Post Mortem: June 2018

by on Jul.05, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

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Stacked June 2018

by on Jul.03, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Sarah

The rest of my beloved cohorts were traveling over the past month,  seeing and doing all kinds of awesome things, so it’s just me and my book stack with you here today, for this month’s Stacked feature. It is summertime for sure in the south and during this time of sweltering humidity and clockwork afternoon thunderstorms I ramp up my reading about 1000%. In the month of June alone I have finished 9 books! I can’t say if, on average, that’s a big deal for folks who read as much as we all do…but it’s certainly about twice as many as I usually manage in a span of thirty days. The downside to this increase in titles crossed off my list is that I remember very little of what I have read. Oh, well. Life is all about trade-offs, I suppose.

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber is a perfect example of a book I’m not recalling very well. The main character’s father was murdered when she was a child. It was a seemingly cut-and-dry case, and a teenage neighbor was convicted of the crime. Her mother, already somewhat unbalanced, goes nuts and runs off to join a cult. Her relationship with her twin, with whom she was once very close, deteriorates. As an adult, she has attempted to construct a life for herself that doesn’t involve her past–in fact, she hasn’t told her boyfriend about any of it, her father’s death or even the fact that she has a twin. She soon learns that an opportunistic podcaster has dredged it all up and has based her new show on the decades old murder, because she thinks something doesn’t quite add up. Things begin to both fall apart and come together. It was an ok book? I raced through it within 24 hours and must have really liked it, but now I couldn’t really tell you why it was so great.

The Silence Of Ghosts by Jonathan Ayecliffe. I became obsessed with this author a few years ago when I saw a passage from one of his ghost stories quoted in a book of Simon Marsden’s eerie black and white photography. His stories, if recall, were ghostly and on the lurid side, which is just how I like them. The Silence Of Ghosts seemed a bit prim in comparison. Told in diary format, it chronicles the story of a young man who loses his leg in the war and is sent to a crumbling old family estate in the countryside to recover from his wounds. He is kept company by his sweet younger sister, a partially deaf (and wholly doomed) creature, and his new nursemaid Rose…as well as a house full of malicious ghosts. A stilted romance flourishes despite stiff upper lips, the sister contracts a strange sickness, and dark family secrets are finally revealed. I couldn’t help but think they were secrets that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid. This book made me very angry and makes considerably less sense than The Silence Of Ghosts. I am recommending it solely because I feel like I can’t be angry alone and I would like you to be angry too. A woman is in a car with her boyfriend, and they are driving to meet his parents. The meeting is bizarre. Both during the car ride and dinner with the parents there is a great deal of internal narrative detailing how they met and how she’s thinking of breaking things off, in addition to her reflections upon some weird things that have been happening to her lately. The interactions are unnerving, the tension is relentless, and a feeling of impending doom is nearly unbearable…but eventually it devolves into a confused jumble of WTFery. A lot of reviewers laud this book as being brilliant, but I will confess that when I finished it, I kind of wanted to throw it into the sea.

House Of McQueen by Valerie Wallace. Poetry full of beautiful cunning by an exquisite wordsmith, who has taken her inspiration from the late, fabulous Alexander McQueen. Cheeky and twisted, graceful and savage, full of opulence and swagger, these are poems that you can visualize stalking the runway–all dark edged beauty, irreverent silken flourishes, and dazzling brilliance.

Gothic Tales Of Haunted Love: A Comics Anthology by Hope Nicholson. I was beyond excited for this book when I heard of its launch on Kickstarter, with talk of ” fragments of lovers torn apart, ghostly revenge, and horrific deeds”…but somehow, I’m truly regretful to share, most of these stories really didn’t quite meet my expectations and rather missed the mark for me.  If this endeavor had been marketed more like The Other Side (a graphic novel anthology of queer paranormal romance) it would have been perfect–and don’t mistake me, I love that the characters in Gothic Tales Of Haunted Love were a diverse spread of all sorts of people and cultures and eras–but I feel like maybe they were really playing fast and loose with what makes a gothic tale a Gothic Tale. Which makes me sound like a rigid traditionalist who doesn’t appreciate deviations from genre “rules” or riffs on a theme. Maybe I don’t like “modern reimaginings” of things? Maybe I’m just super picky? A few tales actually were perfect. Absolutely spot on. A few were meandering, and one or two were just seemed too abstract to work for this concept, at all. I feel terrible that it wasn’t for me, because I’m know it was a passion project with a lot of heart and talent that went into it. Sorry to be a bummer on this one!

The Beauty by Aliyah Whitely. There are no more women left. They all died from some weird fungal disease and now the remaining men of this particular settlement sit around campfires at night listening to Nate, our protagonist, spin tales of how wonderful the women were. It’s always great to be appreciated too late, right? Something peculiar begins happening on the graves where the remaining women were buried, and then it takes off from there in what is ultimately a brilliantly orchestrated deconstruction of gender roles. I don’t mean to spoil anything for anyone, but I have to share that this book grossed me out like nothing ever has. I love my mama friends and their wee ones, but I am not the maternal sort and I can’t even deal with the body horrors of pregnancy–which this book has taken to a whole new and disturbing level.

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman. Having read Malerman’s super freaky and very excellent Bird Box, (see Sonya’s review from March of last year)I had high hopes for this one, even though it didn’t initially sound like a winner. Carol Evers has an eerie condition; she dies a lot. But she’s not actually dead, it’s more like a two day long coma-nap, during which time her pulse slows, her skin cools, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think “well, that’s that!” and you’d throw her in a coffin and be done with it. Only two people know of her condition–her best friend, who, coincidentally, just died, and her husband, who it turns out, is kind of a turd. Well, there is one other person who knows about Carol’s strange sleeping sickness: an outlaw she once loved, but who left her because he was a big baby who couldn’t deal with the somber responsibility of loving a dame like Carol. Carol dies yet again, and her husband, tired of living in his wife’s shadow, puts into motion his plan to bury her alive (which he’s apparently been sitting on for a while). Word travels back to the outlaw living on the outskirts of where ever, and he decides that it’s time to do his duty by the woman he still loves and hits the trail to save her. All this wild west stuff was really off-putting at first, but it’s more the weird west than the wild west. An alternate place on a different timeline. I’m not sure how, but somehow that made the setting more palatable for me. I really liked Unbury Carol, but I had a few problems with it. There’s plenty of talk about how “beloved” Carol was in the town and their community, but other than Malerman telling us that over and over, I am not certain that I actually saw any evidence of it in the story, which is always a little annoying. And with all these dudes either trying to murder Carol or save her, it would seem that this is a story in which Carol has very little agency–which isn’t exactly true–but I would have like to have seen much, much more from Carol, who had the potential to be an immensely intriguing and complex character.

Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood by Claire Hoffman. It took me a long time to realize this, and even longer to admit, but I love memoirs about fucked-up families. In the 1980s and 1990s, after her alcoholic father runs off to California and leaves his family with less than $50, the author’s mother whisked both Claire and her brother away to Iowa for peace and enlightenment at Maharishi’s national headquarters for Heaven on Earth. This isolated meditation community is where Claire Hoffman grew up, and while…not a great deal happened there other than lots of gullible folks being scammed out of their money (no world peace was achieved, none of these fanatical meditators actually ever levitated, or “flew”), I found it a vivid, fascinating glimpse into a weird childhood. I read Greetings from Utopia Park for a book club, and the other person in the club (there’s only two of us! it’s a super perfect first foray into book clubs for me) felt like nothing really happened and that the book was “one, long, sad, sigh”. She’s right in that it might seem a little …restrained? If you’re expecting a juicy, unbridled, scandalous “tell-all”, well that’s not what this is, and I think if it were all of those things, maybe I wouldn’t have found it so relatable. I’m not sure how I wasn’t a child who grew up in such a community. My mother was a similar sort of dreamer, and I can’t help but thinking if conditions were right…if she knew how to drive, or if she had met the right weirdos at the right time in her life…that could have been my sisters and I, mediating and eating tofu and living in some sort of crazy utopian trailer park. This reads like the book I would have written if my circumstances were only slightly different.

