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Friday, 5 March 2004

Blue Paint and Prejudice

Mood:  accident prone
Now Playing: Nutt: 'dirty Edmonton Whore'

Topic: Belle de Jour
So, it turns out that I'm scared of dykes, see?
When I packed in drinking, I was worried about the effect on my social life, on whether I felt up to the challenge of entertaining people without a chemical prop. It hasn't been that difficult. But the gay scene? Nahhhhh. No way. No way have I ever seen the gay scene work without drink or drugs.
So, I kind of decided I'd wait a month or two, find my feet as a non-drinker, get through the hurdle of Christmas without passing out beneath the family tree doing sherry farts. Then I'd try socialising in safer, not so alky crowds, right?
You know, where there's some focus other than getting off your tits and trying to grab a snog with absolutely anyone around, no matter how repellent.
You know, the general tone of any night out on the gay scene.

But there are all my prejudices about gay culture to address before I can work up the guts to get out there. I have to deal with my snobbery, and balance it against my tedium.
Most gay culture, I could take or leave it. Well to be precise, I could leave it. Tybalt says I'd be a classic homophobe but for the accident of genetics that made me actually gay myself. I really couldn't care less about butching up, coking up, hanging around with short fat women in dirty bars because the lesbian pound can't afford to run any decent dives, or inflicting horrific injuries on myself on Stoke Newington footie pitches every Sunday just because all those baby dykes grew up isolated or bullied without a sense of community or shared purpose. There are far more differences of class, education, lifestyle, preoccupations and - well, enthusiasm between me and most gay women I meet than any accident of gender programming that says 'hey, we're both gay!' will resolve.
I mean, I'm not boring, I'm not going to go to gay theatre, throw myself into relentless pursuit of Martina, or stand around at dyke detective novel book signings, credit me with some taste. I've tried going to the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, but frankly, I've never gotten beyond martinis at the lobby bar to actually see a film.
And all those groundbreakingly gay artistic endeavours? 'Shopping and Fucking', 'Beautiful Thing', 'Bound', 'But I'm a Cheerleader'? Well, they were shit. Just because they're gay I'm supposed to not know they were shit? Suddenly? Fuck that.

But then there's the realisation that my safe, supercilious disrespect of anything gay isn't actually helping. Truth be told, is a pretty obvious safety catch.
So, fine line to tread. Between my snobbery and my fear, and the rocket under my arse that I unfortunately know it usually takes to change ingrained things.
I did make the right noises. Come NYE, I committed myself to some arrangements, with dykes I knew vaguely, or in some cases barely at all. First I agreed to sign up for a lesbian book club, thinking: it's in a quieter bar, one of the few that I like, I know the owner, and feel comfortable there - and okay, something for me to focus on, I can use my brains to deflect them from noticing that I'm not drunk. Only problem is remembering not to talk too much.
(Hey, it so turns out that I'm the world's only book club stalker - I infiltrate and go undercover to every book club within a ten mile radius - I'll do anything it takes to find out what book you're reading, but I'll never attend your damn saddo craptacular loser book club, right? Reading, fine. What, socialising? Nyeh.)
Dyke nights out I have turned down so far this year: the lesbian book club - twice. The house party. The evening touring east end bars. The charity wine tasting. The thai meal. The country walk.

I had an excuse for all of them, you know.
The east end bars - well it just exploded, and then everyone invited friends of friends of friends, and then there were fifty lesbians coming, and I only knew one of them, Toto, and not that well at that, and I wound her up by drunkenly texting her at four in the morning when I was upset about Tybalt once, even though, damn, she's not well, she's got way worse problems than anything I can whinge about. So that was a real reason not to turn up, and anyway, Toto didn't even notice I didn't show.
The dyke house party - this cool journalist woman I had dinner with last summer invited me, forgot she had, found the blog, mailed me and invited me again - why didn't I go to that? Well, god, I fancied the hostess, Taj, and she was the hostess, right, she woulda been busy. So that woulda meant I knew, um, let me see, nobody else there. Nah. Another no show.
The lesbian book club: well I missed three of those, but at least my old book club stalking form meant I read the books. It was just when I decided to move out - calendar left in the old place, with the computer, with the dates on, busy trying to build a bed in the new place and so on. Clean forgot.
Then two weeks ago, an old old friend, Minsk, emailed me out of the blue. Invited me to a charity lesbian wine tasting.
Why does that sound so filthy dirty? A lesbian wine tasting?
I'd know Minsk, whom I haven't seen in maybe three years, I'd know her girlfriend, Jude, the people there would be nice, normal ... there's a high incidence of mental disturbance amongst lezzers, you've no idea how weird these things can get.
And then I was tired, I had no money, certainly not enough money to pay for wine I wouldn't drink, then the charity donation after that, and it was in North London, on a week night, and ... and ... I didn't go.
Oh yeah, there's plenty of excuses.

