Archive for the ‘Tomboy Life’ Category

Dyke Bar, Sunday Evening

Posted: April 16, 2019 in Tomboy Life
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Haircuts always catch my eye.  When friends ask, “What’s the first thing you notice about a woman?” and everyone answers typically with “her eyes” or “her smile” I try not to participate unless someone notices that I’ve given no answer and only then will I sheepishly,  honestly,  admit that I have a thing for haircuts.  I guess maybe it’s because your ancestors give you your eyes, your smile, your height, your ass (although you can work on that if you want to), your cheekbones, your lips; all that stuff….  But your haircut is yours to decide.  It’s the one thing, no matter what clothes you’re wearing or how else you adorn yourself, that tells the world what YOU think about YOU.  Instantly.  And so it’s always the first thing I see.

My friends had all left the bar because it was Sunday evening and everyone had work the next day.  Except for me, of course.  As a freelancer in television production it was rare, if not completely impossible for me to have a 9 to 5 gig.  Plus, my career was winding down and I was getting closer and closer to retirement so my “off” days were way more abundant than my “on.”

I decided to stay at the bar for one last beer because I had noticed an attractive woman checking me out every few minutes for the last hour or so.  She was standing near the pool table with three other women, drinking beer like a trucker, laughing as if she and her friends were the only ones there and telling quick, clipped stories in what seemed to be a sweet-sounding Caribbean accent.  Her hair was a short mess of tight waves cut into a sharp style that any 80s rocker boy would have been proud to sport while strutting down the King’s Road in London when punk was everything.

I chanced a few quick glances from my spot on a barstool and confirmed my initial assessment:  This woman was H-O-T hot, and for some strange reason she was clocking me.  Maybe she wasn’t as young as she looked.  Or maybe I didn’t look as old as I was.

Am.

When her friends left, she stayed.

And I gulped and thought, okay, she’s a bit on the girly side with those painted nails, that flowery blouse, and those dangling earrings and I’m the grown up tomboy here so I should walk over to her, but I’m way out of practice at this game so it took me a few seconds to reach deep for the courage to approach her.  By the time I did she was standing next to me, saying hello.

“I like your shirt,” she added.

I had to look down to remember what I had on underneath my ancient leather jacket.  It was my new WHITE SUPREMACY IS TERRORISM T-shirt from Rise And Resist.

“Oh, thank you,” I said, feeling my mouth go dry and my nerve endings begin to flail.  But then I remembered my sacred mantra – There Is Nothing To Prove – took a gulp of beer and relaxed into what I hoped would be an adventure worthy of going up against the boredom I had been experiencing lately.

The place had been emptying steadily so she was able to pull up the barstool next to me and settle in.  Her eyes were dark and glassy.  When I offered to buy her a liquid refreshment I made sure to say “something to drink” and not “another beer” even though I knew that was what she was into.  I thought a seltzer with lime might be a good idea; you know, clear your head a bit and fight scurvy all at the same time, but she opted for a Stella so I had another one, too.

I asked her where she was from and she said, “Ah, a very small island near Barbados.  I’m sure you’ve never heard of it,” and I thought oh, sure, this boring white grrrl from Brooklyn couldn’t possibly have Caribbean friends or know anything about World Geography (my best category on Jeopardy!) but I didn’t say anything.  There is nothing to prove, remember?

“So, what’s your name, Sweetcheeks?”

It’s amazing how many things can go through a human mind at one time.  Sweetcheeks?  As in, she likes my face?  She likes my butt?  I’d been sitting the whole time, so probably that’s a no.  Is she just doing that thing that so many of my Island friends would do, easily and breezily throwing about terms of endearment whether they knew your name or not?  Can it be this beautiful woman really likes me?  She’s on at least the 4th beer I’ve seen her devour since I noticed her watching me.  Maybe it’s just the foam.

“DJ.  What’s yours?”

“DJ?  Short for… Debbie Jo?  Donna Joy?  Dina Jessie?”

She was on a roll, smiling as she spun, being obviously playful and not trying to offend me but I felt like I needed to stop her before she came up with something really crazy like Didja Job or Dubya Jesus.  I thought about saying Doobie Jah just to see how she reacted but I stuck with the truth.  It’s always best.

“It’s not short for anything, really.  It’s just what a lot of people called me because of what I did before I decided what to be when I grew up.  And it kind of stuck.”

“Oh, I get it.  Well, I am called Tina and it’s nice to meet you.”

We actually shook hands.  Then we both took another sip of beer.

“So what is it that you do, now that you’re all grown up?”

Her eyelids were getting lower by the minute.  She was paying attention but I wondered how much of her was actually there at the bar with me and how much was sailing down a silky stream of suds.

