Monday, October 1, 2018

It's My Pleasure To Inform You That Little Women Is, In Fact, Feminist As All Get-Out. Or: 10 Reasons Louisa May Alcott's Classic Novel Is Loved By Rebellious Women The World Over.





1. It's a girl's world. Little Women is female-centric. I don't just mean it's about girls and women. I mean the entire novel is a picture of life where every male character is peripheral - yes, even Laurie - and every aspect of life is viewed through the lens of females. Alcott created a world of girls/women. Their hopes, dreams, failures, successes - even their vanities - are all their own, and not shaped by boys or men. There is never a moment in the narrative when we are inside the head of a boy or a man.

2. Sisterhood celebrated. Unlike so many other novels, Little Women is about females supporting one another, and holding each other up through the toughest of times. While sibling rivalry exists between two of the sisters, it's not about them being females, but about them being siblings with contrasting temperaments. At the end of the day, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy always have each other's backs, because sisterhood is a powerful force. In any other novel, sisters would fight over Laurie. Not the March sisters.

3. Marmee. Can we talk about marmee? Marmee is so badass that she tells her daughters she'd rather they remain spinsters than marry for money. Think this isn't some badass, feminist talk? Do some reading about what life was like in 1868, and what spinsterhood usually amounted to, for women who weren't heiresses. Marmee doesn't raise the March girls to plan on marrying for money and be supported by men. She raises her daughters to think for themselves, hold out for true love, and find ways to support themselves. You want radical feminism? A mother who is relieved when her daughter turns down the proposal of a rich, honorable young man, because she knows their love isn't truly of a romantic nature, and that they're not suited as life partners. A mother encouraging her daughter to leave the nest, move to a strange city on her own, and pursue writing, even when the window of opportunity for finding a financially secure husband is slowly closing. A mother who finds peace when confronted with the significantly older,  penniless pauper her daughter DOES love, because she wants her daughter to live life on her own terms. Keep in mind we're talking about a book written in 1868, not 1978.

4. Jo March selling her hair. This is no small thing. For a young woman from a decent family to even walk into a shop where hair is bought and sold would be scandalous, but our Jo doesn't give a damn about convention, or what "proper" ladies are expected to do. She sees family crisis and the need for fast cash, recognizes that she lives in a world where her "one beauty" has a dollar value, and she makes the sacrifice. Does she lament her decision, later? Yes, briefly. Who wouldn't? But she doesn't dwell on it. It's HER hair, and she'll chop it off and sell it, if she wants to.

5. Jo and Laurie's friendship. Unlike so many other examples in literature and film, Jo and Laurie's friendship really is friendship in its truest form. While Laurie imagines it to be more,  because he isn't as forward thinking as Jo, Jo always knows that what she has in Laurie is a best friend. Think the idea of girls and boys/men and women being best friends for life, with no romantic entanglements is old hat, and that the idea of true Platonic love between the opposite sexes is not at all a feminist idea? Find half a dozen examples of it in American literature prior to Little Women. I'll wait.

6. Self-determination. This is a theme which comes up in Little Women, again and again. We read, early on, about the March girls' and their castles in the air. Meg's castle is very traditional - and that's ok. It's OK to want a husband and children and to make a nice home life for one's family. There's nothing about that that isn't feminist, if it's what a girl or woman truly wants, and we know Meg well enough to know it's what she truly desires most. And why not? She has a wonderful, strong, resilient mother, and aspires to live up to her greatness. Beth's castle can be whittled down to peace: it's really all she wants out of life. No husband. No children. Just peace. And maybe a decent piano. It may not be exciting, but it's her life's wish, and she's allowed to have it, without anyone urging her to grow up and start looking for a husband. Jo and Amy have more nontraditional castles, both of which revolve around creativity and art. During an era when girls their age were expected to seek out respectable husbands who would offer them financial security, Jo and Amy both have dreams of achieving artistic greatness. When they each give up these dreams (or put them on hold) it's not because anyone forces them to, or the men in their lives have forbidden them to pursue them. Amy comes to the mature realization that she isn't much more than mediocre as an artist, and that hoping for genius is not enough. Jo puts her writing aside not because she has to, but because she makes a choice, eventually, to marry and have children. Die-hard Alcott fans know that, in the final book in this series, Jo's literary aspirations are not only revived, but with a vengeance. When we meet the much older Jo in Jo's Boys we're told that, when the Bhaers are facing dire poverty, Jo picks up her pen and not only saves the day by selling her writing, but she achieves a level of fame and fortune she'd never dreamt possible. Anyone who thinks Jo is forced to stop writing, or that she gives it up, entirely, isn't really reading the words on the page. They're certainly not reading through the entire March Family saga.

