“Testosterone Posse” is the term I’ve coined for male friends who serve as my support system and do some of those things that a male life partner might have done—or I could do for myself if I didn’t crave some yang to balance my yin.
The Posse was vital during the 15 months of coronavirus shutdown. Now that California is on the verge of fully reopening, it’s the right time to give props to some of these special guys.
First there is Kelly Kline, my hair stylist since the early eighties, and always a friend. (I may have tried another salon once or twice but was never happy with the results.) Kelly has listened like a therapist through my divorce and job losses and gains. In the years he was creating outdoor metal sculpture, I attended his exhibits and display one of his pieces in my front yard. He was also the real estate agent who helped me navigate my first home purchase. A renaissance man!
Kelly and I used to talk a lot about sex in the early years of our cut-and-color sessions, excavating topics like stylists whose expertise is shaving pubic hair. From him I learned the word “merkin” which, according to the Urban Dictionary, was a toupee for the pubic area (from a time when hair loss on the genitals was a side effect from using mercury to treat syphilis). That kind of conversation between us has calmed down as we have aged, and now we mostly converse about politics and the state of the world.
The year I bought my house, Kelly introduced me to Gordon Smith. A jack-of-all-trades, Gordon has been mostly at my beck and call for handyman chores for the past five years. Recently described by my tenant as “a tall white guy with a big belly,” he has a heavy New Jersey accent and greets me with “Hi Beautiful,” and “Honey I’m home” when he comes over to work.
Gordon has completed jobs little and big, from sealing unused cat doors to replacing the sink in my back house and miscellaneous repairs in my rental. He power-washed and stained my front deck and helped remove the wood stove in my living room, which required breaking up the stone slab it rested on, pulling the stovepipe up through the roof and sealing the chimney. This Spring, he installed kitchen fixtures and rebuilt two rotted out garden beds. Most embarrassing, and telling, I suppose, was his stopping by to assist when I telephoned an SOS as I struggled with the seemingly simple task of changing a vacuum cleaner bag! He set me straight with a laugh and then was off.
I suspect Gordon and I might not see eye to eye on some things, but my affection for him, and his for me, make me believe that bipartisanship is possible.
A third indispensable cohort is Geo Howard, a friend since the early 1990s when he was a guitarist/percussionist in my ex-husband’s spoken word band. Geo is a fine songwriter, dedicated musician and works as the operations and IT manager for Santa Rosa’s Community Matters, a safe-schools and anti-bullying advocacy and training nonprofit.
Geo was the first person I allowed to enter my house, albeit masked, in March 2020, to help me update my iMac’s operating system and coach me in the new world of Zoom meetings and other technical necessities—all this has made viable my freelance career as a “well-fed writer.” I so appreciate his unending patience when things take longer than expected, his help in formatting my new laptop, his troubleshooting and problem-solving expertise, his many, many hours spent (I must thank his partner, Margie, for her tolerance of his absence on weekend afternoons) and his calm response to the panicked texts I send when my computer stops working.
Geo has also been a long-time supporter of my poetry-performing career, acting as a sound man at the release party for my book, Poetry, Politics and Passion, and being a non-stop booster when I’ve felt my creativity flagging.
The Testosterone Posse has expanded and contracted as good, kind men have passed through and enriched my life for short or longer periods of time. My dance instructors (Zach Crawford, Nate Anderson, Rafael Candelas, Jasper Oudemans, Mark Novak and John Ross) are special individuals whose unique talents changed me for the better. Will Wade, who lived in my granny unit for only six weeks and helped me believe I could succeed as a landlord, christened me “Wonder Woman” for my s/heroic efforts to make the yard and garden beautiful.
Now that I’ve written this overdue acknowledgement, it seems the list of eligible gentlemen is endless!
With apologies to my writing teacher and mental health ally Dan Cochnear, as well as the multi-talented “wrecking ball with heart” David Brownstein, following are three Honorable Mentions — unwitting members of Jennie’s Testosterone Posse who supported my well-being during Covid-19.
Johnny Jones, built my new front yard fence and made many a trip to the dump to help me clear out the last of the debris at the back of my property. He also bravely crawled through my attic to complete the stovepipe removal process and plastered the ceiling to conceal its scar. He was there to rescue me when I had a car radiator breakdown in Oliver’s parking lot and teases me with promises to ride in his new boat when there is enough water in our lakes to float it.
Chris Young, of Christopher Young Financial Services, secured the loan for my first home in 2016, helped me re-finance in 2021, and “loves” my 1991 Honda Accord Wagon.
Dr. Les Shipley, has kept my eyes healthy, my contact lenses clear, and provided fashion-forward (and necessary) sunglasses for me since 1980.
Females are not absent from my support community, but my sisters are not so much “other” as part of my own body and soul. To thank them would be like thanking my breath, my blood, my eyes and ears. A catalogue of women who influenced me, living and the dead, would take many pages.