Thursday, 26 November 2009

The End of the World As We Know It

I heard that song on the radio yesterday and felt it was so appropriate as to be ludicrous.

Things are hard here and more than that, my life has changed over the last three months, in ways good, bad, and just breathtaking.

I don't think I can keep this space alive any longer. It has been a lifeline and a joy, and it has brought me into contact with people I will always cherish. But it is also a monument to a certain phase of my life which is coming to an end. What is next, I am only beginning to discern.

Thank you for reading. I will leave the blog up in the hopes that anyone might find it useful, entertaining, or inspiring. I may take down MacCool Uncensored, not certain, but I doubt I will hand out the password much any more. (For those of you who have asked recently & been ignored, my apologies: it's not personal, not in any way.)

And maybe I will return to this space in the future, or start another one. Until then, farewell readers; I give thanks for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Meme That Proves I'm Still Kicking

I was tagged by the super-cool ANPFisher, who is blogging every day this month. Whereas I have not blogged at all for a month. It makes a nice symmetry anyway, right?

But here it is, to prove I'm still alive... and to shake things up, I'm going to post seven good things about the last month. It's been a hell of a month so believe me this counts as "random and weird" things about me.


1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. FG got a table delivered that had belonged to her grandparents and resided in her family's basement for a looooong time. I've been knocking myself out cleaning it. Picture me, a bucket of hot water & Murphy's Oil Soap, flannel rags, and a small screwdriver to ease dirt out of the carvings, and you have it. I love it. It's a beautiful table.

2. Working on the table, plus doing some other minor fixing jobs, has made me think seriously about developing a furniture-refinishing hobby, especially if I can turn it in green/natural/historical-materials directions. I might take a relevant class or two from a nearby school. And I'm also thinking about refinishing a dresser that was originally my mom's and has been mine since I was a child. It's been mine for longer than it was hers but it still feels like hers; I'm thinking a rehab might fix that.

3. Cuban sandwiches. Um, goodbye vegetarianism...

4. Belle & Sebastian. Worth a listen. My preferred table-cleaning music.

5. Running. I ran a little over a mile *nonstop* for I think the first time in my life. Very happy about that & how it feels.

6. My lovely students. Who knew teaching was so energizing? Even if I am running around like a crazy person half the time.

7. All those friends & loved ones who keep on keeping me from falling.

No tagging, except you, Jess!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Stolen Meme

because I feel like blogging but I got nothing to say. Stolen from the ever-fabulous GREG.

1. What is the color of your toothbrush? Blue
2. Name one person who made you smile today. A student. I love my students.
3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning? Desperately stuffing crap into a bag from my weekly two-night stay in Job City, hoping I wasn't going to miss the train.
4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago? Teaching
5. What is your favorite candy bar? Bounty Bar
6. Have you ever been to a strip club? No. To be honest the idea kind of horrifies me. I'm not sure why. I don't think it's prudery or judgment, lots of other similar things seem fine. In the context of a show it seems ok, even. I don't know, some unexamined issues there?
7. What is the last thing you said aloud? "Where do I return these?" (in regard to two movies borrowed from library)
8. What is your favorite ice cream? How to choose? At the moment peanut butter oreo.
9. What was the last thing you had to drink? Old bottled water on my desk. Blech.
10. Do you like your wallet? Yes! FG bought it for me quite a while back. Simple and black, just what I like.
11. What was the last thing you ate? Twix bar.
12. Have you bought any new clothing items this week? Three undershirts and three pairs of socks, and a pair of black trousers that I have to return. The last time I tried clothes on in that store the dressing room attendant offered me the choice of the men's or women's tags (you had to split into one or the other set of dressing rooms after the attendant-station). Awkward. I took men's and then my companion referred to me as 'she' and she told me to switch rooms. Later she did tell me the trousers I was trying on looked nice, but anyway, I'm not in a hurry to try stuff on there again. So I bought it and I'm returning it.
13. The last sporting event you watched? Very sad, I can't even remember. And that used to be a major activity for me. I even missed the Pats' snow game this week.
14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn? None. I don't like the stuff.
15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to?: FG
16. Ever go camping? No. (Weeps quietly.)
17. Do you take vitamins daily? No, but a few times a week.
18. Do you go to church every Sunday? No.
19. Do you have a tan? Erm, no. Did have a farmer's tan for a while this summer though.
20. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza? I like Chinese food but I do not think it makes a good topping for pizza, no.
21. Do you drink your soda with a straw? Sometimes.
22. What did your last text message say? Nosy, aren't you? I'm not saying but it was sweet.
23. What are you doing tomorrow? Attending a seminar, volunteering, having tea with a colleague, grading...
24. Favorite color? Blue but it's not a big thing.
25. Look to your left; what do you see? A chair with my bag on it.
26. What color is your watch? Am sans watch.
27. What do you think of when you hear “Australia”? Australia.
28. Would you strip for money? No. Maybe for free though.
29. Do you go in a fast food place or just hit the drive thru? Always in. I'm afraid of not being understood through the drive through, or messing it up somehow. I've done that before.
30. What is your favorite number? 22
31. Who’s the last person you talked to on the phone? Friend
32. Any plans today? It's almost over. Gonna head 'home', eat some pasta, do some reading, watch part of a movie.
33. In how many states have you lived? Counting the states of grace and panic? No? Ok then, four. Plus one foreign country.
34. Biggest annoyance right now? Hm, not really all that annoyed with anything. (!?!?)
35. Last song listened to? Fiery Furnaces, "Borneo"
36. Can you say the alphabet backwards? I prefer not to.
37. Do you have a maid service clean your house? Um, no. DIY.
38. Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time? At home, my doc boots. At work, I'm really happy with my new Bostonians.
39. Are you jealous of anyone? Not especially, at the moment. Jealousy flares up ever so often these days but it's not a lingering thing.
40. Is anyone jealous of you? No idea.
41. Do you love anyone? Yes, deeply.
42. Do any of your friends have children? Yes
43. What do you usually do during the day? Each day, as I said, is its own epoch. I really can't answer this question.
44. Do you hate anyone that you know right now? Next question, please.
45. Do you use the word hello daily? I do.
46. What color is your car? Silver.
47. What size wedding ring do you wear? I forget. Maybe 5? Something rather small, I have bony fingers. My fingers have grown since then, though.
48. Are you thinking about someone right now? Not specifically.
49. Have you ever been to Six Flags? Nope.
50. How did you get your worst scar? A dog bit me.

Jess, for old time's sakes, you're tagged, even though there's no tagging with this one. K?

Monday, 19 October 2009

Music of the Moment

Well it's been a hot minute, hasn't it? That would be because I am a) busy with my new job and b) busy being a hot mess. Every day is its own epoch at the moment, entirely separate from the one before and the one following. As my therapist said, this is what trauma looks like, when you're first starting to deal with it. (If you're a serious reader-of-mine and want more on this, check out the sidebar on the uncensored blog; though fair warning, I haven't updated there in a while either.)

One thing that's consistently getting me through right now is music. In fact when I don't have any appetite for any music at all, that's a sign that things are really seriously bad. And so, with LL Cool Joe in mind, I thought I'd share with you my top songs at the moment. Too lazy to link but check 'em out at Pandora or lastfm or blip or whatever. They're worth it. They're helping to keep my head above water.

Antony & the Johnsons
*"Cripple & the Starfish". I think this is a song about BDSM. That's how I interpret it anyway. It's hauntingly lovely, like most of their stuff, and carries a message of survival for me too.]
*"Atrocities" Featured in the excellent movie "Otto or Up with Dead People" and just absurdly beautiful.

Arcade Fire
*"(Antichrist Television Blues)" A manic ballad from the point of view of a manipulative, abusive, haunted parent.


Bryan Adams
*"(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" Don't ask. Just know that this is twisted around in every way possible in my head. It came on the radio twice on a recent late night drive and it was serious catharsis. Not parting with $1.29 to buy it on iTunes though.

The Cliks
*"Dirty King" Don't just play this on your computer. Find some speakers that can let you appreciate the bass line. It's good.

Delta 5
*"Mind Your Own Business" Female punk rockers from England back in the day. The lyrics are not a covert message to you, dear readers, never fear.

Echo & the Bunnymen
*"Bring on the Dancing Horses" Hoping to catch them live this fall...

The Fiery Furnaces
*I love pretty much their whole album "Bitter Tea". This is the essence of my life right now, the very marrow of how I feel. Particular highlights: "In My Little Thatched Hut", "Black-Hearted Boy", "Bitter Tea", and "The Vietnamese Telephone Ministry".
*"The End is Near" off their most recent album. Don't dismiss it without giving the nasty, bitter lyrics a good listen. Love it like crazy.

The Go-Betweens
*"Love Goes On!" and "Quiet Heart" especially, from 16 Lovers Lane.

Joy Division
*As ever. Especially "Atmosphere" and, of course, "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

k.d. lang
*"Hallelujah". Always.

The Kills
*Still getting a lot of mileage out of "Midnight Boom". "Goodnight Bad Morning" is one of my main go-to songs when I need to be rocked out of the worst places.

*"Paper Planes". They wuz robbed. One of the few songs that always makes me smile.

The Ramones
*"I Wanna Be Sedated". 'Nuff said.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
*Still enjoying "It's Blitz!" especially "Zero" and "Softshock".

10,000 Maniacs
*"What's the Matter Here". My dad gave me "In My Tribe" (on cassette) when I was about 8. I listened to this, the first track, over and over again. Still in love with Natalie Merchant and her amazing voice.