7. "A funny match." That's how Louisa May Alcott described her choice of husband for Jo. Alcott intended for Jo to remain unmarried, but the second part of Little Women never would have been published if she'd refused to give in and marry off all the surviving March sisters. An early feminist, herself, Alcott was the only significant breadwinner in her family, and she couldn't afford to lose a chance at a second novel being published. Put simply: she had mouths to feed. She did refuse, though, to marry Jo off to the handsome, charming, rich Laurie, even though it's what the public wanted so badly. That would have been too formulaic, and an insult to the girl Jo was, the woman she was to become. There are still people who lament this choice, but I maintain that, underneath the handsome face and substantial income, grown-up Laurie is really a bit of a bore. Put in more modern terms, Laurie is the wealthy guy who settles for a life in the family business - a business about which he doesn't really give a damn. How depressing. The idea that Jo holds out for true love, and finds it not in her young, handsome, wealthy neighbor, who fairly begs for her hand in marriage,  but in the form of a poor, middle-aged immigrant with a love of philosophy and literature has always been something I've found refreshing. Jo doesn't settle. She never settles. The "funny match" Louisa May Alcott writes, as she thumbs her nose at convention, represents Jo March's ongoing insistence on dancing to the beat of her own drummer, thank you very much. If a 19th century woman saying, "I don't want to be married to a man who's just convenient and available, I want to find love with someone who I decide is worthy" isn't a defiant act of feminism, I don't know what is.

8. Aunt March. Hear me out on this. No one who reads Little Women adores Aunt March, but it must be acknowledged that Alcott has not only written a book where the family patriarch is absent, but created a world where the only family money to speak of is controlled by a woman. A childless woman who lives alone and wields a certain amount of power and sway. Is she always nice? Not by a long shot. But she's always her own woman, and she takes orders from no one. Feminism isn't about being docile or likable. And when she dies? Her house and land don't go to her nephew, Robin (the March girls' father), but to Jo. Aunt March not only skips over an entire generation when deciding who her estate should go to, and she doesn't just leave it to a female, she leaves it to the most spirited female in the family...the female most likely to do with Plumfield things Aunt March would find distasteful or even scandalous. Aunt March knows Jo well enough to know this, and she leaves her Plainfield, anyhow. I have a quiet affection for Aunt March, who I suspect would have been a suffragette, had she been born later.

9. Separate, but equal. Some 20th and 21st century feminists could learn a lot from Alcott. While I've seen divisions among so-called feminists in my lifetime, who rage against women choosing to make home, children and spouse the center of their universe, Alcott did no such thing. If the March sisters all chose their own lives, it's true that their choices are very different. Where Jo chooses a somewhat unconventional life - first turning down a lucrative proposal of marriage, and then opting for a life full of raucous male energy, running a school for topsy-turvy boys, several of whom really have no other place to go - Meg chooses a life of very quiet, conventional domesticity. Her life revolves around her husband, her children, and making a home that is comfortable for them. If it seems like a letdown, it shouldn't. It's Meg's castle in the air come to fruition, and Alcott honors that. Film versions of Little Women skip over it (really the only section of the book consistently absent from the films), but Alcott devotes whole chapters to Meg's domestic foibles. Some of these foibles and their resolutions may seem cringeworthy to readers in 2018, but the fact remains that Alcott does something that had seldom if ever been done before: she elevates what many of us see as mundane, domestic life. The life she describes in these chapters is probably closer to the lives lived by most women in 1868 than anything else we're likely to read in fiction from that era, because the domestic lives of women were not deemed worthy of literature. Alcott holds no such opinion. To her, Meg's dilemmas about her household budget, botched attempts at cooking,  or entertaining her demanding children are just as worthy of being written about as Jo and Amy's far more exotic adventures in New York and abroad. Beth's journey, which is almost wholly internal, is also deemed worthy of exploration. When Alcott devotes time to and honors every kind of female life, she's truly the feminist we need in 2018 - the feminist who knows that feminism isn't about anyone telling women what they should or should not do, but about supporting women in the choices they make for themselves.

