Showering with Robert Pattinson

I like my showers. I like them extra hot. I like shampoo infused with a bit of mint. It makes my scalp tingle. It makes me feel awake and alive. I like men’s shower gels. I’m not picky about brands although I usually buy some version of Irish Spring or Old Spice.

You can read about me and Axe shower gel here (in “The plumber’s message) and here (in Be careful what you Axe for).  Apparently, I have a whole shower gel thing going on.

Earlier this week, I placed a new bottle of body wash in the shower. I had to stifle a scream when I first used it.  Swear to god on all that is holy like beer and Melissa Etheridge and cleavage.

Dial Magnetic

Oddly, the bottle is shaped like a crooked penis.

The body wash is made by Dial for Men. It’s called “Magnetic: Clean-Rinsing,” and the name is superimposed over the image of an atom as if the gel is a building block of all other things.  Quite arrogant for a bottle of body wash, I think.  I read on and learn that Magnetic is an “Attraction Enhancing Body Wash” that’s “Pheromone Infused.”

Really, how could a butch go wrong?

So, there I was. In the shower. My hair is freshly shampooed and rinsed.

I reach for the body of Magnetic. I pour some of the body wash into my hand.

xx
This is what Magnetic looks like.  Really, Dial?

The gel is bright red. Like blood. Red blood.

I try not to scream. I try not to gag.

After the shock wears off, I rub the viscous crimson gel on my skin.

I feel like Carrie at prom (Sissy Spacek Carrie and not Chloe Grace Moretz Carrie because you should never mess with a classic).

And then I sensed something, someone behind me.

It’s Robert Pattinson. I just know it.

Tall and pale like Ichabod Crane. I am in the shower with Edward from Twilight.

I am too afraid to turn around because I am showering with a known vampire.

Three people I’d rather shower with than Robert Pattinson:

1. Kristen Stewart

Oh. Hi. I’m still in the shower with Kristen Stewart and a bottle of Dial Magnetic. (Did you see her as Joan Jett in the movie The Runaways?)

Robert Pattinson

My shower buddy.

Anyway, there he is. Every morning. Robert Pattinson. In my shower. I can’t seem to get him out of my head.  Or my shower.

This might be a good thing if you are a young girl but not an old butch.

I pick up the bottle of Dial Magnetic and read the back label.

How to use:

1. Squeeze out.

2. Lather up.

3. Rinse off.

4. Watch the magic happen.

And then I get it. The magic. Dial Magnetic can make Robert Pattinson appear in your shower.

Like magic. Weird, creepy magic, but still.

Are you an introverted butch? Take this test and find out

Quiet by Susan CainI just finished the New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

It’s a terrific book.

W asked if it was all about how great introverts are being that yours truly is the poster child for introverts everywhere.

Not quite.  Even though introverts are awesome.  I said that very, very quietly.  Almost in a whisper.

The book is about how the world needs introverts and extroverts. I also learned that people are like rubber bands. We can stretch to a degree, which means, for example, that an introvert can overcome a fear of public speaking and, in fact, become quite adept at giving speeches in public.

Lea Delaria

King of the butches.

Cain’s book got me thinking about whether most butches are introverts. Lea Delaria, probably not an introvert, but aren’t most of us big bad butches quiet and brooding?  Do you tend to just want to stay at home organizing your flannel shirt collection?  Do you feel more comfortable talking to your cats than people?

Cain included an introvert-extrovert quiz in her book. I’ve included it here with a few minor additions.

Answer each question true or false. The more “trues,” the more introverted you probably are.

Introvert-Extrovert Quiz — The Butch Version

1. I prefer one-one conversations to group activities. Group activities butches really don’t like: quilting bees, Mary Kay parties, jazzercise class.

2. I often prefer to express myself in writing.  Actually, I prefer not to express myself at all.  I am made of stone.  I will not show emotion.

3. I enjoy solitude. Just me and a Melissa Etheridge greatest hits CD.

4. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status. Because when you’re a butch, who needs all that other stuff?

