Category Archives: life

All These Things

It’s Monday afternoon: late afternoon, really. I’m feeling restless and lonely. I have all these thoughts in my head and I’d dearly like to have a conversation about them, rather than writing into the ether, but I’m not sure where to begin.

The time of day is a problem. At this hour, in this long, recurring air pocket in my weird freelance life, other people with normal jobs are responsibly working. I’m … you know. Washing the dishes. Debating whether I should eat something else. Doing a mental inventory of the laundry (Do I have a clean dance belt? Yes. Is it one of the good ones? Too late to worry about that now…). Letting thoughts arise and simply go on their way.

Percolating.

I say “percolating” rather than “thinking” because so much of what I’m doing isn’t thinking, exactly. Thinking implies some kind of volitional exercise; it is a thing one opts to do.

I am, instead, doing other things, and “…thoughts,” as the song says, “arrive like butterflies.”

Only, well, not exactly. It is very much a sense of bubbling up rather than descending from above. Not that it matters—either way it’s all a metaphor, really.

Often, it’s uncomfortable. When you’re busy doing something else, and as such not policing your thoughts, it’s really quite startling what floats up from the murky depths. At the moment, for me, it’s a lot of self-hatred and memory and sudden flights of insight into the harshest segments of my own past which I hope to retain but sometimes don’t.

This is, now that I’m thinking about it, not unlike the difficulty a great many of us run into with zazen[1]. You just sit, and while you’re just sitting, everything that’s In There Somewhere finds its way to your consciousness to feck about with your ability to, like, just sit.

  1. The trouble I run into is the whole sitting bit. If I can sit still for five minutes, it’s basically a minor miracle. I struggle to make it long enough to get to the point at which the Monkey Mind pipes up. I do fine with walking meditation and stuff like that, though.

Which, of course, is part of the point.

As it is, I suppose, part of the point in Just Washing Dishes. You find yourself accidentally meditating, as if Thich Nhat Hanh has teleported in and is standing at your shoulder, saying to you, “Breathing in, I am washing this dish.”

Oops, I guess?

~

Ironically, whilst ballet is an exceptionally fine way to enter a flow state as far as I’m concerned, it requires so much presence of mind that there’s not really much room for the percolation of stray thoughts.

I used to think that, for this reason, it constituted an ideal form of meditation, or at least that it did for me. Now, I’m not so sure. One of the strengths of zazen (and of its cousin, kinhin, and similar exercises) is precisely the fact that things bubble up from the depths in ways that they otherwise wouldn’t.

I constantly run from uncomfortable thoughts without realizing that I’m doing it. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Most of the time, I don’t even realize it: if I did, I suppose my self-respect would plummet. I believe in trying to face things that scare me.

(Then, I suppose I also believe in choosing my battles, and I could perhaps regard this automatic deflection of uncomfortable thoughts as a kind of unconscious method of doing exactly that.)

And yet.

So I stand at the sink washing dishes, because our dishwasher is an ancient beast that is both inordinately loud and almost entirely ineffective, which means that if you choose to use it (which, generally, I don’t) you must first wash the dishes anyway before allowing the dishwasher to think it’s doing its job.

Thoughts arise.

I am uncomfortable, but I can’t just plow them back under before I’m aware of them. Nor can I, it seems, usually bring myself to attempt to find someone to talk to in the middle of the afternoon.

The curious thing is that this has, in many ways, been the best thing that could happen to me.

For many years I lived my life on high alert; constantly hypervigilant. Invading thoughts and emotions could and often did provoke a five-alarm response.

For many years I felt that I would, I don’t know, catch fire or something if I neither spoke to someone about the thoughts or did something in response to the internal klaxon.

Yet, so often, talking made no real difference. In fact, I suspect it often made things rather worse.

I wasn’t therapeutically processing thoughts and feelings and memories; I was simply externalizing them as a way of avoiding really wrestling with them. Sometimes, rather than deflecting the thoughts, it only made them shout louder and stick faster. I became caught in storms of fight-or-flight level arousal. Talking about the source of the arousal (or what felt like the source) often seemed only to crank up the perception of danger.

And yet, somehow, uncomfortable as it is, as I persist in attempting to wash the dishes (or just this dish, as is so often the case—when I’m in that place, it’s too much to focus on anything but the immediate thing), I learn that if I remain in place, eventually the alarm bells will subside.