Monday, 28 September 2009

First Tattoo

I wanted to get my first tattoo for my thirtieth birthday but I couldn't decide on a design in time. Shortly after my birthday, though, I realized what I want: a bee on my left arm, specifically using the bee design that is the logo for the city of Manchester, England.

The bee works on multiple levels for me:
1. I have a fondness for bees as creatures. I love watched honey bees flying in and out of their hives and I love watching a bee working its way through a flower. And given the range of comparisons I make between femmes, especially FG, and flowers, well, it just works.
2. It's the symbol of Manchester and so a powerful evocation of the place where I transformed my life, a place I have come to love very dearly. (The symbol there is related to Manchester's history as a mill town: the bee as industrious worker.)
3. I have a whole repertoire of puns building off b-for-butch that I use often as short-hand. In Stone Butch Blues, the old slang "b-girl" as code for butch was invoked at one point. Bee for butch then, it's a private linguistic joke.
4. I love honey, the taste of it, the imagery of honeycombs, the whole thing.
5. My mother is somewhat allergic to bees and has a serious fear of them, so the image is also a protective totem.
6. I just like how it looks.

My goal is to have as large a tatto as fits, aesthetically, into the space of my upper left arm. That's the plan. Now I will start asking around and looking for a good artist. (Tips, especially in the Boston-Providence area, gratefully received.)

Here are some versions of the Manchester bee. I'm leaning toward not having too many colors and followng the gold-on-black design, which appears on bollards and lampposts in the city itself (though I imagine I'd used black or another dark color for the gold, and my skin as background). But I include the mosaic image because it's lovely. FG thinks I should add a stinger to my design. Maybe so.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Safe Spaces

I started my new job at the beginning of the month. It's going well. It's in a different city from where we live and I'm spending two nights a week there which is working out nicely. It has the unexpected benefit of allowing me to build my own space in my room here and have it as a sort of contemplative, all-me retreat. And I have my own office, too. I never realized how much I would like that, but I love it.

And... there is a new post at MacCool Uncensored, this one less content-free than the last.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

If Only to Reassure LLCoolJoe...

... I thought I'd update you all on how things are going in the non-passworded portions of my life.

I think I'm taking up running. I've gone for a run four times now, over the last two weeks or so. I quit my kung fu place, partly because of scheduling but mostly because I wasn't comfortable with their safety precautions.

So I needed some other form of exercise and tried running. Which makes me laugh--I tried fighting, now I'm working on running, I figure I have a better chance that way! But it's been nice, actually. Just a little bit at a time, but I've been able to run farther / longer (before switching to a walking break) each time.

Running was kind of a nightmare for me as a young person. We would do "conditioning" every fall in gym class, which meant running six laps around the track, a total of 1.5 miles. I was terrible at it and felt like such a disgusting fool. The gym teachers were not very sympathetic and would make fun of people for walking for a while or for how hard we were breathing. Also I turned a deep red that one of my (sort of) friends at the time labeled purple. I still turn red when I work hard, it's just how I roll. I'm fine with that now.

Anyway after that I never imagined taking up running but here I am, giving it a go and enjoying the feeling so far. It's nice to reclaim something that was so mixed up with bodily shame before.

And finally: new post up on MacCool Uncensored. Per yesterday's post, e-mail me if you want the password.

Monday, 21 September 2009

New Site for Times of Trouble

In the middle of a little nervous breakdown here, y'all. FG and I are fine, but I'm wading through some kind of big stuff. And I want to write about it, but I can't do that here. So at long last I am setting up the password protected blog.

It's at E-mail me for the password (butchgirlcat at gmail dot com). If I don't already know & love you, tell me a little something about yourself, like where you found me, if you have a web site yourself, that sort of thing.

This is some very personal stuff that I'm aching to talk about but I feel paranoid about it being findable by my family, first of all, and second of all, I just want to have a better sense of who's reading. Oh, and if you could *not* share the password, that would be brilliant. And if you're Tina and you don't read passworded blogs, um, write to FG maybe? Even just to tell her you love her, that would be super. Thanks, Tina. ;)

Oh yeah and. The passworded blog is not my sole method of coping. Just to reassure y'all. Ok, see you over there or back here once I can write things that only rate 10, and not 11, on a scale of 1-10 for deeply personal...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Stone-as-Liberation Post

It’s a little like a video game, but instead of moving up a level by killing enemies, I cross another taboo-laden threshold on a journey of enlightenment into the inner sanctum, the ninth circle of my own personal inferno. Slaying demons right and left along the way.

Or it’s like relaxing into the truth that has always been there, for better or for worse. I am one of those people: I am homosexual, I am a lesbian, I am butch, I am some kind of trans, and I am stone. And falling backward through that list I discover that the power of each label is dispelled in the claiming. All that trying to be not that, oh please God just not that one was more confining and rigid than admitting: yes, of course, that’s what I am and always have been, and in fact it’s more varied and complicated than I ever could have guessed when I was ducking my head and shading my eyes and hoping the monster would go away. Or maybe it’s just more personal and more alright.

Because the monster, in reality, was never the thing I feared (the lesbian, the butch). The monster that has been haunting me really has been this girl I was supposed to be, or this woman. And not only a girl but a certain kind of girl, the kind who has no boundaries and exists only to please. This is not the womanhood I see queer femmes reclaiming. This is the nightmare girlhood of misogyny and abuse.

Claiming stone(ness) for me has been finally letting that compulsion to girl go. It has been about claiming absolute autonomy over my own body and its responses for the first time ever. It means I get to set the boundaries where I need them, and what I owe my partner is not access or orgasm but honesty and communication and responsibility for myself.

Over the winter sex wasn’t always ending well. I felt a rawness and vulnerability welling up in me and I would override that and push through to achieve what I thought was necessary. And I found myself unable to keep faking it, I found myself defeated and shattered and miserable afterward, and my beautiful femme beside me begging to know what she’d done wrong while I sank into a white noise of fear and sadness.

And we talked and talked some more. And there came a moment when I decided I could be as stone as I needed to be or wanted to be, and I did not have to go involuntarily to that raw place. A breakthrough moment for me came when I declined, one day, to get off during a particular session of sex. And she was anxious, worrying that she’d done something wrong or that I was disappointed or frustrated. Which was not the case, not at all. And I said to her, “It’s not a boundary if I can’t say I’m ok and I’m done and have that be ok between us.” And she nodded, and somehow it was ok between us then.

I am not prescribing norms for butch behavior. I am not even prescribing norms for myself. I have no interest in listing out permanent boundaries. Just the one, really: I can ensure a basic level of safety for myself. I don’t know, really, how much this has to do with gender, and how much it has to do with all my personal messy baggage. We both exult in her radical openness, and I wonder about the cost to her of being so open when I need to be so closed, when sometimes I can’t bear to be touched at all, anywhere. But it is nonetheless a liberation to me that sexual intimacy isn’t an emotional roulette; or more simply, that it doesn’t have to hurt.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Second Meme in a Row (Don't Cry, a Real Post will Come)

Tagged by Rhett, the Asphalt Cowboy. Rhett, just so you know, I read you regularly. Just still can't comment, dude.

The rules are, erase the answers already listed and fill in your own then pass it on to four bloggers of your choice.

1. Who is the hottest Movie Star?
Like Rhett, I like blondes. But my movie start knowledge is way, way out of date. I fell hard for Scarlett Johannsen after "Lost in Translation" and I've stayed loyal. I used to really have a thing for Gwyneth Paltrow but not as much now. Oh, Marilyn Monroe was pretty hot, too.

2. Apart from your house and car, what is the most expensive item you have ever bought?
I don't own my house! And technically it's FG's car (little bit of queer-insurance there, in case something happens to me she doesn't have to fight anyone or prove anything to have a ride, anyway). I guess it's a tie, therefore, between our bed (nice solid wood frame, proper mattress, too bad it creaks...) and FG's engagement ring. A diamond with two sapphires. I told the salesman I was buying it for a friend. We chatted for a while, then he smiled gently and said, "How long have you two been together?" I was twenty; it was a few days before Christmas, 1999, and the stores were filled with guys who wanted to propose at the turn of the millennium. And I paid in cash, like counting off actual bills, because I didn't have a credit card yet. Ah, the memories.

3. What is your most treasured memory?
Speaking of memories! I don't know. I have a few. I'm feeling squirrelly today, though, and I don't think I want to write about any of them. Ha.

4. What was the best gift you ever received as a child?
My parents roto-tilled a patch of our lawn and put a fence up and let me make my own garden when I was 11 or 12. I kept it going for several years, until I moved out of that house when my parents got divorced. Working in it gave me a knowledge of plants that's been a source of satisfaction ever since, and the physical labor was one of the best and only such outlets I had at that juncture. It was really an oasis in a very difficult patch of life. And I grew some impressive veggies, too.

5. What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
Giving up on myself after college. Deciding that I had to "grow up" and "be a woman" instead of facing up to what was really going on with myself and my gender issues.

6. 4 words to describe yourself?
Difficult, steadfast, mercurial, generous.

7. What was your highlight or low light of 2008?

Highlight: Hello, read the archives! 2008 was the year my whole world broke open. I rediscovered sex, came out as butch and then as sorta-kinda-trans, and remade just about everything. 2008 has been a highlight of my life.

Lowlight: all the crap I had to wade through while remaking everything. Lots of dealing with the past, especially, and plenty of mistakes along the way.

8. Favorite Film?
At the moment, I'm crushing on "By Hook or By Crook" which I saw for the first time recently. Never before have I seen a movie that looked like the movie playing in the inside of my head, if you know what I mean. It was amazing.

