Lesbianism Made Easyby Helen Eisenbach
These days, lesbians are everywhere you turn, streaming for your entertainment or commenting on the important political movements and hairdos of the day. Yet as more doors open on this often-misunderstood world, who hasn’t found him- or herself wondering how he or she might uncover the secrets,/b>
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The essential guide to enjoying modern lesbianism
These days, lesbians are everywhere you turn, streaming for your entertainment or commenting on the important political movements and hairdos of the day. Yet as more doors open on this often-misunderstood world, who hasn’t found him- or herself wondering how he or she might uncover the secrets, experience the glamour, enjoy the special advantages of lesbianism?
Helen Eisenbach’s hilariously irreverent guide provides a front-row seat to a largely female universe where love, lust, and forbidden laughter are just a fingertip away. Sharing hard-earned truths with sly insight and wit, Eisenbach reveals the fascinating inside story of a growing culture and shows how anyone can acquire the skills and state of mind to be a lesbian.
From flirting to family values, from work to play, from enlightening friends, relatives, or strangers to figuring out how to have sex with women or choose a pet, Lesbianism Made Easy answers all your questions—and some you didn’t know you had.
Former QW editor and novelist Eisenbach (Loonglow, 1988) seems to have a lot going for her in her latest literary/comic endeavor. She has a firm grasp on the ins and outs of lesbianismlesbian chic, lesbian sex, lesbian fantasyand a subtle understanding of where truth and stereotype converge. Her subject she rightly if mockingly points out, is a source of fascination to the populace at large and heterosexual men in particular. Unfortunately, Eisenbach just can't sustain the humor that is the raison d'être of her book. Not that she doesn't have moments. She opines that S&M, for example, is an option "for those who don't receive enough sadomasochistic thrills simply by being female in any city in the United States, the corporate world at large, or certain department stores during major clearance seasons." And she provides alternatives to the standard altar-boy/priest paradigm, such as "First Lady/`friendly' journalist," "Republican socialite/Whoopi Goldberg," or "Anyone (except Madonna)/Camille Paglia." There are also some poignant moments in her "Woman of Your Dreams" series, where Eisenbach imagines various scenarios of women meeting women. In one, the woman of your dreams, at whom you've been staring, actually comes over to you in the airport, smiling, and in a devastating European accent asks, "Could you be telling me, em, where is this Delta Airline? I am must meeting my husband." Most of the time, however, Eisenbach's jokes are really nothing more than one-liners stretched beyond their breaking point. And the mock-instructional tone quickly wears on the nerves.
At best, some erotic/romantic moments and inside jokes for lesbian readers.
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Lesbianism Made Easy
By Helen Eisenbach
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1996 Helen Eisenbach
All rights reserved.
HOW TO BE HOMOSEXUAL
What Is a Lesbian?
Like many people, you may think you've never met a lesbian. Who could blame you? Unlike male homosexuality, which comes with an easy-to-use ID kit for locating its members professionally (florist, hairdresser, agent, interior designer, marine) or socially (the opera, musicals featuring aging females or male ingenues, any party thrown by Lady Gaga, congressional men's rooms), female homosexuality is a far more complex and intriguing business, rife with confusion and false advertising.
Yet lesbians are all around us, strolling through every walk of life, profession, social class, religious affiliation, and health club, although not yours. How do we know this? Trust us; we do: we can spot a lesbian on a fashion catwalk or Republican fund-raiser, in blinding sunlight or under cover of the darkest night. We can even tell if you're a lesbian.
Once you familiarize yourself with our simple yet elaborate system of identifying where lesbians may be found, in fact, you'll be finding them everywhere you turn. Isn't that nice? Female homosexuals may be more of a challenge to spot than male members of the club, but they exist to be spotted in greater numbers than you'd think.
Before we get down to our highly scientific method of lesbian identification, though, let's take a moment to find out a little more about you.
Are You a Lesbian?
After sex I often feel (choose one or more):
c. Anxious to be alone
d. Vaguely dissatisfied
e. Like moving just a few of my personal items into my new friend's apartment
If you chose from any or all of answers (a)—(d), all we can say with any certainty is that you were born and/or raised in the United States, very possibly in a Catholic household. If you answered (e), do we even have to say it? You are a lesbian.
When in the presence of Scarlett Johansson, I usually feel:
a. Warm and/or tingly
b. Slightly faint
d. All of the above, not to mention whew!
