Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Would You Do?

 All I did was say "Bye!"  I said it emphatically and dismissively as in 'You won't be missed.'  But what could I have done?  Oh the possibilities!
   It happened at the beach campfire picnic - the pinnacle of my summer plan.  We'd happened upon the Family Equality Council's Family Week in P Town a few years ago when Kody was just an infant.  We hadn't been able to join then, as it was too late, and hadn't been able to find boarding during that week any year since as we booked our P town plans.
   This year I was feeling without culture.  DOMA was derailed.  Prop 8 was finally a thing of the past.  All of this due in no small way to Family Equality Counsel and the efforts of our kids to express the intricacies of growing up "gay" so to speak.  It's a rapidly changing world, but as my community celebrated Pride this year in NYC, we couldn't justify dragging our two young boys out in that 5th Avenue madness.  Little by little our annual Pride month events that had once filled the calendar had dwindled off into a five minute Long Island Pride march and an occasional moms spray park event or zoo trip.  Every parent knows, family changes things.  There's a lot less spur-or-the-moment celebrating and a lot more plans including naps!
   So this year I booked our favorite place early.  I invited friends, and made sure we could at least catch a few events including the beach picnic and campfire (which is very special in Massachusetts.)
   We had such a good time - scouring the shops, owning the street, laughing over lunch with good friends and laughing over dinner and drinks with new acquaintances.  There were introductions, babysitting and everywhere people are happy and smiling.  It's the middle of summer.  The weather has been perfect.  There is just the right balance of time to chill here and time to explore new things and meet new people.
  I was alone in the beach when it happened - abandoned by my son.  Trying to make our flat triangular kite take flight was not working for me at that moment.  I'd been so happy to find a rainbow kite (You know real red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple rainbow - not the rearranged-for-homophobia varieties scattered all over the place these days?) Conditions for flight were ideal; but I was competing with giant dragonflies, flapping bird kites and UFOs!  Gay families seem to go all out on everything.
   My son had lost interest my measly diving kite bomb and had run off to join his Ema and brother on the blanket playing in the sand with our friends.  Tylenol had donated sand pails and shovels to all the families, and light-up braclets for all the kids.  There were glow sticks, and Hershey's chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows from Stop n Shop.  And everywhere you looked in either direction there was our families.  The entire beach was filled with little tribes of two moms or two dads.  Never have I seen a more beautiful mix of races and colors and people and ages together - never as outsiders but as real honest to God legal families!  
   That's when this man with a pout/scowl, a little boy on his shoulders, and a young girl by his side emerges pointedly up to me.  "Excuse me, excuse me..."  I look up from winding up my kite cord.
   "Yes?"  I manage wrestling with a knot in my kite string.
   "What is all this... these bracelets and glow sticks?"  
   "Family Equality Council."  I look up.  No recognition.  I do hesitate, but I mean this is P Town, right?  "It's a gay family picnic."
   There was a pause.  Then he let out a tuft of air and rolled his eyes.  "Let's get out of here" he said to the young girl at his side.  
   This is the moment I want back.
   I mean, I lied - I do miss him.  Can you imagine the absurdity of a moment like that?  There I was, angered as commonplace, but for once in the majority!  I mean there was thousands of us on that beach at that moment.  My friends had just shared how some idiot yelled "faggot" out the window of his passing car at their toddler, and how a fleeting moment for that insecure guy turned into a day long contemplation for the two of them.  I could have yelled back at this one.  I could have turned around and announced to the crowd what he just did to us.  I could have escorted him back to the parking lot announcing to everyone what he just did!  And why shouldn't I?  Nobody outside understands.  I marvel at the conversations I'd just had even with people I just met about similar absurdities like parents not attending their own child's wedding, or the new arguments for the expiration of affirmative action from those so caught up in privilege they can't imagine giving up any of it.  I'm on Facebook trying to explain the consequences and dynamics of Zimmerman's racism to a guy I went to Catholic elementary school with who thinks the way to end gun violence is with more guns, and is updating a "speedy recovery" for George W. Bush's heart surgery as we speak.  I had my wife, my old friends, my new friends, - I had a mob on my side!  This was an opportunity!
   But, no.  I did nothing.  I looked around all these beautiful happy faces, smiled a good bye and let it go.  And I'm ok with that now.  I just needed to write this blog.  What would you have done?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Spare Pair"

