On Miss Jean-Louis’

Miss Jean-Louis was born the daughter of the brief English king, Eddie 8, and Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Given the rigidly enforced morality of the time period, and the fact that Queen Vicky was his grandmother, the whole thing was hushed up. Luckily, the by-blow Miss Jean-Louis had her own remarkable talents, and had no need of the title “princess” that is her rightful due.

JeanLuckily, Miss Jean-Louis met some ageless fella by the name of Rasputin or some such, and had her portrait painted via some mystical means. That portrait is stored somewhere in her attic, and she looks just the same as she did at 22. She swanned about Europe, doing the fashionable socialite thing, until she couldn’t stand it any longer. Her best friend, who may or may not have been called Anastasia, moved to Kansas in the mid ’80’s to hoax some tabloid reporters, and Jean-Louis was all alone in the world. Well, except for her royal relations, who generally sighed when she was brought up.

Grandma

She then adopted a small nameless waif – a golem, really, or a shapeless lump of clay – which she gently shaped into the “human” known as actor Misha Collins. Her piece of art gained international fame, and – as puppet-master – she was forced to find a way to make her homonculous do her bidding. She calls this “babysitting” – everyone knows it means watching out for her creation.

Misha1

The creation is entirely bonkers. And started a thing called Gishwhes. And its mad ravings resulted in the hunt our family traditionally does each August. That’s the story of (HRH) Miss Jean-Louis, child. You’re welcome.

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On Patients and Polyamory

Gentle Reader, as Pride Month has finally arrived – and there’s been considerable lack of interest in the etiquette/advice column – this will be the final installment of that particular feature as a regular thing. Therefore, next week, we’ll move on to lovingly tailored Pride posts for your enjoyment.

Unicorns

First, though, let’s wrap the etiquette situation up. Our first query is from our beloved Ms. Spectacular, who writes:

Hi friend! As you are aware, I am set to graduate with my Masters in Oriental Medicine in a few months and will soon be a licensed acupuncture. My dream is to work in a holistic, integrative clinic specializing in treating folks with uteri. In mainstream medicine, this field is generally called “women’s health” and a yearly checkup is called a “well-woman” visit. I don’t want to use these terms because they’re not trans-inclusive. I’ve toyed with the idea of calling anyone with a uterus a “uterati,” replacing “women’s health” with “womb care” and a “well-woman” checkup with “well-womb” checkup. However, I’m hesitant because I don’t want to reduce people to body parts and I’ve known some trans people who don’t identify with the commonly prescribed names for genitals and reproductive organs at all. Do you know of any better names for this particular type of care? As a health care provider, I really want to do my best to make my patients feel safe and inclusive language is an important part of that.

I know this is a completely different kind of question than you’re probably used to getting or want to get into on your blog, but I am stumped so am asking as many folks as possible. I even emailed Buck Angel today. Thanks, love!

Buck Angel: An American trans man who produces and performs in adult film, and is rather famous for it, actually

Buck Angel: An American trans man who produces and performs in adult film, and is rather famous for it, actually

Now, darling – I’m absolutely thrilled that you’re doing your research and doing your best to make your practice trans inclusive. While you noted that I’m not particularly familiar with such things, I’m happy to offer my opinion, and my audience – so if anyone out there has some better terms, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

As for my thoughts? I like the womb-related phrases; we have ear-nose-and-throat specialists, so why wouldn’t we have womb specialists? However – as delightful as I find the portmanteau of uterati, I really can’t condone it. That seems more along the lines of reducing people to their parts. People with wombs, perhaps, might be your best bet for phrasing. Good luck, love!

Because we're discussing wombs, and because I've been obsessed with mid-century recipes involving aspic, I found *this* for you!

Because we’re discussing wombs, and because I’ve been obsessed with mid-century recipes involving aspic, I found *this* for you!

Next, Miss Goss writes:

Alrighty. Theoretical Situation. When planning a dinner party, a polyamorous friend wants to bring both their partner and a metamour. How does one figure out the seating?

Seating Chart

Miss Goss, seating charts are always terrible complex, and are one of my favorite parts of the event-planning process. As you personally can attest, there can be unintended side-effects of a really well-planned seating chart, such as improbable friendships. Before we get into that, a couple of definitions so that unfamiliar Gentle Readers can keep up:

Metamour – one’s partner’s partner, with whom one (typically) doesn’t have a sexual or romantic relationship with oneself. If Sally were dating Jack, and Jack was also dating Ted, but Ted and Sally were just good friends, then Ted and Sally are metamours. Clear? Good. Oh, also everyone should know about everyone else; secret relationships aren’t conducive to honesty or openness.

