Labels are Helpful/Confusing/All of the Above

So a woman I have begun interacting with called me a “very feminine butch.”

Is this a win?  A loss? A mix-up? It feels sort of positive, but honestly  I have no idea.

I suspect that most butches are way more masculine than me. And honestly, Ellen Degeneres is way more butch than me.

So who am I and how much does it matter” Labels are so misleading, and yet they help us figure ourselves out.

Cascading Home

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I learned about this form of poetry, the Cascade, from Kat Myrman. With a three-line stanza, and capital letters representing repeated lines, the form is ABC deA fgB hiC. (I have also seen this done where the repeating line is the first line of the following stanzas rather than the last, now that I think of it.) Naturally, I chose a seven-line stanza because I am a bloody showoff. Don’t go there, people, or at least not without stretching out first.

I like it again right now because I am about to move into my first office ever of my own at work and I have bought a Laura Wilder print with a window to replace the window I did not get due to seniority and other issues. But art makes life better.

 

Home is the place where you write your name

In the dust and it remains your name,

Your dust, your cat’s pawprints telling the tale

Of small peregrinations, domestic pilgrimages.

All the books are yours. You have read them all.

You make your way from room to room in the dark

And as day recedes, your bed embraces you.

 

In other places, you wander, a stranger

Unremarked and nameless, a cipher

To those you pass by, who do not think

To wonder about your loves and dislikes.

They have their own shopping lists of worries.

Out in the world, you are ever nameless.

Home is the place where you write your name.

 

The geography of naming is such that

Your name points the way back to your birth

Or rebirth. Tell me who you are and I will

Point you toward the river whose water runs

Through your veins, calling itself blood.

Drop your name down a well or toss it

In the dust and it remains your name.

 

The story of your life would require volumes

Or a skilled raconteur with a very long string

Tied end to end and woven into itself,

A cat’s cradle of intention, obstacle, outcome,

And the serendipities that every life engenders.

Come to the window. Trace out your tale in

Your dust, your cat’s pawprints telling the tale,

 

Which would include a heroic company of friends,

Sister travelers, the wise one, the warriors,

A ring to find, a cup to destroy, some evil

To overcome, and now and then a resting place

Like this homely place, a place to pause between

The small battles and the long weariness

Of small peregrinations, domestic pilgrimages.

 

Returning home to your bed, your armchair,

Your cat sleeping on all the notes you took

On your travels, you settle in almost as if

You had never left. But now you see it

Anew: You have chosen every picture that hangs

On the walls. You have sat in every chair.

All the books are yours. You have read them all.

 

All of it is as familiar as your own hands:

Small and compact peasant hands that belie

The spectacles and teeming brain, the sword

Hanging over the fireplace. You can lay your hand

On any book you want at a moment’s notice,

Predict the pattern of new spring leaves in the window.

You make your way from room to room in the dark.

 

At dawn, both sun and cat pat your face,

Clamoring for your attention. As the sun passes

Overhead, the light turns this way and that,

Caressing doors and bookcases, chairs and the cat

Who stretches out in the bright patch of carpet.

In the afternoon, he ambles over to welcome you back.

And as day recedes, your bed embraces you.

 

Art by Laura Wilder.

Preparing for Newish Hair

Okay, so I am bored, bored, bored with the Same Old Hair that I have had for the vast majority of my adult life, except for that year and a half (and ten years on my driver’s license) that I tried to grow it long and it looked utterly ridiculous except when I was wearing a baseball hat.

 

I have printed out some pictures from the Interwebs of hair I like, but in the end I am going to a new place recommended by someone I met in the restroom of a bar and I complimented her on her interesting haircut, and I am simply going to trust that the hair stylist can look at my little bullet head with my blond hair and make me look, well, if not fabulous at least pleasantly different.

 

Here are the peoples and their hair.

 

And here is a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon that I suspect is how my Saturday appointment is likely to go, although I am not bringing my mother with me, which is just as well (especially given that she lives in a different state) since if I get the kind of haircut I want, she will probably hate it.

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Here is a Blog Post

Since this is supposed to be a blog about androgyny, this post will be both feminine and masculine. It will have pink and blue and lots of purple. It will make you think! It will make you see humans differently! There may or may not be a stripy flag with bright colors. It will not be an either/or post, but a both/and post. This works well here and now at the Equinox, when the night and day are equally long and therefore the Yin and Yang of the environment will be affecting us equally.

All of which is just to say I had almost all of my clients cancel today, so oodles of time to write with no ideas whatsoever. Sigh

History of Hair, Yours, Mine, Hers, His, Theirs

A Google search of “history of my hair” just now turned up 68,800,000 results. This does not surprise me. Just as our geopolitical history is filled with battles, innovations, opportunities, colonizations, festivals and cooptations, so is the history of our hair. Think about it. When you are a kid, your parents pretty much decide what your haircut will look like, and it often ends up being a smaller version of theirs. Maybe around the time you are approaching your teenage years, you start to get a say in the matter and for some of us who grew up with our mothers cutting our hair, this will be the first time your parents paid for someone else to do the job.