9. Tell me one thing I don’t know about you.
But haven't I told you everything already, dear readers? Hm. I like cream in my coffee, but at home I always use milk. There, that's a new one, I'm sure.

10. If you were a comic book/strip or cartoon character, who would you be?
No idea. Batman, maybe? I like Batman. Or, in a less heroic vein, possibly Garfield. A cross between Garfield and Odie, maybe.

The four bloggers I am tagging with this meme are:


Screaming Lemur

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Honest Scrap

Tagged by the inimitable Kyle...

There are three rules for this award:

First, link back to the person who gave you the award: Kyle, who tells it like it is.

Next, give the award to ten other bloggers:

1. Jess, because I was telling the truth when I said I'd always tag him
2. Freedom Girl, who tells the truth about what it's like to have to put up with me
3. Tina, probably the honestest scrappiest blogger of all
4. Jen, bringing the honesty about being a dyke in evolution [Jen, I can't comment on your blog. Hope you see this... also, check out #10. Bit of Maine synergy there.]
5. Sarcozona, who is uncovering new truths about plants all the time
6. Femme Is My Gender and
7. Holden, because I honestly think they should write more!
8. Two Ladies in Waiting, who should tell us the truth about where they've been all month
9. Miss Emily, for not flinching from the hardest truths
10. Dawn on MDI, who always, always shoots from the hip and tells it the way it is, a fact recognized most recently by no less than CNN

10 honest things about me

1. The whole blog is true. Ever since I started, I've tried to be ruthlessly honest here. At first, it was the only place I had for that.

2. I find it calming to rest my nose and mouth on my upper arm/shoulder. If you see me this way, I'm not stretching my neck or checking for B.O., I'm just taking a moment.

3. My favorite household chore (not of the handybutch or diesel dyke varieties) is doing the laundry.

4. I broke my toe once when I was banging a chair on the floor to send a message to an irritatingly noisy downstairs neighbor. It hurt like the devil.

5. I am allergic to apricots, but peaches are my favorite fruit.

6. I prefer my shoes a half size too big. I don't like my feet to be crowded in there.

7. I've been enjoying some time off over the last week. On Monday, FG and I went to the ocean and had just about the most fun day I think I've ever had.

8. I like the hair on the back of my fingers and I kind of hope it gets more present as I age.

9. I hardly ever drank water until I met FG. I guess I drank juice or Kool-Aid mostly.

10. I had a dream the other night that FG and I were in a French government building or palace of some sort, and we wandered by accident into the living quarters of two zombies. When I realized they were going to kill us, I tricked them into letting us near the door. Then I pushed FG out and we started running. The zombies followed us, but I turned and punched them away using my mad martial skillz. I think this dream is indicative of real subconscious progress. A few years ago, I was haunted by recurrent nightmares about monsters or bad people who were after me, closing in on my house or whatever. I was overwhelmed with helplessness and terror in those dreams and would wake up so utterly terrified I was unable to move. Maybe my dreaming mind feels I have finally gained some of the skills I need to tackle my monsters.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Dr. MacCool

...stumbling sleepily online, tea in hand...

so I defended my dissertation on Friday. It went well. I keep telling people, "I passed!" and then wanting to add, well, I mean, nobody passes, darling, of course they knew I was queer as a three dollar bill. But I realize this will make no sense to almost anyone.

As you can see I'm still a little befuddled by it all.

My advisor, ze of the awesome name-supportiveness, was equally supportive and appropriately celebratory on Friday. Ze even bought us all champagne at lunch afterward.

I was wearing my first proper pair of dress shoes. Bostonian, in burgundy; I also wore pinstripe pants and a white shirt. I felt distinctly grown up.

...time to stumble back into my day. Serious posts to come, when my brain is back in working order...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Thirty Thirty Thirty

That's how old I am today. I'm very happy. I stayed up until midnight last night and felt such a sense of elation and joy and relief. I made it to thirty! Here I am! I've never been so happy about turning a specific age.

Staying up until midnight was not so difficult, thanks to a certain lovely person and a certain lovely birthday-present-to-myself that finally arrived in the mail yesterday. It came from the Land of Babes and goes by Rick. Good times, and an excellent start to a new decade...

After midnight, I opened some presents from FG: three new shirts. One was too big (apparently made for the heavily paunched, prosperous set) but the other two are gorgeous, both white, one with French cuffs. This morning I opened the rest: a very nice cigar and a Zippo lighter in the style shown above. Perfect, just absolutely perfect. And she baked me a peach cake, too.

Next we're going to do some gardening and then maybe out to dinner, maybe to a movie, I haven't decided yet.

Thanks to all of you who voted in my poll. I was surprised to see that the options were close in popularity--I figured there would be at least one stinker in the bunch. I think I'll start with the stone post and work my way down the list.

Once I'm done birthdaying, of course.

Friday, 14 August 2009

PDSD & a Poll

According to a PhD'ed relative of FG's there is a phenomenon known as post-writum depression. I did some googling and found this description of post-dissertation stress disorder. Looks about right to me... especially the "increased need for sleep" "inability to concentrate on anything for more than ten minutes," "increased need for meaningful relationships," and, of course, "pure laziness."

I find myself emotional, as well, especially over losses old and new. Today I was patting my little cat and got choked up remembering the first cat I really loved, who was given away by my dad and his new girlfriend after my parents got divorced.

And I find myself craving company and reassurance. I was at a community event last night and wanted to walk around and spend the evening hugging nearly every person there. Of course I did not do any such thing.

There is much on my mind to write about but I don't know where to start. The ten-minute attention span isn't helping either, of course. How about a poll? In my mental bloggy queue:

1) settling into stone and why it's been a (thorny) liberation
2) thoughts on (not) transitioning. my complicated desire to claim transgender anyway.
3) confronting (more of) my personal legacy of shame (special body edition!)

Cheery line-up, eh? But I promised more angst. Go vote in the sidebar. Feel free to elaborate your preference or express another in the comments.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Little Love Note

We're lying in bed talking. It's after sex and after all the night-time pre-bed things, so my hair is wet from the shower and the fan is blowing and we're brushed and clean and under the sheets. You're talking, and then you notice something in my face--concern? alertness? Something. What, you ask, what is it? Did I say something wrong? (And it always stings a little, this trepidation of yours, tiptoeing through my minefields; but I know that it is hard-earned.) No, I tell you. I'm just listening. I heard a noise. A noise? Just a little noise. (I'm the light sleeper, the one who investigates things that go bump in the night.) Maybe it was a blind flapping, or maybe it was the cat yakking. Time will tell. And maybe it's relief or post-sex happiness or the vulgar novelty of that word, yakking, and how it rhymes with flapping, that makes laughter erupt, bright and sharp, between us. But in any case: I love you.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Thoughts on Health Insurance

I've been fortunate, thus far in life, in my health insurance coverage, and in my ability to make sure FG gets the coverage she needs, too. And we've both been lucky (knocking on wood here) not to have to use that coverage all that much. But even for me, in my absurdly health-insurance-privileged position, there have been some twists & turns along the way.

Like learning that separate is not equal in New York, where married folks in my office could get their spouses covered, but FG and I had to register as domestic partners and then she had to buy the cheapest possible private coverage, which my workplace then partially reimbursed me for. But it wasn't just the hassle of that: the federal government taxed that reimbursement as income, whereas legally married people could have their payments withheld from their paychecks. The bottom line: I paid more than married colleagues in the same situation.

And then we moved (back) to Massachusetts and got married. But I had to raise a fuss at my school in Rhode Island in order to purchase spousal coverage for her. Your marriage certificate is not good enough, they said: we need bank statements, credit card statements, joint leases. They tried to claim it was "Rhode Island law" which was bunk: at that time, RI law permitted them to choose whether or not to recognize my marriage, and the AG actually expressed the preference that employers should recognize it. A few angry e-mails and some educatin' later, they accepted the marriage certificate.

So yeah, repealing DOMA, or legalizing gay marriage nationally, would have addressed most of our personal health insurance issues thus far. But really, that's ridiculous. FG's access to health insurance should never have depended in the first place on her being married to someone lucky enough to have some access to employer-based spousal coverage. This is exactly the point that many people make when criticizing the focus of the LGBT movement on same-sex marriage: it solves a ton of problems for coupled, prvileged queers, but a lot fewer for everyone else. A really progressive movement should be about more than allowing the most privileged of an oppressed class to join the oppressers. (Damn I'm on an anti-oppression kick these days.)

Most recently, as dedicated readers know, I've finished school and taken a job. That job offers health insurance but, because it is a one-year job, there is no subsidy for that health insurance. Which means it is very expensive. For around the same sum, I could have gotten covered through FG's school instead.

But hey presto! We live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which passed a law a while back requiring everyone to have health insurance and requiring health insurance companies to make various kinds of private, individual coverage available. I don't really know all the details, but I do know that it meant I could go to a clearinghouse web site, enter the details of my situation, and get hooked up with a plan that costs me just a bit over half what my other options would have cost. I signed up in a jiffy and my new card arrived in the mail today.

I'm not a health-policy wonk. But the moral of the story seems clear enough: when the state gets involved to ensure universal coverage & reasonable(ish) options for people (there were much cheaper options for those with less income), it makes things better. I remember my English friends gasping in horror when I described the system in the United States, and quite seriously apologizing for ever complaining about their system in my presence.

And thus ends MacCool's Public Service Announcement on the great health insurance debate. Back to your regularly scheduled sex & gender angst soon, I promise.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

My Summer Vacation

And what, you may be wondering, have I been doing with myself when I'm not worrying about discourse on the experience of oppression?

