Archive for June, 2010

Have Some Pride

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

mood: cheery | drinking: juice
rainbow-flag

It’s Pride weekend here in San Francisco. The rainbows are out in full force.

And although I’m not attending the parade (or the Backstreet Boys concert to follow), I’ve got my pride on all the same.

Today my friend Sarah B. wrote down some thoughts about Pride, and I asked her if I could borrow them to share here. I don’t know where you stand on the issue of gay rights, and this is not intended to be a soapbox. Just one person’s view of things, from a very personal perspective…

Shine on, you homosexual diamond

“Years ago, before I finagled my first design job, I worked a horrible gig as an Administrative Assistant for a temp firm in downtown San Francisco. Most of the women who worked there were Marina Girls — you know the type: plucky little boobs, skirt-suits, and those ubiquitous drink-cups with the oversized straws. They were nice, for the most part, except for one — Melanie — who once asked me about my father, who she’d heard was semi-sorta-famous in some obscure way.

She said “Someone told me your father is gay, is that true?” I said yes, yes it was. She said “Oh my god, what was THAT like?”

I told her, “I didn’t mind his being gay at all. What I minded was that he was born in 1931, when it was forbidden to be gay, and that made him hate himself, which made him an alcoholic, and an alcoholic self-loathing father is no fun. But the gay part was fine, really, once I got over the surprise… he just liked other men, that’s basically it.”

Melanie replied, scornfully: “You mean, he just liked a big dick up his ass.”

I can’t remember how long I sat there staring at her in disbelief. Never mind that we were in SAN FRANCISCO, somewhere in the early ’90s. I just couldn’t believe how rude she was. It was almost admirable, in a weird way. Finally I said “No, actually, he was more of a top,” which was, I’m sorry to say, completely lost on her, but I’m glad I thought to say it.

There is so much hatred and meanness in the world. Another adorable homosexual, Morrissey, said it in one of his many witty songs — “It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.”

Raised around gay people in San Francisco, going to Pride marches with my dad and his boyfriend Randy (real name!), I think I was in a privileged little bubble. I assumed homophobia was a thing of the past. I was young and naive.

Since then, years of hearing about Fred Phelps, or the recent anti-gay legislation in Africa, or oh, so many horrible incidences of some poor, terrified boy or girl being bullied or beaten or killed, have cured me of the misapprehension that Those Days are Over.

I’ve heard some people lately asking whether we still need a Pride Week. What’s the point? Everyone knows they exist — why must they keep “shoving it in our faces” (a bizarre turn of phrase, when all you have to do is not look, if it bothers you that much)?

And why DO they keep looking? I think it’s because insecure people need someone else to kick and abuse. It is a shameful but true thing, that looking down on other people, mocking them, asserting your superiority to them, feels good. We’ve all done it, in one way or another. It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.

My father died in 1996, of alcohol-related cirrhosis. I remember many nights, alone with him at the dinner table in his SF house, when he’d get so drunk he’d break down and sob and tell me how much he hated himself — how he was a disgusting freak and didn’t deserve to live. Years of inculcation into the society of gay hatred had done that to him.

He knew he loved men from as far back as he could remember having romantic thoughts about anybody. He married my mother because he loved her and desperately wanted to be straight, but that fell apart pretty much the day I was born. He tried so hard — he dated women, and snuck off to have illicit romances with men, and hated himself for it, and drank himself to death.

Fred Phelps and his mob would applaud my dad’s self-hatred as appropriate. What it was was terribly, desperately sad. He had a few lovely years, when the Castro scene started up and he became friends with Harvey Milk, when he felt better about himself, and I remember those times as being a huge relief. He was happy! He came out (to Dave MacElhatton, in his living room, on Channel Five, a scene I walked in on with my little Monkees lunchbox, coming home from school — surreal).

He had boyfriends, and hung out at the Twin Peaks, and in misguided solidarity, even bought a gross (!) of The Village People’s first album (I gave them out as Christmas presents for years). He wrote embarrassing masturbatory fiction for First Hand Magazine under the pseudonym of Jack Hoff. And yes — this was all a little weird, but what wasn’t, in those days?

It was enough, for me, to see happiness replace the constant, haunted misery in his eyes. It was enough when I would come down on my motorcycle for a visit, and me, my dad, and Randy would all go to lunch on our bikes, like some kind of ultra-PC Hell’s Angel’s. Dad was much more affectionate with me and Dylan, because he was okay with being who he was, and didn’t see us as evidence of failure as much anymore. How is that not preferable?

Ultimately, though, he died because the drinking habit that had gotten him through the years of self-hatred in the closet had become a real addiction, and it ate up his liver.

He was a brilliant, weird, talented man, who could play twenty-some-odd musical instruments, had gone to Paris on a Fulbright, sang opera, was a Stormtrooper and the Voice of the Death Star in Star Wars, acted, emceed, made musical instruments, and so many other things… what a waste, for someone that talented and full of possibility to hate himself for so long.

I think of him every Pride Week, and also of his boyfriend Randy, and the various young men who traipsed in and out of his Victorian house on Waller Street. I miss him. I wish the world had been different when he was born and growing up, even if that would mean I wouldn’t have been born.

