The big dog and the blind boy

My mother can be truly tenacious. Many are the times in my life that I’ve been grateful to look behind or beside me and find her there. Always — even when I’ve disappointed her or done something utterly ridiculous — I know she’s there if I need her. She refers to herself as “a big dog”. Not all the time, but like: “I took your grandmother to her appointment today because the doctor wouldn’t answer her questions and she needed a Big Dog.”

Yesterday, I told her that, as a Leo (and the single defining force in our collective universe), she was to blame for all her children being “freaks of nature.” I say this kindly, and in the funniest way possible, but in actuality, I think there’s an element of truth to it. The five of us cannot gather anywhere without being the center of attention. She says “well honey, that’s just because we’re fascinatin!” And there’s truth in that. I’ve never met anyone else like us. We all naturally gravitate toward intellect, learning, and wit. Throw in my mother’s penchant toward creativity and strangeness (regardless of the situation), and well, you got yourself a buncha freaks. Smart freaks who talk about interesting things, but freaks nonetheless. In fact, I’ll bet there isn’t a one of us that wasn’t “different” before the age of three.

As an example, I give you J, my youngest brother. First, the basics: Like his sister, he learns about the things that he’s interested in quickly and is able to apply that knowledge. He’s good at his job and knows it well, he’s intuitive and knowledge-seeking, and he’s excellent at correctly judging situations and people. Now, the kicker: He’s a fucking freak. When I was home last, he did his traditional “humiliate Mama in the grocery store routine.” This has been an ongoing thing with them for years, but this was the first time I actually saw it play out firsthand.

My mother works with developmentally disabled adults. Years ago, when J was in junior high, her job had an in-service on “the proper treatment of blind people.” J just happened to be there that day; he’d gotten out of school early, so he was on the sidelines being uncharacteristically quiet and still, waiting on her to get off work. Now, the in-service was a serious thing. They were having it because their staff was often inconsiderate to the blind people in their care. They’d forget to tell them to step down or they’d steer them too close to objects in their path, and since the blind person’s hand is always on one shoulder or the other (and they’re always on one side or the other) they’d end up getting hurt. So, this in-service involved just the staff, leading each other around blindfolded, trying to learn how to be sensitive to the very existence of the people who were relying on them. J watched all this passively, silently. But somewhere in his little freak brain, he also integrated it. We saw hide nor hair of it for years. Then, some years later, it popped up in the grocery store.

The story goes, Mom was in a bad mood. Some bitch did something to her at work, and she was walking around with the “don’t fuck with the big dog” face. I hear it’s a Leo thing. Anyway. So J puts his hand on her shoulder. Now, we’re a somewhat affectionate family. I pat/pinch the boys’ asses being stupid, they put their arms around both me and mom when they think we need it. So Mama didn’t really notice the hand on her shoulder – not until she realized that she was garnering stares from everyone she and J passed in the aisles of the supermarket.

J was pretending to be blind. And so far, she’d walked him into a couple endcap displays and a wall of Coke products. He’d stumble for a moment, pat his way around, and walk with his hand out at the right level till he “found” her again. When she looked up and over her shoulder at him after she noticed people staring (J’s about 6’4), she saw that his eyes were sort of heavy-lidded, fixed on some invisible point ahead that never changed. He was doing the perfect imitation of a blind person. So, she punched him in the stomach (and this woman’s playful punches are NOT painless) and told him to stop it. And naturally (after he gave her a visual demonstration of what he’d been doing), she couldn’t stop laughing, which was J’s objective from the beginning.

Now, I had the privilege to see some of this when I was home last, though by now Mom has learned to immediately smack J’s hand off her shoulder when they’re in a public place. To compensate for this, J has adapted a vocal routine to go along with the physical. “Mom? Mom! Where are you? You’ve left me again. Has anyone seen my mom? Hi! (touching a stranger) I’m a blind person, can you help me find my mom?” And he’s standing stock-still in the middle of the aisle with his hand uselessly reaching into the air around him. Now, I don’t know who you think I am, but I do not have the ability to keep a straight face in the presence of The Funny. (My middle brother, T, has it, and I’m totally envious. It makes him a terrific joke-teller.) So I’m laughing my completely loud and distinctive laugh, Mama’s moving quickly down the aisle trying to pretend she doesn’t notice or know the blind person who’s very loudly asking for his mother, and T and N are shaking their heads and following her, chuckling to themselves. It takes me a moment to realize that I look a little cruel, standing five or six feet away from a blind person in a supermarket laughing my ass off. When I do, I walk up to J and put my arm around his significantly-higher waist and we walk off smiling to find Mama.

