Silent partners

One of our kids was in a serious bicycle crash almost two weeks ago. He spent a week in the hospital. W stayed with him around the clock.

“You make him feel safe,” I told her.

I visited each day.

He was home for a few days but had a setback and is back in the hospital for at least another week. W is by his side.

Once again, I am making a daily trek to the hospital.

W sends me a list of what to bring that day: nail clippers, a travel-size bottle of shampoo from the top of her dresser, Advil.

I usually visit late afternoon and stay until it starts to get dark outside. I run out for whatever the kid wants. It is always sweet tea and something else. Today it was a single glazed donut. I tell him I am going to buy him a Smashburger with cheese and bacon and a Nutter Butter milkshake when he feels better.

W and I sit on the couch in his room.

“What’s new?” I ask.

She gives me the update.

“What’s new with you?” she asks.

I tell her what’s happening at home.

We eat take-out for dinner.

We watch silly videos about Prince beating Jimmy Fallon at ping pong and cats doing silly cat things.

We stare at our phones.

Sometimes I bring the newspaper or a magazine to read.

But mostly we sit without speaking. I might squeeze her hand or rub her back to remind her I am here. That I will always be here, especially in times like these.

I think of our cats at home. The two brothers who silently sit on the pink blanket on top of the washer to watch the birds or on the bed to take a nap or in the window to warm in the sun …

And I remember how lucky I am to have W by my side as life storms by.

 

Prince

“I’m not a woman

I’m not a man

I am something that you’ll never understand”

— Prince, “I Would Die for You”

His music was the soundtrack to my life. I discovered Prince when most of my peers did — after the movie Purple Rain was released in 1984 and the songs on the soundtrack became a permanent part of our everyday life.

images7FZ0N531As a senior in high school at age 18, I played “1999” every morning before school on the turntable in my bedroom. One morning I would play Side 1, which was comprised of “Little Red Corvette,” “1999” and “Delirious.” The next day, I would flip the album over and play the two songs on Side 2, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “D.M.S.R.”

I never tired of those five songs, so I never made it to Side 3 or Side 4 of that double album.

imagesMS624EGMI’m not sure what it was that drew me to Prince and his music. It didn’t sound like anything else I had ever heard. But there was something else. He was dirty and poetic. A cross between Shakespeare and a porn star. Something about that combination appealed to me as I started my journey into adulthood. He seemed to understand all those things I didn’t — sex, love, God, life — so I listened to his music in an effort to crack the code.

When I went off to college, I found a used record store and bought all of his old albums — “Prince,” “Dirty Mind,” “Controversy.” I studied them more than my text books.

My parents never taught me about the birds and bees, but Prince did.

He was my sex ed teacher.

The only reason I know the words to the Lord’s Prayer is because it’s in the middle of his song “Controversy.”

Prince was my Sunday school teacher, too.

He was my church.

He was my religion.

He was my Elvis.

He was my Beatles.

He showed me how to adore and appreciate women.

And he taught me how to be funky.

I know what you’re thinking. You, Middle-Age Butch, got funky? Tell us another tale. What I’ll tell you is there’s a fine line between funk and swagger. And any butch worth her boots has a little swagger in her. You just got to love yourself. That’s what Prince would have said.

imagesZHT5V4H7I don’t think I realized why I was always so fascinated with the purple one until he dropped his name and became the symbol. The symbol was a perfect mix between male and female.

That’s the thing about Prince.

He transcended gender.

I always thought I was in love with the pretty purple boy with the high heel boots and the puffy blouses and tight little body. Back in the day, this in-the-closet lesbian always had a thing for pretty boys with high cheekbones and beautiful hair.

I wasn’t really in love with Prince. We would have made a strange couple.

But he did show me how to love myself.

* * *

My all-time favorite Prince song is “Little Red Corvette.” What’s yours?

 

 

 

Fallen hero

I remember the first time I saw her.

I can still feel the excitement in my heart. The way it fluttered like a hummingbird’s wings inside my chest.

I was 30 years old but had never seen anyone like her.

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Chyna in the squared circle with the Road Dog.

Her name was Joanie Laurer, but she wrestled under the name “Chyna.” Tall and muscular, she was billed as the 9th Wonder of the World.

Chyna wasn’t the first woman to wrestle, but she was the first I had seen square off against the guys. 

In  a small way, she reminded me of my tomboy past — me in my blue jeans and baseball cap playing ball with the guys.

But she busted open gender boundaries on a grand scale with the world watching.

It was validation, but it was something else, too.

Even at 30, I needed to be reminded that I could be anyone and do anything.

