Monday, December 24, 2007

Secret Lives of Women

(By Malinda Lo, Managing Editor, Women's Entertainment channel)
The docu-reality series Secret Lives of Women went behind the scenes to reveal the secret lives of lipstick lesbians. As Sarah mentioned last week in this column, the series' previous episodes include exposés of phone sex operators and so-called "black widows" (wives who killed their husbands), so I didn't have high hopes for Secret Lives of Women: Lipstick Lesbians.

But I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, parts of it were tacky (it opened with the narrator declaring, "It's every man's fantasy and every woman's curiosity"), but parts of it weren't bad.

Interestingly, the word "femme" (which many of us use more often than "lipstick lesbian") was very sparingly used in the WE program. Each one of the LLs had to say to the camera: "My name is so-and-so, and I am a lipstick lesbian" as if they belonged to a Lipstick Lesbians Anonymous group or something.

I can just imagine the meetings such a group would have. You'd have a bunch of women sitting in a circle with their legs crossed (wearing heels), trying to resist misapplying lipstick by going through a 12-step program to cleanse themselves of their shameful makeup addiction.

Step 1: Admit that you have an addiction to lipstick. Step 2: Recognize that an outside power (the friendly gay guy at the Mac counter) can help. Step 3: Consciously rely on that power ("Carson, should I get Rage or Lady Danger?"). [Fast forward a few months.] Step 8: Make a list of all the women you've smeared your lipstick on and offer to launder their shirt collars, vintage T-shirts and/or other accessories.

But back to the show. Lipstick Lesbians echoed what a lot of you were saying on the blog this week: The definition of a lipstick lesbian is elusive, and all labels are imperfect. (Only the men on the show seemed to have an agreed-upon definition: Lipstick lesbians are "the ones that guys always think about.") The women on the show all gave varying and quite broad definitions of what makes a lipstick lesbian, and they were quite diverse themselves as well.

There was the homo twin phenomenon (women who date women who look like themselves) in Sandy Sachs and Robin Gans, the co-founders of L.A.'s Girl Bar.

Through it all, we got to see lesbians in long-term relationships, going on dates, kissing each other (lots of kissing!), planning to have children and talking about family — quite an inclusive portrait of feminine lesbians. I even got a little choked up at the end when Melissa spoke about her relationship with Amanda, who forces her to help her choose every single outfit she puts on. Despite the styling pressure, Melissa said, "It's just like the first time we met every time we see each other." Aw. That was actually cute.

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