Back in the Bay Area: I biked down Telegraph Avenue past a head shop with windows full of multicolored glass bongs and a younger Latin@ couple admiring them while nearby, too, two older white men with the characteristic genial slouchiness of aging hippies spoke gravely of their merits. Past Caffe Med where Rosie the illustrator stood distractedly holding his coffee cup on the sidewalk outside, his hair grown shaggy over the past year; then past the usual tangle of crusty travelers; past the contentiously long-empty lot on the following corner now improved with a grumpy billboard condemning the City of Berkeley for its inefficiency in the permitting process ("Mothers don't let your babies grow up to be developers," it read); and finally past Rasputin Records, where one section of the March on Washington display that took up twelve feet of windows asked "Who is Albert Woodfox?" I picked up a newish issue of Granta from the curb, then a few blocks later saw a small guinea hen feather in the street and circled back to pick it up. I ate a hamburger. In a moment of profligacy, I bought a fancy (yet relatively inexpensive) water filter for this weekend's wilderness travails--the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze, if anyone cares. Berkeley and Oakland are the same as ever--troublesome, mostly, but wonderful. Outside of Pegasus on my way home a man gave me a copy of the Street Spirit and prayed for me. Usually this feels like the religious equivalent of telling a woman to smile, but today it felt perfect, and the man placed his hand gently on the handlebars of my bike as if blessing it, too, and prayed for us both, he and I, to reach the kingdom of heaven. Amen, he said, and I said too. I went in to Pegasus to buy a $2 calendar for this waning year, and the man behind the counter said he'd be remiss to charge me for it, and so out into dusk I went, the sun just setting behind a building whose facade, somehow, from a distance seemed to read JACKET.
I'm up late dillydallying on the internet and skimming this Cancer Butch article by Lochlann Jain, a Stanford anthropologist [who my friend is starting her PhD work with this fall] who studies storytelling about disease and injury, and how it varies in individuals and across cultures.
At just about the very beginning, I ran across these brilliant two paragraphs:
When diagnosed with breast cancer, literary theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's first thought was, "Shit, now I guess I really must be a woman." Crucially, Sedgwick's recalled reaction to diagnosis was that the cancer, not the breast (which she already had), offered the defining trauma that constituted her as a woman. (Perhaps just as HIV/AIDS constituted her friend Michael Lynch as a gay man.)
Moving between self-elegy after her diagnosis and elegy of Michael, Sedgewick examines the contexts and identities of illness within the gender performances of the two friends through the prop of a pair of white glasses. Her article tells the tale of her effort to adopt the white glasses worn by Michael in her own attempt to be recognized as a gay man. But after a cross-country search for the same glasses, she finds on wearing them that "the pastel sinks banally and invisibly into the camouflage of feminity, on a woman, a white woman. In a place where it doesn't belong, on Michael, the same pastel remains a flaming signifier." Not hip at all--and certainly not an expression of the fag identity she desires to communicate--the glasses merely supplement the codes of her own femininity.
And thought, Fuuuuuuuck, that explains so much about why my fashion choices never work! Ah, nothing like a good anthropologist to explain why, worn in the real world, my aesthetic is so dissonant from how I envision it.
Yes, I know I'm missing the broader point (made less concisely over the following pages) for flighty infatuation with the smaller point. What of it? ;)