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.

************************************************************
"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 girl. 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.




Friday, June 3, 2016

Champ

If your children ask you, one day, what courage looks like, show them a photo of Ali.
RIP Champ. We will not see the likes of you, again. 





Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Bare Essentials

A friend on Facebook posted a link to a ridiculous Kickstarter for a machine that makes tortillas. A big, bulky, electric machine to do what it takes just moments to do by hand or, if one invests maybe $15-25, do using a hand-press. It made me think about my kitchen. I love to cook, and I do like shopping for kitchenware, but we get bogged down in the ridiculousness of gadgetry. I decided to challenge myself: If I were forced to pare down to the absolute minimum - if I lost every cooking utensil and kitchen gadget in a fire, let's say - which items would I need to get back to having a fully operational kitchen from which I would be able to prepare three really good meals a day? The assumption is that my stove and fridge and sink have survived this apocalypse.

Here is my bare bones kitchen.


Ok, if you can have just one pan, it should be a cast iron skillet. You can fry in this. Sautee'. Broil. Bake. You can use this for your bacon, and your eggs, and for making a mean cornbread, and even for baking ziti or mac and cheese.  Quiche. Cake. A frittata. Ridiculously easy to care for. Indispensable. 


Good knives are important. If you can only have one, make it a cleaver. It's good for chopping vegetables, as well as for cutting meat, and hacking through chicken cartilage. That nice, wide surface can double for crushing peppercorns, garlic, ginger, etc. 


The only other pot/pan I consider essential is a decent saucepan with a lid. Boil eggs, make pasta or rice, morning farina. You can make chili in this, stew, or soup. You can even boil your water for camp coffee or tea. Makes a great mixing bowl in a pinch. The lid not only makes it useful for stewing, but serves as a makeshift strainer. 


More versatile than a spoon - a spatula can be used to flip pancakes, slide under eggs, and stir sauces, and even fold merengue, if one has a gentle touch. I like wood better than metal or synthetics. It holds up well to heat, washes well, and feels good in the hand. I'd need this. 


So, in my real life, I have a tiny kitchen which is jam-packed with stuff, but I only really NEED these four items to make a kick-ass meal. What areas of your life are jam-packed with gadgetry and novelties, and just STUFF, which are far from essential? Care to join this challenge? Imagine your entire office or wardrobe or living room or WHATEVER were destroyed in a fire, and you had to choose ten items or less to get it going, again, in such a way that you'd feel whole and functional - what would those ten items or less be? Tell me. I'm interested. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Anna from Queens



When I was a kid - like, a REALLY YOUNG KID...maybe 8 or 9 - my grandfather found a copy of Valley of the Dolls, and gave it to me. It had the word "dolls" in the title, and he figured it was a book for girls. And he knew I liked to read. So I read it. My parents, who knew it was NOT a book for little girls, didn't stop me from reading it. They let me read anything in which I showed an interest. I loved it. This led to me watching the movie, which got regular air play on NYC's 4:30 movie.

I was delighted that the role of Neely was played by Patty Duke, who I knew from The Patty Duke Show (which I watched in reruns, and loved, because it took place in Brooklyn Heights, which was just a spit away from Park Slope) and The Miracle Worker, which also got regular play on the 4:30 movie.

I was too young to know the word "camp," but certainly not too young to understand the concept that, sometimes, things are so bad, that they're excellent. After that, it was ON. I never missed Valley of the Dolls when it aired.


I was quite a bit older when I realized that Patty's performance as Neely was adored by queer people the world over, and older, still, when I found out that she embraced this fandom with all her heart. She was OUR GIRL, from way back. Anna - this outer-borough girl who loved her gays as much as we loved HER...who was ordained as a minister for the sole purpose of being able to officiate at same-sex weddings....who would speak at screenings of Valley of the Dolls at The Castro because she loved us and we loved her...who opened up about the hell her childhood had been and the mental illness she had lived with for so long...who fought for research into mental illness, and public understanding of it, and an end to the taboos we have around it.

People who only knew her as one of the identical cousins might find it difficult to believe she was radical, but she was radical as fuck. And she was ours.

Rest in peace, Anna.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Not Like The Others



When I was little, my best friend was this little girl whose parents were really racist. They'd say to her (right in front of me), "Don't play with any of the niggers or the spics on the block, except Lana and her sister. They're not like other spics." And then she would come to my house and play, and call my grandma "abuela" and we would pretend we were sisters. My parents would tell me to ignore her folks because, they said, "They're just ignorant."

These days, I find myself thinking about my friends who are white, "He/she isn't REALLY white. I mean, he/she is white, but not anything like actual WHITE PEOPLE are white."

Friday, March 4, 2016

White Histrionics- A Site of One's Own

White Histrionics has its own home on the web, now. Check out the dedicated blog for a new White Histrionic reminiscence, every day for the month of March and, possibly, beyond.  And remember, THE WHITE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Co-Opting Racism

On this date in 1996, Margaret Hemsworth requested that her monthly shift requirement at the Park Slope Food Co-Op be permanently waived, enabling her to devote more time to Bikram yoga. This request was denied, resulting in a flare-up of Ms. Hemsworth's self-diagnosed fibromyalgia. The struggle is real. 

#WhiteHistrionicsMonth

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Rosa Parks, Move Over

On this date in 1978, Chad Mathews of Darien, Connecticut was required to produce photo identification when attempting to cash a third-party, out-of-state check at a Bank of America branch. He wrote a strong letter to BoA's main office, describing the injustice he had suffered. The teller, an African American woman who had been employed by the bank for 16 years, was subsequently fired. Mathews is recognized as a pioneering freedom fighter for the civil rights of white men with money. 

#WhiteHistrionicsMonth