By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
We're slouching around a wooden picnic table, killing time before our final game of the season, when my softball coach asks me the question I've been dreading for months: Are you in a relationship?
It sounds like a harmless inquiry. But it's one that will force me out of the closet with my lesbian softball team.
The coach swoops in with a follow-up before I can even finish the sentence. "To a man or a woman?"
"To a man."
Every pair of eyes at the table has turned my way. The air feels tense.
"Huh," our manager grunts. "So we have two straight people on the team."
I'm an anomaly here in the South Florida Amateur Athletic Association, which defines itself on the web as "a gay and lesbian softball league... for both gay and non-gay participants." There are 22 teams in the women's division, which kicked off in 1999. The environment is supposed to be "conducive to the gay community." Unsure of what that meant and eager to duck discrimination, I decided to adopt the military motto: "Don't ask, don't tell."
I had found the league by Googling the words softball and women and Lauderdale. The description was OK with me. It's no secret that lots of lesbians love softball. And the last time I played the game with men, I felt like a second-class citizen; they relegated me to the bench and let me bat only once the team was up several runs. It's funny how some men assume that they're better at sports than women.
But I neglected to read the lesbian league's fine print. The rules state that each team is "allowed to have only two non-gay players active[ly] playing at any time in the game."
That doesn't seem so straight-friendly. And where do the bisexuals fit in? Asexuals? Same-sex curious? I remember answering a questionnaire before joining. It asked each prospective player about their perceived skill levels and whether they played college ball. Adding a question about sexual orientation would be, well, like something out of left field.
"It's OK if you sleep with a man," the coach assures me, as the rest of the team absorbs the news of Amy's orientation. "I used to."
An hour later, we lose to the Twisted Sisters. That's no surprise. We always lose. But this will be our last loss. Final tally: 1-16. The single win was actually a forfeit, because the other team didn't have enough players to take us on.
With our basement-dwelling season finally laid to rest, I'll be free to nurse hangovers on Sunday mornings. No more bolting out the door while my husband and dog are still happily asleep. No more frantic phone calls to the park's rainout line to see whether I can just climb back into bed. No more of that distinctive moldering-leather smell on my left hand from the glove I've been using since I was 7 years old.
Has my softball career been ignominiously laid to rest too? Softball will always be a part of me. My childhood revolved around the sport. My toddler years were a blur of ballparks and playgrounds. The glare of outdoor lights. The freedom of the sandbox. The glee of watching my father knock the ball over the fence. Pizza. Hot dogs. Licorice ropes longer than my legs.
Mom played too. And my older sister. Softball seemed inevitable. Eventually, I'd be old enough to join tee ball. Then a recreational league. And ultimately, one of those crazily competitive traveling teams that eat, breathe, and sleep a sport.
Softball cranks into hyperdrive in the summertime. My family would crisscross the country so that my sister and I could play on orange dirt in places like Lafayette, Louisiana, and Muncie, Indiana — places that, otherwise, I would probably never have visited in my lifetime. Each town has lovely, nearly identical ballparks.
Then there was a lengthy hiatus. All that time, travel, sweat, and sunburn eventually wore me down. It weighed on my parents' marriage too. My mother began to loathe the sport. My older sister didn't dare tell my mom (who was, at the time, a Bible-thumping church lady) that girls from opposing high school teams were hitting on her; one third baseman even pinched my sister's butt as she slid into the base. The opposing players teased my sis relentlessly for looking like a cheerleader (blond, stacked, with a full face of makeup).
It might just have been an intimidation tactic. But she was losing interest anyway, and as I approached my middle-school years, so was I. There didn't appear to be any fat paychecks awaiting serious female softball players, and — for me — hitting the books seemed like a safer investment toward a college scholarship. So I gave up on softball at 13. That decision was one of the biggest disappointments my father has ever been dealt as a parent; to this day, he still brings it up on holidays. "Your sister was a good ballplayer," he likes to say, "but you were really good."
Nearly two decades after I stowed my glove, I still missed the exhilarating sensation of a bat, guided by my own two hands, making solid contact with a ball. I missed the relief that sweeps over you when you dive for a low-flying line drive and discover that the ball is in your mitt. I missed the camaraderie.
Much to my mother's dismay, this year I set out to get reacquainted with softball. And I'd be doing it with lesbians. I would test the long-standing assertion — from any number of older people, including my mother — that lesbians and softball go together like peanut butter and jelly. She advised me to stick to yoga.
