Category Archives: Romance

Romance: Happy Valentine’s Day

Since I know that my lovely wife checks here on a regular basis, I wanted to send her a special Valentine’s Day note.

I’m under the impression that everyday is a Valentine’s Day when you’re with someone you love and respect. I try to do little things, on a regular basis, to show my wife that I love her. That being said, today is a day to go an extra mile and show our Sig-O’s that we are lucky to have this extra special day together.

Also, I know many of my friends and readers are feeling lonely today, without someone special to celebrate with. I remember, very well, how that feels. So I want to send some love out to those of you out there, as well. Take today to celebrate yourself! Celebrate the important loves in your life: your family, friends, pets, and most importantly, YOU. Don’t let this holiday get you down, because no matter what, you are loved! So celebrate that love, and take some time to appreciate it. Treat yourself to something special today: a new book, some free time to enjoy a hobby, or anything else you love to do. You deserve it!

As a side note, the photo here is from my wedding day. My wife and I were lucky to have an amazing photographer, Suzanne Fogarty, out of Washington state. If you want to see more of Suzanne’s amazing work, check out her website HERE. She’s an brilliant photographer and woman; I’m so happy that we had the opportunity to share our wedding with her.

Well, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. I wish you all the love in the world.

Cheers – Mason

Etiquette: Offering Your Arm

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to post something with a little romantic twist. So here are my thoughts on offering an arm to a significant other (Sig-O), or other in need of assistance…

Here in Northern New England, we’re in the midst of yet another frigid winter. Ice is everywhere: steps, sidewalks, streets, and all places in between. More than ever, I am offering my wife, and others, my arm in assistance. Though it may seem trivial, I believe offering someone your arm can be a touching display of gentlemanly consideration. But, there are a few rules I have found in this small, yet meaningful, action.

To Whom Do you Offer Your Arm, and When?

This question depends on the circumstances. With my wife (or, for you, any Sig-O, of any sex or gender expression), I offer my arm on a regular basis when we are walking around town. I don’t offer my arm every day, at every instance; go with your gut on this. On date night, I offer my arm to my wife in every instance we are walking together for longer than a few yards, and anytime we’re walking up and down steps, or over a curb. Beyond date night, it depends on the situation, but I try to always offer my arm before steps and curbs. Keep in mind, just because I offer my arm, doesn’t mean that she always takes it. Sometimes she doesn’t take my arm, and that’s totally fine.

Beyond my wife, I offer my arm to anyone whose balance may be impaired. With elderly individuals, for instance, I typically offer my arm, or a hand. Please note, not all people will appreciate the offer of assistance. However, I prefer to err on the side of gentlemanly manners. Plus, the number of times older people have complimented me as a “charming, polite young man,” makes all the turn downs totally worth it.

Lastly, I often offer my arm to friends when there is ice, or they are in heels of any substantial height. Prior to my transition, I spent several years in Cotillions: I remember, quiet vividly, how challenging heels can be (or were, for me; I realize many people have no trouble in heels). For these reasons I offer those in heels my arm. You may differ in your choices of who to offer your arm to, but these are my general thoughts.

How to Offer your Arm

How to offer your arm, again, depends on the individual situations. With my wife, we’re been together for so long, she knows the smallest movements which indicate I’m about to offer my arm. Almost instinctively, she takes my arm just as I’m offering it. Of course, this is the result of years of reading my body language. So, let’s start from the beginning:

First, a gentleman typically offers his arm  – rather than being prompted to do so. With a close acquaintance or Sig-O’s, you can use more subtle cues: bending your arm closest to the individual, keeping your hand (fisted) midway between your stomach and chest. You may tilt your elbow out, slightly, and signal with your eyes, inquisitively, to ask your Sig-O or acquaintance if they would like to take your arm. If they don’t pick up on the clue, you may choose to abandon your offer, or, ask “may I take your arm?” Asking, or not, is up to you.

