Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday May 1, 2010

Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher

I must have a lesbian gene somewhere, because I have a soft spot for lesbian pulp fiction. I've read several of Ann Bannon's Bobbie Brinker books, as well as dipping into other writers. And those exploitative book covers. Fabulous!

Monica Nolan gives it up for Bannon with a send-up involving a muscular, hot sports coach; her various romantic and sexual adventures (the latter demurely presented, of course - these are ladies!); a (vaguely) lesbian-themed crime corny enough to be worthy of Nancy Drew herself; frustrated married wives; schoolgirl crushes; and tons of period detail.

Nolan's heroine, the eponymous Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher, is refreshingly average. Bobby has a deep dark secret that, well, isn't all that deep and dark. She likes to drink beers with her former college field hockey teammates in the nearby metropolis, Bay City. She does not like to wear dresses or anything frilly. She's not a big reader. She doesn't bother to think too much about romance; she just knows what - and whom - she likes.

Since this takes place in 1963, there's lots of smoking. And since it takes place mostly within the confines of a girls' boarding school, presumably somewhere in the Northeast, there are lots of "pashes" - that's Schoolgirlese for girl-on-girl crushes.

It's interesting that Bobby's one, brief fling (which she regrets) with a student is merely funny and fun. I have a queasy feeling that if it were a male teacher and student, it would come off as smarmy. But part of Nolan's charm is that she knows how to make everything as light and bright and breezy and silly as the girls of the Metamora Academy for Young Ladies.

Befitting the Mad Men scene, women dress like ladies, although Bobby prefers a sweatshirt and slacks. What's especially fun is the way Nolan balances a tacit acceptance by most of the people involved toward lady-on-lady action.

She does include some acknowledgement that all was not right in the world. There's a raid on a lesbian bar. And the women call their heterosexual counterparts as "normal" - a definite pre-Stonewall un-p.c. reference.

But for the most part, Bobby exists in an etherial Never-Neverland of never-ending lesbian sex and romance. Except for a very few exceptions, such as the dowdy chemistry professor, or the clueless husband of the bohemian art teacher, everyone is gay.

If you're looking for The Well of Loneliness-type angst, or Rita Mae Brown-style empowerment, look elsewhere. But if you're looking for silly, satiric fun, Bobby will show you a good time. Best bet: Save it for summer, because this is the perfect beach book. Hey, it's worth it just to be seen carrying around that outrageous book jacket with the classic cover art.

Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher
by Monica Nolan
$15 paper

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).