College area lesbians want to show stability

A Woman and a woman

Peggy and Cynthia

Two years ago, Peggy and Cynthia marked their eleventh year as a couple. They asked San Diego’s gay weekly, the Gayzette, to publish their photograph and a statement. The gist of the statement: same-sex couple relationships can be stable. The photo came from a roll snapped at a party. Looking at it, one imagines laughter, clinking ice cubes, perhaps the aroma of chicken on the rotisserie, turning over hickory chips, maybe an old Smokey Robinson album. Cynthia, a trifle solemn, and Peggy, grinning, are sitting on the floor next to one another on flat cushions. Peggy’s unlined face, even in harsh light, would pass as the face of a woman ten or fifteen years younger than her fifty-two years. This light is soft. Looking at the photograph, one’s first thought would never be lesbians. It might be that Peggy and forty-seven-year-old Cynthia, a loose Afro circling her light-skinned round face, look familiar, or perhaps only very everyday.

Cynthia and Peggy taking a stroll

Cynthia and Peggy taking a stroll

The American family has changed more in the last thirty years than in the past 300. But the American couple, that hopeful and romantic duo, has remained remarkably stable. The couple’s composition, however, has altered. The second- or third-time-around heterosexuals with stepchildren from one or more previous marriages; the unwed heterosexual cohabitors; the male-male and female-female couple — each now brings a distinct voice to the chronicle of American family life.

Even ten years ago, the media emphasized ways that gay people are different. Typically, gay men were shown as limp-wristed sissies clothed in actual or metaphorical drag. Gay women were portrayed as swaggering toughs, with crudely cropped hair, a fullback’s shoulders, tattooed biceps, motorcycle boots, and overloud basso voices: “butches,” “bull dykes.” Today one rarely reads about “settled” same-sex couples. Same-sex couples have been even less visible in America than that average gay man or woman who is part of ten to eleven percent of Americas population. And lesbians have been more invisible than gay men. The recent rereadings of history from women’s perspective, however, indicate that lesbians, all along, have added themselves to the numbers of American couples. Since Colonial days, many a spinster lady, regarded as a poor unfortunate who could not win a man, set up housekeeping with another such lady. Rarely were such relationships regarded as romantic or sexual. And many may not have been. However, again under the auspices of women’s studies, scrutiny of almost three centuries of journals and letters written by American women shows many of these duos came together to meet exigencies of passion, not expenses.

Peggy and Cynthia, together now for fourteen years, are part of the growing community of gay men and women who openly and publicly — with families, at work, at banking and mortgage institutions, with landlords, merchants, neighbors — avow their relationships as couples. Peggy and Cynthia have been able to buy a home together; to socialize as a couple with male and female, gay and nongay couples; to keep jobs and receive promotions; to raise Cynthia’s son, now twenty years old; to attend PTA meetings and school functions, and all with little if any of the unpleasantness or vilification that even ten years ago would have greeted an openly lesbian couple. What trouble they have had has tended to constellate around Cynthia’s color. In the Sixties, when Cynthia first tried to buy a house in San Diego, real estate agents repeatedly told her no houses were for sale in neighborhoods where she looked. Cynthia never imagined she was not shown homes because she is gay. “It was because I am black,” she says.

In the College area neighborhood in which Cynthia and Peggy, and until recently, Cynthia’s son Brian, have lived for the past ten years, the couple’s modest house is surrounded by other similar carefully tended houses fronted by neat yards. In many of the driveways, including Peggy and Cynthia’s, boats and trailers are parked. It is a neighborhood described by Cynthia as “basically middle class, a white community.” The only open hostilities have not been provoked by or made reference to the couple’s sexual preference. After Cynthia and Peggy complained to the police about a neighbor’s loud music, someone scrawled “GO HOME NI _ER!” on the outside of the house.

Cynthia has taught in a local university for the past thirteen years. She “teaches teachers to teach.” Peggy is a social worker who has been at her job for almost twenty years. At each other’s workplace they are accepted as a couple. “We both do a few social things with people at work,” Peggy says. “I go with Cynthia, and I don’t go with her, both.” For a Christmas party at her own office, Peggy says, “they put out a flier inviting ‘yourselves, your spouse, your friends’ — and my boss didn’t say ‘significant other,’ but he did say ‘partners, special people,’ that sort of thing.” He was, Peggy surmises, “trying to show he was including Cynthia.”

