Reduced Circumstances

These days when I ask my Mom how she and my Dad are doing, she says, “Just fine — as well as can be expected given everything that’s going on.” She says this quite cheerfully, as she has always been an upbeat, go-get-‘em kind of gal, and it usually makes me chuckle. Only a few months ago, way out on the other side of the country, she and my Dad were clawing their way through the days, dealing proudly and stubbornly with his sudden, debilitating depression and anxiety. Now they’re safely ensconced in a small rental house down the street from us, my Dad is medicated and much better, and my Mom has even been able to get back to some of her academic work (archeologists, like writers, never retire). But their lives are seriously smaller than they once were: they no longer drive, have asked us to be in charge of their finances, and have to depend on us for just about everything.

 
This past weekend, at the Saint Harridan pop up store in Jamaica Plain, I sat for a couple hours while Tex deliberated about buying another suit. As I sorted through fabric swatches, I was privileged to watch customers coming in. They would always be met at the door with a cheerful, “Are you in the market for a suit?” and, if so, would be respectfully and lovingly guided through the suit-buying process. First, Mr. Mary or Mr. Dom would help them with size, giving them jackets and slacks to try on. Over and over, I watched shy, plainly-dressed queers transform. With each step of the way, their faces would begin to clear, their eyes sparkle; they would begin to smile and not be able to stop. Their posture would straighten. By the end of their fitting, when they were actually feeling in their bodies what it was going to be like to be resplendent in a suit, they were radiating confidence. They went from being shy and easily overlooked, to shining like the stars they are.
The night of the super moon, me, my parents, and our little dog walked over to the park to take a look. Lots of people were there, straight families with kids sitting on blankets, other straight people in lawn chairs, probably some queers, too, but invisible to me. Only the straight people were visible. My parents and I sat on the grass for a while, and I liked being with the neighborhood folks, overhearing conversations. On the way home, my parents held hands, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do. I don’t think my father would have ever had the patience or desire to walk down the street like that previous to what one doctor called his “brain event”, which has slowed him and restricted his life so much.

 
I can feel very angry when I think about how queers are treated, how we are supposed to be content and quiet with so very little. When you first come out, you have this extended – often life-long – lesson in learning to live in reduced circumstances. Everything you took for granted when you assumed you were straight (i.e., human) gets eroded and takes on this sinister not-for-you quality. It’s stunning, and some of us never get over it, others of us are in denial, others of us die from it. Because of it. But I have found such sustenance in queer connection, so much love from people, who, like me, are marginalized and oppressed – we have such strength, urgency, and creativity. We do so much for each other. “When we started Saint Harridan,” says Mr. Mary Going, the founder of the company, “it wasn’t just about clothes. It was to change the world.”

 
I have felt enfolded and inspired and sweetly seen by my people and I am grateful for my minority status in that I feel I have a much better grasp of systemic injustices and why things are the way they are than some of my straight white friends who have never been up close and personal with being despised. I have never once wished I wasn’t queer, despite the daily battle to be seen, the danger, the hatred, misunderstanding, loneliness, rage and misery, because within these reduced circumstances – because of these reduced circumstances — lies all the love in the world.

Published in: on August 14, 2014 at 9:32 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. A beautiful, whole essay, both subtly and passionately written. I really love it — including the title and how it works.


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