The Introvert-Extrovert Relationship Dynamic

17 07 2017

You already have some sense of what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert. If someone appears outgoing, loquacious, and charming, they are clearly an extrovert, right? While the quiet, thoughtful, reserved person in the corner is the introvert, who prefers one-on-one encounters, of course. If you are making assumptions based on this outward appearance, you may be getting it all wrong. This is why I often get mislabeled an extrovert.

My definition is quite simple. When you go out in a large crowd of people for an hour or two, or entertain a small group of friends for an evening, how do you feel afterward? I’m not asking if you enjoyed yourself- hopefully that answer is always yes! But do you feel satiated, maybe a little drained, and ready for some alone time to recover from being “on”? This makes you an introvert.

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If you’re like my wife, however, you come home invigorated, excited, and pulsing with

energy! “What’s next?!?” is likely running through your brain, and you need time to let your brain finish mapping all the new connections you made in the evening’s many conversations. That makes you an extrovert! (Bethany is an extrovert times 10.)

Being in a relationship with a large discrepancy in your introvert/extrovert status can be challenging. Believe it or not, it is doable, and can be quite enjoyable! The key is recognizing that it’s difficult for BOTH people, at first. You will need to do a little legwork if you want this to be enjoyable.

You need to first understand your own emotional and physical needs, and learn how to effectively communicate your needs, while also listening to the other person’s (sometimes foreign-sounding) perspective. Living a happy life requires balancing the energy. After all, you likely love the person you’re with BECAUSE they balance you out. So in order to preserve this complimentary relationship, you must learn how to respect the Yin to your Yang.

Be aware that, like almost everything in life, there is a broad spectrum between introversion and extroversion. It’s not one or the other. You may find that some of these feel more or less relevant to you individually, because your personality is defined by far more than this one aspect.

Ambivert_personality_continuum_scale

 

The Extrovert

For the extrovert, she may feel like she has to compromise to stay in with her partner when she’d rather go out. She may feel torn between fulfilling her own needs for social interaction, and allowing the introvert to have enough down time. She might also feel like it is her role, as the extrovert, to be the social planner, to enrich the introvert’s life with as much fun as possible!

What you need to know about yourself

You’re often the life of the party, telling stories that make people laugh, and planning the next get-together at the end of the evening. People often assume that you have thousands of friends, and are way too busy to hang out with them one-on-one, so they never ask. You may spend so much time in group settings that you don’t feel like you have many really close friends, even though any one of your circle would jump at a chance to help you.

Even though you crave that social interaction, it is also important to allow yourself time to sit quietly and reflect internally. It doesn’t take much down time for you to balance out all your social time. Force your monkey mind to slow down, and instead of thinking about “what’s next?” relive the great experiences you recently had. What part of your week was your favorite? Why? It may feel forced at first, but doing this for just 30-60 minutes at the end of your week will help you to appreciate all the wonderful things you experienced even more, and enable you to recognize what truly makes you the happiest, so you can be more selective in the future.

Going out may be critical to your mental health. Even though you might feel guilty about indulging in too many activities, these are an important part of feeding your soul. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make adjustments. Tight budget? Invite friends to meet you for a picnic instead of dropping $20 on dinner out. It’s the social aspect you crave, and that can take many different forms. You need other people because they elevate your own energy level, allowing you to feel happier and be more productive.

When my wife and I went through a tight financial period, we slashed our budget for dining out. She worked from home, so she lost her only lifeline to the rest of the world. We quickly realized that this was affecting her mental state significantly, and came up with a compromise. Instead of us both going out with friends for dinner twice a week, she became a regular at the local coffee shop, allowing her to fulfill her social needs by herself, on a much smaller budget. I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t usually have time to go there on weekdays, so I’m not missing out either. And coffee is cheaper than a therapist. Win-win!

Let your partner know what your needs are, and don’t be afraid to take care of yourself independently. Find group activities that you know they have no interest in, and make connections that allow you to interact with others, without taking away from activities you enjoy doing together.

What you need to know about your beloved introvert

Your introverted partner would do anything to make you happy. Your energetic personality gives them joy, and elevates them, much in the same way you feel energized by larger groups of friends. They may push their own limits, going out frequently, choosing to spend what little down time they do have with you, instead of spending much-needed time alone. When they do this for too long, they become run-down, exhausted (and maybe cranky).

introvert timeEncourage them to have their alone time. It may mean that they go for a walk by themselves, or work in the yard, or simply lay down on the couch while you’re in the other room working on something else. Their need to be alone is not a rejection of you. You need to have a clear conversation and tell them (repeatedly) that it’s okay for them to ask to stay home while you go out and take care of your own social needs.

While you may want to verbalize everything, introverts often enjoy silence. At some point, your chatter (directed at no one but yourself) becomes mental clutter. Every time you say something, their brain wants to be attentive and alert, and it take mental energy for them to listen to you, even when you’re just muttering to yourself, “Was that David who just walked past? Nope, nope, just someone who looks similar.” If you can cut back on verbalizing things that are not intended for them to respond to, it helps them to relax.

introvert

The Introvert

Sometimes people mistakenly think that you don’t value their friendship, or don’t want to spend time with them. You frequently don’t respond to invites for events until the day of, because you never know if you’ll have enough energy to go out. You usually have a good time when you do venture out, but you know that you need to be in the right mindset to enjoy yourself.

