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lucy-steigerwald-previewI understand the premise of the insult when a cascade of neo-Nazi trolls suggest that I am ugly, un-doable, and/or Jewish. Nobody wants to be ugly, and a woman is supposed to be extra skittish about the very idea of someone thinking her repulsive. (Obviously calling someone Jewish isn’t an insult, but Nazis, those poor dears, are trying.)

But what to make of the folks who send me emails insulting my nose ring, calling my a bull and a cow? They know I chose the nose ring, right? It was something I selected and paid for, not a tragic birthmark. Calling attention to a fashion choice seems like an oddly ineffectual way to be cruel. “The thing you like is bad, and I am pointing that out!” I must know that my taste is making me less attractive to them. It always comes down to the type of men who believe in reporting what their pants are doing. Strange Women Must Know Whether I Find Them Hot, and If So, How Hot!

Twice while clashing on Facebook with people of the right, I was called a cross-dressing, or someone dressed in men’s clothing because at the time my profile pic was of me wearing a tie and suspenders. I also had long hair, lipstick, and a fairly femme look, as you can see above.

Piercings are not exactly breaking new fashion ground in 2016. Ladies in men’s wear is tragically underappreciated, but far from unprecedented. And yet, these people seem genuinely disgusted and troubled by this small aesthetic choices (mustn’t show them my legs then).

I see this in other reactions. A libertarian former coworker gets bangs and people find it proof that she was always a wicked leftist. Bangs plus glasses with any thickness is suspect. Odd colored hair, piercings, glasses — a definite look that I have some overlap with, but not entirely — is tagged as leftist, slutty, threatening. Why can’t they be blonde and wholesome like Women Were Before? Why can’t they like my aesthetic, not that ugly girl aesthetic?

This is why trans people, femme gay men, tough lesbians are amazing. Not trying to condescend about special flowers and the youness of you, but people are assholes a lot. And more to the point, they’re weirdly terrified of anything outside the norm. And to a surprisingly large number of them, outside the norm involves a nose ring or a tie on a woman. To kick gender roles and “normal” identity in the ass is an amazing thing. It’s very cool, and it’s actually brave (not like wearing a tie).

It doesn’t have to be teenage rebellion, or pretense of having a wholly original look. You’re not a maverick for daring to pierce your nose (or even BOTH SIDES OF IT). But I love my nose piercing more than I ever thought I would — it’s like my face is fancy every day!

Freaking out the squares is so oddly easy.

  • One gasmask from World War I, crumbling
  • One child-sized modern gasmask
  • Five American Civil Defense manuals from before 1970 relating to surviving nukes and/or fallout
  • One Soviet equivalent
  • Signed copy of The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel addressed “To Suzy”
  • Copy of The Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge by Randy and Sara Weaver, signed “Mark Laursen, Freedom at any Cost! Randy Weaver”
  • Black and white photograph of people in a market with their backs to the camera, captioned “Empty shelves, Moscow”
  • Three World War I soldier postcards, one of which has a cartoon of a Tommy in oversized uniform and the words “Wanted: five minutes with the guy who said it’s clothes make the man.”
  • Two ’78s: “When They Found The Atomic Power” and “When the Atom Bomb Fell”
  • A painfully racist postcard from 1907, with a cartoon of a black man being stung by bees
  • A fascinatingly racist bumper sticker with the confederate flag over the White House, and the words “I have a dream.”
  • A confederate flag bumper sticker with the words “Dead Yankees don’t lie!” written on it.
  • A Chairman Mao magnet from China
  • Four or five Soviet pins from the 1980s
  • A button that says “Nixon: now more than ever”
  • A black and white picture of Jesus from about the ’50s, and Jesus waves his arm if you shake it
  • An entire photo album of a family of strangers from the teens into the ’20s
  • Numerous SWAT Playmobils
  • Two WWII ration books from my Grandmother
  • A 10,000 Reichsmark bill from 1923
  • An Outline of Abnormal Psychology, 1929
  • A blue and an orange wind-up, plastic chattery teeth with feet
  • Sixty-year-old face powder in a pink box

img005I’m trying to write something about what he meant to me, but here’s what he wrote to me. With all the thousands of letters he received, he took a week to respond — and that included a delay because he wrote down the wrong street address! Hell of a man.

MothmanNewsBI, three days unshowered, hair in what could generously be described as pigtails, skirt, looking like grimy 12-year-old. You, wearing a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas shirt — I still haven’t read that.

Both of us, browsing Barnes and Noble on a Saturday night in the South Hills of Western, Pennsylvania.

You, with a gentle Pittsburgh accent as I pass by, “is that the mothman on your shirt?”

I, completely out of practice in the sometimes grand old of conversing with strangers, give some kind of affirmative.

And we briefly discuss the mothman, where the movie was filmed around here, and how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette substitutes for The Washington Post in shots. I say I have been to the fest, and it’s well worth a journey down to Point Pleasant, WV for that generous a slice of Americana weirdness. We dance around that vital subject of real cryptids roaming about. I inquire as to whether you have read Fortean Times magazines, and you assure me you were just doing so. (I forget to ask you what’s on the cover, and whether it’s new, and where it might be on the shelves — because it tends to be appropriately elusive.)

You, saying you teach seventh grade history. I, saying I have thought of teaching some kind of history. You, affectionately saying your students are booger-eating monsters. You, saying they ask whether Greek Gods were real, and that you’ll be teaching an elective on myths next fall.

You, before I have a chance to respond enough on cryptids, history, or the fact that your tattoos are Nosferatu, a dodo, and a charming ghost, saying you’re sorry to bother me, and turn back to your books.

I, deeply unbothered, feel somehow we were just getting started. Do you know how a young girl waits to be appropriately complimented on her mothman tshirt? How uncreepy, casual, and friendly this approach is? How impossible it is to tell a strange man of indeterminate age that this is a sign that we should be bros? How bros is a ridiculous, parodic word to call it, but what else? So many men in the world with whom I wish to be bros. My mother had this same problem in her day. Men are men. You are not a man. Are you a creep? Are they a creep (only if you skirt is short, in my experience). You can’t just ask someone — anyone, but especially a man — to be your friend, to talk more, to revel in jumping past “pardon me, lovely weather” to  “so, is the mothman real?” unless it just happens. And it won’t happen if you hesitate for even a moment of deathly politeness.

You, with the trappings of a yinzer, but the soul of a monster hunter concerned about historical accuracy, sorry to have pestered a stranger, turning away too soon.

Me, frustrated by my tongue rust, delighted to be reminded that folks like you are out there — and in here in Pennsylvania! — hoping we’ll meet again in another place, perhaps with more cryptid themes to help us along in our burgeoning friendship, which was clearly arranged for us by some winged, red-eyed mysteriously creature watching from on high.

From Life Magazine

From Life Magazine

DJ Stagger Lee returns to WPTS radio this summer. The plan is again to play old time, country, blues, and sprinkles of punk. You can request, and I can do my best to oblige.

Listen over here on Fridays from 5 PM to 7 PM.

Bill Steigerwald, circa 1953.

Bill Steigerwald, circa 1953.

Joe Steigerwald, circa 1993.

Joe Steigerwald, circa 1993.