Happy

images[1]I attended a creative nonfiction conference this past weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. W and one of the kids came with to enjoy my big, fancy hotel room.

I left the hotel room early in the morning while the two of them slept in. I popped in from time to time to use the bathroom or check in on them.

“You look so happy,” W said.

I couldn’t lie. And I couldn’t stop smiling. I was in my element. I was with a bunch of other people nerding out on using white space in an essay or the ethicality of composite characters in memoir. There was a entire panel discussion on truth in creative nonfiction.

We were all fangirl/fanboy when memoirist Mary Karr delivered the keynote Saturday evening.

Before we left for the conference, I was having second thoughts about attending.

“I’m not good with peoples,” I told W.

“You’ll be fine,” she said.

And I was. I had two of my writer group friends with me, which made things easier. I didn’t have to assume wallflower mode. Which is a good thing because none of the walls were flannel covered.

Plus, many writers are introverts, which meant we could all be awkward with one another without judgment. (Looks at floor.)

My writer tank has been filled.

And I’m still glowing from the weekend.

* *  *

What about you? What lights you up?

Lawnmower lingo

IMG_0647When W came home from work yesterday, I was assembling my new electric lawnmower on the front porch.

“It’s so cute!” she said.

“Really?” I said.

She knows how I feel about the word “cute.”

“Oh. Right. Handsome.”

“No,” I said.

Neckties and squared off sideburns are handsome. Me? I’m a handsome devil. But a handsome lawnmower?

“I have no clue,” she said.

Once again, my wife was flummoxed by my rules.

I looked at the sleek neon green, lawn-cutting machine.

“Try sporty.”

“Your new lawnmower is sporty,” she said.

We went inside for dinner exhausted by our exchange.

 

 

 

Perfect

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This is Sammy Long Legs.

We have weird cats. Sammy has long legs like a professional basketball player. He lays on his back with his body curved like a question mark. His head is at a constant tilt as if he is forever wondering what was that? what was that? He likes to have the top of his head scratched. If you do it right–hard with the tips of your nails–his lip will flip up like he’s Elvis and he’ll show a single tooth.

Last night, Sammy was laying stretched out on my lap, and I was telling him about the book of essays by Ann Patchett that I’m reading. And about how he is such a good, good, handsome boy. W reached over to pet him and tell him what a good, good, handsome boy he is, and he did that Elvis thing and showed his one tooth.

“How come I can love him just as he is but I can’t love myself like that?” she asked.

I didn’t have an answer.

“You can,” I said in a way that annoyed even me.

We are all perfect, but we don’t live that way. We’re always striving for something else, something better, something different, something more or maybe something less.

We’re too hard on ourselves. We expect too much. We’re all broken from childhood, broken from life and we’re doing the best we can with our shattered selves.

Maybe that’s why we search for love. For someone who will love us in all the ways we can’t love ourselves. Someone who sees our beauty when we can’t. Someone who holds us when we feel like we don’t deserve to be held and tells us all of our good points until we finally start believing them. Like they are truths that were there all along.

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More cats.

Here’s the thing about me and W. We’re opposites.

She’s flip flops and tank tops and let’s sing all the words to Les Miserables at the top of our lungs. She’s car window open, hair blowing, naked toes pressed against the inside of my windshield. She’s lick the side of my face when I’m grumpy just to get me to smile.

I’m bright white T-shirts and cargo shorts and NPR. I’m crew socks, new sneakers, hair short and tight. I’m Windex and right angles and notebooks with lines. Always lines.

I could have chosen a thousand girls. But I chose W.

Sometimes she has to remind me that I like her wild ways.

“C’mon, you like it when I leave little toe prints on your windshield,” she says.

“No. I don’t,” I say. I roll my eyes and make that face.

But she knows it’s not true. I know it’s not true.

I like her quirks and oddities. Those things that make her unique. Those things that make her W.

Those things that make her perfect.

* * *

What makes your significant other perfect?

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.