Sunday, October 24, 2010

spending a rainy sunday night making a bolognese sauce (from scratch and from memory), finishing up a powerpoint for work and drinking a glass of italian white wine.

the only thing missing is my guy which is a very bizarre thing to think about right now, considering we spent all weekend together at weddings and usually sunday nights find me making some mental room for my self.

so, that's really different.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Believe it or not, I have another wedding on Friday!
What is going on??

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm home. We're home.

And we're tired.

Weddings are exhausting, you know?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

update: the road less traveled, iowa edition

I may have been harsher than I needed to be with M-. On the road yesterday, our crankiness got to such a level we inadvertently caused a beef with a waiter in a bad Mexican restaurant and went to bed huffy and tired.

When we slow down to talk, and listen, we can have complementary strengths. I pay attention to certain details and he to others. I could not have the patience for DJing a wedding and taking care of set up, logistics and whatever. This has been on his mind for weeks and it should be; it's a huuge favor for a good friend. If he screws up, he's ruined a wedding for everyone.

So he's had more than one thought in his head. He just hasn't had the thoughts in his head that are in mine.

But, to a larger point that was mentioned in comments below, there is Work that a lot of women do that goes unacknowledged. Especially married and mothering women - the work these women perform to keep a household running is largeley ignored, uncompensated and devalued. 

Since I must bring everything to the personal or memoir level, I'll think about my father.

As much as my father loved my mom, I don't think he really considered the amount of work my mother contributed to the smooth running of his home. Every morning, my sister and I were clothed, fed, prepared for school or church, food was on the table, clothes were clean and everyone was on schedule.

I think he expected it to happen naturally because that's what the gender roles dictated. But the actual details of that work escaped him and went completely unacknowledged, which made my mother fester. Now that mom is gone, I think he's had some time to think about it but during those years, at the height of his ministry, he had no idea.

He would plan dinners, invite people over, volunteer mom's time and it would be done without a thought. 'Oh, of course, Lucy won't mind making a huge Sunday dinner for 9 people; she is such a good cook!' As if her talent automatically translated into consent.

It reminds me of episodes of Undercover Boss. The CEO, or COO, walks briefly in the shoes of his frontline staff and he is astounded at the sheer amount of herculean tasks put in front of him - vaguely realizing that this labor represents a fraction of the work hundreds of people contribute to his bottom line. I wonder if most husbands are like that. (Though it's problematic to see wives as 'staff.')

M- and I don't live together; we don't have a shared household. We're still in the early part of our relationship so I'm not going to fly a huge red flag. Being present means you deal with what's in front of you, not spin out into fantasies of future disaster.

But it's something for us to think about as we take our baby steps toward living together. It means we have to consciously talk about expectations and division of labor - especially what we learned from our parents and what those triggers are.

Here's to having a great party and drinking lots of champers!

Friday, October 15, 2010

the road less traveled: iowa

Yesterday, I sent a message to my office: 'Delia will be on the road tomorrow to Iowa for a barn wedding. See you all on Monday!'

In other offices, my message would get some kind of snarky response: 'say hi to the corn for me!' or something like that.

This new office? Suddenly it's all 'Ooh! How fabulous! Bring back pics from the sustainable farm tour!'

So that's different.
When I think about how M- and I divide the labor of our relationship I think of two captains jockeying to steer a ship. He's used to steering his ship and I'm used to steering mine; together, we're in the wheelhouse, scuffling for control.

Like my dad, M- is convinced his way is always right. And, sometimes he's right. Except when it comes to wedding planning - even if it's a friend's wedding.

When it comes to that, I think of details that he hasn't: are there enough rooms in the hotel block? Are we really guaranteed a room (for some reason he thought we were but had never confirmed that)? What's the deadline for hotel reservations? What time is check in? What's their late check in policy? And what time is the wedding on Saturday? What are the events that we're invited to and not? (This is really important!)

I bet he's had one question in his head: am I going to be able to set up my DJ equipment on time and will the gig go well?

Once, I tried to ask these questions and he said, 'Don't worry about these things, baby. Everything will work out.'

And it's infuriating to hear because I instantly flash back to my mom and dad, standing in a restaurant lobby being told they can't be seated because Dad didn't make a reservation and my mom is humiliated and angry. All he had to do was think about How Things Are Done and make the damn reservation.  But no. He thought his manly brain exluded him from certain rules and expectations. And so we go back to the car, drive to Carl's Jr. and eat our burgers in silence.

So, I waited for everything to work out. And I was right. We weren't guaranteed a room, the main hotel was full and now we had to look for a room at a frakking Super 8 Motel. So I quickly made the reservations, paid for it and sent him the confirmation.

No 'told you so's'. No blame.

