On Mentoring,

September 20, 2007 at 4:41 PM (family)

I have several unfortunate hobbies, two of them involving truly bad television shows, and one involving a good and interesting one that is nonetheless derided by many serious people.  (The other two, I’m mainly in the closet about, because any genuine *good* in them is *completely eclipsed* by hack writing and/or rotten special effects)

They are unfortunate because many “serious minded people” think that other “serious minded people” ought to move on to something more serious, and in addition, that if one begins something serious, like say, working for a living, or a marriage, or a professional ‘career’… it’s time to put unfortunate hobbies aside.

“When I was a child I spoke as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things…”

People who wouldn’t be caught dead paraphrasing St Paul’s advice on wives and marriage..well, they’ll line right up behind his admonition to grow the heck up already.

I also had the unfortunate tendency to introduce the younger members of my family to the least offensive of my unfortunate hobbies, and *they* also have taken it and ran with it well into their thirties…

When my mother discovered that I had indoctrinated one of my cousins in my (least) unfortunate hobby, she said:  “It’s so “nice” that **** has someone to share her insanity with.”

Well, some good has already come of that unfortunate hobby, and more still may arrive soon…

And since I’m no longer a screaming adolecsent I generally wait to share these things via email, like the adult I have been forced into becoming….

But last night was too important to wait for the email…Damn the time difference…I called back east and got the cousin on the phone.

There were important developments about the unfortunate hobby…. and some other new film gossip and casting that simply had to be shared via the phone.

I got his wife (a lovely person, resigned to the unfortunate hobby), and then I got my cousin on the phone.

Talking to these cousins…It is quite simply the unalloyed perfect, uncluttered with ambivalence,  joy of my life to listen to their successes and trials and share mine with them.

“Are you sitting down?  No, wait, you need to be sitting down and drinking a beer at the same time.”

“What?  Why?  What happened?”  Is it about the movie?” Because they’ve cast–”

“No.  No wait… it’s about *me* and writing, and [the unfortunate hobby]  *at the same time!*”

“Omigawd *what?* *What?* That’s *amazing!* ” and laughing and virtual backpounding are heard across the phone lines… and  the real reason I hate being poor is that I cannot simply get on a plane any time I want and go where they are and listen to them and hug them… and then we get down to the business of discussing his latest play, and is that Indiana Jones movie *ever* going to see the light of day …

I’m at the “It’s a joy, just to be nominated” phase, and may not actually be the one that gets to write the piece.   But possibly.

Off to work.

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Real Marriage

September 1, 2007 at 1:14 PM (Comittment, family, Marriage) (, )

This is probably going to be the toughest post I’ve ever had to write. But the fact that twenty years ago this weekend, I got married (a radical act for a heavyset disabled woman even within a conservative fundamentalist denomination) and the difficult but fascinating discussion of marriage over at Tiny Cat Pants, makes me realize I have to write it.

All the folks defending traditional marriage…please listen up….a new dimension of the hypocritical aspects of defining marriage the way evangelical Americans do will be apparent soon.

I made the mistake of falling in love, hard, fast and unbreakable with a man born into, raised in, and called to minister to the American Evangelical Protestant faith. I was an unreligious person at the time, a kind of pragmatic agnostic. “I have to *do* what I have to *do* so get the *fcuk* out of my way…

In 1985, two days into the nutty relationship I realized that the *only* way I was going to be able to commit to this man, and him to me…was not just to *get religion* myself…and not to *fake* my participation, but learn the ropes, learn what was expected and live my life as genuinely as was possible for me in that context….but to *support* his belief, that I thought was the purest insanity for a hemophilliac in the mid 80’s to do…train for the ministry. So, I studied the NIV Bible *hard.* I did that ‘rededicate you life to the Lord” thing. I just told him that at home, in private, and with non evangelical friends I had to be *me.* Me as he met me, not with the fundie add ons. He agreed because he liked that version better….Heh. I also drew the line at “witnessing.” Reactively, I was fine discussing my faith’s positivity if someone inquired…but it was purely the way I saw my connection to God, not a Zondervan improved variety. Proactively, I would do no such thing, and was acutely uncomfortable if the situation nearly forced me into it. I can only remember one time, working in a revival, that I actually did it. I refuse to impose any belief system of mine, past or present on anyone else. It’s rude. It’s inhospitable and I cannot abide it.

