About ten years ago, I came out as a lesbian, divorced my husband of nine years and moved into a condo with my 3 1/2 year-old son. My best friend and her male companion helped with the move.
After the bulk of the work was complete and things were as settled as they were going to be for day one on my own, my friend handed me a long, narrow cardboard box.
“Sorry about the crappy wrap job,” she said. “But we saw this yesterday and felt like you needed to have it.”
Intrigued, I sliced open the cardboard box. Inside in all its gleaming wonder was a full-size replica prop sword from the television show Xena: Warrior Princess. “Whoa,” said this awestruck Xena fanatic. The sword has a shiny, razor-sharp silver blade and a black leather handle that forms an intricate cross when combined with the gold metalwork and inlaid mother of pearl studs.
I raised the sword as the sun streamed in through the bay window of my new condo. It was solid and heavy and the handle fit my hand like a glove. Using both hands (this bad boy was h-e-a-v-y), I slashed through the air in perfect Amazon form. I swear I heard the gods singing down from Mount Olympus. The tune was either Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” or something off of Alanis Morrisette’s “Jagged Little Pill.”
In case you don’t know, Xena: Warrior Princess was a television show that ran from 1995 until 2001. The show starred Lucy Lawless as Xena and Renee O’Conner as her sidekick Gabrielle. Xena traveled across ancient Greece seeking redemption for her past sins by fighting for the “greater good” using her trademark sword and deadly throwing disc called a “chakram.” The show reached cult status in the lesbian community. There has been much debate as to whether Xena and Gabrielle were lovers. (The writers threw in a couple of kisses and leading dialogue — or “lesbian subtext” — to keep fans guessing.) Personally, I think most lesbians just liked watching Lawless kick ass in a short leather skirt and corset.
“I’m not sure what you’re going to do with it,” my friend said, pointing to my new status symbol.”
I will hang it over my bed,” I replied, slashing and posing and just being a bad-ass lesbian with a bad-ass sword.
In my just-out-of-the-closet mind, a sword mounted over my bed would communicate my virility and sexual prowess to the bevy of sexual conquests soon to come. It would say: “Warrior in life and in bed.” Or: “Allow your desires to yield to mine.” Or: “If I need to, I will cut you with this very sharp sword.” You never can be too careful with strange girls that you bring home from the bar.
Flip forward ten years and the sword sits in its original box in a bedroom closet. It was never mounted above my bed or anywhere else for that matter.
It has moved from condo to house to apartment to apartment to apartment to house. The past decade has been filled with transition, but the sword remains a constant.
I think of my friend and her then-boyfriend/now-husband who gave me the sword. It must have set them back $200 or $300 at the time. It’s a real replica, mind you, not a fake replica. Of course, there’s the generosity of such a gift. They could have spent less money on a more traditional housewarming gift like a toaster or a weed whacker.
Mostly, though, I think about how they purchased the sword because they knew I would love it. It’s expensive and impractical and dangerous, but hell she’ll get a kick out of it, they must have thought.
I took it as a vote of confidence in me and my decision to live my life as a lesbian. Score: Lesbian 1. Haters: 0.
I still take out the sword from time to time. The kids always ask to hold it. I give them each about 60 seconds to swing it around.
“It’s heavy,” they invariably say.
“I bet you can kill someone with this,” they also say.
That’s why the sword-holding sessions are supervised and brief and the sword is stowed away in the back of a closet.
Sometimes, I pull out the sword when I’m feeling down. I hold its weight in my hand and remember what it once symbolized — the promise of a new life. A swashbuckling life filled with adventure and risk and loose women who are really good in bed.
More than that, the sword stood for power and strength and being unafraid to be who you were born to be.
The sharpness of the sword makes me think of this quote from Katha-Upanishad.
“The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.”
I think about how hard the past decade has been. But I’ve managed to soldier on, sword at the ready, fighting life’s battles in true warrior princess fashion. Not merely posing as an Amazon warrior with replica sword in hand, but being a warrior in thought and deed. Always battling for the “greater good” or at least the greater good as I see it.
My gifted Xena sword helps me remember a younger woman with dreams and hopes and desires who had the strength to embrace change and live her life as she saw fit, even if it meant going against the grain.
I have to stop more often and remember that this younger woman still lives inside of me.
(By the way, I don’t really love my Xena sword more than my wife and kids. Although she (the sword) never talks back and doesn’t get PMS. And the wife has yet to watch a single epsiode of Xena, even though I own the complete series. I just remembered that there is a lot of bellydancing in these shows, which just might be enough to pique her interest.)