Thursday, February 18, 2010

When I

When I put my new clogs on, I feel like a drag queen. It's like in Dead Poets Society when they all stand on the desk to get a different perspective. I'm standing on the desk, walking around on the desk at five feet, five inches; let me tell you, things are different from up there. My usual lumber across campus turns very deliberate. My big steps, used to keeping up with my long-legged father, are shorter and louder as the heel of the thick rubber sole hits the pavement or carpet or linoleum. They are my Serious Business shoes. The kind of thing that I am supposed to wear to my first job interview. They are something, I guess, that says, "I am Gretel, kinda butch lesbian with a very expensive pair of nice-looking, sensible shoes. I am almost comfortable."
When I get back to my room, I take them off and and remember what it is like to stand, again, amongst the peons. When you are shorter and outspoken, people use their size to intimidate you. It is why, when I was a lifeguard, my (male) boss would make me get down from the observation chair to tell me that I was doing something wrong. It is why, when he was up in the chair, he would yell at anyone and everyone. It is why, when I speak up, people call me a bitch.
When I raise my hand in class to answer a question, the blood raises in my cheeks and my heart races in a way that only happens when I am truly scared. According to every biology textbook, this is called "fight or flight." It is the feeling you get when the dude you were trash talking at the bar pulls a switchblade. Because I don't trash talk at bars, this is the fear-raising activity. I raise my hand and say something that could make me look stupid. Because what scares me the most, more than the police, more than the fact that we are slowing slipping into a sweet death, is that to feel smart, to feel loved, to feel good about myself, I have to take that risk of seeming dumb, seeming overly eager and vulnerable, seeming overconfident when I shouldn't be.
When I meet people who have only met me in the past year and a half, they are amazed that I've only been out for a year and a half. They look at me incredulously and say, "really?" because I am am confident. I have my hair short, flipped up sometimes when I take a shower and it stays that way. I want to tell them that they wouldn't have talked to me two years ago. I would have been another wide-eyed, quiet straight girl. I want to tell them that everything they see is hard sometimes for me. I psych myself up before I leave my room. I pretend I am the queerest thing to hit Miss America. Smile, shoulders back, ignore the fact that you sound like a phone-sex worker. Ignore the people who stare at you like they are trying to look right through you.
When I put my new clogs on, I feel like a drag queen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Unfinished fictions

Truth be told, I have probably spent enough money to constitute a life savings on coffee at my local coffee shop. I don’t feel bad though, when I fork over two dollars every half hour for a cup of hot, black House Blend. The coffee is organic and fair trade, which I guess makes it taste a whole lot better than the Folgers that my roommate insists on buying and the girls who work at the counter are usually cute and young. And if its not one of the cute and young ones, it’s at least one who is nice and doesn’t comment on how I wore that shirt yesterday or something. I can respect that. Flea wasn’t the cute and young kind. She was young, probably out of the woods in terms of college-aged, but not firmly in the adult years of her life and certainly not cute. She opened on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then the other days of the week, she would show up for a couple of hours and would immediately change the music to Bob Dylan. I hate Bob Dylan. He’s a pretentious, washed-out, Born-Again Christian hippy with bad taste in hats. She loved him, down to the way she cut her hair. I remarked that once.

“Your hair looks like Bob Dylan’s,” I said, awkwardly enough one morning. It was before my first cup of coffee.

“I know,” she said. “House blend, right?”

“Yeah. But why Bob Dylan?”

“I like him. I wish I were him.”

I wasn’t trying to come onto her. I don’t think either of us was attracted to the other person. And that was what we had in common: a complete sense of detachment. I didn’t say that I liked Bob Dylan, or his haircut, or hers for that matter. It was a matter of respect, or not even. The truth was deeper than that, or maybe not even at all. Maybe we were just two people who happened to live in the same big city who happened to find our physical selves in the same place at the same time relatively frequently and decided to base our friendship on a simple coincidence of placement, like sodium and chlorine.

A few weeks and several hundred cups of house blend later, I was back at the coffee shop towards the end of her opening shift. It was a Tuesday and she didn’t even ask to sit down at my table covered in sections from the New York Times; which was stupid because I only ever really looked at the crossword.

