Photo: E. Mulligan
The Nice Lesbian Neighbors
© 2010 Lee Lynch
I do get cranky sometimes when the doorbell rings. It's a learned response to solicitors. Got religion? I have my own beliefs thank-you-very-much. Buy chocolate bars? I'd love to, but the budget's too tight. Vote for WHO? Are you out of your freakin' tree? And yes, you can come in our yard to retrieve your whiffle ball, Frisbee, SpongeBob kite, little brother and pet snake. Once a year, Halloween makes me a complete curmudgeon.
My sweetheart is a nice person. She likes to support the local elementary school's baseball team. She'll buy those chocolate bars and give them away at work. She gives neighbor kids blanket permission to retrieve their whiffle balls, Frisbees, SpongeBob kites, little brothers and pet snakes. She enjoys giving out candy to excited, costumed munchkins.
And she's right. It's good to be pleasant to the neighbors. Good for them, good for the neighborhood, good for the soul. It's especially important for us, because we want to be the nice lesbian neighbors. I can sign every on line petition for ENDA, DADT, and NO ON NOMA that comes my way, but if I scowl at little kids congregating in our driveway or turn off the lights and don't answer the door at Halloween, I'm not only condemning myself to everlasting Grinchhood, I'm teaching non-gays, who outnumber us in our development hundreds to two, that lesbians are unhappy grouches too different to be trusted or tolerated.
So I'm getting with the program, though in so many ways I don't know how. Take the tomboy across the street. Just because she acts like a daredevil on her bicycle, rides a skateboard with élan, has her own basketball hoop in her driveway and walks like a seasoned butch, doesn't mean she's going to breeze into holy dykedom at puberty. She's only about a half a step away from puberty now. Any day she's going to wake up and see her future living across the street from her.
While she comes to terms with her own sexuality, will she feel the need to make trouble for us: call us names? Out us to young mischief-makers? Vandalize our home? Or will she come to our door seeking a way into the gay world? What if she flings herself out of her closet and brings attention to us? It won't be an easy journey for her as she has a passel of ragtail non-gay relatives. The men drive diesel pickups with oversized tires. The women drive mini vans with church stickers. There's also a tattle-tale girly little sister and lots of cousins: hard-staring little kids, very unlike the tomboy, who always averts her eyes.
I keep my distance. The last thing I want is to be the nice lesbian neighbor she decides to hang around. Or for her to swoon at my sweetheart's feet. I know what I was like when I first came out, crushed out on a teacher, too excited to hide who I was, longing for entry to the gay life, yet too shy and too scared and too outlawed to knock on any doors.
That was a long time ago. These days, any tomboy can look us up on the internet. At the same time, the ancient taboos have not disappeared. She may ignore her instincts, go to her prom with a guy and add her kids to the passel of relatives. Or she may ring our doorbell. What will she need to know? What can I give her? If she shows up on our doorstep what's the right thing for a nice lesbian neighbor to do? Invite the kid in for a cup of tea and honest talk? Jolly her along with smirks and winks?
We keep our lawn green and neat, plant flowers, trim the shrubs, pick up after our dog. Our public displays of affection are minor and only one neighbor knows we're married. We have no piles of loud dykes at parties. We smile and say hello, go to the community picnics and admire the kids' accomplishments. We're the perfect neighbors except we're - you know - lesbians.
Maybe this is the best message we can send our tomboy neighbor, that she can expect to live happily ever after any way and anywhere she wants. That we are neither seducers nor threats. But, oh, what if she needs more than that? What if we can save her life?
What if I don't answer the door?
© 2010 Lee Lynch
Lee Lynch, Author of Sweet Creek from Bold Strokes Books
Back to Article