This is a trick question. Answers (a)—(d) prove nothing except that you're alive. If you chose (e), you're not fooling anyone. There are no other answers.
My favorite color is (choose one or more):
If you selected answers (a) through (e), you are a homosexual, though not a lesbian. If you chose (e) and (f), or (f) alone, you are either a lesbian or a fourteen-year-old girl, possibly both.
Often when I see couples kissing in public places, I am overcome with:
d. A desire to burst into tears
Finding public displays of a sexual nature objectionable may be the result of a lifetime of being denied similar means of self-expression except in dark, tasteful establishments with bouncers named Lou, but more likely, it indicates a belief in the fundamental human right not to have to watch strangers having sex unless money has changed hands.
As for displays of simple affection, as opposed to those bordering on public fornication, well, genuine affection is a beautiful thing; in fact, there is far too little evidence of it in the world today, though I can't speak for the Scandinavian countries. Those of you who find yourselves troubled by the sight of such displays of simple affection, whether between homosexuals or heterosexuals, would do well to recognize that such an embittered attitude will only make it more difficult for you to find that special someone meant for you, as soon as you break up with your current girlfriend.
The adjective people use most often to describe me is:
If you were torn between answers (a), (c), (e), and (g), you are very likely a lesbian. If you chose any from the remaining group, particularly (h), you are not, though we would like you to consider joining. We realize that those of you who chose (h) have only a very slight chance of entering the fold(s), though plentiful openings remain for those who would like to be male homosexuals.
When I hear the phrase LGBT, I feel:
a. Grateful to have an efficient and inclusive term that identifies the full spectrum of our community
b. Depressed that the same people who brought us the rainbow flag got another shot at the branding
c. Bitter that trans and bi people are even allowed to join, not to mention keep hogging the spotlight
d. The urge to make up more fabulous acronyms. (Life Gets Better, Tallulah/Love Gaudy Brazen Tattoos/Look, Girls, Big Tatas!)
What is wrong with you?! After all our years of progress.
When I bite into a nice juicy piece of fruit, I feel:
There is no explanation for the way you feel.
Clearly, we could continue to ask an infinite or merely endless number of probing, simplistic questions, but as you've no doubt started to suspect, determining sexual identity is a far more subtle and complex matter than you initially realized, and we are starting to get a little tired of making up answers.
Take heart, however. After you have studied the extremely technical parts of the text to follow, you should be far better prepared to determine what, if any, your sexual orientation may be.
Where Do Lesbians Come From?
Some people are born lesbians, some achieve lesbianism, and some have lesbianism thrust upon them.
Perhaps you are not yet clear which, if any, of these categories describes you.
Maybe your life has traveled a path similar to that of a friend of ours—let's call her Mo.* Suppose, like Mo, you knew from the time you were a small, annoying child that all you wanted to do in life was crawl onto the lap of any neighboring female who'd let you, not including Mrs. Lerber, and live there until you died. As you approached adolescence, you felt not the slightest shyness about "tickling" your best friend Susie and eventually you used your skill at wielding a dare to persuade her to try some variations on that special something grown-ups seem to enjoy, until you ultimately got it right.
Fairly early on, your relatives stopped asking whether you'd met a nice boy and sharing their dreams of that big wedding with you in white and scads of children right away. At family gatherings large and small, you've invariably been the person called on whenever a carburetor requires changing or a leaky roof or faucet needs fixing. Basically, you've known where your bread was buttered, to put a delicate spin on it, from pretty much the moment you realized there was bread, though perhaps it took a while longer to realize you could actually eat some.
Do we have to spell it out? You were born a lesbian.
Now say the idea of sleeping with women is one that came to you via the assistance of your feminist studies program, like our friend Jane. Like Jane, you may not have had any physically satisfying sexual experiences, either with women or men, but you've made your decision. After spending time around people of varying genders, you've come to the conclusion that this heterosexuality business is bad, bad news: a system created chiefly to deny women and reward men. It's not that you actually like the women with whom you come into contact, but you like what they stand for, and that's what counts. At times, you even secretly find yourself enjoying men in individual doses, despite your efforts to the contrary, but you despise them as a group, and isn't that the most important thing?
