Out on a dike

Out on a dike phr. [mid 19-C] (US) going out in one's best clothes. [DIKED DOWN] I'm out as a dyke, occasionally out with a dyke. What I do when I'm out on a dike can become your business once I write about it here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

And other acronyms beginning with C

Sharon Gless as Christine CagneyThank goodness I'm not the only one who remembers CLASS - the Cagney and Lacey Appreciation of the Series Society, a UK fan club that I joined in 1986. It continued until the very early 1990s, when it almost seamlessly morphed into an appreciation group for Sharon Gless alone, who was then starring in The Trials of Rosie O'Neill. I have a yellow rose (Rosie) pin badge to prove my interest continued.

I've just come across an article in Attitude, a UK gay male fashion magazine, from before it had a web presence. Fortunately, the author, David Spedding, has created his own archive, and this is from May 2001. This paragraph stood out:
It's now two decades since the show first appeared on American screens. It was cancelled three times in its existence, re-instated twice as a result of public outcry. Plainly, there's still the hugest affection for Cagney & Lacey. An internet fansite still exists, the cannily-named Cagney And Lacey Infortainment Terminal. Or, acronymically-speaking, CLIT. "I love that," laughs Gless today. "How great is that? And there's the Cagney and Lacey Appreciation of Series Society in the UK, or CLASS. Clit and class," she chuckles. "No shame in either of those!"
I love that too, Sharon. Even more, I love that you love it. Nothing can beat a bit of CLIT and CLASS!

David Spedding indicates that Christine Cagney wasn't just a lesbian icon:
Blonde, gorgeous, twinkly-eyed and blessed with the kind of deep-throated cackle that one associates with a '50-Woodbines-before-brekky' habit. She looked angelic, but could speak like a dimestore hooker when the occasion demanded it. That perfect blend of 'Hard-ass toughness' with 'heart-of-goldenness' that would subsequently establish itself as a pre-requisite for any potential shag. In short, she was my perfect boyfriend.
Ah, David, bless! But us dykes spotted her first!!

If any other members, or particularly the founders, of CLASS ever drop by this blog, please say Hi. Better still, if anyone is still keeping CLASS running in some form, it would be great if you could let me know. Ann Rutherford was the woman who wrote back to me in May 1986 after I made an early enquiry. I don't know what was in my original note, but she told me:

"Flattery always pays - and you have made sergeant in that!"

This is a lesson I've never forgotten, and better still, I didn't even need to sit the sergeant's exam.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Memory Jig

I promised I would look out some material from an unfinished project which I began back in 2001, which attempts to adapt my teenage diaries into a more interactive multimedia affair. This project takes raw material from the 1980s and attempts to set this against the backdrop of the internet.

If I could have written the same words I wrote in my diary, and actually emailed them to a 'Secret Friend' who may have responded, what difference might that have made? What if the internet had existed when I was first coming out? These are some of the questions I hoped to consider.

This project is another aspect of my Coming Out Hypertext. In fact, I originally imagined these pages as part of that story, but hadn't yet found a way to weave them in. So it's worth starting the reading there, or with my commentary.

These next few links are previously unseen. I wanted to draw out the serious nature and poignancy of the subject matter, and also lighten it by drawing attention to my adolescent urgency and intensity, allowing myself to be self-mocking. That's where the Cagney and Lacey theme fits in.

I really was a paid-up and very proud member of the Cagney and Lacey Appreciation of the Series Society (CLASS) in the mid to late 1980s. I have no evidence to back this up, but even at the age of 16 I understood there were probably a number of lesbians behind the CLASS administration. Call it a Sharon Gless fan's intuition!

Start off with Nicki's Inbox or start at Nicki's Sent Items and click between the two using the link in the top right-hand corner.

If you don't follow the link from within one of the emails, you might also want to observe Nicki's first Chatroom experience at the imaginary Girl2Girl Zone. This page is very bare of images, I'm aware of that, and I'm still contemplating what images would be appropriate to convey a 1980s online literacy. Perhaps the absence of images is what's important.

There's a lot more to be done to really round-off (do I mean complete?) this project, so if you want to encourage me to take this and the Coming Out Hypertext further, I'll be really grateful for your comments - on the blog or by email.

For another persepctive and more background on this concept of re-working memory and diaries, you could also visit VirtualDayz, the blog of Elayne Zalis, whose work focuses on digital experiments with personal and cultural memory.

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An aside on The L Word

I watched the first two episodes from The L Word: second season last night. The opening titles are a little strange, and I don't remember anything quite like them in the first season, but the more I watch, the more I think this show has a lot going for it. It's not my life, that's for sure. However, it has a fine mixture of emotion, titillation and recognition of how dyke relationships and friendships can be, and enough of a balance between different women's storylines, to keep me intrigued and attentive. I actually think the more years of lesbian life you have behind you, the more you're likely to get out of this show.


