The last few days have been absolute garbage. You know that, I know that. I don’t mean to take away from the terrible things currently happening in America and the rest of the world. That’s truly the last thing I would ever want to do, but I think it’s important to focus on little positive […]
Well, 2016 was a year of many things, most of them pretty bad. We lost Prince, and Princess Leia, Colonel John Glenn and Major Tom. Voldemort and his chess set of white supremacists gained entry into the White House when Russia took a page out of the US playbook to help make that happen, putting immigrants and queer folks and women and people of color at even greater risk of the kind of things that made Germany into an object lesson eighty years ago (one we have ignored, it seems).
In the midst of all this darkness, it is difficult, but not impossible, to light a few candles.
- In February, my union got my colleagues and me a 26% increase in pay over the next three years, because, yes, that’s how little the school had been paying us.
- In March, I started playing Lesbian Dodgeball on a monthly basis (see #5) with a bunch of overeducated goofballs. This started my collection of Fabulous Dodgeball (and other) Socks.
- In May, I got a fabulous roommate and her Hello Kitty bestest buddy.
- In August, I went alone to Boston ComicCon, wearing an Agents of SHIELD uniform and had a pretty good time. This is also where I got my Wonder Woman and Groot socks.
- In November, I went to the Love Rally on the Boston Common with the abovementioned goofball friends, now in Deeply Serious mode. Then on Supergirl, the Girl of Steel’s sister DEO Agent Alex Danvers figured out that yes, she is into girls, as I had some months before.
- In December, I went on my first date in eleven years.
Now, when I originally started writing this post, I had some vague idea about writing about the tradeoffs a gal makes shopping in the men’s section, but my pen had other ideas. Still, I stand by my title.
Because we could look back on 2016 as the year we lost so many of the best and brightest: Leonard Cohen, Muhammed Ali, Janet Reno, Richard Adams.
But I will look back on this past year as the year my sock drawer–that oft-ignored repository which, like a bookcase, tells the world through its changes how one’s life is changing–got a little fabulous.
So yes, 2016 will go down as the Year of the Fabulous Socks. And as God is my witness, 2017 will go down as the Fabulous Year.
And when that starts happening, I will get back to talking about traversing the men’s section.
So I have been thinking hard about the safety pin thing this week.After the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, where a majority of voters voted for the UK to leave the European Union, an uptick in race-based and other hate crimes was followed by people wearing a safety pin somewhere visible on their clothes to show that they were allies and willing to help people facing such crimes and other harassment. Similarly, after this recent election in the US, we are seeing an uptick in hate crimes and the stepping forward of people willing to stand in the way.
I have read pieces, both for wearing the pin and against it, and this is what I have come up with. I am not going to wear one on my coat. Thirty years of on and off again martial arts training is a fine thing but what I really need is some serious training in de-escalation tactics, and I do know there are some places in Boston where I can get some. This will happen soon, but not this week. I am still struggling several times a day not to vomit when I think about my fears for our fascist future. Presumably, this physical response will go away in a few days or weeks. I really hope so. Or at least that I could just literally vomit and get it over with.
But I have put a safety pin on the lapel of each of my blazers, because I want my students to know that I am a safe space and a resource. For now this seems like the best compromise I can come up with.
So when I came home Friday night after attending the Boston Love Rally in the Common, I went to clear my email, and came up against my first experience of homophobia.
This was an extended Facebook post in response to a meme I had shared:
I did not think this was a radical statement, but rather the sort of thing any reasonable human being would agree with.
Oh, but Facebook.
The commenter was the leader of a popular culture Facebook group. I had had one disagreement with him before, when I posted something about rape culture, which he disparaged as propaganda. At that time, I acknowledged that women didn’t generally talk about these things but that I was sure if he talked to his mother, sisters, aunts, female friends, he would hear stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault, so many that it would surprise him.
This time he said, in small part: “I don’t like queers. (I’ll use the word queer as I can never get straight the ever changing alphabet soup acronym) I met my first one when I was 6 or 7. I of course did not know why I did not like him. I did not find out what he was until 20 years later. Same for a certain guy in high school. Again, I was unsophisticated, didn’t have a label for him. Found out later. Some I seem to have no issue with, many others simply provoke a sense of unease and physical revulsion. But get this, I am JUST like a gay person. I don’t deserve to be attacked, called names, shunned or marginalized because of my natural feelings. This is the thing you CryBullies do not embrace. If people are not with you, you attack them. Now, do I go around attacking queers because of my physical revulsion? No. Live and Let Live. I simply avoid them. I LOVE Trump because he is anti-you, —- —–. You and all of your CryBully friends. Martin Luther King would NOT be doing as you do. He would support what he chooses, but he would NEVER attack those who choose to not believe as he did. MLK would NEVER be a CryBully. Think about that.”
