Friday, 27 March 2009

Wanting Too Much

I just finished reading Holden's review of a new soft packer. I felt a familiar back and forth tug in my gut reading it, a private longing mixed with an even more private warning: you want that too much. Don't get it, because once you have it, you won't be able to let it go. And that will make you vulnerable.

I'm surprised in a way that I still feel this tug, this wanting too much. And I'm surprised at how often and at when, or over what. It's such an old, old feeling.

I had a sense, growing up, of the person I really was, and the person that I had to be: two very different people. One was just me, inside, mostly masculine and maybe even male, maybe not, depended on the day. (It still does.) And then there was the little girl (and later the teenage girl, and later still, kind of sort of very briefly, the woman), the one whose name I had to answer to, whose role I had to play.

And sometimes there would be things that the real me would want, things that were appropriate to the real me in some way. And those things were the things I wanted too much. I was afraid that if I got those things, I would not be able to hide myself any longer. I would be too obvious because letting those things go would hurt too much.

I read a line somewhere, and I really wish I could remember where. It was in a work of fiction but I don't even remember the circumstance, only that it dealt with some kind of personal loss that had been repeated in a character's life. And the author wrote that each loss cut some vital thing in that character, and that there would come a time when that thing, maybe the analogy was to a thread reaching out to others, would not grow back. It was so much more beautiful than this but as you see I don't remember enough even to google it. Anyway it is one of the few instances I can recall of completely breaking down and just sobbing over a single image, a single sentence.

I was afraid that if I wanted those things, and got them, and lost them, something in me would die like that and never come back.

I vividly recall the first time I really, truly overcame that feeling. There had been sneaky, backdoor exceptions, times when my vigilance was down and I got the hot men's shoes, or times when FG somehow saw the conflicted longing in my eyes and bought me the cufflinks or whatever. But the first time I really overcame the tugging warning about wanting too much was a little over a year ago now, back in England.

We were in a department store and FG was shopping for bras. I was bored senseless, of course, wandering around and around the lingerie section and I forget, whatever else was on that floor--women's shoes? Accessories? Something like that. She was taking a long time, and she came back out at one point and said she'd need to exchange some sizes and was going back into the fitting room. And somehow, maybe the boredom was so bad it broke down my defenses, but something in me admitted that what I wanted to do was to take the escalator upstairs to the men's department.

I fought inwardly on the ride up, and rationalized. I needed something better to wear, now that we had befriended another... at the time, I would have thought, lesbian or female couple, now I would describe them as another butch/femme couple. I could buy a shirt to wear the next time we went out with them. That's all I was doing.

I knew I was lying. By the time I reached the top of the escalator I was nearly hyperventilating. My heart was pounding audibly as I walked over to the dress shirts and began looking at them. Maybe people will think I'm shopping for my boyfriend, I thought. I looked through the colors, wondered what size I was. After a while I chose the smallest size in a handsome stripe and brought it downstairs, where FG was just coming out of the lingerie section.

I told her I thought I would buy it. She looked at me, quietly, waiting. I was waiting, too, for her to tell me to put it back. I offered to put it back. I temporized about the price. I said I didn't really need to have it. She took it out of my hands, checked with the clerk that it could be returned, and bought it for me.

When we got home, and I put it on, I knew why I had been afraid of wanting it so much. Once I had it on, I knew I could never wear any of my other shirts ever again. I felt like myself, in real time, in actual space, in living color. It didn't hurt to be me, wearing that shirt.

Since that day I have gotten a lot of things that I have wanted too much. But that desperate longing can still rise in me and constrict my throat and surprise me. What's changed now is that I try to pay attention, not to run away, but to trust that I've grown strong enough not to lose that fundamental thing, my own self, no matter what else gets taken from me along the way.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Props to the Single Parents

I'm almost done with the house-sitting gig here. Fish still mouthing along at me, so nothing new to report there. I've been doing this mostly solo, with FG spending occasional nights, but mostly it's been my thing. (Which I can't complain about since I want to spend all the money I'm earning, too! Starting with some car-fixin' wrenches...)

