At Cross Purposes
I was cross about a lot of things twenty years ago. I still get cross occasionally, and probably about very similar things. I don't do anger well or I would use that word instead. I do get angry but it's an emotion which becomes easily confused with frustration at other people's inability to comprehend (or unwillingness to allow) my point of view, and that's when I tend to cry. I don't often cry these days, but anger will usually tip me. Being cross, however, holds connotations of English reserve and the "stiff upper lip" and perhaps that keeps me (even if in a self-conscious parodic way) on the safe side of trembly lip syndrome.Anyway, what does this have to do with anything? Not much. It's just a way to introduce another story from my teenage diary years.
I can tell this story, and reproduce the newspaper article, because R (you remember R, the young woman I was in love with 20 years ago) wasn't at College that day, so she missed the photo-call. That's a piece of good fortune, don't you think? I can see it like that all these years later. This plays right into my hands for the nostalgic version of teenage romance, where R needs to remain as anonymous as I can keep her. Back then, of course, it was devastating to know the love of your life was lying on her sick bed several miles away, completely out of reach.
I remember the day the photographer arrived from the Hereford Times. We were in costume. I was in my full servant-girl regalia, complete with lace doilly on my head. He asked our names and wrote them down in his notebook. I can still recall the look he gave me. It was one of puzzlement. Explained later, perhaps, when the piece appeared in the paper and I was credited as "Nicholas Hastie".
Could he not tell if I was a girl or a boy, even when dressed as a maid? He should have gone for Nick and it would have worked for all. I wasn't even cross-dressing. If it looked like I was it was purely unintentional. Unlike R, who did do the full female-to-male dressing-up bit in a fatherly role, complete with greying whiskers - and I have a personal photo to prove it. It hadn't crossed my mind until now that maybe she didn't turn up because she didn't want to appear in the local paper dressed that way.
Suffice to say, being called Nicholas made me cross. Very cross. I annotated the newspaper cutting with "How dare they!!" But in a funny kind of way, it was far, far better than being called Nicola, a name I disown except in legally-binding situations.
November 8th 1986
We are putting on a play called Hindle Wakes set in Lancashire, in February - I play the part of Ada, the maid, who doesn't do a lot except carry trays backwards and forwards and repeat 'Yes Sir', 'No Sir' ('Three bags bloody full Sir'). I can't say that I look much like a typical maid with my short hair and defiant look.
I get increasingly more depressed about being a lesbian with no other lesbians to talk to. Yesterday I bought a book called Three Ply Yarn by Caiea March which tells the story of three women who develop as lesbians. The author herself is a lesbian. I have already finished reading it and found it wonderful - if I cannot meet other lesbians I have to make do with lesbian literature. It's not easy buying books with the word 'lesbian' on the book cover, even if no-one else sees it - you feel they do and that they are judging you. I was quite afraid of bringing it home and the family seeing what it is about, but they only connect the subject matter with my interest in feminism and women's issues. I often find it difficult to understand how they cannot recognise my own feelings, but it seems that they don't.
Oh, I find it so hard, and I hurt so much - knowing how difficult my life could be, living with prejudice - not being understood. One of my greatest reasons for getting away to University (as well as desperately wanting to do an English degree) is to meet other lesbians there, to join the lesbian society, and be with a community of people I can relate to and who will understand how I am feeling.
Yesterday, something that R said hurt me deeply. She said something to L suggesting that she was concerned about something or other, and L said 'Don't worry sweetheart. It'll be alright,' and touched her arm. R sprang back, saying 'Hey, get off, you' and they both laughed. R isn't a lesbian - I'm not going to get anywhere. I only get hurt because I love her so much. I feel, though, that I want to tell her I am a lesbian without mentioning I love her, because she is my best friend and I want to be absolutely open with her. I really feel I need to say something to her. I don't think she would hate me. I think she would support me as a friend - tonight there is a party at 'Mr T's' - I want to say something to R tonight, if it would be at all possible - but the thought is so frightening. I need to talk to her, though. I've made it obvious to her that I am having a trauma - she probably thinks it is because of the hassle of University applications - I would like to tell her the truth. I'm so fed up with not being able to speak my mind. I do feel so isolated within my own emotions.