Archive for the ‘rambles’ Category

Something that flat startled the hell out of me, several months into our relationship, was finding out that Jim is nearly two years my junior. I’m coming up on twenty-four my next birthday (which granted isn’t until September), and he’s coming up on twenty-two. Our birthdays are only ten days apart, which is convenient for someone with an awful memory for dates, and that’s all I knew for a while. All evidence suggests that this must not be true, since we met on OKCupid, which lists your age, but all the same; I remember being totally floored when I found out he was so much younger. I tend to automatically assume that anyone who doesn’t have gray hair or baby fat is essentially my age, and treat them as such. Jim and I are at parallel stages in life, and we’re stupidly happy; it’s only when someone points out that he’s my brother’s age, and I’m his sister’s, that it becomes in any way relevant.

This is what you might call a trend—and not just with partners and lovers, but with all different kinds of people in my life.

My best friend since I moved to Westford (not where I live, but essentially where I’m from) is someone I met as a very young child, the summer before I turned nine. We both have extremely vivid memories of meeting each other with our mouths full of blackberries and my hair in my eyes; we were pretty much inseparable for the next ten years. She tells me that when I went to college, she felt lost–I did too. You spend your life with someone, and then move, and there’s a big empty space where they were, a quiet spot in your day where before you talked for two hours at the barn. The thing about Meg—who I love, who became my sister—that always amuses me in a low-level way is that she is well over two years younger than I am. That means she was, when we met, six. Six and almost-nine is a big difference at that age–I’m not sure I even noticed. I have no memory of ever thinking about it, until I moved up to middle school or high school or college, and she was left behind.

I am not a stranger to leaving people behind.

When I was in Australia, I met Jory in the flesh.  I actually met Jory online a number of years ago; he was one of the most established people on the forum we were both on, incredibly well-spoken, very smart, very thorough. When we met up, in the Melbourne zoo in August of my Junior year, I wasn’t real clear on what Jory looked like, having never seen a picture and not actually knowing what a quoll (the stuffed animal he said he’d be carrying) looked like. I spent the first five minutes walking through the zoo, peering at all the people around my age, or very slightly below it–and so was deeply disconcerted to encounter a small and obviously much younger person grinning and swinging a spotted rat-like toy by the tail.

At that point, Jory was still a teenager. I was just about to turn twenty-one, only a few weeks shy. Our experiences to that point were continents and countries apart, because between your late teens and early twenties—between highschool and college—is sometimes this yawning gap where you do an enormous amount of growing up.  We should not have had much to say to each other. The ensuing visit with his family should have been awkward. I should not have come back to their house again and again, should not have attended birthday parties, slept over, memorized the walk from Glen Waverly to his house—

And yet. But still. Because in not very long at all, I was reaching out to hold Jory’s hand in the dark as we talked about all the things you can’t say during the day. I remember that grip so vividly, so viscerally—in that moment, there weren’t years between us, there were two exhausted, lonely, shaken young adults who needed to hold someone’s hand, who needed a lifeline.

…I have a friend right now is quite literally old enough to have birthed me; in a few more years, I’m sure I’ll haves ones young enough to be my kids. (Give me time, I’m only twenty three.) Because when I fall for someone, as a partner or as a friend—and don’t let anyone fool you, all good friendships involve falling a little bit in love, the same way all good partners are also your friend—I forget everything about them except the things that made me love them in the first place.


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When We Talk About Love

I watch the TV show Bones because I am crazy for two different people.

I mean it’s also great television, or I wouldn’t still be keeping up with it, you know? I love Tempe and Seeley; I think it’s a smart, blunt, funny, gruesome show. It gets a little too human once in a while (I just like the dead bodies and Bones’s complete inability to figure out how to be a real person), but mostly I enjoy it to the hilt. I like Angela’s ludicrous magic art-science solutions and Hodgins’ crazy eyes and the faces Cam makes and the Gormagon killer.

But mostly, I watch it out of love.

