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A Parade of Cousins

Furry cousin

Ever since I uploaded my big green post, life has opened back up and I’m grateful. What I remembered–and it shouldn’t have taken so long to recall this fact–is that my adoration of strangers does not preclude other sorts of communion. Also I forgot my most ardent belief: we are all cousins.

The cousin dynamic is my favorite model of human relationship, because it implies an innate connection that, as my shrink puts it, “does not affect the matrix of your life.” Parents and siblings and children can fuck you up, while resonating with a cousin just lends life an extra glow. And if you don’t resonate, it’s no skin off anyone’s back. You just wave across a room and leave it at that.

I always think about what my second cousin Martine Rothblatt said when we met. One of the first transgender women in the United States to undergo reassignment surgery, she had been a tall, brainy lad known by my dad as “Cousin Marty” when they were coming up. (Rubenfire was their grandmother.) Given how estranged I am from my clan, I’d been reading about Martine in gender theory classes and magazines (she’s also famous for launching Sirius Radio and the transhumanism movement) long before I realized we were related. After I did, I mentioned her in a book review, and she made her way to Brooklyn from Central Park Avenue South so we could meet in person. Continue Reading →

The Human Condition Is a Home State

All the interesting characters I’ve ever worked with–including myself–have had at their center a feeling of otherness, of homesickness. And it’s wonderful to watch someone finally open that forbidden door that has kept him or her away. What gets exposed is not people’s baseness but their humanity. It turns out that the truth, or reality, is our home.

But you can’t get to any truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to enter. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in–then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment. And that moment is home.--Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I am still upstate and spent last Saturday with music pouring out of my car speakers while I wound through great green and gold roads, indigo hills rising in the foreground, wildflowers waving hello. Ostensibly I was tag-saling (tag-sailing!), and in fact scored better than I usually do. Mostly, though, I was seeking a small adventure in the netherland between Columbia County, New York, and the Berkshires–between my chosen state and home state, respectively. I experienced my usual thrill when I saw the “Welcome to Massachusetts” sign, and my usual frustration when confronted with the parsimony of people from my native state. “One dollar, twenty five cents,” announced the older white man with shark eyes and shaking hands as I showed him the wares I wished to purchase at a church rummage sale. “So much?” I said, and flashed the lipsticky grin that opens all kinds of doors on the island of Nueva Berserk. “Now, where are you from,” he said slowly, and I could just tell he was wishing he’d charged me one hundred dollars and twenty five cents. Continue Reading →

Dowager Shock

I think to myself sometimes—maybe you do too— why all the selfies?

I barely took a picture of myself until I turned 40. But I spent yesterday with an old lover and it gave me an inkling of an answer: You really can’t go home again. Not because time is hopelessly linear but because if you keep on self-reckoning, eventually you outgrow obfuscation and objectification, diminishment and toxic possession. Shame. You stop saying, “Daddy, please approve of me.” You start saying, “Daddy, you have no invitation nor right to my deference.” Which is to say: you stop taking or talking jive. And maybe that’s why I take these pictures now. To remind myself that, despite the fact that I have aged out of viability in the eyes of patriarchy, despite the fact that I am untethered to a romantic relationship or biological family, despite the fact that I have very little cash nor clear prospects, despite the fact that I carry more weight than ladies are programmed to allow themselves, I am still here. At 48, I am more sure than ever before of who I am, what I can tolerate, how I can serve, and of the space I claim. So today I put on eclipse-season, mercury-retrograde, dowager-chic armor: a boob-revealing mini dress, platforms, 4D hair, lipstick, big glasses, fannypack—essentially I transformed myself into a 6 foot 4 spacecrone. And what I am saying—what I always am saying in Trump’s fucked-up, cockocratic, white-supremacist dystopia—is this: I’m not just a lover. I am a fighter. And I have earned the right to look back at you.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy