“Me, Jo! Me!”

I’ve been reading a lot about Wonder Woman lately, trying to avoid spoilers – I’m seeing it tomorrow friends, don’t worry. But I keep seeing this going around today, first as the tweet from Ava DuVernay and later from a bunch of other folk in different contexts and commentaries. It got me thinking about how I used to play as a kid in kinder-elementary, and some it it was pretty effed up (as it is) but in general fairly tame.

I specifically remembered two things that always made me uncomfortable but I didn’t feel comfortable commenting on or talking about. I didn’t know HOW to talk about it if I had felt comfortable. In 2nd-3rd grade, I used to play at recess with a best friend (in the heartbreaking way that you’re best friends with people and cry when you’re put in separate classes) who was a boy (I spoke to him via the fb this evening & he is now comfortable with me saying he is “gay af”).

One of our games was very fun – we were aliens who came to earth, we would draw maps of our two houses, sometimes our one house, designing our rooms and lives in the dirt and on paper, hiding from humans. We would similarly play TMNT this way, designing the sewer system, which was a dream. We would do ninja things and turtle things and generally make jokes. Being a turtle is fun. I also enjoyed when we would play pop star, and we would just sing songs together – usually by Selena Quintanilla Perez because yeah and Grease, which was one of his favorites.

But sometimes we would play other movies, based on our favorite scenes, and it always felt like they were divided by gender and the real plot of them was romance. We never played Titanic (THANK THE LORD) beyond “LET US GET OFF THIS SINKING SHIP IMMEDIATELY, FRIEND! CLIMB UP ON THESE MONKEY BARS!,” but the one we really played that bothered me was TWISTER. Y’all remember Twister? I freaking LOVE the movie Twister. It is perfect in every conceivable way, never disagree with me on this, I will pretend you never said that & go on with our relationship as if you didn’t.

But you know where this is going.

So we would play out these favorite scenes. The Shining drive-in theater falling apart, hiding in the garage, getting cut on the forehead. Finding Aunt Meg & figuring out how to make Dorothy fly. Nerds singing the Oklahoma soundtrack… but the scene that I dreaded was that scene wherein Jo wanted to run into the tornado, she HAD to do it, to get that data, to predict those tornadoes, to SAVE LIVES GALDARNIT. And I always played Jo (because “girl”) & he always played Bill (because “boy”). And it always got to that point wherein he said all the things I (JO!!!!!!!) had to live for & I (JO!!!!!!!) said, “Like what?” & he (BILL!!!!!!!!) said, “Me, Jo! Me!”

And really, I just identified with Jami Gertz….. trying to make it in the world, trying to do her career, trying to be a human, caring about people around her, open to new experiences, knowing what’s not in her wheelhouse, and being cool about people not wanting to be around her in the way that she wants, knowing that bodies and gender and humanity are not always aligned. #empath #hero #goodatlife #queerfriendly

And during all this I felt like, “Maybe he likes me. Maybe he is playing this because he likes me, and I am playing it because I’m supposed to want this, I like him best so eventually we will date. We’re literally 8.” & in the context of elementary school, a bunch of kids said he liked me and I liked him. And we didn’t. I can honestly say we didn’t. And also in the context of elementary school, a lot of people said he was effeminate and would “grow up to be gay.” This is a problematic statement, sexuality Can be fluid and kids can be queer, I was always queer! I moved away in 1998, people in my family said, “if you had stayed, you would have dated this boy. You would have grown up and dated because you liked each other as children.”

But I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. I don’t. That feels So Bad to me. Just like Being Jo felt bad to me. I think that all of this is wrong. I think that all of these things other children and my parents and everyone else put on me were bad. And I still love that human and think we would be friends if we hung out today, but we would have words and contexts for ourselves and support for that (both from each other and from other outlets, you have so much more Choice as you get older).

And anyway I love young girls playing Amazons on Themyscira valuing teamwork over protagonist status and also dudes. When you’re young you’re told roles are suitable for you, and maybe they’re not. That’s okay. Long live Dr. Melissa Reeves.

