Category Archives: My True Life

Wal-Mart and the Drug Culture

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In January of 2016, I wrote about seeing a t-shirt decorated with Grateful Dead dancing bears in a Wal-Mart in a small Southwestern desert town. (Read that post here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/01/08/what-a-long-strange-shopping-trip-its-been/.) I thought it was a strange and maybe one-time experience, but now it seems Wal-Mart is in the drug culture business.

I saw another Grateful Dead t-shirt in a larger, urban Wal-Mart late in 2016. This shirt had a red, white, and blue (on grey) color scheme; long sleeves; and roses and a Stealie on the front. You’re killing me, Wal-Mart, I posted on Facebook, along with a photo of the shirt. I wanted the shirt, but it was made for a smaller person, or at least one with a body shape different from mine. Besides, it wasn’t 100% cotton, and polyester makes my armpits stink. The shirt wasn’t for me.

But what did it mean that the shirt was for sale in a Wal-Mart? I’d thought maybe the first Dead shirt I saw was an anomaly, maybe the store’s buyer was an old hippie. But now it was starting to seem maybe Wal-Mart was in the Grateful Dead business.

I found myself back in the town where I’d seen the dancing bear shirt. I found myself back in the Wal-Mart. I found myself back in the men’s clothing department, back in front of the t-shirt display. This time there were no Grateful Dead t-shirts to be had, but that didn’t mean Wal-Mart had walked away from the drug culture. Oh no. Wal-Mart hadn’t walked away from the drug culture. Wal-Mart had, in fact, expanded its connection with the drug culture.

The first drug-themed shirt I saw featured a spiral of colorful, happy, laughing anthropomorphized mushrooms. WHAT!?! I’m not sure I can think of anything that says drug culture quite as clearly as colorful, happy, laughing, anthropomorphized mushrooms. I think even my mother (the picture of innocence, only drank alcohol to excess once, never took a street drug in her life) would know those mushrooms had something to do with drugs.

But if the mushrooms left any doubt in anyone’s mind, the shirt immediately below surely dispelled any confusion. It was decorated with the red, yellow, and green of Rasta (the same Rasta famous for the use of marijuana) in a tie-dye-esque spiral, and across the chest was emblazoned the word TRIPPIN. What!?! TRIPPIN!?!

Does anyone not know that trippin’ means being high on drugs? Doesn’t even my mother know that? Or do I just know that and assume everyone else knows it too simply because I am part of the drug culture?

To be fair, I looked up trippin’ on the Urban Dictionary website (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=trippin) and found as many references to overreacting and being crazy as to being under the influence of psychotropic substances. Maybe my mother and others of her ilk could make a case that the shirt is merely referencing blowing a situation out of proportion.

But, but, but THEN I saw the Cheech & Chong t-shirt on the bottom shelf. Cheech & Chong? Do any two men in the history of the world say drug culture more loudly and more clearly than Cheech & Chong?

For anyone who doesn’t recognize the faces of the men riding the bear (riding the bear?), the shirt is conveniently labeled CHEECH and CHONG. And if anyone needs just a few more drug culture references, there’s the green, yellow, and red Rasta spiral again.

I’m not all that upset about Wal-Mart profiting from the drug culture. I’m accustomed to Wal-Mart profitting. Wal-Mart profits from everything it can get it’s (metaphoric) corporate hands on. Besides, not every stoner can afford head shop prices. Isn’t it high time (giggle) for stoners to be able to get druggie t-shirts at affordable prices?

Mostly I’m just surprised. Doesn’t Wal-Mart present itself as a bastion of wholesome American-ness? How is Wal-Mart getting away with selling such unwholesome, drug culture promoting items? Why aren’t the store’s upstanding conservative Christian clients protesting such goods? Could those customers possibly not know what those shirts are all about?

I know what the shirts are about, and they amuse me whenever I see them, especially when I stumble into the store first thing in the morning.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

 

 

 

Kindness

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The man and the little girl were walking past the tables of goods set along the side of the highway. I don’t know if any of the other vendors noticed them, but I heard the man say to the girl, We could spend all our money buying something from every table.

