Friday, June 30, 2006
Oso raro's lovely tribute to gay pride moved me to relate my own pride story, or Pride Eve story, about Saturday, the day before pride, which in some cities is dyke day. It's dyke day because it's the day of the dyke march, a tradition that started for me back in the early nineties in New York City, when the girlz decided they needed their own parade of power. I remember marching up the big avenues behind Lesbian Avengers waving giant guns. My friends and I applauded the energy, but guns? we wondered. Weren't we supposed to be a GENTLE Angry People?
This year we faithfully turned up for the dyke march in our city, a much smaller affair up in the northern part of town. Yes, we have Dykes on Bikes. No, we don't have a lot--maybe ten bikes in all. But the ladies are tough as nails, and the bikes are almost all Harleys. They rev their engines and send smoke and fumes into the air, and everyone screams and swoons, and it's good unclean fun.
There are placards, and a few organizations, and people on the sidewalks wondering what we are marching for. There is a group of drummers on the corner making sure we make the turn heading down towards the lake. There are women wearing nothing but crosses of electrical tape over their nipples. Some of us exchange stories about the awkwardness of running into students who insist on hugging us in their electrically-taped dishabille. One of us reflects on the perkiness of young breasts, observing that if she taped Xs on her nipples, no one would see the tape, since everything would be pointing down and hanging so low anyway. Several nod mournfully.
One of the benefits of being older and more experienced is realizing that you can do the main part of the march, then avoid the boring rally afterwards. Also the participants there are 20 years old. This is new to them. We, on the other hand, are hungry.
We cut out, find a cafe, and eat nachos and drink a couple beers. Then it is time to check out the festivities in the neighborhood. Lesbians from the suburbs have flocked in to socialize with other lesbians at bars and boring parties in parking lots where you pay 10 dollars to hear a cover band that sucks, where everyone is a stranger (not in a good way), and a plastic cup of Miller runs you five bucks apiece. Meanwhile, just outside Satan's Sandlot, a perfectly nice bar with window seats looking out on the street sits empty. You have paid dearly for a crappy party, but you choose the bar. It proves a good choice.
You sit with your gf and order a drink. Friends see you in the window and join you. At some point the table is full, and more and more women are coming in the bar. We hold the table, sending out scouts for hotdogs, brats, veggieburgers, fries. At some point it is time to have a roundtable. It begins innocently, with the lesbian ritual known as the Feeling of Muscles. Each bicep is flexed and given appreciative treatment by the group as a whole. Workout strategies are exchanged. I wish to point out that the feminine types are the most eager to have their muscles measured.
It is time for the Throwing Out of Topics. We are all trying to play it cool, but eyes are shining. Everyone is revved up to see so many women pouring out onto the streets of our neighborhood. The whole town seems bursting with lesbians. Bursting.
"Vibrators: Blessing or Curse?" is the first topic, followed by "Dildos: Relationship Fad or Fixture?" And we're off.
I'm happy to report that despite some of us grumbling that vibrators have ruined the finesse of lesbian sex (how are those machine-dependent girls ever going to learn technique?) most of us are eager FOH, or Friends of Hitachi, which if you don't know is the Harley of vibrators. Accept no substitutes.
I am also happy to report that while some of us only strap it on occasionally and even listlessly, others among us cultivate a dildo collection with rare discernment. I learned that one way to impress your girl is to carry your toys in a briefcase. Agent 99, we've simply got to go over this paperwork!
As the evening wore on, most of us became more animated, rather than less. It began to dawn on gf and I that this was all adding up to big time foreplay for the couples around us. Even the single people seemed to be planning a hot date with themselves. The final straw was a heated discussion about the best time of the day for sex, followed by an analysis of days of the week. By the time the group broke up, it seemed pretty sure that everyone in the group was going to get lucky that night.
So did we? They? Answering these questions directly can be construed as crass, but I can say with absolute certainty that no one should ever underestimate the empowering effects of sexualized conversation on a group of lesbians sitting in a bar filled with lesbians on a street populated by lesbians in a city euphoric for gay pride. That's all I'm saying.