Pride Week makes me think of all the hundreds of thousands of young people out there right now, maybe not lucky enough to live in a relatively enlightened town, maybe hiding who they are from everyone, or braving it out and suffering the hell of being shunned during the time of life when social approval is most important. I wish I could scoop you all up and tell you to be okay with yourselves…

We definitely do still need Pride Week. Every rainbow-painted set of boobs on a Harley, every wiggling butt on a float, every shiny happy face, gives that terrified kid in Oklahoma hope.

Okay, I’ll stop now, but I love you, Gay People. Have a great Pride Week.”

-written by Sarah B.

-and Lo, wishing a very happy Pride to all her gay peeps out there.

The Becoming Never Ends

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

mood: ponderous | drinking: lots and lots of water

boat_small

My thoughts are scattered far and wide today, floating on haphazard breezes like so much dandelion fluff. I don’t know where to begin.

I can feel myself changing. Outside, the transformation is obvious even to strangers, as my hard round stomach pushes its way further and further out into the world. Inside, everything is re-arranged. My viscera, my ribcage, my brain.

Who is it, exactly, that I am becoming?

You don’t even know how many people have said to me, “Oh, you will make such a good mother!”

The polite response is “thanks” of course, but what I would rather say is, “How the hell do you know that?”

Because I don’t even know that. I don’t know what it is going to take, exactly, to be a mother. I don’t know where, exactly, mother will end and me will begin. Or perhaps they will become inextricably entangled and I will never again be precisely myself.

I’ve waited a long time to become a mother. This is something I don’t think I could ever regret. I’ve had an excellent time learning to be myself, learning to be Boy’s partner, learning how to constantly and consciously become a better version of both.

And now, a whole new door is opening inside me. A whole new person is being knit together, and whether she likes it or not, she will always be a part of me. From here until the end of time.

It’s easy to talk about all of this evolution in pretty prose, but the reality is what scares me. I don’t know how, exactly, all of this will change me. I don’t know who I will be on the other side. I don’t know how Boy and I will make it all work.

And even more, I don’t know who exactly this new little person is. I don’t know yet what she’ll like and dislike, what she’ll dream of and what she’ll discard.

There are just so many unknowns to this whole situation.

And it’s fine for all the onlookers to be all pleasant with their platitudes about my parenting skills, but only time will tell, right? These chapters have yet to be written.

I’m sure we’ll do the best we can and day by day, we’ll figure it out. Right now, though, I sit with a butternut squash in my belly and a whole lot of blank pages in front of me and I try to remind myself not to jump so far ahead.

And I wonder why everything I write comes circling back to what’s happening in my uterus. It’s an all-consuming project, this baby-growing thing.

I fear I’ve become a boring conversationalist already, and we haven’t even gotten to the part yet where Boy and I spend dinner discussing the irregularities of our progeny’s poop.

-Lo, with a bad case of the baby brain.

From the depths

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

mood: listening | drinking: sprite

sonar

Sonar

From the depths, you
tap out a signal
just for me.

To think that once
there was such silence,
and now

always
I’ll be listening
for you.

*****

-Lo, at week 28.

Down on the farm

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

mood: sleepy | drinking: water

tractor1

There is something about going back to the farm that never gets old.

I haven’t lived there for at least 15 years now (and have no intention of moving back), but I love to visit. Of course, the actual farm I grew up on is now home to strangers, and the big grey house where all my childhood memories took root is now painted a trendy shade of purple.

My parents moved to a different farm, 8 or 9 miles away from our old home, when I was just a year or two out of college. But they’ve been there long enough, and I’ve visited often enough, that it’s endearingly familiar.

This time I went back with Bean in my belly, and my sister and nephew in tow. The little guy is now nearly 3, and old enough to get really excited about things like tractors and horses and big piles of sand.

Every day we were there, as soon as my nephew saw my dad he’d say, “Papa, I ride tractor? I ride big tractor? I ride bucket tractor?” And my dad, the ever-obliging grandpa, would prop Jude up on his lap and drive a never-ending series of tractors up and down the driveway.

Watching my parents as grandparents is delightful. Although, as my sister pointed out on this visit, my mom would never have given us all those sugary treats when we were kids. We had to suffer through “chocolate chip” cookies festooned with nasty carob droplets. But my nephew? He gets the real thing. Plus brownies. And M&Ms. And ice cream cake.

Now that grandchildren are making their appearance, my mom and dad are beginning to rearrange their lives in preparation for an eventual westward move to California. Even if Jude were the only grandchild, they’d make the move, but now they’ve got Bean due to show up soon, and later this fall we’ll meet my sister’s second child.

It will be amazing to have my parents just an hour or two away, instead of thousands of miles. Just to be able to make impromptu plans that don’t involve plane tickets and rental cars would feel miraculous.

But I’ll admit it, I’m going to miss showing up at the old stomping grounds. I’ll miss the red barns and the Midwest accents and drinking “pop” instead of soda.

I’ll miss the thrill of seeing, after years of absence, sights that used to be as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror.

I’ll miss the sense of history embedded on every backroad. Here is where I learned to drive, as did my father before me. Here’s where I had my first kiss, where I earned my first paycheck, where I ran barefoot chasing lightning bugs.

I love San Francisco, and I have 10 years of history here, now. And soon Bean will be making all of her childhood memories here, in our little house by the sea.

But part of me will always be a farm girl, able to scale fences and bridle horses and remain totally unfazed by the presence of poop. And I wouldn’t change that part of my history for anything.

-Lo, back to the city life.