Monday, November 29, 2010

how times have changed

Is she really going out with him? - Curtis Sittenfeld -

Back in 2004, when this Salon piece first came out, I and my friends thought it was hilariously true. We read it, commented on it and bemoaned being saddled with a fabulous girlfriend (or gay friend) who was wearing a dud boyfriend around his or her neck. I remember coolly assessing various couples I knew and dismissing them with the coldness of a Mean Girl hanging out in The Grove.

I scoffed and (as recently as two years ago) said that I would rather experience a full body waxing than be half of an Unevenly Cool Couple. If I couldn't have guy who could fit into the Algonquin Roundtable of my social set, then frak him!

How insufferably bitchy, shallow and vain.

Maybe I feel this way now because I'm with M- and what links us together isn't readily apparent to most folks. Yesterday, I dragged my ass out of bed and headed to his place for lunch. I hadn't seen him since Wednesday and I missed him. A lot. So, we bundled up, took a walk up and down Irving Park, holding hands in the cold and then ate a massive Mexican lunch. I got tipsy on a couple of margaritas, ate too many beans and took a nap on his couch while he went to a memorial dinner for a friend who passed last year.

Over lunch he told me about a dinner party he attended on Friday. A friend of a friend had brought his Japanese girlfriend from California with him.

'Did you ask her about internment camps?' I said.

'Of course!'

I opened my mouth to launch into a lecture about racial insensitivity and profiling and all the typical knee jerk liberal bullshit. But I didn't. I guffawed. He made me laugh a lot over lunch.

'We had a pretty good conversation,' he said. 'She told me about her parents, what it was like growing up in Hawaii, how everyone always asks what she is. You shoulda seen their faces; they were horrified I brought it up. But we had a good talk. '

'I don't know why they were horrified. The camps exist; they're a fact. And people were put there. Most of the Crenshaw neighborhood used to be Japanese until the war. Then it became German. Funny, huh? If we're ever on the west coast again, we should drive out to one of them. A lot of my Japanese friends from school had grandparents who met in the camps.'

He said, 'That would be a good road trip. Eat somewhere along the way.'

I said, 'We should do that.'

And that's my guy.

We probably are an unevenly cool couple (who's cool? depends on who you ask) but I don't give a fuck.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

a marriage only dimmesdale would love

I have to give a huge thumbs up for non traditional family holidays. No long hours cooking, overly crowded house, a formal dining table, a wrecked kitchen or screaming children.

The holiday I spent in Los Angeles was a lovely combination of brunches, lunches, pedicures, dim sum, cocktails and visits.

Of course it was painful hearing my sister call her soon to be ex-husband to tell her children Happy Thanksgiving and overhear the eldest girl snipe and bitch at my sister in the best imitation of a bitchy 10 year old.

"Why is she even calling at all," my niece said to her father. "I don't want to speak to her." It will probably take years for my sister and her daughter to repair their relationship.

But the conflict is nearing a close; my sister and MABIL have a court date in January. As predicted, he is seeking full custody of both children, and she is seeking joint. I am praying my sister succeeds and her lawyer will smash MABIL's petition into the dust.

When I hear of MABIL's particular stream of crazy, I feel sad, humored and angry all at once. I don't think I've ever really known a man who steadfastly refuses to recognize reality. (Other than my father.) While he tries to project the image of a wounded, caring father, he has told their children their mother is gay and is abandoing them to marry her lesbian girlfriend and have sex; he interviews them on tape while they cry and plead for their mother to come back; and he tells them that gay people are sinful and are going to hell.

In other words, 'Your mother is going to hell.'  Is it any wonder the kids are terrified about their mother?

Is this really what a good parent does? These kids are 8 and 10 years old! My stressed out nephew tells my sister, "I don't like it when daddy talks to me about this every day. I don't want to talk about this anymore." My niece is seeing a counselor but who knows what effect that's having since she practically boils with hate toward my sister. In the face of all this, my sister is quiet, calm and forbearing. I honestly don't know how she does it. I wouldn't have the patience to be so...strong-minded.

And a hilariously pathetic picture of MABIL's view of relationships is growing clearer.

According to MABIL, love is:
...Not about pleasing one another.
...Not about being in love with the other person (because love eventually dies) but about loving what the person represents. (Thereby erasing the agency and subjectivity of the partner completely.)
...Not about personal happiness, either for yourself or your partner.
...About structure and community. (Which sounds about as appealing as catechism.)
...Never talked about, reflected upon or tended to.  (It's apparently just a misshapen troll huddled in a corner you ignore for years.)

MABIL's picture of love is the opposite of any lesson found in Corinthians; it is a vision of repression, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and duty to others at the expense of the individual. Despite his obvious anger, he even has the nerve to say that he will forgive my sister and 'take her back.' I shudder to think of being forced to live with someone for any extended period of time who believes these things.

