Category Archives: Blogging

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.

IMG_1911

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.

 

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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.

imagesM0U3CD1M

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.

imagesEHB1JZHI

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.

Superbutch

Thanks, guys.  I needed that.

I pulled on my star-spangled underoos and tied on my super-butch cape.

Cracks me up every time.

Cracks me up every time.

I wore my unicorn T-shirt and reminded myself of the power of positive thinking.

I chewed a lot of Vitamin C tablets.  I prayed.  I came up with a new mantra: love, love, love.

I read and re-read your comments.

W and I reenacted that scene from Moonstruck.  Snap out of it!  Snap out of it!  Snap out of it!

I am feeling better and butchier than ever.

I figure I needed to have my mini meltdown now and get it out if the way.  It’s all clear sailing from here on out.  Clear skin.  Clear mind.  Clear blue skies with fluffy white clouds.

As Alicia Keys would sing, this butch is on fire.

But I couldn’t have done it without you guys.  Seriously, it’s like having my own cheering section.

Moving forward, I promise to do my best to represent the lesbians and the butches.  Those of us who live somewhere in the middle of boy and girl, or maybe outside of the binary altogether.  The late bloomers.  The underdogs.  Everyone who has just wanted to fit in.  I will tell our stories with pride and dignity.

Superhero powThe one lesson I’ve learned this holiday weekend is that sometimes you have to be your own hero.

And that’s a whole lot easier to do when you have a team of superheroes flying by your side.

P.S. You guys look great in spandex.

What’s in a name?

Name tag

So, you’ve all seen it.  I know you have.

My name.

It’s right there on the cover of my book.

I’ve gone from anonymous blogger to author who shall be named.

Note: Middle-age Butch is not my real name.

I’ve enjoyed blogging anonymously for the past two years.  It allowed me to open up and write about whatever I wanted.  And be more flannel-y and cool than I really am.

But now the jig is up.  And I’m not even Irish.

When I was a kid, I used to hate my name.  It was seven letters long and contained every vowel except “u.”  It rhymed with “Crayola,” kinda.  It was French.  These things do not make for a cool name.

In second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Ruth Dixon, shortened my name to Rae.

I'm like this but butchier

I’m like this but butchier

At about the same time, my grandmother started calling me Rae.  Her favorite movie was The Sound of Music.  I was Rae, or “re,” her drop of golden sun.  So yeah, I’m like a butch Julie Andrews.

And it stuck. Rae.

Not a bad name for someone who gets called “sir.”

It’s one letter away from Ray.

I think I’m just feeling exposed these days, what with my memoir less than three months away from its premiere.

I’ve never had to worry about my family reading my blog.  It was something I did privately.  Under a pseudonym.

I worry about what they will think about the book.

More specifically, I worry that they will be embarrassed by the book.  Not so much by how they are portrayed (this isn’t the lesbian version of Running with Scissors … which would be Running While Scissoring, I believe).  But just by the fact that they have a daughter who sometimes gets mistaken for a man.  Or young boy.  Or Boy Scout.

ElephantWe don’t talk about anything in our family.  I have this great line that didn’t make it into the book: The elephant in the room was our family pet.

So having a book published is like airing our dirty laundry in public.  Even though it’s my dirty laundry.  And yes, those are my boxer briefs thank you very much.

I had thought about publishing the book under a pen name.  Maybe Girl-Who-Hasn’t-Worn-Skirt-Since-Grade-School.  Or Little Flower Stamen-Pistil.  Did I mention that I’m part Cherokee?  But couldn’t come up with a suitable moniker.

I guess I need to adjust to being a little more open and honest.  To putting myself out there.  Not so much with the rest of the world.  But with those who claim to know me best.

Middle-age Butch to embark on crazy writing journey

Dear Flannel Files Followers,

Your favorite butch is taking leave from blogging and her sanity for the month of November. Yes, I will be partaking of National Novel Writing Month.  For those of you who are not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a commitment to write 50,000 words in one month.

Melissa EtheridgeConsider it challenging and insane, like trying to count the number of lesbians at a Melissa Etheridge concert. 59, 60, 61 … Did I already count the one with the short hair?

