Mom stuff

My son turned 18 yesterday.

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Middle-age Butch and son back in the day

It was around 11:30 p.m. that the doctor said we would be celebrating his birthday on May 16.

I wasn’t have any of that next day stuff. After a few pushes, he entered the world on May 15, a few minutes before midnight. A month and a half before his due date.

He is stubborn like his mother.

From the beginning, he was setting his own schedule and interrupting any plans I had for a normal pregnancy and delivery.

When he finally came home from the hospital, he weighed a little over 5 pounds. I kept him tucked in the crook of my arm like a football.

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Do you speak sports?

I  assumed he would speak the same language that my dad, my brother and I speak: sports. He doesn’t.

He doesn’t speak books or movies or superheroes or any of my other languages.

He speaks his own, a mix of technology and disdain for everything I like.

He has always been a difficult child. Insisting on paving his own path and refusing to conform to the most basic of rules. He wears shorts in the winter. Says the sky is green. Eats soup from a plate.

I get frustrated. I use the word “normal” more than I want to and then hate myself for doing so. I often worry about what other people will think. When I step back, I can see I am recreating my own childhood.

W always tells me we are supposed to learn from our children. That we can find healing in the parent-child relationship.

I never really understood this.

IMG_1177I have a quote taped to the front of my printer. “Be who you needed when you were younger,” it says.

It reminds me to keep reaching out to young people to tell my story so they can be comfortable with their own.

I wonder if the answer has been there all along.

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

Maybe I’m supposed to parent my son the way I needed to be parented. Accepting him as he is.

Maybe that’s what finally sets me free.

The Flannel Underground

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This could be my closet

At dinner last week, one of the kids asks me if I have more flannel shirts like the one I had given him to wear in his school’s production of Annie Get Your Gun last year.

“I don’t know. Why?” I ask.

“It’s for a friend,” he says, “whose parents think flannel shirts are too masculine.”

“Is she a lesbian?” I ask.

“Trans,” he says.

“A transguy?”

“Yes.”

I pause.

“I don’t know,” I say. “If his parents don’t want him wearing flannel shirts …”

I pause again.

“Look, I don’t agree with it, but he’s not my kid,” I say. “I can’t be some underground supplier of flannel for your friends.”

He nods his head.

Underground supplier of flannel, I say to myself. I sit a little taller in my chair.

“I’ll take a look at my flannel shirts in the next week or so,” I say. “I probably have some I don’t want. I’ll give them to you. They’ll be your flannel shirts. Whatever you do with them, that’s your business. I certainly can’t be responsible for what you do with your clothing.”

“Got it?” I ask.

“Got it,” he says.

I feel a little bit like a hero. Passing on my used flannel shirts to kids who need them the most.

For armor.

Or camouflage.

Comfort.

A second skin.

The intersecting horizontal and vertical stripes forming hundreds of tiny crosses as they cover a new body.

 

Butch’s best day ever!

Guys, yesterday might have been my best day ever. It was like seeing a rainbow, getting the perfect haircut and winning free flannel for a year all in one day.

IMG_1137It started off with a delivery of boxer briefs that I had ordered from Groupon a few weeks ago and then promptly forgot.

I mean, who doesn’t like new underwear, especially when it’s delivered right to your house.

Then we went to a bowling fundraiser for my nephew, who has cystic fibrosis. There was bowling and all the pizza a butch could eat.

And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, I won a bucket of booze in a raffle.

IMG_1132The big price was a bottle of Jagermeister Spice. I’ve never tried the spice version, but this butch runs on Jager.

We headed for home, and then I ran out to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day at my local bookstore, which was hosting a release of a fiction anthology created by local authors. I bought a copy of the anthology that all of the authors so kindly signed and got to pick out a free book courtesy of the store.

When I got home, high from an evening of talking about books and smelling fresh ink on the page, I found another delivery waiting for me.

IMG_1138Two pair of new sneakers.

I’ve never owned a pair of Brooks before, but they seem super comfortable and good for walking.

And a butch can never have too many pairs of Chucks.

So, to recap.

One. New underwear.

Two. Booze.

Three. Books.

Four. Sneakers.

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What four things would be included in your perfect day?

 

March madness

March was a crazy month.

I turned 50. Which means I’m vintage.

I got my AARP card, which I thought would make me super-sexy in W’s eyes. “She’ll have the Grand Slam,” I imagined me ordering for her at Denny’s and scoring points, as well as a sweet 15 percent discount. She just looked at me weird when I flashed the shiny red card at her.

I had a fun party that W put together with all of my friends and a top-of-the-line party bus that only played 80s music (including that Georgia Satellites song I love) and made stops at a local concert AND Victory Brewing.

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No real flannel shirts were harmed in the making of this cake.

W had a custom cake made for me in the shape of a flannel shirt.

I got tons of loot. Notebooks and pens and wine and beer and gift cards for books. All of my favorite things.

I wore my new sneakers. Puma classics, black suede. So sweeeeet.