The next day was fun, but anticlimactic after the night before (cough). We ran into some of the same friends on the street during the pride parade, and we all hung out for a while in the sun. At one point I thought I'd joke with them. "So, was the evening successful?" I asked, laughing. One friend answered me right away.
"Let's just say I told her there was no way she was coming home last night and playing with the dog!"
That reminds me of a good topic for next year's bar panel. "Lesbians cats and dogs: amiable roommates or kinky, furry little voyeurs?"
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I take my trip to State School Town to look at housing. The day is gorgeous--partly sunny and dry, with temperatures in the 70s. I dawdle until noon, then finally start on the road.
The day feels surreal and dreamlike, especially because one of the main roads out of the city is under construction, and that means vast tracts of concrete in the middle of a busy highway have become pedestrian squares filled with construction workers and swirling white dust. Driving slowly by in one lane of traffic, I think about walking versus driving, about feeling the ground under my feet, about the engineering marvel of the highway, about Roman times, about the thin wires of technology holding up everyday reality. I remember the time a girlfriend and I hitchhiked to Connecticut my first year of college, drinking peppermint schnapps out of a bota bag by an underpass to pass the time before going back out on the road to stick out our thumbs. When too many cars went by us, she would announce that it was time to take down my hair. I would undo my braid, and shake out my waist-length locks. She was smart. Truckers usually stopped for us right away.
Today I open the sunroof, turn up the ac (a very un-pc trick taught to me by my southern California gf) and crank the tunes on my ipod.
The drive in June is much nicer than it is in March. The fields are kale-green and the sky is big and warm. There are MacDonalds everywhere, though that is not a good thing. I realize I am hungry, stop, buy, and eat a fish filet, and marvel at the angry feeling it gives my body for hours afterward. I am no health food nut, but there is no way that food isn't bad bad bad for you.
I enter town with a map, my face slightly tanned from the drive, and kill a half-hour navigating around. I have lived in towns like this one before. It is pretty and suburban, with shady streets and sidewalks next to real working fields. The University sprawls along the main road of town, its older pavilions and arenas set back from the street. It isn't a striver's school, such as you find in the east, or in the city; it doesn't have to compete with private small colleges or elite universities nearby. This University, the flagship university of a midwestern state, possesses a stately, middle-class assurance, its boundary lines marked with large brick wall-corners like you find in upscale housing developments.
I find my first house--a low, pleasant ranch on a leafy, well-manicured lot. I meet the owner and his father, the first a youngish kid in his twenties looking to find his way in the world, the second his highly successful dad desperate to make sure his son gets a profession. I talk with them for an hour, for once grateful that I am not a boy with wealthy parents. At first I think there is no way I can live here. Let's just say there is no sense of feng shui to be had in the arrangement of furniture in the rooms. Let's just say the father corrects everything you say. Let's say I grow tired trying to introduce topics of conversation. Let's say it's too easy to picture a house full of 25-year-old boys watching football and me, the strange older woman with really short hair, skulking around the kitchen.
After talking with them, though, I look around with fresh eyes. The dad has grilled me, and is satisfied that I am a serious person--a prize, in fact. My PhD apparently means that I know how to study. My age and gender suggest I'm not looking to marry his son. He wants my gravitas to rub off on his progeny. The kid just wants a living situation that isn't depressing. I just want roommates who don't care if I spend weekends away in the city with my gf, or am always in the library, or eat nothing but frozen diet dinners for months on end. I walk outside. Across the street is a field of vegetable plots you could rent if you wanted a garden. A tar running path runs down the road, rolling away towards parks and more fields. A running path.
I remember what it was like for me to live in a town much like this one, years and years ago. Just out of college, starting an MA, I took up running and quit the cigarette habit I began in high school. I remember the cameraderie of that town, where everyone was either a student, a professor, or someone who had moved there for school and stayed there for the quality of life. I remember the bars, the library, the peaceful, disciplined routine one lives on the way to a goal. It was the same when I moved to another state and another college town for my PhD. Classes, then working out, then a quick dinner, then the library. Every day happily the same, with excess and despair pushed to the margins by the the dream of completion. Long bike rides on winding back roads. The hot summer smells of dust and rain and sun on freshly-oiled tar.