I'm in an oddly peaceful little pocket of time here. At the end of this month I defend my dissertation, and at the start of the next month I begin my new job. Both of those things produce a certain amount of work, but not an avalanche of it. Certainly nothing on par with the work of actual finishing the dissertation.

My brother compared this moment in my life to waiting lazily on a train platform, watching the surroundings, in no hurry for the train to arrive but also certain that's it's puffing along on its way. It's a good metaphor.

Instead of doing something officially Vacation-Like--since FG, after all, is working hard and will be for a couple more weeks yet--I've instead be living life at a gentler pace. I work most days, but not terribly hard. I take breaks to walk in the park. I eat my way through the half-bushel of peaches FG bought me at a farm stand after I remarked that peaches are my favorite fruit and there are never enough of them. I invite myself over to see friends. (I need to do more of that.) I pester people on gchat. (Hi, Jess!) I find a sunny bench and smoke a small cigar. I take FG to thrift shops and watch her look mad sexy in any number of little dresses and things.

None of it is official Leisure Activity, either. I don't have a pile of summer novels to read or a summer project of painting a table. It's just... taking it slow, taking it all in. And when it works, it's been so, so nice. Walking back from the park the other day I had the sensation that the sunshine was actually soaking into the marrow of my bones.

It occurred to me that this is actually taking care of myself. That's not something I'm terribly good at. Much of my internal life has been structured by shame, guilt, and anxiety over failure. My Summer Vacation is, I hope, another step toward changing and healing that.

Special Bonus Picture: my own thrift-store find. The tragedy is that the pants were missing. But for $25, plus a little more for the tie, I wasn't complaining.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Thoughts on Denial of Oppression

What is up with the trouble people have hearing and believing other people's experiences of oppression? This is a pattern I've noticed recently and I'm trying to figure out what the deal is.

The part that really puzzles me is hearing this sort of dismissal or denial from people who would not deny that oppression exists, in general; they only deny it in whatever specific case they're hearing about right then.

After Prof. Gates was arrested by the Cambridge, Mass. police (Google it if you don't know, I'm too lazy to link anything right now) I heard a lot of white folks saying something along the lines of oh, this probably wasn't really racism; it was just two men being jerks; why jump to a conclusion of racism; and other things like that.

Similarly, FG was telling a relative recently about the hostility we'd encountered from our last landlady, which seemed almost certain to be rooted in homophobia. "Oh, surely you jest," the relative protested, and another backed her up: "It's just so hard to believe." I've had this experience, too; one relative was extremely dubious that anyone ever stared at me on public transit. Even when I assured her that it was a nearly daily experience, she wanted to insist that I was probably misinterpreting the situation.

I'm trying to watch out for this instinct in myself now, too. I found myself thinking, of a local woman-owned business that was trying to raise money to meet an unexpected tax bill: oh, they must have done something wrong. I stopped myself there, a) since there's no reason to make that assmption, b) unexpected tax bills do in fact happen, and c) even if they messed up, so what? They're a good business and a good presence in the community.

I think my reaction was rooted in a desire to believe that the world is fundamentally just and that the system works. I want to believe that if I do the right thing, I will be rewarded. I want to believe that I am not at the mercy of structures and systems that care nothing for me as a person, at best, and are informed by oppression & prejudice against me, at worst. And on the other hand, as a white person who's had some major advantages, such as parents who were willing to invest in a college education for me, I suppose I would prefer to believe that I've just been a personal success, rather than benefiting from unfair systems, too.

I wonder, though, how we can get past that reflexive defensiveness. I suspect it's crucial to progress. How can someone really take homophobia/racism/classism/sexism seriously if they only concede it as an abstract concept and deny it, and blame the victim, in every immediate circumstance in their lives?

Monday, 27 July 2009

Settling In

I can't believe I've only posted once in July. I've been terrible about reading, too, though I'm trying.

Part of the reason I've been internet-absent is that I don't have internet at home anymore, at least in a reliable way. We don't have a television. Our old cable internet company want to charge us *more* for just internet than for television plus internet. I understand giving a discount if you buy more than one product, but charging less for the whole package than any component part? And it's not peanuts: they wanted over $60/month for internet. And the kicker: they wanted a $100 installation fee, too. Which they only charged for internet-only customers. If you got internet plus television, you could self-install. Because installing two things is easier than one? Because internet-only customers are clearly idiots? Ugh. Sorry for the rant. Anyway, I can walk to one of our local coffee shops most days, and get a coffee and free wireless, and not only do I still come out ahead financially, I get good coffee, too, and exercise! But not quite so much unlimited internet-surfing time in my life.

Then, too, life has been busy this month. I submitted the all-but-final draft of my dissertation to my committee. Defense is scheduled for late August. Now I'm working on preparing for my fall job and writing an article. Should be doing that now, in fact, but I wanted to holla to all of you first.

I truly love the new place where we're living. The apartment, the street, the neighborhood, all of it. We took the subway over toward our old neighborhood a few weeks ago and when we changed lines to our old subway line, I immediately started attracting hostile stares. A surprisingly stark reminder of how much less friendly the old area was.

A brief undeveloped thought on that: the old neighborhood was also much whiter and on average a good deal wealthier. This business that, as a movement, the queers are fine with the middle- and upper-middle-class East Coast whites but we struggle with people of color? I think it's a lot more complicated than that. I think even within the so-called 'liberal establishment' there are lots of white people with a lot more homophobia and transphobia than they'd necessarily admit.

I don't know, I don't want to theorize and over-generalize. But the shift has been striking. And while my white middle-class liberal family looks slightly alarmed at the racial mix of my new neighborhood, I put up with a whole lot less crap on the streets than I did in the old place. It could be unique to the balance of this particular neighborhood, which is so fantastically queer, too. In any case I'm enjoying the release from stress I had almost started to ignore, it was such a daily part of life in the old neighbhorhood.

And have I mentioned that our immediate neighbors are friendly, not just not-glaring but actually saying hello, trading favors, etc.? And the new place gets nice light, and the cats like it, and we walk regularly to one of the lovely big parks nearby.

All this makes me wonder if we'd be able to stay here for a long time. FG and I moved in together in 1998. All total, we've lived in nine different apartments in four states and one foreign country since then. I've learned a lot and grown up a lot in that time, and I'm grateful for all those experiences. But I'm also feeling bone-tired at the prospect of uprooting ourselves again. FG remarked that, as adults, picking up and leaving is what we know how to do. We've never really, truly put down roots in a community; we've always been planning our next escape. But I think we've been learning, this past year, how to start to be a part of a community, not just bystanders and transients. I may want to try staying put on for size in the next decade or so...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Oil Change the Second, Plus Miscellaneous Shenanigans

This post is a little overdue... we moved this past week in a flurry of boxes and tape and kind friends and rain and happiness. Yeah, that about sums that up for now.

But before we moved, I spent an evening getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and working on the car! And since I know you're as excited as I am to witness my reincarnation as a Diesel Dyke (TM), I offer here an account of the proceedings.

First, I drove with FG to the auto parts store and picked up some supplies, including a light bulb for a burned-out headlight. Then we made our way through heavy traffic out to her sister's place, where I got to work, washing our car and FG's sister's car while I waited for the engine to cool down.

My first order of business was replacing the air filter. It's screwed on with seven very rusted screws. I couldn't get them out with a screwdriver last time, but when I saw Dawn she pointed out that I could use my socket wrench on them. Um, right. Why didn't I think of that?

So that worked just fine. I'm not sure the air filter was really that dirty, though it was a little dirty, for sure. But I replaced it anyway, since I'd gotten all those screws off, and I was tired of carrying the new filter around. I also pulled some nut hulls out of the filter's casing. Like, five or six. I'm not too sure how they got there, but I guess it was a good thing to take them out?

Next up was the headlight. I was nervous about this, because I was flying solo, with only the owner's manual for guidance. First it said to remove a reservoir from a holder to give easier access to the bulb. After some tugging and tussling I got it free.

Next I was supposed to pull a clip off the bulb to detach it from the car's wiring. I fought with the thing for about fifteen minutes. I didn't want to break anything, of course, but damn, it was just not moving. Finally I asked FG and her sister to come out and give it a go. They tried, but nothing doing.

I was getting seriously frustrated. This was supposed to be so easy that it was actually in the manual--a manual that warns that only skilled mechanics should basically touch anything else at all. I asked myself, what would Dawn suggest? And I heard her voice in my head: "Brute force and ignorance." So I got out a small screwdriver and alternately coaxed and pushed the thing until, click! Off it came like it had never caused any trouble at all.

But alas! My sorrows with the headlight were not over, because I had bought the wrong size bulb. A strange thing about the auto parts store I go to. The clerks are generally very polite. They all seem to read me as female and to take a moment to realize I'm going to conduct this interaction in a masculine mode, not a feminine one; and once they realize that, they opt for that mode, too, and all is well. But in most cases the little exclamation-point-shaped cloud stays about their heads for the whole exchange.

This was the case with the pleasant middle-aged man who'd sold me the bulb. He was unfailingly friendly but definitely wrong-footed by the mysteries of my gender, which were in this instance amplified by FG's presence, all high femme with skirt and cleavage to match. So he mixed up a number and sent me home with a bulb that would not do at all.

Carefully I replaced the broken bulb. It was getting late and I did not have time to get to a store and exchange it, so the bulb would have to wait. Instead, I turned to the oil change, which went much faster this time since I pretty much knew what I was doing and could, you know, find the filter.

