Real Housewife of Edmonton

When Kate and I first got together, we both had full-time jobs. Neither of us were terribly satisfied with the career paths we were on. Our home time was split between doing household chores and recharging our social batteries. Weekends were just long enough to make us feel like people again, and then Monday would roll around. Our jobs were leeching more than the requisite eight hours per day from us. We both craved a proper work/life balance.

Now and again, we would toy with the idea of one of us taking time off work to focus on writing. It was fun to think about, but it didn’t really seem feasible as an actual option.

We got married last year, in a much smaller ceremony than we had originally planned. Most of our “wedding fund” wasn’t needed for the wedding, but we still wanted to use it for something that was important to us. Investing in one of our dreams seemed like the right choice.

I quit my job back in April. So far, it’s been weird, but good. From the start, it was important to me to make the most of the opportunity. I’ve structured my lifestyle accordingly. Continue reading “Real Housewife of Edmonton”

Reflections

(Originally posted on June 25, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

What a week it’s been.

I typically try to keep my blog topics queer-themed, but lately I’ve been thinking more broadly. It’s all been big picture stuff – life, the universe, and everything. I’ve spent this past week in east coast country; breathing fresh air, being moved by nature, and having intense conversations with people I don’t talk to nearly enough.

Being here, off work and surrounded by family, friends, and scenery I only see once a year, disrupts my routine in the best way. It forces me to really see my life like an objective observer. It’s a time-out, during which my only priority is to figure out where I am and where I’m headed.

It can be so easy to leave things as they are in life. Routines feel safe and comfortable and uncomplicated. Human beings resist change by nature. But this past year has taught me that moments of change are the moments when we really live. Continue reading “Reflections”

How Kelly Clarkson Made Me Gay

(Originally posted on August 27, 2012 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

10 years ago, in the summer of 2002, I started watching a new reality show called American Idol. I was somewhat late to the game; on the night I first tuned in, the preliminary “loser” rounds were over and we were down to the top eight finalists.

The production values were laughably low-budget back then. They had canned background music and a tiny octagonal stage facing a tiny audience. At the centre of this modest octagon stood a short, curvy girl with a microphone. She was wearing a necktie and what I believe is referred to as a trilby hat, and she was singing Aretha Franklin’s Natural Woman. It was 60’s Night.

I was recording the show (on VHS!) as I watched, because I was expecting a phone call and I didn’t want to miss any of the songs. I took my call, and then resumed the episode where I had left off. Once I reached the end, I hit ‘rewind’ and watched Kelly’s song again. I watched it a few times, actually, and I became thoroughly confused with myself.

Why was I re-watching this? What was it about this performance? What was it about this girl? How could I rationalize keeping this instead of taping over it? Continue reading “How Kelly Clarkson Made Me Gay”

Bad Lesbian Advice

I was a late bloomer in the romance department. For that, we can blame my introverted nature, or my low self-esteem, or maybe just my lack of prospects. When I was 22, I left my rural homeland and moved to a big city full of strangers. I moved because, deep down, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might not be the only lesbian in the world.

Incredibly, the hordes of queer ladies I had hoped to be welcomed by failed to materialize. Day after day I would walk out my door to go to work, and I would fail to find the perfect woman waiting for me on my doorstep, or at my bus stop, or draped across my desk.

I didn’t get it. I was here, I was queer, and my city was like “so what?”

I spent my twenties in a sort of passive denial. I kept hoping that I would meet my soulmate organically, while living my ordinary life. Years passed, and friends kept insisting that I had to be proactive if I wanted to meet women. But taking good advice wasn’t exactly my “thing” back then. Instead, I opted for falling in love with straight friends, over and over again, repeatedly breaking my own heart. This proved super effective and healthy.

