Pic from "People": http://bit.ly/doRv3M
_Rachel Maddow and her partner, Susan Mikula (both pictured left) are 15 years apart. So are Ellen and Portia. My DGF and I also have an age gap of over a decade. While May-December (or even May-October) romances can present occasional challenges, they can also be awesome.
How big of an age difference is too big?
The unofficial formula is the "half your age plus seven" rule. So if you're 30, the rule goes, the youngest person you should date is 22 (since 30/2 = 15, and 15+7 = 22). When you're 44, the cutoff would be 29. At 58, it would be 36, and so on. And while this is a silly formula, it reveals an interesting truth: the older you get, the less age differences matter. An 18-year-old and a 32-year-old are 14 years apart, but these 14 years encompass a huge gap in experiences. Take those same 14 years, 30 years later, and you've got a 48-year-old and a 62-year-old. Sure, there are still some differences, but the gap has definitely shrunk.
Age gaps tend to be more accepted in the queer community than they are in general. Maybe this is because we're already doing something that differs from the norm, so an age difference on top of it is just icing on the deviance cake. Or maybe it has to do with the gendered tendency in age differences among heterosexual couples. Demi and Ashton notwithstanding, the "older man, younger woman" scenario is much more common than the reverse. This pattern tends to reinforce gender inequalities and stereotypes in a way that queer relationships can't. Or maybe it has something to do with child-rearing. On average, fewer queers (especially gay men) have kids, so maybe people care less about age gaps when no little kidlets are involved.
As far as I'm concerned, barring illegality, there's no such thing as an age difference being "too big" unless it presents problems for the couple. The bigger the differences, the more potential problems. But the key word is potential. Particular problems may or may not materialize for any given couple. Here are a few of the most common ones:
Six Relationship Tips for Couples with Age Differences:
Your turn, readers: have you ever been in a relationship with an age difference? Did the age gap bring any special perks or challenges? What do you think about big age differences in relationships?
I spent several hours working (at day job stuff) this morning, then signed onto Twitter, only to discover that in the intervening hours, I had missed some crucial (okay, maybe not crucial, but interesting) stuff. Then I signed onto Tumblr, which I don't usually use but have been experimenting with lately. More missed stuff. And don't even get me started on Facebook.
Additionally, when I got my latest issue of Curve in the mail (I'm a longtime reader), it felt a little outdated. I'm not sure if this had to do with layout, format, or content. This led me to wonder what BW readers like to read (well, besides Butch Wonders, obviously). Whether or not you ID as butch, I'd love it if you could take this poll. (And if you check "other," please tell me what the "other" is.)
I'd also be interested to know what's changed for you in the last 2-3 years re: how you get your queer media news and content. Personally, I rely more on specialized sites, as well as particular people (e.g., on FB and Twitter), and less on national news sites (except NPR, which I listen to almost daily). I read blogs more than I used to, and read magazines less. How about you? And: do you access queer-related content differently from how you access other media content?
A couple of days ago, I wrote about my memories of my father's dresser, and I included a snapshot of my own. I asked readers to send in pictures or descriptions of their dressers. Here are some of the pictures and quotes people sent in. (The pictures are interspersed with the quotes. Some quotes go a picture; others don't. Can you guess which ones do?)
• • •
_"Coins, keys, pens, pocketknife. Valet with wallet, cufflinks, bracelets, tie tacks. Vintage ash tray with odd bits like collar stays, dog whistle, lost button, corsage pin, matches. Vintage tip tray with specs, sunglasses, cell, biz cards. Always a memo pad. All neatly arranged on top of TWO dressers pushed together and garnished with a bureau scarf. Geez. What a fetishist."
"Picture of my lady, stuffed amoeba my friend sewed for me, three books on female masculinity, a chapstick, my wallet, and a roll of duct tape."
"I had a fascination with my father's dresser as well. I snooped though ...found a lot of interesting things! Every week I would hope for something new...it's still intriguing every time I see it now."
__"Generally there is a cat napping on mine and nothing else...since he'd just knock it off."
"In essence, her side is the zebra lamp side, and mine is the one with all the nail polish and hair things...we've got receipts, a pen cup, water bottle, and a Bath and Body works bag there... That mask, though, is my favorite, and a keepsake from the Highland Games in Enumclaw."
_"Mine is in my closet, and I avoid going back in there as much as possible."
"Diapers, shirt, that's it."
"It's a mess of nothing but junk. Change, receipts, a fan, 2 valet boxes."
"Perfume, deodarant, talcs, nail polish, brush, comb, wet wipes, clock, mobile."
"Aftershave, deodorants, my gf's perfume [and] makeup, jewelry, bobble rack, face wipes, creams a teddy, watches."
"As for my parents, they never had anything interesting on their dresser... but their closet always fascinated me because my mom kept all her jewelry, important documents and things like that in a safe, inside the closet. Also, their closet was the only way to get up into the attic, and so as a child, I was convinced that if I ever got a ladder and went up there, I'd be able to climb into another world. The modern-day version of Narnia, I guess."