So I'm en guard at the local medical laboratory with my wife, youngest son for my little man, Kody after spending 3 weeks sifting through his poop with plastic bags and nose clips.  (Serious Mother's Day Guilt being stored up from this!)  Turns out the dime he may have swallowed has not just "come out the other end" in tacked - or even as five pennies and a nickel, (as my wife suggested might be fun).  We weren't prepared to be ushered into a medical laboratory today at all.  The impromptu trip to the doctor's was just an increasing amount of bug bites and not the beginning or end of a the mumps as we'd feared.  But the trip wound up leading us here "Before closing".  And we were already getting reprimanded for "letting" them run down the hall for supposed radiation exposure.  Two hours later, we were surrendering our hopes to go out for dinner this evening in favor of going home to our nicely contained living room.  By now we were in overdrive trying to keep them cornered in a little 6x6 space meant to house one or maybe two X-ray patients before the get their "pictures" taken.  It was 2 little curtained off spaces, 2 benches, 2 key cabinets, about 8 -10 people waiting, no door and lots of corners!  We'd already tucked ourselves deep under the benches, peered out from behind the curtains in a game of Peek-a-boo meets some kind of strange stage show, and figured out how to open the cabinets with the wrist key wrapped around our necks, shoulders, and other various extremities about 15 times each.  We were all getting overtired.  Finally, Kody was called in for his shot.  My wife went in with him while I waited outside with Niky.  At least we knew the end was near.
   This woman who had been eyeing my wife and I both since she eyed us co-feeding the boys interchangeably in the first waiting room (sitting very strategically between us and the view of the teenage boy she seemed to want to shield.  She finally came out and asked, "Do you mind telling me what's the relationship?"
I wasn't sure at first who's relationship she was questioning - so I assumed the boys.  "They're brothers."  I exclaimed proudly.  
   "Yours?  Or..."
   "Ours."  She tried to nod but couldn't seem to muster it up convincingly.       
   "We're married." I explained.
I caught the glance she shot at the tall awkward teenage boy standing next to her this time even though I didn't have a breast out to hide from.
   "He swallowed a dime" I confessed for no reason in particular.
   Her face opened into an oval in concern.
   "It never came out the other end."  My wife thought this X ray was unnecessary but the doctor had said the word "surgery" so I wasn't taking any chances.
   "I'm sorry, you co-feed?"
   Clearly, we both had our own agendas here.
   "Well yeah,"  I said getting up to lift him over my shoulder for the umpteenth time.
   "She gave birth to that one, and I gave birth to him, but they both breastfeed."
   I looked at them.  Clearly the teen was her son.  "Did you breastfeed?"  I felt our relationship had become intimate enough to warrant this question. 
   "Yes" she said.  I guessed not on demand.
   "It's the best thing for them.  We're trying to keep it up as long as they need."
   "Yes, she nodded.  They do say that."  
   Then she added almost as an afterthought, "It's very unusual" and she and motioned to us.
   "How long we're you able to keep it up?"
   "Four months" she said.  "I would have liked to have done more."
   "It's easier with a spare pair."  I said.    
   She laughed genuinely for the first time.
I wondered if she felt better or worse off for having spoke to me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

First Poop

This is agony.  It's not the pee pee or the poo poo; it's the expectations!  We each read books on the subject.  What does it mean - the age it happens?  Why do boys do it later than girls?  Will he be on par with his peers?  What does this mean about his psycho-social development?  Should we be employing a man with a penis to help him?  Is that even legal? This poor child has been forced to sit on a potty so long his butt must hurt at the mere thought.  He was just 2 when this abstract talk changed from "We're gonna have to start..." to "Let's get started!"  My poor Kody has not two but a team of women discussing and deciding his every direction.  We finally realized that making him sit for hours made him so fed up with his little Elmo potty that I think it hurt his relationship to Elmo!  We ditched that potty for one that played a little music when peed in.  Unfortunately, they learned that touching the two little buttons together did the same thing and pretty soon this potty was singing its own imaginary praises.  But it was getting late.  And we found out the neighbor's kid was doing it.  He's only two months older than Kody, and had apparently been doing it for three weeks.  That gave us exactly 5 weeks to beat him!  This kicked us into "Teacher gear".  I should say it kicked my wife into "Teacher gear".  I am personally not looking forward running to find bathrooms on a moment's notice like we went through with my niece.  Changing diapers leaves me the power of time but I understand my wife is all about the competition.
So, after saying "Bye bye" to diapers the one weekend we were home, buying a few new potties and sitting on them through all sorts of fun activities, we packed a school bag full of extra clothes and gave him only a Pull-Up to ride to and from school in.  
Three days was all it took.  Speculation about the boys' kidneys and habits were all dropped the minute he got up from the couch while watching Curious George, sat on the new Mickey Mouse potty that he'd picked out, and told me "I'm gonna make a poop".  
And he did.  And it was beautiful!  And who was worried?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Can we invent a child GPS device, please?