The man was probably in his 30s, bearded, rugged and outdoorsy. The girl was six or maybe seven, slender and pale, with longish, straight hair. They didn’t look like hippies or travelers or a family in any way down on its luck. They just seemed like normal people, a dad trying to teach his daughter the limited nature of money compared to the limitless number of desirable items available for purchase.

The girl was drawn to the jewelry on Poppy’s table. She went right up to look at the bracelets and necklaces and rings laid out in black velvet boxes. Her father followed close behind her.

Poppy is a native woman in her late 50s. She is a good friend to me, always quick with a smile, a kind word of encouragement, rocks for my table, supplies for my crafts, or a snack when she has extra food. She is a talented, prolific jewelry maker who supports an extended family (children, grandchildren, brothers, sister, father) by selling her wares.

The man asked his little daughter if she wanted to pick out something for her mother. Her mother’s in the hospital, I heard him explain to Poppy.

Pick out a bracelet for your mom, Poppy immediately said to the little girl. Pick out a bracelet your mom would like, she said, and I’ll give it to you so you can give it to her. Poppy showed the girl which bracelets she could choose from.

As the girl weighed her options, I heard Poppy tell her, My mommy was my best friend! She was sick for a long time, and I took care of her. She had a bad disease, and she fought it for a long time, but now she’s up in Heaven. At least three more times, she told the girl, My mommy was my best friend!

The girl chose a bracelet and Poppy put it in a little plastic bag for her. I’m going to pray for your mom, Poppy told the girl.

She could die, I barely heard the child say softly to Poppy.

Your mom is going to be ok! I heard Poppy tell the girl with complete conviction. I’m going to pray for her!

I glanced over and saw the man looking at Poppy with wonder and gratitude. Thank you. Thank you so much, he kept repeating to her. I’m sure it’s not every day he meets a craftsperson willing to give away her wares so a little girl can make her sick mamma happy.

Of course, the interaction was about something more important than a craftsperson giving away a $5 bracelet. The interaction was really about a stranger affirming the special connection between a mother and a daughter, a stranger comforting a little girl by reassuring her that her mother would get better.

When I glanced over again, the little girl was on Poppy’s side of the table, standing next to the chair where Poppy sat. The woman and the child were hugging, the girl’s pale little cheek pressed against Poppy’s dark round one.

I witnessed the love passing between Poppy and the child, and I was blessed by the reminder of the power of kindness.

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes*

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My life has moved beyond a mere change of plans; my whole life has changed.

I met a man at the recent Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, and we hit it off. While it wasn’t love at first sight, we had an easy friendship from the beginning. Our conversations were deep and exciting. I felt as if doors that had been shut were flying open. Since we weren’t under the pressure of dating, we didn’t put on masks in hopes of impressing each other or hiding who we truly are.

We talked about our exes, what went wrong, what roles we’d played in the disasters, what we’d learned. We talked about our past adventures on the road, as well as adventures we still hoped to have. We talk about our spiritual and mystical experiences and of the magic our lives have been blessed with.

Although I thought he was handsome from the moment I laid eyes on him, I didn’t think I had a chance to be his gal. He wasn’t looking for a relationship, he mentioned in conversation. He was newly free and wanted to stay that way. He didn’t think it was a good idea to have sex with someone he didn’t know well because he thought sex tends to bond people and he wanted to be careful about who he ended up bonded with. I hadn’t been trying to get him into my bed, but I figured he was sending me pretty clear messages that he had no desire to go there. I resigned myself to the fact that we’d be friends but never lovers. I was ok with the lack of romance. I’d pretty much accepted I’d spend the rest of my life alone. I had no reason to hope this man would love me the way I wanted to be loved.

After knowing The Man for about a week, I offered to let him and his dog sleep on the floor of my van. It was cold out, sleeping in his car was killing his back, and the wind had mangled the tent he’d manifested from the free pile. I trusted him and knew letting him sleep on my floor was the right thing to do. I pushed aside any thoughts I had about him being my man.