One thing that's occurred to me more than once is how insanely hard it must be to be a single parent living on their own with kids. I'm a big animal lover, and these are nice ones, too. They have their own quirks but they're good critters. But when the dogs start whining to go on their morning walk and it feels like about ten minutes since I went to bed... or when they just. won't. stop. barking at the mysterious raccoon or zombie or whatever lives in the tree outside at night, I feel seriously on the verge of losing it. And I think, well, it's just for x more days, it's ok. And I keep it cool. But honestly, single parents of the world? You have my admiration. You always did, but now you really, really do. (I know dogs are not the same as kids. But frustration and sleeplessness and housebound isolation... there are some similarities in those experiences, I think.)

I made my own jambalaya last night! Round of applause for Chef MacCool? To be honest, it was just a jambalaya mix plus veggie sausages but still I feel pleased with myself. It even tasted good. And on the topic of food, does anyone else love the hot cross buns that they sell in the grocery stores this time of year? I've had posh ones and foreign ones but the New England grocery store ones rock my world.

Time to take the dogs for a walk. I'll try to write again before *next* Wednesday.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Scraping Off the Rust

I'm still alive and I think I remember how to blog something besides memes. Maybe. I'm a little rusty. Like my brakes were...

Spring seems to be arriving with torturous slowness this year. Last year I was stunned by the sudden arrival of flowers and light at the end of the dark, damp English winter. Still waiting here in New England.

I'm housesitting for some relatives. Their fish watches me eat, mouthing along in sympathy. What do fish think about, floating in their little glass cages? One of the cats stalks up silently and stares at me until I sense his presence by the force of his gaze. This was particularly disturbing when I was in the bathtub, and then there were cat eyes sort of peering over the edge at me.

I went to a new mechanic this week and got the rust scraped off my rear brakes. Thank you, winter. Navigating the world of cars & mechanics & all that is a bit of a big deal to me. I started driving young (like barely legal) and was responsible for my own car in high school (a hand-me-down). Then I spent a bunch of years living in the city sans vehicle. We've had this car since 2004.

Car expertise is one of those things I've always felt stressed about. I was sort of thrown in at the deep end as a teenager... my dad and I weren't talking all that much, my stepdad doesn't know much of anything about cars (he's a great guy, but seriously, he didn't even realize that it is in fact possible to overinflate tires...), my mom considered it my problem to sort it out. Which I kind of did but not very well. When we got the car we have now I did the basics, read the owner's manual for instance, and even asked both my dad and my uncle (who's a mechanic, though one who lives very far away) to show me the basics of easy DIY maintenance. They both said sure and then avoided the topic like the plague thereafter.

Obviously competence with cars is a major marker of masculine expertise in our culture. I felt for a long time like I was being specifically, systematically excluded from figuring cars out, and like with a lot of things, I gave up for a long stretch there in my mid-twenties. But now that the car itself is getting to be of a certain age, and I'm no longer willing to cede the masculine expertise I want to have, I'm starting to take a new approach. Like losing the crappy dealership service department that never really fixed anything properly anyway. If the weather ever warms up, I'm going to wax the car, taking advantage of having a driveway this week, and I'm going to do it with pride. Who knows, one of these days I might even change my own air filter. Time to scrape off another layer of shame & limitation.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

More Mindless Fun

This is a meme to cheer me up. It made laugh when I saw it on B's blog and it made me laugh when I tried it. And it's rainy and I'm generally proving the point that I'm more trouble than I'm worth, so, mindless fun blog meme to the rescue it is.

1. Take your cell phone.
2. Open your txt messege inbox.
3. Answer the questions with a first sentence of the txt messege that has arrived.
4. Question 1 - First sentence from the first messege.
5. Question 2 - First sentence from the second messege, etc...

1. What would you say if your significant other was unfaithful?
Maybe when you get home we can make it a reality?
2. What do you always say to your best friend?
No work on subway [That's right, friends. Don't sleep there either.]
3. What is first thing you say when your friend is hit by a bus?
Nice train guy exchanged my pass! [That's rather callous, isn't it?]
4 What is the worst thing you could say to your enemy?
Hey [Leo] give me a call when you have a free minute. [Because talking on the phone with me is sheer torture, of course.]
5 What does your mother say before you go to sleep?
Sounds good! [tough to recall, but I'm pretty sure she never said this before I went to sleep.]
6 What would you scream if you won over a million in lottery?
Cool, will come get me?
7 What would you say to God if you met him/her?
3 17. [That should confuse the deity plenty. Unless God=St. Patrick.]
8 What would you like to hear the most?
Love you stud [Well, yes. Yes indeed.]
9 What will be your last words?
3 days!!! [Because apparently I think I'm going to be resurrected in a modern-day version of the Easter story? I really do have a complex.]