“Nothing important.  I work in television production.”

“Ooh, that sounds exciting.  I bet you get to meet all kinds of famous people.   But if it’s not important work, tell me something that is.”

Well now.  Was she somehow sobering up?  Were we really about to get into a serious conversation about meaningful world issues?  Here in this West Village bar at 7:30 on a Sunday evening?  If we were, my interest in her would grow exponentially.

“Um, you know.  Writing stories.  Saving the world from fascism.  Stuff like that.”

Stuff like that?  Yeah, that sounded intelligent.

“So you’re an activist.  That explains your cool T-shirt.”

No, because being an activist is more than just walking around as a here’s-what-we-can-do-to-fix-the-world billboard.  Holy shit, for someone who was not a big fan of sarcasm I sure did think a lot of it in my head.

I was only on my third beer but I hadn’t eaten anything in hours so I began to feel a slight buzz.  My eyes wandered down to the pearl necklace at her throat and I thought about how nice it would be to bite or suck or lick every single perfect off-white orb.  I’m able to have a complete and satisfying fantasy scenario flash through my brain in 3 seconds flat so I don’t think she noticed as I momentarily drifted off topic.

“Yes, I’m an activist.  I have been for most of my life.”  I smiled as I thought about getting tossed out of a hockey arena at age 14 with a bunch of other determined teenagers for shouting What About Watergate over and over at Richard Nixon as he was trying to begin a campaign speech to a sea of wealthy and upper middle class Long Island republicans.

She noticed my smile.

“It makes you happy to try to change the world, eh?”

“Yes.”

I liked this Tina.  Because even though she was heavy-lidded and teetering a bit on her barstool she was able to see me for who I was and maintain a pretty decent conversation.  Plus, she was fucking hot.  Did I mention that she was hot?

We talked a little bit about how the world was so scary and messed up right now, how it’s mostly always been but now more than ever in our lifetimes and that got me wondering about how old she might be.  But you can’t just up and ask a woman her age.  There are things you can do, like ask her where she was on 9/11 and if the answer is In Gym Class or In Psych One then you know to pat the youngster on the head and look for someone your own size, but that’s such a depressing topic.  I searched her hair for grays and saw a few, so that was promising.  Then I remembered that I got my first 3 silver hairs when I was 16 and gave up trying to guess.  It was time to ask her what she did for a living.

She told me she was a physics teacher and further explained that she had received her master’s degree from UMass  in 1992.  Physics!  I love physics!  UMass!  Ugh, please don’t be a Red Sox fan.  And 1992.  Even give or take a year… or three or four… to earn money to continue studying or take care of a sick parent or whatever, a master’s degree in 1992 put her somewhere in the vicinity of my age bracket.  Cool.

But suddenly the topic changed from Physics to Philosophy (another one of my favorites) when she asked, “So, what are you out here looking for, DJ?  Happiness?  The meaning of life?  A girlfriend?”

I almost choked on my final swig of beer.

“Oh, no.  Definitely not a GF,” I said.  “I am done with that.”

“No, really?  Why would you say such a thing?”

And because it’s pretty complicated and involved and kind of a long story, I thought I’d stick with the simple answer.

“I’m just bad at relationships.  Can’t seem to get them right.  It usually starts as just sex and then somebody says I love you and I think, okay, I can give this a try but then I get comfortable or bored or restless and I become a real jerk.  You’ve heard of jerk chicken?  Yeah, I become jerk DJ.  And then it ends.  So I’ve decided  to never go there again.”

Stop.Talking.Now!  What the fuck?  She said she was a physicist, not a freakin’ therapist, you idiot!

“Hmmm,” was all she said.  Then she got the bartender’s attention, ordered yet another beer and asked me what I wanted.

“Just a coke for me, thanks.”

“Yeah, because the beer has your lips flapping.  I get it.  I don’t usually drink this much, you know, but I’m celebrating this evening.”

Bless you, Tina, for changing the subject.

“Oh, what’s the occasion?”

“I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary of being free from my crazy ex-girlfriend.”

Ah.  So we seem to have much more in common than physics and philosophy but as I now see, we have most definitely NOT changed the subject.

“Oh, you, too?” I asked.  “Cheers.  Only for me it’s about 7 years.”

“Yeah, we all have that crazy ex, I guess.  You get to a certain age, you spin around, and there she is.”

And I was thinking, only women of a certain age consider themselves women of a certain age.  Tina was still making a spinning gesture with her left hand while she took another sip with her right.  I noticed that her hands had that useful, lived-in quality that I liked, as if she did more more with them than just grade physics papers and scroll through electronic devices.  The hand with the beer was shaking a little as she brought the bottle to her mouth and I saw whole patches of nail polish missing.  Definitely not high-maintenance, I thought.  Another good sign.  But her speech was starting to slur and I believe she began to realize how drunk she was.  Perhaps that’s what emboldened her as she finally changed the subject from crazy ex-girlfriends.

