Butch Please: Butch Swoons

BUTCH PLEASE is all about a butch and her adventures in queer masculinity, with dabblings in such topics as gender roles, boy briefs, and aftershave.

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I passed this Valentine’s Day with little fanfare, alone for the first time in five years. Yes, five years. I am not a serial monogamist so much as a serial opportunist: I do not do well with being alone, and as fate would have it, I find that pairs of arms are often open to me. I have been called, by the same person, both extremely easy and extremely difficult to love. I have been accused of being a fixer-upper, one of the more upsetting things to be thrown in my recovering face, but I’ve also been told that I am very good at fixing other people, something I feel uneasy about because I’ve never intentionally tried to fix anyone. I don’t really think I have the right to point out the dents and bruises I recognize in others, mostly because it takes one to know one, and scars are mirrors as much as anything else.

This year, I had four shots of my father’s under-the-sink whiskey and made a heart-shaped pizza upon which I spelled I LOVE SEX with black olives. There was something defiant in the act, a denouncement of the holiday I typically spend making sure flowers are arriving on time and blowing my paycheck on an expensive massage for my partner. I wanted the pizza to mean that I was a strong and powerful person who did not need emotional connections, who could totally have unattached sex and perform unattached actions and still feel awesome about it! But the pizza looked at me and said, you are sad and you know you have a gigantic feelings boner, and you should eat me. So I ate the entire pizza with my dog, who hasn’t seen me in months and has been stuck to my side like an extra limb this week. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for his warm little presence, following me around with more love than I’ve ever mustered up for another human. I wish I could write a thank you card to whatever early human first befriended a wild dog.

Unlike most twenty-somethings with a liberal arts education and a near empty bank account, I don’t actually loathe Valentine’s Day. Truth be told, I still await the holiday with the same flighty little hopes I entertained as a preteen, hoping someone would send me a rose in homeroom. Alone in the shower or standing half-naked in my kitchen, I curse aloud my completely ridiculous attachment to a holiday that so many have denounced as an economic manipulation of human relationships. I scramble my eggs and ask myself why it is that every year, as soon as the drug stores have filled one of their aisles with a shade of crimson that should be reserved for tampons, I start thinking about a certain person, usually not the same person as last year, and plot what extremely well thought out gesture I am going to use to declare my emotional attachment.

If you’ve read this column, you’ve probably come to understand that I have a bit of an obsession with the written word. I find that self-expression through language is very powerful stuff, and in the right hands, it can be positively erotic. I’m a Grade A sucker for love letters. My drunk texts are always sort of poetic, and when I’m done cringing at them, a few rereads usually reveal that I was touching on some pretty lovely imagery. I live in words that I have time to type out or scribble on the back of a napkin. It’s a strange but good kind of living.

The truth is that I don’t think I come across well “in person,” whatever that means. My mouth never seems to keep up with my head, and my head is already sprinting to keep up with my heart. If I want to share a part of myself – and often it feels like this is what I was supposed to do, this continual sharing – I will be doing so via the written word. If I have a big confession to make, I will send it through the mail, or by email, or in a text message that takes an hour to read (and took me four hours to type). If I have a crush on you, check your phone for my intense messages about what the moon looks like and how a flower I saw growing in the sidewalk was so perfect I almost burst. I couldn’t tell you about it if I were sitting across from you because the way you make eye contact makes my tongue trip over itself. My palms are sweating so hard in your presence that the puddle they’re making drowns out any sound I could possibly produce. I’ll probably write all this down in a letter later that I’ll never actually send. You see what I mean, then.

“You really should go on a date,” my friend suggests over coffee. Okay, not over coffee – over Bailey’s, which is practically the same thing. “Not a real date, but a practice date. Just so you know what it’s like to actually have to interact with someone on a date. Like, you know, in person.”

I don’t go on many dates. Okay, I don’t really go on any dates. The most private thing I’m willing to admit on my OkCupid profile is that I’ve never been on a date with someone before sleeping with them. I have no idea what it’s like to have to wade through awkward conversation and appetizer choices in order to figure out if the other person is a person I’d want to… I don’t know. Want to what? I’m not here to find my life partner. I’m 22 and as much as I’m known in my social circle as the kid who is in love with being in love, I have considered getting a Casanova tattoo on my pubic line way too many times to entertain the notion of settling down. I’m not there to figure out if we’re sexually compatible, because there aren’t that many non-sexual ways of finding that out, and very few of those ways involve talking about where you went to college and how many siblings you have. If I’m just trying to hang out with someone, why did I go to the trouble of putting on this silk bowtie and ordering escargot, as if forcing another person to watch me eat snails is a better way of making friends than talking to them online about how much we both love Toddlers and Tiaras? And don’t get me wrong; I love escargot. I just don’t see it actively improving my social life.

