Love, Jane

Geist - - Findings - JANE RULE

From A Queer Love Story: The Let­ters of Jane Rule and Rick Bébout, edited by Mar­i­lyn R. Schus­ter. Pub­lished by UBC Press in 2017. Jane Rule was a writer, teacher and ac­tivist. Schus­ter is the au­thor of Pas­sion­ate Com­mu­ni­ties: Read­ing Les­bian Re­sis­tance in Jane Rule’s Fic­tion. The “Ger­ald” re­ferred to in th­ese let­ters is Ger­ald Han­non, au­thor of “Men Lov­ing Boys Lov­ing Men.”

March 31, 1992

Dear Rick:

The edi­tor of the Mills Quar­terly phoned to say they were do­ing a se­ries of ar­ti­cles on mi­nori­ties at Mills and won­dered if I’d do one on les­bians. I’d just been read­ing a good ar­ti­cle by Adri­enne Rich in the Rad­cliffe Quar­terly and won­der­ing why the Mills Quar­terly couldn’t man­age to be half as in­ter­est­ing. So, con­trary to my vow of re­tire­ment, I said yes I would. As I re­mem­bered what it was like to be a les­bian at Mills in the ’40s, I re­al­ized that the of­fense was be­ing sex­ual at all, never mind what ori­en­ta­tion. I re­mem­bered a ridicu­lous lec­ture given us by an em­bar­rassed woman doc­tor who wanted us to save our vir­gin­ity as a great gift to our hus­bands and the pa­per we were asked to write af­ter­wards en­ti­tled “A Liv­able Sex Phi­los­o­phy.” And the jam I got into for be­ing flip­pant in mine.

You have never talked specif­i­cally about how you in­tend to be looked after when you need it. What op­tions do you have? Are they ones you feel all right about?

He­len is fi­nally sched­uled for the re­moval of one of her cataracts, and she’s hav­ing enough trou­ble now to look for­ward to the op­er­a­tion.

Louise Hager and her friend Daphne were here last night for din­ner. Louise is the one who pushed me around in a wheel­chair at the lit­er­ary fes­ti­val con­nected with the gay games. She and Daphne are tak­ing a les­bian cruise to Alaska in June, over 900 pas­sen­gers on a large, lux­ury ship. I asked if

they had to dress for din­ner. They con­fessed they were rent­ing tuxe­dos. What a funny pic­ture I had of 900 women all dressed like pen­guins ev­ery night for din­ner. Sea travel was for­ever spoiled for me when I went back and forth to Europe in the early fifties on every­thing from a con­verted troop ship to the Queens [i.e., Queen Mary and Queen El­iz­a­beth] in steer­age. The con­fine­ment in close quar­ters with hun­dreds of strangers of what­ever sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion is my idea of hell.

Do you re­al­ize I’ve man­aged to live 61 years? He­len is giv­ing me a pri­vate din­ner for ten at the Pink Gera­nium in May to avoid mak­ing it a birth­day party.

He­len sends her love with mine. Jane

Fe­bru­ary 28, 1994

Dear Rick:

David is dead, and I feel peace­ful about him, that he could die as qui­etly and pri­vately as that. It’s Ter­rell I feel dis­tressed about, and, though you say you’re good at the hos­pi­tal stuff, I feel dis­tressed for you, too, watch­ing him suf­fer so many in­dig­ni­ties of tech­nol­ogy.

I don’t think much about the pub­lic th­ese let­ters may even­tu­ally have. Years and years ago I fig­ured out that the only real pri­vacy I had was in my head. That was when He­len found our first land­lady in Van­cou­ver go­ing through our waste­bas­kets and read­ing any­thing she could find. He­len was out­raged. I found my­self feel­ing sorry for the woman that her life was so nar­row she was look­ing for it in our waste­bas­kets.

The trip south, on the sur­face of it, was very suc­cess­ful. Mother is more rested and calm than she’s been in years, busy see­ing old friends and mak­ing new ones. He­len walked out each day, and I sat with Mother, hav­ing good talks.

The fam­ily din­ner party of Satur­day night was more suc­cess­ful than any re­union for years. It’s quite ob­vi­ous that Dad’s sad si­lence in the last few years was more daunt­ing than I’d re­al­ized. It made Mother talk ner­vously against it, driv­ing ev­ery­one else into a pas­sive tor­por. With­out his dis­tress, she is con­tent to sit at the head of the ta­ble rest­ing her eyes on her hap­pily con­vers­ing kin. In a cir­cum­stance where, in the re­cent past, peo­ple have kept sneak­ing looks at their watches and leav­ing as soon as was de­cently pos­si­ble, no­body wanted to break the party up, and ev­ery­one said we must do it again soon. We talked a lot about Dad, eas­ily, af­fec­tion­ately, our pri­vate sor­rows kept pri­vate.

I am glad to have worked al­most al­ways at some­thing that had mean­ing in it­self, aside from the ma­te­rial re­wards (or lack of them!), and I sup­pose a num­ber of younger peo­ple want to talk to me be­cause they see my life as an ex­am­ple of a life lived mean­ing­fully. It would be folly to try to per­suade them that a dozen books on the shelf are not mean­ing­ful. Of course they are, but it was the mak­ing of them, re­gard­less of their value in the world, which mat­tered. Liv­ing a life sen­tence by sen­tence, learning that ev­ery one of them mat­ters, is a fine re­hearsal for re­tire­ment be­cause you know so deeply that the qual­ity of life is a mat­ter of pay­ing at­ten­tion.

I’m glad you’ve been nom­i­nated for an award, glad to have you know that your com­mu­nity pays more at­ten­tion than you re­al­ize. I’d be glad if you’d be will­ing to take part in the film. The growth of our friend­ship and cor­re­spon­dence is char­ac­ter­is­tic of how we both lead our lives, loved work

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