Okay, dear readers--a number of you have expressed surprise and disbelief that I, who have openly revealed that I am less than enamored with camping, would hang out with goats. So I am sharing photographic evidence of said goat-butch interactions.
First, to the left, is a picture of me feeding a baby goat. Part of our volunteer duties involve feeding the adult goats, baby goats, and grouchy llama that live on this farm. We load a bunch of alfalfa and grass into a wheelbarrow, then dump everything into a huge, wooden cage-like structure, and then a GOAT FEEDING FRENZY ensues. But the adult goats are mean to the little ones, and are always butting the kids to try to keep them away from the food. So I started taking grass and feeding the babies on my own, which my Dear Partner (DP) believes is teaching them to be wimpy. She may be right, but we're only there 2-3 times a month, so I figure an occasional indulgence won't hurt them.
To the right is a snapshot of the llama. As much as I like the llama, I am also a little scared of him, mainly because he reminds me of Skeletor from He-Man when viewed head-on. From the side, which is how I prefer to view him, he looks a good deal more camel-esque. The llama was originally acquired by this farm to keep away mountain lions. I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea (in llama vs. mountain lion combat, my money would pretty much always be on a mountain lion). And it didn't work. Goats on this farm were eaten by mountain lions on a semi-regular basis until they built a goat enclosure that was 10 feet high instead of six feet high. Despite his ineffectuality, the llama is a permanent resident.
Sure, there have been mishaps (e.g., each of us has let the goats get out of the enclosure accidentally, which means that there are goats running all over the place; our recipes are not always successful, etc.) But overall, it's been fun. Over the entrance to the farm, they have a big plaque that says "TRY NEW THINGS." I think that's a pretty important thing to remember about life, don't you?
Hi readers! What have YOU been up to? ME, you ask? SO much work. But aside from work, untold excitement, including the following highlights:
What have you been up to, dear readers? I wonder if this means I'm back. I think it might.
I've been hesitating to write this entry because I don't know whether to make it instructional or confessional. Perhaps it is neither.
A few months ago, I was gearing up for a series of interviews in a very conservative (socially, not politically) industry. I was planning to wear my dark grey men's suit with the lovely, unstructured shoulders, complete with a purple checked tie. But one of my mentors got to me first (not you, CB). I should add that this woman is queer, in case that matters to you. I'll call her "MP" for "Mentor Person." This conversation occurred:
MP: So... You're not going to wear men's clothes to the interviews, are you?
MP: Look, you want a job, right?
BW: Right, but at what cost?
MP: Look, when you're at my level, you can wear what you want. But at this point, you want a job. You want to convey that you're like everyone else. And you don't want the interviewers thinking about your clothes.
BW: I don't care if they think about my clothes.
MP: Yes, you do. You don't want them staring at you thinking, "Is she wearing men's underwear?"
BW: I'll just walk in, wink, and tell them, "Nope."
MP: No to the men's underwear?
BW: No to the men's underwear! Well... today, anyway.
Okay, so then MP--who, let me stress, is someone I trust and who is invested in my professional success--tells me her hypothesis about gender conformity and clothing. Basically, she says that there are four components to a professional outfit:
2. Something over the shirt, like a blazer or jacket or sweater
MP's theory is that of these items, at least two need to be from the women's department so as not to attract undue attention/speculation/consternation. She tried, unsuccessfully, to get me to order a "shell" shirt from L.L. Bean or one of those other places. I told her I thought it was absurd. I resisted. I argued.
And then I gave in--partly.
On my way home that day, I stopped at Macy's and tried on approximately 15 women's suits. I do not like women's suits because they tend to lack pockets, to have too-short jackets, and to be cut in weird ways that make my hips look extra hipp-y and my boobs look extra boob-y. Finally, I found one that was relatively inoffensive, except that the jacket was a little too short. Whatever. I bought two, in black, plus a women's Ralph Lauren shirt that was lovely and purple and striped and devoid of girlish frills. (Not a "shell" or--God forbid--a "camisole"--I'm talking about a regular collared shirt.) I took a picture of myself in the new getup and sent it to MP. Her response: "Don't you think it's a little narcissistic to send me pictures of yourself?"
Ha. From MP, that's approval.
The next day, unprompted, MP loaned me actual, real pearls, because she said rich people can tell the difference between real pearls and fake pearls and I was likely to encounter people who had grown up wealthy. I am extremely skeptical of pearls, but since these were small and looked shockingly non-dowdy with my new, very sharp shirt, I went for it.
So according to MP's formula I was more than sufficiently girly: pants, suit jacket, shirt. Three out of four! (There was no way in hell I was going to wear women's shoes.) Plus pearls!
Looking in the mirror the day of my interviews, I realized that there was still no way anyone would mistake me for straight: my ever-present tiny silver hoops, very short haircut, and men's shoes gave me away. Even with pearls, I didn't look feminine, but at least I was closer to Ellen's look than to Lea DeLaria's. (Point of clarification: I like Lea DeLaria and her look; I'm not knocking it, just saying that I didn't want to embody it that day.)
Among the sea of other interviewees, I was still by far the least gender-conforming person. I might as well have been wearing a rainbow sticker on my forehead. Still, the cut of my suit allowed me to look conforming enough for interviewers not to dismiss me, and masculine enough that I felt comfortable. In fact, I felt like quite the powerful dyke.
Did I "betray" my butchness by wearing a lady-suit? Maybe. Would I have been more "true" to myself in a men's suit and tie? Maybe. But at the same time, I thought carefully about the degree of "compromise" I was willing to make, and what I was and wasn't willing to sacrifice to fit in. More gender conformity would have gone over better with interviewers, I suspect. Still, I have to admit that I felt proud of finding a balance that worked for me in this particular situation, and grateful to MP for giving me the heads-up that I needed to make a few changes if I wanted to be in the ballpark.
