Monthly Archives: August 2014

Shades of what?

I’ve said it all before – I grew up with too many rules, too much black and white and clear lines about “right” and “wrong.” And I love kink because there are so many – I won’t say shades of grey.  Let’s go with another color instead. Purple is a good color for bruising. I’ll use that. I love how many shades of purple there are now. I love that you don’t have to choose just one or even stick with just one. You can be lilac one day and royal the next. Or fuscia with one person and lavender with someone else. Some people may even bring out the hidden orchid you didn’t know was there. Or you may evolve into a lovely violet over time. There’s truly no limit.

So I find myself increasingly frustrated when I hear people use labels to try to pigeonhole others. I understand when new people come in and assume that one must be dominant or submissive because that’s how we tend to be portrayed in books and movies. But the rest of us, those who have been in and around the real-life community for any length of time, don’t have the same excuse.

I recently heard someone ask a new person what side of the slash they were on. I knew what they meant but the new person didn’t. And then I wondered – why is it an either/or question? And what if they’re a bottom and not submissive? Or a pet? Or a little? Or… Earlier this week, someone introduced themselves to a group as being a “little letter.” Again it had to be explained to new people and I found myself wondering why “big letter” and “little letter” were apparently the only options.

I’m not sure either of these people meant their questions and comments to sound as polarizing as they did. And likely I’m simply overly sensitive precisely because I do not identify as either a submissive or a dominant. But I would prefer to give new people the option of discovering whatever they want to be without undue influence. I’ve been known to ask people how they identify and then giving them a sampling of options if they need it. This is what works for me.

Of course, dominant and submissive are on the list but for me, the list of possibilities is far longer than that and far more interesting. Why start out forcing someone to be mulberry when they might be better as mauve or plum and just haven’t figured that out yet?

I came to this community to escape the boxes I’d put myself into. I’d like to give others the same opportunity.

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Constructive

My mother would tell you that I do not take criticism well. But then, she also let me grow up believing I was lazy and I think I’ve overcome that one pretty well. Seriously, this time of year I have what amounts to two jobs. And I’m working on the book series, trying to have a social life, and dating. So not sure lazy is a good adjective anymore.

But criticisms are hard. Who takes them well as a teenager or young adult for gods sakes? I was mature from a pretty young age and that shit was tough to hear. Further, there is a big difference between constructive criticism and putting someone down or insulting them. I know people who are so skilled at critiquing that it actually feels like a compliment, but most people aren’t that good.

So far, I feel like I’ve done a decent job at self-editing. I’ve been able to look at various passages and, no matter how much I like them, if they no longer work  I have no trouble cutting or changing them. I’m aware of some of my weaknesses and I’ve learned quickly not to get too precious with my own words. I’m proud of that. But it needed more than my own two eyes. There came a point where I could no longer be objective or tell the good from the bad.

A friend pointed me to an editor and even from her preliminary emails, she was a lovely, friendly person. I reminded myself how much I needed and wanted a true outsider to look at my work. I told myself it’s her job to critique in a constructive way. None of that completely quieted my nerves or made her first round of edits (around 20 pages), which arrived in my email this morning, any easier to look at.

I’m working up my nerve to read them now. I’ve read the email that accompanied them and it was nice. I’ve moved the file to my Dropbox so I can read it from anywhere. But I’m going to have to ease into this. Some of the comments will no doubt sting. Other comments will probably leave me wondering why I didn’t see the same thing sooner. And some of it may not be useful at all.

But I have to give it all a chance. Later.

I said I wasn’t lazy. I didn’t say I wasn’t a great procrastinator.

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People who can sing and dance…often at the same time!

Don’t let the giant playlist I’ve named To The Stage fool you. I’m not really a  big fan of musicals. Of course, it doesn’t help that I still think of “real” musicals as old-fashioned affairs like Showboat or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I have zero interest in any of that. But give me something that challenges those conventions, turns them around and has fun with them? I’m all over it.