On this hot, muggy afternoon Peggy and Cynthia’s living room, with its white walls, Navajo-pattern rug, and light-colored upholstered furniture, feels surprisingly cool and airy. Their cat prowls the room’s perimeter, then jumps onto the couch where Cynthia, who has strained her back in exercise class, has stretched out, her chin propped in the palm of one hand. Peggy, dressed in slacks and a polo shirt, sits on a straight-backed chair by a large desk. There is a spinet across the room from the couch, and on the wall behind Peggy is a color photograph of a forested lake, enlarged to mural size.

Peggy and Cynthia characterize themselves as “coming from the days when you didn't tell anyone, when gay men and women were almost entirely closeted.” Peggy recalls those times. “It was very painful. You think you're the only one in the whole world.” She gradually withdrew from much of her family, feeling “butterflies” at the thought they would find out. Cynthia managed by living in that cliché of soap opera, “two different worlds.”

Peggy, an only child, was born in Forks, Washington, a small logging town she describes as gorgeous in its natural setting and socially and politically as the redneck capital of the world. Her father died when she was three, and her mother remarried. To be near Peggy’s stepfather, who was in the navy, Peggy and her mother moved to Seattle when Peggy entered the third grade. Cynthia, one of fifteen children, grew up in Pewskbury, Massachusetts. Her mother was mulatto and Cynthia’s was the only black family in town. During junior high and high school, both women involved themselves in church activities. These served as “good cover,” the couple notes; no one was expected to date or be overtly sexual. But Peggy, laughing, says she developed a crush on her minister’s wife and, at eighteen, had her first same-sex relationship with her Sunday school teacher.

In their college years, both women became involved, romantically and sexually, with women. Cynthia, enrolled in Boston State at the time, felt her involvement was “a fluke.” She did not think of herself as a lesbian. Men liked her. She dated frequently and on three occasions was engaged. Peggy was enrolled at a small Presbyterian college in eastern Washington for her freshman and sophomore years. She initiated a relationship with another woman, and the woman subsequently told school authorities. “It was a big mess,” says Peggy. ‘‘They had us come in and talk to them. They put it on both of us, not just me, although they required me, the next year, to have a room to myself and to receive counseling since I had had a previous relationship and had initiated this relationship. It was the other woman’s first. But for a Christian college, they really handled it well. I went through a lot, a lot of anxiety. The counselor I went to basically tried to change me.”

Peggy’s mother and stepfather — Peggy calls him “Father” — have lived in San Diego almost thirty years, and their move to the area drew Peggy here in the late Fifties. She finished college at San Diego State, then went to work at Convair. She continued to date women and lived with several, but did not “come out” at work or with her family. Men asked her for dates from time to time. Occasionally, as she had during her college years, she would accept one of their invitations and would even go out a couple of times “until they wanted to be affectionate,” she says. But for the most part, she held men off. She learned that, without lying, she could say, “I appreciate your asking me, and I like you, but I am in a committed relationship.” Peggy’s parents were eager for her to marry. Her mother wanted grandchildren. From time to time they would ask Peggy whom she was dating, but Peggy could not find a way to tell them she was gay.

Her life centered around several gay bars in Pacific Beach, bars that Cynthia jokingly characterizes as serving “the swinging navy crowd.” “I spent the whole weekend at the bar,” Peggy says. “Friday night you would go there to meet people. On Saturday you'd go to the beach, and then in the afternoon back again to the bar to play pool. Saturday night you'd be back, and again Sunday afternoon, Sunday night.” She recalls that one evening she ran into a co-worker in a bar. Afterward, when they passed in the halls at work, both were embarrassed.

Cynthia moved to San Diego from Boston twenty-five years ago, taking a job as a special education teacher. Because she is allergic to cigarette smoke, she stayed out of bars, so she met people through friends, at dinners, brunches, and parties in homes. At one of these events she met a woman who became her lover. They moved in together, but both continued to date men. In her late twenties Cynthia married and gave birth to a child. The marriage did not last. Off and on for eight years, which included the time during which she was married, Cynthia continued to live with her lover in a closeted relationship. Cynthia believes that her years of dating, the engagements and marriage, reflect her uneasiness about her feelings toward women. To become open about her sexual preference took many years. “It was a gradual, slow process,” she says. “I think I would have been closeted forever had I not gotten into a relationship with Peggy, who is very comfortable, really comfortable, with her gayness.”