I have an idea for a novel. And very little free time.  Which should make for an interesting combo.

Plus, I’ve never written a novel before. Or even fiction for that matter.  I’ve always found enough material examining my own life, self-involved butch that I am.

I will try to check in once in awhile. Because I just can’t quit you people!

Fifty thousand words in 30 days. Talk about crazy.  Talk about butch.

StraightjacketSend good thoughts or straightjackets, in flannel, preferably.

If you’re doing NanoWriMo this year, give a shout back. Misery, company and all that good stuff.

Middle-age Butch

 

 

P.S. Supplies purchased today from big box store.

Red Bull and Skinny Pop

Gender failures … aren’t we all?

No, 200

Greetings Flannel Files followers. If you haven’t been keeping track at home, this is the 200th post of your all-time favorite blog.  With the word “flannel” in the title.  C’mon, you know it’s true.

I’ve been racking my freshly sheared noggin trying to figure out what to write about for the big 200.

And then it hit me square in the head.

Gender.

It was like I had been slocked (struck by a sock containing a lock).  (Who’s been watching too much Orange Is the New Black?  This butch.)

This butch says buy this book.

This butch says buy this book.

I just finished up Gender Failure by Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon.  Read the whole thing over the course of two days.  This is what I thought when I first started reading: Wow, someone has actually written a book just for me.  The book will make you laugh and cry and think and, if you’ve ever been mystified or conflicted about your own gender, it will make you feel not so alone.  The moral of the story is that gender comes in more than two sizes.  Butch is the Big Gulp of all genders, if you ask me.

Ultimately, Rae Spoon decides to retire from gender.  I have pondered this idea about retiring from gender.  Do you get a pocket watch or a wall clock?  Is there cake?  Because if I’m going to retire from gender, I want cake.

xx

Pick one.

Mostly, I wonder how a person can retire from gender when the world revolves around a dual gender system.  Clothes are purchased in the men’s department or the women’s department.  We check a box marked M or a box marked F when filling out forms.

I must say though that there is something appealing and freeing about not giving a damn.

On being a butch, Ivan writes:

“Older butch sightings in airports make me feel like I am part of an army.  A quiet, button-down, peacekeeping brigade that nods instead of saluting.  Silver hair and eye wrinkles are earned instead of stripes or medals.”

Ivan Coyote might be one of the most beautiful people in the world.

So, yeah, read the book if you haven’t already.  Read it if you are gender queer or if your partner is or if you know someone who identifies outside the gender binary.  Or read it because you’re a human being and open to seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.

* * *

Have you read Gender Failure or any other books by Ivan Coyote or Rae Spoon?  Thoughts?

 

Middle-age butch goes on tour (#mywritingprocess)

Go ahead and throw your panties, girls.

Go ahead, girls, throw your panties.

It’s a blog tour, folks. But it’s a tour nonetheless, which makes me a rock star like Melissa Etheridge. In my own mind anyway, and that’s really all that matters.

I was invited to participate in the #mywritingprocess blog tour by my blogging buddy Maia Morgan. Maia blogs over at The Saltwater Twin. Maia is finishing up her essay collection called, natch, The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures. In Maia’s words: “It’s a collection of linked essays about survival, fear, redemption, love, religion, art, boyfriends, girlfriends and dogs. It’s about the way we make myths and meaning from our lives and forge our identities through story.” What’s not to like. I encourage you to check out her blog because she’s smart and funny and thoughtful and likes words as much as I do.  Maybe even more.

So, more about me:

What am I working on? If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m currently writing a memoir/creative nonfiction book. It has a working name of Leaving Normal. Seems that Girls was already taken, as was Puss in Boots.

Tell me about it, Stud.

Tell me about it, Stud.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I would say that my work is kinda, sorta like the stuff written by Ivan Coyote. At least that’s the closest thing that I’ve found. Certainly, those are big boots to fill. Ivan is a hero of mine, to say the least. But my story is different than Ivan’s. For one thing, I write a whole lot about Olivia Newton-John.