I have put a few things out on my Facebook feed since the election ended, and some things were probably less than even-handed, it is true. But why is it this particular meme that seemed to enrage him with my extremism? That is what I don’t understand.
I am glad that I did not see this until after midnight. In the time between its posting and then, my brother, his wife and son all posted defenses of me and what I had shared. This made me feel safer. (Never underestimate the power of allies when they step up.)
Obviously, I have left that group. I have not unfriended him and I have no intention of responding to him directly in any way, although like many of my friends, I will be posting a caveat and invitation to unfriend me if they disagree with what I post.
I have never claimed that Obama’s America is perfect. Has he stood up against policy horrors like the Trans Pacific Partnership? No. Has he stood up for Standing Rock? No, he is just letting that play out. I have been writing letters and signing petitions on these issues all year. Meanwhile, far too many acts of police violence against people of color and brutal murders of trangender people and white men raping women on the local level have soaked our newsfeeds red, and the law fails to support the victims. (More letters, more petitions.) So no, America isn’t perfect.
But for a long time it has been better than when we had segregation, and lynchings, and legal discrimination–oh, wait, that’s been returning lately. It has been better with more representation in the political process and the media of the non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-straight Americans who make up a very big portion of America.
And in the last decade or two, it has become relatively safe in most parts of this country, especially in cities, for LGB people, who are out and even married. So I thought we were getting somewhere.
So much for that dream. Silly ignorant white girl. You should have known better. Just because it was good for you doesn’t mean it was good for a great number of people in this country, people you couldn’t see because they were far away or you just weren’t paying attention while you worked your three jobs.
So yes, now I am paying attention. And now I commit to act in more constructive ways for the people I haven’t been paying enough attention to. I cannot choose the reality of what America is: racist, sexist, homophobic. But I can choose the truth of what America always has the possibility to be: diverse, welcoming, egalitarian and loving of our neighbors even when we disagree. Have I always been good at this? Hell, no. But I can start now.
The haters are going to hate. You can’t change that. But I have been training all my life for this moment. Let it come.
“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” J.K. Rowlings
Gosh, postcard, you say that as if it’s a bad thing.
Like Glitter for Ashes
So used to ashes, damp in the mud beneath trim
Trees adorned in scarlet and gold bangling
Leaves, I barely know how to recognize
The faerie glamour when I see it, as if all
The glitter falling through the cool air was inevitably
Falling for someone else: story of my life.
Even the air today scintillates, although
The sky is cloudy: mixed signals, also the story
Of my life. Relying on the old standard plot
(Boy meets girl, girl pursues, boy flees), I would once
Have found frustration here, the logs damp,
The scattering of twigs and balled-up newsprint
The makings of an unlightable fire.
Instead, this time, I let the glitter fall
On my hands, my face. The world shines
With more than one or two colors–the greys,
The blues. Now there is also pink and lilac,
Spring green like leafs in their infancy,
Orange like a warning, and that old classic,
Imperial purple. Shimmering with suggestions
Of color, bubbles rise like balloons.
Music beats, my breastbone vibrates.
All around me, women join the tribal dance.
I shimmer all the new colors, join the dance.
Something to tide us all over until this stinkin’ cold goes away.
“Style is fundamentally a truthful statement… There are layers and layers of truth; and style, whether in dress or life, art or literature, is involved in their discovery.” –Freya Stark
I have been thinking about makeup lately. I used to think that makeup was something women put a huge amount of time and money into to get the attention of men, who often don’t even bother to shave. O, patriarchy, why you so mean?
I am lucky enough to have clear skin and dark blue eyes so I always figured that if a guy needs me to “put on my face” simply to notice me, then he’s not a person I really feel like being noticed by. I still feel that the Manhattan style of makeup is over the top, but New York has always struck me as being a hard-edged city and maybe it’s just a form of protective coloration, layers of powder rather than a sword and buckler.
