sometimes I live in the country, sometimes I live in town, sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown

sometimes I live in the country, sometimes I live in town, sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown

It wasn’t the welcome we expected. It did become funny, but only after nothing bad happened.

My girlfriend and I flew to New York City on August 27, 2011. We took a red eye and and sleeping pills, but I barely closed my eyes the whole flight. We stumbled out of JFK and got struck dumb by the humidity, because we are weather weak Californians. Somehow we made it to our friend’s 4th story upper west side walk up and she suggested we take a walk to beat the jetlag. That’s when we saw them.

Block after block of boarded-up windows spray painted with warnings. Get out Irene! Stay away Irene! We don’t want you Irene! Irene is my girlfriend. Irene is also the hurricane that hit the city the next day. Huddled in our friend’s apartment, we listened to the storm. All that wind. All that rain. The next morning, the only thing in the kitchen was a bag of moldy Zabars bagels, so we went outside, not knowing what to expect. There were downed branches and gutters full of leaves, but not much else. At least not where we were. The feared destruction hadn’t come to pass. Irene had been kind.

And five years later, she married me.

In 2016, all the rightness and wrongness of the world whipped the planet in unceasing waves of tribulation. Cultural icons fell. Babies washed up on beaches. I held the hands of my love and we married each other, legally (!). My white country family and her brown city family hit the same dance floor. We ate tacos and ice cream, and, thank the lord, no one made a scene. In November, we voted as newlyweds and that night I was too distraught to drink. Which was a first. I cried and cried and cried. Irene started joking about getting deported, except I don’t think she was joking.

A few days later, I got my hair cut at the very queer salon that’s also a portal to a different reality. Once the lesbian next to me said apologetically, “don’t get me wrong, I love my parents,” and the lesbian painting my hair with dye said, “girl come on, we all love our parents, but this is a safe space, what did they do?” And all the truth came out. Jokes in rainbow shorthand cause a row of chairs to erupt in giggles in the reg. There’s always someone talking about tarot and someone talking about the Drag Race.

But when I walked in two days after the election, Folklore Salon was silent as the grave. Everyone was either puffy eyed or still crying. None of us knew what to say, so there were long hugs and brownie drop offs.

Six weeks later I was back. There was some crying, but there was a little bit of laughing too. Obama was still our President, he would be for a little longer and we were clinging to his last days. We talked about plans for the new year. I told the native Angeleno transguy shaving the back of my neck that Irene and I were thinking about maybe trying to get pregnant, but now I didn’t know. Same sex and multi-ethnic… I mean, was that wise? He laughed. “Actually I think that’s perfect. I think you two having a baby is like the most subversive thing you could do.”

In a few weeks, I’ll start peeing on sticks until one tells me I’m ovulating. And then we’ll drive to our local lesbian-owned sperm bank and try to make some magic. Before then, we need to pick a donor. Our baby will have half of my DNA, so the sunscreen industry will be safe for another several decades. But what about the other half? “It would be cool if we could find a donor that’s Mexican and native like me,” said my wife back when we thought our baby would be born under the full moon of a female president. There is a such an option at the ‘ol sperm bank, but neither of us has said out loud if that’s still what we want.

What about a last name? Do we give our little baby my good Irish name? Or my wife’s good Mexican one? How subversive do we get with this new tiny human?

Oprah says there are only two emotions: love and fear. I’m feeling both, in nearly equal measure, like a hurricane in my brain all day every day. It has made landfall. The destruction is here and this time it’s real.

My grandfather told me that my gay marriage, or “you gals’ whole situation” as he calls it, taught him that time marches forward and he can march forward with it. He’s 85 and doesn’t even walk very well, let alone march. So if he can do it, so can I. I can make brave choices. I can protect my family. I can go to the salon and talk about mercury in retrograde. I can make my own signs and softly sing Goodnight Irene

In five years, in ten, maybe all this tumult will feel pleasantly distant. Until then, I’m taking prenatal vitamins, starting secret Pinterest boards to save pictures of Danish modern cribs that my wife will never go for, and praying I’m doing the right thing for the tiny hands and tiny feet I hope will come into my life while we stand in the eye of all this wind and rain.

Those Little Stickers

Those Little Stickers

On Tuesday, November 2, 2004 I had the early shift at the coffee shop where I worked. As the early morning turned to late morning and then afternoon, more and more people walked through the door with a smile on their face and that little “I voted” sticker on their lapel. This was in the middle of Los Angeles, so “I voted” meant “I voted again Bush.” After four years of George W., it felt good to think we were coming together to get him out of office.

My shift ended at 2PM. I went to vote stinking like coffee. I went home and took a shower. I took a nap. I started to watch the news, and then, damn it, he won again.

