Friday, March 22, 2013

Femme by birth? not quite.

I am trying to imagine a life without all the tools of a Femme Warrior. No more heels, lipstick, no shaving, no drag show clothes, freaking out over glitter makeup and MAC cosmetics or the absolute RUSH of finding nail polish on sale. It would suck. To quote Kelly Clarkson: "My life would suck without Femme." OK, not an exact quote, perhaps.

I do have some complaints. For one thing, there is a shortage of *me* in the world. I see girls aplenty, but not enough of us are open or out about being gay. That gives me a sense of cooling toward my Femme sisters when they say: "I don't need to come out. My butch does it for us." I can understand that, but what a sense of pressure for one person to bear the outing by herself, and frankly, butches have enough to contend with. I was once, for a brief time, quite *butchish* in my dress and short-short hair. 

I thought while I was 20, I'd get a short pixie cut, but I was 220 pounds, wore oversized hoodies and wide-leg skater jeans and Doc Martins. So...while I thought my Tony & Guy pixie cut was cute, My mother proclaimed I looked like a "dyke." which, I assume she meant "butch," it hurt because I was young and trying new things. It hurt because I wanted to be seen by her as beautiful. My mother's emphasis on beauty growing up was militant. By 14 I wasn't allowed out with her unless I had on makeup. It's ok, don't start crying, Argentina. I really liked my makeup and hair and all that jazz. 

My *butchish* nature started as a tomboy girl, climbing mimosa trees, dancing around campfire and shooting guns with my step father. I knew what a deer scrape looked like by age 6. I could point out a good tree for a deer stand, I knew what foxfire was, [we lived in the Louisiana swamp area] and by age 10, I was schooled in scaling fish, skinning rabbits and I could estimate what kind of pond had either frogs, catfish, bass or crappie. I was NOT a Femme child. I was the most outgoing, talkative little girl and sided most often with mange-ridden dogs and butterflies. Dressing *up* was a sundress and my red cowboy boots. I called them my "shitkickers" and was told by my 1st grade teacher that was "not what little girls were supposed to talk like.-"

Shrug. Who knew? Cuz here I was a little girl and I already had a foul mouth.

The lessons I learned farther down the *butchish* road were from women, who while not always butch or lesbian or even tomboy, taught me to be strong and that learning was the most important thing a woman could do. My grandmother told me she never learned to drive and I had to learn in order to be free. My MeMe Lena taught me to sew, to be gentle with things, to slow down because I  was always in too big a hurry. She also taught me in Taco Bell one afternoon to take back food I didn't like because life was too short to settle for what I didn't want.

My mom taught me things in nature on our walks to escape my often abusive stepdad, who while a great sportsman and outdoors hippie, had his own battles brewing inside. My mom would languidly, as if in a dream, hold my hand and show me tulip trees, explain when the persimmons were okay to eat, taught me to tend a fire, how to reel in a fish slowly, without breaking a line on the pole. She taught me hummingbirds and birds, flowers and leaves, how to listen for the thunder and lightning to tell stories. I knew what time of year it was and can still smell a rain coming. That's intuitive, my grandpa Sam told me. Indians know the weather. We know how to use our sniffers. He knew how to drink whiskey and Budweiser and made the best crackers and buttermilk in a glass over Sanford & Son, too. He showed me how to garden, how to tend a yard. 

It was as if, even amidst such an abusive and tumultuous childhood, people all around me were teaching me things. Our trailer park landlord would know a fight had broken out in our trailer between my mom and Danny when I'd show up one Saturday morning to "help milk cows," there was nothing like kneeling down and squeezing those udders. They were soft and the cows seemed so relaxed. I'd forget all abut how strong I had to be for everyone and just milk and squeeze and the warm milk hitting the metal sides of the bucket always made me happy. Even for a little while. Animals, to me, were my most valued and trusted friends. They talked with smiles and tail whisps and wags. It was a language I knew very early.

My Femme desires came when I wanted to be accepted and cared about by friends in junior high school. I wasn't much of a pretty girl, but I was funny, loud, willing to be ridiculous and I was good with thrift stores. Sill am. I believe I have not only a right to my butch and Femme sides, but that I honor anyone who would have me by not denying both. I will gladly shoot guns or hang out in a tree or put a worm on a hook for a girl. [or a dude, if need be] It's not something I think is unfeminine. I just think it's knowledge and the more of it, the better. Why label that as "girl, butch, Femme, tomboy?"

