Archive | navel-gazing RSS feed for this section

We Do Not

11 Apr

We do not wear halter tops. We do not wear sleeveless shirts or dresses without cardigans, blazers or shrugs. If we do, we feel eyes heavy on our backs and our chests and we cringe and blush and try to cover ourselves with our hands, to no avail. We no longer wear that beautiful silk shirt whose ruffles are so heavy that they pull the neckline down too low. We shall no longer wear cowlnecks for that same reason. We do not ever wear tank tops.

We do not wear skirts that are higher than a fingers’ length above the knee. We rarely wear skirts anyway. We do not wear heels above three inches. We never wear heels anyway. We do not wear jangly earrings, even though the tinkling sound of metal on metal near our ears always reminded us of wind chimes on sunny spring days. We do not wear glitter, even if it makes us feel like the night sky.

We do not wear our pajamas to the grocery store. We do not wait at bus stops in our bathrobes. We do not go barefoot in public. We are appropriately ashamed of our chipped toenail polish. We do not line our eyes in kohl, or paint flowers on our cheeks. We do not skip. We do not run. We in no uncertain terms do not do cartwheels. We never glue gemstones to our faces.

We do not wear shorts. We do not laugh too loudly or for too long. We do not interrupt. We do not look up. We do not stride, or stand up too straight, or take up too much room in our chairs. We do not make eye contact first, and we look away and down quickly, blushing, feeling a rush of shame and anxiety as we pass strangers in hallways. We do not walk a straight line through a crowd.

Soundtrack for junior high

14 Dec

There comes a time in everyone’s lives where we have to stop listening to Dad’s record player and Mom’s piano and develop our Very Own Taste in Modern Music. For me, this happened in middle school. Sure, I also worked on maintaining my love of post-1965 Beatles and early 19th-century Beethoven, but around about the 7th grade, I began receiving music from outside sources – friends, boys and other bad influences.

Here’s some stuff I started listening to then:

I first learned of Tom Petty via a mixtape. Then, a boy gave me “Wildflowers” on cassette. It’s hard to choose a favorite from that album, especially with so much creepy fodder like “Cabin Down Below,” “Honey Bee” and “House in the Woods,” but here’s one (of the many) I dug:

Much later, I would make a foray to a faraway city to see Tom Petty live with a selection of friends given to shenanigans. Naturally, shenanigans ensued.

My nascent love of Tori also began in middle school with a mixtape with two Tori songs on it. First, “Mr. Zebra” which is quirky and therefore suited my pubescent misfit image well:

And second, Caught a Light Sneeze, which is just awesome. I can’t find a video or audio clip of the studio version, so you’ll just have to imagine it. Tori would also be my first concert, which I went to with my dad, as I was too young to drive, or even have friends who could drive.

What middle school girl’s music list would be complete without some Cranberries, huh? I purchased not one but TWO Cranberries tapes with my allowance money at the local emporium after listening to some on, you guessed it, a mixtape. Here’s one from “No Need to Argue” (no, it’s not “Zombie.” Why is that the only song anyone remembers from the Cranberries?):

The Cure’s Lovesong, which I also bought on casette:

Much later I discovered Tori’s cover of Lovesong and almost died of awesomeness.

Bonus track: My favorite Beethoven song (cliche, sure, but it’s popular for a reason):

There was a lot of other really horrible stuff I listened to, but this is the stuff that stuck in my mind, and wasn’t too humiliating to post on the internet. What did you listen to when you were a youngin?

On Winning: Magazine Quizzes, Self-Knowledge and Being Bossy

29 Nov

While I was holed up over the Thanksgiving holiday (it is a family tradition to barricade ourselves in a tastefully decorated bunker designed to withstand 9 out of 10 potential apocalypse scenarios for several days while testing the limits of our sanity), I flipped through pages and pages of O, the Oprah Magazine. My mom stashed them under the guest bed so that I’d have some light reading to pass the time after my daily gavage.

Me, on a good day.