Normal people – nay, even just fascinating people – do not do these things. These are the actions of freaks. Once again, I use this term with all possible humor; I certainly wouldn’t have my family any other way.

ADDENDUM: I called Mom at work to read her this story, knowing she a) probably needed cheering and b) thinks I’m far too distant from my family nowadays and needs to know I’m still the same person. She said, and I quote: “Yes, but you’ve said nowhere that I’m actually a very nice person, small and petite of frame, and generally a delight to be around! You talk about the ‘big dog’ and people are going to think I’m a big woman. Why can’t you use the nickname you gave me? ‘Mamasita’ makes me sound so cute.” This, from a woman who yanked people from car windows when I was a child, and parked behind people who stole her parking place so they couldn’t leave in recent years. Naturally, I mentioned these behaviors, to which she said “well, what do normal people do when assholes steal their parking place?” I said, “we cuss, loudly, from the confines of our car.” She said, “well that’s not healthy. That’s bottling up your anger; it’s passive/aggressive behavior. You know I don’t believe in passive/aggressive behavior.”

This is exactly my point. I love my family, but freaks we are, and ever shall be.

This entry was originally posted in May 2005 when I was living 1650 miles away from home and missing my family. I’m reposting it today in honor of Mama’s birthday and her continuing role as Big Dog and Freak-in-Chief.

Coming out

A few days ago, I spent some time feeling homesick for the interwebs of my misspent youth and for the people I met there.  At least a fraction of what I missed about those days (and that place) was the extent to which everyone had a sort of instant audience for the things they were writing.  Recently updated journals would pop up on the main page feed; there was a running list every time you’d log in.  There were thousands of journals, but after awhile, you “knew” the ones Continue reading “Coming out”

You can’t go home again.

Boredom is a rarity for me.  There are too many books and blogs to read, too much television to watch, too much Amazon browsing to be done to ever allow it.  This afternoon though…I just finished a book (Hillbilly Elegy), and before I can really get into another one, I need some silence and a steady lack of company.  Neither are happening.  Step-son is having technology issues that I must periodically attend to, step-daughter is trying not to throw her phone in frustration with one of her friends (who seems to think that sending a screenshot of her phone will show evidence of her broken screen).  Husband is trying to sleep for a little while before he returns to work tonight for another 12 hours.  The cat is high from the catnip spray we bought last night, and the neighbors are mowing their grass in the 95 degree heat of the day.  The trains roll through repeatedly, too many to count and way too loud.

So I’m not bored, not really.  But the book was good and a little thought-provoking and my mind is certainly wandering.

Today, I’ve been thinking about people I originally encountered on the internet, met face-to-face, and now haven’t seen or heard from in more than a decade.  Thinking of them led me to a sort of homesickness for OpenDiary, a community I joined in 1999 and stayed with off and on for the five or six years following, even though I was also self-hosted during most of that time.  (OD, of course, closed permanently in 2014, but even looking at the Wayback screenshots of its standard crappy page design makes me more than a little sad for those days long gone.)  It’s funny the things that stick with us and that become synonymous with “home” in our heads.  Place–I guess even virtual place–becomes something so much more once feeling is attached to it.  On OpenDiary, I met Leah, whose last name I no longer remember, whose emails were lost to the ether when my old standby email address was shut down due to inaction.  She made me soap, sent me a book on powerful historical women, and hugged me in the Charlotte townhouse of a friend of hers.  She was a first-year teacher with a lot of frustration…not at all a new thing for that school district, even then.  Then there was Essdee (Shawn Dana), whose last name I never knew, whose face I never saw, but whose comments on the every day minutiae of my life made everything so much easier.  And, of course, Dominica, who accompanied me and my then-partner to a Star Trek Voyager convention in Cleveland (where we all patently refused to sit in on Jennifer Lien’s section, even though she hadn’t yet become a psycho with a record), who was so very kind, who loved us both, who was a brilliant web designer, and who herself had more psychiatric problems than any of our circle of friends could have possibly imagined.

