i work at a large, relatively conservative midwestern public university.
i run a residence hall, which means that part of my compensation is a dining hall meal plan, which i utilize most weekdays for lunch & dinner.
tonight I had dinner with a graduate student I supervise, and when we walked into the dining hall, i made eye contact with an exquisitely dressed (bow tie and vintage Malcolm X glasses) person I had never seen before. Based on the look we shared later, and the nervous wave they gave me in the dish room, I’d say the person recognized me as being somehow like them.
I eked out an awkward “i like your tie” after they waved to me, and i wished i had been better dressed today (no tie, need a haircut), not because i want to be desirable to people on campus (i don’t) but because i want that person to know that i’m a bow tie wearing dandy too. and maybe they’ve seen me before–i don’t know…because i do wear a bow tie most days to work, and i’m generally pretty visible on campus. there are not a lot of butches hanging around this place.
so whoever you were– visitor? upperclass student who rarely eats in the dining hall, or person who lives on the other side of campus who usually eats at the other dining hall, or maybe new transfer student? grad student? i hope you saw me–i think you did–and i’m glad i saw you too. because it’s hard to be ourselves out here–in cincinnati, at this school.
There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. The… the other important joke, for me, is one that’s usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud’s “Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious,” and it goes like this – I’m paraphrasing – um, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” That’s the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.
Despite my better judgment, I just can’t help myself. I love old Woody Allen movies. I started watching them when I was in high school–I’d check VHS tapes out of the public library up the street from my house. This isn’t a post about Woody Allen movies, or why I was the weird kind of teenager obsessed with them (especially Annie Hall & Sleeper) but now that I think about it, that would be a good post.
This is a post about how I’m not a joiner.
I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m an only child. It’s true. I feel like I’m a really serious major only– an only’s only if you will. In addition to being the only child of my parents, I don’t have cousins my age. On my dad’s side, I’m 10 and 11 years older than my two cousins. On my mom’s side, I’m five years younger than the closest cousin and five years older than the next one. The late 70s were quiet years in my family…save for the birth of me.
This is relevant because I think it speaks volumes to the fact that I’m not a joiner. Now, when I say I’m not a joiner, it doesn’t mean that I’ve never joined anything, because that’s not true. I was on teams and in clubs, but the way I’ve always most enjoyed working in teams is independently. For instance, the sports I was most committed to were track & swim team. Individuated participation in a team setting. In high school, I learned a lot about joining from marching band– but I played an instrument where we were kind of independent– tenor saxophone–and for three years, there were only two of us. I was in drama guild, but preferred to take on tasks that allowed me to work independently, such as stage manager. I was one of four editors of the student paper for two years consecutively, which was mostly independent work. We each had our sections to edit and columns to write, but we didn’t have too much work together. In college, I was active in a few groups, and in my post college life, I was super involved with one group.
Now I’m a grown up, and I have this professional life (which I’m trying harder to develop), but the kind of job I have really doesn’t allow for much team playing. Yeah, I have responsibilities to the department, and to the other professional staff and the student staff, but again, I mostly work as an individual in a team setting.
The reason this has been weighing on my mind, is that I don’t really know how to make new friends. If I were more of a joiner type personality, I might be more apt to get involved in some kind of community activity where I could meet potential friends. Add the awkwardness of being a queer person with no children, and I feel like if I want to reach out to make new friends, I have to put a big loud disclaimer on it:
I AM NOT TRYING TO HOOK UP WITH YOU. I AM HAPPILY COUPLED INA MONOGAMOUS YET LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP. MY INTEREST IN YOUR COMPANY IS MERELY PLATONIC.
And honestly, starting things out with that big announcement makes shit pretty awkward.
I wouldn’t be overthinking it so damn much, but it’s what dykes do. You seriously have to make your intentions clear.
When I left Minneapolis, I left my amazing radical queer community, and there’s nothing even close in Cincinnati, from what I can tell. I got connected to some amazing queers when I moved here who I sort of knew…and now, a year later, they’ve all left town. Of course, my modus operandi is to GTFO of here ASAP as well, but I still can’t help wondering how my life could be different if i were more of a joiner.
anyone have thoughts on this subject?
I’m totally one of those people who spends too much time thinking about her MBTI. I also spend too much time thinking about my top five strengths due to StrengthsQuest. (Input, Individuation, Analytical, Activator, Connectedness). I’m a taxonomist, and I love being able to analyze things through the lens of some kind of theory–whether that be Jungian psychology or modern day leadership stuff.