There are a few things that having children does to you.  Besides lighting up your life, squeezing you dry of any and all excess energy, and birthing the kind if fear you have to learn to ignore or else risk complete and utter loss of your mind; there's some just plain old thinking more about the future.  
   But it's not just their future; it's your future, or more importantly, your future with them.  This line of thought is what led me to join my fellow lesbian moms group to Riverhead, Long Island for what's called a Survival Race.  Each of us in the group (after starting off 3 years ago a few young couples excited by the prospect of real families) had met, discussed, supported, and befriended each other through an explosion of fertility.  We started off with 4 - 5 couples and 2 children.  Now we are a couple dozen couples and a virtual Little League!
   Like other lesbian moms groups, we're all about activities.  Usually, the activities are centered around the children.  This one particular activity centered more around adults.  Maybe that was part of the problem.  We got a Groupon (Still paying a pretty penny) for the privilege of running (walking - and actually at times hobbling) for 3 miles under wires, over tires and felled trees, up walls, hills and cliffs, over sand, through leaky drain pipes and across large rivers of mud.  We are all looking for incentives to lose varying degrees of baby weight but more importantly, we all want to be as healthy as we can entering those precarious middle age years.  After all, we want to live to love these beautiful gifts from God as long as we possibly can.  
   My wife and I left our youngest home with Grandma but we felt she couldn't handle both boys by herself especially all day long.  So, since one of the lesbian moms was staying back anyway with her 1 year old boy, she'd offered to also watch our 3 year old boy Takoda, or "Kody" as we usually call him.  We woke up early, picked up our friend to join us, and all headed out to run this Survival Race.  We left Kody and tgat mom everything from a lunch box filled with healthy snacks, several water bottles, a stuffed monkey, talking Captain Hook, 2 iPhones and an iPad.  We unloaded every piece of viable information we could imagine her needing before setting off to catch up with our "wave" at the start line.  In a few minutes, we were briskly huffing and puffing our way through this series of military-like obstacles, and laughing ourselves silly in the process.
   By the time we reached the finish line, we were all so filled with the euphoria of flat land, "free" bananas and water, as well as that special relief that the mom we left behind had guarded our precious boy so dutifully and with little trouble.  We took pictures, slapped hands, laughed, wheezed, and limped our way over to the T-Shirt stand where our Survival Race T-Shirt prizes awaited us all folded and laid out in different sizes.
   He'd been so excited to see his Mom and his Ema finally emerge from the woods, climb over one side of the last rope wall and sort of tumble down the other, that he ran to greet us enthusiastically.  His expression changed to apprehension as he got a closer and saw just how dirty we were, but he was happy to follow along behind me and my friend as we walked across the field to the T- Shirts.  I'd arrived at the T- Shirt booth along with my wife, and our whole group.  I glanced back to make sure he'd arrived with me.  I never told him to "Stay put"!
   There were several sizes and although I knew mine right away the folks in front of me seemed apprehensive.  I didn't want to just take my shirt so I hesitated trying to catch the girl behind the table's eye.  This took a little longer then I could have ever guessed and in the end, feeling very anxious, I wound up just leaving my ticket on the table and taking my shirt, but when I turned back around, he was gone.
   Ok now, I have to say I wasn't immediately panicked.  I was with my wife, and our friends, and I sort of knew he wouldn't get far.  But as any parent who has gone through this knows, the fear rolls in like waves.
   Maybe about a minute went by of initial confusion.  We all looked around expecting to find him amongst one of us or under a table, but we all began to kick into "Mom gear" pretty quick once the immediate vicinity was scanned.  A friend and I checked behind this booth taking in an overview back at the start of this 3 mile long 30 acre survival course we'd just run.  I surveyed the large area and didn't see him, but I also didn't think he could have gotten out of my line of sight in that direction.  
