Before Will Ferrell and Tina Fey decided to move on with their lives and leave a giant comedic gap in mine, I watched Saturday Night Live religiously. We all know it wasn’t just Jimmy Fallon’s choice to star in Taxi or the fact that Ashlee Simpson was even invited to lip synch that pushed the show into the chasm that is suck. I’ve relapsed a few times, but only when lonely and/or drunk on a Saturday night, and only if Degrassi: The Next Generation isn’t playing out its Canadian teenage melodramas on Noggin.
Perhaps my favorite skit, besides the moment that J.T. placed his junk in that box, is “The Girl With No Gaydar.” You know, Rachel Dratch accompanies a girlfriend to a party, commenting on the room full of eligible bachelors, never realizing they’re all flaming queens. All the signs are there, the most obvious being dudes making out in each corner of the room.
I’ve always prided myself on my ESG (Extra Sensory Gaydar). For years I fancied myself a veritable Indian guide of homosexuality. I was an urban tracker, calling out our gay friends one by one, years before they came out. I could put my ear to the ground, and hear the pitter-patter of Italian leather driving mocs from miles away. In fact, a high-school guy friend of mine called me into the bathroom at a party a few years ago, and before he could even begin to stammer, “I gotta tell you something,” I had already blurted, “I know.” I was batting 1.000 and hitting homo-runs on the regular.
So why was it, after bragging for years about my observant eye, that I completely failed to notice that one of my best friends was absolutely, positively, 100 percent lesbian? Elizabeth and I had been hanging out for three years, having first met in poetry class, sharing detailed descriptions of our lives through our writing. We did everything together. We workshopped each other’s poems, made weekly visits to the farmers’ market, traded books, and whipped up elaborate desserts. When were we not confessing our deepest, darkest secrets? She admitted that her relationship with her mother was on the rocks. I told her about my dependency issues. And yet something in our communication was off. I noticed that she never mentioned men, which was made even more glaringly apparent by my obsessive boy-related chatter. Even still, I’m not sure how she ever put up with it.
I never even considered that Elizabeth was gay. One night, before meeting up with her, my roommates asked if she had a girlfriend yet. I was astounded, and told them, “Of course not. She’s not gay!”
And yet all the signs were there. She spent every weekend dancing maniacally at Pantheon. The better part of her friends were gay. She wore neckties, vests, rocked a faux-hawk and a motorcycle jacket, and never, ever carried a purse. Not to say that these are always signs of modern lesbianism, but let’s just say she could compete with David Bowie for an Achievements in Androgyny award.
It all came out, appropriately, one tipsy night at Vickery’s. We were both surprised, as she assumed I already knew. Dropping her off at her house later that evening, she slurred, “Anna Claire! How did you not know I was gay? I mean … look at me!” The truth is, I never even questioned Elizabeth’s sexuality. It was only brought to my attention by the people around us. I take it as a sign of a great friendship. To me, she is beyond any label or category, no matter how much society would prefer that we quarantine ourselves from alternative lifestyles. Elizabeth is a poet, an artist, a lesbian, a collector of bruises and books, but the only thing I will ever define her by is her status as one of my dearest friends. And if she ever breaks out an Indigo Girls album, I won’t hesitate to tell her to shove it. But not because they’re gay — because I really can’t stand their music.