You may be offering your arm to someone for a specific purpose, such as assistance over some icy steps, a slippery curb, or other such hazards. In instances such as these, I typically descend down the hazard (step down the curb, down a few steps, over the hurtle, etc), then lean forward, making eye contact outstretching my arm. If I can’t make eye contact, or if I feel necessary, I will ask “May I be of assistance?” For strangers, including the elderly, I use a very similar method. I will extend my elbow, and offer any assistance.

A few notes on form: yes, there is a form to this. When walking with a person on your arm, keep your elbow at a right angle (or smaller, but not by much). Keep your hand fisted, and held between your chest and your navel. Keep your hand centered, not too far to one side or the other. In informal situations, such as a walk down the street on an average day, I may place my hand in my coat pocket, but with my elbow extended for my wife to grasp. Here are a few great examples of how to do this properly: http://jcricketevents.blogspot.com/2009/01/how-to-take-mans-arm.html

Also remember, offering a hand or arm for an individual to use, means that you must be solid on your feet. Don’t offer your arm if your own balance or ability to walk is compromised.

Considerations For Transmen

For me, offering an arm to someone is utterly satisfying. It is an assertion of not only my masculinity, but my ideals as a gentleman as well. Of course, it can be intimidating, especially if you’re not passing. I would suggest to begin with friends who recognize your identity. Think of people who would see offering your arm as a natural extension of your identity. Try offering your arm to them, first; get used to the feeling of having someone on your arm, and the process of offering your arm. When you get more comfortable with offering your arm, adventure out, and try it on a stranger, or further removed acquaintance. Go with what feels natural. Chances are, if you feel odd offering your arm, it will come off as strange, and may not be received well.

Cheers- Mason

Etiquette: Meeting the Parents

Around this time of year, many significant others (or as I call them “sig-o”) come to us and say those dreaded, yet inevitable words: “Honey, I want you to meet my parents.” We spend days or weeks (depending on the advance notice) fretting over what to wear, how to act, and how we can make these total strangers like us: it’s downright stressful! Never fear, I have a few pointers.

(And, as a side note, after three years of marriage, my in-laws STILL like me.)

Attire

I always run my attire by my wife before I go to any social event. You may want to do the same. Remember, it’s always better to be a little over-dressed than under-dressed, so err on the side of caution. Before getting out of the car, or knocking on the door, ask your sig-o to give you a “once over:” tie straight, hair in place, glasses clean, not lint or dirt? Good to go. Now breathe.

Greetings

First and foremost, with all these tips, do your homework! Talk to your significant other and find out what makes their parents tick: are they very casual people, or a bit heavy on the manners? Next, if it’s appropriate (again take your cues from your sig-o), bring a small gift: a bottle of wine, box of chocolates, fresh backed goods, etc. This is especially appropriate if you’re having dinner or attending a party they are hosting.

I know you may be nervous, but smile! Be positive. Offer your hand for a firm, but not over-excessive handshake. Insert pleasantries here: “it’s great to finally meet you,” “I’m so glad we could finally meet,” etc.

Conversation

You know that old saying about avoiding religion, politics and current events at social gatherings? Stick to it. Again, ask your sig-o for guidance. Do you and their parents share any common interests? Play up on that. But, whatever you do, don’t FAKE it. Just because dad is a hunter, doesn’t mean you need to pretend to hunt as well, just to garnish any favor with him. If you’re found out, it will look bad, and, even worse if he asks you along on his next deer hunt.

Be prepared for a little grilling. They will ask about your job, your education, your parents, your future plans, and everything else that will make you sweat. Once again, be honest. But, if there’s something you’re not too proud of that you think might be brought up, prepare for it. Ask your sig-o how much they know about you already, so that you’re not just shooting in the dark.

Prepare for lulls in the conversation with questions about their hobbies: “Mrs. So-and-So, I hear you’re involved in the local charity? That sounds fascinating.” Again, go to the sig-o for tips on this. You don’t need to prepare a hundred of these (at some point, the responsibility of keeping the conversation going shifts to the other parties), but one or two are helpful.

One or two faux-pas are inevitable. You mess up someone’s name, drop a butter knife, sneeze too loud, etc. Don’t stress over it. Apologize, and move on. Above all else, be positive and confident. If you’re nervous and jumpy, it may cause suspicion. If you get too nervous or freaked out, excuse yourself to the restroom and take a few deep breathes. It may be intimidating, but these parents are people too. Long before you got here, they were stressed about meeting their in laws.