I’m pretty sure this has had a remarkable effect on my overall anxiety level—if ‘anxiety’ is the right word. Who knows? It seems good enough. Anyway, I spend less time than I used to in states of profound vigilance; less time with the warheads armed, as it were.

I become alert, aroused, because something inside me perceives some invisible danger: but the danger passes, and nothing really terrible happens, and each time my brain learns that perhaps the danger in question isn’t real in the immediate sense. My unconscious mind ratchets the Security Alert Level down just a little bit.

This is a thing I’ve learned through necessity. I have left behind the phase of my life in which most of my friends were other college students with giant gaps in their schedules. I now mostly know people with jobs and responsibilities. I have been forced to simply live with very, very wildly uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Interestingly, I have thus far survived.

I don’t know if I’ll ever live without the klaxons. I am still as wary as a wolf.

If you’d asked me ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to conceive of the way things are now, so it seems reasonable to think that, say, ten years from now things will once again be quite different.

There’s another thing, too.

When I don’t divert the thoughts, sometimes they give rise to creative work. I’ve struggled, recently, with the sense that nothing I’m doing as an artist is in any way actually original or creative (then again, how many minds over the millenia have given us some variant on the maxim, “There’s nothing new under the sun?”)—but I think what I’m really struggling with is that trying to create from whole cloth doesn’t work very well for me.

Rather, I do better to let whatever’s in there filter up and appear on its own, and then to build and refine from there.

I have never been a composer of music: when I try to compose, my compositions turn trite, bathetic, even schmaltzy. I play them later and they make my skin crawl.

When I just sit and play, or when I record the stirrings of visiting muses, things work out quite differently. I won’t say that anything I’ve set down will ever be great, but some of it is in fact quite good.

The same happens when I attempt to compose dances without reference to an internal vision. There’s nothing as depressing as the little passage in a half-baked ballet in which you can tell that the choreographer was thinking, “Rats, how on earth am I going to get the prince over to the punch bowl? All right, tombe, pas de bourree, something, something, just need a few more steps…”

That’s how essentially all my choreography feels (to me, at any rate) when I try to wrestle it into being instead of allowing something to surface, then building on that.

And writing is and has always been, for me, an exercise in hearing and recording the voices and stories of people and worlds that speak from within; a kind of visitation rather than an actual act of creation. The formal, authorial work generally comes after: I’m more of an editor, really.

Perhaps, then, it should be no great surprise that the same basic process allows room for healing of a kind that is, while it’s happening, very uncomfortable, but remains nonetheless crucial.

So I suppose that’s something to think about.

There’s a great deal more, probably, that I could and should say about this, but at the moment I need to put clothes on and go to class.

More, then, at some point in the future.

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Stand Back—I’m A Proffesional

woo! Finally getting paid on the sorta regular! I can buy a house car nice bike umm. Groceries and a coffee? #firstworlddancerproblems

A Thing I’m Slowly Figuring Out

I tend to try maintain an aura of ebullient optimism.

I’m aware that I lead a relatively charmed life, in which I’m permitted by circumstance to pursue a fairly impractical set of goals, and to mention that I still struggle seems a bit like spitting right into the face of good fortune.

But I do still struggle, and I’m beginning to understand something, which is this: living a life in which I’m not forced to do work that grinds my soul to powder, in which the work I do is work that I enjoy, doesn’t alter the fact that my mental health is a little fragile and that history and genetics have conspired to place me on a narrow bridge that spans a yawning chasm.

Rather, the life I’m living acts as a kind of safety harness, so that when–not if–I go plummeting off my bridge, I can eventually climb back up, or at any rate be hauled back up by people who love me.

I am capable of periods of immense creative productivity, but they’re interspersed with periods in which merely surviving is still all I can do. Those periods of mere survival are made easier to bear by the knowledge that I won’t have to return, as soon as I’m barely able, to work that will inevitably accelerate the arrival of the next plunge off the bridge.

Because D carries the vast majority of the weight of the financial responsibility of keeping us afloat, I’m able to get up and walk along my bridge for long periods, when in the past I rarely made it beyond the clinging-and-crawling-along-the-edges phase before I slipped again.

I don’t make much money doing what I do, but I usually have enough energy left over to keep our house comfortable to live in and to cook good food.