Peggy and Cynthia began dating in the summer of 1971. They first met, casually, at a Sunday brunch. At the time Peggy had a friend who worked in probation. The friend was concerned for one of the women assigned to her, a black woman, and felt that this woman needed a black woman professional for a role model. Peggy thought of the woman she had just met, Cynthia, and telephoned her with this information, suggesting that perhaps Cynthia and the black woman could meet. Cynthia remembers being livid. “Black women have to have more in common than skin color,” she told Peggy, adding, “You don’t even know me. How do you know I'd be a good role model?” The upshot of the conversation was that Peggy invited Cynthia to lunch. It was not exactly love at first sight, but they liked one another. Several evenings after the lunch together, they met again at a party where Cynthia was playing guitar and singing. “Peggy fell in love with my voice. She was hooked,” says Cynthia. As for dating, Cynthia laughs and explains that fourteen years ago in San Diego there was only the bar scene. So the couple, when they went anywhere, went to the homes of other women for brunches, dinners, and parties.

Cynthia reading

Cynthia reading

At the time they began seeing one another, Peggy was on a committee whose goal was to open a gay center in San Diego, a process begun, in part, so as to have some meeting place other than bars. Cynthia was not at all sure she wanted to be that “out,” to join that group. But Peggy assured her she did not have to become part of the committee. Peggy asked Cynthia if she was willing to have meetings at her house. Cynthia felt comfortable with that, and the group began to meet in her home. ‘And then I did the posters and the fliers,” says Cynthia. “And then they needed a filmstrip for the gay center and asked to use my voice. No one would recognize me, Peggy said, so that was perfectly all right too. Step by step,” Cynthia concludes, “I have gotten to be very out.”

When Peggy and Cynthia began living together in 1972, neither woman had been open with her family about her preference for women. “I was really uncomfortable thinking about when my family found out,” says Peggy. How did Peggy’s family learn of her gayness? Little by little. “I never wrote my parents and said, ‘Mom and Dad, I’m gay.' But I have always talked [about Cynthia and herself] in terms of ‘We this, we that.’ When they came to the house, I didn’t try to hide, say, any gay literature. I just left everything like it was. I tried to let them ease into it. After we moved here, my mother was visiting. She said, ‘Show me around your new house.’ When we got to the bedroom, she asked, ‘Do you sleep in here with Cynthia?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ That was all she wanted to hear. She continued to bring up other things, like she would mention that a woman where she works is gay.

“Then about five years ago one of my five cousins asked, ‘Are you in a gay relationship?’ I was so glad she asked me. Eventually I told all of my cousins and they told the rest of the family. One cousin told her mother, my mother’s sister. Finally my mother started talking to me about it. One day on the telephone, she said, ‘Now it’s open.’ ” Last year Cynthia and Peggy went to Washington to a reunion of Peggy’s family. Everyone, they say, was wonderful, introducing Cynthia as “Peggy’s partner.”

Cynthia began to be open with her family seven years ago. She first told an older sister. “She was here visiting,” Cynthia says, “and I was wearing a double women’s symbol on a necklace. My sister asked what the symbol meant to me. ‘It is a symbol of my lesbianism,’ I told her. She said, ‘Oh, tell me about that.’ ” Cynthia did. The conversation ended with Cynthia’s sister telling her she was happy to find Cynthia in “a loving relationship.” When the sister returned to Massachusetts she told the rest of the family. The next summer when the couple visited Cynthia’s home.

Cynthia recalls that “everyone was ready for Peggy. They treated her like any new in-law, telling her all the awful things I did as a kid, the funny family stories.” Only one of Cynthia’s siblings, “a very religious Bible Belt type,” did not welcome the couple.

Telling fellow workers came easier and sooner than telling families. Peggy first told a fellow social worker in her office with whom she is close. The woman helped her, bit by bit and one by one, to tell the others. When her office mates were discussing family life or vacation plans, Peggy would mention Cynthia, something they had done or were going to do. Essentially Peggy's message was not “I am a lesbian” but “Cynthia and I are in a relationship.” She says, “I don’t believe I should throw it in anyone’s face. I’ve just let it happen.”