Having said that, one of my favorite musicals is Evita. But it’s also my contention, though this comes with limited experience, that if you’ve heard one Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, you’ve heard them all. I just happen to love Mandy Patinkin.

Otherwise, how I’ve found my favorites should come as no surprise. Guess what? Men in drag are heavily featured. That playlist mentioned above includes songs from the movie Torch Song Trilogy because wasn’t Dames meant to be sung by Harvey Fierstein? Also included are songs from Hairspray, Fiddler on the Roof (because I saw Harvey perform this on Broadway and still associate it with him), La Cage aux Folles, and the movie Kinky Boots though I also own the cast recording. Not related to Mr. Fierstein are songs from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (movie *and* cast recording), Spamalot and of course Rent.

Possibly the only one that ranks as a favorite and doesn’t include an actor in some form of drag is Evil Dead: The Musical. It’s hilarious and absolutely pokes fun at every theater tradition.

There are a couple of other names to know when it comes to me and musicals though. The first is Jim Steinman. Best known for his work with Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler, he also has an amazing catalog of songs with either other artists or that have never been released at all. Years ago, I was very much a part of his fan website and, for awhile, so was he. He blogged briefly and even released a few demos from a Batman musical that never was.

Yes, he did Batman before the debacle that actually made it to the stage last year. One of the reasons we never saw his Batman, however, was because of previous debacles he’d been involved with. Remember Dance of the Vampires? Don’t worry. No one else does either and that’s likely for the best. It started as a very successful musical in Germany. When they tried to bring it here, it was decided that they needed a Big Name to secure financing. Enter Michael Crawford. The details are lurid and involve me damning Mr. Crawford to the seventh level of hell, preferably hung by his left testicle.

But I digress.

Finally, the surprising name that keeps coming up in my “musical” favorites? Joss Whedon.

Likely this isn’t actually a surprise to my fellow fans but it certainly was not what I expected form him. I came to him through Serenity (yes, before Firefly). And then, once I decided I really liked Nathan Fillion, someone suggested Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog. Eventually, I heard tale of a magical and musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And now I’ve finally watched the bonus features on the DVD of Dr. Horrible, including Commentary: The Musical. Laughed my ass off.

So despite the strains of “Traditiooooon! Tradition!” occasionally coming from my speakers, I am not a traditional musical kind of gal. Give me my musicals with a little rock and roll, a lot of reverence, and preferably a guy in a dress.

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Let me have the fantasy

Let me imagine you shoving me up against the rail in the elevator.

Let me imagine the door barely closing behind us before you grab me by the hair and kiss me.

Let me imagine you slapping my ass as soon as I turn my back to you.

Let me imagine you pulling me into my bedroom and tossing me onto the bed.

Let me remember how good you felt around me, in me, near me. Take my hand in the car. Let me touch you without it being awkward.

Don’t tell me what time you have to get back.

Don’t give me details about the new house or the kids’ new school.

I don’t care. I want the fantasy.

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An Evolution of Cursing

I’ve long been a fan of the show Inside the Actor’s Studio and, as pretentious as I find James Lipton to be, my favorite part is often his questionnaire at the end. Bonus points if you remember the name of the French guy he always credits for this little quiz.*

Of course, the crème de la crème here is the question, “what is your favorite curse word?”  They almost always have to bleep it because basic cable but it’s never a secret what the person has said. Now and then someone will come up with something really creative – Ben Kingsley’s was something along the lines of, “a turd in your teeth. Twice.” But more often than not, it’s some variation of “fuck.”

Growing up, cursing was naturally frowned upon. But my love of words combined with being allowed to watch such movies as A Fish Called Wanda and Goodfellas soon made me question the wisdom of replacing so-called “bad” words with something more benign sounding. Why is it better to say “shoot” than “shit” if the intent is the same? And what makes “shit” so bad anyway? The only exception for me was variations on God’s name. It wasn’t until I left the faith completely that I allowed myself to use Jesus Christ or goddammit as curse words. And even then it was weird for a while.

