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This is the continuation of Adopted Daughter series that you can review or catch up on at DailyKos. Click here for previous chapters
Notes In The Margins Part 9
This has gone down in the annals of history as “The Great Coke Caper.” No, not that kind of Coke. . . Coca Cola the drink. One riotous, fun-filled night 8 of us from the softball team piled into my car after a game that night. . . in my really cool ’56 Chevy 4 door hardtop, robin’s egg blue and white. . .we had gone off to have hamburgers, drinks, fries and way too much fun. We took laughing and stupidity to new heights that night.
As we drove by the local Coke distributor’s corner lot after our burgers, someone noticed that the gate was wide open and inside the fenced compound were hundreds of cases of Coke and what they then called ’76, which became Sprite a few years later. No one was in the yard. There was a whole lot of “come on, let’s go swipe a couple of cokes. . .yeah, let’s. . .pullover Shirl. . .we’ll just run in and run right out, it will be fun. . .” People pleaser came to the fore and I pulled over. Doors flew open on the car and young women ran pall mall into the lot sh. .shushing each other as they went. A very few seconds later bodies came running back with arm loads of coke, jumped into the car and said, “Somebody came out and caught us. Quick, drive around back and pick up Mattie and Sandy, they are coming over the fence there.” Being the get away driver, I pulled into the alley behind the lot just as the two girls were dropping down from the top of the fence. They jumped in the car and we went through to the next block and turned on to the street. I was talking as fast as I could, trying to tell them we should just take whatever cokes they had and take them back. Just tell the guys it was a prank and see what happened. No one but me thought that was a good idea.
As I was trying to convince them it would be better to just return the bottles of coke, I was driving around the block to get back to the lot. And of course a cop car pulled up right behind me. Oh shit! I hoped it was someone I didn’t know very well or not at all. I can’t begin to tell you what I was thinking. Newspaper headlines: ” Police Records Bureau Clerk Getaway Driver in Coke Heist. Gets 18 month sentence.” When the cop came to the driver’s door, I handed him my license and registration, trying to keep my head down to avoid looking directly at him. It was not one of the officers I knew well, but I had seen him before. He asked me what we were doing? I offered something lame like going home after a softball game. He kept asking me questions and I was so freakin scared that I have no idea what they were now. After a few questions, he asked me to get out of the car. CLINK….CLINK. . .CLINK. . .it sounded like cannon shots as bottles rolled out from under the seat where the girls had stuffed them when the cop showed up. There I was totally exposed with bottles of coke rolling out into plain view and the cop asking me where I worked. Coyly. . .I said, “I work for the City.” He thought I looked familiar, did he know me? What department in the City did I work for? The jig was up. Full confession followed.
The bottles of coke were gathered up and returned to the distributor. He started laughing. teasing me about being the “brains of the outfit.” Crime boss. Laughing, laughing, laughing. He did not arrest any of us but took everyone’s name and ID. Said he had to turn in a report about it and then we would be contacted to come in and see someone in the PD about it. If we didn’t show up at the appointed time a warrant would be sworn for our arrest. No one missed their appointments, everyone was given 6 months probation and had to go visit someone in the department once more to assure them they were “keeping their record’s clean,” except me. I was offered the option of resigning after a long embarrassing talking to by the Assistant Chief of Police. In case you ever start to wonder, everything I ever did in my life that wasn’t exactly kosher I got caught, and forget lying, I was always caught when I tried that.
[As I was writing this scene from my wicked past, it was about 10 in the evening on Saturday. I glanced up at the open curtained window next to my computer to see a police car stopped across the entrance to my driveway, lights flashing. Spooky damned coincidence, but it gave me a start. I live on a state highway and it is not uncommon that the occasional speeder is stopped nearby, so it is not something totally foreign, but good for a bump up in my heart rate none the less. Spooooooky.]
As the softball season was winding down, I think we came in 2nd in the County championships that season. Disappointed to be sure, but vowing to do better next year. We couldn’t bear to think of no more practices, no more games, no more having so much fun. So, we decided to play in the Volleyball league, and at it’s end, the Basketball league, then it would be time for softball again. We were pretty good in volleyball, and we were average in basketball, but we stayed together and we had a truck load of fun. Although we had a couple of youngsters that were still in high school, everyone else had graduated and a good number of them were headed to The University of Utah in the fall. . .time for me to go back to school as well. We hit the Physical Education Department at the U of U en masse. I am not sure the “U” ever recovered, but we certainly had grand and glorious triumphs and all the fun we could muster.