You feel pressure by others to join them. “Come on, it’ll be fun!” they try to persuade you. It probably will be, but, much like going out and over indulging on drinks, you don’t want to regret it the next day. When you’re already at your threshold for social interaction, if you push yourself further, you will feel utterly exhausted and unproductive the next day. You sometimes feel like a bad friend for skipping out on so many things, and fear that eventually you might stop getting invited.

14322695_1256787684403853_1054437703607303099_nYou need to understand the physical way that social interactions affect you. Listen to your body. It’s perfectly okay to take your down time. You need significantly more down time than extroverts. This doesn’t mean you must be anti-social, but you can learn to create a safe space for interacting on your own terms. While a party where you only know one person might make you cringe, you can focus on spending quality time with the friends you already have. Did you skip out on your friend’s birthday party? Follow up the next day and invite them to join you for a nice walk to catch up! Instead of waiting for group invitations you don’t want, be proactive at inviting one or two friends for something more your speed.

While it’s important to know what your body needs, you can choose to strengthen and train your social skills. If you know that your introversion may be limiting you- from either making new friends, or learning something new, or networking and advancing your career- it’s up to you to decide whether its worth it to sacrifice a little bit of your down time, temporarily, for the sake of reaching that goal. I’m not going to say that it’s easy to learn to feign extroversion, but over 10 years, I have reached a point where I’m commonly mistaken for an extrovert. It’s helped me to grow professionally and personally, and it was worth the small sacrifice, in my case.

You don’t have to play by extrovert rules, just observe what they do and put your own twist on it. I loathe small talk, so when I had to network in my mid-twenties, I came up with lists of quirky, interesting facts, about either myself or the world, that empowered me to steer conversations into an area where I felt more control. And it worked.

What you need to know about your beloved extrovert

You admire them for their ability to be effortlessly charming and outgoing. Their confidence may boost your own, allowing you to be a bit more comfortable putting yourself out there. You should be careful not to become reliant on them for that, or risk falling into a dependent relationship.

13507146_10210053131315044_8251726965732768012_nJust because they like to go out and talk to everybody, does not mean that they think less of you. They need this social interaction just as much as you need your alone time. Don’t take it personally, and do not use their extroversion against them in disagreements. Most importantly, you need to have trust in your relationship. If you find yourself getting nervous that they are going out because you’re not good enough, then you need to turn your focus inward. Until you see and appreciate your inherent value as a person, and love yourself independently, you will continue to struggle to give your extrovert the trust and freedom they need to go out without you.

While you spend much more time structuring thoughts in side your head, extroverts often verbalize way more, and it is often more for themselves than for you. You want to be a good listener, which can make it hard to tune them out when they are not talking with/at you. This will be hard for extroverts to understand, since they may not even realize they are talking out loud. Let them know why this can be mentally exhausting for you, or remove yourself from the situation if you find it too stressful to filter them out.

extrovert

The Sweet Spot

YinYang

At its best, you will find that there is a delightful balance between the two of you, where the introvert feels more confident and enjoys more social interactions, and the extrovert learns to find peace in stillness, to reflect and grow individually. We all need a balance of this yin and yang, even if the balance is heavier on one side or the other for different people.

Find the things about your partner that you admire because they are things you aren’t so good at. Ask them to help teach you how to enjoy those things, so that you can grow as an individual. Allow them the freedom and trust to take care of themselves, without jealousy or resentment.

Always, ALWAYS put yourself first. You cannot be a good partner if you are not balanced internally. Your own well being is key to a successful relationship.

 





Oh Bloody Hell! (What every person with a uterus should know)

7 03 2017

83227d33-1410-4b7f-904a-3ee2c8469e7a-2060x1236Today tampons and pads are basic requirements for most women, and comprise a multi-billion dollar industry. The average American woman started menstruating around the ages of 10-14 (bookmark that for a conversation about why we start so much earlier now). The average age of menopause is around 50. So that adds up to somewhere around 430 months of your life where you are paying for products to get harvested, manufactured, marketed, and transported.

There are a lot of concerns about these products. Besides creating a monthly cost burden that adds up year after year, these disposable products are filling up landfills and sewers, and the manufacturing of them is polluting our planet. Not to mention the fact that there is NO LEGAL REQUIREMENT for companies to disclose exactly what they put in their products that touch your unmentionables. In the past, tampons even included asbestos, to make women bleed more, so they would buy more product.Yuck!

GO GREEN, SAVE MONEY!

There are a variety of more sustainable options out there, namely: reusable cups, reusable liners, and period panties.If you are new to these- welcome! Once you learn more about these great new options, you won’t regret it!

748cf2c3254def3bb51833f5b032608eThere are a lot of reservations about trying something new. Will it work? Will it feel different? Will I be required to wear a pin telling the world that I have an eco-friendly product in my pants? How do I know where to start?

 

PERIOD PANTIES

Let’s start with so-called “period panties.” These are recently becoming well known due to a strong marketing campaign. What’s all the fuss about?

Thinx is one brand, but there are several. The basic  idea is that it can be used in place of a tampon or pad, and keeps you dry and leak-free.