My favorites have changed quite a bit over the years. I used to love the sound of the word cocksucker, even if I never actually used it. But now that that word has been used as at term of endearment, it’s difficult to imagine it as an insult anymore. Now it makes me smile and remember my ex who loved calling me that.

Besides, there are times when nothing else sounds as good as well-placed goddammn. And it’s so versatile. Remember Uma Thurman shooting up in the bathroom in Pulp Fiction? “I said goddamn! Goddamn…” I use it after great sex a lot. It conveys a type of ecstasy that other words simply don’t have. But it can also be used in anger, frustration, or as an adjective (goddamn sonofabitch).

For some reason “fuck me” is popular anymore too. I rarely mean it literally but I love the phrase. Even better is when I combine it with something else. That is, I’ll start with one curse and halfway in decide to go a different way so that “Jesus fuck me” isn’t at all unusual to hear in my car. Because rush hour drivers are just that stupid.

I recently read an interview with one of my favorite actors which gave me reason to like him even more. Turns out Tom Hardy yells at traffic at least as much as I do only he has more of a penchant for the word “cunt.” Now, I’m not offended by this word but it’s not something that comes tripping off my tongue easily either. Still, when someone pulled in front of him and stopped suddenly, I loved his response. “Everyone else is a fucking cunt. You. You’re a fucking genius.”

That second part sounds exactly like me as a matter of fact and I’ve used it often since. Having said that, a friend who is still adjusting to driving during rush hour in a big city recently posted that she yelled, “I don’t remember entering a suicide pact with you!” at another driver. I’m thinking of adopting this one as well.

My point is that I don’t really believe in “bad” words. There are words I won’t say – ethnic slurs and the like that I don’t find appropriate in any context. And yet, I’ve seen people defend their use by certain groups at certain times and I see their point. These words just aren’t right for me. The first time I heard someone use the word “tranny” in reference to a car, it took me several seconds to realize I didn’t need to be offended. Also to figure out what he was talking about. Still, I’d rather just use the extra syllables to say transmission.

Yes, cursing is often seen as “low” speech. I point people who believe this to George Carlin. He truly made them an art form. At his best, he used all words like few others could and simply saw no reason to exclude the “bad” ones. I will never be that good but…I like his style and I like the way he thought.

 

 

*Bernard Pivot for you non-pretentious types.

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Totem Animal

I first noticed bats as a sign of change when I was married. I wasn’t aware that’s what the one that flew into our bedroom signaled but it was clear when I looked back later.

They’re not always that obvious though. Almost eight years ago, I did offered a real fascination with them. But it was Halloween season and I’m slightly gothy so that’s not weird right? Well it wasn’t until I lost my job.

Ever since, they’ve appeared occasionally to earn me.I’m never sure what direction the change will come from but the good news is that it is always followed by something better. It’s like I have to go through a certain amount of crap to see improvements.

The marriage? He thought it was weird that I liked corsets and getting tied up. Imagine wat he would think of the things I’ve done since. Right after I lost that job? I got started in my local kink community. Best thing I’ve ever done. A couple of years later, the bats signaled another breakup. Dude was an asshole and I should have seen it far sooner than I did.

In the last week or two, I started noticing the bats again. And again I tried to write it off. Their presence didn’t seem that strong and I have a friend who uses the animal as part of their user name and avatar. Of course they’re going to show up on my feed right? But another part of me knew it was more than that.

This past we’ll started out sucking pretty hard. Between changes at work and Robin Williams’ death, I went into a bit of a tailspin. But I also started talks with an editor and sent my book out to her. She’s going to review the first chapter or two and get back to me with an estimate on doing the rest. Hard to ask for more than that.

And I applied for a job that I really want and think I’m qualified for though it would be a challenge. It’s almost exactly what I want to do and I would love a chance to prove to both them and myself that I can do it.

And guess what? The bats have disappeared again already.