By the end I was one dirty butch. It turns out that if you wash your car on a dirt driveway, and then crawl under that car to change your oil, you will emerge not only oil- and grease-stained but soaked with mud as well. And in my case, thoroughly bitten by mosquitoes to boot. Luckily I had brought at least a change of t-shirt, and FG kindly dug out a towel for me to sit on while the three of us enjoyed supper.

A day or so later, I exchanged the bulb for the correct size (which I looked up myself, thank you very much), and replaced it parked outside a softball field in a tony suburb. The locals opted to stay out of it.

And so the car seems to have survived another bout at the hands of Mechanic MacCool.

Monday, 29 June 2009

You Say Butch Like It's a Bad Thing

As one of the judges on Sinclair Sexsmith's Top Hot Butches / Sugarbutch Hot List project, I wanted to weigh in on the discussion that's been going on about who's included on the list: namely, whether more feminine women, trans men, trans women etc., 'really belong' on this list.

One thing I like a lot about Sinclair's project is its use of a category of gendered experience that doesn't simply reproduce the old binaries of man and woman. It's a category that reflects the experiences of a lot of people I know and the community I live in. I see it bringing together two threads. First, there is 'butchness' as a particular expression of masculinity, quite apart from biology or sex assignment or sex identification. Second, there is the insight that people who have been assigned female at some point in their lives, whether by choice or not, yet who place masculinity at the core of their identities, well, we have something in common. Finding that common ground, and discussing it together or separately, is not about appropriation or stealing; it's about kinship.

This category is not theoretically perfect nor are its borders rigid and exact. I'm aware, for instance, that the first thread includes people assigned male at birth who still identify as men ('cisgender men') while the second would tend not to. But the categories of men and women themselves are not more perfect. And I believe that trying out new categories, new ways of organizing our experiences and our relationships to others, is an important part of the working of dismantling the dominance of the idea of men and women as seemingly eternal, natural categories. That's exactly why I keep that Judith Butler quote in the sidebar.

One of the very sad things about the debate over this list has been the tendency to insist on those very categories of man and woman. This list is about women, the argument went, and trans men are men. And yet there are many people, myself included, and many on the list as well I believe, for whom neither 'woman' nor 'trans man' is an adequate description.

In my real-life community, that fact is not a problem. The category that Sinclair is exploring and invoking in this list actually functions to bring people together, and ultimately, that's why I believe in it. I believe in a world in which I'm welcome at trans events and my trans friends, FTM and MTF, are welcome at the Dyke March. Which is not to say FTMs ought to go to the Dyke March, necessarily, or that they have to feel comfortable being on Sinclair's list; but it's a matter of individual variation and preference, as has been amply demonstrated by the fact that some of the trans men on the list have opted to be reinstated, while others have not.

This leads me to another thing I like about Sinclair's project. It refuses from the outset the idea that being including on a 'butch' list could be insulting. I appreciate this on a visceral level because of how very long it took me to claim that word for myself, because of how long I spent thinking of it as a bad word for bad women. I think it's an admirable audacity to insist that butch is a good thing. It's one thing to say, if this isn't the category for you, if this isn't a place you want to be, say so, and I'll respect that. It's quite another to concede butch from the outset as something insulting.

This issue has been taking up a lot of space in my brain since the list was published last week. While packing boxes and sorting papers for our upcoming move, I fulminated about any number of aspects of the whole thing. I wrote some angry posts in my head, completely blowing the 'cool' out of MacCool. But time passed and I spent time in my own community, with my own friends, and I realized, I don't want to add more fuel to anyone's fire. Instead, I want this post to be a tribute to the connection and liberation that can flourish when we stop treating the space between "man" and "woman" as a despised, battle-scarred borderland, and start treating it as the center of our own better universe.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Fluff Observation

One of my e-mail accounts has recently featured many ads that are variations of the claim that, by mixing two products, you will be able to cure ordinary complaints such as yellow teeth or stretch marks. Often the ad claims that a "mom" discovered she could effect this remedy on her own.

Does this remind anyone else sharply of the Lily Tomlin movie, "The Incredible Shrinking Woman," which features the fabulous Tomlin as a mom who starts shrinking due to the freak chemical interaction of Galaxy Glue and some other thing?

I loved that movie with a rare passion as a small child. We had a tape of it and I would ask to watch it over and over again, the only movie or show I did that with, as far as I can recall. I guess I had some gaydar even at four.

And you could psychoanalyze even further, no doubt: get rid of excess femininity using two common household products! This mom figured out how! But the sun is finally out and I'm not quite in that sort of mood.

Instead, let's give it up for Lily Tomlin. And let's not start mixing random household substances just because Yahoo says it's a good idea...

Monday, 22 June 2009

Making Trouble

Like many of us I've been following the news from Iran, hoping for the best and admiring the courage of all those who've had enough and are taking a stand, despite the danger. I wonder what it feels like to reach that point and I wonder if I will reach it in my own lifetime.

I remember being transfixed by the demonstrations in Tianamen Square, twenty years ago this spring, when I was nine years old. My family generally watched the evening news every night (60 Minutes on Sundays), sometimes with dinner and sometimes afterwards. I wondered if the students would be able to force their government and their country to change, and I was genuinely shocked as well as horrified when the government instead forcibly put them down. I have memories of images of the empty square, evidence of violence in the midst blowing trash and broken dreams, but I don't know how much I'm imagining or filling in from later descriptions.

I was also shocked by my grandparents' reaction. My grandmother in particular argued fiercely that the Chinese government had done the right thing: by killing some students, it had averted a much larger conflict that would have killed many more people. Although emphatically liberal on most issues, my grandmother believes in the value of strong leaders and governments; in certain respects, from my adult perspective, her views remind me of some of the proto-Fascist intellectuals of the 1920s, before Fascism was forever discredited by Nazism and all the rest of it.

Implict in her stance was a sharp rebuke to the protesters, idealists and troublemakers who were only going to bring suffering down upon their society. My child's soul rebelled against that interpretation. I wanted to man the barricades and fight for the right, the just, and the true, come what may.

I thought that all I had to do was grow bigger and stronger, and I would do just that. I didn't realize what an effect that injunction to keep quiet and keep your head down had had on me. In spite of disagreeing about things like Tianamen, I adored my grandparents and strove to earn their respect and admiration. I was ashamed to make too much noise and to ask for too much; in my own real life, I didn't even know where the barricades were.

My increasing self-confidence and my newly unorthodox gender expression have, not surprisingly, introduced an element of distance or even strain into my relationship with my grandparents. What took me by surprise was that my graduation and new job, rather than easing that distance, seems to have increased it, even though my decision to pursue this career was very much part of an effort to live up to their values.

And yet perhaps I should not have been surprised. In embarking on this profession I am claiming authority and power. I am asserting that my own words matter, that they can contribute to knowledge and that they should be read. And I am doing so at the very moment where I emphatically make too much noise, take up too much space, demand far too much from my society at every turn. I insist on my right to exist even if it offends, and if I die for it, I insist on my right to choose to die for it.

When I saw them last month their reaction to my news was strikingly lowkey. A few polite questions, a few awkward jokes about my new job & its associated title. A long discussion about how perhaps I should have been a judge instead (a slightly more entertaining variation on the very old theme that I should have gone into finance like the pretty young women on the business TV shows). And avoidance of my new name except to make jokes about it, more or less. Even references to me as "Miss [Oldname]".

I processed all that, vented to FG about it, and thought I'd moved on. But a friend who hadn't seen me for a few weeks called me on it as soon as ze saw me, looking tired and apologetic and profoundly subdued. I realized I hadn't felt genuinely happy about the graduation & job since seeing my family. I was subdued: I had been put in my place.

I'm faced now with some dilemmas. How do I un-subdue myself? And how do I do that as I take the first steps in a career that was, originally, all about earning love and approval and now must fit into a life that seeks, if not to man the barricades all the time, at least to raise the hell that my child-self longed for?

Friday, 19 June 2009

It's Still Rock and Roll to Me

I'm turning 30 in a little under two months. I'm looking forward to it. My main concern at the moment is whether my party will kick enough ass and involve enough champagne. (Or other, cheaper, bubbling options. I'm not hating on cava, spumonti, or prosecco here.)

When I was a child, I felt old. Or rather, I never felt the way I imagined a child was supposed to feel, and I often didn't act that way, either. I was quieter and more cautious, wary of revealing too much and never trusting too soon. I always felt large and clumsy and deep-voiced. (I consciously changed my voice in my adolescence to sound more light and feminine, which has now become an ingrained habit that I'm slowly and painfully trying to unlearn. It's a process, rediscovering your own voice twenty years on.) People described me as serious and mature, always.

In many ways I feel younger now than then. I am much less burdened with the weight of shame and fear. I think so many fewer things are impossible or off-limits, and so slowly I'm learning, for the first time, the spontaneity and enthusiasm that one is supposed to lament losing at my age.

In other ways, of course, I feel ordinarily chronological. My insights feel more saturated with context and history than the quick, sharp observations of people ten years younger than me. And I don't have quite the manic Gumby-flexible energy I did as a teenager, though I'm physically stronger now than I was then, by a long shot.

I wonder in what ways being queer shapes our experiences of chronology and life stages, beyond the obvious questions of access to marriage & reproduction milestones. My thoughts on these lines are shaped by Jack Halberstam's 'In a Queer Time and Place'. Halberstam argues there for a kind of prolonged adolescence as being characteristic of queer subcultures, which reject the reproductive calendar of their straight counterparts.

