Tag Archives: clothes



I was this guy. Cool, I know.

My favorite Halloween costume was a sea monster. Actually, I was Sigmund from the TV show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. It was a costume that came in a box, probably from Kmart or some other discount store. My mom taped crepe paper streamers in different shades of green to the body of the costume to give it an authentic sea monster feel.

I was in second or third grade and really into the show. I even had a Sigmund and the Sea Monsters lunch pail. I know. I was so cool.

I don’t remember many other Halloween costumes.

I think my first costume was a lamb. Not too far from the black sheep I turned out to be.

I was a witch one year with a black wig with streaks of white and long black plastic fingernails.


Just when you thought I couldn’t get any cooler. And yes, that is a mullet.

In college, I was usually some weird androgynous superhero. I always started with a cape because who doesn’t want to rock a cape. And added face paint. Colored hairspray. Suspenders. I was like the love child of Superman and Elton John and the members of Kiss. With some Phantom of the Opera thrown in for good luck.

One year, I bought a blue and gray fedora in a thrift shop in town and designed some weird old man costume around it. The costume was a dud, but I liked wearing the hat.

These days, I’m not so big on dressing up. When you feel like you’ve been wearing a costume for the better part of three decades, Halloween dress-up loses its luster. If I had to dress up, I’d probably toss on a Phillies jersey and cap and call it a day. Maybe add some eyeblack if I was really trying.

Most mornings, I smile when I get dressed. I slip on a pair of jeans or cargo shorts, a pair of boxer briefs, a T-shirt with or without another shirt underneath depending on the weather. I don’t worry about “appropriate” or the difference between boy clothes and girl clothes. Instead, I focus on wearing clothes that make me feel good. Happy. Clothes that make me feel like me.

And I say a quick thanks to the person who runs the joint. Thanks for getting me here to this place where I can finally wear the clothes I want all day, every day. It was worth the wait.

Other fun Halloween facts:

  • I don’t have a favorite candy, although I usually eat everyone’s Whoppers and Almond Joys. (No one here likes coconut or malt flavoring. Losers.)
  • We used to live in Battle Creek, Michigan, which is the home of Kellogg’s cereal. Many of our neighbors handed out mini boxes of cereal instead of candy, which my brother would refuse with a polite “no thank you.”

* * *

Your turn. Favorite Halloween costume? Favorite candy?


The magical, mystical butch

W’s brother is getting married this weekend. On Sunday, W and I coordinated our outfits for the rehearsal dinner and wedding, making sure my ties won’t clash with her dresses. It’s so exhausting being a lesbian power couple.

Sunday evening, I ended up running out to Kohl’s department store to pick up a few things. I am mostly over the awkwardness that comes from shopping in the men’s department. But on this particular shopping trip, I found myself feeling a bit like a strange mythical being. Kinda sorta like a centaur — one creature from the waist up and another from the waist down.

images7RMEIAOUWhile I was standing in the checkout line, I channeled my inner unicorn and reminded myself that I am a magical, mystical creature. I am a big, bad, beautiful butch. I stood head up, shoulders back.

As I daydreamed about rainbows and flying horses, I heard the cashier’s overenthusiastic cry.

“Can I help you, sir?”

I strutted to the register and placed my items down one at a time:

IMG_0472One Chaps-brand purple plaid necktie.

One pair of navy suspenders.

One Casio-brand retro wristwatch.

One white, wireless brassiere.

Welcome to my world, I thought. Imagine what it’s like to be me.

The young woman quickly rang up the items and placed them in a bag and sent me on my way.

I hurried home to show W my new wares.

* * *

For fun, check out this quiz that answers that age-old question: What kind of magical creature are you?

imagesAFUH18YFI got Liger. “You are like a lion and tiger mixed bred for skills in magic! You are unique and not afraid to be yourself. (And you actually do exist.)”

How did they know?

What kind of magical creature are you?

You can take the quiz here or just respond with the creature you think is most like you. Oh c’mon, it’ll be fun.