A journalist named George Hancock is credited with inventing softball in Chicago on a blustery winter day in 1887. The first game was played indoors, with a boxing glove tied into a round shape serving as the ball. The rules were similar to those of baseball. And the players were a bunch of Yale and Harvard alums.
For women, though, engaging in physical activity like sports was still considered unladylike. Nonetheless, women's ball clubs began organizing and traveling the country. Some female ballplayers were dubbed prostitutes; pre-World War II media accounts describe them as brassy broads who did inappropriate things in public such as handsprings and headstands.
More than anything, though, the war made it more acceptable for women to swing bats and throw balls. Many of the same women who took factory jobs during those years also joined their employers' recreational softball leagues. When chewing-gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley decided in 1943 to form a women's baseball league, as chronicled in the 1992 Hollywood flick A League of Their Own, he had a decent pool of talent from which to choose.
This early professional league drafted rules to ensure that its players appeared feminine. The ladies were supposed to wear skirts and lipstick on the field, and they were forced to take etiquette classes off the field. Some of those ladies have admitted in recent years that they are lesbians. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League folded in 1954.
Twenty-two years later, tennis great Billie Jean King and softball legend Joan Joyce founded the International Women's Professional Softball Association; that venture lasted just four seasons. In 1977, one of the league's players, Diane Kalliam, told a reporter for the Lesbian Tide that "virtually all" of her professional softball playing peers were gay.
Joan Joyce, who at 67 is now the head softball coach at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, says Kalliam is overstating the reality. "She's just guessing," Joyce says. "How would she know? It's not like everybody in this league were friends."
Historically, playing ball has been a way for lesbians to meet like-minded women. Most small towns had ball fields, so the sport was accessible. It seems natural that the national pastime also became a lesbian pastime.
In her 1988 book Diamonds Are a Dyke's Best Friend, author Yvonne Zipter reflects on why she and other lesbians are so attracted to softball: The softball field is a place where tomboys can act more like themselves, a place where there's less pressure to conform to the delicate feminine ideal.
Zipter also suggests that the public perception of softball players' being lesbians may have hurt the sport; more specifically, the stereotype may have handicapped the International Women's Professional Softball Association. By then, the women's liberation movement had made the general public increasingly aware that some females prefer to partner with other females. "[A]thletic women of the forties, while perhaps viewed as oddities, were not looked on with as much suspicion and contempt as their counterparts in the seventies," Zipter wrote.
She recounts how three women were once thrown out of a training camp sponsored by Joan Joyce. The women were supposedly demonstrating "overt lesbian behavior," although Zipter was unable to determine what that meant.
Joyce says she doesn't recall the incident. However, she acknowledges that it would have been a "huge problem" at the time if the public thought some of the ladies in the league were gay.
"Back then, I probably would have had a conversation with anybody that showed that kind of attention to someone else," she says. "To be honest with you, I don't really care as long as it doesn't affect the team."
Joyce is a superathlete who excels at everything from golf to basketball to softball. She struck out slugger Ted Williams with whizzing softball pitches at an exhibition game in 1961, then did the same to Hank Aaron in 1978.
The gossip on the softball fields of my youth told of lesbians dominating the college ranks. Like old wives' tales, stories circulated about girls being labeled queer at school simply because they were athletes. Pretty coeds supposedly would fend off persistent, unwanted advances from teammates, the reports contended. Even coaches made college locker rooms sound like settings for a zombie flick: They'll turn you into a LESBIAN.
The tales painted lesbians as sexual predators and outcasts.
A local high school softball coach who played for a Division 1 college in the mid-1990s recently recounted to me how she learned that her sport was popular among lesbians. "There was a woman," she remembers, "the mother of one of my teammates, who coached at a Division 2 school. She set all of us down — the ones who were going to play in college — and told us about how a girl on her team was invited by some lesbian teammates to a party. They got her drunk, somebody kissed her, one thing led to another, and the rumor got around campus that she was gay. She left school.
"We were all shocked. We were small-town, really sheltered. But she was telling us how it could be, giving us a heads-up to make sure our preferences were known."
There were five openly gay girls on the team her freshman year of college; one of them, she's convinced, was "turned" gay by another player. On the field, she remembers, the players functioned as a unit. But off the field, they segregated into gay and nongay cliques. Eager to sway the balance toward heterosexuals, she says, some of the straight teammates pestered the coach to recruit "girly-girls" who would improve the team's " 'pretty' average."