_"I was obsessed w my grandfather's [dresser]. [H]is white old spice bottle would be the first thing I went after... and his razor was next... he removed the razor ...when we came over to keep me mainly from shaving something off my face. My dresser is a little more on the romantic side I guess... my candles, colognes, deodorant, and my change jar, most of the time all nice and neat."
"My SnapOn jewlery box. My Cabbage patch doll dressed in a baseball uniform. My AA chips and big gbook. Watches, wallet and colonge. A picture of myself before I lost weight so I don't forget. A picture of my girl."
_"I was always fascinated with my Dad's dresser as a child because he had all this cool stuff on top and hidden in the drawers that he would sometimes show me if I lurked around while he was getting ready, like pocket knives, boxes, shells, die cast toy cars he had when he was a boy, harmonicas and generally fascinating old stuff... I have a habit of collecting random things through the day that end up in my pockets, then at night this is where most of it ends up when I empty them. "
"A black fanny pack... a jewelry box my brother brought back from Japan when I was 11 and a bunch of books and lotto tickets... and a stuffed animal someone gave me when i was going though chemo."
_Lots of folded, multi-colored t-shirts, passport, foreign money, important documents, Canadian cell phone for when I go "home."
"Coins, deodorant , mini-hope chest, papers of important stuff that needs to be done but have been laying there for about 6 months, hand lotion, dust..."
_"I was always fascinated by my grandad's dresser. He had a box of things he picked up whilst serving in WW2, Brill cream and a comb. Minimal. I have my grandad's old oil lamp, my toy soldier minus a foot, ashtray of loose change and memory cards, deodorants, hand gel, tiger balm, body butter, glasses, a wee pot of body jewellery, and my rice crispies i forgot to eat this morning."
_This is the third of a three-part series of posts about butch-butch relationships. These posts are based on my own experiences, as well as those of about 15 butches I interviewed who are, or have dated, other butches. You can read parts one and two of this series here and here.
Toughness and Vulnerability
Several members of butch-butch couples said one aspect of their relationship they particularly loved was the mixture of toughness and vulnerability in their partner. K was particularly eloquent on this point: "We don't usually think of butch women as being... vulnerable, do we? After all, if butch means masculine, and if boys are encouraged to be tough, then doesn't it follow that a butch lesbian should have a thick skin, and brush off all the hurts... collecting broken hearts and belt notches, and racking up a lifetime of hard knocks? ...[T]he best thing about being with her [is that s]he makes herself vulnerable to me."
Butch-butch couples loved that their relationships allowed them not only to exhibit their own toughness, but to take refuge in their partner's toughness. Z told me, "The best thing is that we are both very strong, in ways that compliment the other's weaknesses." And Jennie wrote, "I can be strong and tough for [Lisa], be her butch. But I can also use her toughness and let her be my butch when I need it." Indeed, as one astute femme Facebook buddy pointed out, the qualities that butches seem to appreciate in other butches aren't too different from those that femmes seem to appreciate in butches.
Occasionally, some butches in butch-butch couples feel like their "masculinity" or "butchness" is threatened by being with another butch. For example, one anonymous respondent feels a little uneasy when her partner wears a tie: "Then will they think I'm the femme?" she asks. K.D. explains that she and her partner, Becca, sometimes "have butch-offs: 'Sweetie, let me carry that,' 'I'll get the door,' etc. Sometimes I just want to be the sweetheart that helps the other person, comforts the other person, demonstrates chivalry etc. and when Becca wants to be that part of the relationship it can be interesting to navigate." Donnie added that butches are a stubborn breed, and that neither partner likes to be the one to give in!
A few butches offered suggestions for making each other feel butch. Jennie said that since she and Lisa "fight over some 'butch' duties," they needed "to buy 2 shovels, 2 chainsaws, etc." Lisa added, "We need to buy a second snow shovel, cuz I am NOT watching her have all the fun!" KT said that it's important to reinforce each others' butchness, since for both her and her partner, being a masculine or androgynous woman was an important part of their identity. Z admitted to a little concern that her partner might one day leave her for a femme, since K has dated femmes before. And alas, I can personally confess to having a similar pang of worry now and then. It's not only important for butch-butch couples to respect each others' butchness, but to be very explicit about valuing this in each other.
What Butch-Butch Couples Share
Navigating the world as a masculine-of-center woman can be tough, and several respondents mentioned that it's nice to have someone who understands those experiences first-hand. AJ said that being in a relationship with another butch gives her 'permission' to be herself: "I'm allowed to be me. There is no expectation for me to change myself or be more 'feminine' because I am female. We are best friends and lovers. She just gets me." Becca wrote, "I truly appreciate that the other person knows where I'm coming from and understands what it's like to move around in the world as a butch." Jess said, "The best thing is just having someone you can relate to."
K.D. + Becca = awesome.