I found a website that was collecting photos of people holding up signs that said “we’re sorry”–Americans apologizing to the world for electing this man that was so obviously a poor fit for the presidency. I looked at the website every day for weeks. Maybe even for months and it made me feel a little better to know that I wasn’t alone. My fellow liberals weren’t wearing stickers, but they were out and proud on this website.

Yesterday I teared up while walking to my polling place as I saw my neighbors make the same trek, and thought about how I–me–got to vote in a historic election for the first woman to get this close to the White House. My brother texted me a photo of his red, white and blue socks and a tshirt he got his baby girl that said “why be a princess when you can be president.” My mom, a life-long Republican, texted to say how thrilled she was that Trump was about to be out of our lives forever.

I watched that video of the line of people waiting to pay tribute at Susan B. Anthony’s grave.

I hearted Instagram photos of my friends wearing white, or pantsuits, or taking their daughters to the booth with them.

But throughout the day, that parade of customers from 2004 kept flashing through my mind. I hoped it wasn’t a bad omen.

For 8 years I haven’t felt that old familiar shame whenever the president makes a public speech, or appears on the news meeting with foreign leaders.

The world is even more connected now than it was when George W. was president and now once again I’m cringing at the person we’ve selected to represent us to the global community.

At 10PM last night, I was sobbing in the bathroom. This morning I held a popsicle over my swollen eye lids while making a coffee and trying to get up the psychic energy to go to work. In between the sobbing and the popsicle, my wife and I made a plan to get through the next four years:

  • No travel to red states. We like to travel, but don’t have a ton of money, which means a lot of our vacations are domestic. But we will not spend our hard earned dollars in states that voted against the interests of minorities like us. We’ll miss you Austin.
  • When it comes to stuff, we’ll buy as locally as possible. There is a Gap Factory store a 15 min walk from my work and I’ve been known to sneak off there during my lunch break and buy some jeans, or a get my wife a shirt. No more.
  • When it comes to food, we’ll also try to buy as locally as possible. If we buy produce from farmers markets, we’re guaranteed to be supporting local farmers. Luckily we live in a city where there’s a different market almost every day of the week.
  • We will speak out when we are being mistreated and we will ask for what we need. On a small scale, this could mean asking a guy to make space on a Metro seat. On a slightly larger scale, this meant disagreeing with my boss at a meeting today after I asked that we include female composers in a film music promotion we’re planning and he started to argue that we’re trying to entertain our audience, not prove some kind of social point. And on a much larger scale, when the policymakers come for our rights and freedoms, we will speak out. Which leads me to…
  • We will join forces with others to create effective advocacy. We are both introverts, so it’s more our style to quietly donate to a cause than show up at a meeting. But we need to start showing up. And we will.

So we have a plan. But man this still sucks. It feels like a gut punch. It feels like a break up. It just feels awful.

Firing a Priest; Crying at a County Building

Firing a Priest; Crying at a County Building

Well, we did it. We fired a priest.

After making the careful decision to have a local priest marry us, we felt good. Our marriage is a sacred covenant, so it felt right to have a religious official leading the way. But from the beginning, it was oddly difficult to get our emails and phone calls returned. A month out, correspondence from the priest and the priest’s assistant was not only nail-bitingly sparse, the messages we did get had basic errors in details like the time and date of our wedding.

Then, the priest sent an urgent message that while we had an in-person appointment set for Friday, she needed us to call her sooner. We scrambled to find a date and time, and of course the only day that worked for all of us happened to be my girlfriend’s birthday. She was going to treat herself to a half-day off work and planned to catch a movie and just do fun stuff. But since we now had this call, her “fun stuff” turned into walking across Downtown LA to come to my office and kill time until it was time to call. We dialed the number… no answer. We waited 5 minutes and called again. We waited 10 minutes and called again. I left a message with our call back number and we decided to start our commute.

While I drove, we talked. I was feeling panicky. I was feeling angry. I was feeling like this shouldn’t be so difficult. That counseling appointment we had on Friday, we’d both re-arranged our work schedules for it, but what if it was a bust too?  What if the priest didn’t show for the rehearsal? Or for our wedding?! We decided if things went south on Friday, we’d call it quits and go with our back-up plan. Except… what was our back-up plan? Who knows and loves us? Who doesn’t mind being at the center of attention? Who’s comfortable speaking to crowds?

The answers were clear and they pointed straight to my college bestie. She’s known me for almost half my life, and 15 minutes after meeting my girlfriend, she grabbed my arm and whispered “I really like her!” She’s a 6ft tall redhead, so she’s used to attention. And she’s a college professor so she’s used to speaking to crowds. I did a reading at her wedding and she’d agreed to do one at ours, so she was already coming not only to the wedding, but to the rehearsal as well.

