BiCrushing: Prove it…
A watched pot, as Welsh stadium rockers The Stereophonics once blandly observed as though they were the first, never boils. By a similar token, a teenager who makes a concerted effort to come across well to other people never does, and realises later on that she gives out by far the best impression of herself when she’s not actually trying to do it. Hence, probably, her perennial appeal to people who she doesn’t care about all that much, versus her talent for committing prize social blunders in front of people she completely adores in every way. I was very comforted to discover that one of my idols (who might be reading this, so no further comment) once collided with a lamppost whilst waving to someone she fancied. It’s not quite ejecting a mouthful of the drink your crush has just poured for you back into the mug with a loud: “Pah! This tastes like paint stripper!” but it’s a start: perhaps, far from their humble lighting function, lampposts were actually designed by some philanthropic social psychologist as a great social levelling experiment. Bring it on, let’s have more of them and soothe the inadequate of the world. I didn’t take a friend’s description of me as “the indie Bridget Jones” as a compliment, put it that way.
OK, perhaps it’s wrong of me to portray myself as being so socially inadequate: objectively, I’m probably little or no more so than the average person. It is, however, regrettably true that I have experienced a couple of memorable tact bypasses in front of people I was secretly in love with, leading to some very ill-thought-out remarks about their ages / significant others / tea-making abilities/ CD collections. I recalled the most cringe worthy of my faux pas recently whilst I was sitting one of my degree Finals and very nearly hissed: “Shit, fuck, bollocks, swallow me O’dearest ground!” in full earshot of the invigilator.
I can reassure myself in moments like these by the fact that when I say something ridiculous I tend to realise quickly and be suitably humble and apologetic – or at least look it, even if I’m too embarrassed to cobble together a sentence with a coherent apology somewhere in it. What I don’t do is plough on insistently with my stupid comments, oblivious or inconsiderate to the reactions of the person listening who is struggling to politely repress their desire to lunge over the bar table and, in the strictly non-homoerotic sense of the phrase, eat me up. At a recent social event hosted by my university’s LGBT Association, I ran into an old acquaintance: let’s call her Lisa. I vaguely remember Lisa from my seminar group for a Politics module I took in first year, during which the thought that she might be a lesbian never occurred to me (as it was a 9am seminar: I doubt I was thinking full stop but that’s beside the point). Charmed by her not seeming to fit into any student stereotype that I know of, I moved over to join her. After establishing that I no longer take any politics modules, hence would not be of any help with her exam revision, she proceeded to ask me what was in my drink, and to explode when I told her it was a Jack Daniels and orange.
Perhaps slipping my bisexuality into the conversation after that wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. I mean, if someone reacts that violently to your choice of drink, it’s a fairly safe assumption they aren’t going to fling their arms around you and applaud your membership of a sexual minority, isn’t it? Sure enough, she then referred to me as “not properly gay” and spent what seemed like fifteen minutes – doesn’t it always seem longer than it is? – telling me that anyone who claims to be bisexual is either straight and drunkenly experimenting, or gay and repressed. Lordy, someone bunked a day or two of classes at charm school for a shoplifting spree down Cliché High Street, didn’t they? I might just have forgiven all that if she hadn’t topped it with: “Well prove me wrong then.” How? I’m a single woman in my final weeks at university, and much as I’m sure a mixed-sex army of my favourite thesps and rock stars would be happy to assemble in front of you in order that I can prove my bisexual credentials, I’m afraid they’re all busy being married and successful. Ask me again next week. Anger mingled briefly with self-hatred: “Oh please Ms. Streetwise Lesbian, don’t blame me for being stuck with this ridiculous label to describe the range of people I’d quite like to have relationships with if they wanted me”.
To be fair, we are talking about one piranha fish in the pond here. I should add that I have met some very nice (or at least not openly prejudiced) women and men at said LGBT Association and I’m on my way to feeling happier and less inclined to beat myself up over isolated ups and downs than I have been at any time during the last five years (as my friend beautifully puts it: leave the selfflagellation to Ruth Kelly). But when the recent report on the Spring Bi Activist Weekend in BCN called for readers to submit contemporary examples of bi-phobia, this example of mine sprang immediately to mind. I was advised following my encounter with Lisa to take everything she says as a joke. A “joke” her behaviour towards me certainly was: of the knock-knock variety: i.e., very playground, very 80s and very unfunny. Yes, we all have moments when we fail to engage brain before opening mouth, and as a person who lays my insecurities and failings bare in a magazine column, I should hardly expect perfection from other people, especially in a world where most people’s exposure to sexual fluidity is limited to the tabloid exposes of glamour-modelling Big Brother contestants. But is it too much to ask that we acknowledge and are humble about our prejudices?
“So how are your family about you being gay?” I asked Lisa, when my internal fuming slash self-hatred had subsided enough to make further conversation seem feasible.
“Oh, my sister knows – she doesn’t believe me,” she replied airily.
Funny – could have sworn I’ve heard that one myself.