Tag Archives: book review

Are you an introverted butch? Take this test and find out

Quiet by Susan CainI just finished the New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

It’s a terrific book.

W asked if it was all about how great introverts are being that yours truly is the poster child for introverts everywhere.

Not quite.  Even though introverts are awesome.  I said that very, very quietly.  Almost in a whisper.

The book is about how the world needs introverts and extroverts. I also learned that people are like rubber bands. We can stretch to a degree, which means, for example, that an introvert can overcome a fear of public speaking and, in fact, become quite adept at giving speeches in public.

Lea Delaria

King of the butches.

Cain’s book got me thinking about whether most butches are introverts. Lea Delaria, probably not an introvert, but aren’t most of us big bad butches quiet and brooding?  Do you tend to just want to stay at home organizing your flannel shirt collection?  Do you feel more comfortable talking to your cats than people?

Cain included an introvert-extrovert quiz in her book. I’ve included it here with a few minor additions.

Answer each question true or false. The more “trues,” the more introverted you probably are.

Introvert-Extrovert Quiz — The Butch Version

1. I prefer one-one conversations to group activities. Group activities butches really don’t like: quilting bees, Mary Kay parties, jazzercise class.

2. I often prefer to express myself in writing.  Actually, I prefer not to express myself at all.  I am made of stone.  I will not show emotion.

3. I enjoy solitude. Just me and a Melissa Etheridge greatest hits CD.

4. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status. Because when you’re a butch, who needs all that other stuff?

Tell me more about your breasts.

Tell me more about your breasts.

5. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me. Like baseball, beer, the Indigo Girls and really great cleavage.

6. People tell me that I’m a really great listener. Especially your wife.

7. I’m not a big risk-taker. Except for that whole looking-like-this-and-using-a-women’s-restroom thing.

8. I enjoy work that allows me to “dive-in” with few interruptions. I also enjoy recreational activities that allow me to “dive-in” with few interruptions.

9. I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members. Like the twins over at Hooters.

10. People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow.” Especially after hanging out with Miley Cyrus or Willie Nelson.

11. I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished. Or else I’d have to kill you.

12. I dislike conflict. Dyke drama is for other dykes.

13. I do my best work on my own. Because everyone knows butches do it better.

14. I tend to think before I speak. Don’t hear anything? I’m still thinking.

15. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself. Yes, this is my I’ve-enjoyed-myself face.

16. I often let calls go through to voicemail. Exceptions: Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara (see no. 5).

17. If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled. That’s why I turned down invitations to the potluck, the Hilary Rodham-Clinton book signing and the midnight showing of the Piper Perabo movie retrospective.

18. I don’t enjoy multitasking. Unless one of the tasks is drinking a beer. Watch me catch a football and drink a beer. Cook and drink a beer. Use power tools and drink a beer. Drink a beer while drinking another beer.

xx

What’s this L Word you speak of?

20. In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars. When taught by the hot new English professor with the big black glasses.

What about you? Are you an introvert, an extrovert or a middle-ground ambivert?

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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.

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

 

Interview: Crushing on the Long Island Medium and homemade strap-ons

Lesbian comic/writer extraordinaire Kelli Dunham agreed to do an interview with The Flannel Files.  Find out the three things that she would take to a ladies-only island and her sage advice on writing.  Kelli has just penned Freak of Nurture, a hilarious and heartbreaking work about some of her life experiences.  

Kelli Dunham

Kelli Dunham

FF:  Here at The Flannel Files, we  spend a lot of time talking about stereotypes and the whole butch-femme continuum.  What’s the butchest thing you do?

Kelli:  Probably the fact that I’ve been wearing men’s underwear since 1989 when I was in Bible College.  For reasons not quite clear to me,  me and two other girls from the college volleyball team were housesitting for our coach and his wife and we stole our coach’s underwear, wore them to practice, and mooned him with it when he made us run wind sprints.  After practice, they took theirs off but I kept wearing mine, bought myself a five pack of men’s briefs at my next Kmart trip, and haven’t gone back since.  Well except for when I was a nun, but I guess that’s a different story.

FF:  The least butch thing that I do is probably shriek like a 12-year-old girl whenever our cat corners a mouse and I have to rescue it and put it outside.  What’s the least butch thing that you do?

Kelli:  Hmmm, well, I don’t know how to talk about professional sports.  I don’t even know whether the Knicks are a baseball team or a basketball team or a football team.  Or maybe they’re hockey? Seriously, can’t discuss that kind of stuff.  It bums out straight guys’ attempts at bonding.  Also I am not that good at fixing things, and I’m not actually very strong.  Every femme I’ve ever dated is much stronger than me, but maybe that’s because strength is actually a very feminine characteristic.  Again, perhaps that’s a different question.

