[I performed the following piece at a storytelling show titled, “Is This a Thing?” on October 12, 2015 and the theme was “Sausagefest”]
When I first moved to Chicago from San Antonio, Texas at the tender age of 18, I was ready for adventure and whatever would come across my path. I had sacrificed my high school partying career to the gods of academia with the hopes that I could escape the grasp of teen pregnancy and early marriage that gripped the hearts of many of my fellow residents.
Also, I thought that high school boys were disgusting, because let’s face it, they are. I wasn’t interested in the “typical high school experience” because I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible; these years just couldn’t be the best of my life. Thanks to my industrious parents, I had the privilege of going to an all-girls preparatory high school away from an emphasis on looks and social status with a focus on our future careers of taking over the world.
Truthfully, I have been a party girl since I could walk and talk at the age of three. I sought out sparkly chiffon dresses and squeaky patent leather shoes topped off with faux fur accessories. I loved being the center of attention and being admired for my fashion sense and quick wit. So, it is no wonder that I grew up to be a fag hag.
Before I offend anyone too much, I would like to explain my word choice. For those of you unacquainted with this admittedly offensive phrase: “fag hag” is a stereotype of a woman who finds self-validation by the company of gay men. Some of you may have heard of the phrase “fruit fly” or other variations on this theme to connote the same idea. This stereotype posits that this woman is physically unattractive to straight men and seeks the love and admiration of gay men, whom she can’t have.
At different times in my life, I have attempted to “reclaim” this phrase and hoped to redefine it. It is used, like all female stereotypes, to shame women and especially shame those women who are brash, loud, and unique who don’t give a ton of fucks about the approval of hostile straight men. These are women who may like to “hold court” and the attention of an rapt audience. Plus, I wasn’t straight and I wished to it use this title as a piece solidarity with my queer brethren. I wanted it to be used for love and playfulness instead of hate and ignorance. When it really comes down to it, it simply means that I have a lot of friends and a fair majority of them are fantastically fabulous homos.
It took me some time to get to this level of queendom. I had moved to Chicago, sight unseen, without the safety net of close friends or family members. I had decided that I would launch into my party life in full earnest as a way to make friends, have fun, and learn something about myself along the way. But it wasn’t always easy.
First, I tried to relate to my all-female dormmates who were either extremely religious or more caught up in their appearance in relation to men than I was accustomed. I joined the local feminist chapter only to be pitted against another girl as a rival and competitor, who had a way of sabotaging most of my ideas that didn’t fit into the guitar-strumming singer-songwriter variety. I joined the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Alliance which was connected to other college chapters with the added bonus that my soon-to-be-best-friend really needed some help being coaxed out of the closet. This, I thought, is where I am going to find my “tribe”.
I soon found that my Texan earnestness was highly suspicious to other college-aged city kids, especially to the super cool lesbians of another local college. My best friend and I attended as many events as we could get to on public transportation. It also didn’t help me much that my best friend: tall, shy, skinny, green-eyed beauty was an instant crowd favorite, while I was apparently much less palatable. It was fine for me to go to lesbian dance parties or bars as long as I brought my best friend along.
One summer, I was part of the planning committee for the local Dyke March, which, in Chicago, always happens the day before the Pride Parade. We were going to have a fundraiser to benefit the march and any expenses we were incurring for purchase things like posters, megaphones, and nipple tape. That is when I met Bradley.
Bradley was a silly, hilarious, goofy, charming and smart young man. We joked all night about the fact that we had gotten so drunk that we both wanted to pass out in the closet at this party. Somehow this one inside joke would lead to the blossoming of our friendship. Bradley, as it turned out was a “dyke tyke,” which is a man who primarily hangs out with lesbians. I had found my ultimate match!
We went on several dates which mostly consisted of hanging out in my dorm room, drinking vodka, and coloring. We stayed up late gossiping and discussing our crushes at length until he confessed something to me about himself. Bradley liked me, like “liked liked” me. He told me this over the phone and I was taken aback unable to speak for a minute mainly because I think thought that he was pretty gay to be into me that way. Given that I was an experimental college student with an open mind, I said “Sure! Why not!”
Not much about our relationship changed aside from the fact that we started having sex. We laughed constantly, danced with abandon, and brunched every weekend. It still remains one of the best relationships that I have ever had and we remain friends to this day.
Perhaps, this relationship was a gateway drug, but I really hit my stride of hanging with gay men later in college and even a little after. Weekend after weekend I was getting invited to exclusive cocktail parties so exclusively that I was generally the only woman in the crowd. I remember the first time this happened to me when I looked around at all of the partygoers and realized that this had become a trend in my life. It was fun; I’d get drunk and get to be as sassy as I wanted to be and absolutely loved for it. I usually have some very memorable photographs wearing ridiculous wigs, posing in mock sexual positions, and the like. I would have gigantic hangover the next day that I don’t mind because I had “such a blast!”
I was mostly attracted to what I called the “tweedy fag” or the “intellectual homo,” if you will, who was into reading, music, art, philosophy. With them, I could not only be sassy but I could be smart. I could be weird, eccentric, and into the macabre. They never had a negative word for my penchant in wearing gloves and vintage fascinators.
And yet, something was missing. That something was actual sex. I had somehow fallen headlong into the stereotype I was trying to dismantle. Yes, there were certainly times when I felt invisible in a room of divas and times when dressing up and being over the top sassy was exhausting. Despite the great times I was having, I was going home alone.
The summer after college, the pendulum swung the other way in the direction of a boys club of extremely intoxicated, young bloodied men who are part of a slightly reviled and frequently misrepresented subculture: bike messengers. Even though it felt like I had to elbow my way in, with the few females who were part of the crowd, it wasn’t terribly difficult to get laid. In fact, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. When people asked me if I was “one of them” I said, “No, but I drink like one.”
I was getting the part of the equation that I had wanted and yet, all of the other attributes about myself fell on the wayside, without even noticing. I didn’t feel the need to be intellectual or arty or philosophical. I learned very quickly that I didn’t need those things to get what I wanted and didn’t realize that I began to ignore those parts of myself that had once shone so brightly. Again, I was coming up empty even though I wasn’t going home along this time.
Here I was still searching for validation in the group of men with which I surrounded myself. At the time, I felt young, careless and carefree; my life barely laid out before me, everything was a new adventure but the shine was starting to wear off. Instead, I was coming to the harsh realization that I had to blaze my own trail when I didn’t know what it would be or where it would take me. It was terrifying. I had to leave the comfort of what I knew, of knowing what I wanted, and how to get it. I am still learning about myself and closing in on my tribe, but this time I am filling up my own heart.