Friday, August 28, 2015

The journey to marriage equality

Earlier this week was the 95th anniversary of the day women gained the right to vote in this country. I saw many people sharing links about the date, the significance of it all, and I couldn't help but laugh at the tagline Facebook attached to the story. "Happy Women's Equality Day!"

I wouldn't go that far.

It's not as though finally being given the right to vote automatically conferred equality then - after all we had to be "given" that right by men and women of color were in many places stopped from exercising their rights fully for several decades to follow. Things weren't magically equal between the sexes then and they still aren't today, though we've come a long way.

The fight for marriage equality is happening today, in real time, in living rooms and church pews and statehouses and bakeries and hospitals. The fight for true equality doesn't begin and end with the recognition and inclusion of the marriage contract alone, just as the quest for equality among the genders didn't begin and end with the right of suffrage.

There are so many obstacles standing in the way of full marriage equality still, not the least of which are the comprehensive laws on the books across the nation permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This map provides a pretty eye opening display of which states permit which types of discrimination.

Ultimately, though, this post is about more than all that. It is about the idea of marriage equality as a construct, one that, even if extended without reservation to the lgbt community still isn't fully inclusive.

Marriage, at its simplest, is an agreement between consenting adults. Attempts to narrow that definition in any way will inevitably fail a thorough challenge.

For example, marriage does not exist simply for the creation of children. Babies are conceived and born out of wedlock as easily and often as they are within the boundaries of marriage. Not all married people want or can have children. Some marriages take place later in life, past the point where fertility has diminished. None of those people are "less" married in the eyes of the law.

Marriage, real marriage, is something beyond all that. It doesn't fit into tiny boxes, it can't be easily categorized. There is no normal, even if we've been raised to believe that the nuclear family version is the only acceptable one.

Marriage takes as many different forms as there are married people in this world.

I know plenty of traditional couples. Him. Her. Kids.


Some of them fit the mold just like we're told they're supposed to.

Some of them hardly see each other at all, living almost entirely separate lives. On purpose.

Some of them routinely vacation alone or with friends instead of one another.

Some of them have worked through marital trauma.

Some of them are staying married just until the kids are out of high school.

Some of them stay married for other reasons.

Some of them married out of convenience and expectation, because it was what they were supposed to do.

Some of them have left first or second or third marriages, some have remarried, some have pledged never to marry again.

Some of them have open marriages where they are free to explore relationships outside the marriage. Some of those are expressly sexual in nature, others are more focused on the emotional components of the relationship being fulfilled outside. Those in open marriages don't hide anything from one another and it is all done with express consent, approval and permission.

Some of them are closeted bisexuals, refusing to tell even their spouses that they are attracted to both men and women, but remain faithful to the marriage because there is a difference between sexual orientation and fidelity. I'm going to repeat this one. There is a difference between sexual orientation and fidelity. 

Some of them are openly bisexual.

What works for one marriage is none of my business, not any of my concern. It works for those individuals and as long as they are in agreement, that's all that matters.

For that matter, there's a compelling argument, one which I wholly support, in favor of polyamorous marriage. Polyamory exists in forms other than the highly religious polygamy we've been spoonfed on reality television. I know several polyamorous families forbidden from legalizing their bonds to one another for the simple fact that there are more than two of them. They live together, raise their children as one cohesive unit. In many ways, poly marriages would actually be more functional than two person marriages, particularly in the area of parenting, because of economies of scale. More adults in a home setting means that more of them are able to pursue full time careers, fewer need to be present for the raising of children. It's amazing to see in action, though that requires you get over whatever your preconceived ideas of marriage are supposed to look like.

I'm not sure at what point people in this country became so hyperfocused on how other people live their lives, while at the same time defending their absolute right to do as they pleased in their own lives.

I wouldn't want someone examining my marriage from the outside, condemning or condoning the choices I've made. I doubt anyone out there reading this would either. Just because I might not choose something for myself doesn't make it wrong for someone else.

Why then does it matter how other people's marriages work? Why does it matter what they look like or who they include?

Short answer.

It shouldn't.

I'll do me.

You do you.