~

Read the rest of this entry

Trust

The piece I’m performing on the sling begins with a pike pullover to a needle (effectively, a handstand on the fabric), which in turn all depends on being able to crochet my wrists–that is, to swim them under, then over, the fabric, taking my grip on the outside–so I can work against tension.

In order for this to work, the bottom of the sling needs to fall anywhere from mid-chest height (too low for other parts of the piece) to just above where my wrists are when my arms are extended straight up if I’m standing flat-footed (I can make up the difference with shoulder mobility).

Last night, somehow, my sling was set too high: I had to stand on my very highest demi-pointe and hyperextend my shoulders to reach it at all, and even then I had to mount by gripping the bottom of the sling with my un-crocheted hands.

This in turn meant that I couldn’t do the pike pullover, but instead had to tuck as hard as I could and pray that I had enough strength to make it, since I couldn’t borrow momentum by springing through my feet or brushing or a leg and kicking up. If I could have crocheted my wrists, it still would have worked–but since I could only reach the very, very bottom of the sling, my hands were too close together for proper biomechanical leverage. My shoulders were hyperextended and closed, making it impossible to engage them back and down until I was already approaching vertical.

It meant that that the needle–which depends on core strength and physics and should be a straight vertical with the hands shoulder-width apart and the legs sealed against one-another, not touching the fabric at all–became more of a fork, ankles on the fabric, since my hands were squashed together in the very bottom of the sling and I’d had to engage my core in a different pattern coming up from the tuck than I would from the pike.

It meant that the move that follows the needle–a graceful fold back into a pike that lands my hips in the bottom of the sling–was awkward. My hands were in the way, and I had to shimmy them out to the sides, which left my body off its axis, which made the next transition awkward as well.

The most difficult part, though, was the moment at the very start, when I realized that my sling was too high and then briefly wondered if it was even locked off correctly. I had to make a judgment call: take a dangerous mount on a potentially-unstable apparatus over a hard stage, or hold up a show that people paid to see over what was probably nothing?

I chose to mount.

That decision came down entirely to a question of trust.

Did I trust the riggers? Yes, even though my sling was too high–scheduling conflicts meant we’d done only one tech run, and the window in which the sling height is acceptable for this piece is very, very small. I trade off halfway through with a girl whose part of the act involves a drop that is too dangerous to do if the sling falls lower than a certain point. She’s my height but longer in the torso. The difference between too low for her drop, just right for both of us, and too high for my mount is the difference in locking off the sling ahead of, right on, or behind a tape mark. Better to lock it off too high for my mount: yes, it makes my part of the piece less elegant by a significant margin, but it doesn’t endanger anyone.

Did I trust the rig? Not entirely. No aerialist can do their job if they don’t trust the equipment–but no aerialist worth their salt believes there’s a 0% chance of mechanical failure. For better or worse, I hadn’t had enough time on this rig to trust it as much as I trust mine or the rigging points at our rehearsal space or at Suspend.

But I trusted it enough, combined with one more factor: myself.

I would be, upon mounting the sling, about seven feet up, suspended head first over a hard, wooden floor. Did I trust myself–my brain and body, the reflexes that I began honing as a baby gymnast at 3 years old–to literally save my own neck if everything went tits up?

Yes, it turns out: I ran a mental calculation and accepted the sliver of risk. If something was wrong with the rigging, I had good evidence–a lifetime of experience–in favor of being able to successfully tuck and roll. It’s as automatic as pointing my feet.

A tuck-and-roll wouldn’t prevent all possible injuries–in fact, I knew that I was accepting the risk of bone breaks–but at the height in question it would keep me from breaking my neck or my back.

I made my decision and put it aside and went forward. I struggled to make things as smooth as they should be, but no one got hurt. My dismount, at least, worked beautifully: I drop into a single-knee hang, reach for the ground, and execute a back walkover out of the sling. I was able to just manage it by letting the leg in the sling slide into a heel-hang at the last possible second.

In the end, no one got hurt. Things were scary for a second, then difficult. I got through by making an active, informed decision to trust and then continuing to breathe and move forward.

It’s funny how apt a metaphor this becomes for relationships and for life.

We choose actively to trust: how deeply and how far depends on our experiences.

We choose actively to trust: but we do so knowing that it means accepting a sliver of risk.

We choose actively to trust–or not to trust–ourselves.

In the end, I’m glad I chose as I did. Every time we choose to be brave, we make ourselves stronger.

