Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Storytelling

Someone once said to me that she liked reading obituaries because they were the only thing that ever told any person's complete, or nearly complete, story. On a macro scale, that's very true when you look at the history of the world and the history of America (the kind you learn in school), especially when you look at the story of Black folk and LGBT/SGL folk.

It becomes really important that forgotten or overlooked groups tell their stories. Arguments about their validity or how well a particular story represents this type or that are relevant, but what is more relevant is that the story is told.

Sure, conservatives would like us to believe that their worldview (Christian, middle class, White, heterosexual) is the only one that counts, and so feel-good words like "family friendly" and "decency" are thrown around. People want to believe they are good, even when they aren't. People want you to believe they always do the right thing, are polite and considerate -- in another post I'll share my experiences of using mass transit while in a cast and walking with a cane. So, anything that detours from a sanitized, homogenous worldview is deemed indecent, bad, even when it's something as benign as lesbian parents in Vermont featured on a PBS show for children.

Thank God for cable t.v. A pay-to-watch option, cable t.v. has created opportunities for stories that might never see light to do so. Some stories aren't for everyone; I don't think that grisly crime scene shows are for children, but your kids shouldn't be watching t.v. after 9pm, they should be in bed. And, yes, shows with sophisticated sexual themes should be aired after 10pm, for the same reasons. Don't watch if you're offended, but don't tell me I don't have the right to. I need to know that a story of interest to me is available. And so, kudos to (in no particular order):

1. Showtime's "Queer As Folk" and "The L Word." No, as a Black lesbian, I don't see myself in either cast, but I see myself occasionally, and people I know. The characters shouldn't be seen as gay everymen or lesbian everywomen. For the most part, they're composites, but at least they're showing some aspect of lesbian and gay life that might not ever be seen.

2. The movie "The Ski Trip" and the Logo comedy "Noah's Arc." Both feature all-Black casts, with Black gay storylines. Again, they're not me or my friends, but they're people I know, and both are Black stories that manage not to feature gangstas, drug dealers, baby daddies, and people who can fluently speak Anglo, Afro, and Homo (props to Craig Harris for the lingo distinctions!). Sidebar props to Viacom for creating Logo, an all-queer, all-the-time basic cable station. Access to queer-positive programming may keep some kid in the heartland from feeling isolated.

3. Cartoon Network's "The Boondocks," shown as part of their Adult Swim programming. Adult Swim cartoons, including made for Fox's "Family Guy," "American Dad," the hilarious "The Oblongs" and other off-the-wall shows like the surreal "Squidbillies" (featuring trailer trash squid) fuse political commentary and pop culture to form a strange yet tasty hash. "The Boondocks" is a 30-minute vivification of cartoonist Aaron McGruder's syndicated strip, featuring Freeman brothers Huey and Riley, who live with their sometimes cuckolded, but never punked grandfather Robert, BKA Granddad. "The Boondocks" is the thing that White America feared the most -- a full-out fun-fest of the shit Black folks think and speak among themselves, but probably don't share with White people. And all the nice White kids who wear their pants down low, sit on gentrified stoops with their Black homies smokin' blunts, and disturb the peace with their wack-ass rhymes can now adopt Huey and Riley's funny-as-hell philosophies, peppered with gem sayings like:

Game recognize (sp) game, and you lookin' kinda unfamiliar right now.


If you have Cartoon Network, make yourself stay up on Sunday nights and watch "The Bookdocks." Better still, if you have TiVO or DVR, record the series so you can relive moments like Granddad's visit to his town's country club, ruined by Huey's announcement that Jesus was Black and Ronald Reagan is the devil, or Riley's amazement at how when White people speak, they take the time to say the whole word.

