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Archive for August, 2009

Real conversation I heard last night on a mainstream popular radio station:

Host (female): “So, the question is, how do you make a guy feel bad about the break up? We need a guy’s opinion. I’ve got Kevin on the line. Hey Kevin.”

Kevin: “How ya doin’, Candy.” [Not her real name.]

Host: “So, Kevin, the break up’s happened and you want to make the guy feel guilty. What do you think’s the best way to go about it?”

Kevin: [who has a nice Texas drawl and a speck of sense] “Well, I mean, if he’s been a real jerk, you should just find a way to tell him, straight up, how you feel about. So, like, if you’re at an event together, and there’s a moment when you see each other, just lay it on the line: ‘Hey, I’ve been wantin’ to talk to ya for a long time and this is how you made me feel.’ We guys shouldn’t be able to get out of how something we did affected someone else.”

[I’m skipping the weird exchange about how everyone knows that women like to stage stealth, post-break up appearances at places the ex-boyfriend used to hang out.]

Host: “Okay, so just be direct. We shouldn’t, like, just ignore you and act like we’re having a great time?”

Kevin: “Definitely not. I mean, if you’re having a good time, don’t let a guy take that away from you, but don’t put on an act; that’s just going to get our guard up.”

Host: “Alright, thanks, Kevin. Greg’s on the line. Hey, Greg. So if there’s been a break up and we really want to make the guy feel bad, should we write a letter, or, you know, send angry texts?”

Greg: “Whatever you do, don’t send emails and texts with guilt trips. Aggression just breeds more aggression. That’s just going go put him against you. The best way to go, actually, is attack yourself.”

Host: “Yeah, What do you mean?”

Greg: “If you attack yourself, we can’t attack you. So start with what you maybe did wrong, and that gives the guy a chance to respond with what maybe he did.”

Host: “Oh, ok, so don’t blame him right off. Take some of the blame and maybe he’ll own up to it. But do you think it helps if we see the guy and just ignore him, like he’s not there?”

Greg: “Well, don’t lie. There’s no point in lying.”

Host [Laughing uncomfortably, like, ‘man do guys live in a different world’]: “So, just be direct. Okay…”

Candy Ass (Definition): The direct opposite of a mooj. A Candy Ass plays games, especially stupid, petty Mars-versus-Venus games like fake happy and silent treatment, refuses to grow up, acts like her only power comes through manipulation and posturing, and is so ubiquitous that she gets to have a radio show at 9 p.m., 105.9, on a Wednesday night. Sadly, the world supports Candy Ass behavior, because it’s more comfortable for a lot of people to see women small, desperate, faking it, and groveling.

Down with Candy Ass, up with Mooj.

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Thank you, Teddy

“He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy.”

– from John Broder’s great profile in today’s New York Times.

Goodbye to a major force in American politics, and a true blue liberal.

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What’s Possible

I have to post about the wedding we went to this weekend, else I fear I won’t concentrate on the other things I have to write today. I’m still high from it, the feelings and memories still splashing around in my brain like rowdy children.

It was Jules and Lee’s wedding. Jules is the former girlfriend I wrote about on the old Moojinoribt site back in April, the one who sent me the See’s Scotchmallows out of the blue and reminded me of the Universe’s abundance. Lee is the woman she met online and began dating just 18 months ago. Their wedding was the most radical ‘traditional’ wedding I’ve ever seen. Witnessing it was, for me, a tidal wave of relief.

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As a special events bartender for a hotel, I typically see 1-3 weddings, or at least wedding receptions, each month. They are all straight weddings, and I can only think of a handful that even had a single gay or lesbian couple in attendance. And as I’ve groused about before, they’re intensely cookie cutter, rarely moving even a couple of degrees outside of the conventional format. You could literally blindfold me and put me in the middle of one of these wedding receptions and I’d narrate the entire thing for you, including the exact drink orders from bridesmaids and groomsmen. Same-same, as Marshall likes to say. Talk about not thinking out of the box.

