• Patricia Grayhall

Girls Can Kiss Now


Girls Can Kiss Now by Jill Gutowitz contains clever essays by a young woman exploring identity, desire, and self-worth. Pop culture, a “fun-house mirror reflecting our values” is the backdrop to her life as she explores the evolution of lesbian culture in the media during her lifetime.


Born in the 1990s, I was surprised to note that Jill was indoctrinated with the same homophobia that I experienced in the 1960s. I thought girls born more than 40 years after me, had access to more support and better role models, but now I realize that the mainstreaming of lesbian culture and our society’s greater embrace of different ways humans love one another is relatively recent, perhaps less than a decade old.


Jill’s book is not only funny, but poignant as well, so that even those of us of a certain age may recognize ourselves in it. One section of the book particularly resonated with me and mirrors what I have written in my own memoir about how the culture influenced my concept of same-sex relationships. My exposure to lesbian culture in Boston in the 1970s celebrated women’s desire but not how to sustain a relationship beyond that. Jill describes how the rom coms of her youth influenced her earliest understanding of love, that “winning the girl, …was the finished line. But they did not tell me what the fuck to do after you actually HAVE the girl—you know actually BE in a relationship for the rest of your life.”


Jill writes that lesbian books and films led her to believe that lesbian love was all about the yearning. Even Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Blue is the Warmest Color are all about the yearning- that the lovers get together briefly but it does not end well. In fact, none of the movies or books of my youth ended well for lesbians. The consummation of a woman’s desire for another woman always resulted in disaster: loss, ruination and often, death.


Jill makes fun of lesbian movies being primarily about the glances. Women could yearn to be together even though they cannot, but “goddammit they will glance.” Jill notes that she loved glancing and yearning--sometimes more than being in an actual relationship—because that is what she learned from pop culture lesbian love was all about.


Certainly, I have done my share of glancing and yearning—for my childhood friend Becky, for my best friend in college, for my straight British colleague at the Harvard School of Public Health. Jill maintains that “Wanting anything is embarrassing, but having something? It can’t be done. Especially as a lesbian, but also as a woman in general.” She gives the example of Hillary Clinton, among others.


I hope that my memoir will show that if you have been told that your passions and desires are wrong or impossible, you can indeed realize your dreams with courage and persistence.


I was glad to see that Jill’s book has a happy ending for her.