Queer community is built in many different ways. It is built on the ground in activist circles that unite groups around singular causes. More often than not, it is built through complex networks of partners, lovers, fuckbuddies, friends, and all the people who fit in between those spaces or as a result of them. I think constantly about how my own generation utilizes the Internet and social media for these purposes, and how some of the strongest connections I feel within the queer community I found on Tumblr and Autostraddle. I wouldn’t be able to speak to you and hear your comments and feel the things all of you feel without the online queer community. Community building is essential to who we are and how we are going to care for our own and care for ourselves. I’d never stand up in a crowded protest and speak to an audience, but here I am in your computers, spilling my earnest guts once a week and seeing who cries back from the din. This is thanks to the Internet, of course, and the way we’ve learned to communicate here. I have high hopes for what my generation continues to do with social media and its ilk. It’s a good place for us queer folk. It’s a great place for those of us who know no other way to share.

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Full-time writer, part-time lover, freelancing in fancy cheese and cider.

Kate has written 130 articles for us.


  1. I can relate to this so much. I’m terrible at first impressions and meeting people face to face, I always come off horribly. Nearly all of my close friends have told me that when they first met me they either disliked me or outright hated me. I guess this means that I’m an acquired taste?

    I’ll spend hours agonizing over the wording of a text or facebook message and then overanalyze it as soon as I send it thinking of what I should have written instead until I get a message back at which point I’m almost too nervous to read the response (case in point I have a text message from a girl that I have been unable to read for the last 2 hours because I’m afraid I will burst into flames if I do). When I go on a date with a girl I really like I can barely force myself to maintain eye contact for more than a split-second at a time. I stutter and say idiotic self-deprecating things. I become awkwardness incarnate.

    My only hope is that she might find me charmingly awkward instead of the regular old awkward I really am.

  2. Amazing, Kate, as always. I’m also 22, single, poor, confused, and dying to be in love. The good news is, we have the world at our fingertips and our whole lives ahead of us.

  3. “I wanted the pizza to mean that I was a strong and powerful person who did not need emotional connections”

    this is somehow the story of my life. I had the same experience with huevos rancheros on valentine’s.

  4. ” It’s a great place for those of us who know no other way to share.” Your column inspired me to send in my own story to Autostraddle. When I try to say my words out loud, try to vocalize feelings that are too large and intricate to fit into a conversation, I lose my voice. The written word is patient, it waits while I wade through the muddy waters and fish out the truth. So thanks for being brave, and sharing online what you might not have been able to in person, and helping to build this safe queer space that I love so much. It makes me want to send a hundred kittens with roses to you.

    • “The written word is patient, it waits while I wade through the muddy waters and fish out the truth.”

      I love that so much. You’re so right. Often, I won’t fully know how I feel about something until I have a chance to sit down, step back, and journal about it.

  5. The way you write makes my surroundings zone out a little, my head think “somehow someone has seen inside me and written exactly how I feel” and my fingers fall over themselves so the only thing they can type is, “This. 1000x this.”

    • Yes. What a wondeful way to express that feeling of self-recognition and being a little less alone in the universe. And being in love with the author…”This. 1000x this.” Awe-sum. Thank you! 1000x thank you!

  6. Yet another “look how fucked up I am blog.. Obsessively zooming in on all the things that make you awkward and insecure, waddling in self pity, secretly just to get comments like “your fucked up entry helped me soo muh in realizing how fucked up I am myself! Thank you you’re awesome!” So that you can feel better about yourself… A bit sad. :(

    • Wow, you are so right. How dare she try to explore her thoughts and feelings on living in a world that is hardly accepting. It’s obviously so much better to bury any worries or problems that one might have, rather than confronting, dealing with, and learning from then.

      And it’s so ridiculous that people on a queer focused site would possibly relate to any of Kade’s struggles/writings. If only everyone (me included) would just plow through life without ever looking back and considering any consequences for our actions, maybe we could be honored to have such a condescending attitude as you.