The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman I have been reading Alice Hoffman since I was 16 or 17 years old, and a co-worker recommended her to me. My first job was a part-time affair, and involved hamburgers and french fries and terrible, greasy, red uniforms. I was “bottom bun”: I squeezed ketchup and mustard in concentric circles onto lukewarm meat patties, and topped each bullseye with precisely three dill pickle slices and a soggy circle of red onion. I then passed my creation on to K., who had the coveted “top bun” position, and would crown my topless sandwich with lettuce, tomato and a dome shaped, glossy brown hamburger bun. K. seemed to me at the time very old, though in retrospect she must have been only in her 50s or so, and, I thought, terribly out of place. I was a teenager, it was my job to have a terrible job. K. was or had been an English teacher, so what the heck was she doing there? (I later found out her husband had been diagnosed with an unnamed disease, and I felt awful for belittling what must have been an extra job to pay for his treatments.) We often talked of books and what we were currently reading. “I think you’d quite like Alice Hoffman,” she offered one afternoon during the lunch rush, shouting to be heard over the hissing crackle of the speakers and a customer’s complicated order. “Really beautiful character studies and lots of magical realism!” I had absolutely no idea what she meant by any of that, but I dutifully found a copy of Turtle Moon at a used bookstore, and caught up at once in the surprisingly beautiful prose, I breathlessly devoured it within 24 hours. And so ever after it has always been with Alice Hoffman’s books, at least until I found myself thinking in recent years, “oh, another new Alice Hoffman title? Let me guess? There’s two sisters, one is maybe dark, the other, no doubt, light. There’s gonna be some mundane sort of magic. Something about birds or beetles or butter. There’s a curse, oh, right,  you’re not allowed to fall in love. Sigh. That old chestnut again.” And so too it was with The Rules Of Magic. It’s all there. All familiar, all versions of stories I nearly know by heart after all of these years.  And yet, I found my jaded heart opening to these characters again and again, and as their new story unfolded, my cynicism lifted and I was once again rapt and dazzled, hopeful and heartbroken and swept up in their wondrous worlds of magic and birdsong and cursed love. I realize I haven’t told you anything about this new book, but I think, if you’re a fan of Alice Hoffman’s writings, it doesn’t matter. We have learned by now we’ll go where ever she takes us, and fall in love over and over again, every single time.  (Also, this is a prequel to Practical Magic and really, do I need to tell you anything else??)

 

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Stacked June 2018

by on Jul.03, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Sarah

The rest of my beloved cohorts were traveling over the past month,  seeing and doing all kinds of awesome things, so it’s just me and my book stack with you here today, for this month’s Stacked feature. It is summertime for sure in the south and during this time of sweltering humidity and clockwork afternoon thunderstorms I ramp up my reading about 1000%. In the month of June alone I have finished 9 books! I can’t say if, on average, that’s a big deal for folks who read as much as we all do…but it’s certainly about twice as many as I usually manage in a span of thirty days. The downside to this increase in titles crossed off my list is that I remember very little of what I have read. Oh, well. Life is all about trade-offs, I suppose.

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber is a perfect example of a book I’m not recalling very well. The main character’s father was murdered when she was a child. It was a seemingly cut-and-dry case, and a teenage neighbor was convicted of the crime. Her mother, already somewhat unbalanced, goes nuts and runs off to join a cult. Her relationship with her twin, with whom she was once very close, deteriorates. As an adult, she has attempted to construct a life for herself that doesn’t involve her past–in fact, she hasn’t told her boyfriend about any of it, her father’s death or even the fact that she has a twin. She soon learns that an opportunistic podcaster has dredged it all up and has based her new show on the decades old murder, because she thinks something doesn’t quite add up. Things begin to both fall apart and come together. It was an ok book? I raced through it within 24 hours and must have really liked it, but now I couldn’t really tell you why it was so great.

The Silence Of Ghosts by Jonathan Ayecliffe. I became obsessed with this author a few years ago when I saw a passage from one of his ghost stories quoted in a book of Simon Marsden’s eerie black and white photography. His stories, if recall, were ghostly and on the lurid side, which is just how I like them. The Silence Of Ghosts seemed a bit prim in comparison. Told in diary format, it chronicles the story of a young man who loses his leg in the war and is sent to a crumbling old family estate in the countryside to recover from his wounds. He is kept company by his sweet younger sister, a partially deaf (and wholly doomed) creature, and his new nursemaid Rose…as well as a house full of malicious ghosts. A stilted romance flourishes despite stiff upper lips, the sister contracts a strange sickness, and dark family secrets are finally revealed. I couldn’t help but think they were secrets that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid. This book made me very angry and makes considerably less sense than The Silence Of Ghosts. I am recommending it solely because I feel like I can’t be angry alone and I would like you to be angry too. A woman is in a car with her boyfriend, and they are driving to meet his parents. The meeting is bizarre. Both during the car ride and dinner with the parents there is a great deal of internal narrative detailing how they met and how she’s thinking of breaking things off, in addition to her reflections upon some weird things that have been happening to her lately. The interactions are unnerving, the tension is relentless, and a feeling of impending doom is nearly unbearable…but eventually it devolves into a confused jumble of WTFery. A lot of reviewers laud this book as being brilliant, but I will confess that when I finished it, I kind of wanted to throw it into the sea.

House Of McQueen by Valerie Wallace. Poetry full of beautiful cunning by an exquisite wordsmith, who has taken her inspiration from the late, fabulous Alexander McQueen. Cheeky and twisted, graceful and savage, full of opulence and swagger, these are poems that you can visualize stalking the runway–all dark edged beauty, irreverent silken flourishes, and dazzling brilliance.

Gothic Tales Of Haunted Love: A Comics Anthology by Hope Nicholson. I was beyond excited for this book when I heard of its launch on Kickstarter, with talk of ” fragments of lovers torn apart, ghostly revenge, and horrific deeds”…but somehow, I’m truly regretful to share, most of these stories really didn’t quite meet my expectations and rather missed the mark for me.  If this endeavor had been marketed more like The Other Side (a graphic novel anthology of queer paranormal romance) it would have been perfect–and don’t mistake me, I love that the characters in Gothic Tales Of Haunted Love were a diverse spread of all sorts of people and cultures and eras–but I feel like maybe they were really playing fast and loose with what makes a gothic tale a Gothic Tale. Which makes me sound like a rigid traditionalist who doesn’t appreciate deviations from genre “rules” or riffs on a theme. Maybe I don’t like “modern reimaginings” of things? Maybe I’m just super picky? A few tales actually were perfect. Absolutely spot on. A few were meandering, and one or two were just seemed too abstract to work for this concept, at all. I feel terrible that it wasn’t for me, because I’m know it was a passion project with a lot of heart and talent that went into it. Sorry to be a bummer on this one!

The Beauty by Aliyah Whitely. There are no more women left. They all died from some weird fungal disease and now the remaining men of this particular settlement sit around campfires at night listening to Nate, our protagonist, spin tales of how wonderful the women were. It’s always great to be appreciated too late, right? Something peculiar begins happening on the graves where the remaining women were buried, and then it takes off from there in what is ultimately a brilliantly orchestrated deconstruction of gender roles. I don’t mean to spoil anything for anyone, but I have to share that this book grossed me out like nothing ever has. I love my mama friends and their wee ones, but I am not the maternal sort and I can’t even deal with the body horrors of pregnancy–which this book has taken to a whole new and disturbing level.