Let's talk about the journey to equality, not claim we're already there.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A place called there

It is often said that life isn't about the destination, but is instead about the journey required to get there, wherever there is. That all assumes that a place called "there" exists.

I know that my vision of there has changed dramatically over the years, altered irrevocably by the very journey I believed myself to be on in order to get there.

I've never arrived.

You have to wonder though what happens in the event someone ever ends up exactly where intended to someday, or at least these are the things I wonder about. What happens when and if the life train pulls into that station? If you've completed the precise goal you always intended, if you've done what you planned, if you've completed whatever brought you to that point?

Obviously most of us never get there, wherever it is that our individual theres might be. Life interferes, it laughs abundantly in our confused faces and pulls us off the tracks, setting us down on some other track that we never even realized existed until that precise moment, one that had remained hidden until life illuminated it, usually under a blinding spotlight.

The new destination, often unknown at least initially. We usually need time to process the track left abandoned, the one that we'll likely never see or travel again. We need time to mourn, and often we need time to even realize that something worth mourning is gone.

For me, that track, the one that went one way while I went another, it remained in sight but just out of reach for a very long time. Lord knows that I tried all I could for far too long to get back there. Well over a decade of misplaced efforts reaching for a life I'd never live, of wishing for something that would never be.

How much time I wasted chasing this imagined life of someone I wasn't anymore.

Since the first major time there was altered irreversibly in my life, there have been others. Many others.

Some of them were relatively minor alterations to the course of my life, while others were entire re-writes that began with a sudden ceremonial burning of the book I thought I was writing, both literally and figuratively.

I wasn't supposed to be a writer.

This thing that defines me more than almost anything else, something I never imagined someday being.

Some of the paths in my life were revealed to be deceptions, falsehoods, places I thought I was going but never was, not really anyway.

These experiences changed me more than any other in some aspects, solidified who I truly always was in others. Maybe they just revealed the truth.

This version of me on this journey now to wherever it is that I'm going is a hell of a lot different than any prior version.

I've set and achieved goals in my life, sure, but never felt like I was there, mostly because I'm not even sure where there might be anymore.

Just one of the many lessons I have learned, thanks in large part to all my derailments.

I wonder though, are there people who get there someday? Then what?

I'd imagine that it's only ever even possible if a person was to attain the pinnacle of their chosen field or accomplished something of great significance. And then what - where does one go from there?

The answer surely can't be a book deal and lifetime of speaking engagements, can it?

Or perhaps there has nothing to do with measurable success, at least not for most people. Perhaps there is simpler, smaller, more attainable.

Perhaps there isn't a destination at all.

Perhaps there is here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the holy hell I'm getting old edition

Hey. I probably don't have much time because the battery on the laptop is slowly dying and the baby has been asleep for just over two hours. But, for the love, I need to get some of this stuff out of my brain.

* Aging Gracefully

Sure, it's great in theory until more and more people in your house approach and/or surpass your height and can tell you when it's time to dye your hair again. And ohmygodmom it's so gray now. What happened?

Hmmm, child. I have some theories.

As I was sitting with the dye on top of my head today, I decided to tackle my eyebrows, only to realize upon having a good close look that a whole bunch of them are gray now too. White really. Like invisible. So, not only do I still have bushy eyebrows in the places I don't want them, I have to fill in the rest because it's so sparse up there.

Yes.

Aging.


But enough about me.

* Birthright citizenship

Oh for the love of Thor, where am I even supposed to start with this one? This is the new sexy issue for the presidential candidates to argue about, one that is so deliciously enticing to them because it feeds off subtle (and not so subtle) racism.

There are some (far too many) people in this country who don't seem to understand that birthright citizenship is actually part of the Constitution. It's in the 14th Amendment. Anyone born subject to the jurisdiction of the country (i.e. within the borders is one of the ways), is a citizen by birth. End of story.

This whole rhetoric is based on a lot of half truths and flat out lies about illegal immigration in this country that have been spun so far out of proportion that it's hard to see where the little snippets of truth really are anymore. Candidates are getting defensive about their use of the term anchor babies, refusing to see that it's offensive. The children born here are citizens. Period.