This kind of life runs on dreams. The dream of graduation, the dream of an academic job, the dream, now, of a law degree and a decent position back in the city, a new car for the first time in my life, a place owned, not rented. New dreams, but also old ones. I have been here before, taking small but determined steps towards goals that forever recede from me, a Zeno's paradox of progress and delay, desire and frustration.
I have two hours to kill before my next appointment, so I find a coffee shop and order a giant latte. I have a trashy historical romance that I can't put down. My skin is tingling from all these new places. I am already becoming new, or old, or something that feels more realized.
I drive to the next house at the exact hour. It is a big, rambling farmhouse. In the back is a huge lot and a wild, overgrown vegetable garden. Green onions have thickened and shot up four feet high. A squash plant has clambered up the compost heap. In the undergrowth I see two sturdy rows of kale greens.
A very pregnant young woman greets me at the door. She is friendly, foreign. In the kitchen a big wooden table and benches mark a communal space. Someone is boiling pasta. I meet several women, all warm. There are plants everywhere, in the windows, on the shelves. I think maybe I could like it here. Someone offers to show me the house.
We walk back out to the garden. My guide has no idea what is growing there, and intimates that the vegetable garden is a cyclical phenomenon, dependent on the current tenants and their inclinations. Visions of gardening dance in my head. I start cataloguing the vegetables I will grow. A big tuft of tigerlilies sits in the yard, reminding me of home. This is looking good.
The livingroom is my first warning that all is not well. There isn't a scrap of carpet on the well-worn wooden floor. All the furniture is threadbare, sunken, and slightly sticky-looking. Nothing matches. The walls haven't seen paint or paper in years. Boxes and air conditioners sit by the front door, along with a few wooden chairs. The windowsill on the window by the stairs is naked wood, gray and ragged. The sagging, scuffed stairs going to the second floor ring hollow under my feet, like little wooden drums.
Upstairs, the rooms are bare and worn. One bedroom has cheerful peach paint; the rest are in various states of catastrophe. One has a sleeper loveseat for a bed, and papers and empty cups everywhere on the floor. "My" room looks as if a tripping person tried to paint it twenty years ago but kept running out of paint, trying different colors until finally giving up and falling asleep. The ceiling is peeling and hanging down in places. Most rooms have mattresses on the floor. Nobody has a rug, or a pretty bedspread, or a FREAKING BROOM. The upstairs apartment, which has its own kitchen and bathroom, is the homiest space in the house, but occupied.
Slightly disturbed, I go down to dinner.
Everyone introduces themselves, giving charming two-minute speeches. Some of them have come back to school. Some are undergraduates. Some have gone away and come back, unable to find something somewhere else to hold them. Most talk of moving on this month, this summer, this year--to another house, another city, or traveling. They have dignity. They are transient. They come back over and over to live cheap, regroup, reinvent themselves. They ask me about myself and I tell them. They murmur supportively.
I tell them that I like them, and I mean it. They are wonderful, thoughtful, rootless. I wish I could live here. I know I could take over, fix things, clean it up, make it better. Rugs, paint, and little ceiling tape would work wonders. I have enough to do as it is, though. I also have to reinvent myself. I have to have carpets, comfort, a running path, a grown-up life. I drive away into the darkness, gauging how it feels to be going back to the city. I have to imagine coming back, too. In the dark I am doing both, remembering the cycles of leaving and return I have known elsewhere, trying to imagine the kinds of movement that will come.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Law school starts in less than two months, and I have absolutely no idea yet where I'm going to live. And it's driving me crazy.
I'm totally stressed out about moving away, leaving my home with gf, missing my cats, dealing with lots of strange people under 25, being a big old dyke in a midwestern university town, failing, being disorganized, being lonely, having too many friends.
