Lesbian Dodgeball #41

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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.)

Muscles & Mascara Monday: Truthful Statements

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“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?

Moving from A to B

Between any two letters of the alphabet, infinity

Runs rampant, with fragments of letters, fractals

Like the paisley inside the peacock on the butterfly’s

Painted wing. The fractions closer to A are stiff:

Chutes, ladders, railroad tracks going in only one

Direction. As you edge closer to B, you find curves:

Buttons and bees, beer caps and tiny basketballs

Like the ones you see on TV at a bar, from across

The room. And you wouldn’t even be in the bar

Except for the L sitting next to you, rooting for

Her team. You root for her team too now.

 

Halfway between A and B, you find the square

Of the cocktail napkin, but also the ring etched

In water, the rectangular business card, but also

The number scribbled hopefully on the back.

More and more these days, I find myself

Attentive to middle spaces, littoral waters,

The city halfway down the coastline on the map,

The fourth of seven chakras, green like the leaves

Of the lotus blossom growing from my heart.

Other letters also litter the landscape: Q and P

And the letters of my name and after my name.

I will use them all to write this letter

To myself on learning how to be.

What to Do Once You Get Her Number

  1. Grin to yourself. Outwardly, remain cool. Slip her card into your card case as if this feat of dating dexterity is something you do every week rather than once or twice a decade.
  2. Imagine calling her. Panic. Realize that you have nothing to say that could be considered witty or interesting or remotely intelligent or even grammatically English.
  3. Keep it tucked away safe. Take it out now and then to look at it. Repeat #2.
  4. Google her. Tell yourself this is not stalker behavior. Clear your browser. Distract yourself with work.
  5. Write five poems that no one within forty miles of your closet could tell were in any way gay. Post one on your blog. Repeat #4.
  6. Check out her photography portfolio online. Wonder why the single photo of her doesn’t show the glow you see when you look at her in person. Repeat #5.
  7. Write a poem that is, face it, just a little bit gay. Wait for the glitter to fall on your head.
  8.  Repeat #2-7. Keep waiting.

The Bisexual Cento

 

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I was on a blog the other day and the poet’s “and” list was exactly like a cento, a poem created from the single lines of other poems. I was looking at the Tag Cloud for this blog today and saw the ones that stand out:

 

Bisexuality, Catholic school, cufflinks,

Joss Whedon, androgyny,

butch, femme, hair, Jesus,

Katherine Moennig, ally,

lesbian, menswear, perception,

shoes.

Imposter Syndrome or What Else to Call It

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So last week I told my therapist about realizing I am bisexual and going to lesbian meetups to test the waters. She seemed happy for me and said I looked more relaxed than I had seemed in a long while (and she has known me for over fifteen years). I mentioned that I feel a bit like an imposter, taking on an identity in a time and place where it is safe to, reaping the advantages that others have fought and suffered for, without having done any of the work myself beyond being a fairly passive ally.

She pointed out that women today reap the advantages of being able to vote, work, wear whatever clothes we want and define ourselves without having to adhere to someone else’s will or standards because women a hundred years ago and fifty years ago fought for that. We didn’t march with them or chain ourselves to courthouse stairs. We didn’t earn those advantages. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to have them.

I suppose the key with things like LGBTQ+ equality is the same as with feminism. Many young women today think we are living in a post-feminist world, even when women are still making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, etc. There is still work to do and just as I try to find ways to include feminist thinking, and increasingly environmentally ethical thinking, in my teaching and writing and buying practices, so too I have to continue and expand these things for issues in the queer community, especially as we have been seeing the backlash against the 2015 Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. As Gandalf would say, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Styling Saturday: The Giraffe in the Room

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So I was wandering around Pinterest last week and I saw this illustration and immediately had a visceral reaction to it: Yes! That’s it!

After my self-revelations last fall, I started the new year intending to test out the possibility of bisexuality, but how does one do that? Eventually, I realized that the local Meetup had some groups for lesbians, so I nervously signed up for a few—one at a museum, one at a dance at a local hotel, a concert, a movie, and one at one of the few gay bars in town (apparently). For all of these events, I dressed carefully in my work clothes: French cuff shirt, blazer, earrings and necklace that complement my cufflinks (because duh), boots with two-inch heels because I am not particularly tall in flats… The very first event I went to, a woman said, “Nice outfit,” which was a huge shock; I cannot begin to tell you how much I never, ever hear that.

Most of the LGBT women I know I met at either seminary or church, and priests do tend to dress a bit conservatively (luckily a black shirt with a white collar goes with everything, dear). But at every event I went to it was pretty much 96% women you would pass on the street and not be able to tell whether they were gay or straight from any stereotypical markers; 2% women in menswear; and 2% women in plaid flannel.

What did I expect? That I was a Clydesdale and the bar would be filled with zebras who would sense my deception immediately? That the room would be filled with quarterhorses and I, a giraffe bicycling my way into the mix, would smack my neck on the rainbow, the gate also become the gatekeeper?

SPOILER ALERT: That didn’t happen. (Big surprise, right?)

At one lesbian happy hour meetup, I was talking to an older women—short grey hair, dress, good jewelry: the kind of woman I would expect to be a dean at one of the schools I work at—about how surprised she was that it was my first time at that bar; presumably when there are only two or three gay bars in town, one naturally assumes that everyone who is there has been there before. I explained that I had just recently realized I was bisexual. She said (more or less), “Seriously? I totally thought you were a lesbian.”

Reader, I thanked her. Contextually, it was a huge compliment, while at the same time explaining why I haven’t had any dates with guys for the past eleven years.

Somewhere in heaven, God and Joan of Arc are sharing a huge laugh at my expense.

Also, apparently, there’s nobody here but us horses.