A YEAR WITH THE GIRLS.
It was the summer of 2000. I was in London again after travelling all over Europe on an extended gap year. I felt adventurous and restless and the time was ripe for me to experiment with something I had dallied with for some time. Namely: my bisexual or lesbian tendencies.
Apart from childish games that did not count, I had only had one experience to date. When I was eighteen, I had met a girl called Susan who lived near me. She was “out” which probably surprised many people as she was girly and had long brown hair. This was before the Lipstick Lesbian era when we all thought that lesbians always looked like dykes.
Now, working on Tottenham Court Road, with Soho just round the corner was as easy as it could get. There is an array of gay bars, cafes, clubs, not to mention Soho Square. All this laissez faire and licentiousness appealed to me to be honest.
So, having lunch in Soho Square on any sunny day meant one could look at the eye candy on display. But how to meet these wonderful guys and girls? They lie on the soft, verdant grass and sun themselves. Skinny jeans hugging slim hips (both sexes), trendy trainers or loafers enveloping their feet. The coolest club nights being discussed and analyzed as they pick at the sandwiches from Prêt-A-Porter or the pasta and salad combos from Marks and Spencer.
“Honey, you should have been there!” one of the guys from the gallery across says.
“He was by far the sexiest guy in the room. And he asked me for my number!” he continues.
“You bitch!” the guy from the Sushi bar whines.
I had seen an advert in Diva magazine for a lesbian/bisexual writing group that met at a pub close to Centre Point. I went along, curious but slightly in awe. It was a weekly gathering that took place on the first floor of the pub, amidst the garish floral-printed carpet that is standard issue in old fashioned pubs. Dark fixtures and the old tartan curtains were the only adornments in place. The group consisted of about fifteen regular attendees who worked in fashion, on newspapers, in shops and one or two were students. One of the journalists read out an article and everyone commented on it and asked questions, but it was clear we were all waiting for the fun part. The part where the meeting is over, the drinks flow and people possibly hook up.
I had spotted Kiat right away. She was Oriental, petite, stylishly attired in black and looked like she was new to this too. She was doing a year of her Architecture degree course in London and was enjoying the freedom away from Singapore and its restrictions. We left together and went to a café nearby where we continued to chat. The next time we met, we went to Freedom in Soho. The décor was dark, jewel-like. There was a small podium for the disco boys and girls to show off and the lighting was subtle. As we sat in the downstairs part of the bar, listening to Happy House music and watching the bartender flirt with all the boys, I so desperately wanted to kiss her. Her dark, glossy hair was cut to just below her ears. Her hands were immaculately manicured, and her lips were full and inviting. “I have been dying to ask you this for ages. Can I kiss you?” I half whispered.
“You can,” she replied.
Kiat invited me to her flat-share where she had prepared a gorgeous display of Singaporean food. I particularly remember boiled eggs that that a marbled effect from having been dipped first in green tea and then in red tea with the shells slightly cracked. We lay in her bed where we kissed and touched but nothing else. She was as virginal as her tiny white knickers and said she did not want to do much more with either sex. We met a few more times and then Kiat left for Singapore again.
After Kiat left, the idea of putting an ad in the Time Out magazine occurred to me. I didn’t expect much to happen and was amazed at the number of replies. Of course, half of them seemed inappropriate because of vast differences in age, interests or location. However, after weeding these ones out, I was left with a few to work with.
Lizzy was American and studying in London for a semester. She was a reincarnation of Sarah Jessica Parker. All long, wavy, blonde locks and a girl-about-town attitude. She was radiant and fun and the kind of girl you walk down the street with and know that everyone is looking. I took her to parts of the city she hadn’t yet been to.
“Hey girl. What do you think of these leather pants?” she would ask as we walked down Camden street. She took me to see the film Boys Don’t Cry at the Curzon in Soho which she had already seen.
“It sucks. I know,” she said, as I bawled my eyed out.
It was clear she was having as much fun as she could in London and I felt that if I was part of her experience in this great city, that was okay by me. We did have sex a couple of times and met for drinks a few more before she moved on to date a city boy.
Alice was a lot older than I but she had sounded interesting and my curiosity got the better of me. She was English, had shoulder-length light brown hair and a warm heart. She was in her early forties to my twenty four years. She worked as a theatre agent and had a sumptuous flat in Convent Garden. As befitted her status, she dressed in expensive, floaty garments and had a weekend cottage in Norfolk. She called everyone “darling” and “honey” and was a lovey through and through. She was seasoned as far as her sexual orientation went. I was in the deep end. I knew it would not last when we went to bed for the first and only time. Her body was voluptuous and soft and nice in a way that makes one want to cuddle up to one’s mother but not to a lover. After my previous encounters with much younger girls, I found it unbearable and made out that I just needed more time to get used to all of this. I felt bad as she was keen and called repeatedly before giving up.
Montse was Spanish and had been living in London for a couple of years when I met her. She was average-height and had the most seductive body a twenty-five year old could have, which she hid in loose shirts and baggy trousers. Her hair was dark and caressed the nape of her neck. She was a television engineer and had had various relationships with girls over the years. I remember her driving me home after our first date and how when I kissed her goodbye on the cheek; I could sense she wanted much more. I liked her. I made her wait a few more dates before anything happened. We used to love making out in public places in the way that only same sex couples can. Going to the bathroom together when we were out at museums, or theatres or restaurants didn’t raise any eyebrows. Once, in Hyde Park, under a particularly leafy willow tree, we kissed and touched while passersby walked less than two meters away.
At the time, I was learning Spanish. We would drive along with her correcting my pronunciation.
“¿Que tal?” How are you?
“Estoy bien.” I’m fine.
“Good,” she would say. “Now tell me what you have done today, in Spanish!”
“Yes, Miss,” I would cheekily reply, and then proceed to butcher the language.
In the end, she is the only one that qualifies as a girlfriend. We went out for six months. I met her friends; she met mine. We stayed over at each other’s flats. And when things fizzled out, it was amicably. We had run our course.