back east, fully hydrated

September 5th, 2006 | Travels and Appearances

Thank you all for your kind concern about the Water on a Plane issue. It turned out to be fine. The flight attendants passed it out liberally. And I made my connection to Seattle with plenty of time to spare. That is, plenty of time to sit there and feel foolish about having worked myself into a frenzy of anxiety for nothing.

Bumbershoot was great. I enjoyed my panel with Sean Wilsey. His family makes mine look like the Cleavers. I also spent a lovely evening with my old high school pal “Beth Gryglewicz,” who appears as a character in Fun Home.
It’s just so odd to shuttle back and forth across the continent in this maniacal fashion. Now I’m at Newark waiting to catch my flight to Vermont and eating lunch. Or is  it dinner. I’m not quite sure.

13 Responses to “back east, fully hydrated”

  1. Deb says:

    Alison, glad it worked out better than you expected! I’m also glad to hear that the airlines are handing out water liberally since I will be flying to Denver and then on to Columbus, Ohio before the end of the month. I heard Bumbershoot was fabulous this year. So glad you had the opportunity to be there!

  2. kate says:

    “…plenty of time to sit there and feel foolish about having worked myself into a frenzy of anxiety for nothing…”

    A common story, no doubt. why be so anxious, things generally aren’t half as bad as worried nervous people expect them to be. Now are they?

  3. --MC says:

    There’s always time to sit and feel foolish about working one’s self into a frenzy of anxiety for nothing. Unfortunately, I find myself spending more of my time working myself into a frenzy of etc.

  4. Sir Real says:

    May I ask, in a teasing tone, whether “Beth Gryglewicz” of Fun Home is the same high school pal on who (whom?) you had a crush, in a strip appearing in The Indelible? And before that in Strange Looking Exile. I think. 🙂 The one that closes with the aching realization that “the girl I loved preferred Rocky” – was that “Beth”?

    And if you ever let her know? It seems that this desire dynamic doesn’t appear in the version of your youth that appears in Fun Home. Uh, unless the crushee in that strip was actually someone else who doesn’t appear in FH. 🙂

    Hmmm, it seems to me, that strip is the only version you’ve published of your youth in which lust rears its lovely head before your college years… in the other versions, the signifiers of lesbianhood were all gender-wise, I think. ?

  5. Suzanonymous says:

    Sir Real, you wrote “the signifiers of lesbianhood were all gender-wise”?


    pondering.. maybe you mean, her kid self being a tomboy was the only clue of her sexuality in the kid strips, except for these fantasies about her best friend?

    Beth was also called her best friend in Fun Home, so, probably the same person.

    AB seems to be the opposite of her father in matters of telling people about her sexuality. I am betting her best friend knows about the old crush, and probably was told directly (not via the comic strips).

  6. mlk says:

    you may be right, Suzanymous. I’m wondering if Beth suspected at the time that Alison had her crush, and what she makes of the incredible openness that Alison brought to Fun Home. remember, that openness was, to some extent, a surprise to Alison herself — but maybe not to Beth?

  7. Aunt Soozie says:

    There was no mention a crush on Beth in Fun Home but Alison did depict that pint-sized drag king scenario, remember???

  8. Tera says:

    wow and I thought I was a fan! everyone on this blog is allison crazy just like me : ) Allison what is it like to have all these random strangers analyze your life?

  9. Duncan says:

    Well, I’ve noticed the same thing, and commented about it here, that Sir Real did — in Fun Home “the signifiers of lesbianhood were all gender-wise”, meaning that there’s no sign of erotic desire for other girls or women, only gender nonconformity. I wondered about it, because if I were going to write my own autobiography as a gay man, I’d have a lot to say about my crushes on other boys. I was (and I suppose, am) gender nonconformist in the sense that I wasn’t interested in sports and played with girls until I was 8 or so, but I didn’t want to be a girl or wear girl’s clothes. As an intellectual, I am a member of the *real* “third sex” — using one’s mind is a violation of both masculine and feminine gender norms. But that doesn’t have any consequences for “sexual orientation” as far as I can see. So I loved and identified with Alison’s opening comment in her coming-out story from Gay Comics — that she’d always known she was different from other girls, but had thought it was because she was smarter. I think she was right the first time.

    Aunt Soozie’s comment is another example of what is to me this strange assumption that gender conformity equals homosexuality and vice versa. After all, Beth seems to have been as involved in the fantasy cross-dressing scenarios as Alison, and I gather she’s not lesbian. I don’t get this obsession with gendering everything. As I write this, I’m dressed in women’s clothes: blue jeans, t-shirt, running shoes. 9-) I guess I can understand children’s feeling the need to classify everything by sex, but adults should know better.

  10. Ann says:

    But it wasn’t the mystical experience for Beth that it was for Alison. It was just a diversion for Beth.
    Man, it must be wierd to have your life discussed like this.

  11. Duncan says:

    Ann, how do we know that it wasn’t the mystical experience for Beth that it was for Alison? We don’t; we only have Alison’s side of the story. (And it’s an odd sort of mystical experience that one gives up so easily because the weather is hot.)

    Further, as a boy (or as a man for that matter) I never found male cultural things a mystical experience. Tying a tie, for instance. Wearing a tux for the junior prom. Far from finding myself fluent in what was supposed to come naturally to me, I always felt awkward with them, as I did with so many things. (First sex with another guy, for instance. It was tremendously exciting, but felt unreal and awkward at the same time.) I want to stress that I’m not either dismissing or putting down Alison’s experiences. I think they’re both important and interesting. But far from being some sort of evidence that Alison was somehow mystically, intrinsically male/masculine, her experiences of recognition and natural fluency with boy things can just as easily be seen as evidence of the contrary. And I think the same thing about her father’s early desire to be a girl.