    • I think the point is, (if there needs to be a point)while we as individuals may be unique, in magnification our feelings, experiences, and insecurities are not. Dwelling on “how fucked up we are” as you put it may not be the healthiest past time, but we all do it. To some degree self reflection can be a good thing. What Kate’s writing does, and the reason so many people praise it, is open the door for conversations with ourselves and with others that we may not feel like we can have in real life. It creates a safe space for honesty that may not be flattering. Whether we can articulate it or not, there is something comforting about knowing that you are not alone in this experience; that your flaws are shared, understood, and deeply human.
      That’s probs just me projecting tho

      • Hey, agreeing with the writer or pointing out what you think Kate’s writing does isn’t necessarily projecting, you seem to doubt your own words and they sound pretty honest and true, particularly in the context of this post.
        When I read this post I had some mixed feelings, but I also remember she’s 22 and is a writer at a time where our social media is a dream come true for this, and this site (usually) can be counted on to give a lot of positive feedback. I can remember talking endlessly about myself (and I was probably pretty ‘angsty’ at times) and feeling it was really intense and important but also not so confident and therefore wanting every sentence/comment to sound profound and perfect.

        But is that a reason for a comment like Zenio made? Hell no. Just don’t read it if you know what you are going to get. I have thought sometimes I would like to read her write something where every sentence isn’t thought out so carefully. But she just explained why this isn’t so, why she can’t, and after that I thought, in the words of AS, you do you.

    • WOW. You know what’s sad, dear commenter who may or may not be a troll? That you appear to a) be totally lacking in empathy and b) would take away from this post that the Kate is fucked up and is simply looking for validation in the comments.

      Here’s an idea (it’s gonna blow your mind so you may wanna take a seat first): some people are talented writers and they use their words to share their experiences, both negative and positive, and these shared experiences are what build a sense of community. I KNOW. It’s wild right?!?!?!?

    • okay, okay, okay.
      even if you work within your totally unfounded idea that kate is posting this for the validation of others, it is never that simple. if someone is going out of their way (again not saying kade’s doing it) searching for external validation, maybe external validation is something they need at this time in their life? is that a bad thing? does that make the experiences described any less real or important? is everything we share within a community setting simply based upon this need for attention and praise?
      dearheart. as someone who has lived most of her life, according to others at least, ‘doing it for the attention’ i am pretty sure that even the drastic things that are done with the desire for external validation come from the feeling that while no one is listening, something still needs to be done.
      kate: thank you for writing such a personal piece and sharing such an important part of yourself with us all, week after week. i really loved this weeks post especially, and am really really glad that i am not the only person to be both called extremely easy and extremely difficult to love by the same person. maybe we should start a club of some sorts?

    • Zenio,
      Your comment is unfortunate for its condescending tone and for the assumptions you make about Kate (i.e., attention-seeking).

      If your point is that you don’t like introspective, sometimes angsty, first person writing, then perhaps you should simply stop reading it rather than finding fault with those who get something from the writing or reading of it. Unless you are being forced to read the writing you categorize as “look how fucked up I am” blogs, that is…but, i’m guessing that’s not the case.

      And please don’t take this the wrong way, I believe you are entitled to your opinion and to expressing it. But why choose to do so in the form of a personal attack?

  7. Thanks for thinking deeply. I also just spent my first Vday solo after a 5 year relationship. I think being single really helps us get to know ourselves. How can we face another’s eye contact without knowing enough about ourselves to answer genuinely? Go out and meet people in person! The awkwardness and/or chemistry is the best part. I fully embrace it all.

    • I meant to tell you when I commented before that your post made me laugh, I got this mental picture of all this meta angst going on and you strolling through the room…’Fuck yeah, escargot”……

  8. Wow I would not have pegged you as 22! Sounds like you are doing just fine and i always enjoy and resonate with your writing. You should write a novel. Just sayin:)

  9. I didn’t have a date before I was 22 myself. And 22 is awfully young to think about settling down anyhow (at least for most). The suggestion of non-pressurized practice dating sounds like an entirely sensible one though, I’d roll with that if the option is there.

  10. YES can we please talk more about building community!? I know it’s touched on in a lot of AS posts but it’s SOOOO important.

    I was thinking this week, which was a particularly hard one for many reasons, that I had this inner peace going on (I know, I was shocked too) and that a big part of it was the AS community. It’s knowing that so many people who have things in common and are also so different from me all congregate in this one public place that also feels private at the same time to talk about this crazy world we live in. So yeah, this queer community is in my “inner peace” toolkit so to speak, and I think that’s a uniquely amazing and important outlet for us queer folk.

