Let me start today’s blog by saying thank you to my friend and fellow author Jove Belle for generally being an all around good person to know, and specifically for kicking off the Bywater and Ylva Lesbian Fiction Blog Hop. She and I have known each other for years and often talked about how awesome our community of readers and writers is. It’s been fun to get to work with her on bringing a great group of authors together to help promote the genre. If you missed her blog yesterday, you can catch it here.
Now I get to follow her act by telling you a little bit about my forthcoming release, Perfect Pairing! This will be my first book with Bywater Books, and I’m both excited and nervous about it. I want very much to show them that I can bring something to the table for them. I’m working with my long-time friend Kelly Smith, and I want to live up to the high standards of quality she’s set for her authors. I want to prove to those authors that I belong among them with the likes of Marianne K. Martin, Ann McMan, Ellen Hart, Fay Jacobs, and so many others. I want to be worthy of the truly amazing cover that Ann McMan made for me.
And yet, at the same time I’m feeling some new pressure to perform, I’m also working hard to stay true to who I am. It’s so easy to get distracted by the new shiny thing, the hot gimmick, the greener grass just on the other side of the proverbial fence. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between challenging by choice and chasing trends, so after a few months of being away from Perfect Pairing I wanted to come back to my final round of edits with fresh eyes. On this last time through (or at least the last time to make real changes), I asked myself not whether or not this was a book my editors, colleagues, or peers would be proud of, but if it’s something I’m proud of. The answer is a resounding yes.
Here’s the official blurb:
Hal Orion is an accomplished chef and food truck owner. She loves her life, her longtime sous chef and best friend, and the food she shares with the residents of her beloved city of Buffalo. Her life is exactly how she wants it: no strings, no commitments, and no roots—just great grilled cheese and a whole lot of freedom on the side.
Quinn Banning is an investment banker, and the dividend she seeks is a resurgence of the once-great city of Buffalo. Putting together her next business venture, she recognizes Hal’s talent and charm as necessary assets for success—her good looks don’t hurt, either. But Hal’s transient ways are in direct opposition to the stability Quinn craves. Relying on their shared love of Buffalo, Quinn makes Hal an offer she can’t refuse—a restaurant under her own name, complete creative control, and secure financial backing. It’s every chef’s dream. But Hal utters the one word Quinn can’t stand to hear, “No.”
Will their physical attraction grow cold as they argue over their ideals, or will they find that the most distinctive ingredients often make for the perfect pairing?
I’ll go into more detail about the book, the characters, and share a lot of grilled cheese recipes over the next few months. If you’re interested in following along, go ahead and click the “sign me up” button under the “Email Subscription” tab in the far right column of this page. Did I mention there would be grilled cheese recipes?
Finally, don’t forget to follow the Blog Hop as it continues for the rest of the month. You can find the next entry on February 9th over at www.cherylhead.com. Cheryl is one of my newest colleagues. She’s smart, reflective, and one hell of a writer. I can’t wait for you all to meet her.
After years of hair drama, last week offered the opportunity to close it all out. I’d first shaved it off with a friend going through chemo. I’d then spent the next years dealing with the joys and complications following that decision. Then after only a short time of having my hair at a length I felt good about, I decided to grow it out long enough to donate. Now after more than a year of annoyance and lack of control and the gender presentation issues of growing it out, I finally had the chance to be done with the whole (mis)adventure.
I should have been thrilled. I’d been bitching for over a year and measuring obsessively for months. This was the moment I’d waited for. Why didn’t I feel better about it?
Part of my hesitance came from the fact that in order to get more than eight inches off, I would have to go very short. I’d have to put it in multiple ponytails and snip each one off close to the scalp. All the lessons I’d learned the last time I’d had it that short came rushing back. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go back to making people uncomfortable because that so often led to making them angry. This fear was reinforced by several people saying things like, “I don’t think it’s long enough” (like I hadn’t had the ruler out 7 bazillion times) or “But it’s so pretty long.” “But you look so much nicer.” “Are you sure you really want to do that again? Remember what it looked like last time.” I knew they meant well. Some of them even made a valid non-gendered point in saying that a buzz cut in January in Buffalo might be chilly. Mostly, though, I feared the censorship that would come from once again not fitting into the prescribed boxes people want to associate with a female body. I would no longer look “nice” or “pretty,” and in our culture there are tangible consequences for people who willingly make that choice.
