The magical, mystical butch

W’s brother is getting married this weekend. On Sunday, W and I coordinated our outfits for the rehearsal dinner and wedding, making sure my ties won’t clash with her dresses. It’s so exhausting being a lesbian power couple.

Sunday evening, I ended up running out to Kohl’s department store to pick up a few things. I am mostly over the awkwardness that comes from shopping in the men’s department. But on this particular shopping trip, I found myself feeling a bit like a strange mythical being. Kinda sorta like a centaur — one creature from the waist up and another from the waist down.

images7RMEIAOUWhile I was standing in the checkout line, I channeled my inner unicorn and reminded myself that I am a magical, mystical creature. I am a big, bad, beautiful butch. I stood head up, shoulders back.

As I daydreamed about rainbows and flying horses, I heard the cashier’s overenthusiastic cry.

“Can I help you, sir?”

I strutted to the register and placed my items down one at a time:

IMG_0472One Chaps-brand purple plaid necktie.

One pair of navy suspenders.

One Casio-brand retro wristwatch.

One white, wireless brassiere.

Welcome to my world, I thought. Imagine what it’s like to be me.

The young woman quickly rang up the items and placed them in a bag and sent me on my way.

I hurried home to show W my new wares.

* * *

For fun, check out this quiz that answers that age-old question: What kind of magical creature are you?

imagesAFUH18YFI got Liger. “You are like a lion and tiger mixed bred for skills in magic! You are unique and not afraid to be yourself. (And you actually do exist.)”

How did they know?

What kind of magical creature are you?

You can take the quiz here or just respond with the creature you think is most like you. Oh c’mon, it’ll be fun.

 

 

Bathroom strife

This morning, I camped out at Panera’s.

I was focused on writing a new story but my ears perked up when an older woman a few tables away started talking about President Obama’s mandate that all schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice.

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My new favorite notebook. Oh to be as dashing as this zebra.

It was the word “transgender” that caught my attention and caused me to reach for my rainbow zebra notebook.

She said the word like this — TRANS gender? — as if she were angry and it weren’t a real thing. Like fat-free butter or a lesbian who has never attended a potluck. I avoided looking at her, but I imagined her shrugging her shoulders and making a sour milk face.

“All it does is cause more strife,” she said.

I wanted to tell her about the strife I feel as a butch woman when I’m out shopping or to dinner and need to use a bathroom. About the strife I feel when I have to determine whether I can skip using a public restroom and make it home in time.

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Um, hello, that doesn’t look like me.

About the strife I feel when I open a door emblazoned with an image of a person in a dress with an impossibly round head and arms thick like salamis and the word “WOMEN” or “LADIES” printed below and prepare to be misgendered and humiliated.

About the strife I feel when I rush to the first empty stall and hold my breath and let out a tiny puff of air when I lock the door and hear the click of the slide bolt.

About the strife I feel as I wait in the stall and try to pick the right time to leave. Now. No, not now. Now. This time for real. 1, 2, 3. Now.

About the strife I feel when I notice my heart beating too fast in my chest.

About the strife I feel as I try to blend in when I’m at the sink washing my hands, even though I haven’t been able to blend in for most of my life.

About the strife I feel as I fast walk to the door and try to look “natural,” whatever that means.

When I am safe on the other side, I wonder why using a public bathroom should cause anyone so much strife.

 

Sleeping with drag queens

images[2]If my calculations are correct, W and I have been sleeping in the same bed for about seven years. Not continuously like we are in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Although that idea always seemed appealing when I was younger and depressed.

On Friday, the kid will have been in the hospital for three weeks, save the three days he spent at home. W has stayed with him every night, which means our bed is empty when I turn in.

I pile clean laundry and things to take to the hospital on W’s side of the bed to keep it from seeming so empty.

IMG_0190I look at our pillowcases that say “Big Spoon” and “Little Spoon” and wonder when the Big Spoon will be coming home. Yes, folks, I’m butch enough to admit that I’m usually the little spoon.

One of our cats is so distraught over W’s absence that he cries and deposits random items in a pile in the middle of the bed — socks, a cloth to polish shoes, cat toys. I’m not sure where he’s finding these items. I’m pretty sure some of them aren’t even ours.

At night, I stay up way too late and watch mindless TV shows — Shark Tank, Teen Mom 2, Bar Rescue, Catfish — until I am so tired I pass out.

imagesSWB6O19BFor some strange reason, I find RuPaul’s Drag Race especially soothing and often find myself falling asleep to “I’m Every Woman” or some other disco tune and instructions to “sashay away.” Because drag queens always make me feel better. The are like a Band-Aid — a sequined Band-Aid with rhinestones and wigs and high heels.

This new habit has made for some very weird dreams.

When I was a kid and my grandmother visited, she always slept in my double bed with me.

This was weird and annoying for a variety of reasons but mostly because my grandmother slept with a transistor radio that she kept on until she fell asleep.

It was an old radio, one of my grandfather’s, and seemed unable to broadcast anything but static.

My grandmother loved music but always listened to the news on her handheld radio.

I used to think she was an old lady way too interested in what was happening in the world.

But when I got older, I realized she missed my grandfather, who had passed away years before, and it was impossible for her to fall asleep without some kind of distraction.

I wonder what it was about the sound of the radio that soothed her. If the buzz reminded her of his rhythmic breathing or snoring or if she just needed noise, any noise, to fill the void he had left behind.

So with that, I’m going to sashay to bed. Just me and the cats and a gaggle of drag queens. That’s what you call a group of drag queens, right?

* * *

What about you? How do you sleep when your significant other is away?

 

Wife power

After W and I were married, I felt weird about using the word “wife” to describe myself.

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I’m more of a Fred than a Wilma.

Wilma Flintstone was a wife. Donna Reed, wife. Carol Brady, wife.

Middle-age Butch? Not so much.

You can read all about my wife angst here.

“How should I refer to you?” W asked.

“I’ll let you know when I figure it out,” I replied.

We joked around with the term “hersband.”

“My hersband will not be attending,” she texted a friend.

But then life went on and we had bigger things to worry about. I never decided what I wanted to be called.

I saved “wife” for certain situations. Like when I made a phone call to get information about local taxes W owed.

“Who is calling?”

“This is her wife.”

Or when I wanted some extra attention at home.

“Geesh, you’d think you’d have some time for your wife.”

“Remember me? Your wife?”

Yeah, I’m that guy.

I find myself using “wife” a lot during our son’s hospital stay. I use the word to explain not only who I am but why I have a reason to be in the emergency room or in the waiting area outside the room where they are performing a procedure on him for the third time.

“That’s my wife.”

“Can you take me to my wife?”

I say the word with authority.

I never really understood the importance of this tiny word. Who cares what we call each other, I used to think. It’s between us. It’s our business.

I was always satisfied with the word “partner.”

I mean, when someone who looks like me drops the word “partner,” everyone knows I’m not talking about my business partner. Trust me.

images[5]But “partner” doesn’t carry the same punch.

Now I see the power packed in the word “wife.”

And I wonder why anyone would want to deny another human being the basic right of being a spouse.

So, yeah, I’m good with “wife.”

* * *

What do you call your other half?

 

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.

imagesO1L67PQO

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.