“Are you one of those pretentious fucks who buys the Times every day but only does the crossword and only finishes it on Mondays anyways?” Her coffee cup was leaving a ring on the Style section.

“And Tuesdays, and sometimes Wednesdays if there’s nothing good on TV and I have a particularly fruitful night on Wikipedia.”

“I could tell. At least you don’t order lattes. I hate people who order lattes.” I decided that this conversation wasn’t about me at all. It was about her and for some reason I didn’t despise her for this. “Lattes are for people who have never drank a glass of soymilk in their entire life, but for some god-awful reason think that getting soy in their coffee makes them special.”

The more Flea and I talked, the more I learned how many people she hated. Yuppies, corporate types, animal rights enthusiasts, tourists, food snobs, coffee snobs, vegans, elitists, indie rock musicians, people who never went to camp and evangelicals, to name a few. I think more than a few came from a series of broken relationships and the fact that she worked in the service industry. I fell into a few of those categories. I’d never been to camp, for one. This was a fact that was covered extensively one afternoon. Flea was under the distinct impression that most kids needed to be sent away from the comfort of their own home to a place where horny teenagers primarily try to attract each other and only glancingly deal with young children who are sent to the wilderness. I was under the distinct impression that my parents actually loved me and therefore didn’t need to send me to a place that clearly sounded like a complex social hell.

“Plus,” she said one day, slamming down an empty espresso mug, “camp was where I got my first kiss. It was where I lost my virginity; it was like ten years of therapy rolled up into a few weeks in upstate New York.” And for the first time since Flea and I started talking, I didn’t know what was supposed to happen next. I bought a few minutes by needing another cup of coffee as well as needing to get rid of a previous cup and stood in the bathroom staring at my reflection in the mirror. Could my life really have been changed if my mother was the kind of person to pack up my things and put me in the care of strange and irresponsible older children? And then suddenly, I found myself back at the table with Flea and a new cup of coffee.

“I need a cigarette. Are you busy? Want to go like get a hotdog or something?” Flea opened up a pouch of tobacco and started to roll a cigarette. I knew Flea smoked because she’d already told me why she liked unfiltered. The tobacco got in her mouth; a quality that had plagued smokers for years and for some reason reminded her of sex because they felt like pubic hairs on her tongue. “Like licking Dame Cancer?” I asked, but I didn’t want an answer. Flea didn’t like to hear that kind of stuff. In addition to being a nymphomaniac in our conversations, hating entire swaths of the human race and playing the saxophone, Flea was a classic case of germ-phobia. She claimed to have come by it honestly, being raised by a Jewish epidemiologist. Legitimate, in my book, but I didn’t understand why she opened bathroom doors with a piece of paper towel even when it was in her own apartment.

She was terrified of getting a cold or the flu but for some reason the other health consequences of her actions like having sex in a cabin at summer camp or smoking cigarettes one after another was inconsequential.

The more I got to know Flea, the more I thought that her existence was contrary. She delighted at handing the cashier her ID when they said, “Can I see some ID for the alcohol, sir?” if only to watch their face.

“What’s your real name, Flea? Your parents couldn’t have hated you enough to actually name you Flea?” I asked one morning after I ordered my coffee.

“Fiona.” The hatred of the name was palpable in her voice. “Luckily, my parents were decent enough to notice early on that I wasn’t exactly the princess type. You know, I kissed girls on the playground when I was in preschool. For a whole year I pretended I was a boy.”

“And so they started calling you by the name of a small parasite. Makes sense. I love your parents.” I started to feign disinterest because it annoyed her and it seemed like the more she was annoyed, the more she said, the more she tolerated my presence.

“They started calling me Flea because I would try to run away.” It was a simple sentence, but filled with an obvious emotional impact. “When I was five, I ran away for ten hours and then I realized I couldn’t ask my mom for money to get food at the 7/11, so I just went to the park and hid in the tube for awhile.

“How did they find you?”

“I wasn’t much of an escape artist and the park was a block from my house. My mom didn’t call the police luckily, but she did decide to scare me into coming home by sending the teenage son of a neighbor to come ask if I wanted a ride downtown.”

“Like kidnap you?”


