Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Years Evolution

For the past five years, I've started writing out recaps for the previous year on January 1st. I find it a great way to review my life, see how I've grown, and to help me loosely map out my upcoming goals. (I seem to have "take Pilates" as a goal every year, but I somehow keep managing to fail at that one. Urgh. Maybe 2008 will be my year.)

Sometimes I'll even create a tag line that thematically describes the events. For example, my recap for 2002 was best summed up as, "Revisit the past/Envision the future" because it was largely about self-acceptance, reaching out to those I'd lost touch with, focusing on inner-peace, and then spiraling into the unknown with job loss and a very tumultuous romantic relationship. Thematizing one's life doesn't always work, but it's kind of a fun way to think about a year holistically.

I begin by chronologically writing out all of the major events/feelings/happenings that I can think of in bullet-point form. I don't spend an insane amount of time trying to come up with every little thing. Simply brainstorming the most immediate things that come to mind and then placing them in chronological order seems to give a clear picture of the most impactful moments of the year.

I then write out two lists--one for the people who have been of primary importance in my life this year, and a list of the more peripheral yet still important people in my life during this time. It may seem strange to attempt to categorize friendships, but this allows me to see how people move in and out of my life, and who remains most constant.

I also make a list of the trips I've taken, and the dates (at least the months in which they took place).

Future goals for the new year follow. I don't make this list overly-rigorous as I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, or that you have to follow through with everything (see Pilates). It's more about things I want to keep on my radar so I can glance back at the list throughout the upcoming months and remind myself of things I'd like to accomplish, aspire to or think about. These might be financial goals, things to do with improving my health and well-being, education, politics, trips to take or things to do for fun.

Recently, I've taken to adding a short list of things I'm most grateful for, and occasionally, I include a snippet or two of things I've learned. For example, in 2006, I came to the realization that it's rather fruitless to try to guess other people's motivations. Reasons are irrelevant, and trying to ascertain reasons for others' behavior is unprovable and somewhat hubristic. It's better to simply deal with the facts of a situation and make decisions based on what appears in front of you, and not worry so much about what other people are thinking or why they do what they do.

I won't be posting my list of 2007 life events. That's one for my journal and not for online. But, I highly encourage everyone to do this exercise to see what you come up with. Starting a new year by bringing greater consciousness to one's life is comforting and sets the stage for greater awareness and an openness for new things to come.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Dinner Party

No, I'm not talking about Judy Chicago. As I was drifting off to sleep the other night while home for the holidays, it occurred to me that I've never actually compiled a list of the famous, living or dead, I'd like to have over for dinner. So, without further ado, here is the start of mine, in no particular order:

John Waters--I'm not even the biggest fan of his films, but he's hysterical and makes some good art to boot.

Grace Slick--She's sarcastic, bombastic and honest. She's always given good interviews, and I've always had a soft spot for her drug-addled lyrics ("You are your own best toy to play with/remote controlled hands/made for each other/made in Japan"). A representative Grace quote, "The wiser you get on the inside, the uglier you get on the outside. The world's great gurus have beautiful things to say but they generally look like shit."

Jennifer Tilly--If you can get past her voice, she's extremely intelligent for someone from Hollywood (I realize that's a back-handed compliment), hilarious, quirky and apparently talented at poker. She's definitely not the girl next door. As she says, "I think it's kind of harder for me to play the kind of normal girl that you would meet at the supermarket squeezing the Wonderbread." Plus, she spoke one of my favorite movie lines, "I'm not apologizing for what I did. I'm apologizing for what I didn't do." (I can hear Gonzo throwing up down there on Carroll St.)

Gore Vidal--Who doesn't love a man who says things like, "Andy Warhol is the only genius I've ever known with an I.Q. of 60." More Vidal quotes.

Carl Sagan--Quite literally the straight man of our party, Carl would have a pretty big burden to shoulder with all these wiseacres surrounding him. But, he's used to billions and billions, so a party of fewer than ten should be no problem.

Hmm. I think I like provocateurs.

I find this exercise very difficult. It's hard to think of celebrities I'd actually want to dine with. I expect to keep adding more.

