elizabeth: I guess I don’t have a thing for labels. Unless they tell me not to drive or handle heavy equipment when dosing off while driving, or to not abide in alcohol (okay sometimes I overlook that warning) when taking my meds or consulting your doctor if an erection lasts for over four hours (please be sure to call me before you go calling some disinterested doctor). Give me labels that will help me. Give me labels that warn of actions that might be detrimental to me or a loved one, but let’s stop labeling. PEOPLE. Okay, we can keep democrat or republican labels. I need to know if an argument or a high-five is forth coming. Wait a minute- I married a republican. Note to self—lay down. Place cold compress on forehead and blame it on mixing my meds with Merlot. The other day I thought—when did I realize I was straight and how has that label impacted my life? For the life of me, I can’t remember the last time someone asked me that. Oh yes, when I lived in San Francisco I was at a gay bar which had the best dance music. I was with my live-in boyfriend and a woman I was dancing with told me that she liked me. Then I found out that she really liked me and I had to tell her I was straight. So every thirty years I will tell someone I am straight. And if she is reading this, I am still straight. But I would love to go out dancing again.
Laurie: According to family lore, the only time I was never straight was upon entry into the world. Seems after hours of excruciating labor, I decided to turn around at the last minute and head for life feet first. My mother would tell the story and each time look askance at me like I would attempt to justify this obstinate behavior. After that, my education on how to snag a man began. It never occurred to me to even ponder the possibilities of snagging a woman or anything else. My mother’s solution to all the problems of the world was “to find a man to take care of you.” So at the tender age of nine (NINE!), me and some guy named Phillip would sit on my mother’s sofa and pretend to make out. I’m sure we managed a few lame kisses in between telling my little sister to get lost but I think my maidenhood was safe. Even on our first date (I probably had to wait until the ripe old age of ten) I had to take my sister, although I’m not sure why. The town I grew up in was so small that nosy people knew what I was doing before I did it, and the main recreation was spreading the news as quickly as possible.
elizabeth: I grew up being labeled. I was surrounded by labels. I couldn’t just be me…. I was a bad girl who was in her own world. I was a troublesome student (who was in a school with sadistic nuns—you try being good under those circumstances) to an outrageous teenager (who dabbled with thoughts of suicide because I was just so deplorable) to a strange, weird, radical thinking woman. I recently heard myself described as “crazy.” Those labels diminished me. These comments ultimately came from people who really don’t know me at all, but it made them feel safer to have me labeled and on the next coach leaving Dodge. Labels made people back away from me and mothers held their precious little babies close to them in case I got my cooties all over them. I was never bad. I was different and creative. I was brilliant and moved to the beat of a different drummer who said he played for Journey … or was it Flocks of Seagulls? I am living in a “Label-Free” zone. Except for that guy who said I was crazy. I got a few labels I’d like to call him.
Laurie: Labels can come in handy. As a rube from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I arrived in the big bad city of Louisville at the impressionable age of twelve. Was immediately invited to a community dance by a neighborhood girl. Now these boys and girls knew how to kiss! They did more on the dance floor than Phillip and I could even conjure up on my mom’s sofa a few years back. And they did it standing up, laying against tables, under chairs, and anywhere else two bodies could fit. And after I started high school, I had an enormous decision to make—which group of friends to join. The Rah-Rah’s (you know ‘em—they’re on the cheerleading squad, their parents are interested in their education and they’re on the track to college, and they were eternally bubbly) and the Bad Girls both wanted the friendship of this weird chick from Maryland. Without a backward glance or even a bit of hesitation, I lit a cigarette, jumped into a “borrowed” car, and stepped into the land of wild dating, skipping school, sexual exploration, and all on-the-edge activities that rushed my way. Thank you, Labels. The path was brightly lit on my way to being a Bad Girl who eventually realized that she really wanted the life of a Rah-Rah. I can now look back on the diverse venture known as my existence and stamp each insane phase with the proper categorization. Unconventional and straight—I could always count on being both.