So, in my latest bout of self-improvement, I’ve been trying to “put myself out there” a bit more and not be quite such a Stay-home Sally.
I’d previously joined a Queer Book Club and never gone. (Well actually I had gone, but had been overcome by mild diarrhoea and extreme shyness and had observed the book club for ten minutes from the other side of the pub before running away and going home.)
This time, I was feeling braver and, having read almost all of the book for this month, I actually went to the meeting.
From spying on the meeting before, I knew that it would be mainly lesbians, which is a comfort. I like lesbians, and have always found it easier to relax around them than it is around gay men.
I remember when I first came out to someone other than a priest when I was 16, and it was my supervisor at the restaurant where I worked at weekends and she set me up for coffee with a lesbian who used to also work at the restaurant and it was my first time talking to someone who was gay about being gay and although she didn’t really know what to say, she was exactly as kind as she should have been and she pointed me to a gay youth group, where I did meet an actual male gay my own age, but he didn’t matter as much as the lesbian group leader with whom I watched Beautiful Thing for the first time. I remember being totally overwhelmed by the movie and its depiction of a mother accepting her son’s homosexuality in a way I knew mine never could. And the lesbian youth group leader could see I needed a hug and she gave me an excellent one.
And then I went to university and didn’t succeed in making any gay male friends, but one of my best friends was a lesbian, someone I still think of as a good friend even if I rarely see her. She is one of my more successful friends and when I was first living in Dublin around 2007, I remember going to barbecues at her large, expensive, South County Dublin home, and later, her large North County Wicklow home. On at least one occasion, I was the only non-lesbian at one of her barbecues and it was wonderful. It was at one of these barbecues that I learned that it was my fate in life to always say the Wrong Thing to lesbians. As I walked along the beach near the house with a group of five or six lesbians and they all told me about their jobs (politics, child abuse prevention, human rights law, that kind of thing) and asked me what I did. I said “I teach English to foreigners”. There was a Literal Collective Gasp. One of the lesbians told me that we don’t say that word and I should say “I teach English to the New Irish” or “I teach English to foreign nationals”. I don’t think it even occurred to them that I was doing something as base and grubby as teaching in a private institution where all the students were rich and would be going home after their little language holiday in Dublin. They presumed I was working with asylum seekers or refugees. I didn’t enlighten them.
So back to my Queer Book Club. I was seven minutes late. In Ireland, that would be on time. Something like a book club wouldn’t start at the advertised time. But the English, much as I love them, are monstrous and intolerant when it comes to punctuality and so even informal get-togethers start on time.
There were about 20 people there, about 14 women and 6 men and I loved it. Talking about books is great.
Friends of mine often seem to get excited at the thought of me doing things like going to gay book clubs or joining gay choirs. I think they think that I might meet someone better than my Creepy Online Men. It’s not worth explaining that (a) the men in the choir/book club/gardening society are also Creepy Online Men when they’re not at the choir/book club/knitting group and (b) it just seems like a devastatingly unsexy place to meet a man.
Anyway, as is usual at any gay event, I gravitated towards the lesbians. Almost everything interesting said at the meeting was said by a woman anyway. The men seemed perfectly nice, but it’s just not a flirty place. It’s a bit like a church group.
Anyway, we discussed the book for an hour, and then there was a break and then a vote for the book we’d read two months from now. Next month’s book had already been chosen. I was chatting a bit to the woman beside me during this break, someone who’d made lots of funny and interesting contributions during the meeting. She was telling me I should propose a book to read. That was when I said the Wrong Thing. I had noticed that the book chosen for this month was one that focused on lesbians and the one for next month focused on gay men and I wondered was it considered bad form to have two men-focused novels two months in a row. I asked the woman next to me “Do we go boy-girl-boy-girl?” She asked me what I meant but it was immediately clear that I’d said completely the wrong thing. I was told that this was a queer group and men and women did not take turns and that the feminists wouldn’t tolerate it. She was very nice but very firm. And I was terrified. But in a nice way. Sometimes, it’s really good to be around people who believe in things.
In the vote for the next book, I didn’t vote for either a book focused specifically on gay men or on lesbians, but one on a trans woman instead.
Anyway, I didn’t stay for drinks after the meeting, but I’ll go again. It was fun.
In other “Connor puts himself out there” news, I almost went to an improv class on Thursday, but ended up being locked out because I was ten minutes late and this is England.
Anyway, I can’t have something on every night of the week, so it’s ok. I have to have time to do my online job and to go to the gym and go to the pub and write my next book and start making videos and blogs again.
And in other news, I lost six pounds this week, so I’m back. (In fact, don’t tell anyone, but I think this might have been my favourite week of 2018 so far.) 🙂