The New Woman

Since moving to California I’ve learned new things. Last night’s lesson I won’t soon forget.

I’ve always balked at using “woman/women” in reference to me or anyone under the age of 85, even though for years now, that has been the politically correct term for females of the human kind over the age of 18.

When I was growing up, “women” were old and often anonymous, and that is what sticks in my head. I’m not sure what the preferred term was for a female that was over 18, but as politically incorrect as it would be today, “girl” would win out over “woman” in many cases. That never seemed quite right either, especially if the “girls” were over 40. I suppose “lady” worked then, even though it implied things about a person’s behavior that were not necessarily so–I guess that was another place where “woman” was sometimes used, but it definitely indicated a harsher assessment, or no knowledge of, the person’s character.

Still in the process of meeting new people in my new locale, in the hopes of turning at least a few of them into friends, I responded to a posting on an online local bulletin board that lists, among other things, various meetings, classes, events, and gatherings.

The posting was for a “Women’s Group for Artists, Writers, Musicians.” Apparently they had already had one successful meeting and were planning the second. I e-mailed my interest and received the specifics on the when and where. And last night I went.

The meeting was at a private home–a big Victorian with a wraparound porch that opened onto an enclosed garden that had been outfitted with small stage…a stage? Who was performing? Performing turned out to be the point of the gathering.

As I approached the open door where several people were clustered, I immediately became aware of something I had never thought of. This group–or what I could see of it–was gay.

I have no problem with people being whatever they are, and I have many gay guy friends, and have known several gay women, so this is not uncharted territory for me, but what I couldn’t figure out was, what clue had I missed in that posting that would have signified the true nature of this group?

Well, so there I was with a group of gay women who thought by my mere presence that I was one of them. It might have been easiest to have just remembered a dental appointment I had to go to, but it was Friday night after all, and no one would have bought that. I decided that more important than my feeling a bit uncomfortable was to not make the others feel that same way–so I stayed. It wasn’t as if I were going to be attacked.

The evening proceeded, if not in the context and format I had envisioned. Everyone was invited to perform (sing, dance, read prose or poetry, show paintings, play an instrument) on the little stage in the garden, and many did–and they were good. This group seemed to already know each other quite well, although they had only had one other of these artist evenings before this night.

I kept looking to see if someone like me–clueless and confused–might also turn up. No one did. Everyone had gotten the message but me. But the posting that had gotten me into this had been on a community online bulletin board, not something limited to lesbians. What had I missed?

I stayed for the 2-hour time frame that had been set in the post, and then thanked the hostesses, who had been genuinely welcoming, and made my exit. Gratefully, I had been preceded in departure by one or two others, so it didn’t look like the freedom flight that it felt like to me.

First thing I did once in my car was to call two girlfriends to both report and ask them what code I had missed in that bulletin board post.

I was somewhat gratified to know that I wasn’t the only one seemingly totally out of touch, when each friend was as shocked as I had been when I told them of how things had unfolded. Neither had the vaguest idea of what the missed code had been.

I checked with my gay guy friends back East–none of them could explain the unexplainable.

Then, I talked to a friend who moved to Colorado from the east coast about seven years ago–and I still don’t know if the “West” part has anything to do with this or not, but she had the answer I, and my other friends, had never imagined.

I learned that now, and at least in the West, anything billed as a “Women’s Group,” that exists outside of the Southern Baptist Church–and I haven’t seen any of those out here, means “GAY women.” This friend lives in Aspen and says that any “Women’s Ski Groups,” for example, are recognized as gay. Who knew? Certainly not I, my two fellow Californian girlfriends, nor the eastern gay guys, had any idea about this…is this a Colorado invention making its way west?

I owe the “women” of the other night an apology…and I would love to know what they thought of me. Did they recognize me as what I was–a lost soul among them–or did they see me as struggling to make it out of some closet?

I’d better write them a note and set the record straight–not that anyone else even cares. At least they’ll know for sure why I don’t show up at future of their gatherings…and at least I’ll feel better about knowing that they won’t try mounting a rescue effort to same me from my straight self.

And now I have real reason to not want to use “woman/women”…how long before the Politically Correct become attuned to the real meaning? They definitely need to be informed.

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