    Again, none of this is meant as a criticism of Alison or of those who share her experiences and feelings. I’m just trying to figure out what these things mean. My own experiences are quite different, so I’ve often felt as out of place among gay people as among straights. There’s a lot of folklore / common sense among us that doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m trying to grope toward a better understanding.

  12. mlk says:

    thanks for explaining where you’re coming from, Duncan, because as much as you don’t want your remarks to sound critical they can easily be read that way. but you’ve said twice that you don’t intend to critisize Alison or anyone else, and so I’m taking that at face value.

    it’s true that we only have Alison’s understanding of her friend’s feelings . . . but then, Alison was actually there. she states (I believe) that Beth was “playing along” with this idea, which indicates that perhaps Beth wasn’t as enthused about this incident of dress up as she’d been with others. and a lack of enthusiasm, as well as the heat, may have brought their fun to an early close. and with a football going on, they may not have had too many “customers” to con w/their scheme.

    I got the impression that Alison didn’t want to go to the football game because she’d rather have time with Beth; it wasn’t just that she wasn’t interested in football. most introverts avoid going to public events and would rather spend time w/one or two other people. still, I thought her wanting to spend time w/Beth may have had romantic overtones — perhaps because I’ve read The Indelible Alison Bechdel.

    in Fun Home Alison describes herself as more-or-less asexual during her teen years. and she didn’t come out to herself until she was at Oberlin. her sexual feelings for women, though, are explored more fully in The Indelible. there’s a hilarious strip in which she debates whether she (and others) recognized her lesbianism — and interest in women — before she want to college. seems to me that the point of the strip is that she/they did, and she/they didn’t. something was going on, but it was hard to put a finger on just what that might be.

    Fun Home also relates how Alison felt a connection to the gay scene in NYC the summer she was 15, although her awareness of what she was experiencing wasn’t well developed.

    maybe that’s of help. I hope it at least makes some sense! some things take A LOT of time to come clear.


    p.s.– will you explain what you meant when you wrote:
    “But far from being some sort of evidence that Alison was somehow mystically, intrinsically male/masculine, her experiences of recognition and natural fluency with boy things can just as easily be seen as evidence of the contrary. And I think the same thing about her father’s early desire to be a girl.” I don’t get that at all!

  13. Duncan says:

    mlk, I remember the strip reprinted in Indelible (it was originally in a calendar, which I still have — I’m nearly as much of a pack rat as Alison seems to be), which is why I know that Fun Home isn’t the whole story. I’ve read Indelible too. (Her Gay Comix coming-out story also helps a bit.) I thought, too, that she didn’t want to go to the football game because she wanted to spend time alone with Beth, though there were probably also other factors, like not wanting to have to perform heterosexually in public by dealing with boy attention. The two don’t exclude each other. Still, compared to the amount of material on her gender nonconformity, or the sense of recognition she says she felt in gay milieux like Christopher Street, she says very very little about being interested in girls. Which, as I’ve said, interests me, because my own queerness is much more based in erotic desire for other males than in gender nonconformity or identification with gay male culture – where I don’t feel at home. I’m as alienated from gay male culture as I am from straight male culture.

    “Asexual” is a tricky term. Most people saw me as “asexual” in junior high and high school too, because I never dated; and I had no sexual experience of any kind. But my mind was full of desire. Some people “come out to themselves” AFTER a large amount of same-sex erotic experience. I’m curious to figure out what people like Alison experience, though, because I’m aware that people are different. So my questions here have been about that difference: was Alison as undesiring of other girls as Fun Home makes her seem, or was she just stressing other aspects of her life in this story? The strip from Indelible indicates that it’s the second possibility, though of course it is also her right to tell only as much about herself as she wants to tell.

    I know, of course, that I make critical comments. When I say I’m not being critical of Alison or other readers here, what I mean is that I am not accusing them of false consciousnessness or of being a bad person. I try to address people’s ideas and beliefs, of which I think it is proper to be very critical, and not the people themselves. It seems to be the other way around for most people — personal attacks are acceptable and addressing ideas or facts is not.

    About your p.s. question: Well, remember what I said about my own experiences — that masculine things did not come naturally to me, but neither did feminine things. Clothing is an external, cultural thing. Men don’t wear suits and ties (in this culture) because they have a penis and a Y chromosome: they wear them because that is what they’re expected to wear. In other cultures they’d wear something else. I don’t see how inner states could produce what I called Alison’s “experiences of recognition and natural fluency with boy things”. Since I *am* male, why don’t I have those same experiences? I don’t think that most males do. Since I don’t have them, and see no reason to believe they “naturally” go with being male, I don’t believe they are evidence of an inner maleness expressing itself in Alison. Or an inner femaleness expressing itself in her father.

    Wherever they come from, I don’t see any reason to believe they are an expression of a mystical intrinsic masculine/male nature. (Ditto for boys who head right for the skirts and cosmetics. Annick Prieur’s book “Mema’s House” tells how poor Mexican sissy boys both claim that wearing miniskirts and makeup is an expression of their inner female nature, and that they needed a lot of learning and training by other vestidas to know how to dress and behave.) Identity is not something that comes from inside us.

    Again, I’m not denying that Alison felt what she felt. Or that other people feel the same way. I’m not sure she’s even declaring *why* she felt that way. I’m just wary of some of the explanations that circulate, not only among GLBT folk, but in straight society, which did after shape us. Just as I’m very wary of the “born this way” claims about why we’re gay. I liked Jasmine’s response to Lois in a recent strip — that she wants more than “conformity” for Jonas. Whatever else Jonas’s desire to be Britney Spears may be, I don’t believe that it comes from an inner Britney. GQ and Esquire don’t define maleness any more than Vogue defines femaleness. Does this help explain what I’m driving at? I’m still working through these ideas.