(And don't get me started on MABIL's views about the body, sex and pleasure. Let's just say that he and Christine McDonnell have a lot in common. The man should have been a priest rather than a husband.)

My sister is one step closer to her liberation and I can see her sloughing off the remnants of her wrecked marriage; this weekend showed me a sister who wasn't tense, silent, cautious, or angry. She was her old self: funny, affectionate, present, smart and loving.

Is having my sister back an even trade for the past year? Perhaps.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It takes three days to thaw a frozen turkey properly.

What a colossal misuse of time.

So I'm at the office instead of thawing a turkey, and girding my loins for the ordeal at O'Hare. I have this fantasy of grabbing a TSA officer's naughty bits in response to the overly-thorough pat down, but I suspect they'll interpret that as assault. I have no desire to be in airport jail.

So I'll cave to authority and go through the body scanner, hoping I don't get cancer and not caring one bit that my blobby naked bits will be seen onscreen by some stranger. Ten years ago, I had sex in a DJ box in Boystown; what's an airport scanner compared to that?

I'll be in Los Angeles for the holiday so y'all behave; eat moderately and try not to lose your mind during Black Friday.  I will be missing M-, missing my girls, meeting family members' various girlfriends, guzzling champagne as a coping mechanism, and perhaps getting in touch with a couple of friends I haven't seen since grad school.

Safe travels!

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Me, It's Not You: Pt. 2

This weekend, M- brought tears to my eyes. In a good way!

We were having pints with some friends after dinner and catching a few minutes alone (if you can be alone in the middle of a crowded bar.) Over dinner I had told one of M-'s coupled friends that he and I were thinking about their neighborhood for a house rental. The guy gave me a look and said, "Yeah, I think our neighborhood is a good compromise for you but not for M-. It's not downmarket enough."


"Yeah; he feels a little uncomfortable in places that aren't working class enough." I don't know if he said this because we had just walked through my neighborhood and they got a gander at all the new condos and the gentrification in Ukrainian Village, but it made me take a mental pause and added another mental brick to the pile in my brain.

Fast forward a few minutes and M- suddenly says to me, "You know, we don't have to do this until you're ready. I know you've been talking about this alot but ... you're not ready, yet." And he gave me his wry, Dad-look.

I said, "But I am! Really!" Totally lying.

And this is when he made me tear up. He cupped my face and said, "You're not. But if you insist you are going to break us up. We'll move in, you'll try to please me instead of thinking of what it is you want and then we'll break up and I'll be stuck with a goddamn house. I want us to do this because it's right for both of us at the same time."

I was quiet for a bit. "I thought I was hiding this better. I've been a little tense and anxious about this --"

"I know, babe," he said. "But when you're anxious, it makes me anxious and I can't take the stress. Ever since I was a little kid, I've been sensitive to other people's moods like this. When there's a problem, it makes me feel bad -- literally. I get sick when I feel that you're feeling all weird about us. So we don't have to do this now."

"And I get anxious when things move too fast. I just wanted you to know I'm committed to us, this thing we have."

"That's great to know you're willing to do this for me, but I don't need that big a sacrifice from you," he said. "You like living alone, you like doing your own thing and I like seeing you when I see you. Sure, I want to wake up with you. Sure, I wish we lived closer to one another. But don't worry about making ME feel good - I'm in this for the long haul. So when you're ready, we'll do this and it'll be good."

So we kissed, had more beers and went home for a rambunctious frolic and then some mutually disruptive snoring.

The upshot of all this cohabitation navel-gazing: I don't think I've felt more for this guy than during this conversation. How can any woman resist a guy who will wait for her?

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Me, It's Not You

When it comes to things between me and M- I would say that those things are going pretty well. Right now, we're juggling my increased work schedule (I now have business meetings, dinners and trips!) and I'm struggling just to wash the dishes in my sink.

I wouldn't say things are totally ok, though.  Conversations about moving in together have stepped up and are triggering GirlFriend Separation Anxiety (GFSA) and Boys Are Messy and Gross Anxiety (BAMGA), which is also related to Boys Hog the TV Remote Irritation (BHTVRI).  A friend who recently moved in with, and married, her boyfriend has struggled sharing her condo with him, his duffel bag collection, his sports gear, his records and his snoring.

She said to me today, 'Oh, that irritation and anxiety is real. It is not all in your head. Do not underestimate that.'

And what is interesting about this to me is how my anxiety bucks the female nesting stereotype. The image of the woman who can't wait to get her hands on some man's space and fill his drawers with her bras and panties is blown to pieces.  I don't want my hands on his space. That's his space. And this is mine!

The other night I actually paused while brushing my teeth thinking about how we will probably need an armoire and what if he hates going to Ikea to get one and what if I don't have enough closet space and what if his things clash with my things? And what if we can't find a place with at least two bathrooms? And I walked to my cramped bedroom where my bras, socks and various sundries were all  helter skelter, and felt a little sad.