We decided to go to New Mexico together. He’d been offered a van, available for pickup in Oklahoma in April. We figured Southern New Mexico would be a good place for him to hunker down and carve wood spirits until it was time for him to hitchhike to his van. I had a friend in the town, and I thought I could schedule some readings of Confessions of a Work Camper, maybe sell a few copies. I thought I’d help The Man get settled, then we’d probably go our separate ways, even though I liked him very much. I didn’t even hope we might get together, at least no time soon. It’s just didn’t seem fair to ask someone to do something he so clearly didn’t want to do.

There were bits of banter between us. Once I asked him if he had touched my ass when I knew good and well he hadn’t. Another time I told him my three favorite of the seven deadly sins were sloth, gluttony, and lust. He played too. One night I let him hold the best of my shiny rocks, a beautiful, large amethyst crystal. The next day he asked if I’d put a spell on him because after he’d held the stone, he’d gotten really horny. I vehemently denied casting a spell on him.

Then he got sick. We were both still sleeping in the van, me in my narrow little bed and him and the dog on the floor. The second night of his sickness, after we’d settled in for sleep, he asked if I’d rub his back. I readily agreed, not thinking it was anything more than a friend asking for help for his flu aching muscles. Honestly, it was a relief to touch him, but I was still totally surprised when he offered to rub my back, simply flabbergasted (and pleased) when, in a heartbeat, our relationship took a sexual turn.

I didn’t let myself think about loving him. The thing we had going on was short term, for a limited time only. Soon I’d go back to MegaSuperBabylon to dog sit, then I’d go to the forest to work as a camp host. Besides, he didn’t want to be in a relationship.

I got sick too. The Man offered to take care of me, and I basically moved into his tent to recuperate.

We continued to have a great time together sharing lots of laughter and more deep conversation. It was easy to be together.

The day came for me to leave. We had breakfast. We said good-bye. I drove off, listening to Old Crow Medicine Show sing “Wagon Wheel” and watching him in my side-view mirror, watching him watch me go. How bittersweet it was to leave behind someone so wonderful.

I’ve already written about what happened next (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2017/02/22/plans/). Before I could leave town, I got a text from the woman I was supposed to house sit for. She’d hurt her back and had to cancel her trip. My future was wide open.

I texted The Man, told him what was up. I said I needed a nap in hopes of getting over my lingering sickness. I suggested we get together in a couple of days. A few hours later, I got a text from him saying we needed to have a talk. I texted back and said he could call me, but his next text said we need to talk in person. Uh-oh! I was worried.

Turns out he was afraid of hurting me. We shouldn’t have had sex, he said. He didn’t think we should have sex anymore.

If you don’t want to have sex with me, then we shouldn’t have sex, I told him.

It’s not that I don’t want to have sex with you, he said sadly. He just didn’t want to hurt me.

We talked and talked. He said he still wanted to be my friend. He still wanted to hang out. I could stay at his camp, he said, and we could still snuggle. Basically, only sex was off the table. I decided I could live with the new situation. The sex had been great, but it wasn’t the most important part of what had been going on between us.

I spent two nights in my van, stretched out and sleeping good in hopes of chasing off the persistant cough the cold had left me with.

When I went back to his tent, he put sex back on the table.

I don’t want to have sex with you if you’re going to feel conflicted about it, I told him. That’s what’s going to hurt my feelings. I suppose he worked out his conflicts because he hasn’t waffled since then.

We were still taking life day-by-day, moment-by-moment. We weren’t in a “relationship;” we were seeing how things went. Sometimes he’d slip and talk about the future in a way that made me think he expected us to be together for a long time. One morning he slipped and called me honey, then got a little sheepish and shy.

One day we figured out how long we’d be apart. I’d leave in April for another house sitting job, then in May I’d go to the forest. I’d leave the forest in October, house sit in November. We could see each other in December. See you in eight months seemed like an impossible time to be apart.

The Man takes things happen for a reason to the point of entertaining a belief in determinism. Do things happen because they were meant to happen? Do things happen because of destiny? He wondered aloud if the Universe had conspired to keep me there with him.

