Personal is Political: Guinevere – The Feminist Wire

Personal is Political: Guinevere

By Elizabeth Dunphey

++++I am thinking of you, Guinevere.  We were practical sisters, at seventeen.  I met you at a party.  It was the 90s.   You were wearing a ski cap over chocolate brown locks.  You had a thoughtful face. Your nose was a bit askew, crooked, but I thought you were kind of pretty. Quirky pretty, like Mayim Bialik. The candlelight caught the glints of your red-rimmed eyeglasses. Out of all the girls at the party, you were the outspoken tomboy.

++++You weren’t comfortable with traditional gender roles.   You wanted to study women’s studies in college.

++++“Eat, drink, and be merry!” you crowed.  Your voice was big and powerful and special.  You grabbed my hand to read my palm, and told me I would meet a man with a Spanish accent one day.  You were a total tomboy.  I liked you for it, so much, in that moment.

++++At 20, finally a grown woman, I met you again.  I studied East Asian history, but I knew how to read Sontag, Lorde, and Wurtzel very well.  I had fresh, waist-length honey hair.  My eyes were green.  I always wore black.  I was movie star stunning, hard as a diamond, brighter than Tuesday Weld.  The electrifying life of a downtown coffee-shop party.

++++Then it all dissolved. Our tender quasi-lesbian union broke, la blonde and la brune, like those glass snowballs they sell at Christmas.  It was Christmas that we re-united in your ranch house with your decrepit yellow Neon car in the front.  Your parents were divorced.  Maybe that made you bitter.  You dropped out of college in LA.  You popped pills and listened to The Strokes.

++++“I hate my life,” you told me.  You were slumming big time, and you were determined to bring my glossy golden girl ship down with you.   This sometimes happens with the femme-butch cycle.

++++You began to lightly tease me, to get in digs, in front of our mutual friend, Jeb Jones, who we both secretly loved and vied for, just because he had a voice that was smooth as an NPR radio man.  We were absolute evil to each other, just because of the boy. Like a magnet or red wine, I hung on Jeb’s words.  One night, we kissed in the back of his old Saab, and I ran my fingertips over his razor sharp beard, woozy with delight.  He ignored me the next day.

++++What I could never understand was that Brigitte Bardot’s beauty lost to chutzpah.

++++I dangled my perfectly pretty face in his vein of vision, and you slugged him in the arm, like a pal. It always ate at me that he liked you.  Your secret “best buds” looks.  Your inside jokes.  It took a lot of growing up to forgive you, and the truth is, maybe I never can.  It must have delighted Jeb to have the attention.

++++I needed 12 steps to get over you.

++++I sulked. I resented you completely, but I stayed your comrade in arms for seven years, until I finally cut the ties.

++++I did what I should have, that frosty night in late December when we watched the ball drop for Dick Clark and the beautiful tune of Auld Lang’s Syne began to play, the moment I met you and the doom began.  The sister turning on the other feminist sister.  The song is really pretty. It represents change, but for whatever reason, I never listen to that song anymore.  It resonates on a sad frequency. It’s something I have left behind, along with you—my Guinevere.

friendship and sisterhoodElizabeth Dunphey studied Southern Literature at New York University and creative writing at Dartmouth College.  She has been published in Kalyani Magazine, Milk Magazine, The Avalon Literary Review, Litbomb, and Wooden Bear Zine.