I have a hard time asking for help or for directions. I like to figure things out for myself. I have a bookcase full of books on women’s studies, lesbian herstory, gay liberation, butch-femme dynamics, queer theory, and transgender rights. I’ve got another one full of cookbooks and dog behavior. But, the book that helped me the most was written by a straight, white, upper-class, married woman with children, who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It is a New York TImes best-seller. It is pop-psychology. Welcome to “The Happiness Project.”
I was not trying to get happy. I was trying to understand why I was discontent and ill at ease in my life. Why I procrastinated. The answer was on page 18. Gretchen Rubin outlined her Twelve Commandments and I got stuck on the first one, which is “Be Gretchen.” Continue reading →
Gracie loves routine. Gracie expects to walk down to 11th Street in the morning and she expects to go to the dog run before dinner. At night, she expects me to play “tricks for treats”. She expects a rawhide swizzle stick after the last walk, and she expects to be invited up for a snuggle right before I go to sleep.
If I try to skip a routine because it is late, or because I am tired, she sits and gives me a withering look. She whines. She is a willful little bitch. The last time I counted, we had over twenty daily routines. I will not list them. She keeps track. Dogs like consistency. If you asked Gracie what she wanted to do tonight, she would probably reply “The usual.”
I enjoy Gracie’s routines. They are a form of intimacy. I love her enthusiasm for giving me high-fives. I like how she pulls me to the right at the corner of Horatio and Washington because it it time to go to the dog run. Gracie and I understand each other. We know what makes each other tick.
There is great comfort in being known, even if it is by a dog. I don’t have to explain myself. I don’t have to make excuses. I don’t have to pretend to be someone else. I can stick to the routine.
It is a good thing that I have Gracie, because Donna chafes at routine. Continue reading →
Donna and I were at a dinner party at a friend’s house. We were talking about how we see ourselves; how as we get older we “photoshop” our own image in the mirror. We all saw ourselves as younger than our chronological age. For Donna, the magic number was 37. I was embarrassed to say that mine was 12. Pre-everything. I did not add that the 12 year-old is a boy.
When I am asked why I haven’t transitioned, I usually joke back that the last thing the world needs is another schlubby, short, bald, un-athletic, middle-aged, nerdy, straight, Jewish, white guy. It is a completely uncool image. It is not whom I want to be.
The more accurate answer is that I can picture myself as a boy but not as a man. The truth is, I do not picture myself as an adult of either sex. When I picture myself as a child or as an adolescent, I only see myself as a boy. WIthout breasts. Sometimes I think about top surgery. Mostly I try to look at myself from the shoulders up.
What happens to tomboys when they age out? When being a jock or a nerd no longer protects you? When the pressure to conform mounts? When you find yourself becoming marginalized in settings where you used to fit in? How much do you bend, how much do you give in? Continue reading →
I stick out because I am butch. People notice me. They “Sir” me by accident or condescendingly “Ma’am” me. It is a binary world and I am not a person who fits comfortably on either side of the male/female divide. There are times when I am tired of being a masculine woman; when I would like to be either a cisgendered man or a cisgendered woman. To blend in and move around anonymously. To get dressed for a party without having a major dysphoria attack. There are times I would like to live in a magical world where my existence as butch or trans* does not cause a problem. For me or for anyone else.
Butches (and all other gender non-conforming people) disrupt the natural flow of events. We make people uncomfortable. There are a million nuances in how men conduct themselves with women. And in how men conduct themselves with other men. The same holds true for women. Every interaction is gendered. There is no etiquette for whether a butch should be treated like a woman or a like a man. It shouldn’t matter, everyone should be treated with consideration and respect, but it doesn’t work that way. Continue reading →
This is my post Mother’s Day post. I find myself continuing old arguments with my mother. Arguments that I can not win. I hear her yelling “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you be normal? What did I do to deserve this?”
My mother and I argued from nursery school through graduate school. I couldn’t take it. I gradually reduced the number of visits until I only saw her at funerals, weddings, and Bar/Bat MItzvahs. We could not be seated at the same table. In the end we had nothing to say to each other. We argued silently. Continue reading →
My post “Traveling to Guatemala” was Freshly Pressed. The post was then highlighted again in a Friday Faves. This has brought me some new readers. If you are one of them, welcome.
I wanted to celebrate my 15 minutes of fame, but I had trouble figuring out what would be satisfying. I could go out for a nice dinner with Donna, but I don’t want to sabotage reaching my goal at Weight Watchers. I could treat myself to a new piece of computer paraphernalia, but blogging was supposed to be an inexpensive hobby. I could buy a pair of waterproof Keen summer hikers that I’ve been eyeing, but the space under my bed is already cluttered with dusty shoes. Then I remembered these posts from Buzz Cuts and Bustiers and Butch Wonders.
My Dad wore cotton poplin boxer shorts; my brother wore basic Fruit of the Loom briefs. The kind with the Y-pocket and the striped band. I coveted the briefs. I had a habit of stealing a pair, wearing them, and then putting them in the laundry basket. I was caught wearing them in 11th grade math class. I told the girl that I had run out of clean ones and that it was better to borrow his than to recycle a dirty pair. I had not worn men’s underwear since. Continue reading →
I like the idea of being able to visibly demonstrate my love for Donna (and for Gracie). Donna and I have not gotten married (it is legal in New York State, but not recognized by the federal government). We don’t wear wedding rings. We have wills, we have medical and legal powers of attorney, and we have made each other beneficiaries on all our accounts. It is a lot of paper (reminder to contact lawyer to update my name on my will). We’ve made our commitments to each other.
My ideal wedding would be to call a couple of friends, go down to City Hall (the Municipal Building), get married by the City Clerk, and be done in time to have Dim Sum for lunch in Chinatown. It is not going to happen. Continue reading →