We were pretty smug about the idea that the PE department had to adjust upward all of its skill standards for PE Majors during our 4 years there, unfortunate for those less experienced, but we thought it was pretty cool that collectively we were all good enough to shatter the previous standards. I was still the least of them when it came to skill. To be sure I was not a talented natural athlete, but I was willing to work hard and give it everything I had. I excelled in no sport, but I was reliable and consistently pretty good. In fact the next summer softball season I had a 750 batting average which was the best on the team and very much a surprise to everyone. One and two baggers, nothing spectacular but I almost always got on base. I had some spectacular catches out there in right field from time to time. My favorite was a deep and long fly ball that was going foul that I charged with all the determination I had and snagged one-handed at the top of the fence. An out is always better than another swing of the bat. Another memorable one was charging a hard line drive hit between first and second base and as I got to the edge of the infield it was rising so I had to extend my arm and jump as high as I could to nab it. Awesome feeling, that. Being tall does have its advantages.
I minored in Psychology. It could probably be said I had as much fun with that as I did with sports. I volunteered for any and every psych dept. testing or experiment that was offered whenever I could, especially the ones that paid a little. I became exceptionally good at taking psychological tests. . .not exactly what I think they were looking for. But I did learn to understand the wording of questions and what they were trying to assess from the choice of answers. No big trick as I am sure most of you know yourselves. In the experiments, where we were virtually unknown and anonymous, I would give my real answers, but later on when given departmental evaluations for “suitability” as the department of Education liked to give periodically, I gave them what I knew they were looking for. It was a game to me. Certainly when applying for jobs and there were such type tests given, if I wanted the job I gave them the “correct” answers. Maybe that’s why I was always able to easily find jobs. Nah, I was just a good convincer.
At the end of the summer before we invaded the University, one of the girls had a birthday party and it was just the softball team that she invited. This was not a big deal party just some chips, dips, cake, ice cream and mischief, an excuse to get together. Geri was pretty unhappy that she couldn’t go because she had to life guard at the nearby Community Club. . . the working class version of a country club, but affordable enough for the masses. You know I was off to the party without a thought. It was Carolyn’s 21st birthday and she had bought some cherry sloe gin and lime vodka. Yeeeeeewwwwuuuuuuuuck! Laughter, underage drinking, cake fights and mischief ensued. I came straggling home to my new home at Geri’s folks place about midnight. Of course I was tipsy. I took a shower then tip-toed into bed. Geri and I shared a bedroom with her two sisters. As I crawled into bed quietly as I could, hoping not to wake Geri or the other two girls, Geri asked me in as pissed off a tone as she could muster, how the party was. I tried to tell her about it, knowing how badly she felt that she hadn’t been able to go. Things were not going well. The more I tried to tell her about it, the more pissed she became. Ah, damn it I couldn’t stand to have her so mad at me. As drunks often times do, I started to apologize and that brought on my tears. I have no idea what I said, but I was doing everything I could to get her to not shut me out. We had become awfully close over the course of the months I lived there and this was killing me. (I never did do direct conflict very well. . .damn people pleaser!) All of this was in hushed and whispered tones so that we wouldn’t wake up her little sisters.
Drunk, crying and whispering apologies and trying at the same time to make Geri feel better, it must have been a sight to see. The next thing I knew I was kissing her. Yeah, I mean kissing her. Holy damn cow, she was kissing me back! I had no real concept what all this meant but it sure felt right. Daylight and hangovers tend to put things in a different perspective. As a very introspective person, I had an awful lot to introspect about. Everything changed, and nothing changed. It was a twilight zone event. Remember the part about me being naive? As naive as I was, Geri was more so. As I was always trying to figure everything out, you know I was deep at it. I was desperately trying to reconcile what little I thought I knew about lesbians, what I knew in no uncertain terms what the church and the public at large thought about them, and the apparent reality of what was happening to us. You can be sure it didn’t stop at kissing. And it was awesomely pleasurable as the months went on.
Gay people often used to talk about who “brought them out.” Usually someone’s first time affair was with someone much more knowledgeable and experienced, even though they also usually had some pretty good idea they were gay and may have done some tentative exploration previously.
I knew without a doubt that neither of us was a child molester, and although I wasn’t perfectly mentally/emotionally put together, who was? We were as normal as any other person I knew and a darn sight more so than many I knew. So, if we weren’t molesters, if we weren’t psychotic/neurotic nut cases, then we must not be lesbians. You following this? I thought we must have invented the most gosh darn fabulous thing in the Universe! It’s okay to laugh here. I do all the time when it crosses my mind. Fabulous indeed! Believe me, I am laughing so hard right now I have to wipe the tears from my eyes. And if I had any guts at all I would long ago have written a fabulous book titled “Virgin Lesbians” or something equally as tongue in cheek (Oh my God, did I say tongue in cheek…oops). Maybe “Oooh that feels good”. . .er. . . umm . . . I digress.