“I really do like your shirt,” she reminded me.  And then she stood up carefully, inched closer and put a now-steady hand on the middle of my T-shirt, on my breastbone, vertically, so her thumb barely rested on the inner edge of my right breast and her pinky brushed the edge of the left.

“I like it so much, I think you should give it to me.”

Well.  I’m no youngster.  I have been around a lot of blocks, a lot of times.  Quite often, in more serious or tense situations, I think of the perfect comeback an hour, or a whole fucking day later.  But this wasn’t tense.  This was fun.

So I smiled and said, “Take me home and rip it off me.  Maybe then you can have it.”

Tina smiled back and grabbed me by the elbow, trying to head us both towards the door.  I thought, wow, that was easy, but i knew I couldn’t really go home with her.  First of all, I was without my bag of tricks.  And even if I did have it, my magic bag was incomplete since the last woman who invited me to share her bed had insisted on keeping my favorite toy as a souvenir.  Time to go shopping!

But more importantly, I was a woman, a lesbian, a feminist.  I couldn’t possibly live with myself and continue my quest for an ethical life if I took advantage of a seriously inebriated bar patron.  I’d be no better than a man on the prowl with a tiny jar of Rohypnol in his pocket.  Tina was in no condition to say yes and mean it.

So I helped her to the curb, signaled for a taxi and folded her into the back seat.  As she settled in and gave the driver an address that was only about 20 blocks away she reached into her jeans and pulled out a small, white, rectangular item that she shoved into my front pocket just before I closed the door.  And to make myself feel better, as I turned and headed to the nearest subway station, I thought about how she’d probably get home and pass out in bed before she could even take her shoes off.

Halfway down the block I remembered that there was something burning a hole against my thigh.  I pulled it out, unfolded it and peeked and there it was, Tina’s full name and cell number on a card that was obviously from the uptown high school where she worked.  I shoved it back in and gave it a little pat.

Time to go shopping, indeed.

 

68 Go-Go

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Tomboy Life
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I’m betting I was ten when this happened.  My official tomboy uniform at the time consisted of dungarees or bell-bottom corduroys, T-shirts or paisley button-downs, white, ribbed A-shirts, gym socks and girls’ underpants.  For school I was forced to wear a dress or skirt, since it was 1968 or thereabouts and no one at the time could figure out that most girls had two legs just like most boys did and that pants would not only fit us but make us more comfortable.  But as soon as I got home, every single day, I changed into the clothes that felt right for me.  My sneakers were PF Flyers.  My baseball cap was always navy blue and always sported the interlocking white NY of the New York Yankees.  When I was dressed in my uniform, I felt ready for anything.

One fine summer day, some neighborhood friends and I wandered off to the woods behind our houses.  We couldn’t access them from our yards.  We had to walk around the block and enter through a perfectly placed hole some older kids had cut into the fence so they could hide behind all the trees to smoke cigarettes and drink beer.  Our parents knew there were bullies hanging out in those woods and told us, emphatically, that they were dangerous, forbidden, out of bounds.  We all knew we’d be in huge trouble if we were found out but it was 1968 and we had played all the baseball, tag and football games we could stand and now ached for a new adventure.  I don’t remember whose idea it was but at least seven of us made like spies, peeled off and boldly headed down the sidewalk towards the glorious woods.  The hole in the fence beckoned us all to explore what lay beyond.  It was quiet at first and there was no sign at all of any big kids or their smoking and drinking detritus.  We walked around as if we were Robin Hood’s Merry Men and decided to build a lean-to with some of the broken branches we found, just in case it rained.  Our small group worked that wood like experts and as soon as we had weaved the final branch into place, we heard a booming, mocking voice.  It was the bully we all feared, the boy who was old enough for high school but who was still in 9th grade at the junior high because he kept getting left back.  He appeared out of nowhere with 2 or 3 of his henchmen by his side.  The first thing he did was snatch my Yankee hat off my head.