Is it like wearing a diaper? No. It feels slightly more substantial than normal underwear, but less than a swimsuit. I also expect that the heavier fabric will last longer than silky of thin undies. It’s also easy to wash (way easier than scrubbing the stains out of your favorite pair of lacy undies). And, as advertised- no embarrassing leaks!

 

CLOTH LINERS

Does $30 for a pair of underwear sound like a lot to you? We’ll talk more about actual cost over your lifetime later,  but you can also look at buying reusable cloth pads. Same concept, but you just velcro these into your regular underwear, then rinse it and wash it as you would normal underwear. I’ve not tried these, but there is more fabric to them, so I suspect it will feel a bit thicker. Still not frugal enough for you? You can even download patterns to sew your own reusable pads!

 

 

MENSTRUAL CUPS

What about those heavy flow days, or those of you who just prefer the internal products? Welcome to a world of wonder, my friends! Enter… the CUPS!!

 

I started using my first cup about 5 years ago, and let me tell you- it was a GAME CHANGER. As you can see, there are numerous brands and variations, but the basic concept is the same. You have a reusable (typically silicone) cup that you insert into your vagina just like a tampon. It opens up and creates a seal at the rim, catching all the blood flow. Once full (which takes way longer than tampons), you grip the ‘tail’ of the silicone, remove the cup, dump out the liquid in the toilet, clean of your hand with TP, and then reinsert it & go wash your hands.At the end of your cycle, you can boil it to sterilize it, or simply wash and rinse well.

My wife bought the Diva Cup first, and felt like it was too big (she’s petite), so she switched to the Luna brand and loves it. I personally like the Diva Cup, but it’s the only one I’ve tried. There are typically 2 sizes- 1 for smaller women, 2 for larger or post-birth women. Neither of us has given birth, and we both like the smaller size.

divacup5Is it weird? Are they comfortable? OMG- let’s talk! First of all, it looks big, but it’s easy to roll up and insert, and is not much bigger than a tampon. It was a little weird at first, but switching from tampons to the cup has noticeably reduced both of our menstrual cramps, and now I’m so used to it I barely even give it a thought. Your first cycle you may need to practice putting it in and pulling it out to find a sweet spot where it can do its job and not be felt. I usually know I’ve got a good position when I hear a slight suction sound as I pull it down slightly. But the best part is that you can go for HOURS longer than you could with anything else, and there’s no worry about Toxic Shock Syndrome like with tampons.

img_3536Isn’t it messy? Well, no messier than any applicator-free tampon. I was NOT accustomed to sticking my hand right up there, and I definitely had a mental stigma about doing this, but my desire to be rid of tampons was strong enough to at least give it a go. It’s easier in a private bathroom, but it’s also not hard to wipe off your hand in a stall and then go wash up in a public restroom. It took me some getting used to, but now I can’t imagine going back to tampons! I recently was caught traveling without my cup and had to use a friend’s tampons for 2 days. I could not believe how much more work it was (how quickly they bled through), and how many more accidents I had. Good riddance! You also no longer have to slyly hide your tampon or pad in your pocket to sneak to the bathroom every few hours, because- it’s already in there.

 

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Still not sure? Making excuses to avoid change? Here are some great reasons to make the switch:

  1. Better for travel!- You can’t be gallivanting across the globe and not be prepared for the inevitable ‘early period.’ Try finding emergency tampons in a small town in Thailand, and you’ll be sorely disappointed. Be having reusable products, you can travel worry free. (Don’t forget some feminine wipes too!)
  2. Surprisingly comfortable (& dry)- the cups are soft and flexible, and once you find the one you like, you’ll forget you’re even wearing it. As for the period panties, they feel dry and comfortable.
  3. il_fullxfull-1145260725_skyfMore natural- Your body knows what it’s doing, and shoving a wad of cotton to suck out all the moisture is definitely not natural! (Vaginal secretions are in there for a reason) Switching to any of these reusable products allows your body to function naturally, and therefore reduces your risks of things like Toxic Shock Syndrome, yeast infections, and other complications from desiccating your pussy.
  4. goodforplanetIt’s cheaper. No, really. Let’s do the math together, shall we? Let’s say you are a tampon girl, That’s roughly 240 tampons per year, or $120 per year, including some liners as backup. (Plus you pay extra taxes on what should be viewed as an essential item like groceries.) Disposable pads- Depending on whether you prefer to change multiple thinner liners or wear what feels like a diaper all day, your annual cost will be around $50. A reusable menstrual cup runs around $30, is easily washable, durable, flexible, and should last you 10 years. So take that cost and divide it over its 10 year lifetime, and you’re looking at just $3 a year! A washable luna pad is around $16, and should last as long around 5 years, but you’ll need several to get you through a cycle. The average cost per year, considering they last 5 years before you need to replace them, ends up costing around $25 per year. A DIY cloth liner is about $2 (if your labor is free). And period underwear like Thinx runs about $30, averaging around $12-30 per year (depending on how many pairs you use during your cycle).graph.jpg
  5. GirlAtSchoolYou are helping educate girls globally. It’s sad but true, that girls are routinely denied education because they lack basic access to menstrual supplies, so they are forced to stay home from school during their periods. By investing your dollars in products that give back to the global community, you are enabling a child to get her education, which ultimately helps her entire family. Just hear this story from Think founder:
    1. “…when I travelled to South Africa in 2010 for the World Cup. There, I met a 12 year-old girl in a rural area. I asked, “Why aren’t you in school?” and the girl quietly responded, “It’s my week of shame.” Upon my return, we discovered that 100 million girls around the world miss school just because they lack the sanitary supplies they need to manage their periods. “
  6. You’re saving the planet! The short version is this- cotton is one of the most chemically-intensive crops we grow, and all those pesticides and fungicides are going directly into the raw goods that make up your tampons and liners. Manufacturing disposable products uses energy, emits greenhouse gases, and leads to climate change. The amount of energy to create one reusable product is far less than what it takes to make hundreds of disposable ones. So go green and help improve our future!