Metamour

Get the idea? Good.

Now, traditionally when one arranges a seating chart for a dinner party, one would split married couples up so that they’d have someone new to talk to during supper. Non-married couples, of course, weren’t recognized so they weren’t always split up. These days, like the notion of seating guests boy-girl-boy-girl, that’s passé. Nowadays, the key things to bear in mind are

  1. Compatibility – will the people seated near one another want to punch one another? Will they be able to be civil for the length of the meal? Will they actually enjoy one another’s company? Ideally, you’re going for the last one, but in large parties it can be difficult.
  2. Conversational Ability – If Person A. is an active listener but a little shy, put her by Person B. who rambles on and will fill gaps in conversation. If you think Person B. might overwhelm Person A., though, place her by Person C. – who is more talkative than A. but also shy. That sort of thing.

There are other principals, but those are the main ones. As far as our polyamorous friends are concerned, though – if your friend and their partner are primaries, seat them next to one another, with the metamour across the table. If there isn’t a primary paring, put the person who is in a relationship with both metamours in the center.

1928 --- Winning Combination: Zane Grey, author of which Paramount is now filming, with Jack Holt, the featured lead, and Sally Blane, leading lady. The picture was taken on set at the studio when Grey visited there. 1928, directed by John Waters. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Our last etiquette query is anonymous, and has a surprisingly complex answer. Anonymous writes:

ETIQUETTE WHY?

Why? The short answer is because, as a species and a society, we’re stuck with one another – and, as Sartre notoriously pointed out, hell is other people. If we’re forced to be around other people, we should all strive to make the experience just a little less painful. By being patient, respectful, and kind, and by following established standards to express those qualities, we can smooth the friction, at least a little bit. Cheers, Gentle Reader! Any further queries can be left in the comments, or left on the Whimsical Adventures Facebook Page.

 

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Of Form and Family

Here we are again with our weekly etiquette column, Gentle Reader. This week, we focus on family matters. Our first question involves new elements in the family dynamic:

How do you subtly display your dominance and be condescending to your siblings’ significant other without them figuring it out?

Look of Scorn

What Lucille above is lacking is the subtlety asked for. It’s very easy to put yourself in a position of dominance through overt scorn and blessing of hearts, but a much more difficult matter when one wants to keep things quiet. The answer to this really depends on the age of the sibling’s significant other – if they’re roughly your own age or older, some comments about “the family” or how “we always do things this way” really indicate that the S.O. is an outsider in the scenario, and should pipe down. Another useful way, at any age, is to put them in their place is to use diminutives to refer to their opinions or deeds – and be a bit curt. Should they go on at length about – oh, politics or their future plans or something – and are waiting for you to respond, smile slightly and say “Oh. Cute.” This should be fairly cutting at any age. Keep the language friendly, and let your tone do the talking.

Lady Tremaine knows it's all about *tone*

Lady Tremaine knows it’s all about *tone*

Our next question involves a battle that the poor Gentle Reader is on the outside of:

Help! I’m going to a family function this weekend, and two of my (adult, married) cousins are fighting. It’s a sibling thing, and I don’t really know what it’s about. How can I find out what’s going on and be friendly with both of them at the same time? 

hindenburg

Okay, so maybe it’s not on the same level as the Hindenburg, but it certainly seems like a disaster in the making. First of all, under no circumstances are you to ask either of your cousins what this is about. It’s not your business; you’re not going to get them to make peace; stay out of it. I don’t care how many cocktails you have, don’t ask. Simply make an effort to talk to them separately, and remain friendly to both – thus showing that, like Switzerland, you’re taking a neutral stance. Talk to one over by the buffet or something, and the other over in the corner where she’s glaring daggers at her sibling. Stay out of it, awkward though it be, and try to stick to neutral topics, like the presidential race.

Later, after they’ve both gone, it’s permissible to ask an aunt, uncle, or uninvolved cousin just what the hell all that was about – but only after they’ve both left.

Truth

As ever, Gentle Reader, if you have a tricky etiquette question or just need some advice, don’t hesitate to ask.

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Madame DeLyte and the Mysterious Rubies

Gentle Reader, I have long held that I would much rather receive a casket of rubies rather than an engagement band. I don’t believe in the diamond trade for a number of reasons – you can choose the artificially short supply, or that most of our traditions about diamonds only date to about the 1920’s, or, of course, there’s the horrific cruelty involved in procuring modern diamonds. No, a small chest of rubies is infinitely less expensive, arguably less cruel, and much more to my taste.

