Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2016-08-26

Dara and Bevin’s Epic Seder

When Dara’s father Passed On To Something Awesome (POTSA) I took very seriously the last email he ever sent me. He had thanked me for attending the family Skype Seder that brought us together from NYC, Vegas, Seattle and Bloomington, IL. Mel said, “Someday soon you’ll host Seder.” Judaism was super important to Mel and I knew it would gladden his heart from the great beyond for me to support Dara in her reconnection with Jewish culture after his passing. So I did the right goy girlfriend thing and bought a book (What to Do When You’re Dating a Jew: Everything You Need to Know from Matzoh Balls to Marriage) and read it cover to cover on the flight to Mel’s funeral.

sedertwilightTwilight at the Epic Seder.

It only took two years for me and Dara to host Seder for the family. Being the nontraditionalist goofball gang that are the Barlins, Seder was a few weeks early and lead by the youngest sibling (Dara). Her mom, brothers and their wives and kids came out to LA, rented an air bnb, we did Disneyland and all of that and added to the vacation plans having everyone over to our new place for Seder dinner. This was my first time. I wasn’t raised knowing how to pull off a huge, traditional family Seder in a working class household of just me and my not practicing Catholic mom. I know Judaism mostly from my awesome wildly nontraditional queer Jewish friends and that book I read. My Grandfather David was Jewish but was not in touch with his Judaism, a tale for another post. Dara had never hosted Seder before, either. We had to start from square one.

coverofhaggadahThis was the cover of the Barlin Haggadah.

I literally cooked the whole meal from scratch. My menu was mostly Martha Stewart and I made a gluten-free option for everything. My pinterest for the Seder is pretty cute and extremely ambitious. The gluten-free matzo balls were German potato knaidelach and I made them specifically to honor Grandfather David who escaped Germany and the holocaust on the last train possible out of their village. When we no longer have our family recipes due to circumstances or anti-semitism, we create our own traditions. Potato Knaidelach matzo balls are a delicious new one.

harosetHaroset made as an experiential performance piece cuts down on some of the prep time.

The Seder at our house was a complete mishigas. We had just moved in 6 weeks earlier, so the house was cray. A bunch of stuff fell through that affected the planning and execution of the meal. The haggadah Dara wrote using Haggadot.com wouldn’t print out at Staples. There was a minute we thought the whole meal wouldn’t happen because Dara’s mom got sick. Due to that, the meal got a late start, yet I was still cooking during the entire meal. Afterwards we had a lot of areas for growth to review. (But the memories of Dara and her brothers singing Pesach Man to the tune of Piano Man, and her incredible nieces and nephews acting out the plagues, and the sweetness and support of Amy and Chau the sisters-in-law Barlin will be forever etched into the mishigas of our first ever Seder.)

bevindarasederI played God and Dara played Elijah for our Seder play. My costume is literally a very pretty piece of fabric I had pinned together but hope to one day sew it into a beautiful see through mumu. The costumes were very DIY aesthetic.

In spite of all that, we decided to push forward and apply for a grant Dara heard about to throw an EPIC Seder. If a regular Seder with 11 family members was such a beautiful disaster, what could we do if we had FUNDING? I want you to know that as I write this I understand the logic is missing but we didn’t really see it. We had the Spirit about it, wanted to do a big fun thing for our friends in LA and consecrate our house as a gathering place for meaningful rituals and karaoke.

bevindarisederWhen I can get my hunky queer friends (like Dari here) in hunky costumes I know I am doing a favor for everyone on my social media.

Last summer Dara went on the trip of a lifetime with the Schusterman Foundation that works to incubate a new generation of leaders. Part of their work is funding cool stuff that their incubated leaders come up with. My perspective on the grant application was threefold: yay to Dara wanting to explore her Judaism by hosting Seder, yay to getting funding to throw a party but also OMG what are we getting ourselves into we just moved to LA and are both starting small businesses.

We got the grant and we pushed on.

mosesOur neighbor Michael played Moses and he NAILED IT.

The planning and execution of the grant was not any more serene than the first Seder, but we managed to do it and the results were extraordinary. I quit the Seder for a couple of days because I got too overwhelmed and went to Grandmothers. Of course, “quitting” the Seder still meant I spent hours working on buying decor for the event in Grandmother’s living room.