FF:  Ummm, Knicks.  Basketball.  And I think you’re right about strength being a feminine trait.  Ok, hypothetical situation: You’re out running errands and someone asks, “Can I help you, sir?”  How do you respond?

Kelli:  Depends on whether I need help or not!  Also, I’m always so thrilled when someone figures out I’m grown.  I don’t mind getting misgendered.  Also, I’m not sure that calling me “sir” is misgendering me exactly.

FF:  Do you have a lucky flannel shirt?  If so, does it give you special powers?

Kelli:  Me and my friend Lisa Haas bought matching flannel shirts for when we go to Times Square with a sign that says “have your photo taken with a real live New York City lesbian.”  I think they must give us superpowers, because tourists from Iowa love to chat with us.

FF:  Ha!  Love that.  Currently, my partner and I are obsessing over Tina Fey these days and watching the entire seven-year run of 30 Rock.  Are you obsessed with anything — a book, TV show, movie, music?

Kelli's celebrity crush

Kelli’s celebrity crush

Kelli:  I love me some Long Island Medium.  It’s like grief counseling for the superstitious masses.  It’s hilarious and weird and powerful and messed up and exploitative all at the same time.

FF:  Who’s your celebrity crush?

Kelli:  Theresa Caputo.  See above.  She needs to leave her husband on Long Island and come live with me in my second story Flatbush walk up.  I will make her such a happy happy woman!

Isle of LesbosFF:  You and Theresa Caputo.  I never saw that one coming.  Sticking with the subject of women, you’re traveling to the Isle of Lesbos, which is populated solely by beautiful Amazon women.  What three things are in your suitcase?

Kelli:  A straight razor to keep my hair trimmed all tidy looking, a case of Diet Mountain Dew and my Kindle with 50 years of reading on it.  I’m assuming that they’ve already fashioned strap-ons there from locally available resources.

FF:  Right.  Probably from banana skins and tree bark.  On a more serious note, a lot of writers tune into The Flannel Files.  Can you tell them a little bit about the book?  How did you come up with the idea?  What was the writing process like?  Any advice for aspiring writers?

Freak of Nurture by Kelli DunhamKelli:  Well, hmmm, the short version is that Freak of Nurture is a book made of funny essays and stories.  It’s super approachable, lots of laughs and when people ask simply “what’s it about?” I say  “gender, death, sadness, earthquakes, road trips, cancer, family, fighting for and with community, sex, skateboarding, feeding reptiles, mistaken identity, suicide via chocolate pudding, getting kicked out of the convent, sorrow, beauty in hard places and fun in the women’s bathroom.”  Is that confusing enough?  My friend Sarah Schulman posted that “it’s a book that will make you laugh at things you hadn’t even thought about” and I really hope that’s true.

The original prod for the book came from Tom Leger of Topside Press, who is getting a reputation as a “success bully” if you know what I mean.  He kept telling me I should collect some of my humorous writing and performance material into a book.  It’s been fun putting it together and adding material that  is too nuanced or obscure or intense for the kind of performance I do.  If there is a through line in the book, it’s what doesn’t kill you makes you funnier.

Advice for writers?  Write like it’s your job, even if it isn’t.  Don’t wait to be inspired or get inspired. Inspiration comes with work.  Freak of Nurture is my fifth book (the other four are humorous nonfiction books about health), and I didn’t want to write any of them while I was writing.  I wanted to throw my computer out the window.  Hating the process is irrelevant; if you’ve got something to say, it’s your responsibility to get it out there.

FF: What other projects are you working on?  How can my flannel-clad followers find out more and, of course, order your book?  I know they’re all going to want one.

Kelli:  I’m going to be touring Freak of Nurture The Show and Freak of Nurture The Workshop —  that’s really my focus for a bit.  Readers can learn more about the book at freakofnurture.org (links to Topside Press to buy it as well) and learn more about me at kellidunham.com.  If you take a visit over to my website, you can even download my last CD Why Is The Fat One Always Angry for pay whatever you want, including nothing!

This is the link for direct sales, although the book and ebook will be up on amazon.com in the next day or so.  Topside Bookstore | Freak of Nurture, Essays and Stories by Kelli Dunham

* * *

Anyone else want to join in with a celebrity crush, current obsession or things to bring to the Isle of Lesbos?

