Saturday, December 01, 2007

looking up

I found out last week that Jane Rule died at the age of 76. She's a favorite author of mine, a "pioneering lesbian writer" though she was something of a reluctant poster-child, as those obits make apparent. Nevertheless, she recognized the dearth of lesbian writing and lesbian role models in Canada (or anywhere, really, at the time) and stepped up, writing for the gay press, and granting plenty of interviews as an "authority" on the subject.

Anyway, besides the fact that I like her writing very much, and I'm sorry to hear about her death, reading her obituary got me to thinking about role models.

She was clearly a role model for many young writers, young queers and young women (not to mention young queer women writers!) and she was definitely one of the people I looked to when I was younger, if only through her writing, as a sort of elder guide. By which I mean, I get a lot of my moral compass ideas from what I read, and when I first came out as queer, I thought I was a dyke, so I read whatever lesbian-themed or -authored books I could get my hands on. Jane Rule came into the picture because my Mom recommended that her to me when I revealed my gayness.

At any event, it's struck me that my earlyish adolescence, a time for finding role models and hero(ines) and writings to inspire one, was filled with reading and admiring lesbian writers, and history and culture.

Rochelle says she counts herself lucky that her boyfriend is so familiar with the lesbian cultural landscape, and I myself told my dad that I still feel affection and nostalgia and more than a little bit of empathy for the lesbian community. I don't consider myself part of it anymore, but I do feel a connection, from having felt a part of it for a number of years, and having sort of grown up in it. (I identified as a dyke from 13-17, roughly, with my awareness of my masculinity starting at around 15, so there was definite "am I a dyke or am I a dude?" overlap time).

Anyway, my meandering point is that many of my favorite authors, musicians, political figures (Bella Abzug!), and general role models are women, usually queer women. Which is great, because they're great, but...I would like to have more men in my life, so to speak.

I've probably written about this here before- I know I've thought about it before. I don't have a lot of male role models- when my first therapist asked me for one, I said "Tintin." But I'd like to have more men (outside of my immediate family, I'm thinking authors, etc) whom I can learn from and admire and emulate.

I want to re-set my cultural compass, slightly.

Not that I'm ever going to abandon or disavow my lesbian roots. They served me well at the time, and provided a great foundation to where I am now. I will always admire Jane Rule and her writing, and I will always feel a pull to lesbian writing/culture. I don't belong to it anymore, but I do have history there.

Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm thinking of reading recommendations here- I'll take fiction, essays, manifestos, what have you. I just want stuff written by men or about men/masculinity, and/or that is rooted in or an window into masculine culture. The two (pretty disparate, so you can see I'm casting a wide net!) examples that I have on my reading list already are Hemingway and John Stoltenberg. You can't get much manlier than the former, or so I've been told. And the latter wrote a book I very much enjoyed called "Refusing to be a man." He is a longtime feminist, and was partnered to the late Andrea Dworkin. I clearly don't admire the entirety of their 2nd wave opinions, but I do admire their partnership in no small part because they both maintained their gay and lesbian identities, respectively- much like Rochelle and I maintain our queer identities and declare ours a queer relationship, despite its heterosexual trappings.


On a not-entirely-unrelated note, my father is visiting this weekend, and one of the things I most admire about him is his excellent beard. Or perhaps I should say was- he's clean shaven these days. But I've always loved his beard, that I remember vividly from my childhood, and while I often emulate him in other ways (flirting with waitresses, being charming to strangers in general in an attempt to add a little more pizazz to this world, putting interesting and eloquent outgoing messages on my voicemail for same reason, etc), I'm quite glad that at last I have the hormonal capacity to start growing a beard like his.

So it was with nothing less than total warm delight that I received his compliments yesterday afternoon- one of the first things he said to me was "Son, I have to tell you, you look great!"

He followed that up later by telling me that I've managed to successfully avoid a trap that many beard-wearers fall into, which is shaving the neckline too high, so that the ends of their beards hug their jawlines and don't properly end on their necks. I was tickled to hear this, since it was something that I deliberately planned for while growing this sucker out. I've read up on the subject, you see!

In any event, there's no better praise for my beard than from him, whose beard I have always admired. So cheers to that.

1 comment:

Mordecai said...

My great aunt mim was Bella Abzug's best friend and speech writer. I will try to get back to you on a list of male role models.