Happy Birthday, Janet Jackson!

One of my best friends in the whole wide world turned 50 today. Here’s a post I wrote about her and our friendship back in 2013. Happy Birthday, JJ! You are simply the best.

The Flannel Files

xx My friend, Janet Jackson (not really my friend)

Last week was my friend Janet Jackson’s birthday. Her name is not really Janet Jackson, but she used to dance in the streets of our college town like Janet Jackson — Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty — did in those videos from her hit album Control. What did you expect? It was the 80s after all.

Typically, Janet Jackson and I mail birthday gifts back and forth. Usually, the gift is emblazoned with the logo of our college alma mater.

That’s where we met. College. Janet Jackson and I lived on the same floor in the same dorm. Bigler Hall, Clarion House, 1985. We lived at opposite ends of the floor, which is symbolic of how we live at opposite ends of the state of Pennsylvania.

Initially, Janet Jackson thought I was weird. Can you imagine that? Closeted college-age butch weird?  (Three things that…

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I remember

downloadTo my wife:

I remember our first date.

I remember you being late and rushing in the door of the bookstore like a gust of wind.

I remember you laughing and me smiling, not really sure what to make of you but thinking I would like to know more.

I remember walking to the pizza shop that sat at the top of the hill where we ate cheesesteaks and french fries.

I remember how quickly you handed over the money for your half of the bill as if you didn’t want strings, even for a few seconds.

I remember your big, brown eyes, bright and curious like a raccoon’s.

I remember your mask, too, and wondering what was underneath it.

I remember you letting me buy you a beer at that old bar down the street.

I remember sitting on the bench back behind the shops at the end of the night. The small patch of green grass an island for two. “Can I give you a hug?” you had asked, and I said you could.

I remember how you smelled like flowers and patchouli and how hard you hugged me like you were trying to tell me one last thing before we parted and went our separate ways.

* * *

This was from an exercise in today’s writing group. W’s birthday is on Friday, so I thought I’d post today as a small pre-birthday gift. What do you remember about a first date? First love? Start with “I remember” and see where it takes you.

 

 

 

 

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here

OurHappyHoursI’m proud to have a poem in Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars.

The call for submissions came after the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In these stories and poems, the authors reflect on the importance of gay bars in their lives.

It’s a thrill to have a piece in an anthology that includes lesbian icons like Lee Lynch, Karin Kallmaker and Joan Nestle.

Proceeds benefit LGBT youth charities.

Please think about buying a copy for yourself or someone you know.

Click here to buy from Bella Books.

Click here to buy from Amazon.

Anniversaries

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Young and foxy Middle-Age Butch in 2011. This is the part where W shoves cake up my nose.

W and I are celebrating our anniversary this weekend.

We had a commitment ceremony on Oct. 1, 2011, and a wedding three years later on Oct. 11, 2014, when such a thing finally became legal.

Typically, we celebrate the entire month of October because why not. Besides, it’s our reward, or spoils, for not being able to marry back in the day.

In 2011, we had a carnival-themed commitment ceremony in a small live music venue a few miles from our house.

W and I went back there last weekend for a concert.

IMG_8663-1I was struck by how small the place looked with its tiny wooden stage jutting out in front of a bright blue backdrop dotted with white lights in imitation of the sky at night.

At our commitment ceremony, it looked like that blue background had stolen all the stars in the galaxy.

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Candy!

That night when we said our vows, the place looked so big. We had a full-size pasta buffet and a candy bar with empty bags declaring, “Love is Sweet.” We brought in an old-fashioned popcorn maker and a photo booth.

Everything fit and there seemed to be so much room for all of our family and friends.

What changed?

Maybe the world changed.

Our lives seem larger now, filled with bigger possibilities as we go through life not as partners but as wives.

Maybe we changed as we found ourselves wanting more from life and started believing we deserved it.

* * *

Hope you find something to celebrate this weekend. 