“That’s the kind of shit you see on that one TV show, Intervention, where the people are addicted and its always explained by some shitty thing that happened to them when they were kids. They were in the special class or they were molested or they saw their dog die or something.”

“I love that show. Makes me feel like I have my shit together,” she said without a hint of irony.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Been a long time, baby.

It's been a long time in every sense of that word.  I've been writing, though. In notebooks instead of on a computer.  In notebooks, on real paper, my handwriting fills up the space differently than it does on a browser and I like that.  I also like that I can write before I go to bed under the soft light of an ancient snake lamp that happened to be in the room to which I've been relegated.

Friends have graduated from college. Friends that aren't that much older than me. Damn. I guess I don't have much to say about it other than that I can't imagine going back to school without all these people.  I'll still be happy to go already.

I feel so different at home than I do at school.  At school I'm more confident and I have some sort of future. I swagger. I wear sunglasses when I go outside to make sure I don't have to worry about recognizing people. I wear whatever I want and I don't worry that my hair sticks up in the morning. Here I'm a different kind of person because I have a past here. I'm the less athletic, the more artsy, the sweet Gretel, even if I'm a little odd, I'm the epitomized girl-next-door. 

And I hate it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Now with 50% less metal

In February of last year, I got a microdermal piercing on my sternum. I loved it. Body modification, for me, is kind of a way that I can control my body. I've written about the war I've waged on my body since I went through puberty and for some reason, controlling the way my body looked by sticking some metal into it really helped. I would look down and there would be this little piece of metal, peeking at me from between my breasts, which were already contentious to me. Were they too big, too small? Do the pock marks from the heat rash I get every summer ruin them? But there was this little piece of titanium that made them beautiful accessories.

It made me a little more confident. People I didn't even known would stop and ask me what that was on my chest, and, no matter what the reaction was, I still loved it.
It started to reject over summer break when I was pulling on my swimsuits every morning, then layering a PDF over it for teaching canoeing. By the time I got back to school it was ok, but a little pronounced and over the past 6 months, it has turned purple with scar tissue as my body pushed the little metal feet up to the top layers of skin. It needed to go. I'm working at the same camp this summer, doing the same thing, and I can't imagine what it would be like to have it reject while I'm basically living in a glorified lean-to on the sand dunes of Lake Michigan.

It's been through a lot with me. A mental illness, my last horrible relationship, many hook-ups and a summer back at camp. It's been through coming-out and fights but it has always been there, maybe even lymphing for a day or two or pressing into my sternum when I gave a particularly tight hug to remind me that it was still there.

And now it's not and all I have is a little purple scar and a weird brown scab to remind me of my titanium friend. I guess now carrying my bags across my chest won't be as painful or dangerous and I won't have to explain why I have metal sticking out of my chest. I'll just have to make up a story for how I got this scar.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Looking forward

About this time in the semester i get existential.
What do I have to look forward to? More school. Always. More school. More papers that I don't want to write, that will get read once and discarded. More stress and stomachaches and tears. More feelings of the deepest inadequacy. And then I slog home for the summer or for winter break and I drag myself back here to do it again.
I guess now I can see the end of the tunnel to break the cycle. One more year. 365 days from now I will be finishing up my last papers and graduating. I know I can do it, graduating from college is no big feat.
But I do get sick of having nothing but small things to keep me afloat. A dinner out at a chinese restaurant, an afternoon of beer and gossip with some friends is all I hold onto. Summer is desolate, and then back to school, where I will have to deal with the fact that all of my friends have graduated and I'm alone.
And thinking about the future brings an insane amount of anxiety. I'll be a real person one day I guess, with bills to pay and a job (hopefully) to go to. I'll have real furniture that is mine and might not even be made in a prison. I'll have a real girlfriend and a kitchen where we can make breakfast burritos the next morning. I will have friends too, but I want to still talk to the ones I have now because I have finally fallen where I am supposed to be.
In my real life, as opposed to the life I've been living for the past 20 years, my refrigerator will always have a beer or two for company, my cupboards always some kind of exciting cookies and a wooden chest of teas. In my real life, my apartment will be fashionably cluttered with the remnants of this other life which I have lived: pictures from summer camp, posters, mismatched plates, mugs, cups, utensils, furniture, appliances and an ever-present animal. I will always have an afghan to drape around me while I work, I will always have the heat a little too low in the wintertime so that I can snuggle myself under blankets at night. I will have too many books, or perhaps just the right number, because I do not believe that bookshelves should be used for anything but books.
I will live in an old apartment building that has its peculiarities, and I will like them. The third stair might squeak and the front door might stick in the summer heat, but it all just makes the experience of living there one I will remember. I will have a sunroom where I keep my plants, where my dog will like to sleep and where I will sleep in the summer so that I can get up with the sun.
In reality, in one year I will probably be in the same boat that I am in now where my life is nothing more than a few hundred words on a silly blog.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I am way too much of a stereotype for my own good

