There’s an unspoken code they are breaking, when men hit me up, co-workers, friends of friends. When they suggest my body should rub on theirs, when they proffer their lips, when they corner me in the breakroom. Am I not already promised to some/thing else? The whole of my body screams it, from my glamourless working trudge, the way I dress, to the way I haul and speak and yell. Butch as anything. But even if these men were bloody blind, they know already, because we work together, that I’m a lesbian, I have a girlfriend. I’m proud and unrelenting. I am sworn, and have been since puberty, to an allegiance beyond their understanding. But still they try.
One of my favourite Greek stories, is about the goddess Artemis and a hunter, Actaeon. Artemis is the Goddess of the wild, the hunt, of chastity, sworn never to marry. Artemis is swimming with the nymphs. Muscle webbed and soft, from rising, falling, sprinting, lifting. I imagine the sinew of her body stretching taut like her bow, before collapsing into play, diving deep under to grab ankles. The nymphs, bobbing and swaying the water, transforming into waves and crescendos of mist. Plllp, spirits like stones, bouncing along the slippery surface.
Actaeon is a hunter. His dogs run off, leaving him tracking them through the flattened brush. Spit and blood on the tangled coughs of grass. Finally, exhausted, he reaches the riverbank. Where he sees Artemis, Goddess of the hunt, forever chaste- naked, swimming, playing.
He stops for a moment and gawks. And then the moments pass by, and he has been sitting there for minutes. Beyond himself, he crawls closer. Though he knows what he is doing is wrong.
Something feels very weird, about men propositioning me so bawdily when they know I’m a lesbian. I’m certainly not saying I’m the hottest chick around. Perhaps some men will just try their luck with anyone- drunk and dark and flowing. If a “no” can be looked past, so can the implicit refusals of sexuality and commitment. But there is something more to it. There’s a joke going on at my expense. They are seeking to exploit my oath, for a cheap laugh, for an ego boost, to get away with it. Who’d want to fuck a dyke anyway?
Artemis’ nymphs spot Actaeon, lurking in the brush, gobsmacked. They screech horribly and shrivel, wrapping her naked form with their watery limbs. It’s no use. The gasps of her body still visible through their transparent spirits. She gathers a handful of water and flings it at him violently. An act that could be mistaken as play. “Now you may tell, if you can tell that is, of having seen me naked!”
As the water hits Actaeon, his features transform into those of a stag. It is an agonising transformation, his nose stretching out fine and flexible, his ears, solidifying, reaching up to the sun, turning into horns. Later, as he sprints through the bush, confused and elated by his new form, his own dogs spot him. They tear him to shreds, his new animal screams echoing into the grotto.
I love being hit on. There are few greater joys, for me. The deliciousness of winks and nods. Being cornered by blokes who want something, is not the same sensation. I feel the boundaries of my oath being flattened, pulled, prodded, questioned. Sometimes I want to transform them first, ask questions later. “Go and tell them about the mixed messages now, bozo. If you can, that is!”
Their long hair sweeps inwards, short, bristly, grey. Their eyes become wide and eternal. Their body shrinks, limbs come inward, meat swallowing itself. A bristly tail, growing out of their Dickies, towards the sky. I envision a brand-new possum, lingering by the side of the road, trying to dodge Corollas and Hiluxes as it hunts down the vicious sweetness of banana peels.