Bi-atribe

Lyssa Friedman


I'll admit it - I'm bi. Bimodal, bizonal, bidimensional. Bipartisan, bimanual, bilateral. I swing both ways, vote independent, blow whichever way the wind is blowing. I'm AC-DC, attracted to any adult human with a pulse, anything, as they say, that moves.

I'll shout it loud - I'm bi and I'm proud.

In college I latched on to a woman in my Feminist Literature class. She spun scratchy Kris Williamson LPs on a beat-up turntable and penned protest signs for Take-Back-the-Night and pro-choice rallies. I tossed my bra and razor in the trash, seduced her and told my parents, "I'm a lesbian. Deal with it."

Still, though I strutted my hairy legs around San Francisco, I only pretended to be a Dyke with Attitude. "I love a girl with voluptuous hips," I told my lesbian friends, never adding, "And I adore a boy with biceps."

But the denial caught up with me. One dusk I parked my Honda Hawk in front of a local cafè, tossed my black leather jacket on a chair and couldn't stop staring at the guy pulling lattes. Alan walked like a dancer and talked like a blues singer. His sculpting didn't pay his rent, so he served evening croissants to the Monday-through-Friday crowd. Before long you could find me at a back table most weeknights, sipping Earl Grey.

When I couldn't hold it a minute longer, I showed up at closing time and stayed until he steam-cleaned the espresso machine and mopped the floor. We walked to my apartment, holding hands.

Alan became my boyfriend, but I hid him from my lesbian friends. I was living in an inside-out closet, faking pronouns. "I'm seeing someone," I admitted. "THEY're very nice. WE have fun. IT's not serious." By night Alan and I dented the pillows with sweet talk, but by day we lived separate lives, him as a sculptor and me as a lesbian.

Eventually I told my women friends. I hauled out phrases like the ones homophobic parents hurled upon learning they had gay children.

"It's a phase," I said. "I'm not really straight." After all, no sundresses hung in my closet. No lipstick stained my backpack. At the gay parade I looked like an ordinary dyke on a bike, and I never wondered what was wrong with this home movie.

I began to worry that maybe I was heterosexual after all. My hairy legs notwithstanding, I slept with the same guy every night and had nothing whatsoever against his penis. So I got used to the idea that with or without a bra, I was destined to end up another post-feminist average liberal suburban Stepford housewife, trading brownie recipes with the soccer mom next door.

But history repeated itself, in a reverse sort of way. The minute I proclaimed my lesbianism, a man occupied my attention. Now, once I accepted my heterosexuality, a dark-haired butch with brown velvet eyes tapped my shoulder. Ah, I thought. So that's what I am.

And I began to use the words "I am" and "bisexual" in the same sentence.

I thought I'd experienced prejudice before. Family members' lips had curled when I announced my lesbianism. My lezzie friends had wrinkled their noses when they met my boyfriend. But bisexuality was the one thing everyone could agree on, whether they were gay or straight.

You should have heard the assumptions. Like the one about how 100% of the adult population would now be dating fodder. My Palm calendar would run out of memory, people figured.

About how I would be insatiable. Dancing with the narrow-hipped boy, I would crave the round-bellied girl leaning her elbows on the bar. Lunching with the Ph.D. in women's studies, I would be distracted by the faded Levi's and goatee hunched over his demitasse and journal.

With a man on my arm, I'd be invited to every hetero pool party. With a woman, I'd have more potluck invitations than weekends.

You'd think I spent Saturday afternoons choosing a companion for date night, eeny-meeny-miney-mo. That, depending on the flavor of the day, I would stuff my tote with either Wired or Ms., settle on a park bench behind my shades, turn pages and cruise the lycra roller-blading by.

But I'm not nearly that organized. If I actually sat on that park bench, I would forget what I was reading, stare at a jock in a jog bra and invite her to talk tech about her mountain bike, only to discover I was exposing the cover of Esquire. I hated pool parties. I didn't know any Ph.D.s in women's studies. And I didn't own a Palm.

Sure, there are advantages to being bisexual. I can rent "Roman Holiday" and imagine Gregory Peck driving me through Rome on his scooter and Audrey Hepburn sneaking me into the palace. I can sympathize with my straight friends' tales from the dating crypt. I can discuss the social implications of gay marriage with my lesbian buddies.

And like Zelig, I can dress appropriately for any occasion.

But the truth is, an evening curled on the sofa with my brown-eyed girl, a cup of Lemon Zinger and Jane Austen had become more intriguing than what any cute stranger in lycra had to offer.

So I decided to take the advice a bystander had shouted at the bi's in the gay parade: "Make up your mind!"

I proposed to my sweetie and she said yes. We picked Bastille Day, booked the Rabbi, and wondered what to wear. Shopping for bridal drag I recognized the gravity of the commitment.

"You know," I said, fingering ivory silk, "on July 14th I'll finally be a lesbian."

My beloved was not amused. "I refuse to marry anyone who's not honest with herself, and with me, about who she is," she said.

She was right. I abandoned the lesbian moniker and walked the aisle. Now, though I still cruise the swimsuit-clad of both genders, I'm a suburban housewife who trades brownie recipes with the woman next door. A black leather jacket still hangs in my armoire, but it shares space with chiffon and chenille. And I have a partner who cheers the bisexual contingent in the parades and appreciates my Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn fantasies.

Of course, people cautioned us not to tie the knot. How, they asked, can a bi, unless she marries a hermaphrodite, get the other 50% of her needs met?

But we ignored them. Under the wedding canopy, I thanked my betrothed for helping me face the truth.

"I want to tell you in front of these witnesses," I said, "I am bisexual and I have made up my mind."

© Lyssa Friedman


Lyssa Friedman is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Skirt! Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, the San Francisco Chronicle, other city newspapers, and a variety of regional newspapers and publications. Bi-atribe was previously published on uber.nu.


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