From the Jezebel site and inspired by a conversation I had last night. Things I have done/worn are in red. Clarifications are in brackets and in purple.

Dress Code (Unless The Lesbian Is The Femme)

  • Appropriate footwear: Birkenstocks, Airwalks, chucks, Doc Martens or sports sandals. Socks are never optional [I actually abhore wearing socks, and do so only because my feet get really gross in the summer. That said, the only time I have ever worn socks with my Chacos was when I was pretending to be Super Awkward. That said, I have worn wool socks with Birkenstock sandals].
  • Make-up: not allowed.
  • Undergarments: Bras are frowned upon.
  • Appropriate tops: flannel, more flannel [I actually wish I owned more flannel, but I am working on a quilt made out of flannel], folksy prints and Polar fleece.
  • Appropriate bottoms: jeans, cords, jean shorts or walking shorts.
  • "Hygiene": Shaving of armpits or legs is frowned upon [I have, and will continue to shave religiously because I don't want to look like the missing link like my brother].
  • Accessories may include: Nalgene bottles [Actually, now its a Sigg bottle since my Nalgene got stolen]; carabiners; keys at your belt; fanny packs [it's a lumbar pack]; femme lesbians who only dress girly for the attention or to get a real man [Not a femme fan].
Score: 14/23

Lifestyle Attributes

  • Appropriate automobiles: Saabs, pickup trucks, Subaru Outbacks, Jeep Wranglers, Xterras, Mini Coopers and Volvos [Booyah! I ride a bike! Hmm, maybe that's not the least dykey mode of transportation. Nor is my last car, a Toyota Corolla].
  • Pop cultural influences: Melissa Etheridge; Ani DiFranco; Indigo Girls; and The L Word. No exceptions.
  • Pets: At least one cat, and preferably more [I hate cats. Why aren't there dogs on this?].
  • Food: Vegetarians preferred [Been there, done that. I will only be an omnivore from now on]
  • Colleges/alma maters: Smith; Bryn Mawr; Mount Holyoke; and Wellesley.
  • Partner choices: Recruiting straight women preferred.
  • Career choices: P.E. teacher; basketball player; softball player; and professional golfer.
Score: 2/22 I feel this one is a little rigged though because you can't own all those cars at once. Plus, lesbians are poor. This one is.


  • History: Must have been abused.
  • Oedipal Complex: Hatred of fathers, except when they over-identify with them.
  • Childhood Obsessions: Monkeys as pets.
  • Adult Obsessions: Hating men.
  • Penis Envy: Yes.
  • Child lust: No.
Score: 5 /7. To be fair, the Penis envy is only because I make penis jokes approximately 30 times per day, and child lust is wrong so even if I did have that why would I admit it. And any interesting girl had a dream of owning a monkey for a pet.

Sex & Relationships

  • Onset of lesbianism: College — until graduation, in some cases.
  • Conversion: Lesbians can be converted with one internal application of human penis.
  • Madonna/Whore Complex: Many are technically virgins, because they've never gotten down with a dude.
  • Roles: Every lesbian relationship has a butch and a femme.
  • Timing: Lesbians move in together on the second date.
  • Sex: Once two lesbians move in together, they will never have sex again.
  • Break Ups: Bunny boiling provides the maximum drama all lesbians require.
Score: 2/8. To be fair, the Conversion was obviously proven wrong, and I've never really had the chance to move in with someone. Bunny boiling drama on the break-up front though. Christ almighty.

Total: 25/60
Less than half lesbian stereotype!