Thursday, February 7, 2008

this is the way girls do it

I've been doing a lot of reading, recently. I'm actually sitting here with Dagger: On Butch Women in my lap and I finished Brazen Femme in a voracious evening and hated to be bothered to eat dinner.

I had no name for it, growing up. I had no name for the desire to protect the women around me, to open their doors when they walked, light their cigarettes (I still love the smell of smoker and perfume or cologne) and occasionally kick their boyfriends asses.

But it goes further than that. It's the trying not to look in the changing room before gym or games. I played varsity basketball, softball, volleyball, assistant coached pee-wee football (wasn't in that changing room, so no one get huffy) with my father (I ran with them and warmed them up and did sprints with them) and earned a brown belt in shorin-ryu, mostly in my freshman year of high school. The tryouts for varsity entailed running for two and a half hours and puking outside the back door. Anyone who could still stand after two and a half hours, hadn't left and could go on to shoot basketballs was on the basketball team (anyone who could sink them at a good rate was on varsity); anyone who was still standing after two hours of running was on the volleyball team (but I hated those fucking butt shorts); and since no one wanted to play softball, if you kept showing up they gave you a uniform. Give me an excuse to get physical, any day. I did the lawn work for my parents and my neighbors, a pair of little old ladies in their seventies, twelve hours of lawn work on Saturdays. I also did about forty-five minutes of aerobics plus weight-lifting a day. (I'm lazy, now.)

Would you believe I still thought I was too fat? The hips freaked me out.

It's also the way that everyone reminds you to be a girl. I cannot count how many times I was shooed away from something because girls didn't do it that way, or it was only for boys. On reading these books, those responses (that used to baffle me), make more sense. Why was I being reminded of what girls do and the way they do it so much?

Heh. Probably because I wasn't presenting like a 'real girl.'

I got that one from everyone, as well as being the only girl who, at Christmas, got makeup from just about everyone, as well as coordinated outfits that I would have died before wearing, though I made a go at the makeup because I understood that makeup was what girls were supposed to do. I was trying to be obliging. I can wear it and feel okay about it, but it all seems like too much trouble, mostly. I asked for a plastic pony, a truck like my brother's, a SheRa, a pair of 501s and a chemistry set. I also asked to go hunting, but that was for boys, so they took me fishing instead. I still wish I had time to go fishing, and yes, I eat the fish. I don't fish just for the pleasure of killing.

I still get wet while target-shooting, so it's probably a good thing they didn't take me hunting. I might have had to sit down and discretely rub myself against the seam of my jeans, which would not have been noticed, but the sitting down would have been interpreted as girlish weakness, which would have pissed me off. As a side note, I was the undisputed queen of semi-unobtrusive, hands-free masturbation from the fourth grade up, though if I didn't watch myself, I'd be overtly masturbating while doing homework, in class, using the seam of my jeans, something that no doubt looked as if I had to pee.

It's the way you don't have many female friends, and the girls you are friends with make you feel oddly protective and sweaty. I had a best friend for awhile in high school who was a red head's red head from a family even more religiously conservative than mine. She would sometimes slick lotion over her legs while she wore a skirt or boxers/would change clothes next to me before gym and I had to work very, very hard not to watch her. She caught me a few times and I apologized and starting changing in the bathroom stalls, because watching the other twenty or so girls change out (small religious high school) like to kept me from ever getting dressed and going on to gym. I got an email the other day from my best friend in junior high discussing her crush on me. If I had had a name for it and had not been so painfully confused and shy about the whole thing (boy, have things changed), I could have been dating her (I mean, as much as you can date when the only path you've ever heard of (outside the nebulous injunction to never lay with a woman as with a man in Leviticus) involves boys, who, frankly, are not terribly attractive at that stage in life.

I mean, seriously, they're snotty and weird and stupidly obsessed with your genitals, which they have such *charming* names for, until they're in their thirties (and still, sometimes, they don't understand respect. I like blue language, as you can no doubt tell if you've been reading, but there's a difference between the way someone who loves or respects you says 'cunt' and the way someone who thinks, to borrow from Madonna, that being a girl is degrading says 'cunt.') I have had boy crushes before, and still have them. We do not, as a society, raise boys to be thoughtful, responsible or responsive. You just about have to grab them by the hair and treat them like bad puppies.

It's also little things, like borrowing your father's clothing. Somewhere, at my parent's house, is a picture of me, at four, in my father's Caterpillar knitted wool cap, determined expression on my face and head full of reddish brown Shirley Temple curls to mid-back and holding up his briefs around my hips. I have nothing else on. Whenever I went on a date, I would borrow something he owned for luck. Socks that stayed up and were not too thin, button up shirts that were comfy and not designed to over emphasize your hips and breasts (which I use to my advantage, now, sometimes) and/or in god awful flower prints and pastels (it was the nineties), and the coolest, longest lasting jeans ever. His feet were too big to wear his shoes, though.

Mostly, like the butches in this book and the femmes in Brazen Femme, I wanted to be strong and tough. I wanted to be all muscle, to be the fastest and the strongest. I wanted to be the bitch you did not fuck with, and while I started out thinking I had to do that in boy clothes (which I'm still more comfy in), I can be that bitch in a miniskirt as I get old enough to not give a shit. Just don't try to take my boots away. I love me some boots. My closet has one pair of heels, a pair of black No Sweats, a pair of Adidas, a pair of cheap ass black flip flops, a $130 pair of knee high Grip fast, cleated with nails and what looks like old tire treads and a pair of engineer's boots. I'd go miles out of my way for a boot sale; if they sold BDU pants at the same place (they are way comfy and kinda sexy with a wifebeater tank top), I might have to live there.

I've mellowed out a bunch in my old age, though. I think dating boys for this long is what did it. Hell, I didn't even really have a name for these feelings until a few years ago. I assumed they were neurosis of some description. Having children of my own also made me feel hesitant to discuss or admit these feelings, since it was proof that I was a 'girl.' I've had kids since I got knocked up at seventeen. I have been hesitant to talk to people about my feelings because women with children are often judged as being somehow not serious or otherwise weak/easily manipulated by culture. Mostly by women who have not tried to raise kids of their own, I think.

The pleasure of reading those two books has been finding out definitively that the way I do it is the way girls do it. I'd been worried that I had to given up the joys of being a girl to be myself. (I thought I only had two choices, and that didn't feel right.) Well, girls do it this way too; they're just queer girls. I don't have to give up the proud ownership of my clit to be myself, more of a relief than you might think.

What can I say? I like my pleasure, people.

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