If anything, they're actually born at a pretty significant disadvantage since their birth doesn't automatically confer any benefits at all to their families. They can't petition to have their parents stay, their parents can be (and are far more often than most people realize) deported. In those cases, the children often leave the country with the parents because the only options for them to stay are if there is a family member not being deported, or getting placed into the foster care system.

This movement underfoot to remove this type of citizenship is a bit on the preposterous side when you consider what would actually have to happen if it were to be eliminated - a Constitutional amendment. The last amendment ratified in modern times was the 27th, having to do with Congressional salaries. It took 202 years to be ratified. The 26th amendment lowered the voting age to 18, a far more recent amendment, passed quickly. In 1971.

The equal rights amendment was never ratified because there was too much disagreement about it. The likelihood that an amendment removing birthright citizenship would even get through Congress and even make it to the states is minute; the chances of it ever being ratified, virtually nonexistent.

Let's not make this any more than it is - political posturing that feeds on fear and racism.

* Ashley Madison and the fallout

The site is disgusting. I hate that it exists, I hate that there were so many registered users, I hate that there are people all over the country (well, world, I suppose) hurting because of the fallout of the data hack. I'm concerned (enough) about the users who were revealed to be on the site, but I'm more concerned about their spouses and families.

There are a few things I wanted to briefly discuss though, food for thought if you will.

- The data is reporting that between 90-95% of the users were male. Assuming that many of them were on the site in the hopes of finding a female affair partner, you have to wonder how many of them actually met someone physically in person through the site...or if they were all talking to bots the whole time. Chances are decent, in my mind, that just because someone registered on the site doesn't mean they had physical contact as a result.

- Having said that, intent matters. Intent fucking matters a lot, because looking for an affair requires someone to willingly discard their personal integrity and honesty in the relationship they're supposed to be faithful in. That first step is the biggest one. If you don't want to stay, leave. Don't cheat. FFS.

- Even as hard as it is to feel sorry for those who've had their affair seeking revealed, the size and scope of this data breech should be alarming to anyone. Just because this group is hard to conjure sympathy for doesn't negate the enormity of the information being hacked here.

- There are many more victims than those revealed to be on the site. Their spouses and families are victims here too, though those releasing the information may believe that they're doing them a favor. Finding something like this out is hard enough, but to have to do it all so publicly ups the ante for all involved. Nothing like public humiliation to go with your ordinary humiliation.

* Frat Houses 

There is yet another story this year about signs being hung from fraternity houses telling parents to drop off their freshman daughters there, (and mom too).

Hardy-har-har.

So funny. Not.

For the love.

When I was a freshman in college, I rushed sororities. Not because I had any interest in it at all, but because my Mom REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted me to do it. Fine. Whatever.

I got all dressed up and tried to be nice to a bunch of strangers. Then we went for a walk down the row. Most of the frats had guys outside, organized, watching us walk up and down the street. A few had drug out the couches so they could be more comfortable during the viewing.

One held up signs rating us as we walked by. I left and didn't go back the next day.

Over 20 years ago.

This shit isn't new, but it's still fucking disgusting. This isn't just one fraternity at one school. This is what rape culture looks like, you guys.

* This week in post racial America

There was a group of black women, members of a book club, kicked off a winery tour train because they were being too loud. Those who refuse to see that this is racism at work defended the action as necessary because of the noise level. Except that groups of white women haven't been kicked off in the past, no matter how loud they were. Mmmhmmm.

There are two competing dialogues about the anniversary of Katrina going on right now, and the distance between them reveals a lot about the state of race in this country. In the area hardest hit, whites are far more likely to be pleased with the rebuilding efforts and progress, while blacks are far more likely to say that work still hasn't been done.

It has taken a long time, but there are finally some real changes taking place in Ferguson. A judge issued an order withdrawing all outstanding arrest warrants that are more than a year old and reissued all licenses that were suspended for reasons like missing a court date or failing to pay a fine. There are accusations of a strong bias in the legal system there, amounting to what is referred to as a debtors prison that disproportionately affected blacks. This will clear the records of many people. Change, goddamn...it's slow and hard, but every step forward counts.