I started watching Bones with my girlfriend at the time and our mutual friend Em. Now, I liked Fe (short for Favorite Ex) pretty completely, but it’s Em I want to talk about here. I respect her in a shy, cautious, adoring manner, and loved that she seem reasonably fond of me. She’s very smart and very outspoken and very independent.  Although she has a romance-novel streak, her entertainments are typically very intellectual.

And as I said earlier, Bones is a smart show.

So we three, and sometimes others, would sit and watch it. This was a highlight of my week, sitting with Fe and Em and being shushed every time I tried to say something. I seek community, no matter how tiny, and I felt accepted into a group those days–because Fe and Em are so tightly connected, so linked to each other. Those evenings ended when Em moved into the Archaeology Dork house, and I didn’t keep up with Bones as I should have. Wasn’t the same.

Two years later I met Jim.

He watches Bones too, and I idly started watching the newer episodes with him because I remembered the Gormagon plotline from when I watched with Fe and Em, and remembered liking it–but mostly because I really, really like Jim. And when I have a partner, or want to be friends with someone, I tend to try to access the things they do, look at the things they like, see if I can love the things they love. It’s a way of falling for someone, and showing them that.


And whether it’s reading Rumi or watching Bones, I usually end up in love with something other the person I’m after.



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Despite the titles of the past two blogs, I have no desire to force a gender on my kids. This is something Jim and I have gotten into over the past few days; as you might expect, he’s got some pretty solidly thought out ideas about why and how a kid should be raised up without feeling like they need to like princesses if they are a girl or trucks if they’re a boy–or even to feel like they have to be a girl or a boy.

So: here are the third of three sets of books I will read my children.

1. My Father’s Dragon. This is actually a set of three books–My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland. They’re very simple, and very sweet. The illustrations are black and white, very round-cornered and old-fashioned. There’s one or two seriously pleasing maps and a cat who talks, and a baby dragon named… well. I won’t spoil it for you. It is absolutely perfect to read as a going-to-bed book.


2. The Children of Green Knowe. So far as I have been able to find out in the past fifteen years, I am the only person who has read this book. It’s a very beautiful, very quiet, very English book. It’s hard to say much else about it, because part of its strangeness is what the reader slowly realizes. I first heard it read out loud, and done right, it’s utterly enchanting. Plus, I refuse to remain the only person who has ever read this.

3. Redwall. Every child should be given the chance to drool over imaginary meals they will never, ever be able to recreate. And repetitive plots are soothing to small children, and this series is particularly prone to going over the same territory over and over. Plus they’re a blast to read out loud–so many different voices to do! And at least one of them was a major family bonding episode for my parents, brother, and me; we took a long car trip and listened to Cluny the Scourge take over the Abbey. Perfect.

4. Peter Pan. This is the book I would choose to read to a sick friend my age, to a kid I was babysitting, to my own child. I have a recording of it that I listen to on a regular basis. For those of you who have only seen the movie–read the book. It’s a spooky, strange, surreal and beautiful book; I want my children to dream of Neverland and look out the window for Peter and the second star to the right. I want to share that experience with them.


So there you have it. A round dozen book I consider to be indispensable to becoming a lover of books at a young age. There are dozens more, of course–I was a brutally focused reader even as a child, and I have so many books I loved and was touched by. I don’t have the time, or the space, to possibly cover them all.


But I invite you to share your lists, if you have them.

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I don’t know that I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m the oldest child in my immediate family (and the oldest girl among the cousins, but that’s another entry). I have a brother who is twenty-two months my junior. When I was much younger, I used to watch my mother read with and to E; I was much more my father’s child, and a more independent one in general. I’m too like my mother for anyone’s good.

Anyway. Continuing the list.

1. The Wind in the Willows (thanks to a commentator for reminding me of this one). We had a handsome and very small version of these with great pictures. These books are at the heart of my love for badgers and talking animals, although they definitely weren’t the only books that grew that. I love the simplicity of their names and the absolute weirdness of their adventures; Rat (Rattie to Mole) was my favorite. Frog cracked me up. I like how he always gets his comeuppance; a good lesson for a rambunctious kid.

