(October 4-8, 1993)

The film is nearly ten years old by the time we watch it in World Cultures. My classmates: all girls, all bored. I try to feign boredom as a way to fit in, but it’s hard to hide what I’m feeling. It’s also hard to explain. Yentl wants to study, so she cuts her hair and changes her clothes, pretends to be a boy named Anshel. But she’s too pretty to be a boy, isn’t she? I’ve never seen a boy with cheekbones like that. When I look at her, either way—long-haired girl she was, short-haired boy she becomes—my stomach pangs like it’s lunchtime, but it’s only nine a.m. Later, when Anshel kisses Hadass, the woman s/he’s supposed to marry, the pang becomes a tug, and the tug is lower than my stomach, hard and sharp like my zipper is caught beneath me, and there’s no way to pull it up. You should have seen the light—so soft, almost angelic. Their faces in silhouette as they kiss and kiss, turning their heads every time their noses bump. Hadass wants to do more than kiss, but Anshel won’t let things go any further. I want to know what doing more, what going further means, exactly. I have never seen two women kiss like this before, and every time I think about their mouths coming together in the semi-light and the semi-dark, I feel that tug again. It means something that isn’t meant for words. Instead, I thank Ms. Curran for showing us the film. This is another day, after class, no one else around. I say, “It’s so nice to see something progressive for once. My parents won’t even let me watch Picket Fences because of what happened last spring.” She doesn’t know the show, doesn’t know what happened. “Oh, just because—well, the two teenaged girls—they kissed each other.” Ms. Curran is so nice, so progressive. She isn’t a nun, and she kept her maiden name even after she got married. She chose not to have children and made sure we always wrote Ms., not Miss, the Gloria Steinem way. But now I see how her brow crinkles, how she twists her head like a corkscrew. “This isn’t like that,” she says. “Yentl isn’t a lesbian.” I startle to hear her say the word aloud. “No—I mean, I know—but she played those scenes with Hadass.” Ms. Curran twists her head again. “Hadass isn’t a lesbian either. She really believes Anshel is a man.” Instead of a tug, a sinking feeling, like a coin dropping into a well. “But—Barbra Streisand is a woman, and she kissed the other actress—I don’t remember her name. In the end, it’s still two women kissing, even if one of them is wearing a disguise.” Ms. Curran becomes more adamant now, says it more firmly this time: “No, it isn’t, Julie. Intentions matter. Reasons matter. All Yentl wants is a good education, and all Hadass wants is a good husband. End of story.”

Julie Marie Wade is the author of eleven collections of poetry and prose, including the recently released Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing (The Ohio State University Press, 2020) and Same-Sexy Marriage: A Novella in Poems (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2018). A recipient of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir and grants from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University and reviews regularly for Lambda Literary Review and The Rumpus. Julie is married to Angie Griffin and lives on Hollywood Beach. Learn more on her author website: www.juliemariewade.com.

Photo by Christina Brobby