Can’t find the other pictures just yet.
Can’t find the other pictures just yet.
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.
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.
In case you weren’t sure, this will be a not-entirely-aimless post about my first out Pride and all the thinks and all the feels. Be warned.
In preparation for my first (real, not as an ally) Boston Pride, I looked for rainbow-striped socks. It took me five places and the one I just randomly thought might on the off-chance have them, Party Favors, did, although the socks have piano keys on them, but who is going to notice that?
Tonight was the Boston Dyke March. We gathered on the Boston Common, women wearing their hair in ways from the sublime to the ridiculous to the fabulous and EVERYTHING in between. Rainbows everywhere, including the flag under which we, the lesbian dodgeballers and friends, gathered (after five women figured out how to enlarge the holes in the flagpole with keys and make the zipties smaller with the same tools. I knew I should have brought my pocket knife, but there you go).
About twelve or so years ago I went to an arts conference that had Adrienne Rich as the headlining speaker. I thought then that I was seeing a lot of lesbians. Wrong. I have never seen this many lesbians in the same place, and even weirder (queerer?) that the same place was a place I have lived, studied, worked and shopped: Boston Common, near Emerson College, the Back Bay, and environs.
I never thought I would be the sort of person who would find herself chanting, “We’re here, we’re queer. We’re fabulous, so don’t fuck with us.” But life, as it turns out, takes you in directions you could never have anticipated. This is not a bad thing.
Strange, sure. Surreal, absolutely. But bad? Hell no.
One of the things that made it surreal was the police detail directing traffic around our march. Being Hermione Granger, she who “when in doubt, go[es] to the library,” in advance of my first official pride weekend, I went to the library and borrowed David Carter’s Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution. (Well, honestly, I am hardly going to celebrate a holiday I don’t understand or know about, am I?) Reading about the police entrapment that led up to the Stonewall riots and police brutality that occurred during them and then seeing the Boston cops waving at cars, waving at us, smiling at us: wow. Just wow. I was barely one when Stonewall happened. In my lifetime, all these things have changed so much, not just going from riots to parades, but going from the social stigma of same-sex couples holding hands or dancing together to the Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage…it’s all so overwhelming and fast.
A friend of mine tonight said that the difference in speeds between the struggle for rights for gays and for racial minorities probably was caused by finding gays in one’s family and neighborhood, something that is less likely or impossible to happen with people of different races. I had never thought of it in those terms, although certainly my sister being a lesbian started me off as an ally in the first place, and my older parents as well. (My brother was a theater major, so he didn’t probably need the family thing. Also, he is straight enough to make up for both my sister and myself, and that has to help too, I suspect.)
Still, I have only been out for five months. And before that I had no idea that I was in. When I was growing up straight was the default font, but not the way Microsoft Word makes, say, Cambria 11 point default and then you have a hundred options. When I learned to type, I had a Royal manual typewriter, that had Courier font in only two sizes, 12 and 10. Being straight was default: Courier 12. Being gay was not default: Courier 10. If you were not one, you were the other.
And maybe that is one of the coolest things about the rainbow: it’s not so fucking binary. It is by definition Both/And rather than Either/Or. It’s All Of The Above and Multitudinous and We-Are-Fucking-Legion.
So even though I still don’t feel 100% that I belong in this really amazing huge parade of women doing themselves in their own very particular ways, I have friends who say, “Oh no, you totally belong here.” And that makes me feel a little bit more okay with all these recent changes.
Which is, let’s face it, kinda fabulous.
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 a friend asked me to write about last night’s lesbian dodgeball game. There weren’t as many people there as usual, 12 rather than 18 or 24, so we were all playing all the time, up until close to the end when a regular showed up 1) late and 2) with a change of music to allow us to stop playing the game to the rather insipid and repetitive music the radio stations were playing that night. Real disco and old 70s ballads redone with a mean backbeat make for a Much Improved Dodgeball Score. Most Valuable Player of the Week: Sarah.
I have been trying to figure out a good metaphor for this strange game. It’s not like basketball or hockey or even soccer, especially the way we play it. So here is what I came up with.
Jaguars going for the kill.
Monkeys leaping out of three balls’ trajectories at once.
Sweaty women dancing to disco music.
The woman who gathers all of the six red balls and looks
Like a very aggressive tomato salad.
The women backing warily away, hoping not to get hit
When the tomato salad explodes in their direction.
The athlete. The wise-ass. The mom.
The crash as the ball hits the padded wall.
The louder crash as the ball hits the window.
The strength of the window, not breaking.
(Image from Google Images.)
At their best, men’s clothes have advantages over women’s—admittedly with grave exceptions. To my mind, good men’s clothes are structured rather than droopy. (The unfortunate trend among young men lately of wearing sweatpants with ankle cuffs is probably caused by a huge bribe to fashion designers from the Center for Population Control. Even my eighty-year-old father knows better than to wear pants like that.)