I started talking about not cutting it. I lied and said I maybe wanted to wait until the weather got warmer, but I’d worn it short in winter before and had never been bothered (also I have a stocking cap I really like). I also tried the excuse that if I waited until it got longer I wouldn’t have to cut it quite so short, thus lessening other people’s discomfort, but that didn’t really feel great, either. My head tried to reason, but my gut wasn’t giving up. It had been denied too long in this whole ordeal. The internal battle raged for a few days until I finally made a pro/con list. It looked like this.
The Pro List
More comfortable physically
Easier to take care of
Cheaper to take care of
Takes less time in the morning
More people will touch it when it’s short
Shorter hair aligns with my sense of self
I like the way it looks short
The Con list
Short hair alters other people’s opinions of me
That list hurt my feels a little bit. To see it all laid out there didn’t paint a very nice picture. Everything that should matter came down on the side of cutting it. The one on the side of leaving it long shouldn’t factor in at all. And yet I’d give that one item enough weight to be equal to or greater than everything from my physical comfort to my sense of self. That’s vanity. It’s scary. And it’s sad. It’s not the person I want to be.
I wish I could say that did it, that the stark contrast of my pro/con list snapped me back into myself and that I charged forward without trepidation. I didn’t. The list did, however, allow me to examine why other people’s opinions mattered so much and made me begin to think about whose opinion should really matter enough to be considered. My wife’s was clearly important, but she likes it better short (mid-length for me). My son’s matters, but he was also a vote for short. He said I didn’t look like his mom anymore. But outside of the two of them, who had to live with me and who I have to face every day, there was another small group of people who kept coming back into my mind in a way that lifted me up instead of tearing me down.
The thing that got lost in all of this, the thing I lost track of in my own selfishness, is that while the process has been enlightening, it had an end goal outside of me. I set a limit on my hair growing, and I stuck to it even when I hated it because I wanted to donate the hair. If not for that, I would’ve caved very early on. And honestly even with that I almost caved over the summer. Then at the GCLS conference in New Orleans, a woman I’ve known for years pulled me aside between sessions. She said, “I promised I wasn’t going to cry,” as tears filled her eyes. She went on to say that what I was doing was such a wonderful thing. Taken aback I honestly had to ask what I was doing. She mentioned my hair, and I remembered that she’d gone through chemo a year earlier. She thanked me profusely and talked about watching her own hair swirl around the drain as she stood in the shower. She talked about how much that moment had frightened her, how demoralizing it had been, how it had shaken her sense of dignity. She said that knowing other people out there did what I was doing meant the world to her. I did not feel proud. I felt sick. I felt selfish and vain. I felt like a spoiled brat for bitching about my hair and what it meant to me when it meant so much more to so many others.
Remembering that conversation and the struggles of other friends in similar positions, I had a very low opinion of myself for pinning so much emphasis on my own looks, and I thought even less of people who tried to pin parts of themselves on my looks. Of all the things I learned along the way, that had the biggest impact. It also gave me the strength for the final attitude adjustment.
You can like my hair or not. I can like my hair or not. The whole world can see what they want or they can sod off. I wish I could say I didn’t care at all what people think, but I do. I just don’t care enough anymore to let it cloud the bigger issues. That night my friends and family gathered around the same way they had when I first shaved it. We laughed, we joked, they took turns with the scissors, and we did something more meaningful than making a fashion statement. It wasn’t even a political statement. It says nothing about you or women in locker rooms or men who won’t hold doors. I am more than my haircut. I am more that what anyone else sees when they look at me. Despite what messages the rest of the world may try to send, in my case it really is just hair, and it really will grow back. But more importantly, when I put aside my vanity and my insecurities, I had the chance to tell someone out there that they are not alone. That’s the message I want to send. That’s the person I want to be.
Last week I posted a blog about all the things I learned in the immediate aftermath of shaving my head with a friend who was going through chemo. You’d think one of the things I would’ve learned is not to be impulsive with my hair. And yet, no.
You see, after my hair grew back enough to style again, I had a lot of fun. Flush from the renewed power after feeling helpless for so many months, I didn’t want to cut it at all. By winter it grew long enough to stand up Jake Gyllenhaal style, then comb over like I belonged on Wall Street in the ’80’s. I did need to trim up the back a little because it kept going into mullet territory, but I never let my hairdresser take much off the top. By summer I could toss it again. I was back! I felt like me again. I loved the feel of it over my ears. My forehead was back to a reasonable size. No more fivehead.
