don’t call me that

June 26, 2008

It’s interesting that I’m not getting much in the way of comments or feedback on my butch posts, especially after the lively discussions about the darker side of life.  But I’m not drawing any conclusions.

I’ve had a couple conversations with some women who say they date butches (one of whom identifies as femme), but then  refer to their dates as “girls”.  And man, for me that’s just not right.  I don’t think I ever wanna hear somebody I’m dating refer to me as a “girl”.  I’d just feel like she really didn’t “see” me or “know” me.  I had a brief encounter this year with a woman who wanted to call me, “Lizzie”, and I immediately told her, no, you can’t do that.

I don’t have lots of concrete non-negotiables for dates, but she’s gotta wanna date a butch.  And if she’s new to all that,  that’s cool, but she’s then gotta get that she’s attracted to this masculinity.  We can talk about the markers and all,  like how to refer to me,  but she can’t just disregard them.  Cause it’d be like she didn’t understand who she was dating.


Mostly edible

June 26, 2008

I’ve got this new mix going on my ipod that I call, “longing”.  It hits the spot, even if it’s a tender one.  It’s got the Kinks, Cat Power, Sera Cahoone, Lucinda Williams and depending on if I’m at work of home, it’s also got Al Green and Bjork.

My CSA share started about amonth ago and that’s led to a number of Mondays in my kitchen.  I’m happy to report I’ve had some early successes, like lettuce smothered in pancetta, marinated carrots and balsamic onion jam. One of the things I like best about the share is it forces me out of old habits and I end cooking things that I might not have picked out myself.

Oh and for you Portlanders I found some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had here and it’s in China town, of all places.  I can’t remember the name of the palce, but it’s right across the street from he Magic Garden.  Hmmm, what am I doing at the Magic Garden?!

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June 24, 2008

I did a butt load of riding this weekend, both just to get where I needed to get to and as part of Pedalpalooza. On Sunday I , along with about 15,000 other people, attended on of the most terrific events I’ve been to since I moved to Portland. Inspired by CicloVia in Bogota city officials organized Sunday Parkways in which six miles of local streets in North Portland were closed to traffic from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I’m pretty sure it’s been over a week since I’ve been in my car. And I count my self as lucky on that note, especially when I’m feeling so lost and being on my bike almost always feels so right.


it’s about the masculinity, stupid

June 23, 2008

In a funny coincidence with my last couple postings, I went to my food group last night and the dinner conversation turned to what it means to be butch.  Somebody asked me how to tell if someone is butch and when I said you’ll know a butch when you come across a butch, everyone laughed in response and teased me saying, only a butch would say that.  But maybe that was the case in point.

Actually, while I’d rather have someone ask or engage in conversation around the topic, I felt a little lonely last night.  The discussion quickly turned in to reciting a check off list of butch behaviors, like working on one’s car, fixing things around the house, and whether a butch could have long hair and wear make-up.  I’m not saying these things can’t signify something, but they alone are not markers. Plus, it’s not unusual for this kind of conversation to disintegrate into who gets to define butch or it becomes some pissing contest about manliness. So after a frustrating twenty minutes I finally said look being butch is ultimately about cultivating and protecting one’s masculinity.  It’s about expressing one’s masculinity as masculine.  Nobody said anything back to me and then everybody started talking about gardening.

But I was thinking about it more today because my dykes were talking about the masculine things they did, like installing a phone jack or pruning their trees and kinda laughing about how that made them butch.  And I wish I would have had more reflective time last night because today I could have articulated the whole butch/femme thing much better.  Approprating male behavior alone does not make one butch.  In fact, in femmes it’s often about expanding the confines of feminity.  So a femme with a chain saw is not butch;  maybe she’s just hot, depending on the femme. I tend to like femmes with the metaphorical chain saw – the opinionated, willfull and overachieving ones.  I like how they express certain traits associated with masculinity.  Growing up in the shadow of the women’s movement might have tweaked me for this desire.  But anyway, unfortunately, feminine women who engage in masculine behavior are so often called bitches and sluts and other denigrating terms. (How about the mom who doesn’t have a maternal extinct – unfathomable to most.)

