Friday, August 28, 2009


When I first met my twins, they were six months old, in an orphanage in Vietnam. They had inflamed eczema on their faces and, on their shaved heads, a two-day growth of spiky black hair poking up through the infected scabs covering the tops of their heads. You'd press on their little crusty scalps and puss would ooze out. I remember holding them proudly in our arms on the plane to the US and telling the stewardesses brightly "We just adopted them!" while they looked back at us with pasted-on smiles and deep pity in their eyes. Those babies were truly and seriously funky looking. And when we got home, we were told again and again how lucky they were - because they were a different race, from a third-world country, had been in an orphanage, and were, admittedly, kind of grungey at first. But I'd been trying to have babies for for a few years, had some miscarriages, and to me they were the instant cure for my broken heart, the happy ending to all my tears, splotchy infected little miracles, and I knew I was the lucky one.

They cleaned up pretty nice, didn't they?

They started talking (English) at seven months old, shortly after they arrived in the states. They learned to read and write very young, they draw astonishingly well, play the guitar with talent and flair, make mostly A's in school, and they're gay. Because of this last little detail, a lot of people have been telling me, once again, how lucky they are to have me as a mother. Yesterday was my birthday and, in a card she'd drawn herself, one of my twins wrote, "I owe you for everything I am today. I'll love you always." She was so embarrassed she had to run and hide while I read it. She is sixteen after all. But when I was sixteen, I think the deepest thing I had to say to my parents was "I'm going out. Can I have some money?" or "You just don't understand!" (It was the 70s. We had a generation gap to maintain.)

So I just wanted to say what a privilege it is for me to be the mother of these lovely, talented, kind young women. Just as it has been a privilege for me to know all the gay men and women I've known over the years. Because people who know that shit happens - that life doesn't always follow the script we're handed when we're kids, that "normal" is a myth - are the very best kind of people to have at your side through the ups and downs of life. They're the ones who don't get scared when things are rough, who stay with you every step of the way. Having people like that in your life, however they come to you, now that's lucky.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You'll laugh that hanky right off your ass

I don't usually do this, but I have found the most hysterical updating of the gay man's Hanky Code and thought you'd get a kick out of it. Here's the link:
Hanky Code update
It's at a blog called Another Little Disappointment, which I now plan to follow religiously, or irreligiously as the case may be!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer's end

What an odd summer it's been. Because of the husband's broken foot we didn't do anything especially summery or vacationy, so it feels like nothing happened. But as I think about it, a lot was going on beneath the boring every-day surface of our lives.

In theory the biggest thing that happened was the teens "coming out." But really it was just a confirmation of what I've long suspected. I've got pretty hi-def gaydar, but even if I had been totally clueless, my lesbian friends (who, ever since the girls were in kindergarden, were saying 'You know, you might have some dykes on your hands there...') would have clued me in. So it's been less of an "event" and more a simple and welcome clarification.

The husband made full professor and an advance copy of his second book (more on that in another post) is in our hands, but that's what I've always known he could and would do. In a way, the biggest deal about it for me is that he lived to accomplish these things.

Which brings me to what, for me, the summer was really about - mortality. My mother is starting to fade - her memory is dimming and this woman who spent her life traveling the globe gets flustered now in new environments. My teens are growing into young women - they're falling in love, having girlfriends, and starting to think about college. They're almost fully cooked and ready to come out of the oven and make their own mistakes without me to cosset and guide them. And my husband, of course, still has his freaky incurable blood disease. So I see these fixed stars of my life - my mother, my husband, my children - as suddenly shifting, orbiting away from me. It makes me metaphysically dizzy. I went to talk to a therapist about it all and his advice was "You have to trick yourself into believing in the illusion of immortality again." Which I understand. You can't live each moment of your life in paralyzing fear that it will end. But Buddhism looks at the same set of circumstances and advises us to realize that impermanence is the true state of all things and that we should try to embrace it and find peace in the acceptance of that truth.