Boston, as an academic city (we’ve got thirty colleges just within a few miles of the city center) tends toward the mildly androgynous. We probably have more comfortable women’s shoes in just a five-mile radius than they have in Manhattan and Los Angeles combined. And women who work/teach at these colleges are not an exception, whether they are full-time, part-time or graduate students (and the undergrads in baggy sweatpants). This always worked for me. As long as I looked “professional” and teacher-like, I figured that nobody would care if I didn’t take the time to put on makeup before running out the door guzzling my coffee and trying to remember my lesson plan. I get good student evaluations every semester. The rest is meaningless.
But in January, I started going to the monthly lesbian happy hour, which is a fascinating sociological activity. Where else are you going to find a sample of about eighty women with such a wide variety of clothing styles in the same bad bar lighting? More than half of our sample look like any other women you might see on the train every day. But there are a few types who stand out.
Fashionista/International Femme: Makeup, long hair, dress, heels. An air of being exactly where she needs to be. Even if I wore the exact same thing, if I was standing next to her, no one would notice my existence. I have had friends like this.
Grad Student Femme: Shortish wash-and-wear hair. Casual clothing, such as skinny leg jeans. Comfortable shoes, minimal makeup. The glow of youth.
College Dean-ish: An excellent haircut, whatever the length. Makeup, but never too much. Classic jewelry. Professional clothes, more femme than not. Classic but comfortable shoes, probably expensive. An air of quiet authority.
Grad Student Butch: Short hair with a little product for style. No makeup. Men’s style clothes but not necessarily menswear. Comfortable shoes, maybe spiffy. The glow of youth.
Flannel Butch: Plaid flannel shirt, dark wash jeans, expensive sneakers. Most of the jewelry is in one ear. One or more tattoos. A. The glow of youth AND/OR B. An air of quiet authority AND/OR C. Laidback attitude.
Bowtie Butch: Short hair. No makeup. Menswear, including either necktie or bowtie. Men’s style shoes. Laidback attitude.
Perhaps if I saw the same people in the bright light of day, the differences might not be apparent. But in the dim light of a bar, the women who don’t wear makeup, especially if they are over 40, look kind of grey and washed out.
So I’ve made a couple of visits to Sephora, one to get help in picking a shade of lipstick and one to get a 15-minute primer on how to apply eye shadow the right way and get help picking good colors. The young women (and one or two men) who work there are all made up to within an inch of their lives. But when they ask me what style I am going for, and I say, “Sorta like Ellen,” and they say, “Oh! You mean natural!” they are gung ho in helping me achieve a look that is as little like theirs as possible.
My shift in thinking about all this is primarily a shift in thinking from more outward–what do other people see when they look at me–to more inward–can I see my best self when I look in the mirror, blue eyes, Polish cheekbones and all.
It also helps that two of the faces of makeup companies in recent memory have been Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Ellen Degeneres (Ellen the Homophobia Slayer), both of whom have fresh light looks that don’t scream, “Look at me! I’m wearing makeup! Ask me how!” Which is funny, actually, considering that is exactly what they’re getting paid to do… Ah, marketing, why you so sneaky?
No thank you.
No, really. I’m fine.
No, wait, go back a bit.
Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Titanic, 1997. Luomo Vogue, 2015. Divergent, 2014.
In winter I am regularly sirred at the grocery store, probably because at first glance the checkout clerks see the outlines of my fedora and winter coat and only at second glance do they take in my makeup, earrings and facial structure, and immediately apologize. It doesn’t really bother me, but with all the brouhaha lately, with short-haired women being kicked out of restaurants for trying to use the women’s restroom, and the far worse things transgender people experience, it has given me pause. I have started to consider how I might respond if such stupidity were to happen to me.
The most prudent response would be to offer to show my driver’s license. Of course when you go to reach for it, be careful, because depending on a) how much of a nutcase the person is and b) what state you are in, if they think you are reaching for a weapon, you could end up dead. Idiot country.
The great temptation would be, if it were a man telling me not to use the women’s room, to say, “Oh, I’m sorry. Did you need to use it first? That’s okay, I can wait.” And if it were a woman, to say, “You’re just jealous because I am prettier than you.” But I feel like the people who are freaking out about this stuff probably are short on sense of humor or irony, so I doubt I would actually do that.