2. Continuing a theme, Frog and Toad are Friends is one of my most wistfully beloved books. I remember hardly anything about it, but I remember the look and feel of it, and it’s a good story for children wondering if they’ll ever have a best friend. If my son is anything like me, and like my brother, then he’ll want that reassurance until he gets his confidence up. Plus, then he and I can watch the weirdest movie ever together, and we can have a nice little bonding moment when he has nightmares. Just like I did.

3. Winnie the Pooh. There’s not even anything to say here. Everyone should have this read to them. It starts a love for poetry early, and a joy in language, and encourages imaginary friends. I want my son to have an imagination as big and complicated and vivid as his mom’s.

4. Speaking of imagination… The final book on my list this evening (though I’ve got more coming up) is Alice in Wonderland. This is a nice segue book for a kid who’s starting to read by himself–read him Wonderland, and let him work his way through Looking Glass alone if he wants to. Plus it has such a wicked archaic gleefulness to it, such an investiture in total nonsense; kids have a streak of that anyway, and I want to urge him to keep that through to adulthood.

Four more to come later this week.

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My name is Bones.

…or Edie.

Or–rarely these days–Talia.

I do have a perfectly serviceable birthname which suits me fairly well, but I decided to leave it off in favor of anonymity. I’ve also gone by other monikers; some of them the proper sort of nicknames that are derived from my the one I was born with, some more along the lines of “short stuff”. I went by Aurélie in highschool, from four years of full-immersion French classes. I picked up bossmare and hyena-girl somewhere along the line. I like names. I like the flexibility and the chance to take on a slightly different personality.

I’ve been moving between names without thinking about it for a long time, not just with myself but with other people. Cris and Liam were the same person, who was sometimes called Dragon; so were Melissa and Byrd, Fey and Heather, Carolyn and Leyna. Kendra was Kendra or Dama or Dee, depending on what year it was. Grace and George are she and he, two individuals in one mind, one body, one personality. We’re all of us in our twenties now–somewhere between 23 and 26, and these were names we took as kids, ten years ago. When I talk to these people about each other, I still use the names we used in those days; so do they. When I talked to my parents, or to those friends outside of that little gang, or now, to my post-highschool friends, I called and call them by the names they were born with. (Except George, who is always George.) This is a way that I show love; private names, private stories, things that are just-between-us-two (or three, or four).

I never even thought about the swapping back and forth, and I rarely slipped up, which considering I was also swapping pronouns was pretty impressive. I was doing things like this within moments; getting off the phone and saying “Bye, Liam,” and then instantly saying to my mother “Cris wants to know if (whatever)”. I lived quite happily in two realities, and although parts of them eventually came crashing down, it’s a skill I kept.

(Incidentally, and for those who don’t know, I was called Talia.)

When I started spending a lot of time online, I ended up in a slightly different but surprisingly similar situation, in that when you’re online, you choose your name. Hapa, Juno, Luna, Winger, Pocky–these were names people went by because they worked for them, because they matched with their identities and views of themselves. We don’t get to choose our names as a general rule; our parents choose our birthnames and our friends choose our nicknames and our lovers choose our pet names (in case you weren’t listening, that’s where Bones is from). But online we choose who we are; there are people who don’t know me as anything other than Edie.

I think what I was trying to get to, in a roundabout fashion, is why it’s easy for me to swap people’s names and genders in a way that gives other people a lot of trouble. I have, sort of by accident, rather a lot of gender-variant friends and partners, and sort of by accident I’m comfortable with swapping names and pronouns over. I’m always annoyed by people who mess up pronouns again and again, who don’t listen for sentence and context clues as to how one should be referring to an individual, who don’t ask, when they hear those clues and are confused, what name and pronoun the person prefers. I used to say, “Who are we being now?” to my friends, and change how I addressed them accordingly; these days I say, “What pronoun would you like me to use?” This wasn’t a hard transition, no pun intended; more like walking over a bridge than jumping a chasm. I don’t understand — and yet I do — why people find this hard.

I grew up like this. Not everybody does.

