Saturday, 21 June 2008

Radio Silence

Tomorrow the lovely T. and I are returning to the United States. We had an awesome send-off last night (or leaving do, as they say here) with three of our favorite local lesbians, which involved among other things our initiation into the wonders of Rock Band (the video game). Dangerously fun.

We're plunging right into the apartment search, but while we’re living with my mom, I expect internet access to be very occasional at best. The plan is to be in our own place by July 1st, fingers crossed.

And hey, if you’re going to be at New York’s Dyke March next weekend? Keep an eye out for us! We’ll be there. I’ll try to wear my Manchester t-shirt for maximum visibility.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Running on empty?

I threw out the bulk of my clothes yesterday. We have to fit a lot into our luggage allowance and there’s no sense in dragging back a lot of worn-out stuff that I haven’t even worn in the last few months anyway.

(I was stunned to discover how badly some of my jackets fit once I started standing up straight and walking with more swagger and less apology. I think there’s something interesting in there about the difference in shoulder fit in men’s versus women’s clothing—my new shirts look best with the maximum level of bodily confidence, shoulders back, ready to take on the world. But my old little blazers require a certain protective slouch or they stretch weirdly out of shape. Of course it could just be my body, and no great gender insight at all.)

So after dumping a bunch of stuff down the garbage chute, I’m left with: 2 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of pants (trousers for UK readers), 3 shirts, some assorted t-shirts & tank tops, one jacket, and one coat. Oh yeah and underwear and socks of course. A large wardrobe in historical and global context but a rather tiny one for a middle-class citizen of a modern industrial society. Part of me wants to buy lots of clothes, because it’s so much more fun now that I’m not so rigid about these things. But another part of me values the simplicity of what I’ve got now. I’d like a sweater/sweatshirt or two, and some of the jeans/pants need replacing soon, but otherwise, do I really more?

I think about the boxes of stuff we have stored at my mom’s place and I wonder how much of that I’ll want to throw out or give away, too. A lot, probably.

Always there are two warring impulses: to save and cherish and conserve, and to stay light and free and able to run. I’ve held on to the most inane things. I kept an old car key of my dad’s for years, inside a plastic Cap’n Crunch treasure chest that was taped shut. I would take it out and listen to it rattle inside and feel that I was the guardian of some sacred, protected thing.

Then, of course, I’ve held on to things that are worth holding on to. Most notably I’ve been with T. over 14 years. But I hold on to friends, too, like rare and precious jewels. It takes me a long, long time to connect with someone, but once I do I tend to love them for life.

But right there, there’s the flip side. I don’t connect with people quickly. I don’t usually let myself get close unless I can assure myself that it can be for life. I hold most of the world at a very safe distance. And I’ve lived my life in a way that looks practically designed to prevent my becoming an integral part of any community. In the ten years since I left my mother’s house, I have lived in four US states and a foreign country, from California to Manchester, England. I’ve moved house six times, counting conservatively. And I've used that mobility as an excuse not to get too close or put down too many roots anywhere.

Even planning this move back to Boston, I’ve caught myself thinking of the exit strategy, the jobs I can apply for after graduate school that will make this, too, no more than a one or two year stint. When I see people who have a rich network of local connections and friends, I feel with admiration and a certain longing. Then I imagine myself in that role and I’m terrified. But I’m starting to wonder if I’m running on empty.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

In a week & a day

I will be back in the U.S. Good things & bad things about that, like with almost any change in circumstances.

More to the immediate point: a week & a day I will be in my mom’s house.

There’s a lot of baggage in that relationship. I was 14 when she found out I was gay, reading some writing I shouldn’t have left in my jeans pockets. She told me I was wrong and had better stop this nonsense before I caused myself damage. (Also, not to tell any of my friends, who would be, she assured me, horrified.) I believed her and tried sincerely to be straight, until it got to be too much. I planned to kill myself and came up with a workable plan, but in the end broke down and realized, I don’t want to die. I just want to be able to be gay.

She came round, but slowly, and not, apparently, until after my grandparents (bless them) told her she needed to face reality: she could have a gay daughter, or no daughter. She wasn’t going to make me straight by force of will. After that, her anger turned more towards T., and the same pattern got repeated: she could treat my girlfriend with basic respect, or she could lose me.