In one of the O’s, I found a little magazine quizzie. Amazingly, it was not designed to help you determine your flirting style, or choose which thigh is the fattest. It was supposed to tell you what your passion is, or your life’s purpose, or some such equally ridiculous thing. It starts off innocuously enough, asking you what you wanted to be when you grew up, and then requires you to recruit a friend to figure out your strengths, etc. Naturally, as I was alone in the dark in a room, I skipped all that and went straight to the “what motivates you?” part, where it became immediately apparent that I am insanely competitive.*

Now, this may surprise you, gentle readers, as I seem pretty laid-back, right?** I despise team sports, which are normally a refuge and an outlet for the hypercompetitive. I don’t work on Wall Street or in sales, but nevertheless, my motivate-y quiz’s results don’t lie: my main motivator is not, as previously suspected, forging deep friendships or amassing huge quantities of money, it is Accomplishing Impressive Things and Kicking the Asses of Others. Perhaps it’s tied to my misanthropy. Who knows. I do suspect there is a grain of truth in there, though I am a titch disappointed my results didn’t show that my main motivator is a quest for Truth with a capital T.

In any case, since I’ve been thinking about my List of Doom and motivation in general, I’m now stuck with the task of finding worthy competitive opponents for My Life. Thing is, I can’t compete with just anyone. There needs to be moderate enmity. It’s most effective when tucked behind a façade of friendship. In short, my relationship with my Competitrix needs to be a little… twisted.

Little-known fact: I am obsessed with LiLo.

Example: Back in school, one of my friends and I had a falling out. Before we patched things up, we were in a math class together. I aced the class, in large part due to the fact that I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing me fall behind. Twisted, right? Whatever. This is the internet. Judge if you want, but you’re the one sitting alone in a dark room reading this.

Anyway. I don’t have fights of that caliber with a lot of people – and therefore suffer a dearth of worthy foes. This is probably a good thing, but barring participation in the classic competitive arenas of team sports, sales, high school or foot races, I really have no idea how to compete. There is always the whole “competing with yourself” idea, which seems to have worked out well enough for my burgeoning running habit, but it so far has failed to deliver any brag-worthy achievements – no marathons, no relay races, no real visible notches other than a pretty damn efficient cardiovascular system.

Barring claws-concealed competition with frenemies, one motivator I’ve found no shortage of over the years is The Naysayer: people telling me I can’t or shouldn’t do something. Nothing like proving an a**hole wrong to make you feel alive, am I right? Examples and their results:

     Challenge: “You can’t be a vegetarian in Southern Oregon.”
     Results: Was veg for 10+ years.

     Challenge: “You’re a girl. You can’t run alone on the streets. Especially not when it’s dark out. You will definitely be raped and killed.”
     Results: Ran 8 miles a day at O’Dark-Thirty with no incident for years. Then got a gym membership to continue doing same, but near a heater.

     Challenge: “You can’t get into an Ivy League school.”
     Results: Done.

Some recent/pending challenges:

  • “You’re not built for upper-body strength, and will never do a pull-up.”
  • “Ballet is an impractical skill.” “You’ll never catch up to people who took lessons in childhood.”
  • “Your meetup groups are stupid and laughable.”
  • “You can’t take an aerial class because of your back injury.”

What kinds of things have people told you you couldn’t do over the years? Did it motivate you to do them anyway? Who do you compete against or with?

*Actually, the results were “you are highly motivated by Influence and Accomplishment.” Translation: I’m bossy and I like to win. Duh.
**More likely: I like to think I’m laid back, but in actuality am not laid back at all. Case in point: I once had some roommates that redecorated the living room without consulting me first. I had to be carefully talked down from throttling them with the full force of my lack of upper-body strength.

The Evolution of Dance: Part One

27 Sep

I, like millions of other little girls, grew up dreaming of being a prima ballerina. I wanted to dance so badly I could taste it. As soon as I was able, I began checking out the same three books about ballet from the library over and over and over, poring over each page, each photo, each dance step tutorial. My favorite was about a deaf girl who danced, keeping the beat of the music by feeling the vibrations through the floor. I kept reading, and soon I had every position memorized and practiced, knew that my toes were well-constructed for one day going en pointe, and began using my dresser as a ballet barre. I begged my parents to send me to lessons – reasoning it was only fair that I take ballet, as my brother took baseball and we should each be allowed to have one extracurricular hobby.

I loved everything about ballet: the dancers’ strong, long limbs; their high, tight chignons; the grand pianos in the practice rooms; their romantic performance skirts; their utter fanaticism – skipping high school to study dance, shipping their preadolescent selves off to Russia to become the very best at a dying art, eschewing the pubescent party scene to practice plies and pirouettes.