Where do these people go?  How do we all drift so quickly in and out of one another’s lives, especially if what we have seems to be good for all involved?  I like to think that I am a person interested in people, that the people I love and have around me are more important than any thing I might accomplish or any money I might make in my time on this planet.  I would rather excel in friendship than in the accumulation of possessions, and I hope that the people who are (or have been) in my life know without a doubt that this is where I stand.

I am Jewish for a reason:  I believe that this life is all we get, that our only company for the journey is one another.  That we have to take care of our fellow humans even in their weakness and sadness and madness and baddity.  (I don’t care if “baddity” isn’t a word, I’ve still been using it for more than a decade and it works.)  I was young once, so of course I didn’t always feel this way.  As young people, we rarely value the right things, and I’m sure I threw away many people I should’ve kept, and vice versa.  It’s just so hard sometimes to remember (even now) that it’s not just me in the world.  People don’t do the things they do because of how those things will affect me; rather, like me, they mostly only consider how they themselves will be affected.  I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I am not the end all and be all, that the teenager neglecting to pick up her mess cannot be taken as a personal affront anymore than the weather can.  It’s a freakin’ struggle, but I’m guessing it’s one with which we’re all fairly familiar.

I’ve digressed a little.  My point is that I’m missing all those long-gone folks today, and I’m taking their gone-ness (and OD’s gone-ness) more personally than I should.  Conventional wisdom tells me that I can’t go home again, but today….today that’s just making me really, really sad.

Into temptation

Y’all, I can pass right on by the fried chicken and the french fries and the mozzarella cheese sticks and anything else that’s cooked in fat and sold in fast food restaurants.  But Jesus on a bicycle with no helmet, I cannot pass by the Sixlets…or actually any chocolate, come to think of it.  And the soft serve vanilla ice cream?  To echo a certain badly written Twilight character, it’s my own personal brand of heroin.

I’ve done so well in the last few weeks.  I managed to get ten pounds down after our return home from the beach.  But today has not been good.  I went grocery shopping with my step-daughter, and ended up buying all that cheap, nutrient-void junk food that tastes so good you just can’t make yourself stop eating it till it’s gone.  Long story short, I ended up going over my calories for the day by 200.  Tomorrow is likely to be more of the same, and probably worse; it’s my step-son’s birthday, and there’s a damn Dairy Queen ice cream cake in the freezer.  I probably don’t need to tell you that I didn’t go for the small one.  Mama always says that “for a dollar more you can go first class,” and in this case, two dollars took the cake from “probably too small to feed four” to “almost big enough to feed ten.”  I’m counting on there being leftover cake that everyone else will forget to eat and that I will probably obsess over until it’s gone.  If I had any sense of self-preservation, I’d make a vow to not log a single calorie for the next couple days, but knowing how very Type A I can be, I can pretty much guarantee that each one will be meticulously counted regardless of what it does to my self-esteem.

I did go swimming this morning with Mom though.  We took the water weights and moved around a little while we visited and talked about the other people in the pool.  You’d think we never saw one another, the way we carry on.  Maybe this is just the way maturing mother-daughter relationships are, but I feel like we’re probably a little more appreciative of our time together than most.  Until the end of 2014, I had been 650 miles away from her for 14 years.  I’m hopeful that we’ll have many more years together to continue being inappropriate in public; the women in our family tend to be unnaturally long-lived, even when they chose to spend the majority of their lives doing unhealthy things like smoking and drinking.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’m going to blame today’s transgression of the diet on those girls in my gene pool who lived way too damn long.  If it weren’t for them, I might be a little more careful about how I treated my body.

L’chaim, grannies.  And shalom, y’all.

In my kingdom, there shall be a ban.