Well, we were all scared shitless of this nasty kid but my sister and friends knew what that hat meant to me so there was no way we were leaving those woods without it.  We chased after it as it was tossed from one big kid to another, as they joked about our puny efforts to retrieve it until suddenly, the head bully noticed our lean-to.  He pointed to it and laughed.  Then he picked up a huge fallen branch with the intention of tossing it onto our creation to crush it into a pile of twigs.  He said if the shelter could withstand the weight of the branch I could have my hat back. Then he heaved the fallen timber over his head and let it fly.  It landed with a crack, right on the top of our structure and came to a dead stop.  Not a stick fell out of place.  Not a single twig moved.  There was barely a shudder.  Because we might have been little kids but we were smart, adventurous, creative little kids, and we had built that shelter to last.  We all slowly turned our smirking faces towards the shocked and shamed ogre and cracked up.  He called us fucking losers and told his sidekick to toss me my hat.  I caught it, looked at my gang of buddies with a twisted, desperate face and no words were necessary.  We took off so fast for the hole in the fence that our lungs were bursting when we made it back to the safety of the street.  I don’t know how the parents ever found out that we had explored that forbidden place but we were all grounded for a week when we got home.

Later that same summer my mom’s eccentric sister came for a visit after a day of shopping in New York City.  She had no kids of her own and spent a lot of her husband’s ill-gotten riches on herself and her sisters and nieces and nephews.  The first thing we noticed was that she was wearing two different shoes.  And we were pretty sure she had no idea, which, of course, turned out to be right.  My sister gently brought it to her attention and she had to squint down to see, clearly, that we were not pulling her leg.  Mortified that she had spent an entire day in the big city with shoes that didn’t match on her aching, swollen feet, she finally just had to laugh and take a seat.  The shoes were very similar, I’ll give her that much.  But one had a buckle and one had a ribbon.  This aunt was always good for a chuckle.

Her shopping that day had taken her into Greenwich Village.  Hippies were in season then.  Peace and love and flower power.  She reached into a big paper bag and pulled out a pair of boots each for my sisters and me.  Go-go boots.  White go-go boots.  Girly go-go boots.  Back then this was true and still to this day, if I go ice skating I ask for brown or black hockey skates.  I don’t wear white shoes, unless they are softball cleats or basketball sneakers or some kind of athletic footwear that looks just as good dirty as clean.

My sisters were thrilled with their gifts and pulled the boots on immediately, right there at the kitchen table, and they ran off to look at themselves in the full-length mirror in the bathroom.  I was not pleased.  Another well-meaning aunt had given me a purse the previous Christmas.  A cousin had contributed some hand-me-down blouses with Peter Pan collars.  These girly things were all stuffed into the very back of my closet so I not only wouldn’t have to wear them but I also wouldn’t have to look at them, be reminded constantly that no one seemed to understand how badly I didn’t feel like or care to dress like a typical girl of the mid-20th century.  I was having a boyhood, not a girlhood and it pissed me off that no one seemed to get this fundamental aspect of who I was inside.

Those go-go boots were cool, though.  I really wanted to like them.  I wanted to be seen wearing them.  I just didn’t want them to be white.  So I did what any smart, creative, adventurous tomboy would do.  I thanked my aunt, put them aside and waited a few days until I had the house, briefly, all to myself.  And then I used a mess of boot polish to transform my cool, white go-go boots, that I wouldn’t have been seen dead wearing, into my new, super-cool, black, mod boots.  Which, by the way, if she had found them in my closet, my mother would have killed me for ruining.  So I hid them in the leaf and lawn clipping pile out back.  And then, whenever I wanted to wear them, to be seen wearing them, I would leave the house with my PF Flyers on but hit the sidewalk with my cool black boots.  And unlike that ill-fated trip to the woods, no one ever told my mom about what I had done to the boots my aunt brought home from the city just a few days before school started again.  Those boots.  They weren’t made for walking.  They were made for cross-dressing.

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Tradition means a lot to me.  I come from a large Italian-American family and my generation of that family has always been proud to learn about and continue the holiday traditions passed on to us by our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles.  We haphazardly formed a chorus of cousins and sang Christmas carols after dinner on many Thanksgiving nights.  We joyfully sat down to a meal of seven fishes every December 24th.  We played with the big spinning tops Aunt Ida placed under her Christmas tree every holiday season.  There were ancient ornaments and decorations displayed each year and then carefully passed on so they could be enjoyed and appreciated by future generations.  There were foods and desserts that simply had to grace the table, to make any special occasion complete.  We were taught, my siblings, cousins and I, to keep certain routines in our hearts, because, as we now know,  pulling them out every year inspires memories, stories we share with the new generation we have brought forth.  Tradition brings back to life the family members who have gone before us.  We honor them by remembering them, by continuing their ways, by invoking them at our celebrations and thrilling our children with tales of their exploits, their heroics, their laughter and love.

They were the Greatest Generation.  Born in the teens, 20s and 30s of the 20th century, they endured the Great Depression with dignity and faith.  They fought and won World War II with a sense of purpose and determination no subsequent generation would ever dare to claim.  They did whatever they thought they needed to do to make life better for their children and grandchildren, without complaining.  And then they encouraged us to start traditions of our own.