Today, this woman is married to a man and the mother of two children; she coaches a softball team at a Broward County high school.
Vikki Krane, director of women's studies at Bowling Green University in Ohio, chuckles at the notion of young female athletes getting "turned" into lesbians. "Nobody is going to turn someone gay or lesbian. Clearly, if someone has feelings for someone of the same gender, they're going to choose whether or not to act on it. If they simply don't have those feelings, it's not going to happen.
"What do you do when a boy asks you out that you don't want to date?" she continues. "You say, thanks, nice idea, but I don't think it's going to work. It doesn't have to be anything more than that should someone of the same gender ask you out. If you're comfortable with yourself, what does it matter what other people do? Assuming that they aren't being inappropriate."
Krane has written a position paper for the National Association for Girls & Women in Sport outlining steps that coaches and athletic programs can take to eliminate sexual orientation-based prejudice. But ultimately, she believes, change will come at the grass-roots level. As acceptance of homosexuals spreads among the general population, so will acceptance of gays in the sporting ranks.
At every school, coaches set the atmosphere for the team. Some programs, though, have a reputation for being gay-friendly — or not.
The University of Florida's softball program came under major scrutiny in 2003 when a catcher accused coaches there of dropping her from the team for being a lesbian. The catcher, Andrea Zimbardi, alleged that Head Coach Karen Johns pushed Christian beliefs on the players and that Assistant Coach Heather Compton-Butler made disparaging comments about lesbians while simultaneously fishing for information on which players might like women.
Zimbardi sued with the help of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
The university agreed to send its athletic department to sensitivity training, and it added discrimination based on sexual orientation to its zero-tolerance list. The university opted against renewing Johns' contract for the 2005-06 school year. Johns became the head coach at the University of Virginia, and this August, she'll accompany the U.S. Olympics team to Beijing as an assistant coach.
The softball community still hasn't figured out how to deal with the L-word. On a recent rainy summer day, I ambushed a few college softball players at a local training camp. We were well out of earshot of the little girls attending the camp, several of whom were busying themselves trying to capture bugs.
I wanted to talk about the L-word. The college players wanted to disassociate that word from their sport. There's no reason to bring sexuality onto the field, they argued. These days, they said, lesbians are a minority in their sport.
That may well be true. The 1972 passage of Title IX, which required equal opportunities for women in school-sponsored activities, paved the way for millions of American women to adopt knee-scuffing endeavors like softball. The influx of women into athletics is widely thought to have diluted the lesbian ranks. It's commonly believed that just 10 percent of the general population is gay or lesbian, so some find it hard to rationalize that a majority of female athletes in any sport could be lesbian.
The college players I spoke with worried that an article about lesbians and softball might deter young girls from the sport. "If parents see something they don't like, then they're probably not going to let their kids play," one said. Another player equated homophobia to racism — both are ugly realities we have to live with.
There was that military injunction again. "In the college world, it's still like the military: Don't ask, don't tell," says Helen Carroll, director of the homophobia in sports project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "Every spring, we get calls from so many [lesbian] softball players that are asked not to come back. We try to solve the problem before it becomes a legal battle."
Coming out can still be a career blocker for lesbian softball players and coaches, Carroll says. But thankfully, dialogue and acceptance are increasing. It helps when respected women in the higher echelons of the sport take a stand. Carroll notes that, when Harvard's head coach, Jenny Allard, told her team in 1997 that she is a lesbian, Allard not only kept her job but also became a role model for coaches and players. In explaining the decision, Allard pointed to the importance of honesty in a team environment, saying that hiding her partner "behind the left-field fence" set a poor example.
With so many straight women in the sport and an increasingly diverse lesbian community, "the stereotype of lesbians playing softball has gone by the wayside," says Pat Griffin, author of Strong Women, Deep Closets: Lesbians and Homophobia in Sport. "At the same time, there's still a lot of homophobia out there. Players are still defensive about the image of the sport. There's a huge push to focus on girls like Jennie Finch, the pinup model."
Finch, an Olympic gold medalist in softball, is a beautiful blond pitcher from California. The biography on her website lists the names of her husband, son, and Yorkshire terrier, Prada. Finch modeled for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition after becoming a gold medalist at the 2004 Olympics but turned down a lucrative offer from Playboy to pose in the buff.
Griffin says that by refusing to talk about lesbians on the softball field or by shifting the emphasis to "girly" players, the softball community is making gay athletes "invisible again in a different way." The pressure on college softball players to appear straight is enormous. "There's all this big, long hair on the softball fields," Griffin says. "It's almost become a joke in some circles."