By fall it had grown shaggy. People started to ask when I intended to cut it. I felt my first flashes of defensiveness. I’d just gotten it back. Why all the pressure to cut it? It was so soft and shiny. Couldn’t I just play for a while?
Soon it was over my eyes and too long to toss. One day I parted it down the middle and got a great deal of amusement. I looked like I belonged on Miami Vice. I popped my collar. People got pushier. Is it supposed to look like that? Doesn’t it drive you nuts? It’s a little girly for you, isn’t it?
Then it happened. I don’t even remember when or who. It wasn’t their fault anyway, but someone asked one too many loaded questions, and I just said it. “Maybe I won’t cut it.” “Yeah,” I thought in that moment. “What if I don’t? What if I grow it out? What if I donate it?” The idea just flashed through my mind. I buzzed it for someone with cancer. Wouldn’t that be cool if all the hair I grew back after that got donated to someone with cancer? A full circle adventure. Done. The decision was made. I told everyone. I put it out on social media–my grand hair decree.
Everyone looked at me like I was nuts. The people who knew me best quietly asked if I’d thought this through. They gently pointed out that donating hair wasn’t actually easy. There were a lot of factors, the chief among them being that I couldn’t just chop it off when it reached a length that annoyed me. It had to be 8 inches, and not color treated, and not gray and, and, and…at the rate my hair was growing I’d have to put up with all of this for over a year.
When was I going to learn to stop making long-term hair decisions on a whim? Hadn’t I spent months and months learning all those awful lessons about my hair being tied to my identity or at least my comfort level with the identify I wanted to project? No. Apparently I had not. After less than six months of having my hair back under my own control, I dug in my heels and braced myself for another year of wondering, “Why did I do that?”
From fall 2014 until now I have not cut my hair. It currently falls past my shoulders. It has not been particularly fun, but I have to say I learned as much about myself and our society during the long-hair year as I did during the short-hair year. Here are a few of those lessons.
- Hats look better with hair. I can hardly wear hats without long hair. They come down over my ears. They make me look bald. I look like I’m undergoing chemo, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it does give people the wrong idea. It’s just awkward. With a little more hair, a hat looks sporty or trendy. With longer hair you can thread it through the back of the hat, and all the sporty lesbians look at you like good people. Seriously, the combo of hair and a hat makes people believe you’re more athletic than you actually are. Of all the aspects of long hair, I’ll miss hats the most.
- It changes rapidly. If you have a good stretch, enjoy it because it won’t last. Just when I’d think I’d moved into a good space, a week later it’d be a mess again. There’s a fine line between Don Johnson and Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski. Seriously, think about it. And just because it did something once doesn’t mean you’ll ever get it to do that again. Of course these things can be true of short hair, but not to the same extent. When I have short hair, it largely does the same thing every day for weeks. With short hair my part never moved. Never! I had the same part for years. It was there when I went to bed. It was there when I woke up. The line of my part with long hair is like a series of snowflakes: No two are ever quite the same.
- People treat you differently when you have long hair. Remember what I said in my last blog about people liking to make snap decisions based on looks? When you’re female bodied with long hair, all those boxes line up. People look, they assess, and they smile. Seriously, people haven’t smiled at me this much since I was visibly pregnant (a physical state that also ticked the boxes). People hold doors for me. That doesn’t happen when people think you’re a ten-year-old boy. Women make conversation in locker rooms or at bathroom sinks. This weirds me out a little bit as I’m not a bathroom talker, but I prefer it to scowls or angry words. The bottom line is that people are nicer when you don’t challenge their assumptions. You get rewarded with a myriad of pleasantries when you stay in your prescribed box.