The bottom line is that we don't live in a melting pot (I'd like to shoot whoever said that), we live in a salad. Storytelling, good, accurate, honest storytelling has to include all of our stories, and even if they're sometimes a little off kilter, they still need to be supported. Even fair-to-middlin' depictions of our lives need to be supported for they'll plant the seed for even better depictions in the future.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Professional Sports

Terrell Owens, who I'll admit is a great receiver, has been suspended for the remainder of the Philadelphia Eagles NFL season. His accomplishments have, unfortunaely for him, been overshadowed by his bad behavior, including not speaking to the offensive coordinator (the guy creating the plays for his "department" if you will) and all-around rudeness to teammates, including quarterback Donovan McNabb, the "executive vice-president" if you will.

Then, there's the buzz around cleaning up the NBA. From the off-court dress code to player behavior, NBA commish David Stern wants to create a friendlier NBA -- how about lowering ticket prices, Dave?

Both the business with Owens and the NBA off-court dress code affect star players who are predominantly Black. And, for some reason, Rev. Jesse Jackson, who to me, has jumped the shark, is actually weighing in. Rev, you used to be viable. Now, you're just another jackleg preacher with a chick and child on the side. Have a seat and be quiet. The first thing too many folk want to do is call the reform racism. Sigh.

Why is it that when people are expected to behave well, and they happen to be Black, a behavioral change is automatically racist? Does that mean that all of us are ill-behaved? The issues around bad boy behavior in professional sports are partially the fault of fans, for fans don't really like quiet, modest players, despite their skills, but mainly the fault of the players themselves. They've made a choice to wild out. T.O. didn't have to utter a word outside of team meetings, but he did. Ron Artest flew off the handle when he jumped into the stands to beat up a fan who threw beer on him -- he should have left security to deal with those clowns who got what they deserved by being barred from stadium events. And what's so bad about being asked to wear a jacket and slacks when appearing in front of fans or the media? We are talking about professional sports. Professional means for hire. If you worked at a corporation with a dress or behavioral code (and many corporations are asking employees to sign ethics code agreements), that you ignored, you'd be fired. Your skill doesn't excuse you from adhering to company policy. If it's so painful to you, quit. If you don't like management, work up your resume and go work for someone else. But don't bite the hand that feeds you and expect to keep being fed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Give Thanks

Psalms 118 commands us to give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. No, I'm not suggesting that you thank some deity you're not into, but I do hope that you, we, plan to give thanks for the things we do have to be thankful for. While I'm not into commercial displays of gratitude, I am into taking time out to stop and smell the roses. So, here we go.

I'm thankful that I live in a flawed, yet open society that allows me, while still possible, to live as a Black lesbian in a protected, even in limited ways, relationship. Even though I have to take extra precautions to have my partner recognized as the first decision maker should I become unable to make decisions for myself, I am unaware of any country that would allow that, with perhaps the exception of those six countries that allow same-sex marriage.

I'm thankful that my parents are still alive and married for more than 50 years. They were nutty in my youth, prone to uncontrollable rage at times, and narrow-minded, but they did a great job in raising me. I may still have issues with them, but at least I recognize that. Many go to their grave harboring resentments they don't even know about.

I'm thankful that even though the medical profession and government charts say that I should be diabetic, have high blood pressure, and heart disease, my annual physicals are always positive. I'm as healthy as a Clydesdale.

I'm thankful for my job that pays me money, and my other jobs that pay me spiritually. Never underestimate the value of making people smile.

I'm thankful for a great group of friends, even for those that I'm no longer in touch with. Every relationship has worth.

I'm thankful for the love of my life, my darling Telios. We should all have someone in our lives who loves our morning breath, cellulite, and occasional bad temper.

Don't dwell on Thanksgiving. Give thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Damn, I Love Pop Culture!

Gladys, get the gun. We's shoppin' on eBay.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Truth in Jest

I'm a big fan of pop culture, especially television. T.V. was a big thing in my house as a kid, and to this day, my parents have a t.v. in almost every room in the house. T.V. was so important that my mom used to encourage us to watch game shows because she said they made us smart.