Little did I know that while Little League is nearly free, ballet lessons are expensive. I took a single year of classes before my parents gave up the budgetary ghost, during which I learned many useful facts:

  • Pirouetting to the left is harder than to the right
  • Tights + leg hair = itchy
  • I am more flexible than the average person, but not more flexible than the average ballerina
  • I have a perfect point
  • If part of your Halloween costume as Pippi Longstocking involves wire hangers in your braids, and you don’t have time to change before class, your braids will scrape the wall during your barre work, and probably leave a mark

The most important lesson I learned, though – imparted to me personally by Madame Instructor herself, a wizened old woman and an expedient disciplinarian – was that I simply did not have, and would never have, the “body type” of a real ballerina. It’s hard to fathom how the teacher could have possibly drawn any conclusions about my suitability for – or interest in – an adult career in professional dance based off of my 9-year-old body, but there you have it. And thus one of the many seeds of body hatred was sown in my innocent little mind. I was not thin enough, not rich enough, not good enough for the one thing I wanted more than anything else: to dance, dance, dance.

… to be continued

In order to lighten the mood after that depressing little tale (to be continued at a later date, I promise), here’s some darn good dancin’ muzak, which is very likely among the songs I was listening to right before I rocked the mic like a vandal and wrote this:

Appropriately schoolgirl-y, no? Interestingly, I had no idea this song was a) popular, and b) had a video until I tried looking it up for this post. I’m still not sure if the above is the “official” video or not, but the one about the underdog soccer team winning a game seemed a bit more appropriate for y’all than the one of the strung-out ladies mooning over men in suits while writhing in lingerie.

So, were there any evil grown-ups in your childhood life that tried to squash your dreams for no good reason? Did you ever wear a Halloween costume to ballet class (what was I thinking?! But how awesome is Pippi Longstocking? Answer: 12 on the 10-point awesomesauce scale.)? And do you remember a particular moment when your self-image (body- or otherwise) was thoroughly cemented in your wee childlike mind?

Today’s post brought to you by the letters F, A and G

7 Sep

Years ago, when I was but a young budding queer lady, I worked quite hard on my queer getup. As a long-haired makeup-wearing be-skirted member of the female gender, previously in possession of a beloved boyfriend, my street cred was constantly in question. I showed up to parties populated by lezzies and received cold shoulders and withering stares – one alpha lesbian would often ask, very much within earshot, “Who invited her?”

Not being accepted by my own damn peer group was a new and deeply unpleasant experience, so I immediately set to work lesbonifying myself. I remember one outfit in particular that was a hit – army green shortalls (crotch cut out so it was more like a minidress with a bib), ripped fishnets, green combat boots, tube top. Even when attempting to be butch, I still couldn’t stop myself from adding things like tights and tube tops to the equation.

I no longer have to prove myself in this way, partly due to the fact that I’ve been dating women for so long that everyone has accepted that I am not some kind of Benedict Arnold. But the rejection I experienced still smarts – and it still exists in gay communities everywhere for non-mainstream queers. Just try changing your gender, or being bisexual, and watch as your previously-accepting social circle turns their backs.

Melanie from silly wrong but vivid right* has smart things to say (and good advice) about lesbian fashion, and how mandatory aesthetic conformity is just plain backward, so read on:

Hey, Sarah’s blog friends :) so you may remember, a short while ago, Sarah wrote a guest post on my blog. Well, here I am, returning the … I was going to say favour, but actually it was a privilege to have Sarah write a blog for me, and it’s a privilege to appear on hers. I’ve known, and admired the lovely Sarah for her writing for many years now (how time flies!) and am excited that our wee blog worlds can cross like this.

I was a little stuck on which angle to go with, and so asked Sarah for a little guidance, and this is what she said:

“How does being “femme” change your lesbian identity? (or something like that). You know, how do you deal with people who assume you are straight, or other lesbians who questions your “street cred” because you dress in girly getups, etc.”

So here’s my attempt at a response:

“I need to go shopping” I said to my friend Jo. She is the leader in all things fashionable, and she’s one of my few straight friends. Actually, she’s the fiancée of my Very Best Friend Ever, Chris. What I believe Americans would call a BFF? I learned that from Paris Hilton. Already, I’m digressing. I shouldn’t write blogs on Monday mornings.

