You should only ever be a certain amount of good-looking. You are really best off if your attractiveness hangs like an unanswered question over your head and over the heads of the people who look at you. They will have to keep glancing back at you and trying to decide whether or not you are lovely, and exactly here is where one gains the footing for being an interesting person. You have their attention because they haven’t decided yet.
Imagine being exquisite to behold and what a pain that must be. You would be in constant competition for attention with your own face. Anything you said or did would have to be excellent to the degree that your face was beautiful. If you couldn’t pull it off from the very start your fate would be sealed.
I went to a party in the 1990’s that took place during the first ever Ladyfest. We thought that “Ladyfest” was the stupidest name for a festival of female performers that one could possibly have invented. We wanted them to call it “Beaver Fever.” We didn’t go to any of the planning meetings or volunteer to help with any of the work of the festival. We just hung around the events and parties and made jokes about the way things had been done.
I had a boyfriend then, about whom I had a certain amount of sentimentality. He was nice to me and sometimes I liked that and sometimes I found it super boring, but generally I tried to be kind and faithful to him. I didn’t kiss other people. The party held during Ladyfest had a gold theme, it was called “The Gold Party,” and the invitations came in a little gold paper box. Everyone dressed in gold, and I dressed in a black sports dress from the 70’s, with a big bright yellow cape tied around my neck. Out of the gold paper box I cut the letters S, O, L, I, D, and I pinned them over my chest. I think I wore yellow soccer socks pulled up to the bottoms of my knees.
My boyfriend was out of town for the entire week of Ladyfest and maybe that seemed to me like a bit of an omen, or maybe I didn’t think about it at all. The party was held at the house of our friend who was older and more established, and she had a massive yard where everyone was sprawled on the lawn making jokes and drinking drinks and turning the party in to a really good party. A lovely couple from France, who are no longer a couple, were sitting on a large quilt with a handful of my friends. I sat on the quilt with them and we dubbed the quilt “French Island.” French Island struck us as being really funny for some reason. I remember clinging to the area of the quilt, and looking out at the expanse of the yard and at all the people in it whom I found intimidating.
At some point I ventured away from the french quilt area and ended up lying behind a little apple tree with a very hot lesbian who was 10 years older than me. How did we end up behind the tree? Did we go there on a dare? I heard later that a prominent citizen of town also cheated on her longtime partner that night behind the little tree. It wasn’t an especially hidden place; the tree’s limbs were small and there wasn’t a lot of foliage. I suppose it was a little bit romantic to potentially be seen by everyone. It turns the party into a certain kind of party.
I walked away from the house with the older woman. I knew her a little bit. I had seen her do a performance that kind of blew my mind. Part of what was compelling about the performance was that she had seemed a little bit crazy. I couldn’t tell how much of the crazy was performance and how much of it was her. The woman asked me, “Are you solid?” and I remember thinking that the letters on my chest were more like something you’d write on a wishlist than a statement of the truth about myself at that particular moment. I have no idea what I answered. From the party we walked two blocks to an old parking lot on a hill, it was under a huge water tower. We walked around the parking lot and talked, and then at some point we ended up laying down. Were we laying on the asphalt? I remember it that I was laying on my back and she was propped up above me. That makes sense, right? Laying down on the aphalt is something I probably would have done at that point in my life. I’m pretty sure that she was above me, and not the other way around, because laying on top of a girl would have seemed awfully intimate to me at that point. But she wasn’t totally on top of me, just leaning over somehow, coming down from above. And I was there on my back. And she said, “Do you have any idea how hot you are?” Did I answer her? Whether or not I was attractive hadn’t really been on my mind. After she said it, though, the sentence was stuck with me.