Why do I write what I do? For some reason, small moments of time have stuck with me. Three words said by a stranger on a stairwell. A birthday gift from a classmate. A pair of sneakers spotted in a parking lot. I never knew why I couldn’t shake these memories. I’ve held onto them all of this time so that I could break them down and write about them and piece them together in order to make sense of my life. So, yeah, it’s like a flip book. Each story running into the next one to make a picture that is my life.

This is how it starts.

This is how it starts.

How does my writing process work? These days I feel like a sculptor. I do a quick brain dump — usually with pen and paper — writing down a story as quick as I can. I include images, words, phrases, anything that pops into my head. And that’s when the sculpting begins. I keep carving away. The one thing that I’ve learned about writing is that it is a process. It can’t be rushed or hurried. Most times, I can finish a chapter in a few days, but something won’t feel quite right. It might be the ending. Or the beginning. Or something in between. I’ll need time to sit on it, to think, to be still and quiet and discover the right words, the perfect turn of phrase. I have brilliant moments in the shower and just before I go to sleep at night. When I’m in these reflective moods, I keep a Moleskin notebook and pen tucked away in my back pocket.

When everything has fallen into place, I send it off to my three critique partners for feedback. Sometimes they say it’s perfect. Sometimes not. But their comments are invaluable and allow me to go back and tighten things up.

Next on the #mywritingprocess tour. You don’t need tickets to get front-row seats for four of my favorite writers:

* Vicki Gael calls herself “an impatient writer.” She’s working on a cozy mystery and a sci-fi story, both at the same time. That’s talent for you. She’s also a member of my writers’ group. Vicki just started blogging at Rumpled Ruminations.

* Here’s how Karelia Stetz-Waters and yours truly became blogging BFFs. She read one of my posts and then told me how funny I am. That’s all it takes, folks. Anyway, she’s a college professor by day and a writer by night. Karelia is a published author. It seems like every time I check Freshly Pressed, one of her posts is being featured.

* She’s only 27, but she writes like a young Dorothy Parker. If Dorothy Parker wrote about tormenting her boyfriend and getting a steal on laundry detergent. Julia Boriss’ posts on J-Bo.net are smart and funny. I read one of her Freshly Pressed posts and have been a stalker fan ever since.

* My newest virtual buddy is Widdershins, who writes fiction, science fiction and fantasy. Writing is her passion and profession. Widdershins writes novels and stories always with lesbian characters. What’s not to like about that? (Really, every story should have a lesbian character or 12.) She blogs over at Widdershins Worlds. Plus, she gives really great advice and laughs at my jokes. This is very big with me.

* * *

What about you? What’s your writing process like?

The year of the butch

Subtitle: Obligatory post after getting Freshly Pressed (Seriously, it’s in the WordPress rulebook.)

Wow, it’s only January and so much has happened in my busy butch life.

Curse you, evil fortune cookie lady!

Curse you, evil fortune cookie lady!

Before 2014 even started, there was an omen that things were going to be different. A fortune cookie that I innocently selected after a takeout meal of shrimp in lobster sauce instructed me to “welcome change.”  It was an evil fortune cookie, apparently baked and stuffed by evil people in an evil fortune cookie factory. Anyone who knows me knows I despise change. I am more rigid than a brand new pair of Dr. Marten’s eight-eyelet lace-up boots.

Things I like more than change:
— Paper cuts
— Use of the “word” womyn
— Calculus
— That Nationwide commercial with the giant baby

This never happened.

This never happened.

And then the new year came, and the world didn’t explode.

I started writing again after hibernating like a big ol’ bear (or furry lesbian who hasn’t shaved her legs all winter).

I’ve since finished another memoir chapter.

I wrote a blog post about a message from the universe that was delivered by a mystic plumber and got Freshly Pressed. Like three minutes after I posted it.

That’s when I declared 2014 “the year of the butch.”

It’s a new year, and I’m trying to welcome change. Like I would my least favorite aunt or perhaps 35 inches of snow. So, maybe not with open arms but with a curt, businesslike handshake.

I have a whole bunch of new followers thanks to getting FP’d. Is it just me or does that sound weird and wrong?

So, welcome new followers.