I am, admittedly, awfully new to the parenting game, but man I gotta tell you, this shit is hard.  It’s a huge learning curve; every new situation, every meal, every everything is first and foremost me trying to figure out where the booby traps are, what the words are that might set off the next chain of exploding land mines.  The kids were in this family before me, and there are so many days when I would tell you myself that they run this joint–no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

They, of course, do not feel the same way.  Though I am usually decent and amusing company for them, there are more than a few moments when they look around for their father, likely hoping that he’ll notice how his wife is once again trying to rule with an iron fist when they’d be much happier to have her sucking up and asking for their approval.  These looks do not go over well with me, and I’m beginning to notice that my ire is compounding over time.  The more I don’t respond, the more I want to and the more likely it becomes that I’m eventually going to.  Every day, for example, I struggle to resist the urge to plan and legislate every second of their time at home.  I am oh-so-tired of cleaning up after them, of saying “please don’t eat pineapple fruit cups on the couch” and then having to clean a sticky mess off the cushions when they get up.  I am so done saying “don’t carry soda cans into your bedroom” and then having to buy ant poison for the subsequent and inevitable infestation.  If they had chore lists and set punishments for their dumbassery, maybe I’d get a break from the relentless movement and the neverending urge to scream at the top of my lungs in frustration.

But as the parent who is the most present in their lives (my sweet husband works a lot), I am most often consumed with worry rather than anger.  I’m 43 years old, and I’ve seen enough of the world to know that there’s some scary, dangerous stuff out there.  I’ve also been around the block enough times to know that most of the time, it’s our own bad choices that bring the shitstorm down on our heads.  I would very much like to save them from either of those truths whenever possible.  I am therefore seriously considering a mandate from my high position as step-mother:

HENCEFORTH AND FORTHWITH, ALL HUMANS UNDER THE AGE OF 39 WHO LIVE IN THIS HOUSE WILL IMMEDIATELY (AND WITHOUT HOPE OF SUCCESSFUL APPEAL) RELINQUISH THE EQUIPMENT REFERRED TO AS CELL PHONES AND THEN TRAVEL BACK IN TIME, POST HASTE, TO THE RENAISSANCE ERA, WHERE THEY WILL START READING ACTUAL LITERATURE AND DRINKING TEA AND NEVER AGAIN UTTER THE WORDS “YOU TUBE” OR PERFORM THE MANEUVER “DAB” EVER, EVER, EVER AGAIN.  ALSO, THEY WILL WEAR VICTORIAN CLOTHES AND SPEAK AS THOUGH THEY HAVE SOME SENSE AND A DECENT EDUCATION.

I don’t know…maybe it sounds a little extreme, but it’s beginning to feel like desperate times call for desperate measures.  I mean, I was about 18 when I started learning about computers and building my first, scary-looking websites, but the integration with technology nowadays is freakin’ scary.  It’s more than just wanting to play on your phone when you’re bored; people (including children) today are so addicted to their phones that cell phone addiction has actually become a thing.  It adversely effects concentration, test taking, and even sleep.  Consequently, what formerly was an occasional flight of fancy about taking the phones away from the kids and returning to board games, books, and actual eye contact has now become an almost zealous belief in the inherent evil of cell phones and a determination that next time some shit goes down and punishment is imminent, removing the phones (and all other access to social media) might well be the first (joyous) step.

Aside from the scary addiction factor, I’m also worried by the extent to which cell phones are causing our kids to grow up much earlier than they should.  And I know that wouldn’t be possible if we were monitoring our kids’ phone usage as closely as our parents once monitored our internet usage, but for the most part, for whatever reason, we aren’t looking.  Ironically, I think we were in far less danger than are the kids and teens of this generation.  I mean, suicides are happening because of Facebook and Snapchat, y’all.  I wouldn’t want to have to tell people that’s what happened to my kid, especially since the mere idea of a death caused by something so intangible is still pretty much unfathomable even to people my age, who were in the first high school level computer classes as teenagers.

How does something so small get so big and important in the lives of children?

I think my sister (in-law) has it right, as usual, and we should be seriously limiting screen time and snatching the phones at random–right out of the hands of the children we love–to see what the hell is actually going on in their lives, what information and everyday horror they’re being presented with in a place that is so very obvious and easily accessible, and yet WE NEVER FREAKIN’ LOOK.  I mean, I had to do some serious plotting to read my first smut book at 15, and dammit, I don’t think my step-kids should have it any easier.  Also, if they want to know how to build a bomb or start a cult, I really think they should have to perform a little exercise and walk their crazy little asses down to the library, but hey, maybe that’s just me getting a bit drunk on all that new step-mother power.

But I’m serious, y’all…I’m worried.  I’m going to try to pay more attention, but I have a feeling that it’s only going to take a feather to push me over the edge of reason on this subject, and I’m taking all the cell phones with me on the trip down.

