Monday, April 25, 2005

Bluestocking Blue

Up and down. Lord.

I took a slightly longer tube journey than usual as I wanted to drop off some medium format film at a processing place in NoHo - Bayeux. It was three times more expensive than the online place reccomended by a colleague, but their customer service was fantastic. The lovely chap called Terry who gave me advice by email was enough to make me want to spend £30 on developing and contact prints, he was that pleasant.

The films are the first two runs with the Holga (oh, Nathan Barley, Me) and I'm fairly sure that none of the shots will come out. I haven't got the measure of the focus, I was deliberately messing about, and it's expired slide film I'm having cross processed; none of these go for 'quality' work. It's slightly embarrassing having them done at a pro place, particularly as I used to be quite good with a camera, and my digital cybershot has completely destoyed any talent I had.

Anyway, fucked-up miscoloured serendipitous shots would be appropriate for the subject matter - a woozy soft evening spent hanging out with Ms. M in a tattoo studio. So, doubly embarrassing as the lovely girl who was being worked on was excited to have someone taking pics, and may be expecting great things. Uh oh.

So, the longer journey - and this does all tie up somewhere - was spent chatting to Dr. McD (hello, Dr. McD!) who has been following my insignificant little melodrama here. He started straight in with the I'm-so-glad-you're-getting-over-things gambit, and we ended up talking about shyness; how my apparent confidence is a paper-thin veneer over a profound lack thereof*; how communication can be such a minefield; how the pride of having a 'good day' where you navigate social niceties with the illusion of Gene-Kelly-like grace is the finest fiero... a good chat.

The chat swung round to the complexities of dating (and, Mr. Betteridge, this may go some way towards fulfilling your request...) - and in particular the moment where you clam up, and the shyness catches up with you. Now, Dr. McD considers this perfectly acceptable behaviour in a girl, but would not consider it acceptable behaviour in himself. It was at that point that he asked the killer question (in, it should be said, his trademark all-angles-at-once style, so I'll paraphrase...)

How does the who-gets-to-be-girlier thing work when two women are dating?

Well, you can cite all the usual stuff about butch-femme roles, and how some folk just slip neatly into one or other 'gender role'. Yes, I'm going to refer to them as gender roles, because it *is* a useful shorthand for what is held to be stereotypically gendered behaviour, and I can't think of a better word right now. I've read my Joan Nestle, thankyou. I've been on the dates. I've even drawn the diagram.**

But - it's much more subtle and complicated than that. When you don't have a useful internalised social shorthand for date behaviour (he pays and holds doors open, she gracefully deigns to be in his company - isn't that it?) a slightly more interesting dynamic kicks in. It becomes more about the interplay between the two; the baton of chivalry gets tossed back and forth on a whim, the field is ceded and re-won, the lowered eyes and shy smile... err, well, you get the idea.

The whole thing becomes a very subtle exchange of power - a completely coded, hidden dialogue. And the upper hand gets traded back and forth often, dancelike - it's little wonder that it becomes compellingly addictive - it's good-cop-bad-cop, but you play both sides all the time. Stockholm syndrome tango mindfuck, lah.

This was contextualised with snippets from my experience - I prefer to be the holding doors open and paying for things chivalry girl, but otherwise I tend to default to the shy girl role. I explained this in relation to butch and femme roles - how I'm not particularly biased, possibly a little more mannish than filly, but that I tend to pick and choose aspects of both gender roles, flit about, blur them a bit...

And cue Dr. McD.

'Well, it's not that you have a conventional gender role - your gender role is Bluestocking'.

Fantastic. I can live with that. I am off to buy tweed skirts and a large bicycle immediately.

But, anyway, the up and down. It's wearing me out; up until late afternoon I was bouncy and squeaky and excited, and now I feel like I've been put through a hot wash with a black sock. Grey and shrunken. All that fizzy energy is beginning to take its toll, and I'm wondering if maybe stopping the drugs was a sensible idea after all...

* Confidence, no. Sheer bloody minded stubborness, lots. They are different.
** Of course, the real question is why on earth does this matter to me so much?


Ian Betteridge said...

I think Camus summed up my feelings viz the who opens doors for whom thing: "Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend."
Having said that, I'm a polite boy: I *always* hold the door. My mum taught me well.

kim said...

I like. That is good. Remind me of it frequently.

You see, holding doors open will *always* win you brownie points, anyway..

Piers said...

I hold the door open if I arrive first; I expect to have the door held open if someone else is there before me.

All works out in the end.