Tag Archives: clothing

The Flannel Underground


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?”


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.


A second skin.

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


Riding the edge of boy-girl

I don’t know what letters I had typed.

I meant to type “middle” and my auto-correct insisted that it should be “muddle.”

I’ve tried to recreate the keystrokes that took me from middle to muddle.  I haven’t been able to figure it out.  Maybe it was all in my head.

I had been writing a piece on “the middle.”  If you identify as butch, you know this place all too well.  Like the back of your hand, the bottom of your Dr. Marten’s or the pattern on your favorite tie.

Frankly, I was angry at auto-correct for suggesting that this middle place is all a muddle, or maybe just plain old mud.  “Curse you, auto-correct!” I screamed, my meaty fists pounding the air.

Is the middle just a muddle?

But then I got to thinking, and it was all downhill from there.  Maybe auto-correct knew what it was talking about.  Maybe it was just mud.  When you mix red and green and blue and orange, you get brown.  Ask any first-grader who has ever experimented with paint.  So, maybe when you mix boy and girl you get mud.

There is no middle place here.

When I was a kid, I loved water parks.  I was like Tarzan on the rope swings.  Fearless on the kamikaze body slide.  Like a bobbing apple in the wave pool.  I don’t ever remember feeling self-conscious of my body, even though I was walking around in a one-piece bathing suit in the bright summer sun all day.

A few weeks ago, we took the kids to a water park.  I was extremely self-conscious.  I was very aware of the boys, bare chested with their board shorts.  And the girls in brightly colored bikinis or one-piece suits.

I didn’t know where I fit in.

I wore a pair of black swim trunks with a black tankini on top, which I covered up with a 30 Rock T-shirt.  It seemed a better choice than swim trunks over top of a standard issue black one-piece.  But really, there are few choices when it comes to swimsuits for those of us who dwell in the middle place.

I would so rock these.

I would so rock these.

I guess my ideal is a pair of cool swim trunks partnered with a plain sports-bra looking top.  I’d have to lose some weight for that combo, though.  I imagine my torso lean and trim and owning those trunks.

As I sat at the water park while everyone else was swimming, I felt lost.  For the first time, the phrase “body dysphoria” ran through my mind.  This must be what it feels like, I thought.  It wasn’t so much a pang but an overwhelming feeling of being an outsider inside my own body.

After we got home, I wrote about the middle place.

I told W that I want to lean more toward the masculine side of things.  That I feel most comfortable there.  That I’m not sure exactly what that means but that I want to explore my options.

Of course, she was supportive.  Not “of course” like who wouldn’t be.  But “of course” because she always is.

I’ve never felt like I was born in the wrong body.  That I am really a boy who has been swallowed up whole by this girls’ body.

I’ve always felt more boy than girl, more masculine than feminine.  Always.

In my piece on the middle, I wrote about good days, which are when I’m riding what I call “the razor-sharp edge of boy-girl.”  The edge is electric blue, and I can feel it buzzing with life and excitement and possibility when I’m there.  I ride it when I’m wearing a tie when I’m taking W out to dinner.  Or when I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt and a baseball cap.  Or when I’ve just gotten a haircut, No. 4 on the sides.

It’s not just the clothes.  It’s the way I feel inside the clothes.  Inside the boots or the sneakers, the wide leather wrist cuff or the metal bicycle chain bracelet.  It’s all of it together.

I guess it’s not mud after all.

If you mix boy and girl just right, you get something that’s pure magic.

Vacation underwear

W and I leave for our trek to Provincetown, Mass., early tomorrow morning.

She told me that she would get me to love road trips.

“Probably not,” I replied.

My voice got all high like Anthony Crispino, the secondhand news correspondent played by Bobby Moynihan on Saturday Night Live.


Pretty sure I’m not gonna love being on the road for eight hours

But that’s how I am.  A hard sell.

I went out today to buy some new clothes for our trip.

A few pairs of cargo shorts and a some new white socks.

I needed underwear, too.  I usually buy Hanes or Fruit of the Loom hi-cuts.  Whatever’s on sale.  I’m not that picky.  I scan the packs for the least girly combination possible.  I can usually find a pack of six with only a pair or two covered in flowers or pastel polka dots.

Today, however, I came up empty handed.  I couldn’t find an acceptable pack of women’s underwear to save my life.  So, I did what any self-respecting butch would do.  I went to the men’s department.

I’d already given some thought to switching over from panties to briefs. I picked up a pack of men’s underwear at Target a few months ago.  I thought that I’d wait until I lost some weight to wear them though.  “I will look totally buff and butch then,” I told myself.

But a lot of stuff happened between now and then.  Like nachos.  And ice cream.  And kids home from school for the summer.

So, I bit the bullet today.  I bought matching socks and underwear.  I figured P-Town would be a good place to romp around in boy briefs.  Besides, if we got mauled by sea creatures on our whale-watching tour, at least I’d be wearing new underwear.  My mother would be so proud mortified.


Puma socks and men’s boxer briefs.  I will be like a cougar.  A big butch cougar.


I don’t remember the last time I was so excited about a clothing purchase.

Oh, and I made one more purchase.  A T-shirt to remind myself to relax and enjoy.

And to let W know that I’m trying.  That I’ll be leaving here Thursday morning with an open mind and an open heart.  That I really am excited to be spending time alone with her, even though my stoic disposition always leaves her guessing.


Good advice for road trips.  And for life.  That and “Pack Lots of Snacks” and “Don’t Forget the Indigo Girls CDs.”

* * *

Books I’m taking: A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

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.

Middle-age butch has a twin

imagesCA6O0ZE0On Saturday morning, we stopped by a convenience store to pick up breakfast before making the trek to the funeral for W’s grandmom.

I was wearing a pair of black slacks, a white dress shirt, a black vest and a tie.

Inside the store, an old woman stopped me.

“Do you know that you have a twin?” she asked.

“No, I didn’t,” I replied.

“My grandson looks just like you,” she said beaming.

I smiled back thinking that her grandson must be one handsome devil.

* * *

Thanks to everyone who sent condolences to W and myself for the loss of W’s grandmom.  We appreciate your words of kindness and support.

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?