I’ve always been kind of a fag hag. I’ve had many fabulous gay male friends over the years who have kept me in stitches and tried in vain to keep me in style. But I’ve never really had a close lesbian friendship, even though I live in the most lesbian-friendly city in America. It isn’t that I’m avoiding them. I couldn’t even if I wanted to. To borrow one of my husband’s famous Southern colloquialisms, you can’t “sling a dead cat” without hitting a lesbian in Asheville. And I’m cool with that. The diversity of this city makes it a fascinating and highly entertaining place to live.
So, you can imagine my excitement when the lesbian couple at work finally, finally invited me to their annual summer soirée, otherwise known as a drunken croquet party. On the inside I was leaping and shouting, “I’m in! I’m really in! They want me!” On the outside, of course, I had to maintain a sense of aloof mystery. “I don’t think I’m doing anything that night. Let me get back to you.”
Now, I’ve worked with these women for 6 years. We’ve traded witty banter, shared gossip, and generally gotten along very well. But never an invite. I think they just couldn’t quite figure me out. I seem like a typical straight-laced suburban soccer mom to those who don’t know me well. These ladies, on the other hand, have dogs for children and like to unwind with copious amounts of white wine and “medicinal herbals”. I think they weren’t sure if I would approve. But when my chemo began, I found myself in the unfamiliar position of needing an herbalist, and the lesbians came to my rescue. We forged a kind of bond.
When I told my husband about the event, he surprised me by asking if he could tag along. There was a heavy, pregnant pause. You should know something about my husband. He is a staunch Republican who listens to Rush Limbaugh during the commercials of Fox News. He thinks Ronald Reagan should be sainted. I was already thinking that this could end very badly, a rabid right-winger at a lesbian summer party. But I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, until he came downstairs in a pair of khaki shorts, a t-shirt, and..wait for it..a cowboy hat. Really!?! Do we have to do the whole Willie Nelson Southern pride thing today? I could already see us getting kicked out of the party, and me, back on the outside. I walked to the car with a sense of dread.
We parked at the edge of the driveway and walked up on the front lawn where a small crowd was gathered, watching a croquet match in progress. There were a few people I knew, but more that I didn’t. There were hippies, lesbian couples, and a grandmother with bright blue hair shepherding her tiny granddaughter through the crowd. I shot a sideways glance toward my husband to gauge his reaction. No expression. Good. We made our way into the house and found our hostesses in the kitchen. They had already been in the wine for some time, and they were very animated and happy to see us, cowboy hat and all. When the lady who was supposed to grill the hamburgers and hotdogs failed to show up, my husband stepped in and offered to be the chef. His stock was going up. Maybe I could stop worrying.
This story wouldn’t be complete without telling you that my husband is the strong, silent type, which is a nice way of saying that he rarely says a word, unless he’s been drinking. He reminds me of one of those coin-operated puppets in a glass case, head bent over and limbs dangling. You put in a quarter and it comes to life before your eyes. Only in his case, the quarter is a six-pack. Do you see where this is going? I bet you don’t!
After all the guests had eaten, somebody pulled out a guitar and began singing. I was thoroughly enjoying myself when I stepped in the kitchen for just a minute to get a drink. Imagine my surprise when I went back to the porch and saw Mr. Strong and Silent smoking a cigarette (he doesn’t smoke) and belting out the lyrics to some country song, all while drinking his 47th beer. The crowd was loving it. Suddenly, he was talkative, fun and the life of the party. I heard someone in the distance shout out “Hey man. Let’s toast our grillmaster. Excellent burgers, dude!” Everybody hooted and hollered, glasses clinked, high-fives ensued. WTF?? Give him 47 beers and he’s fucking Johnny Cash. These are my lesbians! This is my day! At that moment, I realized that I had expended so much energy all night following him around, making sure that he didn’t discuss gay marriage, immigration, welfare or pretty much anything else that would be offensive to a big group of liberals, that I had not been my usual witty and charming self.
Next year I’m gonna find some new lesbians and throw my own party in an undisclosed location, Johnny Cash is not invited!