Cathy Brown, a pitcher on a Chicago softball team, was wildly infatuated with her catcher. Throughout the season, she attempted to woo her by using the passive-aggressive dating techniques prescribed by Cosmopolitan magazine, bending these girlish rituals to suit the sweaty demands of a lesbian lifestyle. Brown (name changed to protect the devious) would suggestively brush her fingers against the catcher's palm when handing her a bat. She'd wear lingerie beneath her poly-blend uniform to make herself feel sexy and desirable.
Despite Brown's efforts, the catcher remained blind to her desires. She interpreted Brown's meaningful looks from the pitcher's mound as confusion about the ball count. And she mistook Brown's bouts of lovesick melancholy as depression over the team's lousy record.
Summer was drawing to a close, and Brown had all but given up hope of winning the catcher's heart. But, then, a miracle occurred. During a playoff game, a runner barreled into home, smashing the catcher's lovely head into the plate. Brown sprinted from the mound, pushing aside other players in her rush to reach her beloved. She gathered the fallen catcher in her arms (at last!) and carried her off the field.
"She was bleeding all over," said Brown, still giddy from the memory. "I removed my shirt and used it to clean her wound. I took her to the hospital for stitches. And then we started dating."
Some people think that the only thing lesbians have going for them is their ability to talk for hours about their cats. But what really sets us apart -- aside from our interesting hairdos -- is our knack for recognizing that a concussion is merely a dating opportunity dressed up in a bloody bandage.
Lesbians spend most of their lives running around like idiots on softball and rugby fields. So it's not surprising that many relationships begin in an emergency room -- especially given the fact that for all their athletic bravado, lesbians are notoriously bashful in more genteel pursuits. Many lesbians would rather cruise the softball diamonds, waiting for a cute girl to stumble and fall, than simply invite her over for dinner.
"It's really hard to ask someone for her phone number. She might say 'no.' But if someone you're attracted to breaks her leg, she's not going to stop you from helping her limp off the field," explained Sue Ryan, a 29-year-old who plays football and softball, and who recently completed the Chicago Marathon. "You can put your arms around her waist, and it's a perfectly acceptable way to start touching her."
Sports injuries and their associated scar tissue have a magnetic effect on lesbian hands. Walk into any lesbian bar and you're sure to find a woman with one pant leg rolled up, getting her damaged flesh petted by bewitched patrons. "You see a wicked knee scar and you say 'ooooh,' and you want to touch it," explained Vicky Vasconcellos, a member of the Chicago softball team that placed fourth in the 1998 Gay Games in Amsterdam.
"Scars are an icebreaker," said Ryan. "They give you something to talk about when you're standing at the bar. Once a bunch of women start talking about their injuries, well, it can go on all night. It's gross, but it's a good way to get to know someone."
In addition to its social cachet, a sports injury may provide your first clue in this increasingly ambiguous world that a woman is a lesbian. In fact, to some, if you don't sport a shiny, jagged line on your body, your sexuality just may be open for debate.
"If I see someone who doesn't have knee scars, I think she may not be a real lesbian," said Vasconcellos. About 10 years ago, Vasconcellos injured her knee in a skiing accident. "At the time I was injured I was beginning to realize I was gay. As my knee healed, I became more lesbian."
"Maybe my knee injury turned me into a lesbian," she added, thoughtfully.
Indeed, vast acres of lesbian flesh have been marred by sports-related injury. And these scars are considered nothing less than badges of honor. Ryan, like most sports dykes, rattles off her injuries (a couple broken fingers; a thumb muscle torn off her palm) like a proud parent.
Alarmingly, most lesbians who play sports have injured their fingers -- the instruments most essential in girl-on-girl lovemaking. "Hands are very important," said Beth Prestia soberly. During a football game last year, Prestia suffered a painful butt injury. "It was either land on my butt or my hands. I chose my butt."
Certain injuries hold more allure than others, and the degree to which you suffer plays an important role in who you attract. Knee injuries, for example, are the meat-and-potato wounds of the lesbian community. More exotic -- and life-threatening -- injuries increase your chances of collecting phone numbers.
"When I hear that someone has a torn rotator cuff I think, 'Oh, they must have thrown the ball really hard,' and it excites me," said Glenda Woods. She asked to be identified as single and looking for a woman with bloody knees (another indication that a woman is an aggressive player).
Some women have shamelessly played upon the sexual empathy of their sisters by exaggerating a minor injury or simply faking illness. "I once feigned peripheral vision blindness to evoke the sympathy of someone I thought was drifting," admitted Lauren Love, whose fear of real physical harm keeps her off the field. "Sometimes I can hear bones crunching. It's surreal; an internal sound that becomes external -- kind of like Poe's heart."
Traditionalists, though, have no patience for posers. They are captivated by nothing less than mangled limbs and lots of blood. "I'm only impressed by anything that requires emergency surgery or a cast. And an amputation is always good, " said Sharon Brosnan, who became wise to malingering after her former lover experienced one too many "elective" surgeries.
Savvy lesbians use their own painful experiences to bond with their injured love interests. Last year, Vasconcellos employed her knowledge of knee injuries to win the love of her girlfriend, Deb Hamlin. On their first date, Vasconcellos planned to jet Hamlin to Colorado for a Jimmy Buffett concert. But the weekend was nearly ruined before it began when Hamlin arrived at Vasconcellos' house hobbled by a softball injury.
"I was totally disinterested in anything but my throbbing knee," said Hamlin. "I didn't know how I'd make it through the trip." Undaunted, Vasconcellos rummaged around her basement for a cane while an airport limo idled in the driveway.
Their first stop in Denver? A Target store where the lovebirds shopped for a knee brace. After they returned home, Vasconcellos introduced her new girlfriend to her closet of custom-made braces. "It was overwhelming," said Hamlin.
Hamlin admitted, though, that she found one of the braces particularly sexy. "Oooh, the German one," she said.
"Because it's German," she purred.
Vasconcellos fancies herself the Coco Channel of reconstructive surgery fashion. She advises lesbians to think of style as well as practicality when outfitting themselves for the sidelines. "You have to change your whole attire, especially with a major leg injury. You'll have to wear legless things, or just panties."
"When choosing a brace, your first priority should be color," she added. "My favorite is burgundy because I wear a lot of gray and those colors match well. Also with this brace, they offered to engrave my name on it for free. So don't forget the perks."
Oddly enough, there are some lesbians who have yet to experience the sensual delights of wrapping metal or plaster around their flesh. Sue Farr, or Casper as she is known to her teammates, is one of these women.
"Casper remains relatively dateless because she has not capitalized on her injuries," explained Vasconcellos. "She plays for the team, not for herself. It doesn't get her laid, but it wins her the admiration of her teammates."
"But I don't want admiration," complained Casper. "I want sex."
A few years ago, Casper suffered an ugly leg injury while playing softball. Instead of sitting out the game and enjoying the tender pettings from sympathetic spectators, she bandaged the wound and limped through the game.
"In hindsight, it was a stupid decision," she said. "I shouldn't have stopped the bleeding."
Even if Casper had parlayed her injury into dinner and a movie, the romance may have ended before the scab fell off. Lesbian relationships are often as fragile as the scar tissue they are built on. And when it's over, all that remains is a bone that aches when it rains.
Brown's relationship with the catcher lasted only a few months after the head injury brought them together. She was left with only her memories and the shirt that she used to mop the woman's bloody head.
"I wear the shirt to clean fish at my cabin," she said, mournfully. "You can still see her blood stains. They won't wash out."