A Sunday in the Life

This morning in Sunday school as part of a lesson about Jesus, Owen learned how to write “fuck” in Greek letters. Those wild and wacky UUs, doncha luvem?

Seth’s soccer game was called off due to lack of players due to Yom Kippur, but Owen’s game was on, and off he and my Beau went after church. The boys, may I say, look INCREDIBLY DAPPER in their very professional club soccer uniforms.

Seth and I hung out a little, then went to Whole Wallet to purchase some luxury food items because my Beau has ripped out the kitchen and we’re getting lovely new cabinets and etc., but it’s a few weeks of hell and washing dishes in the bathroom sink (ewww). Two thousand dollars later, we left, reeling, and I started singing “All Lost in the Supermarket” and saying to Seth how it’s the only Clash song I like, and then I brilliantly classified it as an “Eleanor Rigby” song because it’s about being out of step with the modern world (welcome to my life) and we came home and looked at it on youtube and there was a dumb one about a little boy lost in the supermarket and we disparaged it as made by someone without a clue. Then we watched “Apeman” by the Kinks and then I put on Iggy Pop’s “Party” on actual vinyl.

My Beau and Owen came back to report that Owen’s team won, 10 – 1, and that Owen made a beautiful goal. Owen went up and took a bath, the rest of us played with the puppy and put away groceries and fed the cats.

It’s raining.

We’re going to have early dinner in front of the TV and watch “Eerie, Indiana” which I cleverly ordered from the library after blogging about it a while back.

My Beau said the other day, “I feel so much better when the boys are here!” which both breaks my heart and fills my heart with deep peace and joy. I miss them so bad when they’re not here, and it is so amazing that I’ve found someone to be my love and their step-parent who they love and who loves them. It’s not easy being a step-parent, and my Beau is sometimes frustrated, but she is always completely honest and front-and-center and loving  and respectful with them.

Right now I can hear her in the other room talking about drugs and alcohol to the boys – they’ve both been hearing about this stuff at school in health class. She’s not talking down to them and she’s not dumbing it down, either, or sparing too many details. Never try crystal meth or crack. Period. Etc.

That’s it for my homey kinda boring Sunday blog. Cheery bye!

Published in: on September 27, 2009 at 9:24 AM  Leave a Comment  

All the Gay Parties

Lately, we’ve had Seth, our 13-year old, trapped in the car for commutes to his club soccer practice. It’s great! We make good use of this time, chatting in depth about the world of work, higher education, moral issues, and just last night, I went on at length about my dealings with AAA around a seriously shredded right rear tire. All very edifying!

The other day, though, Seth actually initiated a conversation thus:

“Mom, my geography teacher is gay – I mean, lesbian.”

Me: Oh, did she come out to you guys?

Seth: Huh?

Me: Did she tell you she’s gay?

Seth: Mom, come on. She wears lesbian clothes. You can tell. Everyone knows.

Me: (laughing and looking down at my jeans): What are lesbian clothes?

Seth: Come on, a pink shirt, you know, with a collar.

Me: How do you know that’s gay? I mean, maybe on a guy it would be.

Seth: No, mom, on a guy it’s cool, not gay. I have a friend who wears that and he looks cool.

Me: Maybe there’s something you don’t know about him.

Seth: MOM!!

Me: Well, honey, it sounds like you’ve developed some gaydar! I’m so proud of you!

(I explain about gaydar, to Seth’s amusement and horror. He denies he has anything gay.)

Seth: Anyway, she talked about her wife.

Me: Oh, well that’s a big clue.

Seth (having a sudden, terrifying thought): MOM!!! DON’T INVITE HER TO YOUR GAY PARTY!

Me (totally cracking up): You mean, go to the parent/teacher conference and say, “Hi! I’m Seth’s mom and I want YOU to come to my gay party!!!”

Seth (laughing but also completely horrified): MOM!!

Me: Don’t worry, baby. I am the soul of discretion.

Seth: Yeah, right. DON’T DO IT, MOM!!!

Me: Ok, ok.

So the gay parties he’s talking about is the potluck for the queer parents of the local elementary school that my Beau and I got going a few years ago. For the kids to get to know each other, and to offer each other support and camaraderie in the sometimes crazy (ok, usually crazy) mommy/daddy land of school.

It’s been great, the kids enjoy it for the most part (although Seth makes grumpy noises – he actually rather likes being hero worshipped by the little boys, who trail after him with their baseball gloves and stickball bats singing out his name in reverent tones), and the grown ups have formed friendships  and alliances, some more friendly than others, in the way of these things.