* * *

Laurer passed away today at the age of 46. A few months ago, I read that she was attending a convention in nearby New Jersey. I thought about going and getting an autograph and telling her that she is one of my heroes. I guess she already knows.

Stupid Rumi

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That’s me/Michelle on the left.

It’s been one of those days. Taxes are due, and there’s a complication with our filing. I’m dieting. I’m forced to ride the daily ebb and flow of a teenager’s moods like Michelle Rodriguez in Blue Crush. We’re still waiting for a contractor we hired last year to replace our roof to correct a problem. It seems like I’m always working or cleaning or cooking and have no time for my personal writing. Did I mention I’m dieting?

Today, something pushed me over the edge.

And then I wanted nachos. Or someone’s head covered in hot, melted cheese. But really, I wanted nachos in all their cheesy, nachoey glory.

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I was like this guy eating a Red Delicious apple.

Instead, I grabbed an apple and ate it angrily, pieces of red skin flying in the air like confetti in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

“That must be a delicious apple,” my son said.

“Shut up,” I said.

I ate the apple and cleaned the litter boxes and packed lunches and scrubbed the kitchen floor and unloaded the dishwasher, trying to channel my anger into something productive.

After all that, I sat down at my desk and noticed a piece of paper I had saved. It said this:

“This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meaness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor …

Be grateful for whatever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.”

— Rumi

Stupid Rumi, I said to myself.

And then I let myself feel a tiny bit better.

It’s the little things

I’ve been in a funk lately. No reason, really. I think it’s just the way I’m built with storm clouds inside.

During this period of general moodiness, W and I have cleaned up our diet, eliminating almost all processed foods and loading up on fruits and vegetables.

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From today’s grocery shopping trip.

I’ve been experimenting with new foods — chia seeds, flax seeds, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, homemade smoothies and juices. I’ve been trying out new recipes, too. I made broccoli tots, and they were delicious. Napoleon Dynamite’s got nothing on us. I found a recipe for three-ingredient pancakes (3 eggs, 1/2 C cottage cheese, 1/2 C oatmeal) that keeps me full all morning long.

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These tots are tops.

It’s weird, this taking-care-of-me thing. I find myself slowing down and enjoying the little things: a banana with a tablespoon of almond butter, a perfect apple, a bottle of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

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Protein-packed pancakes with banana and Trader Joe’s almond butter.

But it extends beyond food. This weekend, I bought some socks off the clearance rack, and I found myself appreciating the bargain as well as the simple pleasure that comes from owning a pair of warm, comfortable socks. I am growing basil inside the house in a small container. Every morning, I smile as I check on the new green shoots as they crack through the soil in search of sunlight.

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A pair of my new socks: awesomeness you can wear on your feet.

These little things give me the boost I need to move forward.

I had an eye exam and am waiting for new glasses.

I called the gynecologist today to schedule an overdue annual exam.

I tell myself I am worth it. Sometimes I believe this more than other times.

Scary things like doctor appointments start with a small step — a phone call.

I call and schedule and wait.

In the meantime, I savor the small things: a new notebook, a warm sweatshirt on a cold day, the comfort of a favorite flannel shirt, a hot cup of tea, a good book, a cat in my lap …

* * *

What about you? What little things bring you joy?

Pinterest, you just don’t get this butch

Me and W in bed last night:

Me: Jeez, Pinterest doesn’t know me at all. It keeps sending me links to boards I’m not interested in.

W: Like what?

Me: Haute couture. Landscape architecture. Hair braiding. Math.

W: (laughs) Pinterest can’t figure you out. It’s because you’re weird.

Me: I take great offense!

W: At what? That you like to look at weird things?

For the next 15 minutes, we pretend fight. And I pretend to not talk to W. But, channeling my 16-year-old self, make huffing noises in the background.

Me: Oh my God! Pinterest just sent me 15 lactation boosting recipes. 

W: (laughs) It’s probably because you like boobs so much.

Me: I like them, but I don’t want them. You know, I don’t have a Pinterest boobs board. 

W: You don’t?

Me: Not yet.

 

Cat of the Month

“Good man, Bodhi,” I say, petting him on the head. “You, sir, are changing the world one sock at a time.”

Give a big Flannel Files welcome to Bodhi, Cat of the Month.

For the better part of today, he carried this dirty gym sock up and down the stairs. Now, that’s dedication, folks.

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Actually, it was a slow day. Here’s the haul he delivered to our bed a few weeks ago like some weird scene from the movie Carol. If Therese were, perhaps, a cat.

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In the meantime, this cat posed for kitty porn.

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And this cat napped in typical cat fashion.

