If I ever thought I could have gotten away with playing straight, I certainly would have tried it.
An actress I love for being smart & elegant, playing doctors and such, is taking a turn as a kind of working class gal in a sitcom. She looks like she is having fun.
Smart actresses play dumb and gay ones play straight. It’s part of the skill set of performance, a bit of which every woman has to learn to be successful. Putting on a face isn’t just about the makeup.
I just never, ever believed that I had the equipment to play straight, at least as a woman. My body went through puberty as a male, and I have hockey player legs. I have never been slight.
That doesn’t mean that I haven’t gotten into situations where some guy starts to chatter and I get to switch into girl mode. I was, and I suspect that this is no surprise, very good at it.
I know how to listen with compassion and wit, know how to encourage and flirt, and know how to ask questions that reveal without having to put someone down. It’s the same reason I would make a great coach; I know how to make the time all about you.
That moment when things get to be all about me, though, that’s when it gets a little hairy. I’m not nearly so good at conventional woman, at home making and being pussy in the bedroom. Yeah, well, in fact, I’m kinda crap at those things.
I went to a micro church sponsored chat tonight. The pastor thought it must be great being a theologian, but as I asked more incisive questions and offered more surprising connections she just went back to her old stories, sharing the tales she loved. One guy thought I was smart, liking the conversation, but somehow in referring to what I said, he just couldn’t quite get to “she.”
It was brutally clear to me that I even though I looked pretty good, I had no chance in hell of anyone ever possibly mistaking me for a straight gal.
That doesn’t mean I don’t miss, it though. I’d love to smile at a bunch of guys changing tables in a speed dating event, even if I knew that I couldn’t make a life with any of them. I want that little zip of connection, the kind of flirt that makes people feel good about themselves.
I was taught early that I just had no chance of being the cute one. If I told a rambling well honed story, I would just look indulgent, so I learned how to do tight and pithy, getting to the point fast and clear.
There are an enormous range of pragmatic choices I have made over my life all just based in the belief — a not unreasonable belief — that I just don’t have the equipment to make the choices that feel better to me, the ones that feel, well, “natural.”
People who evaluate my choices often make the assumption that they reveal me when actually, many of them reveal the constraints put on me by gendered typecasting and family demands. They don’t have any understanding of how constrained I was.
Maybe that’s not so surprising, because I only have a vague idea of what possibilities I would have pursued if I had the equipment. Who can talk about the road not taken? How can we know where it might have lead? You make enough choices and your story becomes pretty fixed, stories accruing as possibilities diminish.
People are shaped by their experiences. Those experiences are shaped by their desires, their training and what they have the goods to pull off. What we can’t play, we can’t be, and what when we can’t be what we know ourselves to be, well, then, we just aren’t. Poof.
My sister has asked me to help with her friend this weekend. That’s seven hours in the car with her and then another 36 hours or so deep in concierge mode, serving her and her aging, ailing father.
I’m surprised that she wants me to use up what little willpower I have been able to scrape up in this way, using up the whiff left in my batteries to enter the worlds of other people in a very, very costly way.
It’s what she thinks I can do, though, because it is what she likes to see me do.
What’s in my heart, well, that’s as invisible as the choices I never made because I learned so early I couldn’t play out my own calls. She knows I am broken, but can’t imagine being any other way than the way that was set up to break me, just like other people, even trained pastors, prefer their own words and habits to seeing the queer in front of them.
I look in the mirror and see how easy it is for me to reveal my feminine truth.
Other people, though, can’t hear over my biology and history, needing me to be about them. It’s not time or language that can break through their tunnel vision because they have no need or drive to get it.
I did the work, and then, one just has to move on.
It would have been nice, though, at some point. to have been able to try and play it straight.