Miriam-Webster: Stare ( ster )
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English starian; akin to Old High German starēn to stare, Greek stereos solid, Lithuanian starinti to stiffen. Date: before 12th century
1 : to look fixedly often with wide-open eyes
— star·er noun
My aunt came to visit for my mom’s 65th birthday and I had the pleasure of picking her up from the airport and then showing her around my office. On the way to my office, my Aunt says, slightly exasperated, “Why is everyone staring at us?!?”
I answer – without hesitation – “it’s because I have a Mohawk.” My Aunt, probably because she loves and accepts me, cannot even fathom this for a moment. So I explain.
“This is a very conservative part of town. Everyone is rich (more or less) and there are lots of churches. It’s only this year that my daughter even has a kid in her class whose parents are divorced. It’s like Stepford.”
“Sure,” she says, “but I’m from the Bible belt… Oh, yes I guess people would stare at you there, too.” Yes, yes they would.
This exchange got me thinking about how my appearance affects those around me whom I love. You see, it’s not just me – being a butch. It’s also those I love, being with and around a butch. It isn’t who they are; it’s who I am. It’s probably pretty hard for them a lot of the time. They don’t have the reassurance of knowing they are being true to themselves when people stare. I do. They don’t have the certainty of knowing that I look much, much better in my butch skin – rather than the stereotypical trappings of femininity. I do.
[Note: this is not a bash against stereotypical feminine trappings. I am all for those on the right person … My fiancé, for example.]
My family is amazing. All of them. I don’t know the exact red or blueness of each of them, but it doesn’t matter. They all accept me and my fiancé. [If they don’t, they’ve done a great job of hiding it.] I am very thankful for them. Even my grandmother who started with, “isn’t it just a phase, until she meets the right gentleman?” grew to fully accept me. She’s been gone for some time, but I knew that she accepted me more than a decade ago (and she was old!).
My family – other than my parents who live in the same town as we do – live all across the country, but we stay connected with Facebook in between visits every couple of years. It’s so wonderful to spend time with family. I forget how neat it is to hear stories about when my mom was young, and equally how neat it is to get to know other relatives that I do not know very well, or even more distant relatives that I have never even met before. I have family in Long Beach, San Francisco, and St. Louis and I didn’t even know it!
I guess this is a love note to my family. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you for either: a) not noticing the Mohawk, my obvious butchness, and general lack of blending in, or b) for accepting me anyway. Thank you for welcoming and loving my fiancé, too. I do know that it’s hard sometimes (not her, she’s easy to love). And, I appreciate all of you.
And, to those who stare unrelentingly… Fuck off. What the hell are you looking at? Especially you ugly people. Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to stare? Really. Seriously. If I looked like you I would never leave the house – let alone stare at anyone.
Just because I am Zen with it – undoubtedly because I am a more evolved being (ha!) – does not mean it is ok. What makes you think it is ok? I guess I should say “them.” I am sure that none of you, dear readers, would stare at me. What makes them think it is ok to stare?
This has been really hard for my fiancé to get used to. She feels, correctly, that it is incredibly rude for people to stare. She has adopted several different strategies to cope:
1. Yelling or commenting to the starer (depending on the extent of their rudeness). This is very effective at calling the starer out, but it never makes either her or me feel much better. Some of her favorites are – “Stare much?” and “What are you looking at?”
2. Staring back. This one is immensely satisfying and frequently results in the starer’s quiet embarrassment at being caught staring and being stared at him or herself. A definite bonus. I use this one a fair amount. It falls into the “teaching them a lesson” category. So there!
3. Ignoring it. This is the least satisfying option, but it also takes the least amount of energy. It happens (a lot) and so we just move on. No need to let it disrupt our day.
I used to tell myself that people stared at me because the starer thought I was hot – clearly a delusional self-defense mechanism. But, that doesn’t work anymore. Besides being ridiculously conceited and unjustifiably arrogant, it’s most certainly not true. So, a new defense mechanism is needed.
How about blogging? Starers of the world beware, lest you end up the topic of my blog, without the cover of anonymity. Just think how everyone would stare at you then…
It’s butch to blog. Be butch.