An Open Letter to an Amalgamation of the Straight Women I Love

(Note: This post is the first in a new feature on my blog, Love Letters.  This is more art-oriented stuff, as opposed to the strictly analytical work you can usually find on my blog.  I’m sorry if that’s not your kind of thing, but if it is–here you go!)

Dear Amalgamation,

I love you.  I adore you.  I cherish the bond we share.  All stereotypes of fags and hags aside, the relationship between us is special.  In this patriarchal world, a woman who loves men and a man who loves men share an understanding tempered by difference. It’s a beautiful unnameable thing.

Back when I thought I was straight, we slept together, and when I told you who I really loved, you stuck around because you knew that I loved you–and not platonically, because you read The Symposium with me in the ninth grade when it was the only book on gay love I could find, and you know that isn’t what “platonic” means.

You encouraged me to hit on the beautiful boy in the blue dress outside of my first Rocky Horror screening.  (I was wearing a Boy Scout shirt.  I got his number but I was too scared to call.)

You defended me from the older skeezy queer at the coffee shop who wouldn’t stop asking if I had somewhere to stay that night.  You taught me how to smoke weed from a piece.

Your dad offered me reimbursement in check form to buy you soup.  I owe you half a sandwich at the moment.  You are my fake sister but one day you’re going to meet my real ones and make friends with them too.

You are Jewish and so you could hang out with me on Christmas without it being weird with your family. You are black and you told me stories about being the only black girl in your Orange County high school, while we ate squash curry on the kitchen floor of the college co-op.  You are white and we had our first experience working through our bullshit together in the ninth grade World History class where we knew the whole story was not being told.  You are white and you grew up in a trailer park and every Christmas you eat what your mother ate after her excommunication.  You are Latina and we call each other “esposito” and “esposita,” which creeps out other people’s moms completely, and once we sat for an hour on someone else’s lawn and you talked about how a boy kept waffling.  He was a really cute boy.

You got sent to rehab and we couldn’t talk for two years but I think you’re okay now.

A bunch of your friends got sent to rehab and you still call one of them “Bob the drug dealer,” which is not his real name.

You never do drugs and one time I had to send you a sharp Facebook message about being judgmental.

Your mom thinks I’m dating you.

Your mom thinks I’m dating your brother.

Your mom thinks I have a crush on your dad.

I do have a crush on your dad.

Your dad thinks I have a crush on your mom?  I have no idea how this happened.

I wrote the foreword to your first chapbook and you’re really embarrassed about it now because some of it is really bad.  The thing is, some of it is also really good.  My foreword is bad though.  You and I had the same poetry teachers and I decided to marry you because you ended a poem with the line, “How can I be this fortunate?” and it was tenth grade and who writes a poem about being fortunate in tenth grade?

You don’t get along with my queer male best friend.  Does this mean something?

If this were the mid-twentieth century–and you know that I keep calling you the Harper Lee to my Truman Capote, so sometimes I think it is the mid-twentieth century–I’d want to have a marriage of convenience with you, ideally finding a man who swung both ways for us to share and cuddle with while the kids watched Howdy-Doody.  Everyone in the neighborhood would know.  We’d move to New York.  I would find a way to sleep with Frank O’Hara and you’d find a way to sleep with Kenneth Koch, or maybe you’d have an orientation-defying experience with Eileen Myles.  Or maybe I’d have an orientation-defying experience with Eileen Myles.  Come to think of it, there is still time for both of us to have an orientation-defying experience with Eileen Myles.  Please call her for me.

I stole your copy of that book on Lord Byron, Greek love, and homophobia in 1800s Britain.  It was in the eleventh grade.  I still haven’t read it and I’m sorry.  Your mom and dad used to run a Rocky Horror shadowcast, but you’ve never been in the show.  You used to be good at pretending to cry and then laugh and then cry.

I love you because we both know our people need one another.  I love you because you tell me I’m pretty and I tell you you’re pretty and we are both actually very pretty.  I love you because of all your help writing In Cold Blood and because you definitely wrote To Kill a Mockingbird all by yourself and Dil is a very flattering portrait.  I love you because you make being in love with men who do not love us a fun experience.

I will buy you the morning after pill and I will pretend to be your boyfriend at the abortion clinic.  You will hold my hand when the movie about Westboro Baptist plays at the Museum of Tolerance trip and you will pretend to be my girlfriend at the Habitat for Humanity dance in Lynchburg, VA.

When you’re silenced by sexism, I will speak up for you knowing that I will be taken more seriously because I am not a woman, and knowing that that’s fucked up.  When I’m silenced by queerphobia, you will speak up for me knowing that you will be taken more seriously because you’re not queer, and knowing that that’s fucked up.

We are loving each other through a mutual constant promise not to wield our privilege over one another.  I will not be a man to you.  You will not be straight to me.

When your other gay friends say “Bitch!” affectionately I will tell them to shut the fuck up unless you like it.

When your other gay friends say “You big slut!” affectionately I will tell them to shut the fuck up unless you like it.