Sitting in the library the other day, I was staring out the window, as you do in libraries after a while. And I was watching a middle-aged man have a conversation with a police officer. It looked like they were probably friends. The man was wearing a polo shirt and khakis; he was solid, beer-bellied, and ruddy, and I imagined him as the respository, in a way, of all that was respectable, normal, and, in the words of my youth, as it should be. I wondered about the burden that must be, carrying all that legitimacy around, maybe watching out worriedly for transgressions, maybe just carefully ensuring that the rounds of barbeques and high school graduations and conservations with your pal the cop went on in perpetuity, preserved for the next pillars of society.

And that got me wondering if that burden and those immense privileges that accrue to carrying it are, in the end, what really growing up and being mature are about in our world. Maybe that is why queers seem like eternal adolescents: by the very nature of our lives, we are never going to ascend to that level of legitimacy.

A colleague recently remarked to me that rock and roll is dead, which he then amended to the observation that rock and roll dies for everyone at a different moment, because it is the music of youth and rebellion. But maybe, I thought, youth and rebellion are ultimately the same thing. And the reward that we get, the queer and the marginal and the deviant, is that for us, rock and roll lives, like Frodo, for ever.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Question for Vegetarians, Current & Lapsed

Less prominent among the great events of 2008 was the transition into full-on vegetarianism for me and FG. I haven't eaten any meat or fish since a smoked salmon sandwich one mid-spring day about a year ago.

In some ways this was a natural evolution. We were already eating very little meat and had been for quite some time. On another level, for me, it was not an obvious choice. Whereas FG used to reject meat and opt for tofu even as a little, and always complained that things like hamburgers made her stomach hurt, that was never me. I like protein, a lot, while I think she could subsist on bread, potatoes, pomegranates, and cherries.

Back in the day, I'd start to get a serious protein craving, and I'd take myself out for a burger, or I'd ask FG to make pork chops or roast a chicken, or I'd invite her out for a sushi date. Nowadays, things seem not quite so easy. Too much soy makes me feel unwell, so a constant stream of soy-based replacements is not the answer. And I don't seem to get quite the same sense of satisfaction from things like chick peas as I do from animal proteins--which means a lot of omelette requests, in my case.

So I eat a lot of eggs and a mix of soy and non-soy meat substitutes and dairy stuff and some legume-stuff too (I love peanut butter). But I still feel this relatively constant, low-level craving for MORE PROTEIN. And on occasion, when I eat an almost-all-protein meal (like fried eggs & fake sausages) I get a rush of well-being and strength, so I think I'm not just crazy or deluding myself.

If you've made it this far... fellow vegetarians, past & present, do you know what I'm talking about? Do you have any advice? I have to admit, I'm getting close to falling off the wagon & getting myself some fish or something like that...

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Fruit in Bed

We're moving, I'm graduating, it's time to shovel out and organize and throw away bags of accumulated crap. I have a hard time throwing stuff away. Part of it is an obsessive need to have documentary evidence for everything, as overcompensation for the lack of recognition given to our household. Need proof we paid for electricity in March 2003? I've got it. (See also: frantic cleaning of the house before straight people visit. I've got hang-ups. Of course I do.)

But in amongst the boring things (taxes) and the sad things (angry letters from my dad) there are the sweet things. And so I present to you "Fruit in Bed," a very short story I wrote on March 16, 2001, a few months before I graduated college and a year and a day before FG and I got married. I don't remember exactly, but I think it's safe to say this is not very heavily fictionalized...


We lay in bed together in the dark. We weren't touching but I knew she wasn't asleep. Still, she'd said she was tired, so I shut my eyes and played the game that had often lulled me to sleep as a child--imagining myself on a small raft floating down a gentle river or in a calm bay.

The water thing just wasn't working that night. I opened my eyes again.

"Wouldn't it be cool to sleep on grapes?" I said.

"On what? Grates?"

I rolled onto my back. "No, grapes. Red grapes or whatever they used to make wine. Wouldn't it be cool to sleep on a huge pile of them?"

"No, that would be sticky," she said.

"And I guess they'd roll away. You'd need a vat, really, and you could sleep on top."

"But they'd break. I think that would be gross. Why not oranges or grapefruits?"

"Too hard. Picture how grapes would compress and bounce, like a perfect mattress. Oranges wouldn't do that. You need something soft," I said.

"Tomatoes, then," she suggested.

"Not that soft. Picture how the grapes would massage your back. Tomatoes wouldn't do that--they'd just mash down into a paste if you rolled. Mangoes maybe..."

"No," she said. "Too sticky again, plus that funny shape. You'd want symmetry. Kumquats." She sighed deeply and sleepily. I was feeling sleepy myself, imagining kumquats rocking me gently and supporting my slumber.

"Kumquats. Perfect," I said, and drifted off thinking: marriage will be great.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Back from Mercury

I'm bouncing back, it seems, from a trough. This trough was so bad I was almost paying attention to remarks I saw around online about Mercury being in retrograde until June 7. That's it, I thought. It's that damn Mercury.

Which, I don't know, maybe there's truth in that. Any astrologically inclined readers? I'm yours to persuade. But Mercury or not, the fact of the matter is that my mojo was grievously injured by a rough weekend with my family-of-origin. I'm seriously considering starting a password-only blog just to vent about stuff that's too private for the general internet but amenable to that special dynamic of blogs that gets me to sit down and actually write about stuff. Which is good for me, at least, and maybe sometimes entertaining for visitors here, too.

Anyway, on the drive up to the weekend, I felt alive and strong. My radio-sing-along version of Bohemian Rhapsody was virtuosic. I thought there was nothing I could not handle. But once I was back home, I sank into a proper funk.

This past weekend, though, was an excellent dispeller-of-funks. On Saturday morning, I went to softball practice, then to coffee. I flyered for a queer event (hi thisfrozenlake!) and when I got home, FG and I decided to stay in and--what was it Jess used to call it? Oh yeah, we reconnected and had some nice bonding time. ('Cuz you know, hugs are the best cure for stress, of course.) And eventually we got really hungry and we went out for ice cream and got burrito-makings for a late dinner. The next day, I had a softball game. We were slaughtered, as usual. But! FG was there, cheering us on, and I caught a fly ball for the very first time. There was more lazing about, some chores, and the weekend was capped off by FG making a brilliant blueberry coffee cake.

As I ate it, I felt so glad just to be alive, with this woman beside me. I realized that I'm hardly reading fiction this days, just because my own life is interesting enough. And maybe I've had enough of the days when my motto was "People say life is the thing, but I prefer reading." [Logan Pearsall Smith] Life is the thing, especially when the mojo is finally back.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Yay Genderlabel!

Good stuff. You can do yours here.


My gender is

activist, aggressive, amorous, BDSM, boi, boy with a vagina, boy with boobs, bulldagger, butch, crossdresser, cute, diesel dyke, differently-gendered, dog lover, dominant, dyke, FTWTF, female-assigned, feminist, femme-fucking, femme-loving, full of love, gender deviant, gender liberationist, genderqueer, gendertrash, hyper-sexual, kinky, LGBTQI, lover, loving, macho, misrepresented, misunderstood, non-op, obsessed, pro-sex feminist, queer, radical, same sex different gender oriented, sex positive, stone butch, stud, teh gay, top, transmasculine, tribade, trustworthy, woman-loving

What's yours?

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Pink Grapefruit Cake

Thanks to Sarcozona, FG got a recipe for a new cake: Pink Grapefruit.

She baked it and chatted with her sister on the phone while I worked on my bibliography and surfed the web.

When she took it out of the oven to cool, we started kissing, lying on the sunny floor near the window.

Eventually we made it into the bedroom for a proper tumble in the hay.

Then we ate the cake, which was delicious, a mixture of sweet, sour, and a little bit of bitter, just like grapefruit.

FG: It's pink grapefruit cake!
MacCool: It's not pink.
FG: But the grapefruit was.
MacCool: So was the girl.

Happy lazy Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Changes Ahead

It's been a big week. I got a one-year job offer which means that not only do I have a job but also that I will be graduating this summer. That'll be Dr. MacCool to y'all. I don't want to get too specific here (except to clarify I'm not fixing anyone's broken arm, ok? it's not that kind of dr.) but this is going to be a really major milestone in my life, no question about it.

Since I got the news I've been through so many different emotions. Relief that I'll be earning money--I also got part-time summer work, hurray--being able to support myself and, ideally, my family has always been intensely important to me. I've been working pretty steadily at one thing or another, or more than one, since I was 16. I got some rejections this spring and had a little moment of panic. Part of what induced the 'crazy' of my mid-20s was the feeling that I had to have a certain level of gender conformity in order to be hired and to earn money. (I got this as a pretty clear, if covert, message at my first real job after college, so it wasn't just delusion.) Anyway, I refuse to go back to that place of fear and fake conformity, but it's a big relief to find that that doesn't require a total reinvention of my professional path, at least not this year.

Then, I'm excited about the work I'll be doing, and apprehensive about doing a good job. I'm afraid of leaving my fellow-grad-students behind (though honestly, the changes in my personal life in the last year or so have already done a pretty good job of that already). And I'm on guard lest the lure of succeeding at this job screws with my head the way that the first job did. I have a post brewing about my new year's resolution to be an asshole as necessary. I better write that to remind myself not to let it fall by the wayside in a quest to please my new colleagues & bosses.

Getting this job is slightly melancholy, too, because it represents the culmination, in a sense, of all of the hard work that was done mostly by a person who I now only dimly recognize as myself. I feel a strange urge to reach into the past and thank her a little, but also warn her I'm going to do something different with all this, not what she had planned at all.