But goddammit. Next time, frak being nice and doing the 'managing up' crap. I'm just going to go ahead and make the plans because dudes may be able to move carriers around the globe but can't interpret a frakking wedding invitation correctly. I understand my role this weekend is to be the Pretty Girlfriend. I get that. I'm so brain dead, that's fine. But I really hate it when dudes ignore what I'm saying.

This mouth isn't just for giving blow jobs.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

a straight ally roll call

Monday was National Coming Out Day and I missed it here.

But I didn't want to miss this chance to recognize some of the people who have gently, and not so gently, schooled me about my straight privilege and shown me how to be a better straight friend.

George - I have no idea where you are now, but introducing you to my family was a first for me and you were gracious, graceful and kind in the face of my father's blustery fundamentalism.

James - I remember sitting in Espresso Royale while you sternly pointed out to me that straight people asking gays and lesbians to not be 'too' gay or lesbian, or to ask why gays and lesbians couldn't be more like other people, was the height of homophobia and cultural ignorance. And you closed your books, got up, walked away and I knew I wouldn't be talking to you again until I apologized - and not just apologized but, in a way, repented. And so I did. That was when I got what it meant to be your friend. It was also when I understood that it wasn't enough to 'be ok' with gays and lesbians but to shut the hell up and listen.

The Michigan Crew: You all know who you are. You showed me a world of diverse thought, opinion, culture and patience! Oh, the patience. And some of you also publicly called me out when I said the most horrible things. And thanks for that. I remember leaving a GEO meeting after scorning some students who weren't as active as the rest of us and I used a word that was derogatory. Halfway home, a woman stopped me and told me she was offended by the word I'd used in the meeting and she explained why it was homophobic, damaging and wrong. I was abashed. Ashamed.

When I presume to get on my high horse to tell the gay community what they need to do in order to be accepted by us, I remember this moment. And I swallow my presumption.

(And thanks for the cocktails! Oh, the cocktails!)

Miguel and Fernando; James and Tomas - seeing you become parents has been awesome. Your hearts are so big; you have opened your homes to children who need to be loved, cared for and nurtured. I won't ever be a parent but I'm glad you four are.

John - the Boystown legal aid lawyer who did me a solid and kept me from being evicted when I first moved to Chicago and was awful with money.

(That was sort of a big deal, man.)

Sara and Elizabeth - whose wedding and marriage makes me wonder how people could say their relationship is any less valid than mine or anyone else's.

Aunt D-, dad and L- - you all have shown me that life is a journey.

We all deserve to live honestly, freely and equally.
One day, that ideal will be reality.

Friday, October 08, 2010

if only men read women's literature

[Note: These opinions are my own. I don't consult with others before having them and I don't ask permission before sharing them. This is my prerogative as the owner and writer of this space. Do I really need to say this?]

If only more men read more feminist literature the vast unknown-ness of their wives would be laid bare and life would be less confusing.

During the various ups and downs of watching my family 'find themselves' I'm struck at how hard it is for a woman to break free of social expectations. Like Lucy Honeychurch, my sister is bucking all the expectations of her class, gender, mothering status and perceived orientation and, in the process, making everyone around her freak out. Even I am stunned, watching my sister go through a process that makes me think of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own or Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

Her defiant refusal to remain in her marriage has apparently broken the rules of her little social community. In this community obligation to family (including friends) and church supercedes anything else, no matter if you're dying inside. But now, suddenly, relationships and identities are thrown into upheaval, children are endangered and all of morality has been upended and requires defense. Justifications must be made, core motivations must be plumbed and Someone needs to give a public accounting of how one has Betrayed Everyone.

Certainly, there was a betrayal. But which comes first? The betrayal of vows, or the desperate scramble for air that prompts the betrayal of vows? My brother in law asked me if I thought it was 'ok' that my sister did what she did. But I don't think in those terms. I try to put myself in her shoes and imagine what could have been done to facilitate the most immediate break in a marriage, deliver the greatest shock and bring things to an inevitable, and irreparable, conclusion. And then my sister's actions make sense.

But it doesn't make sense to the male members of her community. Their reactions are interesting. I think hysteria is accurate. There's also a degree of anger, seen especially in their demand for my sister to 'explain herself.'

All because a woman decided she wasn't happy.

What happens when men aren't happy? They can pull a Tiger, flaming out in a collection of hostesses and sleazy text messages. Or they can pull a Pastor C-, pushing everything down, only to release the unhappiness in bursts of furtive vacations. What do women do? We suck it up. We swallow our unhappiness until it turns us into the woman from The Yellow Wallpaper. Or we kill ourselves like Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary.

Again, I don't think men read a lot of 19th century domestic fiction. If they did, women's unhappiness would make a lot more sense.