So for the short while that I lived with Chris and Jo a few months back, I was well dressed. Jo works in events and so therefore ‘knows’ all the right people, and often attends fashionable parties in the city on roof tops with hot tubs. She wouldn’t ever wear the same dress twice. Her wardrobe is immense! Whenever I was off out for the night, she’d send me in to it to pick something. Thanks be to the lord that we are the same size.

I often try to manufacture my look a little too much, rather than just going with instincts. Quite often, while getting dressed, I’d ask her opinion:

“Jo, do I look too lesbian?”
“Melanie, you are a lesbian.”
“Jo, do I look too girly?”
“Melanie, you are a girl.”

It’s hard work, being a girl, and a lesbian all at once.

Back to the original point though – over cocktails one night a few weeks back, I mentioned that I needed to shop. She waited for me to suggest a time and place, and I had to tell her that this wasn’t one for her. The intention of this shopping trip was to lesbonify myself.

Manchester Pride (also known as ‘Gay Christmas’) was fast approaching, and just a couple of nights before I’d had to defend my lesbian status to a gay guy, in a bar called G-A-Y (!!) who then went and retrieved one of his ‘proper’ lesbian friends to get confirmation that “this one’s straight, yeah?” The girl with the Ice-White-funky-Mohawk/Mullet-combo confirmed. Despite my shaking my head at her in a very disapproving manner. She was hot – but she pissed me off.

I think I may have been born without the chip that sets other peoples gaydars off, and the fact that I like to wear makeup and pretty clothes doesn’t do a lot to help this. I should mention that my gaydar is finely tuned, and quite often I spot the ones disguised as ‘real girls’.

But, for Pride, I intended to get chatted up. I was going to give in, and put on the uniform. Jo was having none of this, she didn’t want to hear my protests, and told me that I shouldn’t ugly myself up to get a girl. Her words, not mine. Chris also chimed in with a little wisdom; “Mel, dress for your personality, not your sexuality.” I know, I know. I hate it when other people are right. Because to be honest, I’m not going to feel myself, or beautiful, wearing clothes that aren’t my style. I walk taller, with a straighter back and my legs look better in heels. In stompy boots, I stomp, I swagger. My tummy looks bigger. Stop laughing, it’s true.

Years ago, I had a big drove of babbling gay boy friends, who I used to go out and misbehave with every weekend. I was often assumed to be their Fag Hag. I bought myself a little black vest top, and some iron-on diamantes, and emblazoned the top with the letters F, A and G. People didn’t get it.

This seems archaic to me, to write all of this. Lipstick Lesbos (ugh, I really, really hate that term!) … beautiful lesbians, have been around for so long now, they exist in hoards, I know loads of them, they are everywhere. Lesbians are no longer only overweight butchies with crew cuts and neck ties, who will only ever be seen darkened in bars far off the beaten track. We now exist in the form of beauties such as Portia de Rossi (who I’m pretty sure the world is still waiting on to get over her ‘phase’.) Shows such as The L Word and Lip Service show us lesbians in the image that they really are – diverse. So I can’t work out why it is that my own community have a problem with accepting my sexuality without me wearing it like a badge. Straight people, although often with a flicker of surprise, don’t seem to have the same problem when I reveal myself to them – but the gayers; they just don’t get it.

I get the cultural/sociological thing; that people need to ‘belong’ to their group, that their identity is as a part of that group and that they want to wear this on the outside, to be recognised by others for their ‘belonging’ – but surely we’ve moved on from that? Surely with the ‘out and proud’ diversity that exists in the more civilised parts of the world today, we can all just be who we are without having to learn secret bloody handshakes?

Sexuality should be about just that; sexuality, not fashion. There is only one thing that makes me gay, and that’s the fact that I’m attracted to women. I’ll keep on with that line of thought in that hope that others will too, and that this changing world will continue to evolve in to something that allows us to remain the individuals that we are.

And wear high heels.

* My mysterious and hip British pen pal – she sends me handwritten letters! That means, among other things, that she is nearly single-handedly propping up the US Postal Service, for which we should all be grateful.

Additional VERY IMPORTANT but completely unrelated footnote:  It is exactly one month until my birthday. AHEM. Just so you know.