There’s more. On the night of my birthday, W gave me a bunch of little presents. We aren’t big gift givers, and I knew she was throwing me a birthday bash, so I wasn’t expecting much. Maybe a new necktie, a book, something emblazoned with the Wonder Woman logo.

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I misspelled Seattle during the recreation.

She had created a handmade Scrabble board. Each box contained a set of Scrabble tiles. The tiles spelled out: TICKETS, SEATTLE, ALASKA, OLIVIA.

I don’t have a big bucket list. Just a few things I want to do, a few places I want to see. I’ve always wanted to spend a few days in Seattle. Take a cruise to Alaska. And go on an Olivia Cruise.

W had started planning all of this last summer without me suspecting a thing.

At the end of June, we are flying to Seattle for a few days. We’ll be there for Seattle Pride, and we already have reservations for brunch in the Space Needle. In Seattle, we’ll be boarding an Olivia cruise ship and setting sail for Alaska.

“It’s too much,” I said for much of March with a giant grin on my face.

There’s a part of me that still thinks it’s too much. Too expensive. Too extravagant. And that I’m not worthy.

I’ve been trying to silence those voices and be grateful. Grateful for being able to cross things off my bucket list. Grateful for an adventure, something to look forward to. Grateful for a cruise on a luxury liner filled with lesbians.

But mostly grateful for a wife who so carefully planned a special birthday and a trip of a lifetime for me.

It’s hard to be on this side of love. The receiving side.

But I’m trying.

So far, 50 is like a new pair of sneakers. Pretty sweet.

The case of the missing hair stylist

imagesSo, I went to get my hair cut Friday afternoon because I was starting to look like a character from the Flintstones.

I drove down the street to the Superhaircuttery where I get my locks lovingly shorn.

“Is Crystal here?” I asked.

“Crystal doesn’t work here anymore,” the receptionist said with a smirk on her face.

“Okay.” I paused. “Can you tell me where she went?”

“I don’t know,” she said, even though I knew she knew and she knew that I knew she knew.

“Sorry,” she lied as I walked out the door of Superhaircuttery for the very last time, one single tear cascading down my cheek.

images (1)This, folks, is an emergency. A butch emergency. Code flannel. Crystal has been cutting my hair for the past five years or so.

W doesn’t get it.

“It’s a Superhaircuttery,” she said. “Why don’t you try one of those unisex places?”

It’s not about the place. It’s about the stylist.

Someone who won’t refuse to cut my hair short.

“Are you sure you want it that short?” I’ve had many hair stylists ask.

“You can’t cut it too short,” I’ve told them, even though they never cut it short enough.

True story: I once got my hair cut twice in one day because the first stylist refused to cut it as short as I wanted.

Someone who won’t refuse to square off my sideburns. “Square sideburns are for men. Angled sideburns are for women,” I once had a 17-year-old hair stylist lecture me.

Someone who won’t chase me out of the shop because I’m a woman. “I don’t cut women’s hair!” a stylist once yelled at me when I entered her barber shop.

Crystal knew my usual. A number four on the sides and back. No fringe. Cleanup the sideburns. Scissor cut the top. Short, spiky.

I find myself stuck in that middle place again.

There’s no haircut place around here catering to butch women.

I picture myself walking into a beauty parlor or barber shop and holding my breath, bracing for the reaction.

Steeling myself for acceptance. Or something else.

To ‘sir’ with love

download.jpgRachel Maddow is my spirit animal.

Last week, she was interviewing a congressman on her TV show. At the end of the interview, she says, “thank you, sir.”

The congressman responds in kind. “Thank you, sir,” he says. “I mean, ma’am,” he quickly corrects.

“It’s alright, I answer to both,” she says without missing a beat.

I bow to Maddow.

I wish I was quick on my feet. It’s probably why Rachel Maddow has a TV show and I don’t. But whatever.

imagesSometimes I don’t mind being called “sir.” Other times it bugs me. I’m fickle like that.

But then I read the comments to my last post:

“Would kill to be sir’d,” someone wrote.

“I’m jealous you get called sir,” another reader wrote.

I’m going to stop complaining. And try to roll with it, channeling my inner Maddow.

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What about you? Do you hate being called “sir”? Love it? Or fall somewhere in the middle? Care to share your best response to being sir’d?

Assorted butch news and other stuff

“And this gentleman is?”

He arched one eyebrow so it pointed directly at me.

I found myself crafting this response in my head: I’m not a gentleman.

But then I couldn’t say those words, because I pride myself on being a gentleman.

“My name is Rae,” I said, leaving him to figure out the rest.

IMG_0745It’s the hair. I haven’t been misgendered for a long time. Then blam. My hair becomes too long to spike up and sits on top of my head like a lid. There’s a bit of an overhang. It’s like having a little roof over the front portion of my head. It’s the Barney Rubble look that I wrote about here.

What’s a butch to do. Keep calm and Barney Rubble on. Someone make me a T-shirt, please.

In other news, I finally saw The Lego Batman Movie. Now, W and I pew-pew each other and the cats with our invisible laser guns after she gets home from work.