10. The sequels. Little Women does not exist in a vacuum. In point of fact, Alcott wrote four books about the March family: Little Women, Good Wives (in the USA, now published as the second half of Little women), Little Men, and Jo's Boys. Most people agree that Little Women is her true masterpiece. I think so. I also think the sequels are well worth exploring, for anyone who has an interest in the seeds planted in the first book. Little Men revolves around Plumfield, Jo and Fritz's school for boys. One of the oddities, of course, is that Jo sees fit to admit girls to the school, as well - Nan and Daisy, who are almost replacements for young Jo and and Meg. This, in itself, is pretty audacious. I highly doubt there were many co-ed boarding schools even in the most progressive corners of America at the time Little Men was written. What's more, when we get to the final book about the March family, we're treated to the vision Alcott had not only for Jo (who has become a successful and famous writer), but for her young counterpart, Nan, who becomes a physician and, we're told, never marries - not because she doesn't have the opportunity, but because she chooses a path in life that leaves no room for marriage. Nan is happy with and fulfilled by the path she has chosen. Daisy, for her part, chooses a path that is parallel to that of Meg (who is her mother) and, again, Alcott honors this choice as much as any other made by the girls and women in the March universe. Jo's Boys is not a great book. It's not even a very good book, but it's a must, if one is truly going to look at what Louisa May Alcott had to say about womanhood, the spaces women inhabit in the world, and the dreams girls and women have every right to dream.

Context is everything. One cannot fairly measure feminist content in a work written 150 years ago, without placing it in its proper social, political, or even spiritual context. Viewed through the lens tinted with 21st century values and norms, Little Women may seem mundane, boilerplate, or even at odds with modern feminist values. Viewed through the lens of 1868 - the year that Louisa May Alcott spent a mere 30 days writing the first half of this two-part book - it's clear that it gives voice to girls and women in a way no American novel really had, before, that it's daring and sometimes audacious. It's teeming with strong, positive female characters and relationships. Most of all, it gives us Jo March - a girl and a woman who dares dream her own, unique dream, and live life on her own terms, until the very end.


"I believe in the same pay for the same good work. Don't you? In future, let woman do whatever she can do: let men place no more impediments in the way; above all things let's have fair play, - let simple justice be done, say I. Let us hear no more of 'woman's sphere' either from our wise (?) legislators beneath the gilded dome, or from clergymen in their pulpits. I am tired, year after year, of hearing such twaddle about sturdy oaks and clinging vines and man's chivalric protection of woman. Let woman find out her own limitations, and if, as is so confidently asserted, nature has defined her sphere, she will be guided accordingly - but in heaven's name give her a chance! Let professions be open to her; let fifty years of college education be hers, and then we shall see what we shall see. Then, and not until then, shall we be able to say what woman can and what she cannot do, and coming generations will know and be able to define more clearly what is a 'woman's sphere' than these benighted men who try now to do it." - Louisa May Alcott

Sunday, December 31, 2017

When Shoney's Became The Oval Office

Nothing captured the spirit of the USA in 2017 quite like the Rick and Morty Mulan Szechuan Sauce phenomenon. Something that started out as a mildly amusing joke, and which was never meant to be anything more, spiraled out of control, took on a life of its own, attracted the unhealthy attention of the worst kinds of people, and became an embarrassing debacle.  


Friday, December 29, 2017

Best Movies of 2017

2017 was such a stellar year for film, I'm devoting an entire post to the ones I enjoyed the most, in no specific order.


For a while, now, Pedro Almodovar has been dishing out stories which focus on the relationship between mother and child. In my mind, All About My Mother and Volver were partner movies. With Julieta, we have a complete trilogy and, while the first two were great, Julieta is a masterpiece. Almodovar has never been as good, and his storytelling has never been so heartbreakingly real. Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte play the title role, each during different phases of her life, as Julieta's story unfolds. It's a story in which she is both a daughter, and a mother, and every other part of her life is somehow affected by one of these roles, or both. If Almodovar decides to hang it up and call it a day with this movie, no one could blame him. It's perfect. Watching Julieta feels less like seeing a movie than it does like reading a diary. 




