Saturday, 21 February 2009

To Do List: Tomorrow

1. Wash the car. (I can hear the salt eating it, even though it's parked up the street.)
2. Go grocery shopping. Buy flowers, too.
3. Make dinner.
4. Straighten house: especially, remove weights from the middle of the living room floor.
5. Drive to the airport and PICK UP FREEDOMGIRL!

I'll leave #6 to your imagination.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

What About the Body, Leo?

It's a real treat, when reading Judith Butler's books, to encounter her rare, telling autobiographical asides. One of my favorites is in the Preface to Bodies That Matter. She describes being repeatedly asked, "What about the materiality of the body, Judy?" and reflects: "I took it the addition of 'Judy' was an effort to dislodge me from the more formal 'Judith' and to recall me to a bodily life that could not be theorized away. There was a certain exasperation in the delivery of that final diminutive, a certain patronizing quality which (re)constituted me as an unruly child, one who needed to be brought to task, restored to that bodily being which is, after all, considered to be most real, most pressing, most undeniable. Perhaps this was an effort to recall me to an apparently evacuated femininity .... Or perhaps someone forgot to teach me 'the facts of life'? Was I lost to my own imaginary musings as that vital conversation took place? And if I persisted in the notion that bodies were in some way constructed, perhaps I really thought that words alone had the power to craft bodies from their own linguistic substance? Couldn't someone simply take me aside?" (pp. ix-x)

How can you not love her? Apparently evacuated femininity-- I haz it too. My Butler bromance smolders on.

I thought that writing that post on sexual freedom and autonomy would be a sort of summing up. I'd take the thoughts I'd been having about sex and bodily boundaries and childhood experiences and write them out in an essay for you to read and that would be that. Instead the act of writing and maybe more than that the act of putting that up on the blog has jarred something loose deep within me. Or several things perhaps.

And then Jess and Holden and Tongue-tied wrote very thoughtfully about breasts, and even though I was considering ditching this draft post entirely, I decided to go back to it and try to say something about where I am right now in my own complicated views on bodies in general and mine in particular.

You know that picture you look at and you can see a young woman with a hat or an old lady? (No? Check it out here.) My body is a little like that to me. Sometimes I look at it and think, oh, that's me. (I'm usually dressed when I think that, if it matters. I'm usually dressed when I look, full stop.) But once in a while I look at myself and think, yikes, it's the young woman! Where did she come from?

What I mean, in part, is that the mental map I have for my own body is really different from what I think it's 'supposed' to be, according to normal sex-gender identification. When I was sixteen or so I mostly stopped wearing bras. I was super skinny then so it didn't matter that much and it was just so much more comfortable. But in fact it was more than that. One hot day, I was just wearing a button down, loose, nothing underneath. And I was standing in my mom's kitchen, talking to her and FreedomGirl, and my nose was dripping, and I lifted up my shirttail to dry it off. I thought the looks of horror were for my appalling hygiene. But no: it turned out, of course, that I had flashed them. Because to me, those weren't Breasts under there, not in the capital-B belonging to a capital-G Girl way that would have warned me to keep them covered.

When I wrote that post I thought I was putting something away. But it turned out it was more like opening the big locked chest inside me marked "Your Body," and peeking tentatively inside, trying not to be overwhelmed by the gusts of musty sorrow and pain that rushed out.

I grew up with a very embodied view of gender. By which I mean, I got the impression that your gender was marked on your body in ways that were utterly, permanently insurmountable, starting with the obvious bits but extending far beyond that. One of my very early memories is being in the front yard with my mother and seeing a person walking on the far sidewalk. The person was wearing pants and a hat, and I didn't know if they were male and female. "Oh, you can always tell by the way they walk," my mother said. "That's definitely a woman." I wanted to rebel against it but it sounded like higher law: you will never walk like a man, no matter how hard you try. Your body will betray you. The examples could be multiplied but the moral was always the same.

And sometimes this creeps up in strange ways, at strange moments. We're having brilliant sex and a voice in my head says, you pathetic sod. You're a woman and all you're doing is smashing your woman parts up against the back of a plastic cylinder strapped to your womanly hips. Stupid, messed-up sex for a stupid, messed-up woman.

To understand the import of this, you need to understand that I have never thought of myself as a woman, not in my whole life. Even as a tiny kid I never truly believed I'd grow up to be a woman. It seemed like an unlikely hypothesis that adults would occasionally drag out with a shocking lack of propriety or realism. So you know, I have some sympathy with the idea of the body as mainly linguistically constructed. (Sorry, Sublime Femme.)