Tell me more about your breasts.

Tell me more about your breasts.

5. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me. Like baseball, beer, the Indigo Girls and really great cleavage.

6. People tell me that I’m a really great listener. Especially your wife.

7. I’m not a big risk-taker. Except for that whole looking-like-this-and-using-a-women’s-restroom thing.

8. I enjoy work that allows me to “dive-in” with few interruptions. I also enjoy recreational activities that allow me to “dive-in” with few interruptions.

9. I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members. Like the twins over at Hooters.

10. People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow.” Especially after hanging out with Miley Cyrus or Willie Nelson.

11. I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished. Or else I’d have to kill you.

12. I dislike conflict. Dyke drama is for other dykes.

13. I do my best work on my own. Because everyone knows butches do it better.

14. I tend to think before I speak. Don’t hear anything? I’m still thinking.

15. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself. Yes, this is my I’ve-enjoyed-myself face.

16. I often let calls go through to voicemail. Exceptions: Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara (see no. 5).

17. If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled. That’s why I turned down invitations to the potluck, the Hilary Rodham-Clinton book signing and the midnight showing of the Piper Perabo movie retrospective.

18. I don’t enjoy multitasking. Unless one of the tasks is drinking a beer. Watch me catch a football and drink a beer. Cook and drink a beer. Use power tools and drink a beer. Drink a beer while drinking another beer.

xx

What’s this L Word you speak of?

20. In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars. When taught by the hot new English professor with the big black glasses.

What about you? Are you an introvert, an extrovert or a middle-ground ambivert?

It all goes back to the past (or does it?)

Whenever my mother and I argue, I’m transported back to the year 2001 when I came out.

My mother told me I shouldn’t live my life openly as a lesbian until my son turned 16.  He was a toddler.

She told me lesbians get AIDS.

She said other things, but those are the two that stick with me, the ones that I carry around in my pockets, even on days when I’m trying to travel light.

We had a disagreement the other day.

xx

Xena, this lesbian misses you.

And there I was.  Back in 2001.  Imagine a younger, thinner Middle-age Butch.  Kissing Jessica Stein was out in theaters.  You could still find reruns of Xena: Warrior Princess on TV.  *Sigh*

There is nothing worse than believing that a parent does not accept you for who you are.  For who you have always been and will always be.  I feel judged for something over which I have no control.  I feel like I will never be good enough no matter how many good deeds I do.

I am 47 years old, and I still want my mother’s approval.

When I was an adult, my mother told me how she used to watch me and my brother play football through the kitchen window.  We used to play pick-up games of tackle football with the neighborhood kids on the stretch of grass in our backyard.

It is a pleasant childhood memory.

Our yard was bordered by a creek that formed a sideline that flowed quietly as we called plays in loud staccato voices.

Everything was measured in seconds.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi …

xx

Everything seemed electric and alive.

When we broke down time like that, we could feel each blade of grass, soft-sharp on the palms of our hands, staining our skin and the knees of our jeans lime green.  Everything felt electric and alive.  The grass, the dirt, the sky, the sun, our young bodies running as fast as our legs could carry us.

My mother says she was “mortified” watching me toss around my male playmates like sacks of flour.

The word “mortified” sticks with me, too.

It means she felt embarrassed, ashamed or humiliated.  In French, the word “mort” means death.

In my mind, my mother would rather be dead than have a daughter like me.  One who as a child could tackle a boy twice as big (wrap them up at the waist).  One who liked boy things.  One who still likes boy things.  One who likes girls.

When I was blowing off steam with W after the incident with my mother, I jokingly said I should transition to a man.  Maybe then my mother wouldn’t be so ashamed of me.

“This is my son,” she could say.  “Isn’t he handsome?”

“This is his wife.”

She could pay for the top surgery, we joked.

I wonder if this would make things better or worse.