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Puberty is also when the changes to the rest of your body start to affect your hair too, usually making things harder, because who ever heard of puberty making ANYTHING easier? The hormone shifts, the social shifts, all of that make it even harder to figure out the individual shifts that might be happening in your identity: what do I want more, to stand out or to belong?

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Eventually, in the business world, you adapt to a balance between identity and belonging, to set yourself apart a little while also maintaining a professional stance. And always assuming that your physical hair itself isn’t causing problems (not always a fair assumption, as my African American women friends will be the first to point out), sticking to that balance can—slowly or quickly—lead to utter boredom.

These things are compounded when your identity undergoes more shifts. People get married and need to do something excessively fancy with their hair for the wedding. They get new jobs where the professional standard is different. They figure out they are queerer than they thought, and want to express that. They go through a midlife crisis. They have a baby—and we all know how babies grab at long hair. A lot of things can trigger a desire to change what we look like. The problem is, when the world is full of options, how do you choose the change you want?

In Search of Queer(-Enough) Hair

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In her essay for PopSugar, “I’m Asian, I Came Out of the Closet, and I Finally Cut My Hair Short,” Jo Chiang writes about the difficulties of fitting into a white-dominated US queer subculture within the dominant gender-binary-heavy US heteronormative culture as an Asian, given the differences between Asian and Euro-Caucasian hair. She says, in part:

“Androgyny has always been about that hard-edged balance between masculinity and femininity. But when Asian masculinity is desexualised and Asian femininity is infantilised, twists on gender presentation don’t quite make the same impact.[…] It’s an ongoing journey to feel positive about my queerness, my race, and my hair on top of that. Even out of the closet, I would often feel awkward and ill-fitted. I tried new haircuts. My hair wasn’t fine enough to pull off the pixie cut or flexible enough for a pompadour, and my cowlicks were too tenacious for anything asymmetrical. It took trial and error and error and error, until I figured out a solution. I found a Japanese hair salon. They knew my texture, the quirks of my part, and the shape of my skull. While they did not share my Taiwanese heritage, they understood the very specific struggles I had with my hair.

“Instead of going wild with a clipper, my stylist brought shape to the back of my head with careful trimming. She left the sides and top long to let my cowlicks bear down with their own weight, but added a choppy texture to keep it from flattening. When I stopped bringing in photographs of models I wanted my hair to resemble and instead worked with my stylist to understand the ways my hair grew out, I finally settled into cuts that suited me and my queerness.

“I walk the streets happy to confuse strangers with my gender presentation.

“There is no one way to look queer. A haircut isn’t a requirement for coming out. But the decision to resist against assumptions of gender and femininity and race can be a healing and invigorating aspect of loving and accepting yourself in a world that continues to police beauty.

“These days, I walk the streets happy to confuse strangers with my gender presentation. When I feel especially frisky, I style my hair up with some grooming cream, and when frisky is too much work, I wear a hat. Either way, long or short, my hair will always be as queer as me.”

I like the way this essay targets the intersectionality of identity–the flipside of the intersectionality of oppressions, since, after all, we get oppressed because of our identities. Having lived in Japan and been a martial artist for more than half my life, I have had a lot of East Asian/Asian-American friends, and it is good to learn a bit about their realities. One of the things I will consider this week is where hair texture is not the only problem a person could be facing in the Queer Hair Dilemma. But Chiang’s meditation is a great place to start.

I say this because I think we all look for quick fixes, believe that quick fixes are in fact possible: “Now that I know who I am, I need to declare it. Declaring it will be easy. Declaring it nonverbally may even be easier than doing it verbally.”

Ah, fond hope, so soon dashed for most of us. I am putting this out here as a hypothesis, which I intend to test this week by talking to my queer/lesbian friends.

H1: Most people struggle to find a haircut that represents them as they want after they come out.

Wish me luck, children. I’m goin’ in!

 

Jo Chiang, “I’m Asian, I Came Out of the Closet, and I Finally Cut My Hair Short,” PopSugar.com.au. 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.

 

Poem on a Sunday

Her eyes are pearl green, like a treasure

Seen through a filter of ocean froth

And the water, brimming and subsiding,

Knows how pearls are built, not born,

From endless repetitions, much the way

The heart, tidal in its attractions, rests

 

For a moment, between sets–respiration

Like inspiration, an on-again/off-again thing–

And returns to work. But my eyes, denim

And lapis-flecked, flicker in her direction

Hungrily, hopelessly. Only a fly on the wall

Sees my breath catch as she looks away.

Reporting Back

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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.)