Considerations for Transmen

Knowledge is the most important factor here: what do your sig-o’s parents know? Are you looking at a night of female pronouns, or total ignorance? Have a frank and honest conversation with your sig-o about this, and talk together about the best course of action. Although it feel very personal, this is more about your sig-o than you. Are they out to their parents about their sexual orientation? What is the status of their relationship and communication? You and your sig-o need to make sure you’re on the same page about this. If female pronouns are possible, and unacceptable, you need to talk to your sig-o about what they can or plan to do.

What about an awkward dinner confrontation? If your sig-o and their parents get into a heated conversation about you, stay out of it as much as possible. Although they are mentioning you, it is not solely about you: it’s not (likely) personal. Unless the parents are hurling insults at you, stay out of it. Getting involved in an argument may only make things worse. Just be there to support your sig-o, emotionally.

If your sig-o’s parents are asking invasive questions, and making you feel uncomfortable, be prepared with a kind, but firm statement expressing your boundaries: “I’m sorry Mr./Ms. So-and-So, but I don’t really feel comfortable answering that question. By the way, honey, didn’t you want to tell your parents about that recent scholastic/employment accomplishment?” Never underestimate the well timed topic switch. If possible, don’t end your statement with the denial, because that may make the parents feel defensive; use a topic switch to take the heat and confrontation out of a potentially explosive situation. If the parents aren’t taking a hint, see if your sig-o can get the point across more bluntly: “Mom/Dad that’s not appropriate, please stop.”

Like I said before, be positive and confident. This includes statements or confrontations your identity. If you’re defensive, your sig-o’s parents will be defensive, and no one will walk away with fond memories of the meeting. Be patient, be friendly, and, if you can, be charming. As always, thanks for reading and have a wonderful winter season.

Cheers – Mason

Etiquette: The Doors

There is a lot of discourse about whether a gentleman should open a door for a lady. Some women argue that this action is condescending, and portrays the image that a woman can’t open a door for herself. Others argue it reinforces a patriarchal power. I just wanted to weigh in on a few points, and give my personal advice. As always, I welcome any responses or thoughts.

Equal Opportunity

If the opportunity presents itself, I open the door for anyone: male, female, in-between and beyond. For me, this is not just a polite gesture reserved to feminine-identified people. It is quite simply, a polite gesture. End of story. Now, there are times when opening the door for someone who presents themselves in a masculine gender, causes a bit of confusion. As if this masculine person never thought that a door could or would be opened for them by anyone (outside of a doorman). They look at me like I’m nuts, then fumble awkwardly as they try to figure out what they’re supposed to do; take the door from me, and allow me to enter, thank me, stand aside and wait for me to pass? Guys, if someone unexpectedly holds the door open for you, a simple smile and “thanks,” will suffice.

So, the point of this, is, if you’re going to hold open a door for someone, do it for everyone, so long as you have the ability.

Confrontation

I have, on occasion, been confronted about what others have called my “sexist assumption” that I should open the door for a feminine person. As a proud feminist, as well as trans-person, the first few times this happened, I was shocked. Here I was, trying to be polite, and rather than being thanked, I was getting berated by a total stranger, in public, no less. How does one respond to such allegations? Naturally, yelling back is not something I would suggest. As far as I can tell, the best response is a simple apology, as well as an explanation that you do this for anyone, regardless of a person’s presented gender. Typically looking something like this:

“I sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding. I was trying to be polite, and this is a practice I reserve for all people, regardless of gender. Again, I apologize.”

If the person refuses to accept your apology, or continues to berate you, simply apologize again, and go on your way. Of course, understand, that people come from all different perspectives and experiences; just because something seems harmless and polite to you, doesn’t mean it may not be perceived as an offense to another person. Just don’t let it ruin your day, or your opinions of gentlemanly manners.

