When You’ve Done All You Can Do

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Here’s the thing about being a writer. I can spend four months obsessing about three dozen people who do not objectively exist, their hopes and dreams, their heroic actions and tragic mistakes, and consider it completely normal. They call this “writing a novel.” But I meet somebody I like and I spend a week thinking about them from time to time, and yes, writing a few poems, and I think I am getting completely out of hand. I suspect they call this “being human.” Hard to say, as something like this hasn’t happened to me in about twelve years.

So I am sitting here at work with my Wonder Woman mug that my office buddy gave me for Christmas and trying to stop obsessing. Surely if anyone can help me, it’s Diana Prince, Amazon extraordinaire. Sigh. No such luck. I feel like Calvin & Hobbes.

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What to Do Once You Get Her Number

  1. Grin to yourself. Outwardly, remain cool. Slip her card into your card case as if this feat of dating dexterity is something you do every week rather than once or twice a decade.
  2. Imagine calling her. Panic. Realize that you have nothing to say that could be considered witty or interesting or remotely intelligent or even grammatically English.
  3. Keep it tucked away safe. Take it out now and then to look at it. Repeat #2.
  4. Google her. Tell yourself this is not stalker behavior. Clear your browser. Distract yourself with work.
  5. Write five poems that no one within forty miles of your closet could tell were in any way gay. Post one on your blog. Repeat #4.
  6. Check out her photography portfolio online. Wonder why the single photo of her doesn’t show the glow you see when you look at her in person. Repeat #5.
  7. Write a poem that is, face it, just a little bit gay. Wait for the glitter to fall on your head.
  8.  Repeat #2-7. Keep waiting.

Crush

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Nature is funny. She gives tiny iron fillings to pigeons,

So that they can navigate, by knowing in their beaks

Which way is magnetic north, those two annoying poles,

North and south, feminine and masculine, how to find

Their way home again. I rub my nose, hoping my fingers

Will turn red with rust, but they never do. I turn right

 

And left, hoping that one way will feel more right

Or left than the others, but somehow, all I feel is

Dizzied. I suddenly realize that, before this moment,

I have never truly turned south before. My tongue

Speaks northern languages: French, the language

Of love, Japanese, the language of sacrificing yourself

 

In battle, and English, the language this woman speaks

With no accent until she is tired or perhaps has had

One pink drink too many. Her eyes are dark, polished

Oak and her grin like the full moon on a dark night.

I must focus on my work. The moon pulls at the tides,

Distracting them from reaching their usual shores.

The Bisexual Cento

 

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I was on a blog the other day and the poet’s “and” list was exactly like a cento, a poem created from the single lines of other poems. I was looking at the Tag Cloud for this blog today and saw the ones that stand out:

 

Bisexuality, Catholic school, cufflinks,

Joss Whedon, androgyny,

butch, femme, hair, Jesus,

Katherine Moennig, ally,

lesbian, menswear, perception,

shoes.

Styling Saturday on Easter Sunday

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So I had toyed with the idea of wearing a necktie to church for the Easter morning service. I have a pale pink one that would have gone well with the bright pink blazer and black shirt I was planning to wear. Then, on Saturday afternoon, I went to get a haircut. I asked for short and layered–you know, thicker on top and gradually thinner as it goes down. What I got was very short from the ears down. Very, very short. And a little longer on top. So instead, I decided to wear this necklace. I may not be as straight as I used to be, and I still don’t care much for dresses, but I’m still a girl, dammit.

Queering Holy Week, Cont’d.

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So Wednesday, my church did the Women’s Stations of the Cross, a service made up of short (1 page) monologues by all the different women that Jesus interacted with and healed, recalling their relationship with him and watching as he makes his way to his death. Written by Katie Sherrod, it’s a moving service, especially for those of us reader involved in it. The last time we did it, I read his mother Mary receiving his body, Station 13, which was harrowing. This year, I did 12, Mary Magdalene watching him die on the cross. Sherrod uses some of the ideas from the Gnostic gospels rejected from the canon by Constantine in 325, including that Jesus called her “beloved disciple” and that Peter was jealous of her–these details get seeded into a few of the other women’s parts as they look to her as a leader among the women followers. We love the service in part for its good theological and elegant emotional writing and for its being a service led by non-clergy who are all women. So not transgressive in a big way, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t play well in Rome.

I was going to go to the Holy/Maundy Thursday service on Thursday evening but ended up binge-watching Season 5 of Ellen instead. Watching the earlier seasons I remembered why I had stopped watching it in the nineties–her funny but hapless dates with men in the first three seasons reminded me too much of my own failed efforts in that directions. Oh, the irony. Season 4 and 5 are encouraging for similar reasons.

