The Kid and I took in a high school soccer game last night, watching his most-likely-future-school's team beat his fallback-if-the-financial-aid-chokes-school's team 8-0. We were saved from hypothermia only because we snuggled in with some friends who brought lots of blankets.
The girls' game had been played first, and some of the girls stayed to watch the boys play. They hopped down from the bleachers at the end of the game and walked out of the stadium ahead of us. I recognized one girl--not a player, but obviously a friend of the players--as a kid I had first noticed about 5 years ago, when she would have been 12 or so. I'll call her M. I noticed her back then playing in a club game first because she seemed to be one of the more technically accomplished players on the field, and second because she struck me as a likely baby dyke. A Floridian, a Future Lesbian of America. I ran across her from time to time and never thought much more about it than, oh, there she is again.
M is now probably 16 or 17 and has the total boi thing going. Short short hair, baseball cap on sideways, baggy jeans worn hip-hop low, exuding swagger and cockiness. When I see her it's invariably with femmed-out girls who may be former teammates, none of whom give me a particularly lesbo vibe. I wonder what it's like to be her, coming of age now instead of in the mid-80s. I wonder how she interacts with her straight friends, if she's dating anyone, how her parents deal with it.
I turned 17 in the summer of 1984, the height of the Reagan Era, in a part of the Midwest that was staunchly liberal when it came to organized labor but staunchly conservative on social issues. The concept of gayness was a very dim light, low on the horizon, centered on the stereotypes surrounding gay men. Lesbians? I'm not sure I even knew what they were.
Recognizing it in myself wasn't an option. It's not that it was an option that I chose not to pursue--it simply did not exist in my universe. How differently might my life have unfolded had I been free not only to intellectually grasp homosexuality, but also to connect the dots of my own identity and be that, instead of dutifully shoving myself into the expected mold of school-work-marriage-kids?
What possibilities await young M, unapologetically slouching along in her Carhartts and white t-shirt, hands jammed in pockets, edgy, borderline belligerent in-your-face-here-I-am? She has a car, drives her friends around, talks about parties. Funny, but now when I see her my first thought isn't, oh, baby dyke. It's oh, child... be careful.