Handling Her (Asher & Jesse #1)

Wait for me after class?

Jesse’s heart pounds. That’s all the note says, but she knows it’s from Asher. Asher, who is deliberately not paying any attention to Jesse, even though Jesse positioned herself on the end of the second row in the lecture hall, on the side closest to where Asher usually passes around the handouts. Asher, whose dress is just a little shorter than is probably appropriate for college, especially for a Teaching Assistant, but whose tight grey pencil-skirt dress, long dark hair pulled up in a bun, red lipstick, and cat-eye glasses are fueling a variety of teacher-student fantasies in the room right now. Asher, who has been biting the insides of her lips thinking about Jesse’s hands, the smoothness of the palms, the skin on her fingers kind of rough, the way they’ll feel in her mouth.

Trying not to squirm, Jesse tries to slide the note into her skinny jeans with nonchalance.

No big deal. I’ll just wait. For Asher. After class.

She tries to focus on the psychology handout that Asher dropped on her desk with the note. Her fingernails were painted a soft shade of pink, the same as the accents on the grey dress. Asher didn’t look at her. The note was a stealth move. Ash’s handwriting is tight and fine cursive—the t and the f are loopy but compact. Her fingers are deft and precise, dropping the note with the handout and moving on to the next desk without another glance.

Jesse barely hears the rest of Ms. Bell’s lecture. She watches the slides and takes notes, but all she can think about is Asher. Asher’s lips when they kissed yesterday. The way she tasted like oranges and cream. Probably that was her lip gloss, otherwise how would her lips have been shimmering? Asher’s hair spread out in the grass under the cherry blossom trees in the quad. How Asher kept smiling and laughing at Jesse’s stupid jokes.

All the students start rustling their books and notebooks and backpacks when the clock gets around to 1:20pm, and Ms. Bell raises her voice over the noise to remind them to read chapter 6 by Thursday. Jesse delays packing up her things—the thick hardback course textbook, her blue spiral notebook with PSYCH 201 written in big sharpie letters on the cover, her Slingshot day planner, a pack of Post-Its of various sizes and colors to use to make notes in the textbook, and her pencil case, which actually only has one pencil in it, for when the professors insist on marking up a text. She slides them one at a time, deliberately, into the brown canvas shoulder bag, shifting around the granola bars (which had fallen to the bottom) so they wouldn’t get smashed. She leaves a pen in the groove on the desk, one of her non-important ones, a blue Bic with a chewed up end.

Asher’s note, she tucks into her Slingshot, where all the important things go.

Jesse goes into the girl’s bathroom across the hall and waits with a few of the other Psych 201 students. They are prattling on about lacrosse and don’t stop talking to each other even when they go into the stalls. Jesse pulls the strap on her bag tight, hangs it on the back of the door when it’s her turn, washes her hands, dries them on her jeans, and goes back out into the hall. A few classmates are left at the end of the hall, but mostly they’re clearing out. Jesse peeks in the door of the classroom. Asher and the other two TAs, including Bryan, who is the TA of Jesse’s section C, are still in there talking to Ms. Bell and gathering the paperwork. The last two students leave the room. Jesse takes a deep breath, and walks in.

“Forgot my pen,” mumbles Jesse when Ms. Bell turns to look at who has entered. Bryan is saying something about grading tests. Jesse returns to the desk she was sitting in and looks around, setting her bag in the chair next to her. She doesn’t look at Asher. She pulls up her jeans and crouches down to look more carefully on the floor.

“I like a girl on her knees,” Asher says suddenly, loudly. Jesse nearly falls over. She stands, and Asher has the blue Bic in her hand, standing right next to the desk. The rest of the room is empty. Jesse is sweating and blushing and maybe has to pee all at once.

Asher laughs. “I’m going to get a snack at By George. Come with.”

“Okay. I, uh, I’d like that.” Jesse stands and shoulders her bag. Asher hands her the pen, leaving her fingers on it so they touch Jesse’s when she reaches out to take it, and leans in to touch her lips to Jesse’s cheek. Jesse puts her sweaty palm on the desk to keep her knees from giving out.

Asher doesn’t carry a bag, just the plain file folder stuffed with paper and the course’s textbook in a pile. She’s tucked a pen and a pencil into the bun on the back of her head. She has a purse slung around one shoulder, but it probably holds little more than a paperback book.

“I’m glad you waited,” Asher knocks Jesse with her hip when they get out of the grassy quad and to the slick bricks of red square. It was raining this morning and the ground still isn’t dry.

“I’m glad you asked me to,” Jesse knocks Asher back. She had the urge to wrap her arms around Asher and kiss her, hard; to push her against the side of the building and hold her arms above her head.

Asher talks a little on the short walk to the cafe; Jesse mostly listens, swallowing down a few words here and there, unsure if they sounded smart enough. Jesse picks out a Sprite when they go through the cafe line, and Asher gets a paper basket of french fries and a root beer. They find a table over by the window, away from the groups of students who have pushed tables together, being rowdy.

Asher puts her tan tray down on the table and before she’s even sat down, she says, “I have to tell you something.”

Jesse’s knee is folded under her on the chair and she’s lowering herself down to sit, but she slows, looking up at Asher, still standing. “Okay?”

“I just …” Asher sucks in a breath, and sits down, then fingers two fries and pops them in her mouth, chewing. Jesse tentatively reaches into her bag for the peanut butter granola bar, still watching Asher, who is staring out the window. Asher fingers the straw in her root beer, taking a few sips, leaving a ring of red lipstick on the straw.

“I like you,” Asher starts, leaving the last word hanging.

Jesse thinks that isn’t the thing she’s trying to say, and waits for Asher to finish. She realizes she’s holding her breath. After a few too many moments of silence, Jesse says quietly, “I like you, too.”