So we did.  We, two of us, would walk on the beach and sing California Dreaming every year on vacation in Florida.  When we were able, we’d play a wild game of charades after dinner on Christmas Eve, a tradition we will try to revive this year when some out-of-town cousins will be near to us, once more.  Three of the cousins found the seven fishes for Christmas Eve tradition a bit too daunting and changed it to a simple meal of linguine with clam sauce.  Some cousins still go every year to midnight mass.

And we invented the Christmas Bowl.  Four of us.  Crazy cousins.  We would eat our amazing Christmas dinner; antipasto, lasagne, meatballs and sausages, wine, braciole, stuffed artichokes, glazed ham and mushrooms, pies and cookies, struffoli and chestnuts, fennel.  Uncle Frankie had served as a cook in the Navy.  Aunt Ida had learned secrets from our grandma.  Their Brooklyn home was filled every Christmas with relatives, music and food and candy canes and silver lanes aglow.  We’d eat and laugh and celebrate the day and then clear the table, digest and rest.  And then my sister, two cousins and I would head outside.

The weather never mattered.  One year it was 45 degrees and foggy.  One year the temperature was a frigid 7, with a wind chill that made it feel much worse.  Some years, East 8th Street was covered in ice.  Some years, it was downright balmy.  We didn’t care.  We dressed accordingly.  And we made up the rules as we went along.  There had to be a new football every year.  The first year, it was an old tennis ball.  Another year, it was a yellow Nerf ball.  We were all on the same team, so we had no real opponent.  We pretended we were the lowliest team in the NFL at the time.  I can remember being the New Orleans Saints or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quite often.  We “played against” the winner of the previous year’s Super Bowl, which meant Pittsburgh, Oakland, Dallas, San Francisco or Washington, since this happened in the late 70s and early 80s.  We could never run with the ball, we could only pass.  We gave ourselves four downs to make it from one manhole cover to the next, a distance of about 100 feet.  If we didn’t score a touchdown, our opponent scored.  Each possession was a quarter of the game.  After two quarters, we’d march back down the street humming a John Philip Sousa tune, to mark halftime.  My cousin John was almost always the quarterback.  My sister Gloria, cousin Judy and I were the receivers.  One year the fog made it almost impossible to see the ball.  We actually “lost” that year and when we went inside, our family members, some of whom had watched, squinting, from the living room window, wondered how we could have lost when there was no opposing team.

The best game happened in the bitter cold, on a Christmas night when the nearest streetlight was out.  Our “field” was very dark.  We joked about how, if one fan in the stands stood up to cheer us on, they all had to stand up because they were all stuck together, like icicles, that’s how cold it was.  At the end of four quarters, the game was tied, 14-14.  We were using a small brown dog-toy football that year which, given the lack of light, was incredibly hard to see, so we had only managed to score two touchdowns.  We decided, despite the cold, to play overtime, since no one was satisfied with a tie as the final score.  We started at the north manhole, as usual, the one closer to Foster Avenue.  Someone caught the first pass for a gain of about 20 feet.  The next pass was dropped, either because of stiff, frozen fingers or impossible darkness.  The next pass gained us another 25 feet or so.  That left us with one more chance, one more pass to win the game.  But the end zone was at least 18 yards away, at the darkest end of the street.  John told us all to just bolt for the far manhole and turn around.  I ran the fastest, buzzed up the left side and crossed to the right once I was in what we considered to be the end zone.  I saw John launch the little brown ball.  It disappeared into the blackness for a second but I could tell it was headed my way.  I turned a pinch to my left to try to see it and suddenly, there it was, headed directly for my right ear.  I caught it, basically, with my head and then quickly covered it up with my hand so it wouldn’t bounce away.  It was the luckiest, craziest, most amazing football catch I had ever made and it saved us the embarrassment of having to tell our warm, relaxing family members that we had lost the Christmas Bowl once again.  A true Christmas miracle.  The final score was 21-14 (OT) in our favor and I don’t think a more fun football game has ever been played.

We keep threatening, the four of us, to get together some Christmas night and go back to East 8th Street in Midwood to play the Christmas Bowl one more time, even though a new family occupies that house we used to visit with such joy and anticipation.  The front door is the same, the nine living room windows are the same, the stoop is still separated into two sections.  Maybe we really will do it someday.  For now, we revel in the memories and photos and we share embellished, exaggerated tales of the glory with the newest members of the clan.