One day about twelve years ago, during the early days of her coming out, Cynthia was photocopying gay center materials on her office copy machine. (“I paid for the copies,” she points out.) Cynthia believes that it was only by accident that she left two of the fliers in the machine. Peggy believes that her forgetfulness was an unconscious wish to make her involvement with the center public. Cynthia’s boss did find the fliers, brought them to her, and asked, “Are you trying to tell me something?” Cynthia told him. He took the information with apparent ease.

Peggy and Cynthia remember strict rules of dress in the Fifties and Sixties, corresponding to the two widely accepted categories of lesbians. The “butch” woman projected a masculine demeanor and was expected to perform male tasks and provide the greater financial support of the couple. The “femme” was her feminine counterpart in the relationship. The butch wore boots. Femmes didn’t wear boots. Femmes wore loafers. A butch had her hair slicked back or clipped over her ears. A femme wore her hair longer, and curled. If you were butch, you never asked another butch to dance, and vice versa. In conversational settings, butches talked with butches, femmes with femmes. When Peggy was in her bar phase, she had problems with role playing. Because she is short and petite, she looked femme. Because she is so direct — “assertive,” she says — she was perceived as behaving like a butch. “What are you, anyway?” women in bars would ask her. She recalls that, at the time, the distinctions troubled her, that she was confused, did not know what she was.

During Cynthia’s eight-year-long relationship with her female lover, she recalls that “friends would tell me I was the femme. I would telephone another couple and if the butch answered the phone, she’d say, ‘Wait, I will get Doris, or Mary’ — the femme. The butch talked to the butch and the femme talked to the femme. It was just assumed.”

Peggy and Cynthia don’t see much of that anymore. Furthermore, they explain, at the time they first got together, women were just beginning to get away from these roles. Now, Cynthia suggests with a nonchalant shrug, “Women are just women and enjoy being together and working to develop strengths in one another.

“The more feminine lesbian women are out now. The feminine women were always there. They always existed,” insists Cynthia. “We just didn’t know who they were. We used to be really embarrassed by the bull dyke with the boots and chopped-off gray hair — and you really don’t know if she’s a man or a woman except she wears a 42C. Someone pointed out to us that those women [the “bull dykes”] were the first people who were out. Those were the first people who brought to anyone’s attention that there were women who were lesbians ”

“And they were so brave,” Peggy says. “Some went through hell and back. They were really abused.” Listening to Peggy and Cynthia discuss the financial and practical aspects of their partnership, one hears what one would expect from almost any couple, one of whom has a child from a previous marriage. They jointly own their home and a vacation cabin. They own larger items together, such as cars and the camper. Listing one another as “friend-/partner,” they are the beneficiaries of- each other’s insurance policies. Cynthia mentions that when the woman with whom she lived eight years was dying of cancer in the hospital, the woman’s family would not permit Cynthia to visit; after the woman’s death, Cynthia was unable to get back things in the apartment that belonged to her. The woman’s family apparently wanted to ignore the fact that the relationship even existed. Peggy and Cynthia have written wills that would protect each of them in such a situation.

Peggy reading

Peggy reading

Peggy explains, “Joining our money is one of the ways we like to show our commitment to each other.’’ They put their paychecks together. Cynthia’s check goes into the bank to pay bills, and Peggy’s check, they say, “is what we live off of — for groceries, entertainment, paint for the house, gas for the cars.”

During the summer in which the couple began dating, Cynthia’s son Brian was away visiting his grandparents. Because Peggy had never wanted to become involved with a person who had a child, she says that she “just pretended Cynthia didn’t have Brian.’’ After Brian returned, the women dated off and on for more than a year. “We dated, and then didn’t date, then dated, then didn’t date. Because of me,’’ says Peggy. “I didn’t feel I had the make-up, I was too selfish, frankly, too selfish to share my life with a kid.”

When they did begin to live together, they drew up a dissolution agreement. “I had a hard time with that,” says Cynthia, “especially when I first got into the relationship with Peggy — and she immediately wanted a dissolution agreement!”

Peggy expands on her reasons. “I thought we should do this while we were still loving each other, and still caring, and still being fair with each other. And I had just been through a lawsuit with a woman I had been with for four years, so I was concerned about it.”