It’s summer 1987. A wedding is being planned. In a fundamentalist Baptist Church. In America. Between a man and a woman.

I am summoned *alone* into the present pastors office. He is a gentle ginger haired man with Chron’s disease. and he sits me down and says because I have admitted I’m a lousy cook and a worse maidservant,and that having biological children was going to be difficult that he did not feel we should marry, and that he felt so strongly about this *that he was refusing to officiate.* He was telling me that since I wasn’t Betty Crocker or June Cleaver he would not do it.

I explained reasonably that we were two people with disabilites and so that meant that some gender norms were just *silly* for us to try and hold to. We were each going to do those things we were best at, and blow off or outsource the rest.

And later in our marriage, Brian clued me in about a discussion with a family member who said, “You know you can’t *marry* that girl!”

My husband was even less receptive to edicts and ultimatums than I am.

“Watch me,” he said.

Listen to me evangelicals. You are full of ***** . Because some of you are narrower than *even you believe!* You aren’t defending “Marriage is only between a man and a woman.” *You* are defending “Marriage will only be between those individual men and women that we believe are *within expected norms enough* to be allowed to marry. The furor over racially mixed marriages is another example of this.

Worse yet, of course, I admitted that housewifery and cookery were not the positives that I would bring to the marriage and that that was not what my Brian’s and my marriage was going to be about and that *Brian himself* was fine with that, and Pastor could bring him in and inquisit him alone and he would tell him just that. (Which, of course he did with a few disrespectful words thrown in. The rant my Irishman brought to my apartment that night was a fine one…in my defense. )

Thank God that the Pastor did not go so far as to forbid the use of the building because as bad as that color scheme was (red carpet red pew pads, red red red red…for the blood of Christ of course.) it would have broken Brian’s heart if he could not have been married in the church he grew up in, and since I had no strong pull to a church from my youth it made sense to be married there.

A former pastor, a good family friend saw no reason not to reactivate his credentials and become “Marryin Sam” again, to marry us. He and many others just realised…”The emotional bond between these two people is just too strong not to have them marry. It’s necessary. Let them do it. Where’s the harm, and it might even be a good thing….”

And so, during the good parts of the marriage, it was about two smart, geeky science fiction and/or comic book freakos bonding in the mind, and physically too. Ours was about the physical bond, and the “life of the mind.” We dissected friends lives and interactions, our own ambitions and dreams, and parts of pop culture, over breakfast lunch and dinner. (I had to learn some sports too, and in the end that was another subject to chew over…)

*That’s* what it was about. How much fun we could jam in to the good times, how many intimate moments and days and nights, how many road trips, diners, relatives, amusement parks, holidays we could get in in five and a quarter years. That’s not a bad reason to partner up, to marry.

As I’ve discussed before somewhere in the relationship he discovered his clock was ticking and that AIDS would eventually end his life, and sometime after he knew that, he clued me in.

And marriage did become something I saw as a trap, but only after it went to hell, me sick with Hodgkins Lymphoma and him getting steadily worse.

I didn’t leave him. There was much pressure to do so for many reasons, some of them quite valid. But it was simple for me, and not about what anyones *religion* would or would not permit.

He was dying. No one in this world should die without someone at their side in some kind of way. Though I wasn’t present at the exact moment of his death, it was only traffic that kept me twenty minutes late.

And then, the night of the funeral, when I had spoken over him, the last thing I could do for him and gotten through a weird post funeral gathering in the church gym and fled with my friends to my own apartment…after my friends left other people came and I was told again, that night, after that day that I *got through without crying or screaming or making a scene…*

“Well, we *knew* it wasn’t going to work…”

After which gem of comfort and support, I responded: “Get the fcuk out of my house, and don’t ever darken my door again.”

And ran to the bed that was now, for the first night, truly mine alone…and wept all night.

