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Janis Ian Advocate Cover

Mr. Lesbian Regrets
(Year In Review)

Originally published in The Advocate
Issue #724-725, October-November 1996

The deadline for our year-end column had come and gone. I waited patiently for an explanation from my spouse, who always writes the year-end column, then finally confronted her. Where's your column? I asked, wrenching the drill press from her hands. You're almost two days late on the deadline – where is it?

"What?" she squeaked, frantically holding together the duck blind she'd been building. "Why do I have to do it again?"

It's tradition, I replied. Ever since my first year at The Advocate, Mr. Lesbian has always written the Year In Review. Where is it?

She looked sheepish; "I haven't had time".

What do you mean, you haven't had time? It's only law school, for God's sake - since when is going to law school more important than The Advocate?

She shrugged. "I just haven't felt like it." Hmm... she had seemed a little lethargic lately. "Anyway, it's your column - you write it."

Look, at least once a day someone tells us how much they love YOUR column, the column that always ends with the Mr. Lesbian quote. You never correct them. You never let them know that I'm the one writing all your brilliant words. It makes me crazy. Now, where is it?

She reared back defensively. "Face it, nothing happened this year. I have no comment." How can you say that? I asked. This is America; we are upwardly mobile. Of course things happened.

"No", she insisted, "they didn't. Do you remember that old David Frost TV show, That Was The Week That Was? Well, This Was The Year That Wasn't. I know you thought it was the 80's that didn't happen, that they were just a corridor leading to the 90's, but this is different. Calling 1996 a Year, much less a Year Worth Reviewing, is like pretending masturbation is making love."

She dropped a few drill bits on the Doberman, who quickly scarfed them up. "For the first time in years, everyone we know has a job. In fact, we all have two or three jobs. We've spent the last 12 months running just to stay in place - and what do we have to show for it at the end of our 52 weeks? A presidential election nobody went to, with candidates nobody liked, the lowest California turnout in history, and Newt Gingrich insisting the Republicans really won."

But something did happen; we elected a new president. Isn't that worthy of review?

"We didn't elect him; he won by default. And look at all the things that didn't happen. If I were going to write a column, it would have to be a non-review. A non-column about a non-year."

I sank to the floor, desolate at the thought of breaking my holiday tradition and actually having to work during December. Surely there's something you could throw together? I pleaded. I begged. I'll wear the tool belt tonight, I offered. She looked vaguely interested, then threw up her hands.

"I don't know. All I can think about is everything that didn't happen. Maybe I'm just too old for this job." Oh no. This from a woman who'll be 50 when she graduates?

Come on, I'll make you some herb tea... Noticing the look on her face, I quickly added ...with a generous snort of single malt in it.

She brooded as I prepared our drinks. "It was a crummy year for gay people. Sharon Bottoms got her kid back, then lost him again. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson didn't get nailed, and now he's breeding his own sex toys. And the Scouts worry about us being around their children!" I added a little more single malt; the notorious M.J. often figured in Mr. L.'s late-night ruminations, and strong measures were required to get her off the subject. "Ellen didn't come out. Neither did Murphy Brown, even though she now has Lily Tomlin as a role model --"

Candace Bergen's not gay, I interrupted, hoping to hear that she was.

"It doesn't matter -- she could have come out just to show support for us in a tough year. And she never did call."

She was supposed to call? Does she have our number? Why didn't you tell me?

"Why are you always so concerned with facts?" my partner demanded. "Facts are irrelevant at this dark point in our history. I'm talking about a hole in the zeitgeist of America here, and all you can worry about is whether we have an unlisted number!" I apologized; the booze was obviously working, her astute political instincts were coming to the fore, and I could finally relax.

"Cher came out as a lesbian's mom, but Sonny stayed home. Dennis Rodman didn't have that sex change operation I was supposed to observe --"

Are you sure? I queried. Have you seen this issue's cover?