As time moved on, I began to really have trouble with why I now had to deal with yet something else that would set me apart as an outsider. It was a strange time in 1960-1964. Even with all my often lack of self-esteem, I knew a few things about myself. I was capable of really loving other people very deeply. I cared a lot about others. I was very passionate, about a lot of things. I wanted to make a difference in their lives by being a caring part of their lives in any way I could. And there was also the “world-sorrow” or soul-pain that I felt for masses of humanity that were suffering and being treated unjustly. I knew that I was basically a good person, but not a perfect one. I never would intentionally hurt someone. I was far more an optimist than a pessimist. I didn’t gossip, I wasn’t bigoted, and I took everyone on a person by person basis. Yet in the climate of the times and the culture of the church and community, I felt I absolutely had to hide who I was. . .a big part of who I was, at least. There were times this seemed a very cruel turn of events.
No wonder my mother couldn’t stand to see me in pants, even as a little girl, she hated that I wouldn’t wear dresses. My mother saw it in me very early on, she never wanted it to be so, she also never confronted it directly. Her mother, my wonderful grandmother knew too. It didn’t seem to matter to her. She thought it was funny that I tried to make appearances that I maybe wasn’t gay. In my early 30’s on one visit to my grandmother, she commented, as she often did, about how tall I was. I made a joke about it to the effect that it was the three inch stack heels on the boots I was wearing that made me seem taller than usual. “Why do you want to be so tall?” she asked. I flipantly responded, “So all of the guys will have to look up to me.” She gave me that look, you know the “I don’t believe a word your saying” one. And then she looked me in the eyes and said, “You don’t care one whit about men or what they might think about you!” A moment of truth between us, and I had to admit in the way she meant it, it was absolutely truth. We both laughed and it was never mentioned again.
As with most gay people in those days, I spent a great deal of time justifying my existence, mostly to myself and sometimes preaching to the choir of other gays. I was really torn about this for quite a long time. I knew that gay people were just like every other person on the planet, except that many of them seemed to be a lot smarter than average (okay, perhaps a bit prejudiced of me, but that was my experience, probably just indicative of the people I knew). This was a HUGE injustice to me. And it was not only that I took it personally, it was a horrible societal construct of something they didn’t have any understanding about at all. When I looked back over my early life there were so many clues to this I could hardly believe that I had missed them. I had huge crushes on women all of my life. It made perfect sense to me from this looking back perspective. So many things made perfect sense now. You can be sure that I knew where to fill in my appalling lack of knowledge about being a lesbian. Radcliffe Hall, and “The Well of Loneliness”, the less literate but easily available Ann Bannon paperback series of lurid lives lived in the less restrictive confines of New York and San Francisco, and any other of those 50’s and 60’s writers that offered some comfort along with their often disturbing stories. If I had been really as smart as I thought I was, I would have searched out real lesbians to tell me about “the life.” I was way too shy for that even though I was pretty sure I knew some women to ask. I can just imagine the conversation, “Oh, by the by, I’m a lesbian virgin and I don’t have any fucking clue what I am doing. Can you tell me all about it?” Parts of my life were such a comedy! I was never going to have that conversation. I was also way too filled with false pride to ever admit that I knew nothing about it.
Even though I had no experience at all prior to this love affair with Geri, and neither did she, we found plenty of wonderful pleasures to explore. However, we had no idea of what the rules were. You know, all of life has rules, expectations of behaviors. Were we supposed to structure this like straight people’s relationships? That didn’t seem right. Neither of us was a man. Neither of us wanted to be a man or act like one. Whatever. We would have to figure this out as we went along, I guessed. During this time in Gay history and especially in the Salt Lake City culture there did indeed seem to be a lot of rules. There was that whole “butch” and “fem” thing. People acting out the only guidelines they understood about relationships of this nature. . .intimate, loving, sexual. Yeah, the good old role playing stuff. I thought it ridiculous then but to each her own. I was an outsider with the outsiders now and I had to fit in. People pleaser has to be accepted. If anything, I felt and thought I was fairly androgynous, Geri was not overtly feminine as many might define it, but later came to be much more so than I ever did. I seemed to have found a lot of comfort in my neither one stance. I’m just me, has always been my view of it. If you have a need to label me, that’s your problem. And did I ever tell you I hate labels? I hate them applied to anyone for any reason.
