an important and hilarious lesbian visionary. We were embraced by another butch/femme couple, with whom we are now machinating about how to sponsor a couple of butch/femme events next year. And that’s not even the half of it, Mary!

Back in the ‘burbs, after (this is not metaphorical) a tearful farewell, Tex and I feel a shift in our bones and hearts. Ignoring the wellspring of queer love necessary for sanity – in other words, chugging along in our suburban haze, excuse me straight suburban haze – is taking a huge toll. We can do it, yes, we’ve proven that, and living here has provided us with opportunities to do work that is fulfilling and important (in ESL tutoring and queer organizing for me and hunger relief for Tex) but our own souls have been crying out. We can’t put off this soul work any longer, deep into middle age, surrounded by tasks and responsibilities, the precariousness of our lives as humans, fallible and without any guarantees of safety, longevity, health. This was revealed to us in Provincetown just now, a gift, a blessing. In Provincetown, the gay mecca, where we were broken open by the lesbian energy and utterly queer culture. Where we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and wanting and connected to other queers, and where we have now sworn we will return as often as possible. Not only that, but we are determined to carry Ptown into our suburban realm, be mindful of taking a spoonful – a whole bottle! – of queer medicine every day. Caught in the straight undertow for so long, we are now strapping on our rainbow floaties and paddling in the opposite direction. Sharks and storms be damned, we are swimming with the mermaids now!

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Published in: on October 21, 2015 at 2:30 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. That is so fantastic. I believe every word — not an ounce of hyperbole in it. (And thanks for your comments. They REALLY filled me up.)


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