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman. Having read Malerman’s super freaky and very excellent Bird Box, (see Sonya’s review from March of last year)I had high hopes for this one, even though it didn’t initially sound like a winner. Carol Evers has an eerie condition; she dies a lot. But she’s not actually dead, it’s more like a two day long coma-nap, during which time her pulse slows, her skin cools, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think “well, that’s that!” and you’d throw her in a coffin and be done with it. Only two people know of her condition–her best friend, who, coincidentally, just died, and her husband, who it turns out, is kind of a turd. Well, there is one other person who knows about Carol’s strange sleeping sickness: an outlaw she once loved, but who left her because he was a big baby who couldn’t deal with the somber responsibility of loving a dame like Carol. Carol dies yet again, and her husband, tired of living in his wife’s shadow, puts into motion his plan to bury her alive (which he’s apparently been sitting on for a while). Word travels back to the outlaw living on the outskirts of where ever, and he decides that it’s time to do his duty by the woman he still loves and hits the trail to save her. All this wild west stuff was really off-putting at first, but it’s more the weird west than the wild west. An alternate place on a different timeline. I’m not sure how, but somehow that made the setting more palatable for me. I really liked Unbury Carol, but I had a few problems with it. There’s plenty of talk about how “beloved” Carol was in the town and their community, but other than Malerman telling us that over and over, I am not certain that I actually saw any evidence of it in the story, which is always a little annoying. And with all these dudes either trying to murder Carol or save her, it would seem that this is a story in which Carol has very little agency–which isn’t exactly true–but I would have like to have seen much, much more from Carol, who had the potential to be an immensely intriguing and complex character.

Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood by Claire Hoffman. It took me a long time to realize this, and even longer to admit, but I love memoirs about fucked-up families. In the 1980s and 1990s, after her alcoholic father runs off to California and leaves his family with less than $50, the author’s mother whisked both Claire and her brother away to Iowa for peace and enlightenment at Maharishi’s national headquarters for Heaven on Earth. This isolated meditation community is where Claire Hoffman grew up, and while…not a great deal happened there other than lots of gullible folks being scammed out of their money (no world peace was achieved, none of these fanatical meditators actually ever levitated, or “flew”), I found it a vivid, fascinating glimpse into a weird childhood. I read Greetings from Utopia Park for a book club, and the other person in the club (there’s only two of us! it’s a super perfect first foray into book clubs for me) felt like nothing really happened and that the book was “one, long, sad, sigh”. She’s right in that it might seem a little …restrained? If you’re expecting a juicy, unbridled, scandalous “tell-all”, well that’s not what this is, and I think if it were all of those things, maybe I wouldn’t have found it so relatable. I’m not sure how I wasn’t a child who grew up in such a community. My mother was a similar sort of dreamer, and I can’t help but thinking if conditions were right…if she knew how to drive, or if she had met the right weirdos at the right time in her life…that could have been my sisters and I, mediating and eating tofu and living in some sort of crazy utopian trailer park. This reads like the book I would have written if my circumstances were only slightly different.

The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman I have been reading Alice Hoffman since I was 16 or 17 years old, and a co-worker recommended her to me. My first job was a part-time affair, and involved hamburgers and french fries and terrible, greasy, red uniforms. I was “bottom bun”: I squeezed ketchup and mustard in concentric circles onto lukewarm meat patties, and topped each bullseye with precisely three dill pickle slices and a soggy circle of red onion. I then passed my creation on to K., who had the coveted “top bun” position, and would crown my topless sandwich with lettuce, tomato and a dome shaped, glossy brown hamburger bun. K. seemed to me at the time very old, though in retrospect she must have been only in her 50s or so, and, I thought, terribly out of place. I was a teenager, it was my job to have a terrible job. K. was or had been an English teacher, so what the heck was she doing there? (I later found out her husband had been diagnosed with an unnamed disease, and I felt awful for belittling what must have been an extra job to pay for his treatments.) We often talked of books and what we were currently reading. “I think you’d quite like Alice Hoffman,” she offered one afternoon during the lunch rush, shouting to be heard over the hissing crackle of the speakers and a customer’s complicated order. “Really beautiful character studies and lots of magical realism!” I had absolutely no idea what she meant by any of that, but I dutifully found a copy of Turtle Moon at a used bookstore, and caught up at once in the surprisingly beautiful prose, I breathlessly devoured it within 24 hours. And so ever after it has always been with Alice Hoffman’s books, at least until I found myself thinking in recent years, “oh, another new Alice Hoffman title? Let me guess? There’s two sisters, one is maybe dark, the other, no doubt, light. There’s gonna be some mundane sort of magic. Something about birds or beetles or butter. There’s a curse, oh, right,  you’re not allowed to fall in love. Sigh. That old chestnut again.” And so too it was with The Rules Of Magic. It’s all there. All familiar, all versions of stories I nearly know by heart after all of these years.  And yet, I found my jaded heart opening to these characters again and again, and as their new story unfolded, my cynicism lifted and I was once again rapt and dazzled, hopeful and heartbroken and swept up in their wondrous worlds of magic and birdsong and cursed love. I realize I haven’t told you anything about this new book, but I think, if you’re a fan of Alice Hoffman’s writings, it doesn’t matter. We have learned by now we’ll go where ever she takes us, and fall in love over and over again, every single time.  (Also, this is a prequel to Practical Magic and really, do I need to tell you anything else??)

 

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Listen Closely, Hear Her Voice: Our Tarot

by on Jul.02, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

In late 2016, Sarah Shipman was inspired to combine her two of her favorite interests: Tarot and women’s history. Initially meant to be an art project just for her own enjoyment, she gradually warmed up to the idea of sharing it with the world. Eventually, Sarah launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation and production of Our Tarot and with the support of over six hundred backers, the deck and guidebook were completed and printed in early 2018.

Each card in Our Tarot is inspired by the traditional meanings of the mystic Tarot. Not only that, but each card is represented by a woman (or women) who has used her life to change the world. Just like the archetypes in traditional Tarot decks, the women of Our Tarot are complicated, flawed, and multifaceted. Some of the women are heroic, some are not. Some are considered beautiful, while others were never highly regarded for their appearance. Some come from privileged backgrounds, while others were born into adversity.

Sarah hopes that Our Tarot will not only be used for intuitive guidance, but for inspired education. By connecting with the real-life women showcased in this deck, you may find yourself drawn to their images and their stories. By learning about their lives, you might learn even more about yourself.

Some decks may be stacked against us, but this deck is ours.

A new, beautiful, and innovative deck that connects 78 women from the pages of history with the traditional archetypes and meanings associated with each of the 78 Tarot cards, Our Tarot comes with an illustrated guidebook that details the connections between the life story, accomplishments, and traits of each woman and the card she represents. The women of Our Tarot are a diverse selection of human beings and represent many ethnicities, creeds, socioeconomic classes, sexualities, cisgender and transgender identities, ages, and abilities.

According to Sarah, “This isn’t just a new deck with a different aesthetic.” Every single card will feature the likeness and name of a remarkable woman, combined with multimedia illustration that conveys the energy, messages, and symbolism she brings to the deck. “Readings with Our Tarot are a unique experience. When conducting readings for clients with this deck, I feel as though the ladies of Our Tarot are communicating with me through their legacies and accomplishments. By synthesizing historical experience with the mystical tradition of tarot, the messages they have for you becomes all the more clear”

Our Tarot can be used as a tool for insight, divination, personal guidance & coaching, education, and inspiration, and can be purchased here.