But I’m getting away from talking about butchness and what I was initially trying to say about the expression of masculinity as masculine.  I know it sounds redundant and maybe it’s too nuanced for this blog. Maybe it would be easier if I said being butch is about expanding masculinity beyond one’s literal anatomy. But really, butches are not expressing their masculinity as part of their feminine selves. We are expressing it as a relfection of our masculine selves and for sure, it’s easier when it’s obvious, like working on your car, or building a deck, or playing football, or driving a big ass pick-up truck or wearing all black with a big chain wallet and a tatoo on your neck. But to limit it to that obvious stuff will fuck you up when the hot femme gets up to bat and hits one out of the park or the butch cooks you this incredible dinner.

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this is how you know

June 20, 2008

I’m part of a dinner group that I hooked up with via craigslist. Organic foodie dykes is what the founder calls it. It’s a very dyke/lesbian group, most of the members identifying as such. Crunchy or androgynous is how I’ve heard them actually describe themselves, although there is one self-identified femme. I helped her move this winter and she sent me a thank you email in which she referred to me as a stud (a nice little butch/femme exchange). Anyway, the food’s been good and the monthly company is nice. But sometimes I swear it’s as though my foodie dykes have never been on friendly terms with a butch before, because on more than one occasion I get these funny kind of hesitant and shy questions about dating femmes.

I’d guess as a butch I get the same kind of signal guys get from women when they are interested. If we’re on a date she’ll give me the green light for making a move later by initiating some innocuous physical contact, most commonly she’ll touch my leg or hand or shoulder as she’s telling me something. Me, I leave that there until later.  Then if I’m interested when we are on our way out of where ever it is we met, maybe I’ll put my hand on her back .

What’s fun and possibly torturous, but in a good way, is all that stuff that happens before the first date. How she signals her interest to me. One girl asked me to build a table for her, bought me a saw and then watched me build it. That was a good one. Another came back from her holiday break to work some extra shifts that happened to be at the same time I was working. Better yet she brought me a gift . Oh, just something she bought off a street vendor in the city. Nothing really. That was a good one too. Then there’s just the all the laughing at my jokes and sure I’m funny but not that funny. I especially love it when she bends her head down a little and then kinda looks up at me while I’m telling some story. Or there’s how she makes sure she always gets a ride with me when everyone’s making a plan to go the big game or the big party. And one of my all time favorites is her sitting by me at the bar and when it gets loud she leans in real close and whispers in my ear.   But maybe what I like best is how she’ll walk across a room, knowing that I’m watching her but acting like she’s not paying attention until I catch her eye and she’ll look away.

Ahh, being butch needs to get added to the list of things that make my life meaningful.



June 19, 2008

So my girl who lives across the country, who I’ve mentioned here every now and then, told me she read some of my blog the other day. And at first I was like shit what have I been blogging about and then I thought was it boring and then I thought was it manly enough. Nothing like a little neurosis. But all that passed and mostly I’ve thought about how after reading this blog she said something like it’d be fun to read a blog about your butchness. I once told her I was considering keeping a blog about being butch, which I think I also mentioned here a while back. And I realized that in many ways segmenting that conversation off from the larger conversation I try to have with myself here is just perpetuating this fragmentation. I’m tired of living my life in pieces. So heads up, I’m gonna talk about my butchness and guyness from time to time and if I say something and you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, just ask me.

One of my ideas for my butch blog was to post something everyday that validated my butchness, like admiring on the sly the idea of cleavage or the hint of a thigh while a feminine woman is talking about something smart or serious. It feels like all the lobes in my brain get engaged at once and sometimes that’s all I need to make my day better.  I can be standing in line at the grocery and I’ll notice painted toe nails pushed through the strap of a sandal and I’ll think man it’s my lucky day.

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get yer freak on

June 17, 2008

Taking a break from writing about darkness and neurosis cause this weekend I got my freak on. It was first weekend for Pedapalooza and it was also Pride here. The two events crossed paths on Saturday when I packed (translation for folks who don’t know what packing means, it means I harnessed up my nice big bendable cock under my pants) and rode my bike down to the Dyke march and then pedaled over to participate in my first Naked Ride. I heard that Portland had about 2600 riders, which means we might have topped out with the biggest ride. Topless dykes in the sunset and bare asses in the moonlight. If Portland’s got one thing going for it, it’s that it’s not uptight about nudity. And while I’m not a naked enthusiast, I think it’s nice to lighten up a bit on our bare bodies. Anyway, a little freedom and a little freakiness – I’m gonna call it a good day.


good day sunshine

June 13, 2008

The sun is finally shining. Right the fuck on. I didn’t think I was gonna make it last week. I’m sure we’ve got some more rain ahead of us, but Oregon summer is so close I can almost taste it.

