It started with a special kind of discount...|
As I sat at Womencrafts Bookstore in Provincetown during October Women's Week, signing books and chatting with the proprietors, I learned it was the 35th anniversary of the store. WOW. Time flies when you're having fun out of the closet.
Women poured into the shop to meet authors Georgia Beers, Marianne Martin and Sally Bellerose - and I was honored to be sitting among them, signing books. As women went to the cash registers to pay for their books, we heard Karen, from her perch across the counter, totaling the purchases.
"Thanks, that will be $36," she told one woman, "but I'll give you the lesbian discount."
Lesbian discount. Instantly, it was more than 30 years ago and my first visit to Womencrafts.
I was an emotional train wreck that summer, newly divorced and perpetually confused. My former college roommate, straight as an arrow, invited me to spend a week in Hyannis on Cape Cod with her family. She knew I was happy to be out of the suffocating marriage but also knew I had no idea what to do next.
Always more perceptive and brave than I was, Lesley decided to take me to Provincetown for a day. We had lunch atop Pepi's, overlooking the bay, walked along Commercial Street and people watched. I saw sights that simultaneously intrigued and panicked me. I said not a word.
A happy-looking young woman pedaled by, her t-shirt proclaiming "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."
Then came a tall, muscular gal with a big button on her man-tailored shirt saying "I'm the woman your mother warned you about."
Shit. I was quieter still.
All ages, shapes and styles of women walked past, two by two, and many, hand in hand. We passed The Boatslip bar, where the boys were dancing to Enough is Enough. Strains of Hot Stuff by Donna Summer and Reunited by Peaches & Herb filtered into the street.
When we got to Womencrafts, I went up the brick steps and inside while Lesley went down the steps to see about ear piercing. I poked around a bit in the shop, half-looking at, but not really absorbing the book titles. I decided to buy a ceramic tile with the image of Provincetown's Pilgrim Monument on it.
The friendly woman behind the counter wrapped up the tile, took my money and returned my change as she said "And I gave you the lesbian discount."
Excuse me???? I could not get out of the store fast enough. Sweat welled up on my forehead and my knees went to jelly. I practically ran down the steps to the street, where Lesley was already standing. I must have looked like a zombie.
"You don't look okay."
"Well," I said, guiding Lesley by the elbow into an adjacent alleyway. "In the store," I said, hushed, mumbling and pointing, "um….they gave me a lesbian discount."
God bless Lesley for keeping a poker face and acting as if I'd said "They gave me correct change."
She paused a minute, looked me in the eye and said, a hint of a smile forming, "You might want to think about that."
I stared at her, then past her, to a women with short, short hair and silver earrings all up and down her ears. Beyond them, two skinny men kissed on the street.
"You took me here on purpose, didn't you?"
"Well now you have to buy me a big drink on purpose."
So she did. And as we sat at an outdoor café along the busy, funky, noisy street, with straight couples pushing baby strollers, outlandishly dressed drag queens, handsome gay men, and to my mind, even more handsome lesbians and tourists flooding by, we had the conversation that changed my life. To a subliminal soundtrack of Sister Sledge and We are Fam-i-ly, we talked and talked. No, it was not the first time I'd thought about my attraction to women, or wondered when I'd have the guts to do something about it. But it was the first time I'd said any of it out loud, either to myself or another person.
Four hours later, as we left the tip of Cape Cod, with its artists, tea dances and lesbian discounts behind, for the very first time in years I knew exactly what direction I was going. And of course, since then, it's been quite a ride.
Lesley's gone now. The unspeakably cruel Huntington's Disease took her some years ago. But not before I'd settled down with Bonnie and we got to spend lots of cherished time and many adventures together. And I will always credit Lesley with the insight to give me that great big shove I needed.
I've had some amazing experiences in P-Town over the years, vacationing, visiting with friends, and since 2004, doing readings, book signings and meeting and greeting readers and other writers. Women's Week there has a mini-literary festival component and I've been having a blast. Oh, and of course, we can't forget dragging the RV up there and camping with Bonnie and the Schnauzers (great name for a rock band).
And Womencrafts is still there, alive at 35, still giving those wonderful lesbian discounts. I'm so very lucky to have been the recipient of one in 1979, along with the gift of Lesley's friendship and intuition. I'm also so very lucky for my upcoming 30th anniversary with Bonnie, my years as an activist and as a writer. And so very happy to sing Happy Birthday to Womencrafts, happy birthday to you.
Contact Fay at: FayJacobsrb@aol.com
Fay's website: www.FayJacobs.com
Fay Jacobs is publisher of A&M Books of Rehoboth and author of the "Frying Trilogy,":
As I Lay Frying - a Rehoboth Beach Memoir, Fried & True - Tales from Rehoboth Beach, and For Frying Out Loud - Rehoboth Beach Diaries. You can check her out at www.aandmbooks.com