  11. Kate, as always, you’ve so eloquently expressed how so many of us are feeling. Your words give me the fuzzies.


  12. I can honestly say I’m very slim on the romantic bits of life. I find all the sweet, long cards in the supermarket to be illogical and mythical and “yuck”. I don’t believe in fate or soul mates or anything like that. I decidedly do not have the feelings boner. From my first twinge of sexual attraction, I planned on being a lifelong bachelorette. I suspect I would have been *fabulous* at no-strings-attached relations, because sex I excel in while socializing is about as appealing to me as wearing a wool sweater while running on a treadmill in a sauna.

    Yet, February 14, 2013 was my eighth anniversary with my wife. How in the fuck does someone like me manage that? I still ask myself that often. The internet is largely to blame. We “met” online, and since Internet is my first language, the ability to express myself was wildly limitless. Somehow I was capable of translating online-Me to real-world Me well enough to keep her around for eight years and counting.

    Even so, I often look back on those late night keystrokes so long ago and wish we could always talk like that. Here, through some manner of writing, I am the most me. I become exasperated with people who insist this isn’t “real” communication; that writing is somehow lesser than talking, especially when it’s through a screen. If continuous writing were a realistic option, I would probably choose to never speak again.

    I suppose the reason I’m sharing this is I have lost my former “community” entirely (was beaten down and broken by is probably more accurate despite dramatics) and now I want so much to have somewhere to virtually hang again. Your confession is a reminder that people like me are out there still, and that it’s okay if how we communicate is different. So thank you for that.

  13. I think my favorite bit of takeaway is just how honest the online world can help you be. In real life I am rarely eloquent or graceful (unless I am discussing or doing something very dear to me) and yet I find many people excited to read my blog whenever I post. I always write it with the attitude “I can post anything here and be safe.”

    Now I am rambling, another bad habit… I suppose what I am really trying to say is as follows: romantic or not, single or otherwise, sometimes life gives you feelings, and the easiest way to cope is by sharing them with complete strangers.

  14. Totally agree Scout.. I find I can really express myself in words in ways that I can’t always articulate when out loud in person.. would really love to hear if anyone connects with my blog. blog.daniellesonnenberg.com

  15. connected right link :) I think for me I get anxious in person at how I am being perceived.. anxiety is something that troubles me at times.

  16. i hope you write every damned day, because you’re good at it. you make me feel lucky that i get to read it. when writing is love, valentines come so easily. take care.

  17. This post was exquisitely beautiful, touching, and best of all, it was short enough to not be considered a swoony over-kill. The assortment of feelings Kate experienced reminded me of how I felt on Valentine’s Day. I spent the day working with clients (mostly middle aged married couples) who were insistent on asking me about my personal love life. I luckily was able to brush off most of their questions, until of course, when I arrived to my last client’s house.

    Their home was the epitome of a happy, holiday loving family. The joyous atmosphere in their home was almost too much to bear since I knew that I was very shortly, heading home to nothing but a box-o-chocolates, that unfortunately, I bought for myself. This couple was young, maybe late 20’s, and they had two small toddlers. It was obvious they spent the day decorating (I literally almost strangled myself on a bundle of heart-shaped balloons), so in an effort to spare them a strangers presence, and let them continue their festivities, I tried to finish up the appointment as soon as possible. But that’s when it happened, and just before I finished collecting my things, the wife asked “Don’t you have any plans for tonight?”

    I feel that the thought of being alone on the most romantic holiday of the year is enough to crumble even the toughest of cookies. I looked at the woman; this beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister. All I could muster-up as a response was, “Eh, ah, no..” In an attempt to spare me any more awkwardness, she simply replied, “Well, maybe next year.” It’s remarkable the effect some people, even near strangers, have on me. I may have been alone, and quite possibly a tad biter about it, but I was exactly where I needed to be.

    I thank, thank, thank you for posting this personal little piece. You, I, and so many other gals here may have been single, but hell, sometimes we need just need to be. For those of us lucky enough to have a, or if you’re super lucky two or more, lovely ladies to romance with next year, chances are we’ll appreciate it X’s a gillion!

  18. “My mouth never seems to keep up with my head, and my head is already sprinting to keep up with my heart” Poetry to my ears, Kate. I love it.

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