As a rule, you're fairly successful in avoiding physical contact with men, and your numerous efforts to achieve it with a woman, any woman, have consistently borne fruit. You are rarely without a significant other, a like-minded female who wears the mate to your earring and nuzzles you in public, if rarely in private, though you actually prefer this arrangement. Anyway, you don't have time to waste on meaningless sex; you're far too busy making sure non-dues-payers, women who don't truly deserve lesbian membership, don't slip into the system by accident.
Congratulations. You have achieved lesbianism.
The good news is that many people who display the signs of achieved lesbianism (AL) are, in fact, delayed born lesbians (DBL). Unhappily, far too many practitioners of AL are faux lesbians who exist merely to clutter up the lesbian pool, get photographed with their artificially inseminated "partners" ("Noah if it's a boy, though we really hope it will be a girl!"), and generally make sure the rest of us don't have any fun.
To determine whether you are an achieved lesbian, simply answer the following question:
I have always felt that the chief purpose of lesbianism is:
a. Fomenting the destruction of men
b. Enjoying the construction of women
If you answered (b), you are a lesbian, though not an achieved one. Somehow in your travels, you must have mistakenly stumbled onto the rickety train of achieved lesbianism; jump off this very minute.
As for those of you who answered (a)—well, I don't have to say it out loud, do I? You may wish to remain in denial a while longer—all change is hard—but even if you won't let anyone convince you you're just a pale, whiny imitation of a maligned minority instead of the real thing, it may eventually dawn on you that you aren't enjoying this lesbian business as much as all the other girls seem to. Honey, even closet heterosexuals have to be true to who and why they are. Go ahead and grow your hair back. You have every right to have a satisfying life, even if you may not succeed in having it as a lesbian.
Perhaps none of these situations strikes a familiar chord. Just take Mary.
Perhaps, like Mary, you've gone through life with no real complaints: if anyone asked you, you'd have to say that your existence so far has been a fairly contented one. Sure, you've had sex with men, and while you haven't exactly been transported by it, you haven't minded it, either. Possibly the thought of having sex with a woman has occurred to you— this is the nineties—or maybe you tried it a long time ago when you were nine and didn't even have breasts, so whether it really counted is anybody's guess—or there was that one time in college for advanced credit. Still, it probably isn't for you, or else it would have happened by now, wouldn't it, the way it's supposed to? I mean, when all is said and done, this whole sex business has never been that major a thing to you. Why does everybody always have to make such a big deal about it?
True, the other day something did happen to alter your perspective. Out of the blue, your old college roommate's twin, or maybe it was the sister of your high school boyfriend, came to town. Naturally, you offered to show her the sights—and she turned out to be, well ...
Not that this bothered you. In fact, you were surprised at how much it didn't bother you. You began to find this fact, and her, increasingly fascinating. Could be you even started wondering what it would be like to kiss her, not to mention whatever else lesbians do. (Sure, you saw Basic Instinct, but other than the part about not wearing underwear, you're still a little hazy about specifics.)
So by the time you put your friend's sister/ex-wife—let's call her Kay—on a plane, you couldn't help feeling a lingering sense of disappointment that you didn't find out more about this lesbian stuff after all.
All right, that last part was a lie. In fact, you did end up finding out quite a lot about sleeping with women in general and Kay in particular. And not only were you not shocked at how much you enjoyed yourself, you actually had a better time in bed than you've had in as long as you can remember. But that doesn't make you a ... lesbian. Does it?
Or it could be you're like Anita and nothing like that has ever happened to you; in fact, the thought of having sex with a woman has never entered your head. Lesbians could have existed all around you and you would never have noticed them, not while they were acting lesbian, anyway.
Though at your sorority reunion, your former best friend did tell you she was a lesbian, and, on top of that, the rest of your friends turned out to be pretty much lesbians, too. But just because these were your soul mates, your people, does that mean you have to start asking yourself if this says something about you (and if so, what)?
Okay, so maybe you've started looking at women and asking yourself, Do I lust after her? Or that one, there? Possibly you've even begun reevaluating your behavior to see if you've been denying some deep hidden truth about your real nature: Is the fact that you love baking muffins with your friend Liz, for instance, really a substitute for something far lower in cholesterol? Do you go to yard sales so often with your pal Sally because you like to make unexpected purchases at reduced prices, or is this actually a sign of displaced longing? When you and your friend Carmen hang out at her place watching bad movies and eating greasy popcorn, is that what you're really doing?
Have you been blind?
