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 […]
Can’t find the other pictures just yet.
There is a logic to the men’s section of a department store that is largely missing from most women’s sections. Take shirts, for example. short sleeves are over here and long sleeves are over there. In the women’s section, this is not necessarily the case, except maybe during late spring/early summer when we are expected to shop for summer. The more formal “dress” shirts are often separated by color, or at least light from dark, and usually by material (smooth vs. rougher). You can easily find what you are looking for without having to look at all the shirts in your size on seven different racks.
And color! Men’s shirts have sensible colors: cranberry, navy, loden green, chambray blue. Black with pink flamingos. Purple with white bicycles. Stripes that usually don’t clash. plaids, the same (except for Madras plaids; there’s just no accounting for those). women’s shirts are a riot of colors: orange and pink paisleys, or jewel-tone flowers on a tomato soup background. Gaah. And turquoise, that irreparably iffy color that can make your skin tone look healthy in one light and fatally jaundiced in another. Sure, in the 1970s even men wore colors and patterns like that, but if the 1980s did nothing else good besides massive benefit concerts, it put to rest that particular sartorial nonsense.
And then there are the pockets. Men’s shirts (and pants and coats and vests) have pockets. And pockets are liberation. It is no mistake that the Nasty Woman Perfume mock ad video that came out back in November put clothes with pockets in the same category as reproductive healthcare and equal wages.
In comparison, the problem that men’s shirts always (if they are long-sleeved) have sleeves that are too long for the average women. But, you can always just roll them up; in fact the kind of women who are likely to shop in the men’s section are exactly the type to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
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.
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 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.
Some great thoughts from our pal, the Middle-Aged Butch.
Just these three lesbian movies please and a pack of microwave popcorn.
Thank you to the clerks at my local Blockbuster store who rented me all of those lesbian movies when I was trying to figure out if I was a lesbian. You never batted an eye, even when I rented When Night Is Falling two times in a row for “research.”
Thanks to Melissa Etheridge for her 2001 memoir The Truth Is … that I read and re-read when I was coming out. And for the album Yes I am. If you could announce to the world on the cover of an album that you were, I knew I could tell the people in my life that I was, too.
Thanks to the Indigo Girls. Along with Melissa, you provided the soundtrack to my coming out. Somebody bring me some water. Please.
I still love you, Jessica Stein.
View original post 282 more words