- Differently doesn’t always mean good. Men talk to women who fit the status quo very differently than women who don’t. There’s a sense of entitlement among men over a certain age, a demand that they be recognized. Because of my gender presentation, I escaped the male gaze for a long time, and I don’t really like being back in it. Most of my best friends are men. I’m raising a young man. I like dudes. I have always sort of thought of my self as a dude, but the men I’ve run into over the last 6-8 months certainly haven’t seen me the way I see myself. Older men talk to me differently now. They sit closer. I get allergy shots on a regular basis, and men used to always put one seat between us at the doctor’s office waiting room. They don’t always do that now. And they flirt, even the ones who are way to old to date. Even the ones who are clearly kidding and non-threatening will still interrupt my book. They ask me why I’m not smiling (because I’m annoyed with you), they call me things like “miss” and “sweetheart.” They see me now and what’s more they want to make sure I see them. Men over a certain age (that’s lower than you’d expect) also refuse to walk through a door I’m holding open. I stand there, I hold it, the men come up and purposely move behind me to place their hand higher on the door. They usually say something like, “After you,” or “I’ve got it.” If I push back and say, “No you first,” or “I’ve got it for you,” their jaws set. Their elbows lock. The younger ones usually look taken aback and will often go through. The older ones flat out refuse. It’s awkward and it tells a great deal about the hierarchy they’re trying to uphold.
- It goes everywhere! Short hair goes nowhere, or if it does you don’t notice because it’s all out of your line of sight. The only place I ever feel my short hair is the tops of my ears or my forehead. Long hair goes in my eyes, in my mouth, in crook of my neck. It tickles my nose, it tickles Susie’s nose when we’re trying to sleep. It goes in the hood if my hoodies and annoys the living crap out of me. But it doesn’t end there. It goes all over the sink, all over the floor. It goes in the drain and on my black dress pants. It goes in Jackson’s lunch box and on the back of my chair. And even when I pull it back, it always manages to do this:
- I don’t get the nod any more. Men aren’t the only ones who see you differently when you have long hair. There’s a certain camaraderie among gender nonconformists. There is the subtle smile when you recognize a fellow traveler. When I said we all make assessments based on looks, I mean all of us. The queer community is no different, and there’s a joy that comes from that little thrill of connection amid the masses. It’s like when I see someone wearing a Cardinals hat here in Yankees territory. Or when I notice a Spanish flag sticker on the back of someone’s car. We always look for something to relate to whenever we meet someone new. As I became more and more visible to the men in my world, I seemed to become less visible to the women it. They do not flirt, they do not smile, and they no longer give me the nod. I miss the sense of community that comes from being recognized by my people.
- Finally, people feel they have a right to share their opinion on my hair the way they don’t in other areas of my life. As I said before, hair seems to play a huge part in how people view a someone, but it’s not just at first glance. And it doesn’t stop…ever. I’m not talking about a passing comments. I mean really harping on the subject, repeatedly. Friends, acquaintances, readers they all feel totally comfortable saying, “I don’t like you hair like that.” Or “I liked your hair when (fill in the blank) better.” One woman I barely know came up to me after a book event and said, “I think your long hair makes the shape of your face look out of portion.” How do I respond to that? What makes people think that’s okay? No one ever tells me, “You’re getting a little fat,” thank the Lord. And I can’t remember the last time someone said, “Those pants are ugly as sin.” They don’t even say things like, “I don’t like that shirt nearly as well the one you wore yesterday.” And yet, my hair is completely fair game for them to assert their preferences on my body. At first I thought maybe I was being paranoid. Perhaps people felt comfortable commenting because I talked about my hair a lot and they felt compelled to respond. Over the last few months I made an effort to purposely talk about other parts of my appearance in front of people who talked about my hair and generally got very little in response, if anything they only offered compliments, never the unfavorable comparisons. For some reason hair seems to be in the public domain much more than other areas of my body when it comes to negativity. And you know what? It sucks.
As I’ve said before I used my hair to showcase the parts of my identity I liked best, so when people say things about how much they hated it, it feels a little bit like they hate those parts of me. Only slightly less hurtful are the comments like, “You look so nice now.” Like I didn’t look nice before. I get “nice” as a descriptor a lot these days. Oftentimes it’s qualified with things like “softer” or “sweeter.” More than one person said it “takes the edge off.” But you know what? I’m not sweeter or softer or nicer or less edgy. I’m still the same person, just with a different haircut. I didn’t change. I’ve spent almost a year considering this development because I didn’t want it to be about what I feared it to be about, but these comments always, every single time, come from women who fall on the more feminine end of the presentation spectrum. None of my gender queer friends say it. None of my young male friends say it. It only comes from women whose preferences fit the norms. Even if they know me. Even if they know how much I’ve struggled to find my own niche. Even if they know my personality hasn’t changed a bit. And as much as it pains me to say it, I think the women who REALLY get invested in me having long hair do so for the same reasons the older straight men do. They like when I fit the box. When I don’t challenge them. When I “pass.” This leaves me worried about what it will be like when I go back to looking like me again. Will I embarrass them? Will they be made guilty by association with someone so clearly marked as queer? Will they resent it, even subconsciously? It shouldn’t matter to me, but it does, and it’s a sad and somewhat unfair burden to bear.