Honestly, I'm not doing very well at either approach. And since I am, as my husband tells me, "completely incapable of compartmentalizing," I've been grappling like Hell with all this. Which is why I've been less than normally communicative these past months. (Which is also a long-way about of apologizing for not commenting on your blogs as much lately!)

So what do you think? Does one try to dive back into the lulling youthful illusion of immortality, or does one look steely eyed at the passing away of all things and follow the stony path of non-attachment? Any advice or experience would be appreciated!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Town-brawl meeting

Apparently Betsey Ross is against health-care reform. Who knew?

My friends and I did have a few allies in the crowd.

As you know from my previous post, I'm really concerned about how the national health-care debate is being hijacked by the right-wing fear mongers. So I made my little posters and did what I thought was my civic duty and went to a town-hall meeting. Or rather, I stood in the parking lot outside a town-hall meeting. The meeting was at 3:00 PM and, apparently, people were lining up to get in at 7 AM!

So my friends and I stood in the parking lot simply showing our signs. I was yelled at, called names, followed, and harassed. I walked by holding my little sign and people yelled "Get a job!" (as if it is the mere laziness of the uninsured that causes their pitiful condition). I was told I was naive, deluded, and too sensitive (go figure!!!) and that our democratically elected president was a "clown" and a "tool" of variously "the communists," "Wall Street," and "Zeke Emanuel" (Rahm's brother). I also witnessed a white crowd blocking a bus full of black people, taunting them. When the police finally intervened so that the bus could leave, the white crowd shouted "Don't come back! Don't come back!" I have never been so ashamed of my country.

There were some funny (in a sort of WTF way) moments. At one point a man I was talking to said something about "Communist countries like Canada." I said, "Wait a minute! Canada's not communist." To which he replied, as if he was making a brilliant point, "But Cuba is!" Oh my country, my silly silly country.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Show your support for health-care reform!

I really believe that the scare-mongers are taking over the national conversation we are having on health-care-reform. If you want to show your support for reform, please feel free to print out on of these posters (or make your own!) and put it up in your window, your car, your cubicle, anywhere! We need to take control of this conversation and get real health-care reform for this country!

Monday, August 10, 2009

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a brief rant.

I was at a store recently, shopping for clothes for my kids - my four daughters. And these are are what I found. Now, I have a healthy sense of humor, and am even not averse to sexual innuendo. But some of these shirts were the right size for my ten-year-old daughter, the one who still makes fairy houses in the back yard. The one who writes poems like this:

Barbie Meets Acid Rain

Barbie was walking in the grass
Knowing nothing about the Earth's mass.
Acid rain started falling down
And soaked her purse, body, and gown.

And she melted.

So this is what American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie and Fitch want her to grow up and into? Someone who flaunts sexuality before she's anywhere near ready to "Get Lei'd?" Someone who thinks school is a drag and being a "class cutter" is cool? They don't want her to have a broad mind and a tight argument, they want her to be a broad with a "tight end" and "tiny bikini" which she pulls off on Girls Gone Wild. Sigh.

So is it possible that these a**holes at American Eagle and Abercrombie don't have mothers/daughters/nieces/sisters? No, of course not. But clearly the value of a dollar trumps the value of their families.

OK. I'm done now.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Even though it has crappy pizza (Yeah, I said it!) I really do ♥ New York.

(Image from Jello Kitty)
I just got back from a trip to New York to meet my newest niece. The baby was adorable, the new parents were smitten with her, and New York was itself - full of people, noise, smells (it was summer), and the buzzing energy it's always had. New York is one of the few places in my life that I've been able to return to again and again and gotten to know deeply over time. I've seen a lot of different sides of it and seen its changes over the years.

I first visited the city in the early 60s with my grandmother and saw it as a fairy-tale place of privilege. The ladies in that world all wore minks and pearls. We whisked around in cavernous Checker cabs, stayed in my Aunt's Park Avenue apartment, went to see Mary Martin fly over our heads in Peter Pan on Broadway, and had hot chocolate at (the now sadly closed) Rumpelmayer's in the Saint Moritz hotel.