The stories we tell

When I had my bridal shower back in the day when marrying a man seemed like a good idea, I was supposed to stand up at the end and say a few words.

I’m not very good at speaking in front of groups of people.  Even in front of people I know.

As I sat on a chair in the center of the room in my floral dress from The Limited and started stammering, I was rescued by my best friend.

Beaver Stadium“Kick-off is in 30 minutes.  We have to go she said.”

It was a perk that came with being alumni of a university with a dominating football program.

It’s been our running gag every time I am nervous about speaking in front of a group of people or trying to get out of an uncomfortable situation.

“Can’t you come and tell them kick-off is in 30 minutes?” I ask.

Even when it’s not football season.

Last week, I called my friend and told her that because of my book I have an opportunity to speak at a large, multinational company that has an office near my house.  The company has an LGBT group and often has speakers come in.

She tells me to go for it.

“But you know me and public speaking,” I say.

“Maybe it’s time to stop telling yourself the story that you’re not good at public speaking,” she says.

She’s a terrible friend.  The worst, really.

After I get off the phone with her, I think about the power of story.  The stories we tell ourselves.  The stories we tell others.

Then I stumble across this quote about storytelling:

“Being a storyteller is about helping other people tell their stories.”

I know my presentation will address the power of story.  That’s my passion.

In my head, I am mapping out how it will go.

NecktieI am working on a new story about going to the company that first time for a meeting. I am unsure about what to wear.  I am afraid about being judged for being a woman wearing men’s clothes in a corporate work environment.  About looking like a little girl who just raided her dad’s closet.

I sit on the edge of my bed and remind myself to be me.

It will be ok, I tell myself.  Stand tall.  Be strong.  Be butch.  Be yourself.

It’s a pep talk.

Another story.

* * *

What are the stories (good and bad) you tell yourself?

Ask Middle-age Butch

Dear Middle-age ButchDear Middle-age Butch,

My family and friends know and accept that I am a lesbian, though they’ve only known for a few years now, and I think they are still getting used to the thought of it. My mom, however, is not really accepting of butch lesbians. She’s never honestly given me a reason, but she is very judgmental. I only dress femme because I live in her house, but I’m getting rather tired of suppressing the fact that I am butch. Do you have any advice or suggestions?


Suppressed Butch 

Dear Suppressed Butch,

That’s a hard one. You live at home with your mom, so you don’t want to make waves. But you’re not being true to yourself. What’s a closeted butch to do?

Try talking to your mom and telling her how it feels for you to “dress femme” to please her instead of butch to please yourself.  Do you feel sad?  Angry?  Humiliated?  A girl’s desire to live her life as a flannel-loving, sturdy shoe-wearing butch is something most people don’t get.

Keep the lines of communication open.  Encourage your mom to ask questions.  Be patient.  It took you awhile to figure out how you feel most comfortable expressing yourself.

Butch women don’t fit societal standards of feminine beauty, and there’s the problem.  Why on earth would you want to wear cargo pants and a V-neck tee when you could wear strappy sandals and a floral sundress?

I remember when I got a real short haircut.

“Rae, your grandmother would be so disappointed,” my grandfather said to me. My grandmother was dead at the time, so I don’t think my short hair was really bothering her.

I remember going to a college bar all butched out and having a guy grimace when he looked in my direction.

I remember the first time someone called me “sir” in front of my mother.  I thought she was going to die.

But enough about me.

What I’m trying to say is that it takes balls to be butch.

But some see great beauty in our special blend of feminine and masculine.  We are handsome devils.  Ask any femme.  Check out some photo projects like Meg Allen’s Butch.  Maybe a pictorial approach would help your mom understand.

In the meantime, read anything you can get your hands on by Ivan Coyote.  Read Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues.  Listen to “Ring of Keys” from the Broadway musical Fun Home and try not to cry.  I dare you.

Connect with other butches in your community.

Connect with other butch bloggers.  There’s a bunch of us out here.