So while the practical side of me is really looking forward to going back to short hair this week, the emotional side of me is worried. I’ll be trading privilege in favor of my true personality. I’ll be happy to look and feel like myself again, but I will still worry about all the others who don’t feel comfortable with who I really am. It will be the end of a long journey, and the culmination of many lessons learned, both about myself and about the people with whom I interact. It’s been an amusing and occasionally upsetting ride, and with my next blog you’ll not only get to see the end result, I’ll also reflect on the heart of what it’s all meant to me.
It’s just hair. It grows back!
That was the asinine comment that started the whole thing. My friend Trixie had cancer and was undergoing chemo. She stopped by one night to tell me her hair had begun falling out in big clumps. She seemed a little horrified, and I wanted to comfort her. I should have said, “You are so much more than your hair” or “I’m sorry. That sucks” or perhaps just offered a hug. I didn’t understand then what I would take the next 18 months to learn.
“It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.”
“Easy for you to say,” Trixie said.
In the second comment I would later regret, I said, “Would it make you feel better if I shaved mine, too?”
The words came out before I thought them through, but Trixie laughed and said something like, “Oh my God, would you really do that?”
I felt only slightly shocked and nervous when I shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?”
A few days later I was in her living room while our friend Erika switched on a buzzing set of clippers next to my ear. Gentle hands, warm and soft raked through my locks. Then came a tickle laced with energy, exhilaration. I shivered as I felt the first brush of air against my scalp. Then my stomach turned as I felt my hair flutter along my side and back toward the floor.
What had I done?
My friends were gleeful. We laughed… a lot. Lynda Sandoval covered my eyes and marched me to the bathroom mirror for the big reveal. When she moved her hand, I blinked and smiled nervously.
We’ve always joked that I had the mind of a fourteen-year-old boy, but now I looked like one, too. No, younger than that. I looked 10. Lynda assured me I had a good head for a buzz cut. Trixie seemed amused, and that seemed like the main thing. We’d had fun. We took a scary thing and made it funny. Couldn’t be all that bad, right? I walked home reminding myself I’d done the right thing. It was just hair. It would grow back.
Susie met me at the front door. Her smile seemed to mirror my own. Fake, nervous, and tinged with the unspoken, “What did you do?” She pulled me into a hug and rubbed the stubbles. Then she held me back at arms length and said, “Oh Ponyboi. Your hair. Your tuff, tuff hair.”
Susie for the win. I fell in love with her all over again. We both laughed until we cried. The Outsiders is one of my favorite books of all time. This would be an adventure.
Later when I asked if it was really that bad, she lovingly said, “I love that you’re the kind of person who would do something like this.” I asked again, “But does it really look that bad?” She smiled and repeated, “I love that you’re the kind of person who would do something like this.” Then she added, “I’m also glad your hair grows really fast.”
Well okay then.
That summer I learned a few things:
- Running/heavy exercise is better without hair. I sweat less. My whole body stayed cooler. Nothing suck to my forehead or eyes. I hated working out less.
- People don’t really see you when you look like a 10-year-old white kid. You are ubiquitous. There is a type of privilege to that. White and male are so much the societal norms (the standard by which everything else is othered) that they don’t even get noticed as distinct individuals in our cultural gaze. I wonder how different it would have been had I been black. Would I still have gotten that “pass,” or would people have watched me more closely?” Instead, I was bland, non-threatening, commonplace, yet not old enough to command the respect associated with privilege. It made me understand why so many middle-class white kids do crazy things to get noticed. Even friends who had seen me with my hair cut multiple times couldn’t find me in crowds or in pictures for weeks even months. It was like I didn’t exist as something their eyes should focus in on.
- Shampoo, conditioner, gel, wax, and hairspray are expensive and time consuming to
use. When something’s part of your routine for years, you to tend to take it for granted, but without all the products I actually saved a nice chunk of change. Perhaps more importantly though, I saved time. Showers were shorter and drying time nonexistent. Between the two, I had an extra 15 minutes every day. That adds up to 1 hour 45 minutes a week and over 7 hours a month. Let that sink in.
