Quiet Moments

Image courtesy of Toya Heatley, Digitalpix. Yes, that's me, turned into a dreamy midcentury modern watercolor via a Photoshop filter.It’s autumn in New Zealand, spring in in the Northern Hemisphere – time for gentler pleasures, long contemplative walks, appreciating soft rain and changing leaves. I have been thinking about friends having surgery, the social construction of female interactions, and the dresses I want to make.

Lately there is a social construction of feminine friendship based on relentless socializing, both present and virtual.  It came from the ’90s, with the double cultural whammy of Bridget Jones’ Diary and the Sex and the City television show. (The book this show is based on has much less friendship between the women – it was written into the show as a narrative linking device). Before this, the Greek chorus of BFFs was not a requirement in stories about women, or our own lives. There were songs about Sisters Doing It For Themselves and being On My Own. Today, it can seem like every nail polish application must be Facebooked! Every cupcake must be eaten with your six BFFs!  Still, some of my favorite books are about women going through their travails without a BFF by their side. They may be beautiful (Polly Hampton), ruthless (Becky Sharpe), or self-aware and determined(Renee Nere, Cassandra Mortmain) – but, with the absence of the BFF, they do what they must, on their own.

This fervid female friendship ideal has a dark side.  It chips away at the time we spend by ourselves, in Virginia Woolfe’s “room of one’s own” being creative, or thinking, or re-energizing. Nor is it friendly to introverts or to how introverts like to be friends. (Even burlesque artists can be introverts.) Some of my favorite moments with friends have been when we shared our introverted sides – we sat in the same room reading books together, or escaped from a noisy bar for a brisk walk and an intimate catch-up.

Earlier this month, a good friend of mine had surgery. In May, two more good friends are having surgery. Tomorrow, one of my best friends over the past 10 years is having very major surgery. Each of them has different needs and desires for support from friends, but I am thinking about them all. I had minor surgery in February and I appreciated not just concrete help, but my partner and my friends extending themselves to spend time with me, bored and trapped while I healed.  There were some quiet moments that I still think of with deep warmth.

Right now I’m trying to build the middle ground. To be there, as needed, for those friends of mine about to have their procedures. To stay connected with older friends and be open and friendly to those I meet in passing. To get my creative stuff done – to finish the drawing, start a new book, make the dress, cook the long-simmered stew. And also, to experience the pleasures of quiet time in autumn.


Go Put On A Sweater

Some randomness, because I can do that: a sweater, “chilly climate” and feminism, and the guy I wish was my gay BFF.

That Cue leopard print - it's like this one - except with a dark brown background.Aussie boutique chain Cue has a just-right dark brown leopard print cardigan right now. On the sale racks, even! It’s one for the petites with its cropped length and 3/4 sleeves. Petite = person under 5’3″ or 160 cms tall. As a shorty – I mean, a “petite” – I find Cue’s clothes fit me reasonably well overall. If you’re taller, Ezibuy has some grey leopard items and this similar sweater (XS only left.)

On a related note, I never believe any compliment that comes from a sales person.  Just on general principle…

Most of my workplaces are techy and there’s a high ratio of men to women. Sometimes, as at my current place of employment, it’s fine. At other places, even without overt sexism or harassment, something felt off. Turns out there’s a name for it, the “chilly climate,” and everyone involved can change it.

Authorial enthusiasm this week is for the queer writer Edmund White. His painful honesty – is it humility or humiliation? Something has haunted his eyes in every portrait of him, throughout his life. For an introduction to him, I recommend his autobiographical City Boy, about living and adventuring in NYC in the 70s. Then there’s his excellent, raw My Lives.  One of the more easily digestible chapters, My Women, describes the gay-man-as-woman’s-best-friend situation from the gay man’s side.

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Getting Used To Blogging In Heels

It was hard to find my voice for this blog.

For about two months, I’ve been going, “Yes. OK. This weekend. Gonna get that blog up and Breaking in the new heights...running properly. Mmmm-hmmm!” And then another weekend would pass, with me commenting blithely on Facebook, on Twitter, on my Wellington, NZ-based fiction blog, doing freelance web work, lifting weights, sewing, baking, having adventures. But not doing what I meant to do: creating an online voice as a woman.

It was the other voices that made it so hard. Not yours, reader – the other voices that we all hear inside ourselves, even though they aren’t ours. The ones that we sometimes hear as the devil and angel on our shoulders. The angel was saying, “That introduction of yours is intellectually pretentious! Immodest!” while the devil whispered, “It’s all  too much for them, you’re too weird, they’ll never understand.”

It took some work to claim inside myself that I had the right to a space where I could talk about my femme side. With other femmes. A place to be playful and thoughtful at the same time. I wanted a ladyblog, damn it!

What I think of as a ladyblog isn’t just “women in social media.” It’s a specific online feminine presentation for the female gaze, the female voice for female listeners about what we want to talk about. This doesn’t mean that a lot of ladyblogs aren’t totally terrifying. Either someone is presenting a groomed, branded, styled persona, edited for taste and appeal, or they are serving forth nigh-insane levels of compulsive disclosure about topics like marrying, mommying, or making. I’m too clumsy for one, too private for the other. What will I bring you? We’ll find out.

A quiet, substantial portion of the ladyblog audience is on the queer continuum – I was touched and inspired by the out and proud discussions in one of my favorite style blogs, Already Pretty, in this discussion of butch style.  And on another favorite, You Look Fab, the forum members encouraged a man exploring how to present well in a dress. Just because we’re queer doesn’t mean we don’t want to talk about vintage hats or getting the right swirl on a cupcake. (The wrong swirl? Oy!) I wanted a blog that included this up front. Serving it as part of femme realness.

And here it is.