I don't hate my body. I feel pretty comfortable in it on many levels. Sitting here, typing this, a little stoned on whiskey, a little wordy from loneliness, in my boots and jeans and shirt and blazer, I feel fine. I like the look of my hands on the keyboard, the skin a little rough, the knuckles and ligaments prominent, the little faded Sharpie-drawn heart that was the stamp I got for being old enough to drink on Valentine's Day. I like the feeling of the muscles in my arm, the narrowness of my back and ass where they press against the chair, my legs jutting out and then together again at the ankles. It's all ok, it feels like the home for my soul that I've always known and I'm safe and comfortable within it. It just doesn't add up to woman for me, and when someone or something makes me think it does, everything changes.

What about the body? All my life I've thought to myself, don't even go there, don't open that door, don't touch that topic. It will hurt too much and there's nothing you can do about it anyway. And I thought I was writing a post that put the finishing touches on that approach and instead I blew the whole thing to pieces.

Greetings from Sex-Starved Isolation

I've been enjoying the comments on my week of bachelorhood. I think the reality is just as gendered as the jokes, though in a different way. It's a feminist household here: we divide all the chores as evenly as possible. Basically that boils down to, I clean and she cooks. So the dishes are not piled up. In fact things are generally orderly. When I'm home alone it gets very quiet and not much gets moved around. It's almost like I'm not here, except for the music which I'm almost always playing. I got very good at being invisible when I was young, disappearing out of the realm of family to exist in my own world.

What I really can't do is feed myself. It's kind of pathological at this point. The concept of meals disappears pretty fast and I really have to remind myself to eat some kind of regular, balanced food on a daily basis. I kind of hate cooking for myself. So I eat a lot of random stuff, packaged things or just out of a bag whatever. And I either eat way too much at one go or I forget to eat entirely and wonder why I feel so weird at midnight.

FG feeds me very well and I appreciate it very much. I've noticed, though, that women in general feed me. (Though my mother is an exception. Feel free to get all armchair-psychologist with that fact.) I get offered food and drink in all sorts of situations with a special kind of soliticousness. Even women who make a point of how they don't cook feed me. And I have to admit I kind of love it. It makes me feel anchored to the earth by a sisterhood of femmes who will stand between me and self-destruction. It makes me feel cared for and looked after. I know that probably sounds sexist, women as providers of nourishment and all that. Maybe it is. But hey, I clean the bathroom and take out the trash. I'm not all bad.


Her thigh-highs arrived in the mail today. Sex starvation has set in.


The visit with my grandparents was good. The highlight was definitely helping my grandmother hang her birdhouses. (Hammers! Brackets! Ladders!) She and I had some nice conversations, too, about some of the changes in my life over the last year and about homophobia in general, to name a couple of the more memorable topics. I was surprised by how empathetic and insightful she was about it all. She's been like a mother to me in many ways, due to circumstances of my upbringing and my parents' personalities--not in a direct, daily sense but in an emotional sense.

I'm like my grandmother in a lot of ways. I always think of her when I hear that U2 song, "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." "Tough / You think you've got the stuff / You're telling me and anyone / You're hard enough" and also "I don't need / I don't need to hear you say / That if we weren't so alike / You'd like me a whole lot more." She certainly is tough, in more ways than I can list here, or would want to, considering how private she is.

She has a strong philosophy of life and she adheres to it, disregarding her own suffering if necessary, and she demands that kind of strength of character in those around her, or rather, she dismisses the weakness of those who lack it. I've called her by her first name since she asked me to stop using what she saw as a silly, sentimental title when I was five or six. I learned a lot about perservence and overcoming pain from her, and maybe some things that weren't so helpful, too, like rejecting help and refusing to forgive myself for mistakes. In recent times I've thought a lot about the negative aspects of her legacy to me, but this visit reminded me again of the good parts. It's a harsh, bleak love but it's strong and steady, too.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Bachelor Life: An Update

I was mostly kidding when I said I'd be sad, lonely, and hungry this week. Though clearly I should not kid about these things. I've even gotten an IRL offer of a care package. Do I look that helpless? (No need to answer that.)

Seriously, though, things are fine in the MacCool household. Cats are a bit suspicious but I feed them anyway usually so they're mostly keeping it cool. I munched on Thai leftovers all day yesterday and slept in the middle of the bed. Yeah, I know how to live it up. Today, the car is getting a weird noise checked out (oh let it be cheap & easy to fix) and I'm working. I've got some social engagements planned, including a trip tomorrow with my mom to see my grandparents. A bit nervous about that of course.