The more we were together, the more sweetly romantic we became. We walked arm in arm into Wal-Mart. He leaned down and kissed me in the supermarket. We danced to an 80s pop song in the thrift store.  I shouldn’t be surprised that the more time we spent together, the closer we grew

I’d been falling in love with him for weeks, but I knew I wasn’t supposed to mention it. One day we talked about how we’d both felt we’d never find anyone who’d love us. I used to sit in my cabin and wonder who would ever love me, he told me. My heart broke to think he could go through his life thinking no woman had ever loved him the way he wanted to be loved. Later that night, I whispered to him, Don’t think no one’s ever loved you, because I love you.

Oh no! he teased. You broke the rules. You weren’t supposed to fall in love with me, but he was clearly pleased.

The person who’d offered the van to The Man had decided not to give it up after all. The Man really wanted a minivan anyway and wasn’t too disappointed. However, he quickly realized the town we were in was a difficult place to make money from his wood carvings. He figured he could survive there, but probably wasn’t going to be able to save enough money to buy himself a minivan.

I’d planned to go to Northern New Mexico to sell jewelry and shiny rocks during the Texas spring break, then come back to town for a house sitting gig I’d gotten through a friend. The ten days of house sitting would be the last we’d see of each other for a long time.

A week before Spring Break, we got into a long conversation about our wants and needs. He said eight months was a long time to be apart. Our lives could take different paths, he told me. In eight months, I could be in Maine! Yet, he said he didn’t want to be in a relationship. It was too soon, he said, although being with me was so wonderful and easy. He asked what I wanted.

I realized I didn’t have anything to lose by putting all my cards out on the table. I like you, I told him, and I’d like to be with you. I can live my life on my own–I’ve been living my life on my own–but it’s just so hard. I want a partner, but I know that’s not what you want. I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do. I don’t want you to be anyone but who you are.

I left it at that and went down to my van to clean it while The Man took a nap. I thought about his belief in determinism. If we are meant to be together, we’ll be together, I thought, and he can’t do anything to stop it.

A couple of hours later, he showed up at the van. He stuck his head in the open side door and looked around.

What are you doing? I asked.

Seeing how I’m going to get all my stuff to fit in here, he said.

I was genuinely confused until he explained he did want to be with me, he did want to be in a relationship with me, he did want to go to Northern New Mexico with me. Oh happy day! (The next day was even happier when he walked up to me, looked me in the eye, and said, I love you!)

This change in his wants has brought about other changes. I reorganized my belongings and got rid of stuff I didn’t really need. The Man built a double bed for us, with storage underneath, then we moved all his things into the van too. I’m no longer single. I’m no longer a single woman traveling alone in her van. I’m now traveling with a man, my sweetheart, and his very nice dog. I called my boss in California and told him I wouldn’t be working as a camp host this summer. I’m back to selling jewelry and shiny rocks by the side of the road, and I don’t have to wear a uniform.

The new life hasn’t been without challenges. I’m not writing nearly enough, and I haven’t been promoting my book or working on a new one as I’d planned. I also have to think about another person’s (and a dog’s) wants and needs. But I will learn to work my writing into my new life, learn to compromise so we all get our most important wants and needs met.

Overall, my new life is fantastic. The Man is caring and loving and generous. He thanks me whenever I help him. He cooks breakfast every morning and tells me I’m wonderful and beautiful and interesting and smart. Life is so, so good.

* Thanks to David Bowie for the title.

Plans

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When I was traveling with Mr. Carolina, I’d sometimes ask him about his plans. Whenever I’d utter the word plans, he’d throw back his head and laugh uproariously. Mr. Carolina knew we can plan all day long, but the Universe does what it wants when it wants and our schemes mean nothing.

These were my plans for 2017:

Attend the RTR

Spend a few weeks in the Arizona desert

House and dog sit in MegaBabylon

Work on writing my second book

Spend a few more weeks in the Arizona desert

House and dog sit again for the same woman in MegaBabylon

Work some more on my second book

Get paid to score student responses to standardized tests

Head to California to spend my summer working as a camp host and a parking lot attendant

Those plans were supposed to get me through the middle of October 2017.

