Boy things and girl things and butch things

This week I did something pretty stupid.  And definitely very un-butch.

W pointed it out.

“You’re not a very good butch,” she said.

I had had the same exact thought myself and told her so.

I knew that she was only referring to this specific incident, so I wasn’t really insulted.  I’m usually just the right amount of butch for her.  No complaints in that department, if you know what I mean.

“I’m done beating myself up about it,” I said, even though I wasn’t.

It had to do with my car.  I am a butch, but I am not mechanically inclined.

A month or so ago, I had a new fuel pump installed in my 10-year-old Nissan Altima.  Ever since, the car has been ruining weird.  It’s been loud and hard to start.  I had assumed that everything stemmed from this new fuel pump.  Maybe it was a faulty pump.  Maybe the fuel tank needed de-gunked.  This is what happens when you know nothing about cars and google “loud fuel pump.”

Last week, my car wouldn’t start.  Long story short, I ignored the obvious — a dead battery — and jumped to the conclusion that it was the fuel pump or something much worse.  Prior to the new fuel pump, another garage had insisted that my car needed $1,400 worth of work.

Homer SimpsonSo, I paid $65 to have the car towed to the mechanic’s.  Because I had a dead battery.

I felt like an idiot.  Worse, I felt like I should hand in my butch card.  You know, the one with the flannel border.

My dad taught my brother how to change the oil in his car and put in new spark plugs.  He taught me how to jump a battery — a skill that everyone young woman should know for safety reasons, of course — but held back on other car repair skills.

Housewife in apronI learned things from my mother — how to cook and bake and scrub a toilet and fold laundry.

We were a family that followed strict gender roles.  My father went to work and my mother stayed home and maintained the house.  My dad cut the grass and drove the family car.  Always.  My mother cooked dinner and did the laundry.  Always.

When my brother and I were teens, he started cutting the grass.  I had to cook dinner.

Boy GeorgeIt’s just the way it was.  The way things were supposed to be in the 80s.  If we didn’t see anything wrong with spiky hair and acid-washed jeans and Boy George, we certainly didn’t bat an eye when it came to boy chores and girl chores.

I always had an interest in male-centric activities though.  My dad taught me to fish and play poker and throw a baseball.  He taught me how to keep score at a baseball game and shoot pool and even how to tie a perfect Windsor knot.  Hey, it was the 80s and ties were big.

Today, I consider myself a butch even though I don’t change the oil in my car.  and apparently can’t even tell when my car battery is dead.

Things in our household our all topsy-turvy.

W is the bread winner.  I work from home and cook dinner and do the laundry.

I do some home repairs.  But I have to look everything up on the Internet, and it takes me a really long time to do pretty much everything.

W does most of the driving.  I am terrible with directions.  I get lost all of the time.  W never gets lost.  Even when she tries.

W is good with computers.  I bake a hell of a banana cake.

I drive the kids to appointments and practices.

I clip coupons.

And file them in my coupon organizer.

Rosie the RiveterSometimes I wonder if these things — these traditional female tasks like baking and shopping and homemaking — make me any less a butch.

But most days I’m glad that I don’t have to live inside a blue box or a pink box or do only boy things or girl things.  A skill is a skill, whether it’s baking a cake or jumping a car battery or sewing a button on a shirt.

And when I bake my famous banana cake for W and her co-workers, she is always very appreciative, if you know what I mean.

At those times, I feel like the biggest butch in the world.

What about you? Where do you fall when it comes to “boy stuff” and “girl stuff”?



15 responses to “Boy things and girl things and butch things

  1. I am the ‘traditional butch’ in my marriage, even though my spouse is male. When something goes wrong with one of the cars, or when an appliance goes on the fritz, my husband comes running in ~ in full-on panic mode ~ to alert me to the situation. And I am the one who usually fixes it.

    Yet, like you, I am the one who cooks and bakes. Who clips the coupons. Who keeps track of appointments.

    And he is the one who, when he is really trying to be ‘manly’, will look up instructions for how to replace the innards of a toilet and spend 17 hours getting it just right.

    Gender roles, schmender roles.

    Everyone has to find their own identity, boxes be damned.

    Try not to be so hard on yourself. You gots skillz. =)

    • Thanks, Fever. I try not to be too hard on myself.

