I watched Boogie Nights the other nights. It’s a movie I’ve watched dozens of times and I think I watch it mostly because it reminds me so much of the times I experienced as a 17-year old in 1978-1978.
I’m an old lady now. I can tell old lady stories now, right?
I used to hang out with the fag boys. I first had sex with a fag boy. Later we joked that we both “turned” gay – sex must have been that bad. har He and I used to troll Lake Eola in Orlando looking for boys for him to spend some time with while I wrote spacey poetry about my thinly veiled jealous longing for him on scrunched up paper inside spiral bound notebooks.
Soaring through the galaxy
Your awareness of things around you
By the Comet
In your groin.
He used to leave his encounters and tell me every detail of them and then we would go and have sex in his bedroom, his remembering how wonderful his time in Lake Eola was.
(I still find it incredible I am HIV negative considering what I did during this time period. Most of the people I had sex with and most of the friends I had are long, long gone due to AIDS… many years before the good drugs came along.)
I remember one guy we used to see a lot. He was a hairdresser and we’d go ride in his Cadillac, me in the backseat and my friend and this hairdresser man in the front… cutie pie that he was. They’d grope and carry on, me, looking out the window, poppers being passed back and forth between the three of us, me writing while inhaling the
When I met Doug and Randy and and the rest of that gang, things became much more fun – and educational. I began an entire indoctrination into the gay male culture.
Why, you might ask, wasn’t I spending time with the lesbian community? Didn’t I know there were chick bars? Music Festivals? Cris Williamson concerts? Lesbian newspapers to write for?
The problem, you see, was I was a femme baby dyke in an extremely androgynous period in the lesbian timeline. Whereas they were wearing Levi’s, lumberjack flannel shirts and desert boots, I was wearing gauze hippie dresses, tights, ruffle ankle socks, rhinestones (everywhere!) and Candy’s (or Jelly Shoes). I once went to the lesbian bar with the guys because they wanted me to find a girlfriend and I was not only ignored, I was made terrible fun of. I ended up crying and leaving after trying to talk to women for about an hour or so. The looks they gave me were of utter derision. I can see those looks even now. Thank goodness Sarah, a very butch dyke, loves this ultra-femme dyke (and recognized me!).
So, Doug, et al took me everywhere they could take me and about the only place they couldn’t take me was the baths. I went everywhere else. I explored all the different bars with them. The country bar, the after hours club (where you had to bring your own booze and you didn’t walk out until it was light outside… very odd!), even the leather club, where they did frown on my being there, but didn’t out and out toss me out on my ear.
One place we frequented was the movie house. An odd name for a porn store with stalls in the back that showed flickering male on male (on male and male and male and and and…) movies that you paid a quarter for to see portions of. Typically, one went into a stall in alone or with a “buddy” and watched the film (or not). I was invited to go with my friends and three or four of us would cram into a tiny booth and laugh our asses off at the jerky, start the movie, jump on the body, get it on, flick. I’m so sure the other patrons enjoyed our presence.
The first time in there, I was baffled by two things. I am not kidding. I tend to be kind of slow sometimes.
There was a roll of toilet paper in there.
And a hole.
I couldn’t figure out what either of those was for. And my friends looked at me like I was crazy and made me sit there kept putting quarters in until I figured it out for myself. I’m sure it took about $5 worth.
These forays to the movie house did not entertain me muchly, but I did find my avenue to enjoyment and that ended up being the drag shows. I absolutely fell in love with the drag queens. Oh, my! The make-up, the jewels, the sparkles, the music… so, so right up my alley!
I made friends with lots of the drag queens who had names like Rusty Fawcett, Rita Beads (“Reading Beads” was an expression that meant something like, “I’m gonna take you down!” or “I’ve got your number!”) and Heavy Duty ( a luscious, big black girl). The “women” seemed to like me and took me back stage after awhile and taught me how to put on make-up… a skill I still utilize today. I used to sit and watched them rehearse their numbers, critiqued their rehearsals, shared my thoughts about their shows and tipped them with my few-existent dollars when they “sang” songs I loved and appreciated.
The boys and I were so poor we’d get to the bar before they started charging at 8:00pm (also to avoid being carded since we were under-age) and just wait until the (drag) shows started at 10pm. There were two shows and the 10pm show was not very crowded, but still fun. The real fun, though, was the midnight show. That’s when the straight crowd from the suburbs would come, sit in the front and Miss P, the emcee (and my dear friend Paul, who just last year died from AIDS) would harass and harangue the straights delightfully – it’s what they came for and what we lived for!
After the show, we’d watch as the crowd left and scour the floor for the money that’d fallen out as they were too drunk to pay attention to. It was a race with the waiters, but they were usually busy with the last of the customers, so we got the floor pickin’s. With whatever we found, we’d go to the restaurant (it was a full service club – bar/show bar/restaurant/hotel) and sit with some of the drag queens after they’d become men once again and were unrecognizable, but still as flamboyant and obnoxious, and laugh and laugh and eat crackers (free) dipped in Thousand Island dressing (free) and have refillable Diet Coke ($.50). We’d sit for hours. We saved the money for lunch money at school the next day.
The bar’d close at 2am, but we’d sit sometimes until 4am or so and then I’d head home, sleep for a couple of hours, get up at 6am and be at school at 7am for a full day at learning again. Only to be back at the bar by 8pm the next night.
While I had friends growing up, my Fat Angry Woman post gives an idea of what it was like for me in school, so when I found the gay community, I finally came into my own. Finally, for the first time, my fat didn’t matter. No one cared. It didn’t matter anymore that I had rolls, that I jiggled, that I couldn’t run, that I couldn’t hit a ball, that I didn’t have a boyfriend to go to the Prom with because my friends were exactly like me in almost every instance (excapt the fat... the boys were PRETTY and extremely toned). We shared so much! Every day. I could laugh loudly, snort, sit around kissing the boys to practice, have casual sex with some of them, cruise guys and girls with them, play dress up with them, put make-up on with them, go dancing with them, shopping with them, get drunk with them, work with them, eventually live with them and even run away to New York City with them. They love me for ME. No physical judgment at all. None of them EVER said, “Gee, Barb, maybe you should lose a few pounds. Maybe you’d find a man/woman if you did.” Instead, they were so fabulous in saying things like, “That girl is just stupid for not even giving you the time of day. She doesn’t know what lovin’ she is missing!” Now those are friends.
When I moved to Germany and got together with Sarah, we had to deal with the “Oh, you’re the man and you’re the woman” shit from the lesbian and straight community alike. The dyke community back then really struggled with our relationship and told us we were aping the breeders (not that we weren’t already breeders ourselves!). I sighed and realized I would never again have the type of soaring freedom I’d had in that gay world in 1979. Held down by different tethers… children, work, school, responsibilities, relationships, a busy-ness that didn’t permit me to be as active in the gay community as I wanted to be, a continuing feeling of alienation as a femme dyke… I’d even lost the memory of the kind of joy I had back then until writing this.
1979 was also the year I ran away from home to New York City and then ended up in Washington DC, living there for 3 months. I think it’s time to share that story here.
All these things are not so midwifery-oriented, but after 18 months of nothing personal, it feels right to share these things again. My heart feels healed enough. Tenacious brings me strength.
Babies bring me strength.
Most of all, I bring me strength.