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 […]
I spend my time cobbling together
Words, sentences, strings of pictures
As they flicker against the pale bone
Screen of my skull, like film, a matter
Of illumination. Dreams also enter the world
This way: as pictures we comprehend
Without the use of tongue or voice, letters,
Or any spill of ink. But that only works
When sharing one’s ideas with oneself.
To communicate to another, we need patchwork
Rag-words sewn together into quilts
Of meaning. That, and the shine of eyes.
So before Thanksgiving, I went to a Meetup at a bowling alley in Cambridge. I haven’t been bowling in maybe thirty years and it showed (I scored 47 after an hour), but I had fun and met some nice ladies. Then this past Saturday, I went to another Meetup at a beer place, and met three of them again, along with a whole lot of other women I had never met before.
I am telling this story just because it was an odd night. It took me half an hour to get the server’s attention, and it took another three or four women’s help to finally get served. Then when they asked me what I do and I said, “I teach writing,” everybody was thrilled.
Strangest response ever. This is not the way people generally respond when I talk about my work. Mild interest, yes. Excitement? Heck, no.
It turns out that almost all of them wanted to be doing (more) writing (again) (like they used to). They are all avid readers and spent the next half hour sharing lesbian authors/novels and talking about the writers groups they were/are in, advice they got from published writers, including Natalie Goldberg, and talking about how people really, really need to make art.
Then if that wasn’t strange enough, I got pulled over to an empty-ish table and engaged in a long and interesting conversation with one of the women I had met during bowling earlier: let’s call her A. And then another, older, woman came over and asked if I was me, because she had been amused by some things I had written in response to her questions on the Meetup site and wanted to meet me (let’s call her K) (note: this is the second time that has happened).
The three of us got talking, and although I didn’t really notice it at the time, the younger woman, A, gradually got quieter and quieter, and then said she was going to the restroom and would I watch her beer? I noticed that her best friend, J,whom she had brought to both Meetups went with her, but heck, we’re women, we always go in tandem. (Also, the doors to the stalls were mis-hung so they don’t close all the way, so I figured they wanted to keep each other’s doors closed.)
Well, she didn’t come back for quite a while, and eventually the older woman, K, noted on it and wondered if she had just left. I said, “She wouldn’t leave her beer.” K said she hoped she hadn’t mucked things up for me, since she thought I might have been getting somewhere with the girl, and I was my usual, “Not bloody likely. That never happens to me.”
K left and went back to her table with another ten women (who she apparently told about me). The younger woman, A, came back and told me she had been afraid that I was interested in K and that had bothered her a lot because she really liked me, and her friend, J, had spent all that time in the bathroom trying to tell her to keep her courage up, and to come back and tell me all this.
Of course I was immensely flattered. She seems sweet and open and is interested in travel and language and loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Relationships have been built on a lot less than that. It was one of those conversations with a lot of eye contact and touching each other’s arms, (which I had never been in before, although I have read about such conversations) and she had a couple of beers that had a higher alcohol content than I think she is used to (and she is also not big), and she repeated that she really liked me and wanted to see me again, but that she needed to get home early because she had an early day the next day. While she was in the bathroom, I went to her friend to make sure that she would see that she got home okay.
They left. I went over to the table where K was talking to about ten women I had not met yet. They immediately turned toward me and asked, “How’d it go? We were watching you. It seemed like you were doing really well!” Then I got about five high-fives.
OK. I watched The L Word. I have heard about lesbian gossip, blah, blah, blah. But seriously?
So my coffee date with the OKCupid person went well. She was nice and we made each other laugh. I doubt I will see her again, but I am okay with these things simply being about practice.
Meanwhile, I am four chapters into my new novel. In theory it should answer the eternal question, “Why do fools fall in love?” with the wrong people, over and over again. (Also, probably “Why do birds sing so gay?” although I am pretty sure we already know the answer to that one.)
- Coffee. Every day. On Monday, fireworks like glitter in the sky.
- But tomorrow, a coffee date. With a goil. Oy veh. How exciting!
- I am about ten pages in to my newest novel, about the search for the perfect butch. Wish me luck. Send me ideas. Send me warnings. (You could send me money too, but I have enough good sense to know how unlikely that is.)
- There was something else. Rainbow-colored boas were NOT involved. I think.
Don’t you just love Ellen? She has a way with words. Always funny…yet always kind.
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.
Weird Day #179. Today I got four different compliments on my clothes. As I was heading off to work, a (presumably straight) guy complimented my grey straw Fedora. At work, one of my straight female colleagues complimented my, what,”ensemble”? On the train home, a young Asian man (probably straight) complimented me on my earrings and asked if I worked at the museum. This felt much more like a “my girlfriend would love those” rather than “they would go SO well with my silver lamé” to me, but who knows? Just as I was getting off the train to go to the gym, a large almost definitely straight woman said she liked my outfit. She was wearing a loose tank top, cropped jeans and flip flops.
This is so, so weird, children. I was wearing black brogues, grey pants, a purple/lilac striped shirt with silver cufflinks, a blue chambray blazer with a purple paisley pocket square, silver necklace and earrings, and the Fedora. I am pretty certain that at least three of the comments were completely non-ironic. I was a trifle overdressed for the job we were doing at school. Two of the guys were wearing T-shirt and jeans. Most of the women were wearing pants, blouse, and sandals/flats/sneakers. But I felt spiffy. Just not spiffy enough for anyone to be anything except confused, I guess.