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New in the Shop: Sabbat Unisex Shirts

by on Jun.30, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

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New in the Haute Macabre Shop: the Unisex Sabbat Shirt

Featuring original artwork for Haute Macabre by Jordan Barlow, the Sabbat shirt is printed with dark grey discharge ink on a black Tultex crew neck tee.

Printed locally in New Orleans by Inferno Screen Printing.

The Sabbat shirt is available now in the shop! For the curious: our beloved Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab collection will be available again later this summer. We are currently working on new additions to the line and will keep you posted on their progress!

Sam is wearing a size Small in the photos and is 5’2″
Jordan is wearing a size Medium in the photos and is 5’11”

Sizing: (width x length in inches)
Small : 16.5 x 26
Medium: 20 x 29
Large: 22 x 30
X Large: 24 x 31

Care instructions: Lay flat to dry to preserve shape. Do not put in drier!
We recommend hand wash in cool water for best preservation.

65% Polyester/35% Ring-Spun cotton, pre-shrunk


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New in the Shop: Sabbat Unisex Shirts

by on Jun.30, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

New in the Haute Macabre Shop: the Unisex Sabbat Shirt

Featuring original artwork for Haute Macabre by Jordan Barlow, the Sabbat shirt is printed with dark grey discharge ink on a black Tultex crew neck tee.

Printed locally in New Orleans by Inferno Screen Printing.

The Sabbat shirt is available now in the shop! For the curious: our beloved Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab collection will be available again later this summer. We are currently working on new additions to the line and will keep you posted on their progress!

Sam is wearing a size Small in the photos and is 5’2″
Jordan is wearing a size Medium in the photos and is 5’11”

Sizing: (width x length in inches)
Small : 16.5 x 26
Medium: 20 x 29
Large: 22 x 30
X Large: 24 x 31

Care instructions: Lay flat to dry to preserve shape. Do not put in drier!
We recommend hand wash in cool water for best preservation.

65% Polyester/35% Ring-Spun cotton, pre-shrunk


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Unlikely Therapy: Skeletor Is Love

by on Jun.28, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

*Channelling Sophia Petrillo*: “Picture it. Orlando. 2011.” I had retreated back to Florida after seven hellish years in New Jersey,  a desperately unhappy experience from which I was only just beginning to recover. Immediately upon my arrival back down south, I moved in with my sister and her new husband, who welcomed me with open arms…. but in retrospect I guess that’s probably not how a married couple wants to spend their first few months of matrimony together? Yikes. I kinda feel badly about it now, but it’s a #sorrynotsorry sort of feeling, because reconnecting with and spending so much time with my sister over those next few months was a ridiculous amount of fun, and, I think, an important part of the healing that I needed to do.

What with the urgent sense of relief for having escaped a nightmarish relationship, and the obligationless existence of living rent-free for a spell, I had a lot of time on my hands for reflection. Examining my choices, the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learned from them, and all of the possibilities going forward. As part of this process of self-reflection, I’d often spend evenings perusing my sister’s bookshelves, selecting titles from motivational authors and self-help gurus such as Louise L. Hay or Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, or sometimes even SARK, and skimming the pages at random, looking for thoughts or phrases that resonated with me, and which I might implement that day. Inspirational bibliomancy, I suppose. My sister is a mental health professional and while it’s probably not ethical to talk about what she does, I will mention that she works in a rough area of town, in a challenging environment, and with kids who have just about every disadvantage you can imagine. While living with her for that short amount of time and hearing the horror stories and the heartbreak she deals with on a daily basis, I grew to admire her strength and capabilities more than ever. She is an amazing woman, and if educating myself with selections from her small library of positive thinking and self love could help me achieve even half of her resilience and optimism, then perhaps this was an interest worth nurturing.

Five months later I had moved out and was living on my own again, and between the craziness of getting settled back in at work and the budding of a new relationship, I had mostly forgotten the wise words and sage advice of the life coaches and guides from my sister’s shelves. No doubt I could have used the encouragement and support, though, as I was still working through a lot of intensely personal stuff. I was perpetually angry and morbidly dwelling about all the time and energy and youth I had wasted up north. I was legitimately terrified that my past would continue to haunt me in both metaphorical and terrifyingly literal ways. Sometimes these thoughts paralysed me. I frequently found myself in front of my computer, in the middle of the workday, feverish tears streaming down my face, my throat convulsing with soundless screams. (Thank god I worked from home.)

It was one of these afternoons when I took a deep breath, calmed myself, and decided that I needed a fucking break. On a whim, I navigated to Youtube and for some weird reason, in my recommended viewing queue was the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie, in its entirety. I’m still not sure why I even clicked play on the video; although as a child of the eighties, I was of course familiar with He-Man and his crew and had spent many a childhood afternoon watching their adventures on Eternia, I can’t say that I had any great attachment to the show or the characters.

When I first glimpsed Frank Langella as Skeletor, I couldn’t help but think he was a real bummer. He just seemed so profoundly mopey and bitter, and I’m sure I blanched, visibly, wondering if I, too, appeared that way to other people in my current state. I found myself musing ….what if Skeletor had gotten more positive reinforcement and encouragement, or maybe just more hugs and love? Would he have chosen a different path, perhaps become a more compassionate, well-balanced sort of guy? I thought perhaps someone should have let him borrow a book of affirmations, and intervention of sorts, a “hey man, read some Kahlil Gibran and get your head on straight” conversation.

At that point, still caught up in frittering my afternoon away with imaginary therapy for skull-faced alien villains, I had a “eureka!” moment.  I found a few MOTU cartoon episodes online, I saved a handful of screen caps of Skeletor perpetrating various acts of villainy–the more outlandish the better– and opened them up in Photoshop. Carefully choosing some phrases of love and positivity from Louise L. Hay, I matched each image of the evil overlord’s wickedness and moral turpitude with an empowering thought. I knew it was utterly ridiculous even as I was doing it, and in true Sarah fashion, I didn’t even proof-read the first one I created, which still exists to this day with that spelling error, rendering it even more nonsensical. I messaged my sister over facebook with the whole slew of them, hoping to give her a laugh in the middle of what was probably shaping up to be a tough day, as I knew most of them usually were.

Both my sister and her husband, as well as my adorable new beau, thought this was a fantastic concept, and encouraged me to make a few more. Which, it turned out, I had a lot of fun with, and started to get really good at. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m no artist–I was taking art that someone else created and paired it with words that someone else wrote–and so I was under no delusions about my artistic endeavor. But I do think I had a knack for finding the perfect turn of phrase to match with the most perversely appropriate image. Discerning and demonstrating those synergies must be an art form unto itself, right? Maybe? I went with that at the time, and I think I still believe it, to an extent.

I moved from posting these on my own, personal Facebook page, to creating a dedicated facebook page for it. Why not? I thought.  Surely there are other weirdos on this planet who might get a kick out of this, too? What to call this project, though? Something catchy, simple, powerful. And of course he needed a tagline, something brief and to the point!

Skeletor Is Love, or Heal Yourself, Skeletor.
Skeletor is experiencing the profound emptiness and isolation of human existence. Follow his journey to positive mental health through daily affirmations.

When I mused that there would be other weirdos who would appreciate my silly contribution to the internet, I truly had no idea just how prescient a thought that turned out to be. I mean….ok, to be honest, I usually know when I have a good idea, or when I’m on to something. So I wasn’t entirely surprised that within a few days time the page had several hundred followers. By the end of the week there were several thousand. Within the next few months there were tens of thousands…and if I sound like I am tooting my horn, well, maybe I am a little.