My affiliation with the Florida Amateur Athletic Association begins with tryouts one Sunday in February. Carlos, my husband, is disappointed that I'm joining a women's league; he thought we were going to play together on a coed team. I'm convinced that we won't get much playing time with the fellas (me, because men can be ball hogs; him, because he has never hit a ball in his life). Like a true sport, my husband accompanies me to the tryouts anyway.
Once there, I'm alarmed to discover that after years away from softball, I now throw like a girl. It's horrifying. Fortunately, everyone who wants to play is placed on a team. I get a call from a woman named Liz. I'd later learn that Liz led a team to a Gay World Series victory in 2006. Our sponsor is a lawyer, so we are christened the Law Dawgs. All the games will be played on Sundays.
I show up for our first game feeling anxious. I salute the girls with a perky "hello" and get a few grunts in return. Oh man, I think, this doesn't seem like a fun bunch.
In our first game, the Twisted Sisters crush us, 17-4. Afterward, my teammates look seriously grumpy. "Bitches? Complaints?" Liz asks before we all shuffle away.
Carlos shows up to watch the first game and sees no one — that's because he's at the wrong ballpark. When I report that my teammates seem surly, he decides not to be a spectator. I'm secretly relieved. I fear that some of my teammates might be man-haters, and I already feel like a lone femme in a field of butches. I need to boost my confidence in my playing skills before introducing him.
The next Sunday, we're scheduled for a double-header. I'm tasked with playing catcher for the first game, against a team called Last Call, and I'm nervous about getting hit. A friendly Nuyorican named Mirna shoves a mask into my hands just in the nick of time. As I accept it, gratefully, one of my teammates says in a gravelly voice: "Whaddaya care about your face?"
That's Lee. Her own face is busted that day. She has two black eyes and a thick cut across the bridge of her nose — from a rogue fly ball hit while she was practicing with an ex-girlfriend, she says. We suspect a brawl. Lee is a 39-year-old carpenter with a tough exterior. Years of smoking and downing beers have made her voice gruff, and her walk is a swagger. But there's a sweetness there too. Lee is tiny, and when she lifts her sunglasses, her bright blue eyes are disarmingly soft.
Last Call creams us 13-4. Our pitcher, Lucy, is now limping after an entire game trying to catch my wild throws. Liz is prepared to play catcher until Lucy grumbles, "Why the hell would I want to look at your ugly face? Give me that young one." That's how Caroline, a cute blond college student, became our catcher. I catch a break as a designated hitter.
But my stint as a catcher shows me just how out of shape I am. My body is so sore that I cringe with every step for a solid week.
On a subsequent Sunday, Last Call's shortstop — a former college player with a bullet arm — guns the ball to home plate. The catcher, as is customary in this tough-chick league, is not wearing a mask. The ball slams into her chin. The injury requires 30 stitches.
The next time we face off against Last Call, we get an injury of our own. Theresa, our left fielder, hits a ground ball and sprints toward first base; the same shortstop hurls a wild throw at her. Guess what? Theresa isn't wearing a helmet. Nobody wears helmets in this league. The ball makes contact with Theresa's left cheek, which swells to the size of a grapefruit. The ball's stitches leave an imprint on her jaw. She's lucky, though. Nothing is broken — not even a tooth. Theresa refuses to go to the hospital, and she actually keeps playing.
Apart from the fright of the occasional injury, every Sunday of softball feels the same. The other teams use our sad collection of stumblebum fielders for batting practice. We sulk in silence. Lucy tries to cheer everyone up with bawdy jokes and construction-worker comments like Look at those titties! or Did you see that ass? The comments are usually reserved for any moderately attractive chick walking by, but no one is immune. One afternoon between games of a double-header, she eyes Lee's hairy legs and asks whether the petite carpenter shaves anything besides her head. The answer: negative. The girls squeal in disgust.
"Listen," Lucy announces, "you've gotta shave your drawers before I pan down on you!"
At 53, Lucy is the same age as my mother, but she has zero matronly inhibitions. And she loves her softball. Lucy played fast-pitch at the University of Miami, and she plans to play the game until her dying day. "I was born with a mitt in my hand," she says. "I don't think there's a single thing I don't love about softball. Not even the heat or the dirt. I love to straddle my ass in the dirt."
I felt guilty playing on Mother's Day. But not Lucy. She told her son that, if he wanted to see her, he'd have to come to the softball field.
