Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Ladder Had the Last Word

Ten years ago I wrote a little piece about my wife and I and a ladder. Imagining our future as little old women fussing over one another (apparently ladder falls are the leading cause of death among the elderly, who knew?). A week ago the ladder decided to have the last word on the subject, and Surprise! slid out from under my spouse, bringing her down with a bang and a whimper.

Concussion, fractured ribs, bruising from head to toe. But alive, damn it. We’re not biddies yet. Scared me to death, necessitating a day in bed for my psychological recovery and two for her physical recovery, as well as a full day in the ER getting her checked out when she stopped being stoic and admitted a couple days later that the headache was getting worse.

She’s okay. The bruising is receding. She’s no longer able to cause an ER doc’ to say “Ewwww” like she did last week. She’s even back to doing moderately dangerous things like riding her motorcycle and using power tools. The ladder lies against the garage. It may just have to go.

This is what I had to say ten years ago, when being a biddie on a ladder seemed a long way off.

Biddies on a Ladder

It all started with the ladder. Like many homeowners, we decorate at Christmas time with twinkling lights dangling dangerously from our highest gutters. And we never seem to get around to taking the darned things down. Something always comes up between January and whenever. What with rain, wind, and sleet (things that make climbing to eave-level less than attractive), it was just last weekend that we finally heaved the neighbor’s ladder up against the house.

It was while I was quivering at the top, sheer terror being upper-most in my mind that my wife suddenly smiled and said “I can just see us in forty years, two old biddies fussing over each other.” Then she did an extemporaneous performance as the aforementioned biddie: “be careful,” “remember your hip,” “did you forget your pill?” All while holding onto the ladder as if her life depended on it. Mine did. It was very sweet. But it also made me think, I need to get out more while I still can.

With or without the wife. She already gets out with friends more than I do, so I decided in lieu of paying a babysitter the equivalent of our mortgage payment, my spouse could mind the store for a night.

I looked upon my night out as research. I rarely see what the mainstream seems to think of as “gay life.” My gay life consists of carting kids to school, buying groceries, cleaning, carting some more, disciplining the dog, and making dinner. Nothing for any conservative to get in a snit over.

Instead of going solo, I called in an expert. A friend with an encyclopedic knowledge of the location and hours of anywhere interesting; her evening is just getting started around the time we’ve slapped each other a high five and turned out the light.

Lesbian motherhood is anything but glamorous.

Our friend was, as always, prepared. She had our local GLBTQ paper with her and open to the bar and nightclub listings before we were even strapped into her sporty little sedan. We made a plan.

Our first stop was a classy piano bar kind of joint. Groups of gay men (as opposed to “boys”) were clustered around the bar watching a basketball game and cheering gustily. And, to my surprise, our waiter seated us at a very nice table.

Now there was a time when lesbians were given the worst seat in the house and then ignored. Since our waiter was practically tripping over himself to fill our water glasses, I think we’ve successfully killed the stereotype of lesbians as difficult patrons and lousy tippers. He even tried to aid us in our research. We explained our quest (locating the wild lesbian) and he replied (in an extremely Nelly voice) that he wasn’t gay, so he wouldn’t know where to go, but he’d ask the cook. He flitted off and came back to inform us we were right on the money and should continue as planned.

As we arrived at our second destination, I thought of the changes ten years could bring. A three-foot illuminated pink triangle in anything but the gayest part of town would have been considered an invitation to brick-throwing and bomb-scares a decade earlier. Back then we were afraid to have our backs to a window, and now here’s this neon sign that practically screams “We’re queer, we’re here, get used to it.”

Other than that, it was the same old familiar scene. Some pool players, some young pups, some professional women huddled over beer bottles talking about IPO’s. The disc jockey was sauntering about the place flirting with anyone willing.

Our last stop was The Dance Bar. Having been a barfly myself before meeting my sensible and wholesome mate (and done plenty to get a conservative in a snit over), I figured I would relate to the place if not the young things in it.

And some of them seemed very young.

But what was refreshing was the variety of women there. You had your buzz-cut countercultures, your women in girl-drag, your serious butches, your professional women, your crunchy granolas and your femmes in lace stockings and lipstick.

And you had lots of smoke. I intended to burn my clothes when I got home.

But on the whole it was an affirming experience. Far from the attitudinal scene I was expecting, I saw women of all colors, size and shape, style and age, trying to have a good time. It made my heart swell with Pride to be part of such a community.

Though on our way back to the car someone did yell obscene suggestions at us from an adjacent apartment building; how apropos. The only constant it seems you can rely on when it comes to “gay life” is that harassment is alive and well.

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