While most of you initially find Butch Wonders through Facebook or StumbleUpon, some folks happen in via Google search terms, some of which were particularly excellent this month. I'll share my favorite 20 or so:
_So you got a some perfectly-sized Calvin Klein button-ups from your DGF for the holidays, eh? Now you just need the right undershirts to wear with them. (I'm assuming you already have some decent metal collar stays.) In this entry, I'll review your T-shirt options. In all cases, I'm talking about "men's" T-shirts, since for many of us, "women's" or "ladies" shirts tend to be too short or cutesy or have tiny sleeves.
Undershirts come in three basic varieties: V-neck tee, regular crew-neck tee, or tank top (for now, I'm not considering long-sleeved undershirts). I heavily favor crew necks. Tank tops don't prevent sweat or deodorant from staining button-ups. And not only do v-necks irritate my lower neck area, but they look dopey when you can see the texture of the v-neck collar under the shirt). Most of the butches I know favor crews as well, so for now, that's what I'll focus on. (A summary of my findings is at the end.)
I own this because it's rad.
Before we go any further, a note on printed tees: In general, I have zero objection to printed tees. In fact, I own a whole bevy of 'em. But there's a place for printed tees, and that place is NOT beneath your collared shirts. We can see the print showing through your button-up shirt and peeking out your collar. And though admittedly we are vaguely intrigued that you ran the Boston Marathon in 2001 and attended a k.d. concert in 1992, this is not how we wanted to learn about it.
Anyhow, I rate and discuss five kinds of shirts along the following criteria:
MOSSIMO CREW NECK, ATHLETIC CUT
Thickness: Medium to thin. Soft, tagless. I often wear one of these + a pair of boxers to sleep. There's been recent speculation that the quality has recently suffered.
Collar: Medium-thickness. Perfect cut. Starts out great. Then...
Durability: So-so. Wonderful for the first few months, then the collar begins to stretch and get thin and not lay flat. For some reason, the durability of the heathered colors is much better than the others.
Colors: Come in a 10-15 different colors, including dark heathered grey, navy blue, teal, orange, a heathered forest green, and more. Their colors tend to match my dress shirts more than any other brands do.
Procurement: $7.99 each at Target or $7.99-$9.99 each at Target.com. Many of the Target.com links (like this one) claim that the shirt is not available in stores, which is untrue.
HANES COMFORTSOFT CREW NECKS
Thickness: Medium. Nice soft feel, and tagless, which I love. Also good for sleeping in. (Don't confuse these with Hanes Heavyweights, which are not nearly as nice)
Collar: Starts large, shrinks to medium in the dryer. Lands slightly higher on the neck than the Mossimo shirts.
Durability: Excellent. Becomes a little thinner over time, and seems to stain easily, but holds up well. I've been impressed that the collar doesn't seem to stretch, roll, or have trouble laying flat, even after many washings.
Colors: Black and white are easy to find. They also come in grey, navy blue, denim blue, forest green, and washed black heather. Others are hard to find.
Procurement: White and black are often available in department stores. The price and selection is better online: where I can find them in white (3-pack for $12.99 or $11.80, depending on sizes), and four-packs of various colors and prices here.
_LL BEAN CAREFREE UNSHRINKABLE TEE (Note: at the time of this writing, the LL Bean website was down, so I'm not including any links yet.)
Thickness: Very thick, though not unpleasantly so. Not as soft as Mossimo or Hanes Comfortsoft. Stiffer, but definitely not scratchy.
Collar: Thick. Fairly wide.
Durability: Pretty solid. I've had several for years, and they keep their shape and never get holes. Same with the collar: retains its thickness. The big downside is that the collar eventually starts to pucker.
Colors: 15-20 available: yellow, orange, heather green, white, black, dark blue, light blue, maroon, and more. (See pic at left.)
Procurement: Normally $14.95 each on the LL Bean website, occasionally on sale for around $9.99. Also, these seem to run large; I advise ordering one size smaller than usual.
_AMERICAN APPAREL (FYI, this company has had some serious problems. On the other hand, their shirts are made in the USA, which the others aren't. So, your call. This is also worth reading.)
Thickness: These aren't very thick, but the weave keeps me just as warm as thicker shirts do. If you have sweating issues or don't like to wear antiperspirant, look elsewhere. Also, the sleeves are a tad shorter than other brands' sleeves.
Collar: Definitely on the thin side. Within the limits of acceptability, though.
Durability: Good for at least six months. After that, the collar will begin to stretch out of shape. And while the color won't fade, the shirt will shrink quite a bit, even if you wash it in cold water.
Colors: These come in literally 40 different colors. They have yet to come out with a nice rust orange, but everything else seems to be covered.