This is probably an impossibly cryptic post to read. The point is this: I've been moaning about jobs & school here & on Twitter. I've gotten some awesome news. And, being me, it's complicated and I have to process it and stand at an angle from it, too, in addition to drinking champagne & smoking cigars.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Settling into Myself

I wrote a few weeks back about springtime being the time of new beginnings for me. I've been thinking since then about what that means for me, this spring, one year after my universe exploded. It's not the second big bang (or third, or whatever) this time around. But as the new leaves have unfolded and the bees have started cruising around the neighborhood, and the flowers have been blooming and the MacCool household has been sneezing, I've felt a certain subtle shift, or set of shifts.

One shift is about gender. (Oh, I sense the shock. Try to contain yourselves.) When I started accepting & claiming masculinity last year I wondered what exactly that meant, when I'd want to get off the ride, as it were. If I just kept opening the next door, would I transition, in other words? And somehow, over the last few months, that's just been fading for me, and being replaced by the sense that, nope, that's not where I'm heading, at least not until or unless something pretty major changes for me. I've been thinking about this partly because of my good buddy Jess, who's being incredibly brave in sharing his own process in this connection. But also it's related to experiences and people in my non-bloggy life.

One thing I've heard from Jess & others is the sense of profound bodily wrongness. Jess mentioned looking in the mirror and not recognizing himself. And heaven knows I know that feeling. I spent years feeling that way. I was so out of touch I couldn't even picture myself in my head. But I don't feel that way now. There's plenty of things I'd like to change and I'm not trying to deny that there's some real body dysphoria going on at times, but mostly when I see myself, I look like myself. I feel like myself.

My point isn't really about not transitioning, but about settling into this person that I've become. I was trying this morning to explain to FG the feeling I've been having, of walking up the street, say, or buying a quart of milk, and just feeling... like myself. Like just another guy going about the daily business of living. I don't know. Maybe that's how most people always feel? Anyway it's new to me.

Another aspect of this is related to style. When I was trying to be a (good) girl, and yet not go completely bonkers, I developed a style centered on two themes: androgyny and invisibility. Plain jeans, not too tight. Endless black shoes of one boring variety or another. Button-up shirts from the Gap, from the women's side, but again, not too tight. Hair back in a plain ponytail (at the neck, like a boy). Brown wire-rim glasses. Little tweed or velvet blazers. Yep, I think that's it.

And now of course I can buy the clothes and shoes and glasses that I want, and it's slowly dawning on me that I don't have to opt for plain conservatism any more. (LL Cool Joe, I know, I'm a slow learner.) I went shopping with a friend recently and started to wonder, what do I really like, in the most superficial and entertaining of senses, now that I've gotten past the simple point of insisting that I shop on the men's side and not the women's? I think I'm going to have some fun figuring this one out.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Things I'm Happy About

Not an exhaustive list, just an immediate one.

1. New battery & power cord = being able to work on the computer outside.
2. Just ordered new glasses. So much sexier than the apologetic I'm-just-a-shy-girl-please-don't-mind-me glasses I've been wearing for the last 2.5 years. My tentative motto for the new glasses: oh-yes-I-am-all-that, I'll-quote-you-Foucault-then-fuck-you-silly.
3. The frames are new but the prescription isn't. My eyesight hasn't gotten worse! Hurray!
4. Got an interview. For a very part-time casual thing but another company in this same field has been blowing me off, and these folks were very professional, so I have new hope for my ability to generate some cash this summer. Thank heavens. Unlike Rachel Maddow, I haven't found any good yard boy openings to tide me over while I finish my dissertation...
5. Friends. I haz them. And I love them. (One of the funny things about this blog is that I started it at a moment of intense, severe isolation. And through the changes I've made & documented here, I've mostly escaped from that. But I'm entirely opposed to writing about my IRL peeps here in any but the most general of terms, which means that in a sense the end of that story is missing. Well. There are worse things.)

Five seems good for now. Happy Friday, all.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Meme of Eights

I'm stealing this from Vic over at Dykes & Guitars. I've been lurking there for-freakin'-ever. Check out the post on the linkfest--classic D&G humor, had me LOLing all over the place.

8 Things I Am Looking Forward To:

1. Going to kung fu in half an hour.

2. Hearing back from job applications large & small. (And some "yes" answers would sure be nice...)

3. Dancing with FG again.

4. Moving closer to friends. (This is just a neighborhood shift, nothing major.)

5. Fresh tomato & mozzarella salads

6. Changing the oil again

7. Beer. Always. <---- me too

8. An ever improving wardrobe

8 Things I Did Yesterday:

1. Had dinner with new & less-new friends.

2. Talked to my advisor and got good advice. How about that. Talking to hir is generally an uplifting experience and yesterday was no exception.

3. Failed to get any despite numerous advances. Damn final papers, let go of your grip on the sexy woman who shares my bed.

4. Cleaned the apartment for the first time in so long I can't even remember. We do OK with straightening, dishes, that sort of thing. But it was well past the time for the vacuum and I to get reacquainted.

5. Ate proper crisps sent by an English angel. (I finished them today and actually licked the inside of the bag.) (That's potato chips, yanks.)

6. Read bits of Jennifer Finney Boylan's "She's Not There" out loud to FG. Brilliant, funny book written by a transwoman; it has moved me almost to tears several times.

7. Worked on the Giant Dissertation of Doom.

8. I don't know, I'm sure I did something else. Um, looked at the lettuce plants on the porch? I probably did that.

8 Things I Wish I Could Do:

1. Fly airplanes.

2. Sleep with anyone I want with no adverse consequences. (Final papers!! I hate them!!!)

3. Expand the overall size of my skeleton esp. shoulders & hands.

4. Find size 36 suitjackets regularly stocked.

5. Get a job.

6. Go swimming in the ocean regularly.

7. Go back to England.

8. Be a more compelling blogger who doesn't rely on ripped-off memes.

8 Shows I Watch:

I subscribe to the Rachel Maddow podcast. Even that though I usually never get around to watching. We don't got no TV round here.

[Vic called it a stupid, stupid question & changed it. Good man.]

8 albums I'm granting listening time to lately:

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
I don't care what anyone says, I love it like crazy and thank God it exists.

2. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Just started listening to them. They're not half bad.

3. Arcade Fire - Funeral
See above. I like Neon Bible better though.

4. Joy Division - Best of Joy Division
This band rocks my world. "Atmosphere" is my favorite these days. "People like you find it easy..."

5. Kills - Midnight Boom
My album of the year. I don't know what year. But it wins.

6. k.d. lang - Hymns of the 49th Parallel
Always what I turn to when I need to regain calm, perspective, and maybe a little joy. It's damn near perfect.

7. Delta 5 - Sessions & Singles
Trying to get into the other stuff besides "Mind Your Own Business".

8. Mrs Jynx - The Standoffish Cat
I'm starting to expand my electronica range of interests. This is pretty cool stuff. It's not good sex music, though. We tried. We felt like we were in truly bad porn. Consider yourself warned.

8 People I Tag:

I'm gonna be late for kung fu, folks. No tagging eight over here. Steal it from me, let me know you're still reading. But I will tag Jess. He can change pronouns, he can transition from Blogger to Wordpress, but he can't escape my tagging.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

I Love You but I Can't Say So

My computer is over five years old. The letters have been worn off most of the keys for ages now. Two days ago I got her a new battery & power cord (farewell duct tape!). I love her and I plan to keep her as long as possible.

But the old operating system limits any number of possible software updates. This can be good--I can barely do anything on Facebook anymore, for instance--but also not so good. There are now several blogs on Blogger whose comment functions don't work for me anymore. I think you all have the same template more or less.

So this is a confidential post to say I love you, but I can't tell you so on your own blogs. I can't even email you, 'cause you don't have addresses listed on your blogs, either. I love a good tease as much as the next guy, but I'm starting to worry you think I'm just not that into you. Not the case.

The main suspects (but I'm missing some, I know it):
Asphalt Cowboy: Dude, we have a lot in common. Your sex stories are awesome, and B.C.S. sounds like a ton of fun. Go fucking Sox.
Dyke Evolution: I'm glad you're blogging. It really does help with the tough times. And may you get some proper butch loving a.s.a.p.
Good Ship Priory: You started out with a brilliant first post on trans issues in mainstream science. Now you have a teaser up about femme invisibility. I wanted to encourage you to write more, but I couldn't.

Monday, 27 April 2009

How to Fail to Wash Your Car in 10 Easy Steps

1. Get in your car and wash the inside of the windows.
2. Open one window so you don't asphyxiate yourself. Don't feel bad about the fumes or getting your leg stuck when climbing from back to front seats. It's all down hill from here.
3. Start the car and head towards car wash.
4. Avoid collision with dude blowing through four-way stop.
5. Get glared at by pretty pedestrian for honking at dude.
6. Drive past car wash, confused by the maze of contruction on the street outside.
7. Bang a U-ie.
8. Return to car wash and enter only non-closed, non-busy self-service bay.
9. Get informed by fellow car-washer that the bay is broken.
10. Back slowly out through contruction maze and return home. At least the inside of the windows are clean, and surely you didn't have anything better to do with that half hour.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Number 100

That'll teach me to suggest I'm going to start daily blogging. Not so much apparently.

While I was gone I won an award from Joliesse, who started her blog not long ago but has already covered all sorts of interesting topics, on being femme, on mental illness, on topping vs. bottoming, on whether or not spring has started, and that's just what comes to mind. Thanks, Joliesse. There's a bunch of stuff I'm sposta do now, like reposting a very pink & flowery picture & awarding it to some other folks. (You want it, Jess? I know how you like pink flowers...) Anyway I'm feeling lazy and maybe I'll do it one of these days or maybe not. Still, I was very touched by Joliesse's post and her kind words.

