Ahem. Announcements and stuff

Guys, here I am. It’s been way too long. I think I was still wearing flannel the last time I posted. We’re stuck in what they’re calling a “heat dome” here in the Philly burbs, so no summer flannel for this butch. 

I’ve been busy, folks. I haven’t been ignoring you because you think Cindy was the best Brady ever. Everyone knows it was Jan. Or because you’re a Yankees fan.

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Maybe a crown AND a cape like professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler wore back in the day.

You’re looking at one of the newest authors to sign with Regal Crest, a powerhouse in the world of lesbian literature. I’m sure I’ll get a crown or velvet cape any day now, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

I just finished the manuscript for the new book.  

Remember when you were a kid and you were playing outside and the whiffle ball got stuck in the gutter or the kickball landed in the creek? You always got a do-over.

This book is a lot like that. I had a chance to go through the current version of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender and make edits. Tighten it up. Really, that’s every writer’s dream–one more chance to edit. I know, we’re weird creatures. 

Plus, the second edition, which is being billed as an author’s cut, has added content. New stories I wrote this past year specifically for this project. You’ll get to learn more about Middle-age Butch when she was big butch on her college campus and didn’t even know it. And of course, the book will include more of the those butch-tastic tales everyone loves like the hunt for the perfect buzz cut and the time-honored tradition of the clandestine butch nod. If you turned your head just now, you missed it.

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My trophy looked like this except it was invisible.

Also, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender was short listed for an award in creative nonfiction by the Golden Crown Literary Society. It didn’t win, but I still feel like a winner.

While I’m making announcements, I should mention that I’ve started my next book. The working title is Love Is Like Tiny Cheeseburgers: Essays from a Butch Romantic. Basically, it’s about me and W sitting in a tree and other stuff that makes your heart beat faster.

Hope you all feel like winners these days. Because you are. Big, beautiful winners. Now go hoist your invisible trophy over your head and shout out that you’re number 1!

* * *

Ok, I told you what’s new with me. What’s new with you? Share one new thing. A new movie, a new book, a new place you visited. Anything. Go.

Moonbeams

images[8]“You’re not drawing me,” W says. She says it in an innocent way with her eyes wide and bright and a bit of a grin starting on one side of her face. She says it as if she’s daring me to sketch her there in the June sunlight.

I’m sitting on a folding chair with my little red Moleskine notebook and my silver astronaut pen. I’m pretending to sketch her as she sits on a folding chair across from me.

“Of course I’m not drawing you,” I say. “I’m a writer, not a drawer.”

“Draw me with words,” she says.

“Okay,” I say.

We are at a yoga/wellness festival with our prayer flag for Orlando.

“You’ll love it,” I had told her. “You’ll feel at home with all the other hippies.”

“Maybe I’ll go full-on hippie on you some day. With dreadlocks, the whole deal.”

She says it like it’s a deal breaker. Like I will stop loving her with dreadlocks and bare feet that peek out from the bottom of her flowy tie-dye skirts. Like I will stop loving her with hairy legs and armpits and the scent of patchouli following behind her like a puppy.

“Don’t you know I don’t love you because of your hair?” I say.

What I don’t tell her is that I love her hair. The way it is long and brown with a few strands of silver that look like they were sliced from the moon.

It is the best part of her. The outside part that shows her inside light.

I don’t tell her I know her secret: Her heart is the moon. That’s why she has moonbeam hair.

Instead, I tell her I don’t love her because of her hair.

 

 

Dads and daughters

images[2]Growing up as a tomboy (or mini-butch), my dad taught me how to do the important things in life:

  • Fish.

Keep score at a baseball game.

Throw a split finger fastball.

Shoot pool.

Tie a necktie.

Shoot a layup.

Cook breakfast.

Be loyal.

Be patient.

Never force things.

Work hard.

Keep calm (before it was even a thing).

And always listen to your wife.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

* * *

What did your dad teach you?

 

Love

Like you, W and I we are heartbroken over Orlando.

I sat at my computer much of Sunday trying to work and trying not to feel. I was unsuccessful at both.

I had an overwhelming urge to do something. Anything. I could feel the itch on my skin.

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See that word in purple caps?

I glanced over at my filing cabinet and saw a poster for a yoga/wellness festival that a friend of mine is putting together. A single word in purple ink caught my eye: LOVE.

I sent off a clumsy e-mail. Can we table there and raise money for Orlando? I asked. Maybe hand out rainbow ribbons. Maybe do something else. Just brainstorming right now. Let me know.

An hour later, I got the go ahead. A 10′ by 10′ spot and three free passes to the event.

The next day, W came up with a plan. I ran around most of Monday securing supplies.

 

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Here’s a portion of the flag.