      I did snake out the bathroom sink and tub this a.m., so am feeling big and butchy at the moment.

      But, yeah, gender roles are a bit outdated these days. Sometimes I think that I tend to lean too hard and heavy on the masculine side of things as a form of overcompensation. I’m still trying to find myself, and that’s probably where my insecurity comes from.

      It’s exhausting being me.

  2. “Gender roles, schmender roles.”

    Mrs Fever is right on! You are what you are and do what you do best… and that’s being you. Same goes with ‘W’ ~ just be yourselves and don’t worry about roles that society imposes. Besides…. there’s lots to be said about making great a banana cake! I can almost smell it from here! 😉

    • Still working on being me, Roxi. Still figuring out who that is.

      And my banana cake rocks. W’s co-workers request/demand it from time to time. She texts me the rave reviews from work. On those days, I feel 10 feet tall. Ain’t nothing more butch than that.

  3. I’ve struggled a lot, especially since beginning transition, with gender-policing myself. As of the past few month I’ve loosened up a bit and gotten back in touch with my “girly” side, and I’m happier for it. My girlfriend is probably solidly half-butch, half-I-don’t-give-a-fuck-what-you-think and wears nice, feminine work clothes but will bum around in my clothes when at home (and sadly looks better in them, because her figure is more masculine than mine). Masculine-centric I most certainly am, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being all over the place as far as gender expression is concerned.

    • Yeah, I know it’s ok to just like what you like. But it’s helpful to know that others struggle with this, too. That I’m not the only one. So, thanks for that and good luck with your journey.

  4. We’re fairly traditional in our butch-femme roles. The stuff not ‘usual’ is because we both know where our talents and weaknesses lay–if things in the house break, I’m the one who fixes them, because my butch doesn’t have the patience and usually makes it worse. She handles the finances because I’m numerically challenged, not because it’s her job as a butch.
    I think boxes are for storage, not people, and the gender roles we ID with as butch-femme people are just a general way of relating to one another, not prescriptive.
    Bake on. 🙂

    • I hear ya. And, yeah, it is a strengths/weaknesses thing. Why would I drive if I get lost all the time? Or try to fix things when I would only make them worse? We divide our household chores and responsibilities by what makes sense for us. I work from home, which means that it makes more sense for me to do maintain the house. W brings home the bacon. I just cook it. (And I make really crispy oven-baked bacon that melts in your mouth.) Now, how butch is that?

      This post made me think of a gender-bending book of photos of femmes doing stereotypical butch things and femmes doing stereotypical butch things. I should add that to my list of projects.

  5. I am useless when it comes to cars and plumbing. I try to keep it (the stereotypical 2006 Subaru Outback) maintained and in good condition so nothing happens to it. I hope our mechanic fixes it ahead of time.
    I am great with puzzles, untangling wires, putting together anything that has many parts and figuring out “how things work” including digital electronic stuff. Just not cars.

  6. Oh the boxes, the boxes — one day, not soon enough, we’ll be done with them and people will simply be people, enjoyed for their individual talents.

    I’ve always been on both sides because that’s me, but that’s made it hard. Most people, all of varieties, prefer the boxes because it makes “interaction” easier. But not necessarily better.

    • It’s all about the boxes. Sometimes it makes things easier — I’m going somewhere nice so I’ll wear my new necktie because that’s what any good butch would wear. Sometimes it makes things confusing — should I wear an apron when I bake this cake? But hells yeah, we should all just wear what we want and do what want. Life’s too short to do otherwise.

  7. Storm M. Silvermane

    before starting my transition I had a hard time accepting things in roles such as these.. I did almost overdo the whole manly role thing.. I was considered butch (no surprise there huh). But since I have started my transitioning I have come to embrace some skills others may view as not masculine.. I bake, and I bake rather well as my family will tell you, I also crochet.. mostly things for my family, like Christmas Stockings and now a baby blanket for the new grandbaby.

    • Good for you … for baking, for crocheting, for doing whatever you want to do regardless of male/female stereotypes. Love that you are crocheting a baby blanket for the new grand baby.

  8. Thank you. Younger people always look at my odd when I try to explain about how my mom taught me to tie a four in hand in the 1980s, and how I wore a necktie to every single college interview!

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