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When I was in college I wrote a book of poetry and photography.  The title I gave it was Influence of Absence.  I gave it that title because I believed then, as I still do now, that so much of who I am, what I am, HOW I am has been greatly influenced by the absence, almost my entire life, of my father.  My mom used to tell me that I walked like him and had his dry, northwestern sense of humor.  This revelation has perplexed me for decades and the only explanation I have been able to muster is that my gait resembles his because I inherited his bone structure.  My right foot angles outward with every step because of how my legs and hips are constructed.  It’s a working theory.  As far as sharing his sense of humor is concerned, I am open to suggestions to explain this phenomenon.  It makes no sense.  He died before I had any serious verbal abilities and I find it hard to believe that something as abstract as a sense of humor is genetically transferable.  I tend to attribute it to lucky coincidence.  Because of the stories I have been told by family elders, I am perfectly willing to accept that I do indeed share my dad’s dry wit and I consider it a gift.  I embrace it.  Still, he never had the chance to influence me by his actions, by being a role model or actively sitting down to teach me things.  It was his absence that influenced me more than anything.

My oldest sister tried to take his place and she has been another significant influence in my life.  She taught me a lot about playing the guitar, appreciating all kinds of music, doing the right thing and not being afraid to be myself.  She even let me know that, although it was the 1960s and Title IX did not yet exist, it was okay, good even, for girls to be athletic.  I am a ballplayer, a lifelong Yankees fan and a New York Giants fan thanks to her.  Our favorite teams have not done so well lately, but it’s okay.  I learned team loyalty from my sister, also, and I am happy to say that I will never be a fair-weather fan.

My “stepfather” was another big influence in my life.  For pretty much the entire nine years we lived together, he was a fantastic example of how not to be.  He showed me that being cruel hurts everybody involved, that there’s nothing joyous about life as a bully, that meanness is a happiness thief.  Thanks, asshole!  I have not forgotten you, but I have pretty much forgiven you.

The best, most influential professor I had in college, Ignacio, is 80 years old now and still an active part of my life thanks to social networking.  He re-taught me how to think, as a poet and a philosopher, in my freshman year.  If not for Ignacio I would still be that dopey kid who meant well but just didn’t get it.  There’s still a whole universe of things that I just don’t understand, but now I can recognize and accept my vast ignorance.  And speaking of a vast ignorance, is it the opposite of a split infinitive?  Ignacio?

In the very early days of my professional career there was Laurel, who basically, flat-out asked me, “Are you gay?” way past the time that I should have accepted, embraced and explored this myself.  Whew!  Thanks, Laurel, for being brave and coming right out, pun intended, to plainly illustrate the obvious.  Who knows how much longer I would have gone on denying my true identity if you hadn’t come along to positively influence my life.  Where are you now, anyway?

The Merriam-Webster definition of influence, as a noun is

: the power to change or affect someone or something : the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen
: a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way
and as a transitive verb is
: to affect or change (someone or something) in an indirect but usually important way : to have an influence on (someone or something)
The key words in these definitions, I think, are power, change and important.  I am trying to be a powerful influence in the lives of my daughters, an agent of positive change.  Someday I’ll be dust, hopefully sweet memories for them to share, fodder, possibly, for their own blogs or memoirs or screenplays.  This afternoon, at a middle school meeting about the progress of child number two, I was told, by some of the teachers, many wonderful things and that I must be doing a lot right.  It felt great to hear all this, but I can’t take all the credit.  It’s a trickle-down effect.  So be good, be kind, be helpful and forgiving toward the people around you.  The effects can linger for generations.
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Two hikers yesterday found a badly decomposed body believed to be that of Nobel Prize-winning hermit author Kimberly Miller, near a cabin she was believed to have purchased 25 years ago, in 2014.  The body was tentatively identified because of the hearing aids still inserted in its crumbling ears and because the shredded clothing seemed to resemble the outdoorsy and comfortable sportswear preferred by the 81-year-old writer.  An initial report by the county coroner states the probable cause of death as simply falling peacefully asleep in a cedar Adirondack chair in the woods and then lacking the will to ever wake up.

 


 

If the body does indeed prove to be that of Kimberly Miller she will be sorely missed.  Although she lead a primarily reclusive life she was known to come out of hiding twice a year, in the spring to direct the elementary school play and also in the fall to run the middle school book fair, where she always read from her favorite books, some which she had written but mostly those she hadn’t.  She usually gave out Scholastic gift cards to unsuspecting parents who seemed to be unable to purchase all the actual books in which their children showed a true interest.  At last year’s book fair, Ms Miller threatened to start a bonfire with electronic reading devices if one more student came in and asked if there were any for sale there in the school library.

