Since the beginning of a new year seems as good a time as any to look back at the past 365 days and forward at the next 365, I thought I’d pop up and say some things.
2011 was a very peculiar year, full of growing pains. My graduate program has been more or less dismantled, which I have been reluctant to go into much here. I finished the spring semester excited for the summer and the following year of learning, but by mid-summer I knew that at least in the fall I would not be in classes and as of a few weeks ago, I am done with that school for good. One year of an MA under my belt and I am bitter. I was supposed to be done with my masters by this summer and instead I’ll have no degree and very few transferrable credits, and I haven’t applied to other programs yet because I loved that one so much and have no idea where I will find another one like it. So in the meantime, I’m working, trying to figure out where I’m going, what the fuck I’m doing, what matters to me. So the year began with direction, purpose, energy, excitement, momentum. And ended, here, with a grinding halt and a giant question mark.
2011 was the year of moving to Oakland, which ML and I decided to do before I found out that grad school was up in the air but which I ended up being very glad of, given that rent at our new place is $700/month less combined. And we have a house! With a yard! And wild blackberries and lemon trees, and I have a hammock and spent many fall afternoons reading in the hammock drinking lemonade. We also have a roommate (a friend of ours from before) who is pretty much my favorite person ever and I actually really like living with a roommate again. And we have a cat, Gilda, who owns all of us, and who knows to sit to get a treat. ML is trying to train her to take to a leash. So far, she’s having none of it.
2011 has been a year of a lot of personal and emotional upheaval, which has been both painful and broadening. I’m trying, probably unsuccessfully, to tow a line between taking risks and making a giant mess, and I think I’ve crossed that line in unfortunate ways at times this year. Maybe, eventually, I will go into some of these things here.
In 2011 I deepened friendships that are so meaningful to me in so many ways, and I watched one friendship between close friends crumble and am still grieving that, especially as I feel in some ways in the middle and don’t know how to support them and also give myself space to be angry at both of them and sad. In 2011 I grew apart from my parents but closer to my siblings and especially my sister who, despite being mystifyingly different from me also, still, can finish my sentences. We now live in the same state!
I came out to my grandparents this year, in the middle of everything else, and sobbed for three straight hours when my grandpa hung up on me. Not that that response was a surprise, but that there was so much of all of this other stuff stagnant inside me and unable to surface emotionally, and that when I started crying about grandpa hanging up on me it turned into crying about everything all at once and altogether. Then I brought ML to Thanksgiving with them, and with my mother and and my aunt and uncle and (gay, but not yet out) cousin and my sister and her boyfriend. And three days later my grandpa called me and told me, awkwardly and hesitantly, that ML sparkles and that he will consider her in our family. And I was like, wow, that was it? Like eight years of agonizing over this and he tells me she sparkles? I should’ve done it a lot sooner.
2011 was a year of deepening politicization and although this hasn’t been a space where I’ve really talked much about politics, current affairs, and theory much, I’m wondering whether that will change this coming year as all of those things are more present for me than they’ve been before as things I’m constantly wanting to think about, talk about, process. It was also a year in which that politicization has changed me personally, changed my sense of self and my sense of possibility in the world, and that feels exciting and that regardless of my grad program no longer existing, that energy is still simmering and I am running with it still.
Things look a lot different from this end of 2011 than from the front end. Maybe I won’t even bother trying to look forward; maybe I’ll just take this next year little by little.
Today was the first day of my summer practicum — at a grassroots coalition of women prisoners. This summer so far (oh my god, I can’t believe it’s already almost halfway over) I’ve been devouring everything I can on prisons, the PIC, the military/police/penal state, race gender and prisons, the War on Drugs… The more books I read and documentaries I watch and conversations I have the more overwhelmed I feel and also eager and urgent about the problem of our prisons (particularly in California) and the havoc they wreak on those inside and on those of us outside. I feel stuck about how to write about those things on this blog but I do want update here more often than once a month, which is what I’ve been doing… I’m thinking maybe I’ll try to do once a day, just whatever’s on my mind.
What’s on my mind right now, other than women in prison? Well, I’ve got a 12-week-old kitten named Gilda batting at and chewing on my hair right now, which I read on the internetz means that she loves me; evidently she’s grooming me. She is a menace, a devil and an angel all at once. She is happy and loved, and also keeps us up half the night. We don’t have the heart to lock her out of the bedroom from the beginning of the night, but it inevitably means that we are up at some point in the night to her batting at our ankles and pawing at our faces and squirming in our bed, at which point we grumble and try to ignore it until we’re fully awake and finally get up and throw her out of the room. (Not literally.) Still, I am in love with her and when ML and I drove down the coast on Sunday to wander the salt marshes and go to the beach, we both missed her! A cat! I’ve never understood the pet bonds that people develop because I’ve never had a pet before, but I get it now. She’s a member of our family.