Who's on your list?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lube study seeks participants

At the risk of my blog becoming less general and more about sex and sexuality these days (ah, what the heck!), I've just found out about this study that could be worth participating in:

To Whom It May Concern,

Our research team at Indiana University is recruiting adult women (18 and older) to participate in what is, to our knowledge, the first ever systematic study of lubricant use among women.

Many women use lubricants during sexual activity alone or with a partner and for many different reasons including to make sex more comfortable, to reduce pain, to reduce the risk of tearing during sex, to feel more pleasure, because they are curious, or because their partner wants to use a lubricant. Other women have never used a lubricant during sexual activity that occurs alone or with a partner.

The study that we are recruiting for, the Women's Sexual Health Study, takes place entirely online. Women who participate in the study will receive three bottles of water-based lubricant or silicone-based lubricant and will be asked to use it during sexual activity that occurs alone or with a partner, and to respond to online questionnaires about their experiences.

Women who would like to read additional information about the study and decide whether they would like to participate can go to this web site:

If you have additional questions about the study, please send an email to or call 812.855.0364.

Kind regards,

Debby Herbenick, PhD
Associate Director, Center for Sexual Health Promotion
School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN 47405

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dry brushing detox

Get cold hands and feet often? I sure do. I also have a lot of back/leg pain from sitting too much at my day job. I started looking around for something that might help my circulation and discovered dry brushing. I've been doing it daily for two months now, and I believe I've noticed a difference. But let's back up:

What is dry brushing
Dry brushing is the act of using an exfoliating brush over most of your skin. Dry brushing has apparently been done for a bazillion years by Russians, Turks and Scandinavians as a means to cleanse the skin and release bodily wastes.

Why do it?
It's supposed to help with a wide variety of issues, from improved circulation to getting rid of cellulite and varicose veins, both of which most of us have or get with age. It obviously also removes dead skin, so do it while standing in the shower before you rinse off.

I'm pretty sure I'm noticing a decline in cellulite over the past two months. Will be interesting to keep an eye on it. My hands and feet are without a doubt less cold than they used to be, and I'm finding that my back/leg pain is lessened. I'm also being treated via acupuncture for my back/legs, but I'm seeing faster results since I've combined that with dry brushing.

The other reason why I'm giving it a shot is because I have a tendency towards fibrocystic breasts, and I'm hoping that by stimulating my lymph glands, I might help lessen the development of cysts if I'm assisting in getting fluids circulating around my body. I thought to do this after reading several articles that claim that wearing a bra can significantly contribute to fibrocystic breasts because the elastic of the bra traps lymphatic fluid. Kind of makes some sense to me, and maybe brushing will help.

Read more about the Dry Brushing Technique.

How do you do it?
This is the protocol I'm using: start on the bottoms of your feet and brush six times towards your heart. Then move up your calves, six times all around, then your thighs, up your butt, back, arms and breasts. Be careful with delicate areas, such as the insides of your thighs. Personally, I'm actually finding the arches of my feet to be super-delicate, and I've cut them up with the brush, so I'm learning to adjust the pressure.

The trick is that you always, ALWAYS brush towards your heart so that wastes from your lymph nodes can be carried via your blood up towards your heart and then out of your body, and there will be less pressure on your veins.

You can buy a dry brush at Whole Foods for about $9. Sure, it's another thing to add to your daily routine, but it seems to be beneficial. I recommend giving it a try.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Straight ladies of the world, give up your girlfriends

A cadre of my lesbian friends have requested that I write this post on their behalf:

Dear straight ladies of the world,

Please, PLEASE stop using the word "girlfriend" to describe your platonic, friendship-only relationships with other women.

We understand that straight people don't generally think about us. It's human nature to ignore people's issues that have no direct effect on our lives. But your continued use of the word "girlfriend" makes queer women invisible. And it really sucks.

You get to have your boyfriends. Why not let us have our girlfriends? We can't get married (except in Massachusetts), so we're stuck with lame and ambiguous descriptors for the women we love like "girlfriend" and "partner." It's tough enough as it is to get recognition for the relationships that we have when there is no overt cultural support. And when the general lexicon gives us easily misconstrued words to describe ourselves, it's an uphill climb to get noticed. You may not realize how easy you have it--as soon as you say, "boyfriend" everyone knows you're talking about the guy you sleep with.

When we are out with our partners and introduce them as our "girlfriend," it often takes several introductions for people to get it through their heads that we're talking about romance, not about our buddy.