The Gay Way to Shave (My Lesbian Car Lesson)

9 06 2016

I was 15 when I bought my first car. I still have him, 20 years and 11 months later- his name is Sam, and he’s a 1969 Volkswagen Bus. If you’ve not had the pleasure of riding in a VW bus, you should know that it is pure joy to drive, though not without its nuances. Yes, a fender bender may render you crippled, as there is less than an inch of metal between your legs and the car ahead of you. It’s also loud, and the exact opposite of aerodynamic- like driving a brick wall. When I was 16, my bus, Sam, was my daily driver, and he strolled me through many a Michigan winter with ease, even on the sketchy, ice-covered dirt roads I resided on.

 

11329844_873397612742864_7132719970890849809_nVolkswagen buses are known for one more thing. Heat… or lack thereof. When your engine is at the back of your bus, you are lucky to keep your toes thawed enough to shift gears in February. Thus, at age 16, I decided that it was prudent to stop shaving my leg hair, to trap any excess heat I could muster to survive the season. Believe it or not, I truly felt a difference! Years later, in architecture school, I understood the basic principles behind this thermal phenomenon, and felt affirmed in my nascent intuition. Thus began my exploration into defying American gender norms.

 

I knew that European women scoffed at this weird American standard requiring women to strip their legs bare of the hair that their parents gave them. It’s a vestigial element from our cavewoman days, no? Either way, the fiery internal feminist in me didn’t care about what was “normal,” and neither did my high school boyfriend, thank goodness. He love me regardless. And I never asked him to shave his back either, so we were pretty even, it seemed.

 

Flash forward to Indiana. I moved from Michigan to a state barely touching the vast bodies of water that we call the Great Lakes, and naively assumed that the treacherous Michigan humidity would be left behind as well. WRONG. It is humid as… um… frack… here. And as I struggle to maintain my sanity in the celebratory month of my birth, which also coincides with PRIDE, I am at a loss of how to balance my feminist ideals with my tendency to overheat.

 

IMG_4111Several years ago, after I came out, I discovered a certain freedom that allowed me to embrace my feminine side more so than I ever felt comfortable as a hetero-normative female. (See January’s post for more insight). One of those discoveries was this- when it’s really friggin hot, the inverse of my teenage years is also true- shaving my legs (at least up to my knees) can truly help to keep me to stay cooler in the summer time… and that is OKAY. It makes me no less of a feminist, no less of a butch lesbian, to choose to do whatever the hell I want with my body for the sake ofFullSizeRender_1 personal comfort. In fact, despite everything I felt forced upon me as a young person, when I CHOOSE to alter my body for myself- not for the perception of others- it is truly empowering. Yes, most of the time my legs are au naturel, and beautiful, and sexy, and just as they were born to be. But sometimes, when the forecast calls for 97 degrees and I will be baking in the heat all weekend, every little bit helps, and I will gladly shave off that excess, heat-trapping hair because it will make me cooler and happier. For the same reason some people choose to shave their heads in the summertime, I will lower my cooling load (yes this is ‘Archispeak’) via my shins and calves. I think that just makes me smart and practical, but you can apply whatever labels you like.
13244708_1142559419160014_5404030174740506919_nSo, this Saturday, I will be strutting my naked legs at Indy Pride, not embarrassed or proud- just comfortable and cool. And you should also listen to your body, and do what makes you comfortable and happy. Life is too short to be shoehorned into someone else’s idea of conformity. 





It’s not a ‘Femme’ Thing – The Power of Clothing & Identity

1 04 2016

The Tomboy & the Awkward Teens

Growing up, I was a pretty awesome tomboy. I ran to keep up with my two older brothers, scraping knees and dirtying dresses to try to climb into the forbidden tree house in the woods. I caught frogs and bathed turtles in the dog’s water bowl. As a preteen, I went back and forth between wearing baggy clothes to hide my shape, and conceding to my best friend’s fashion advice about short shorts and makeup. Like many girls that age, I struggled to be comfortable in my own skin as I tried to define who I was. However, I was the girl who always picked up other people for photos, in order to prove my strength. I also taught myself how to sew my own clothing around age 14 in order to create a unique style that fit my body the way I wanted it to.

 

 

I learned the incredible power that clothing can have over perception. Dressing like a girl also meant being ogled as a girl. Sexism was alive and rampant, and men from 16 to 60 regularly honked or made comments as I walked down our small town streets. My best friend thought it was cool to get hit on by older men, and she loved the attention. I, on the other hand, hated it. I didn’t want boys to see me that way, and I developed a fear of being stared at or hit on by the opposite sex. If I’m invisible, I’m safe from that objectification.