I made it to the RTR, but after that, the Universe had other ideas for me.

At the RTR I hit it off with a very nice man (who has a very nice dog companion). We up and decided to go to New Mexico together, where we both came down with terrible colds. I still managed to do two readings from my book, Confessions of a Work Camper. I sold ten copies of the book, as well as some jewelry and shiny rocks. Life was good, even though the man and I were sick.

I had a lovely birthday in New Mexico. The man and I soaked in hot mineral water, then joined two more friends in the park for ice cream and pie. It was a wonderful day.

The next day I was scheduled to leave New Mexico and head back to MegaBabylon for my house and dog sitting engagement. Saying good-bye to the man was bittersweet, but I’d decided to travel back to New Mexico to see him again between my two house sitting gigs. He’s a carpenter by trade and had offered to transform wasted space in my van into storage space. I was going to borrow power tools from my host family and work with the man on a van project. I was excited about the project and excited about seeing the man again.

When I got into the van that morning, there were no messages on my phone. I looked out of my side-view mirror and watched the man watch me as I drove away. I listened to Old Crow Medicine Show sing “Wagon Wheel” and tried not to feel sad. I’d known this day would come. I’d known all aspects of life are fleeting. I’d known all we have is the present moment, and I’d done my best to enjoy each moment I’d had with him to the fullest. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t already miss him.

Before I got on the interstate, I had to stop at Wal-Mart. I was still sick, and the sickness had settled in my lungs as a cough. The coughing had kept me up the night before, so I really wanted to be able to take a big swig of cough syrup when I arrived at the free camping area I’d decided on as my stopover. I thought my best move was to get some cough syrup before I left town.

When I stopped the van, I checked my phone, as is my habit. The screen showed a notification saying I had three messages. Three messages? What was up with that?

I went to my messages and saw they were all from the woman I was supposed to house and dog sit for starting the next day. She said she’d hurt her back and was just leaving the hospital. She’d had to cancel her trip. She didn’t need me until April.

I was reeling. What to do? Head back to MegaBabylon anyway? Stay and spend more time with the man? Something else I hadn’t even yet imagined?

It took me a couple of days and a couple of long conversations with the man to figure things out, but I made some decisions. I could tell you my plans, but what’s the point? The Universe is going to send me wherever it wants me to be.

 

 

I Am a Good Person

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Trigger warning: This post is about a past violent relationship.

I wrote the following words on Sunday, January 29, 2017, when I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep.

For a few weeks, I was waking up every night right around 3am. That’s what happened to me the night of January 29. The next day, when I mentioned to a friend how I’d woken up at 3am and how waking at that time kept happening, she told me I should pay attention to what I was thinking about when I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, maybe write it all down. I told her that’s just what I’d done.

My friend said (and the Power of Positivity website [https://www.powerofpositivity.com/if-you-wake-up-at-the-same-time-every-night-this-may-be-why/] confirmed),

If the time that you awaken is between 3:00 am and 5:00am, it could also be a sign of your Higher Power alerting you to pay attention to messages that are being sent to align you with your higher purpose.

In any case, the following words are what I wrote that night:

The fear is not just that he would hurt me, but that I would go back. I’m scared I’d set eye on him and feel his power over me again, succumb to it, run into the sickness with open arms.

It hurts to say I participated in my own abuse. We’re not supposed to talk about this aspect of the violence, but the truth of the matter is, I stayed. Sure, he threatened to kill me, my family, the dog, my friends, everyone I ever loved, if I left. Sure, he said it would be my fault if he ever ended up back in prison, the thing he feared most. He said I’d pay if he was ever put back in a cell, that he knew people and had connections and could have me killed. But I could have left, walked away and never gone back, as I finally did. What took me so long? And after the first three times I left in grand and bold ways, why did I go back?

I had hope, I suppose–hope that this time could be different, hope that this time I could be different, hope that this time I could be the person he wanted me to be, hope that maybe this time his anger would dissolve.