Casket

However, it’s highly unlikely that I shall ever marry again. If you’ve known me for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve heard me go on at length about the reasons why; there’s no need to go into them here. Suffice it to say that I mentioned offhandedly on Social Media that I was giving up on ever getting my rubies, left the matter there and thought no more about it.

One week later, I received a package. There was no note, just a return address indicating India. Inside, I found a lump of rough-grade red carborundum – nearly fifty carats. It was larger than a pigeon’s egg.

Over the next few weeks, more and more of these mysterious packages arrived – the rubies started piling up. Lab-created, rough-grade, a few really stellar stones – it didn’t matter. Rubies kept arriving, and I needed to figure out a place to keep them, fast.

Pile of Rubies

I was terribly puzzled, at this point. Were the stones being sent by an unknown beau? A stalker? Were they completely incidental? What on Earth was going on?

My dear friend, Miss Goss, had had them sent. The theory was that I could wed myself and not be dependent on someone else for my future happiness, and that, Gentle Reader, was a gift well worth having.

Rubies

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Poetic Interlude CXXII

I am stripped of pretension;
No longer codified, calcified,
By who I am or was – might have been, might be,
Those notions slipping off shoulders
In a gleaming pile.

You meet your mirror in artifice, craft yourself for the day,
The same one you’ve worn for years, ill-fitting – it never suited you.
-I have never been fooled
-I am not taken in by it
-I do not like your lies
You paint yourself in softest light, and smile, satisfied.

I am here, watching.
Behind that porcelain brow, can you feel my breath?Do you still see me flicker on the screen,
A black-and-white memory?

I have no shame.It is no use to me, and I am not afraid.

©2013 by Tyler J. Yoder. All rights reserved

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Of Plato and Politesse

Gentle Reader, this week’s edition of Delyte’s Deportment has a few particularly tricky situations. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Our first query also happens to be the very first submission to the column! The anonymous Gentle Reader writes:

What is the difference between romantic and platonic relationships? By platonic, I don’t mean simply a man and a woman that are friends and don’t have sex (outdated and heteronormative – yuck!), but any strong friendship. It seems that sex would be the obvious answer, but people have sex without any romantic aspect to the relationship at all, while platonic friends may feel so intensely about each other that the feelings could be described as romantic.

Film Noir

Without going into an elaborate explanation of the romantic-aromantic spectrum – it’s a topic for another time, I feel – is intimacy. As you note, Gentle Reader, a lot of people take this to mean physical intimacy – but as we all know, sex and love aren’t the same thing at all. No, here I mean real emotional intimacy, and mental intimacy. You may certainly be close to a platonic friend, and that friendship may be particularly intense, though – and you’re wondering where exactly the line between them lies.

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Did anyone ever figure out the Fitzgeralds? Did *they*?

The truth is, an intense friendship can be confusing as hell, and the people involved can easily interpret the friendship in different ways – one can believe that romance is budding, while the other desires to keep things platonic. However, if two people truly have the degree of intimacy necessary to make those lines start to blur, they should certainly be intimate enough to have a frank and honest conversation about where they both stand on the matter. In some cases, that’s the only way to tell. Good luck, Gentle Reader.

Our next question comes from Ms. H. She writes:

What do you do when you are allergic to shellfish or salmon and that is all they have at the buffet?

Crawfish

Gah!

Well, Ms. H., if you know that that’s all they’ll be serving at the buffet before you show up at whatever the function is, you’d do well to eat before you get there, or else stay home. The only situation I can see where you’d know in advance what they were serving and be unable to get out of going is a wedding or something equally compulsory. In such a case, as I said, eat before you get there – and when you arrive, take a small serving of whatever dish it is you can’t actually eat, to be polite. Don’t eat it, of course; you’ll die! Just smear it around your plate a bit, and smile as best you can.

If you don’t know in advance that all your hosts are serving are things that you can’t eat, follow the advice above – take a small portion, smush it up, and smile – and then leave as soon as you’re politely able to, so that you can have something to eat. Know your hosts aren’t being intentionally rude; there are so many dietary restrictions for so many guests, and it’s difficult to keep track. If it’s a buffet at a restaurant or a casino and not at a private event, why are you even asking? Leave and go someplace else!