Roger Mitchell's My Cousin Rachel presents Daphne du Maurier's vision as we've never seen it, before. Rachel Weisz's Rachel is uncompromising, unapologetic, and downright subversive. One doesn't usually think of du Maurier's women as empowered, or in any way feminist, but this film flips the traditional notion of her characterization of women on its ear. I find it cringeworthy that this film was promoted as a romance. It's not a romance. It's almost a protest film. If there's a love story here, it's the love story between a woman and the ownership she claims of her own body and sexuality. Don't tune in looking for neat, happy endings - you won't find any here. You also won't find a female lead who accepts without question what the men around her decide what her life should be like.



If you've heard that Logan is a great superhero movie, that's not quite true. Logan is a great movie, full stop. It's the movie that shows us just how good a movie based on characters from the world of comic books can be. It shows us that a movie with these origins can stand up next to the best movie of any kind, and more than hold its own. Forget about mutants and super powers and the X Men. This is a movie about fathers and their children. It's about taking care of our parents when they can't take care of themselves. It's about taking responsibility for those to whom we are leaving this mess of a world. It's about facing one's own mortality, wondering if one's life has even mattered, and finding ways to make one's last days count. Damn it - it's about carrying one's self with dignity and grace in a world where such concepts are no longer respected. Jackman and Stewart are miraculous. I've seen it several times. I've cried, every time. 


Angela Robinson's Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is one of those movies that was hardly promoted, at all. Which means if you didn't see in a theater the weekend it opened, you didn't get to see it, at all. What little promotion it did receive focused on the fact that the characters involved worked together to create the comic book superheroine, Wonder Woman. Thing is, this movie is about those three people, but this movie is not about Wonder Woman. Not really. It's about living life on one's own terms, bucking convention, not giving in to fear and hatred, and about welcoming love, even when it comes in an unconventional package. Deeply moving, this film stayed with me for days after I saw it. Rebecca Hall, who is always good, is downright mesmerizing. She should win all the awards. She won't, but she should. 


Jordan Peele's Get Out caught us all by surprise. Who the hell expected one of the most brilliant films to come along in years to 1) be a horror film and 2) be written and directed by a guy who is well known for sketch comedy? But that's not even a fair question, because this isn't a traditional horror movie, and it's not without its laughs. It's like nothing else we've seen, before. It's not just horror. It's biting social commentary. It's a tragedy. It's a thriller. It's gut-wrenching. Peele is quoted as having referred to it as a documentary. If you've seen it, chances are you know what he means. If you haven't seen it, no one should tell you; you should pay to see it, yourself. Jordan Peele is the filmmaker to watch out for. If this is how he starts out a career in writing and directing, I cannot imagine what he does for an encore. 



Another from the "if you blinked, you missed it" category: Aisling Walsh's Maudie, a film based on the life of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. Sally Hawkins, who has been one of filmdom's quiet treasures for a good ten years, now, is just great as the title character - a woman who, despite living in constant pain, and suffering all manner of hardship, viewed the world with wonder, and captured that sense of wonder in her art. Sherry White's screenplay is uncompromising. She doesn't sugarcoat the truly ugly, disturbing details of Maud Lewis's life and marriage. Instead, she does what Maud Lewis, herself was so good at; she shows us there are beauty and wonder to be experienced in the most unlikely places, under the most unlikely circumstances. Ethan Hawke, who is not my favorite actor, is great in this. Honorable mention to Kari Matchett, who makes the most of a small, but pivotal, role. She's an actor to watch out for. 


Since I'm singing the praises of Sally Hawkins, it makes for a great segue to Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water. The film borrows heavily from one of my favorite novels, Rachel Ingalls' Mrs. Caliban, (if you haven't read it, do so - you will not regret it) which worried me, at first. And then I saw it. I need not have worried. This is magical realism at its most accessible. So much more than a love story, this is a film about outsiders and those who would squash them out of fear of - and contempt for - that which is different. It's a celebration of anti-fascism. The good guys here aren't superheroes with other-worldly powers, though. In this world, The Man is, well...The Man. But the heroes? A woman who is mute. A lonely, aging homosexual. A working class black woman. A scientist who actually cares about doing the right thing. And, yes, a sea creature who, like so many people in the real world, just wants to be left alone to live his life, instead of being exploited and tortured. In a year full of great films, this one might be the most beautiful. 