Peggy takes care of the business aspects of the relationship, she says, “in part because I like to do that sort of thing.” But household chores, the couple confesses, have remained a source of disagreement. They hired a housekeeper but still have trouble with division of chores. Cynthia does most of the cooking, she says, adding, “I do many of the same things my mother did. My mother showed her love and her caring by cooking and doing special things for you. When Peggy and I first lived together, Peggy gained weight. She told me, ‘You have got to find another way to show me you care!’ ”

Brian was seven when Cynthia and Peggy began to live together. She explained to her son that she and Peggy loved one another and that the three of them were going to be a family. They never attempted to hide their love for one another, or its nature, from him. When there would be items on the news that related to gay issues, they discussed them. Brian did not seem perturbed about the relationship. Cynthia says that he seemed to know with whom he could be frank about the relationship and with whom he couldn’t. He told certain teachers, others he didn’t. The same with friends and playmates. To some friends he would speak of “Peggy and my mom,” or “my mom and her friend,” to others he would speak of the couple as “my parents.”

Brian’s fifth-grade teacher, to whom Brian did explain his mother and Peggy’s relationship, always made a point of inviting both women to parent’s conferences. Peggy and Cynthia attended PTA meetings together. In 1979, when Brian entered Patrick Henry High School, the couple went to the sex education class preview to see the films and books, examine the materials, and talk with the instructors. They remember their surprise that only five other parents were there, and that no discussion of homosexuality was to be offered in the classes. Peggy recalls that “using some of her social worker terms,” she asked the instructors how they planned to deal with kids having identity problems. She says, “They admitted they didn’t deal with it. I piped up and said, ‘By not dealing with it you’re saying there’s something wrong with it.’ ” Among the five parents was one who was hostile to the idea of “teaching homosexuality.” That person, Peggy says, “felt that even to mention it was to promote it.” The couple left the meeting with the feeling that one of the instructors, a man, admitted that homosexuality was a “viable alternative” and was sympathetic to including homosexuality in the curriculum. The other instructor, a woman, they recall as “uptight.”

Cynthia recalls that on several occasions Brian brought home teenage women who were troubled with questions of sexual identity. She remembers that he told one of the young women, “My parents are lesbians and I think they could help you.” Cynthia talked with the young woman and gave her several books and pamphlets.

Cynthia and Peggy’s greatest difficulty in raising Brian together was what they describe as “different styles of parenting.” Peggy was strict. Cynthia was easygoing. Peggy expected Brian to keep his bed made. His mother did not really care.

In 1979 Cynthia and Peggy had an exchange student living with them for nine months. They took up the project because they thought it would be good for Brian to have a brother for a year. When they filled out the application they simply crossed out the questionnaire’s query for names of “father and mother,” substituting “our family.” They sent a photograph of themselves, Brian, the dog, and the cat. No questions were asked, says Cynthia, who believes that the organization “just sort of overlooked the implications of two women together.” The exchange student, a teenager from Mexico City, “was wonderful,” Peggy recalls, adding that they have spent Christmas in the young man’s home and that they still correspond regularly.

Cynthia notes that she had recently said that when the gay center was begun, it had seemed to her that there were not many gay people around. Attendance at concerts of women’s music was sparse. (“They call it ‘women’s music,’ ” says Peggy, “but it’s really lesbian.”) Now these concerts sell out, and with tickets often at fifteen dollars. At present there are more than a hundred different gay organizations in San Diego County. “Starting the gay center,” Cynthia points out, “was a very radical thing to do at the time. But at that time, everybody else was being radical. So we said, ‘Why shouldn’t gay people be radical too?’ Now there are so many organizations! You have so many choices. There are Slightly Older Lesbians, Women’s Energy. Then there are senior citizens working to open a retirement home for senior women.”

Now the couple says they put so much into the creation of the gay center that they are “burned out,” and although they still support the center financially, they have “faded away.” Despite this, they feel very much a part of the lesbian community. They marched with the six to seven thousand men and women who took part in the Gay Pride Parade, walking with Blood Sisters, a blood donors organization spawned by the AIDS crisis. They are on the periphery of many gay organizations, subscribe to their newsletters, and “go to meetings when something interesting comes up,” says Peggy, adding, “We go to the bars only when we have company and they want to go.”

“The Flame [a women’s bar] opened three years ago,” Cynthia says. “The ministers have already been there to picket. But we’ve never been. We both have alcoholic fathers, however, and that takes care of your desire to drink! I watched my father tear our house apart when he came home drunk. Most of our friends don’t drink. But there are a couple of nice places we like to go. There’s the Book Mark on Adams. You can go there and have quiche and a cup of hot chocolate and be very comfortable. There’s Drowsy Maggie’s on University, and a dinner place that has folk music.”