By the time I started college, I had overcome much of my body image issues, thanks in large part to the unconditional love of my high school sweetheart, who is by and far the most respectful man I have ever met. With his gentle love and support, I started to feel confident in myself, and in control of my life. I dressed how I felt best, and didn’t concern myself with what other people thought. I started to shed myself  of the most eclectic attire that I hid behind in my youth, and started to search out a style that could be both uniquely my own, but also professional. As I started my career as a young Architect, I liked looking put together, because it made me feel like an adult who deserves to be heard. I dressed for respect.

 

Dressing for ‘Real Life’

I donned appropriately fitted suits at work, trying to balance comfort and professionalism with pieces of feminine flair. As a young woman in a male-dominated field, I had to balance many aspects of my appearance, to look serious, yet distinctive. I had no desire to repeat the offenses of the 1980s, with ridiculously bulky shoulder pads to compete with male body types. I had to look like a peer, but not a dude. In lieu of the fashion-forward blouses that the secretaries and interior designers wore, I learned to wear conservative collared shirts in collars beyons the blue or white of my male counterparts. If I was feeling a blue pin stripe sort of mood, I might add -(gasp!)- dangling, sparkly earrings! I wore my long hair mostly up in a bun or a low ponytail, but would let it down when I felt the need to look more feminine. Outside of work, I was still an active athlete, and often wore comfortable shorts with ample pockets, and practical sports bras beneath tank tops or t-shirts. You never know when you might run into someone with a frisbee and have an impromptu game of ultimate, after all! I owned one pair of strappy black dress shoes with a chunky heel that I could walk in, for that rare occasion that required me to wear a dress. For the most part, I dressed only feminine enough to be clearly identified as a woman, but never accused of being ‘girly.’

Even in my twenties, being hit on by guys gave me the creeps. I avoided unwanted male attention by dressing in a way that should not say, “Hey look at me!” and I think I escaped the worst of the sleaze. Yet, it still happens, and no matter how polite or nice the guy may be, I never know how to respond, and I hate the attention. Being in a long term relationship gave me a shield to protect myself from such unwanted attention, and I learned to quickly insert “my boyfriend” into all conversations with the opposite sex- just to be clear. I had no interest in any other men, and was grateful to have the safety of my relationship to help fend off occasional suitors.

 

Switching Teams- the Lesbian Uniform

My previous partner of 14 years is a very masculine man, tall, with broad shoulders, strong arms, a square jaw, and a deep voice. Compared to him, even in combat boots, or chuck a boos, I was always the feminine one.

Then, at the age of 29, I met a woman. Not just any woman, but my soulmate. And a lesbian.

Nothing can prepare you for switching from straight culture to gay culture. Everything you think you know about who you are and your place in society is rapidly dispelled. Dating a woman is entirely different than dating a man! There’s no ‘his’ and ‘hers’ expectations, no gender roles to despise, you are suddenly free to follow your heart! The dichotomy of masculine and feminine almost entirely disappears. (Almost). There are no longer any lines in the sand, or an understood balance of yin and yang. Nobody looks at you and asks, “why is SHE going to play with the guys while her boyfriend makes dinner?” In reality, I found this transformation quite liberating, yet I learned just how much I still clung to those stereotypes that I fought so hard to break down.

 

Pin the Tail on the “Femme”

When I started dating Bethany, everything changed. She herself is a dichotomy of masculine and feminine, with her short but funky hairstyle, her feminine curves, and her extensive tattoos. She can rock a dress all night long, only to change into carharts and wrench on her motorcycle the next morning. Being next to her suddenly brought into question some parts of my own identity that I never expected. When people see us together, especially straight people, they immediately want to categorize us, to be able to clearly label us, in order to push their own comfortable, hetero-normative gender roles onto us.

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“Which one of you is the ‘boy’?” the unfamiliar breeders sometimes wonder. As offensive as this question is, in gay culture, the same things still happens, except it’s ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ instead of ‘boy’ and ‘girl.’  So when people see us together, they see Bethany’s tattoos and short hair, and immediately decide that she’s the butch and I must be – by default- the femme. F-E-M-M-E. Me??? Seriously? At first, I was extremely offended. I’m not a girly-girl, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, people want to put a label on me, and my long hair seems to be the only indicator they can see, so… “Femme” it is. All the sudden, now that I’m with a woman, my context has changed how people perceive me.  When she dresses ‘butch,’ I end up feeling more ‘femme,’ by default.

Looks can be deceiving. The reality is, I’m the one who gets called to remove the icky spider from the bathroom. I’m the one who deals with the tiniest occurrence of blood. I’m the patient yet tough negotiator. I’m the one who comes in from the yard with dirt under her fingernails every weekend. I’m the one who hates makeup. And I’m the Femme???

My wife is the one who loves getting dressed up in elaborate costumes with full, dramatic makeup. She’s the one with both a shoe and a wig collection that would make Theater Bizarre folks jealous. She’s the one who is sensitive and passionate, in need of more cajoling and reassurance. She’s the one who is incredibly thoughtful and considerate, and remembers everyone’s birthdays. So does that mean she’s the femme??

