Bath time

I have spent my whole adult life at construction jobsites in the mountains and high desert. During the day, it’s outside: Dry air, dust and harsh sunlight in summer. Dry air, ferocious wind, snow and harsh sunlight in winter. At night, it’s a jobsite doublewide, a scruffy little room in a scruffy little motel or a rotty little apartment. Home, such as it was, was the studio apartment that I originally rented for grad school.

Until I moved to New York. I have a nice little apartment in 1920s-vintage building. A bedroom, a little kitchen with landlord appliances and a living room/dining room. A bathroom. It’s nice – much better than anyplace I’ve lived before – but nothing special. Except for one thing:

A huge claw-foot bathtub.

My Love’s first present to me was a bottle of Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin bath oil. It’s exquisite.

I love a long soak in that after a tough day. Or after any day. The scent is subtle and delicious. My skin is wonderfully soft.

I’m in a profession dominated by men, especially at the levels I work. I love to

[Ooops. I hit the Publish button too soon. I actually do have a thought here, which I will post as soon as I have time to develop it. – FVL]

[PS: Further thoughts are here – FVL]

Cooking

My Love and I have one thing in common: Love of food.


My Love has a professional kitchen. Restaurant 6-burner. Double convection ovens. Copper pots and pans from Paris. Every useful kitchen gadget known to woman.

I love to cook, but I’ve been cursed to landlord stoves in cheap apartments and microwaves in jobsite doublewides.

I’m in heaven.


The coolest thing in her kitchen: A squirter on her sink. A squirtgun that never runs out of water! My inner 6-year-old overwhelmed me the first time I saw it. She’s cute in a wet T-shirt. She’s cute when she’s mad. She’s seriously cute when she’s mad in a wet T-shirt.


We cook well together, except for one thing: I clean up as I go. She lets everything stack up in the sink, on the counter, on the stove, on the cutting board, … Flour bin uncovered, olive oil uncorked, mustard jar open, salt box on the back of the stove …

This may not seem like a serious problem. She puts something down, I clean it up, right?

Wrong. She reaches for the spoon or the spatula without looking. And it’s not there. Because I’ve cleaned it and put it away. Meltdown.


She is very serious about her coffee.

The first time I made her coffee, it took me three tries before she would even taste it.

Then there’s her brass lever-action espresso machine.


If you like to cook, New York is the promised land.

Silver Moon Bakery is around the corner from my apartment. (Here’s a Times article about Silver Moon.) My Love is addicted to the cheddar chive brioche. I’m addicted to just about everything, but particularly the pain ordinaire.

Then there’s Citarella. Gorgeous fish and seafood. Unbelievable meats, from rabbit to prime bone-in ribeye.

And Fairway.

My corner grocery chain is Westside Market.

Our story: Undies

The first time I got my Love down to her undies, I fell in love with them. She wears the most gorgeous French and Italian lingerie.

The first time she got me down to my undies, she threatened to go through my lingerie drawer and burn its entire contents.

She couldn’t carry through on the threat immediately. Nobody in our neck of the West carries her favorite undies.


The first time I came to New York, she carried through. She took me to Barneys and the Town Shop.

I had never had a professional fitting. I always just bought whatever seemed to fit and hold things up. I was all wrong. The fitter put me in a different band and cup. She suggested different bra styles. They were incredibly flattering, not only on their own, but under clothes.

They fit! They supported me! They were comfortable!

Oh, my God, they are so beautiful! Where have you been all my life, Simone Perele, Eres?

Not cheap. Worth every penny.


There is nothing more enjoyable than being in a dressing room, squiggling in and out of high-end bras and undies, with your sweetie casting a critical eye and a fitter poking and plumping and making tailoring notes to get them to Fit. Just. Right.

Our story: New York love at first sight

She left for New York. We were 2000 miles apart.

A few weeks later, I visited New York. It was the first time I was east of Mount Rushmore. The first time I was in a city larger than Seattle.

She picked me up at the airport as afternoon was turning to evening.

As we came onto the bridge approach, Manhattan spread out before us across the river. The sun was setting behind it, the sky a riot of color, the buildings silhouetted, the lights twinkling.

Magical. Oz. A vision.

I fell in love. Instantly. Before I set foot in Manhattan. Before I discovered freedom.

It’s gritty and crowded and potholed and dirty and noisy. It’s a promised land.


Friday night, she made scallops with beurre blanc. Saffron risotto. Premier cru Chablis.

I was dead when I got off the plane. Dinner, conversation and her smile happily and drowsily revived me.

We made love. What a wonderful phrase!


Saturday morning, I woke at 6, naked in a tangle of sheets, arms and legs.

I carefully disentangled, stole her robe, padded out to the kitchen, started the coffee, padded back, took a shower and got dressed, got coffee, was tempted to wake her, got the paper, read it cover to cover, got more coffee, was tempted to wake her, was ravenous, remembered her raving about the corner bakery, got two cheddar-chive brioches, two croissants, a half-dozen pains ordinaires and a puff-pastry cinnamon spiral, went back to her apartment, was tempted to wake her up, ate a cheddar-chive brioche, decided that she was right (it is the perfect breakfast savory), debated whether it would be unethical to eat the other brioche (it’s her own fault she’s still asleep), decided that the only way to thwart the temptation was to wake her.

I woke her up, two and a half hours after I got up. She said some hurtful things. The most hurtful was that I don’t know how to make coffee. Which was true.

I made a mushroom and gruyère omelette and bacon while she showered. Over breakfast she explained to me that the City indeed does sleep, between the hours of 6 and 9 on Saturday morning.


We walked the City. She showed me her neighborhood. Walked up Riverside Park. Wandered through Columbia.

We held hands.

I stopped her, put my arms around her. She put her arms around me and we kissed, sweetly and gently and chastely. Right out in front of God and everybody. Just like ordinary people. And nobody cared.


We rode the subway. She called it “The Electric Sewer”.

It’s amazing. It just works. It appealed to the minimalist engineer in me: It does what it’s designed to do. Every hour of every day. Nothing fancy. Just works.

It’s a showcase for the insanely coexisting diversity of the City. Black, white, brown, yellow, Christian, Jew, Moslem, Buddhist, Jain, straight, gay, …


She took me undie shopping. Mmmmm. Eres. Simone Perele.

More on that later.


Saturday dinner. A joint effort. Roast chicken stuffed with lemons and tarragon. Little new potatoes, turnips and four colors of carrots roasted in the pan with the chicken. Pea-shoot salad. An insouciant little Touraine. Stinky cheese with port.

If there was no other reason to love New York, the ability to get a chicken with flavor would be enough.

Watched the Cardinals.

We made love. What a wonderful phrase!


Sunday morning, I woke at 6, naked in a tangle of sheets, arms and legs.

I went through the same routine as I had Saturday morning, but kicked her out of bed in time to get to church.

I made Eggs Benedict for brunch. She made Bloody Marys.

We walked around Central Park.

She drove me out to the airport. I flew home.


When I was alone, I was never lonely.

Now I was lonely.

My story: First date

I have a very good friend at the church I attended out West. She loves to talk about her genius sister, who has an advanced quantitative degree from an Ivy League university. The sister founded a successful firm that uses quantitative tools to model clients’ business alternatives.

The sister comes out from New York every summer to relax for a few weeks on their parents’ ranch. My friend brought the sister to Sunday services.

The sister had just come out to her family. My friend, who has a puckish sense of humor, introduced her sister to the minister as her “New York lesbian sister”. I think she expected that to fluster the minister and her sister.

Quite the contrary. The minister was delighted. He asked the sister whether she was comfortable in her faith. If so, would she talk with a woman who was struggling with coming out? (That would be me.)

She agreed. She reserved a table for a dinner at a romantic little restaurant.

The only person I had come out to was the minister. He was a professional, bound to confidentiality. This woman would be the first ordinary person to whom I would come out.

I was nervous, but all the reticence of more than 30 years in the closet evaporated in minutes. I talked freely with a woman for the first time in my life.

She was beautifully dressed, a subtly tailored, simple, classic grey jersey designer shift, pearls, sapphire studs, impeccable light makeup, blonde hair to her shoulders – and cowgirl boots.

At first I thought she had a speech impediment, but I came to realize that she was taking the time to craft each perfect sentence out of a perfect vocabulary.

To any observer, we were two women having a business dinner. We didn’t touch. We didn’t flirt. We talked seriously about our lives, about our families, about growing up in the rural Rockies, about our faith, about our home state, about having kids someday and about coming out. She talked about things of which I knew nothing: literature, the opera, places I’ve never been – New York, London, Paris, Singapore, Rio.

I am self-confident to a fault, but her self-confidence was unnerving.

She would have been intimidating – brilliant, beautiful, beautifully dressed and coiffed, a distinctive personal style, cultured, cosmopolitan, a successful entrepreneur, a New York sophisticate to beat all New York sophisticates. But she carried it all with down-to-earth ease – just a girl from a ranch 10 miles outside of West Jerkwater, amazed at her good luck. She was the friendliest, happiest, least conceited, least self-absorbed person I have ever met. Her self-deprecation was charmingly amusing instead of falsely modest.

She would have seemed unattainable, but she was genuinely interested in me. In me. It was incredible to me then, and it is incredible to me now. She plainly saw me as an equal, as if it were incredible that I might be interested in her.

As we were standing on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, taking our leave, she touched my cheek. I nearly fainted. I understood what it means to see fireworks: Pricks of light flashed in my eyes. All the years of suppressed emotion exploded at the tip of her finger.

It was a few minutes before either of us could talk.

And she became my Love.

Labels

For my Love and me, urbandictionary is lesbian special education.

It’s fun to troll through the lesbian labels: top, bottom, switch, femme, butch, soft butch, boi, tomboy, sporty, andro, lipstick, chapstick, diesel, bull, dominant, submissive …

Is this really a thing? Do lesbians really label themselves (and each other) this way? Neither of us has the experience to know.

(I just found the entry for “rogue lesbian“. It describes us. That appears to be its only appearance in the Internet. Is it a thing?)

