ADELAIDE DAYS – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF TWO LESBIAN GRANNIES
For the story so far (and for audio files and a list of players): ADELAIDE DAYS
40. Come in Drag
Already the days are hot and the monthly Soup Group, meeting at Ro’s, has to make its annual decision about whether to convert to salad for the summer.
Julia has research to do. She finds Ro in the kitchen giving a final stir to the soup.
‘Do you like baked beans?’ she asks.
‘No,’ says Ro. ‘Why?’
‘Oh nothing,’ says Julia airily and goes back to the main room. She has had a revelation. It was Maddie, of course. She can picture her tucked up in front of the heater with a bowl.
The last Soup Group member has arrived. Under cover of the flurry of greetings Julia leans down to Maddie.
‘Do you like baked beans?’ she whispers.
Maddie looks surprised. ‘Aren’t we having soup?’
‘I mean in general.’
Maddie looks even more puzzled. ‘No thanks,’ she says.
‘You don’t like them?’
‘Not much. Not at all actually.’
Julia retires defeated.
The topic of the evening is Feast – who is going to what? The Garden Tour of course, and Great Lesbian and Gay Writers.
‘Pink Parent Picnic,’ Anne says.
‘Monologue of a Deaf Woman,’ says Maddie, who is going deaf.
The discussion rolls on. The Inside Out exhibition. Debates about baby boomers, masculinity and same sex marriage (‘why bother?’). And what about the Gala Ball?
At this point Cass becomes thoughtful. She has recently acquired a skirt, a gorgeous swirling affair of dark pink cherries on a black background. It is beautiful and Cass adores it. She tries it on when she’s alone and glides around the house, back straight, tossing an imaginary mane of hair. In reality her head is covered with a close grey crop.
Is she brave enough to wear the skirt in public? To the ball – though it’s not really that sort of skirt?
Cass belongs to the generation of dykes who abandoned skirts as soon as they left school and wore pants, trousers, jeans, overalls, tuxedos, in defiance of convention and in solidarity with a long line of independent women stretching back to the beginning of the twentieth century.
Cass does know that these days, at least in theory, anyone can wear anything. But the habit of a lifetime is not so easily overcome. Cass has not worn a skirt in public for forty years and would feel impossibly self-conscious if she started now.
The others have moved on to the question of tomorrow’s Pride March.
‘Come in drag, it says,’ growls Ro. ‘What the hell does that mean? I’ve been in drag all my life. Now I should wear a dress?’
Cass is startled by this version of her own dilemma and opens her mouth to join in, but Julia gets in first.
‘Don’t be a grump,’ she says. ‘It just means dress up. Have fun. Wear what you don’t usually wear.’
‘All very well for you,’ says Ro. ‘You wear whatever you feel like and always look gorgeous anyway.’
Julia is silenced.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ Ro adds. ‘Drag for you would be something really frumpy. Hair in rollers, fag in mouth, faded old floral housecoat. Like that sculpture in the gallery.’
‘Basket of washing,’ says Maddie. ‘I’ve never known what to think about that sculpture. Is it sexist? Is it classist?’
Cass lets the conversation wash over her. She will do it. The Pride March is a spring celebration. She will wear her cherry skirt.