A Thousand Thoughts for the Longest Month

February 2021

Kind of truncated by time, this one is more of a recounting following ebulliance. Here's the link to the original on patreon.

So, I got a full page into a draft of this newsletter before I realized that the organizing principle of it had to be ebullience, a word that burst into my brain on the 6th of the month.

(Also oops, time remains a hot writhing mess, and I thought tomorrow was the 28th, so I was anticipating having an entire day off to work on this, but it isn’t, so I don’t, so sorry if this is a little messier than last time!)

I was at work, merchandising, and a coworker popped her head in. We exchanged a kind, warm-hearted greeting. She seemed like she was glowing, and the word hit my brain. Ebullience. Looking it up later I confirmed my hazy sense of the definition: a joyous exuberance, originally meaning “boiling over”. It bears mentioning that this coworker was very pregnant, and I don’t know, I feel like it’s less weird to say something about how her wave of energy was hormonal as someone actively engaging in a feminizing hormone routine that includes progesterone…

At the time, I was listening to a lot of SOPHIE, all of it actually. I remember listening to the remix album of Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides shortly after it came out and I could tell it was something I should be in love with, but for whatever reason it didn’t stick. Relistening now after SOPHIE’s death, I’m sad to have squandered so much time I could’ve spent jamming out! “Immaterial”? A transcendant party bop! “Pretending”? Expansive and beyond ethereal! I watched the video for “It’s Okay to Cry” for the first time and was so overwhelmed by its soft, confident, explosive bursting of joy and power! Moved to tears.

Inside an article by Jessica Dunn Rovinelli (one of many that came out in the wake) was something that stuck with me. She talked about listening to SOPHIE at the same time as she started her own transition, and she speaks beautifully about the experience of such transformational representation. The thing it viscerally reminded me of was that Polyjuice gender hopeful feeling of early transition, your skin boiling over and out of itself into something you might not have been able to imagine. I think about testosterone bursting pores into pimples and estrogen simmering out into a smooth, porous film. Breasts bubbling up into tender buds and progesterone pressing emotions out into a hot, sweating bubble.

A few days before the coworker popped her head in, it was another day at work, and this time I had to stay a bit late on a morning shift. I was scooping out the gluten-free bread I’d forgotten to make when a different coworker appeared for his shift in an unusually formal outfit. Shortly afterwards, the ebullient coworker walked in wearing a tight black dress, together with her boyfriend, himself in a graphic tee and jeans. These three assembled with the other two coworkers who were there as usual for their shifts and came to a decision to head over to the Hobart, the massive bread mixer next to where I was working. One of them said “Shall we get started?”, and the formally dressed coworker pulled out the notebook he uses for shift notes and started officiating their marriage ceremony. One of the other coworkers was filming with her phone. I finished the scooping and moved on to shaping, too far away to be considered as a participant, but too close to not be a part of things. The officiant said some very nice things, and nearing the end he explained that there were regrettably no rings to exchange, but that he had thankfully been able to commission something at the last minute. He produced a pair of gaudy red cat ears from a coat pocket, which he handed to the pregnant coworker. The boyfriend knelt down as his now-wife christened him as a catboy husband (not her words). They finished up a bit before I did, and all five of them were crammed in our tiny breakroom while I was trying to gather my stuff together to leave (anxiety-inducing). There was a bustling celebratory happiness, and I felt a certain kinship since Olivia and I had a pandemic marriage too, but there wasn’t really too much in common. As I was clocking out, one of them started speculating about the baby’s gender. I wanted to say something about how I wasn’t interested in my coworker’s baby’s genitals, but I didn’t want to be too much of a downer, so I just left.

The takeaway from the experience, despite its surreality, was a sweet, dynamic love. “love?” was the first thing I had written in my planner where I was keeping my ideas for this month’s newsletter because Valentine’s is this month’s holiday, right? The night before the holiday, Olivia and I ended up combing through all of our photos from fall 2019 to present, and the big takeaway there was love too. It was an exhausting endeavor to be sure, re-experiencing all of the feelings we felt in that huge span of time. We saw a lot of suffering, the age building up on our faces, the life wavering in our eyes, but the bright spots of us together were really the strongest theme.