Granted, we only occasionally have the ceremonies at the hotel, so maybe, who knows, each one is wildly unique, but I get the feeling that—yeah, not so much. And none of this should be a cause for my judgment in and of itself. After all, weddings are tradition-based rituals, so they’re going to look similar, especially among the same socioeconomic sector of Americans. But having been a lesbian for the last two decades, and more recently writing about the politics of Proposition 8, and religion, and the other factors that seriously complicate marriage and life for same-sex-loving people, it really does start to grate on my nerves how much straight people get to take for granted–the legality, the family support, the oh-my-god-lemme-see-your-ring! dance at work. It’s not about fault, but there’s no getting around the privilege part. And because of this subtle but fundamental power dynamic, straight weddings are not exactly the most elevating events for most of the gay people I know. Sure, we’re happy for our loved ones, but it’s a weird situation. Internally corrosive might be a good phrase. Or as someone put it to me this weekend, “sometimes you feel like they take a little something away from you.”

On one level, Jules and Lee’s wedding looked like any other somewhat high-end wedding: held on the grounds of a quaint little inn on Cape Cod, under a large white tent, with a bouncy castle for the kids, and generations of both families in attendance. There was a casual rehearsal dinner (albeit with an extravagant lobster/clam bake), a whiffle ball tournament the next day, an afternoon wedding, and a reception with a DJ. There were fathers and brothers ushering, toasts, and five year-old ring bearers. There was a beautiful wedding dress and a custom tuxedo. There were a couple of embarrassing relatives and at least one drunken, gooey, microphoned shout-out to the happy couple.

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But everything was different. Two brides, one in a tux–not because she wants to be “the man,” but because that’s what suits her; she has always been a beautiful combination of masculine and feminine. Jules’s dad walking her to the altar? I happen to know first-hand that that journey was not in any respects an easy one for that particular Italian Catholic conservative heart surgeon from Long Island. GrandP1010284parents in their nineties. Lee’s midwestern Air Force father walking his only daughter to meet her wife-to-be. And a legal marriage certificate from the state of Connecticut. This, ladies and gentlemen, is not your average wedding no matter how familiar it may look on the surface.

I underestimated what it would feel like to witness something like this. Marshall teases me for having been this nagging voice for the last, oh, ten years, telling her and Terry that I’d love to be at their commitment ceremony. I’m not getting off that train anytime soon, either. I’m 41, and Jules is the first of my gay friends to get married and only the second close gay or lesbian friend of mine to have any kind of commitment ceremony at all. Yes, I know how problematic marriage is as a political institution, and I’ve carefully considered the arguments against monogamy and the myth of the perfect “soul mate.” I get it. I don’t even believe the state has the right to codify anyone’s marriage; it shouldn’t be the government’s business, in my opinion.

And still. Going through the journey of claiming who you are and who you love, in front of your friends and family, in a world that, to put it mildly, would much rather you do things a very different way is a radical act of courage and trust. Getting to an altar when so many times you wondered if it was just impossible—pretty unbelievable when you think about it. Needless to say, I hope to do something along these lines someday. I finally have a vision of what it could look like, when it doesn’t exactly look like anything else.

Did I mention that both brides are also six feet tall?

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Lovely Stuff

My understanding of the world lately has become a space of paradoxical collision. On one hand, I’m becoming increasingly conscious of precisely how devastating our reckless consumerism as a culture is to the environment. A student in my political philosophy class last week flattened us with details I didn’t even know, during our unit on environmentalism and social ecology. She told us, for instance, about the continent-sized patch of plastic trash floating around the Pacific Ocean, doing incredible damage to marine life. If you let yourself absorb that, and you should, every plastic bottle, every needless bit of packaging you consume becomes another instance of gross complicity. And that doesn’t even get to the politics of how people around the globe are making all the stuff we consume at unlivable wages under intensely exploitative global trade agreements.

I try to console myself with the fact that I’ve made what from my limited perspective are great strides in reducing my personal contribution to waste and environmental destruction. If I can, anyone can. I drink from reusable containers, compost almost all my biodegradable waste, recycle about everything else, nurture an urban garden on which I use NO pesticides, bring my own bags to the store, keep the lights and A/C off as much as possible, and drive a lot less. I am currently generating so little trash waste that I’m only emptying my main trash can about every two weeks–a big improvement from previous years. Now I’m trying to kick it to the next level: buy items that are more sustainably packaged, move all my classes to paperless format (I’m about 85% there), take the light rail as many days as possible next academic year, and try to raise more young people’s consciousness.