And I tag... Jess! (I'm really never going to forget, buddy. You're stuck with me tagging you til doomsday.)

Sunday, 8 March 2009

New Post Rising: Joey's Meme

Well, time flies when your honey's home. (And you attract more flies with honey than vinegar, but that's neither here nor there.) While I've been neglecting this blog, LL Cool Joe not only invented his own meme, but tagged me, too.

From Joey's Pad:

1. You've got to post a link from the person who tagged you.
2. List 8 things that you know about on your chosen subject. You get to choose the subject.
3. You don't have to tag anyone but you can if you want. If you do, let them know on their blog that they've been tagged.
4. List the rules.

He adds: "So the idea is to write 8 things about a subject, eg. your job, marriage, sexuality, a hobby, diet, sport etc. that sheds light on the subject from your own personal perspective. So for example if you teach, you list some of the "inside" knowledge that you've gained, making your work more interesting or successful."

It took me a little while to think of what I might be able to write about here. I settled on writing about a hobby that I've neglected recently (much like the blog) but that I'd like to pick up again to some extent: making bread.

I took up breadmaking when I was in college. I read that John Lennon started baking bread in his post-Beatles life, and it sounded kind of cool and hip and non-stereotypically masculine to me. Then I read Salman Rushdie's "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" and one of the main characters, Ormus Kama, also bakes bread, heaps and heaps of fluffy white bread. Ormus is an insanely sexy rock star that I identified with strongly in the book. He's in love with Vina Apsara, a mysterious, strong-willed singer who is both his soul mate and yet ever elusive.

But enough about the book. The point is, I decided baking bread was an appealing hobby and I took it up. And here are eight things I know about it.

1. You don't need an exact recipe to make bread. In fact, it's almost impossible to write one. This is because flour is very affected by humidity, so the amount of liquid you need to flour varies a lot. Some people try to get around this by weighing ingredients, but to me, that misses the point. I love that you can take the basic ingredients and combine them in a million different ways until the dough looks and tastes right, and get a different but tasty result each time.

2. You can make bread with just flour, salt, water, and yeast. Well, technically, you could leave the salt out, but it wouldn't taste very good.

3. Yeast is a microorganism. People often say they're intimidated by baking with yeast. But, I like the analogy I found somewhere that yeast is easy if you remember to treat it like you should treat yourself. Keep it about body temperature. If you put too much fat in the bread, the yeast gets sluggish and slow, and it takes a longer time for the dough to rise. If you add too much sugar, the yeast gets hyper and eats and multiplies like crazy, but also tends to die off fast. It's better to give it a more balanced diet. The analogy ends though when you bake the bread and kill the yeast off.

4. Bread is done when you can knock on the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow.

5. It's hard to get homemade bread to taste like bakery Italian or French breads. At the bakery, they have special steam-injected ovens which help to get the crust that crunchy, shiny texture. There are a lot of home substitutions but I've never gotten one to work. After dumping ice water into a tempered glass casserole dish in the bottom of the hot oven, and having shards of glass spray everywhere, I decided that I could buy bakery bread at the bakery. Homemade bread has its own virtues and special taste.

6. You can freeze bread dough. But, the yeast dies off over time. So you should add extra yeast at the start.

7. My favorite bread cookbook is King Arthur Flour Company's baking cookbook. I learned a lot of what I know in that book. Plus the recipes are good and an excellent base for experimentation.

8. It's really, really cool to see the bread dough expand in size over time during the rising process. It goes fastest in a warm environment, like a sunny windowshelf or near the heater. On the other hand you can also slow it down, for instance making dough in the morning and sticking it to rise in the fridge all day.

I'm going to tag some folks now. Eight, I guess, one for each fact. But feel free to play along if it looks like fun.
MLC (pottery maybe? I'm so fascinated by your art.)
Saint Chick

This is a very old picture from my first foray into bread-making (and my first short hair cut, oddly enough).