I sucked at being a lesbian so much that a straight friend gave me the affectionate nickname, “Rubbish Lesbian,” rubbish being a Brit shorthand for useless. Why? Well, for the first 30 years of my life everyone thought I was straight, myself included. It took me longer to come out than Sonja Morgan’s toaster oven, and when I finally did I was completely of my depth. I felt awkward chatting women up and coming out in public. I didn’t have the lesbian references down and my gaydar was appalling. But mostly I didn’t really conform to the tired old lesbian stereotypes. I think there’s a Rubbish Lesbian in all of us. So test yourself. Here are 10 signs you too could be a Rubbish Lesbian.
“The Rubbish Lesbian” author Sarah Westwood
Photo by Lucy Pope
1. Your gaydar doesn’t work
You might think that because you’re a lesbian you’d be able to spot another lesbian a mile off, even at night, in dense fog, by the light of a guttering candle, right? Wrong. Turns out some of us are utterly clueless when it comes to picking up gay vibes. I don’t know about you, but I was genuinely surprised when Ellen came out. My gaydar is more of a no-way-dar. So, if you had no idea that the barista who held your gaze and your muffin a few seconds longer than necessary this morning was signaling her interest, then you may be a rubbish lesbian.
2. Nobody knows you’re a lesbian
If you’re a Rubbish Lesbian, not only is your own gaydar entirely unreliable, you seem to slip under everyone else’s, too. Even when browsing the Sarah Waters section at your local queer bookstore, dressed in your slouchiest “boyfriend” jeans and sipping a soya Starbucks with the name Sappho scrawled on the cup, most people, fellow lesbians included, think you’re a bona fide hetero.
3. You can’t say the L word
Remember that time your local bodega guy started flirting with you as you picked over his zucchini and rather than tell him you’re gay you started walking the extra two blocks to the one where they don’t even have zucchini? In the UK, that’s called “bottling it.” Similarly, if you’ve ever backed yourself into a conversational corner at work and referred to your always absent “partner” as “they,” the art of the casual come out is probably something you have yet to master. Join the choke club.
4. You think Calzona is a tasty folded pizza
Rubbish Lesbians generally don’t get the latest trendy lesbian pop culture references. In my impoverished, outdated mind, Arizona’s the Grand Canyon state, not a hot blonde surgeon on Grey’s Anatomy and Tibette is where the Dalai Lama lives. Really adept lesbians can tell Tegan and Sara apart, even in a blurry photo taken from the back row of a 20,000 seat venue. Rubbish Lesbians can’t even tell they’re a lesbian pop duo.
5. You don’t own a single white tank top
I used to think that there were only two types of lesbian: those that rocked the white tank top, and me, the biceptually challenged RubbishLesbian. I guess it’s not all that surprising since the only kind of dips I like to do come with Doritos. If you don’t own a single white tank top, let alone a hundred variations thereof, go to the back of the class.
6. You’re not on the scene
When I first came out the lesbian scene intimidated me. Straight friends assumed I’d be out clubbing every night of the week, doing shots off the toned abs of bar staff. Actually, I was at home wrapped in my Slanket singing along with Liz Lemon to “night cheese.” At this rate by the time I summon up the courage to go to Dinah Shore, the cast of Pretty Little Liars will be starring in a Golden Girls remake.
7. You’re not “sporty”
Many people think that lesbians and sport go together like cat videos and YouTube. We do bat for the other team after all ladies. At school I was always the last one to be picked when the teams was chosen, and I never once made beyond second base. If the only thing you’ve ever scored on the playing field at school was a can of Bud welcome to the club.
8. You don’t own a tool belt
Okay I’m just going to come out with it. I’m just not comfortable with a tool in my hand. When God was handing out practical life skills to other lesbians, I was at the back of the queue. I only joined the queue because I mistook it for the Gap sample sale. In short, if you think WD40 is R2-D2’s lesser-known cousin, or stopcock is a brand of chastity belt, probably safe to assume you’re a rubbish lesbian.
9. You don’t have ink
In Australia, they’re known as “tough stickers” and in lesbian circles they’re fairly ubiquitous. What do you mean you haven’t been on the waiting list for the last twelve years to get Kat Von D to ink a life-like portrait of your first cat Mr. Tibbles snuggling up to Portia de Rossi on a cloud across your back?
10. You don’t have “lesbian hair”
There must have been a mix up somewhere along the line, because I seem to have a straight persons hair. Right now that straight woman is walking around Costco sporting an asymmetrical quiff with my name on it. I did get a “lesbian” haircut once by accident. I went for a little $6 trim at a blokes barber and ended up looking like GI Jane without the muscles, more “low GI” Jane.
Sarah Westwood writes “The Rubbish Lesbian” column for DIVA magazine in which she explores topics such as sharing a bed with a straight work colleague, a slippery grasp of boob etiquette, and accidently inferring that her girlfriend was slutty, to her parents. The Rubbish Lesbian eBook is now available on Kindle.