Procurement: You can get these online for $5.99 each. They're more expensive in stores. Also, these run small, so order up if you're on the cusp.
Thickness: Very thick. Kind of bulky under shirts. Also, the sleeves are longer than the other shirts--fine for most guys, but not for most women, since we tend to have shorter arms than men do. (I wear a 32" sleeve.)
Collar: The largest collar of all the shirts I've reviewed here. Not unacceptabe, though. Collar falls higher on my neck than I would prefer.
Durability: These seem to get a little scratchy with regular wear. And then at some point, they lose the scratchiness and get soft again as they're wearing out. It's weird.
Colors: Like American Apparel, comes in about 40 different colors.
Procurement: Can be bought online for $4.54-$14.99 (but most of the nicest colors seem to be $14.99).
SUMMARY: My rankings from best to worst:
Any other opinions about these brands? Any additional brands that butches might especially want to check out?
Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, which means that if you want to order any gifts online, you have to do so now to get them in time for the weekend. After trying to find something good for my grandparents--and then realizing I had to order one-day shipping--it occurred to me that some of you, dear readers, might be facing last-minute online shopping challenges, too. Here are ideas for grandparents, bosses, aunts, uncles, college roommates, and other people you love dearly but don't see often enough to know what they'd like. I'm only including items that you can still order in time for Christmas.
_1. Gift baskets. Who doesn't love receiving a little bounty of snacks? One of my favorites under $50 is this 1950s Retro Candy Box ($34.99, pictured left), which includes Necco Wafers, Chick O' Sticks, Choward's, and other sugary blasts from the past. And, for aunts and grandmas who love girlie stuff, check out this Victorian Lace Tea, Spa & Treats Clock Gift Chest ($64.60), which includes candles, lotion, bath gel, and more--all in a wooden chest inlaid with a working clock.
2. Tea Chests and Tea Sets. A classy gift that's hard not to like, tea chests come in a variety of styles. Try to get some brand of tea that isn't stocked at your local grocery store. I recommend this Wissotzky 60 Dessert Flavored Teas in an Ebony Tea Chest ($29.99). Tea sets are good bets, too. I like this cool Japanese one ($68.95, pictured right). If that's out of your price range, how about a simple infuser/mug set ($19.53)?
3. Gift Cards. These are also kind of impersonal, but they'll do in a pinch. Plus, don't you love receiving them? This one from Amazon features free one-day shipping. It's even better than cash, because you feel obligated to spend it on something fun. You can also get something more specific, like a certificate to their favorite restaurant or movie tickets.
4. A Coffee Table Book. These serve a bunch of purposes: showcasing great photography, impressing guests, and messing up orderly bookshelves by being wider than all the other books. You can find these on virtually any topic, from 1960s surf photography to Andy Goldsworthy's nature-centered art (pictured left) to the history of New York City to (brace yourself) hipster puppies. There's also a whole genre of amusing websites now available in book form, such as a compilation of hilariously wrong test answers, passive-aggressive notes, and Cake Wrecks. Think of them as the Harold and Kumar of coffee table books.
5. Board games are always a hit with families. Think Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, Cranium, or a classic like Scattergories (my longtime favorite) or Pictionary.
Okay, you have less than 15 hours left... shop like the wind, butches!
The huge amount of responses I got to my last post made me wonder if queers are more likely to feel alienated from their families than straight people are. I mean, if your family doesn't respect your queerness, this is pretty self-evident. But I know a lot of queers whose family is cool with their queerness, but they still feel alienated. Why would this be?
One reason I can think of is the kid factor. Plenty of queers have kids, but on average, we're less likely to procreate than our heterosexual counterparts (partly because homo sex ≠ babies, and partly, I'm guessing, for a whole host of other social/cultural/maybe-even-biological reasons). Holidays tend to center around a traditional family structure, and also tend (for good reason) to center around kids. Sometimes we don't really fit into that.
My own family is an example of this. I have a brother (I'll call him DB for Dear Brother) who is married and has a young daughter. I love my niece dearly, and love DB and his wife as well. Partly because DB has a kid, a trend has emerged: My parents and DB's wife's parents, who live 10-12 hours' drive apart, spend Christmas together. Actually, it's more like my parents have been subsumed into DB's wife's family, since the group includes many other members of her family as well. So DB and his wife each get to be with both sets of parents every Christmas. This is convenient for them, and also great for my niece, since she gets to be with all four of her grandparents every year.