Previously, I had, for years, been trapped in a relationship with a person who wouldn’t “let” me connect with people on the internet. Suspicious, paranoid, and extremely controlling, this man monitored my activities, policed my behavior, read my emails, and dictated to me the sites I could visit, the people I could communicate with, and even how I chose to present myself onIine. But less than a year later, under the auspices of an 80s cartoon bad guy, I was now reaching out to many thousands of people on a daily basis! And I didn’t have to hide it, or feel ashamed or guilty…as a matter of fact, what I was doing made me feel really, really good. “Take that, you miserable fucker!” I often found myself gleefully murmuring, in the very beginning.

It became clear to me that Skeletor wasn’t just making me feel good.

I tried not to look at the comments in response to each day’s offering; for every enthusiastic word of praise there was usually a complaint or criticism, “I don’t get it”, or “…is this supposed to be funny?” and after a while I was just like, “well, I can’t help it if you’re a moron”– but would this kinder, gentler Skeletor reply with that? Probably not. So I just skipped the comment section, for the most part, all together. (Upon reflection, that probably should have been one of the affirmations, too.)

I soon began receiving messages and emails, many of which really blew my mind. These were folks thanking me for making a difference in their day, for putting something good out into the world. Oftentimes the sender would share that Skeletor’s affirmation for the day aligned perfectly with something they were going through or trying to figure out.  Even more affecting than that, were those who shared that Skeletor was helping them with cope with their depression, or their self-harm, or their sobriety/addiction. I realized that what had started out as a lark, a laugh, a bit of light-hearted fun… was actually making a difference in someone’s life, and that there was a community of people in need who were perhaps truly benefiting from these messages of positivity. I began to take Skeletor and his messages to the public a little bit more seriously at this point, and tried my utmost to be responsible and respectful, but still tap into the absurdity and humor that inspired me in the first place.

If it made someone laugh, that’s great. If it helped someone get out of bed in the morning, or to call their sponsor instead of taking that drink, or whatever – that was even better. And I did try to put my money where my mouth is, to to speak! In May of 2014, my sister and I took part in the NAMI Walk (NAMI= National Alliance on Mental Illness), and as part of that, I reached out to the Skeletor is Love audience for assistance and we raised over $1200 for the cause. I think it meant a lot to people that, yes, while I created things to make people laugh on the internet, I was also an actual human being who was trying to do right by the community for which I had become an advocate. I did try to make it clear though, that I’ve got no training in the mental health field other than living in a family full of depressed alcoholics. I joke about it, but that part is true. I am no expert on anything. I was just doing my small, dumb part to make the world a better place.

But really how seriously can you take something like this? Of course, not too seriously. You know that I had to create a How To Wear Skeletor Is Love ensemble! And sooner or later, I ran out of quotes from inspirational self-help gurus, so I moved on to celebrities, scientists, to saints, philosophers, poets, song lyrics, personal ads (“today we are kittens, tomorrow we are tigers” was a quote from They Call Me Naughty Lola, which is a book that everyone should have on their coffee table.) Sometimes I might read something that got me all riled up, and I’d react via Skeletor (like in a Huffpost article in which men are asked to weigh in on ladies fashion trends. Fuck off, Huffpost.) Sometimes I just made it all up entirely.

In the end though, I promised myself that once it stopped being fun, I was done with it. Life is too short to slog through things that you’re not enjoying, you know? And maybe it’s selfish, but I’d rather leave people wanting more of a thing, than to have them tire of that thing and grow to hate it. And that’s eventually what happened, more or less, but I guess it was more me hating it than the people I was making it for. It was brought to my attention that a certain mall goth shop had begun to sell these tee shirts. I was a little miffed. I mean, I am not saying that I am the only person on Earth who could have paired together Skeletor and the lyrics from Joydrop’s 1998 single “Beautiful”, but come on.  Really? V. rude, Hot Topic.

But what could I do? These weren’t even my characters, and I am not sure how copyright or trademark infringement works, but I wasn’t about to get caught up in all of that. I fumed for a few days, took a week off, and realized I was absolutely dreading even thinking about accompanying Skeletor any further on his journey. I was definitely not having fun any more.

In the end, I worked on Skeletor is Love for about a year and a half, and even when it was over, I left everything as-is for new folks to discover, and so that the people who already loved it would always have access to it. All of the places where one might find my original Skeletor Is Love content still exist to this day.  Of course, not everyone was happy with my decision, and on one hand, I get it. As a fan of things, I am always a bit sad when the thing I love reaches the end, takes its final bow, and exits the stage. But I also think I can recognize when someone continues to do a thing in which they are not fully invested, when their heart’s not in it. I didn’t want to become such a person, endlessly churning out garbage that I was unhappy with, forever–and I do believe that most people understood my decision. Many fans said, “but it’s so great, why not give the page to someone else to update?” Uh, really? Ok, you create something that was pretty important to you and then gormlessly turn it over to a complete stranger to have their way with. Go right ahead! But yeah, that’s just…asinine. Who in their right mind would do that? Also? Why would you even want to continue cranking out a project that you didn’t start? Get your own thing! Run with your own ideas! I feel like that’s what Skeletor might say, anyway. At least this re-imagined version of him.

On the whole, it was an amazing time, and a weird, wild, experience. I made it to Buzzfeed! And i09! A few kind souls even interviewed me about the experience, and as someone who is usually the one asking the interview questions, that was certainly a strange turnabout. It was an enterprise which connected me with people I never would have met otherwise, and which four years later, people are still just now finding out about. Even to this day when it somehow comes up in conversation, the other person’s response is usually, “…that was YOU?!” Which as a terribly shy person who sometimes secretly loves attention, that’s always kind of exciting.

Friends who have already heard this story a thousand times, thank you for indulging me once more. Friends and readers who were previously unaware– I guess I just wanted to make sure you guys knew, too! In addition to my love of art and fashion, perfume and ghosts and weirdness, and all of the other things and experiences I write about here at Haute Macabre– also, at one point in time, I had a funny little undertaking with a blue-skinned megalomaniac, and we embarked on a journey of hope and positivity together.

“It Wasn’t Just A Phase,” while the motto here at Haute Macabre, could also apply to the lessons that I took away from my time doing Skeletor is Love. Compassion. Empathy. Kindness. I’d like to think that these are phases I will never grow out of, and if they could change Skeletor for the better, then I’d like to  think there is hope for just about anyone.

Find Skeletor Is Love: website // facebook // twitter // instagram

 

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Would You Die For Love?

by on Jun.27, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

Dilara Findikoglu Wedding

Love has no gender, no race, no limits

As long as his wig wasn’t flat and his complexion not sunburn, he feared no battle
For all men who have challenged the way in which society views marriage and sexuality.

“Give us the right to our existence”
For the women who wish to revolt against gender stereotypes and etiquette defined by society and law, and express their love and sexuality in which ever the way they desire.

Model – @keownkillahgardener // @georginadsilva // @thatgirlsussi // @harrycharlesworth // @annannataylor // @somejuice // @saffiyah__khan //
Photography – @caspersejersenstudio
Styling – @elliegracecumming
Hair – @davidharborow
Make up – @lucyjbridge
Set – @william__farr 
Film – @bunnykinney
Production @joevendon
PR – @starworksgroup 
Team – @wingwatson // @sonnytassell // @valerianevnc // @alicethompzon // @nadja_victoria // @m.prky


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Aspects of the Magician: Tarot Offerings From Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

by on Jun.22, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that, though I grew up in a household steeped in the mysteries of the occult, and had all manner of mystical materials and esoteric knowledge at my fingertips, I spent most of my childhood at my late grandmother’s knee, primping pie crusts, dropping dumplings, and stirring steep, simmering pots of aromatic Cincinnati chili. I guess that in itself isn’t embarrassing, because those were treasured times and the best sorts of lessons and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But what I’m saying is, that despite the wealth of woo woo available to me, any actual magics I absorbed were of the more practical and delicious variety. My mother’s divinatory accoutrements, such as tarot cards and the like, were of keen interest to me only in the sense that they were emblazoned with vibrantly beautiful imagery that set my imagination alight and were woven with potent symbolism that stirred my story-loving soul–even though I never took the time to properly study their nuances and secrets and didn’t know what the heck any of it meant.