So which thing is going to turn out awesome? Hard to say. Could be both. Could be that the chocolate business is going to take off. I really don’t even want to speculate. I have sent these things out to the Universe and trust that good things will come from them.

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Grandma

Two years ago today, I woke to a telephone call from my father. At the age of 96 and after a month of being confined to bed, my beloved Italian grandmother had passed. I read the following as her eulogy.

My first family death wasn’t until I was in college when my mom’s dad died suddenly of a heart attack.  When I sought comfort from friends, I wasn’t even sure what I wanted them to say. But what meant the most to me was my friend Steve who looked at me and simply said, “tell me about your grandfather.” I did and it was cathartic and exactly what I needed.

So now I’m going to tell you about my grandmother, Laura.

She was born in 1915 and for me, it’s staggering to think of what that means.  She would see two World Wars, and several smaller ones.  She would see incredible advancements in technology.  I think it’s amazing how far we’ve come the past 20 or 30 yeas but she was born at a time when cars were a novelty.  When most people weren’t quite sure this thing called electricity was going to work out, and more often than not, people still used outhouses.  Movies were still new, television was decades away, and even telephones must have seemed magical.  I know she was amazed at how much our cell phones can do nowadays and it’s no wonder.

The most amazing thing for me was that she never seemed to change or age for me.  For 40 years she was this ball of energy who always seemed to be on the go.  When I told people that she was in her 90s and still lived alone, they were amazed.  And then I told them she was still driving.  She drove until just over a year ago and I know it broke her heart to give it up but I loved that it was her choice.  She said her eyes just weren’t good enough anymore.  Up until a week or two ago, her mind was as sharp as ever – we took old pictures in to her because none of us knew who some of the people were in them.  She knew every one.  She knew every person who came to visit her.  She knew everything.

When she decided to stop driving, it was decided that I would buy her car from her. It was older than mine but in much better shape and my car needed replaced. We agreed on a fair price but when I went to pick it up, she met me at the door, smiling, and said, “Now I have a surprise for you.” She wouldn’t take my money. I said, “We had a deal.”  But she wouldn’t budge and you simply do not argue with a 95-year-old Italian grandmother. In college, I interviewed her about some family history. There was a lot she didn’t seem to think was important but I did. I asked how she and grandpa had met. She said he was just another guy around the neighborhood and she hadn’t thought much about him at first. I had to really delve to figure out what had made him stand out. Finally, she said, “he was the only guy who had a car.” I love that they were married for 57 years – until his death in 1995 – because he had a car.

My cousins M– and M– – who are two and four years younger than me respectively – and I spent many a night at our grandparents house while growing up. We would get up early Saturday mornings and grandma would make what she called pitz frites – when I googled it recently, I found that they’re apparently called pizza frites but that’s not how she said it. She would make the dough from scratch and I remember waiting impatiently for it to rise. Once it did, she would make what looked like hot dog buns and then fry them. We cut them open while they were still warm, spread jam inside and sprinkled them with powdered sugar. They were delicious.

We’d often walk up to what grandma simply called the Corner Store, so named because it was a convenient store at the corner of their street. I think I was at least a teenager before I realized it had an actual name.

Once we came inside and got cleaned up or were getting ready for bed, she’d always say the same thing – “You’re gonna sleep good tonight!” I’m guessing now that she and grandpa slept better than we did but she never would have let on that we were in the way, too loud, or a bother.

I remember when it felt like an accomplishment to be taller than someone.  Of course, at just around five feet tall, the first person all us grandkids passed was grandma.  It seemed like such a big deal at the time.

I remember thinking Tang was orange juice.  Grandma was a big fan of the drink because it was what the astronauts drank.  I was probably a teenager before I realized orange juice was a completely different thing. She always seemed to have something baking and I’m pretty sure the smell of anise will forever linger in her kitchen. She was always giving me homemade pizzelles which I would share with friends and coworkers (I like them but could never eat as many as she gave me). Everyone in the family got a pizza for their birthdays.  Couples got them for anniversaries. Every special occasion seemed to warrant a pizza.  Sometimes there was no occasion.  Sometimes she would randomly call and ask, “would you like a pizza next week?”  Of course I always did.