It's no secret that I have several guilty t.v. pleasures. I was reminded of one of my childhood favorites, "What's Happening." TV Land has brought back the show, and it's a reminder of how race relations in America were then, and how similar they are now. The three main characters are teen buddies, sharing their different experiences of being young, Black, and male in the Los Angeles community of Watts, famous for its late 60's race riots. Funny how nice the neighborhood is less than ten years later, as shown in the opening sequence. Roger, or Raj, as he's known, is raised by his divorced mother, who works as a maid for two different households. Rerun is the popular fat guy (fat guys are always more popular than fat girls, as evidenced by the barbs exchanged by equally as fat auxiliary character, Shirley). We don't really know much about his family except that Rerun is the one who hasn't spent time in jail. And Dwayne, who was the cute one, lives with both of his parents, almost unheard of in ghetto life, according to Pat Moynihan's controversial mid-60's study in which he found that a quarter of Black children were born to single mothers.

At the same time, the show "Good Times," also living on in syndication on TV Land, portrayed a Black family living in the projects. Again, the family was an atypical one, with married parents, including a father who actually lives with his family. The Evans family matriarch, Florida, didn't work until the final seasons of the show, but father James, worked a series of menial jobs, having only a junior high school education (both parents eventually studied together for their G.E.D.).

In both shows, several elements are used and played to the hilt, including urban greetings, such as Rerun's "what's happening," Dwayne's famous "hey, hey,hey," J.J.'s phone greeting "chello," and the eventual scream inducing "dyn-oh-mite," pejoratives like "turkey," "shut, up fool,"and my favorite element, the uncomfortable White person. In one episode of "What's Happening," Raj's mother, is fired from her job as a Monday, Wednesday, Friday maid after a diamond ring owned by her boss is missing (someone turns up dead, blame the butler, something turns up missing, blame the maid). Raj and company track down the culprit of the crime, who turns out to be the boss, with a nasty gambling habit. Out of cash in his regular poker game with two other White guys, and one Black guy (there's always a token middle class Black person just to show America that not all Blacks are losers), he's lost the ring in a previous game to the Black guy. Raj confronts the White boss, tries to hold his, er, losing ground, with the Black guy taking the side of the kids. And, with predictability, Mr. Whitefolks gets all nervous because the Blacks have raised their voices.

Similarly, in an episode of "Good Times," Thelma earns a scholarship to a prestigious prep school, and is promptly pursued by a White sorority girl who wants to add Thelma to her ethinc collection as the sorority has an "Oriental, Indian, and Chicana." Again, Miss Whitegirl, outnumbered, and out voiced, gets jumpy. In future episodes of both shows, yet another element is introduced, that of the White person who understands life in the ghetto, complete with "coll-ahrd greens, fat backs," and "what it is'es."

What I love about these peeks into race in America thirty years ago, is that they show us how things aren't so different today. America loved watching the antics of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston -- they behaved the way we expected them to behave. Bobby's a bad boy, "keepin' it real." America also loved watching Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey live their all-American lives. Jessica has made it well known that she pledged to her father to maintain her virginity (yeah, I thought it was creepy too) until she married, and she married Nick Lachey, one of the lead singers of a one-hit wonder boy band. Nick's a bad boy too, showing up in tabloid photos with beer in hand (just like Bobby), surrounded by strippers (like Bobby). Nick's never labeled as a bad boy though. How could he possibly be, since he married a woman who supposedly wouldn't have sex with him until after they married?

Pop culture's portrayal of Black life, even when created by Black producers (Michael Evans, one of the producers of "Good Times" was the first Lionel Jefferson on "All In The Family" and "The Jeffersons") purported to tell the "real" side of Black life. But, visit TV Land for the backstory on the show, and you'll find that not everyone thought the one-note song of Black life was all that real. Eventually, "Good Times" crashed and burned with the increasing clowning of J.J. Evans. The actors portraying Florida and James Evans left the show. "What's Happening" co-creator Eric Monte was responsible for the classic film "Cooley High," whom the Raj, Rerun, and Dwayne characters are loosely (very loosely) based on. And, even though we appreciated the growing up and moving on of Raj, Rerun, and Dwayne, Dee only became an older, taller, fatter, pain in the butt baby sister, still quick with the insults.