Remember that butch is more than what you wear.  It’s who you are.  No one can take that away from you.

Hope that your mom comes around, but find other people to support and celebrate you until that happens.  Maybe when she sees how happy you are being you, she’ll get it.

Love yourself.

Be your best butch.

* * *

This was an actual question from a young butch.  What do you guys think?  What advice would you offer?

Last call for flannel

FreeI can’t be the only one who likes flannel.  And free things.

Just a reminder that you still have time to enter The Flannel Files “You know you’re a butch when …” contest.

You know you’re a butch when you enter contests to win free flannel apparel.

Note: You don’t have to be a butch to enter.

Prize is a brand new flannel shirt.  Sweet.

See the previous post for some other examples.

So, come on, folks.  Let’s hear your best one-liners.  Just leave them in the comment section.

Your favorite flannel lovin’ butch blogger will announce the winner sometime Monday.  That gives you all weekend to dream about winning a brand new flannel shirt.

Shopping on the left side of the store

It’s been difficult to find time to keep this blog up to date.  I have been  dutifully attending my weekly writer’s group and trying to press forward with my memoir one chapter at a time.  Between that and the writing that I get paid to do, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for The Flannel Files.  It’s funny, because this blog started the whole creative writing thing in motion.

Anyway, I thought I would share some writing that I did today in group related to the theme of my work in progress.

* * *

My memoir has a number of themes, all related in some fashion.  When I stop and think about the main theme, “gender” is the one word that comes to mind.

It seems to be a clear-cut topic.  Boy.  Girl.  But in my world, it has never been clear-cut, which is why I have a story to tell.  The lines have always been fuzzy.  Actually, not fuzzy but movable.  For much of my life, I have had to put my shoulder down and push with all of my might to move the lines that most seem content to walk within.

Gender is such a common identifier: a capital M or F on a driver’s license or a checked box on a birth certificate.  There is never any room for in between.  Everything is always hard and fast.


Right or left?

I always think of the gravitational pull that I used to feel when I entered The Gap clothing store at our local mall.

The women’s clothes were on the right side of the store.  The men’s clothes on the left.

I always felt a tug of duty to enter on the right side and pass my eyes over the khakis and the button-down shirts there.

Eventually, I would loop around to the left side, which contained more khakis and button-down shirts.  In my mind’s eye, these were authentic khakis and button-downs.  They always felt more real and practical without the extra stitching or pleats or darts.

In a way, my life — my battle with gender — has been a giant loop around a boy/girl clothing store.  At first, I sought acceptance but eventually mustered up enough courage to just shop on the left.

Shaving and other manly rituals

It’s been a awhile since I’ve posted.

I’ve been faithfully attending my writing group and working on my memoir, even though a little voice inside me says things like:

“You can’t do it.”

“You’re not that funny”

“Who would want to read that?”

My inner critic can be a real jackass.

But I’m plugging away.

I’ve been writing a lot about me as a kid — middle-age butch in the making — and gender roles and norms and expectations.

I asked W the other day if she ever wanted to shave when she was a little kid.  I know it’s a weird question.  I’ve never wanted to be a real boy like Pinocchio or even look like a boy.  I just favor masculine things like Old Spice, menswear, short haircuts and professional wrestling.

I love ties and suspenders and baseball caps.  I always have. 

Ties and suspenders

In the 80s, ties are trendy and deemed appropriate for women.  I have two that I wear on a regular basis with button-down oxford shirts.

Here’s a rough-draft excerpt from my memoir:

My dad teaches me how to tie a Windsor knot.  One morning before school, he slips into my bedroom and stands behind me while I am facing the mirror attached to my dresser.  He shows me how to wrap the material around and around, up and through.  It is a skill that I learn with pride, a right of passage like learning to drive or registering to vote.

Shaving creamI wonder what it would have been like to learn how to shave.  I imagine him standing behind me in front of the bathroom mirror showing me how to lather my face and pull the razor down in long, straight strokes.  