 

 

Kimberly Miller published only three books in her short writing career, which started in her 50s after she could no longer find work as a TV stage manager and her friends told her to give that up and do what she loved best.  The first was a faux-memoir entitled Joke’s On Me about her feeble attempts to live a wholesome and genuine life in a world polluted by greed and posers.  The second was a novel called Searching For Sea Glass, about a nightclub DJ who goes completely deaf at the age of 32 and moves to Cape Cod to find herself.  Her final book was published without her consent, when someone found a stash of her poetry in her paper recycling bin and decided to sneak it to her editor, whom Kimberly promptly fired.

 

 

She leaves behind three amazing daughters; Beatrice, the rock star who gave up fame and fortune in 2025 to form a non-profit group that provides food, clean water and education to children, mostly girls, worldwide; Georgia, the award-winning biochemist who discovered the all-natural combination of herbs and spices that can completely cure any form of cancer, who hid out for a year in her mom’s cabin when she brought about the fall of the USDA and the CDC and the entire pharmaceutical industry and there was a price on her head until the public became aware of the sinister plot and promised to protect her wherever she went; and Esther, the Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming and the founder of Tom.Boy.Sport, a clothing line exclusively for young girls who want to dress like young boys.  Miller is also survived by the two perfect husbands and one perfect partner of her children, her 5 grandchildren, three of whom were adopted from Vietnam and by her niece, Mariel, the EMT famous for saving the life of President Tao’s daughter in 2019 and her nephew, Michael, who invented a way for fantasy football computer clicks to pay for athletic shoes for needy children.  The entire family would gather at Kimberly’s cabin every year for Christmas and July 4th celebrations.

 

 

Once the final determination has been made about the identity of the body, almost certainly that of the writer Kimberly Miller, arrangements will be made.  It’s a well known fact that Ms Miller desired to be cremated and have a pinch of her ashes secreted away somewhere in Yankee Stadium and another pinch rubbed into the dirt between first and second base of Softball Field 1 in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.  Her dog and her cat are being fostered until her children arrive.  In lieu of flowers, the family will probably ask for a food or tequila donation to be made to Kim’s New Orleans Jazz-style funeral/remembrance party, but only if you attend and have a great time.

 

Car, Car, C-A-R

Posted: October 14, 2013 in Tomboy Life
Tags: , , , ,

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The first time I can remember feeling truly ashamed was when I was about 9 years old and I was caught stealing a Matchbox Car from the toy department at Gimbel’s in the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall.  I stole it because I was not frequently presented with what would have been considered “boy toys” and so for a while I made it my mission to procure some for myself.  I can remember walking away with Matchbox Cars, GI Joe clothes, even a brown plastic cowboy hat for my Ken doll.  Eventually my mom gave up trying to mold me into a girly-girl but there were a few years there when it was pretty tough to be a tomboy.

As I was stuffing that red Matchbox Car deep into the front pocket of my dungarees I knew right then that it was wrong.  And once I got caught I felt horrible and got into a ton of trouble.  I spent the whole ride home in silence, wondering how my violent, supposed “step-father” would punish me once he found out.  And now I can’t even remember what my punishment was, but I do remember two of my sisters sitting next to me in the car, certain that they were glad they weren’t me right then.  I know I let my mom down that day.  She tried, despite our stressful environment while living with that monster, to teach us right from wrong.

A few years later I started teaching myself about Eastern religions and decided to try to be a person of virtue, a person of honor.  I Ching, Tao Te Ching, Siddhartha, this all started resonating for me by the time I was twelve.  I still, to this day, try to follow a peaceful path, but it’s a pretty difficult thing to do in this crazy, messed up world.

One way I try to stay as calm and peaceful inside as I possibly can is breathing exercises.  I learned some good ones when I was pregnant and preparing for my due date.  Another is visualization.  I close my eyes and imagine pure, bright, white light entering the top of my head from far out in the center of the universe and filling me with serenity and goodness.  I imagine the good light visiting every part of me and cleansing me from the inside as it travels through me.

And then there’s humor.  I have always had a pretty decent sense of it and I love to laugh and make other people laugh.  This trend started pretty early in my life and I can remember being called an imp and a trickster.  I tried to play pranks that were funny but not annoying, as my sense of empathy was also strong and I didn’t want to make people angry, I just wanted to make them laugh.

I recall being about seven years old and attending a big, family-filled dinner party in the middle of winter, snow on the ground when we arrived and accumulating steadily as the party wore on.  Some older kids started stealing everyone’s shoes and hiding them and as people got ready to leave they were pissed because so many of the shoes were missing.  It occurred to me right then that making people mad was not funny at all.  So I tried to stick to getting smiles, not sighs of exasperation.