We waited. And waited. And waited. When this film finally arrived, there was a collective sigh of relief from so many of us. Behind that sigh: it was worth the wait. Patty Jenkins brought us the Wonder Woman of our dreams: beautiful, strong, thoughtful, decent, brave, full of heart. Gal Gadot was perfectly cast. There's not much about this film that hasn't been said, but I'm not sure many men actually get how or why this movie is so important to so many women. Men have had dozens of superhero movies. Superman, Batman, Thor, Ironman, Wolverine, Spiderman.... Women? We really haven't had this on the big screen, before. Not like this. Diana Prince kicked ass, and it was gorgeous. A triumph for girls and women everywhere. More of this, please. 



Monday, December 25, 2017

2017: The Year in Review

Not my usual breakdown. For me, 2017 will forever be the year that two hurricanes tore through the island my family has called home for 500+ years....





.....the year that, when the U.S. gov't, FEMA, and Donald Trump failed Puerto Rico during her hour of greatest need, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz stepped up and showed us what compassion, strength, leadership, heart, and courage look like. They look like a Puerto Rican woman.







It's been the year when adversity brought us heroines from unlikely places. For using her money and connections to deliver aid in person, and raise awareness about how the world has failed Puerto Rico, there will be a seat for Bethenny Frankel at every Puerto Rican table, until the day she dies. 




In 2017, Jose Andres stepped up, rolled up his sleeves, fed the people of Puerto Rico, and gave new meaning to the term "rock star chef."




It was the year that Lin-Manuel Miranda got together with the Hispanic world's favorite sons and daughters and did this. If you're Puerto Rican and hearing the name of your family's hometown sung by Ednita Nazario or JLo or Juan Luis Guerra doesn't make your heart skip a beat, check your pulse. 



It was the year that I was truly ashamed - for the first time in my life - to be American, but prouder than ever to be Puerto Rican. 

Puerto Rico se levanta! 








Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's So Wonderful About Wonder Woman?



My friend, Tom, posed a question on Facebook: what is that people find so interesting about Wonder Woman? Now, before anyone gets into an uproar, know this: Tom is a comic book aficionado who doesn't find Wonder Woman to be a very interesting character. This does not make him a misogynist, and this question was asked in earnest; Tom has a long list of female superheroes who who finds to be more interesting and/or dynamic than Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. So, yes: chill out.

It was a fair enough question. It made me think. I am not a huge comic book fan, but I grew up sporadically reading the major titles and following the major characters. When it came to Wonder Woman, I'm also just the right age to have watched the television show, which was one of my favorites. I loved Wonder Woman. I still do. But why? Until my friend posed this question, I'd never given it much thought beyond the whole "she's a cool woman who kicks ass" angle and, let's face it, as Tom points out, there are other women in the world of comics who kick ass. I also love Jean Grey, but not the way I love Diana Prince/Wonder Woman which is weird because, in the entire comic book universe, X-Men is my favorite thing. Yet, my love for Diana Prince/Wonder Woman is steadfast and true. Why?

It came to me, suddenly.

Wonder Woman is essentially an immigrant narrative. Diana Prince is an immigrant who adopts the USA as her own, and does so with a vengeance. This appeals to me, I think, because I'm the first generation in my family born on mainland US soil, and raised with English as my first language. I'm the child of people from another place, who spoke another language, knew an entirely different culture, landed here without a word of English, and eventually grew up to wholeheartedly embrace every good thing about this country, even though they got called "spic." Even though they sometimes got the side-eye for being different. Even though the way they did things did not always fit in with their new surroundings.

My mother, who landed in NYC without one word of English, and who brought with her 'strange' ideas from the Caribbean ended up becoming the most kick-ass New Yorker, ever. No one had more street savvy. No one knew the subway system better than she did. No one had that New Yorker bullshit detector as finely tuned as she did. That's my mother's story. It's also Diana Prince's story.

If I love Wonder Woman, I don't have much time for Superman. I find him to be a bore. Superman lands on earth, in the USA, as a baby. He knows no other reality than that of being a milk-fed boy raised in the heartland. He is, for all intents and purposes, the all-American boy who grows up to be the all-American hero. He is dropped here and his destiny is somewhat preordained. Diana Prince, by stark contrast, makes deliberate choices which land her here as a grown woman. A foreigner in a strange land. She's the mother of all American immigrants and, like so many immigrants, she chooses a life of service to her new homeland, in the name of defending democracy.