I’m pretty sure that when I started this entry a month ago, it was supposed to be about gender pronouns and the way the way people around transgender individuals handle their transitions, but it didn’t turn out that way–that’s actually something I’ll handle later. Seven years ago today I lost one of those private identities pretty much for good. I learned what it was like to have to talk about yourself almost as another person, and while it’s not the same as listening to my trans* friends try to talk about themselves before they transitioned, it runs parallel. How do you talk sensibly about someone who is and isn’t you? How do you draw the line between selves, and how far do you let that line blur–or isn’t there a line? Does that self become, at some point, a different person, who you can talk to and understand and remember, but separate, or was it always you at the bottom of things?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself for years. I know this bit of the post at least is coming off self-indulgent and silly, but having a partner who has deeply examined themselves and their identity, in a really meaningful way, can mean you start to do a lot more thinking.

I’m Bones these days, and happy being her. But sometimes, I miss fitting so comfortably into Talia’s name that I didn’t know where she ended, and I began.

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In Life’s name, and for Life’s sake, I assert that I will use the Art which is its gift in Life’s service alone, rejecting all other usages. I will guard growth and ease pain; I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way, nor will I change any creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, is threatened or threatens another. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will ever put aside fear for courage, and Death for Life, when it is right to do so, looking always towards the Heart of Time, where all our wounded times are one, and all our myriad worlds lie whole, in That from Which they proceeded —

Next to the “I Believe” speech from American Gods, this is the closest I have to a formal religious creed. I was raised Catholic and I’ve identified as a transcendentalist for several years. Some people may notice a certain amount of tension between the two identities — a belief system that focuses on the Mass and a belief system that focuses on the individual finding God in his or her own way — and I’m aware of this. I like it. As someone who tries to embrace the contradictory aspects of her own personality, and not just try to force them all into alignment with each other, I appreciate the sensibility. Big chunks of my personality can be traced back to the ritual and hierarchy of my Mass-attending childhood; equally big parts come from my adolescent discovery of a way to find god in nature and other people.

But Catholicism and Transcendentalism ain’t got nothing on Diane Duane.

The title of this blog comes from “So You Want To Be A Wizard”, a children’s novel published four years before I was born, the first in a series of nine books (the latest was just published this past March).  They’re higher quality and better written than anything by Rowling; the characters are more engaging and the conflict between good and evil more nuanced. Things aren’t simple; there is no one enemy whose defeat will solve everything.

And wound through everything is the Wizard’s Oath — a promise to preserve life and all things living, to slow down the eventual heat-death of the universe, to stop pain if I can.

And that means my own pain too.

When things are bad with me I have to find a way to get through things. I’m accustomed to using structured forms to soothe myself, whether it’s pacing the same path in the kitchen or knitting or keeping the same half-dozen words from whatever scene I’m working on running through my head. The first half of my senior year at college was rough for me, with a broken ankle and a thesis that badly needed attention and a mental state all scrambled by some stupid girl. I was hauling myself through every single day with my teeth gritted and my shoulders stiff. I was tired and I was overwhelmed and I was hurt. I needed something to hold onto, to remind myself that there were people and a world and a whole wide universe outside of my own head.

And so every day I put my fingers to the copy of the Oath above my pillow and I said the words out loud. I said it and sometimes I cried with the ache of how hard it is to put aside fear. I don’t know if I believe in God but I believe in the Heart of Time, where we will be reunited with everyone and everything that we’ve loved and lost. So every morning for weeks, and every evening, I promised that I would look towards that place and away from entropy. I said to the one who stood behind me, Fairest and Fallen, greetings and defiance, and reminded myself that we are all equal in the One.

And it helped. It helped to find strength in something greater than myself, even if it was only something from a children’s novel. I was coping through ritual and creed, the only way I knew how. I wrote the Oath everywhere, including against the darkness behind my eyes. And slowly I came out of it. Slowly, it became easier to know that this was the right when to put aside pain.

This is how I worship. These are the words I say.

For Life. For Life. For Life.

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I intend for this to stand as a prologue, and on its own. This is very typical of how I propose and defend any thesis, and a very early start at looking at gender and sexual identity. I am sort of proud and sort of embarrassed of it; I see a fairly clear lack of thinking about the importance of clothing and gender presentation in the trans community, which is fair because I knew little about it. And I also think there’s also some genderbendy stuff going on with dykes and butches, so that’s fine.