   Then somebody found something.  Oh how I prayed for fast relief but no, it turned out to be completely unrelated to our pressing crisis by sonebody totally ynaware we were having one.  You mean people are doing things other than look for my Kody?  The absurdity!  That's when I really began to take in the scope of just how many other people were out here.  It must have been thousands spread out over this field between the start and finish lines that almost looped together.  Thousands of strangers - thousands of people I knew nothing about.  Thousands of unknowns.
   This is where my panic set in.  My wife was managing her fear well but we were exactly zero support for each other under these conditions.  Our friends ran off in different directions which really helped me control myself.  I didn't feel like I had to be everywhere at once so I was trying to focus on knowing Kody, where would he most likely go?  Then I heard the announcement.  
   There must have been music playing because it suddenly felt eerily quiet and the man who had been telling us when to line up and go all morning came on over the loudspeaker in a very different tone than before: "All right we have a situation here.  We are looking for a little boy named Kody who has gotten lost.  Kody is wearing a monkey back pack.  If you could stop and look around to see if you see Kody..."
   There was a hush.  I heard people around me saying my son's name and began to feel sick over how far this had gotten.  That backpack came with a leash tail.  Why wasnt I holding it?  How could I have been so stupid!  All the while every second I'm running, spinning, scanning every face low to the ground.  I could see my wife in glimpses but I couldn't look at her.  This was my fault.  It had been on my "shift".  There are mistakes you can make in this world that you will never be forgiven for.
   Suddenly, I spotted my fast moving best friend who had just ran circles around me for 3 miles back on this obstacle course.  She was leaping over tossed muddy sneakers and clothing as fast as she could.  Between us three were lounging bodies sipping beer and watching the festivities.  There, in her outstretched arms, she had my Kody.  He was being hurled so quickly in my direction that he looked a little scared for the trip but all right.  My wife and I ran to converge on them and all at once we collapsed in dire relief of the physical stress complete fatigue can take.  And there was the mixed complete mental exhaustion.  All that pain churned as we hugged with a pang of embarrassment.  No one is judged more harshly than a mom.  No one could judge me harder than I judge myself.  Never again would I take my eyes off this child.  'Never again' I lied.
   It turns out that no one saw him run off, and that he'd made it all the way back to the port-a-potties and had been happily dancing in the field by himself when one of our moms found him.  He'd been "in custody" since before the announcement but our experience of dread had lasted longer due to precisely how far he'd gotten and some reluctance he had to go with someone he didn't know very well. 
   Later on, we washed off in the ice cold spray without complaint and even lost our cell phone for a little while in all the excitement (also returned) but nothing could bother us again except the memory of those terrible moments that continues to haunt.
   In an effort to make the best of it we gained a little perspective (also a new leash, child locators and search for the perfect GPS devices).  Brick house Security used to make a good one that doubled as a watch, was tamper-proof, and linked with an iPhone, but they discontinued it a year ago due to some wire short.  (Fix it guys!) You hear parents with worse stories saying they took their eyes off their child for "only a second" so I'm humbled, grateful, and humbled over this experience at the same time.  The birth of a child is an incredible gift and an even more an incredible responsibility.  You have to live in the moment, prepare for every possibility, and maybe somehow care for your own longevity at the same time.  But if all that gets to be a little much by all means - by that leash!  Just keep it on them for about 18 years.  But when will technology finally produce an accurate, waterproof, comfortable child GPS device?     Can we get on this folks?  
Ali Polizzi