As you can tell, I'm still wrestling with it. I loathe the idea of compromising to "fit in." But I also loathe the idea of not getting the job I want because I was too stubborn to take off my damn tie. At least for me, being butch is partly about being true to myself, and partly about finding a balance that will let me be myself while accomplishing what I want to accomplish. (And finally getting some power, so that I can not only put my own tie back on, but hire plenty of other tie-wearing women when I'm the one making the decisions.)
I bet some of you can relate to this. For those of you in industries where you're likely to be punished for gender non-conformity, what do you do? What kinds of balance have you found, and how has it worked?
For the long weekend, my DGF (that's "dear girlfriend") and I decided to visit the Gold Country area of California. Gold Country (so named because it was a Big Deal Place during the gold rush) is rural and gorgeous, with rolling hills, rivers, lakes, and oak trees sporadically dotting the landscape.
Now, I know that, like the other two westernmost states in the continental U.S., the eastern part of California is more conservative than the western part. More politically conservative, yes, but also more religious, more gun-owning, and less gay-friendly. (I don't mean to suggest that these things always go hand in hand. I consider myself religious, for example. And I know plenty of gay-friendly political conservatives. But there is a strong correlation between religiosity, political conservatism, social conservatism, and anti-gay attitudes. Sorry, Mom. There just is.)
Anyhow, in most ways, I am not a particularly exciting person. My ideal evening involves coffee and/or friends and/or books and/or red wine. And for this reason, I am always shocked when I am reminded in not-so-gentle ways that to a fair chunk of my country's populace, I am Really Strange and Different.
My DGF and I got stared at a lot. And many of these stares were glares. Some people--usually men with their families--would narrow their eyes and the corners of their mouths would turn down, and make prolonged eye contact as if to say, "Your very existence threatens my children's well-being." There were also a fair number of regular ol' stares, but I mind stares a lot less, maybe since I'm so used to them, plus I understand the impulse to spend a longer time looking at someone who doesn't look like everyone else.
I also hate it when I can't figure out whether someone is anti-gay, or just awkward. Early on in our trip, we went to a specialty store for a nerdy hobby I'm obsessed with. I called ahead and talked to the owner, who was super nice on the phone. But when I showed up in person and introduced my DGF (because the place was otherwise abandoned and it would have been weird not to) as my partner, this woman ignored my DGF's outstretched hand. Despite her friendliness on the phone, she kind of stayed away from us in person. I tried to engage her in conversation partly to figure out whether she was awkward or just anti-gay. She mentioned God twice (e.g., "My husband has a broken ankle, but God will heal him soon"), but not in an aggressive way, and I didn't want to assume that she was trying to give me a message. (In fact, I Godded her right back, to show her that straight people don't have a monopoly on religion.) In the end, I didn't quite figure her out, and didn't spend much money there. When we left, she told us to "come back soon," which she wouldn't have if she was a gay-hater, right? Right? Sigh.
Which is all to say that as glad as I am to be me, I often wish I could just navigate the world without thinking about people's reactions to me. But the reactions themselves sometimes make this difficult.
More on this trip soon. I hope you all had a great weekend, dear readers!
The other day, I had to go get some blood drawn. Because of the bizarre way my medical provider structures itself, the immunology clinic is in the children's wing. As a result, the latest chapter in my "why-do-I-get-mono-so-often" detective mystery takes place amidst Disney characters, cartoon trains, and primary colors. It's far cheerier than adult hospital, plus you get to choose a sticker before you leave.
Anyway, after the phlebotimist works his or her magic, they usually press a little square of gauze against the place where the needle went in and tell you to hold it there for a minute. Then they wrap it with that self-adhesive rubbery wrap stuff. But since the office is so child-friendly, instead of having plain old boring beige gauze, they have waaay cooler ones. Check out the types below:
Specifically, my office had the hearts, the dinosaurs, and the race cars (pink, green, and blue).
So my own, personal, bearded, honey-haired, thirty-something whippersnapper of a phlebotomist has finished the draw, and I'm dutifully holding the gauze, and next thing I know, he's lassoing my elbow with the pink one. "Why did you--" I sputtered. Then I smiled and chuckled. "Oh, I see," I say. "Girls get the hearts and boys get the racecars?"
...To which he replied, without irony, "Yep." Not being able to let it go, I said, "Wait, really? Blue for boys and pink for girls and green if you run out of either?" "Yeah," he said again, at this point seeming a little puzzled at my inability to grasp the concept of gendered self-adhesive medical wrap.
"Well, if you would have asked, I'd have preferred the race cars, or even better, the dinosaurs," I said. I grinned, hoping to convey that I didn't actually give a hoot what was on my arm at the moment, but that he might want to ask kids their preferences. "It's just like when I was a kid," I continued. "They gave me the pink, but I wanted the green or the blue."
At this point, he gave me a look that--albeit not the least bit mean--made it clear he had more useful places to be, told me to have a great day, and headed out of the room. I didn't stop him, but I hope that next time he phlebotomizes a wee one, he thinks twice before slapping on a gender-normative wrap. Is one wrap a big deal in the context of things? Of course not. But these little signals add up. They are the stuff of society, and they are the stuff of gender normativity. They are the way, brick by brick, we come to build the beliefs we hold about the way men and women "are."
Yeah, I'm butch enough to sport pink hearts around my left elbow. But just the same, I made sure to conspicuously choose a big ol' Spiderman sticker on the way out.