Yes, shows like "Good Times" and "What's Happening" and "Julia," which I'm too young to have seen, were seminal in t.v.'s mainstream portrayal of Blacks . So, what will be the new pop culture hit? What will define it? Why did Blacks complain about the "reality" of "The Cosby Show?" Was it because no one got shot, White people were comfortable with the upper middle-class Huxtables, even friends with them? The problem with shows that set themselves up to be the voice of or representation of a group of people (see "Queer As Folk," "The L Word," "Will & Grace") is that they don't speak for that group. They show a couple of non-stereotypical elements for variety and to be able to claim cutting edge status, but rely heavily on stereotypes to sell advertising time. Even though we knew J.J. Evans was a talented artist, "Good Times" viewers weren't interested in his career as a graphic artist unless he was clowning (although the jheri (sp?) curl he sported toward the end of the series was laughable). Ultimately, the jest was more compelling than the truth, and will always be.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wingardium Leviosa!

It's Friday. My ankle hurts, and so does my head. I've had four hours of sleep, but I couldn't be happier. Why, you ask? Because I went to a midnight showing of

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


I love the Harry Potter series. The movies aren't deep thinkers or genre definers, nor are the books literary masterpieces like my favorite book "Their Eyes Were Watching God." Harry Potter is the freak we all know we are. He's different, a little sick of being different, but embracing it just the same. Even his friends sometimes wonder if he isn't riding the "special" thing a little harder than necessary. And, his foes just keep coming and coming and coming.

Conservative Christians think Harry Potter is a bad influence on kids because he uses magic to solve his problems. But what is prayer if not a kind of magic or supernatural movement? The significance of Harry James Potter is that he is "the boy who lived." He is the boy who survived a fatal curse that no one in the history of its use ever did. He is the classic example of the unshakeable, the unmoveable. I feel a sermon here. He is just a boy, but one so full of love and light that his enemies are defeated. He can be hurt, yes, but never killed.

Don't we all wish that we could face life's unforgiveable curses and live to tell about them? No, I'm not suggesting we line up for a dose of pain, but don't we wish, while in the middle of a painful experience, we could survive it? Some of us end up in the grip of despair and have to claw and scratch our way out, and that's what Harry does. He's gifted, but no more so than any of us. He's blessed with a support system of friends and parental figures, and so are we. He's been knocked around and brought to death's door, but survives.

You thought this was going to be just a fan letter about Harry potter, and it is, but it's more than that. It's about rising above the things that could weigh us down, and being bigger than our circumstances.

Wingardium leviosa!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Is It Really About Race?

It's Saturday, which means college football. I'm becoming a fan of football as a relative of mine is an NFL star (don't ask, I'm not telling), but also because my partner is a football fan. I really like college football because it's a 4-year audition for the NFL. It's exciting to watch. Rushers rush for a kabillion yards, defensive players hit like tanks, and you never hear about fickle fans. College fans, specifically tailgaters, are fans through and through.

Recently, Fisher DeBerry, head coach of the Air Force Academy's football team made a statement about Black athletes being better. He's not the first to say it, nor will he be the last. CBS's sports commentator Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder got fired in the 80's for elaborating on this theme, even going so far as referring to how slave owners would breed "big (Black) women" to make big kids with strong backs and legs, perfect for totin' barges and liftin' bales. ABC's in-studio co-host of Saturday football, John Saunders, who, is Black, spoke with Penn State football's head coach Joe Paterno about Deberry's comments. Paterno's response was interesting. Specifically, Saunders' question was what was different about sports now versus twenty or thirty years ago, and Paterno said that Black athletes have brought an excitement to the game. Saunders, wisely, probed a bit further, citing Deberry's comments, to which Paterno said that Black athletes weren't necessarily better because they were Black, but because they were hungrier and worked harder to make the most of an opportunity.