The next era I remember was the mid/late 70s, when I was in college. New York was getting scuzzier by then, or more precisely, the scuzziness of it was spreading beyond the areas it was supposed to stay in. And I was hanging around places that my grandmother, in her mink and pearls, would never have dreamed of going. Like the subway, which at that time, was unairconditioned, wildly graffitied, stinking of urine, and full of hoi poloi. Oooh, the danger and excitement of breaking away from your family: of going to downtown galleries and clubs; of sleeping on someone else's dorm-room floor; of not taking cabs! I was young, intellectual, and living on the edge (when I wasn't safely ensconced in my Ivy-League college, that is).

Oh my darlings, then came the disco days! I had left the Ivy League, with it's inscrutable (to me anyway) preppies and its revolting winters, far behind. I moved to San Francisco and in short order fell in love with a sitar-playing poet, stopped being an intellectual (because he was more talented than me, or at least that's what he told me), started wearing peasant skirts, got my heart broken, stopped wearing peasant skirts, and became a fag hag. Somehow one summer, we hags and fags all went East and met up in Manhattan at (shall the circle be unbroken?) someone's father's Park Avenue apartment. Not a pearl, fur, or pump in sight though. I remember I wore a black slit-leg skirt and a gauzy, almost-but-not-quite-see-through top. I looked gorgeous, as we all did. It was our hobby, our defense, our gang insignia, and it was the 80s so we all (boys and girls) had to look like Brian Ferry's back-up singers. Soon Daddy's limo came to get us. Poppers came out and were sniffed. We pulled up to Studio 54 and, because we came in a limo, the bouncer pulled aside the velvet rope and let us in. It was the absolute height of Studio 54's fame. We were all desperately excited about who we might see, but no one famous was there. My friends told me about all the famous people they had seen on other nights - Mick, Bianca, Liza, Andy - but not that night. I did, however, manage to get propositioned for a three way, but even though I said no (they weren't that cute), I remember the fact of it fondly.

Then, in the late 80s, I moved to New York and went to grad school on the upper west side. It was the height of the crack wars. I lived right across the street from Morningside park and I never stepped foot in once. Two crack-dealing gangs were warring over it and we were always hearing gunfire from the shadowy depths below the leaf canopy. In the 80s New York, every time I went outside I had to harden my heart against panhandlers. Walking a few blocks down Broadway to get groceries was an exercise in psychological warfare - them trying to get, and me trying to limit what I gave because we were broke. But there were museums (Yes I am paying just one penny to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, thank you!), free festivals, free music, good street food, and such amazing things - some incredibly surreal - to take in just walking through the city. One cold winter night walking home on Broadway, we saw a gleaming black grand piano on the sidewalk. No one was paying any attention to it. It was as if it had just popped out of Lincoln Center at the intermission to get a breath of fresh air or catch a smoke.

Now the panhandlers, bums, and squeegee men are gone. (Where did they go? Are they all in jail? Or in New Jersey?) Morningside Park is being used by all and sundry as a park(!). Washington Square Park isn't full of ganja dealers, there's a Target and an Applebee's in the Bronx, and the only meat in the Meat-Packing district is the expensive organic, grass-fed kind the waiter serves you on a plate. Weird, amazing, and a little bit sad. But that's just pointless nostalgia. Because, really, all those parts of New York - the ladies in mink, the bums in rags, the middle-class families scraping by, the drugs, the dirt, the art, the pretty boys and girls, the excitement - are still there, just in different shapes, different places. And unlike London or Paris, the geographical facts of New York, the huge population crammed within its tiny boundaries, makes it a place where all those parts of the city get shoved, willy nilly, together. It makes for friction, unease, exhaustion, and unexpected beauty and inspiration. It's what made me go there, it's what made me want to stay, it's what made me leave.

God I'm glad to be home in a calm quiet city where I don't have to pay more than the monthly mortgage on my house to rent a cramped one-bedroom apartment. God I want to go back.