Break It Down, Butch.

August 11, 2010

[34] A little thought.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 21:38
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Sense-memory is a funny thing. I was just making a bowl of Mexican rice for myself; I leaned over, got a faceful of spicy steam and, wham, all I could think of was JB. And, bizarrely, my brother.

That’s not quite as almost-Freudian as it sounds.

JB was the one that introduced me to Mexican food, back when I visited her for the first time in the States. We don’t really get Mexican take-away in Britain, so it was a whole new thing for me. And god almighty, it was good. I’d eat it all day, if I could.

The brother’s the same. He’s gotten into Mexican in a big way in the last few years, and he made it for me recently. (See? Not Freudian at all!)

I’ve never really run into relationship insecurity before — I figure if someone’s picked me, they’ve picked me for a reason, and I try not to doubt that — but I remember having a hell of a moment the first time I introduced the brother to JB. They’re both really similar — lean, attractive, entertaining flashy personalities, great senses of humour, etc. I’m more laid back, body conscious, ironic… And, I’ll admit, when they hit it off so brilliantly, I had a brief moment of irrational fear that they made a much better couple than JB and me. They just clicked.

That lasted about six hours, right up until JB dropped her head on my shoulder and said she was looking forward to my brother going home, because he was exhausting.

I was so relieved, I cracked up. And then explained, because JB was giving me that head-tilted ‘Why are you being insane?’ look. Then she cracked up.

I suppose there’s a moral in there somewhere — trust your loved one; don’t get daft over your siblings; opposites really do attract — but mostly I just enjoy smiling about it now, even though JB and I are no longer dating.

June 7, 2010

[26] Flattery.

Y’know what’s weird? Being flattered by a compliment you don’t particularly want.

There’s a story behind this (there always is), but this one’s short and sweet. I was at work on Friday, doing a round with new clients, and getting ‘sirred’* left and right, which is always a little awkward on the job. I love the gender-assignment, but I’m less happy with accidentally frightening old ladies in their own homes, which happens a lot. Elderly, vulnerable woman tend not to be delighted with apparent young men falling through their doors, no matter how blue-eyed and smiley that apparent young man may be.

And you try explaining “Yes, I am a technically ovaries-based creature, but I’m actually experimenting with male pronouns and transgender identities right now, Mabel, but don’t be alarmed, I promise I’m not about to do anything illegal. Or immoral. Or look at you in a funny way. Though I should probably mention I’m gay, too, but you’re still safe to take your knickers off” to someone who’s eighty-nine and profoundly deaf and may or may not be armed with a ballistic walking stick.

Yeeeeah. What usually falls out of my mouth is some variant of “Ah, yes. Actually I’m a woman”, said awkwardly and bracketed by an internal wince.

So, cutting back to short-and-sweet, I had this same back and forth with a lady on Friday. (“Gosh, a man!” “Well, actually…”) But instead of the usual flustered embarrassment, this particular lady just tipped her head to one side and gave me a slow, thoughtful look.

“Yes,” she said finally, “I can see you’re pretty.”

Deer-in-headlights is not my best impression, but I pulled off a cracker this time.

“Uh,” I said. “Um — right. Thank you.”

But then, weirdly, I started to get that ridiculous, belly-warm glow of Someone Thinks I Look Nice. You know the one: it makes you smile at random moments all day, tickled and pleased, and you have to write it up online four days later because People Must Know.

It’s just — it’s a funny thing, this attractiveness business. Especially when you’re butch. Other people have said it before, have said it better, but Western social standards are not exactly forgiving of masculine women. (Or masculine transthings, depending on how you feel.) And once you hit that masculinity skid of short hair and guy’s clothes and cocky swagger, assuming that’s what you’ve embraced, then ‘pretty’ is definitely not going to be a future compliment.

Except when it is.

It’s jarring, I guess. Especially if you’re anything like me and you’ve folded up the battered remains of your femininity somewhere for some young glittery-boy to find and cherish, only to have a feminine-associated compliment smack you in the newfound masculinity like an eighteen-wheeler. Except it’s a nice eighteen-wheeler, possibly the one you always wanted for Christmas back when you were a kidlet, and the driver is grinning at you.

It’s a strange feeling. Back when JB and I were first dating, on the very first day, I think, we were sprawled out in bed together, most of our clothes still on, and doing the new-couple thing. Talking quietly, laughing, getting to know each other close up — that warm little moment when your fingers always end up laced. I pushed myself up on one elbow, looking down at her, and she smiled at me, all thoughtful.

