Sometimes you say things without really thinking. Sometimes you write things without really thinking on your Facebook status and 900 people read them.
It all started with the towels. Not just any towels, mind you. These were brand new, fresh out of the laundry, white, pristine, and uber-fluffy.
I had just stepped out of my claw-foot bathtub in my new to me bathroom in my recently painted apartment and into the softest, most absorbent and slightly lemony scented towel this 40-year-old ass has ever felt.
That towel wicked the moisture away from my butt like a dream. It felt better than my mother’s towels. Better than a fancy hotel towel, even, mostly because it was mine and I knew for a fact mine was the first ass it had ever wicked water from.
It’s the little things, right?
I sat my luxuriously towel-wrapped ass down at my desk and wrote: “My new towels are so fluffy and absorbent. I felt like a queen. A queen I tell you.” And hit share.
Within minutes the comments started to roll in. My lady friends all concurred. Some of my butch friends, well, not so much.
One of them called me a big old girl. One told me I needed some butch bonding time. A small debate ensued.
A femme friend of mine suggested we all conceptualize fine linens as a high quality tool, used to entice fine ladies into your bathtub. We riffed some about stereotypes. I thought it was over.
The next day, I hung the freshly hemmed and pressed sand-coloured velvet draperies in my living room, and stood back to appreciate how well they complimented the dark olive accent wall and the bone-white window trim.
What can I say? It has pretty much been five years since I have had a stable, solo, sexy roof over my head. I am nesting.
I sat at my desk and wrote: “Enjoying my new draperies like I do does not make me any less butch.”
And again with the stream of comments. One of my friends wrote that butches are supposed to keep thoughts like that to ourselves. Someone said that draperies could be butch as long as there were no pink bows on them. Someone else suggested that we needed a word for a butch metrosexual. This began a longer discussion on the various types of butch, soft butch, stone butch, old school, fag butch, gentlebutch, dandy.
I should say that all of this was fairly good-natured, and everyone’s feathers went for the most part unruffled, at least on the page. But something about the whole discussion bugged me, and it got me to thinking about it all.
My first question was for myself. Why did I care if my butchness was called into question anyway? In my whole entire life I have never felt anything but butch, even before I knew the word. That is certainly the way the world views me (going mostly on what rednecks call me from passing truck windows) and how my lovers place me on the fuckability spectrum.
So why did someone I barely knew calling me a girl and suggesting I needed some butch bonding time chap my tender ass so much?
Perhaps it was all those soft towels making me more thin-skinned than usual? And what was up with my butch brothers and sisters? I re-read the comments.
Most of the femmes who responded maintained that the word butch didn’t need adjectives or qualifiers: just butch would do the trick. It was mostly butches who were uncomfortable with my love of fluffy towels and draperies, and mostly butches who felt the need to further categorize ourselves.
One of the femmes who posted posed the following: “There’s also an element of internalized homophobia in all of this. Maybe it’s a conceptual leap but it seems to me that the notion that a “real” butch can’t like a fluffy towel or use words coded as feminine to describe her-/him-/hir-self isn’t that far from the idea that it’s not okay for boys to play with dolls. Are queer masculinities (or whatever you want to call them) so fragile? Their beauty, diversity, and resilience over the generations prove otherwise.”
I thought about it all some more. Thought back to being eight years old, and frozen in the girl’s dressing room at the ladies wear store on Main St in Whitehorse. My aunt was getting married and my mom was insisting that wearing anything but a dress to the wedding would be rude and she wasn’t going to tolerate any more arguments from me about how dressy my brown corduroy suit could really be with the right blouse.
I was being forced to try on this yellow and grey dress. My mom and the shop lady were looming outside the dressing room door, taking turns cajoling and threatening me to come out and show them how I looked. My guts were in my throat and all the moisture in my mouth was now collecting in my eyes. I was seriously too humiliated to open the door and come out.
I was afraid of the wrath of my mother, and scared of the scorn of the saleswoman, but I was even more terrified of how vulnerable and wrong I felt in my body, in my skin, in my life in that dress. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to be a girl. And it wasn’t as easy as just wishing that I was a boy. It was the horrible realization that I was facing a world where there were no clothes for me because I didn’t fit the world.
So I don’t think that butch fear of femininity is all that simple to unravel. It is not just our own misogyny that makes us see anything less than manly as weak or less than. Our fear of our own inner girl is so much more complicated than that.
Most of us grew up uncomfortable not only in our clothes but in our pink bedrooms, our gender roles, our families expectations, and even our own skins. We had to fight to find ourselves in all of that. And sometimes that makes it hard to drop all that armor and just sit back and enjoy the fucking draperies.