Alrighty then, my battery light is flashing and I'm being paged by a tiny man. Rage on, my friends, rage on.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Making Peace With the Girl in the Mirror

The post below was one that I wrote over a year and a half ago. It's been sitting, unpublished, in my draft folder ever since. I couldn't bring myself to hit the publish button then, for whatever reason. I'm publishing it now, unedited, because it's time.

I may not like who I've been in the past, I may not like who I am capable of becoming, but I refuse to hide it anymore. Admitting it is hard, but necessary.

------------------------------------------

I write about mirrors here a lot. Even my guest posters have written about them. Sometimes they are the literal mirrors, the ones that show our physical beings to us accurately, whether we want them to or not.

It's rare that I'm literal around here, though most of you probably already know that by now.


Usually when I'm talking about mirrors, I'm talking about reflecting on more than our physical selves. More than just checking our makeup and hair, straightening those collars, eyeballing the lines sinking deeper and deeper into our skin. I'm talking about seeing who we are, who we really are, far beyond the physical.

I find it harder to lie to myself when I'm looking in a mirror. It forces me to be honest with what is going on, even if it hurts.

The past few years have been growth years for me. Growth, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, doesn't come without the requisite growing pains. It hurts, this process.

I've forced myself to admit things I don't want to admit. I've owned my responsibility for choices I have made, people I have hurt. I have replayed events in my head like a broken record time and time again, trying to tease out what really happened, then somehow trying to reconcile that with what I had allowed myself to believe.

It mostly started a few years ago, in, of all places, my childhood bedroom. I had retrieved a bag of belongings from the attic where I had hidden them away years before then. Things I thought I needed to keep, things I could not let go of, but things I didn't want with me until then.

In that bag was a box, and in that box were letters and notes that had been written on loose leaf paper in junior high decades earlier. Little pieces of who I was, who they were, folded up in different shapes, passed under desks and hidden in lockers. Secrets. Questions. Polls.

Some of them made me laugh. Some of them were pleasant memories of the friendships I had back then. Some of them, bitter reminders of the people who went one way while I went another.

Then there were the hard ones to read. The ones that told me that I was wrong about so much I had believed. That I was the one to blame. That I was the reason they all distanced themselves. That they tried, oh how they tried. Some of them tried far longer than they should have.

I sorted them. Put them in chronological order. Then I saw it.

The notes told me that they did the best they could until they couldn't do it anymore. That they walked away because I was toxic and damaged and I was damaging them and none of it was fair.

At the time, and for most of my life afterwards, I blamed them. I thought they abandoned me. I thought someone had spread a rumor or told a story or tossed me under a bus and that they all believed whoever this mythical enemy was. I was hurt because I truly believed it all.

Then, twenty years later, sitting on my bedroom floor, I re-read the letters and notes and I saw it.

It was me. It was always me.

I was in a bad place. A bad, bad place. Being in a bad, bad place is not an excuse for what I did. It's just the reason I was such a mess, coupled with who I am hardwired to be.

I was fourteen and I was lost. My parents were struggling with their marriage and I was too old to be insulated from any of it. I was drinking. I was drinking a lot. I managed to hide the drinking from them both for a very long time since they were preoccupied with what was happening between them.

I was teetering on the edge of the bottle already. At 14.

I had taken up smoking too, stealing the cigarettes from my parents.

I smoked my first cigarette at an Al-Anon meeting. Ironic, yes?

I rationalized it all. Told myself that it wasn't me.

I did things, some terrible things, to people I loved, friends I cherished, all of whom deserved a better version of me than existed at the time.

I rationalized it all. Told myself that it wasn't me.

I still struggle with guilt now for what happened then. Realizing that the monsters weren't out there, but right here inside of me was an unsettling to say the least.

It took me almost twenty years to see it.

Once they'd all distanced themselves from me, I wallowed a bit. Things got a lot worse before they got better. I was bitter and angry and blinded to my role in it all.

I stopped smoking because I could feel myself becoming addicted. I wanted to feel my lungs burn and then do it again. Over and over. I knew that if I didn't stop then that I would never be able to. I knew that it would kill me someday just as I feared it would kill my parents.