There is something about this that is, and always has been, really attractive to me, although I'd never articulated it before Tom posed the question about Wonder Woman, and why she has such a huge and devoted following. The appeal, for me, anyhow, can be boiled down to this: Wonder Woman is an immigrant who embodies every good American value, and not really one of the crappy ones. She's my mother.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016: The Year in Review

This won't be another of those "omg-the-world-is-ending-because-2016-was-the-worst-year-ever" posts, because those are a dime a dozen. So, let's get the suckitude out of the way:

A bunch of people died, and a rich, straight, white man won the presidential election. There will almost certainly be thousands of year-in-review posts and articles focusing on these two issues, but this won't be one of them.

She gave it her all. I was with her, 100%. I regret nothing.


Ding, Dong, The Witch is Dead: good riddance to rotting garbage.




RIP: TV is dead. On the other hand, there was lots of great streaming programming. For instance, this. I almost need to light up a cigarette after watching this. The more fucked up you are, Cersei, the more I love you.



It must be said, though - no one kicks ass more than Thandie Newton's Maeve, on Westworld.



Haters Back Off. Netflix gave the lovable YouTube sensation, Miranda Sings, her own show, and it's not at all what one would expect. If you haven't checked it out - especially if you haven't checked it out because Miranda is not your cuppa - do yourself a favor and give this show a chance. It's funny as hell, completely original, has a great ensemble cast of new faces, and it's just teeming with heart. In the midst of this nutty, outlandish premise, these folks make you actually care about the characters. Seriously - give this show a shot. Surprisingly moving, in the most unlikely ways.



Well, the poster was cool: High Rise had a great trailer. The art direction was amazing. The cast was great. Portishead recorded a brilliant cover of one of ABBA's best tunes for it. This movie had everything going for it, except for the fact that it was bloody awful. Truly, truly awful. If you're an animal lover, and you're considering giving it a go, you deserve fair warning: the film basically opens with the main character spit-roasting his dog and eating the poor creature. It's supposed to be darkly funny. Instead, it's one of the most disturbing scenes I've ever watched in a film. And I don't mean, "OMG...they really broke ground and made that scene so thought-provoking!" I mean, "Fucking hell - that was obscene, completely gratuitous and, ultimately, made a bad movie worse." The cover of SOS IS pretty fucking great, though.



2016 was a great year for documentaries. Here are a few of my faves.

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures. Uncompromising, even as it celebrates his beautiful work. A lot about the way he carried out his life and work - especially when it comes to race - can be pretty problematic, but the work, itself is beautiful. This film never loses sight of either of those facts.


Author: The JT Leroy Story. You probably know some of this story. Don't read anything more about it before seeing this. If you know nothing, even better. Speaks volumes about art and the creation of it, about the cult of fame, the inner workings of the famous and celebrated, and about the truth, itself.


No Home Movie. This is not for everyone. If I'm honest, it's probably for very few people. I found it incredibly moving, and it stayed with me for days, after. I'm not sure I've ever seen a better representation of the emptiness left behind when the most important person we know dies. 



I don't care about the Olympic Games, but I love it that Puerto Ricans were a force to be reckoned with, this time around. 





This.




Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Loved Ones FTW.













Wednesday, November 16, 2016

One Week On: A Love Letter

This is not that kind of love letter.

One week ago, most of us woke up to what we considered upsetting news about the results of the presidential election. The results of the election surprised me but, as I've written elsewhere, there was and is nothing surprising to me about the amount of ugliness in this country. The day after the election I was most shocked to find out how many straight, white, Christian folks were taken aback about the thread of racism, homophobia and xenophobia that runs deep and strong throughout this nation. I was shocked because it never really occurred to me that so many people could be so clueless about what it's like, for many people, to live in America. I was shocked that they had not been clued in, long before, by the very need for LAMBDA, The Black Panthers, NOW, the ACLU, The Southern Poverty Law Center, the UFW, Black Lives Matter, the ADL, or a hundred other organizations and/or movements. How could anyone live in the USA, and not know?  But, yeah. Evidently a hell of a lot of heterosexual, white, Christian people had no idea how fucking terrible it is to be an "other" in America. Now they know. The election and, more so, the aftermath of the election, has made it impossible to ignore. And that's a good thing. But here is what is not a good thing, and where this being a love letter comes into play:

Straight, white, Christian people who are still crying and licking their wounds over this revelation a week after the election are not doing anyone a favor. If anything, they are being self-indulgent. I say this with love. Tough love, maybe, but love. If you are a straight, white, Christian person who is pained to discover that you enjoy immense privilege, while others bear the brunt of racism, homophobia and xenophobia, and you are still nursing the wounds of this revelation a week after the election? Snap the fuck out of it, friend. Seriously. Because your self-indulgent wound-licking over the discovery that others suffer is perhaps the biggest act of privilege imaginable. So, yeah - snap the fuck out of it, and look around. Black people, Hispanics, immigrants, homosexuals, Jews, Muslims,  - everyone around you who doesn't fit into that privileged mold? We all know. We have always known. We've been trying to tell you, but you wouldn't listen. And, while a lot of us love the idea that so many of you identify as allies and sincerely want to be a part of the solution, I don't think any of us has any interest in drying even one of your tears, let alone hearing how traumatic it is for you to learn that America is and has always been shitty to us. This does not get to be about you. Not if you really, truly want to be an agent of change.

One week on; snap the fuck out of it.

This is a love letter, but not that kind of love letter. It's a letter telling you that a lot of us would love to have you in our corner, but only if you bring something besides your grief. We have more than enough grief of our own. It's been ours for so long, we don't let it get in our way.  We no longer know how to live without it. It is so old and so strong and so much a part of who we are, that it empowers us. Grief that slows us down and makes us weak is something for which we have no room, no patience, and no desire. If that is what you bring to the party, then don't bother coming.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Strong

I used to be strong. I was the strong girl, and then the strong woman. That was one of my things. I could lift heavy objects. Move furniture. Open a tightly sealed jar. Beat most people at arm wrestling. One woman I knew marveled at how strong my hands were, when she asked me to help her wring out soaking wet towels that had fallen into a river. That strength, it was no small thing. It was a part of who I was and how I identified. It was a part of how people saw me. I liked that strength. It gave me confidence, not only in my ability to carry a heavy suitcase, but in my ability to carry myself through life in a way that suited me. Capable. Determined. Fearless. Without hesitation. Physical strength goes a long way towards building other types of strength.

A few nights ago, I found myself lying back, looking up at the stars, in the middle of the desert, next to the person I hold dearest of anyone I know. We were young together, once, this woman and I. We were not much more than girls, then, really. That night, though, in the desert, even though we felt young, it was just an illusion. It's easy to feel young when you're flat on your back, under a vast sky, with a beautiful woman for company.

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"Damn it," I mumble, under my breath, trying not to yelp in pain.

"Your back?" she asks.

"It's ok," I answer.

"Can I do anything?" she asks.

"I'll be fine," I reply, "I just need not to move for a little while."

And so we don't move. We lay under the stars for a good, long time. We see a planet. Saturn? Maybe Jupiter? And shooting stars - lots of shooting stars. We see the waxing crescent moon, and the clouds slowly rolling in to block the moonlight. We hear coyotes and an owl. When we can no longer fight exhaustion, we stand up - me slowly, methodically - and head back into the warm house, where we don't bother turning on the light. Instead, we make our way to bed in the dark and, without words, we kick off our sandals and jeans, and climb in under the covers. Sleepwalkers - that's what we are like. Already asleep, for all intents and purposes, and just looking for a warm place to do our sleeping horizontally.

It is not much later when I feel her stirring, and then sitting bolt upright.

"Damn it," she says, under her breath, trying not to wake me, forgetting we're in this thing together.

"Your back?" I ask.

"It's ok," she answers.

"Can I do anything?" I ask.

"I'll be fine," she replies, "I just need to sit up for a little while."

In the morning, the sunlight streaming through the window wakes us both. Each of us wants to ask how the other is feeling, but neither of us does. Instead, we just lay still, letting the warm sun shine in on us.

I make a move towards rolling over to face her, but change my mind as I feel a twinge in my lower back.

"I used to be so strong," I say, dangerously close to sounding pathetic.

She sighs.

"I remember," she replies, "I used to be strong, too. I used to move so easily when I danced."

"I used to be able to move furniture. Now, I can barely hold myself up."

"We're not young, anymore, is all," she says.

"I'm not sure I know what to do, now that I'm not The Strong Girl, anymore, but The Woman With The Crumbling Back."

"We'll both do the same thing," she answers, without hesitation, "We'll hold each other up."







Monday, June 13, 2016

Bubbles Break


I've never been one for clubs, and I've never hung out at a lesbian bar in my life. Not on purpose, anyhow. Still, when someone sent out this tweet, the morning after the massacre in Orlando, Florida, it struck a chord.