I finally gave in and joined a queer social group at the age of 31, in the hopes of making queer friends and finding women to date. This very straightforward approach proved incredibly successful (hi, Kate!) but the process wasn’t without its hiccups. As I immersed myself in the metaphorical hot tub of the gay lady community, I was given several pieces of advice from fellow lesbians that made me raise a roughly hewn eyebrow (or two):


SUGGESTION 1: STEER CLEAR OF BISEXUAL WOMEN

On the surface, the queer community is all about inclusiveness. Just look at our acronym! My goal was to meet gay ladies, but as I got to know the people in my women’s group, I quickly realized that calling everyone a “lesbian” was inaccurate. We had bisexuals, and trans women, and gender non-conforming folks. There was even a cis straight woman!

We met twice a month. Sometimes the room was bursting at the seams with women, and other nights there were only a handful of us. I noticed that, when the group was small enough, when it was lesbian enough, people were less careful with their words.

This group was meant to be a safe space for women to speak openly. That’s harder than it sounds. You can let people speak their minds without judgment, or you can allow everyone a space to feel safe and respected. But doing both can be tricky. And so I was warned away from dating bisexual women.

I heard all the old, tired stereotypes. Bisexual women aren’t trustworthy. They won’t commit. They’re just experimenting. You’ll only get hurt. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The lesbians spouting this garbage assured me that they knew what they were talking about because they had experience with bisexual women. As if that allowed them to speak about an entire group of people. If that’s any different from saying “don’t date black chicks,” I fail to see the distinction.

Verdict: I ignored Suggestion 1.


SUGGESTION 2: HIT IT AND QUIT IT

Throughout the course of several meetings, I opened up about the fact that I was still a virgin at age 31. Since literally everyone else in the group had more experience with women than I did, I deferred to their knowledge base. I quickly became their “project,” which made me slightly uneasy. But I knew I would have to stretch out of my comfort zone if I wanted to achieve my goal of lady-loving, so I kept my peace and told myself humility was a good thing.

I had made a new friend during the Pride Parade. She was smart, and sensitive, and a good listener. We hung out a lot, and over time I came to realize that she had feelings for me. How simple things would have been if I’d felt the same way back! But the attraction just wasn’t there.

Some of my group mates believed that my only obstacle to getting some action was the fact that no one was expressing interest. They were delighted to discover that there was someone out there who wanted me. On two separate occasions, I was advised to “hit it and quit it” with this chick.

I had no desire to have sex with someone I wasn’t attracted to, especially someone who had feelings for me. It seemed mean, and I was pretty sure it would make me feel worse instead of better.

Verdict: I ignored Suggestion 2.


SUGGESTION 3: BE MORE MASCULINE

Once I told the group that I was interested in women that were somewhat girly/feminine, I was told that I had to dress and behave a certain way in order to get anyone to date me.  This included changing my wardrobe to more masculine clothing, being more assertive, paying for everything, and learning how to drive.  (Oh, and also buying a car to drive.)

I didn’t feel butch; at least, not the idea of butch I had grown up with. But maybe I was wrong. I’ve always been quick to assume others know better than me in situations just like this. I was the novice lesbian, after all. What did I know?

So I listened as they told me I was meant to dress dapper, and pick my date up, and pay for dinner. Essentially, I was expected to “be the man.” This sounded very weird to me. Weren’t we a bunch of feminists raging against the patriarchy? Why were we including men in our lesbian activities?

Verdict: I dressed butch for a friend’s wedding, and I looked amazing. My behaviour, however, remained neutral.


SUGGESTION 4: BE MORE FEMININE

While half the group was telling me to embrace the butch aesthetic, the other half was insisting that I would never attract anyone unless I showed more skin.  Low-cut blouses and/or tank tops were suggested as a way to draw attention to my woman-curves.  Emphasize the goods, they said. Make sure people know they’re up for grabs (so to speak).  And would it kill you to put on a little make-up?  Can you at least look like you’re making an effort?

Obviously, I wanted date prospects to know that I cared about looking good for them. But I struggled with having the first idea how to do that.