Thirty years later, just this January, actually, I decided it was high time to remedy my ignorance. Over the years, I’d picked up just enough knowledge to dabble, but now it was time to get serious. And just in time for my Taurean nature to catch up to my decision and begin implementing my studies (I won’t lie–that phase took about three months), our friends at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab have begun releasing tarot inspired scents!

To say that these creations are merely “tarot inspired”, though, is a pretty egregious understatement. From what I can tell of scents released so far (The Fool, The Magician, and The High Priestess), these fragrant interpretations are a deep dive into the archetypes of the major arcana by someone who clearly knows their way around a Rider-Waite. There were 12 scents dedicated to The Fool, alone! (Released, appropriately enough, on April Fools Day, The Fool has since sold out.)

“The Fool’s Journey” is a term coiled by Eden Gray and appears as the title of the Epilogue in A Complete Guide to the Tarot.

“The Fool represents the soul of everyman, which, after it is clothed in a body, appears on earth and goes through the life experiences depicted in the 21 cards of the Major Arcana, sometimes thought of as archetypes of the subconscious.”

The fool is you. It is me. It is all of us! And the journey of the fool is our very own adventure through these archetypal energies. For today’s segment of the journey, the steps are perilous and will contain many “teachable moments.” But fear not, for in this collection of limited edition perfume blends, The Magician is here in his many aspects to instruct, challenge, and entertain.

“The First Trump, the Master of Ceremonies, the Compère, the Doorkeeper of the Tarot. Originally the Juggler – the prototypical Trickster – he was transformed by the shifting currents of collective consciousness into the consummate Magus. He is the Carnival King and the Lord of Gamblers, the First Diviner and the Master of Chance. He is Hermes, he is Mercury, he is Apollo; he is the opening note and the final triumph of the Opus and the Messenger of the Divine. He commands, controls, and synthesizes the Four Elements; he is Aleph, he is the first substance, he is the source of all numbers. He is the intersection of Heaven and Earth.

The Magician in his current incarnation embodies action in all forms, skill and perspicacity, the utilization of innate talents, and deliberate, conscious transformation, yet he is still the Juggler – the Supreme Trickster – forever playing Three-card Monte with your fate.”

And though I’m not far enough along in my own, personal, journey to interpret the more complex aspects of The Magician and his lessons, I can sure tell you what they smell like!

The Lemniscate (frankincense and black pepper, Himalayan cedar, cognac, and tobacco) The sign of life, the sigil of eternity. Dry, chilly woods with a piperine zip and a nose-tickling, lemony cedar nip.

The Magician’s Belt (frankincense, white rose, balsam, almond flower, and benzoin) The Ouroboros, the serpent as he consumes his own tail. My notes tell me that I thought this was “a creamy, grape-y rose, dipped in sugar”, which makes me sound like a simpleton, but…there you go.

The Magician’s Garden (Flos campi and lilium convallium, Rose of Sharon and Lily of the Valley) The blossoms of transcendence and spiritual aspiration. I didn’t know this until just this moment, but Rose of Sharon is not really a rose at all, but rather a member of the hibiscus family–and which is why I don’t smell any rose in this lovely garden (which is fine with me, rose and I have a complicated relationship). Instead this is a  charming white floral that is somehow both dusky and heady, light and lacy. There’s an odd mineral tang hovering at the edges, which cuts the cloying and keeps things weird. For what it’s worth, The Magician’s Garden is my favorite of the collection. My second favorite is…

The Magician’s Robes (red and white musks alight with frankincense, white oudh, sweet labdanum, and saffron) The unification of opposites, putrefaction and individuation, the culmination of the Great Work. The way up and the way down are one and the same. Straight from the bottle, this reminds me of a sauce that comes with the naan which I usually stuff myself with and which leaves me unable to finish my cauliflower tikka masala at one of my favorite restaurants. It’s bright green and I always worry it’s going to be fraught with mint,but I’m not certain there’s even any mint in it. It’s slightly sour, slightly sweet, and slightly bitter and never fails to make my mouth pucker in surprise. On my wrist though, The Magician’s Robes are a deep. velvety embrace, utterly saturated with sweet, musky magics.

The Magician’s Tools (Clary sage and patchouli for Earth, lavender and yarrow for Air, tobacco and Dracaena cinnabari for Fire, lotus root and myrrh for Water). Wand and cup, dagger and coin. A scent lofty and bright with tinny/camphoraceous herbals, and anchored by a gritty, earthy darkness.

The Magician’s Wand (ash, rowan, oak, and elder wood, polished with sweet resins but handworn, glowing with inner fire) Energy, will, and the manifested Word of the Magus. It is the generative process, the act of creation. Lush golden resins, and pillowy vanilla musk. There’s almost something fruity about it, but it’s very elusive….maybe like some sort of fluffy syllabub flavored with the essence of a fruit that never existed.

Il Bagatella (pomegranate and Lebanese cedar, the martyr’s red rose, and an aspergillum of wine-soaked hyssop) The Carnival King, the embodiment of the liminal space that exists between the death and resurrection of Christ. *consults notes* : “…this is a punch that will really fuck you up.” A sticky, red wine-soaked pomegranate floating in the middle of your Nana’s cut glass punch bowl.

Taschenspieler (peru balsam, tobacco absolute, leather, white sage, and blackberry juice) The master of sleight-of-hand and trickery: dexterous, clever, and roguish. Darkly refreshing, an herbal draught in a wooden cup. Savory at the sip, and sweet at the swallow, it becomes sweeter and more potent the longer you drink from its depths.

The Harlequin (vetiver-steeped raspberry and red currant) The Divine Comedian, the Eternal Jester, instructing through pranks and buffoonery. A jammy, fizzy summer drink dankened by the barest whisper of vetiver, counter-brightened by a squeeze of lemon. This is, of course, served in a smiley-faced plastic pitcher.

The Legerdemain (black silken musk, dark clove, guaiac wood, black pepper, frankincense, and cardamom) The twilight in between the stage performer and the Magus; the sleight of hand trick transforms into true sorcerous skill. A sharp, funky waft from musky, brooding spice cabinet that softens to the must and dust of peppery ghosts with time and expiration dates past.

The Magus (honey absolute, Oman frankincense, and asphodel) The Sorcerer, the Cunning-Man, the Sage. Soft, green herbs steeped in honey. A taste on the tongue to sweeten your kisses as you pass through the underworld.

The Mountebank (leather, sweet balsam, white sandalwood, thieves’ rosin, and dusty lavender) The Hustler, the Scoundrel, the Grifter, using the magic of misdirection, charm, and subtlety to swindle his way through this world, and through all worlds, seen and unseen. Roguish leather, dusty from the road. Balsamic molasses. Fluffy lavender clouds. A tricky scent that keeps you guessing.