It's not as if I haven't been obsessing about housing for months now. It's not as if I couldn't have gotten this squared away a while ago. I think this is the reason for my obsessively combing the housing ads, posting profiles on the admitted students forum, asking all my friends for advice, and doing tarot readings over and over and over again.
See, I'm the kind of person who likes to get stuff like this squared away. And the cards are telling me I can't do it like that.
So far I've posted two profiles on the housing section of the admitted students forum and gotten one response, from a guy also starting law school who decided to buy a house. Our emails have never really connected, and I eventually gave up on him. I checked out cooperative housing, and even made a date to go check out one house of seven people. I asked the cards. They weren't crazy about the idea AT ALL.
I looked at apartments ads. I asked the cards. "Hmmm . . . nah," they said.
Then last week, the day before I am supposed to go check out the group house, I burn my face and neck frying chicken for a dinner for my friends. I had just realized I didn't have a splatter guard for my skillet, made the decision to transfer the chicken to a safer pot, and then, before I could even move it, it popped at me. It was as if I knew it would happen.
I still made a fabulous dinner of fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, coleslaw, and gravy; I just looked like I had taken my face for a drive.
So now I have burns on my neck and one cheek, and I'm feeling really, really attractive. Again I ask the cards about housing. This time the cards are read for me by a friend who gives me an aloe plant for my face. "Disaster," the cards say. "Stop rushing this."
My friend looks at me. "There's something you don't know," she says.
"What?" I ask.
"I don't know," she says. "The cards think you are afraid."
By now I am. I postpone the trip.
So I plan another visit, even though the cards are making me feel really bad about this. "How about getting my own place?" I ask.
"Maybe," they say.
"Is that all you can give me?" I ask.
"For now," they say.
I ask about the trip. "It's a good trip," they say.
I am thinking, "How can it be a good trip if the house is wrong?" But I don't argue with them. You can't argue with the cards, you know.
Today I hear back from the guy with the house. The original guy I lost track of a while back. He writes me an email saying he's been off email. Am I still interested in the house?
I tell him I'm planning a trip there, and suggest we meet that day. I haven't heard back from him yet, but I ask the cards about his house.
The last card that comes up for me is the Hanged Man, a card of reflection. The Hanged Man suggests one is able to see things from a new perspective, and re-evaluate the meaning and purpose of life before the next stage of a journey or undertaking.
I think maybe the cards are considering this place. I am taking care not to rush into anything. I am being positive and flexible. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
I went with gf and some friends to see "A Prairie Home Companion" last night, partly because I'm an Altman fan, partly because the cast of the movie is terrific. Like many people, I have always had ambivalence about the Garrison Keillor radio show. On the one hand, "A Prairie Home Companion" kept me company long nights on the road ever since college, and made many a Saturday on a dark stretch of highway less dreary. I've listened to Garrison Keillor croon while driving from Central Pennsylvania to New Hampshire, New Jersey to New Hampshire, Miami to Kentucky, North Carolina to Chicago, and Chicago to Boston, as I chased my life and ran away from it at the same time. For decades I've thought pretty much the same thing about the show, which is that it is a time capsule of sorts--not of the twenties or thirties or forties, which is what Keillor strives for, but of the eighties, with its nostalgia for a trumped-up version of the American past. Keillor's nostalgia for normative America (don't let the so-called "characters" of Lake Wobegon fool you) has always set my teeth on edge. There's never a poor part of Lake Wobegon. Nobody talks about trying to ignore the bad smell of some kids on the bus who live in dysfunctional families where clothes don't get washed too often. Nobody's father is sleeping with them. No families are kicked out of their houses for falling behind on mortgages or rent.
In Lake Wobegon, hostility is a character trait, not a product of class despair. Nobody get's knocked around by dad, or verbally humiliated by mom. There are no gay people, no transgender kids, no wives who leave their husbands and take up with butch female taxi drivers. Nobody finds out that their high school boyfriend is sleeping with their best friend, or that people who you think are your friends are secretly laughing at you. Nobody sends his family out to buy groceries one afternoon and blows up his garage, and himself with it. Nobody gets drunk and lights themself on fire in the middle of town.