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I always believe the Universe has your back and we went to a queer party called Sunday Service in Highland Park a couple weeks ahead of time. The girlfriend of the party promoter was in the back selling brisket sandwiches and we got her info. Luckily Amber was super excited about and willing to cater the party for us at cost and told an amazing story of resilience you can see in the video below. It was a relief to me to not have to cook everything, but still a bummer because I love to cook for people. My perfectionism is a difficult burden to bear but I have to honor my capacity!

tablescapeI’m very proud of my tablescapes and wish it hadn’t been so windy. The plates are all from Amazon, the burlap is from JoAnn’s (I went to TOWN on coupons) and plants were from Home Depot.

Dara wrote an entire Seder play. She conceived of a whole event styled after Sleep No More (if you’re not familiar with the epic immersive performance experience, I wrote it up here) and cast our friends in roles in the play. In addition to reading from the script, they were also going to be part of the experiential hour ahead of time. I designed a room to look like an Egyptian Royalty Den, Dara made a spinner to give people ways to interact with the royalty. (Alana was the Pharoah and Jenni was the Princess and they both nailed it.) Our buddy T and his adorable pit bull Blue acted as the “guards.”

egyptinroyaltyQueer Femmes Jenni & Alana playing the Pharoah and the Princess. Nailed it.

There was a brick making station where folks made Haroset and put them into these bricks that Dara bought meant for kids’ building blocks. We had a room for people to make Plague finger puppets. Everyone was wearing costumes, that’s how we greeted people so they could get in their parts. I think you can imagine the logistics were outrageous.

plaguepuppetsmatzoballsoupPlague finger puppets.

We rented furniture for the courtyard between our house and the house behind ours. I took some of my Girl Scout event planning roots and bought cute plants, took cute paper and wrapped the pots to make centerpieces. Cute pinwheels and handmade bunting lining the yard made it look so festive. I also designed a “burning bush” out of our avocado tree. I spent HOURS trying to figure out the right lighting solution for the burning bush but I don’t think I nailed it.

femmeswithpowertools2Build out of the Egyptian Royalty Den.

In addition to the play, Dara wrote another Haggadah. Much shorter. We did some prayers, four questions and then had small group discussions about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Some of my favorite event and performance work is making stuff really fun, then going deep, then going fun again. I think it makes the emotional and educational work more effective.We honored resilience from slavery, both the Jews from slavery in Egypt but also the ways in which slavery and oppression affect us today. The stories of resilience people offered were so incredible.

talkbacksederResilience talk back. Dara and I are both professional facilitators so…

After the second part of the play we capped the evening off with Schmores (chocolate covered matza, coconut covered marshmallows roasted over the fire) and Jewish karaoke. It was really fun and a great way to end the evening. Did you know Paula Abdul is Jewish? Check out some of the Jewish karaoke gems in the amazing video Dara edited together below.

costumemakingOur friends really went there making stylish costumes out of burlap.

Thanks again to the Schusterman Foundation for their generous support of creating weird, queer, beautiful, contemporary takes on Jewish tradition.

Check out this fabulous video Dara did about our Epic Seder, it really tells the story better than I can. I know folks walked away from that night ignited and so did we.

I want to acknowledge all the folks who helped make the Seder happen on the ground. Amber and her amazing helper behind the buffet table, Scott our neighbor/videographer, Dari and Jenn for helping us get our house together, all the friends who had roles in the Seder play, and especially Victoria who swooped in three days before and was wildly helpful setting it up. I love you, miss you and pray for you.

darasteps

2012-12-20

How to Stuff a Butch Stocking

After yesterday’s post on How to Stuff a Femme’s Stocking I was asked to draft the complimentary post for stuffing a Butch’s stocking. I enlisted the help of a couple of Butch pals of mine, Jenn and Shelly, and with their input have created the following.

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Jenn and Shelly, both Farm Butch identified. Photo credit: Cordelia.

My friend Shirley weighed in on some ideas for the city butch.

Rebel Cupcake. Shirley. #yesmaam
Shirley is a very accessorized New Yorker and a Taylor Swift fan.