No one ever told me hope can sometimes hurt. No one ever told me hope should sometimes be released. No one ever told me that sometimes a situation really is hopeless.

I gave up on him changing early on. He was a pillar. He was steadfast. His anger was not going anywhere.

How can I bring out the worst in a person I love so much? I often wondered.

Now I understand I wasn’t a catalyst for the worst, but an excuse.

Why didn’t I leave?

I thought we were cosmically linked. I thought our stories were meant to be intertwined forever. I believed it was us against the world.

I believed his lies. I believed the lies I told myself.

I thought maybe I was so flawed, that this was the best I could ever do.

I hoped under all the bullshit, he really did love me.

I thought maybe he was capable of hunting me down and hunting down my family and hunting down my friends and killing us all. I thought I was responsible for protecting all the people I’d ever loved. I thought I was responsible for protecting him. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I was responsible for protecting myself.

I’ve forgiven him, for the most part, to the extent forgiveness can extend to someone I still fear.

You don’t have to hate him on my behalf, I told a friend once. I’ve let go of any hate I felt for him. I feel great compassion for him, he who’s been locked in cages since he was 12. I wish him peace. I wish him love. I wish him to stay as far away from me as possible.

I’ve mostly forgiven him, but it’s just occurred to me that I need to forgive myself. I am my own most precious gift, and I squandered my own safety and value and self-worth to appease a bully, The hardest thing to know is that I sacrificed myself all for nothing; I gave up myself and it wasn’t enough for him. I could never give up enough of myself to satisfy him.

So now I’m working on forgiving myself for staying, for loving him and protecting him more than I was willing to love and protect myself.

My new mantra is I am a good person.

I say it to myself before I go to sleep at night. I am a good person. I say it to myself when negative self-talk creeps into my head. I am a good person.

I say it to myself when I want to say You really fucked that up or No one’s ever going to love you because you’re so fucked up or You’re going to die alone and no one will even remember you. Instead,  I say, I am a good person.

Currently, I chant it frantically. I am a good person. I am a good person. IamagoodpersonIamagoodpersonI amagoodpersonIamagoodperson.

I’m hoping if I say it enough, I will come to believe it; the thought will become automatic; it will be true. I am a good person.

I’m hoping eventually I will be able to say it calmly, slowly, from a place deep within me. I. Am. A. Good. Person.

Because I know I can only let go of the fear of drifting back to him by loving myself enough to truly believe I deserve better than his bully bullshit.

Lady Party

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How had I ended up at this full moon party with all these rich young women?

When I looked across the room and saw my roommate, Baby Dyke, I knew the blame lay squarely on her.

The hostess of the party was a friend of Baby Dyke’s friend from work. The work friend had invited Baby Dyke, then Baby Dyke had invited me and Big Mamma and a handful of other slightly dirty, more-or-less punk, full-on-lesbian or somewhat-bisexual, women-loving-women. I guess Baby Dyke didn’t know the rule about guests of guests not inviting guests.

The first indication we were out of our league was the gate…as in gated community. This was perhaps my first foray into a gated community, but I knew it was where the rich and fearful resided.

Not to worry, Baby Dyke reassured me when I questioned our entrance into a gated community. The house wasn’t actually the home of the hostess. The woman was simply holding the party at her parents’ house. That was supposed to make me feel better? As if somehow the woman’s parents were loaded and she had access to their house, but she was working class like those of us being brought in by Baby Dyke?

We found the house and entered. The house was huge, as I’d suspected it would be, and tastefully decorated. I’ve since been in houses as fancy, but that night was a first for me.

I don’t remember being met with any hostility. All of the friends of the hostess were very polite. I realize now, they weren’t the children of the uber rich, but they’d obviously grown up with access to advantages I’d never had.

We started the evening with sangria in the kitchen. The drink was served in delicate tea cups. I remember Big Mamma laughing about the little teacups disappearing in her big hand. She was a little more somber when she said she spent the whole night worried some part of her big self might smash something expensive.

We took our tiny cups of sangria out onto the back deck where we were treated to a stunning sunset view of the hills.

