Friday, April 11, 2014

Lesbian Lessons

For years there have been millions of debates over gay rights and slowly people are starting to realize that gay people are just like the rest of us. . . well, hell they are the "rest of us." People are people. And weird things happen to people.

I am not gay. I have wonderful friends who are. I have no problem with anyone's "gayness." Well, gaydar" for me to pick up on the fact that she belonged with another woman years before she made history by coming out of the closet. For me it was a huge relief when she did.
okay, one problem. It is Ellen DeGeneres. Dear, sweet, funny Ellen. Oh, not with her now. Back when she first had her own sitcom and was playing it straight. Every time they had her character in a straight love situation it freaked me out. It just didn't feel right to me. I have just enough "

Earlier this week I had cataract surgery on my left eye. My friend Randi has been doing chauffeur duty. On the day after surgery we went to lunch before my day after eye check. We were sitting at our table at IHOP when another woman stopped to chat with us for a moment. Neither one of us will turn down a good chin wag with anyone, so we chatted.

After a few minutes of chatting I realized why the woman was talking with us. She was a lesbian and she thought we were a couple. Usually people mistake us for being mother and daughter. Randi is considerably older than I am. In this case she was also totally clueless. I was getting a chuckle on the inside. The woman was very nice and fun to chat with, regardless of the reason. Since she didn't address this directly, I didn't choose to correct her view. It didn't matter to me.

She veered into gay rights once just briefly, but since she assumed we were on the same team, she didn't need to preach to the choir. After she had gone on her way and Randi and I had taken off for the doctor's office I told her that we had just been mistaken for a lesbian couple.

"Oh, I don't care about that!" she said.

"I know, I just thought you'd be interested to know what was going on there. You know, the subtext," I responded.

We chuckled a little. It was interesting to get an idea of how some people see two women who don't wear makeup or high heels. It also gave me some sort of insight into a part of my father's life.

My father, though 100% Scandinavian, was very Semitic looking. He was mistaken for being Jewish on occasion. During World War II he was in the army and one of his fellow soldier went out of his way to make my dad's life miserable. It turned out that the soldier had assumed that my dad was a Jew. Once that misunderstanding was cleared up the guy thought dad was just fine. Something that really ticked dad off. Years later I was telling my Jewish chiropractor about the incident and took a picture of my dad in for him to see.

"Oh, my God! He looks like my uncles!" he exclaimed.

Being taken for someone you aren't at face value can swing both good and bad, harmless and harmful. It is based in stereotypes and erroneous thinking. In the wrong hands it can feed hate and fear. It can have devastating consequences. In the case of Eileen, I like to think that what she was mistakenly sensing as lesbian, was really a sense of kindred spirits.

If someone has assumed that I was a lesbian and treated me differently because of it, I have not had such an overt experience of discrimination. I fervently hope that this is because we are learning to accept people for who they are.

I don't wear makeup because even the hypo-allergenic stuff bothers my eyes. I no longer wear heels because I once actually broke a foot falling off of them and being overweight makes them uncomfortable. I am a feminist, like many women in my family over the past couple of centuries. I haven't dated in a while but am not totally opposed to doing so should a nice guy with a sense of humor, a good heart, and an open mind came along. None of this makes me a lesbian, but may make it appear so to someone else.

Looking back on the incident I have just one lingering feeling -- that Eileen would probably make a good friend.

Also, you never have heard, and never will hear, me say "that's so gay." Except for that one to make a point.

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