For the past year or two, a few of us have been trying to disseminate information to the other grade schools in town, reach out to all the queer-parent families here, and generally wanting to have a more solid town-wide connection to each other. It really seems to be going nowhere, though. This year, I wanted to have a booth at Town Day, but there was so little interest that I had to cancel. Another mom in the group says she thinks there’s just no need for this kind of networking/connection and that people are way too busy. I do think that people have their own support groups – families who have kids adopted from China, for example – but I still think there’s a deep need to have a town-wide presence of queer-parent families. I know how important it is for us, and we can’t be the only ones.

I was so sad when I had to cancel the Town Day booth that I had to cry on my Beau’s shoulder for several minutes. She patted me and said such nice things, like how I’ve kept the group going, how little steps are important, how I shouldn’t take it personally, all of which I heard and appreciate, but which didn’t stop me from wailing, “I just want things to be NIIIIIIIICE!!!” And I do. I want the queer-parent families in town to know each other. I want us to have a yearly (or more often) all-town gathering, like at the skating rink or the bowling alley, where we can get face recognition if nothing else and the kids can run around and never have to worry when another kid asks them about their family. And never have to hear “MY mom and dad, blah blah blah.” Because that is really, really important.

I just talked with my darling neighbor who is working as an aide up in the 1st grade at the local elementary school this year, and she said there are 3 lesbian-headed families in her class. One family I already know (the moms of Seth’s greatest little boy admirer), but the other two I don’t, and I’m so excited for our first school-year potluck because I really hope they’ll come. This is my family’s last year at the elementary school (Owen is in 5th grade, and Seth is already at the middle school, in 7th), so whether or not we ever get the town-wide thing going, we’re going to have to make some adjustments as more of our kids move on to other schools. I would love to:

make sure all the staff in all the schools are educated about queer-parent families

have a booth at Town Day next year

sponsor town-wide events such as a picnic, bowling, meeting at free skate, etc.

establish a regular drop-in where kids and parents could meet

investigate COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) and think about starting a town branch

use the internet via a webpage, Facebook page, or other networking venue where we could communicate effectively and privately (no names of our kids, etc.)

establish a presence on the school committee

contact the local High School Gay Straight Alliance to see if there’s anything we could do for each other

make use of the town cable television

co-sponsor movies or discussions with the town’s Human Rights Commission

use the informational table in the town library

BUT…. probably, most likely, we’ll just go ahead and have a potluck in October, hope the new families will join us, get a good look at the kids who will surely have grown many feet and have interesting haircuts and tooth jewelry, drink a glass of wine with fellow travelers in the world of queer parenting, and laugh a lot.

That will be nice.

Published in: on September 24, 2009 at 9:58 AM  Comments (1)  

Guitar Pick and Carpenter’s Pencil — A Domestic Haiku

washing machine loot

one my son’s, one my husband’s

dear symbols of them

Published in: on September 24, 2009 at 8:53 AM  Leave a Comment  

Parking at Anytime

There are signs all down one of the main streets in town right now that say: NO PARKING AT ANYTIME. Driving Seth to his guitar lesson today, I gave him a bit of a lecture about the difference between AT ANYTIME and AT ANY TIME. He was deeply fascinated and asked a lot of really intelligent and pertinent questions. Ha. Ha.

But anyway (not any way), I’ve been riffing (as we used to say in the dark ages) on the whole PARKING AT ANYTIME thing and feel that it should be the name for my next novel (after the two I’m already working on have been duly completed), or at least a short story. I’m fascinated by ANYTIME. Where is it? What is it? I told Seth it could be a house or a park, but I’m wondering if it’s actually a country. Or a state of mind.

Right now I am in ANYTIME. I spent almost two hours on the phone with my ex, trying to convince her of any number of things that we need to do this fall for both boys, including getting both of them into this amazing club soccer deal that my Beau and I recently found (both boys went to camp there and were ecstatic every day – what a change from the farty-aroundy town soccer with stressed-out dads coaching!). I think we might be close to an agreement, but believe you me, that there was a long, long time parked at ANYTIME.