That doesn't sound racial, does it? It sound like a matter of class. We wouldn't think twice about using terms like hungry and opportunity if we were talking about what made one entrepreneur better than another. Look at Martha Stewart. She saw an opportunity and capitalized on it. Women had chipped away at the glass ceiling, and became part of the work force past being coffee-making, letter-taking secretaries, and were looking for ways to make home management, well, manageable. Personally, I didn't learn how to operate a washing machine until I was 22. Martha Stewart made a mint on tidbits like folding a t-shirt. Paterno's point was that young Black men worked hard to become better athletes, and benefitted from becoming better, and enhanced the game as a result.

The same could be said about the situation in France. Young people who don't have the same opportunities to work on becoming really good at something, don't have the same chance as someone with opportunity. I'm not naive, I'm not suggesting that race isn't at all involved. Certainly, as a Black woman visiting Paris, I noticed that the only people who looked like me in a restaurant were working in the kitchen, and not in a leadership position like cooking. The maid in my hotel was Black. I'm suggesting that if schools, vocational training, and recreational facilities were equal for everyone, regardless of income, there would be greater opportunities for success. It's the same wherever you go.

One of John Saunders' co-hosts, Aaron Taylor, formerly of the San Diego Chargers, said as a young person, he was out playing ball, not sitting around playing video games. Again, this sounds like class, not race. If safe parks, properly-funded afterschool programs, decent schools and training programs existed in poor neighborhoods, no matter what their ethnic makeup, there would be fewer chances for young people to get in trouble, and more chances for them to excel. The so-called rioters in France have said the same thing.

The movie "8 Mile" tells the story of White rapper and opportunity seeker Jimmy "Rabbit" Smith. He works in a sheet metal factory, shares a one-bedroom trailer with his unemployed mother, who looks to be only 15 years older than her 20-something son, and a young girl named Lily, who isn't, to me, identified as either Rabbit's daughter or sister. Rabbit sings to her and tucks her into bed at night as a parent would, but given his mother's inability to take care of herself except to catch a man, Rabbit probably had to become parental, irrespective of Lily's parentage. Black characters in the movie, specifically friends "Future," host of the weekly MC battle that Rabbit aspires to win, and "Sol George," who, unlike Rabbit, has access to a car, necessary in this part of town without much public transportation, obviously have more opportunity than Rabbit (and, incidentally, Rabbit's White friend, Cheddar Bob). Why, the supposed star of rival crew, and reigning champ of the MC battle, Papa Doc, who is exposed as a prep school graduate whose real name is Clarence, and whose parents have a "real nice marriage" is Black.

America is unwilling to look at class and poverty, and how they really affect advancement, irrespective of race. Yes, racism is very real, but so is classism. Perhaps we need to look further at class, and not be so quick to assume that a situation involving people of color is only about race.

Friday, November 11, 2005

My Anniversary

Yes, it's another post about my relationship. Yes, you're sick of hearing how in love I am. Yet, you continue to read, my friends, because you secretly believe as I do that love is all you need.

So, today's my fifth wedding anniversary. Last year, I posted the four things I learned about marriage. I'm going to re-post that, but of course, since the magic number is now five, here's the fifth things I've learned.

5. Marriage takes work. I once asked a friend why he thought relationships between gay men didn't always work out, and he said it's because neither recognizes how much work it takes. I'd say the same holds true for all committed relationships. My parents have been married for over fifty years, and having lived with them for 21 of those, I know you work like a farm animal. You work to say the right thing, which isn't the same as being right (even if it's only in your mind). You work to make sure their needs are met, even if you have to give something, or a whole lot, up.

So, here's my open letter to my darling Telios. Here's hoping that all of you out in love land snuggle a little closer on this crisp fall day to your significant other. And, if you're not in a committed relationship, love yourself well.

From the November 2004 archives:

Today is my wedding anniversary. Yes, I am a lesbian, and no, marriage isn't legal anywhere in the U.S., except for that odd thing in Massachusetts, but that's only for state residents, and last I heard they weren't performing any more same-sex marriages until they figured it out. Nonetheless, 4 years ago today, we invited about 200 of our closest friends to come to church, followed by a big party, and we got formally hitched.