The country walk is on the day I'm s'posed to sort out solicitor's stuff with Tybalt. The thai meal is the day after my replacement bank cards have failed to come through, so there's no cash to get there, or to pay for the meal, and if I didn't pull out with twenty four hours to spare, the organiser would be out by twenty knicker, and besides the only woman I would have known there, the one I fancied, the one I went to the opera with, she's got herself a girlfriend, and then she decided not to come anyway, and then it exploded as usual, and forty people were suddenly going ... and ... if I didn't ... if I .... if .... if ...

You know, though, anyway, what the fuck? I never met any decent mates on the scene.
So what do I do? All the dykes I know are in couples. Last weekend I felt shit and I felt cold, and I made up for it by buying some blue paint, and some blue bath oil and some blue explosive stuff, turned myself into a gigantic smurf and sitting in a lukewarm tub of Malice's Blue Pee while it snapped, crackled and popped. (Yes, there are photographs. No, you can't see them. This site gets enough damn hits for Bl..ue as it is.)
What do I do with the next forty years of my life if I'm too nervous to go out on the scene? Do I paint myself blue every weekend? Out of boredom?
Do I join some perverse online blue-painting sub sect of gay smurf fantasists that hold meetings? Where I won't fit in because I don't know many people, and I don't drink, and I feel uncomfortable with the blue-paint drug use? Pffft.
When did I become scared of dykes? Come to that: when did I become scared?

You know, I've been trying to think of an English equivalent of a particular Americanism today. Suck it up. I don't think there is one.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:46 AM GMT
Updated: Friday, 5 March 2004 11:24 PM GMT
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Friday, 5 March 2004 - 11:33 PM GMT

Name: lemonpillows
Home Page:

I soooooo know where you're coming from. Was just talking about this today with a friend. The whole thing about not being able to go out and stay sober because of the sheer amount of hassle you get - it's easier to stay in.

That said though, I *forced* myself to go out, even though I had plenty of excuses and no motivation for it. I'm starting to get used to it now. It still stinks, but I suppose it's better than nothing, and I've actually enjoyed myself a few times.. Try forcing yourself out one time.. See if you end up enjoying yourself.. You never know...

Friday, 5 March 2004 - 11:54 PM GMT

Name: Looby
Home Page:

That's funny - I know a lesbian goalkeeper who lives in Stoke Newington, with a name that bears an uncanny resemblance to your own!

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 1:00 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Believe me, Looby, she's one of hundreds and hundreds. :)
If there are any humans on the streets of Stoke Newington who don't identify as lesbian, they're lost - or they won't be straight for long.

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 1:01 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I always enjoy myself - I'm not shy once I'm out. It's the ordeal of working yourself up to it and wondering if it's worth it, I think.

I think.

[I read your email addy as Meet Mon Pillows. Ooo, French, kinky, thinks I. Fnarr.]

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 1:23 AM GMT

Name: lemonpillows
Home Page:

True, true.. Finding something to wear is just so traumatic nowadays. Has all sorts of connotations - especially if you're going somewhere 'gay'. It's like the hanky rule. Whether you wear a t-shirt and jeans/shirt/blouse/trousers/skirt.

It's all just too much sometimes.. *runs away in desperation*

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 1:31 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

oh god, you're right - the clothing codes depend entirely on this that and the other - like being an extra in Staying Alive. Awful.