I don’t have plans to transition.

xx

This is where the secret meetings of butch lesbians take place.

For right now, I like being me.  I like wearing men’s clothes and baseball caps.  I like wearing neckties and my Timex Weekender watch with its oversized face.  I like watching ballgames and drinking beer.  I like tattoos, army boots, sneakers.  I like girls.  I really like girls.  The way they smell.  Their curves.  Their cleavage.  I like going to Home Depot and quietly nodding at the other butches as if we are members of a secret club.  I like getting my hair cut so short it feels like velvet on the back of my neck.

I wish my mother got it, got me.  At least a little bit, once in awhile.

As I start to lose interest in writing this post, I check my Twitter feed.

Marianne Williamson tweets:

“The past is over.  It can touch me not.”

– A Course in Miracles

Good Lord, don’t you hate it when the universe interferes with your sullenness and self-righteousness?  Curse you, universe!  Curse you, Marianne Williamson!  (Makes angry lesbian fist.)

Maybe my mother isn’t the one who needs to change.  Maybe I do.

 

Son of a gun

“Is that your son?” a woman asks W at the family reunion.

She’s talking about me. I am sitting next to W at a long table. I am wearing a pair of tan cargo shorts and a navy blue T-shirt.

“No, that’s my partner,” W says.

I brush it off like a crumb.

Later that night, I ask W how it made her feel.

“Old,” she says.

“Old that you have a 47-year-old son?”

We both laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement.  A 43-year-old woman with a 47-year-old son.

W doesn’t look old.

She has a few streaks of gray that look silver in the light.

I think her grays make her look sexy.

Sometimes when she tilts her head just the right way in the sunlight, I remember that she is the most beautiful woman in the world.

*  * *

Has this ever happened to you?  What is your partner’s typical response? 

Gender failures … aren’t we all?

No, 200

Greetings Flannel Files followers. If you haven’t been keeping track at home, this is the 200th post of your all-time favorite blog.  With the word “flannel” in the title.  C’mon, you know it’s true.

I’ve been racking my freshly sheared noggin trying to figure out what to write about for the big 200.

And then it hit me square in the head.

Gender.

It was like I had been slocked (struck by a sock containing a lock).  (Who’s been watching too much Orange Is the New Black?  This butch.)

This butch says buy this book.

This butch says buy this book.

I just finished up Gender Failure by Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon.  Read the whole thing over the course of two days.  This is what I thought when I first started reading: Wow, someone has actually written a book just for me.  The book will make you laugh and cry and think and, if you’ve ever been mystified or conflicted about your own gender, it will make you feel not so alone.  The moral of the story is that gender comes in more than two sizes.  Butch is the Big Gulp of all genders, if you ask me.

Ultimately, Rae Spoon decides to retire from gender.  I have pondered this idea about retiring from gender.  Do you get a pocket watch or a wall clock?  Is there cake?  Because if I’m going to retire from gender, I want cake.

xx

Pick one.

Mostly, I wonder how a person can retire from gender when the world revolves around a dual gender system.  Clothes are purchased in the men’s department or the women’s department.  We check a box marked M or a box marked F when filling out forms.

I must say though that there is something appealing and freeing about not giving a damn.

On being a butch, Ivan writes:

“Older butch sightings in airports make me feel like I am part of an army.  A quiet, button-down, peacekeeping brigade that nods instead of saluting.  Silver hair and eye wrinkles are earned instead of stripes or medals.”

Ivan Coyote might be one of the most beautiful people in the world.

So, yeah, read the book if you haven’t already.  Read it if you are gender queer or if your partner is or if you know someone who identifies outside the gender binary.  Or read it because you’re a human being and open to seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.

* * *

Have you read Gender Failure or any other books by Ivan Coyote or Rae Spoon?  Thoughts?

 

Even butches get choked up

Marry Me?If you read my last post, you know that I proposed to W on Sunday via cupcake.

Of course, she said yes. I mean, what woman could possibly resist the sexy, handsome beast that is this butch.

