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?
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 12 books. Her latest, Beggar
of Love, was called “Lee
Lynch's richest and most candid portrayals of lesbian life” by
Katherine V. Forrest. You can reach Lynch at
Copyright 2010 Lee Lynch