But these things really happen in small-town America. At least they did when I was growing up. Nowadays you could add a story about a neighbor with a meth lab, I guess, but the texture is the same. I know that Keillor is smart--very smart--but where's the pain of the smart kid who sees too much? There are no Joycean epiphanies in Lake Wobegon. Nobody feels things too deeply, or thinks too much. This is a radio show. All growing pains, joys, lusts, and betrayals can be sublimated by eating a big, fat, juicy slice of rhubarb pie. I know there's something dark in that, but we are never allowed to dwell much on it. As Sam Anderson points out in Slate's "A Prairie Home Conundrum: The Mysterious Appeal of Garrison Keillor," it's hard to know exactly what Keillor wants to satirize and what he wants us to feel fond about. "Keillor's humor has always been a bit of a puzzle," Anderson writes. "What is its irony/sincerity ratio? Is he mocking Midwesterners or mocking the rest of us via Midwesterners?"
Anderson's query about whether Keillor is satirizing Midwesterners or satirizing "us," while important, fails because it has already fallen into the Prairie Home Trap; on Keillor's radio show, we accept these Midwestern types as real BECAUSE we are so different from them. The "us" we become as we listen yearns for the simple earnestness of the Minnesota Lutheran, the prosthetic normativity of the Lake Wobegoner troubled by little more than long winters and vague regrets. Nobody gets queerbashed or race-baited in Lake Wobegon. Nobody gets turned down for pie.
And this "us" is insidious, bearing a distinct resemblance to the "us" whose wealth needed to be protected so as to trickle down in the Reagan Revolution, the "us" whose country needed to go to war under the Bushes, the "us" so eager to be mainstream that we allowed the legacy of a sexually and economically transformative social revolution to shrivel into gay marriage. As the comic strip Pogo famously pointed out, the enemy is us. And this creeping identification with the very values we should be trying to change is what probably makes many of us so cross--at him, at ourselves, at a life that isn't fair-- when Keillor croons seductively at us over the radio. Not Rex Reed cross, perhaps, but cross nonetheless.
The Altman movie is a little different. There, the singing sister act on the radio show is two middle-aged women on the edge. The Garrison Keillor character is an absentminded, logorrheic Lothario. People die and tell dirty jokes. I liked the Altman movie better than the radio show because there was a little more darkness there, not just in the places you were supposed to find it, like the dead guy and the angel of death and the love affairs that end badly, but in the simple sadness of the Johnson Sisters, played by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin, who in one strangely amazing scene, sing a sappy song about their dead mother that is deeply affecting. Their sagging faces and sad eyes reveal identities still traumatically tied to the little girls they were when they sang to cheer up a mother scrubbing floors. They still see themselves as these people, but what we see are two Baby Janes without the camp irony, connecting with the emotional part of themselves that still feels real and can only be brought out in song. It's a cliche that the performer is only alive when she is performing, but in this case Streep and Tomlin infuse the cliche with real pathos and believeability.
Their sadness is almost without dignity, because life goes on, and you are supposed to move on with it, and they really haven't. This attachment to a dead way of feeling that is nevertheless deeply alive for them in the present is a great metaphor for the whole project of "A Prairie Home Companion," and Altman gets this. He shrewdly lets his movie add a dark shadow of satire to Keillor's mythic Midwest, with its vaudeville circuit, roaming performers, and little restaurants where diners ward off modernity by eating pie, making biscuits, and singing gospel songs in the midwestern twilight.
Ah, the mythic Midwest. Just thinking about its wholesome values makes me want to take the fifteen minute drive down to what the Chicago visitor's bureau refers to as the North Halstead Business District, but everyone else calls Boystown, toss down a couple of shots, and tuck a dollar bill or two in a dancing boy's gold lame shorts. On the same street is a diner where all the poor gays go to eat before going out to the bars, and where all the drunk gays go to sober up after the bars close at night. They serve pie, too, but gf and I aren't really big on desserts.