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In 1969, one big hairstyle for moms was the bouffant look.  My mom had such a high version it made me wonder how she managed to sleep comfortably inside that lacquer helmet.  A lot of my aunts wore their hair this way also.  They would go once a week to the salon and, I swear, walk out toting half a can of hairspray on their teased up, swirling locks.  That first day, their hair was downright springy.  You could press it all the way down to the scalp and it would pop right back up into place once you took your hand away.  This annoyed my mom so we didn’t do it too often.  The bouffant hairstyle also came with empty spaces here and there, where the swirls of hair didn’t necessarily cover completely.  Cracks in the armor, these spaces were to me.  And very inviting.  Too much to resist.  So while my step-sister distracted my mom, I gently placed a tiny, yellow, metal toy car, about a quarter of the size of a Matchbox and weighing almost nothing, into one of those inviting spaces between the swirls in her puffed up hair.  She didn’t feel a thing.  And then she walked around with it there for two whole days.  I eventually had to point it out to her because I knew she was due to go back to the hairdresser and I thought it would be carrying the prank too far to let him discover it there.  She had been to the city the first day and running errands around town the second day.  And she was such a good sport, my mom.  I can still hear the laughter that filled our dysfunctional kitchen that morning when I brought it to her attention.  She was all for anything that caused a break in the tense and violent atmosphere we all called home.  And I bet she’s laughing again now, wherever her soul may be.

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thine own selfImage            About six months ago a journal prompt arrived via email from the leader of my coaching group.  It was about our sense of belonging and any compromises we may have made in life in order to fit in, to belong.  It was an easy assignment for me.  Having been called “sir” more often than I could possibly ever count or care to remember, I have had to live daily, sometimes moment to moment, with the choices I have made about being true to who I feel, deep down inside of me, I am.

Fitting in is difficult.  If you think of the people around you as puzzle pieces who all go together so very nicely because they prescribe to a certain amount of unspoken rules about where they all belong and how they are supposed to be shaped, you see the empty space they have left for you.  They will all be much, much more comfortable in their lives if you live your life according to the boundaries they have set for you.  There will be no need for them to change shape at all, reconsider who they are, do some work, in other words, to make it possible for you to be a part of their puzzle in a shape that feels right to you.

When I was a kid I was asked, “Are you a boy or a girl?” just about every day.  Once, in 1981, on a road trip south with my mom, who did repeatedly, gently suggest that I grow my hair and put on a tiny bit of makeup but who always loved me and supported my choices, we stopped to use the bathroom at one of those rest areas along Interstate 95.  We were in South Carolina and my mom was paying for gas when I made my way to the facilities.  As I entered, a middle-aged woman was exiting.  She saw me in my t-shirt, jeans and Yankee cap, took a step back and a quick look at the logo on the door, twisted her face in confusion so violently that I almost thought she would implode, and said, “This is the ladies room!” in a deep Southern drawl.  I swept by her without pausing, said, “Congratulations, you can read,” and found an empty stall quickly, so I could privately run through the range of emotions I felt every time this happened to me, from embarrassment to annoyance to frustration to amusement to anger.  Most definitely anger.  It used to piss me off so much because, even as far back as the 60s and 70s, I believed that the expectations placed upon people based on their gender were idiotic.  Dresses for women, pants for men.  High heels for women, flat shoes for men.  Women?  Makeup.  Men?  No makeup.  Yuck!  I wanted nothing to do with any of it.

I dressed “like a boy” because it was so much more comfortable to do so, not to mention more practical.  It was always what felt normal to me.  I honestly don’t know how girly women do it!  Dresses and skirts are just so idiotic.  Women spend a small fortune on makeup, trying to resemble some Madison Avenue ideal.  It’s total exploitation.  Our fears about looking old or not good enough are preyed upon and all that is truly accomplished is some hefty paychecks for some hefty Mad Men.  To jackhammer young girls and women with the idea that they don’t fit in, that they don’t belong unless they subscribe to the traditionally acceptable uniform and code… I say screw that.  I like to wear pants.  I like to wear flat shoes.  I sometimes shop in the men’s department because not only are the clothes and shoes there more well-made but they make a whole lot more sense.  Why would I wear a skirt in 15-degree weather?  Why would I wear heels going up and down subway steps?  Why should I wear makeup to decorate my face?  I’m perfectly happy with the way my face looks naturally.  And I have always been this way.

I’m sure I’ve suffered because of my insistence on looking the way that feels right to me.  I’ve probably scared off a few would-be employers.  I’ve definitely been talked about behind my back.  I’ve been stared at in women’s rooms all over the world.  Whatever.  I don’t care.  I suppose there are things upon which I have compromised in order to “fit in” better in certain situations or environments, but this has never been one of them.

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