I was waiting in the clinic with my daughter amidst a miasma of coughing, praying I didn’t catch whatever they all had, when an older Butch struck up a conversation with me. She was there with her daughter. (I’m guessing the girl was adopted, she was Asian, I’m guessing Thai, Vietnamese or maybe Cambodian, while her mom was white. I know a lot of folks find it easier to adopt from Asia than here in the US. There’s a whole generation of Asians being raised by white families all around the country, especially in my white upper class neighborhood. It should be interesting to hear some of their stories as they come of age–but I digress.)
We got to talking, and she told me she was a teacher.
“What grade do you teach?” I asked.
“Oh I teach all grades.” She replied. “I’m a gym teacher.” Can you get more cliched? I’m not dissin’–just sayin.’ She ran a hand heavy with double masculine styled wedding rings through her hair. “I keep my hair short, because I sweat all day at work, and if I have it longer I get acne.”
“Acne? really?” I replied, but I was really thinking: you don’t have to justify your hair to me, you’re butch, I get it! Why do butch women always feel like they have to explain themselves to me? “Yeah I used to have short hair too…but I let it grow out.” It feels like an inadequate reply. I wanna say, yes, I’m a family too! But how to work it in?
“Yeah my son says,” she took a deep breath and faced with a smile. “Us guys have to stick together.” I smiled back.
“Oh you have a son too?”
“Yeah he’s at home with his other mother.” She changed the subject, “Your daughter has nice hair.” We get that everywhere we go. Through the genetic convergence of Irish, Black and Jewish, she came out with a flaming red head of ringlets/afro, depending on how it’s styled.
“Yeah my daughter always want’s curly hair.”
“I think everyone wants what they can’t have.” I replied. “My daughter wants it straight.”
“We curl it sometimes with a curling iron.”
“Oh really? I don’t know how to do anything with hair except wash it and let it dry.”
“Me neither, her other mother handles that.” I couldn’t help thinking how much I had in common with this butch woman. I wonder what she saw in me? It was a casual day for me, so I was in a hoodie, loose jeans (they used to be slimming but now they’re baggy lol) and hiking boots, I guess I looked kinda butch too, despite my shoulder length, somewhat unkempt hair. Or maybe the slightly greasy unkempt thing added to the affect.
“This is my guilty pleasure in waiting rooms.” I told her, grabbing a copy of Glamor off of the coffee table. Heavy perfumes wafting off of it, stinging my nose. “I hate when they load it down with perfume, I like natural smells!”
“Yeah me too.”
Leafing through pictures of sexy women and wishing I could take it home to add to my collage, it was on the tip of my tongue to tell her that my ex-girlfriend’s cologne was the only artificial smell I ever liked, but I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. What’s wrong with me? Am I afraid to be out? She’s living fearless, why can’t I?
We talked a bit more, and I satisfied her curiosity that I was a single mom. I never did tell her explicitly answer her unspoken curiosity about my sexuality, although I laced in plenty of hints I think. Still, again, what’s wrong with me? Why is it still so hard to be out and proud?