july 6 is by definition not picnic weather. but the sun shone for hours and about twenty people came and brought incredible amounts of sweets and had pleasant conversations in the park. and we were not cold.
then on wednesday a bunch of us followed it up with high tea at the sly fox. we took a table at the front, set up with a tablecloth and tea and cakes, including the substantial remains of the picnic. a few of us were dressed in incredible finery, some corsetry, fascinators, tails. i was wearing twelve of my grandmother’s square dancing skirts, seamed stockings and heels. strangers kept coming up to me to ask about the skirts, feel them, lift them, count them, but when i walked past people i knew on the way in, they didn’t acknowledge me. i felt a little immobile, so i sat down with the people who understood, and didn’t push the issue. karen did come up and wish me happy birthday hours later.
the evening’s entertainment was not as good as the view we had of it. the slightly misogynistic drag queen mc pointed us out to laugh at us, but then her response to being in room full of dykes was to make lesbian jokes. wife came through as usual, but the rest of the performances were all drag queens; traditional and unsubtle, a frock, heels and a ton of makeup dancing, frenetically, to the music. man i feel like a woman and mad about the boy, can’t remember the other two but they were the same. maybe the performers are endlessly amused to be dressed as a girl and making a fuss about boys, just because they’re (presumably) boys underneath the stage name, but frankly, it just reminds me of all those millions of straight girls i’ve known, who feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to only relate to me as a sounding post for their current boy fixation. are they trying to tell us that yes, you can play with your gender if you want to, but the way to be a girl is to fuss about boys? how that must ring true for this audience. in many contexts it does seem to work that way, but surely our small dirty smelly drunken patch of girl’s night doesn’t have to celebrate that. i’d say that the performers don’t understand their audience at this end of newtown, but considering they get louder applause than i remember most of the interesting, queer performances getting, when they were common, maybe the audience has changed.
yet the demographic hasn’t changed. the average age may be younger, but more likely it’s just younger-than-us. it’s still largely queer women. are the newer, more vocal regulars less educated in politics and gender issues, or have they always lived in the newtown bubble and not noticed that you need more in your life than spectacle, especially as a minority. is our cultural life so impoverished that we can’t see the variety, and think as the nightly news does that a drag queen is a perfectly good symbol for anyone and everyone whose sex, gender or sexuality doesn’t fit the straight ideal? or maybe they’re all so drunk that they can’t think anything at all.
maybe that’s it. it’s my birthday and i’ll rant if i want to. still, i’d really like to understand why mere spectacle is enough on stage, when off stage, people get embarrassed to see me dressed up.
but despite all irritations, including twelve waist bands, slipping suspenders and skull-rattlingly loud music, being there with someone who is not part of that world did make me appreciate how special and rare it is. it’s important that we have it, maybe that’s why it can disappoint me so.
next in the rolling birthday will be dinner at amani’s restaurant a taste of egypt, which everyone at the picnic was convinced would be scrumptious, but which of course i’ve been expected to organise. it’s not like i don’t have enough to organise already, but i’ve wanted to go since i heard of it over a year ago, so organising a dozen interested people to go and eat egyptian should be one of the better tasks on the to do list!