Two years ago I managed to feel the fear and get my hip operated on anyway so I could walk again. A little over two weeks ago, I did something to my back, and am now about as crippled and in pain as I was before the surgery. I have so far dealt with two chiropractors, one of whom had three cats in her waiting room and spent the entire appointment telling me a) how she’s been good about her diet this summer but she did just have some ice cream and b) about her dyslexic daughter and her battle with the public school system. Her treatment did nothing for me. The second chiropractor came highly recommended and is an arrogant, not-very-observant prickish sort of fellow (the kind of guy you have to come out to over and over again because he keeps mentioning your husband, and he doesn’t mean your lesbian husband, either), but I think his treatments might be doing something for me. Slowly. Sigh. Parking at ANYTIME.

I am being audited for the most ridiculously small amount of money you could imagine. The to-and-fro with MA TAX ESTABLISHMENT is entirely too tedious to detail, but I can assure you, I have been parking at ANYTIME for a ages with this little matter.

Heck. When I started this, I was thinking that ANYTIME was a magical place, like where you go when you’re parking in bed at ANYTIME with your sweet love, like how you’re parking at ANYTIME during those first few weeks when you’re both admitting you’re in love and the whole world is blooming and shiny, like those first few weeks after the baby is born and your boobs and your heart are overflowing and you can stare into each other’s eyes forever and the baby falls asleep on you, heavy and precious. Yes, yes, let’s allow ANYTIME to be that place, as well.

But it’s just that right now, ANYTIME is a bit gnarly, and I’m having a hard time, parked here. I want to be doing my morning walks in the dawn, where sometimes I see foxes, even in this suburb so near to Boston; I don’t want to be going through my bank statements and hoping that my deposits add up to what I told the tax people; I don’t want my ex to still be treating me like a psycho bitch who can’t be trusted and certainly shouldn’t be respected (funny ol’ projection at work again), oh, golly, I don’t want to be parked at this ANYTIME.

The thing about ANYTIME, though, is that it’s always both. At the same time that my back hurts like a mother fucker and all these insane perimenopausal symptoms plague me (I didn’t mention them above and really, they are too tedious to detail, but if you have stock in heavy duty maxi pads you can thank me now), at the SAME EXACT ANYTIME, I am more and more in love with my Beau, she is amazing, she is strong and handsome and dear dear dear to me, I am more and more proud of both boys, ohmigod you should have seen Seth this summer, he and I did a whole fucking year of Latin so that he can switch from Spanish (stupid, bad textbook, boring teachers) to Latin (interesting, filled with history which he loves, and an awesome teacher) – the boy worked so hard and was so dedicated, I still can hardly believe it – and Owen, Dr. Love, having his 10th birthday and deciding he wants to play soccer and soccer only and working his skinny little butt off at soccer camp, ohmigod, how proud I am of him, of both of them, and we had such a nice time visiting my parents out West who are old but healthy and happy and loving and working doing what they love, and my dear friend who is really my sister was there from her far-away abode in South America with her two darling boys and she and I would go have pastry and coffee every morning at the most amazing bakery and talk and talk and I’ve known her since 8th grade and I love her so much. I’ve been doing so much interesting reading, and so many things are going well here parked at ANYTIME. Taxes, menopause, exes, back pain, romantic love, mother love, literary love, oh, and we got a puppy! Puppy love! Maternal pride! Job satisfaction! Blogging again! ANYTIME is a complicated place. I guess I love being parked here.

Published in: on September 2, 2009 at 11:12 AM  Leave a Comment  

His Dog Tulip

Having just acquired a puppy of our own, I thought it time to read My Dog Tulip by J.R. Ackerley. I have a 1999 reissue with an introduction by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, of The Secret Lives of Dogs fame.

I vaguely knew that J.R. Ackerley was a contemporary of folks like E.M. Forster and Christopher Isherwood (they have blurbs on the back of this edition), gay, upper class, British, literary. There’s a lovely picture of him and Tulip on the cover of my edition: a thin, older man, round glasses, sweater vest with tie and jacket, corduroy trousers. Looks gay, something about the way he’s leaning coquettishly, cocking his head to one side.

His writing is beautiful, slow and deliberate, nice pedantic words I don’t know and have to look up in the dictionary. You can tell he’s a big grump, a misogynist, a classist bigot, a darling romantic, an empathic and sympathetic observer of natural life.

At the same time I was exclaiming over how much dog ownership has changed since Tulip graced Ackerley’s life (he had her for 16 ½ years starting sometime in the 1940s; the book was first published in 1956), it was gradually dawning on me that all the gorgeous observation and loving detail he pours into this description of Tulip is gorgeous observation and loving detail he could not, at the time (at least not publicly) pour into descriptions of his gay life and love.