Dating

Ask my wife, and she will tell you that 90% of the time that I am able, I will open any door for her: front door, car door, restaurant door. Any door. This began many years ago, when we first started dating, and has continued since. In my opinion, opening the door for a significant other is a public display of affection, and conveys to that person “I am thinking about you, always.”

Of course, this is my relationship, and by no means do I believe that what is true for my relationship is true for all. If you are dating someone for the first time, try opening the door for them (especially the passenger door in the car, if that applies). If this doesn’t go over well, or if they look at you questioningly, then reconsider. However, I truly believe that, to error on the side of gentlemanly manners is the best route, in these types of situations.

Mechanics

There is a fine line between polite door-opening, and awkward, out of your way door-opening. For instance: if you’re approaching a door, and someone is half a city block behind you, then holding the door and waiting for them to approach can be awkward, at best. I did this once, when a young woman was several hundred feet behind me (I honestly thought she was closer than that), and in heels. She saw me holding the door open, and began to jog to the door, so as to (kindly) not leave me hanging there. I felt bad: those heels were definitely not running shoes, and she felt pressured into hurrying. So, be wary of distance, time, and footwear: if the person is too far off, then don’t wait around and make it awkward. If this does happen to you, simply saying, “there’s no rush,” in a friendly (not condescending) way, will, hopefully, avoid too much awkwardness. And how to gauge the right distance? Honestly, there is no scientific equation to this. My thought is this: if the door closes behind me, and into the face of the on-coming person, then I should hold the door open.

And what about high traffic, when you hold the door open for one person, and a tidal wave of people start to blindly pour in behind them? Awkward, again. In these types of situations, if I’m feeling a little put out, I try to merge into the traffic and hold out the door for the next kind soul to grab. It’s a bit like passing a torch. Just remember, being polite doesn’t mean sacrificing yourself (or your time).

Considerations for Transmen

Many of us have a unique perspective on this. I used to be in the category of people for whom doors were opened. Now, I find myself in the reverse position. However, even when I was female-identified, I opened doors for anyone that was around.

The point is, be mindful of those around you, mindful of stereotypes, and, above all, mindful of courteous, gentlemanly manners.

Cheers – Mason

(Thank you to a friendly librarian for suggesting this post and motivating me to write it!)

Viewpoints: Femme

I will shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE femmes. I have mentioned my wife a few times in this blog; she is a femme, and I love that about her. There is something so classy about femmes, particularly my wife, that makes me want to be a better gentleman.

Who is a Femme?

When dealing with labels like these (butch, trans, femme, queer, etc.) it’s difficult to nail down a concrete definition. Everyone has a different take on what makes a femme a femme, so I hesitate to articulate a definition that excludes anyone. That being said, I define femme as a person (regardless of sex or gender) who embraces femininity in aspects of their appearance, relationships, etc: hence, femme.

Femme is traditionally considered a “queer” term, or, a term that is rooted in the LGBTIQ community. Some women, for instance, identifies as a queer femmes, as they are attracted to masculine identified people (butches, transmen, transmasculine people, and beyond). There are gay males who identify as femme, femme lesbians, femme gender non-conforming people. Femme is, at its core, an expression of gender.

Why do I love Femmes?

Where do I begin?! Something about a femme brings out the best in my masculinity. I love opening doors for my wife, I love watching her spend 30 minutes doing her makeup, and another 30 doing her hair, I even love the huge shoe collection that is taking over our closet. Something about those types of things make me feel even more…me. My wife inspires me to be a gentleman.

Considerations for Transmen

When I began considering transitioning, I was always afraid the effect transitioning would have on femmes. I feared the women I loved so much, including my wife, would not be attracted to me if I was male. Turns out, my fear was baseless. I believe this had something to do with my comfort level once I started T, and the fact that I was still me. Of course, I can’t speak for all femmes, of course. But, if you’re considering transition, and worried that femmes will no longer look at you the same way – this isn’t necessarily true. There are femmes out there that are attracted to transmen! And thank goodness too…

So, I want to thank all the femmes out there, inspiring masculine people like me, to be ourselves. Particularly, I want to thank my wife, for always accepting and loving me, and giving me someone to open doors for.

And now, here’s author Ivan Coyote on the topic:

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