When I wear a skirt, I stand with my feet planted firmly on the ground, wide apart, with a hand on my hip or in my pocket, with my chin up and my shoulders square. I sit with my legs apart, the material of my skirt or dress dipping down for modesty, my elbows on my knees, my spine curved down towards my thighs so that my head is held up, my eyes level. I lace my fingers in the empty space between my knees. Or I get myself into impossible contortions in a chair, one leg underneath me and one pulled up to my chest, or Indian-style with my hands in my lap. And I wear sneakers with thick tights, and collared polo shirts, and one of two caps (newsboy and British) or a bandanna. In other words, when I wear a skirt, I look like a dyke.

This is not an accident.

It started out as an accident, though, and for a long time I thought that it was purely one. There is even a half-started essay on my hard drive whose central point was the idea that I don’t dress like I do on purpose. It’s only in the past three years that I’ve started wearing skirts on a regular basis; when I traveled to Australia I had to struggle to choose three to bring, and purchased another one after arriving. Not coincidentally, it’s over the past few years that my presentation of myself as a dyke – more on that word later – has solidified.

I don’t present as “tiny, bull-headed dyke” so strongly in spite of wearing a skirt, but because of it. A skirt is by very definition stereotypically feminine, something I am not that keen on being seen as, but I like wearing them – in summer they are cooler and easier than shorts, in winter a heavy skirt and tights keeps me warmer than jeans ever will, and there’s just no joy in dancing when your clothes don’t move with you when you twirl. But straight girls wear skirts, femmes wear skirts – and in my head I am neither, nor am I the occasional enlightened male. So how do I wear a piece of clothing I am comfortable in when I don’t wish to deal with the stereotypes associated with it?

The answer turns out to be a classic answer for queers – subvert. Make the clothing (the words, the attitude, the style, the lifestyle) your own, in a way that changes its meaning, its connotations and its stereotypes. Define it, don’t let it define you.

So I made skirts the thing that showed me clearly as a dyke. It wasn’t as hard as it might seem. Loose-legged jeans and khakis are technically men’s clothing; acting male in them doesn’t actually draw that much attention to you; it’s almost what people expect to see, and so they ignore it. But when a girl puts on a skirt and continues to act in what are traditionally male-gendered ways, she gets noticed. And if she puts on sneakers with that skirt, and a newsboy hat and a loose-fitting teeshirt…?

Think about it. Who is more noticeable sitting with her knees wide, or walking with long strides down the street, or sprawled on the floor – the woman in the skirt or the woman in pants? The former is unexpected, a direct contradiction of gender norms. Women sit with their legs together. Women walk delicately, with swaying hips. Women recline. Women wear blouses and heels, nylons and pearls. Men are the ones who are expansive in their motions, long of stride and careless of how they set themselves down, relaxed in what they wear.

So a girl who chooses – and notice I say chooses, because this (like calling one’s self a dyke) is at least partially a conscious decision – to pair the male-gendered way of moving with the female-gendered way of dressing instantly sets herself apart. And that’s the way I want it; if I wear a skirt or a dress, I don’t want to feel like I’m becoming someone else when I put it on. Instead I find ways to subvert that feminine ideal, to change and undermine it. I call myself a dyke for the same reason, despite the knee-jerk reactions of my mother’s generation; the word was and still is an insult, but in happily choosing to apply that word to myself, I challenge its definition and reinvent the meaning, making it both more and less.

I love wearing skirts, and I am proud of who I am. For a long time I was unable to reconcile those two things in my mind – what kind of dyke wears a skirt? So it was jeans, sneakers, and boy’s sweaters for me. But when I left high school and started to meet butches and femmes, dykes and tomboys, transgenders and genderqueers, I began to question the saying I’d always been taught: “The clothes make the man”. Maybe they do. But I’m a woman, and my clothes do not define me. I define my clothes by how I choose to wear them. So, when I wear a skirt and still look like a dyke, it’s not an accident.

It is a choice.

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