Friday, June 09, 2006
"OPERATION MOPPING UP" BY PATRICIA OLSEN
Every so often the Social Security office sends out earnings statements to freak me out. I just got one in the mail, and opened it more from idle curiosity than anything else. My taxed earnings began in 1976, making this the 30th anniversary of my official labor life. In 1976 I was 14, and it looks like I made 13 dollars. In 1977 it went up to 188, then 393, then 912. The year Reagan was elected I went to college, and made 1,587 dollars--summer earnings at minimum wage at the counter of a general store in the tiny town in New Hampshire where I grew up. It stayed the same throughout college, then doubled when I got a TA in grad school, doubled again the next year, and almost reached 10 grand in 1986.
It drops off for a couple years after that, as I delivered pizzas, took the GRE over and over, and worked in group homes for developmentally disabled adults. In 1990, my first year as a TA in a new PhD program, it broke 10,000 dollars, then jumped again when I got a fellowship in 1991, hitting an all time high of 13,205. It wouldn't be so high again until 1995, when I defended my dissertation and took a two year women's studies instructorship at 25K.
Twenty-five thousand dollars seemed like an incredible amount of money to me then. It seems pretty nice now, but when you are a graduate student, anything double digit seems impossibly luxurious. I jumped into the 30s with my first job, then low 40s with my second, and that was it. One year, 2004, I actually broke 50K with summer teaching, the most money I'd ever made. I have had ten years--one third of my labor life--where I have made more than thirteen thousand dollars a year. This year won't be one of them.
The bar graph is dropping again, but there's something oddly comforting about looking at your life as earnings data. The numbers are so much more honest than the everyday cultural message we get on television, in the movies, in advertising that our REAL lives are our leisure hours, as if the time we work isn't real and doesn't matter. As if we don't live it.
But work is the most lived time there is. An hourly job can be like being trapped in a sick body. You don't float free of it; it encases you and drags you down into the interminable minutes and seconds of the present. After you're done, when you feel better, you can't remember it much until you're in it again. I remember watching the clock, opening my paycheck and wishing it was more. I still do that, but I don't have to watch the clock anymore, or punch in, or deliver chicken parmesan sandwiches to scary frat houses at midnight only to get exact change in payment. I may not have a career, but I have mobility that I could only dream about then. I can freelance, I can adjunct, I can land piecemeal professional jobs at part-time hours that pay more than full-time minimum wages. I think about all the families trying to support three, four, five people on that much money or less, working those hourly jobs, sometimes holding several at a time.
I remember my first job washing dishes in a restaurant on weekends, in 1977. Part of the hazing of new dishwashers, called "maggots" by the line cooks, involved playing Bowl-A-Rama with big pots down the length of the kitchen floor, with my feet as the bowling pins. I was supposed to hop around good-naturedly to avoid them, smiling, never showing how upset I was. I remember the filthy floors, the smell of soapy steam from the big dishwashing machines, the potato peeler machine, the french fry cutter, the fryolater full of hot grease. I remember bussing tables, dishes clinking in the dull gray plastic trays, my hands smeared with grease of other people's food. I remember taking cigarette breaks just to have a place in my head that was mine. I remember watching with agony as the clock hands crawled up the side of the wall, impossibly slow.
My first day was hell, but I came back for a second. At the end of the shift I mopped the kitchen floors while the line cooks went out front to smoke, finished for the night. I remember throwing bleach and soap on the smeared, filthy tiles and moving the mop in a curving motion across the muddy suds. I remember the pleasure I felt as the gleaming white floor emerged underneath--a pleasure I still take in a clean floor. At the end of the shift I went out front, and the supervisor gave me a beer out of the group sixpack. We all sat there and smoked before going home, sharing the cameraderie of working people. Tired, with the smell of the grill in our hair, we savored the end of the day with our feet up on chairs, and the good taste of cold beer in our throats.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
I'm trying to process the dinner I had tonight with gf's colleague and her husband, a philosophy PhD who now works for a big law firm in the city. It was a lovely dinner, lively conversation, great food. I was impatient to meet him because I hoped he would have all the answers for me. Was law a good change? Was he happy? Did he regret the self he left behind? WAS there a left behind self? What was his life like? What did he want?
