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?