American girls

imagesI loved Tom Petty.

Loved his nasally voice, his scruffy look, his gorgeous lyrics about American girls. His songs about breaking up and making up and everything in between.

I loved that there was no one else like him on the planet.

I have most of his albums. Saw him in concert a couple of times.

I don’t know that I have a favorite Petty song.

Maybe “American Girl.” I’ll turn that up when it comes on the radio.

Maybe “Free Fallin’.” I mean, who doesn’t love to sing that song, car windows rolled down, highway stretched out, at the top of her lungs?

I wonder, when I listened to Petty back in the day, did I want to be that girl? You know the one.

That girl raised on promises.

That good girl, who loved Jesus and America, too.

Or, did I want that girl? Want her to be mine and only mine.

Looking back, it’s muddled. Sometimes, the only thing I can remember is how my heart ached a lot of the time.

But I like to think that, even back then, I knew there was a little more to life somewhere else.

After all it was a great big world.

RIP #TomPetty

* * *

Do you have a favorite Tom Petty song or memory?

 

 

Fun with gender roles and stereotypes

So, you might have noticed that I haven’t been posting much these days.

I’ve been busy with work and kids and wife (she’s a handful). And writing my new book.

That’s right, folks. Sometime in 2018, you’ll be cracking the spine of my new book and breathing in that new book smell. Can’t wait, can ya?

You can read all about it over on my publisher’s website. As per usual, I’ll be writing about gender, butchness and how I never knew I was a lesbian. I swear, it’s true.

Which brings up this photo of Middle Age Butch back in the day.

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I’m three years old. It’s Christmas Day. Apparently, I’ve gotten a gold wristwatch as a present. See how it sparkles. That baby with the big bowling ball head is my brother. He got a sleek silver train and a Fisher-Price pop-up toy for Christmas.

That other baby is not real and is sitting inside a baby stroller that I’m posing behind. I’m wearing a shiny dress and shiny black Mary Janes. Do you see my shiny smile?

The only thing missing is a husband. A boy in a three-piece suit, his tiny hand clutching a leather briefcase. And off we’d go into the sunset. Me, Husband and Baby.

I wonder if there was ever a chance for my story to turn out differently than it did. This photo makes me think that the answer to that question is no.

But still, I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I had been dressed in bright red pajamas that Christmas morning and had a silver train to scoot along the floor.

* * *

Who is this little girl? Where is she going? Why does she need a watch?

Feel free to offer a caption.

 

 

On words and sexy beasts

Upon her approach, I recognize the uniform of my tribe: jeans, T-shirt, flannel shirt, bandanna.

She has curly brown hair that sits on top of her head like a sculpture. The glint from her silver lip piercing makes her look like she is grinning, always grinning.

She holds out a copy of my book, eyes aimed at the ground.

“I’ve been wanting to ask you to sign this,” she says.

“Sure,” I reply.

I look at the conference badge around her neck to find her name.

“I read the dedication of your book to my girlfriend last night. She thought it was so cool!”

Her face lights up.

I smile real big.

“Oh, yeah?” I say. “I hope you enjoy the book.”

And then she’s gone.

But in her wake, I’m reminded of the importance of words.

All words.

Even the ones we choose for our book dedications.

Here are the ones I used in my book, Leaving Normal:

To my wife, who thinks me a Sexy Beast.

I’d marry you a third time.

I wonder which words caught her eye.

wife

sexy beast

marry

Or maybe all of them.

Telling a short but sweet story of butch love and possibility.

Finding your tribe

I woke up early this morning with a nervous stomach, which shook loose this memory:

I’m in college.

I’m wearing a black sweater and a pair of black and hunter green checked pants that have one of those funny hook and button things like men’s dress slacks.

I’m sporting a pair of black penny loafers, a shiny penny looking out from the center of each like cooper eyes.