As you can probably figure out, this leaves me in a slightly weird place. Do my DGF and I drive 10-12 hours to spend Christmas with DB's wife's family? Last year, we did; we rented a car and spent some time on our own and some time with them. This year, however, they are renting a house in a remote, snowy location and spending four nights there. DGF and I were invited to come (though we were not invited to help decide where Christmas would happen). DGF and I decided we would not come along this year. Our decision was met with much sadness and consternation by my parents.
The first two years it happened, I was annoyed that my parents decided to join a new clan. But now I am at peace with it: they want to be with their grandkid, and this way they can see her every Christmas. I understand. The hard part for me is the expectation that I will always join them. My mom is upset that I am not coming this year. And while I am sad that I will not be with my parents, DB, sister-in-law, and niece, I do not wish to drive 12 hours to spend four nights with my DB's wife's family. They are nice people. But I have decided I will come along some years, and not others. This is the first year I've said no. I'm okay with my parents' choice about how to spend their Christmas, but I wish they better understood my decision to sit this one out. I'm not trying to prove or anything by not going, either. I just don't feel like going again this year.
If I had kids, things would probably be different. Either my parents would switch off between my brother and I for Christmas, or I guess I would go along so the cousins could be together. But I don't have kids, and I don't foresee having them in the near future. And so as a result, Christmas is as I've described above. And it just leaves me feeling weird and sad. Am I being selfish? Independent? Petulant? Self-actualizing? I don't know. I wish Christmas wasn't loaded with so many weird emotions.
I'm hoping that this year, the DGF and I can start some traditions of our own. Last night, we lit a candle for Hanukkah (we're not Jewish) and I gave her all of her Christmas presents. It was wonderful and unexpected and romantic. On Christmas, we're planning to spend some time with our friend M, and some time with our friends C&D (C is my butch buddy; D is her awesome wife). Maybe we'll think of some other traditions to incorporate. Will we bake cookies together? Go to church? Eat Chinese food with Jewish friends on Christmas eve? Who knows. But despite my weird guild/sadness/confusion about family stuff this year, I'm looking forward to creating some traditions that are mine and my DGF's.
How about you guys? Any sticky family situations you're avoiding? Any cool new holiday tradition ideas that you and your DGF share?
If you grew up celebrating Christmas, the holiday that used to bring you unbridled joy may now bring a big ol' dollop of mixed emotions. When we were kids, Christmas was less complicated. After all, what can top the idea of a benevolent, costumed, bearded man leaving gifts while you sleep? (Hmm, come to think of it, that sounds like something a gay man dreamed up.) But if you're like me, somewhere along the way, Christmas stopped being so easy. Note: if you're totally stoked about the holidays this year, this entry doesn't apply to you: go have a cup of eggnog or something.
My own mixed feelings about Christmas have to do with divorce, with people I miss, and with various types of guilt. For others of you, it has to do with a falling out with your parents, or with the death of someone you love, or with the frustration of having to pretend to be someone you're not. These aren't exactly thoughts you can bring up at the office holiday party. Instead, they're the kind of things that hit you when you're in line at the drugstore at 9:30 pm with a box of Red Vines in one hand and a bottle of zin in the other (just hypothetically, of course), and "The Little Drummer Boy" starts blaring from the store speakers, and--BOOM--a wave of Holiday Depression.
The first thing to know about Holiday Depression is that you're not alone. Lots of people deal with it; they just don't talk about it. The second thing to know about Holiday Depression is that it passes. Don't let yourself think that your unhappiness during the holidays is somehow symbolic of the shortcomings of your life more generally. Because this is not true. Holidays are the time of year when the highest number of people report feeling depressed. You will feel a hell of a lot better in January. I promise.
A few quick fixes for dealing with a sudden wallop of Holiday Depression:
- Lay on the couch. Put your headphones on and listen to the least holiday-ish music you can think of. Angry, not sad. I recommend Tool, Rage Against the Machine, or whatever the current equivalent of that stuff is.
- Open up Pandora and create a "Suzanne Westenhoefer" station. Listen.
- Start planning a trip for somewhere you're going to go in 2012.
- Write to me. Ask me anything. Or tell me something you don't feel like telling anyone else.
- Do a project that involves plants or animals. Personally, I love paperwhites, and they're only about $1 each for the bulbs. You can grow them in anything and it's mesmerizing.
- Buy yourself a new watch, or some other stylish thing that you will look awesome in. My DGF (and others) call this "shopping therapy."
- Clean your whole house. Rearrange stuff that's been bothering you. It will distract you, let your mind wander, and make you feel like you accomplished something.
- Go for a walk or a run--anything that gets you outdoors. Don't come back until you're exhausted. Then take a nice hot shower.
These are only temporary fixes, but sometimes a quick fix is all we need to get us over the hump. So let's hear from you: Do you ever get hit with Holiday Depression? And what do you do about it?