I was accustomed to wearing unisex t-shirts, sweaters and hoodies. I shied away from anything hinting at cleavage, which left my top options (toptions!) pretty limited. The ladies assured me that showing a little bit of cleave would be flattering, and wouldn’t always be terrifying; it was something I would get used to and would help me gain confidence about my body.

I wanted to be seen as attractive. But it was starting to feel like the only way I could achieve that sort of support was through doing exactly as I was told. Would I have to follow someone else’s directions to the tee if I ever wanted to attract a lady? Wouldn’t that require an impossible level of upkeep?

I would have felt much more comfortable having someone interested in me based on the clothes I would wear everyday, or more to the point, based on things that had nothing to do with what I was wearing. I didn’t want to have to try so hard; not at this. I was willing to put infinite effort in when it came to sensitivity, and understanding, and making my woman laugh. But I was never going to be that girl who spent two hours “putting my look together.” Just, no.

Verdict: I bought a few tank tops that I rarely wear outside of the house.


SUGGESTION 5: SURPRISE THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT!

I eventually started dating a woman (hi, Kate!) but this didn’t stop the all-knowing lesbians from offering tips. Now, instead of “how to get a woman” advice, I was getting “how to satisfy a woman” advice. I figured the ladies probably knew their shit in this regard, so I was all ears. At first.

Some of it was common sense. Some of it was logistics. Most of it I already knew. Still, I listened intently as the ladies described their sexual experiences and suggested fun things I might like to try with a partner.

Then one day, in a conspiratorial whisper, one of them suggested I wake my girlfriend up in the morning by inserting a finger into her.  Because she can’t say no if she’s not awake, amirite, ladies?

Verdict: *disgusted shudder*


The lesson I took away from all of this was that, in many ways, this group of lesbians was clinging to outdated stereotypes harder than the traditional-minded straight folk they were meant to be a haven from.  The importance of filling certain roles, of dismissing certain groups outright, of refusing to be myself, felt completely counter to what I expected from a queer safe space. I also found it decidedly un-feminist to suggest rape as a way of being “playful” in bed.

I had walked into that women’s group expecting to learn a few things, and I did. I learned that opinions can vary widely, even among lesbians. I learned that having romantic experience with women doesn’t make you an expert on them. I learned that even virgins know a few things.

People love to give advice. More often than not, they give it with the best of intentions, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it. Your inner voice matters, and you shouldn’t do anything that doesn’t feel right to you. Go with your instincts. You’ll do ok.

Trust me. I’m a lesbian.


Author

small mo

#YHZ – Small Town Homo

(Originally posted on May 12, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I grew up in a tiny hamlet in rural Nova Scotia. Our backyard was big enough to play baseball in, and we lost more than a few fly balls in the woods behind it. My grandparents lived across the road from us, and aunts, uncles, and cousins were within walking distance. Flowers and blueberries grew wild, and on summer evenings the air sounded like crickets.

The beach was less than a ten-minute drive away. I would spend whole days there with my cousins, braving the cold water and painfully stumbling over uneven rocks to get to the wavy sand that waited for us waist or chest deep. We walked along the shore looking for shells, wearing our towels as skirts and letting the sun dry us. We chatted on damp picnic blankets, crunching slightly sandy potato chips and wishing the juice boxes had stayed cold.

Cable TV didn’t become available until I was seven or eight. Sugar cereals (beyond Alpha-Bits and Honeycombs) were almost exotic… we had to go all the way to “town” for those. Strangers weren’t really a thing – on any given Sunday drive, Mom and Dad could tell me who lived in every single house we passed. Whenever we needed a babysitter, my folks had dozens to choose from.

People knew whose kid you were just by looking at you. If you were getting into mischief in the afternoon, your parents knew about it by the time you came home for supper. For better or worse, you really felt like the whole village was raising you. Continue reading “#YHZ – Small Town Homo”

Losing My Religion

(Originally posted on September 23, 2012 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I was brought up Catholic in a small, white hamlet in mainland Nova Scotia. This was pretty much the norm for kids raised in small, white hamlets in mainland Nova Scotia.

