Christmas, Crabs and Pussies

Monday, December 13th, 2004 | Family, Food, Friends, Travel

I love the idea of having a chopped down tree in the house, I love how it smells, and all the shoppers descending upon my neighborhood in their red felt hats, and the short days and long snuggly nights, and eggnog, Bobbie Helms and Brenda Lee, Garry’s latkes… Last year Ted was totally against Christmas. We had a fight when I tried to give him a present. We compromised when I told him that I had bought him a second gift–I honored his tradition by not giving him the alleged second one, and he honored mine by accepting the first. Bob was so freaked out by my wanting a tree, no not a tree, a representation of the triumph of the Christians, that I suggested we put a golden calf on top. (We even made a tangerine liqueur that year that we called “Golden Calf: The Drink the Israelites Worshipped” that we handed out as Christmas presents.) No more such boyfriends. My favorite Christmas, though, was with Bob in Florence, opening the windows of Palazzo Frescobaldi in the freezing winter to hear the town’s bells at midnight, just magical. Earlier we went all the way across town to buy an Iris Cake, supposedly a Christmas favorite of the Florentines, and ate the dry crumbly tasteless confection in our freezing romantic palazzo while the bells clattered away.

The season thus far has been a good one. Geoff’s intimate potluck, Garry’s greasy latke party, cooking crabs with D and BC, the annual trip to visit Big Chris’s family in Illinois… This time there was snow on the ground when we arrived, but it all melted in a few days. Having grown up in the south, I go wild in the snow, wanting to shovel all the neighbors driveways, and like a dog at the ocean, running around until I’m dragged into the house blue and shivering. Chris’ mom and sisters treated us to many homey delights, such as grilled cheese sammies, chili with real meat, cookies, lasagna, and Whitey’s malts. We spent a few days in Chicago with Chris’s dad, Stephanie. The new Millennium Park is a wonderful new public space, with a large polished steel bean-shaped sculpture by Anish Kapoor, pedestrian bridge and concert hall by Frank Gehry, and a whimsical and monolithic fountain designed by Jaume Plensa, consisting of 2 large video portraits of people smiling, facing each other across a shallow reflecting pool, water splurting down occasionally from their open mouths. One evening Stephanie’s friend Deirdre treated us to an evening at her “club.” We didn’t find out until we got there, in our blue jeans, our winter coats standing in briefly for dinner jackets, that the “Cliff Dwellers Club” is a swank private club founded in 1907 for people interested in the arts–like Roger Ebert, who’s a member.  That kind of artist. Chris and I were the only ones who looked like we were involved in the making of art, the others all looked like lawyers. The club was hosting an exhibition of just awful paintings, but we had a nice dinner on the top floor of a building with expansive windows overlooking the Art Institute, the Field Museum and Millennium Park. Deirdre was a male economist and historian once, and became a female one about 7 years ago. She’s written many interesting books in her field, as well as a fascinating book about her experience becoming a woman, called Crossing: A Memoir.

Reading Deirdre’s revealing book, in many ways a man’s perspective on an idealized and regressive womanhood, has brought up far more questions for me than answers. I’ve met only a few transgendered people, including Chris’ dad, with whom I’ve become quite close. As a creator of things myself, I’m interested in how one can create a new identity and gender, and am curious about what it’s all about. I’ve noticed that both Steph and Deirdre’s awareness of their feminine side developed alongside a fetishistic relation to women’s clothes. This is what intrigues me: both say that gender and sexuality are completely unrelated for them, yet Deirdre describes how her cross-dressing often culminated in a masturbatory event. Is the sexual desire for another directed toward the self? That is, the “other” that the self has transformed into? Neither woman seems particularly interested in sex anymore (they’re both in their 60’s, so maybe it’s an age thing), but I think if I suddenly had a pussy, I’d be using it.

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