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Love, Marriage, and... the irregular. A sermon for two beautiful ladies.

Most weddings that I’ve been to have a couple readings and then a priest or a rabbi uses some time to offer their take on the readings or their perspective on the event. I want to thank Es and Viv from the bottom of my soul for trusting me with this very special day and the opportunity to offer my take on this unique moment in all our lives. It’s in incredible prospect for an Ethics and Social Philosophy Major, and I cannot think of two more beautiful ladies whom I would want to join together in the bonds of holy matrimony more than Esmeralda and Viviana Colomez.
I’m not an ordained priest or rabbi. What I can offer to you today is what I know about love, marriage, and the irregular. See most of us exist most of the time in a sort of semiconscious state. We experience things, get used to them until they eventually become part of the mundane. That’s probably the heart of why many fear marriage. (Tell people that you’re throwing a lesbian wedding however, and suddenly everybody wants to come!). That’s because it’s an experience; it’s new; it’s irregular.
Es and Viv, Amy and I became friends in no small part due to our irregularity as lesbians. Now I don’t mean to cheapen our relationships in any way. Lesbianism bonds us in the same way it isolates us. The irregularity of a renewal-of-only-recently-acquired-wedding-vows in your home state wakes all of us up from the semiconscious banality of everyday life. For some, it changes things. For others, it threatens them. But as scary and unavoidable change is, it is the inevitable burden. As the one constant it lends meaning to everything else. What is that meaning however, is a choice.
We’ve all heard the joke about how they should let queers marry so that they can be as miserable as the rest. But that’s not the case for these Es and Viv. Matrimony is scary precisely for the fact that it negates change. But, Es and Viv ...are irregular. One of the first times I really hung out with them, they moved us. Again, I don’t just mean "moved" us into some emotional surge either. I mean they physically moved us. It was in college during finals in December. If you ever want to take stock in who your friends really are try moving from Plattsburgh during finals in December. Es and Vivi heard we needed help. I don’t even remember calling them, but I do remember watching them flying in and out of our apartment all night long carrying all our things to the truck they’d packed up so tight we made it all the way back to New York City without a single material casualty. I can remember thinking: `lesbians’. After years of hanging out with college kids, gay guys, bisexuals, and a couple of miserably single dykes; "Es and Viv" was the only other lesbian couple we knew. And I thank God for them because to be honest, they helped make me proud to be part of one.
See, I spent the first half of my life being afraid of that word. I went to college to study in part because I was very unsettled about the predicament I was in as a lesbian. I felt locked out of Heaven. I was about 16 when I couldn’t ignore what I was any longer and about 17 or 18 the day I’m about to describe to you. It was my first Melissa Etheridge concert and it was at Jones Beach Theater out on the island. It was special in that it was the first time I’d ever found myself utterly surrounded by lesbians. The whole experience was entirely irregular for me – to not only be in a place where the majority was gay, but to also be in a place where the majority was also gay women. I found myself keenly aware that I was lacking the veil of heterosexuality. We were all there based on the shared interest in a famous lesbian woman of the time who for some reason wasn’t afraid to belt out song after song conveying our deepest, darkest, most prominent issues at the top of her little blond lungs. I mean I’d been shaking over the very act of buying myself a ticket, while she sometimes screamed from a stage furies I wouldn’t share with my closest friends and relatives.
Now Jones Beach is one of the few outdoor theaters and the weather was pretty precarious that day. But the stadium was sold out and everybody had shown up. I can remember judging everyone – people I didn’t want to be associated with; people I suddenly really wished I could be associated with. There is this one song called “Silent Legacy” where Melissa sings about how we should stop teaching prejudice and discrimination to our children, especially when it’s under the guise of religion. It’s a powerful song that questions the validity of “some man and myth they made up a thousand years ago”. I mean I was a good little Catholic school girl most of my life so when the crescendo of the song was accompanied by a crack of thunder and pouring rain, I nearly peed! We were all asked to leave as the lightening made it dangerous to be amongst the metal seats in the stadium. So picture this, thousands of drenched lesbians, half of them wearing white Melissa Etheridge concert T-shirts, hundreds with bras, pouring into the little underpasses between the seats and the parking lot. We all huddled together to wait out the storm. It felt palpable that we were facing demons we’d all thought that we alone only knew, but there we were facing them head on – together. That was the first time I really felt a part of a community, or a church, at least a community or church that for me included love.
People need each other to face the scary unknowns. One thing was for sure, no one was leaving because once love reveals itself to you, it’s over. Your illusions no longer sustain you. It was somewhat scary, but tremendously euphoric, and real. It wakes you up.
In the end, the storm passed and even though it kept raining, everyone returned to their seats and Melissa went back on for another couple of hours. She was promoting her new album, I remember, so she ended with a song I’d never heard before that night. And that song has become my wife’s ringtone. It’s become a part of me in a way I want to take this opportunity to share with all of you today. It’s a very simple, soft tune. I remember Melissa repeated just the title over and over in a way that softly delivered a message I needed to hear that night and, especially after meeting my wife, a message that I’ll never not feel again. The refrain goes: “All the way to Heaven, is Heaven; caught between the spirit and the dust. All the way to Heaven, is Heaven, deep inside of us.”
Es and Viv know this. Look around, it’s what makes them irregular. You can’t be together this long and still laugh and smile as much as they do together without knowing this. Love makes the difference. There are some who would put a value on one marriage above another. And I’m sure there must be something special about a wedding between two people of exactly the same faith performed exactly the same way. But there is value in change too. There is value in the choices made because of change and the directions those choices lead to. It’s true you can’t have the good without the bad. I’ve been to enough of just my father’s weddings alone to know that sometimes it’s just not the real thing. We need to see the irregular Britney Spears’ marriages in order to fully appreciate the actual celebrations of love. This, however, is an actual celebration of love. Anybody who knows Es and Viv know that these two see love every time they look at each other, and blessedly we see it whenever we look at you. So may that never change. May the promises you make today withstand the test of time, and may your children bask in that love. May they grow from the lessons your lives have taught you.
Sometimes it’s the irregularities that remind us of the real point. Life is not easy. Love, - finding, keeping, and deserving love, is not easy. But it is the point. From you, from love, from marriage, we learn to find that real place; to find Heaven, and instead of setting it high above in some abstract universe, we learn to come from there. We exchange vows to create good.
I’ve been blessed with 13 of the liveliest, most colorful, happiest years of my life. Through my relationship, I’ve learned to value communication, and honesty. I’ve learned to accept another person. I’ve learned to face the imperfections in myself. I learned to work on those imperfections, and I’ve learned to trust. As your friend I’ve seen you do the same. I've seen you choose to be helpful, endearing, respectful, loyal, positive, fun, honorable, and loving, - at least with each other. Marriage at its root is a beacon, a model, an example to use for all other relationships. The important thing to remember from now on is that you’re coming from a good place. But let’s face it, nobody can ever really give you any answers. All anybody can ever do is wish you – on this highly most irregular day – all the best in your life, love, and future endeavors together. And that’s what I, and everybody else, is here to do – to the best of our abilities – for you today, every time we wish you well and say congratulations, - right? Congratulations!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Voice = Evolution.