Everything about Tulip is beautiful to him: the second chapter (they’re really more like essays), “Liquids and Solids” is all about Tulips bodily functions, and makes surprisingly entertaining and interesting reading (this was, of course, long before pooper scoopers), especially the scene where’s he’s trying to get Tulip to go before they get on a train, and says encouragingly, “Come on, Tulip, be a sport. Shitsy-witsy, you know.”

The third chapter, “Trail and Error”, begins, “Soon after Tulip came into my possession, I set about finding a husband for her. She had had a lonely and frustrated life hitherto; now she should have a full one.” Later in the chapter, he goes on to a seriously sensual description of Tulip coming into heat, which he finds completely enchanting: “That small dark bud, her vulva, became gradually swollen and more noticeable amid the light gray fur of her thighs as she walked ahead of me, and sometimes it would set up, I supposed, a tickle or a trickle or some other sensation, for she would suddenly squat down in the road and fall to licking it. At such moments I could see how much larger it had grown and the pretty pink of its lining. Then there were spots of blood on her silvery shins. She did not bleed much, nor did she smell; I should not have minded either. I was very touched by the mysterious process at work within her and felt very sweet towards her.”

How loving and supportive he is of his pet’s sexuality – a sexuality that is, without any doubt, natural and a part of natural life. His own sexuality? The sexualities of his friends and lovers? Near the end of the book, he details how he attempts to get Tulip through her heats as painlessly as possible by letting her run wild after rabbits in a nearby wilderness area, saying several times that he is able to give her everything she wants, but not what she needs (he does not want her mated again, as it was incredibly distressing trying to find good homes for the pups the one time she did mate and get pregnant).

This particular wilderness area was the site of a tragic suicide many years earlier: “And young Holland, where did he die? Where is the swamp into which he drove his face? Lost, lost, the inconsiderable, anguished deed in the blind hurry of time. The perfect boy face downwards in a swamp… The doctor who performed the autopsy remarked that the muscles and limbs were absolutely perfect, he had never seen a better developed boy in his life, nor, when he split open the skull, such deep gray matter. Ah, perfect but imperfect boy, brilliant at work, bored by games, traits of effeminacy were noticed in you, you were vain of your appearance and addicted to the use of scent. Everyone, it seemed, wished you different from what you were, so you came here at last and pushed your face into a swamp, and that was the end of you, perfect but imperfect boy…” (He references The Times, June 30, 1926 in a footnote, perhaps having preserved the clipping for over 20 years).

Ackerley laments the state of dogs’ lives, that they cannot just be dogs and do what dogs naturally do because for untold generations they have been inextricably linked to human beings, and the two species, as much as they can love each other, know very little about each other and have a hard time living peacefully together. Humans are always trying to make dogs be not-dog: not letting them have sexual freedom, not letting them be who they are. Ahem.

Don’t you think that in 1999, when this book was reissued, they could have had someone like, oh, I don’t know, some well-respected literary fag writer like Mark Doty or Michael Cunningham write the introduction? Someone queer, someone who gets what’s going on? Ok, yes, My Dog Tulip is ostensibly a dog book, and a rather wonderful dog book at that, so I can see why they might have thought of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, and her introduction is ok, but it says nothing about the deeper waters of the book. Nothing of the above incredibly moving passage – gee, why is that in there when this is a dog book? Oh, I dunno, I’ll just skip over it. Just like that part of Ackerley’s life was undoubtedly skipped over his entire literary career.

Ok, I actually know nothing about his life. Maybe he was completely out and had lovers and was deliriously happy. He’s just got one published novel, according to the information from my edition of My Dog Tulip, called We Think the World of You, as well as two other memoirs, one about his father and one called Hindoo Holiday, and I haven’t read any of them. I also know nothing about The Listener, the BBC magazine for which he was literary editor.

And I know I could look all this stuff up in just a few strokes of my keyboard, but I don’t feel like it. I mean, I really don’t feel like it! Today, I just feel like reacting to an actual book I have in my actual hands. I would like to enjoy feeling outraged, sit around and ponder, talk to other people and see what they have to say without mucking things up by flitting about on the stupid internet and finding sound bytes of information on Wikepedia and allowing them to dilute and dissipate my thoughts. Fuck that. And fuck the publisher, New York Review of Books, for falling so disastrously down on the job of reissuing this integral piece of queer history without putting it in context and honoring it like the brave and desperate work that it continues to be.

Published in: on September 1, 2009 at 1:30 AM  Comments (3)