After *every damn thing* that we had survived and remained connected through as a couple, idiots were telling me that it hadn’t “worked.” (Whatever in the hell that meant.)

It *did* work. for *five years* and more.

And some of the very evangelicals that *today* stand up and shrill about “Marriage should be between a man and a woman,” gave me and my Brian messages again and again that ours was not “the real thing.”

Anyone who’s been wondering why I’ve had such trouble finding a church, well, now you know….

Until an evangelical is courageous enough to come to me and admit that my connection was real and in many ways a primer about what commitment *has to mean…* Screw it. Just completely screw it all. My connection with Deity still exists, but it doesn’t mean I ever need to have anything to do with the American evangelical mindset again.

The hypocrisy sickens me.

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The best aspect of family…

August 14, 2007 at 8:13 PM (family)

families can rip each other to pieces surely…but if an outsider comes and wants to mind our business in an inappropriate way…

She was a relative…she is not now.

I was 14 or so…and walking down a staircase while visiting a relative.  As was my usual method at the time I put one hand on the railing and one hand on the wall.  I was in a grand newly built home with many antiques…the first “home” I ever saw that was actually not meant to live in.

This puzzled me greatly.  Why would anybody build a house where certain rooms were off limits?  But they did.

She was five-eleven, wealthy, blonde, svelte and annoyingly imperious.  The Imperious Aunt

“You are not allowed to put your hands on the walls while walking downstairs!”

“Well,  Imperious Aunt, it’s either dirt on the walpaper or blood on the staircase, take your pick.” She had an angry frozen face and dead silence.

Ever since she’d done a minor job of cleaning out a bedroom for me to sleep in that usually served as her pet ocelot’s  pen, (removing pieces of leftover raw meat from the bedclothes was the clincher,) I hadn’t thought much of her.

in intervening years, she did conspire to buy me cool presents, and I would geniuinely thank her for them, then privately admit to my mother  that just because she bought me cool presents didn’t mean I still didn’t think she was a huge jerk.

The worst had been the breakfast.  She never made food just for me when we visited, then all of a sudden, she sat me down with a large plate of breakfast food one morning, eggs and potatoes….and proceeded to attempt to grill me on the state of my fathers bank account, employment status, and whether or not he was a drunk.  (the fact that he was at the time in fact unemployed, broke, and lost to the bottle was not the point)
Out of earshot of her husband, and my parents…she figures the “kid” will be bought off by some eggs and be stupid enough to reveal the vulnerabilites and situation of her father.

I was outraged. “Oh, no you don’t,” I thought in my head…” You are trying to use me to get to my own father…and you think you can, because I’m the kid…maybe you’re buying into the idea that “physical disability,” also means “dumb enough to fool.”

I got up quickly and headed for the kitchen door, saying “Aunt *****, You must think I’m stupid.  If you want to know what’s going on with him, you ask my mother or my father.  Don’t ever ask me about him or try to use me against him again. ”

I headed for my mother, told her the whole deal, and this made for a very quiet lunch, with my father and his brother being obliviously merry, the Imperious Aunt not saying five words, and my mother also unusually quiet, ramrod straight in a dining room chair, with the Stare of Death switching back and forth between my father, who of course had he been sober and employed, would not have generated those inappropriate questions, and the Imperious Aunt, who, I was surprised to note, didn’t burst into flames the minute my mother came down to lunch and made eye contact.

Those kinds of attacks make you realize the real value of the people you’re related to, messed up or not….

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Some days, some places

August 5, 2007 at 3:38 PM (family) ()

Time really can stand in one place.  Somewhere it is always August…late August when I am more than five but less than ten years old…

I am again in the house of someone I believed to have considerable wealth…a jovial heavyset mysterious man who loved to expose people to the unexpected, a sentiment I agreed with…

When I was young, before the weight came on, I learned a soundless (or nearly so) stealth in my home, in order not to wake up a dangerously hung over father, or an emotionally exhausted mother…

But the loveliest by product of this was that …stealth worked in other places too….This August house was very very very long…and only built on one floor to accommodate the great girth and limited mobility of my great uncle… If I ever win the lottery, I will go to the owners of that place in Walton Hills and give them whatever bucks they want…because that house would suit me just as well now as then… The talk of the grownups only interested me when it turned to books or travel…after the alchohol had been flowing for a bit I tended to become invisible…do that slow fade that children learn… to begin the search.  The search for ‘treasure….’