Since I had already gone through the crucifixion on Wednesday, I spent Good Friday evening at a lesbian happy hour, a monthly meetup that always draws 50-80 women of a variety of ages and backgrounds. A woman I had met the previous month and found interesting did remember me (teachers are better at remembering names than other folks apparently). She is a flannel shirt butch but also kind of feminine with a brightness about her that draws people to her, so she is always surrounded at these events. I met almost a dozen women, from a physical therapist to an MIT grad student

A doctor who is recently out and I were talking. She looked past me at a woman sitting at the bar, fifties and relatively feminine, and asked if I thought her attractive. Assuming she was asking for encouragement to go talk to her I said, “Sure.” She turned to the woman and said, “My friend here thinks you’re attractive” and introduced us. Luckily the woman’s older friend was a realtor, so we could talk about how the Internet has changed her field and I managed to conduct a four-way conversation about nothing much until I could drift into another small group. Before she left, the doctor said, “I’m always looking to help people!”

Thanks, doc. The next time I need a wingman, you won’t be the first I’ll call.

Another set of women, finding out that I’ve only been thinking I’m bi for three months, reacted in a way I’m getting used to: not quite hysterical laughter. Finding out I’m only out to four people, they assured me, “Oh, honey, your parents already know. They might not know they know, if they’re old, but they know. Your siblings and friends too.” Yes, yes, terribly funny. Glad I amuse. I suspect that being lesbian is more straightforward than being bi (you should pardon the expression).

They also thought that “since you like men” might explain my attraction to somewhat more masculine women like Katherine Moennig and Ellen Degeneres (and the lady in plaid behind me regaling her new friend about the gay scene in Santiago that she should check out on her vacation next week). I managed to get myself back into that conversation, successfully guessing that the vacationer was Swiss (I recognized the accent). I was drinking a mai tai, which had a purple flower in it, which I gave to the Chilean who talks like a born American and she tucked it behind her ear and went off and joined other conversations.

I met a writer who gave me bad advice about writing and relationships, neither of which I intend to take. When I saw Flower Girl again she told me she had gotten a lot of compliments on it. She wondered out loud whether she would get anyone’s number by the end of the evening.

I said, “You could have mine.”

She looked surprised, so I said I thought she was cute.

“It’s because of the flower, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s why I gave it to you.”

Eventually, we exchanged cards. This flirting thing is hard. I feel like I am trying to flex a muscle I haven’t used in years and never was very good at in the first place.

The Ties That Bind or Free Us

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It’s funny that I started out this week thinking about religion. The word is related to the word ligament and means to tie back or to tie together, and that is definitely what our belief systems can do, constrain us (sometimes from doing the things we shouldn’t do, sometimes from doing the things we need to do) or connect us. I know a lot of people have been hurt by organized religion, but I have been very lucky to find myself in times and places where it has been very beneficial. Going to Catholic school (because we were getting beat up in the public school) in the 1970s right after Vatican Council II meant, among other things, that I got some of the most comprehensive sex and drug education compared to anyone I know, even and especially those who went to public schools. Go figure.

During Holy Week it is easy to see the two sides of religion. The Jewish authorities of Jesus’s day had the Roman Empire breathing down their necks; Israel was a nation occupied by a superpower that didn’t like trouble-makers. Executing Jesus was a way of protecting the status quo that he was always complaining about. In our own day we can see people like Martin Luther King, Jr., whose faith gave him the strength to help lead the fight for Civil Rights and to speak against poverty and war; on the flip side, we see the court clerk refusing to do her job and sign gay marriage certificates because her faith constrains her ability to see that love is bigger and wider than she thinks it is.

Back around Thanksgiving when I was starting to think about these things in earnest, I bought a cornflower blue suede string necklace as a reminder to try to be open to possibilities. It was too long to wear as a necklace so I looped it three times around my wrist and wore it that way for the last three months, day and night, in the shower, at the gym. Every time it broke I retied it. A few nights ago it broke for good and was too short to retie, so I put it away. Its work is done. Now I am on to the next stage, where I write these posts like threads to cast out into the ether and see if anyone out there gives a tug on the other end. As King would say, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality” (“Letter from Birmingham Jail”). There are worse fates.

The Strangeness of the Blogosphere

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I have a blog about my cat that has three readers. I have a blog about poetry that has almost two hundred and a connection on my facebook page. And then there is this, whistling in the dark and waiting for other people in similar straits to walk by and notice my nervous ramblings. I look for them too, with tags like “butch” and “bi” and “closet,” even though I never felt I was in a closet until I realized I wasn’t the girl my parents (and I myself) expected me to be (extra pop culture points if you get the reference!).

I keep asking myself, “How important is this stuff really? It’s not like I am in a relationship. For that matter, my heterosexuality for the past eleven years has been just as theoretical as my presumed bisexuality is now. How important is sexuality unless/until you are in a relationship?”