I had heard about Philosopher before--his corporate law job is a big part of why he and Colleague have a lovely condo where they can keep their gorgeous Labrador Retriever siblings, one black and one golden. He went to Elite University Law School. I don't know what I thought he would look like, but I imagined a preppy guy, a little impatient, being genial to his wife's friends.
When I met him I was surprised. He looks more like Beck, but with a stronger chin,and a touch of the young Mick Jagger, only with big, breathtaking green eyes. He wears his bangs long and in his face, and he pulls at them with his pale hands. He has a skinny rocker body. This is the face of corporate law? I thought, feeling like maybe I wouldn't be such a sore thumb lawyer after all, with my four holes in one ear, my wide-gauge barbell earrings, my nose ring, my platinum spiky hair. I know I can't look like this in a law office but still, I will always be wearing a nose ring in my heart, not literally in my heart but in my fantasy of myself. So maybe Philosopher Beck Jagger could go to super-conservative Elite U Law and still keep his rocker soul intact.
I was bursting with questions and he answered them all patiently. He spoke of how going to such a conservative place was really interesting because he could be around people who disagreed with his politics. Then he admitted that some of the economic theory had gotten to him, changed his ideas. I asked him if he had felt alienated trying to keep intact in such a setting. He considered my question as if it had never occurred to him before. I asked if things had gotten better for women there, since Elite U has long had a reputation as NOT a great place for women law students. He told me half the students were women, and that he had lots of women professors.
He got most animated when he spoke of the law clinics at Elite U and how they had convinced him to drop his dream of becoming a law professor and dedicate himself to litigation instead. Colleague told how he had done 300 hours of pro bono work and gotten it all to count towards billable hours, even though the limit is 75.
At dinner we got talking about my job writing encyclopedia entries about dildos and such. He asked me what was interesting about dildos. I talked about the feminist sex wars, the lesbian sex radicals and dildo enthusiasts, the breakaway leather community. He asked why lesbians wanted dildos when they were repulsed by cock. When he said cock, I think gf and I both jumped in our seats. Colleague, GF and I tried to explain that dildos and "cock" had nothing to do with each other. I tried to offer that the insistence with which some lesbians maintain the distinction between cocks and dildos is sometimes unconvincing, if politically expedient. In the back of my mind I was wondering whether any of the stuff I know about gender and sexuality would be useful in my new life. Feminism, maybe. But dildos?
After dinner colleague and GF talked shop, and lawyer Beck sweetly offered to give me his old 1L hornbooks, which was quite amazing, as they are expensive and he didn't even write in them very much. He gave me a lot of them. Looking at all his philosophy books in the livingroom, with very few law books to be seen, I asked him whether he felt that he had let a part of himself go, or whether he felt it was still with him. He told me it was still with him.
Ten minutes later it was time for us to go. Colleague said goodbye and we walked out with Philosopher Lawyer, me staggering under the books, he walking the dog, gf going on ahead to the car, all of us looking away from each other, all of going quietly in different directions down the street. GF was looking for the car. Lawyer Beck was on his way to bed, already dreaming of another job and another time when he spend more time on the underdog and less time paying off his student loans. I was wondering what the future would hold, as I always do these days.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Another disturbing example of carniverous misogyny, pointed out on feministing. What seems bizarre is that this image is being used to sell cosmetics to women. The logic of the ad is that women want to be eaten as if they were shrimp or sushi. Or is it that women want their sushi eaten, and will bend over backwards buying cosmetics in order to get oral sex? Hmm. Maybe this ad campaign isn't quite so bizarre as I thought . . .