You know what sucks about being gay? - Being edited. I know that I should look at my life against a backdrop of my historically oppressed social location and be grateful. But, with marriage headed for the Supreme Court at the same time children are hanging themselves in their closets; it's just no longer acceptable to allow our voices to be edited.
I've read that while in some ways being the child of a same sex couple can be a burden because of the possibility of bullying; I've also read that another by product is a feeling of being special. That's nice and in some ways, and I can relate to that. My experience is limited: I was the only child of a loving couple, the child of a widow, the step child and step sibling, a child in a single-parent divorcée, and finally, one of many step children in a kind of Brady Bunch sort of thing. I've never however, been the child of a same sex couple. I imagine however, that it's kind of like what we go through as lesbians. I've often felt my culture is more a blessing to me than a burden. Taking the good out of what can be a burden, is powerful.
So, truth be known, I love being gay. I love the discomfort I had to face when my heart didn't mirror what I saw on tv; I love the past angst that made me who I am; I love my wife; I even love our rainbow towel set. What I don't love is when I get edited out of life because of I'm gay.
Not too long ago, my wife and I were on a Delta Airlines plane on our honeymoon when we heard the pilot announce his congratulations to another honeymooning couple. The whole cabin smiled and clapped as that couple smiled and was served champagne. My wife, a rather demonstrative woman new to what I'd call the "gay" life, enthusiastically called the stewardess over to share our circumstances as well. Turns out, we weren't even the only ones to do that. Before the stewardess even got over to us, two other couples were being publicly congratulated and served my favorite drink - sweet champagne with strawberries. But here I was, cringing as the love of my life was leaning over to wave at the happy couples while summoning the stewardess to come faster over to us.
The stewardess tried to feign a smile and said she's see what she could do. Now, I love my wife and would defend her to my death, but it's a shame that in a situation like this what should be a euphoric time span of our lives can get interrupted with all kinds of feelings, like embarrassment or even anger. Of course, the stewardess returned with some excuse about how they couldn't announce our engagement due to their "reluctance be too political". I think they eventually did offer us a couple of complimentary glasses of some very cheap, dry sparkling wine, but the moment had certainly passed.
Too political? No fair! It's only political when they stop joyous announcements like that and blame us for "ruining marriage".
This again happened recently to me in a way that ticked me off.
I'm not a reality tv watcher or anything but apparently Kim Kardashian recently had some kind of encounter with her sister about co-Breastfeeding. My wife and I happened to be big advocates on the subject, so when the Long Island Newsday called my friend Donna Kimick, IBC Lacation Consultant for a statement on the subject, she suggested my name as a further source for the article's resources.
Co-Breastfeeding is geographically and historically common, but fairly rare in the United States. However, why would lesbian parents be more apt to perform this locally rare activity? More breasts perhaps? This reporter, Jenny Berger, took my statement about how I'd induced lactation for our first born which my wife birthed, and how my wife was able to sustain our second while I recouped from an emergency C section. She thanked me for my contribution, and I walked away - feeling a little special. The article looked good and fair and short and sweet, and I felt good that our unique experience might enliven a discussion on the topic. I felt good, that is, until the article I saw got chopped!
I got edited out entirely. At first, I thought there must have just been a spacing issue. In hindsight though Donna pointed out that it may have been considered by some to be too "political" for Long Island's Newsday. It's bad enough that we can't even vacation certain places, and that I still have to struggle with labels and pronouns sometimes with students or having to decide if it's safer to just tell this cab driver that "Yes, my husband is home waiting for me". But when I am living my life and someone else edits me to save their status quo? I want to vomit. This is how we wound up here. There's nothing fair about saving the peace of mind of the ignorant, insecure, and bigoted who might be bothered by a lesbian's tit. What I want to know is how we are to gain our independence if we are dismissed and silenced by complacency? This editing is not political. It's oppressive. Even little things can make big ripples but they have to be thrown out there in the first place, ya know what I mean?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"When Love, Pride and Youth Collide"