I stopped drinking because I had no one to go to parties with anymore. I didn't drink again with any regularity until I was in college, until I was older, until I had a better grasp on it all.

I stopped because I was slipping down into the rabbit hole.

I live in fear of that rabbit hole every day.

All those years later, I realized why I had kept that box and tucked it away. I needed to read it when I was finally ready. I needed to face who I was, I needed to see the truth. I needed to understand that I wasn't the victim, but that they were.

I needed to confront my past.

I needed to take a long hard look in the mirror.

I'm not that girl anymore, but now I embrace the truth that I can become her. I know that I have been her. I remember. I own it.

I still haven't forgiven her yet, but we're on the way.

I'm learning to make peace with her, one mirror at a time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Before you go to school this year, 2015 edition


To The Oldest,

Good lord, what happened? No, seriously though, how did you get to be this old? It seems like it was just last year that I put you on the bus the first day of kindergarten and followed it to school just to make sure you were fine (you were). Tomorrow you're starting high school and it is all surreal. Well, for me it is anyway. You seem perfectly okay with it all, especially since you've spent more time hanging out at the high school than anywhere else lately.

I wasn't prepared at all for what we were agreeing to when you said you wanted to do drumline last year, but I will forever be grateful that you did it. You've grown up so much just in these past few months, you've found something you love to do, a group of people that share that joy. I wonder now what high school might have been like for me if I'd have had half of your confidence back then, if I'd have been brave enough to join something as huge and time consuming as band. I see how much fun you're having, how excited you are to begin this next chapter. It's amazing. 

This year is going to test you, push you, ask more of you. School is about to get a whole lot harder, in part because you asked for the challenge. You can do it, I know that you can. There are times it seems like you're being pulled in a million different directions and I can tell you that isn't going to get better any time soon. You just made Life Scout last night and I know you want to finish Eagle. That won't be easy either, but I know you can do it. We're here to help.

Friendships are going to change more than they already have. You'll meet so many new people. Some of your old friends will still be there, some of them won't. Sometimes you'll understand why people leave, sometimes you won't, and it will always hurt at least a little bit. You're going to fall in love, and chances are that someone who has no idea how lucky they are to have you love them won't appreciate it. That sucks and there's no way I can tell you to avoid it because it's just part of life. I'm supposed to tell you that whoever you meet in high school won't matter ten years from now, that high school relationships don't last...but you know I can't do that because I was only a few months older than you are now when I met your father. It can happen. 

Make good choices. (I'm going to say that a lot this year. Like A LOT. I'll probably yell it at you a few times.) Stay organized. Get your work done first, then do everything else. Learn a lot. Play hard. I'm proud of you.

To Freckles,

It's weird because I'm sitting here not even sure where to start. You're so ready for school to start back, you've been prepping for it all summer. You read every book in the house, some of them twice. I even managed to convince you to read Jane Eyre

School is your happy place. You love to learn, you love to be with your friends. You thrived in middle school last year, and now you're a veteran middle schooler. I don't have to tell you that because you already know. 

I know you know

This year will be one that teaches you many things, not the least of which is how to deal with a teacher you don't love. The downside to looping teachers is that if you get one that doesn't fit great, you're stuck with them for the duration. It's not the worst experience in the world though, because the truth is that you will always be surrounded by people that you don't get along with perfectly. Learning how to do what needs to be done anyway is a huge life skill. I wish you didn't have to learn it this way, but believe me when I tell you that you'll be glad you learned how to do it now instead of being forced to do it for the first time as an adult. You aren't going to like everyone and everyone isn't going to like you. Real life isn't preschool, and we don't have to all be friends. Honest.

You had me sign you up to play soccer again this year, this time through the school. It's been a couple of years since the last time you stepped off that field, and I know that there's always been a little piece of your heart that regretted giving it up. It will be hard, soccer has always been hard for you with your lungs. We'll have to wait and hope that you've outgrown at least some of that asthma. If not, though, we'll figure it out and do whatever we have to do to keep you running. 

