Feeling Potlucky – The Advocate, 6/30/2005

I love Pride Month and all, but in recent years it’s been missing something: the lesbian potluck. Late last year, to mark my girlfriend’s return to health, I decided to revive that old custom.

When we invited some friends who had not come up or out in the lesbian separatist ranks-either because they’d come out late in life or because they were too young-they were nervous. Yes, even though they were accomplished professionals and slick postchic L’s, they were intimidated by our little potluck.

I explained that years ago, when lesbians were isolated and invisible, potlucks were a way to build community. I reassured them that I would guide them through the ancient potluckian rituals: their choice of flannel [no pinks], the pheromonic properties of patchouli, and the uses of tofu.

We gathered, happy to see each other, giving actual hugs instead of instant message greetings or voices left on answering machines. We realized that though we had been in cyber contact, we had not been in actual physical contact. I had made deft food group assignments, and our guests fulfilled them brilliantly. Always ask the Libra couple to bring dessert. They could not decide, so brought a dessert dim sum. After the main dish of dish, the conversations flowed from film to nanotechnology, nonmonogamy, art, same-old-sex marriage, the patriarchy. After so many dinners ruined during that fall’s political season by someone banging her forehead on the table moaning “Whadderwegonnado?” it was a bracing, fun night.

We had another potluck on International Women’s Day, March 8. Magnifique! Again it was as if we were suddenly returned from a nightmarish, not-so-rapturous journey to a promised land of cyber community. The food, the arm resting on a friend’s shoulder, the heat – all grounded us.

We scheduled our next potluck for Mother’s Day. The expanded list was too big for our place, so we cheated, called it a “nouveau potluck,” and met at a restaurant. Again the hugging, the kissing, the mighty real. Again the catch-up, the dish, the wide-ranging discussions and disagreements. Lesbians were switching seats like musical chairs, joining in true pods, not iPods, of laughing, yakking, and eating.

At about 9:40 p.m., when things were loud and cranking, I sensed a weird shift in energy. Some lesbians were motioning for checks, slinging on backpacks-decamping. I asked one young tall friend, “You leaving?” She nodded sheepishly. “Another event?” I asked. Again the sheep. They were going over to her place to watch The L Word. “You’re going to watch virtual lesbians and miss these actual lesbians?” A slug of Woolite. Another nod and a backing out of the door.

Diminished, we, the left behind, sat with empty glasses and half-eaten tarts. We wondered why they couldn’t watch the rerun at 11. Didn’t they have TiVo? What were we, chopped lesbian liver?

I am not giving up. Our next potluck is a summer solstice picnic. It’s on a Saturday. Softball is mandatory. Bring a mitt.