I started to text her, but my girlfriend grabbed the phone from me, because I was driving on an LA freeway during rush hour. Probably a good call. I dictated a text: here’s a crazy question – would you marry us? College Bestie responded right away. Yes! She’d be thrilled to. She used the word “priestess” and an Easter Island statue emoji, so we knew she was for real.

This new scenario started to feel right. It started to feel less like a back-up plan and more like The Plan. So when I got home, I emailed the priest thanking her for her time and telling her we were going another direction.

That night over expensive birthday steaks, I was awash with relief and more tension than I realized I was holding loosened its grip.

We’d taken the next day off work to pick up our marriage license–a surprisingly emotional experience for a task involving a dated government building and harried public servants. There was another couple ahead of us in the license line. We’re both starting a new life together. I felt instantly bonded with them, even though we didn’t talk. Ten minutes later, we were raising our right hands and promising a woman on the other side of the glass that we’d spelled our names correctly.

As we walked out of the East LA Registrar’s Office, down Cesar Chavez to where we parked, I started to cry. I made us stop and take a selfie with the words “marriage license” from our stack of forms just peeking into the photo.

When we met, this wasn’t legal. I kept thinking that, in a loop. We’ve been together almost 10 years. The Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal in every state happened less than a year ago. We are in the first wave of nationally recognized same-sex marriages. In less than two weeks, we’ll be as wed in Kentucky as we are in California. How many generations of queers who came before would have wanted that to be true for them and their partner? We felt their hands on our shoulders.

We felt lucky.

And we felt hungry, so we went for brunch. Fueled with coffee and the high octane diesel of history correcting itself, we sketched out an outline for our ceremony on a piece of scrap paper. We started with the most memorable passage from that Supreme Court decision. I can’t wait to hear Officiant Bestie read it aloud on our wedding day.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Justice Anthony Kennedy

 

 

 

Things I Like This Week – A Doc, A Podcast, A Thinking Environment, A Deodorant Cream

Things I Like This Week – A Doc, A Podcast, A Thinking Environment, A Deodorant Cream

A MOVIE

Everything is Copy – a documentary about Nora Ephron made by her son. I learned so much about Ephron, what influenced her and who she influenced from this documentary, which was also just a pleasure to watch. I’m a sucker for stories about writers, especially if they have an old Hollywood connection, which this movie does. Patton Oswalt once said you can’t tell how dangerous Los Angeles is, because everything is bathed in bright sunlight. It’s a truism that the foundation of Hollywood is crushed dreams dissolved in whiskey and cigarette smoke, and yet, more often than not, people who move to LA to reinvent themselves do so thinking they will be different. They will make it. “Everything is copy” is a mantra Ephron’s mother would use on her daughters in response to their ups and downs. Ephron’s parents came to Hollywood to write movies, and if IMDB had been a thing back then, their pages would have been respectable, but they never achieved the success that Nora eventually would enjoy. Ephron left Los Angeles to not be a screenwriter, and the movie follows her career in journalism and how she was led back to movies. It also explores her decision to keep her illness largely secret and what ramifications that had on the people close to her who were essentially blind-sided by her death. I came away from the movie in awe of her ability to just get things done.

A PODCAST

Call Your Girlfriend – This “podcast for long distance besties everywhere” was recommended to me by a bestie and, no kidding, I cannot image my life without it. Aminatou Sow is a digital strategist and her bestie is journalist Ann Friedman. On their podcast, they talk about everything from politics to periods in a way that feels both familiar and exciting. I’ve never listened to an episode of this podcast that didn’t specifically tie in to something I was currently thinking about or dealing with in my life. For example, this morning I listened to the episode “Live from LA! with Rebecca Traister.” Traister wrote the book All the Single Ladies, and they were talking about how much “single ladies” (and Traister defines that more broadly than it sounds) spend on their friends’ weddings and wedding-related events like showers and bachelorette parties. All the first trips my girlfriend and I took together were for weddings, and that started to bother her. I loved being a part of these weddings and I don’t regret traveling for them, but back then, we only had so much expendable income and it was being used up by other peoples’ weddings. Now we’re the ones getting married and we really want our friends and family to celebrate with us, but we also wonder if we’re putting people out. Traister says some women are throwing themselves big birthday parties for landmark years like turning 40. Those parties are as much a celebration of a life milestone as a wedding. I like that idea. And I’m starting to think everyone should have a gift registry going at all times.