Buffet

Our last query is more of a general statement – there was originally a query attached, but out of respect for the individual’s privacy, I’m going to talk for a moment about accepting, declining, and issuing casual invitations. 

Inviting someone to anything – the theatre, to dinner, an evening out – or over to one’s home, for a party or a casual family supper – all of it is generally meant in a friendly fashion. However, sometimes one is forced to decline an invitation – perhaps one doesn’t have the money for an evening out, or one doesn’t feel close enough to you to meet your family just yet. What’s important to note is that the person declining the invitation, technically speaking, need offer no explanation. Every major etiquette book of the last century agrees on this point: A simple “I’m sorry, I can’t” or “No, thank you.” are both perfectly acceptable answers. However, often the invitee feels pressured to make some excuse, and that’s where the trouble starts.

Eye Roll

If you, Invitee, give an excuse to be polite, it’s only going to escalate. The Inviter will be able to trump most of your trumped-up excuses until you’re unable to get out of whatever you’re trying to get out of. If you must offer an excuse, make sure it’s something that the Inviter can’t just handwave away – unless you genuinely would like to go except for an obstacle that the Inviter can just handwave away. In that case, feel free.

Inviters, by the way, you’re not off the hook. By continuing to pressure the poor Invitee instead of graciously accepting their declination, you’re being very rude. After issuing an invitation and being turned down, you’re allowed one – ONE – chance to say something like “Aww, c’mon. It’s my treat.” If they turn you down again, STOP. You’ll save everyone a great deal of frustration and pain.

Right! As ever, if you have a pressing matter of etiquette or merely require advice, my in-box is always open to you. Have a good week, Gentle Reader!

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Which Concerns Mental Health

Gentle Reader, I’ve made no secret of my struggle with mental health. Today, for the first time, I took the plunge and confided my fears in a mental health professional.

But let’s back up: some personal history, first.

I first suspected something might be wrong with me right around the time I turned twenty. I’d suffered thoughts of suicide long before that, but just chalked it up to youthful hijinks. I had a breakdown on my way to a family party, and had to pull into the parking lot of a library to shake and cry for a while. After an hour of this, I was able to pull it together enough to make it to the birthday or whatever function it was. Shortly afterward, I met with a therapist – who just chatted about the weather. There were no inquiries as to why I’d come, really – no diagnostic questions to see how to proceed. She was pretty fascinated with my sexuality, though, as I recall. I spent a frustrating hour making small-talk about small-town gay life, and never went back.

For the record, small-town gay life is exactly like this.

For the record, small-town gay life is exactly like this.

Fast-forward to about a year after my father had passed. I was in my mid-twenties; I had continued having my bouts, as I called them, off and on the entire time. Things were getting pretty grim, by then – bursts of extreme activity – followed by lethargy, despair. I was also a little more familiar with my family history by this point. While I won’t anger the dead by revealing their symptoms yet again, there were obvious recurring patterns in the bloodline. Maman made an appointment for me in Puyallup to see someone about all of this, as I was pretty worried – it was the day she was flying out on one of her trips. I dropped her off to catch her plane, and made it most of the way to Puyallup before I had one of the strongest panic attacks of my young life. I pulled off the highway to scream and cry for a while.

Screaming

Obviously, I missed my appointment. There was no follow-up.

That brings us back to the present. I’ve never trusted doctors, and – well, a number of things have kept me from seeking treatment seriously. The stigma of mental illness in this country is staggering – if I get a proper diagnosis, it could affect my employment prospects for life. Not to mention the social censure! People tend to be dismissive of my thoughts, feelings, and opinions due to my instability of character already. If I sought an actual answer, and my issues became written down, official – well, it feels as though it would prove their dismissal right. Further, seeking help feels like a personal moral failing. Seeking help was for other people, and I held myself to a higher standard – surely, having toughed it out this long on my own, I could continue just fine. I’ve learned to manage things, more or less, right?

Nope. Nooooooooooooope.

noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooope

noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooope

So I made an appointment with mental health services at my school. And, although I was terrified, I actually made it there on time and made it in the door and filled out paperwork and waited in the lobby without leaving and/or screaming and when I saw the counselor, I was open and honest with her and actually discussed all the things I keep locked away. It felt really good. That’s the positive part. She listened and was kind and is willing to help.

She can’t diagnose, prescribe, or refer. So there’s that.

However, I took a first step, and I took it by myself – and I actually followed through. Be proud of me, Gentle Reader – I certainly am.

 

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