Another thing I like is that the colors are generally less saturated and more muted (think of a standard box of eight Crayola crayons. Add pale grey to each color). Such shades are kinder for my Celtic/Polish complexion and I find them much more restful most of the time.
The last advantage is the patterns, which are often calmer. If there are flowers, they are either on tropical shirts and the particular type of flower is recognizable, or the flowers are tiny, almost like irregular polka dots from a distance. None of this Women’s Section Let’s add flowers! And paisleys! To the same shirt! And matching skirt/jacket/pants! And you are much more likely to see geometric patterns as well.
But up until recently, it would never have occurred to me to attempt to shop in the men’s section (although in high school I bought my sneakers and Oxford bucks in the boy’s section; the sizes were better). But I recently bought some shirts in three different stores in the men’s section, to replace a bunch of shirts that I got rid of a while back because they either were too small or had been worn to rags.
And all these advantages in clothes even pertain to socks, which is good because the vast majority of my socks are fairly boring. And if I am going to be playing dodgeball once a month in my socks from now on, I am totally going to require New & Improved Sockage.
Although today in the West, “hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival and is more associated with etiquette and entertainment” (“Hospitality”), in premodern times, in hostile environments like the Middle Eastern desert and the Scottish highlands, hospitality was a cultural imperative. When the weather could scorch you, drench you, starve you and kill you even if all you did was sit there for, say, a six-hour stretch, you probably are going to need some help. So in these cultures, hospitality meant that if a stranger came to your door, even if that stranger was your sworn enemy who had killed your father because your dad had killed his dad, etc., you had to put him up for two or three days (the time depends on the culture, but is usually strictly prescribed), give him the best of your food and the best place to sleep and protect him from his enemies, even giving your life if you had to. And if you wandered into his locale, he would have to do the same for you.
I think of this now after spending the last two or three months going to lesbian meetups: museum tours, happy hours, a dodgeball game. For the most part, the women I’ve met at these events have been kind and welcoming, allaying my fears about not fitting in and recommending other groups or events for me to try out. (And yes, it did turn out that the dodgeball game was untraumatic. In fact, watching women throw these shiny red balls at each other reminded me less of middle school gym bullies and more like a larger than life garden salad tossing itself, albeit a salad that was high on tomatoes and very, very low on lettuce.) Admittedly, at the last happy hour I attended, I did encounter one or two rather odd ladies, but for the most part, it has been uniformly positive.
I can only imagine that when you and your community have faced the hostile weather of institutional oppressions, it’s going to make you a bit less likely to reproduce that oppression and a bit more likely to combat it.
Note on the Illustration: “In the Caribbean, Europe and North America, the pineapple became associated with the return of ships from extended voyages, and an emblem of welcome and hospitality that made its way into contemporary art” and architecture, particularly in port cities (“Pineapple”).
“Hospitality.” Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
“Pineapple.” Wikipedia. 6 April 2016. Web. 6 April 2016.
I saw a comment on another writer’s blog the other day. “Stay strong, stay vulnerable, stay open—life has a way of shaking itself (and you) out.”
I am hoping this is true. This week I wore a pocket square in my blazer to work at one job on Thursday and at my other job on Friday and nobody blinked. So yay. They may have been blinking internally. I dunno.
And tonight I am going to go play, gasp, dodgeball. As a martial artist, I am trying really hard to think about this endeavor as just one more instance in which I try very carefully to not inflict damage on nice people while also not letting them inflict damage on me. This, trust me, is a whole lot better than how my instincts tell me to think of it: as a time travel trauma going back to middle school when I was so incredibly uncool, uncoordinated, unappreciated, and unable to grasp the social cues of the jungle that is a middle school recess with such tools of torture as jump ropes and hopscotch squares. Gaaah.
So the idea of Life taking me up by the scruff of the neck and shaking me out–shaking out the packing wrinkles, shaking out the lint, shaking out the stiff muscles and minor anxiety and All The Things–I have to say that has a certain appeal.
Among the many things I never bothered to swear I would never do: jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, with or without a bungee cord; walk anywhere near the reptile house at the zoo; waterski over a shark; do anything even remotely reminiscent of middle school gym classes.
Alas, infatuation, as it turns out, will make you do the wacky. This makes a sort of sense when you think about it since fatuus is Latin for fool, and thinking several times a day about someone I have only met twice is pretty darn stupid, especially since she probably hasn’t had a passing thought about me since Friday night. And “looking forward” to playing—I can hardly type the word—dodgeball on Saturday evening simply because she is probably going to be there feels stupid in the extreme.
And buying new sneakers because your gym sneakers are a garish pink and blue that doesn’t go with anything except your gym clothes and for this “social situation” you are bloody well not going to wear your gym clothes…
Well, you get the gist. How convenient that it’s April Fool’s Day. Present and accounted for.