It’s true that my work in the sling came off less gracefully than it might have done–but it came off, nonetheless. That, as they say, is showbiz. You screw up, or things screw up, and you play it off like everything’s going to plan.

When your sling is set too high, you use your best demi-point and you pray.

You keep your face on. Roll forward.

You push through the hips.

Countdown

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that nothing is ever final until the curtain rises on opening night–and even then, it’s still not final.

This is a comforting thought, since circumstances have conspired to make tomorrow’s tech run the first time that the tandem hammock trio gets to actually be a tandem hammock trio! We’ve worked separately and in various pairings up to this point, but not all together because–honestly, I’m not sure why.

This morning, I worked out the drop sequence I’m doing–a variation from the one the girls are doing, since they didn’t get a chance to teach it to me and we didn’t have video I could work from, but if I don’t completely hose it up, the audience is unlikely to notice 😛

Tonight’s a literal walk-through rehearsal: the apparatuses are in the theater, but we won’t be because life in the arts is, shall we say, a little chaotic sometimes. I’m honestly okay with that: we got up at 4 this morning for a 3.5-hour newscast gig, and even though I managed to reclaim most of my lost sleep this afternoon (and, in my dreams, revisit pets of yore and rehearse in a really bizarre space), I’m still a little tired and totallu okay with not dangling from dangerous objects tonight 😉

The news should always be this much fun!

^^That’s my kind of news crew 😀

Last night, instead of staying home and hiding from trick-or-treaters, I went to Handstands class and Acro 2. Both went remarkably well. I got to play on hand-balancing blocks, which I’ve been wanting to do forever, and a pair of those hand-balancing frames that look a little like pommel-horse grips sans pommel-horse. I’m finally regaining a really solid handstand, so that’s awesome. I definitely want to incorporate hand-balancing into my skill-set.

Anyway, tomorrow we’re finally in the theater for real (I got a preview as a function of doing the morning show!), and Friday we open. Saturday is just about sold out, which is awesome.

Oh, andI also know how to find my way out of the theater now, which is surprisingly complicated 😛

Checklist Taimz

Today, I have accomplished the following:

  • Get out of bed (eventually)
  • Sew buttons for straps into new tights for CirqueLouis gigs
  • …Yeah, that’s about it, really.

^.^’

Cue Predictable Spasm Of Self-Doubt

Every time I’m forced to take a break of more than a couple of weeks from class, the re-entry period is an exercise in grinding self-doubt.

First, taking a break almost inevitably involves gaining a couple of pounds–generally a sum that the average person would barely notice, but which is all too visible when you return to the studio and are constantly surrounded once again by people with less than 10% body fat.

I may be all about body positivity, but I’m not very good at applying it to myself. I’m also entirely aware that I have somehow stumbled into working in a field in which the folks who decide who gets hired and who doesn’t tend to lean strongly towards lean bodies. Toss in the fact that, given my build, a little more size in the thighs interferes with my fifth position, and you’ve got a recipe for Dancer Meltdown in 3 … 2 … 1…

Worse, it always takes a few weeks to re-awaken and rebuild the muscles responsible for correct execution of classical technique–and even as people who don’t dance continue to harp on about my “natural” grace, I wind up feeling like a half-grown stirk in a dressage ring until things start working together again.

This week has been all about finding my core, not dancing like a swaybacked wildebeest, and remembering how the hell to do turns[1].

  1. Though, bizarrely, whilst I was not dancing, my chaînés improved dramatically–regarding which, WTactualF?

Predictably, the resultant emotional fallout has been a constant stream of thoughts like WHY DID I THINK I WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO AUDITION FOR THINGS?! and I’LL NEVER BE READY!

Me on Thursday, via Wikipedia, link to follow.

So that’s where I am right now. Off to my last week of sandbagging in Saturday beginner class, which I hope will leave me feeling like I can actually dance, and then Jack O’Lantern Spectacular,in which I’ll attempt not to dance like a swaybacked wildebeest before a captive audience of so freaking many.

How To Tell If Your Relationship Is Intergenerational

Let’s face it, demographics is hard.

Generational demographics is particularly hard. How can we know who’s a delicate, entitled Millennial when demographers can’t even agree on when Generation X ended? Maybe the late Gen-Xers—the teenage Slackers of the early-to-mid 90s—slept through the Generational Alarm Clock after an all-night bender, forever skewing the data.