- When strangers think you’re a 10-year-old boy and then they find out you are actually an adult female, they don’t like it. Reactions range from major embarrassment to anger (I think one often transitioned to the other) or even fear. They went from not really noticing you to not being able to look at you. I saw their red faces and their double-takes. I heard their whispers (I thought that was a boy!) and mumbled apologies . Women’s locker rooms and bathrooms had long been awkward spaces for me, but they became uncomfortable at a level I’d never quite experienced before. People picked up and left or moved when I walked in. Others flat out told me I was in the wrong place. I was still the same height, the same weight, the same race, the same sex. The only thing that had changed was my hair. It’s only hair is a fine thing to tell yourself, but it’s something else entirely when talking to an angry woman in a locker room.
- Human beings make snap decisions about people based on their appearance. It’s a survival instinct, and we aren’t likely to undo that evolutionary skill anytime soon. Hair is a much bigger part of that process than I realized. The ability to assess and compartmentalize didn’t surprise me. What I did find shocking is how hard it is to reverse those snap decisions. They get entrenched very quickly and to change them causes a sort of whiplash that genuinely upsets people. Maybe it makes them feel like the instinct they depend on for survival is faulty, and when you dwell on that it’s kind of terrifying. I think this is the space where a little reflection could go a long way toward meaningful change. Go ahead and let your baser brain do its job in helping you navigate the world. We all do it. There’s no need to pretend otherwise, but let’s also acknowledge that decisions made at first glance are rarely completely accurate. Let’s not hold ourselves or those instant assessments to unrealistic standards. When talking about social conditioning, my dad likes to tell me, “I’m not responsible for my first thought. I’m only responsible for what I do with it.” I don’t blame people for their initial assumptions based on my hair. I just wish more of their second thoughts had been, “It’s just her hair.”
- People touch short hair. Touch is my love language, so I loved this. Friends rubbed my bald head for good luck. As the stubble grew in, they patted it. When it got long enough to soften up, they tousled it gleefully. When it started to style again, they would run their fingers through it, or stand it on end. This was my favorite part and the thing I miss most. So much touching. No one touches my long hair (expect Georgia Beers, who likes to flick my ponytails). I think there’s no novelty to long hair. Also people don’t want to mess it up. I’m sure those who like their personal space enjoy the polite distance, but I miss the closeness that comes from a casual and completely platonic passing touch.
- Most importantly I learned there’s a deep vulnerability to being bald. I saw a quote once that read, “You can’t control everything. Your hair was put on your head to remind you of that.” I understood so acutely that in Timeless I used Stevie’s hair as an indicator and complicater of her frustration levels. Still, I was unprepared for the level of helplessness I felt without hair. Turns out hair is actually one of the few parts of my body I do have control over. I can’t control my height or complexion. I can only control my weight between certain biological parameters, and even that’s hard. I can’t control my breasts or my female biology, no matter how uncomfortable they make me at times. Hair is actually really easy to control, relatively speaking. One of the first things I did when I came out was cut my hair. First to my shoulder, then my chin, then above my ears. Each step brought me closer to looking the way I felt. I crossed the line when I went high and tight. Too short, not me. Then I found the Zac Efron. I learned how to flip it off my forehead with a playful toss. The girls went wild…okay maybe not, but for the first time I looked on the outside like the things I felt inside: young, boish, fun, and playful. Remember what I said about the snap decision people make based on hair? I’d finally found the cut that inspired assessments I wanted people to make. I’d learned to control at least part of the message. Then all the sudden that control was gone. I’d lost more than just hair. I’d lost my ability to instantly show the world who I wanted them to see.
I admit, after the novelty of a shaved head wore off, I felt pretty sorry for myself. At times the lack of control bordered on panic. The only thing that kept me from going completely crazy with self-pity was watching Trixie go through chemo. If I felt betrayed by my own body over a haircut, what must she be going through? Her body had turned against itself at a cellular level. She had every right to be angry and bitter or paralyzed with fear. Instead, she was rock star. She was strong, fierce, inspiring, and damned if she didn’t look amazing bald. I once told her I looked like a ten-year-old boy and she looked like an awesome punk rocker. I added that women were going to start throwing themselves at her. She looked me in the eye and said, “What makes you think they haven’t been doing that already?”