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 5:11 AM GMT

Name: Cyn
Home Page:

I read your quitting drinking post and all 40 comments.:wipes brow: I'm thinking that whoever she is she's out there and you have to get out there to find her. But you already know that.
The straight dating scene sucks, but lesbian hook-ups sound almost unbearable.
It seems from what you describe, many (most?) lesbians identify themselves first as lesbians; you seem to i.d. yourself first as Vanessa and secondarly as a lesbian woman, putting you out of synch with the other women.
For the life of me I can't think of any good suggestions--probably best as I know bugger all about dating (either sex) or shagging a woman.
Do any of the gay clubs have tea parties?

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 10:49 AM GMT

Name: sarah

what? clothing has connotations? this is a new one - bugger, something else to worry about!

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 12:03 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Lol!!! At one point, someone in London set up a wine bar for 'professional lesbians' who disliked the meat market feel of the scene. I, Tybalt and Toulouse went along, to see who was there in its second opening week. It was very white, tiled, green ferns and piano (very Ritz). As Toulouse later said, it reminded you of a seventies film about the twenties, somehow.
Needless to say it folded as soon as their money ran out. The next lesbian club to set itself up was Candy Bar, which marketed itself as lapdancing for dykes.

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 12:04 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Nahhh, glasshopper, keep yer innocence as long as ye can.

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 6:50 PM GMT

Name: lemonpillows
Home Page:

I dream of a 'gay' place (preferrably lesbian, actually) that sells *decent* tea and coffee.. Where you can lunch, chat, smoke in a special smoking area, but be unaffected if you sit in the no-smoking section. With relaxing but very very good music. Free newspapers to read and comfy sofas to sit on.. And stays open as long as the pubs do.. And where everyone dresses how they damn-well like.

I maybe be waiting a long time...

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 8:03 PM GMT

Name: Anne
Home Page:

Age, m'dear. Pure age. We're lazy old farts. Well, ok I am anyway. :p

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 8:15 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Well, that's what First Out was always like, in my experience, but you'd have to move to London. I dunno, maybe I'll crack open a copy of The Killing of Sister George and make believe I'm in the Gateways...

Saturday, 6 March 2004 - 8:17 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

I know! :D But if I start acting like I'm fifty at 33, what will I have left to do when I'm fifty?

(besides, you don't remember how every age you ever felt old, you looked back later thinking how young you looked in those pictures? That's going to apply to 2004, as well, you know.)

Sunday, 7 March 2004 - 6:27 PM GMT

Name: sarah

oh! First Out! That's where my london friend always takes me when we don't feel stylish enough to face the Candy Bar! I loved that place. Has it shut now or something?

even in Edinburgh, other lesbians never *really* liked me. I think I scared them, or they scared me, and I much preferred sitting with the gay men anyway. I'd rather have gay friends than friends who are only friends because they're gay. You have to say: if this situation/us/this place was straight, would I be here?

Sunday, 7 March 2004 - 9:06 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

That's a really good way of putting it.

I think First Out is still open, but the website seems to hint it's being redecorated. I'm up for the #1 shorts next weekend, anyway...

Monday, 8 March 2004 - 12:50 AM GMT

Name: Creepy Lesbo
Home Page:

No, First Out is open and fine. Not redecorated last time I went. I'm probably not the person to be posting this after my last post but yes, I know the pressure to drink. I also know the consequences. There's a culture, especially if you're northern, to drink as a lesbian, but I think any lesbian feels it. And not just to drink, but to drink hard. It's Loaded culture for lesbians. Beer, women, fags, fighting, football... Sums it up pretty well. Alternatives? We need another geeky TV show with lesbian icons in really so we can organise video evenings. There are coffee mornings held around Greenwich for lesbian couples. But that's couples. I've seen people try to set up alternatives but they just don;t seem to work. Lesbians pretend they are interested but it's back down to the 'we want a shag and we want to go for a beer' basics on most people's part, even if one or two are there legitimately.

Monday, 8 March 2004 - 2:03 AM GMT

Name: Vanessa

You ever been to Southopia, Creepy? This gorgeous opera singer wanted me to go there on Sundays last year, because of needing to protect her voice, she stayed away from places that were smokey and didn't drink. She said it was a kind of 'older' feel to it, that brunch on Sundays was all about kicking back and playing board games. The way she described it sounded nice, but Kennington seemed too far away at the time, and I never went to it.

I quite liked the Glass bar, too, although I haven't been there for about three years - but it could sometimes seem cliquey as ever, and sometimes a bit too 'old'.