Regardless, there’s one litmus test that might work pretty well for many of us, and it’s this: does Bae crease his jeans, or na?

Or maybe this only works in my household.

D and I are decidedly not members of the same generation. He’s old enough to potentially have rocked this nightmare:

Halp.

(Via Plaid Stallions; WP app on my tablet is borked so I’ll add a caption & link later.)

I’m young enough, thankfully, to know such horrors only as relics of the great murky time before I came into this world. …Though my generation has already ruined the fedora for everyone and, I’m sure, will be hoist high by its own fashionable petards sooner or later (my money’s on skinny jeans and ironic ugly sweaters, even though I only ever wear skinny jeans and I like ironic ugly sweaters).

The closest analog visited upon me by my parents was the timeless and traditional sailor suit[1], which is fairly inoffensive, albeit a strange sartorial affectation given both the wild impracticality of clothing toddlers in pristine whites and the minuscule number of toddlers actually employed by the Navies of the world.

  1. Predictably, perhaps, I loved the sailor suit with a kind of fetishistic devotion (I still think men in Navy whites look fantastic). Evidently I’ve been one giant queer cliché from the word “Faaaabulouuuuus!” …I mean, “Go.” I remember loving it, and I insisted on wearing the little striped tank top that went with it long after I outgrew the less-stretchy bits. I would probably still be trying to wear it if it had not mysteriously disappeared.

But, ultimately, the fault line along which our house truly divides is that of creased jeans. D wants all his jeans creased; I reel in horror at the thought. But I crease his anyway, because I want him to be happy[2]. I only own one pair of jeans, and occasionally I crease them by mistake, and have gone as far as running them through the washing machine all over again just to get the crease out.

  1. The easy way to do this is to take the jeans piping hot from the dryer, then fold them in such a way that the outside leg seam aligns worth the inseam. You can then press the resultant crease using only your hands.

So there you have it. A marital impasse, albeit one for which an amicable solution had been reached, founded upon a generational divide.

In case you’re wondering what touched this entire post off, it was this:

(Also via Plaid Stallions.)

I can’t imagine being so devoted to the idea of creasing one’s casual slacks that one imagines even the legtubes of Disco Onesies need creases o_o

That’s it for now. Class with BW tonight, and then probably immediately an entire sleeping pill because my head is full of troubled thoughts that have been keeping me awake at night, which may explain this entire post.

PS: based on the relative positions of creases and feet, I’m inclined to say dude at audience left (in the purple, yet somehow less frightening, Disco Onesie) has better turnout than his clothing does. So uncomfortable o.o

Nine More Days

Yes, I’ve resorted to counting down the days until I’m cleared for all the things.

The problem is that I really want to do handstands for some reason. Like, right now.

Normally, when I want to do handstands, like, right now, I just do them. (Often, when this happens, it’s because I’m trying to think my way through a sticking point in my technique and my nonverbal mind thinks it’s on to something. Sometimes, though, it’s just for fun.)

I dream in grand allegro.

I may have done a few wee petit allegro jumps in my kitchen (which is far too small even for medium allegro) last night. It might have felt good.

I decided I was ready to get back to barre when I found myself doing turns in my kitchen. I don’t think I can justify doing allegro of any kind (excepting the occasional step in my kitchen) until I’m 100% cleared.

So, needless to say, I’m antsy.

But it’s only mine more days.

What I’m really antsy about, though, is being able to take a proper, fully-submerged bath. I haven’t taken any baths at all because I’m afraid I’ll just submerge everything without even thinking about it—but on the other hand I do find baths really helpful on cold mornings (and, as you may recall, we have already established that my standard for labeling a morning “cold” is fairly pathetic).

Maybe I’ll try taking a bath and mindfully not submerging myself. And, of course, if I get really antsy, I can always use one of those medical-grade wound-protector things that they make for exactly that purpose.

In other news, I’m really tempted to wear this thing:

Bondage onesie?

…to class tomorrow, just to make BW and TS giggle. I think if I do, I’ll be forced to shoot some video for posterity.

Two Opinions On Surgery

At this point, I’ve written a fair bit about the surgery that I had to shed my moobs. I’m extremely happy with the results thus far, but that hasn’t stopped me from being extremely curious about the healing processes of basically everyone who has ever had any remotely similar surgery.

