The See-Saw Family

Feb 1, 2012 | 2012 Winter- When I Knew, Articles

By Jess Wells

Here are parts five and six of Jess Wells’s nine-part story, “The See-Saw Family.” Look for more from Jess in future issues of Bi Women.

Coy on a Barstool

Lesbianism is the land of the outward women. The self-made women. If there’s one cultural trait that you can attribute to lesbians it’s that they say what they mean and mean what they say. They don’t do coy. They don’t do phony demure. You don’t sit coy on a barstool waiting to be selected and laid. It’s a self-selection process among lesbians, you make your world right down to the sheets. So when I ‘decided’ to have sex with women it was a darn difficult process, since I thought I could just switch bars, perch myself among women and they’d pick me up. Maybe it was because they were Dutch (coldest people on the planet, statistically proven) and I didn’t speak the language. Or maybe it was because I was already known in the bar as a straight girl. It just seemed to take forever.

A Different Kind of Straight Girl

All that lesbianism has made me a very different sort of woman and I’m not sure Simon appreciates it (but that’s ok). There are a number of things that drive me crazy about straight women (and always have). For example, I’m appalled that they use sex as a manipulative behave-or-you-don’t-get-any tool. No lesbian would tolerate that. Sex tapers off and falls away, but no lesbian would use it to get the lawn mowed.

And who the hell taught straight women that they could have a house where there wasn’t any sign of a man living there? I went to a (straight) colleague’s house and every inch was covered with chintz and Laura Ashley prints. No sign of the husband’s hobbies, past, pictures, shoes. Nothing. She toured me through the whole thing, out into the back yard.

“Here’s John’s special place,” she said, opening the back end of the garage. No Rosanne set with beer fridge and old Laz-Y-Boy, this room was perfectly fin-ished with white carpet and pale taupe walls, a mini-malist modern sofa. He was in there. The room was so small that the three of us couldn’t be in it at the same time. And there was no dust or socks or personal objects, even here. Turning, though, she saw a flat screen TV.

“What’s this?” she said incredulously.

“I …bought a TV.”

“When were you going to tell me?” my friend said.

“Ahh… today,” he said quickly.

Busted, I thought.

There are times, however, when I do ask ‘what would a straight woman do?’ to double-check the extent of my rights in this new world I live in. Looking at the filth and the di-sheveled mess men seem perfectly happy to live in, I think maybe it’s reasonable that straight women exercise control of the interior decorating. Can I do that without becoming my colleague the Chintz Diva? Can’t I say no you can’t put that dirty old milk crate full of albums in the living room?

While I was single, really single as in not dating at all, I started a list called Butch Things I Can Do Myself Now, which included things like getting up onto the roof (treach-erous activity), changing fuses. A few things like that. I was very proud. And Simon, being devoted to equality, wants to know every time I can’t open a jar or ask him to investigate a plumbing problem, what I would have done prior to his arrival. The truth is I would have paid someone, or waited for a friend to come to open the jars. My son and I used to line them up on the counter until my butch friends would come over. Why don’t I do it, he wants to know. Because he’s more capable than I at things like that, right? Hell, he’s an electrician but so was one of my exes and she opened the jars and spackled the walls. On the other hand, the truth is that while we were hiking in Desolation Wilderness and had to make our way from cairn to cairn over steep rocks, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to forge on if I had been alone with my son. I just wouldn’t. Despite my lesbianism and my confidence, I wouldn’t have done it alone.

Jess is the author/editor of a dozen volumes of work, including the novels The Mandrake Broom (historical fiction), The Price of Passion (lesbian erotica), and AfterShocks (modern drama). She is the recipient of a San Francisco Arts Commission Grant for Literature and a four-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her work and workshops can be found at

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