According to the reams of yellowing newsprint we’ve been rereading for this issue, the ’80s were The We Decade. In essays, counter-essays and entire theme issues on "Gender Wars" and "The New Mating Game" (Parts I and II), the Weekly pondered love, lust and post-lib platonic relationships. But no one actually figured out how to do the mystery dance.
From "Gay in L.A.: One half of gay is women," by Loretta Lotman; May 17, 1979
Kristine, a psychologist, sipped white wine and relaxed in the comfortably elegant Los Feliz duplex. She and her lover, Jane, a statuesque black actress of commanding presence, moved to L.A. from a large Midwest city a little over a year ago. They were both disappointed at the lack of social options for lesbians, especially couples, in L.A. "Where we came from, everyone knew everyone else. There was a real sense of community, parties and much better theater. We still feel isolated in Los Angeles.
"One of the great lacks of L.A. is a high-class lesbian bar. I’d pay the money for a meal or drinks, but there’s no place. We don’t look for gay environments, but it’s disappointing there isn’t that much going on for us."
Tall, slender, with short brown hair and gentle blue eyes, Kristine radiates a peaceful calm. As a therapist in a large clinic, she will not come out openly, because she feels it would interfere with her clients’ process. However, she is frank with her co-workers and doesn’t censor Jane’s presence or importance from her conversations.
"I think sometimes straight people have a mythology about gay or lesbian relationships, that we have no problems. Any relationship needs work. The intimacy struggles are the same between two women, a man and a woman, or two men." Thrice married ("God knows, I tried!"), she has been with Jane three years. It is her second gay relationship.
"A relationship with a woman gives me a greater sense of equality. I feel freer, stronger, able to be more vulnerable and understood. It’s a combination of finding a lover/friend/sister/mother/nurturer all wrapped up into one. Men have been socialized into a very rigid, unexpressive way of being. They see their own vulnerability as weakness. It’s crippling. I feel very sorry for men."
From "Images of the Sexual Life: Girl to woman, lust to lassitude, N.Y. to L.A.," by Laurel Delp; July 4, 1980
Four in the morning and Maggie falls in a tangle of passion on a bale of rags in the front hall of her loft building; Nancy succumbs on the second floor of her building. Eight flights, after all, is too far to take a stranger. DiDi has herpes II; I’m running around like a little old lady keeping track of the men she’s slept with and whom they’ve slept with and whom they’ve slept with — I come to the conclusion that if I am to remain immune, I will have to remain celibate. Reluctantly, I throw my notebook away.
We think of ourselves as outlaws rather than rebels; outlaws because we know one day we’ll have to pay, even though we don’t know exactly how it will be.
But it doesn’t matter, because we live in a world of walking, talking works of art; people who have become the embodiment of their fantasies. Elegant drag queens, trashy soubrettes, groupies spread-eagled and noticeably lacking in lingerie, drunk poets, weary rock stars, a man with clothespins on his nipples. People are always bobbing out of their chairs to deliver gratuitous monologues. At the end of the night they stumble off in bizarre couplings toward the taxis lined up, motors running, at the curb.
From "Friendships with Women," by F.X. Feeney; January 2, 1981
The heart of a masculine conversation seems to lie in the built-in silences and fortifications, while with women it would seem to be the very opposite, that the heart is in the breaking down of those barriers, of finding a common language. What gives such generalities their validity — at the same time that it’s bringing an end to their currency — is the more and more common occurrence of men and women having strong, sexually disinterested friendships. Working with women, or getting to know them as part of a couple (the best friend of your lover, say), combining subliminally with the senses of equality taking hold in society, have all had the effect of allowing the two sexes to interact with greater freedom, and as mere human beings — with the result that more and more men tend now to open up to women in ways they only rarely do with each other. Lovers are called "lovers" and friends called "friends," and topics of anatomy are given the full treatment, not only candidly but with some zest. In earlier times (I’m thinking particularly of the Victorian era) platonic friendships existed, too, but most often without any awareness of — or even the language to admit — the sexual freight such benign intercourse was carrying. Freud sure worked miracles to turn that around. Yet, interestingly enough, even having the language now, the taboos still exist.