It’s so nice to be able to see the hills, one of the friends of the hostess gushed. So many people don’t even know they’re here.

How could they know they’re here? I wondered. If the hills are surrounded by gated communities, only people living in the gated communities can see them. But being Southern and all, I kept my mouth shut.

To this party I’d worn a polyester blend, blue and white checked housedress with a zipper up the front. I can’t remember if I’d carefully chosen this dress to wear to the party of if Baby Dyke had breezed into our home and told me I was going to a party at such the last minute that this dress was the best ensemble I’d been able to pull together. If I wore such a thing now, I’d look like what I am: a middle-aged, fat woman wearing something loose and comfortable. Back then, I was young and thin enough to believe I looked cute in old lady clothes.

The dress, or course, had been bought used. More specifically, the dress had come from the dollar bin at a really hip little second-hand store near my house. Finding the dress in the dollar bin (one step away from the rag bag) definitely marked it as not quite as hip as the other items in the shop.

I thought the dress was a reasonable party outfit. It wasn’t a dressy party. Baby Dyke and Big Mamma were wearing trousers and masculine shirts. The friends of the hostess were wearing casual summer clothes. Nobody looked too fancy.

Did you get your dress at The Gap? one of the friends of the hostess asked me.

For years, I’ve laughed at the woman. How could she possibly think the dress had come from The Gap? Nothing about the dress indicated The Gap.

Now I wonder if maybe she knew as well as I did that the dress had not come from The Gap. Although I thought of The Gap as a place where rich people shopped, perhaps she thought she was putting me down by suggesting my dress came from a place where middle-income people shopped for poorly made clothes. I don’t even know. I was absolutely naive about the ways of the rich and thought the young woman was just dumb. If she was sending a cutting insult my way, it was lost on me.

Oh, no! I told her. I explained I’d gotten the dress our of a dollar bin at a second-hand store. Any judgment from her went right over my head.

At some point, someone suggested we sit in a circle of chairs on the deck and enjoy the cool night air. I can’t remember if we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, but I do remember someone suggesting we play a kissing game. I don’t remember who exactly suggested the kissing game, but I’m pretty sure it was someone from Baby Dyke’s crew. We weren’t just dirty, punk women-loving women. We were dirty, punk, horny women-loving-women.

For me, bisexuality was new enough to be exciting. I was still nursing a broken heart after being dumped by my boyfriend, and I thought perhaps a sweet new girlfriend might ease my pain. Alas, no sweet lady ever offered me any sexual healing.

Kiss Clipart Free - Tumundografico

image from http://tumundografico.com/clipart/kisses-clipart.html

In any case, whenever I was invited to play a kissing game, I was ready to participate.

The hostess and her friends seemed a little hesitant. Maybe they’d never explored the loving of women. Maybe they had explored it and decided it was not for them. Whatever their previous experiences with women, they all agreed to play the game.

As my fuzzy memory clears, I think it was Big Mamma who suggested the game and explained the rules. She pulled a big slice of pineapple from the bowl of sangria. We would pass the pineapple around the circle mouth to mouth. When the slice was passed to a new gal, the woman doing the passing would bite off the chunk of fruit she’d been holding in her teeth. When a woman was presented with not enough pineapple to bite, she and the woman who’d gotten the last chunk had to kiss.

The fruit started moving around the circle. When it came to the woman to my right, I turned and used my mouth to take it from her. There was only a small piece of the fruit left, and I knew I’d get to kiss the stranger to my left.

I turned and showed her there wasn’t enough pineapple for her to bite. I swallowed what was left and puckered up, but my kissing partner balked. I don’t know if she didn’t want to kiss me in particular or any woman at all, but her quick no offense in my direction did little to soothe my fractured self-esteem. She must have wanted to kiss someone in the group because she had agreed to play, but she obviously didn’t want to kiss me.

A second piece of pineapple was put into play across the circle. There was much giggling and whooping as women put their mouths close, separated only by a bit of tropical goodness.

