Monthly Archives: February 2013

What’s Your Name?

My great aunt showing off her best asset

My great aunt showing off her best asset

Hello there, Ma’am, what’s your name?

Well, what do you sit on?

What do you mean, ‘What do I sit on?’ That’s your name?

Yes, what you sit on.

Backside?!? Is that your name?

No, silly. FANNY! Fanny’s my name!

My “memory” of uncle Jim’s story.

 

Biscuits and Buckshot (At Her Front Door)

Mamaw Mamie

Mamaw Mamie

A chain gang was at her front door and the men were hungry. Mamaw Mamie was at home alone with her young children and she couldn’t ignore the men in need. Gathering her children together, she went to the kitchen for biscuits. Mamaw Mamie, in her apron, went to the door with the children lined up behind her. She offered a plate of biscuits with one hand while holding a shotgun, behind her back, in the other.

When my aunt shared this story with me a few years back, it really stuck with me, not exactly as she told it (cornbread and courage), but as I remember it (biscuits and buckshot). I’ve come to realize that these types of biscuits and buckshot choices are with me every day. In making these decisions, I would hope to be as generous as my mamaw Mamie. My dad and aunt certainly are.  Growing up, my dad and aunt were so good at taking care of mamaw Mamie, returning kindness and generosity that she showed them and so many others. With those examples you might think it would be easy for me, but I often let fear keep me from being open to give.

What choice I would have made? I don’t have children and I’ve never experienced a chain gang asking for help, but I do see people in need each day. I fear what I see. I don’t fear the people in need, but I fear the situations I see them in. I’ve been hungry with little food. I’ve felt homeless at times. I’ve often been in need with few people I could call on. Seeing anyone going without makes me sad and it scares me. I know where I’ve been and I fear that I will someday be right where they are.

Recently, I signed up to volunteer at the local homeless shelter. I thought about it carefully. This was a mindful decision and I feel that I’m ready. Still, I am a little afraid. I don’t want to break down and cry in front of the people I’m trying to help. With a few prayers, I’ll face my fear and try to help like mamaw Mamie did. I have to.

Traillotta Hikeona, Natural Drag Queen

Miss Winter Ball

Miss Winter Ball

I was — no doubt — divinely inspired when I gave my favorite trail her drag name, Traillotta Hikeona. Traillotta, my best GIRLfriend, is a fabulously fierce queen, no matter the season.

In winter, Traillotta is SICKENING in her luxurious white coat, puffy hat, and fuzzy mittens. Yes, girl, when it snows, she becomes the BELLE of the Winter Ball, y’all! Devastatingly gorgeous and a bit mysterious, she reminds me of the edgy Nina Flowers. Queens on ice, SO nice!

Springtime is when Traillotta starts pulling out the color as she blossoms with the new season. She’s working her quirky look with some ZANY greens and FUN pastels. Gosh, is that Tammie Brown or Traillotta out here in nature?  Wide-eyed and a little CRAY CRAY, Traillotta has a renewed, if a little awkward, pep in her step.

In the summertime, Traillotta is one LEGENDARY lady boy with her lush carpet couture.  Servin’ up Supermodel of the WORLD realness with hair so damn big that it casts shadows for days. Oh yes, like RuPaul, Traillotta is the bees knees, Hunty!

In the autumn, Traillotta reminds me of the beautiful Latrice Royale. She’s LARGE AND IN CHARGE with her rich colors and crisp feel — pure ELEGANZA! Girlfriend changes her look and dons a fall time frock with a flowing train of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns.  No T, no shade, but I just saw a wild turkey in your dress, girl.

No matter what she’s wearing, Traillotta Hikeona is just being herself — telling her T — as we kiki along. Yep, Traillotta is one fierce — NATURAL — queen!

Drag Queens and Me

Latrice Royale -- Fierce Queen

Latrice Royale — Fierce Queen

I know way more than I should about drag queens. And it’s a little curious, since they find joy in being what I resented. For me, they have come to symbolize art through identity and, along the same lines, I have found my identity through art.

