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.