Kage Baker and I had a lot of weird teenaged conversations in the back yard of Mamma’s house.
There was a decaying stone staircase that led off down a slope full of yucca and century plants; we’d sit there, under the edge of the eucalyptus trees that marched along all the borders of the yard, and dissect the world. It’s an adolescent thing, I think – you know nothing much at that age, but you have a dim feeling you’re going to need to someday. And you have an over-blown conviction that your mind is the crown of Creation, and all mysteries will open to your perusal.
So you seriously discuss what matters in that particular Mayfly moment: what flavour grey Neccos really are. The regnal order of the Kings of Britain. What the worst sin or curse word is. Sex, drugs and rock n’roll, about which you probably know next-to- nothing, yet.
One summer afternoon between my freshman and sophomore years, we tried to tally up who we knew who was Not Like Us. You know, we were getting out in the world now and discovering exotic people (which was, let’s face it, basically everyone we met), so we were assembling a sort of Life List. It was only on entering high school that we had ever even met black children, for instance; Hispanics and Oriental kids were pretty thick on the ground in Catholic schools, but not black ones.
So that was interesting. So was the fact that most of them were Episcopalians or Baptists, sent off to us heathen Catholics in order to take advantage of IHHS’s stratospheric average GPA. I had recently been informed by a Baptist friend that Catholics were barely Christians, seeing as how we were idol-worshippers; which was also rather intriguing. And considering that statues of the Virgin Mary stood before candles in every room of the house, we had to concede there was a case for it.
“Do we know any Jews?” Kage wondered. “Myown Hymer sounds Jewish.”
“But Myown is black,” I objected.
“Myown says she’s a humanist atheist, anyway,” said Kage. (Myown, via a confused reading of her name as Myron Hymen by a near-sighted admissions officer, got herself accepted into West Point two years later. They rejected her, though, when her possession of ovaries was established; which delayed West Point’s entry into the 20th century by another 6 years. But may have saved the industrial-military complex from the fiendishly brilliant Myown.)
“Diane Khefi says she’s a Copt.”
“Nope, still a Christian,” said Kage.
We didn’t know any Jews, it appeared. The crowds of Catholic school girls who haunted the divine delis of Fairfax Avenue after school did not count; they were after good pastrami, not conversion. We knew one British girl. We knew one Argentine named Gretchen, which we were just old enough to snicker about. We knew an Armenian, a girl with a poorly repaired cleft palette who lisped but could sing two notes at once, two and a half twins (one set was boy/girl) and Lucille Ball’s daughter.
“Exotic” is a very broad category when you are 15. And “diversity” was a word reserved for college-level biology projects.
Do we know anybody gay? was not a question that occurred to us. It would have been far more startling at that point to discover than anyone at IHHS had a sex life at all. Statistically, we must have had gay classmates, even in an all-girl student body; even at that early date, even with the small sizes of our classes. While no one came out in those years, certainly some of my old friends have come back to reunions with their sexuality matter-of-factly displayed. I don’t recall that anyone cared.
It never mattered to either one of us. Kage and I grew up on the edges of show business, and Mamma rented to studio people in the houses next-door. Most people came in couples, but couples were not all alike. Like twins, they came in two flavours – different and the same.
What grownups did was no concern to us when we were kids; and by the time we ventured into the dance ourselves, we were too preoccupied with our own choices to worry about anyone else’s. Teenaged tunnel-vision can inadvertently produce what looks like good manners … and as Kage said, sometime later when real maturity had set in, “There’s not enough love in the world anyway. Who am I to question someone else’s? We’re all lucky to find love at all. It’s just the way things are.”
This conversation and observation came to mind this afternoon, when I realized that DADT ends today. Perhaps appropriately, I’ve never thought to ask and no one has told me recently. Which is pretty much the way it ought to be, I think – who you love shouldn’t be a revelation or a social paradigm.
It should just be the way things are.