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. She claims that a routine is a good starting point. Having a routine helps to keep her organized, but she does not want to be constrained or governed by it. Donna is always thinking about how to improve the itinerary, by either deviating from it or adding to it. As soon as I adjust to a plan, she changes it. She likes spontaneity. She aspires to be a free-spirit. She always wants to hear the specials in a restaurant.
I am a person who cleaves to routine. I like that the barista knows me as “grande dark roast in a personal cup” and that the waiter at the Japanese restaurant knows me as “sushi deluxe, salad, Asahi Super Dry beer.” I like that they acknowledge my existence, even if they don’t know me by name. Still, they see me as something more than my appearance.
Being butch and trans* is at odds with the heteronormative world; the familiarity of routine evens out the score. A woman in the locker room was staring at my hairy legs (and the neon-green striped boxer briefs I forgot I was wearing). I reminded myself that the trainers and staff know me, my form is good, and I know I belong there, hairy legs and all. Thursday at 5:00 P.M. is my gym time. I’m willing to share it with others.
When I was in my twenties I wanted to be invisible. I preferred places that were impersonal, grab and go. I avoided situations that required asking for assistance. I did not want to deal with a bank teller, or a delicatessen counterman, or a hardware store clerk. I did not want to be on a first name basis with the cheesemonger at Murray’s. I’ve changed.
I still feel a little tension going into a new place; are they going to have an attitude? I like patronizing shops and restaurants where I don’t have to worry about how I look or how I sound or what the proprietor is going to call me. It isn’t about being a big shot or jumping the queue or getting the red-carpet treatment. Being a regular takes the sting out of being gender non-conforming. I can be queer and normal at the same time. It is comforting to have someone ask “The usual?” and to be able to answer “Yes.”