Lucy says that, compared with some of the other teams in the league, the sex talk among the Law Dawgs is utterly demure, though in my opinion, Lucy and others set the raunchiness bar pretty high. My favorite Lucy comment comes just before our last game. She had just seen the Sex in the City movie. "Man, that Kim Cattrall is hot," she mutters. "She can sit on my face anytime." Then Lee chimes in: "I've got a seat for her too."
When I recount this exchange to my mother, she shrieks: "See! That's why I didn't want you girls playing softball! I didn't want that life for you."
My mother's first memory of lesbians was a sight she saw at an Atlanta ballpark in her youth. Walking toward one of her own softball games, she remembers looking into the treetops and spotting husky women holding hands. She was spooked.
When my parents met, my father was totally stoked to discover that my mother had played softball. He wanted to mate with an athlete. Dad envisioned having a son who would play professional baseball. Or football. Or any sport, really. Instead, he got two little girls.
Little girls like to please their daddies. And nothing seemed to make my father happier than seeing his daughters excel at sports — traditional gender roles be damned. He'd half-heartedly suggest that we take on pursuits with lucrative long-term potential, such as tennis or golf. But the push to play softball was always there. Never mind that there were no seven-figure contracts awaiting serious female ballplayers.
Like many men of his generation, my father grew up in a baseball-crazed family. His grandfathers played on opposing teams, and they'd argue heatedly about specific plays and games well into their retirement years. One thought his skills were superior to the other's because he had shared the field with Honus Wagner, the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame shortstop.
Alas, my father wasn't a great baseball player. Maybe he lacked confidence. Maybe the ball was pitched too fast for him. He didn't get much support from his dad either. He remembers hitting a home run in one of the few games his father bothered to attend; afterward, my grandfather doused his excitement, saying the ball "barely made it over the fence."
My dad vowed to be a better father than his curmudgeon of an old man. He told us girls that we could do anything. And he meant it. I remember attending a minor-league game with him when I was still in preschool. All the men in the stands were peeling off their shirts because it was mercilessly hot out. I was miserable. He took one look at my pageboy haircut and decided that I could pass as a little boy. So I got to go shirtless too. That was empowering.
I'm not entirely sure when I learned how to throw a softball. It was probably around the same time I learned to talk. Upon moving to Florida, my father discovered that he was a heck of a softball player. He dedicated much of his free time to the sport, playing in a men's league and coaching my mother and her sisters. He built dugouts and manicured ball fields at local schools, free of charge. He volunteered to coach high school teams. As soon as my sister and I were ready, he signed us up to play ball too.
I started out in coed tee ball at age 5. There was one other little girl on the team, a dainty, blue-eyed beauty named Krista. I knew Krista well. Her father, Jack, played night games with mine. She was my partner in crime on the ballpark swings. We both had an intense passion for Barbie dolls, and neither of us had brothers.
In tee ball, Krista and I would pass the time doing splits, which we were sometimes so engrossed in that we barely took note of the batted balls rolling past us in the outfield. We'd glance at a passing ball and argue over who would have to retrieve it while our fathers were smacking their foreheads in frustration.
But my fondness for the sport grew. I was so happy about being the batgirl for my older sister's team that my mother was once unable to coerce me out of my navy-blue uniform for a solid week. The next year, I'd get a team of my own. My arm was strong and my batting solid. This softball stuff didn't seem so bad after all.
My Dad always coached, and I was the envy of every little girl for having such an involved father. But my mother was sick of spending her free time and money on softball. She was also annoyed that my father would cut out early from work to coach high school girls who weren't even related to us. The sport became divisive for my parent's marriage.
When I quit softball at 13, my father didn't speak to me for weeks. My mother had to threaten divorce to negotiate a truce. When it came to me and my athletic pursuits, though, Dad was a trooper. My new hobby, I decided, would be ballet. The beginners' classes were full of 5-year-olds, so my ballet studio suggested I join the adults. My father would drive me to each class and hang out in the car until I was finished. One day, the teacher approached him with a suggestion: Why didn't he just take the class? So my father and I learned ballet together.
My parents divorced in 1999. But my mother still lowers her voice and narrows her eyes whenever she says the word softball; in her voice, softball sounds like the root of all evil. My father still coaches a local high school team for what amounts to slave wages. Five months out of the year, the sport consumes his afternoons and weekends. I asked him recently whether his softball fanaticism stems from a desire to prove his athletic skills to his father. His answer: probably.