"I think women who kiss women are weird."
I should have heard that coming. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but while sometimes you can engulf yourself in one world, you forget there are many.
I know it was like that for my wife, Amy too.

We'd just had a great day. We'd gotten Crystal, my niece, met our CBST Temple friends and their families on the Pier, hung out at a waterpark with them all day, then packed up to find parking just in front of Washington Square Park on 5th Avenue perfectly poised to watch the Dykes come marching in. It was NYC Pride - our first with our newborn son, and our second with my niece in tow. Afterwards, Crystal (not completely dried off and in her last change of clothes) was one to the first to dive into the fountain for a refreshing casting off of conformity. I'd expected this conversation at some point but was surprised, unprepared, and, let's face it, a little disappointed, to actually be having it.
But I mean, she's six.

"Do you think it's weird when guys and girls kiss?" I asked a second before Amy nudged me - hard.
"Yeah." I felt such relief that this might turn out to just be a kids aversion to sex thing. "I mean, - no" she adds.  "I thought you said when guys kiss guys." Then she gathered her thoughts together in perfect succession with the Republican majority, and spoke with the finality of absolute measured, systematic authority: "I think it's weird when girls kiss girls and guys kiss guys."

Kids don't think about things for long. They've got too much to learn. They're too busy growing, stumbling. I just felt like she'd just stumbled a sucker punch right into my gut.

The car ride home was uneventful, but eerily quiet. The dinner after was too. My poor mother-in-law met us for pizza all happy on the warmth of summer and Merlot. She wasn't even aware of how Amy's uncharacteristic snap at Crystal's accidental straw flick (in all fairness, Amy didn't know it was accidental at the time) was fully loaded with the pain of lingering undigested resentment. I took Crystal outside when I saw the tear. We talked about her and her life - nothing too serious. But something had changed. She'd grown, and grown beyond my control. I needed to deal with this. But how?

Later that night, we got the baby into his crib, Crystal tucked away in her away-bed, and as usual Amy and I went into each other's arms a little more restless for the wear this time.
After a long talk about hurt, pain, betrayal, teaching philosophies, childhood memories and circumstances, parenting plans, the state of the world and the future of our family; we finally fell asleep with a plan. I was proud of us as a couple this night.