When I realized I was not ever going to be beautiful, not to me, I developed a shield of flowery dresses, fishnet stockings, cute miniskirts, heels and makeup techniques taught by drag queens on youtube. I learned most about how to be Femme from queens and old women. I think that perhaps says a LOT about my style and Feminine presentation. I am gentle and loving, but loud and invite unquestionably difficult diva moments a lot. It's okay, I know how to behave, too, but given the choice, I'd rather be a mixed bag of obnoxious and crude with a sprinkle of classy dame. The other way around, for me, is just too hard & maybe a bit boring.

Femme to me, is not a closed book. It doesn't end in cold cream at 11pm and it doesn't always start with lipstick. I got dogs to feed, bills to pay, several online side businesses I check everyday, social media and art updates, appointments, gardening, cooking, mending, tending-home, fires to keep going. I run, I walk, I hike. I like poking at things with sticks. I enjoy looking at another woman, the more masculine version of me who probably isn't going to slip into a thong, or a bubble bath, and I like knowing *she* appreciates that I do. (And will, most especially for her.) It's easy to be Femme, alone. I think the task is like any relationship; not to dissolve into a strong personality of one, but to remain autonomously sexy. I see it. I don't want that to happen. I like the contrasting colors, textures and shapes of femininity in those ways. Her up is my down. My pink is her black. Her pocket knife is my lipstick. But I also want to watch the fire with her, both of us warmed by the same flame. I wanna sleep under the stars & feel safe. I want to cook for her, who ever this elusive dandy girl is who can tie a bow-tie and build a good fire.

Femme is important to me. it's my swan song... a late in life lesbian's identity that says "hey, it's okay. you see those girls over there, they know you. they have always known you. they looked away, not because they didn't think you were amazing, but because they knew, even before you, you could't see yourself yet." that identity is the chant of my grandfather's people. It's my beautiful Native American blood, it is distant, but very real to me. As I grow more into this skin, I hear him from above, saying "intuition, kid. It's in the belly." He'd usually then turn it into a play fight where we'd spar in the front yard until my grandmother would break it up with a call for dinner. I never forgot how hard his gut was. I could hit him for days & he'd just laugh.

I'm lucky, really. Even though I do not know what it feels like to be in the tornado of a butch/femme love affair, I have the wisdom of knowing who I am and what I want. It's not an easy thing to explain because even with very few words for my sexual orientation, I am still vehemently not attracted to overly feminine women. It's just... not at all what I like. Let me explain it like this.

Every year my mother has these night-blooming primrose bushes that she has trained to come back. Year after year the things spread and get bigger. They are yellow flowers that open at dusk and once 20-50 blooms are opening at one time, the whole bush shakes. It's an incredible sight as the flowers literally unfurl right before your eyes. Now, come an hour early, you'll see nothing but a bush of wilted buds from the day before. Come an hour late, and it's just a bush of yellow flowers.

But in the perfect cool night air, while they are blooming, it's pure magic. It takes a special in-between time and place to see that magic. I feel like that bush. For years I was just a bunch of wilted blooms leftover from yesterday. Then for a while, I was a bush of yellow bursts of color, but stagnant and pretty. Not much too it. But when I came out in my full Femme lesbian glory, and gladly accepted my Femme stance and my butches appreciated me and showed their support, I was a bush shaking with magical mystery... I was, and am, in that moment, perfect. I can't say if every year I'll come back to that magic. I hope I can plant gardens with my wife someday. I hope for a lot of things, not the least of which is to be seen as I really am. But you know what? I've already won half the battle.

My life would suck without my Femme identity and I can't wait to share that with some brazen warrior like myself who knows her life would suck without being a strong, tough butch. Protectress & Angel; child and mother. We are all these, each of us embodies all points of the divine Feminine... that's what I want and what I need. I'll wait until I have found that. Lord knows, I have waited this long.  & yup... I'm bringing my heels, lipstick AND a lighter. Because you never know. x

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