Tag Archives: relationships

Strong

WelderLast night W apologized for being weak.

I told her she is the strongest woman I know.  Even though she has trouble lifting the 40-pound boxes of cat litter into the cart at Target.  Even though I am the designated pickle jar opener.

She didn’t believe me.

When W and I were dating, I first fell in love with her hands.  They are not slender, porcelain model hands.  They are the hands of a real woman.  A capable woman.

W wears silver rings on her fingers.  I like to watch her sew or write or fold sheets.  I like to watch her fingers busy in task while light sparks off her rings as if she is a welder.  It is so sexy it takes my breath away every single time.

Hers are the hands of a doer, a survivor, a finisher.  They are the hands of my lover.

She is strong in all of the places in which I am weak.  When I see myself reflected in her eyes, I feel whole.

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What I learned about love (and bowties) on my wedding day

Keep calmW and I were going to say “I do” in about two hours. I had this marriage thing, this love thing down.

I have been married before.  And civil unioned.  Practice makes perfect they say.  Third time’s the charm.  This time around, there would be no surprises.  How could there be?  What could this 47-year-old butch not know about commitment, about love?

A group of friends and family were at the pavilion stringing up lights and placing vintage Mason jars filled with fall flowers on the picnic tables.

W and I were at home getting dressed.

I knew to stay out of W’s way as it would take her longer to get ready, W being the bride and all.

I was looking good.

I was looking good.

I took my time and put on my jeans and white button-down shirt, rolling up the sleeves just so. I slid on my custom Converse with the wedding date emblazoned in back and laced them up.  I folded up my vows and placed them in my front shirt pocket.  Only one thing left to do.  I flipped up my collar, wrapped my bowtie around my neck and went to use the mirror in the downstairs bathroom to tie that bad boy.

I almost got it on the first try. But then my nerves got the best of me.  Despite all the YouTube videos and the bowtie tying drills earlier in the week, I just couldn’t get it tied.  I took some deep breaths and kept trying.

One side longer. Over, under.  Long side out of the way.  Form a bow.  Long side down in front.  Taco, taco.  Stuff.

Now I was sweating. A lot.  I brought my iPad in the bathroom for video aid.  Still no luck.

Stay calm. You can do this.

I thought a change in venue might help, so I tried the upstairs bathroom.  There was no bowtie tying magic in there.

I was starting to panic. And curse.  We had to leave soon.  What if I couldn’t get the bowtie tied?  I had been blogging about this damn bowtie for a month.  What would I wear?  It was too late to run out and buy a necktie.  And at this point, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to tie a one of those.

“I can’t do it,” I yelled out to W.

“Yes, you can,” she encouraged.

I ventured into our bedroom where W was getting dressed.

“It’s too hard,” I said, pouting like only a middle-age butch and a six-year-old girl can.

“I don’t want to hear it,” W said. “I have to put on Spanx.  You want to trade places?”

I quickly left the bedroom and continued my futile attempts at tying a bowtie. I swore more quietly so W wouldn’t hear.

One side longer. Long side out of the way.  Form a bow.  Long side down in front.  Taco, taco.  Stuff.

Time was running out. We were already running late.  The bowtie is aptly named the Jack & Ennis after the leads in Brokeback MountainI can’t quit you or tie you! I yelled out to no one in particular.

It was time to think alternatives. Glue gun.  Or maybe nail gun.  I needed tools of some kind.  Possibly a Dremel.

xx

I almost looked like this guy.

Or maybe I could wear the bowtie like a tiny, jaunty silk scarf. Or tie it in a big bow and wear it Colonel Sanders style.  Desperate times and all.

I retreated to the bedroom one last time and sat down on the bed next to W. W grabbed her iPad and watched a two-minute YouTube video.  She tied the bowtie perfectly on her first try.

“Just so you know, I will learn how to tie my own bowtie,” I said.  It was my attempt at piecing back together my butch bravado that lay scattered in tiny shards on the floor around my custom Converse.

“You don’t have to,” W said.

xx

Perfect.

When we got to the pavilion, W pointed out my bowtie to some of the guests.

“Doesn’t it look great?”

I just smiled and told everyone that I had pulled on my own underwear in the morning and that’s about all I had done. That is pretty much the truth not true at all.

We had about a half hour before we were to say our vows. Usually, I’m not good on the fly, but I was able to work the bowtie into my vows.  It was the least I could do.

Here are some snippets:

You are the first person with whom I share good news and bad.

You are the person I go to when I am feeling down, scared, unsure or frustrated.

You are the person I look for when I am feeling happy or triumphant and want to share my good luck and fortune.

And you are the person I go to on my wedding day when I can’t tie my bowtie.

* * *

There’s a line in a Melissa Etheridge song that I quote to you all the time.