You've grown up so much this past year. You've made some amazing new friends, cultivated relationships with the ones who've always been there, seen more than a few fade into the background. And you've done all of it, every single bit of it, with grace. You've stayed as far away from drama as possible, you've bowed out of conflicts, you've said no thank you to the petty arguments and disagreements. Life will be much better for you if you can keep doing that.

Stay grounded. Keep learning how to deal with people you don't like, because that is never going to change. Stay quirky and unique and funny and kind. Continue to read everything you can get your hands on. Run as fast as you can. I'll be on the sidelines, just far enough away, cheering you on quietly so things don't get weird. 

To Mini Me,

Walking into the school last night was bizarre. It didn't really hit me until then that you'd be the big kid on campus now. Back when we first moved here, when your brother started school there, you were just a baby. You learned to crawl in those hallways. 

I remember how much you mourned the day when your brother finished there, when he wasn't going to be around anymore. You used to run up to him and hug him whenever you saw him on the playground. You thought it would be weird without him there, but it wasn't. You were fine. You thrived. Made a name for yourself instead of just being so and so's little sister. 

Then your sister left. By then, though, anyone who knows you two had long since realized just how different you are. You are a million questions, with a little bit of worry and a whole lot of glitter. And now you're the big kid. It just doesn't even seem possible. 

You've worked so hard this past year, pushing yourself more and more with reading. You read an entire chapter book in one day this summer, and if I'd told you last year that you'd do that someday you would have told me I was crazy. But you did it. 

There is so much to look forward to this year for you, so many new experiences and adventures. So many opportunities await you in these next few months. Camping trips and choir concerts and projects and more. I know you worry about school getting harder. It has and it will continue to do that, but you're so much smarter than you ever give yourself credit for. I look at you and I see someone who has to fight a little harder for everything, but you do it. You always do it. 

You know that your brain works a little bit differently than most peoples do, and that's okay. For so many years I believed that it was a hindrance, these brains of ours, yours and mine, but I know now that I was wrong. I was so wrong. We see the world in all the ways other people never do. We hear more, we see more, we feel more. Sometimes it takes everything in you to sort out the noise, to quiet the clutter, to concentrate on the task at hand...but you know what? Sometimes that chaos is really beautiful too. 

Stay passionate. Keep working hard every single day. Believe in yourself, and know that if there is ever a moment when the doubt sneaks in, I'm here, rooting for you. You can do it. You can do anything. In heels.

To Little Boy,

When your teacher saw you last night and the first thing she noticed was that you've grown so tall, I choked up a little bit. You have grown. A lot. All the pants you've finally outgrown are evidence of that, but it's not just the length of your legs that has changed. Not even close.

When you started first grade last year, we were unsure how it would go. Nervous. To say that kindergarten had been rough for you would be an understatement. It was awful, almost all of it. You walked into first grade without the tools you needed, but your teacher equipped you quickly. She figured out your quirks, she caught on quickly to how you learn best. And you thrived. 

This summer, we've spent so much time focusing on sight words, trying to boost that basic set of vocabulary to get you reading confidently. I hope we've made some progress. It feels like we have. You just need to remember that you can do this. Read it out loud if you have to. If it sounds wrong, correct it. If you don't know it, sound it out. I know it is hard, but I know you can do it. 

Do your best in the classroom to listen, to behave. Be funny when it's okay to be funny. I know that sometimes you truly just need to run for the fences, and I hope that the schedules this year allow you to do that. When you get outside for recess or p.e., run. Trust me. Run. There's a reason I have you run around sometimes at home, and it's because you need to let that energy out. 

Stay sweet and kind and generous. Work hard. Run whenever you get the chance. Do your best. I don't care how many spelling words you get right. I don't care how many math problems you can do correctly in a minute. I never have and I never will. Those things don't measure how smart you are, don't for one second believe that they ever could. 

To LAK,

Last year when I wrote this, you were still living on the inside, stirring up trouble already. Determined to come into this world on your own terms, you were. As I write this, you're letting go of the furniture and taking 3 steps, then 4 steps, then 5 until you fall flat on your face, then getting up almost immediately and doing it again.

I can't wait to see who you are, aside from stubborn and persistent.

You could slow down just a little bit though. Your mom is old and sentimental and you're the last baby. 

Humor her occasionally.

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