Monday, January 30, 2006


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"Gertrude had always looked like the dear aunt, and now with her topknot shorn away she did not look like anyone but herself." --Bravig Imbs

So I cut my hair off, again. It's shockingly short, about an inch and a half at its longest point, which is on top. And it's red, again. The friends I have now are surprised--they didn't see this coming. I explain that the blond, swingy bob cut isn't how I usually look, that I've actually had short hair most of my life and only grown it out a few times, and even then, never past my shoulders. I'm really a short-haired person. This is the real me. I say it, but I don't believe it now anymore than I did all the other times I cut my hair off and had to explain to my current group of friends about "the real me."

I cut it because my building has very weak circuits and my blowdryer kept knocking the power off. I cut it because I teach an early class this quarter and this requires no fixing at all. I cut it because I lost about twenty pounds last year and I promised myself that when I got my cheekbones back (sharper, stronger, bolder now, because I'm older) I could pull it off. I cut it because I didn't want to look preppy, or upwardly-mobile. I cut it because I wanted more queer visibility, because it seemed important that I not acquiesce to the tyranny of socially-normative standards of white female beauty (watch for women with short hair on tv tonight. You will not see one, unless she is an old woman in a posture-pedic bed commercial, or a crying contestant on a rerun of last season's America's Next Top Model.)

I cut it because this is the "real me," because it is my fate and my destiny to not be a pretty girl with a swingy blond bob. And if I didn't have to prep for class now, I would give in to the huge, nauseating, introspective confessional narrative welling up in my chest right now. I would settle into my desk chair and let this post really happen. I would unpack that super-melodramatic statement and think through why, having cut my hair off of my own volition, (and actually looking pretty smokin' in this cut) I feel so sorry for myself. Not regretful that I did it, but put upon that I had to.

I would tell you about how much I loved Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins, and how I refused to see The Sound of Music because she had short hair; how I begged and begged my mother to grow her hair out (she didn't); how she cut my hair off when I was about five because I used to knot it while I sucked my thumb (in my head I was making beautiful trees with the strands of hair, like the ones in the Lego playset I got to play with when I visited my grandma's house); how I cried because now I looked like one of the Blockheads in Gumby and Pokey; how I cut my hair off in early high school because I thought it reflected my perkiness and how not one single boy ever asked me out, a trend which contined until the end of my first year of college when, my perkiness broken, my hair almost chin length, I finally got a boyfriend; how I grew it and grew it and grew it until the beginning of my junior year, when I got married; how I cut it off again almost immediately after the wedding and wore it short until just before we got divorced.

But I won't. Class is in a couple of hours and though I've read, I haven't got a lesson plan ready and I've got a steady stream of students starting to drop by with various excuses as to why they don't have their papers for class tonight.

So, I cut my hair. It's short. It's red, (because unless you have enough hairs to highlight some of them, you can't really be blond, only all-over treacly yellow which I won't do.) I've already had one colleague call me butch, and another one call me Sinead O'Connor. I'm not sore about that; they were just being fond and doing the office banter thing. What really gets to me is my own irrational despair, indicative of something really deep and internalized--is it misogyny? is it homophobia? is it me-ophobia?--a belief that if you can't swing your hair while you walk down the hall, or toss it with your hands while you talk, or tie it effortlessly into a ponytail using the scrunchy you keep around the gear shift knob of your rabbit convertible, you're not really a woman.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The best game EVER

As reported by Feministe, from The Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf drinking game.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Some Velvet Morning

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Would I be risking jinxing my whole teaching world if I admitted how much I love my schedule and my classes this quarter? I teach a class on Poe MWF from 11 to 12, and then on Monday nights I teach queer theory.

The Poe class is a pure pleasure to teach. Pure, chewy, delicious pleasure. I get to teach really interesting and intellectually challenging classes in Womens' and Gender Studies, but I miss the comfortableness of teaching literature. Teaching all Poe, all quarter, is sumptuous, one of those classes where you kind of can't believe you get paid for teaching it (unless you're doing the grading, then you believe). I love it when Berenice's teeth roll to the floor.

