High-Maintenance Butch?

I came out about three and a half years ago, and not much later realized that I was butch and probably always had been, even and possibly especially during the two years or so when I tried to grow my hair out and meet more guys and yeah, that. I’ve read about quite a few butches who went through that stage.

And then there was this Facebook quiz that showed up on my feed about two years ago and made me laugh, because, before I came out, I would have scored a perfect zero.

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Nowadays, I am clearly much, much more high maintenance. Now, I score a grand total of four points. Yeah, not the hair extensions four points, or hair is dyed+nails are painted four points. Nope. Owns 20+ pairs of shoes.

Given that there was a time in the 1990s when I owned one pair of shoes for work, a pair of sneakers, a pair of snowboots and a pair of either flats or low heels for emergencies such as weddings, it still boggles my mind that I might own more than twenty pairs of shoes.

And I thought I owned only twenty pairs of shoes, including sneakers and boots. Nope. The other day I pulled all of my non-sneaker, non-boot shoes out into the living room to get a good look at what I had.

Pretty much, it came down to short boots,

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Oxfords (bucks, brogues, wingtips and monkstraps), in black

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Brown

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And other exciting colors

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And girly shoes.

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The total came to thirty pairs. Who the hell owns thirty pairs of shoes? And when I think that most of them are made of leather, and I do know the problems with the leather industry, how did I manage to accumulate all of these? Or, to put it differently, how did I manage to eat this particular dinosaur? Sigh. One piece at a time. Okay, maybe a pair of pieces at a time. And that means, I suppose, that I can also reduce the excess one pair at a time, right?

To be fair, there is a real reason that I ended up with this many pairs of shoes, and if I look at the shoes I’ve got, the answer is pretty clear. Once I recognized and embraced myself as more of a masculine kinda girl, I wanted to express that through my clothes: blazers, cufflinks, vests, shoes.

Two years ago, I did a purge of all of my clothes. I got rid of 117 items of clothing, including shoes, socks, shirts, skirts, dresses. Things that were worn out but I was still wearing, I threw out. Things that no longer fit me physically, I donated. Things that no longer felt authentic, and probably hadn’t even when I thought I should be more feminine, I donated.

117 things. Gone. But we know that nature abhors a vacuum. (I know my cat does.) Apparently I filled it. With, among other things, shoes.

So this week, as part of a new purge, I tried on all thirty pairs of shoes and managed to winnow it down by one-sixth. One pair, the black oxfords, were simply too small. I was able to give them to a smaller friend who has been pulling together a working wardrobe for her post-graduate degree present. The others, all bought online even though I know that I have narrow heels and usually can’t wear shoes that don’t tie in some way but I was trying to have better girl shoes… Yeah, that didn’t work.

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So now, I am 58 pieces of clothing down (including five pairs of shoes), in part because I just ordered two vests and yeah, another pair of shoes. I never meant to be a horrible consumeristic person, or as my sister called me a while back, God forbid, “a clothes horse.”

Life leads us in really strange directions.

Taking Aim

 

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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.

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.

The Strangeness of the Blogosphere

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I have a blog about my cat that has three readers. I have a blog about poetry that has almost two hundred and a connection on my facebook page. And then there is this, whistling in the dark and waiting for other people in similar straits to walk by and notice my nervous ramblings. I look for them too, with tags like “butch” and “bi” and “closet,” even though I never felt I was in a closet until I realized I wasn’t the girl my parents (and I myself) expected me to be (extra pop culture points if you get the reference!).

I keep asking myself, “How important is this stuff really? It’s not like I am in a relationship. For that matter, my heterosexuality for the past eleven years has been just as theoretical as my presumed bisexuality is now. How important is sexuality unless/until you are in a relationship?”

But then I look at all the anti-gay rhetoric and legislation happening, and I think politically my voice probably does matter and my votes matter. They mattered when I was “just” an ally and they matter now; it’s hard to say how much has changed between then and now except I am not just speaking/voting for the sake of my family and friends. Someday it could be my own freedom or happiness on the line. And the fact that that even makes a difference tells me I was a pretty inadequate ally.

And last week at dinner with R, one of the very few people I have talked with about any of this, I mentioned how in the process of cleaning out my (actual) closet, I realized I should probably sell my kendo armor and punching bag that are in there, and she starts laughing at the irony because suddenly I am actually in the (other) closet and trying to make space for myself, and I suspect that at some point I am going to have to write about all of that, but right now, I have spent more time in the last few weeks thinking about shoes than I have over the previous forty-odd years of my life. Which feels strange. As does the time I spend on WordPress reader looking for blogs by people standing in the doorway of their closets hemming and hawing as I am.

