When I was a young teen-ager, my cousin introduced me to the world of
Nancy Drew. She was called a sleuth and she could solve mysteries like
nobody's business. Her two sidekicks were Bess and George. Each of the three girls had a perfunctory boyfriend who served little or no purpose in the story.
What was so exciting about Nancy's adventures was that she always outsmarted the bad guys and she always celebrated these victories with Bess and George. In my mind, they were three wanna-be (potential) lesbians whose stories I devoured. If my brother had the Hardy Boys to read, so what. I had the incredible adventures of Nancy Drew!
I learned a lot from Nancy and from the dynamics of the friendships she shared with her two sidekicks. George was always ready to embark on the most dangerous of missions with Nancy; Bess was usually reluctant and was frequently left behind.
These girls drove roadsters (today that would be a Miata convertible) and had no need of guns or cellular phones. No beepers. . . just intelligence and wit.
I spent my young adolescence trying to emulate the Drew trio. But threesomes seldom worked and I found myself always with one particular friend. The first was Diane and together we learned about solving mysteries ... the kind that resided inside of US.
Diane was the recipient of my first kiss; it was her body I snuggled up to when we slept over. We had bake sales, and we became blood-sisters. We were inseparable .... until her family moved away. But the move did not come until after Diane had written the first love letter I'd ever received. She was my best friend.
Then there was Cheryl. Another Nancy Drew aficionado, we exchanged books, talked about plots, became fast friends. While other girls were busy discovering boys, I was busy discovering the loving fulfillment of a relationship with another girl...
In high school, I was in love with Claire. She was the epitome of young womanhood and we had a strong physical attraction for one another. The ultimate mystery about Claire was her willingness to share physical closeness with me, but she would not kiss me. Claire became a nun, and I mourned her passing into convent life.
After Claire came Kyle. Kyle was my college freshmen sweetheart. I played gin rummy with her into the wee hours of the night. She visited me in my room, crawling into my bed because I was "warm." I wanted to be room-mates, but that would have created yet another test for our friendship.
Then came Sue. It was truly love at first sight. I had to slay dragons to reach her, but I used every Nancy Drew trick of the trade to unravel her mystery. We lived together for three years in one room and when she broke her back in a skiing accident, it was I who became her nurse. Every morning I would strap her into a back brace so she could stand up. I learned everything there was to know about caring for her so that her parents would allow her to return to school. After all, what's a Nancy Drew without a companion?
After college, I met Le. Le was the first "real" lesbian I had ever met. A physical education teacher, she drove a motorcycle and knew how to repair cars. I was in 7th heaven. Together we would climb onto that bike and seek adventures. More importantly, Le took me on some of the most exciting journeys I had ever known. We traveled across the United States together every summer, discovering ourselves in the vast open spaces of Utah, Nevada, and Northern California. Life was a continual Nancy Drew mystery and we were in hot pursuit of all the solutions.
After Le, there was Janet, Melissa, Trish, and others. In each relationship I was always searching for one of Nancy Drew's clever answers to the mystery of my life. It was clear to me that I was a lesbian; now all I had to do was figure out how one "lived" as a lesbian.
Penny solved that mystery.
But what I had never figured out was how to just be best friends with these women... just friends... how not to want them in other, more intimate ways. Because lesbians have trouble just being friends. The sexual element is always there and the playfulness often borders on flirtation. If she's not your sister or your first cousin, the potential is always there. How many lesbian "friends" do you know who are not "ex's"? And have you ever felt that rush of excitement when your new friend calls you on the phone?
That's what I mean... the rush, the thrill, the wealth of possibilities. For lesbians, female friends are difficult to maintain. It seems much easier to befriend a gay male ... you can talk with him, he will sympathize, you can share intimate secrets. But there is no chance of crossing over in physical intimacy.
I wonder if other lesbians have experienced this phenomenon: The Nancy Drew dilemma or how to solve problems without creating more.
Here's where drag queens seem like the perfect solution. They are beautiful illusions of the female, without the plumbing. They tantalize and flirt... with no chance of harm. They are eager to talk and make good listeners. And if a lesbian falls in love with a drag queen, she can only love her from afar. . . a fantasy that will never cross the line into reality.
So to return to Nancy Drew, I wonder how she might solve the problem of lesbian friendships? Would she search for answers in a red jeep with custom wheels, or would she always invite a third companion along-safety in numbers. I wonder.
In today's try anything world, friendship runs the risk of becoming an endangered species. And Nancy Drew still hasn't solved the biggest mystery of all: where does one go to find the answers to these questions?