Just as in the case of the Femme stocking, I subscribe to the umbrella gender term for Butch, meaning anyone who is self-identified and masculine of center, and Butch can mean lots of things to lots of people. There are as many ways to be Butch as there are Butches. Look through this list and see what resonates about the Butch whose stocking you are stuffing (heh) and good luck!

My friend Miss Mary Wanna had this to say about getting the wrong gifts. “The flip side is the ache of getting something so wrong from someone otherwise so right, it can be a little ‘Do you KNOW me?’ at times.” So, again, pay attention to the person you’re gifting to!

Accessories!

Someone was asking about my type awhile ago and I somehow got on this long tangent about accessories. “I mean, it’s all about proper brooch placement, you know?” And if you’ve never seen a Butch rock a brooch you don’t hang out with enough gender magicians. In addition to brooches, there are so many incredible accessories that contribute to a fabulous butch aesthetic.

Belts are great, especially if you know the waist size (or can sneak a peak into the waist size of their jeans and figure it out). You can go low-cost at a big box store or fancy fancy at a department store or somewhere in between at Ross. Belts make a good cracking sound. (True story, I keep a men’s leather belt that doesn’t fit me in my sex toy picnic basket because of the satisfying noise it makes.) Belts make a good clinkity clinkity noise when they come off. Maybe I should have put belts in the sexy times category.

Belt buckles are also awesome, including antique or vintage belt buckles. You could definitely pop into a Western Wear store to get one of those (they typically have a huge selection), or a well-curated vintage store with a men’s selection will have some baller (but probably pricey) belt buckles. Clinkity clinkity.

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Cuff links are a great accessory I love that are perfect stocking size and come in a wide range of prices, like these custom latitude/longitude cuff links for $22. You can also craft cuff links pretty easily with a quick stop at a craft store to get the cuff link blanks plus some craft glue plus notions. Like dice, coins, buttons or whatever. DIY cuff link tutorial here for $3 each pair.

Hankies! One of my favorite accessories, I think hankies could be a lot of things. Number one, hankies are great at filling up the stocking for girth (size is important), but also they can be a secret code. Like, go to the sporting goods store and buy all the colors of hankies you want the Butch to flag for you. This is again where accessories meets sex toys but whatever. It’s a hot idea. Or you could monogram some yourself. A slick hanky set with a nice monogram is nice and I think you can totally get those at Target.

A nice wallet! I would suggest paying close attention to what kind of wallet they carry, noting whether they are happy with it and how they would react to change. Some people are really picky about their wallet. But, then again, I had a date who rocked this incredible french fry wallet that I’m sure I could have given a cool whimsical other type of wallet.

Shirley suggests a ‘Chrome’ seat belt buckle key chain because “That little click is so satisfying.” Shirley likes a good click, too. Also, at $25 it’s a really cool urban take on the caribiner keychain on the belt loop situation.

A zippo lighter is a great idea for a smoker, or someone who just likes to be prepared to be chivalrous (this is the only reason I carry a lighter).

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Miss Mary Wanna holding Macy.

Tools

Some Butches are into tools! And there are so many kinds of tools. Like knives! A good pocket knife is both a great accessory, sexy as hell, and super useful! Jenn noted to me once she saw a swiss army knife, nail clipper and file that she was drooling over. Also, it could be the kind of knife that is big and goes in the sock or whatever. I don’t know a lot about knives, but I bet you could get a great one at Cabelas if there is one near you.

Also, you could swing by Sears and buy a tool that they have been looking for. Like a wrench? I don’t know, pay attention! But tools totally fit well in stockings. I got a pink toolkit once that was a really great gift that I still use!

Whiskey stones are an important tool for any whiskey drinker! Mackenzi’s store sells them in Queens (and online).

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Christmas at the Haus of Femmespiration.

Clothing

Ties are great. I love ties, both bowties and regular ties. They’re easy to get cheap or expensive and you could easily do a color aesthetic in your stocking by coordinating all of the accessories in the same color scheme.

Boxer briefs (“Butches like getting sexy underthings, too,” says Shelly) or whatever their underwear of choice is. I have always liked getting Calvin Klein underwear for girlfriends and you can get a great deal on them at Ross.