 

The truth is, we both are both. We joke that I’m a femmey butch, and she is the butchy femme. Within each of us, we have both feminine and masculine characteristics that play to our strengths.

 

Learning all the nuances of lesbian gender roles and identity is tough when you are new to the gay scene. Nothing translates from my previous life as a straight ciswoman.

 

Learning to Embrace Femininity

As a feminine tomboy, becoming an open lesbian was a real game changer. Suddenly, I had a new title that was way more effective than “taken” to ward off male attention. In the past, some men would literally hit on me and say “I don’t care if you’re married.” GROSS. But now, as a lesbian, I’m completely off the table for straight guys. (Obviously, there can be a sidebar conversation here about monogamy and polyamory, but that is outside the scope of my expertise or interest). Unlike the straight version of myself, being gay suddenly felt liberating. I now finally understand why it bothered me SO much when men hit on me. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t single, or that an individual was unattractive, it was truly that what I did not want sexual attention any men.

 

1898110_761767903905836_219651953483986976_nAs I learned what it meant to be comfortable with the title of lesbian, a shocking realization occurred. I spent decades of my life trying to break the perception of a woman being weak and frilly and liking to cook and clean. I revolted against traditional women’s work, even refusing to learn to cook until my mid twenties, because “that’s what they want women to be good at.”  I had never even made a pot of coffee in my life until I became a lesbian. Take that, male chauvinism! Now that I was no longer bound by the stereotypical gender roles, I learned that I can actually enjoy being feminine.

 

Suddenly, instead of fighting for an expansion of equal gender roles, I could do whatever I wanted. With my beautiful soulmate at my side, I was liberated to be masculine one day or feminine the next, without fear of bringing down the perception of women as a whole. I enjoyed the secret pleasure of knowing that I could do more pushups than most of the people in a room, while wearing elegant attire. Wearing a dress still sometimes feels like I’m in drag, but I love it. It’s fun!

Most of all, my wife makes me feel beautiful and sexy in a whole new way, that makes me want to dress more flirtatious around her. Over the first year or two after coming out as gay, I rediscovered and redefined myself as a woman. I finally felt entitled to claim my femininity, without fear that it would discredit my other strengths. It was a glorious discovery, and a journey that I hope will never end!

 

Sincerely yours,

A happy, femmey butch





Packing Pointers for Lightweights

18 02 2016

oversized-baggage-cartIf you are like me, and you love to travel, you also love things that make traveling easier, right? Well, today, I’m gonna let you in on a few of my favorite packing secrets!

When it comes time to pack for an upcoming trip, I am always ready. I love being organized almost as much as I love being efficient. Yep, I’m that grrrl who invested $349 in the ultra lightweight tent because it only weighed 3 lbs. 7 oz. and I could set it up in less than 2 1/2 minutes. So, when it comes to packing, I’m always thinking about ‘weighs’ to minimize what I have to carry, and reduce the weight (especially when backpacking). (Did you see what I did there?)

One thing that is hard to skimp out on is clothing. If you’re hiking alone in the woods, wearing the same stinky shirt 3 days in a row is fine (unless the bears disagree). However, when I’m traveling to present at a sustainability conference in Croatia or Sao Paulo, I expect to be able to look (and smell) presentable. So, what’s a grrrl to do to look good without carrying 56 pounds of baggage? Pack SMARTER!

 

Nummer Eins (#1) – Layers

1282063_408_mainOkay, so you’re going on a cruise and, although you hope to be spending most of your time in a swimsuit, you also know that there will be some rainshowers and some brisk ocean winds at night. This doesn’t mean you need to pack a parka. Being smart about your layers can allow you to be prepared for the extreme weather without packing your bag to the extreme.

shoppingFind a lightweight, waterproof windbreaker that is big enough to fit over a couple of other layers with room to move comfortably. Better yet, find one that comes with its own stuff sack, so it all but disappears when you don’t need it, and is easy to throw in your daypack- just in case.

Next, forgo that cozy-yet-bulky sweater and go for a super warm undershirt, something like UnderArmour, a very thin, tight fitting underlayer that you can wear under just about any of your favorite shirts. I start sweating if I even look at my UnderArmour, so , thankfully, it also wicks moisture away from your skin!

 

Numero Dos (#2) – Versatility

swim-n-sport-convertible-dress_185162If you have ever watched a late-night infomercial about the new and improved kitchen gadget cuts tomatoes, sharpens itself, disinfects your cutting board, and comes with a GPS tracker, you know that sometimes versatility can get a little weird… but hear me out here. When it comes to clothing- especially women’s clothing- you can easily get creative and make multiple fresh outfits by using one article of clothing in new ways.

For example, there are a number of delightful dresses out there that can also double as a skirt, or a scarf, or a wrap, etc. As long as you don’t pick the one with very distinctive pineapple print, nobody will know that you just got 5 days out of one item! (NOTE: Some of these so-called convertible dresses can be cheaply made, so buyer beware. You don’t want it to convert to a strapless because the straps fell off!)

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Personally, I go for the pants that fold up into capris, and then zip off the legs completely for cute shorts. These are perfect if you plan to visit religious temples where covering up is required to enter, or if you plan to be out all day and know that you will get warm later. Just zip off the pant legs and you can either roll them up with a hair tie and stick them in your purse, or tie them to the back of your pack when on the go.