Thinking of the sunshine juxtaposed with my blogging about darkness reminds me of this Nan Goldin photo I saw last week. It was a picture of some train tracks running off into this clump of trees that seemed to be painted against a stunning sunset, all purple and red and gold. There was such a beautiful subtlety to it that I immediately thought of the midwest. Then I read the caption – train tracks at Birkenau. And I thought of course. Of course there were stunning sunsets there, of course such beauty would exist while humans were being tortured and murdered inside the walls. And I couldn’t stop looking at it, no matter what other book I picked up, I kept going back to it. The photo illustrates what I’m struggling so hard to articulate, that darkness does not exist outside our humanity.


dark words

June 12, 2008

Some of my interest in the language we use to talk about the darker parts of ourselves and the darker parts of our world stems from being raised by parents who had intimate relationships with darkness. My dad is a WW2 combat veteran, a Marine who fought in the South Pacific, and he suffers from post traumatic stress. My mom has her own dark story to tell; the details are not mine to reveal, but suffice it to say she saw some of the worst in someone she loved dearly. So as you can imagine, lots and lots went unsaid in my household, and to be fair I don’t know how either of my parents could have described the seminal events in their lives to me and my sister.

I’ve tried to imagine my dad killing people and tried to imagine what he did to survive people trying to kill him. And I’d guess that the darkness he experienced in himself and in other people was not something he wanted us to see in him or the in the world. But at the same time he felt the most alive there in the midst of all that. I know this because he told me as much. And it breaks my heart because that made him kinda fucked. It wasn’t like he could say “Hey kids, guess what? The world can be a terrible place and I have a terrible secret. I’m really fucking good at killing people and even better at not getting killed, and lemme tell you, that right there, that gave me a reason for living. I sure wish it was you kids and your mom, but what can I tell ya. Now pack up your shit cause Daddy’s taking you to the state fair.”


let’s get more semantic

June 12, 2008

This is great practice trying to articulate all this complex stuff. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments people.

Lemme back up and say that I’ve been thinking about language, and specifically labeling, in the context of thinking about my own ethics – how I walk my talk in this world, as well as how my ethics exist in this much bigger picture – the world I’m walking in.

When I talked about willingness and the aggressive language around illness (and let’s say we expand the term “illness” to encompass a wide range of troubles like anxiety, fear and depression) I was trying to get at how I experience my troubles in a world that often seems hell bent on conquering them, and how that has not worked for me at all. And for what it’s worth, having spent thirteen years in social services, it’s not worked real well for lots of other folks who’s relationships with their troubles are often chunked out in those two steps forward and one step back dances. The idea of conquering doesn’t leave much room for the steps back.

After reading through the comments on the last couple posts, I’d like to narrow down my focus on how labels inform how we think of the darkness that exists in the world and the darkness that exists in ourselves.

I’m going to put aside how labels, like mother or boyfriend or geek, can help us understand something about someone, even if the understanding is very abbreviated and full of assumptions that may be off. For instance if I tell you I like to fuck women, in your head you’re likely thinking ok, she’s a lesbian. And even though I don’t use that label for myself and there’s all sorts of things about lesbian life I’m just not in to, at least you get that because I like to fuck women I’m different from the majority of other women and in the U.S. that difference matters. But as I said, I’m putting that conversation aside, at least for now.

I’m also putting aside how labels can motivate us to overcome unwanted behaviors and/or undermine our efforts at cultivating the positive ones. I think I understand what David was getting at in his comments, but I want to dig deeper and that thread seemed more symptomatic of the bigger issue I want to try and talk about it. Quickly, though I will say that it saddens me that there is not broader interest and support in this culture for cultivating curiosity and neutrality (in the Buddhist sense) towards one’s strengths and shortcomings.

Well now I’ve gone and posted so much that I’ve run out of steam for talking about darkness. At least now I know what I’m talking about later.