The late 80s. I am in my very early 20s. Looking back at it, I am still just a girl. I am traveling with a beautiful woman. After driving all day, we stop at a small town motel and ask for a room. The clerk gives us a strange look when we ask for the room with just one queen-sized bed, instead of two full beds. It is not a look we can ignore. It is not a look we can forget. We don't mention it to one another but, for the rest of the trip, wherever we stop for the night, we make sure always to choose the two-bed option, even though we always sleep together on just the one.

Jump ahead. 2001. I am with my partner, a woman I live with, and believe I will live with forever. We are riding a ferry between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It's always a lively trip - the Cook Strait is never calm, and people riding this ferry are generally on their way to a holiday, so folks are talking and laughing. We are looking at a copy of Vanity Fair together, laughing at some item about some celebrity. When I reach over to take her hand, she pulls away and, suddenly, it feels strained. "What's wrong?" I ask, "I was just going to hold your hand. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were on the DL." "I'm not comfortable calling attention to ourselves among so many strangers." she says angrily, under her breath, "I don't know any of the people on this boat."

We don't end up living happily, ever after, that woman and I, but we have many years together. Most of them happy, but sometimes the happiness is made slightly sour by circumstances. Like the long trip we plan to Independent Samoa - the holiday of a lifetime. We spend months planning, looking forward to remote tropics, clear, blue water, long nights spent not in a hotel room, but in a rustic fale on the beach. We pick up some papers at the travel agent before we leave. This is the young man who has sold us the tickets, booked everything. We know him. We like him. "Listen, girls," he says, "You seem like an old married couple to me, but I have to give you some advice before you leave: don't let anyone in Samoa know that you're anything but friends. Better yet - tell them you're cousins, that way no one will think it too funny, you two sharing a fale. Kin always stay with one another over there, but the whole gay thing? Friendliest place on earth, but they don't do the gay thing. Cousins, ok? You'll be safer." We spend a month in tropical paradise. As cousins. When strangers ask my partner about the ring on her finger - the ring I gave her - she laughs and makes something up. Sometimes there is a husband back home. Other times she is divorced, but can't bring herself to take off the ring. Always, though, we are cousins. An American and a New Zealander. We even have a back story. Nosiness is considered friendly in Samoan culture, so we concoct a whole back story. Our grandmothers were sisters, one of them raised in NYC, the other, raised in New Zealand, by an aunt. We two have found each other - second cousins! - through the magic of internet genealogy searching, and become fast friends, and now we are traveling through Samoa together. It is a beautiful trip. The trip of a lifetime, but parts of it leave a sour taste in my mouth. A whole month of being careful. A whole month of leisurely beach days, and not being able to hold hands or even embrace, for fear of being seen.

Even today, safe places can be few and far between. I'm not sure this can be imagined, if it isn't your experience. I live in a bubble, these days. I live in San Francisco. When my ex and I were still together, and living stateside, we ended up taking vacations to places like NYC and Healdsburg and Palm Springs. I work in a field practically run by gays and lesbians. I have doctors who, because they work in San Francisco, have probably received training on how to be culturally appropriate with and sensitive to the needs of LGBT patients. A bubble of queer-friendliness and never having to pretend some woman is my cousin. This bubble is small, though. The rest of the world is big, and often ugly.

Orlando's Pulse Club was supposed to be a tiny, little bubble.

Bubbles break.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

50 0f Us

I can't bring myself to turn on the television, or look at news streams. I just can't. They got 50 of us. Fifty queer people. Or people who enjoy dancing and having fun with queer people. Or people who happened to work at a queer venue. People. It's all "us," you know. But it can't be denied: someone targeted a gay nightclub, in the midst of LGBT Pride month. Hate fueled this. They got 50 of us, and it was easy to do.

Before things go crazy, though, before they start blaming Islam, or other nations, or extremist ideas, or even homophobia, I hope the rest of us can keep this one thing in mind: We can never legislate ideas or ideology. We can never legislate love or acceptance. We can never legally force people to like us, or respect us, but we can make it a hell of a lot more difficult for people with hate and violence in their hearts to kill us.

Hate Control would be unenforceable, Gun Control would not be.

Get involvedWrite your Congressperson, and demand tougher laws around firearms.

As for Hate Control? Don't hide. Don't be invisible. Show up in droves.  Love. Persevere. Take no shit.