“You found out to love me, you have to climb some fences.”

You climb those fences with grace and most times even a smile on your face.

But isn’t that what love is? Climbing fences.

And that is my promise to you. To love you, to support you, to encourage you, to forgive you.

And climb those fences every once in awhile so you know that I am here and that I’m not going anywhere and that you are worth the extra effort every single time.

I figure I scored some butch bonus points for admitting that I didn’t tie the bowtie.  (And working in a Melissa Etheridge song.)

* * *

Today, I’m fairly confident that I will be able to master the tying of the bowtie. I mean, I can drive a car and give a cat a pill and remove spaghetti sauce stains from a white shirt.  But I’m pretty sure I don’t want to.

I like the idea of having W tie my bowties from this day forward.  While W is tying, we will laugh about our wedding day and my bowtie tying ineptitude and how she saved the day.  We will be reminded that we are not on this journey alone but have a constant companion to share the ups and downs of life.  I will remember that I can’t do everything on my own — contrary to what my butch ego says — and that there is wisdom and courage in asking for and accepting help.  And that I am so very lucky to have by my side a strong, competent woman (who happens to excel at tying things) as my wife.

I’m a sexy beast

It’s true.

I’m a sexy beast.

It says so right here.  On this purple velvety card that W gave me on Saturday.

Sexy beast

Do believe everything you read.

Especially if it makes you feel 10 feet tall and all tingly inside.

 

 

Son of a gun

“Is that your son?” a woman asks W at the family reunion.

She’s talking about me. I am sitting next to W at a long table. I am wearing a pair of tan cargo shorts and a navy blue T-shirt.

“No, that’s my partner,” W says.

I brush it off like a crumb.

Later that night, I ask W how it made her feel.

“Old,” she says.

“Old that you have a 47-year-old son?”

We both laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement.  A 43-year-old woman with a 47-year-old son.

W doesn’t look old.

She has a few streaks of gray that look silver in the light.

I think her grays make her look sexy.

Sometimes when she tilts her head just the right way in the sunlight, I remember that she is the most beautiful woman in the world.

*  * *

Has this ever happened to you?  What is your partner’s typical response? 

Even butches get choked up

Marry Me?If you read my last post, you know that I proposed to W on Sunday via cupcake.

Of course, she said yes. I mean, what woman could possibly resist the sexy, handsome beast that is this butch.

Anyway, here’s what I failed to mention:

After I decided to go with a cupcake proposal, I drove to the cupcake place by our house. I had some ideas and wanted to run them by the baker and get her opinion.

I started out strong.

“I have an odd question for you,” I said.

“My partner and I had a commitment ceremony a few years ago, but we haven’t been able to get legally married in the state of Pennsylvania until last month.”

I sounded like this guy.

I sounded like this guy.

Somewhere in that sentence my voice broke, causing me to sound like I was channeling Peter Brady in my 47-year-old body. Not a pretty picture.

That’s what happens. I keep everything tamped down so tightly that every once in awhile some emotion trickles out. It’s inevitable. A side effect of being a butch, perhaps.

Deep down inside, I do feel emotionally about last month’s court ruling that opened up the possibility of marriage in Pennsylvania for all couples.

The cynic in me will tell you that, for those of my generation, gay marriage will always be a political statement of sorts.

Or maybe it’s not the cynic in me but that place inside that houses my fears.  I hide them underneath the bravado and the bluster, the flannel and the thermal shirts.  It’s the tender spot that pulses below the big words and the carefully articulated theories.

The other day I overheard my son talking to a friend.

“My mom’s a writer. She knows everything,” he said with a giant sigh.

Of course, I took it as a compliment.

xx

Perhaps the greatest non-lesbian movie ever made (back when Nic Cage was a cool dude).

I know tons of weird things. Like the year that Hershey’s Whatchamacallit candy bar came out. 1978. And all the words to the movie Valley Girl. But I don’t know how to enjoy the moment. I don’t know how to not overthink things. I don’t know how to show emotion. I don’t know how to be vulnerable.

So, yeah, sometimes it trickles out of me. A single tear streaking silently down one pink cheek. My face slowly turning red like a garden rose. My voice cracking mid-sentence.

I wish I could have said something like this to the cupcake baker:

I’m sorry, but I get emotional thinking about how I’m finally able to marry the woman I love.

In the end, my voice betrayed me — cracking like a scratched 45. It was a small slip hinting at the emotion that bubbles inside me.

Because I really am grateful that I got another chance at love. And I’m grateful that W has agreed to take this step with me.  The fact that it’s all going to be legal makes it that much sweeter.

Metamorphosis and the butch butterfly

Sometimes I think W deserves someone better than me.

Sometimes means during the past few weeks.

I have been moody.

