Monday, October 22, 2012

"I think you're very honest, and very rude"

We met at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. I was with my wonderful, assertive, opinionated, fiercely outspoken mother, and my reserved, hideously-attired, funny, handsome father. It was my mother's birthday weekend, she had been looking forward to the Folk Fest for ages, and I was doing my best to humour her in every possible way. I was working my way through the mountain of snacks I'd blown half my paycheque on at Capers earlier in the day. Running makes me wolf down food like a fourteen year old boy.

We were listening to someone on the main stage, I forget who. Maybe Serena Ryder. The music was fantastic, but I wasn't really listening. She was sitting at the tarp next to ours, surrounded by a group of friends. I had noticed her earlier in the day: a striking, tough looking lesbian with multiple tattoos (including two entwined female symbols, in case I had any doubts about her sexuality) and the front half of her hair shaved. She looked like a warrior, tough and beautiful and hard. She was wearing almost nothing on top, a bra she protests now was a "bikini top", that barely covered the essentials. She was tiny, wiry, with a six pack, muscular forearms, and calves that told me she was a runner. She was with a woman who kept touching her in a proprietary way, so I tried not to be too obvious as I studied her. She looked like someone who was rarely still, a warrior in constant motion, and I began silently referring to her as “Warrior Lesbian”. I was more than a little intimidated. My spidey senses were tingling, I was hyper-aware of her repeated glances in my direction, and I was acutely, painfully self-conscious. Eventually she got up to wander off, and I heard her friend make some dismissive comment about all the available women there being “too young, or too unattractive”. I didn’t want to think too hard about which category I fit into. I didn't want to examine whether or not I cared.

My mother is a hard-core festival goer, and she is 100% there to listen to the music, devoting all of her attention to the acts on stage. I respect this about her, but as a dedicated people-observer, I don't share her feelings. We were too far away from the stage to be sitting with other hard-core folkies, so many of the people on tarps around us were talking. There were a dozen people on Warrior Lesbian's tarp, and all of them were laughing and joking and chewing loudly. My mother’s irritation was obvious. She butt-shuffled away from them, sighed loudly and plugged the ear nearest to them with her finger. When none of them noticed, she leaned over and said to the loudest and closest of the Warrior Lesbian’s posse “Are you planning to talk through the whole concert? Do I need to go sit elsewhere?” in a slightly hostile tone. After a short pow-wow with the rest of her gang, the loud one leaned back and said “Well, general consensus is that we’re going to keep talking, so you might want to move”. My mother, shocked, responded with “I thank you for your honesty, and I think you are very rude”. Crap. She is beautiful and sophisticated and worldly, and my mother had just told her and her friends they are rude.

Warrior Lesbian followed this exchange closely, smirking with obvious amusement at my embarrassment. There was a brief lull in their loud conversation, which my mother mistakenly took for them attempting to be quieter. To encourage their apparent good behaviour, my mother smiled widely and, catching Warrior Lesbian’s eye, gave her a double thumbs-up. Oh dear lord. Even as I type this the memory of my discomfort makes my cheeks go red and my eyeballs burn. I wanted to disappear through the tarp, or at least hide under it. Warrior Lesbian returned the gesture with an exaggerated grin. And then her gang resumed talking, possibly louder than before. My parents gathered their picnic and left. I stayed, and began demolishing the barrier of coolers my parental unit had placed between our tarps.

Warrior Lesbian came to sit on the tarp-edge closest to me. I ignored her. She threw a wadded up piece of paper at me. I unrolled it and read WHERE ARE YOU FROM??? At the time I thought this was an original pickup technique, but I have since learned that there is a music video where some rapper does the same thing. Instead of writing back, which is apparently how I was supposed to respond (subtlety is lost on me) I turned and told her. We chatted for a while, and I was immediately enchanted by her voice. She looked like a tough dyke, she looked like she could be critical and nasty and judgmental and hard. And then she opened her mouth, and her voice was soft and high and she used big words. I was immediately smitten with her, and her obvious intelligence. Her name is Lisa. She doesn’t look like a Lisa.
This is Lisa, at the folk fest. Eating potatoes in her miniscule bikini top.

I got up to dance, and she continued to chat with her friends. At this point, I still thought she was there with her girlfriend. I stripped off my hoodie, and left it on the tarp so I could dance up near the stage. I concentrated on attempting to enjoy Kanye West’s “Waving Flag” in as unironic a manner as I could muster. It got dark, and I returned to pack up. Putting my sweatshirt on, I found a scrap of paper in my pocket. I couldn’t read it in the dark, but I was fairly sure it was a list from work earlier in the week, and replaced it without a closer examination.

Later, at my brother’s house, on the sofa-bed in his studio, I removed the piece of paper to discard it. Unrolling the little scrap, I got butterflies as I realized this was a phone number. From her.

I almost didn’t text her. She said I had great lips. That sounded a whole lot like someone hitting on me, and I was happy single. I didn’t want drama. I wasn’t looking for anything, and I definitely hadn’t been looking for a relationship with a tattooed Warrior Lesbian. Even if she was beautiful, even if I couldn’t stop looking at her, even if I could listen to her talk endlessly.

Sometimes the universe has a funny way of throwing your words back at you. Just a week before, I’d been talking with a friend about how I wanted to be single for the foreseeable future, about how happy I was being completely selfish, how I didn’t feel the urge to pursue any romantic connections...

Three months later, I have followed the Warrior Lesbian across the country, leaving my home, my rewarding job, my amazing enormous family and my fabulous friends. A baby dyke from the West Coast transplanted to Newfoundland. Now if only I could understand what people are saying here...

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