I’m in a romantic relationship that can be classified a bunch of different ways. We’re queer. We’re both butch identified. We’re both female-bodied. There’s a decade age difference between us. We are currently living 500 miles apart (but started off in the same place). In addition to all of that, we have a lot in common but are also incredibly different when it comes to how we process emotional experiences and general information.
My partner will talk about something and I will sit there dumbfounded on the other end of the phone. A good number of our conversations include me saying something like “Can you explain that in less abstract terms? I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
Sometimes this comes before I’ve irritated the shit out of my partner, sometimes it comes after.
Because I’m such a taxonomist, it really helped me to sit down and read up a lot on each of our MBTI information. Nerdily, I sent this information along to my partner in an email and we discuss it on the regular when navigating through the communication issues that come up between people who spend most of their time together on the phone or Skype.
I asked Dreamboat if the INFJ description seemed accurate and I got a resounding yes. I asked if the ESTJ describes me well, and I got a resounding yes. Some of the things that Dreamboat highlighted about INFJ:
* The INFJ’s rare combo of vision & practicality often results in them taking on too much responsibility in the causes they are drawn to
* They’re often mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing (This is true for Dreamboat all of the time. I am actually the E of our pair, and I’m often mistaken by people for an I.)
*The I / J combo makes it difficult for INFJ to articulate their deepest feelings because of a tug-of-war between vision & practicality.
Dreamboat observes that I fit ESTJ too perfectly in these areas:
* ESTJ thrives on order & continuity…extraverted focus is on organization, so they are supervisors who enforce rules. (This is spot-on for my job.)
* ESTJ loves to provide and receive good service.
* Power & prestige must be worked for and earned.
* Outspoken person of principles which are readily expressed.
So, what does all of this say for us? We’re such opposites in so many ways, but then we also have a lot in common.
The hope I have is that it means that we challenge and balance each other. I worry a little bit that if we decide to parent children together, I will be the disciplinarian and Dreamboat will be the fun, sweet one. I totally have a fun, sweet side, but it always takes a backseat to getting shit done. I have to remind myself to be tender, to do sweet things for people, to express my gratitude. Expressing emotional tenderness comes easily to Dreamboat, or so it seems to me.
I know that looking at our personalities through this lens doesn’t solve our every problem–sometimes we just miscommunicate because we’re humans. But it’s been really helpful to me to know that I’m lucky enough to have been chosen by a rare, amazing, idealist flower that I’m so in love with, and so grateful to be with.
I don’t dye my hair anymore–my partner likes the salt & pepper thing that’s happening more seriously on my head these days…so this post isn’t about hair roots, a thing that plagued me a lot through my twenties (i dyed my hair black for years).
The ever lovely Amanda wants to know:
What is one early memory that makes you nod your head and say, “Yep. I was born this way?” Tell us about your root.
Well folks, when I was a kid, I had a lot of Barbie dolls. I’d guess that I had about sixteen Barbies, a handful of Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and one Ken.
Dream Glow Ken was a lonely man. He was most often employed as a babysitter for the Barbies’ children (the Strawberry Shortcake dolls whilst the lady-lady couples went out on dates.
So yes, I’m saying that one of my gay roots is that I only had one Ken doll. There are plenty of others–like Natasha Lyonne’s character in But I’m A Cheerleader, my dad got laid off from work when I was a kid and my mom went to work. It could be all the sports my parents tried to get me to play in an attempt to socialize me with other kids (I’m an only child). I don’t know what exactly made me this way, but I know that as I look back on my life, I can definitely see a lot of ways that I was different from other kids–not just the blazer I wore and briefcase I carried to elementary school. (True story. I was a fourth grade law school wannabe.)
Have you ever fallen in love?
I have gone and fallen in love, folks. And I don’t mean that it’s complete, or finished–because I don’t think that it’s finished or complete in any way. It’s perfect, amazing, satisfying. This feeling that just when I believe my heart is full, it gets bigger and makes room for more– it’s something I could have never imagined, and here I am.
And in fine form, I went and fell in love with a brilliant, kind, loyal, protective, sweet butch whose life plans to change the world for the better have taken them geographically far away from me. We were in the same place, and now we aren’t, but maybe we will be again. But in the meantime, I find myself working hard to hold up my end of a long distance relationship, and part of that is sending notes/cards/letters/care packages, talking on the phone a lot, trying to figure out video chat, etc– but the other thing I did before my sweetie left town was give them my ipod for this first 5 week stint of being about 600 miles apart… and it was pre-loaded of course.
On that little black ipod there is a 4gb playlist of music in five playlists. My sweetie has been gone 2 weeks already, and one of the things I’ve been doing to cope is to listen to these playlists of sappy/sweet/sexy love songs pretty much incessantly.
If y’all aren’t listening to Raphael Saadiq, you’re missing out.
And how about this one that I’m super hooked on right now… [It’s even the ringer on my phone when my sweetie calls.]
This one is from the tearjerker list.
No love song compilation would be anywhere near complete without Nina Simone.
And of course, I’m a lucky, lucky butch myself– Dreamboat sends me a song of the day every day. today I even got two.
So yea, I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve been pretty busy.
a couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with my mom and her sister.
my mom and dad have been married 40 years. my aunt and my uncle have been married 50 years.
I have never been comfortable talking about things like dating and relationships with anyone in my family, because I’m a very private person. (I know, you’re thinking how private can you be between blogs, facebook, twitter, tumblr, blah blah blah but honestly, there are plenty of things that contrary to how it may seem, I do not share with anyone.)
For me, part of being queer has been finding ways to casually talk about my life in terms that people around me can understand. I am not fortunate enough to have a gay sibling or cousin, and it seems that the gay folks that my mom knows are significantly older than me and have had a very different experience moving through the world. Because I do not know how to explain exactly how and why I’m different, I just sublimate my feelings or hold back in conversation, and then vent about it later.
I realize that I’m describing a pretty unhealthy pattern of behavior and communication. Yes. I know.
on that day when I had lunch with my mom and my aunt, and the conversation turned to an update on the goings on in the life of my last partner. We split up a year and a half ago, but were together 3.5 years, and my family REALLY loved this person. Through the updating conversation, it kind of turned into a conversation about how I’m not very good at or comfortable with dating, and that my pattern of dating behavior has always been being a relationship with someone who is much better suited to be my best friend. That doesn’t mean there was NO romantic spark between me and any of my exes– that just isn’t true–but I find romance to be very difficult to sustain. Some people do not have this problem– I want to be one of those people, rather than the person who doesn’t remember to tell my partner how attractive i find them, or to do sweet special things for her. I’m one of those people who thinks that cooking dinner is romantic…and not everyone else thinks so. I have to work hard to remember to do some of the things that come as first nature to other people– my dad is also like this, and we are terrifyingly similar. We’re logical, ordered thinkers– we shop the grocery store in order of the way the products appear in the aisles, not running back and forth as we think of things we need or want. we think about how things work, not how people work. I have to remember to compliment the way you look, or make a big show of being sweet on you. It’s my work to do if I’m with someone who needs that– and I’m willing to do that work.
But in my past relationships, and I specifically mean the 3.5 year long ones (there were two pretty close together), life steps in and the magical part of being new and fun ends and ever so quickly we move into the therapeutic part of the relationship–healing from past relationship trauma, supporting each other through professional drama or educational stuff, the day to day of living….I lose track of time and don’t keep doing the important work of making someone feel romantically valued.
I do not blame all of this completely on the fact that I’m more of a brain than a heart. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I was cheated out of a lot of dating socialization as a teenager. I knew I was queer when I was younger, but I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to come out as a high school student. Other students read me as queer– I was one of only a couple of short-haired girls at my high school, and I didn’t really favor feminine clothes. We wore uniforms at my school, but even my accessories made it clear that I wasn’t like the other kids.
I feel like i just didn’t learn the things about dating that straight kids learn.
I don’t have a conclusion to this post. I just don’t.
Life is good. The weather has been gorgeous, tomorrow is Veteran’s Day and I’m off work, there was turkey for lunch in the dining hall yesterday, and after a super long dry spell, I have a crush.
I know, right?! You must be saying “we know you’re gay, but you don’t seem to date–do you even like people?” Well, I am gay, and I don’t date much, and I do really like people.
From 2001-2009, I was in relationships. Big relationships, intense relationships, and after my last big break up at the end of July 2009, I swore to myself I’d stay single for at least a year. I have gone on some dates and had some crushes on some really amazing, quality women, but I definitely had a pretty big wall up around my heart & mind.
And so here I am, crushing incredibly hard on an amazing woman. I mean seriously people, she’s one of those women who is so smart, funny, and beautiful that I’m just grateful that women like her exist in the world. She’s sexy and interesting and shows care for the people around her, and I’m just amazed to be getting to know her.
So I’m sort of one-track minded this week–every other thought seems to be taking a back seat to this big crush.