mouth full of rocks

Yesterday K and I were bantering about something or other, housework I think, and she said “You just don’t appreciate what your boyfriend does around here!” (or something to that effect).

Now, I am fairly used to thinking of K as male, male-ish, I mean it’s kinda hard not to at this point. And in my own mind I use a fuzzy mix of pronouns and descriptors. But this is the first time I have heard K use such a word in self-reference out loud.

[Cut to thought: why is the word “boyfriend” so much more powerful than any of the sex-related gendered words we use (e.g., “his big cock,” etc? Why does it feel so much more socially significant?]

Anyways, I would love to say that I didn’t skip a beat and carried on like I didn’t notice. But, dear readers, I am just not that smooth. I said sputtered something like, “Uh, what? Did? You just say?” and K repeated it slowly, breaking out in a blush. So I initiated Instinctual Minor Hug and Comfort Response Protocol #62 and it was, as I said, no big deal. But I’m sure I’ll fuck it up a few more times yet, as things change.

There’s nothing wrong with all of it but all I want is to do and say the right girlfriend things, help us through this with patience and grace. Please.

a butch purse

In order to defeat the bout of writer’s anxiety that I’ve been faced with lately, I’ve decided to try that age-old writing excersize: write what is in front of you. In this case, K.’s purse.

Every time I look at K. with her purse I am reminded of a line by Jeanne Cordova, “A butch purse is an only child. Femmes have as many purses as shoes.” When I first read that I nearly had an asthma attack laughing, because it is so, so true. K. has only two bags: a green YakPak messenger bag which is falling apart at the zippers, and this purse. I, on the other hand, have an obscene and ever-changing number of purses, many of my own making, some adopted out of pity, some purchased in a moment of weakness. I’m fond of interesting linings and have yet to figure out the ideal number of pockets. Bags and purses are my great fashion love, and I collect them and treasure them dearly. I have no idea how she survives on only two.

But she does. The messenger bag is for cargo, a transportation item only, and the purse is for occasions when all you need is a wallet and keys. Some chapstick. Cellphone. Possibly a small notebook for shopping lists and the like. The purse she has fulfills these requirements and no more.

It’s a deep red, dyed leather, with a thick strap and many pockets. It doesn’t look designer but it does have a little plate affixed to the side panel: “liz claiborne. established in 1976 and made for all lifestyles.”

No kidding.

don’t be such a girl

This morning I had a project meeting with one of the higher-ups, and at one point, she asked me if I would send a memo to the department heads reminding them that the deadline for XYZ thing is tomorrow. I winced, and said, “I would rather have sent it Monday, that’s really short notice…” and she asked, “Why? They’ve known for weeks that this was coming.”

Because, I thought, I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. And though I didn’t say it, she still gave me a full dressing-down about how it’s not my fault if they’re slackers and I shouldn’t take any shit from anyone who complains. Really sweet of her, if a bit intimidating.

This is something I am working on, professionally, but it’s been a problem for most of my life. Like a lot of women I’ve known, I have a tendency to assume that anything that goes wrong is a) my fault, and b) my responsibility to fix. Since I put on a good show most people don’t know that, secretly, I am still sure that at any minute They are going to come busting in and say, “you there, you fucked up and everybody knows it.”

I try to catch myself every time I start thinking like that, but sometimes it slips in (like today, when I read the new post about internet authority on Sugarbutch and immediately assumed that it was provoked by a comment I had left). It’s one of of those things you work on, and someday soon, I hope, I’ll be able to look at any given situation and think, “okay, here’s a situation,” rather than endlessly trying to figure out what people think of my place in said situation. Which inevitably turns into some clusterfuck of internal guilt-tripping wherein I then start thinking, “nobody gives a shit what your place in this situation is, stop being so self-centered, processing is such a girl thing to do…” which really isn’t helpful either.

In the meantime, I wonder, do guys have these situations?

in praise of NY & Co.