Socks! I have to say, a recent shopping issue I had was trying to find teenage boy size socks for someone on the masculine spectrum. I could only find boring socks in that size. I love to give a wacky sock as a gift and they seem to make wacky socks in just the traditional sock style. But socks are a holiday stocking staple, and I encourage their purchase. Mackenzi’s store also has these amazing hops socks for beer lovers and a bunch of other cute socks. Smart wool socks were also shouted out by the farm Butches. (But anyone in a winter climate should appreciate these friends to warm feet everywhere.)

Longjohns/Longjanes! What a cute thing to stuff in a stocking (that will do well to fill it up, too). These boys’ longjohns would be SO ADORABLE on a hot smaller Butch.

For NYC folks I HIGHLY suggest a walk down what I call “Dapper Alley” in NYC which is Orchard Street between I think Rivington and the next block North. It’s all sorts of suit stores but they have great ties and other accessories for not a lot of dough.

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Hygiene

A vintage shaving cup and brush is a cute idea if the Butch does any kind of shaving.

“A good beeswax pomade to keep that pomp looking tight,” says Shirley. There’s a great queer pompadour tumblr with reviews of lots of pomades. I would say peep the medicine chest and see what they use because probably they are particular about what they use. Or get them a bunch of samples of different pomades at a hair salon so they can try different ones out!

Chapstick. (If they use chapstick.)

Toys

I was recently told by a Butch who was disappointed one of her favorite toys had broken, “Basically we like a lot of the same things little boys like.” Which I find to be true about me with little girls’ things. I have a cherished cupcake backpack that was clearly made for 10 year old girls AND ME.

So take a trip down the toy aisle of Target or wherever and see what speaks to you. Tiny robots, legos, cute things that match their interest. If they are farm dyke identified maybe they want a baby John Deere tractor or something. You should know whether they are John Deere identified or if they like the other kinds of tractors. I know enough about farm dykes to know that there are STRONG tractor preferences. You’ll know whether it’s green/yellow, red or orange. (Did I impress you that I knew that, Jenn?)

Homemade/Sentimental

It was suggested by a couple of the committee members that a photo was a cute stocking stuffer. Like a framed photo of the person stuffing the stocking (I still have a framed photo of my ex fiance he gave me our first Christmas in that box where relics of my past live). Or, Shirley suggests putting an image on the back of a vintage King of Hearts card. Aww!

Also, another good city Butch idea is a homemade list of places you like. I could probably write a deeply annotated Top 10 Fried Chicken Restaurants in NYC, a Top 10 Pizza Places in NYC list, a list of all the best restaurants to visit in a bunch of major US cities. A list of dive bars in your city so the person can take you there on dates is also good.

Tiny notebooks are great stocking stuffers, especially with an inscribed note on the inside or maybe a decoupaged cover!

How about making the nerd in your life a set of Star Wars snowflakes? Link to a free pattern is here.

Books!

I can’t believe I neglected to suggest books for Femmes! Goes both ways! Paperbacks are PERFECT stocking size. I love taking a stroll through a used book store and getting something that really speaks to me about the person’s interests. Jenn suggested this book Farmer Jane! Don’t forget to inscribe it!

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Sexy Times

You could totally do exactly what I recommended in my Femme post for a Butch you’re doing it with but here are some specifics from a Butch desire point of view.

Non-lubricated, flavored condoms that the giftgiver (if it’s a lover, natch, and assuming this is a cock-identified Butch) applies to the Butch’s cock using their mouth only. A nubbly, clit-bumping silicone cock ring.

A P-style.

A hand-written coupon for permission to photograph or film the giftgiver giving the Butch a blowjob or any other intimate act.

For the stocking itself, I suggest getting a vintage boot or something to stuff! How cute would that be?

Okay, y’all! I hope this stocking stuffer list is going to help you give or get what you want for the upcoming stocking holiday (Gaywitchmas is totally a stocking holiday)! If you use any of the ideas from either post let me know how it goes! I love personal shopping!

Also, if anyone out there is still trying to buy me a present for Christmas or my impending birthday, I totally want a twilight turtle.

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