One more and then the bill

Z (SETA magazine) 2/1995

I'm stepping into the place where the dance is held. Right by the door, a woman is lying unconscious. She's surrounded by a small crowd of people, a few of whom are trying to determine whether she is ill, or whether she is drunk and has just passed out. The latter is found out to be the case.

It's 1995, but it could quite as well be 1978, or any year I've known in the span of time between them. No one knows at which point lesbians took to drink, as it has always been like that. Will it always be so?

On an Internet mailing list, I spotted someone arguing that it is financially profitable to arrange events for lesbians. They will drink wherever they go and are thus "good customers" who will make the booze flow. This logic seems very desolate to me, in some hidden, lesbian-despising way.

I'm thinking of one of my past lovers. This defiant woman with a small income and a lifetime of hardships seized her mug of beer on Fridays as if it was her only friend, and stated: "I like to get drunk. I love beer. What's that to be ashamed for?" Once upon a time, she remained sitting at Vanhan Kellari with her mug of beer when I broke up with her and fled from there.

Last year, a lesbian bar was opened in Helsinki. There seemed to be more than enough patrons, during the short time I felt like stopping by to watch the bar life and the times of the women with their beermugs. I won't soon forget the particular visit when a totally drunk woman shouted loudly enough for practically everybody to hear that "no one has yet fallen asleep" between her thighs.

A Finnish lesbian fights for her living space enforced with beer. She needs a place where to go for a drink, and preferably from there to somewhere else where she can dance, hear loud music, and then pass out surrounded by other lesbians. The available cash is measured by the standard of whether one has enough of it to buy beer for each evening. If not, then you'll borrow some money. If you cannot borrow any, then you will miss the fun, as in Finland, such spaces are rare where you can be a lesbian among other lesbians without booze. And when alcohol becomes a necessity for meeting other women, it will of course also become an inseparable part of a dyke's life.

I'm not too familar with those attempts that have been made, also in Finland, towards being in charge of one's life without alcohol. I'm sure that many women have been able to sober up and grow stronger that way. But nothing seems to be quite enough, not in Finland, where it often seems that you aren't a real full-blooded lesbian if you don't drink, either in full earnest, or at least half-heartedly.

In the early 1980's, I read an impressive book edited by an American author, Jean Swallow: "Out from Under: sober dykes and our friends". It describes, in rather activist tones, becoming sober and living without alcohol. It inspired confidence in a community and in a future not controlled by drinking events.

Jean Swallow committed suicide in the beginning of this year, at age 41, after her life's conflicts had grown overwhelming. In Finnish lesbian gatherings, thousands of cases of beer are clinking, and a drunken woman and her companion will have yet another drink somewhere, even today. What will the bill amount to?

Copyright 1995 Eva Isaksson
Do not use without author's permission.