A patriarchal society always inhibits a woman's autonomy and refuses to see her as an agent with a value system of her own. Her freedom, her independence doesn't exist unless some man authorizes it. And this is what I see. Men (very nice ones) demanding that my sister give an accounting of her actions because they're not satisfied with any of the answers they've received. These aren't bad men - they're just men. In defense of one of their own, they want to reassert control of a situation that she has set in motion.

For this, her journals have been secretly dissected, in an effort to find these answers when the woman herself is standing in front of them, repeating, "I wasn't happy. This wasn't me. I lied from the start. I never wanted any of this - wife, marriage. I was only that other person for everyone else."

Let's go back to literature (where all answers can be found, actually. At least humanist ones.) At the end of A Room With a View, Lucy Honeychurch is living in Florence with George Emerson, isolated from her family, even from her staunchest supporters like Rev. Beebe, because that is the price a woman pays when she betrays all expectations of her.

When a woman has defined for herself what her freedom entails, and she dares to take it, she finds herself cast outside of the castle walls. Imagine the Disney castle gone dark and quiet. The moat is filled and the drawbridge pulled up.

The only thing she has in front of her is the open world.

And it's worth it.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Eddie Long, the boogie man

I look at Eddie Long and I worry about my father. Greased, slick, and bloated with cash and power, Long is a cautionary tale. No, he’s more like a boogie man. He is what happens when the real essence of a person is pushed so far down, it bursts out in the most predatory, or harmful, of ways.

Over the summer, Mike and I visited my dad in Los Angeles. We shared a beer, pet the dog, talked about my sister’s divorce and, in the process, gave Mike one of the weirdest introductions to my family ever given to a suitor.

“So dad, why don’t you just say you’re gay and get it over with?’ I said. My father had been hinting he had an announcement to make to the family and, so far, no announcement had been made. So I thought I’d give a, um, nudge.

“Because I’m not gay!”

My boyfriend tried to play devil's advocate. “Yeah, just because a guy has one experience with another man doesn’t mean he’s gay.”

“Thanks, man!” my dad said. “You want another beer?”

I said, “It wasn’t one experience. It was an affair. Over a period of time.”

My dad turned to Mike. “People have always thought I was gay. I was married to her mother and we had a great family! Why are folks so into labels?”

I said, “I’m not into labels, but if this is who you are, maybe there wouldn’t be so much …. Bifurcation. And, besides, it’s not like the gay gene isn’t already running rampant through our family. Aunt D-, my sister and you! Maybe even Uncle B-. We are a very gay family!”

My father had turned musing. “I wouldn’t say I was gay but there was this time when I was 17…” And he went on to tell us a story that made me exchange a look with my boyfriend who was forcing his face into a studiously pondering expression.

Mike said, ‘Well, Pastor C-…we experiment a lot when we’re teens…’

“So that’s 2 experiences!,” I said.

“I’m not gay, Delia,” my dad said. “Sometimes I think that I just like certain things that …well, that your mother couldn’t appreciate. This is why I go to Las Vegas.”

Apparently, my father doesn’t really stick to the proscription ‘What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas’ because he went on to relate, rather opaquely, some of his vacation experiences.

And Mike, trouper that he is, said, “Well, by my count that’s at least 3, if not 4 or 5, experiences right there.’

When we were hugging on the porch, I said to my father, “I love you and only want you to be happy. And healthy. Please be safe. Please.’

On the way to meet my recently out, divorcing sister for a beer, Mike and I drove silently for a few minutes. Then he said, “That was awesome.”

“Thanks for not thinking my family is crazy.” I leaned over and kissed him.

“I think it’s sad that my dad can only feel free if he’s away from his home,” I said. “What if he was able to have a happy, stable, loving relationship with another man here instead of feeling he had to go to Las Vegas?”

And I wonder the same thing about Eddie Long.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Worrying Beads

I wonder if I will ever get to a place in my life where I can just relax and take a breath.

For the most part, my life has been about getting somewhere.
In grade school, it was about making it to junior high.
In junior high, I had my first anxieties about getting into college (a situation that was thrown into doubt because I failed a math test.)
And in high school, I worried about...everything. Even taxes.

(I remember standing in the hallway watching my father shave and, out of the random worry in my head, I asked him, 'Who will teach me how to do my taxes?? Or, will I naturally know how to do my taxes when I'm in college? Who taught you how to do taxes?'

And he said something like, 'Your mother.')
I've even managed to hit some benchmarks along the way: Grad school, degrees, corp job, moving to Chicago, living in Chicago, finally finding love, and having a grown up job at last.

Despite that, I feel like all the happiness I'm feeling can be taken away suddenly, as if to teach me a lesson.

You ever feel like that?