In more other news, check out this cool new documentary called Gender Troubles: The Butches. You can view it for free through March 28, sir.

Oh, one more thing, I’m giving away copies of my book, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender, on Goodreads. You can enter to win here. You know you want to. Hurry, time’s almost up.

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What’s new with you?

 

Today I’m a 50-year-old boy

I turn 50 today.

It’s weird because most days I feel like a kid. A young boy somewhere in the age range of 12 to 17.

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Sir, I’ve been reading this great blog called The Flannel Files.

Most people I know say they don’t feel like adults either. Which means we’re all living in a giant Peanuts cartoon. No adults for miles–just an occasional wah wa-wah in the distance. You can call me Peppermint Patty. Or sir. Take your pick. Even though this lesbian doesn’t rock sandals.

 

W is throwing me a big party on Saturday complete with a party bus. I don’t know the details, so the rest is a surprise.

But today we’ll spend a quiet evening at home with the kids.

We’ll get pizza or some other takeout. I’ll open presents.

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Super sweet.

I already bought myself these cool black Puma throwbacks as a happy-birthday-to-me gift.

I’m thinking of treating myself to another pair in baby blue.

“Like my eyes,” I told W.

“Yes,” she said.

“My eyes are green,” I said.

“I meant they would compliment your eyes,” she said.

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Super sweet, too.

She doesn’t understand how sneakers work.

I’ll wait for next weekend to see The Lego Batman Movie. Maybe as a reward for getting our taxes ready.

“No thank you,” W said when I first asked her if she wanted to see the movie. She has since agreed to see it with me. Because pity, I guess. But whatever. It’s The Lego fucking Batman Movie.

And I’ll save some birthday money for comic books. To spend at that new store in Philly W said we could visit the weekend we see Cabaret.

I suppose 50 means I’m wise. At least wiser than I was at 49. If I’ve learned anything these past five decades, it’s be true to yourself. Live your authentic life.

Even if you’re a 50-year-old boy/woman and that means sneakers and comic books and The Lego fucking Batman Movie.

Life is too short, folks.

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What Peanuts character are you? What’s your favorite type of sneaker? Put them together and make some kind of drag king/queen name. You know you want to. C’mon, it’s my birthday. Humor me.

Love,

Pat Puma

 

Leaving the center empty for God

 

downloadI’m still reading Maggie Nelson’s memoir The Argonauts. This story about Nelson’s relationship with her “fluidly gendered partner” Harry takes a look at the hot button topics of sexuality, gender and what it means to be a family.

It’s been taking me longer than usual to get through this slim book of less than 150 pages. It’s a heavy read, packed with thoughts and insights that seem best suited for slow, meditative pondering.

In the pages I read last night, Nelson writes about a lecture she attended given by poet and professor Anne Carson in which Carson spoke about the concept of leaving a space empty so God can rush in.

imagesNelson said she had heard about this concept from a boyfriend who was into bonsai. In bonsai, people often plant a tree off-center in the pot to allow space for the divine.

“But that night Carson made the concept literary,” Nelson writes. “I went home fastened to the concept of leaving the center empty for God. It was like stumbling into a tarot reading or AA meeting and hearing the one thing that will keep you going, in heart or art, for years.”

That’s what I’m thinking about these days. Leaving the center empty for God in my writing and in my life.

The Argonauts is a terrific read. Dense and intense but worth the effort.

P.S. I’ve been sleeping better.

I find that when I’m focused on social media and the news, I have a bad day,” I told W yesterday at dinner.

“And when I stay away from social media and the news, I have a better day,” I told her.

“Then stay away from social media and the news,” she said like a Sapphic sage.

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Night, night, you big butch.

That’s been helping, plus W has been rubbing my face with lavender butter before bedtime. She rubs the thick cream on her hands and then smooths it on my forehead, my temples, the back of my neck and a little under my nose.

It smooths over the jagged edges of the day. I have been sleeping like a baby these days.

Plus, it makes me feel like I’m being taken care of, which is a nice feeling right before bed.

We just ordered a new batch of butter. Check out Renaissance Lavender on etsy if you are in need of a magic sleeping potion.

Be a superhero and say something nice

imagesI’ve been having a rough go of it lately.

I either want to stay in bed with the covers pulled up over my head, or I want to run through the streets in my flannel-lined cape punching bad guys in the face and saving the world. Biff! Pow!

Then out of the blue, two people sent me e-mails and told me they had been impacted in a positive way by things I had written.

And I felt better. Calmer. A little bit like a superhero with a magic pen making the world a better place in a different way.

So, my posse of wonderful, beautiful people, here’s your challenge for the week:

Reach out to one person and say something nice about him or her. You can do it in person or via e-mail or text, if you’re a giant introvert like me.

We can all use a boost these days. And kindness is infectious.

You’ll feel like a superhero and so will the person you’ve bestowed a nicety upon.

What are you waiting for?

Up, up and away …

To the Batmobile …

Flannel Files Powers activate …

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What did you say? How did it go? Tell us about it.