A few things you should know about me:

  • Pet peeves — Use of the “word” womyn. (You can’t just make up words, people. Old crunchy lesbian, I’m talking to you.)
  • Confession — Sometimes I blog about my cats. (You can read my all-time favorite cat story here in a post deftly titled “Of mice and lesbians.”)  I have no clue why this has not been optioned for a TV mini-series or children’s book.
  • Other things to know about me — I blog a lot about gender, the butch-femme spectrum and what it’s like to be called “sir” when I’m shopping at the grocery store. People tend to like these posts a lot. My work in progress — a memoir that I hope to sell for millions of dollars to a mainstream publishing giant — is about that kind of stuff, too. (Note: I will not sell the book if the publisher insists on calling it One Womyn’s Struggle or Some People Think This Womyn Is a Myn. Okay, maybe for a million bucks. The thought of a brand new Subaru Outback and a shopping spree in the young men’s department of our local department store is too tempting.  I am, after all, a butch and not a rock.)
  • My partner — I call her “W.” She is my muse. Not that I sketch her naked — that’s some other blog, sicko — but because she inspires me to be my best butch. She always laughs out loud at my blog posts (when appropriate, of course) and pretty much thinks I’m a super-talented writer. What’s not to love?
  • Sometimes I — Post gratuitous pictures of sexy women. Because I can.  Sorry, Heidi Klum.
  • Frozen pipe update — Pipes froze again. I thawed them out with a hairdryer. Which is weird because me butch. You hairdryer. Have you any idea how short my hair is? But thawing frozen pipes, even  with a hair styling accessory, is how you keep your lesbian card current.
  • Goals for 2014 — 1,000 blog followers, finish memoir manuscript, try to sell memoir manuscript. Other things, too, like self-improvement, blah, blah, blah, give to poor, blah, blah, blah, add more T-shirts to embarrassingly large collection.

In 2013 The Flannel Files was viewed 15,000 times. That’s about how many lesbians attend an average Melissa Etheridge concert. Which kinda makes me Melissa Etheridge. Well, not really. But I love me some Melissa. You should know that about me, too.

So, thanks for joining with millions of other Flannel Files followers. Ok, so, like, 600 hundred and some.  And enjoy the ride and the soft but rugged power of flannel.

* * *

Enough about me.  What about you?  Tell me something, anything about yourself.  Surprise me.

Ah, summer, we hardly knew ye

Wow, summer is almost over.  I was in the grocery store yesterday and overheard a group of rabid moms chanting, “One more day, one more day!”  Kids here go back to school on Monday.  Nothing like overworked, overtired mothers throwing their kids under the school bus.

It’s been a weird and wacky  summer.  Our oldest was away at camp for six weeks.  The middle one was home for about half the summer but is now back living at his dad’s house.  The youngest spends long stretches of time in his room.  So, Middle-age butch had lots of time to herself.

xx

I had planned on being this version of Wonder Woman.  Nothing beats a classic.

I had planned on being super productive this summer: Cooking healthy and tasteful meals using fresh produce purchased from our local farm stand, writing ten chapters for my memoir, cleaning up the yard, building a brick “pad” for under my bird feeder, organizing the house, romancing W, saving the world and blogging about everything in my downtime.

Turns out that I did the opposite of that, which pretty much means that I did nothing.  I have learned that I am irresponsible when it comes to idle time and work much better under the pressure of a deadline.  Must be the writer in me.

The summer wasn’t a total loss, though.  Here are some highlights:

  • Finished a few memoir chapters.  Perhaps, more importantly, I got back to getting down and dirty and writing about the things that really matter, even though they are the hardest to write about.
    • This was us ... well, if we were dogs instead of lesbians.
    • This was us … well, if we were dogs instead of lesbians.

    Strengthened my relationship with W.  We had a lot of alone time this summer.  We even had a romantic dinner at a nice Italian place that had live music.  It was just like Lady and the Tramp, except that we’re lesbians and not dogs.  Although I have been called a dog more than once.  We’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into improving our relationship and our communication, and it’s been paying off.