Goodbye, girl space.

Of course, this is my Libra/Capricorn tendency to over-think.

I think I'll handle everything ok if I just keep myself grounded. And think of how my other coupled friends balance their together/apart time and how, generally, change is always good and moving in with a guy does not mean that I will never see my girls but that I'll have to be more intentional about seeing them on a regular basis, and that I've had two roommates before and living with them well always came down to open communication.

Then again, maybe I'll need to start seeing a therapist again once a month.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

There is so much on my plate right now, I feel it should be Thanksgiving already.

So I am taking this opportunity right now to say that the month of December will be the month I say NO to EVERYONE.

Really. I can't take anymore obligations right now. NO.
Not another meeting, lunch, event, whatever.

In December, I want to crawl into a dark hole, watch movies, have sex and drink a lot of champagne.

Do Not Disturb.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

My father is observing the same things in my sister's situation but he's looking at them in a very different way.

I look at MABIL's actions and see the desperation of a man fighting to keep what he's already lost; I see him flailing, desperately trying to hold onto the illusion of his masculine control and patriarchal authority.

My father, on the other hand, buys into the fear MABIL tries to drum up. He believes a man's moral anger will naturally supercede a woman's legal defense. I think that's interesting.

It's as if the world these men imagine is more real than the world actually in front of them. In the real world, California statute and practice limits what MABIL can do; but does he realize that? No. He thinks that the weight of his moral outrage and disapproval will be all it takes to punish my sister and keep his family the way he wants it. My father believes, to some extent, the same thing - that the wrong done to MABIL will necessarily require some sacrifice from my sister.

But that's not the way the world works.  In the real world, marriages fall apart and people walk away from one another all the time. No one is punished; no one is sacrificed. They pick up, go to therapy and move on. Or maybe they pick up a hobby, learn how to be civil, and then they move on.

In the real world, bad actors get away with their bad acts all the time.

There's even a real possibility that MABIL will get away with his bad acts, performed in retaliation for my sister's, whose own acts were created by the sinkhole of her own marriage and the immediate death of intimacy between them. So in this daisy chain of bad acts, intentional and otherwise, who deserves punishment?

Oh, what do I know about marriage and bad acts? M- won't introduce me to his family until my last remaining ambivalence about our relationship evaporates.

And, yet the very tiny pull and tug going on between me and M- (and my acknowledgment that he has a right to set his own limits and boundaries, even if it creates some pressure for me) seems more honest and realistic than creating an ideal world where everyone is set up for failure.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

the patriarch has no vision

In the vivid fantasy in my brain, I am dressed in a well-fitted black suit with marvelous shoes and my asshat brother in law is being ripped apart in family court by my keen legal mind as my sister looks on, joint custody about to be given. As I lead him down a path that will expose him for the evil homophobic asshat that he is, I am cool, unrelenting and when I'm finished, not only does my sister have joint custody, the judge has recommended my asshat brother in law (MABIL) undergo serious psychological counseling for his anger issues and reliance on 17th century catholic codes of behavior.

In reality, I'm sourcing queer family custody lawyers for my sister, gritting my teeth, and refraining from sending MABIL the most incendiary email in the history of the interwebs.

Because what is a big sister supposed to do when a man is trying to make your sister look mentally unstable, counting on the hope that the world is still so sexist and woman-hating that a court would strip her of her ability to mother her children; when a man is hating your sister so much he'll stand in front of their children and slowly taunt her with, 'You are soooo craaaazy, you're craaaaaazy,' full well knowing my sister can't fight back or he'll use it against her?

So since I can't fly to Los Angeles and punch MABIL in his testicles and superglue his fingers up his ass, I will do everything I can - call every well-connected friend, find a pro bono queer lawyer, read up on California statute - to prepare my sister for the custody fight of her life.

After years of being a very distant big sister perhaps I should take this opportunity to thank MABIL for bringing us closer than we have ever been; for the first time, without her so-called perfect marriage sitting between us like a stinking turd to intimidate me and oppress her, we speak about real things and treat the other like a real person. There is real intimacy between us. I love her more than I ever have. And now we actually say it.

(Though she needs to get off her high horse about having a drivers license. I will have one -- soon! You'll see!)

As a feminist I have to chuckle at reading MABIL's 'plan' so clearly. Oh, I don't underestimate it. I know that our culture can easily strip a gay woman (or any woman) of her rights as a parent simply because she has a life that somehow doesn't match a 1950s stereotype. But I sneer at his puny thinking.  A man's word does not carry the legal weight it used to.  Thank god. What a man wants is no longer what a man gets, necessarily. The frustration and anger MABIL feels in the face of my sister's rebellion is the product of feminism and I couldn't be more pleased.

Feel that hot rush of heat to your face every time you see my sister at the soccer game trying to cheer on her kids even though you won't let her near them, MABIL?

Welcome to women's lib, asshat.