Hot, empathetic hatred

I like to think that I’ve gotten more empathetic as I’ve gotten older.  I used to be horrible about it; in any given bad/sad/horrific situation, I had no idea what to say to those involved or whether to say anything at all–consequently, silence was my default position.  Nine times out of ten–I have no doubt–this was wrong.  “Socially inept” doesn’t even begin to describe it.  But as I said, I do feel like I’m better now.  I now know, for example, that when someone dies unexpectedly or too young, just being there and listening is best.  Dispensing platitudes is ridiculous and redundant, not to mention ultimately being painful for everyone involved.  Even in everyday situations, I try to be more aware of other people and ask first before offering suggestions or prospective solutions to the problems they present, just to make sure that’s what’s wanted.  Surprisingly often, folks just need someone to listen.

For the past couple of years, I have hated my husband’s job right along with him.  I’d tell him how sorry I was that he was miserable when he sent me pictures of the thermometer inside his department at work and when he said that he never stopped sweating from the time he walked in to the time he left.  I’ve cringed and shaken my head when he described how sometimes, just being in the immediate vicinity of the machines is hot enough to cause the skin on his arms to bubble.  (Honestly, I thought I pretty much understood even though I’d never experienced anything at all like that.  I have a decent imagination, and I survived childhood without air conditioning, even though I was one of those unfortunate kids who started sweating as soon as the thermometer topped 80.)

Y’all…I had no clue, and to be absolutely honest, I most likely still don’t.  This afternoon, we drove over to my mom’s for a short visit, and I managed to lock my keys (spare key included) in the car.  It was 97 degrees, I parked in the full sun, and my car is black.  For about half an hour, Hubby and I pulled on my passenger door constantly in order to be able to move the metal hanger back and forth and (seventeen years and two heat strokes later), we finally got it unlocked.  In the last five minutes of the struggle (before it was ultimately won), I had to give up and go back in the house.  I felt like I was about to vomit, my fingertips were both burned and bruised, and I have never sweat so much in my life.  Aside from sweating even more than I was and bearing the brunt of the frustration with how long it was taking to break into my car, my husband was totally fine.  When we were finally in the car on the way back home and I was pressing the lukewarm water bottle to my wrists in an attempt to cool off even just a little bit, I asked him if that was as bad as his work.

He was hesitant to answer, I think, because he doesn’t want me to feel too awful about the job he has to do to support us all.  “It’s pretty bad, babe.  But what’s worse is when they turn on the fans and all they do is circulate the scorching air and dehydrate you more.  They’ll run the fans today.”

We have a plan in place to get him out of there in a few years.  The eventual solution begins with him going back to school in the fall, a course of action that will be hard on all of us and seriously eat into the time we get to spend together.  But I hate that place almost as much as he does, and he needs to get the hell out of there, and that’s what I’ll say from here on out instead of shaking my head and thinking I understand.  It turns out that sometimes, the socially appropriate response is to share equally in the other person’s hatred.

And really, I should have learned that lesson from my sister years ago when she told me (at a particularly crappy moment) that she understood completely and that–in the event I ever found myself needing to be rid of a body- she’d be happy to help me with the disposal and get damned creative doing it.  I could not have been more grateful to her for saying it; I badly needed a laugh, but it was also really great to know that no matter what happened, there was someone there with me.

An impossible-to-describe, once-in-a-lifetime (if you’re lucky) kind of love.

Mama is pretty sure she’s won the son-in-law lottery.  She outright says so all the time, but last night, she called needing help with one of her poems-in-progress and asked me to list the qualities that make me describe my husband as the best person I know.  I’m not very good at the lists (and let me assure you, this is not the first such request that I’ve received from her over the years), and so I did a lot of hem-ing and haw-ing and stammering around the edges of the subject with no idea in what direction I should go first.

Why is my new husband the best person I know?  Basically, she was asking what I loved about him, and anyone who’s ever been asked that question knows that it’s not so easy to answer, particularly without sounding like you’re running for reelection as the mayor of Shmaltztown.  Obviously, that’s never been me.  I’m also not the girl who oohs and aahs over romantic dinners or flowers on special occasions: In other words, it takes a different kind of man–and a different kind of relationship–to get my attention in the first place, let alone keep it.