And then there were the cookies – mountains of anise toast, pepper cookies, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, and more.  Every Christmas. Or just because she wanted to.  

Ten years ago, when I was getting ready to move back to Cleveland from western Ohio, dad’s entire family came to help me move. Grandma included. She was 85 but she was there for support which I have always thought was amazing. Last year, I started a small chocolate making business and she was always one of my best customers, buying stuff for church friends and young cousins last year at Christmas. She bought more at Easter and I’m pretty sure she paid me twice though I couldn’t convince her of that. Growing up, grandma made our Easter baskets. She molded chocolate (apparently it’s in my blood), wrapped meat trays in tin foil, and put the chocolate and other goodies in there before wrapping it in saran wrap. She even had a mold of the Last Supper and apparently I was quite scandalized by this when I was very young, thinking it too “holy” to actually eat. It seems silly to quote from a t.v. show right now but I recently heard something that rang very true for me.  One character was comforting another because their parent’s health was failing.  The adult child expressed how difficult it was going to be to watch her father decline.  The other person said, “You’ll see.  As soon as you walk out that door, you’ll remember him exactly the way he used to be.  Everything is good outside that door.” 

And it’s true.  When I remember grandma, I will remember the vitality, energy and love that defined her for more than 96 years. I’ll remember her smile and that sweet voice

 

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The Girl in Black

I like black. I wear it a lot. It’s not quite my favorite color but it’s close. And for those of you who want to argue and say it’s not a color, it’s actually a lack of color – I know. But I can’t very well go around calling it my favorite lack-of-color now can I?

There was a time when I made an effort to include more real colors into my wardrobe. I felt like it was weird to be so monochromatic. Or that people would think it was weird. Over time, I realized I didn’t care about either of those reasons and I was going to wear what I liked. Now, everything I have goes with black. I feel like I have the adult version of Garanimals. And I’m okay with that.

I have a good friend who is nearly the same age as me. I won’t say what that age is but I will say that the only reason I’m looking forward to my next birthday is that I will be The Answer. To life, the universe, and everything. Anyway, she is the gothiest person I’ve ever known. I never see her without at least one skull somewhere – platform shoes, purse, whatever. I now have tiny skull earrings that remind me of her every time I wear them. She’s always in almost all black. Sometimes she lets a little white or red in for accent but it’s totally her and I think she looks great.

I hear a lot of people say, “Oh I can’t wear< insert favorite color> all the time.” Why not? Our clothing is a pretty easy and basic way of expressing who we are. Why not go with what you like instead of society says you should like?  

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Lucky

I’ve likely fought depression longer than I realize, probably since before I knew it was a thing. When I was very young, I would have blamed loneliness or having an overbearing mother. In my early adult years though, there were rare days when I would wake up with a debilitating and overwhelming sadness and lethargy. There was no cause, no circumstance I could blame. But if I ignored it and pushed through, it usually went away within a day or two. At the very least, I was more functional after about a day. Because these periods were so short lived, I’m not sure it even occurred to me to seek help. By then I had friends to lean on, people I knew cared about me and were worth living for.

Over times, these days simply stopped occurring, at least to the degree they once did. Entering the kink community helped immensely as I was finally able to live out what I’d only fantasized about for most of my life. So imagine my shock when a play partner, who happened to be quite psychic, looked at me one day and asked, “do you have issues with depression?”

Yes I did. I still do. And I find that I still rely on the support of friends to get me through. On the rare occasions when I’ve considered seeking treatment, I’ve been able to find relief through means of my own first – meditation has done wonders here.

In my case, depression is definitely hereditary. I can see signs of it throughout my mother’s side though I doubt any of them would ever admit it. Mom very much has an attitude that says, “you just need to get over it.” Never mind how much easier said than done that is.

