Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seventeen Seconds to Homophobia ...

A friend asked me not to use that title.  She said it was too much like a phrase she said to herself regarding a similar experience.  Her phrase was seventeen seconds of Heaven.  I guess that is the difference between a heterosexual kiss and a homosexual kiss.
In AA you often hear about the “pink cloud” of new sobriety.  For some of the newly sober everything seems to be a euphoric experience.  “These are the greatest flip flops I have ever owned.  I mean I can really feel them on my feet.  You know what I mean?  I mean have you really ever just experienced the feeling of a good pair of flip flops?”  That’s just an example, but it seems to be a common phenomenon.  Then one day the newness wears off and you have to live with those flip flops even if its winter and they are still the only shoes you have.  That’s when the real work begins.  That’s when the real experience of a real life starts.
I guess until a few weeks ago, I was on a rainbow cloud of self discovery.  Every experience was new.  My brain felt whole for the first time.  I could love someone with my whole person.  I didn’t feel like someday I would probably just eat the business end of a .38.  Finally, the mystery was solved.  I finally knew the real reason I like the Logo channel, and that I love “The Big Gay Sketch Show” for more than just because it’s edgy like Saturday Night Live was in the ‘70s.
Even the bumps along the way have been fairly surmountable.  The first time I kissed my girlfriend in public – a little awkward, but nobody got killed over it.  My parents near death experiences and their “Jesus will not approve” speech was survivable.  They didn’t kick me out of the family, and I didn’t disown them.
I finally felt free.  When I got my haircut, I didn’t immediately wonder if someone might think I looked like a Lesbian.  I didn’t have to worry about what people thought about my pre-occupation with Xena and Wonder Woman reruns.  And when I put on my comfortable Keen’s to go to church to play my guitar, I could finally say.  “Damn it, I will wear what I want.  I am a Lesbian, and I can be comfortable without guilt.”  Besides they are tan and looked great with the khaki shorts… but I digress.
Until those fateful seventeen seconds, I didn’t quite understand that vigorous inhale my future wife seemed to hold in public.  She never could quite let out that cleansing breath and look relaxed.  The one day she did relax, she paid for it.  She is still punishing herself for love.  It is terrible to watch someone you love suffer because that person loves you.  It’s not quite a Ramona and Juliet story, but it is damn near close.
The place I work always felt like an island of causal liberalism in a vast sea of conservative tension.   Since I came out, my partner and I have been pretty open about our involvement.   Our colleagues seemed pretty supportive.  This whole lesbian thing was going to be cake!  We were in the right place at the right time and all would be well.  In fact, there are a lot of couples in our work place, and we would just blend in with the rest.  The joke that circulates among the employees has been that they don’t pay us enough to have hobbies, so we make our relationships our extracurricular activities.  It turns out its only partially true.  For some couples, seventeen seconds is heaven.  For others, it can be a ticket to hell, ridicule and possibly the unemployment line.
Anyway, here’s what happened:  It takes seventeen seconds for the staff elevator to travel between floors and to my knowledge; a lot of kissing can and has happened in between floors in that very elevator.  Some staff members don’t even seem to make it to the elevator.  On this particular day, a heterosexual couple was embracing and kissing in the staff hallway in front of the elevator.  It was after lunch and my partner and I were taking the elevator, and just as the door began to close, a colleague – nay – friend (or so we had assumed) jumped on with us.
My partner said, “Aw now we can’t make out!”  She feigned disappointment and said, “Well, we will just have to show him.”  She gave me a quick kiss on the lips.  She did this in a joking manner.  It was quick.  It was innocent.  It was meant to be a joke.  Our colleague said nothing, and I thought nothing more of it.  Even later when she was called to her supervisor’s office, and I was summoned to the conference room by mine, I still didn’t think about the elevator.
We both received reprimands.   We were both warned that our positions were in jeopardy.  Although it wasn’t until after my meeting, that I learned what this reprimand was truly about.   I was told that it was a PDA, public display of affection and that was as detailed as my offense was explained.
Interesting.…  As far as I knew, the heterosexual couple was still kissing in the hallway.
Both our reprimands were prefaced with the statement, “this isn’t a gender issue.”  Forgive me if I seem skeptical.  The director has kissed her husband right out in the public area in front of everyone.  Another couple had been spotted on the bike path, and the hetero-couple were still kissing, hugging or hitting each other like third graders in the hall.
After our seventeen second decent into homophobia, I finally understood why my future wife never seems to breathe in public.  She spent several days berating herself for letting her guard down.  I spent several days contemplating a drink or suicide or both because I felt crushed under the jackboot of hatred.  (Yes, I can be a drama queen, and yes, I do devastate easily).
In seventeen seconds, my rainbow bliss faded into a cold, wintery, monochromatic gray.  Clearly, I have not developed the thick hide of a seasoned, tested, been around the block, dyke or is it dike?   I will have to look it up.  It will take me a lot longer than seventeen seconds to get used to being different to people I thought I knew and I thought knew me.  I am still me.  I am just more me than I used to be, but that’s for another time…

Posted by Layla Proudfoot at Wednesday, January 19, 2011 2 comments
Links to this post

No comments:

Post a Comment