This is the lesbian breaking point. Despite our collective lack of lady parts and general inability to make mountains out of our nippled molehills, Tony and I are this close to cracking the khaki-cargo ceiling as we shift uncomfortably in my Volkswagen people mover. For him, it's a tale of pseudo-husband passive aggression involving the burning of digital photographs onto a CD: the hemming, the hawing, the you're-going-out-without-me-but-not-yet tendrils of man-on-man domesticity interfaced with technology. For me, well, it's the slightly less reasonable cacophony of facial dickslapping peppered with out-of-bounds politics that include (but are not limited to) pronouncements of stoic anarchism. The takeaway in both cases is that an overabundance of self-serving X chromosomes in the close confines of a singular living experience can be a suffocating — if not castrating — experience. For the benefit of our evening, we're celebrating our emasculation and hopping genders.
We will not be ourselves.
"I'm blond, so I get to be Emily," I spring up like a wild pubic hair. "Everything I say for the rest of the night will lilt with sunset hope. I intend to be reflective and pitchy and will probably sing softly about the southland in the springtime multiplying life by the power of two."
"Fine, I'm Amy," Tony gristles. "There's a dead dog on the highway next to a rusted out chicken shack full of sugar tongues. The higher you leap, the harder the ground."
Together, we are the butch-fey complex of Indigo Girls, or at least some tragic nostalgia derivation thereof, waxing hot drips down the side of old red wine bottles and onto yellowed, dog-eared pages of paperback tomes of conflicted empowerment. All around are windswept prairies littered with poetic tumbleweeds, kicked-up clouds of rhetorical dust shape-shifting doubt into darkness. We are no longer Tony and Billy of the long-term relationship grumbles, but rather "You and me of the 10,000 wars, dividing life into factions of pleasure and chores." But, oh, we're dissatisfied. This is a chore.
"It isn't taking," my voice cracks into a whine. "I think I need a glass of wine."
"I think you're already whining."
Tonight was supposed to be a jubilant re-creation of our standard sentimental fare set to music, another pilgrimage into the Sapphic depths of glass-half-empty-but-spilled rhymes aboard the touring Indigo Girls showboat. We've both been priming ourselves for at least a week, crouching in corners next to bedroom speakers and crowing on and on about "what separates me from you, now?" But, as with most plans overlaid in not necessarily the best manner, the reality of the actual occasion — in this case, a big lesbian show out at the House of Blues — doesn't match its prior anticipation. Which, in its own way, is a very Indigo Girls kind of feeling.
"You should have two tickets for me," I stare into a cement face topped with a banana clip at the House of Blues box office. "Check under Emily Saliers. I mean Billy Manes."
Some half-hearted shuffling around and a "no" follow, as do some muted protestations, iPhone e-mail confirmations, subtle pouts, and everything short of the hallowed, "Don't you know who I am?" performance art so associated with this particular low rung of reportage which, I should note, will be dying a quiet death with this column on April 1, bless its heart. The vagabond vignette necessarily ends with my credit card and a lick of shame. Just a lick, though.
We're in the door a few minutes later and scooting around among the ladies of anti-luxury, searching for the valve (vulva?) release of a smokers' area from which to stare off into what might have been. Over in one corner, a mess of Crystal Gayle flat-ironing has lost her footing before the show even starts, forcing her attendant lipstick ladyfriend into the nurture mode of a bottled water hunt. She might have been sober.
"They really take care of each other," I blink blankly at Tony, trying to regain my assumed character. "The power of two, indeed."
"I'll get you some wine," he heads off in search of a plastic cup of table vinegar drippings, while I get down to the business of lowering my expectations.
Initially, I'm completely wrong to do so. Opener Brandi Carlile — a pert and punchy powerhouse of bluesy bellowing — howls out a wall of towering sadness about turpentine and facial lines, spinning the night into some kind of USO musical philanthropy for the embattled of heart. I can almost feel my breasts growing!
Then, with two giant twigs over a billowing sheet as their backdrop, Emily and Amy take to the stage for some clunky can kicking, punctuating their frumpy fantastic with occasional burps of "thanks, y'all," as they are wont to do. Without sounding like too much of a pathetic fanboy — or, rather, a dumpy lesbian — I think it's important to acknowledge that no Indigo Girls show is ever what you want it to be. Their extensive oeuvre may be near perfect in its shades of miserablism, but it's also tainted with whiny anthems (hello, "Go") not suitable for gay male ears — clunkers that play out like dog whistles intended only for those familiar with the art of cunnilingus. Also, those three hidden nuggets that you showed up to hear? They never play them, no matter what they might be that week. They are fickle friends, those Indigo Girls, and for every "Ghost of the Gang" that you're yearning for, there's a 20-minute rollout of the preposterous "Chickenman."
"I'm not complaining," I complain to Tony, "but, really? They couldn't at least play the exact set list I needed them to in order to become whole again?"
"No," Tony isn't nearly as deflated as I am. "That's up to you. If you're going to be a lesbian, you can't be so choosy."
That, I'm afraid, is the lesbian breaking point. Bring on the slapping firstname.lastname@example.org