I also know that my mood swings tend to be hormonal. About once a month, I get grumpier than usual and more likely to hate…everyone, even and sometimes most especially the people I care most about simply because they’re in my proximity. More and more, these reactions have helped me understand my mother better. But that doesn’t tell me what to do about them. Her way of dealing was often to lash out at me or dad. Unfortunately, I’m not sure she was self aware enough to even be able to say, “this isn’t your fault.” If she was, we likely could have avoided many of our problems. Instead, I grew up assuming that her mood swings were entirely my fault. I suppose if I’ve learned anything, it’s been to warn people that if I get overly grumpy or start crying for no reason, it’s nothing to do with them.

This week has been ugly and certainly some of it has been circumstantial. Changes at work continue to frustrate me, hormones, Robin Williams’ death, and the upcoming anniversary of my grandma’s death have kept me constantly on the verge of tears for the past couple of days and once again I’m debating some type of counseling. I know my insurance covers it but I am just as convinced that, by the time I get around to it, this mood will have passed and I’ll be fine.

If Williams’ death has proven anything, it’s how lucky I really am. The truly debilitating days have been extremely rare indeed. Have I ever been suicidal? Yes. Have I ever made an attempt to do anything or not reached out in some way? No. Still, there are moments where that tiny voice whispers, “No one cares. You’re the only one feeling this way and no one else will every understand.” There is nothing lonelier than these moments and I don’t want to think about what it must be like for them to be a more constant presence.

I don’t have answers for this. Because the extreme moods aren’t every month nor are they all that frequent. Sometimes, simply acknowledging these moments as I just have, is enough. Other times, random texts from friends come in at just the right time. Still other times, such as last night, a good cry will do the trick. There’s never just one solution – and I think that’s part of what keeps me going too. If one thing doesn’t work, something else will.

But not everyone is so lucky. Obviously. And bringing attention to these issues is not some leftist conspiracy (thank you Rush for making THAT a thing!). Rather, I see it as people helping people to quell that small voice and make others feel less alone. If only for a minute.

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Out Late

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on Netflix lately. They’ve ranged from heartwrenchingly sad (We Were Here about the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco) to funny (When Jews Were Funny – still not sure what the point was but the jokes were fun) to fabulous (one on drag star Divine, another on drag pageant Miss Gay America, and another on trans* porn star Buck Angel).

Earlier this week, I watched one that got me thinking. It was called Out Late and followed various people who had come out as gay, lesbian or transgendered later in life. There was a woman who came out as a lesbian in her late 70s. Another who didn’t transition until after she was 60. But they were all of a generation where you didn’t talk about such things and you certainly did not admit to them.

Most of them still faced judgment of some kind. The woman who came out at 79 had a brother who said he didn’t approve of what she was doing. As if it were up to him. A lesbian couple who had been together for more than 20 years had neighbors they were close to who continue to disagree with same sex marriage. This one baffled me – I don’t know how you can be as close to another couple as they seem to be and still not be able to acknowledge that they are just as married as you are.

But across the board, the only regret any of the subjects seemed to have was that they hadn’t done anything sooner.

I was inches from going to my Facebook and announcing to the 10 people left on there who don’t know that I identify as bi/pansexual/queer just to be able to say I did it. When I clicked my page, however, I was bombarded with the wall-o-Robin Williams. Stunned by the loss, my announcement didn’t seem so important and it would have gotten lost anyway.

Even today though, it still doesn’t seem that important. The people who need to know, know. I have my Chosen Family. I have my support. And that’s what’s important to me. Does my Texas aunt who I never talk to and only keep on my friends list in case something happens to my grandmother need to know? Likely not. Do the Christian college friends who I rarely speak to need to know? Why would they?

I added my girlfriend to my relationships last year on Coming Out Day. If anyone cares to look, or really pay attention, everything they need to know is right there. The rest? I’m not sure I care.

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