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I have to admit that it helps that I’ve known the man since he wasn’t a man at all.  When I met him, he was a too-tall 12-year-old with Tim Curry lips, an unfailing respect for his mother, and a kindness that is truly unheard of in a kid.  Despite a first marriage that began before his teenage years ended, three kids in six years, a given up dream for a job in the medical field, a medical discharge from his second dream job in the Air Force, and disappointment of every sort at every turn, by the time I saw him again in 2013, he was still the person I remembered–how does anyone manage to stay so decent after all that shit?  We smiled at one another constantly, and I felt totally at ease with him in a way that I never had with any other person to whom I was attracted.  Almost from the start, I wondered how we’d managed to get and stay so far away from one another for almost all of our adult lives.

Our absence from one another’s lives seems particularly farfetched when you consider the following:  His sister is my best friend to such a degree that I stopped calling her my friend and started calling her my sister years ago.  When I moved back to Illinois from North Carolina at the end of 2014, I moved into his mom and sister’s house.  All of this ready-made closeness to his family (even independent of my relationship to him) made us getting together a total no-brainer, especially for me; I had just come from a 14 year relationship wherein I was kept as far outside the family circle of the person I was with as it’s possible to be.  In his/our family, I couldn’t possibly feel any more included and loved than I do.  Admittedly, he got a little something from the deal as well:  he had a ready-made family in need of a mother figure, and I was a mother who had only ever wanted a family to care for.  He got someone to take care of him and to help him hold his life together in a real, consistent, and sustainable way, and I got someone who looks at me as though he can’t wait to keep looking at me until (and after) the wrinkles on my face will comfortably hold a ten day rain.

We are quiet together.  We read many of the same books and enjoy most of the same music and television shows.  We are accomplished car singers with widely varied repertoires.  We both detest the president (and liars in general) and want more than anything to run off to a secluded cabin in the woods where we will have so few visitors that whoever finally discovers our bodies will likely only find the bones.  We take pointless day trips in the car just so we can share space only with one another.  (Sometimes, he takes me cruising through the really bad parts of St. Louis so he can show me how good our life together really is…ha!)  He dyes my hair every month without fail, and there’s never so much a hint of griping about it.  He amuses me.  I mean really.  Most of the days we spend together end with me lying in bed massaging the area around my cheekbones, knowing that I’ve once again over-exercised my facial muscles, and I’m going to have to think real hard before I smile the next day, assess whether or not it’s worth the pain.

Mostly, I just can’t believe my luck.  How does a person who has made the mistakes I have end up with a man like this?  He works hard.  He loves consistently and well, without any games or pretense.  He is generous and kind, smart and funny, and he’s secure enough to let me be all of the great (and not-so-great) things I am, too.  He might be younger than me, but there is sometimes an emotional maturity about him that humbles me right down to the soles of my spoiled rotten feet.

In short, I have no idea how I got him (or really what the heck he sees in me), but I’m keeping him as long as I possibly can.

But I didn’t say nearly all of that to Mom because a) it would’ve made me cry, and b) her poem is for little kids and definitely not that long.

Full circle(s)

I turned 40 in 2014, and as I was staring down at my much over-candled birthday cake, I made a decision:  I was tired of being fat, and I was going to make sure I never was again.  In the succeeding six months, I lost 60 pounds, which got me within 15 pounds of a normal BMI for the first time since I was ten years old.  I managed to keep it all off for a year before I started dating my sweet husband, and…I guess I can only agree that it’s true what they say about happiness and heaviness:  if the former is a new thing, then it will almost certainly cause the latter.  By the end of 2016, I had to put all of my “skinny” clothes into the boxes that had previously contained my “fat” clothes, but from the moment I did it, I knew I couldn’t stand to keep things that way for long.  I could not go back to plus-size clothing, not with my pear-shaped build (read:  I am not so blessed in the boobies department, and plus-size clothes are made for women who are).

But I ended up keeping the weight longer than I intended.  It turns out that feeding a couple of teenagers means keeping in the house a lot of Oreos, cheddar and sour cream potato chips, ice cream, and pizza, and after more than a year on a calorie counting diet, I found not a single thing on that list that I could resist.  That is…until this week.

ocean recording

A week ago last Saturday, we got home from a week in Myrtle Beach.  It was the first vacation we’d ever taken as a family, and the first vacation that the kids had ever had in their lives.  It was a good time, even though the heat was stifling and led to much less time on the beach than we wanted.  But despite the good time and the total joy of being in a place I love with the people I love most in the world, here is what I primarily took away from our vacation:

THERE IS NOT A SINGLE PICTURE OF ME FROM THAT WHOLE AWESOME VACATION THAT I CAN STAND TO LOOK AT.