The campus is cold and dark and still at this time of the morning. A group of us are boarding a small yellow school bus that will take us to our student teaching assignments.

I don’t want to be a student teacher, but my parents are pushing for it. Besides, what else do you do with a degree in English?

I feel sick in my stomach those weeks that I teach. Sure, part of it is plain old nerves. But there’s something else. That feeling of not belonging that I can’t seem to shake.

This weekend, I’m attending a creative nonfiction conference. This weekend, I’m speaking at a creative nonfiction conference.

Along with the founder of my writing group, I’ll be presenting How to Find Your Tribe or How a Writing Group Saved My Life.

A little dramatic, I know. But we’re writers, folks.

So, that’s where the nervous stomach is coming from.

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Me and my magical mullet circa 1985. You know you want to run your fingers through it, ladies.

But I know I’ll be okay. Talking about my writing group is a passion of mine. And I’m no longer that 20-some-year-old mullet-headed kid in the penny loafers. Did I not mention that magical mullet of mine? Must have slipped my mind.

I’ve got a tribe. A tribe of writer friends who make me feel like a cross between Dorothy Allison and Alison Bechdel.

A tribe of blogging buddies who make me feel like a flannel-covered rock star. A little bit of Melissa Etheridge and a little bit of Joan Jett and a little bit of Xena Warrior Princess because she is a bad ass, too, and this is my blog so I can write what I want. And anyway, she could play a helluva lute, at least when she was inspired.

On my last post, my catsup-versus-mayo-on-fries post, Family Values Lesbian replied that “mayo on fries is as butch as glitter.”

downloadI laughed out loud then smiled real big on the inside, sorta like the Grinch when the corners of his smile almost touch the sky and his heart grows three sizes that day.

“What?” W asked.

“My peeps,” I said. “They get me.”

And that’s my hope for everyone–the writers I’ll be speaking to on Saturday at the conference, all the LGBTQ folks out there who might not have built-in support systems and the rest of the world, too. People who get you. A personal cheering section. Folks who support you like a really good bra and tell you to keep going, you got this, you can do it. Even if the road ahead is paved with glitter. Or whatever it is that’s your kryptonite.

Thanks, guys, for always being a part of my tribe.

 

A condiment conundrum

imagesW and I have been fighting. Over condiments.

I spell the red stuff you dip your fries into this way:

c-a-t-s-u-p

and write it like that on the grocery list posted on the fridge.

“Who spells catsup that way?” W asks.

She says it with distaste. Like she has swallowed a pint of sour milk.

“What do you know?” I reply. ” You don’t even like catsup.”

“It’s just weird,” she says.

“I’ll tell you what’s weird,” I say. “Someone who dips their fries in mayo. You can’t trust someone who doesn’t believe in fries and catsup.”

“I think you can’t trust someone who spells ketchup c-at-s-u-p,” she says.

* * *

So, what is it folks? Catsup or ketchup? What do you dip your french fried potatoes in?  

 

 

Happy #butchappreciationday

images (1)I hope you have someone in your life who:

Likes to run her hands over your slick-as-velvet head after you get your hair cut real short.

Calls you “baby.”

Tells you she gets turned on when you wear that ball cap backward. You know the one.

Likes when your necktie matches her dress.

Rubs your back when you’ve pulled a muscle.

Thinks every flannel shirt you own makes your eyes shine.

Is okay with you wearing your “dressy” T-shirt to that event you’re going to.

Tells you you’re cute and you believe it, even though you’ve never felt cute a day in your life.

Is the yin to your yang.

Asks you what you’d like her to wear when you’re going out on a date.

Still flirts with you regardless of the fact that you’ve been together for more than a decade.

Traces your scars (the ones you can see and the ones you can’t) with her fingertips when you’re lying in bed at night.

Makes you feel like a rockstar, even though you don’t play any instruments.

Tells you your tattoos are sexy.

Appreciates the hell out of you. Not despite those things that make you you but because of them.