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Congratulations, Bodhi. You are a superhero! Whether you know it or not.

Remember that time when you got caught in a plastic bag and ran real fast all over the house like a maniac every time you moved and the bag rustled wore this cool handmade plastic cape?

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You rocked then, and you rock now!

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Bodhi: Cat of the Month

* * *

Who’s your pet of the month and why?

 

 

The starting is the hardest part

I didn’t want to get up this morning. I mean, I had gotten up yesterday morning. Two days in a row seemed like a lot. Like I would be pushing myself too hard.

From my supine position, I balled my hand into a fist and raised it in the air like the angry lesbian I can sometimes be.

Why does my life have to be so hard? I cried. Life is so unfair!

It was like I was at a Melissa Etheridge concert with my raised fist and hot words. Somebody bring me some water!  My mind’s a burnin’ hell! Except I was lying in bed in my comfiest flannel lounge pants and a thermal shirt.

And then I got a shower. And put on clothes. And grabbed a quick breakfast.

I went to my writers group.

It felt good to participate in life.

Sometimes I have to force myself to get out of bed. To go through the motions. To put one foot in front of the other. To have faith that everything is going to be ok. Today was one of those days.

My default is to stay in bed buried under the covers. It’s like a giant womb in there but much drier.

If I’m ever missing, you’ll know that’s where I am.

I had this mousepad made a week or so ago. I try to remember this right before I start writing or before I have to do something else that feels scary.

* * *

What about you? How do you get up when you’re feeling down?

Weekend recap

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Imagine Miss Daisy in flannel and Doc Marten’s.

W and I ran some errands this weekend. As is our routine, we completed them Driving Miss Daisy fashion with W driving and me riding along in the passenger seat. This is what happens when you are an old married couple with way too much to do on a Saturday afternoon.

W prefers to drive, and I prefer to be driven. I’ll wait until all the giggling stops before I continue …

Anyway, I’ll jump out of the car to run into the drycleaner or return something at the hardware store. And there’s W waiting for me curbside.

This weekend while we were running our errands, I stopped inside a Starbuck’s to grab a late afternoon pick-me-up and use the restroom. It was one of those deluxe Starbuck’s, and I found myself walking, walking, walking to get to the back of the store. In back, a gaggle of college-age girls gathered around a large table studying and chatting and sipping giant plastic cups of coffee through long green straws. They had painted fingernails and long hair pulled back in various fashions or stacked on top of their heads.

In the midst of all of that femininity, I braced myself as I approached the bathroom. Without thinking, I put on the invisible armor I wear whenever I need to use a public restroom. I steeled myself and prepared for anything.

And then I turned the corner and saw two unisex bathrooms. I felt my heart lift and my shoulders relax. I think I heard Sarah McLachlan singing “Angel” somewhere.

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In no time, I returned to W and our great errand excursion, a hot cup of joe in hand.

 

Weighty matters

images[6]This is the post that has me stuck. This is the post I need to write to get unstuck.

I don’t want to. I’d rather do other un-fun things like shave my legs and file my taxes.    

But I’ve grown tired of existing in this stand-still place.

So, here goes nothing. Or possibly everything.

My body.

My body has served me well for the past 49 years. That’s almost five decades. Half a century. I’ve been around as long as soft contact lenses, Astroturf and the Pillsbury Doughboy, folks.

Growing up, I was of average weight. I was thick and muscular. I had a softball player’s physique.

Thanks to a steady diet of cafeteria food, late night snacking and beer, I put on the freshman 15 in college and held onto it for the next four years.

I went through a weird girly phase post-college. It was like I had been abducted by aliens. I started growing and painting my fingernails. I had long hair. I lost weight. I was skinny. I wore dresses and heels and lacy thigh-high nylons from Victoria’s Secret.

I got married.

I came out.

I got divorced.

I started to put the weight back on.

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That’s me … under the covers.

I went from Sporty Lesbian (the sixth and lesser known Spice Girl) to soft butch to butch. And with each transition, I added weight.

The weight was my armor. It protected me from the world. It insulated me from myself.

Everything bounced off my armor. The stares, the sirs, the disapproval, real and imagined.

I don’t need the extra weight anymore. It has served its purpose. It is weighing me down. It is stopping me from living my best butch life.

I want to be lighter for a variety of reasons. To be healthier and to have more energy and to move more easily through this world. To look that good in a tucked in flannel shirt and big ol’ silver belt buckle. To wear baggy jeans that feel like home. To swagger a little harder and a little longer.  

But also to complete my butch vision for myself that I will draw with straight lines and sharp angles.