Cynthia and Peggy on a trampoline

Cynthia and Peggy on a trampoline

Peggy adds, “Drowsy Maggie’s is not gay, but it’s sort of hippish. Bohemian, I guess the word is.”

“And if you are sitting there holding hands with another woman, people there don’t care,” Cynthia says. “I think the point is that when you go somewhere socially, you want to be comfortable. You want your defenses down.”

Among lesbian women, Cynthia describes “three different groups we run across. One is very much like we are, ‘professional.’ ” She frowns at her use of the word, explaining, “I say ‘professional’ hesitantly because I don’t really know what that is. But I mean women with fairly good jobs, women who are involved in the community, sort of out but not necessarily out. Then we see a group we’ve known of for years. You have Sunday brunches at their house and the only things they do socially they do at home.”

“Or,” Peggy proposes, “at other people’s houses, if they know who is going to be there.”

“And if you invite them to a party, they’re very likely to call you up and ask you who will be there.” This group, Cynthia notes, tend to be older women, “our peers and younger,” perhaps school principals, counselors, probation officers.

These women, Peggy says, “have groups they do things with, but they’re very closed about who knows that they’re gay.”

“They’d never go to bars,” says Cynthia, shaking her head.

“They’d never go to a gay pride parade,’’ Peggy adds.

If it were discovered women in this tightly “closeted’’ group were gay, Cynthia asserts, they might be fired. But, she predicts, their employers would be subtle about what they fired them for. Peggy, however, suggests that sometimes the fear of being fired because of sexual preference is not a reality but only the gay person’s fear. Asked if she knows any woman in the area who has been fired because of her lesbianism, Cynthia can think of no one.

The greatest condemnation of local gay women, Cynthia and Peggy agree, has been from the navy. “Women on the ships have been incredibly hassled,’’ says Cynthia. “They have been ousted from the navy for lesbianism. There’s always a military legal defense fund going on in the gay and lesbian community to raise money for women in the military who need lawyers. Some of these women are eighteen-year-olds from the South. They just sort of got out of their little towns. They don’t even know what lesbianism is.’’ Cynthia suspects, too, that some charges of lesbianism by the military come “because they [the navy] just don’t want women on the ships.’’ But many of the women in the services, she says, “are gay, and that could be why San Diego has such a large gay community. They are stationed here in the navy, like it, and stay.’’

The third fairly distinct group of which Peggy and Cynthia are aware is women in their twenties. They are especially evident at concerts of women’s music, which they attend as couples. “We’re a little envious of the young women now,’’ says Cynthia. “They’re out. They don’t care who knows it. They walk along the street hand in hand. If people jeer and make remarks, they turn around and smile and just sort of enjoy themselves.”

Cynthia believes that there is much more prejudice against homosexuality among blacks than among whites. She finds several reasons for this, among them the strong church background that pervades black culture and the fact that “blacks figure they have enough problems being black. They don’t need homosexuality too.” Cynthia observes that among black children there is much more name calling and hostility toward boys who are effeminate or girls who are masculine than one sees and hears among white children. Peggy suggests that because no children come from homosexual unions, among blacks homosexuality is “seen as genocide.”

In this city, Cynthia says, “It’s very hard to find the black gay community.” There is a “lesbians of color” group, but it is more Chicana than black; and she knows of a gay men’s “black and white together” group. Not long ago Cynthia attended a lesbian conference in San Francisco and met many black women. But she knows few black lesbians in San Diego.

Peggy and Cynthia have found that even as open as they are, many people have not realized the nature of their relationship. “We’ve even left out gay literature right here on the coffee table and people just overlook it,” Cynthia says. “They just don’t see it. If I tell them, say, two or three years down the line, they may seem surprised. I will ask, ‘Didn’t you notice how many gay books were on the table?’ No, they just didn’t see it. Perhaps they are people who are just not interested in books!” She laughs and adds, “Peggy has Reader’s Digest and boating books!”

“Again,” Peggy says, “it’s one of those things in which we present ourselves as we are and people will take what they can take. They will interpret what they can interpret. And if they can handle it they’ll think, ‘I bet they’re gay.’ ”

“And if they can’t handle it?” asks Cynthia rhetorically.

“Then they say, ‘They are two nice ladies who live together,’” answers Peggy.

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