Anyway, here’s what I failed to mention:

After I decided to go with a cupcake proposal, I drove to the cupcake place by our house. I had some ideas and wanted to run them by the baker and get her opinion.

I started out strong.

“I have an odd question for you,” I said.

“My partner and I had a commitment ceremony a few years ago, but we haven’t been able to get legally married in the state of Pennsylvania until last month.”

I sounded like this guy.

I sounded like this guy.

Somewhere in that sentence my voice broke, causing me to sound like I was channeling Peter Brady in my 47-year-old body. Not a pretty picture.

That’s what happens. I keep everything tamped down so tightly that every once in awhile some emotion trickles out. It’s inevitable. A side effect of being a butch, perhaps.

Deep down inside, I do feel emotionally about last month’s court ruling that opened up the possibility of marriage in Pennsylvania for all couples.

The cynic in me will tell you that, for those of my generation, gay marriage will always be a political statement of sorts.

Or maybe it’s not the cynic in me but that place inside that houses my fears.  I hide them underneath the bravado and the bluster, the flannel and the thermal shirts.  It’s the tender spot that pulses below the big words and the carefully articulated theories.

The other day I overheard my son talking to a friend.

“My mom’s a writer. She knows everything,” he said with a giant sigh.

Of course, I took it as a compliment.

xx

Perhaps the greatest non-lesbian movie ever made (back when Nic Cage was a cool dude).

I know tons of weird things. Like the year that Hershey’s Whatchamacallit candy bar came out. 1978. And all the words to the movie Valley Girl. But I don’t know how to enjoy the moment. I don’t know how to not overthink things. I don’t know how to show emotion. I don’t know how to be vulnerable.

So, yeah, sometimes it trickles out of me. A single tear streaking silently down one pink cheek. My face slowly turning red like a garden rose. My voice cracking mid-sentence.

I wish I could have said something like this to the cupcake baker:

I’m sorry, but I get emotional thinking about how I’m finally able to marry the woman I love.

In the end, my voice betrayed me — cracking like a scratched 45. It was a small slip hinting at the emotion that bubbles inside me.

Because I really am grateful that I got another chance at love. And I’m grateful that W has agreed to take this step with me.  The fact that it’s all going to be legal makes it that much sweeter.

She said ‘yes’

We went to W’s family reunion today.

It’s pretty much the same every year — picnic food like hot dogs, potato salad and chips; dollar store prizes; a family picture; catching up with everyone.

But this year I added a twist.

I asked W to marry me.

We had a commitment ceremony almost three years ago. I had proposed back then on one knee with a diamond engagement ring in my hand and rose petals in the background. Like any good butch should.

We had a shindig, sent out invitations, hired a band and a caterer, exchanged vows, smashed cake on each other’s faces.

It was the best we could do in 2011.

And then same-sex marriage became an option in our home state of Pennsylvania last month.

xx

Not so scary.

The m word scares the hell out of me.  (We’re not talkin’ menopause or mudflap girls.  Especially not mudflap girls.)

I’ve already tried it with a man.

And a woman (a civil union in Vermont).

I failed both times.  Some people might take that as a sign.

xx

Half-eaten cupcake with capsule and special request.

Today, at the family reunion, I brought two dozen gourmet cupcakes. I had a special cupcake for W. Inside was a little plastic capsule with a special request. Marry me?

She said yes.

I was nervous this morning. My son said if anyone else accidentally got the special cupcake, I would have to marry him/her. So there was that.

And I was worried about pulling the whole thing off. What if W didn’t want a cupcake? Or wanted another flavor? What if the cupcake melted in the hot car? What if she said no?

But now? I’m not so nervous.

It feels right.  It feels good.

Sure, I’m still scared.  No one can see the future.  What can be scarier than that?  But I’m willing to take the leap with W.

I told W today that I would make an honest woman out of her yet.

What I’ve realized writing this post is she’s the one making an honest woman out of me.