 

Numéro trois (#3) – Super Underwear

2241-2462_4437_grYour life will never be the same after this one. Imagine only packing TWO PAIRS of underwear for your 4 week trip of a lifetime. Seriously. I’m sure there are lots of brands out there, but I am a diehard advocate of Exofficio. I first learned about them when they were listed on clearance at steepandcheap.com. They claimed to be moisture-wicking, fast-drying, and comfortable. They weren’t much to look at, but I was looking for functionality, not sexuality. So, before my month-long trek through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, I decided to take a risk and bought them online. They were 60% off, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose.

I. LOVE. THEM.

2241-1406_3430_grNow, there are all sorts of cute options too! Want to feel sexy and lacy, while also being able to wash, dry, and put them back on the next morning? Done. I can literally travel the world with just two pairs of underwear now! Every night I simply use soap or shampoo to wash them in the sink, wring them out, and hang them up overnight. By morning, they are fresh and ready to go!

While hiking in Red River Gorge, KY last fall, I totally forgot to wash my undies before falling asleep. So, in the morning, I did the evening routine, with one major change, and was able to wear them again in less than two hours. What’s the trick? After wringing them out, I wrapped them inside my towel, pressing on the bundle so that the towel absorbed most of the leftover moisture. After 2-3 minutes, you then unwrap the undies (which will be just barely damp), then air dry as usual. This has literally saved my arse! I call them my “Super Underwear!”

Now, I know, some grrrls love to stick to all natural fabrics. It’s true that the magic of Super Underwear occurs using a blend of 93% Nylon / 7% Spandex. But have you ever put on soggy cotton undies? Gross. Plus, unless you are buying 100% organic cotton, you are supporting one of the worst industries as far as damaging the environment goes.

Still not sure? Don’t just take my word for it. These were also voted among the top ten ‘Best Gift for Adventurers’ as chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best.

Number Four (#4) – Compression

You know those cheap plastic zippered bags that sets of sheets come in? For years, I saved those, bound and determined to keep them out of the landfill and put them to good use. I store shoes in them, I pack clothing in them. They are a great way to get organized for free! how-to-reuse-stuff-bedding-bagsIf all you are looking for is a way to organize, and not compress, this is a great (free) way to reuse something. Just don’t be sad when the corner of the plastic tears out. No lifetime guarantee on those suckers.

However, after years of trying to find cheaper alternatives, I finally caved and spent the dough on the fancy compression packs that I used to scoff at.

“Thirty bucks for a scrap of tent fabric and a couple of straps? No thanks!”

If you’re an athlete, you’ve heard of compression clothing. Well, travelers should also know how to compress their ordinary clothing for much different reasons.

compression-sacksWhen backpacking, there are compression sacks or bags, which allow you to reduce the volume of your gear in a number of handy designs. I love these, but they are not exactly helpful for keeping you looking wrinkle free. Lightweight, durable, and functional, I am starting to see the value in them. The bags are ideal for stuffing into a pack.

eagle-creek-pack-it-specter-compression-setNow there are compression cubes, which allow you to roll your linens, stuff them, and then compress them. The rectilinear, yet soft design, allows them to maximize space in your suitcase. The volume reduction won’t be as good as with the bags, but it is way easier to simply unzip and pull out the one faoprite shirt you love, instead of pawing through the bag searching for it in the wad of clothing.

Voila! You just saved enough room in your suitcase to be able to bring home a souvenir gong to hang in your living room!

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From Granny Hair to Silver Fox

8 02 2016

10386247_669711196444841_2277447963320704334_nOur household is a little bit unconventional. In many ways, actually- probably too many to count! There is one in particular that I think everybody should adapt to – LOVING grey hair. My wife has a head full of thick, salt n peppa locks, and she is rockin’ it! And as for me, well, I’m not so lucky.

 

My chocolate tresses have denied me my wishes to go prematurely grey for too many years. I know what you’re thinking, “Why on earth would you WISH for grey hair?” Well, I have good reasons.

 

15909_907009422715016_1024457076140655857_nIt’s not like it’s something that I envisioned as a 12-year-old girl, but I started to wrap my mind around the idea right around the time that I left college for the workforce. You see, as a young Architect, especially a young, woman Architect, it’s hard to be taken seriously. Men frequently assumed that I was ‘just some intern,’ or an interior decorator, or even a secretary, just because of the way I looked.

 

I will never forget the first time a male colleague did this to me. We had met several times over a couple of months while managing the construction of a 145,000 square foot LEED building project. A group of 5 or 6 of us from both my  architecture firm and the construction management company went out to lunch together. As we were walking out of the restaurant to head back to the job site, a man- less than 10 years older than me- turned to me and asked about a wallpaper detail.

“Oh, Kelly, did you find out when the special ordered paper for president’s office will arrive?”

Puzzled, I looked at him and asked, “What do you mean?” I was standing right next to Schana, the actual interior designer on the project.

“I’m just trying to coordinate with the installers. It’s the same color as the room next door, right?”

“I’m not sure why you are asking me. I don’t usually deal with that.”

“But… aren’t you the interior designer on this?” he asked, clearly very confused.

“Nooo… I’m the project Architect. Schana is the interior designer.”