Is it so hard to imagine that we might be a couple? We're tired of people assuming that we're genetically related sisters when, for example, one of us is clearly of Indian descent and the other is Italian. Why is being a couple the very last thing so many people think of? How many times do we have to go to our doctors, take our partner with us, and have to explain, over and over again, that this person is not just with us, but "with" us?

So, what can you, the straight lady, do? Since many names are gender-specific, why not just say, "I was out with my friend Sarah this weekend...blah, blah, blah" instead of, "I was out with my girlfriend." Or just say you were out with a friend or friends. Why qualify it at all? Get creative.

But do your queer sisters a favor and give us a chance to take hold of a word whose meaning, for us, is far more specific and truly needed.


The Lesbians of New York

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I had another “Only in New York” experience on the outskirts of Soho on Macdougal. This was my first time getting a document notarized. (I clearly haven’t lived.) The place is called, “Something Special,” and boy is it ever. From the hand-written cardboard sign in the window that says, “Notary Public,” to the somewhat dingy curtains, it’s completely unclear as to what lays inside.

Once I wrenched open the door, I found myself facing the proprietor and his wife, who sit amidst a ramshackle space papered with celebrity autographs (Sarah Jessica Parker, most conspicuously) and discombobulated mailboxes for rent. I find it hard to believe that celebrities frequent this joint, but I suppose even they have their notarization needs. I waited for the owner to finish up a conversation before he nodded in my direction. He instructed me to place my paperwork on a specific square cutout on the counter. I put the letter down and backed away from it slowly.

He asked for ID to check against my signature, which I provided. I’m always afraid of comments on my driver’s license. In actuality, I don’t get comments so much as a chuckle here and there. I look very different now than I did nearly 5 years ago when I had the photo taken—my hair was dyed black and cut far too short because I had just moved to New York and had no idea when I’d find a stylist, so I erred on extra short to buy me time. A dyke look if there ever was one. I eyed him as he perused my picture. He looked up at me. We both had the slightest twist of a grin, but he said nothing. He took out his embossing tool, stamped and signed.

I told him and his wife that the paperwork was for my stolen credit card, which had over $3000 in charges. He said he notarized about three of these forms a week. That’s a lot of fraud! He eyed me and said, “Are you really sure it wasn’t an ex boyfriend…(pause)…or an ex girlfriend?” I was totally pleased that he failed to presume. Perhaps it was my driver’s photo that gave him pause. But pause he did, and I liked that a lot. Kind of reminds me of the time this guy on the subway came up to me and said, “I really like your ring. Is it an engagement ring? Who’s the lucky man or lady?” It’s great to know that there are people out there who don’t always take the status quo for granted—who admit it’s sometimes (and often) difficult to tell what’s going on with someone else, and that you can’t really assume anyone’s preference. Sometimes it takes a notary to get noticed.

Someplace special, indeed. This is one of the great reasons to live in New York.

I rather hope I have to get something notarized again soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Score for Madison Avenue

<-- Subway passengers with their ams in straphanger position

The subway has been a good bit more packed this week (perhaps due to the holidays?), which is always compounded by train problems. Yesterday, one of the doors on the F train failed to close, so they took the car out of service. As we were stalled, waiting for them to come to a decision, I found myself increasingly pressed up against other people as new people entered the train. (fools!) Then, when they finally decided that the door was definitively broken, they had us cross the platform to board the A train, where it was twice as crowded.

Only one thought kept me sane: Thank GOD almost everyone on the train was clean. I looked around me and noticed that most of us on the train had the same level of cleanliness, which is kind of shocking. We didn’t collectively smell that bad, even when making full-body contact. Why? It has to be Madison Avenue advertising. One thing our culture does very well is teach us to be clean. Heck if we’re creating super-germs due to our cleanliness. Not having to smell horrific B.O. is worth every cost.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cross-dress for success

I finished Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man this past week, and I was impressed by her audacity. Despite being a somewhat butch lesbian, spending 18 months disguised as a man ended up inducing a level of cognitive dissonance that caused her to have an emotional breakdown, seemingly speaking to the innate and fixed properties of our individual sense of our own gender.