Imagine this storm cloud in flannel

Imagine this storm cloud in flannel.

Not 24/7 moody. That would be full-blown depression. Instead, I have been like a black storm cloud in the summer heat, unpredictable and quick to rain on everyone’s parade.

“You are a lucky woman,” I tell W sometimes.

I call her by her full name when I say this. She thinks it’s cute.

I know this because she crinkles her nose.

I haven’t called her a lucky woman for awhile.

Imagine this dude in flannel.

Imagine this dude in flannel.

I wonder if I am moody because I’m a butch. A brooding butch chiseled out of stone and always over thinking things until smoke comes out my ears and my flannel is at risk of catching on fire.

As a general rule, butches are not perky or bubbly or given nicknames like Sunshine or Daisy.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer prone to endless inner reflection.  Sylvia Plath in a pair of Dr. Marten’s boots.

It could be a combination of the two.  A butch writer.  W never had a chance.

We had a spirited discussion last weekend about the word “wife.” About how W has a desire to use the word to describe me while I would cringe inside about such a female-identified word being used in reference to me.

Later, I told W she should refer to me as her “female lover” just for the shock factor.

“I can’t win,” she says.

She’s right.

I think it’s because I still haven’t figured out who I am. It sounds silly because I am in my 40s. But I still feel like I am in a state of flux, a work in progress.

I wonder if butch is just a transition. Just another phase in my metamorphosis from tomboy to lesbian to soft butch to butch to something else.

When I used to travel to my alma mater to meet up with my college pals, I would drive for as long as I could before stopping for something to drink or to use a restroom.  I usually stopped about two-and-a-half hours into the trip at a McDonalds in Danville, a small town near the center of Pennsylvania.  I would grab two cheeseburgers and a vanilla shake and continue on, excited to see my friends and pop open a cold beer.  I wonder if butch is Danville.  A pit stop and not a destination.

Maybe I'm a butch butterfly after all.

Maybe I’m a butch butterfly after all.

Or is my metamorphosis complete?  Maybe I’m already a butterfly (a butterfly in a flannel shirt and combat boots) and just haven’t realized it yet.

* * *

What about you?  Are you a moody butch or in a relationship with one?  Are you still a work in progress or is your transformation complete?

A love letter

“Do you know your blog is a love letter to me?” W asked me one day.

I had never really thought about it like that.

And then people started commenting about how hopelessly romantic my blog is. Amid swoons and sighs, they responded with awwws and how sweets.

xx

Really?  The Flannel Files?  An Internet hub for love and other mushy stuff?

To borrow a line from Amy Poehler, really?  The ultra-tough, uber-studly Flannel Files?  That place where it’s cool for girls to talk about neckties and motorcycle boots, cleavage and butchdar?

It seems to hit a nerve every time.  People are either searching for true love or in the middle of a love-filled relationship and realize how very lucky they are.  At the end of the day when the sun is going down like a big red rubber dodgeball in the sky, we all want to be watching hand-in-hand with someone who makes our hearts beat like a bongo drum.  Bong bong.

So, why all the talk about love, Middle-age Butch?  What about baseball and beer?  Tattoos?  Mila Kunis?  The upcoming Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition?

W and I seem to have located the sweet spot of love.

Sometimes I wonder when it will all end.  When we’ll have hit our limit, used up our magic.

We are soft and pink like this.

We are soft and pink like this.

But we continue to grow together, and I think that’s the key.  We are constantly growing, learning, stretching ourselves.  Sometimes we are reaching for the same thing and sometimes not.  Right now, we are pliable like fresh eggs of silly putty.

We seem new again.

I tell her in the morning that she has sexy morning hair.

She crinkles her nose.

I tell her in the evening that she has sexy night hair.

“No, I don’t,” she says.  She bites her lip to keep from smiling.

She looks sexy in her new gray nightgown.  And the pale blue one.  And the black one.

I love you this much.

I love you this much.

This is when I know I am in love.

Not again because I was in love last month and the month before that.

I start to wonder if this love is stronger or deeper or truer than the love I had for W in April or January or 2011 or 2009.  Or has it been there all along — this deep, rich love that is new and old at the same time?

I’m not sure that it matters.  Just that I feel it.  And acknowledge it.  And tell W that I love her.  That I always have and always will.

I am reminded of this quote by Alice Walker from The Temple of My Familiar:

“Some people don’t understand that it is the nature of the eye to have seen forever, and the nature of the mind to recall anything that was ever known.”

What about the heart?

xx

Open to love.

I imagine my heart an advent calendar covered in cardboard doors.  They’ve been there forever.  They were just waiting for the right person to come along and open them up.

Maybe W was right.  This is a love letter to her.

It has been the whole time.

Ninja love

I’ve been thinking a lot about love these days.