 

He stammered an apology as a look of horror came across his face, realized that he had clearly just insulted me with a sexist assumption. Women pick out colors, right? I had spent 10 years earning 2 degrees in architecture, trained for 4 years of technical internship, and passed SEVEN EXAMS in order to wear the title of Architect with a capital ‘A’ thank you very much.

 

That was the day I decided that maybe a few streaks of grey would help lend me the credibility and respect that I so sorely lacked in this male-dominated field. I began noticing all the beautiful women around me donning their natural greys, pining after their luck. I was 27.  

 

how-to-cover-grey-hair-by-shellgreenier-300x229Finally, after years of waiting, I got my wish and got my first grey hair! Right at my left temple, too- I couldn’t believe it! To date, I still only have a handful, but each time I notice a new streak of silver, I squeal with delight and point it out to my wife, who smiles and laughs at my utter giddiness. Just last week she held me in her arms and said, “When you wear your hair up like that it really accentuates your greys,” which, of course was a HUGE compliment! “You know, you must be the only woman who is excited about getting silver hairs!” she giggles at me.

 

That can’t be right. Can it? I started wondering how other cultures treat silver foxes, and why women in America are so quick to cover up their natural beauty.

 

gp_aDespite the obvious benefit for my profession, I also think that a silver sparkle is beautiful! Each glittery strand is a badge of honor, an award for my own life experiences. Every year I grow older and wiser, so why wouldn’t I want to show my true age? (I’m 35 ⅔, by the way).

 

“Granny Hair”

22-clip-in-hair-extension-colour-grey-110-gram--texture-straight-[4]-502-pInterestingly, I might be onto something. A recent fashion trend has appeared to highlight a renewed interest in grey. Young women (and men) across America, Europe, and Asia in their teens, twenties, and thirties are starting to intentionally dye their hair shades of grey. Because… why not? Silver is sexy! I may not care for the hashtag #grannyhair, but I love the looks that people are embracing.

 

In the UK, there has been an 83% spike in sales of gray hair color products compared to the year before. Celebrities are trying grey on for size, and looking fabulous while doing it. Perhaps this will be the year that natural gray becomes truly embraced?

 

 

Why does hair turn grey?

2010 American Music Awards - Arrivals

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 21: Singer Pink arrives at the 2010 American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for DCP)

Despite the hottest trends, we will all someday learn to rock the salt n pepper look. Grey hair is caused by a lack of pigmentation and melanin, just like what causes some people to be born Albino. The process as we age is called Achromotrichia, and it normally begins in our twenties (late twenties for women), eventually turning the hair gray and then white.  What causes this change is actually the death of the melanocyte stem cells in our hair follicles. By age 40, more than 60%  of Americans have some gray hair. Interestingly, it’s your nose hairs that usually grey first! Followed by head hair, beard, body hair, and eyebrows.

 

So it’s not stress? Some studies have shown evidence for a link between chronic stress causing and premature achromotrichia, but no definite link has been established. I know that in my brother, Kurtis, he started going grey after a severe car accident left him in a state of partial comatose. We don’t dye his hair either. There’s also a stress hormone cortisol that accumulates in human hair over time, but whether this has any effect on hair color has not yet been resolved. Sometimes, malnutrition is also a factor, causing hair to become lighter, thinner, and more brittle. Thankfully, most of us in the U.S. are safely protected from this risk.

 

Do Other Cultures Fear the Grey?

There is a long history here. In ancient Egypt, women used oil and the blood of a black cat to cover their sparkle. The Romans blended ashes, walnut shells, and earthworms for a dye! (check out Encyclopedia of Hair for more interesting facts)


In Native American cultures, hair holds much more symbolic significance, and is treated with much more respect and caution. As one would expect, tribal culture is much more in tune with nature, and respects the traditional path of aging.

white wolf elders“You were given a sacred color of hair to wear and you were never to bleach (whiten) or dye your hair. Even the word dye/die when used for coloring states the death or divination of a God-given thought and purpose. … Bleaching ones hair to change spiritual status, does not make one an Elder or Pre-dating Spirit, for you are born who you are, chosen, and elevated by God, not by Mankind. In Native ceremony when ocher and hennas were used on hair it was understood that it was for a Sacred purpose and Spirit (God) inspired, and the natural color would naturally return… Cutting your hair usually occurs when one chooses to make a major change in ones life, putting past misdeeds behind them, and beginning a new/knew life. In Native teachings many tribes cut their hair during the mourning process, which symbolizes the deep wound to ones sensibilities caused by the piercing hurt of a loved ones passing.”White Wolf Pack

china black hairIn China, most people are born with very dark hair, but it is not uncommon to see greys in the population. However, their entire Communist parliament is filled with men who dye their hair black, in order to keep the impression that they are going to live forever (and lead forever).

 

A Cure?

For the truly rich and vain, there is actually a cure for going grey. The  anti-cancer drug imatinib has recently been shown to reverse the graying process. But you might not be ready to order it on amazon quite yet. Those drugs cost a pretty penny, and vanity might not be worth that price tag!

 

Thankfully, I see more and more women proudly sporting their silver streaks. I call mine sparkles. The fact that there is now demand for young folks to brazenly sport the grey look just like any other color gives me hope. I might just have to go order myself a set of silver hair extensions, just because I can.

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