My True Love and I went to the Greek Village Inn in Sacramento a couple of days after Valentine’s Day. It was just the two of us there for no special reason other than to eat Greek food. I was wearing my custom Vans, which were uncommonly stylish sneakers to be sure, but other than that, we were casually dressed, fairly nondescript, reasonably attractive women. Thus, the source of this monumentally awkward social encounter I’m about describe boils down to this: could we, and should we have been perceived as a couple?
I don’t need to stroll down the street in flannel and mandals to set off a moderately tuned gaydar, due no doubt to my charming, tomboyish savoir faire. My partner, by contrast, is very curvy and feminine. A lesbian might notice her because she’s pretty with gorgeous blue eyes, but otherwise write her off as a straight girl. However, when we’re together, I think we look like a couple. We certainly act like a couple, with our frequent touching, often fond gazes, and that general lack of boundaries particular to intimate couples.
Our waitress was very friendly and chatty. She made a couple of appetizer and dinner recommendations. We ordered an appetizer to share and nice bottle of cab to split, things couples do, right? A glass into the wine, and just starting the main course, our sociable waitress unwittingly dropped her question bomb.
“Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day with anyone special?”
My honey and I were both stunned to silence for a moment, brains scrambling for an appropriate way to respond to the question.
After what seemed like a painfully long, uncomfortable pause, I pointed to Michelle across the table (let the record show SHE is my Valentine, Your Honor!), and said, “Uhhh, yeah, her, right there. She’s my Valentine.”
Compared to her question bomb, our waitress’ follow-up remark rained on the scene like chemical warfare.
“Well, at least you weren’t alone.”
There are several ways to react to this kind of remark, most of which result in some display of offendedness:
1. Become wildly offended because that gay-hating bitch is saying your relationship exists merely to substitute for a man and to fend off a terminal case of loneliness.
2. Become moderately offended because it’s insulting whether she thinks you’re gay or straight. Being single seems to be a criminal activity in our society, which is a write-up all its own.
3. Feel confused, and then offended, because is she saying you could have done better by choosing a man, or just that you could have done better than this lovely woman sitting across from you? Again, insulting either way.
4. Feel offended because it’s a presumptuous remark and any decent waitress exposed to current events should know that lesbian couples do exist.
5. Feel a tiny bit complimented that at least you don’t look too dykey.
As I’m easily confused, I landed at Option 3. “Are you saying I could have done better?” I retorted.
Awkwardness enveloped our little table-for-two like a thick mist. The waitress showed obvious signs of discomfort, like a red face and unusually-forced, high-pitched laughter. She scurried away into the kitchen.
I get it that she didn’t recognize we were gay, or a couple. I get it that the natural presumption is that people are straight, so that is the first filter through which people are viewed. But does that make her comments okay? Not to me. Maybe I’m weighted down by a giant lesbian chip on my shoulder. Being invisible gets tiresome, and that is exactly what lesbian couples are in this society – invisible.
Our love lives are rarely fully understood or acknowledged. The fact that we have deep romantic attractions, and carry full-on sexual desire for one another that exists outside of porn clips and pulp fiction is dismissed and overlooked. Visible women actually portrayed as being sexual together are totally fake lesbians displayed for the benefit of men. These depictions are rife with absurdly feminine looking women engaging in totally unrealistic sex designed purely to stimulate men. Conversely, actual lesbians are perceived to be frumpy, ugly, hairy-legged man-haters who either want to be men, or are too ugly to get a man. These women don’t get to appear sexual, because, heck, they’re just asexual lady-friend companions. It’s tedious and annoying to constantly come up against these stereotypes.
My honey and I represent none of those things. She is the person I’m attracted to on every level – physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. Seven years into our relationship, I know for damned sure that I couldn’t possibly find anyone better for me. It would just be nice for the social world at large to see us and recognize us as the couple we are, and not view us as merely platonic, asexual companions who at least had each other to keep from being alone on Valentine’s Day.