So I came home, ate about ten more Harry & David’s chocolate covered cherries, and decided that come Sunday, it was back to counting calories for me.  I’ve done great.  As of this morning, I’m down eight pounds and back on the road to being able to wear my sweet American Eagle jeans by fall.  But I’ll tell you what, it feels even more amazing and unbelievable than it did the first time–I can’t believe I’ve found the willpower to do this on top of so recently giving up smoking.  The first time, all I had to do when I felt like eating was light a cigarette.  This week, I haven’t had that fallback and so I had to find something else to occupy my mind and my fingers.  It’s been rough though, I’m not going to claim that it hasn’t.

I have, however, really tried to make lemonade from the lemons.  I started writing again–every day, whether I felt like it or not.  And then, a few days ago, I came back home to online journalling…for the first time in more than four years.  It’s great to be back, and I intend to stay long past the time when I can stand to look at pictures of myself again, perhaps even after my fingers stop itching for a cigarette.

To B or not to B, that is the question.

I was re-watching the first season of The L Word this afternoon, only half paying attention while I worked the 250th row of my 53rd afghan and drank my afternoon cup of hot green tea.  At some point–somehow–I became a 43-year-old, heterosexual married woman with a couple of step-kids, but in the twenty-some years immediately prior to that, I was pretty serious about being a lesbian.  And the truth is, I still consider myself part of that world.  The feeling becomes all the more acute when I’m in the company of lesbians or when I watch this show:  I still can’t help smiling when Shane comes on screen; I still innately understand and commiserate with Bette and Tina, and I still think Alice and I were meant to be.

This afternoon on the screen,  Shane is talking about sexual fluidity, trying to convince Dana that things aren’t so cut and dried as she believes.  There was a time in my own life when that particular idea would’ve been difficult for me to swallow as well, but it’s certainly several years in the rearview now.  In my late 30s I had this therapist, see.  And while she was all coupled up and happy (as was I at the time), she indicated that should I ever find myself with a few free hours, I really should check out this book, Sexual Fluidity.  I’m not sure why she suggested it.  Probably it had to do with my areas of research and interest–which often tended to run into the vicinity of gender studies–but it could be that my very enlightened and educated therapist also had hella-great gaydar, and I was throwing out mixed signals.  In any case, I read the book.  At least…I read the book in that way graduate students read books when they only want the gist and not the technobabble.  I like to think I got the point, though admittedly I’m not so sure if it’s conclusions were much different from those reached by Alfred Kinsey back in 1948.  Kinsey posited sexuality on a spectrum; Sexual Fluidity seemed to have the same idea, but also claimed that the spectrum wasn’t fixed and might slide in either or both directions over the course of a lifetime or an afternoon.

The thing is, I don’t think the fluidity part actually fits me at all.  I don’t feel like I’ve suddenly skated over to the boy side any more than I used to feel that I had moved over to the girl side.  I do not at any time think: “I like women” or “I like men.”  Instead, it seems to me that I have always loved with specific people in mind, regardless of their biological sex. I love/am attracted to John or Jill, not I love/am attracted to a generic chunk of hims or hers simply because they’re blessed with the right genitalia.

kyra-ghan
Pretty kitty on afghan who doesn’t give a crap about bisexuality.

At this point, my LGBT friends and family would likely insist that I take ownership of my true label or shut the hell up, and honestly, I would if it didn’t make me, my husband, my ex, my mother, and probably everyone else I know cringe.  Is it just me, or do bisexuals get a freakin’ awful rap even among ourselves?  It’s like…for all our liberal claiming that sexuality doesn’t matter, that rights to marriage, etc. ought to be the same for all couples, we really really REALLY don’t like the idea (or the conception, or the intimation) that sexuality is ever a choice, and bisexuality pretty much proves that notion.  Gay and lesbian Christians like to take their argument to their straight brothers and sisters’ doorstep by appealing to commonly held values:  “I was born this way–God doesn’t make mistakes.” But bisexuals and their partners are often manifest physical proof that this claim isn’t true, or that, at the very least, “born this way” has become a lot harder to pin down.  Were bisexuals born preferring one sex, mandated to switch when they turned 20, and then destined to switch back again a few years later?  Did God really preordain all of that?  This is the kind of intellectual leap that our black or white society doesn’t like to make (despite the fact that they assume God performs much more complicated feats than this every minute of every day all over the world).