Even though I always tell myself I'll do administrative stuff during the long, long break between classes, or maybe work out, or do research, I always end up doing lesson prep, even if, as was the case today, I had been prepping all weekend. The reason I vow not to prep is because I always take exactly as much time as I have to get ready for this class, so by the time 5:45 comes I'm a little freaked out, because this material is HARD, and no matter how many times I've taught it, I always get nervous that this time I won't possibly be able to explain it and that I've assigned too much, that the students will be resentful, and that I'll say things that are just too dirty or, even if I'm explaining a relatively innocuous concept, I'll use the word "fuck" too many times. By the time it's classtime, I'm really, really tired.

Tonight I had assigned all but the last chapter of Foucault's A History of Sexuality. I knew they wouldn't get through all of it, or even most of it, but I wanted them to at least have the experience of working through some of it. So I spent a huge part of yesterday wasting time putting together a powerpoint lecture. I know that sounds corporate and corny, like I'm running a benefits seminar, but I love finding pictures to go with the text, and writing the text in fonts like bloody drippy vampire font (when I write that people learned to confess "all the insinuations of the flesh: thoughts desires, voluptuous imaginings, delectations, combined movements of the body and the soul") or Bajoran font (when I write "the rise of the nation state"). I like that it means I can leave my notes on the podium and walk around the classroom, because my points are already up there. Tonight, without planning on it beforehand, I ended up using furbies as an example of non-normative sexuality. I think it was a safe example, because probably not many of my students are into that. And even if they are, it's not like I criticized or patholigized having sex in animal costumes. I just mentioned it. A lot.

My favorite part of Foucault night is when I have the students read case studies from the 19th century sexologist Krafft-Ebing. I have a 1946 reprint of Psychopathia Sexualis which still has the really naughty parts in latin. I like to teach this one:

Case 211. D., age forty-four; hereditarily predisposed; drinker, and suffering with lead poisoning. Until the last year he had masturbated much, and often drawn pornographic pictures and shown them to his acquaintances. He had repeatedly dressed himself as a woman in secret.
For two years, after becoming impotent, he had felt desire, while in crowds at dusk, mentulam denudare eamque ad nates mulieris crassissime terere. Once, when discovered in the act, he had been sentenced to imprisonment for four months.
His wife kept a milk shop. Iterum iterumque sibi temperare non potuit quin genitalia in ollam lacte completam mergeret. In the act he felt lustful pleasure, “as if touched with velvet.” He was cynical enough to use this milk for himself and the customers. During imprisonment alcoholic persecutory insanity developed in him.

The first latin phrase has to do with rubbing up against women; the second means "again and again he could not restrain himself from completely immersing his genitals in a jar of milk."

Edited to add: I have them read medical case studies to demonstrate one way (one of the most visible and obvious) sex gets put into discourse, and how sexual acts become medicalized as sexual pathologies. I like teaching this one because the milk part is pretty out there, and I like a good gross out.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight! Or, Self-Discipline Gone Awry

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A few days before Christmas gf and I watched Desk Set, a Tracy/Hepburn movie set in a reference department that is about to go automated (or so they think). I chose it because I vaguely remembered a drunken Christmas party scene. (Watching it, it seems that many of the scenes were drunken Christmas party scenes for Tracy, who slurs his words through most of the movie.)

One of the best things about this totally delightful movie is that the reference department under siege is all female, so the movie spends a lot of time showing how much these women know, and they know a lot. At one point Hepburn begins declaiming a poem and her best girlfriend, Joan Blondell, joins in, and they declaim and declaim with great exuberance and wild gestures. Neither of us recognized the poem, but we both immediately recognized that we SHOULD know this poem and that we had missed some huge cultural reference. So I paused the movie and googled the phrase they kept repeating: "Curfew shall not ring tonight." Turns out it was a really, really big poem, right up there with The Highwayman. It was a big hit with the elocutionary crowd, which, at the turn of the century was pretty much everyone.