"-- and Tracy Chapman looks like she's stopped lifting weights completely. Speaking of which, look at all the singers who didn't come out. I thought for sure that after k.d., you, and Melissa, there would be swarms to follow. Nope. Not one major artist this year. Even George Michael's stopped concentrating on his butt and started featuring women in his videos.

"It's the fall of pop culture as we know it," she continued darkly. "Think of the movies that weren't made. Terminator 8, with the Schwarzenegger character played by a very pumped-up Bette Midler. ET Two, with the subtext 'Bob Dole call home, if you can find it'. Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind, which was probably represented just as well by Ross Perot debating himself when no one else would talk to him."

I liked Go Fish a lot, I volunteered.

She stared in disbelief. "Honey, you've been on the road too much; that came out last year."

Oh.

"Look at all the other things that didn't happen. I didn't lose 20 pounds... well, I did, but then I put them back on."

I didn't lose them either, I offered, trying to be helpful. She continued unabated.

"O.J.'s still running around pretending to be black, though his handlers have probably taught him how to say 'African-American' by now. Although come to think of it, that might be too many syllables for him."

But his trial's spawned a whole cottage book industry - the economy's better for it.

"The day our economy has to depend on some guy in a $2,000 suit buying his way out of Murder One, much less battering charges, we might as well give up and move."

Where would we move? I asked, visions of palm trees dancing in my head.

"Anchorage."

Alaska?

"The very same. It's the last outlaw bastion, the final frontier."

I thought that was Star Trek, I muttered, grabbing the rest of the scotch. God knows what would happen if she got hold of it now.

"And on top of it all, The Advocate went and had this big shake-up and put a female in as editor-in-chief, which means I'll never get a commission on its sale to Reader's Digest."

What? Did I hear that right? What sale?

"The one I'm going to broker as soon as I finish my law career," she answered. "Which may be very soon, given the way the courts are ruling against us this year."

What do you mean?

"They passed that damned Defense of Marriage Act. Now we can't legally get married anywhere in our own country, even though we have a mortgage, own a house, pay taxes, and laugh at Mary Tyler Moore reruns just like everybody else here."

Well, maybe Hawaii will pass it.

"Tennessee's already made it illegal for us to be married here, even if we go to Hawaii for the ceremony. We should seriously consider Alaska."

But things are better than they were, I reassured her. The Tennessee sodomy law was finally struck down this year.

"Is that supposed to appease me? The fact that two consenting adults can now kiss one another without being arrested and charged with a felony?"

She put her glass down with a clang and stood up, declaiming like Demosthenes. "Hear ye, hear ye. The country is a non-country. The year was a non-year. David Brinkley, my last remaining hero, the one man brave enough to call Bill Clinton boring, had to apologize for it. This whole place is going to the dogs!"

I looked down at our sleeping T-cup poodle and suspiciously alert doberman. I kind of like having a boring president, I said. At least we always know what's coming.

My partner burst into tears and sat back down.

What is it, what on earth's the matter?! I cried, taking her in my arms. Honey, it was a bad year, okay, but there's always another year to come! What's the problem?

She sobbed on my shoulder, trying to speak through the tears and managing only to hiccup a few times. After a few minutes she drew a shaking breath, and finally confessed the truth about what was really bothering her. "It's been such a bad year all around, such a nothing year! Oh, honey, and the worst thing of all is that I didn't win a single case this year!"

I'm thoroughly confused by this statement. I sit down next to her, take her hands in mine, and look seriously into her eyes. How could you win a case? You're only a second-year law student. You can't even enter a courtroom and cross the bar. You're not a lawyer yet. You couldn't have won a case this year.

"I couldn't?" she snuffled, wiping her nose on my sleeve.

No, of course not, you aren't permitted to practice yet, remember? "Oh!" she happily cried, "what a relief!"

I stood up and offered her my arm. Come on, let's go upstairs and try on the tool belt, then I'll tuck you in.

Or as Mr. Lesbian says, "I guess I didn't lose any cases either, did I?" And that about sums it up. 

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