As for me, my problem isn’t God-related.  I’m not sure what I think of God, but I know I don’t much care to have anyone else’s conception pushed at me as the only possible Truth.  Whatever God-idea I eventually arrive at will be one that I know I can live with (and I think the world would be a better place if more people considered God on a personal–instead of a political or societal–level).  Anyway, my problem isn’t God, it’s people.  It’s straight people.  It’s LGBT people.  It’s my own fucking SELF, for the love of God.  Why does it matter to you (or to me) that I’ve been with both men and women in my life?  I’ve gone where I thought I was supposed to be and I’ve stayed as long as I could.  Along the way–the whole way–I’ve been honest about who I was and what I wanted.  My suspicion is that, in doing this, I’ve been quite a bit more decent than most of the other people in the world.

And yet, when I married my sweet husband last year (after knowing him and his entire family for 25 years and knowing without a doubt that it was freakin’ FATE), I felt like I was suddenly and unequivocally ousted from the group I’d been a very vocal member of for the entirety of that 25 years.  The truth is, I don’t feel any different.  I didn’t wake up the morning after my courthouse wedding and think “I’m not a lesbian anymore.”  I still feel the struggle with every fiber of my being.  I still take it all SO PERSONALLY…at least until I remember that it isn’t so personal anymore.  Now that I’m married to a man, I’m in quite the little pickle:  I still feel like a lesbian and I still consider them “my people.”  And yet they would not be at all pleased to count me among their number, nor would they appreciate at all that I occasionally remain silent and don’t volunteer the information that I no longer belong.  For as much as we all like to act like we’re on the same page and “it’s all good if it’s love,” I just can’t shake this feeling (which I freely acknowledge has no basis in actual facts):  I’m on the outside now, whether or not I choose to own the B in LGBT.

A cancer-causing fantasy kind of morning

It’s been kind of a rough morning, addiction-wise.  For some reason, ever since I started blogging/writing again, all I’ve wanted to do is chain smoke and there’s not a cigarette to be found in this whole damn house (and there hasn’t been since Memorial Day).  It’s actually getting pretty horrific, the jonesing.  Bad enough that I’m afraid if I leave the house for any reason today, I might end up tackling a smoker who’s just innocently trying to make his way down the damn street.  It’s not looking good for The Kid today, y’all.  She’s contemplating a full out, broad daylight wagon jump and when she lands, apologies are going to be the last thing on her mind (or her nicotined breath).  So anyway, I’m trying to hang on, but I’ve simultaneously got a healthy little fantasy life going on here.  Consequently, I’m thinking the following might be my totally sexy and not at all needy call to The Cigarette Smoking Man (who I can’t even picture beyond the coffin nail in his hand and who I therefore should probably not be naming after a beloved and elusive X Files character or talking to like he’s Cheech to my Chong):

“Heeeeeeyy, man.  How ya doin’?  Hey uh, uh…I know it’s a lot to ask, but man, sweet freakin’ JESUS I could use a cigarette.”

It’s good, right?  If someone said that to you, you’d be compelled immediately and unquestioningly to share your goodies.  And if you didn’t have any (if you–God forbid!–didn’t smoke), you might even walk into the nearest gas station and buy some just to give that very intelligent and well-spoken woman the thing she needs to get through her day.  After all, you care about your fellow man.  You live in the same small town and you know damn good and well that–no matter what you tell your whining teenagers on a Friday night–there’s really nothing else to do but smoke and drink (and fool around…as long as you’re married to the person you’re foolin’ with).  Plus, your mama raised you right and told you to do the next right thing and not be a judgmental bastard.  Just because you believe cigarettes smell like ass and that they might one day be the death of this obviously intellectually superior woman, that doesn’t give you the right to deny her her Bliss.

C’mon, man.  Give me a cigarette.  Come on.  Please?