My partner is extremely clever. When special occasions roll around, she makes the simplest things really cool. For our 4th anniversary, she purchased 4 cards, and placed them in 4 locations in our apartment -- one was inside the mega can of coffee that only I would find as she doesn't drink coffee.

Because it is our 4th anniversary, I think it's only fitting that I share the 4 things I've learned about relationships, particularly the marriage relationship.

1. Marriage has nothing and everything to do with a piece of paper codifying your commitment. Sorry, ultra-conservatives, and marriage-phobics, but that's the truth. When you make it your business to go to City Hall and expose your union to the powers that be, it raises the bar. You can't just kick 'em out if you're sick of them. Your elected officials require that steps be taken in order to dissolve your union. The assumption is made that you have assets involved, perhaps children. The government has a stake in making sure you know what the hell you're doing when you decide to throw the towel in. They don't want their dollars to pay for your kids. They depend on receiving your taxes on that lovely cottage you've purchased. And, quite frankly, they believe that you're a much more valuable member of society when you're in a stable relationship. Okay, I'm being slightly frivolous, but here is the bottom line. Commitments are hard. Sometimes we enter into agreements for the right reasons, but need something to help us stick to them, no matter how "good" or "right" they are -- just look at all the people who have gym memberships and stop using them around January 10; clearly New Year's Resolution #1 isn't incentive enough. You can easily break up with a boyfriend, but ending a marriage is different, way different. On the flip side, lest you think that I'm against common-law marriage, there are examples of couples who get it, who understand that love, trust, honesty, conviviality, and enjoyable sex are the foundations of a successful relationship, and screw the government's intervention. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have been together for more than 10 years, have children together, and never got married. Same-sex couples have done it since coming into public view. I personally know a lesbian couple that have been together for forty years, and have no intention of splitting up except at the grave. Society has to move past the notion that the wedding is the marriage -- if you can't be married before the ceremony; civil or religious, you shouldn't marry at all.

2. Marriage is the best and worst thing ever. Being in a committed relationship pretty much guarantees you'll have a playmate, a friend and confidante, a reasonably unbiased critic to keep things in perspective, and an easily accessible sex partner. It's a blessing to not have to date again. One of the toughest things about being a lesbian, for me at least, is finding a partner. I like to think I'm pretty good looking, I'm smart, can carry on a decent conversation once I break through my shyness, and I'm good in bed (believe me, I am). I can hold down a job and can live alone, so I don't need help with living. I've done some soul-searching and mental health work, so I'm in pretty good emotional shape, save for some remnant childhood things, but as I get older, my past doesn't matter as much as my future does. I'm a damn good catch, but being a ball in the game is hard work. I am thankful that I don't have to do it anymore. I like being able to go to a club just to dance and have a couple of drinks, not to find the love of my life for I've already done that. Marriage is tough in that I'm not single anymore. I have made an agreement that although my desires may stray from my partner, I can not, at all, under any circumstances, act them out with anyone other than my partner because that's what we've agreed to. Let me clean this up just a bit. I look. I look all the time. As I write this, I can think of no less than 12 hotties I wouldn't throw out of bed if I were single and they agreed to sleep with me. But, I won't do it because I can't, and I can't do it because it would break my agreement and that's far more important than what makes me moist. As a former playa, it's tough, but I like being retired from the game.

3. Marriage makes things difficult, but makes things easy. You hold yourself, and the things you do for your partner to a higher standard than you would if you were single, or you should. If you slept on crappy sheets -- you know the ones I mean; the 150 count sheets that don't get soft until the 20th washing -- you step up a bit. You still buy bed-in-a-bag linen, but you spend a few bucks more and buy the good stuff because it's not just you on the bed anymore. If frozen dinners were okay to eat at 10pm because that's when you managed to get home from work, or worse, that's when you staggered home from after-work drinks with the gang, you thought more about cooking an actual meal for the 2 of you, or at least you made it home in time for takeout at a decent hour. The bar is raised; you have to go from acceptable to nice, and that's not the easiest thing in the world. However, when you're with someone who deserves nice instead of acceptable, it becomes easy to make nice, and better for the both of you.