  • Went to P-Town, just me and W.  Saw a whale, a drag show (I will never look at Katy Perry the same way) and a whole lot of gay boys in very short shorts.
  • Fed and pet a pair of giraffes.  I love giraffes.  So gentle, so graceful, so beautiful.  We have a small zoo near us that currently has two males on loan from other zoos.  W got pictures of me feeding them.  I’m even smiling.
  • Went to the Jersey Shore.  Found shells on the beach.  Ate pizza and french fries and drank lemonade.
  • Discovered a writer named Ivan Coyote, who has blown my butch mind wide open.  Ivan, I hope to grow up to be just like you.
    • xx
    • If I could, I would eat everything in miniature plastic batting helmets.

    Went to a ball game.  Not a major league game but a minor league game.  Drank beer.  Ate ice cream out of a plastic baseball helmet.  Note: This is the all-time best way to eat ice cream.  Kept score.  Admired the green, green grass.  Loved every single minute of it.

  • Made multiple batches of rustic tomato sauce with farm-fresh tomatoes and homegrown basil.  And, BLTs with beautiful, ripe, red tomatoes.
  • Saw a lot of movies.  Favorite: The Way, Way Back.
  • Celebrated my one-year anniversary with WordPress.

So, with summer wrapping up, I’m looking forward to getting back to normal, to daily to-do lists and kids at school, to cooler days and a more industrious frame of mind.

Some goals:

  • Work on my memoir and other creative writing.
  • Blog, focusing on quality and not quantity.
  • Romance the socks off of W (even though she rarely wears socks).
  • Organize, fix up, clean up the house.
  • Live healthier.
  • Spend more quality time with the kids.
  • Continue to move forward and reveal more of who I am.

It’s interesting.  My life has been filled with so many transitions.  I came out later in life, identified as a lesbian, then called myself a “soft” butch because it seemed less offensive.  Now, it’s just “butch.”  It’s all been an evolution, and I find that I’m not done changing, growing, learning.

A writer friend of mine said that when all that we want to do is lounge around in our elastic-waisted sweatpants and watch TV, there’s a reason for it.  We should allow ourselves to do so, taking note of what we’re watching and how that might be exactly what we need at the moment.

I think it’s good advice to not be so hard on ourselves and to feel deserving of our down time.

So, folks, your favorite butch is rested, relaxed and ready for just about anything.  Bring it on, world.

* * *

What about you?  How was your summer?  Any highlights?

Flannel porn and other oddities

This is an obligatory posting of curious and humorous search terms that have led people to The Flannel Files.  It’s not that I’m lazy and can’t come up with any original ideas for blog posts.  It’s just really hot and humid here today, and I’m very busy doing important things like catching up with Catfish the TV show and playing Word Solitaire on my iPad.

Anyway, here’s a look at some of the most interesting search terms from the past month or so:

lesbian hoarder — Sure, but please see post on how I recently cleaned out my T-shirt closet.  “Hoarder” is such a strong term.

lesbian T-shirts — See above.

being butch — You’ve come to the right place.

xx

Ah, Xena, all that I have left of you are memories and this sword replica

Xena sword life size — Every self-respecting butch lesbian stuck in the 90s should have one.  Is that a life-size Xena sword in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

the flannel of silence — When W and I fight, I totally shut her out.  I don’t speak to her for days and look right through her using my super-butch powers of iciness and oh-I-didn’t-notice-you-over- there-because-you-are-now-invisible-to-me.  From now on, I will refer to this as “the flannel of silence.”

list of the best lesbian movies — Check.

lesbian gives me gift for my mom — Was this a random lesbian?  What was the gift?  You’ve really piqued my curiosity.  I bet your mom is hot.

butch lesbian bedroom blogs — Yeah, not really that kind of blog.  Sorry to disappoint.

And the lady will have

And the lady will have …

best beaver bait — Try a big smile and a compliment.  “You have very pretty eyes.”  “I really like your dress.”  If that doesn’t work, order her several drinks with dinner.

lesbians pretending to be a cat — Really?

girl in flannel porn — I never knew there was something called “flannel porn.”  Do go on.

lesbian butch fashion — This is an oxymoron.  How about a tie that matches her dress or a stylish vest from the boy’s department.

my wife went to a Christmas party and was taken home by a butch lesbian — I feel your pain, dude.  Sorry that I am smirking.