The Storyteller (beeswax, leather, hearth wood, and campfire smoke) The Raconteur, the Town Gossip, and the first character to appear on the stage in the first act. A clean, respectable sort of scent, straight from the bottle. The soft, citrusy cologne of an upstanding citizen. Once on the skin, however, it’s an entirely different story than the one you thought you were getting. Still respectable, I guess. But less rigid. Less wake-up call and more bedtime story. The soft supple leather of a well worn chair armchair, a hearth whose smoking embers signal the late hour, and the sweet, dripping wax of a candle that has illuminated an audience from its rapt, wide-eyed beginnings to its soft snores at the tale’s end.

The Magician collection is currently live and available for purchase in 5ml bottles for $26 each. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available.

Find Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab: website // instagram // twitter // facebook // tumblr

 

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How Not To Be Seen: Unlearning Invisibility – One Year Later

by on Jun.18, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from | Go to Original Post

It’s Pride Month and nearly a year has passed since my essay, “How Not To Be Seen: Unlearning Invisibility,” was first published here on Haute Macabre. So lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on that particular piece of writing which, to my surprise and subsequent joy, ended up helping more people than myself alone. I find it hard to believe that it has only been one year. In some ways it feels so much longer than that. Day-to-day life has simply been busy, to be sure, but I think it’s also because my life is richer for being more open and honest, for feeling more visible, less burdened, more comfortable in my own skin, for feeling seen and supported.

It might surprise some to learn that one of the best things that’s happened over the last year is that I’ve grown even closer to B, my cis male primary partner. He’s been my best friend for decades and we’ve been partners for…well, it’ll be 17 years this December. One of the things I tried to express in my essay was that coming out and living life as honestly as possible has been challenging for both of us. But we were willing to put our hearts on the line and put in the emotional work, even when it sometimes seemed endless. One year later, I can say with confidence that we’ve both learned even more about ourselves, each other, and about us as a couple and we’re stronger, more vulnerable, and closer for it. I’m even more grateful for B’s presence, his steadfast love, and his unwavering support. In case anyone is wondering, I’m no less queer now than I was this time last year, but, for as much as I’ve struggled to be seen and understood, I’ve also learned that B is a vital part of that visibility, not independent of it or complementary to it. Yes, it’s complicated, but that’s okay.

This isn’t meant to imply that the past year has been all ups and no downs, far from it. There’s been both love and loss. Hearts afire, heartache, and heartbreak. But, truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve learned so much. I’m still learning. I imagine I always will be. That’s okay too. That’s more than okay.

But the most important thing that came of sharing that essay – besides the wealth of support I received from people I already knew and people I didn’t know until they reached out – was that it turned out to be much bigger than myself, a discovery which also helped me feel less isolated and despairing. Shortly after the essay was posted I began hearing from people who felt that, to one extent or another, my words had voiced their own experiences, desires, and worries, their own internal conflict, and the pains of invisible existence. I received such intensely moving and candid messages, e-mails, and letters that, as its anniversary approaches, I want to share the essay here again (you’ll find it below), in hopes that it’ll reach more people who might benefit from the cathartic paragraphs I loosed onto the internets one year ago. If you’re one of those people and you’d like to talk with me about your own situation, please do. I want you to feel seen and heard, valid and loved.

—-

A few months ago Sam invited the staff writers to pen some personal pieces for Haute Macabre. I’ve since considered writing about a variety of subjects that interest me, but there’s something else, something much more personal that’s been on my mind for a very long time and this suddenly seemed like a singular opportunity to put it out into the world. So thank you, Sam, for inviting me to do some serious gut-spilling and intention-outing with this essay. And thank you, whoever takes the time to read this all the way through. (tw: sexual assault and abuse)

“In her novel Regeneration, Pat Barker writes of a doctor who “knew only too well how often the early stages of change or cure may mimic deterioration. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.” But the butterfly is so fit an emblem of the human soul that its name in Greek is psyche, the word for soul. We have not much language to appreciate this phase of decay, this withdrawal, this era of ending that must precede beginning. Nor of the violence of the metamorphosis, which is often spoken of as though it were as graceful as a flower blooming.”      —Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

In a few moments it’ll officially be my birthday. I’m home alone, sipping bourbon, and re-watching Only Lovers Left Alive. It’s both Pride month and the month in which I turn 40, but I don’t feel like celebrating. That’s because it’s Pride month and I’m about to turn 40 and I feel as though, with the exception of a few precious people and despite what it says in my bio at the bottom of this page, my everyday life is more or less lived in the closet. It’s a closet built of my own silence and other people’s assumptions, but closets of convenience are no less suffocating. So how did I get here?

Like many queer kids, I was a late bloomer. I knew from very early on that I wasn’t straight and that it felt like the most natural thing in the world, but I had no vocabulary for it. When I look back on my childhood and adolescence, there were an abundance of wonderful queer influences in my life – writers, actors, artists, musicians – that I didn’t appreciate specifically for their queerness at the time, but I believe had an impact all the same. Speaking of Only Lovers Left Alive, I’m by no means the first person to declare a profound crush on beguiling, inspiring, gender-fluid Tilda Swinton, who’s had me in her thrall since I first saw Orlando in my teens, which was also how I discovered Virginia Woolf. I’m doubly glad about these queer presences because I didn’t have any queer personal contacts until I was nearly out of high school. If any of my friends at the time were somehow queer, they weren’t out (not that I’m blaming anyone for that). I had no gay relatives or gay family friends (again, not that I knew of). I was also introverted, melancholy, and often lost in my own head, which probably didn’t help matters.

I don’t recall hearing overtly homophobic rhetoric from anyone close to me as a child. But I remember lots of little things, like kids in school making homophobic jokes, laughing and reciting sing-song chants on the playground like “Lez be friends so we can walk homo together.” I doubt they really understood what they were saying, not at that age. They just thought it was funny. But these sorts of things made it clear to me that certain people were considered “other”, that girls crushed on boys and boys crushed on girls and eventually they’d all grow up and get married and have kids and it was all very, very heteronormative.

Come adolescence I knew I was queer, but still lacked a vocabulary for it. I knew what turned my head and captivated me, but hadn’t the first idea what to do about it or have anyone in whom I felt I could confide about such things. Everyone else seemed to be getting along as well or poorly as can be expected in their teenage years, because let’s not forget that adolescence is rough for everyone. I developed crushes on girls and boys my age (in retrospect, the boys tended to be pretty and delicate of feature), but I didn’t date anyone until college. The internet was a nascent thing during my teens. Life was pre-Facebook, pre-Instagram, pre-Tumblr, etc. I appreciate and sometimes actively envy the access adolescents now have to information, support resources, and potential friends, both near and far. It’s a pointless exercise, but I can’t help wondering if I would’ve figured myself out much earlier if I’d had the access to such things when I was a teen.

College finally introduced me to all sorts of openly queer people. I made new friends and met people I fancied and sometimes they fancied me back, fancy that! Unfortunately, college also brought an abusive relationship with a man and later I was raped by another. I told no one about either of these things at the time and eventually dropped out of college and got a job. I dated women and men and, a couple years later, I was assaulted again, this time by a woman. The world closed a little more each time I experienced this sort of harm, perhaps even more so because I didn’t reach out to others for help. Instead I did what I’d always done and tried to keep going in spite of things, but life became increasingly tricky to navigate. Self-loathing increased, self-esteem shrank, and who I was became less important than simply keeping my head above water.

Over time life gradually calmed down and stabilized. I moved out to Seattle in my mid-twenties, having wanted to live in the PNW since I was a teen. There I formed a deep, healthy, loving relationship with a warm and kind-hearted cis man with whom I’d been friends since college and who is now my husband (I’ll call him B). I also landed a great job for a singular company which grew into the position I love today.

So much of my 20s were varying degrees of difficult and personally unstable. By the time I reached 30 it was clear to me that I needed outside help to deal with various things I’d never actually addressed. Counseling was a life-saving source of support and guidance, helping me face and work through events and issues from my past, letting go of destructive coping mechanisms I’d developed over the intervening years, and learning how to accept, rebuild, and love myself.