I was a very obedient child right up until I was a very obedient adolescent. I went to church every Saturday night until I joined the youth choir and started going every Sunday morning instead.  Week to week, I was there in both body and spirit.

My elementary school was not a Catholic school, but it was situated in an overwhelmingly Catholic community. As such, we had religion classes during school hours.

Whenever religion class was about to start, the one girl in my grade who wasn’t Catholic would be ushered to another classroom. I think she spent the time colouring in a colouring book or something. I was never really sure. The fact that she would get sent to another room always felt strange to me. I wondered how it made her feel to be sent away for not belonging.

This was the first crack in my Catholic shell. Continue reading “Losing My Religion”

The Bad Low

Kate has Type 1 Diabetes. Before getting to know her, the only “info” I had about this disease came from my extensive childhood reading of Babysitters Club books. Either diabetes has changed significantly since the early nineties, or Ann M. Martin didn’t have all her facts straight. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

My mother has had Type 2 Diabetes since I was a teenager. At first, she managed it with pills and diet and regular visits to a diabetic clinic. Some time after I left home, she was switched to an insulin regime. These days, she injects herself twice daily, with the same prescribed dose each time. Before Mom was put on this treatment plan, I hadn’t been aware that people with Type 2 could need insulin injections. It’s not exactly common knowledge. And as little as I had known about Type 2, I knew even less about Type 1. Continue reading “The Bad Low”

#YEG – Pride and Joy

(Originally posted on June 9, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

Yesterday may have been the best day of my life.

Pride (or Gay Christmas, as some call it) is a magical day. The city is cloaked in vibrant colours, and it pulses with unabashed joy from dawn to well after dusk. There is no other day of the year when I feel so completely embraced by everyone around me.

There’s usually a moment or two throughout the day when I’m struck by the fact that everything will go back to “normal” tomorrow. At these times, I wish everyday could be just like Pride – tens of thousands of smiling queers and allies strutting around downtown, radiating love at friends and strangers alike. Of course, Gay Christmas comes but once a year.  But I’m confident that the feeling I had when I finally dragged my gay ass home last night (a.k.a. this morning) won’t be wearing off anytime soon. Continue reading “#YEG – Pride and Joy”

Telling Mom

(Originally posted on May 11, 2012 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I love my mother.

I came out to her eight years ago, in an email, with practically the whole nation of Canada between us. I had only come out to a few people by then; people whose reactions I could more or less predict with confidence. But telling Mom was proving to be a challenge. Months earlier I had tried to do it in person but chickened out.

I was genuinely unsure of what she would say. She grew up Catholic in a tiny east coast community where gays might as well have been mythical creatures. It’s only now that I can look back and realize that I grew up that way, too.

There was nothing special about the day I decided to tell her. I guess I just felt ready. But I wasn’t brave enough for a phone conversation, so I laid it all out in an email. I reread it a few times, and then I hit “send.” I tried (unsuccessfully) to get a good night’s sleep. Continue reading “Telling Mom”

Let’s Get Physical!

I’ve never liked going to the doctor. Growing up, I had no problem visiting the dentist, or the orthodontist, or the optometrist (even though those three conspired to make me a glasses and braces nerd for most of junior high). But seeing a GP was different.

I spent two stints in the hospital at an early age. I don’t remember much about that, aside from how strange it felt to be somewhere without my parents, and how startled people were that a six-year-old could spell the word pneumonia.

The hospital was a thirty minute drive for us. We only went there for major problems. For the rest, we had a local clinic, much closer to home. When my siblings and I needed things like booster shots (vaccinate your kids!) and antibiotics (bacterial infections only!), Mom would haul us to the little building by the school. The waiting room was small, with a handful of chairs and a play area for the kids. Continue reading “Let’s Get Physical!”