Not the fun, flirty kind of love.  You know, a note from her in your lunch bag signed XOXO, stolen kisses in a dark movie theater, a romantic dinner that ends with a shared dessert.

Some love is easy and makes you feel like you are floating in the sky.

Some love is easy and makes you feel like you are floating in the sky.

That’s the easy kind of love.  The kind that feels like you’re walking on clouds or eating a bowl of toasted marshmallow.  You might even think that your heart will explode like a big red water balloon because you’re so full of love.

But what about the other kind of love?

It usually appears when things are not all peace signs and rainbow stickers and bright magic marker-colored velvet posters.

It is love that requires effort.  It is can’t-you-see-I’m-loving-you love with fists clenched at your sides and all of your breath bottled up deep inside.

Some love is more like this.

Some love is like this.

It is quiet love and patient love.  It is steady as a heartbeat and solid as a big brown rock.

It loves even though or despite or regardless.  It doesn’t care that your hair is messy or your eyes are puffy or that you are all snotty.

It tries not to nag or to hover or to ask you for the billionth time if you are ok.

It is like a good waitress.  “Let me know if you need anything,” it says.  It brings you cold water just in case and maybe even a small piece of chocolate wrapped in shiny green foil.

It waits.  It will always wait.  Because it is love.  It never gets bored or tired.  It waits and grows until.  Until it is time.  Until it is the right time.  That’s how it is.  This kind of love.

It’s like a ninja in red silk pajamas waiting in the shadows until she is ready to be loved again.

Falling in love over and over again

Last weekend, I whisked W away to the city for two days of fun and romance. Or maybe she whisked me away. I can’t be sure.

xx

You and me in our Italian restaurant.  Yes, it’s as darling as it looks.

Anyway, we saw the musical Mama Mia, dined at a cute little Italian restaurant, browsed the shelves of a gay bookstore, caught a movie, did some shopping. It was restful, rejuvenating and romantic.

Plus, it was my birthday, which made it super sweet like the tiramisu in a little teacup that we shared for dessert.

The weekend got me thinking about this quote:

“A successful marriage requires falling in love over and over again, always with the same person.”

— Mignon McLaughlin

Sunday morning, W and I were lying around in our king-size hotel bed all wrapped up in each other, and I could feel them: the butterflies in my stomach, the tingles in my toes. We could see the sparks in the air like we were huddled under the covers and we both had a major case of static electricity.

That’s when it hit me.  I’m still in love with W.

It’s not that I had doubts or had forgotten. Sometimes there’s no time for being in love in the rush of our ordinary, everyday lives.

Sometimes you have to slow down and take the time to see what’s been right there in front of your eyes the whole time.

xx

The weekend ended with this monstrosity — a skillet breakfast called “The Bacon Sink.”  Yes, that is bacon gravy that you see.

How do you call your lover boi?

“Sylvia!”
“Yes, Mickey.”
“How do you call your Lover Boy?”
“Come here, Lover Boy!”
“And if he doesn’t answer?”
“Oh, Lover Boy!”
“And if he still doesn’t answer?”
“I simply say…”
“Baby. Oh baby. My sweet baby. You’re the one.”

— Love Is Strange by Mickey & Sylvia

My last post got me thinking about what we call ourselves when it comes to our love relationships. I’m not talking about nicknames, so not “Twinkle Toes” or “Sugar Lips” or “Sweet Potato Fries with a Side of Honey.” I mean the terms we use to describe our relationship and relation to a significant other to a third party: “Partner,” “wife,” “spouse,” “lover,” “girlfriend,” “sweet potato fries with a side of honey.” Who am I to judge?

W and I generally defer to “partner.” This is my partner, Middle-age butch.

It works, but it always seems so business-y, like we both work at the same law firm or just opened up a cupcake factory together.  It would be an awesome cupcake factory, but that’s not the point.

xx

We don’t usually use the term “wife” because it feels weird, at least to me. I guess I get hung up on the “little woman” connotations. You know, early sitcom depictions of the stay-at-home wife and mother ironing her husband’s boxers and making chateaubriand for dinner. If I am a wife, can I iron my own boxer shorts? This is what keeps me up late at night.

I instruct W to refer to me as her “lover” or, better yet, “lesbian lover.” Why, this is my lesbian lover, Middle-age butch.

While I talk a good game, I would be horribly embarrassed to be introduced in such a fashion. As if the lover aspect of our relationship was the most important.

In a comment to the previous post, urbanmythcafe suggested spouse as it is gender-neutral and implies marriage. I like that.

Either that, or we come up with our own names. I’m partial to Sexy Handsome Beast, but it is a mouthful.

* * *

How about you? What do you call your partner — both out in public and when you’re home alone and no one else can hear?