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Today we spent the day with college friends of gf and their three wacky and beautiful daughters, age 9, 7, and 2. We tooled around the city, went to the aquarium, played in the postmodern fountain with lots of other shouting, running kids from all over the city, and ate deep dish pizza. I got a sunburn. At dinner we talked about astrology signs. The dad is a Virgo, like me, mellow, like me, and from the country, like me. We found out we were born in the same year, two days apart. The girls asked what astrological signs were. We explained that some people thought that the stars foretold things about your personality, and we told them what their individual signs were and what they meant. I taught them how to cross eyes, then cross one at a time (a special talent of mine that does not especially endear me to mothers). We worked on wiggling ears, and I feel I made some headway with that, too.
We fell in love with those fierce little girls in the space of the afternoon, and tonight, gf spoke sadly about how hard it has been for her to love other people's children and lose them, because of geographic distance, break-ups and lost friends, or just, lost friends. I can't help thinking, though, that the big love of just one afternoon counts for something, even if it's the only afternoon you'll ever get to spend with them running and screaming in the park.
Sometimes Astrology is the best medicine. Here is a lesson in the stars for me (and maybe for other Virgos out there?) for Monday, June 5:
"Through a careless remark, a slight clumsiness, or a wrong word without bad intent, you suddenly find yourself in an embarrassing situation, feel yourself hurt or belittled. If you react in an injured manner, demand apologies or become aggressive, this will only cause further, unnecessary pain for you. Despite this, you should not just compromise but rather think the incident over again, as it points to a particular area in which you are oversensitive and that could, under other circumstances, lead to a complete overreaction. The more you find out about this personal sensitivity the easier it will be to accept it and to make others aware of it."
You can't really go wrong with this advice, can you?
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Woke up to the bad, but not entirely unexpected, news that Bush has decided to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Appparently enshrining hate in the constitution is easier than coming up with a coherent domestic policy (or foreign one, for that matter). The right doesn't think this will fly; the left doesn't think this will fly, but the right assures us that it is better to send ineffectual Republicans back to Washington on a bigotry platform than reassess the complete lack of moral and fiscal responsibility of this administration. I, for one, look forward to the courtroom arguments attempting to justify the so-called "traditional" definition of marriage as between one man and one women. You don't even need to mention gays or lesbians; for starters, here's a nice factoid from one of the more interesting pro-polygamy Christian websites out there:
"Polygamy, more correctly called polygyny, patriarchal or plural marriage (in which two or more women are married to one man) was, together with monogamy, a normal practice of the Hebrew people (until 1000 A.D. when it was outlawed for a thousand years by the Rabbis) and subsequently in the European Christian Church (until 600 A.D. when the Catholic Emperor, Justinian, outlawed, suppressed and persecuted it). Not until the late 20th century did patriarchal Christians begin to come out of hiding and once more begin living this time-honoured and biblical marriage estate."
Aside from the inaccuracy of completely forgetting 19th century Mormons--patriarchal Christians if ever there were some--this is a pretty good summary of Biblical marriage traditions. Not exactly one man and one woman.
Hilaire reports even worse news on the Canadian front: apparently conservative Canadian Prime Minister Brian Harper, no doubt encouraged by his neighboring president to the south, has decided to reopen the question of gay marriage regardless of the fact that Canadian citizens democratically voted to make it legal last summer. Who is he pandering to? Would it be the so-called Christian right?
The illogical appeal to "traditional" marriage isn't really traditional at all, but the right wingers never cared much for history anyway. They want to skip over the last 350 years or so and take back Massachusetts for the men in funny hats with buckles. I wish I could click my heels, go to sleep, and wake up from the nightmare that social policy in this country has become. These days, you may be a proponent of intelligent design, but you also can't help seeing that d(e)evolution happens, baby.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
And not in a good way. Check out the newest of the ever more heinous Burger King ads aimed at "men" (if by "men" you mean the construction of men in these ads as angry resentful slobs intent on hastening their own demise in some kind of misguided attempt to turn back the gender clock).
Once again, Irony+Sexism=Sexism, plain and simple.