I was most fascinated by other people's assumptions about her gender and how female masculinity was perceived as effeminacy once ensconced in a "male" persona. I was further intrigued by her comments that once she established herself as a man amongst the men she socialized with, she later removed her glasses and stopped applying her fake stubble, and yet still no one guessed that she was a woman. This proves that people don't so much see what is in front of them, but rather only the rough outlines of gender. Once our brains create a categorization, we cease to question and move on to the next level of human interaction. And when we come across someone of indeterminate gender, it's a puzzle and stops us in our tracks.

I've never dressed in drag, although I find the idea somewhat titillating. However, I don't think I'd make a terribly convincing man. The only thing I have going for me is my height and that my hands are kind of square. That said, I have been addressed as "sir" about 5 or 6 times in my adult life, perhaps most embarrassingly by a proctologist who was looking down at his notes as I walked into his office. I suspect that my height, my short hair at the time and my black leather jacket may have contributed to his reading of "male" out of the corner of his eye. (And I suppose I should be thankful that I wasn't pants down, prone on the table when he made this error.) Still, I doubt most women would be mistaken for a "sir," so there must be something about me that reads as unfeminine when viewed in a certain context. I'm guessing it's my comportment.

Since I was a teenager, I've had an acute sense that my posture and the way that I walk isn't typical of most women, but I didn't recognize it as "gay" until after coming out and spending more time with other lesbians, where I saw aspects of my physical self in them. There is such a thing as lesbian body language, and it reads as more "masculine," but not all lesbians have it, so it can't be conclusively stated that lesbian = more mannish in mannerisms. This tells me that gender correlates to sexuality in some fashion, but the exact nature of the relationship still seems to elusive. I suppose that's the beauty of the complexity of human beings.

I strongly feel aspects of masculinity and femininity within myself, almost equally, which translates, to me, into a kind of androgyny inside myself. When I was a kid, I wore my dad's ties, baseball caps and refused to put ribbons in my hair much to the consternation of my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Cohen. As a teen, I was super-femme with long curly hair, skirts, and a lot of makeup. For a large portion of my adult life, I had extremely short hair and nondescript fashion. That changed once I came out and decided to remake myself physically. I dyed my hair electric blue and black and created rules for my wardrobe (solids, stripes and argyle = OK, patterns = absolutely not). I became more aware of how my appearance reflected my inner life, and now, I consciously choose certain outfits to reflect aspects of my gender.

I enjoy the interplay of masculine and feminine as I allow it to manifest on my outward body. I feel most whole when I appropriate masculine symbols of power into my dress (like my stylized sheriff's badge belt buckle, or my military jacked by Laundry). The twist is that I never wear a literal translation of male symbols--my belt buckle is not an actual sheriff's badge. And, I wear these items at the same time I emphasize my femininity via tight denim that shows off my female ass and hips. Along with my sheriff belt buckle, I wear a cowboy shirt cut for women that happens to have line drawings of cowgirls with lassos. It's a costume, and I see it as such, but at the same time, it represents a deep part of my psyche. I can feel my masculinity and femininity at the same time, and it lends me confidence. It is sexually charged, at least for me, which is how I know there is a connection between sexuality and gender.

Which leads me to explore the notion of cross-dressing, spectatorship and empowerment. I haven't been to a drag king show in quite some time, although I've seen about four performances in my life thus far. As a spectator, it's not something that I ever really understood. There's nothing particularly sexy to me about watching women dress up as strange male archetypes such as a trucker-hatted guy wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt swilling beer while lip-synching to some Hootie and the Blowfish song.

I'm sure this may be a turn-on for some onlookers, but I'm guessing it's the minority. It's like a gay man in drag among the Chelsea boys. He has a place there, but it seems unlikely that he, as a woman, is an object of desire for most of those men.

As I think more about my own style as well as drag, it's becoming clearer to me that cross-dressing is more about harnessing the personal power inherent in gender than it is about transforming oneself into an object of desire (although paradoxically, invoking that power may make us more attractive to those who appreciate the confidence it creates). A man in drag invokes the sexuality and sensuality of female power over masculine energy. And a woman expressing herself through aspects of masculinity is doing much the same, in reverse. Masculinity can't exist without its opposite, and vice-versa. Dressing in drag is a touchstone to our innermost expressions of ourselves.

Markers of gender have definitive meanings and power in our culture, and as Norah Vincent has proven, clothes do indeed make the (wo)man.