Monday, August 21, 2006

L Words and P Words

For those who care about my TV watching and are rather concerned it has become a desert recently, I am now in possession of the the DVD box set - The L Word: the complete second season. It's exciting to see that it has been given an 18 certificate. The first season was only rated a 15. I'm promised that this is "A television series full of genuine emotion and authentic stories".

Of course, you know me by now (or do you?), and how I love authenticity.

The only difficulty now is finding time to watch all these episodes. Until I sat down on the settee on Saturday night for the beginning of a new series of The X Factor (come on, it's classic telly not to be missed!) I'd almost forgotten what the TV was for. I'd begun to think it was Andrea's entertainment centre only; like the computer is mine.

I'm sure I'll find a way to cope with all this sensory stimulation.

For anyone else wondering if I'm going to open the diary tonight - oh, go on then, I will - just for you. I introduce you to Nicki, the young philosopher ...

August 20th 1986

I think I am quite looking forward to going back to Sixth Form in two-and-a-half weeks time. It will be fun to see all the new first years and to be able to look back on our time in the first year. It seems so far away, those first few weeks at Sixth Form. I feel so different now. I'm not sure whether it would be true to say I have got more self-confidence, but I feel I have a greater ability to cope with things now. I also want to get back into the swing of things. I miss the college routine and people in a way - though that'll probably be forgotten after a couple of weeks back - then I'll be wanting to be home again.

It's a funny fact about the human being that we all want that one thing which is just out of our reach. Perhaps it isn't that surprising - we all have our dreams - or maybe, even, there is no need for certain things to be out of reach. We simply have to possess that driving ambition to score points of meaning and fulfillment in our lives.

August 24th 1986

It is really exciting writing poetry because you just have this idea - a few lines or words - and you start out on a poem, not knowing yourself how the finished product is going to turn out, just knowing what your basic message is. I find it really amazing. I am excited and exhilarated about writing. It doesn't bother me that much if I never become the recognised writer that I dream of (well it does) - but at least I can bring pleasure and energy into my own life. That's what it is - Poetry is an Energy. You don't have to write poetry to realise the power. Poetry speaks and by reading you can have a share in that energy.

Could Nicki, the young writer have a point?

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

A nod, A kiss, A remembering

Dressed to impressA-level results came out today, and for the first time in 19 years I cared about those results again - this time, for another. When I got my results I pretty much stopped writing a diary that I had been keeping over a period of four years. There were a few more entries, but nothing significant once I had my gateway to a new life. I didn't have time to keep a diary once I was at university. I didn't have time to be so self-obsessed. Or maybe I just got self-obsessed in new ways. This is very possible. Being self-obsessed is certainly not the domain of the young.

A good example of self-absorption is this passage, from the summer of my first outing, those 20 years ago. True love never did run a smooth course. The most intriguing aspect of this story, perhaps, is that I was dressed as in the photo during the party events described below. The moustache was painted on and didn't last the night - but I write about that elsewhere. These are the details from the diary, where it's interesting to note that a description of the costume doesn't even feature. You'd have thought I could have looked into the future and given a nod to my Out on a dike self, wouldn't you?

August 17th 1986

When I think I've got everything sorted in my mind something happens to send me reeling once more. Last night N had a party at Greyfriars - her going-away party before she goes to work in France. I spent the second half of the party in the company of A. I didn't want to, though - what I wanted above all was to have R [the young woman I was in love with] there so that I could talk to her and have fun with her - but, of course, she wasn't there and so I was afraid of not enjoying myself by having no-one to talk to. So, I sat down and talked to A and some others and it was obvious that A wanted to be with me. We were just talking and he took my hands.

What I'm trying to say is that it wasn't important to me that I was with him, that it was A and he was male - I wanted company of some sort, just to be held so I wouldn't feel lonely. I didn't have any strong feelings for A (not like the last time I got off with him) - it wasn't like that at all. He's just a friend and I suppose perhaps we used each other - both wanted someone to show us attention. Therefore it was extremely relaxed - neither of us are looking for a relationship - A isn't one for long-term relationships and I certainly don't want a boy/girl relationship. I don't feel anything for him - nothing more than a friend. What we did most was talk - about L and K [the same friends I was on holiday with] and their problems over G and S [their boyfriends].

K hasn't been going out with S for a couple of months now, but she hadn't been able to forget him, still went on and on about how much she loved him. Finally, last night, she realised that he is not what she needs, and as B has asked her out she is now going to turn her attention to him, although B doesn't know yet that K will accept him because he asked her out a week ago when she was still wrapped up with S. L and G are constantly falling out. They split up for a while last week and in this period apart G and H got off with each other, so now L and K hate H. L and G are back together (but I don't know how long for) - they were definitely not too happy with each other last night.

So, you see, things are very difficult at the moment. At least K shouldn't be so depressed from now on - I hope B is really the person she likes. She kept telling me last night how lovely she thinks he is - and he is a very caring, considerate person. They should be good for each other just as long as K has totally given up on S, as she says she has.

Back to A: it's awful to say this but when we kissed I wasn't really thinking of him. It wasn't important to me who I was with - although it was insomuch as I'm glad it was A, someone I know and like - not some unknown greasy bod whom I might have thought detestful. But, what I'm trying to say is, it didn't matter what sex he was. I was thinking of R a lot more than I was thinking of A. I enjoyed being with him and having the company and comfort of his arm around me, and I'm so glad I was with him and not alone. I suppose I feel awful because I didn't want contact with a male, but it had to be because A expected it of me. I think I just shut my mind off to what I was really doing. I kept wanting to explain to L and K that what I'd said about me being gay was important and not something I'd said just at that particular time. [Dear Reader, let's be clear - all I did was snog him!]

K asked me if I'd enjoyed myself last night, if I was happy - and she understood when I said I was confused. She has offered herself if I need someone to talk to about my 'problem' and I told her that I would probably be requiring her counselling services pretty soon. I'm confused because I think I am gay, and it's R I love and want to be with - yet it was A I ended up with. Sometimes it seems to me that it's conformity and relationships with boys or loneliness. I don't want loneliness, but women mean more to me. This is my difficulty, my struggle.

Maybe something good has come out of last night - there was no real physical attraction or attachment on my part to A. It was nice just to be able to give him a peck, and walk away saying 'See you' without having to be thinking of him and worrying when I will see him next. This fact helps me to realise that thinking and feeling like a homosexual is not just my fantasy but a real part of me. Perhaps I have tested my feelings and come out on the side I desired. But, such a lack of attachment can be frightening if I am not going to be able to develop my homosexuality - for it means I might find it hard to be happy.

Ah well, it seems none of us are without problems.

Ah well, indeed!

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Where has all the summer gone?

I've put my arms and legs away for a bit, folding them carefully inside artificial coverings. But hopefully not for long. What is going on? I even put the heating on temporarily last night. This is not the summer that sweltering July led us to expect. It could all be for the best if the next heatwave is saved until the very end of August, and preferably the beginning of September. For those two weeks will serve as my real summer holiday this year.

We're off to Brighton again in September. Four nights instead of last year's three! And a more expensive B&B. Not that there was anything wrong with last year's choice. It was perfectly pleasant. The good news is we'll be there in time to take in the latest sand sculpture festival on a Roman theme.

I think you could call us late-season holiday-makers. It has its advantages. The sun will shine as soon as the kids are back to school, you just wait.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Welcome to the World, Baby Dyke

Baby DykeIt's 20 years to the week since I came out for the very first time by uttering the words "I think I'm gay" within earshot of another human being. It was very, very scary, and also exhilarating and liberating. From there, I just wanted to tell more and more people, although I chose those people very carefully, so there was no tremendous domino effect in the first year. I waited until I got to university for that.

That summer of 1986 opened up possibilities. I started to crave independence, exploration and experience. I started to understand the value of friendship, and to recognise when I wanted so much more than friendship. I dreamed of intimacy and the secrets of sex. I knew the promise contained in a woman's breasts when brushing against my arm just long enough could make my entire skin tingle and stand to attention. I got depressed and lonely because I wanted the world to change immediately for me.

I feel lucky that I still have my teenage diaries. Loads of people want to forget their adolescence, the angst and agony. I don't. I like remembering the path I've travelled, how my teenage uncertainty blossomed into ... well ... a whole string of new uncertainties! There are still plenty of reasons why I think the world should change. But at least I'm certain about who I am, and I know how to express that in a whole variety of ways, how to remain true to myself, mostly without fear these days.

In the summer of 1986 I had my first holiday with friends rather than family. We stayed on a caravan park for a week near Paignton, Devon, and it rained nearly every day. But it was a taste of freedom, a slice of the discovery I wanted life to be:

July 27th 1986

J had some cannabis and we had our first experience of drugs. We didn't smoke it in a joint, but burnt some and inhaled the smoke from under a glass. It made us feel incredibly horny - it was quite amazing how much it aroused you. We had a really good time. I was so happy - I have always wanted to do what we did last night. This is the perfect opportunity for new experiences - away from everything - no family to answer to. I think I need to get away from home more often - the taste of freedom does wonders for me.