“I just noticed,” she said, “you have this really delicate jawline.” She traced two fingers down either side of my jaw, ending at my chin. “And a great smile.”

I laughed, because no one had ever complimented my smile before, and thanked her and complimented her back, but that stuck with me. Delicate jawline. I’m 5’10, broad-shouldered, heavy-boned, strong. I haven’t been called delicate since I was a reedy kid, and even then I was a tomboy. And I certainly didn’t feel delicate, not compared to JB’s slender wrists and slimline throat; she was all softened angles and gracefulness. I was an ox.

And this was back in the pre-butch-identified days, so I didn’t even know I wanted to be handsome. I just knew I wasn’t beautiful.

But still, delicate. It was weird. Not exactly what I’d wanted, definitely not what I’d expected, but flattering. Sweet. Genuine. I think about it now and it makes me grin to myself, still pleased. Except now the compliment’s queered itself around in my head. I don’t think feminine anymore. I think dandy. Faggot. And that ‘pretty’ compliment at work, that becomes the same thing. I feel stylish instead, blue-eyed and hot. Not lady-like, not beautiful. Handsome in a more vulnerable way — young, open, easily injured. A good-looking lad.

I couldn’t have done that a year ago.

* Okay, I work in Yorkshire, so I get “‘ey-up, lad” and “Cheers, mate” and “Hiya, young fella!” much more than I get “Sir”, but same difference.

April 7, 2010

[19] Spring fever.

I’m restless right now. Itchy, like spring got into my blood and lit a fire. I keep starting blog entries, getting halfway through, and scrapping them hard. I’m in that scratchy, red-blooded mood where fights are easy, talking is hard, and my feet move constantly. My leg is jogging right now, making the whole bank of library computers shake.

I just want to get out — out of uni, out of my stuck-with-housemates house, out of my job, out of this country.

Spring fever, baby. It’s a hell of a thing.

I used to have a short fuse when I was a kid. Tempered with other things, but man, when the mood hit right I was a teeny tiny, dungarees-wearing killer. The kid brother and I used to tear strips out of each other, and I always won because I was taller and stronger and fought dirty. I remember some nights when the only way for mom to stop us actually murdering each other was to grab me, drag me out into the hallway, sit down, wrap her arms around my arms and her legs around my legs, and just sit. Saying nothing. For as long as it took. Sometimes dad would come home before I’d stopped snarling, walk past us without a word, pick up my brother, carry him about until he quit crying, and make dinner.

This is before boarding school, so I guess I would’ve been about five.

Weirdly, I was never that much of a bully at school. An honest scrapper, yes, but I was already too much of a freak to pick on other freaks*. And I read a lot of hero fiction; I used to daydream about fighting for a Great And Noble Cause and sticking up for the underdog. Of course, I was an absolute ass to anyone pretty-and-popular, or good-looking-and-popular, but that’s sort of a given. They were evil to me, too, so it worked out. A mutual misery kind of deal.

I’m not sure what kicked me onto the straight-and-narrow. I was an RAF-brat, so I bounced around a dozen schools and bases (being a perpetual new kid from a military family will toughen you up quick, but it’s not quite so good at rubbing down your sharp edges); I had a mom who was okay with letting us “express ourselves”, provided nobody bled as a consequence; I had a hard-minded dad who taught me how to saw wood properly and didn’t put up with fits of, well, anything; I ricocheted between being a loner, a semi-social kid, and a central member of a tight circle of friends…

I had a childhood, basically. And got a handle on my temper somewhere along the way.

There was also a bunch of shit that happened when I was thirteen involving crazy!mom, divorce, starving half to death, looking after my brother solo, etc etc ad nauseum that probably had a lot to do with growing the hell up pretty damn quick. But Jesus, who wants to hear about that much angst in one sitting?**

Either way, I’m usually pretty chilled now. Content to go with the flow, the motion of the ocean, man, and take whatever comes. I haven’t been in a proper fight since I was sixteen, and most of the time I’m happy for it to stay that way.

At least, when spring isn’t burning in my blood and I just want to hit something. As it turns out, growing up only lasts while the seasons treat you friendly.


*I’m looking at this through the rosy glow of nostalgia, though; it’s entirely possible I was an equal-opportunity bastard to everyone.
**Unless you’re looking for some schadenfreude, in which case more power to you, and I’ll write about it later.

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