There were two separate huge baths (one in a ridiculous pink, that I suppose the Sixties could not avoid…and the other in a sea green…connected right up with each other….  The first third of the long tiled hallway that connected everything was a black and white tiled expanse that fascinated me, in part because I had to be so careful while walking across it. Kitchen to the right, closets and then the vast bedroom at the end of the hall….the entire house was really dimly lit and felt both welcoming and vaguely inimical all at once.  The sweet black Laborador would follow me even into rooms of the house he was normally forbidden to enter…so my treasure might be a cloth napkin of a color I’d never seen, or a button my great Aunt had dropped that looked like a pearl or a jewel in the middle of a vast dark carpet…or a thimble made of cloth and another made of metal  that somehow got woven “into” a piece of embroidery she’d left unfinished….I never kept these things…it wasn’t about stealing…but I wanted to spend time with these odd little pieces, because I had the  idea that if I did I could figure the house out without asking a grownup what they would consider to be a ‘dumb’ question….I’d leave them on a table when I came back to the crowded living room or just before we sat down to dinner.  There was the bookshelf behind the big chair with a light right by it.  I wanted to stay there all day…or the dining room just behind with some kind of heavy medium wood table and lace coverings… and heavy curtains and some candles…

Corn shucking is happening at a great pace….in a lavish, but small kitchen with at least three of my relatives, in huge aprons that allowed serious cooking whilst already in high heels, hose, and fancy dresses…

The meat on the barbeque is different every August…once venison, then my personal favorite buffalo, and then the unremarkable quail….

I was, unfortunately, forced into eating clam or oysters or some mussel or other at one of these things…but I was also introduced to what would later become my only favorite seafood–shrimp, as boiled and covered with any and all sauces one might think of…

It’s always nearly sunset and a good two hours of playing outside in the bright, offset my Gothic fancies about the house…everyone is full of humor and racketing talk because my father’s people are/were the ones I get my high verbal setup from. There were three boys, my father’s cousins who were at interesting ages betwixt and between my father and myself….they belonged to the youngest Great Aunt, not the lady of this house…. The middle Great Aunt was the joyful  hostess of this house…occasionally’ we would see her daughter, a woman who  was as mysterious to me as the heavyset great uncle, but in a different way….an actual actress, with a screenwriter husband and a home in California…I was hideously pesky of them, moreso than the boys…I wanted to know about how people actually lived, out on the Western edge.

This is a place that time *has* to stand still for you see, because the Uncle wasn’t that mysterious, and the Aunt not all that happy….and so many of those intelligent, cheerful, *powerful*  faces have either been indirectly damaged by addiction or mental illness…or directly destroyed by it.

We all had potential back then.  It’s not so much that it was never talked about…more likely that August just turned out…to be some of everyone’s “good days.”

Some days, some places.  Time *has* to stand still.

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Maybe there are some other

August 2, 2007 at 7:36 PM (family)

ways to tell people…I’m about “told” out, and that’s something…

I used to walk… and now I am on my feet rarely outside and at work..

I have illness

I have impairment.

But in a given year, my good days still outnumber the bad ones…

My limited mobility and my size don’t make me…(shudder)

“Tragic”

I am sick to death of family members only choosing to discuss me as a “what she should have done”

Only one of my “family of choice” my friends, even occasionally ventures into that territory, and even he has backed off lately…

Fine:

To those relatives of my late father who don’t see me much

(with the exception of the much beloved State Capitol Geek and his wife)

You have all been better at managing your lives than I shall ever be, and I appreciate your good thoughts and support.

I salute you.  You are the most together bunch of people I have ever seen.  You’re athletic and conventionally beautiful and smart and relatively well off.

I shall continue to manage my diversion from that characteristic as best I can.

And if I say anything else, I’ll be perceived as an ungrateful wretch, so I’ll shut up now.

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