Never have I ever…

24 Aug

One of my favorite parlor games is called “I Never.” If you don’t know it, let me explain. It’s a ghastly sophomoric thing sometimes involving playing cards and always involving drinking. The basic premise is you say something you’ve never done, like riding a roller coaster or visiting India, and everyone else at the table who HAS done that thing has to take a drink.

The key is choosing something you’ve never done that is embarrassing or titillating for the other people at the table to admit – bonus points if you know some of their secrets and can choose something provocative. Then the entire table will be sitting there, drinks in hand, while that lone one or two guzzle their beverages and alternate between smirking and looking sheepish. Then they turn around and do the same to you.

It sounds insipid, but it’s delightful, I tell you! And certainly not the sort of thing that Real Grownups do at Real Grownup Gatherings. But I love it to pieces, and will be a very sad panda when I’m eventually forced to give up these types of shenanigans in exchange for sophisticated wine and cheese parties where no one gets drunk, no one cries and no one sneaks up behind anyone else to practice their dirty dancing moves.

So in honor of my favorite parlor game, here are a few things I’ve never done (complete with footnotes!). Please raise your glass if you’ve done any of them (and also leave a comment!):

  • I’ve never been outside of the North and Western hemispheres
  • I’ve never had a surprise birthday party thrown for me
  • I’ve never had a going-away party thrown for me*
  • I’ve never broken a bone
  • I’ve never ridden on a train
  • I’ve never eaten a bloomin’ onion
  • I’ve never been to Disneyland**
  • I’ve never had a threesome
  • I’ve never fire-danced
  • I’ve never done a pull-up
  • I’ve never lived anywhere but the West Coast, USA
  • I’ve never been terribly interested in organized team sports
  • I’ve never been skydiving
  • I’ve never liked steak, marshmallows or coconut
  • I’ve never done body shots. Leastwise, I don’t recall ever doing them.
  • I’ve never gotten a tattoo (much to my mum’s delight)
  • I’ve never walked out on a job
  • I’ve never been in a fistfightǂ

*  Not unsurprisingly, I have thrown many surprise parties and going-away parties for others; and one surprise going-away party
** No interest in going at this point – though of course growing up in California, I thought this was pure criminality
ǂ Outside of the time my boxing teacher accidentally hit me in the face and knocked out my contact lens

Seven Sad Songs

28 Jul

It’s not all rainbows, sunshine and unicorns here, people! I was in the throes of making mix CDs and noticed how many of my favorite tunes are about forbidden love/heartbreak – which isn’t difficult since so many songs are about that – and decided to share a selection with you. I think these are a very particular brand of forbidden love/heartbreak songs, don’t you?

1. Love Song (Tori Amos covering The Cure)

It just so happens that this one is my very favorite song of all time. Which is odd, considering I typically don’t have favorite anythings (although I am known to have favorite pants from time to time). Anyway, The Cure’s version is really great, but Tori’s version is transcendental.

2. With Every Heartbeat (Robyn)

Robyn was in my town this past weekend! I missed it because I was busy doing this, which makes me sound a lot cooler than I am.

3. Sophisticated Lady (Cat Power covering Duke Ellington)

Apparently I have a thing for covers that make you want to slit your wrists. I mean, seriously. They oughta outlaw this song it’s that good.

4. Bells for Her – Tori Amos (Trip Hop/Depressing Mix)

I really have no idea who remixed this. The “trip hop/depressing remix” is what it’s called in my iTunes library, which I named to differentiate it from the 12 gajillion other versions I have of the song Bells For Her. Rad song on its own, add slow remixiness and you get something great to drink to while sitting on your kitchen floor looking forlorn.

5. Siren – Tori Amos

Another Tori song! Aren’t I just a walking cliché? Technically this song may not really be about forbidden love or heartbreak. It could be about vanilla or teenage flesh or coquettes or… wait, no, I was right the first time.

6. St. Swithin’s Day – Dubstar covering Billy Bragg

I am apparently not allowed to own this song in the U.S., which is a bummer. And, what is it with me and covers anyway?

7. Romeo & Juliet – Amy Ray covering Mark Knopfler

You didn’t think I’d let you go without forcing you to listen to my favorite half of the Indigo Girls, did you? And that concludes this week’s edition of sad songs and covers!

What’s your favorite cover? What’s your favorite sad song? What’s your favorite song about forbidden love? Heartbreak? Share, share, share!




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 59 other followers