But then I look at all the anti-gay rhetoric and legislation happening, and I think politically my voice probably does matter and my votes matter. They mattered when I was “just” an ally and they matter now; it’s hard to say how much has changed between then and now except I am not just speaking/voting for the sake of my family and friends. Someday it could be my own freedom or happiness on the line. And the fact that that even makes a difference tells me I was a pretty inadequate ally.

And last week at dinner with R, one of the very few people I have talked with about any of this, I mentioned how in the process of cleaning out my (actual) closet, I realized I should probably sell my kendo armor and punching bag that are in there, and she starts laughing at the irony because suddenly I am actually in the (other) closet and trying to make space for myself, and I suspect that at some point I am going to have to write about all of that, but right now, I have spent more time in the last few weeks thinking about shoes than I have over the previous forty-odd years of my life. Which feels strange. As does the time I spend on WordPress reader looking for blogs by people standing in the doorway of their closets hemming and hawing as I am.

And then, once in a while, you get a comment from somebody who is a bit ahead of you on the learning curve. This comment has helped me a lot:

“The shoes thing, yeah. Slipped on my first pair of Docs when I was 19, and my world changed forever. I was instantly transformed into the bi butch punk that I still am to this day. Dorothy Gale and her ruby slippers ain’t got nothin’ on me. And when my butch grrl puts on her wing tips, she becomes one hot genderqueer butch lezzy. Mm-MMMMM! Never underestimate the defining and transformative power of the shoe.”

Queering Holy Week: Christianity Started Out Fairly Queer, Actually

While I was in seminary getting an MA degree in Christian theology (because I was burning out as an adjunct English professor), I worked with Rev. Dr. Patrick Cheng, a former lawyer-turned-theologian. I was lucky enough to proofread the manuscript for his first book, Radical Love: Introduction to Queer Theology. Following queer theorists like Michel Foucault, he uses “queer” beyond its umbrella category including all the members of the LGBTQIA etc. community. He argues that “Christian theology itself is a fundamentally queer enterprise because it also challenges and deconstructs–through radical love–all kinds of binary categories that on the surface seem fixed and unchangeable (such as life vs. death, or divine vs. human), but that ultimately are fluid and malleable” (Cheng 10).

I am thinking about this now because tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the lead into Holy Week when Christians remember the teachings of Jesus that we should love and serve one another, the death of Jesus at the hands of the religious and political elite, ending on Easter Sunday when we remember his resurrection, turning the most fixed and unchangeable human experience on its head.

I have celebrated these mysteries in communities with a considerable LGBT* presence before, though mostly in the Episcopal Church, but I have never thought of myself as engaging in subversion, except for the years when I sang as a female tenor in the Easter choir, and even then I wore a skirt for the Easter morning service (one of the rare non-wedding events I have worn a skirt to in the last twenty years or so). It will be interesting to view the services from that angle this year.

 

Cheng, Patrick S. Radical Love: Introduction to Queer Theology. Seabury Books, 2011.

Styling Saturday: Yes, Women Love Shoes. Just Not Those Shoes.

There is an episode on the TV series Bones, in which the forensic anthropologist, Dr. Brennan identifies a decomposed body by the surgery the woman had on her feet to shorten her toes to fit some fancy-shmancy ridiculously high-heeled shoes for her wedding. The pathologist, Dr. Saroyan, not known for her taste in sensible shoes herself, says, “Women do love their shoes!” When I saw this episode, I said, “No, we don’t! That’s stereotypical! Harrumph!”

I also find it ridiculous that a show with high-powered women who spend a lot of time on their feet generally show them wearing at least three-inch heels. Somehow I doubt it. Sure they might keep a set in the bottom drawer for meetings, but given that these main characters are medical professionals, they would know exactly how each inch of heel puts that much more pressure on the ball of the foot, stretches the Achilles tendon and does other nasty stuff to knees, legs and back. Sure, up to a point they can make a woman’s calves look good and the shift to the legs also helps foreground her breasts (stand on your tiptoes and see what shifts). But standing or, for example, walking in them? Nope!

I am thinking of this now because I just bought a few pairs of shoes and rediscovered others that were at the back of my closet.

The old. Ariat paddock boots. Bass oxfords. Brogues.

 

The new. Mark Fisher monk straps and brogues. And Shiny Party Shoes!!!

The rejected. Toms oxfords. Sole Society boots.

 

They both look utterly terrific, but when I tried the Oxfords on, they were unbelievably uncomfortable: rigid and unforgiving. The boots were just too narrow for my feet. Sending them back.

Harrumph. By sweet Jesus in his dusty Birkenstocks, I did not come to this side of the rainbow bridge to wear uncomfortable shoes!