And FG is safely arrived at her destination which she tells me is beautiful and strange to Northeastern eyes... I think she's having a good time. And I believe her that she doesn't have cell phone service there, I really do.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Happy Valentine's Day, belated

FG and I had a pleasant Valentine's Day which for us is doing well. This is not our holiday, a fact which has become a joke between us now. One year I did pretty well, got up before she awoke and returned with fresh blackberries and blood oranges and some chocolate. Otherwise it's not been a good scene, generally speaking. Maybe we were scarred by being so deeply closeted on the High Holy Day of Gooey (Heterosexual) Romance in high school. Make that probably. I meant to write up our very worst Valentine's Day story, which involves the best of intentions and ended with a resolution never to cook squid again; maybe later this week.

This year, I made dinner on Friday night (no squid! nothing unusual at all!) and we sat and drank some wine and talked. Yesterday was mostly taken up with her preparations for her trip. She's doing an alternative-spring-break program, which means I'm a bachelor this week. (Or in other words sad, lonely, and probably hungry.) And we went out briefly to a dance party, but we weren't really feeling it, and anyway we had to get up to get her to the airport insanely early this morning.

But I did order her some very sexy thigh-highs. Looking forward to test-driving those when she's back. And she got me lovely card made by a local artist, very much Georgia O'Keeffe style erotically artistic. And inside she wrote (among other things), "Valentine's Day is super silly, but it gives me an excuse to wear fishnets all day and give you a card that looks like my bits. :) " Can you see why I'm crazy in love with this woman?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

I've Been Borrowed

by Tina for Freedom to Marry Week. You can find me doing my guest stint thing here.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Silly Music Fluff: Still Thrives This Love

Tina has a request up for advice on music--what are your top ten songs right now, basically. I think it's a great question, it's always awesome to get new music recommended to you and I think people's favorite stuff is actually pretty revealing.

In that vein, and to pop up out of my grad school funk and say hello, I present the following meme, which I'm sure everyone & their blogroll has done already, but I'm tagging Jess, of course, because I can and I always will.

What does your music library say about you?
1. Put Your iTunes on Shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write down the name of the song no matter how silly it sounds!
4. Put any comments in brackets after the song name.

What do your friends think of you?
Give Me Novacaine (Green Day) [sorry, friends. I didn't realize it was that bad...]

How would you describe yourself?
You Can't Always Get Want You Want (Rolling Stones) [um! I'm actually relatively satisfied? I mean like broadly speaking? ::moving on::]

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Fidelity (Regina Spektor) [on my honor, I'm not rigging this. But pay attention, FG!]

How do you feel today?
Drain You (Nirvana) [actually, yes. It was a fine day, but also strangely draining.]

What is your life’s purpose?
Until the End of the World (U2) [as in, immortality? Or I'm going to bring about the apocalypse?]

What is your motto?
Smalltown (Chumbawamba) [erm, no. I grew up in a small town and I like the big ones a whole lot better, thanks.]

What do you think about very often?
You (Radiohead) [aw, well of course I think about you, dear reader.]

What do you think of your best friend?
Lies (Once) [I'm not sure I have a best friend at this juncture. Several very good ones which is probably more my style anyway. Do I think lies about them? Well, not on purpose, anyway. Maybe they lie to me sometimes. No one's perfect.]

What do you think of the person you like?
The Jessica Numbers (New Pornographers) [Any Jessicas reading this? Hi! I like you!]

What is your life story?
School of Etiquette (Boyskout) [oh, too true. How sad.]

What do you want to be when you grow up?
The Day After That (Kiss of the Spider Woman) [proof I'm not rigging this. I'm not censoring the musical theater.]

What do you think of when you see the person you like?
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (U2) [on second thought, you can skip that last step]

What will you dance to at your wedding?
Simple (kd lang) [I wish we had.]

What will they play at your funeral?
When Your Mind's Made Up (Once) [no comment]

What is your hobby/interest?
Hamburg Song (Keane) [what? I'm a vegetarian! And I've never even been to Germany! And I don't even like Keane!]

What is your biggest fear?
Kurious Oranj (The Fall) [well, it does sound scary, doesn't it?]

What is your biggest secret?
Lullaby (The Cure) [now you know! I sometimes oversleep!]

What do you think of your friends?
You Can Make Him Like You (Hold Stead) [my friendships are the result of sheer force of will.]

What will you post this as?
Still Thrives This Love (kd lang)