A BOOK

Time to ThinkNancy Kline is a former teacher who’s created a specific methodology for what she calls “a thinking environment.” In this book, she explains how to create the conditions for yourself and others to think better and to think for yourselves. Two things that especially stuck out to me are (1) the quality of thinking someone does in your presence is directly related to how well you listen to them (and she gives some specific tips on how to listen better) and (2) the success of what we do is specifically tied to the quality of thinking we did before we started doing. I’m applying some of her principles in my life and at work and in both her method has paid dividends.

A THING

Soapwalla Deodorant Cream – I’m the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and a robust underarm smell creator. That means I’ve been using a very strong commercial deodorant while wondering if I’m increasing my risk of cancer with every swipe. Enter Soapwalla Deodorant Cream. It’s all-natural and doesn’t contain coconut oil (the one thing my skin is allergic to). It’s not an antiperspirant, so you may get a little moist in your pits, but you won’t stink at the end of the day. My girlfriend was skeptical, especially because one of her most uttered phrases while doing laundry is “I can’t get your smell out of this t-shirt.” But after sticking her nose in my pits several days in a row and being pleasantly surprised, she’s started using it herself. I would probably use the hard stuff before a work out, but for days when I’m just sitting at a desk, it’s great.

Laughing Till I Kry at Killjoy’s Kastle

Laughing Till I Kry at Killjoy’s Kastle

The male is a biological accident … To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.

These words from Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto were put to music and sung with spirit by a zombie folksinger at Killjoy’s Kastle, a lesbian, feminist haunted house now open at Plummer Park in West Hollywood. My girlfriend and I toured the Kastle Friday night and it was a ton of fun.

A “demented women’s studies professor” walked us through the Crypt of Dead Lesbian Feminist Organizations (RIP Little Frida’s), and warned that a coven of Riot Ghouls cutting loose around us are not only better read than we, they also have better fashion. Being surrounded by cool girls who are actually having fun at a party? Truly scary.

In the Intersectional Artist room, a creature in a rainbow onesie, face obscured, punched and kicked giant tampons hanging from the ceiling. Each tampon was labeled with an oppressing -ism, from Capital to Colonial. “You must walk through the pillars, you can’t go around.” As a giant tampon hit me in the face, so did a wave of emotion.

Seeing these invisible obstacles embodied in front of me, brought home that yeah I do fight these things everyday. I’m not weak or crazy or too sensitive. I’m way better off than a lot of others, but I’m still constantly having to overcome getting knocked around by -isms. And it’s exhausting. Because to people who don’t get what you’re going through, it just looks like shadow boxing.

At the end of the tour, our guide left us in the processing room, and I started to process how much I resent that society has normalized the idea that it’s a man’s world. As a woman, if you want to do ANYTHING with your life, from running a company to running a household, you’re told it’ll be a struggle. Men are the norm, and not-men are not-normal. It takes a fight just to get in the ring. Maybe you’re offered help along the way from other women who have “done it” … they teach you to lean in, or blend in, or fight back. But the message that ambitious women absorb is “get ready to swim upstream”. And that’s wrong. Not because achievement should be easy, but because the fight is too often so basic.

The other day a man on the train approached my girlfriend and told her she had pretty hair. When he kept trying to talk to her, she moved and he started to pout. He made her so uncomfortable that she changed seats. And then he acted like she’d done something wrong.

Most women who take public transportation have a story like that. I have a few… from the young guy who wandered over and muttered, “I just wanted to say you’re cute,” to the stranger who yelled at me for being a bitch, because he asked if he could be my boyfriend and I said no.

On Instagram recently, Jen Kirkman told a guy: “you don’t need to ever talk to a woman on the street. Ever.” This guy had started the discussion by saying men who are creeps ruin complimenting women for nice guys. He said, “I just want to pay a compliment to someone who looks awesome, but because of guys like this I feel like a creep.”

So was Kirkman just being a killjoy? Nope!

What’s wrong with just complimenting a lady on the street? As the lady on the street, I don’t know if you’re the kid creating an awkward moment for me, or the guy who’s going to yell in my face. I don’t know what you want from me, and if you don’t get what you want, I don’t know how you’re going to react. To protect myself, it’s smarter to assume that strange guy approaching means danger. We never know the level of risk at the outset, and it’s very easy to believe we’re not safe.

And then there’s a whole other discussion we could have about objectifying women to determine their worth.

Part of what I most appreciate about Killjoy’s Kastle is that it’s not making fun of feminists or lesbians, although it does poke fun at stereotypes of all kinds of people. It uses entertainment to lift the occasional mask. A lot of the experience felt to me like “let’s laugh, so we don’t cry.” Try to hold others to any kind of standard when it comes to treating women fairly, and you’ll hear the K word. But it sounds a little sweeter coming from the decaying lips of a zombie folksinger.