The next morning, I woke Crystal up. (This is very unusual.)
"We have to start getting ready if I'm to take you home before Amy, Kody, and I go to the parade."
She was still rubbing her eyes before delivering the usual. "Can't I stay with you?"
I stopped, and sighed. "Well, if you want to come we'll have to have a talk about something first."
She leaned back, a little resigned but attentive.
"Amy and I didn't think you'd want to come to the parade today, because of what you said yesterday." She looked confused. "You remember? - about girls who kiss girls and guys who kiss guys?" I paused and waited for recognition. I got it, but I don't think she'd suspected this had affected us at all. "You know how people kiss people they love?" I got nods. "Well, there may be more guys who kiss girls in the world, and that may make it seem like the others are different, but the people you called `weird' are often called worse. And sometimes they are even really hurt for this. But no matter what, - no matter what people do or say, they love themselves and each other anyway. That's what pride is. It's when you face something difficult and come out better for it. People who don't go through it, can't always understand. Sometimes these people celebrate that love, like when they march together in a parade. That's the parade we're going to today. You know our rainbow flag? You'll see a lot of them. This what that flag is about."
"That's what that means?" I know I blushed.
"Yes. It's for girls who love girls, and guys who love guys, and all the people who love and feel proud of those people for loving who they want to love. Now, I know you know Amy and I have been together since before you were born. But I don't think you realized when you called girls who kiss girls `weird,' that you were also talking about me and Amy." I don't know how, but she looked genuinely surprised at this point. I guess Amy and I are less demonstrative around her than I'd thought. "Married people love and sometimes kiss each other. I know you don't see us kiss too often, but you have seen us kiss. It's just that you're used to us being together, just like most people are used to guys and girls kissing each other. They just see that more often."
She was wide-eyed and nodding at this point.
"To be honest, I think you hurt Amy's feelings a little yesterday. Me, I don't care because I am weird in many ways and proud of them," (she laughed) "...but I think Amy felt very hurt by what you said even though she loves you no matter what. And this is what we really need to talk about. Did you mean to hurt Amy's feelings?"
She shook her head vehemently. "No."
"So what do we do when we accidentally hurt some one's feelings?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't really know you guys kiss."
"It's okay. Maybe you can tell her you're sorry when she wakes up. That will make her feel a little better."
Of course, I knew Amy was listening at the door.
At this point, I put her on my lap. "I want you to know that you can think whatever you want. We will always love you." I paused, because I really wanted her to know this. But I felt the need to clarify things I hadn't realized needed clarifying. "Remember how we went to the picnic earlier?" She nodded. "And the water park?" She nodded again. "And how we played with those babies last week in the room with all those mommies? And marched with our friends on the island the week before that?" She recalled all of these. "All those families are like me and Amy. They are all woman who love women, or men who love men." I didn't expect her to comprehend every significance, but what could it hurt? "You know Tia Viviana and Tia Esmerelda?"
"They love each other and are married just like me and Amy."
"They are?"
"Yes. So are all those ladies we were with last week, and all the people we were with yesterday. See, I don't mind you thinking whatever you want to think, but this is a big part of my life. It's a big part that I can't share with you if you are going to call these people `weird.' While I love you, I just don't want their feelings to be hurt. They go through enough."
She was quietly digesting all this.
"Listen honey, you're growing up and have to start making choices about who you're going to be. Remember, you can think anything you want, and the people who call those of us who love each other `weird' can also think - and even say - anything they want as long as they don't hurt anybody. Sometimes people think they are doing the right thing when they say what's on their mind, and I'm not worried about how they feel because I understand. There was a time I felt the same way. It was only after really thinking about it that I was able to realize how much I love Amy. And those people may never feel the same way I do and that's fine. I know that for some of them, their actions stem from love. They may love me, and mean well. They may even someday change their mind about what they think. That's up to them and entirely their business. They just can't march in our parade."

She apologized to Amy when Amy came out, but didn't want any more rainbow tattoos. I took this as fitting and fair enough. She begged us to still come to the parade. After about an hour of hanging out on the back of a parade float off 5th Avenue and Madison soaking up the light and color and atmosphere though, she suddenly turned and begged me for a white baseball cap a vendor was selling on the corner with two women symbols " you and Amy" she said

- and the symbols were in rainbow.

I'm not sure I'd ever been as proud as I was that day.