And then, once in a while, you get a comment from somebody who is a bit ahead of you on the learning curve. This comment has helped me a lot:

“The shoes thing, yeah. Slipped on my first pair of Docs when I was 19, and my world changed forever. I was instantly transformed into the bi butch punk that I still am to this day. Dorothy Gale and her ruby slippers ain’t got nothin’ on me. And when my butch grrl puts on her wing tips, she becomes one hot genderqueer butch lezzy. Mm-MMMMM! Never underestimate the defining and transformative power of the shoe.”

Styling Saturday: Yes, Women Love Shoes. Just Not Those Shoes.

There is an episode on the TV series Bones, in which the forensic anthropologist, Dr. Brennan identifies a decomposed body by the surgery the woman had on her feet to shorten her toes to fit some fancy-shmancy ridiculously high-heeled shoes for her wedding. The pathologist, Dr. Saroyan, not known for her taste in sensible shoes herself, says, “Women do love their shoes!” When I saw this episode, I said, “No, we don’t! That’s stereotypical! Harrumph!”

I also find it ridiculous that a show with high-powered women who spend a lot of time on their feet generally show them wearing at least three-inch heels. Somehow I doubt it. Sure they might keep a set in the bottom drawer for meetings, but given that these main characters are medical professionals, they would know exactly how each inch of heel puts that much more pressure on the ball of the foot, stretches the Achilles tendon and does other nasty stuff to knees, legs and back. Sure, up to a point they can make a woman’s calves look good and the shift to the legs also helps foreground her breasts (stand on your tiptoes and see what shifts). But standing or, for example, walking in them? Nope!

I am thinking of this now because I just bought a few pairs of shoes and rediscovered others that were at the back of my closet.

The old. Ariat paddock boots. Bass oxfords. Brogues.

 

The new. Mark Fisher monk straps and brogues. And Shiny Party Shoes!!!

The rejected. Toms oxfords. Sole Society boots.

 

They both look utterly terrific, but when I tried the Oxfords on, they were unbelievably uncomfortable: rigid and unforgiving. The boots were just too narrow for my feet. Sending them back.

Harrumph. By sweet Jesus in his dusty Birkenstocks, I did not come to this side of the rainbow bridge to wear uncomfortable shoes!

Trying Things On

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In the last few weeks, I have ordered seven or eight pairs of shoes online. I fully expect to have to send half of them back for not fitting; I acknowledge that this is not the most efficient or environmentally responsible way to buy shoes, if simply having things in general to wear on my feet is my goal. But I think what I am really doing is playing with constituting my identity in a different way and that requires a specificity I can’t achieve by wandering through Marshalls or DSW and hoping I hit on something interesting and appropriate.

It feels very strange to be sorting out my identity with shoes. Normally, I use books. As a writer and English teacher, my normal destinations in moments of existential confusion are, first, the library, and second, the used/antiquarian bookstores.

According to LibraryThing.com, an online book cataloguing site, I have about 900 books, not counting cookbooks and cartoons. Like most bibliophiles, I have a very clear organization for my books, so I can generally lay my hands on whatever I am looking for in seconds: theology here, poetry over there, books on Joss Whedon’s oeuvre on the shelf above the books on bungalows and the Arts and Crafts movement, etc. Back in 2009 or so, I bought a copy of Carl Spitzweg’s “The Bookworm” (1850) to put up on one of my bedroom walls. This fellow is one of my inner archetypes, along with the woman warrior, and when I am trying to process how my life has changed every few years, I find myself rearranging my books, and I suspect to anyone watching, I probably look a bit like this.

Most of the shelves stay static. Books about writing or medieval history or science pretty much stay where they are. But I have two shelves that change on an irregular basis: the Writing Project in Process shelf and the Self in Process shelf. The former still carries a bunch of books about England and ancient Egyptian religion from a novel I tried to write two years ago. The other one has been undergoing some shifts since Tuesday morning when I stood there with my huge Christmas mug filled with overly creamed coffee feeling restless. (I was restless, not the coffee.) Out came the books on mystery writing and spycraft that were overflow from the Writing Project shelf. In went the following Very Odd Bibliography:

 

Connors, Roger, and Tom Smith. Change the Culture, Change the Game. New York: Penguin, 2011.

Earhart, Amelia. Last Flight. (1938). New York: Crown, 1988.

Levertov, Denise. The Poet in the World. New York: New Directions, 1973.

Mason, Philip. The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal. New York: William Murrow, 1982.

Oliver, Mary. Blue Pastures. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995.

Sennett, Richard. The Craftsman. New Haven: Yale UP, 1998.

Stark, Freya. Perseus in the Wind. New York: Transatlantic Arts, 1949.

 

It should be interesting to see what my little reading list leads to.