When your other gay friends say “Whore!” or “Bitch!” or any other slur associated with women I will say, “Would you like to think about that word’s history?”

When your other gay friends think they have the right to make derisive comments about your body–or any woman’s body!–just because they don’t want to have sex with that body, I will spill my drink on them on purpose.  I promise to make it look like an accident.

You’re coming to see me today!

You’re back in Orange County, trying to resist your family’s efforts to enculturate you.

You’re on a bus to see my boyfriend in a far away city because you love him as much as I do.

You remind me of Nancy Mitford but only as much as is nice.  Fortunately I don’t remind myself of Evelyn Waugh except when I’m overcaffeinated.

I promise never to forget that what we have is special.

Love,

Stephen

14 Responses to “An Open Letter to an Amalgamation of the Straight Women I Love”


  1. 1 urbanmythcafe January 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

    This is delightful! I suggest that you find a poetry reading, and read this poem aloud. The serious poets, the ones who don’t make people roll on the floor with laughter, may hate you, though.

  2. 2 Ginevra January 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Beautiful!!!
    …and you mentioned Frank O’Hara!
    Appointment at Samara – I I was thinking of re-reading it, but do not think I have the fortitude. Good to know the younger generation is reading O’Hara.
    .

  3. 3 anivad January 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    This is at once beautiful and unsettling, and I can’t completely put my finger on why. I did take some issue with “We are loving each other through a mutual constant promise not to wield our privilege over one another. I will not be a man to you. You will not be straight to me.”

    I’d like to think that pure identities are capable of existing without privilege – it’s quite possible that’s not true, but as a trans man who only just came out mid-2011 and whose female friends still literally adhere to that (i.e. I am not a man to them, to the extent they still use female pronouns/name saying it’s really hard and confusing to switch, and treat me as a straight girl rather than gay guy), it kind of hit a nerve. Sorry about that. I know what you were trying to say.:\

    OKAY I think the unsettling bit was basically I’m jealous of your confidence and comfort in your identity (there’s something about privilege there too, though I can’t exactly pinpoint how), to the extent that you can write something like this. Whereas being with straight women often compromises my identity, I feel like I’m appropriating gay male experience/oppression when I identify as gay despite my privilege in being perceived as a straight girl most of my life (though most people thought I was a lesbian), and women’s bodies still heavily trigger and reflexively disgust me even though I hate that I react that way, am really working to try and get over it, and will not complain if you spill a drink on me if I end up saying something screwed up in a moment of self-hating dysphoria.

    But I’m glad it’s better for you. Maybe one day I’ll get there too.

  4. 4 Patrick ONeill January 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    That is really good – I agree it deserves a reading🙂

  5. 5 Ginevra January 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Beautiful…and you mentioned Frank O’Hara !!!!Was thinking or re- reading Appointment At Samara, but not sure I have the fortitude. Emotionally devastating! Good to know younger generation reads O’Hara!

    • 6 Stephen January 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Oh! Actually, Appointment at Samara is John O’Hara–but that mistake is a common one as far as I can tell. Frank O’Hara is a different guy–a poet. I do want to read the other O’Hara, though! My mom is a big fan.

      • 7 Ginevra January 16, 2012 at 6:54 am

        Hi; I also miswrote the titlle: should be “Appointment in Samarra” , not “at”….. More apt to make mistakes when I write on IPhone….have headache/insomnia which I mention as explanation for therefore less apt to self censor…..here goes… Seems that this letter meant also to preempt the question from women – perhaps not asked, but seen in a beseeching look in the eyes….why did you leave us? And by “us” – women who seek to be self actualized in a broader sense than was possible a few generations ago…it’s obviously a selfish request, and perhaps lacking in sensitivity, and the fact that I have a headache is no excuse and you are free to reply, “take some aspirin… “

  6. 9 Susan January 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    As a straight woman, I say this is very, very beautiful and touching. It expresses love so eloquently.
    There are tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

  7. 10 Sawyer January 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I love this. I love the part with, “we are loving each other through a mutual constant promise…”

    It gives me the feeling/reminds me that we are all people, regardless of gender experience/sexual orientation/etc.

  8. 11 anna January 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

    i love, love, LOVE this!

  9. 12 Emily Somers January 22, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    One of your best, without question. Could be turned into a breathtaking novel with a little more structuring and maybe a narrative trick or two . . . but the heart is there. Thanks for the consistent honesty.

  10. 13 alexandra economides January 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    How amazing…such beautiful words….you touched my heart….your writing shows so much….passion, love, anger,friendship and so much more…i wish you a life filled with joy, love and happiness….and do what you love doing always…lol xxx
    ps….even though I am a straight woman I still find your words compelling and so honest….do you mind if i visit your blog once in a while?????

  11. 14 david bartlett February 16, 2012 at 7:10 am

    impressive. particularly from someone of your age. such depth and fluidity of ideas. wow. im so glad i somehow stumbled upon your blog. i had buried my queer activist past and unintentionally dumbedp-down myself.


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