_Butch-butch sharing extends to more practical arenas as well. Becca noted that she loves being able to share ties, and Jess wrote, "You can share - hair gel, clothes and shoes, toys. You have someone you can talk to about anything - getting called sir, woman staring at you in the ladies bathroom, packing or not packing, cargo shorts vs. cargo pants." Several butches also mentioned that butch lovers are quicker in the bathroom: "Chopper doesn't take long to get dressed," Z said. "[S]he is rough around the edges like me. We don't really worry too much about whether our socks match or if we have some dog hair on us." AJ said, "[I]t is quick to go out because I don't have to wait for her to do her hair, makeup, nails and stuff."
Nearly every respondent said the best part of being in a relationship with another butch is that they are simply very attracted to other butches. Some of them are attracted exclusively to other butches, and others have no generalizable preference or pattern. Either way, being in a relationship with someone to whom you are physically attracted is, well, hot. Butch-loving-butches are no more in charge of their own chemical attractions than femme-loving butches, butch-loving femmes, or anyone else. This is one of the many reasons it made me sad that a few people wrote, in response to my previous posts, that butch-butch relationships are "gross" or "a waste." When two consenting adults are in love with each other, a "waste" is about the last thing I'd call it.
Butch in the Bedroom: Just Us and Our Socks
A few bashful butches didn't respond to this question at all. But I'll let those who did tell you in their own words what it's like for two butches in bed:
Stacy: "Butch/Femme is something very different than Top/Bottom, but people assume it's the same. I have had very different roles in each of my relationships in that area. If you have enough trust with someone, you have enough freedom to explore all sides of yourself and your partner. I believe everyone has their butch side, their femme side, their top side and their bottom side. The fascinating thing is to see how yours pairs up in each relationship."
O: "Things are very hot in the bedroom. We are both takers and givers so it usually works out very nice. The only thing is sometimes we fight over who tops."
eL: "It is amazing. I don't want to kiss and tell... but it was magical."
Donnie: "I think it's amazing! It's a true give and take of feelings, emotions, and love on an equal level."
Anon: "Really hot! This might be because I'm really only attracted to other butches, and it's fun to have sex with people to whom you're attracted. But yeah, it's great. Sometimes there's a little argument over who tops, though, since we both love topping."
Becca: "I think it depends on the butches. :D I appreciate that everyone expresses their sexuality differently, and I'm grateful that my current partner and I are very compatible and satisfied in that area."
Lisa: "Completely open and free. I don't have to always butch-up, and I don't have to always be the 'girl.' We can wrestle, we can fight for who has top tonight, or we can take turns, or we can snuggle and cuddle."
LG: "Same as any other relationship."
K.D: "AMAZING!!! Luckily we are not the stereotypical stone butches (I do not feel like many are.) We get to enjoy each others bodies the way that they are with little to no question about it."
Tammi: "I don't know what it's like for 'just any' two butches in bed… It strikes me as a creative wellspring of opportunities, and each time leaves me wowed and full of ideas for the next time."
Anon: "There's no hairspray on the pillowcases, or heavy perfume, or itchy lace underthings. Just us, and our socks."
There you have it, dear readers--everything you wanted to know about butch-butch couples, and more! A huge thank you to the wonderful butches who let me interview them: AJ and Jo, K (aka Chopper) and Z (aka Zed), eL, LG and KT, Donnie, Becca and K.D., Jess and Beth, O, Stacy, Chelsie, Lisa and Jennie, and a handful of others who preferred to remain anonymous.
I can remember, as a kid, being fascinated with the top of my father's dresser. There was always a jar of change, a tube of Blistex, and a wooden box where he kept--what? Change, maybe? Parking tickets? I have no idea. But it was sacred, somehow. Neither of my parents had "offices" or anything like that in the houses where I grew up, and the top of my father's dresser was the only place in the house that was his and his alone. I don't know why I was so fascinated with it, nor what internal force prevented me from carrying my interest a step further and actually snooping.
I hadn't thought about this for a long time. Then the other day, I was grouching at my DGF for putting unmatched socks on my dresser. "It has to be neat," I told her. "It has to be a certain way."
I have no idea why I am so fastidious about the top of my dresser, particularly given my lack of fastidiousness in other areas of my physical world (bathroom; car). I think it relates, somehow, to my childhood fascination with my father's dresser--my silly idea that it contained intriguing secrets.
Anyway, I snapped a picture of my dresser and the space above it. As you can see, my many ties are arranged in rainbow order (how gay), each hanging on individual hooks, with some bracelets and necklaces hanging on the spare ones. Below them, there tubes of Chapstick in a little wooden bowl that my DGF made, a random geode in another bowl that she made, some hand sanitizer, a little green jar with my collar stays, a clear jewelry/tool tray that I found at the hardware store (for my rings, earrings, and pocket knife), a wooden cigar box (which holds my watches), and a little soy sauce dish that's holding my spare change and a binder clip.
My DGF won't let me snap a picture of hers, but let's just say that there's very little question in our relationship about which of us more resembles a stereotypical gay man and which of us more closely resembles a stereotypical straight man.
Dear readers, I would love to have pictures of the tops of your dressers. Please email either (or both!) to me here by Friday, and I will post them anonymously in a future entry. No rearranging allowed--just snap a pic as is and send it along to me! (And if you want to share any memories of a parent's dresser, include it and I'll post that, too.)