What do you call a lesbian
who owns a house and has tenants? A landlady? I never was a lady so how can
owning property turn me into one? I mean, outside of starring in a Merchant
Ivory production alongside Helena Bonham Carter where my land ownership might
in fact earn me the title of lady and grant me access to Ms Bonham Carter’s boudoir.
Besides, the term
landlady carries certain connotations. Like: drab housecoat, constant
cigarette dangling from yesterday’s lipstick, faded
curlers, chipped nail polish, an unwillingness to fix anything that’s only slightly less annoying than her chihuahua, and the distinct
possibility that she doesn’t actually own the place
but lives there in exchange for sexual favours. It’s just not me. Well,
except maybe that last part.
But am I a landlord? I
don’t have a dick (well, not one that’s ever limp), I don’t own a tweed coat or nice loafers, I didn’t grow up expecting to
own property, it wasn’t handed down to me, I
definitely don’t own more than one building and I’m not travelling to
Tahiti on the profits.
neanderthal. Landdyke sounds geological. Land manager sounds hierarchical.
Landlesbian sounds birkenstockeral.
I joined the ranks of
home owning homos last summer. There seems to be a growing number, at least of
lesbians, who’ve crossed the floor from tenant to owner. We’re tired of shelling out
for someone else’s mortgage and of being on the evictable side
of the arrangement.
But we’re a new breed of home owner—as evidenced by the lack
of a term to adequately name us. We’re adding a new hue to
the spectrum of those who own and rent property, not only as women but as out
queers. So far I prefer the term landlord if only because, outside of the
possibility of intimate access to Helena, I’d rather be mistaken for
a lord than a lady.
My reasons for buying had
little to do with investment and much to do with securing affordable housing
for my daughter and I. Selling your life to one of Canada’s major banking institutions might not be the first definition of
affordable that springs to mind, but in the month to month economics, paying a
mortgage with the assistance of rental income was cheaper by far than paying
for equivalent space in the rental market. I decided it was time to put the
savings I had towards keeping my monthly living costs low and giving my
daughter the security of knowing that, in the coming teenage years, she has her
very own door to slam.
Though it’s eliminated some stresses, owning a house is not exactly the
worry-free, got-it-made state of living I imagined it might be. First of all,
the safety net of savings strung under my impulsive existence as a writer and
performer has been sold to the bank. Now I’m dependent on someone
else’s solvency to meet my mortgage payments and I’m on the hook for any and
The plumbing, gas,
electricity, roof, walls and even the gorgeous giant elm on the front lawn
become not just the elements that make my home sheltered and comfortable, but
potential costly problems. Who knows when the furnace might sigh its last and
quit? If the sewer trap can collapse (and it did), how sturdy are the rest of
the pipes? How long before the snow or rain sneaks in between the shingles?
On bad days I can
identify with the floating ducks in an arcade. It’s not a matter of whether
I’ll get shot, but when.
On the other hand, I’ve also learned how to successfully put together a do-it-yourself garden
shed and that I have the rare advantage of friends who can decipher the
instruction booklet. (I’m still thankful we didn’t recycle the cardboard panels we later found out were the door
insulation.) I know how to fix a leaking water tap, and that the guy at my
local hardware store is happy to talk me through the steps of minor home maintenance
(which is way better than at Home Depot, where you could dehydrate and be sold
as lumber before you got an “associate” to help you.) I’ve got my own yard, my
own front porch, and my own dreams about renovation.
And I’ve got the freedom to be as out as I want. I don’t have to fudge facts on
a housing application, don’t have to worry I don’t look girl enough to be a trustworthy, don’t have to experience the
pitiful gratitude that my landlord “knows” and is okay with it, don’t have to navigate the
judgements or curiosity of co-tenants in the same building.
It’s my place. The tenants, if straight (which mine are), and sensible
(which mine sort of seem to be), can’t risk being openly
homophobic. Whether or not they hold the conventional opinion that it’s too bad I can’t get a man, they at
least have to be polite, even friendly, when I show up with cropped, unevenly
bleached hair and no nonsense glasses, in baggy work pants and a sloganed
sweatshirt, with a wrench and a package of washers, heading for their bathroom.
And if I kiss a girl in
the front hallway, in the backyard or on the porch in front of their living
room window, they better consider it part of the scenery. In fact, I’m thinking of making it clear that I’m not going to tolerate
too much openly heterosexual behaviour.
Why don’t we call that, a welcome change.
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