Valentine’s was also the weekend that The Snow started here, and that dredged up memories of The Smoke in September. Something about the climate-related weather catastrophes hit especially hard, and even though the weather hasn’t been very catastrophic here in Moscow, I could still feel a kind of doom in the air. Black Dresses released a new album the same weekend, Forever in Your Heart, a surprise since the band had broken up over the summer. It was a weird kind of parallel for me, since Devi McCallion released Magic Fire Brain with Katie Dey last September and I listened through it in the tub while the smoke thickened outside and I had an intense experience with it. Soundtracking apocalypse, I don’t know. It feels messy, like I'm trivializing things when really it’s like, I’m fine, we’re fine, our immediate world isn’t ending so fast, but maybe there’s something about having a sensitivity to suffering? Anywayy, I think the Black Dresses album is good. It’s still stuck in my head. “Waiting42moro” feels like a fitting pair to wearily plodding through the work week, “Concrete Bubble” just goes Hard in a satisfying way, “Tiny Ball” is fun and dinky and messy, and “(Can’t) Keep it Together” worms its way in and devastates me with harmony and beauty and tired hopefulness.

Bringing it back to my real embodied present flourishing love: For Valentine’s, Olivia and I absolutely had the loveliest time we could. We had been planning to pitch our two-person tent in the living room to be cute but when the time came to set it up we realized the thing we were actually craving was a blanket fort! Olivia conceptualized the structure and I did construction. We used a big piece of linen fabric that hasn’t become a garment yet, two blankets, both of our drying racks, and some string lights, then filled it with a comforter and all our pillows. It was nice until we started falling asleep, and then someone knocked loudly on the door. We were both terrified, but I got up and walked over, and through the door I could make out someone saying something like “Oh sorry, I think I have the wrong apartment, are you in the next parking lot?” It was a pizza delivery guy, and like no shame but who orders delivery pizza at 11:30pm?

A friend posted on instagram how he started hormones in February, and how weird it is to have chosen a ‘second birthday’ in their least favorite, most difficult part of the year. This year for the first time it’s occurring to me that February really might be the hardest month. Winter dragging out its death rattle and intermittently teasing spring. A friend who volunteers in the bakery came to get the recycling and she asked me how I was doing and I said something noncommittal and reciprocated the question and she said “It’s that time of year, I’m really tired.” But lol, I started hormones in February too! How funny. It was four years on the 26th. Looking through our photos and comparing my shifting bubbling to Olivia’s, I think I’m entering something like a “normal continuum” of change. It’s less like a puberty now, and more just growth. There’s a sense that I’ve “made it”, and this is talking about passing again. I broke my glasses early this month, and so I’ve been wearing the same ones I was wearing when I started transitioning, and Olivia said it looks more now like I’m a girl trying to look like a boy. I hate wearing them and they give me a headache. They’re so much heavier than the ones I had. But it’s funny, I think a strong aesthetic goal for a long time has been “tomboy”, so maybe I’m right on track.

On Wednesday (the 24th) the pregnant coworker had her baby. It was assigned female, and the coworker who was talking about gender at the marriage ceremony was saying how the husband had wanted a little girl. The coworker who officiated the wedding said “We’ll see”, and I appreciated that.

I spent an evening the Monday after Valentine’s reading through all of the second issue of Sporazine. It was brimming with beauty, every poem worth a whole newsletter singing its praise, but I want to linger on Abigail’s piece. It bounces through my head with the same ancient lithe elegance that her work always does. She’s touching a lot of things in it and again I don’t think I have the space or energy to really do this mention justice but at the bottom of the first page it says, “if you don’t do the dishes, we’ll get bugs” several times, layered over itself and struck through with a scribble that borders on sigil, and in my head it read immediately as singsong, like a charming little clarion call for mundanity and the upkeep of the home.

I mentioned at the end of last month how I was about to start working full-time, and sure enough here I am on the other side of a month, tired of it. It’s a lot harder to lean into and enjoy those daily rituals and that domestic support work when I come home and just want to crawl into bed and sleep. I always say how much I love maintenance work, but I’ve just been really tired! It’s so frustrating because that love is still there, but I can feel my body desperately resisting, forcing me to rest, otherwise it forces me into fitful and hapless frustration, struggling to get what I need to done.

That being said, I made my little instagram post for the year hormone anniversary where I type in the little symbols that indicate how many days it’s been, and it’s been fourteen hundred and sixty one days! I’ve been gradually thinking more about accrual in my theoretical and creative practice and this feels intimately tied to the quotidian. One of the items in my planner for the newsletter was how clothing builds up affective meaning over time, but I don’t think it fit in here. Hormones and growth are absolutely an act of accrual, 1,461 is such an astounding number of days all piled up. A big part of accruing is about survival too, or more specifically: persistence. Making it through the hard days is necessary to get to the good ones. And what is boiling over if not a slow accrual of excitable heat?

And here, just before we move on to March, the sun is starting to force its way through the harsh weather. The 27th was violently, ebulliently sunny, and for the first time I really started fantasizing that spring might be on the way, and dare I say, summer! Maybe tanktops? Maybe heat enough for open windows? Maybe hanging out with a friend again in the flesh? Who knows…

Until next month!
love <3