With a quick glance at Jesse, Asher hurries on like she was interrupted. “But I want you to know. I am … I’m pretty kinky. I just have to—. Tell you.”

Jesse gulps. Kinky? Oh. That’s what she was trying to say? … Isn’t everybody kind of kinky?

Asher keeps staring at her fries. “My last girlfriend, we didn’t work out because I wanted things that she, she didn’t. I don’t really want that to happen again,” she says quietly, the pain of that loss still evident. Who knows how long ago that was, or how long they were together. Years? Were they married? What did Asher want to do that the ex didn’t? Could Jesse be that for Asher?

But that’s it. Asher lets out the breath she’s been holding and munches a few more fries. Jesse ponders what Asher has revealed. “That doesn’t … that doesn’t bother me. I mean, okay. I like some of that stuff too, I think. I haven’t … I don’t really know what to do, all the time, but I like to try things.”

Asher gazes a little sideways at Jesse across the table. “Are you … I’m not sure you could handle it. Me.”

Something about how Asher said it made Jesse think she was sad about that, or vulnerable. Like she wanted someone to handle it. Her. And that little glimpse of softness gave Jesse a thrill. She leaned forward just a little, whispered, “Maybe you should try me before you decide,” and snapped open her can of Sprite, which fizzed in response.

Jesse took a swig and Asher’s face relaxed, breathing out hard like a half-laugh and smiling. She regarded Jesse again, in that way of hers that made Jesse feel like Ash’s hazel-gold eyes had x-ray vision. “Alright,” she says, considering. “Maybe I should.”

But maybe I’m wrong! Jesse’s mind suddenly screamed. Maybe she wants to throw me down, and, you know, ravage me? Take me? Maybe she wants to do things to me, hit me with, I don’t know, a wooden kitchen spoon, or handcuff me? I could do that. Could I do that? … I think I could do that.


Featured image from Crash Pad Series Episode 89: Hilt & Rusty Nails.

The Relaunch of Top Hot Butches

So you may have seen me Tweeting about the relaunch of the Top Hot Butches project, which I’ve been working on for the past few months. I’m getting set to launch it in mid-November, I’m aiming for November 15th.

And it’s time to start asking for your help.

But first.

Addressing the Controversy

A friend of mine asked this week what I was going to do to address all the controversy around the original list. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’m ready to open up the project, to take it to new levels, so I am approaching it differently.

The controversy was around including trans men on a butch list. There are many reasons this is problematic, but the main one is that trans men are men and a butch identity is usually a female masculinity, and aligning trans men with female masculinity is demeaning to their identity. However, there are many trans men who do have an allegiance with the butch identity, and I still feel it’s important to include them in this project.

Dykes and queers and trans men are not the only ones who use the word “butch.” When I spoke with Buck Angel about his inclusion on the list, aside from saying he doesn’t care, he also said he associates “butch” with the gay male communities much more than with dykes. It has a long history of being used for guys, and indeed if you do searches for “butch” you come up with it as a nickname for cis men more often than anything else, it takes some time to dig for the queer women’s angle on it.

So I am including cis men in the new project as well, queer or straight. Don’t worry—this will not take away from the focus of the site, which is the exploration of butch identity, which is still primarily a female masculine identity.

Of course, that begs the question: what makes cis men butch? What makes anybody butch, really?

I’m still not really sure. Nearly ten years into this butch identity and I still don’t have a good definition. So for now, I’m going with: self-identification. I don’t decide for you whether or not you’re butch, you get to decide for yourself.

There is still a Top Hot Butches-style list on this new project, however, and I don’t want to uninclude folks like Joan Jett or Samantha Ronson because they don’t self-identify as butch (or, hell, maybe they do, but I can’t seem to get ahold of them, wonder why). I still will be including androgynous, genderqueer, and other masculine of center women who are in the visible public realms who have an obvious rejection of feminine style and who have some swagger.

So what is this project?

I’m keeping the name of it secret, for a little longer. But don’t worry, it will be all over soon enough. The mission of the new project is:

to promote a greater understanding of masculine of center gender identities, expressions, and presentations, through encouraging: 1. visibility, because we feel alone; 2. solidarity, because there are many of us out there, but we don’t always communicate with each other; and 3. an elevation of the discussion, because we have a long history and lineage to explore and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

The site will include: a revised Top Hot Butches section, with photos and short profiles of people in the public eye who are butch-identified or who present a dapper, radical masculinity; a tumblr blog for butch media submissions and perusal; a blog with interviews, articles, and announcements about butch-related information by multiple authors; and a monthly symposium, a cross between a blog carnival and a link round-up with monthly writing prompts.

Speaking of the symposium …

Call for submissions for bloggers & writers: The first Symposium

I am planning to launch the new project’s monthly Symposium with the site’s launch on November 15th, and I need your help. I’m looking for writers who have something to say about butch identity, who are wiling to post their thoughts on their own blog (or email them in, if they don’t have a blog) and link back to the Symposium in exchange for the promotion within this project. Here’s the topic for the first Symposium:

Symposium #1, November 2010: What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?

Prepare a post for publication on November 15th, and I’ll be gathering all the links and putting forth a round-up of all participants.

This new project needs more help than just writers, however. I’m also looking for interns.

Interns

The new project is seeking interns. I am looking for people interested in learning how to moderate an online community, engaging in a digital environment; learning the ins and outs of blogging, including search engine optimization, WordPress coding and template modification, and basic photo editing. Email me with a statement about why you’d like to be involved and your relevant experience before November 1st, please.

I will also be seeking out writers for the site. If you’re interested in that, the best place to start is by participating in the Symposium. More information will be available on other calls for submissions to this project soon.

Okay I think that covers it! I’m really excited about this, I hope it will be as good and solid and successful as my vision for it.