I've never heard of Greenwich coffee mornings. I used to be sure that having a dog would be a way to meet dykes, but I can't stand the stinky beasts.

You're right, it's not about wanting a shag, it's about wanting a social circle that isn't exclusively couples or exclusively straight. I suppose it doesn't even need to be gay if it weren't for that awful feeling that straight women my age would drop everything they ever knew in a second if the offer of babies came up.

Monday, 8 March 2004 - 6:57 PM GMT

Name: sarah

wait - is the utterly mystifying reason I pull every time I go out solely due to which pocket in my trousers I keep my house keys in?

Monday, 8 March 2004 - 7:20 PM GMT

Name: sarah

I know I could put "Getting drunk and having meaningless sex" as a hobby, but I'm thoroughly sick of having no other way to meet gay women. It'd be nice to have somewhere a lot more chilled than a nightclub, a lot less markety and more with the having a sober conversation thing. I'd like somewhere I could go with Ellie (my straight mate) as she says she wouldn't object to going to "gay" places with me, just not the nightclubs. I'm trying to get round to going to one of the Uni's gay nights with her..

Now, a quiet gay bar, something like First Out would be really good up here - Newcastle's gay scene is very loud, very young, and very mixed. The last quiet bar where I felt happy sitting talking to the barstaff and friendly strangers closed down about two years ago - now it's all loud style bars and drinks promos and house.

Mind, the pubs I go to with my friends are quite often lesbo-tastic; they market themselves quietly as "gay friendly" and attract an alt crowd anyway. If I put a little bit of effort and confidence into myself, I could start a conversation with a lass in The Head Of Steam. The place does Women's Poetry Nights, f'fucks sake.

Course, the scene in Newcastle is a million miles from that of London.

Monday, 8 March 2004 - 7:26 PM GMT

Name: e
Home Page:

Being of a slightly homebound disposition myself, I can understand what you,re talking. If I had had to face the clasic singles scene in order to find a mate, I can guarantee that I would still be unmarried, at home, talking to the canary and knitting socks by now. Singles scenes are like a meat market whichever persuasion you are. Being lesbian surely doesn't make you want to go and flaunt your stuff any more than being straight does- which is where I have a few problems with the term "gay scene"- I mean how does being gay make you any more like the next gay person, and likely to get on with them, than being, say, a teetotaller or a Freemason. Are people really so defined by their sexuality? I suppose hanging about in a gay scene of some ilk means that you know you are meeting people in non-threatening, accepting, congenial surroundings. Although meat markets carry their own threats, which you have to be feeling self-confident enough to ride.

I know that some people do meet their life partners in singles' places, but there are plenty of other ways to meet people, thankfully for me.

Monday, 8 March 2004 - 7:53 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Try the skirt and heels next time, and see if the response changes. :)

Monday, 8 March 2004 - 8:04 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Your comment made me think about what the gay scene is really there for, e.

I think the experience of growing up always being the outsider, always feeling that you can't tell the truth because your friends will do more than reject you, they'll incite people to beat you, and the cultural legitimising of hatred of gays (which existed when I grew up, and still exists, no matter how many independent readers hope that it doesn't) has more more direct influence on the gay scene than any function of finding mates.
See, I have a theory about the scene. If, like me, got picked on at seven different schools for being gay, you couldn't really help grow up feeling like there's something wrong with you. People go on the scene to relive a part of their adolescence that was denied them; the part where you 'belong' to a group, and have a strong common group identity.
Kind of: 'Hey, I'm not a loner! I have *all these friends who look like me*'.

Most gay people I know seem to have gone through a phase where they embrace the scene, then the community, and then slowly move away from it as they develop confidence in their own individualism. It seems to be a standard stage.

The thing about finding a partner on the scene - that's not the purpose of it, that's merely convenience - there aren't so many homos in the world, so your chances are raised in areas of high concentration where there's less at stake in being visibly gay. I don't think finding someone is the *purpose* of the scene, it's a side effect. The purpose is to allow you the adolescence the straight world denied you. Therefore, it's always, inevitably going to depend on cliques, uniforms, conformism. Because those are the forces that shape your teen years.

So given that the scene is never going to be a safe place for individualism. Given that numbers mean there aren't plenty of other ways to meet people, you're left with what?
The secret smurf societies, I fear.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

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