Unless you are, or have loved, a mathematician, you don’t understand obsession. Mathematicians define every term with rigorous precision and prove every proposition with rigorous logic.


Permit me a digression.

My Love’s family raises cattle. Lots of cattle.

Everyone in her family eats steak and chops rare. Her brother says, “If somebody lit a cigarette as the steer went up the chute at the slaughterhouse, it’s overcooked.”

Whenever my Love’s family gets together, they grill steaks. A quarter of the steak gets eaten before the charcoal is even lit. There’s a sharp knife and a salt grinder next to the raw steak platter. One cuts off a bite-sized chunk of raw meat, salts it and pops it in one’s mouth.

My Love likes her steak a bit more done than that. She likes a nice char on the outside, room temperature in the middle and otherwise just warm enough to turn the marbling into its ambrosial state. In her family (and to every cattleman or cattlewoman I’ve ever met) that’s medium rare.

Unfortunately, if you leave the range and order a medium-rare steak in an urban steakhouse, you will get what my Love would call a medium-well steak. It will be cooked through. Compensate by ordering rare, and it won’t have the proper char and (not having properly been brought to room temperature before grilling) the marbling will still be just fat.

Here in New York, it’s not a problem. She eats her steak at Keens. Her steak specification is as well known at Keens as Lily Langtry’s taste in champagne was known a century ago. They get it right.

(Digression to the digression: A sister explains why Keens is the best bar in New York.)

(Further digression to the digression: If Miss Keens is to be believed, pubic hair removal is not a new phenomenon.)

But elsewhere, my Love needs to get very specific. She tried, “rare medium rare”, but that either got overcooked or undercooked, and didn’t have the char she craves. She tried, “rare side of medium rare”. Same problem.

To get the right char, she asks for “Pittsburgh”. That requires explanation some places. In others the steak gets burned to a cinder.

So she’s given up on steakhouse labels. She carries a pack of little cards that describe exactly how she wants her steak. She hands one to the waiter. If the steak doesn’t come exactly as described, she sends it back and demands that they start over from scratch. She keeps sending it back until they get it right.

Here endeth the digression.


That’s how we feel about lesbian labels.

Both of us are traditionally feminine. Different from each other, but traditionally feminine.

Femmes? Lipstick lesbians? I think not, if the connotations in urbandictionary are correct.

We’re strong women who stand up for ourselves. We’re both highly successful in male-dominated professions.

We’re equals in every way. We both like to give as much as we like to receive. Neither of us dominates or submits.

Top? Bottom? Dominant? Submissive? No, no, no, no.

Neither of us is a pillow princess, that’s damn sure.

When we’re out West, we wear Pendleton plaid shirts and blue jeans. It’s not lesbian code. It’s what everybody wears.

My Love rides horses, can give a truck engine a valve-and-ring job and knows the right way to handle any hand tool or power tool.

Does that make her butch? I think not; every ranch girl knows those things.

I build things. Not do-it-yourself dog houses; billion-dollar construction projects. I fix things. Not cars; broken pipelines.

Does that make me butch? I think not; it’s my job.

Style

I am a woman who loves being a woman and loves being with a woman who loves being a woman.

My Love is a woman who loves being a woman and loves being with a woman who loves being a woman.

And by “woman”, I mean “traditionally feminine woman”. Brainwashed by the heteronormative patriarchy? A PhD engineer and a woman with an advanced quantitative degree and the founder of a successful enterprise? A couple of highly successful women in overwhelmingly male fields? If you say so.

We both wear dresses or skirts to work every day. We wear them on weekends, too, unless we’re doing something that calls for something a little more rough-and-ready.

She wears designer shifts and sheaths, which she has subtly tailored. She wants to send the message that a woman is in charge. She wears flats, except when she wears her cowgirl boots.

I wear Brooks Brothers button-down shirts, pencil skirts and loafers. I dress that way for Miss B.

I’ve never seen my Love wear anything with a heel higher than her cowgirl boots. I don’t wear heels.

We wear makeup. Not much, though. You’d never notice it.

She wears her hair shoulder-length. Mine is bobbed at the neck and tucked behind the ear.

We are feminine, but neither of us is girly.

When we’re out West, we wear Pendleton shirts and blue jeans. It’s not lesbian code, however; it’s what everybody wears.

Miss B

My elementary school was tiny: One class per grade. The teachers were ancient, fussy and frumpy. Most of them had taught my father.

Not Miss B. Miss B was just out of college. It was her first teaching job.

She was young, tall and slender. She had correct, easy, graceful posture. She wore a skirt, a starched cotton shirt, penny loafers and pearls. In the winter, she wore cashmere cardigan sweaters. She had beautiful hair, bobbed at the shoulder and tucked behind the ear.

She ensorcelled me.

Until then, I was an indifferent student. But I was desperate for Miss B’s approval.

I did all my schoolwork as soon as Miss B assigned it. Checked it twice, three times. I asked for extra reading. Miss B loved science and math, so I read every science and math book in our school and town libraries.

She set me on the road to engineering.

She also set my style. I wanted to look like her: Understated, classically, quietly, definitely feminine.

She was my first crush. I was too young to understand why she so enchanted me.