Clearly, Trixie wins all the things, while I still had a lot of learning ahead of me.
There you have it. The story of the short hair, how the adventure got started, and what I learned in those early moments. Stay tuned next time for part two: The Long of It.
The Birth of Jesus. Luke 2:2-20 (NIV)
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
This is my favorite song for one of my favorite night of the year. I think the lyrics speak for themselves.
Done with the shopping, done with the traveling, done with the cookies, done with the manuscript, and done with the wrapping gifts. Now is the time when I have nothing left to do that’s quite so pressing as preparing the way of the Lord.
Today we travel. It’s a long drive. And those of you who follow my writing have likely realized that going “home” is always a complicated thing for me. It’s never just easy to go back. I think a lot of LGBT people get that. Even with supportive friends and family like I have there a difference between who I was and who I am that doesn’t always translate. There’s an unavoidable awkwardness in going back. And yet, as hard as it can be, I keep making the trip because, for me, it’s better than the alternative.
I’m one of the lucky ones. When it comes to going back to my roots there’s enough love to overcome the awkwardness and usually more good than bad. And that’s how family should be. Not perfect, not pristine, not always clean and polite, but the people who want beside you in the big moments.
So, whether you’re headed back to where you come from, or staying put someplace you’ve built for your self, with family of birth, family of association, or family of choice, I hope you get to be “home” however you define it this holiday season.
Happy Solstice. Aside from actual Christmas Eve/Day, this is my favorite part of the holiday season. It’s a reminder that here in the longest night of the year, so many people of faith choose to celebrate the return of the light. Hanukkah, Solstice, Diwali, Christmas, we all choose to turn from dark to light. It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?
This year has been a sort to turning toward the light for our family. We had a couple years of really awesome, beautiful light. Then 2014 was really dark. It was hard on so many levels, and we hoped it was an anomaly, some weird blip on our life-long radar. Hoping for something like that was probably a bit like believing this darkest night of the year will just be the end of darkness and tomorrow we’ll all be back to gloriously long summer days. It doesn’t work that way. The light will return slowly, about a minute a day. One minute out of 1,440 in a day. It won’t even really be noticeable at first, and lot of other factors like clouds and terrain will make it even harder to see at first.
2015 has been like that for us. Not a sudden burst of light, but a slow turn toward it. Some days it seemed a clear linear path. Others the clouds moved in and made things seems darker than they were. It honestly wasn’t until I sat down to make our annual end of the year video that I remembered all the good things this year brought with it. No, it wasn’t everything we hoped it to be. There were still some dark patches, but when you look at it all together wth a little dab of hope, it’s possible to see the light returning bit by bit.
I posted this once a few years ago on a website and a bunch of people got into arguments in the comments about who could kicks who’s ass. Army vs. Marines. USA vs England vs. Germany. War stories completely drowned out the message of the song. “Here’s hoping we both learn to see us find a better way.”
I wondered how people could get it so damn wrong. And then I remembered the war story in the song and I thought, this right here is how we keep ending up on battle fields in the first place. All this talk of heaven and hell gets swept behind the talk of who is bigger, who is better, who has it right, and who deserves to have any rights at all. I got so disheartened I took the song down.
It doesn’t matter who won what battle or what war. What matters is that we don’t learn. We can could and look each other in the eye one minute and then the very next “The Devil’s clock struck midnight and the skies lit up again.” The skies always light up again. It starts in comment sections and on the campaign trail and then in congress until it ends with bullets and bloodshed.
I understand people are scared. I’m scared, too. I have more fear right now than I’ve probably ever had, but this song (And the poem before it) reminds me that those answers we rush to, the ones we’ve always rushed to, the scapegoating, the the violence, the shutting ourselves off, and the dehumanizing of who ever they tell us our enemy du jour might be always lead us right back here.
But for just one fleeting moment the answers seemed so clear…
I’m trying again. I’m sharing again. Because at Christmas I am supposed to have hope and faith. I am reminded that peace comes in the most unusual forms and in the most surprising places. I believe God can still work miracles. And especially this year, as I focus on the idea of Emmanuel, God with us, I am trying to echo the sentiment, “Heaven’s not behind the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear. No, Heaven’s not beyond the clouds it’s for us to find it here.”