Part of what I’ve realized this spring is that winning those two battles did not win the larger war between us, which is about control. My parents never had a good marriage and I was the classic surrogate-spouse child to my mother, responsible for her happiness. And so her displeasure “lands in me like teargas,” to borrow Tongue-Tied Blue’s phrase.

It is past time for an end to all that: the pathetic gratitude, the frantic trying to please, the gut-sliding fear at the possibility of her distress. Having recognized it, at last, I feel its hold over me weakening. But I expect it will be difficult, in the reality of face-to-face interaction. And I am angry with myself for being in such a vulnerable position: all my possessions in storage at her house, with no place but hers to call home when we land.

I feel as though I’m leaving a refuge of safety and freedom and entering an emotional combat zone. Oh may I pass swiftly through it and spend the summer constructively, building a new life in a new community.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Beautiful women

A beautiful woman walked by the other day. She’s dressed for work, not super sexy, not super feminine, but she looks very nice. I notice her breasts: round, springy, bouncy. They aren’t large and they are bouncing with each step she takes.

Part of me notices in a sleeps-with-women way. I think about what those breasts might look like bare. I imagine them firm and springing in my hands. That Cake lyric: she’s got a silk dress and healthy breasts / That bounce on his Italian leather sofa... What could I do to make them bounce for me?

And then, a beat later, the raised-as-a-woman part of me thinks: she’s not wearing a bra. And the way she’s holding herself, rounding her shoulders forward a little, head down and walk apologetic, I bet she regrets it.

I wish I could have told her that her bouncing breasts are beautiful to me.

Why is it so often that the very thing that is lovely and alive and striking is also a source of shame?

Monday, 2 June 2008

My family, future tense

Happy blogging-for-LGBT-family day, everyone. Go check out some of these awesome lesbian parent blogs—I don’t know which ones are writing for today, but they’re all super anyway. You can find all the LGBT family day posts at Mombian.

A few years ago I got the kid bug, bad. I Wanted A Baby. Now this is a heavy topic, so let me offer a disclaimer right away: this is just my experience. People want children and start families for lots of reasons, probably as many reasons as there are people, and I’m not judging anyone here but myself. I wanted kids for some not so great reasons. My marriage was in trouble. (How classic is that?) I thought it would make me a full, legitimate grown-up in the eyes of my family. I would finally fulfill the ultimate act of femaleness and get something about my femininity right. Being female would finally give me something other than trouble; maybe there would be a femininity in there I could embrace wholeheartedly. And most of all? I wanted a little someone I could protect better than I’d been able to protect myself, who in return would, I thought, love me a whole lot better than I loved myself.

T. didn’t go for it. She’s never wanted to be pregnant herself, so the options were for me to try to get pregnant or for us to adopt. She preferred adoption by a long shot; and most days I did, too, but other times I felt like I just had to carry the baby. (There was subtle family pressure about this. I’ve since found out my brother actually does think biologically-related children are somehow preferable and superior, which sucks enormously but was useful at least in confirming that I wasn’t crazy, the pressure was there.) But really, T. didn’t want to start a family with me then. She wasn’t sure she ever wanted to have kids. And hey, as I said, our relationship was in trouble, for reasons having nothing to do with making that decision.

But to give her credit, she made a huge effort to see things from my perspective. She read books and talked to people. And I started looking for positive examples of lesbian parenting, which led me straight into the blogosphere. I came to this fantastic, mind-expanding, inspiring thing of context and community through a back door, but thank god, I did come to it. And you know, the paths of life are winding and complicated. I’ve been a fan of Lesbian Dad for a long, long time. And I found Sinclair through Lesbian Dad’s being a fellow nominee at The Lesbian Lifestyle’s awards contest. And damn if that didn’t lead to a whole new kettle of fish.

This spring, of course, everything changed. I’m figuring out how to accept my own gender and my own self, and how to let go of a whole lot of shame and baggage. At the moment, I don’t know if I ever want to have children. I kind of think I don’t, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that life is always surprising. And our families are beautiful: the ones made up of mamas and mumzies and babas and kiddos, and also the big extended ones, the ones that include ties of friendship and fraternity that don’t have anything to do with legal kinship. I finally, finally understand that slogan: love makes a family. So it does, indeed.