Growing up in the South, I never felt like I fit in or had my own identity. When it appeared as if I was the stereotypical southern girl, I was anything but. Being other and trying to pass as “normal” made me feel stifled and anxious. I never felt it was safe to be myself. I was raised to be a certain kind of girl and it was painful if I didn’t fall in line. If I wasn’t wearing enough make up, it became an issue and I was made fun of. I often looked a clowny-girl mess and no amount of makeup or hairspray could hide my insecurity. I was spooked looking in the mirror; I saw my drag doppelgänger, not the real me. I was acting — using a collection of red, white, blue and pink archetypes — with a through-line of fear. I recall not knowing what to do with my hands, an actor not knowing her character. It was painful being somebody else’s version of me.

I wanted to be like my middle school art and music teachers. I wanted to have my special thing, the creative thing that I picked. I settled for the expected activities of cheerleading and dance, but my heart was never in either. I felt as though I didn’t have a voice, so I kept going along like a good girl. I told myself that cheerleading and dance were sort of creative, but I really wanted sketch books and lead, canvases and paint, a pottery wheel and clay, and a full drum set with the big wooden sticks. I wanted to swap my preppy clothes for whatever was comfortable and get paint, clay, and lead all over my apron and even on my clothes just like our cool art teacher. I wanted to do my thing!

In high school, I had mostly given up. I would walk the halls in my cheerleading uniform and go past the art room feeling the pinch of sadness. I envied this one guy, who was especially good at drawing, and I would look to see if he was in art class. I didn’t have a crush on him; I secretly wanted to be him. I wasn’t transgender or anything like that, I just wanted to be the opposite of what I was. I was long over the hyper feminine thing and exhausted from trying to be some ridiculous version of a southern fried girly girl. I wanted to have the strength to stand up and say who I was and finally be myself. I didn’t yet have that strength. I do now.

A few months back (on RuPaul’s Drag Race S4 Reunion), Latrice Royale — truly, one of the best drag queens EVER — read a fan letter from the mother of a bullied girl. In this touching letter, the mom shared how her daughter looked to Latrice as a powerful example of strength and pride. I wish I’d had my own version of Latrice. Her fierceness is inspiring. It takes balls — albeit tucked ones — to be yourself!

Swimming in the Shucking Tub

Mamaw as a young woman

Mamaw as a young woman

Have you ever felt the universe opening up just for you? A sense of being in the hand of God as you learned the meaning of life? A fleeting moment of overwhelming peace when you felt light as a feather? I had such an experience when I was 3; although, it wasn’t until recently that I fully embraced it, that oneness.

My experience took place at my mamaw’s house. I was just enjoying her company when I told her that I wanted to go swimming. Mamaw went over to her remnant drawer, pulled out some ribbed white cotton, and opened up her sewing machine to make me a little bathing suit. I sat watching her work with her wrinkled, but feminine, strong hands. Watching her always had a soothing effect on me.  It was amazing how she could make anything. She took such care with everything she made.  After she cut the last thread, I changed into my new bathing suit. Together, we walked down the back porch stairs and outside into the hot summer day.  Mamaw rinsed out the galvanized steel tub that we used for shucking corn.  She filled the tub with water, placing it near her white swing. I jumped right in.  As Mamaw sat there in the sun, I went swimming in the shucking tub.

My mamaw gave me the gifts of love, peace, joy, and inspiration — all wrapped up in one afternoon:

a love of crafting handmade gifts using what is available,

doing things to bring another person joy,

taking care with the details to show love,

peace from devoting untold hours to working with my hands,

an appreciation for watching my hands grow older and stronger,

an enduring love of sunny days and green grass, and

an affinity for the sound of running water.

By showing me such love, I received complete validation — I mattered.  I was worthy and cherished — special. Mamaw’s handmade bathing suit, and all it symbolized, inspired me to find my life’s purpose in doing creative work. I’m forever swimming in the shucking tub.