This is my hundredth post. (I think. Could be 99 or 101. I deleted one for privacy reasons a while back and I forget how it affected the numbering.) 100 or so posts in a little over a year. I'm amazed at how much I've written and how much has changed. Maybe the biggest suprise, but also the nicest, is the way that I feel just like myself these days. When I think back to myself, oh, 18 months ago, it's like looking through a fog, or at a drugged zombie version of myself. It's hard to make myself believe I really was that person, living in that body and making those choices. Weird how the mind works.

I went to a drag show at my college the other night and found it a strangely emotional experience. I was out in college but I didn't have any queer friends or community. I went to the gay group once or twice but never saw anyone who was anything like me (it was only 4 or 5 people total each time so that's not exactly a shock). I used to think of my college experience as one of the happiest times of my life, but walking around before the show, I thought maybe it was a bit more complicated than that. There was joy to be sure, the sheer elation of having gotten out of my childhood home and the fierce joy of the crazy quantity of intellectual learning I did then, but it was a strange, solitary kind of exaltation. Whole days and weeks would go by when I hardly spoke to anyone outside of formal interactions, especially in the first couple of years. I experienced a new kind of happiness but I spent a lot of time desperately lonely, too, on the verge of breakdown or hallucination. The drag show, though, was all kinds of awesome and I was glad to be there.

Work-related stuff shows no signs of letting up in the near future, and then there are real-life distractions too. I'm about to run out of this cafe where I'm typing this after dropping off a job application and pick up FG and try to squeeze in dinner and some more work and maybe something a little more intimate before a birthday party. And that's just tonight. But even if another long time goes by before I post again know that I am reading your blogs as often as I can and am grateful every day for you all. And I'm working up to another 100 posts, just you wait.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Book Meme

My sexy FG did this meme and I'm doing it, too. I'm feeling very happy this week & pleased with life, in spite of having insane amounts of work to do and deadlines looming, and I just feel like blogging. Maybe I'll blog every day this week just for the heck of it. (Hello, ecstasy half of spring! Hello! So glad you've dropped by!)

1) What author do you own the most books by?

Salman Rushdie. One of my good childhood friends loaned me his children's chapter book, "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," when I was a 14 or so and I was hooked. ("Look out! Slow down! Don't be funny! Life is precious, cars cost money!") That summer I took "Midnight's Children" out of the library, feeling very daring. The public librarians in my town were very old-fashioned and barely approved of kids being in the adult section at all, much less borrowing thick foreign novels by authors with fatwas against them. I mean, it just wasn't done. Anyway I worked my way through the book that summer on the porch, mesmerized by the language and the descriptions of Indian life and history. I even bought myself a jar of mango chutney. Over the next several years I worked my way through most of the rest of his books: "Shame," "Satanic Verses," "The Moor's Last Sigh," "Imaginary Homelands." I bought "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" new when it came out in hardcover and devoured it. I living in California when "Fury" came out and was distraught at having to wait several extra days for it to be shipped from the East Coast. But, ultimately I didn't think much of it, and I haven't read any of his more recent stuff, either.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?

I think I don't have any repeats. I give them away when I end up with them.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

No. Silly rule. Like Winston Churchill supposedly said, this is English up with which I cannot put.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

Vina Apsara from "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" (Salman Rushdie)

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon. I think it's brilliant. Every time I read it I find something new. And I also find the language oddly soothing.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

Hm, I'm not really sure. I read a lot of cotton candy books when I was ten, Encyclopedia Brown and kids' mysteries and Baby Sitters Club (yes, really). Life didn't get interesting for another year or so, when Joseph Heller's "Picture This" sent me on a binge of reading grown-up books with Big Ideas. Oh, and I discovered and inhaled the complete Sherlock Holmes.

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

I don't know, something I wanted to cite that I probably just skimmed.

8 ) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Judith Butler, "Gender Trouble"

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

I wish I could say Leslie Feinberg's "Stone Butch Blues" but I'm not sure it would work. I'm not sure they would get it. Wait, I mean 'everyone in the world' here. I'm only tagging Jess, of course. Jess has already read it and definitely got it.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?

Me! The first person to win for their blog! (Hey, I could use the prize money, ok?)

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

No idea. I'm horrible about watching movies. I drive FG crazy with movie deprivation. I'm a terrible partner.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?

See above.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.

I think I dreamed I was in Jean Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear" once. But it was a long time ago. I don't really remember.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?

Can I go for magazine here? For several years in my late teens/early twenties I had an unhealthy adoration for "Men's Health". You're stunned, I'm sure.

15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics" There's so much brilliance there and it's not easy to read but it was so worth it. Lucky for me I was reading it on a train that broke down and I sat there in the sunny train seat for two hours and soaked it in, and after that, it made a lot more sense. I saw her speak recently, too, and again my brain felt like it had had a workout. I'm a fan.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?

Dunno. I have trouble keeping them straight.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

I like the Russian novels I've read: "Anna Karenina" and "Crime and Punishment" leap to mind. I almost let a boat float away when I was reading the latter secretly on a summer job in college. But I love French literature too, though I have an idiosyncratic view and modern & Francophone taste: Michel Butor rather than Victor Hugo, Maryse Condé rather than George Sand.

18) Roth or Updike?

Roth. I haven't read anything by Updike but I thought "Portnoy's Complaint" was so much damn fun. The scene where he wanks with the liver...

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

Like my darling FG, I have only read Sedaris. He made me laugh.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

All of the above, though none with special enthusiasm.

21) Austen or Eliot?

All of the above: Jane Austen I came to late, but love; George Eliot's "Middlemarch" is a favorite; and hey, I quoted T.S. Eliot a few posts back, I can't be dissing him now.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

American fiction. I didn't even finish "Huckleberry Finn". That's how bad it is.

23) What is your favorite novel?

I don't really have one. I have about 25 favorites. And don't worry, I'm not going to list them here. Each favorite is so special that I couldn't rank it.

24) Play?

Not sure, I'm not that into plays. We just saw "Endgame" (Samuel Beckett) though and damn that was some good stuff.

25) Poem?

I haven't read as much poetry as I'd like. I really like W.B. Yeats and what I've read of T.S. Eliot.

26) Essay?

I like Joan Scott's "Gender as a Category of Historical Analysis"... it's smart and well-constructed as an essay in my opinion. Not sure it's my favorite but it's what I thought of.

27) Short story?

The Bank Robbery by Steven Schutzman. Gotta agree with FG on this one. (And don't go pressing any alarm buttons or I'll blow your head off.)

28) Work of nonfiction?

Judith Butler, "Gender Trouble"

29) Who is your favorite writer?

See answer for novels above.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

Oh, what a mean question.

31) What is your desert island book?

"Ulysses" by James Joyce. I know I could get more each time. As it is, I don't have time for even a second round.

32) And… what are you reading right now?

My own fucking dissertation. (Oops, did I say that?)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Red Letter Day

Friday was a red letter day for me: I changed the oil in my own car for the very first time.

First off, I have to say I was incredibly fortunate to have the generous guidance of a genuine Butch Big Sister aka Dawn on MDI. (Not my real sister, of course. I don't even have a sister. I'm being Metaphorical here.) Anyway, Dawn provided extensive consultation on the question of tools and preparation, and told me to call her once I had the car jacked up and ready to go.

It's going to be difficult to convey here how off the charts excited I was. When I bought the tools & equipment, it was like freakin' Christmas. Only better. I sat on the floor and sorted out the sockets and the various wrenches and everything. The night before the big day, I literally couldn't sleep, I kept waking up and thinking: I'm going to change my own oil tomorrow. With my own tools.

On the morning itself, FG and I drove out to her sister's house (we don't have a driveway, and FG's sister kindly offered the use of hers). While the engine cooled off I washed her sister's car. Then I got out the jack and the owner's manual and I worked out how to jack one side of the car up. When I got my pair of brand-new jack stands out, though, I hit an obstacle: the directions said to place the stand in an appropriate spot. What the heck did that mean? I couldn't put it in the jacking location, because the jack was there. I looked around under the car but nothing seemed quite right. I wasted a lot of time on this mystery, and eventually Dawn wondered what had happened to me and she called me. She agreed that "an appropriate location" is like "bake until done": if you haven't done it, you just have no clue. With her help I positioned the stand under the axle, did the other side, and then I was ready to go.

Now, FG's eyes kept glazing over when I described the blow-by-blow of the oil change, and she was a captive audience. You, dear readers, are less captive, so I'll spare you the details: searching for the oil filter, using my socket wrench for the first time ever, learning the relationship between a gasket and a washer. One moment stands out in my mind: when I'd finally found the filter, and I loosened it with my hand. BBS had warned me, "This is the part where you get dirty," and she was right: when it came loose, there was dirty oil all over my hand and running down my arm. I was lying under the car at this point, my back on the damp sandy gravel of the driveway, the cool spring breeze contrasting with the warmth of the oil, and I have to tell you, I was just about transcendentally happy at that moment.

I have to give major props to Dawn. After a lifetime of being made to feel like I'm about to break something or get in the way or generally cause a disaster, her guidance made me feel reassured and competent. She threw in useful little remarks like, don't worry if you drop the drain plug into the oil pan, it's not the end of the world and it happens to lots of people. (Luckily, I didn't.) And even when it took me forever to find the oil filter, she didn't get impatient. (Or, she didn't let on if she was impatient, anyway.) I'm so used to acting tough and figuring stuff out on my own--acquiring knowledge and competence painfully and in secret and only showing the world when I'm 110% sure of myself--and this wasn't like that at all, and it made an awfully nice change. Not to mention, I'm dying to go for some long drives so I can do it again.