William Bucket

There have been a lot of conversations this Pride month about sex in YA literature (and about other things, it’s Pride, extra-community, intra-community, we recycle all these conversations that get very upsetting but can sometimes, hopefully, be uplifting). It got me thinking about my experience as an aspec teen (asexual – recently perhaps demisexual though I don’t think so, aromantic spectrum) who had never heard those words that I just parenthetically used. I just had a delightful memory that was sort of upsetting at the time but now just makes me love myself.

When I was in fifth and sixth grade (read: age 12), I had a website I wasn’t allowed to have. My parents told me, “You can’t have a website, you are a literal child, and you will be predatored.” I’m paraphrasing. My website was private, exactly three people had access to it, and I fairly exclusively posted puns and wordplay. The Interwebs were “new” in 1999; forgive my parents their fear.

This brings us to aspec stuff! It seemed like people were starting to couple up in 5th and 6th grade, even if it was just for two weeks. People’s parents were driving them to the movie theaters to see G or PG13 films and picking them up two hours later! My friends were starting to talk about making out! Everyone I knew seemed to have some sort of crush! You know the conversation:

“So who do you like? I like [idk who’s a cute dude from TV back then?] and that guy who played Mr Coolson in Never Been Kissed and these two boys I actually know.”

“No one.”

“Nooooo, you like someone. Who do you like? Who do you liiiiiike?”

And if you’re a regular person and want to hide that you like your same gender friend or are aspec or are just embarrassed or Whatever, you say you like someone you don’t actually like (Yikes! This can bite you in the bum!), you blush and hide and say nothing, or you say, “You don’t know them, they go to another school” (also can bite you in the bum!). But if you’re me…

You say you have a boyfriend you met online; his name is William Bucket, he’s 13, and he’s British. You talk to him via your website so your parents don’t know. No, you can never meet him. Yeah, because he lives in Britain. He really likes video games, which I didn’t play because our family couldn’t afford a game system. I just played Snood, Tetris, a CD-ROM version of Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego, and the four games I’d had for my refurbished Gameboy since I got said Gameboy back in 1993. It was very important my imaginary boyfriend got to do all the things I wanted to do and couldn’t.

Mostly I picked this explanation for my lack of engagement because it made me laugh. Say William Bucket aloud in a fake British accent the way a 12 year old with an East Texas accent would (I have since shed this accent if I am not boozing; see About page!) It’s a bit like singing, “Jane. And Michael. Banks.” with a fake British accent and also an East Texas accent.

My friends knew, and for awhile they played along. But also, they were actually putting their faces on other people’s faces, and I don’t think they really had time for my nonsense at a certain point. Which was fine, like whatever. Only one person actually called me on it, and to be fair, I was being particularly obnoxious about it that day.

Luckily there was a natural ending to this story, which is that my parents found out that I had a website, and I was banned from using the Internet for several months. Reduced to Snood and Tetris unless I was researching for school. And so I officially “broke up” with William Bucket. And mercifully everyone I knew conveniently “forgot” about it; or else they actually forgot about it because my weird unknowing-queer-person-dating-compensations aren’t Actually on people’s radars.

Anyway, I just wanted to remind you all that 1) It is harmful to individuals when identities are invisible, we need to see ourselves and feel safe 2) I have always been hilarious and 3) friends are good.

New Page! Paid, Consistent writing Ops!

I have added a new page to my (personal/professional hybrid) website, as you may have noticed if you actually read this website that I don’t actually promote (jokes). It’s entirely devoted to PAID WRITING OPPORTUNITIES for short stories, poetry, etc. I just put up the two publications I have been reading the most lately, but I plan to add more. Please let me know if there’s a CONSISTENT and PAID writing opportunity you’d like me to highlight or post. For clarification…

CONSISTENT to me means ongoing – not a one time thing, not an anthology, not a one-off project. It is a magazine, publication, newspaper, etc with rolling or constant submissions opportunities that people can always look to, keep their eye on, and submit to for….

MONEY. It has to pay because creators deserve to be paid for their work. And not only does it have to pay, but it has to be industry standard, fair pay. Either for illustration work or for writing – fiction, essay, academic, or whatever. MONEY.

So let me know! Eventually I would like to add an anthology page/kickstarter page for writing projects I think are worthwhile that are Not consistent paying opportunities but that are interesting things to support, but for now… consistent. For pay.

Love you bears. ❤