So all of this would be strange on its own, but the day didn’t end there. (That only happens in deep December in the wilds of Canada. This was barely 3:00 after all.)
I will skip the part where I checked out the very hot personal trainer at my gym who is almost certainly straight or how her being in the building motivated me to sweat a lot more than usual.
I will skip to 6-ish, when I was looking at my very quiet OKCupid profile, recalling a conversation I had with a friend before dodgeball this past Saturday about how nobody is really engaged with their profiles/interested in people like us/whine whine. And I saw a profile that didn’t have much to say but had a cute picture. So I took the bit in my teeth and messaged, “Hey Cutie, Write something so we can find out more about you besides your winning smile!”
Now normally, when I have tried to message anyone, lo, these last two months, I have either gotten complete radio silence or a thanks, but I’m not interested message.
Four minutes later, she messages back, “LOL. What do you want to know??”
Now here’s the thing. Just then I get another message from OkCupid with a tagline that sounded familiar and a greeting to me by a nickname I only went by once, Freshman Week in college.
It was my sophomore year roommate, a woman who came out six years ago and has spent the time since figuring out divorce, child custody arrangements, new work arrangements, two girlfriends, and a new house still up in Maine. I am not in regular contact with her outside Facebook, although when she came out she came down to Boston and we spent the day with me telling her she was still a good person and Jesus still loved her. I even gave her a book of gay icons painted by a monk, which I had originally bought for my sister. So it is not so surprising that she would contact me on seeing my profile.
But what this means is that I spent two hours alternately flirting with one person I didn’t know anything about and having The Conversation with someone I once knew fairly well and with whom I have a lot in common (introverted Leos, birthday twins, etc.).
I may see the one at a party after the Dyke March on Friday. The other may come down to visit sometime this summer.
How does everything seem to happen all at once?
So I just watched the single season of Young Americans, a Dawson’s Creek spinoff, via YouTube last week. Although the main stories are about the townie, Will, and his efforts to fit in with his richer classmates, and the townie, Bela, and rich kid, Scout, who start to fall in love and then find out that they might have the same father, my favorite plot line is about Jake and Hamilton. Jake is actually Jacqueline, who has used her computer hacking skills and gender-neutral looks to enroll in the school as a boy, hoping that her absent mother will finally notice her; complications ensue when chemistry arises between “Jake” and Hamilton.
For a show about summer session at a (very white) boys’ boarding school, there is a surprising number of women in it and most of them aren’t total clichés. Bela is a mechanic working at her father’s gas station and Jake is a computer hacker who claims convincingly that s/he hacked NASA. The males are also nuanced. Finn, their rowing coach and English teacher talks a lot about literature, and Will writes poetry (and they steal a plot device from Cyrano de Bergerac, with a love poem and mistaken identity). So first of all, hooray broader representation of women and men!
You have to hand it to the WB, the television network that produced this show: they were horrible at racial diversity but they told interesting stories. The show played around with the awkwardness between Jake and Hamilton for about three and a half episodes, until Jake finally tells Hamilton that she is a girl, but since he needs to keep her secret, they end up having to let the other guys think they are gay. In the final episode, when everyone’s secrets get revealed, there is a moment when Hamilton turns to Jake and says, “Next you’re going to tell me that you are really a lesbian pretending to be a straight girl pretending to be a guy, because I might actually be into that.” This is funny mainly because the actress playing Jake, Katherine Moennig, really was exactly that, and it reminded me a lot of Shakespeare.
In Twelfth Night, we get Viola, a woman who gets shipwrecked and then dresses as a young man and works as a page for the Duke Orsino who is in love with the Lady Olivia. Viola has to pass messages between them and Olivia falls for her/him. And for audiences of the day who knew that the actor was of course a man playing a woman pretending to be a man and avoiding the lady’s advances, this was apparently just as chuckle-worthy. But I am not sure why it is so funny.
I think some of it is similar to what happens when you tell a little kid that the sky is green and they laugh hysterically because (they might say) the sky is most definitely not green, so claiming that it is seems funny. (And I should point out that in really terrible weather, such as right before a tornado, the sky can be green. Pray you never see it.) Humor often is the result of turning expectations inside out, and the stronger and more inevitable the expectation is, the funnier it is to see it transgressed, transposed or just tossed out the window. Apparently masculinity and femininity are two such expectations, or otherwise why are we still telling these stories and being entertained by them?
I feel like this matters in part because if we could figure out what we mean by masculine/feminine, male/female, we might also begin to unpack all the irrational fears underlying these ridiculous new bathroom bills. Given that transphobia is “fueled by insecurities people have about gender and gender norms” (Serano, qtd. In “Transphobia”), and can have horrific consequences when it leads to harassment and violence, our society needs to get a grip. And this is a deeply political social problem because, as Jody Norton writes, “male-to-female transgender incites transphobia through her implicit challenge to the binary division of gender upon which male cultural and political hegemony depends” (Norton).
Norton, Jody. “’Brain Says You’re a Girl, But I Think You’re a Sissy Boy’: Cultural Origins of Transphobia.” International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies. 2, Number 2 (2) 1997: 139–164.
“Transphobia.” Wikipedia. 12 April 2016. Web. 14 April 2016.
Once your heart has been crushed, it is
Softer, bendable: such things are resilient.
Once broken, the pieces never break
Again, but give way easily to the push
And pull of life. Perhaps this is the wisdom
Of our foremothers, who made their
Pictures with broken tiles, with tiny pieces
Of brightly colored glass, outlined in lead.