WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Harrington Park Press

 
 
 

THE PROMISE OF REDEMPTION (excerpt)

by Joan Annsfire

     It wasn't that I wanted to worship Jesus or eat fish on Fridays. What I coveted most was that Catholic girl swagger, a presence that stated, "I'm here, you gonna try to make somethin' of it?" It was an essence that came through even in those nerdy plaid skirts and white blouses. Perhaps it was bred in Catholic girls' schools, which, I suspected, were subversive hotbeds of female bonding, a sort of Western version of a harem. All those women together in a religion where sin could be easily neutralized by confession was fertile soil for my fantasies.
     The year was 1967, the Beatles had landed, and the hippies had emerged from the stifling cocoon of the Fifties. The phrase "women's liberation" had not yet been coined. I was an angst-ridden teenager with a nebulous sense of herself as "other." It was a nagging feeling without shape or dimension.
     Being Jewish accounted for part of it. It denoted the status of an outsider. In the "real" Ohio, the word Jew was used mostly as a verb. But in my high school Jews made up about a third of the student body. A minority of them were artsy types, girls who wore big earrings and longhaired boys with a philosophical bent. But mostly the Jewish kids were really boring. They were what we called preppies, the college bound, well-to-do crowd. Females with little gold bracelets, Villager dresses, and Pappagallo shoes. Males with a highly inflated sense of their own importance. Only a rare few were aspiring juvenile delinquents, my chosen identification. Those of us in the live-fast-die-young set were given the status of honorary Gentiles because we fell so far from the norm.


     The second component of my "otherness" was something I couldn't quite put my finger on. My assessment was that I wanted deeper relationships, a more intense emotional connection with my girlfriends than they were willing to provide. I hoped that this added dimension would lead to greater physical intimacy.
     The flames of Catholic envy had been fanned in the women's bathroom at the local bowling alley. I recall watching with fear and admiration as the girls from St. Dominic's smoked their cigarettes and ratted their hair. It was a ritual that seemed methodical, sacred, almost holy. And they had some big hair. Rumor had it that they hid drugs, make-up, and razor blades in its depths. I visualized their coiffures as a cross between armories and cosmetic counters. This arsenal seemed unnecessary because these chicks could probably take down a mad rapist with barely more than a withering holy-mother-of-God look.