The fruit made its way to the woman on my right. Again, there was only a small piece of pineapple to take from her. Again, I showed the small piece of pineapple to the woman on my left, chewed it, swallowed it, and puckered my lips. Again, she who was meant to kiss me balked. This time she accused her friends, You set me up! This assurtion was maybe true, since they’d started the pineapple with the same woman as the time before. She again lobbed a no offense or two in my direction, but she’d already shattered my fragile ego.

If she didn’t want to play, she shouldn’t have played. If she didn’t want to kiss me, she should have sat next to someone else or hid in the bathroom. It wasn’t like I was going to stick my tongue down her throat or expect her to marry me, but I suppose she had no way of knowing my intentions.

I don’t know how the hostess and her friends ended up feeling about the party, but the evening was pretty much a bust for me.

 

 

Something to Talk About

Standard

When a man and a woman start spending time together, people seem to automatically think the two are a couple of the romantic/sexual variety.

I hate the term “just friends,” as if only romantic and/or sexual involvements are somehow real and friendship is lesser. Calling a relationship just a friendship means it’s only a friendship and puts the friendship lower on the relationship hierarchy.

But yes, my new friend is a man, and it seems like many of the people who encounter us are trying to figure out what’s going on between us. It’s not unusual for me to have male friends, so I didn’t even consider what other people might think they were seeing.

It started subtlely, while we were still at the RTR. A woman I knew stopped by to talk to my friend and very formally apologized to me for possibly interrupting anything.

Oh no, I reassured her. No problem. But I thought her apology was a little weird, since she’d never apologized for walking up on a conversation I’d been having with a lady friend.

It happened more openly the last night we stayed at the RTR site. The stragglers got together for a dinner around the main campfire. I was grateful to have been invited, and part of me wanted to go, but my social anxiety kicked in too. I probably would have talked myself out of going had my new friend not walked across the way with me and carried our contribution to the meal, a big pot of beans and rice and green chilis (in honor of our upcoming trip to New Mexico).

We hadn’t been sitting around the fire for long when a woman stood in front of my friend and said, Are you with Blaize?

Well, bless her heart for asking a direct question, but I’m not sure what the preposition “with” meant to her. It seemed a strange way to phrase the question. Are you Blaize’s friend? I might have asked or How do you know Blaize? But no, she wanted to know if he was with me.

The weird part of the interaction was that I didn’t know the woman. My friend thought the interrogator must have also been my friend, but I didn’t recognize her as someone I’d ever met. Maybe she’d picked up my name at one of the women’s meetings or when I’d held up my book and mentioned my upcoming reading during morning announcements.

I just let my friend field the question of whether or not he was with me. After all, I hadn’t been addressed.

About the time I turned to speak to the woman on my left, I heard my buddy say, Well, I’m her friend, in his slow Southern drawl. The rest of his explanation was lost in my conversation, and I didn’t hear any questions that may have followed.

When I told the woman on my left that my new friend and I would be traveling together, I could tell the wheels were spinning in her head as she tried to understand our relationship. I answered all of her questions. No, we weren’t taking two vehicles. No, we weren’t consolidating our belongings and jettisoning duplicates. We were just going on a road trip together with all our stuff. I could tell she still wasn’t exactly sure what was going on with me and the guy.

The next day when I stopped to say good-bye to the woman who’d so formally apologized for her interruption, she gently probed me for information on the status of the relationship I had with the fellow.

We’re friends, I told her. We’re going to take a trip together.

But you never know, right? she prompted.

Sure, I agreed. You never know.

I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have been talking that way if a woman had been joining me for a few days in the van.

So my friend and I have reached our destination safe and sound. It was a blissfully uneventful trip with no catastrophes to report. We stopped at a couple of free campgrounds along the way, and my friend and his dog slept in a tent while I curled up cozy in my van. We had many deep conversations, as well as a lot of laughs. (On several occasions, this man has made me laugh until tears rolled down my face, my sides hurt, and I gasped for breath. He’s a funny one.)

We’re talking about buying some cheap land together in the mountains, make ourselves a place to stay in the summers. I suspect we’ll continue to field questions about our relationship status if we’re living on the same quarter acre.