At the women’s softball games, the spectators were an interesting mix of mom’s and dad’s, family, friends and half of the entire lesbian population of the city. It seems I was at least on acquaintanceship level with a lot of lesbians. When I went my first day to Biology 101, at the University of Utah, I saw someone I recognized. Lou Kay. I had seen her around at games and I had met her a couple of times. She waved me into a seat next to her. God it was good to see a very friendly face. We had a blast in Biology, which both of us just managed to pass (more fun than studying, you see, and that would be “good clean fun” at that). But meeting up with Lou brought forth a lot of new opportunities. She tended bar at night at a downtown bar, “The Broadway”, which was the bar lesbians had taken over as their own. Jimmy, the old Greek guy that owned it welcomed us, treated us well, and never let the few old guys that lived in crumbling flop-house hotels nearby bother us. They were his only other clientele besides lesbians, so he knew a good thing when he saw it. Besides the business sense it made, he loved us and was a great friend of gays in those days. Jimmy’s every day quote was: “When I was young I was a Greek God! Now I’m just a god damned Greek.” (I know, it was a groaner even in the 1960’s.)
Lou was bout 5’4″ and a little on the sturdy side, athletic one would say. She had very short brown hair and a great outgoing, easy to laugh and fun to be with personality. And trust me she knew just about every lesbian in the Salt Lake and surrounding areas. She kept inviting me to come to the bar sometime and she would introduce me around. I was working so many part time jobs I didn’t have much time for just fun, but I said I would come by sometime. Over time, I found out most of my team were gay women. It was pretty funny because they had all been dying to ask me if I was gay, but since I hadn’t given them anything solid to go on, they weren’t totally sure. My, such PC in those days. Then I began to understand why Carolyn had always been pretty cool towards me, because she and Mattie were partners at the time and I had one huge, overwhelming crush on Mattie before Geri and I began our affair. God, how embarrassing! If I had known anything, I would not have been such a dope ass. A lot of things fell into place about arguments different team members had with one another, and other times of hurt feelings and disagreements. Talk about Alice in Wonderland.
People pleasers have a constant danger in their lives. They want to be loved and accepted. How is that dangerous? Well, instead of getting to know people well enough to understand if you might actually be compatible with someone for a long term relationship, it goes pretty much like this: “She likes me, I like her, we are in heat, she wants to be with me, I reckon that’s enough for me, it must be love.” Among my good qualities is that I am loyal beyond all measure of reason, at least I view that as a positive. And certainly it has been to my own detriment at times, no doubt to other’s as well. Geri and I could hardly have been a worse match. I admired and loved many things about her, but she was very controlling, very me, me, me centered, and I was suffocating. Yes, I was no great without-fault catch either. My worst trait was that I didn’t know how to talk about important things. I didn’t feel I could tell others the things about them I couldn’t abide or didn’t understand. . . it might hurt them, and I just couldn’t do that. Everything stayed bottled up inside of me. We had our share of problems. We finished off a bedroom in the basement of her folks home so we could have “some” privacy, and were no longer having to share a room with her sisters. Our sophomore year at the U we moved into a funky little apartment within a few blocks of the University and I was ecstatic. But, more and more things sort of drifted between us. At times she spent more time at her folks place than at the apartment. I was relieved. And as much as I didn’t think this was the greatest relationship ever, I couldn’t imagine dumping her. Loyalty. I also had no idea how to have that conversation, that honest adult conversation that adult people have. The one about how things aren’t going well and what do you think we ought to do about it? I also was (and am) a hopeless romantic. Love is forever and all that sentimental stuff. Thank God I finally figured out how that really is true and how it can really work in a life like mine.
How would I ever overcome being an outsider now? It didn’t look promising for a very long time. . . .
I will be posting part 10 of this series in about a half an hour so you get two doses of me today.
[*This is no doubt totally without necessity on this site, but: Lest there be even a fleeting thought from any of you parents of adopted children (or bio-children for that matter) out there, being adopted did not make me gay. Being sexually abused did not make me gay. Playing sports did not make me gay. No gay (or straight) person made me “turn gay.” I was not looking for a mother replacement. Being gay was not me acting out in rebellion. In my personal view of it, and long before any genetic studies of it, I was born with that inclination. And at various times in our social climate I tried very hard not to be gay. It couldn’t be done. Surely, if you believe in some type of God or source, and/or if you believe in genetics, you can see that it is the way that I/we came into this life. Just as you may have come in with blue eyes instead of brown, it is not a defect, it is diversity.]