I’ve inherited one helluva of a scowl. I get it from my father, who got it from his father, who got it from his mother. And I’ve passed it down to my younger son. My older son takes after my mom’s side. When he’s serious his barely there blonde eyebrows lift higher, like they’re going to jump off his forehead and grab you by the cheeks to get your undivided attention. Me, us, we get scowly. Just hella scowl. Our eyebrows look like they could crack walnuts. When I was about 13 my dad put his thumb between my eyes and said, “You don’t have to be so serious… but you’re probably going to be really good at it.”
Studying sexuality is serious. I know this from how much I scowl at my reading material, or field notes, or the transcribed audio accounts of my participants. My jaw aches and I press the pads of my fingers against my face, trying to smooth out the furrows. I am so proud of the folks who I interviewed. Is that academic of me?
I’ve recorded the stories of people who refuse to be marginalized. My surging pride is to the point where I’m scowling over it. How in the hell do I keep their triumphs intact throughout this sociological process? I’m grateful I have their words to work with because I’m pretty sure my own would be deficient. I get too angry.
The ways that alternative sexualities have been constructed are inherently harmful. The founding premises of sexual deviance are flawed. The language available to me is insufficient. Scowl scowl scowl. I have to write my participants out of those boxes.
I was sitting at a coffee shop Friday afternoon, a man asked me to plug his laptop for him. I didn’t hear him right away because I was doing that thing where I’m read from more than one text at a time. I’ve got the book, Don’t Bring A White Boy Home on one side of my computer, Betty Dodson’s “We Are All Quite Queer” on my screen and The Ethical Slut open on the other side of me.
He waved his hand above my screen, I looked up at him without changing the expression on my face, which startled him: “Whoa… sorry to interrupt, just need my cord plugged in beside you.”
I relax my face and take his plug from him, “No worries, there you go.” I smile.
He pauses, “You’ve got a great smile, and beautiful eyes, almost didn’t get to see them,” he has his own little sideways smile peeking at me.
Now, all dude has to do is look a little closer at my reading material and he’s gonna start talking about his own sexual curiosities. Soooo scowl or smile? Sorry bro, but I have a lot of work to get done and I have to pick up my kids from school in 45 minutes.