Maybe I Should Get A Septum Piercing Or Something…
Because I must look too normal. I realized this last Wednesday evening when I was changing clothes in the locker room at Gold's on Broadway after my workout. A woman I'd not seen around before walked in, set down her bag on the next bench over from mine and started getting her gear out.
She was a very butch woman – I mean, so butch you might have mistaken her for a guy. Unless, of course you'd spent a lot of time around butch women, the way I have. Most of my female lovers have been pretty butchy. I've always enjoyed that feminine-blending-into-masculine energy. And then I married a transman, so I'm well-acquainted with all the shades of gender expression a female-bodied person can achieve.
I was struck by this particular woman because she very closely resembled an ex-lover of mine, whom I just saw last week for the first time in – god, it must be well over a year. Frankly, although I wish her well, it's always a little unsettling for me to see her. (Especially when she flirts with me, as she did last week.) This woman and I went through a couple of rather tumultuous cycles of breaking-up/getting-back-together, and while I wouldn't exactly say she broke my heart, she chipped it a bit. It was a highly emotional connection for me, and while it's been about eight years since we broke up the last time, seeing her still arouses in me an uncomfortable mix of affection and pain.
So I suppose this woman in the Gold's locker room must have seen me glance at her a couple of times, and maybe she caught an odd expression on my face, because she turned to me, and said in this half-defensive, half-condescending tone of voice, "Yes, I am a woman."
Christ, I thought, do you have me pegged wrong. Aloud I said, "Yes, I was just thinking you look kinda like my ex-girlfriend."
She had the grace to look somewhat embarrassed, muttered something vaguely apologetic and retreated to the bathroom stalls.
But I thought, God, do I look that straight? That's scary. Okay, I don't have a labrys tattooed on my ass, but still… And I know butch women get a lot of shit for walking around in the world looking and acting like they do. But for god's sake, we're on Broadway, in the queer Mecca – lighten up, sister. I hate to think how you'd have reacted if I'd been cruising you.
I related this story to Max over dinner, and then we recalled another women's locker room story of mine that's rather at the other end of the scale. We used to work out at Olympic Athletic Club in Ballard, and they have a big, sort of open shower/hot tub area in the women's locker room. Now, Ballard's not a big gay area, but one day when Max and I were working out, I spotted two cute women who were clearly queer, and lovers. One of them I'd describe as a tomboy-femme, and the other – well, let's call her butch-of-center. Nice, I thought, and then went on through my workout.
Later, I got undressed in the locker room and went down the tiled passage to the showers. As I walked, I saw the two cute lesbians sitting in the hot tub, facing me. Now, contrary to porn-video fantasy, women rarely cruise other women, and almost never jump each other in places like, say, gym showers. But still, these two women were most certainly…watching me walk towards them. I could almost hear the strains of "Standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by…"
I took in the fact that they were looking at me, and I happened to be in the mood to play along. So as I walked towards them, I let the towel I was sort of casually holding up to myself slip down a bit to see if I got any reaction.
Definitely watching me. That's nice. Now, the showers are arranged in a semi-circle around the hot tub, so when I got there, I stopped about three feet away from the tub and let the towel fall away from my nude body completely, as I paused to wrestle with the complex issue of just which shower stall I should go into.
Hmm, let's see – that one? (180 degree swivel, toss the hair, arch the back a little bit.) Or, no, maybe that one over there? (Turn back the other way, shoulders back, deep breath.)
I watched from the corner of my eye - they both had smiles well-laced with sensual appreciation, and the butchy one giggled slightly, which caused her girlfriend to jab her in the ribs with her elbow.
Without quite making eye contact, I let a slight smile hover around my lips. Then I hung up my towel on a hook and stepped into one of the stalls.
But - what's this? It looks like someone left a bottle of shampoo in here. Huh, imagine that. Gee, I wonder if it belongs to anyone…
I stepped back out of the stall and took a few steps towards the women in the hot tub, holding out the shampoo bottle. I made eye contact with them, smiled slowly, and then said, in my best magnolia-blossom drawl, I asked, "Is this ya'lls shampoo?"
The butch woman stared at me wordlessly for a moment like she'd been struck by lightning. It was charming. Then, as if reflexively, she shook her head and said, "No."
But the minute after she said it, she sort of squeezed her eyes closed and put her hand up over her face. You could see her mentally kicking herself and thinking, "Fuck! Why did I say that?"
The femme gave her an affectionate, pitying smile and said to me in velvety tones, "Oh – I'm not sure… Can I see it?" and held out her hand to me.
So I walked closer to her, letting my hips sway a trifle more than is my custom, bent over the tub slightly – barely audible intake of breath from the butch – and handed the femme the white plastic bottle. As I hung over the water, the steam rose gently from the tub, misting my face with warm, dewy beads. She turned the bottle over in her hands a few times, and then looked up at me.
"No, I don't think it's ours," she said. But she didn't hand it back to me. She just looked at me.
It's hard to say what would have happened if we’d been alone. Based on my experience of how non-casual-sex-oriented most women are, I can't really make myself believe these women would have seriously made a pass at me – but I suppose anything's possible.
However, we were not alone in the locker room, and at that moment, another woman walked into the shower area. I cocked an eyebrow and smiled at the femme, who gave the tiniest shrug and smile and handed me back the bottle. The butch woman sank a little lower in the water and grinned sheepishly at me from under her wet bangs. I went and took my shower, and when I came out, they were gone. A droll and gently erotic little exchange that left me smiling.