4. Marriage is not for the faint of heart, but will bring out the best and worst in both of you. Okay, here's the personal, mushy stuff you knew was on the way. Some of the worst things I've ever said have been said to my wife. Some of the best things I've ever said have been said to my wife. Once, while her father lay deathly ill in the hospital, I said something nasty to her, and the next day, her jewelry (the diamond and platinum stuff -- when I do it, I do it right) was noticeably absent. After some snooping (remember, this is about the best and worst in you), I found she had taken them off, probably preparing to hand them to me, along with my ass, and a "fuck you and have a nice day," and I was devastated. Since that day, I vowed to watch what I say, which is not the easiest thing to do when your mouth is bigger than the state of Alaska. We worked it out, which means that I apologized; every now and then I kick my own ass, and I remember that she's on my side, and one needs all the friends one has. I have become better than I've ever been, and I'm confident I can only get better.

So, I close this long post with a very personal message to my darling wife:
You are the love of my life. I can't think of anyone I would rather hang out with, talk with, laugh with, cry with, or just sit quietly with. You occasionally drive me up the wall, but I'm sure I do the same to you. Even though I've said things I didn't mean, and I may do it again, even though I may be moody and occasionally withdrawn; even though I torture myself to be perfect and do perfect things because I believe you deserve perfection, it is just that. You are my perfect partner, the one whom God chose for me, and there is no one and no thing that will ever change that. I love you and look forward to celebrating 4 plus 40 years with you.

Happy Anniversary.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Stella Never Really Had a Groove To Get

So, Terry McMillan and her ex-husband, Jonathan Plummer, went on the Oprah show yesterday to discuss the demise of their marriage. I couldn't watch the whole thing, because it was pathetic and sad. I've always had a bit of a problem with Terry McMillan anyway. I don't think she's that great a writer, but you can't tell her that, which is okay. Affirm yourself, because few people will affirm you, but I digress. I really have a problem with the public's hunger for intimate details about celebrity life, and celebrities who go right along with it.

I once heard someone say that Americans have abandoned shame, the thing that makes us apply discretion. I'm not suggesting that we shut down completely, and never reveal things that need revealing, such as abuse, but there's a big difference between telling the truth about something harmful and airing your dirty laundry. I think it's not so much that we've stopped feeling ashamed of things, but that many of us simply prefer to make others feel shame, even when our own behavior deserves reproach. Why else would talk shows like Maury, and the revolting Jerry Springer show, enjoy such longevity? Or court shows, where things unrelated to the case are always thrown in. Does your ex-boyfriend's current girlfriend's crack habit and other baby's daddy have anything to do with why you're suing his mother for an unpaid cell phone bill? Someone else's dysfunction is great entertainment.

I try my best to avoid being judgemental. After all, there are always three sides to every story, Party A's, Party B's, and the truth. But the truth isn't always so interesting, nor does it always see light. McMillan admits that she slept with and began a relationship with Plummer within days of meeting while she was on vacation. She's lonely, she's horny (never a good combo, and don't let alcohol get mixed in), and here is a physically attractive, interested, available young man. She describes him in fantastic terms. He's no angel, though. He made a decision to sleep with her, and leave home to be with her. He admits that he came here with few marketable skills, and that she took care of his financial needs. He didn't have to accept anything from her. He also didn't have to tell her anything, especially something that was probably terrifying, given the culture he came from. She, on the other hand, has played, and continues to play the victim, and millions of t.v. viewers and Web crawlers indulge her.

It's a sad story. Sex doesn't make for a strong relationship. Control, financial or otherwise, doesn't make for a strong relationship. There are too many women who believe that a piece of a man is better than no man at all. Did she really think that a 23-year-old was long-term relationship material? Did he really think that she would simply take him in, and not try to control him?

