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Describe the moment when you knew you were a woman

I remember when I stopped fighting it.

When I stopped picking up the armor to wear.

I remember the various sets of interlocking tin — tomboy, baggy pants, deep voice, cutting voice — all presented with no war paint. I remember putting them on. I remember using them to cut, to contain, to restrict, to push away.

And I remember being really, really angry. And not knowing why.

Years past before I noticed the weight of what I was carrying. I remember becoming distinctly aware of its constriction — on my shoulders, on the small of my back, on the backs of my legs. There was a sharp realization of how hard it was to take a deep breath. Then the eventual realization that breathing had almost stopped altogether.

In time, the desire to breathe became more important than the fear of what that living, breathing air might bring. I remember consciously forgetting to pick up one piece of armor, then another. Tin falling away. Body becoming lighter.

And when I stopped, I remember that the world didn’t stop. The earth under my feet didn’t give way and swallow me. But it did settle still. And the spirits — young and old, living and dead, subdued and fiery — rose up to meet me.

Rooted in the earth. Light enough to fly.

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"The truth is we are doing a disservice to those around and with us, by apologizing for and cushioning the blow of ourselves."

— Ché Macguyver, “How To Embrace Your Inner Goddess

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"One of the most important things we can do for our community is to show up to the table and pull out a chair. You may not have been invited, but that’s not a problem. Our place at the table is always a possibility, but if we never go there, we will never be there."

— Walter Mosley, “Life Out of Context”

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defining touch

you never touched me
I am sure this is one of your defenses
it was never real
nothing happened
it wasn’t true
because you never touched me

humph.

there was a day in the middle of fall
it was already cold and the sun was already half-lit
you talked to me about your trip
and your dreams
and your wishes
none of which was particularly out of the ordinary, really
but then came the book
a large, coffee-table sized book
you wanted me to see the work you admired
the mastery you were searching for in yourself
and I looked
and I listened
and as the pages turned, something happened
you forgot about the other people standing around
you forgot about the spectres of your other women,
always hovering, even if rarely mentioned
the pages turned
and midway through the book
there was only the book
me
and you
everything else fell away

what I remember most
is the sunlight
and the warmth
there was an already-cold November wind blowing
and for the first time since late summer
I wasn’t cold

the spell broke, of course
I don’t remember how
but you went back to work
and I went back to class
and slowly, my sweater came back in handy

before it did, though
you touched me
unmistakably
on purpose
with intent

so when you say nothing happened
that may be true
at least for you

but don’t ever say
you never touched me

— written by Me

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my favorite place

I tell people
my favorite place
is midtown
on the grid
easy to find
light and bright and tight-knit
the coffee is amazing
and don’t get me started
on the boys
who
make
the coffee

it is my favorite place

but deeper down
I know another place
downtown
easy to overlook
nowhere near the grid
a shoebox with an espresso machine
and characters for customers
where you are

my favorite place
remains
the one that can claim you

— written by Me

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to you

they were words

floating in the air
encircling your lips
meant to impress or
to entice the ear

to me

it was water

falling into my body
settling into my earth
pooling at the base of my soul
threatening to provide a safe place
for the next
seed
that dared to drop down
and take root


— written by Me

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"If I don’t define myself for myself, I’ll be crunched into other people’s fantasies of me and eaten alive."

— Audre Lorde

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"Traitor, I think, is the one who changes in the eyes of those who cannot change and would not change and hate change and cannot conceive of change, except that they always want to change you."

— Amos Oz, “How To Cure a Fanatic”

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What I learned while I learned about coffee

All of my habits over the years have brought me gifts: Chocolate brought me joy. Tea brought me meditation. Yoga brought me sanity. Coffee brought me men.

The babe can help me explain this: My mother often complains that my nephew, age 5, always wants someone else when the two of them are in the house alone. “I want my Daddy,” he’ll say eventually. “I want my Stacy.”

Aw. A male who refers to me in the possessive tense. Goddess knows that never happens….

I have a brother; I have lots of male cousins. Family is different, though. When it came to boys (and later men) outside of the family, my experiences were largely negative. They didn’t seem to like me much, far as I could tell. They’d compete with me over grades, and later jobs. But they didn’t have use for me otherwise. At best I was ignored, and at worst I was berated for being in their way. Why? Hells if I know. Not pretty enough? Not interesting enough? Not particularly inviting? Not enough fun? I considered all of these and a ton more over the years, but you’d have to ask them to be sure. To be fair, however, I was a hella mess when I was younger — quick lip, quicker temper, patented scowl. So you had to be kind of a badass to look past all that. (Though I saw women who were way evil-er than me who were never alone…so go figure.) All I know is that from my angle, it was jacked up.

Things devolved quickly when I became a sportswriter. There I was, smack in the middle of all of these newsrooms, locker rooms, and stadiums where I was clearly not welcomed or wanted by an overwhelming percentage of the population. (Except the old men. Old men love me. Always have. In the midst of all that office insanity, it was always the veterans who looked out for me.) The rest of them went out of their way to tell me I didn’t belong. The fact that my copy was just as good — if not better than theirs — was oddly never mentioned. All I knew about masculine energy is that it was very intent on getting rid of me.

It succeeded for a while. I retreated. I stopped trying to blend in, I started learning about feminine-centered cultures and spiritualities, I became versed in traditional witchy ways. And I left those hostile bastards alone.

I really didn’t spend a lot of time around men for years after that…until my caffeine gene kicked in about a year and a half ago.

The first couple of times I ventured down to the Lower East Side to huddle up with a warm mug in a shoebox-sized shop, I remember standing there thinking, what is that? What is that sound? It’s a humming, almost. There are no words to it, but it’s talking. What the hell is that? Finally I figured it out: it was this intense masculine energy coming from the baristas and their regulars that wasn’t predatory. It wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t trying to break me or anybody else, like those bastards from before. It was intense, but rather sweet, really. Just playful.

Crazy. Who. the. hell. knew.

This kept happening as I’d go to different shops. Not all of them, but the ones I settled into and stayed with. After years of being very direct, not talking about myself, and not sticking around long, I found myself asking non-essential questions. And occasionally saying a few words about my day (which is still a major accomplishment if you get me to talk about it, I know. I’m not trying to be difficult, gentlemen; really. Old habits die hard). And lingering. I linger in some places now. Humph.

And in return, they take care of me, in their own various ways. At first I was humbled, and then terribly amused.

I have been spoiled rotten by some of the best baristas in New York, so I drink coffee for the sheer pleasure of it, as opposed to wanting or needing the caffeine (I know. The gene is flabbergasted). Of course, they give me more than daily cups of joy. They continue to kind of restore my faith in half the species.

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"…reverence is the virtue that keeps leaders from trying to take tight control of other people’s lives. Simply put, reverence is the virtue that keeps human beings from trying to act like gods."

— Paul Woodruff, “Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue”