It’s no secret that I’m the most unathletic lesbian to ever exist in this cruel, cold world. When I was a kid, I used to lay awake at night tossing and turning, fearing the day that we would be forced to play softball in gym class. I didn’t understand the rules of the game but was too embarrassed to speak up and ask. I didn’t want to expose how dumb and unathletic I was, I guess.
Plus, I always had crushes on the sporty girls. I was pretty sure I was a full-blown lesbian around the ripe ol’ age of 10, and I was becoming alarmingly aware of my type: the Softball Lesbian. I didn’t know anything about the “softball lesbian” trope back then, but I innately understood it, if you know what I mean. I could sense that certain girls in cleats and jerseys were probably going to grow up and realize they were queerer than a three dollar bill.
I swooned over the girls who wore their hair in neat, slicked-back ponytails; the girls who ran faster than the boys; the “good girls” all rosy-cheeked and healthy, lightly tanned from a lifetime spent outdoors, playing sports. They just seemed so together. So perfectly North Eastern. Forever adorned in L.L. Bean, taking home straight-As to their proud parents, the captains of “Color War” at sleep-away camp. They wore sludgy-green fleeces in the fall and North Face puff coats in the winter. Lacrosse sticks popped out of their JanSport backpacks as they confidently strode down the school hallways like they owned the place.
I was the exact opposite of the softball lesbian. As an adolescent, I never rocked sensible clothing like fleece when summer turned into fall. Not only did I fly out of the womb terrible at sports, but I also looked (and still look) deranged with my hair in a ponytail. I’ve worn my hair down in long, distressed mermaid locks my entire life.
Distressed mermaid locks are not conducive to doing anything that involves breaking a sweat. They’re conducive to drinking wine in a chic indoor restaurant, with the windows sealed shut so my already wild hair isn’t made too wild by the slightest gust of wind.
I might not have been a softball baby lesbian, but I certainly ~hooked up~ with them early on. The first softball lesbian I hooked up with was at sleep-away camp. I figured if I couldn’t be the Color War captain, I would have sex with the Color War captain, you know?
We did it in her bunk bed at 2 a.m. It was the first time I’d ever had sex with anyone, male or female, and it was spectacularly awkward.
She was one of those cool already out of the closet teenagers, and I was still testing the gay waters by telling everyone I *might* be bi. I knew that being gay meant no pretty girl perks and, as someone who was raised by a gorgeous model, I knew all about pretty girl perks (I quickly learned they weren’t perks at all. They were burdens that were demeaning, condescending, blazingly sexist, and generally horrible—but that realization was to come several years later).
I’m proud to say I lost my lesbian virginity with a softball lesbian. It was a great way to lose it—wrapped up in clean cotton sheets, squished into a twin bed, The Indigo Girls softly playing in the background, and graffiti scrawled across the wooden planks.
I remember curling up next to her, taking in her scent (she smelled like Secret deodorant and Pantene Pro-V shampoo and conditioner in one), and feeling really safe in her muscly, tanned arms.
I remember comparing those arms to mine. Mine were scrawny and pale, while hers were strong and honey-colored. They looked good together. Maybe this is due to some deep-rooted, internalized femme-phobia I have yet to confront (don’t fret, I’m in therapy), but I felt as if my softball lesbian could protect me from all kinds of danger. Like, if she had the brainpower to strategize her softball games so perfectly, then she must have also had the brainpower to rescue us if evil forces were to take over camp.
Evil forces never took over camp. I went home to Connecticut in mid-August and never saw my softball lesbian again.
However, the first girl I ever seriously dated was a softball lesbian too. We were adults, but I could immediately tell she had played sports in school. The moment I laid my mascara-adorned eyes on her at the local gay bar, I envisioned her wearing mitts and cleats.
She had that relaxed “comfortable in her body” way about her that all sporty girls have, regardless of their height or weight. She was dressed appropriately for the climate, and I noticed a gym membership card dangling from her key-chain. I felt my heart flutter. She asked me out a week later.
On our first date, I said to her, “I bet you were the captain of the softball team in high school.”
“How can you tell?” she asked, alarmed.
“Because you just have that healthy athletic energy, AND you’re very, very sharp and very, very disciplined. You seem like a leader.”
“Ugh, such a stereotype, but, yes, it’s true.”
“I wish I was the lesbian softball-playing stereotype,” I confessed. “If you’re going to be boxed in by society, it’s best to be boxed in as an athlete. I’m boxed in as some bratty femme.”
“Is that true?” she asked, raising a sexily unmanicured eyebrow at me.
“Is what true?” I said, slugging back my champagne.
“Are you a bratty femme?” she returned, slugging back her beer.
I thought about this for a minute. I gazed at my vintage Chanel clutch as I contemplated my bratty femme-ness. I ran my fingers across the buttery leather and wondered if the champagne I was sipping on was real champagne—like, from Champagne, France.
And then it hit me: I was a bratty femme. In fact, I embodied the bratty femme. If there was an award for the brattiest femme in all of the lesbian-land, I would win.
“Yes,” I answered,” but I’m balanced out by lovely softball lesbians like you.” I batted my lashes at her.
And it’s true. I rely on the softball lesbian to keep me grounded and stable.
In fact, softball lesbians are the backbone of the gay community. They’re the girls who created awesome lesbian sports leagues that are so direly important to our community because they’re one of the few events that don’t involve drinking. We would drown to death in booze if it wasn’t for lesbian sports leagues that sober us up and force us into the sunshine!
They’re always the first to help me hoist my heavy bag onto the ferry when I’m going to Fire Island. My bag would still be on the dock if it wasn’t for the help of the trusty softball lesbian.
They get me out of bed on Sunday mornings when I’m hungover, because it’s in their genetic makeup to want to do something healthy after drinking, like going for a walk in the park. I would still be in bed, smoking cigarettes and self-loathing if it weren’t for all the softball lesbians I’ve dated. I probably would still smoke cigarettes in general if it wasn’t for them. Softball lesbians detest cigarettes.
They’re also fantastic in bed. All those years on the field really taught them how to move their bodies.
So, thank you softball lesbians. And know that, no matter what, I’ll be cheering for you when you win the lesbian softball tournament along with my army of bratty femmes.