“I smiled up at her and said nothing. I certainly couldn’t say I don’t know. Actually, I was at a loss as to what to say. I could not bring myself to deny what I had just this past summer decided to embrace; besides, to say no would be to admit being one of the squares. Yet, to say yes might commit me to proving it, like with the vodka. And Ginger was a woman of the world, not one of my high school girl friends with whom kissing and cuddling and fantasizing sufficed. And I had never made love to a woman before. Ginger, of course, had made up her mind that I was a woman of the world and knew “everything”, having made love to all the women about whom I talked with such intensity.” (pg 135)
In this passage, Audre is talking with Ginger, a coworker at crystal cutting factory in Stamford. After starting high school, Audre went from having very few female friends to being friends with an entire group of girls, some of whom she kept in contact with after leaving Hunter College. Throughout her friendships, Audre seems to have blended the rigid lines of what society and culture may categorize as platonic versus sexual relationships. Through her exploration of the erotic, Audre does not categorize herself as gay or straight but rather welcomes opportunities to love a person. After meeting Ginger, Audre’s practice of sexual non-identification is openly challenged. Her reluctance to answer makes one wonder if her decision to not identify her sexuality was driven by a desire to be different (from not wanting to be “one of the squares”) or mainly a result of her own confusion about some of her deepest desires.
Another interesting thing to note is Audre’s occasional habit of putting up a front, almost as if she feels a need to prove something to others or more importantly, to herself – a habit she may have learned from her mother. Earlier in the novel, she discusses her parents’ ability to ignore things (like racism and the scars on Gennie’s face before she committed suicide), as a means of either shielding their daughters from the harmful emotional damage or as a way of making things temporarily go away. Audre sometimes does the same thing. We saw it with her abortion, when she was confronted about how ill she looked. She tried to convince herself the pain would go away if she just ignored it. When she failed her summer courses, she tried to convince herself of something other than the truth (that some people weren’t made to understand German, instead of the fact that she neglected her studies to entertain members of her group of girls). Following this passage, Audre verbally admits that she is, in fact, gay – but still she puts up a front to not “lose face” or her reputation with Ginger.
One thing that struck me about this passage was Audre’s impression of her reputation with Ginger. Ginger thinks she is a woman of the world, fully experienced in making love to women; Audre admits that she barely knows anything about making love to women. However, I think she is a woman of the world in a different sense. What she lacks in that sexual experience, she makes up for in other worldly experience. Her most important life experience being her abortion and the emotional toll it took on her. Genevieve, her first friend that she truly cared for, committed suicide when they were teenagers. Her strained relationship with her mother could also be added to the list of emotionally damaging life experiences. In each case, Audre feels a lack or loss of love, which is perhaps why she is reluctant to open up or even try to tie sexuality and desire.