On Monday night, we arrived at a local UCC church for a prayer vigil for Orlando. We started our prayer flag there. Those in attendance wrote messages of love and support for Orlando. They tied the rainbow-colored strips of cloth side by side on a rope.

We will take the prayer flag to the festival on Saturday. We will spread love. We will be love.

Because isn’t that what’s it’s all about?

Being able to love openly and freely and safely.

As a butch woman, I think about safety more than W. I’m what you call a hundred footer. From 100 feet away, everyone knows I’m gay. (Or thinks I’m a dude, but that’s a different post.) Every time I reach for my wallet in my back pocket or straighten my necktie or use the restroom that corresponds with my gender, the skin on the back of my neck stands up because I know I could be in danger.

Orlando is a reminder that we are not safe. Not even in those places we thought we were. Especially in those places.

It is also a reminder that we have work to do. I have recommitted to writing my stories and sharing them with anyone who will listen.

So, on Saturday, we will wear our rainbow colors. We will hand out rainbow ribbons. We will collect prayers and messages of support and donations that we will forward to the LGBT Orlando Community Center.

Maybe it won’t matter, this elaborate arts and crafts project. Maybe it won’t make a difference. Maybe it will.

I think about the conversations I’ve had this past week.

I think about my 60-year-old transgender friend telling me about waving the hell out of a giant rainbow flag at a prayer vigil in Philadelphia and marching around City Hall with his cane. You, friend, are my role model.

I think about the middle-aged Latino man I met at the local prayer vigil. He had just come out after having spent most of his life in the closet.

I think about the older woman who grabbed a strip of orange cloth on which to write her message to Orlando. Openly weeping, she told me how she had lived in a small town growing up and how her gentle-hearted brother had been terribly bullied.

At least we are doing something.

We are showing we are not afraid. That we aren’t going away. That we are proud of who we are.

We are starting conversations.

We are talking about the one thing we know about. The one thing we know like the back of our lover’s hands.

thFA256KIZLove.

Orlando will make us love harder and fiercer. Today, I feel more in love with W than ever before.

We are experts on love because we’ve risked it all for love.

Here’s what we know in the deepest place in our hearts: Love is love.

And love always wins.

* * *

If you’d like to take part in our prayer flag, leave your message in the comments section. I’ll transcribe your message on a strip of cloth and tie it to the flag. We will be sending the completed prayer flag to the LGBT Community Center in Orlando.

#WeAreOrlando

W and I had our third date at a gay bar in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, called Frank Jeffreys.

This was my bar.

This was my gay bar.

That night, we bellied up to the old wooden bar.

The bartender knew my name.

He knew my usual.

“Hey, Russ. How’s it going?” I asked.

I figured I was scoring points with W. I was racking them up like a human pinball machine. Ka-ching.

That night, we talked with Russ about labels. And laughed about that time I got hit on by a dude.

“Am I sending out the right signal?” I had asked.

Russ assured me I was with my cargo pants and flannel shirt and short haircut.

I remember lots of details from that night: Flirting with W. Taking her back to my place to watch the movie Kinsey. Being too shy to make a move.

“I thought you were asexual,” W would later confess.

Frank Jeffreys closed years ago.

When we pass by the building that is now home to a shiny new pub, I say remember when …

And I remember the way my heart sped up every time I saw the old rainbow flag that hung in the window.

The way the door knob felt smooth and cool in my hand.

How my Dr. Martens boots sounded walking on the sticky old wooden floor.

The way I felt like a butch boss sitting at the bar.

But mostly I remember the way it felt to be a part of something, to belong, to fit in for once in my life. To feel safe inside those walls because in that space it was okay to be me.

Pride and butches and free stuff

images[2]Get out your rainbow T-shirts and your labrys necklaces. Your Birkenstocks, too. You know the drill. It’s June, which means Pride is here in all of its ROYGBIV glory.

And what’s Pride without your butches. It’s like french fries without catsup (I did, too, spell it that way), Melissa Etheridge without water — somebody bring her some, a lesbian couple without a cat or a Subaru.

What does being butch mean to you?

Leave your best answer in the comment section. I’ll mail out prizes for the top 3 answers. Y’all like free stuff, don’tcha?

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You had me at socks.

You can win a copy of my book or a pair of these cool socks. Are you butch enough to wear them?

 

You don’t have to be a butch to play or to win. But if you are a butch, then you are always winning. Because you look good in a baseball cap.

Here’s a sample of what being butch means to me:

  • Always carrying the heavy stuff for her, even though she is more than capable of carrying it herself.
  • Listening to anything I want to in the car with the window down. Even Barry Manilow. That’s “Weekend in New England,” motherfucker.
  • Rocking a necktie when every other woman in the room is wearing a skirt or a dress.
  • Owning regular T-shirts and dress T-shirts, regular sneakers and dress sneakers, regular flannel and dress flannel.

Tag, you’re it.

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?