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Adventures in Loving

It's nine o'clock on a cool, wet night in April. More than 200 women have found their way down a winding, tree-lined stretch of road that ends at the Zilker Clubhouse in West Austin. The parking lot is jammed with sedans, Jeeps, sports cars, pickups, and... a giant U-Haul?! The sight of the orange and white truck parked expectantly under a stand of trees draws hearty gales of laughter from the women as they file up the walkway and into the stone house.

Zilker Clubhouse is packed to the gills. The open windows give way to an immense patio and beyond to a lovely nightscape vista of Austin's skyline. The music is at once lively and seductive. Across the landscape of veggie trays and crackers and little sandwiches with the crust trimmed neatly away, two strangers exchange glances, setting off a spark. One leans closer and in a gentle voice asks, "Is this spinach dip?" Outside, the skies open wider and the women let go with a chorus of whoops and hollers, laughing in the cold lick of rain.

Now, here it is, four months later in August and guess what? At least a handful of women who met that soggy spring night are now living together in -- for all practical purposes -- wedded bliss. Which brings us back to the U-Haul in the parking lot. Clearly, there is no better symbol to illustrate the rapid progression of lesbian relationships: Fall in love on the first date; move in together on the second. Maybe that's what U-Haul's "Adventure in Moving" slogan is really all about.

This pairing-up trend in Austin may become an epidemic as long as there is Club Skirt. Fashioned indirectly after successful weekly Club Skirts in San Francisco, this new-to-Austin singles event for lesbians became an instant sensation at its debut party one brisk February night as a benefit for the struggling Cornerstone Gay & Lesbian Community Center. Club Skirt's attendance on the first night surpassed all expectations, much to the glee of the ever-growing committee of women who first brainstormed and implemented the concept.

"We had hoped for 100 women to show up and we got 225," says Kathy Taylor, the former Cornerstone director who sits on Club Skirt's planning committee. Apart from shoring up funds for the local community center, Taylor says the idea for such a venture grew out of Austin's lack of venues for women to meet other women. The recently opened lesbian nightclub, Sister's Edge, certainly caters to dance club and air-hockey enthusiasts, but it has little to offer women who are not into the bar scene.

For a $10 donation at the door, Club Skirt guests enjoy a palatable spread of homemade snacks, lots of liquid, and a flock of diverse women, most of whom prefer the casual party atmosphere to the traditional singles scene at most bars. Club Skirt's atmosphere is enhanced by a delightful blend of music ranging from currently hot dance hits to country to oldies, courtesy of deejay Lenne Deggedingsize, whose technique for blending musical styles is only outmatched by her sensitivity to a crowd that prefers engaging in pleasant conversation without having to shout above a triple-digit decibel din of dance numbers.

Really, not since Chances -- the departed lesbian/straight-friendly/live-music hangout -- has this town served up anything that a woman can truly call her own. Sandra Martinez, who shuttered the venerable lesbian hangout in 1994 after 12 years in business, gives Club Skirt her nod of approval.

"There's a very Chances-like quality to Club Skirt because it provides an opportunity for women to socialize," she says. "And like Chances, Club Skirt also is committed to promoting other gay and lesbian events and non-profit activities. You don't see a lot of that happening in the local bar scene."

Club Skirt committee member Kelly Larson points to the results of a survey of the Skirt crowd in June that bears out what seems to be an ambivalence toward the bar scene. This crowd is looking for something different. "At Zilker Clubhouse you have the big patio and that big beautiful view of the city. It's like one big backyard party."

There's talk of Club Skirt branching out into other avenues, too, with barbecue cookouts, holiday parties, and canned food drives. From the looks of things, Club Skirt can only get better, filling a niche outside the bar scene. U-Haul optional. n


The next Club Skirt event is Friday, Aug. 15, same place, same donation. On Sept. 28, organizers will try something a little different with a party for gals and guys alike. After that, the monthly fundraiser is back to skirts as usual.

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