Somehow or other, we got onto the subject of gay sex. M said she thinks everyone is bisexual to a certain extent and I said that I thought I was gay. But, I don't think in our state that I was taken all that seriously. K and L were moaning that they want their men, and L asked me if I wanted a man. My answer 'No' led her to ask: 'Do you want a woman?' My frustrations made me say 'Yes' and she said 'Oh, I won't sleep near you, then.' This statement hurt me because it is the kind of response I was expecting but didn't want.

Never mind! I don't think I was taken really seriously. K thinks women should 'just go for it' if they really want to (her words of last night). We are all getting on really well and I don't think this lot could frown upon me, but I still don't think they quite understand my feelings.

August 4th 1986

We had a fantastic holiday. I came home and developed post-holiday depression - I wanted to continue living with M, J, L and K. As well as providing great amusement and entertainment, the holiday gave me a chance to reveal my true feelings and have them accepted by two of my friends.

One night I had a detailed talk with K (L didn't hear as much - she fell asleep) until 3.00am about my gay feelings. This is such a relief to me because I have needed to share my thoughts with someone. Now that I have had the courage to admit to myself being gay I might make an easier time for myself.

Being easy on oneself - about anything - takes a whole lifetime of learning. Twenty years is a pretty solid background, though. I'm far from wishing my life away, but I aim to discover even more in the next 20.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bounce Appeal

What's a week off work for, if not a spot of bouncing? I've been partaking of that sport today. It's typical, really, that the latest UK heatwave should end just in time for me to take some leave away from the (paid) work desk. In some ways, this is not a bad thing, because it gives me the excuse not to leave the house too much, and I can chain myself to my own computer desk at home instead. Just think how guilty I'd feel if it was wonderfully sunny outside. I wouldn't mind a bit of that, though.

So - bouncing! What's that all about? Well, I'm supposed to be part of a Space Race, which involves walking to the moon in teams. I've been part of a work-based team doing this very thing since the end of January, wearing my pedometer at all times (except when sleeping), and I have been stepping (or yomping) away like a real trooper since then.

But it now seems that the bottom might have fallen out of this whole plan. Just when my bottom was looking particularly toned as well. It's motivation. There just doesn't seem to be enough motivation amongst the masses. I always knew it would probably take three years to reach the moon, and still I was prepared to surge forward into the great wild yonder.

Does that still not explain the bouncing? Well, one of these (as long as you put a bit of effort into it) is an extremely good way to clock up the steps. It's fantastic for dancing on. Easier on the knee and ankle joints, too. You have to start to think about these things at the age of 37.

It's not often I get out clubbing these days, so a living-room disco is a must, and the trampoline has to be an essential accessory. Perhaps even more vital than a mirrorball. I've been grooving away to 12"/80s/Dance and Floorfillers - Club Classics. What would I do without CD box sets? Turn up the bass, put on your bouncing boots and boogie ...

FrankThat's when I can actually get on the trampoline. It doubles as a cat bed, or so Frank the Cat thinks! It's the perfect size for him to sprawl out on or curl up to the curvy edges. Frank likes the trampoline so much he begrudges me using it, and I'm sure he'll start hiring it out to me by the minute soon, if only to safeguard his own position. Oh yes - that is (ahem) Flat Eric in the background. Remember him? Flat Eric is Sammy's (the other cat's) playmate. Don't ask! There are no pictures to accompany that story.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Beyond the Settee

I can't believe I was last talking about the May issue of Diva. I've just received September's magazine, which helpfully tells me my wait for The L Word: Season 2 DVD is almost over. It's out on 14 August.

I've fallen down badly on the MediaWatch. I can't seem to sustain interest in TV at the moment. I gave up on Big Brother 7 weeks ago, not that there's been anything to match the lesbian interest of Anna Nolan since the very first season in 2000. Meanwhile, the second series of Sugar Rush is upon us and I'll be waiting for the DVD again because I have a far more exciting date on Thursday nights. You can join me if you like. The more the merrier, one might say.

Each Thursday, 9pm-11pm UK time, I'm to be found at my computer listening in to Merry Gangemi and Woman-Stirred Radio, streaming live from Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont, at www.wgdr.org. Woman-Stirred Radio has the best guests from the global LGBTQ literary, arts and music communities.

Ok, this is also shameless self-promotion for the Woman-Stirred group blog. We've just celebrated our first anniversary, and my Woman-Stirred 'family' have a lot to do with why I hardly spend any time on the settee these days. Or any time here for that matter! But I intend to try harder on the personal blogging front.

If you want to see the latest creative output from me, take a wander over to Woman-Stirred and check out why and how I Want To Show Off.

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