I believe Jonathan Plummer has learned far more than Terry McMillan has. She, and Oprah, whose ratings-grabbing shows covering the darker side of homosexuality sink lower and lower in quality, had an opportunity to help people in weak or faltering relationships, but instead turned the so-called down-low phenomenon into a "Reefer Madness" of our time. It's entertaining, but completely without merit. There simply was no groove to get.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My Body, My Rights

I haven't had much to say about the search for a new Justice for the Supreme Court because I'm trying to work on some personal artistic projects, and politics just wears me out. However, I'm drawn back to what bugs me the most about the abortion rights issue, probably the most controversial of SC issues.

Back in my twenties, I was part of several "queer" orgs; an HIV prevention org, a gay & lesbian org, and part of groups including ACT UP, Queer Nation, and Dyke Action Machine. We paid close attention to what happened with both abortion rights and sodomy laws because they both addressed personal choices about very personal things. At the time, lesbians worked hard to get gay men, understandably focused on AIDS and HIV, to understand why they should support a woman's right to choose. The right to choose isn't about whether or not you believe that abortion is about "baby killing;" it's about the right to make a choice that is yours to make. After all, no one would support legislation that makes tobacco illegal, even though it has been proven that prolonged use of tobacco products usually leads to cancer, which is still an incurable disease. And, no one would support the banning of all alcoholic beverages, even though underage drinking, binge drinking, drunk driving, and alcohol abuse can all lead to injury, illness, and death. We could extend the argument to driving a car, all things we do as a matter of choice. So, let's just jump right into the controversy.

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy following the death of a fetus. According to the dictionary, the death of a fetus can follow infection, can be spontaneous; the body can reject the fetus with death following, or it can be induced. Pregnancies are terminated for good and bad reasons. We plan to get pregnant, so why can we not plan not to get or stay pregnant? Ever wonder why abortion foes (I refuse to refer to them as pro-lifers; it supports the improper reasoning that being in favor of choice means an opposition to life) are silent on the use of fertility drugs or in-vitro fertilization? Adoption? Is it more acceptable to terminate a pregnancy that follows incest or rape than it is to terminate a pregnancy that comes at an arguably unfortunate time; a second, third, fourth or more child to a poor family, or a pregnancy to a couple with genetic concerns, such as Tay-Sachs, Sickle Cell, or other potentially catastrophic illnesses?

It is foolish to believe that the average woman who has an abortion uses abortion as a means of brith control when there are far less expensive and far more accessible methods of birth control available. And, it is fascinating that the most visible and vocal abortion foes are most often White, heterosexual males, who, although certainly affected by such a weighty matter as the ending of a pregnancy, will never be the one to make the final decision to do so. I also offer this: abortion foes, especially the ones who support and operate help centers to encourage women to have their babies, aren't adopting these unwanted children. They're unwilling to come to urban, rural, or poor areas where these children grow up. No, assuming a supposed moral position like opposing reasonable access to abortion does nothing more than add a brick to the wall of homogeneity that far right conservatives are desperately trying to build.

Sodomy laws, unfortunately named, parallel abortion rights laws because they seek to impose government interference in deeply personal matters. More often than not, they are unfairly applied -- ask Matthew Limon, whose Kansas jail sentence for having sex with another young man was longer than that for the same crime committed by a male and a female. Does oral or anal sex really present a danger to society so great that the government needs to tell me what choice I should make about what I do with my body? I think not.

I'll be really succinct -- Alito is not a good choice for the Supreme Court. Putting his mother's comments about his stand on abortion aside, an article in today's New York Times looks at his background on abortion rights and brings together the problem of government's meddling in personal matters that it shouldn't.

It is my body, and it is my right to do with it as I choose as long as I don't harm anyone else, or create a hazard to the community at large. If the government wishes to intervene to ensure that the community is protected, it should. I fail to see how telling me what kind of sex I have, with whom I have it, and what I must face as a result, is any of the government's business.