Even though I will never grow a beard, shaving seems like a useful skill unlike makeup application and hairstyling.

I am seduced by the ritual.  My dad’s shaving cream smells clean and earthy like fresh laundry and pine needles.  His aftershave is stored in a small green glass bottle like a magic potion.  I sit quietly on the bathroom counter as he shakes out three small splashes into a single cupped palm, rubs both hands together and slaps his face twice on each cheek.  I can feel the cool sting just by smelling the air. 

I think it’s unfair that such majestic behind-the-scenes pageantry is reserved for boys.

My mother wears makeup that she buys from the Clinique counter and Chanel No. 5 on special occasions.  I can’t recall the color of her lipstick or the face that she makes in the mirror when she applies her blush.  I am certain that she has her rituals, too, but they hold no allure.

* * *

Even now, I’m jealous.  Upscale men’s haircutting establishments modeled after old-fashioned barber shops are popping up all over the place.  Something about getting a short haircut and a shave appeals to me.  The smell of the shaving cream, the feel of a straight razor on my face, the luxury of a hot towel.

What about you?  What rituals were you fascinated with as a kid?  Did you favor things typically associated with the opposite sex?

Butch goes to a department store

I had to go to Kohl‘s today and pay my credit card bill.

If you’re not familiar with Kohl’s, it’s a department store sort of like J.C. Penney but way better.

Because I was already inside the store, I decided to do some shopping.

Here’s what Middle Age Butch bought:

Snowman Hand Towel

How can this not make you smile?

One snowman hand towel for the freshly painted downstairs bathroom.  $4.00.  Who says lesbians can’t be interior decorators?  They had a really cute and fluffy white snowman towel, but we have three teenage boys.  You do the math.  Note to butch: Don’t forget to buy a lot of really nice white stuff like towels and rugs — but not cocaine — after the kids leave home.  You probably won’t need mind-numbing drugs after the kids leave home.  It’ll be like one giant Dinah Shore White Party every single day of the week.

Phillies Pajama Bottoms

Can’t wait to rock these

One pair of Philadelphia Phillies pajama bottoms.  $4.20.  On clearance.  Things I love: the Phillies, pajamas, elastic waistbands, sleep.  Win, win, win, win.  I will be like Charlie Sheen when I wear these this spring.  Winning.  Big time.  So cute.  I love the tiny little silver button on the fly.  And they have pockets!  Bonus.

Hooded Vest

Sporty yet dressy

One hooded vest.  $7.20.  On clearance.  Not sure why they don’t have a butch lesbian section as a subset of the young men’s department.  Or, a Justin Bieber section.  Same thing.  This screams “lesbian” just like a flannel shirt or a Chicks Dig Me tee.  Or, maybe “boy band,” but who’s counting.  The vest is a soft sweatshirty gray material lined in black with a drawstring hood.  Sweet.  Would look great with a plain white tee underneath, a pair of jeans and black Doc Marten’s.  Middle Age Butch needs to lose a few pounds to really rock this.  Combines two of my favorite things — vests and sweatshirts.  Wondering how to combine other things I love … like pizza and beer, wool socks and buttonfly jeans …

Funny Unicorn Tee

Funny yet so true

One funny unicorn T-shirt.  $2.40. On clearance.  Ok, so Middle Age Butch is not all fluffy and rainbowy and into unicorns and glitter.  I mean, I would eat unicorn meat in a heartbeat.  Especially barbequed unicorn.  Or braised unicorn.  Or unicorn parmesan.  Wow, my mouth is actually watering now.  But this T-shirt caught my eye.  I have a thing for T-shirts.  Which means that I have way too many and when I open up my closet to grab one to wear, the whole pile teeters and I have to quick close the door before they come crashing down and bury me alive.  Although in the realm of all possibilities, being suffocated by my awesome T-shirt collection is not such a bad way to go out.   Oh, I like jokey things about therapy, too.  If you haven’t noticed.

What about you?  What’s the coolest thing you’ve purchased in recent weeks?