This has led to some interesting discoveries. First, there’s evidently a whole lot of controversy of the subject of drains: which is to say, a lot of people don’t want them, and seem miffed when surgeons require them. Second, quite a few of the people who wind up with the exact surgery that I had seem to want their incision lines to be perfectly straight.

I don’t mean to be a jerk about it, but neither of these positions seem terribly well-considered to me.

Here’s why.

Drains
In short, people don’t like drains because they’re uncomfortable. I’m not arguing, there: they are uncomfortable. The only reason I bothered taking any of the opioid painkillers prescribed by my surgery was so I could sleep with the poky-arsed drain lines annoying my intercostal tissues.

Given the minimal amount of drainage I produced, I legitimately could’ve gone without—but I’m glad they were there, just in case.

All too frequently, I run into an argument that goes, “Well, Bob didn’t have drains, and he was fine.”

The problem, there, is that it’s really quite difficult to predict who’s going to be like Bob, or like me, and who’s going to wind up with massive swelling that could’ve been prevented by installing a couple of drains for a week or so.

Surgeons can control their technique. What they can’t control is how our bodies react once all is said and done.

Some, like Imaginary Bob’s and like mine, just go, “Oh, no worries, I’m on this healing thing,” without any major drama.

Others go, “OMFG WHAT IS THIS WHAT HAVE YOU DONE AAUUUGHHHHHH!!!” and promptly kick up an inflammatory tornado, producing great gouts of fluid that can turn into seromas which are also quite uncomfortable, and which then require (you guessed it) drains anyway.

I’m a big believer in the idea that prevention is better than a cure.

I think the path my surgeon took in my particular case was just about ideal. D was hoping we could start for home on Monday evening or Tuesday instead of Wednesday evening or Thursday, so the doc suggested a compromise: if my drainage levels were good (read: minimal), we could have the drains out on Monday. Given that my surgery took place on a Thursday, this seemed like a really good compromise.

As it turned out, I experienced almost no inflammation and drained almost nothing from the word go, and the drains did indeed come out on Monday. Yes, they were annoying while they remained, but let’s be frank: roughly 4.5 days of moderate discomfort is preferable to the risk of epic swelling accompanied by potential weeks of discomfort. (To be fair, pain perception varies tremendously, and the drains might actually be a lot worse for some people than for others—but for most people, they’re basically just an annoyance, and a temporary one.)

Some surgeons (mine included) use drains for essentially everybody. Some decide on a case-by-case basis. Some don’t bother at all. Regardless, when it comes to this kind of thing, it’s worth considering that surgeons undertake a decade or more of specialized schooling to learn their skills—and, especially for cosmetic surgeons, it’s in their best interests to do whatever is going to get the best results.

In short, with a few exceptions, they generally have more insight into what they’re doing than their patients do, and it’s probably in our best interests to give due consideration to their surgical preferences.

Incision Lines
For some reason, a lot of guys seem convinced that curved incision lines scream “BREASTICLES!”

In fact, I don’t think they do, and here’s why: curved incision lines follow the anatomical shadow of the pectoralis major[1]. To the uninitiated, they’re not necessarily going to shout, “Yes, I had breast reduction surgery with removal of extra skin!”

  1. Exception: the rare cases in which an ill-advised surgeon makes them too curved—but, honestly, my jury’s really out as to whether that actually looks more unnatural than a perfectly straight incision does, since I’ve seen it so rarely even in my endless trawling of post-surgical pix.

Under ideal circumstances, they nestle in the literal shadow of one’s pecs, where they will eventually camouflage themselves as an extra measure of definition. And, of late, as surgical techniques have improved, ideal circumstances occur more frequently than one might imagine.

Perfectly straight incision lines, meanwhile, look unnatural. The human body is not a straight-lines kind of place. Straight incision lines depart rapidly from the anatomical shadow of the pectoralis and advertise themselves as exactly what they are—evidence of surgery.

The human eye is more likely to notice them simply because they contrast so sharply with the curvilinear nature of even the most masculine of human bodies (to wit: none of us are actually built like Minecraft sprites).

Even under ideal circumstances, perfectly-straight incision lines don’t camouflage themselves at all.