However, I promise I won’t bore you daily with tales of her mischief. Maybe weekly though :)
One of the more established interns at the prison coalition is queer, and I feel like I have a “be her” crush on her. Have you ever had that problem, where you can’t decide whether the gal you think is really hot is someone you want to “be” or someone you want to “do”? It took me a bit when I was younger to sort that out, and sometimes I think there’s still some gray area. Well, Ari is a “be her” crush, I’m pretty sure. Not that I know for sure that she identifies as femme, maybe she does maybe she doesn’t, but she is obviously queer, and not butch or masculine and I studied her trying to figure out what the cues were for me that she’s queer because it was so obvious to me. Other than my gaydar, I think it was a combination of a subtle energy and some visual cues: the slightly asymmetrical haircut with a tiny shaved part on the front of one side and bleached wingtips on one side; several small tattoos; skinny jeans with muscle tank + a few dangly necklaces… It’s interesting though, because despite the “be her” crush I think that I won’t really ever read that way. I’m too girly-feminine. I don’t mean pink and bows and hello kitty, I mean just a more conventionally feminine presentation. I don’t have tattoos and despite the fact that I know I mentioned here a while back that I was thinking of getting one, I’ve pretty much established now that I’m not. I feel torn between wanting to adopt a marker of something that is pretty ubiquitous among “my people” now (by which I mean my queer demographic, not all LBTQ folks in general) and wanting to also not just follow along in that regard. So until I feel more secure in my own queer presentation and don’t feel as concerned with whether I’m mark-able as queer, I think I will hold off. For me, being visibly mark-able isn’t really a good enough reason on its own to get a tattoo. In addition to not having tattoos, though, I tend to think that I otherwise lack some of the subtle identifiers that even I don’t quite know how to place. What is it that marks people? I know I’ve talked about this before; it still occupies me!
My hair is continuing to grow; I now have a platinum streak on a dark cherry angled bob. I’m continuing to try to get to the bottom of what I, personally, am drawn to in terms of style. Pin-up, yes, absolutely; I’d like to incorporate that into my daily get-up more. I know I feel happier and more together when I do, when I take the time to dress myself with care. It’s a matter of time, I guess. But I should do that.
What are the things you do, on an average, casual day, to articulate (visually) your gender? Whether femme or other?
I’ve been feeling pretty politicized, lately, which has contributed to my not writing as much here (that, and midterms, obviously). What I mean is, this blog has been, for most of its life, an account of my personal life. My verrrrrry personal life, haha. The main reason for that, I think, is that since this blog began, the stuff in my personal life has been the most interesting stuff going on for me. I was working a job I didn’t care for, hadn’t situated myself squarely in any community in the city (part shyness, part being busy, part general feelings of liminality), and was spending most of my intellectual brainpower, outside of work, on thinking about my relationship and my burgeoning personal identities (primarily femme, but also, in smaller ways, “survivor”, feminist, queer, sex-positive…). Thank God for all of that, and for this blog and all of you, because it enabled my mind to continue to open up and expand when my work life was encouraging it to stay stagnant.
Now that I’m full-time in a graduate program (having lost my part-time work, eep. I really need a new part-time job…), it’s like my mind is blowing up. It’s brilliant, it’s like a re-birth. I’m navigating new relationships with classmates and professors, which is time-consuming and exciting. I’m reading a TON of stuff, mostly assigned, but I’m amazed that the assigned reading is actually motivating me to go out and read non-assigned stuff, both for context (e.g. Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge) and just because it excites me (e.g., Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl, which, GO. READ. I’M SERIOUS.). I’m writing a lot for class. And I’m having a ton of conversations both in and outside of class, about things like what I posted about in my last post (which, don’t worry, I’ll be doing follow-up posts on) and about other things: midterm elections, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Tea Party, local politics. (Y’all, San Francisco just passed the most effed up bit of city legislation: Sit/Lie, a law that will *criminalize* sitting on city sidewalks, for any reason, which is ableist, classist, and a total betrayal of our city’s history and the folks that made SF the “free love” city that it is.)
And I’ve hesitated, I guess, to write about all of that stuff, because it’s not my personal life. It’s not just about my own personal identity anymore, but about my identity in the context of larger social and political forces, and just about those larger social and political forces on their own. I feel a bit strange about starting to use this blog as a sociopolitical soapbox (to be clear: when I talk about social politics, I’m not really talking about partisan politics (except in the context of these midterm elections), but I guess something more like progressive identity politics. I’m just not sure this is the platform for that. But you know what? It’s what’s on my mind, so I guess I’ll just roll with it. We’ll see what happens. And for the record, I love feeling more politicized. The blood in my body feels quicker, I feel more alert, more purposeful, more engaged with the world. I’ve been sharing a lot of stuff on my personal Facebook page, and I think I might start moving some of that to this blog’s Facebook page as well because I want to start having those kinds of conversations over here, too.
In the meantime, life’s pretty good. The weather here is gorgeous. Halloween came and went, and I stayed in all weekend; it was rainy and cold and I wasn’t feeling well anyway. ML is super busy with grad school applications and preparations, but this week we’ve actually managed to have dinner together every night so far, which is very welcome after three weeks of hardly eating together at all. My midterms are over and I’m already swallowed in more reading and beginning to prep for finals. I’m frantically trying to find part-time work but haven’t had any time to put into the search. This week, hopefully. Anybody have any Bay Area progressive connections?
One last thing: Apparently, the Giants won the World Series. I think I was probably the last person in San Francisco to find out. I truly live under a rock in many ways. But guys, the city erupted. It was almost as bad as Massachusetts when the Sox won in 2004. Sports fans!!!
PS: My next post, currently in draft form, is about the consumerization of femininity. It’s been fun to think about and write. I’ll finish it up and post it in the next day or two. Can’t wait to hear feedback…