Book review: Freak of Nurture

Freak of Nurture by Kelli DunhamHave you ever felt like a freak?  Well, lesbian comic/writer Kelli Dunham has, and she’s written about some of her freaky life experiences in a new book appropriately called Freak of Nurture.

Full disclosure #1: Kelli very graciously sent me a free copy of her book to check out.

Full disclosure #2: Kelli and I might have been separated at birth, so I should probably alert you to the possibility that we are long lost sisters or brothers or “um whatever” as Kelli would probably say if she was here right now.

Just like me, Kelli often gets mistaken for a dude, and we’ve both been called “faggot” once in our lives.  However, I have never been mistaken for an errant Boy Scout or Macauley Culkin, which makes Kelli Dunham perhaps the greatest butch in the universe.  (I’m thinking that Kelli and I should pitch our own TV series.  Something like “Two and a Half Bois” or “Mad Sh’men.”) 

And just when I thought that I was the only lesbian who ever thought about bedding Sarah Palin, enter Kelli Dunham.

“Ok, Middle-age butch,” you might be saying.  “We get it.  Kelli Dunham is great because she’s just like you.  But why should we read this book?”

Can you guess which is Kelli?

Can you guess which is Kelli?

Well, my Flannel followers, because the book is hysterically funny and brutally honest and poignant and heartbreaking.  Imagine a book penned by someone channeling Ellen Degeneres, Abe Lincoln, Mother Teresa and the Bronte sisters.  All at the same time.

And here’s the thing.  I am a total snob when it come to literature.  I have a degree in English, I make my living as a writer, and I don’t have enough free time to read books that aren’t up to my personal standards.  Freak of Nurture easily passed my test.

Some highlights:

  • Being “sir ma’amed.”
  • Creating a new gender identity of “um whatever.”
  • Teaching a nun how to masturbate.
  • Advising readers not to respond to requests to pass the potatoes at the family dinner table with “Yes Mistress,” even if that is your typical response in your own home.

The book has its serious moments, too.  Kelli has lost two partners to cancer, performed volunteer work in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and spent some time as a nun.  These chapters are raw and heartbreaking, but Kelli manages to find small touches of humor in these moments of devastation.

As Kelli says, “What doesn’t kill us makes us funnier.”  And that, my friends, is the central theme of this beautiful and brilliant book.

You can find out more about the book here, including how to order your very own shiny copy, and link to Kelli’s Freak of Nurture blog.

Writing as group activity

Good morning, my flannel-lovin’ followers.  I thought I would take some time to talk about some of my favorite things — books and writing.  We’ll have to save some of my other favorite things — Joan Jett, 30 Rock, Heidi Klum and the chips and queso at California Tortilla — for some other day.

I’m still actively participating in my weekly writers’ group.  Every time that I write something about the meetings, W points out that I refer to it as “group” like I’m talking about group therapy.  She says it’s cute.  She pretty much thinks that everything I do is cute.  This is not a bad problem to have.

In a way, my writers’ group is like group therapy.  It is a safe place.  We share our most intimate life experiences.  We support and encourage each other.  We draw knowledge and wisdom from the other group members.  Bonus: It’s a whole lot cheaper than traditional group therapy.

Often, I find myself mentally and emotionally exhausted yet exhilarated from these group sessions.  It is not the physical pen-on-paper aspect of writing that wears me out.  Instead, it is the process of delving deep and transforming some of my life experiences into words that is so tiring.  In the end, it is a rewarding experience that is allowing me to take control of my life and to move forward with my life-long dream of writing a book.

Some of the members of my group belong to another writing group, and they have penned chapters or poems that appear in a published anthology called Slants of Light: Stories and Poems from the Women’s Writing Circle.  It is a wonderful collection of short stories and poems written by a group of very talented women.

Slants of LightI enjoyed the pieces on their own, but I was struck by the power of the anthology as a whole.  It made me think of my own writing group and how we are each made stronger by the other writers.  It might be because of a suggestion in a critique that strengthened a chapter or a chuckle in response to a humorous quip read during a read-around that provides the feedback and encouragement that a writer needs to keep pushing forward.  Even though writing is a solitary pursuit, we can, as writers, gain so much from our fellow scriveners.

I would encourage you to check out Slants of Light.  There’s something inside for everyone, including a very inspiring coming out story penned by one of my friends.  Plus, it’s a great way to support other writers who are honing their craft and working on getting their stories into print.  I know that I’ve been inspired by the mere act of holding their book in my hands.

You can order Slants of Light on amazon.com.