My incision lines aren’t straight. I wouldn’t want them to be straight. If anything, I wouldn’t have minded them being just a bit curvier towards their lateral ends—but, once again, my surgeon knows what he’s about. He’s been doing this for a long time.

img_20171004_161929-1568435770.jpg

My incisions: maybe not what you’d call curvy, but definitely curved. (With silicone scar strips, which are the best thing since … I would say “sliced bread,” but honestly I don’t think sliced bread is all that great.)

I’m sure there are plenty of folks who will disagree with me on both these points—and, ultimately, I’m not telling them they’re making the wrong choices. People get to make their decisions based on their own bodies and their own long-term goals.

I just hope that, in making these decisions, there’s more to the decision-making process than “drains are uncomfortable” and “male bodies are made up of straight lines.”

Regarding point the first, that’s true, but they’re also temporary, and if they’re too horrible you can have them out early.

Regarding point the second, that’s really not true. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger is made up of a series of curves with varying radii. Ask any artist, or any robot who wants to look more human.

~

A note on all this: I recognize that there’s a pretty strong dose of privilege involved in the fact that I feel comfortable writing this.

I can assume that, while they’re kind of visible now because they’re still pretty pinkish, my curvilinear scars will eventually hide in the anatomical shadow of my pecs because I’m a dancer and an aerialist and a semi-mesomorph who puts muscle on at the drop of a hat. Even after three weeks sitting on my butt(er), and thusly at the least-defined I’ve been since I got back from my illness-and-holidays binge-eating tour of central Kentucky, I still have more definition in my chest than a lot of people will ever have. I get that.

Likewise, my work both demands that I be extremely fit and begets extreme fitness, and at least part of my rapid and unproblematic healing comes down to that. Maybe I would have felt differently about drains if I’d had to cope with them for more than 4.5 days (though, honestly, if you’ve got a lot of drainage, it’s probably a good idea to have drains).

On a different axis, I grew up in an extremely privileged setting which afforded me the opportunity to purchase all the anatomy books and drawing materials my little heart desired, and I have a very visual mind. It’s easy for me to say “scars should be curvilinear because bodies are curvilinear” because I’ve spent my entire life poking around with images and models of what human bodies look like beneath their skin and a brain that happens to be very good at storing and regurgitating that information (but which can never freaking recall a person’s name when I really need it to >.<).

So there’s that, also.

Lastly, a lot of the guys who have this surgery are trans, and every single opinion I have is founded in the fact that, as an intersex person, I face a different set of challenges in life than transfolk—one that overlaps with trans experience in some ways and is fundamentally different in other ways. For one, I may occasionally get misgendered in public, but I don’t have to put up with people constantly questioning my right to identify as a male[2].

  1. Curiously, exactly twice in my life, someone has asked me, “Why would you choose to live your life as a gay man when you could just be a woman if you wanted to?” Both times, it was another femme-y gay man who asked … and, in both cases, one who had grown up in a part of the United States that is actively oppressive and deeply repressive towards gay men in general and especially towards effeminate gay men. The region in question also tends to do a lot of conflating sexual orientation with gender identity. Neither of these guys had ever seen me unclothed, nor did they possess a clear concept of the fact that being intersex didn’t mean that I had “both sets” until I explained: in my case, it primarily means that I’m an ideal dish for a gentleman who prefers dainty Vienna sausages, so to speak, which isn’t quite the same as being able to just up and declare one’s self to be female even if I wanted to. And now you know way more about my body than you ever wanted to. You’re welcome.

Since transguys comprise a significant proportion of the folks who have this particular surgery, I feel like it’s probably worth acknowledging that I’m operating from a different vantage point, and that it colors my decision-making process. I think the same probably goes for non-IS cisguys: the set of my general experiences with being a guy differs from theirs as well.

There’s an extent, of course, to which everyone’s experience with gender, and with walking around the world as a gendered being, is different. Before it was corrupted as an insult, the phrase “we’re all individual snowflakes” meant exactly that: every one of us is the same in some ways and different in others, just as snowflakes share some basic characteristics and differ wildly and beautifully in other ways.

What I’m talking about, here, are collective experiences that shape the way we see the world: just as my upbringing in a forward-thinking part of the country prevented me from asking myself, “Why wouldn’t I just want to be a girl instead of being gay?” Those options, for me, have always existed on two different spectra.

So, anyway. Those are my caveats. I’m sure things are even more nuanced than that, but I need to wander off and do some errands now, whilst the day is young.

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