Lesbian Stereo-hyping

Commentary: Alphabet Soup

There are few moments in a lesbian’s life with more texture, few occasions more richly rewarding, than the experience of sitting with a couple of straight women as they recite a panoply of Sapphic stereotypes to which said lesbian does not adhere.

This is typically accompanied by a challenge to provide supporting documentation of the purported lesbianism and/or followed by the assessment that one’s Lesbian Identity Card is in severe danger of being revoked.

My most recent experience with this exercise came at a Washington Nationals game — which should have, on its face, lent credence to the whole ”no really, I’m a lesbian” thing. Au contraire — since the straight women were at the game with me, this did not qualify as a lesbian marker.

They were, however, swayed by my acute knowledge of the individual players and various team and player stats, as well as my casual use of the term ”ground-rule double” and coherent explanation of that phenomenon and others like it.

To my discredit, my fervent proclamations of love for third baseman Vinny Castilla (#9) caused them to hoist an eyebrow. My similarly heartfelt declarations about back-up shortstop Jamey Carroll (#2) did nothing to further my cause.

But this was about more than baseball. The two straight women in this particular exchange were completely non-homophobic; they weren’t speaking of the stereotypes in any derisive way, nor were they completely serious at any given point. Both of them had openly lesbian roommates in college, and both have always been absolutely wonderful to me on that topic and others in the year and a half that I’ve known them.

Something about the crack of the bats, the roar of the crowd and the calls of the peanut hawkers brought out the feisty side in my friends, though, and we were soon engaged in the mission of enumerating the ways in which I do not fit the lesbian mold vs. the ways in which I do.

”Do you play softball?” one of them asked.

”No,” I said. ”I never really did any sports, except bicycling, and that was strictly non-competitive.”

”Mm-hmm,” they said, exchanging a look.

”But I’m a vegetarian!” I said, to which they nodded in generous acknowledgment. ”I live in Takoma Park!”

I could tell from their expressions that they were expecting more honesty from me.

”Okay,” I said. ”So I don’t own Birkenstocks.”

”Right,” one of them said. ”And you shave your legs,” she pointed out, running her fingers up my calf.

”Well, yes, I do,” I told them, resisting the urge to make a joke about her fondling my leg. ”Underarms too,” I admitted. ”But not in the winter, really!”

”Lots of women don’t really shave in the winter,” the other one said.

They started to seem interested in helping me make my case, suggesting qualifiers gently and enthusiastically, but their true motive was quickly transparent.

”Do you drive a pick-up truck?” they asked, knowing full well that I drive a regular ol’ four-door Saturn.

”No,” I said. ”I do not drive a pick-up truck, and have never wanted to. But Saturns are kind of lesbianish.”

”It’s no Subaru,” one of them said, to which I conceded that Saturns don’t hold a candle to Subarus in this game — but added that my partner drives one, and I am a co-owner of that vehicle, listed on the registration and everything.

They looked skeptical.

I pointed out that I don’t carry a purse, which led to a sidebar about how people like me manage to carry loose stuff around in our pockets and not lose things all the time. (Answer: We say a lot of prayers, often get lucky and find our cell phones wedged between the driver’s seat and the car door, and occasionally — very rarely in my case — we lose something.)

But back to the task at hand. They conceded that I keep my hair pretty short — but noted that it could be shorter. They smirked at my confession that I get monthly haircuts and spend $45 apiece on them.

I pulled out what I was certain would end the conversation once and for all: ”I don’t wear make-up.”

They were stunned speechless for a second, stewing in the juices of utter defeat, until they got a second wind. They unleashed a barrage of heterosexifying barbs, beginning with: ”Do you wear flannel shirts?”

”No,” I said, ”but I own some. Does anyone still wear flannel shirts?”

They were having none of this; my challenges of their outdated caricatures fell flat.

”I like folk music,” I said meekly, knowing that there’s only a certain amount of it, by certain artists, that I can stomach.

”Have you been to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival?” they countered.

”No …” I trailed off. Damn, they were good. ”But I haven’t worn patchouli in years!” I said. I’m pretty sure they rolled their eyes at this.

Clearly it was time for the big guns. I reached into the recesses of my brain, mentally thumbing through the card catalog of my lesbian experience. I needed to silence them once and for all. I needed to show that my lesbian card was not in danger of revocation. I needed to stand up and assert, ”I am lesbian! Hear me roar!”

A small voice emerged from the darkness, telling me I’d found the clincher. I sat up straighter, looked them in the eye.

”My partner,” I said, ”is a WOMAN.”

And that, thank God, was the end of that.

Kristina Campbell sometimes worries that her hairstyle verges on mullet, but friends assure her that it does not — while laughing a little too hard at the question. Reassure her at kcampbell@metroweekly.com and read ”Alphabet Soup” biweekly; that will make her feel better — and more lesbian — too.