So I thought, "Hey! I work on popular poetry. I teach poetry. I make my students memorize poems all the time. It's almost time for New Year's resolutions and I don't really have any yet, so I know what I'll do: I'll memorize this poem for one of my resolutions."

Brilliant idea. I found it on-line, printed it out, and taped it to the wall above the kitchen sink, so that I could work on it while I wash the dishes. It's been about a week and I have about half the poem memorized (I'm up to the part where she pushes past the sexton and dashes towards the bell) and I have to say, I hate this poem. The narrative is only mildly interesting--sure, the girl wraps her body around a bell clapper to save her lover, but that's nothing compared to the girl in "The Highwayman," who spends hours trying to wriggle out of bondage in order to lean over the barrel of a gun and shoot herself to save her lover. The rhyme is catchy, but the imagery is tepid--the only descriptive word the author knew, apparently, was white--and the last few stanzas are just a mess. I wish I had picked something more aesthetically gripping, with more luxurious words, like, well, "The Highwayman," or "Ulalume."

But I started it, so I gotta finish.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Four Things Meme

Four Jobs I've Had
1. Valet/Bellhop
2. Speed-Reading instructor
3. Busboy at Chi Chi's Mexican restaurant in Provo, UT for 20 whole minutes. It was really hard and the trays were heavy. I don't like being yelled at. I started to cry and turned in my two week notice within the hour.
4. "Secretary" for a guy who claimed to be Harvey Korman's cousin. I think we were laundering money. He tried to convince me that dishwashing detergent was more dangerous than any germs that might be on the dishes.

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over
1. All About Eve
2. Auntie Mame
3. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
4. Hair

Four Places I've Lived
1. Newport Beach, CA
2. Jackson Heights, NY
3. Downingtown, PA
4. Provo, UT

Four TV Shows I Love To Watch
1. Star Trek: Voyager
2. Seventh Heaven
3. The Bob Newhart Show
4. Dead Like Me

Four Places I've Been on Vacation
1. Paris
2. Provincetown, MA
3. Nice
4. New Hampshire

Four Blogs I Visit Daily
1. What I Made For Dinner
2. More Mama Than Writer
3. Diary of a Lesbian Step-Mother
4. Tiny Cat Pants

Four of My Favorite Foods
1. bread
2. pad kee mao
3. bourbon
4. rice and beans, any kind of rice, any kind of beans

Four Places I'd Rather Be
1. Seeing my niece and nephew in California
2. In a home/condo I own
3. running along the lakefront path
4. in a noisy restaurant with good music, a full bourbon and soda, my girl, and a plate of fried mozzarella.

Four Albums I Can't Live Without
1. Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis
2. Sublime, 40 oz. To Freedom
3. Joni Mitchell, Miles of Aisles
4. The Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique

Four Vehicles I've Owned
1. 1976 Volvo station wagon named Sonja, because my mom (who had the car first) claimed the car cost more than Sonja Henne made her first year skating professionally. Also, because Volvos and Henne are Scandinavian--not from the same countries, but either my mom didn't know that or thought they were close enough.
2. 1988 Honda Civic hatchback, with racing stripes and Enke wheels. I drove it for 12 years, until a 15 year old joy-riding in a U-Haul bashed into it FOUR times in a row. He hit it, tried to back up and escape, hit it again, tried to back up and escape, etc.
3. VW Golf

Four Taggees
I think everyone's done this by now. I'd love to tag
1. What I Made For Dinner and
2. Writer Mama, but I don't know if they like these games.
3. La Lecturess, have you done this? If not, tag.
4. I don't know if she reads my blog (I really doubt it) but Tiny Cat Pants, if you're out there, I definitely want to read your version of this.