The Dog Days of Summer

the-butch-star-canis-majorIt is the last day of July. The dog days of summer. It is hot in New York. Unless you stay in  your apartment with the air conditioning on you can not escape the heat. The sidewalks are hot, the subway platform is hot, the dog run is hot. I try to take Gracie in the evening once it cools down a little. Last week she wasn’t interested in going out for walks. She skipped a meal.

When it is hot Gracie finds a cool place on the wood floor and lies down. She laps up some water and chews on an antler. I get lazy too. I skipped the gym; I went to the dog run and had a couple of beers. The dogs splashed around in the wading pool and then lay down on the hot pavement and watched us drink.

I put on a couple of pounds and blamed it on Gracie. The summer is prime time for losing weight, but I am exactly where I was in April. I am still on Weight Watchers. I am still a few pounds short of my goal.

Depending upon whether I view the pint glass as half full or half empty, this is either a success or a failure. Or it is an experiment to see what it takes to maintain my weight rather than have it creep back up. I’ve learned that I can’t suck down beers and skip going to the gym. I’ve got to cut down on the beer and work out if I want to see shoulder and back muscles.

The dog days are mindless and static. They are not a time of deep thinking and reflection. I save that for September. This year Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) starts at sundown on September 4; the earliest day that it can fall in the Gregorian calendar. I look forward to the ten days of reflection and repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a time to think about the past year, my successes and my failures. About what changes I need to make in the new year.

I am Jewish, but I am not religious. It is ingrained in my thought process, my speech, my outlook, and my kitchen. I was raised to read, study, analyze, deliberate, reflect, interpret, and eat. It affects how I think about my body. How I think about being butch, being queer, and being trans*.

I grew up in family that believed deeply in the American dream (or at least a German-Jewish middle class version of it). It was important to speak proper English (no Yiddish), to not talk with your hands,  and to not look too Jewish. There were long discussions about whether it was acceptable to get a “nose job” or to anglicize your last name. The line between assimilating (hiding your Jewishness) and integrating into the mainstream as a Jew. My family did not want to be marginalized with the greenhorns and the orthodox. They cared about what other people thought about them.

For me, there are parallels between top surgery and nose jobs. I think about both in terms of dysphoria, cultural norms of beauty and handsomeness, body self-image, and reliance on the medical establishment. I am still thinking about top surgery.

I do not want to assimilate, either by becoming a “good gay” and looking less butch, or by transitioning and going stealth. On a good day, I am happily gender non-conforming and all for integration. On a bad day, I feel weird and marginalized. Today, I am a boy with her dog, heading out to the dog run for a beer and some shade. Tomorrow is gym day.

3 thoughts on “The Dog Days of Summer

  1. timethief

    We purchased a small wading pool (hard plastic) for kids. We fill it with a small amount of water and the three dogs like to use it. The Chihuahuas (short haired females) are very prissy and tentative but they do use it to cool their feet and legs. The Pomeranian is sweltering given the coat he has and he just flops into it and even lies on his back in it. Then he lies in front of the fan to cool, off. So who says paddling pools are only for kids? Sometimes my partner and I cool our feet off in it too. 😉

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  2. Jamie Ray Post author

    The first summer I had Gracie I realized how hot a black dog gets in the sun. I was walking her and reached down to pet her and her coat was practically on fire. Now I know better, and try to walk her on the shady side of the street (which I should do anyway just for my own comfort). She is not a water dog, but sometimes I can coax her in by tossing a toy in the pool. Otherwise I pick her up and drop her in the pool.

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