Yesterday the girlfriend and I spent most of the morning shopping for clothes for a wedding in the afternoon (more on that when I’m less hung over). Naturally, we had to pay a visit to the one store I never pass up: New York and Company.

Oh I love NY&Co. For myself, I generally shop vintage, but I bring K. there any chance I can get because they have THE most satisfactory assortment of masculine-styled clothes for female-bodied persons. K. is not the kind of girl who can easily pass (at least not from the front–though she reports that she got “sirred” by a customer standing behind her on Thursday), nor am I sure she wants to. She’s not a small girl, in any case; she’s got lovely curves. Which makes it tricky when you’re searching for a button-down in a solid color, since most women’s shirts are in off-shades or pastels, or have shirring, ruching, bows, etc.

But not at NY&Co. Oh no. They had black, white, blue, and a primary red, all without “extra detailing” of any kind. We ended up also getting a pair of plain black chinos and some fabulous grey pinstripe pants (which of course I had to hem since they were out of petites, but that’s okay).

I really love that store.

alteration, permutation, transformation

You’ll note the blog has a new address. No particular reason for this other than that I got tired of the old name, and wanted a new, easier-to-understand look. Which appears to be the theme of the week….

One result of my girlfriend’s fabulous new haircut is that other people read her as butch. We have always been recognizable as a couple, because I am girlier than most (though not as much as some, due to a lack of time in the morning), but I do not think K. has been particularly noticeable on her own. Perhaps because she is somewhat shy and used to have a habit of making herself invisible. Either way, this is all different now.

She comes home from her retail job ecstatic because, in her words, “a girl flirted with me! That’s never happened before!” I am fairly sure this cannot be true, but I will admit she is not a magnet for attraction. At least, she hasn’t been before. From now on, I’m thinking I might have competition—and that’s a surprisingly uncomfortable thought for me.

But for now the jealousy is an entirely different subject. I struggle on and off with a feeling that I have no community, and as she described the thrill she gets from being noticed by older women coming through her line, I couldn’t help but feel my heart sink a little. She says there’s something in the way they glance at her, some kind of connection, “that little spark of recognition, you know?” and I say, “not really,” but tell her that must be a good feeling and I’m happy for her.

K. seems to me a butterfly right now, some holometabolous creature emerging transformed in brilliant colors. I am slightly in awe, and held in expectation. I am eager to find out who she’ll be, to see her unfold and stretch out, privileged to be here as it happens–and hoping that some of this newness will rub off on me.

just a girl in a skirt

True fact: my wardrobe is 60% skirts. Partly because I like to sew and skirts are easy (and variable) to make, but also because they just make me comfortable. Skirts make me feel so much better about myself, more secure somehow, that some years ago I just decided to wear them all the time. It makes my work outfits a little more formal, which I prefer, since it makes me seem older and more competent. It makes me *feel* pretty, which never hurts, and I get a lot of compliments on my outfits.

Lately, though, I’ve been rethinking. I’m applying for a degree program in plant and soil science, which, although it makes me very happy (dirt! mud! plants! biology!) isn’t the kind of work that one can easily do in a dress. Or, at least, it’s expected that you won’t.

But why is that? As one girl in my program pointed out last week, it’s only been thirty or forty years since it was totally acceptable for a woman to wear pants, and then only conditionally. For many, many years, women did everything–indoor work, outdoor work, farming, you name it–in a dress and sometimes heels. You wouldn’t think it’d be so weird–as my friend Action Girl once said, “I’m just a girl in a skirt, that’s normal, right?” But I am dead sure that if I show up to lab in heels, SOMEONE will ask me what the special occasion is.

Certainly, I’m not suggesting that I would love to return to the way things were forty years ago. I’m proud of the work my mother and her friends and all of the other women before us did to bring us the right to wear pants and have (some of) the privileges to go along with them. And there’s a lot more left to be done. I just hope that when it’s done, I’ll be able to wear whatever the hell I want and nobody will notice one way or another.

In the meantime, I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that wearing jeans makes me uncomfortable, and somehow do it anyways.