Not at all. You've just had lesbianism thrust upon you.
Don't be alarmed; there are a number of responses you may have to this newfound opportunity—and it is an opportunity.
You may, to take one example purely at random, find yourself having sudden inexplicable outbreaks of sex with complete strangers of the female persuasion. Should you decide to broach the topic with various girlfriends—not that kind—you may find yourself truly amazed at how many of them have been there, if you know where I mean, and I think you do.
Conversely, you may tell yourself that whatever sexual feelings you experienced were a freak occurrence, nothing that need threaten your long-held sense of who and what you are. You may, like many screen idols and rhythm-and-blues singers, react to your sudden discovery by having as much sex as you possibly can with whatever man you can enlist, though it's pretty certain your enjoyment will be substantially lower than the last time you remember engaging in such acts.
Or, like many of your fellow denizens of the modern age, you may decide to take a reasoned approach to the matter and face the business of self-definition one day at a time. Who's to judge if you seem to be experiencing a growing interest in women as sexual objects and a waning need for men in re same, especially if you don't act on your feelings? As long as you don't go overboard, where's the harm?
On the other hand, you may respond to having lesbianism thrust upon you in a manner that doesn't concern itself with reason so much as instinct, even faith. It may dawn on you that unlike so many unfortunates, you have been shown a path that, should you choose to take it, promises pleasure beyond your wildest imaginings. It may strike you that, as you've already wasted far too much time, you don't want to waste another second before diving headfirst into the fabulous life awaiting you, the life you are extremely fortunate to have discovered, the life of a nonheterosexual female.
I recommend the latter approach.
Perhaps, as is your right as an American, you prefer to remain in denial a little longer. While you're in there, let's take a look at a typical day in the life of an average lesbian.
Lesbianism: The True Story
7:15 A.M. The sandpaper tongue of your cat, Puss, wakes you as the gentle strain of a Viennese boys' choir pipes softly through your bedroom window. Buffy, the chambermaid, comes into your bedroom with a package that has just arrived via courier from your darling Gabrielle, who returns this evening from Milan. You rip it open: Gabrielle has sent expensive lingerie, which she insists Buffy model for you to make certain it meets with your approval.
7:16 A.M. It does.
7:19 A.M. Overcome with loneliness for the old country, where such traditional undergarment modeling is a sacred, if common, ritual, Buffy breaks down. To comfort her, you allow her to make love to you.
8:16 A.M. Buffy joins your chef, Martine, and house girl, Simone, in feeding you chocolate truffles, bursting ripe fruit, and very strong coffee. M and S suggest additional lingerie modeling to test the sturdiness of the delicate garments.
8:48 A.M. Your approval emerges further enhanced.
8:49 A.M. In the midst of bathing you, Buffy breaks down again, sobbing that you are the best mistress she has ever had and she would do anything for you, including work free for the rest of her life. She begs you not to leave for work, offering to call your office and tell them you have laryngitis. You explain how wrong it would be to ask her to lie over the phone. She lies over the bath mat.
9:30 A.M.—5:30 P.M. The office. An average day. Coworkers unsuspecting.
5:50 P.M. Home at last. Buffy greets you at the door with a message from a reporter who has heard rumors concerning "the lesbian lifestyle." She intends to call on you that evening to do some preliminary investigation.
5:53 P.M. You receive a telegram: Gabrielle will be delayed several days. In her stead, she is sending her beautiful young cousin Rafaela, who has never seen the sights. Gabrielle encourages you to show her as many of them as time and energy permit.
Excerpted from Lesbianism Made Easy by Helen Eisenbach. Copyright © 1996 Helen Eisenbach. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Helen Eisenbach writes comedies for both screen and stage and has published two books, the novel Loonglow and the slyly optimistic how-to Lesbianism Made Easy. Her essays, reviews, and interviews may be read at the Huffington Post and 429Magazine and have appeared in New York magazine, the New York Times, Salon, Newsday, Time Out New York, Interview, the New York Daily News, and other tasteful publications. She has been a book and magazine editor at several outlets that no longer exist, and now works at a mainstream publication whose fate remains uncertain. She is currently developing several screenplays and a new novel.
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This book is flat out funny. Ms. Eisenbach playfully skewers both popular culture's view of lesbians as well as 'the family's' view of itself. If you're overly sensitive, you probably shouldn't read this book. If you can laugh at yourself, dive right in!