But what never came up (nor did I bring up) in therapy or in conversations with my closest friends or even with B, perhaps because it was simply still higher up yet on my personal hierarchy of needs, were my sexual identity and relationship needs. This isn’t meant to imply that B wasn’t aware of my sexual history. We’d discussed it years ago and I’d described myself as what felt accurate at the time: as someone whose attractions to people didn’t concern gender, but individuals. I think that was genuinely was true for a period and remains true with regards to B, but I also can’t help but look back and consider the pressures of heteronormativity and relationship conventions, and how it was easier for me, especially while I was broken and unstable, to default to social norms. Regardless, sexuality is a spectrum, everyone has different relationship needs, and people also grow and change throughout their lives, myself included.

It was only once I finally began to feel okay with myself that I became increasingly aware of both a growing absence in my life and and sense of invisibility. Somewhere along the way of struggling to keep from completely falling apart I’d lost my sense of queerness, and the prospect of facing this felt like the scariest thing yet. Now I found myself married (albeit happily) to a man and thus presenting for all intents and purposes as a heterosexual woman. I’m in my 30s and have a loving partner who is also my best friend. I love my job. I love where I live. Life should be great. I repeatedly told myself it was too late and felt too selfish to even be considering such things. I was lucky to have as much as I did. I should’ve realized and said something to B years ago. I’d missed my window. And at the time, in the midst of all these worries and rationalizations, I didn’t even stop to consider the heteronormative privilege I experience passing as straight. Instead I’d swallow my concerns and longings, shove it all down and ignore it in hopes of forgetting about it, because thinking about it, let alone talking about it, felt pointless.

But as time passes it becomes impossible to ignore that it’s not pointless, that it’s not okay to feel like this, increasingly not okay on many levels. It affects my general well-being, my day-to-day life. It affects the quality of my relationship with B. I lose interest in my hobbies. The idea of spending time with friends feels exhausting because it means keeping up the appearance that I feel fine. Exchanging everyday pleasantries makes me scream and sob inside. I feel hollow interacting with a world that assumes I’m straight, that I’m not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but an ally. I lose sleep at night wondering if I’ll ever even kiss another woman again and preoccupied by the profound despair such thoughts bring. I silently seethe while sitting through conversations with friends or family that disturb or offend me and feel mute because, before I can address an offending topic, I’d have to start potentially awkward conversations about myself in order to discuss said topic without seeming like someone getting offended on behalf of someone else. It all feels so complicated and messy. So much of this is my fault. I know this. I’m a natural introvert with an intense dislike of confrontation. I don’t want to make people I care about feel uncomfortable and I’m scared of alienating people in my life by sharing information I’ve been sitting on for so long it now feels like an old, increasingly dangerous bomb that only I know about, that only I can see.

On the verge of a tangible internal breaking point, I did finally confide in a couple close friends and, from there, worked up the courage to talk with B. It was terrifying and very emotional for both of us and didn’t get easier from there. There was relief at first, yes, but then began the long, steep learning curve as we set about navigating an entirely new phase of our relationship, one of ethical non-monogamy. For anyone considering such a thing themselves – coming out to your partner and opening your relationship – it’s a lot of hard work that requires constant open communication. But it’s completely worthwhile, I think, especially if you know your life is on the line. But, yes, it means lots of challenging conversations with your partner and working through all sorts of worries, insecurities, and other issues as they arise. For me it also means making sure B understands that, even though I’m a lot gayer now than when we began dating, I don’t love him any less or feel less romantically connected to him because he and our connection are just that special to me.

While this was tremendous personal progress and progress as a couple, aside from B and I each confiding in a couple close friends, the change in our relationship was kept a secret. There was to be no outward evidence so as not to invite potentially awkward questions, not because of shame, but because of convenience.

During this period I met a woman who she initially seemed wonderful in all sorts of ways and I felt swept off my feet, but ultimately it didn’t work out for us. I try to remind myself that most relationships don’t, regardless of things like sexuality or relationship philosophy. Perhaps, because things with B were then so delicate, and fraught, that new relationship was doomed from the start. I think that’s part of it. Sharply differing life circumstances were another. It turned out to be an impossible situation in myriad ways. I’m abbreviating and oversimplifying the entire thing for the sake of everyone’s privacy and the ache in my heart, but (also oversimplifying) I am forever grateful that it happened at all, because for so long I didn’t think anything even remotely of the sort would ever be possible for me.

I’d also like to add – not that this is news in the history of queer love – that one of the worst things ever is experiencing profound heartbreak and grieving the end of a relationship without being able to tell anyone about it because, once again, that means first having a host of other awkward conversations and you’re too sad and fragile to even begin to consider wanting to bother. So you go about the rest of your life as you’ve so often done, behaving as though everything is fine, when all you’re doing when you’re alone is crying. The. Worst.

What do you do when you finally come to fully appreciate who you are in your late 30s but your life is otherwise pretty much set? As as result of my relationship with B and because I present as very femme, there’s little outward evidence of who I know I am: a lesbian. Some might want classify me as bisexual or homoflexible because of my committed, romantic relationship with a cis man, but those labels don’t feel right to me. B and I love each other, he’s a vital part of my life, but he’s also something of an exception in my otherwise gay existence. I’ve gone through periods of fretting I’ll be told I’m somehow not queer enough to identify as I do, but I know down to my core that I’m a lesbian and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about this or that label or how my intimate relationships might be used to argue otherwise.

That being said, I don’t know what to do with these levels of invisibility. Both my straight and queer friends take it for granted that I’m straight, so when do I just…tell them I’m not? And to what end? Just so they know? So that I’m seen? Am I over-thinking this? It still feels selfish and self-important. Shouldn’t it be good enough that I finally know who I am? I’ve tried to tell myself as much time and again, but it never lasts long. I’ve also never found a good moment for such conversations. And it’s not that I’m worried my friends might be unsupportive either, at least not regarding my sexual identity. I know the concept of ethical non-monogamy is still quite a challenging concept for some, but my need to live a complete, honest, and open life is now so great, the idea of convenient discretion feels like a burden. But it simply doesn’t come up, nor do I bring it up. I stay quiet and grow increasingly sad and uncomfortable in my own life. And on those occasional really low, dark days, where I feel like my very being exists unexpressed, I begin to understand how some people reach a point where they’d simply rather not be at all, which is a horrible state of mind.

Then there’s the curious plight of the invisible femme. Not recognized as who you are. Unsure if you’re recognizing other queer women. Assuming you’re probably mistaken about them. Afraid to offend or upset anyone, because that makes rejection feel even scarier. I also worry about being rejected, seen as unavailable or outright undesirable simply because of my relationship status. Closed off and invisible like this, I don’t know how to meet new potential partners.

All of this is how I come to find myself writing such a rambling, emotional essay on my birthday, because at this point I just need to get it all out, like an owl pellet. Because I realize there are different sorts of invisible closets in life and I’m tired, starved, and heartsick from being inside any of them. Because perhaps there’s even one person out there in a similar situation who might read this and decide it’s not too late for them to be true to themselves so they won’t wait as long as I did. Because I want to be told it’s not too late for me either. Because I don’t want to feel mournful envy when I see women together. Because I don’t want to feel like a vital part of my identity is a secret I need to discretely tend to, unbeknownst to friends and family, because that’s not actually tending to anything. Because I know I have so much more love to give. Because I want to be seen and I want to be part of the community I’ve felt largely divorced from for much too long. Where are you, my queer, dark, witchy peers? We need to support each other.

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