My paternal grandfather has been dead for more than 30 years.
As the season progresses, morale sinks among the Law Dawgs, but I'm finally finding my groove. I strain a muscle sprinting toward first base in a game against a team called Bullzeye. On the next play, as I rush toward second, my right leg gives out, and I fly forward, arms stretched out like Superwoman. It looks like a graceful, albeit unnecessary, headfirst slide — except that my stomach lands on top of the leather base bag. Everyone thinks I'm demonstrating some serious heart.
On the way to home plate, in a subsequent play, my leg gives out again. This time, I soar over the base and the catcher waiting with both ball and glove in hand. Splayed on the ground, I realize that the ball is in the dirt. The catcher and I lock eyes. I reach for the plate and tap it for a run.
Henceforth, I'm known as "ballerina girl." Even the opposing team gets a kick out of my dives. As we slap hands after the match, a few ladies giggle and give me appreciative pats on the ass.
All it takes is a couple of base hits and a few graceful catches in the outfield and I feel wanted. Needed. Like part of the team. We even talk about grabbing beers together after the game. That's right. Up until this point, there was no communal beer-guzzling going on among the Law Dawgs. Adult softball without beer is like a honeymoon without sex. Lame.
It's a Friday night at Howl at the Moon, the raucous piano bar in Fort Lauderdale's BeachPlace. Liz, our team manager, is hosting a post-season party to celebrate her graduation from City College. I'm one of the first invitees to show up.
I tell the beefy young man at the door that I'm here for Liz's party. He points to a small group of people and says, "They're over there by that man with the big button on his shirt." The "man" he's referring to is Liz. I'm quick to correct the blunder. "Oh God," the doorman whimpers. "Don't tell her I said that!"
It's been almost two weeks since we played our last softball game. Liz doesn't recognize me at first. I'm wearing makeup, some platform wedges, and a shirt with a plunging neckline. I consider it a conservative outfit that I might throw on before driving to the office.
Liz does a double take each time another teammate enters the bar. It's amazing how different the ladies look without ball caps and schleppy T-shirts. "You all look so nice," Liz moans, "and I look the same as I do at the games." Actually, she looks much happier than I ever saw her at the ballpark. She's radiant.
I settle at a table with two silver-haired ladies, one of whom played on Last Call, a team that crushed us on numerous occasions. Most of the gals on Last Call are over 40. This particular lady, who is in her 60s, played outfield this season. But for 35 years, she was a shortstop. "After a while, your reflexes start to slow," she says with a twinge of sadness.
Well, they still kicked our butts.
A few of my teammates are engrossed in conversation at a nearby table. One of them, Theresa, leans over to me and says: "Amy, we've gotta know. Are you gay or straight?"
I'm eager to continue my conversation with the silver-haired ladies, but I'm also floored that word hasn't gotten around to the whole team by now. I relate my "coming out" tale about being married to a man, and my teammates double over with laughter. Theresa says she pegged me as straight from the start, whereas her girlfriend, Mirna, had guessed that I was gay. Denise too figured I was gay since I had joined a gay sports league.
"Man, good thing you didn't tell us earlier," Mirna says. "We would have given you shit all season, like we did with Krystal."
Apparently, Krystal, a barely legal 20-year-old, had professed her straightness repeatedly during warm-ups. Liz joked a few weeks back that the straight gals on the team should perform a strip tease at her graduation party. Tonight, Krystal is a no-show. Nobody asks me to flash my goods. But I'm prepared for the task: There are lace turquoise panties and a matching push-up bra (a Valentine's present from the hubby) under my clothes.
Fortunately, nobody remembers the strip-tease assignment. My macho husband would be none-too-pleased if I performed like that. And on deeper introspection, I don't think I'd want my teammates to objectify me. Besides, nobody likes a tease.
For a few bucks, Howl at the Moon lets patrons scrawl phrases above the dueling pianos. Our pitcher, Lucy, points proudly toward her prose. "Pussy is a beautiful thing," she wrote. Someone outbids her by a dollar and replaces the phrase with: "Two pussies are better than one."
As I swig Budweisers and sing along to piano tunes, I realize that my discomfort early in the season stemmed from a fear that my teammates wouldn't accept me. I felt the need to "pass" as gay. Now, I'm talking freely about my relationship with my husband. And I'm having a damned good time with my new lesbian friends.
"Will you be back?" several of the ladies ask me. Sure. If they'll have me.