On the other hand: I still love The Gap and Target, and in the ridiculously abundant spectrum of American consumer goods I think they have the most affordable basic quality products around. I want a pair of this season’s Gap 1969 jeans, which retail for a quarter of the price of “Seven for all Mankind” (hah!) designer jeans. But even if The Gap’s global labor policies have allegedly improved, how do we know those jeans aren’t stitched by hidden contractors that hire poor women in Thailand or Singapore to slave away for next to nothing, with no wage or safety protection?

Upcycling, yes. My dear friend Jen just started a small business sewing marvelous things from the scraps of other things. The concept’s catching on all over. I gave Jen a bunch of old clothes to metamorphose, and I’m happy to pay her for it. And yet I still find myself wanting some shit from The Gap. If I’m in a mall, I’m pulled toward that store like a rat to stench. But such lovely, cottony stench.

They tell me that the parts for an average computer can come from so many places around the world that the carbon footprint to make them constitutes about 2% of all global emissions–the same as air transport. (See this.) But I am unabashedly IN LOVE with just about everything Apple, especially my new, as of this week, MacBook Pro. Apple insures me that they’re on track to eliminate toxic chemicals from their products, and they appear to be paying close attention to drastically reducing their environmental impact (if one believes their PR, which I tend to perhaps gullibly do). I’m grateful for that. I’m also draining energy all day long when I plug in my computer. I’m learning to be conscious of the proper use of a computer battery, which is to run it down regularly and recharge it (nevermind what’s in “it”). But let’s face it: the computer is a fricking miracle, and the Apple a miracle of design, beauty, function. I haven’t the slightest idea how it works, but I am in awe of it, and entirely dependent on it. When I hooked up the Firewire cable between my old and new laptops two nights ago and saw “my whole life,” that universe of words and images, transfer seamlessly to the new MacBook Pro, I wanted to French kiss Steve Jobs. My relationship with Apple Computer is one of the most satisfying relationships of my life. What the hell?

Other likely landfill-bound stuff that I love right now, god help me:

  • These cheap-ass black flip flops from State Farm insurance that someone threw to me from a float during the Denver Gay Pride parade. They’re probably the most comfortable flip flops I’ve ever had. I haven’t the foggiest where they’re made or who suffered from inhalation of toxic fumes in producing them.
  • Hanes Perfect Women’s Panties–I am not kidding you, they are a rare product that is accurately named. In briefs, thongs, bikinis, boy shorts, whatever, they have to be the most comfortable, breathable, stretchy bits of lovely underwearness I’ve ever encountered. About $7 for two pair at Target. I’d like to replace all my old undies with these. I have no idea where they come from (heaven?) or what enslaved beings make them possible for the likes of me, or what the hell nylon even is. I am an oblivious, pampered American.
  • Our Petmate Fresh Flow water fountain–Paco and Rico love it, they drink more water than they ever did, which keeps them healthy, and I like the low white noise it makes. It is made entirely from that miracle plastic that will probably end up in a landfill or a floating island; it is plugged in all the time; and the filter has what appears to be coal in it. And I totally heart it.
  • I’m not even going to start with my lovely LG flip phone, to which I have become perpetually affixed. Nevermind that I can hear my ears ringing every night, probably from years of cellphone use.

So, then. How to love and appreciate these miracle creations without becoming just another vehicle of disrespect for the planet? Yesterday I heard an economist on NPR commenting about how crucial it is to the global economy that Americans in particular start spending again–since the global economy depends heavily on our consumerism. But isn’t that partly how we got in the current pickle? And is that really what we ought to do, to keep states and economies humming along while human and natural beings and systems suffer? How to even contain all this perplexity in my head when, clearly, I am as far gone as the rest of us in my stuff-dependency, thing-fixation–yay, idolatry?

Dunno. Let me post this to my blog now. So you can all read it with your computers on the internet.

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Flowers and a Face

Check out the arrangements I’ve been able to assemble straight out of my yard.

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And what is not to love about this handsome face?

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Limelight

So, for those of you who don’t know, I gave a talk last Friday at the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Denver for a program I lucked into getting invited to. It’s called Mixed Taste: Tag Team Lectures on Unrelated Subjects, and it’s great fun. Each speaker lectures for 30 minutes on a topic about which they have some credible knowledge, then the audience tries to make connections in a Q&A period. Adam, the Museum director, says the hope is that juxtaposed with something seemingly random, a topic can really open up for fresh understandings.

They asked me to talk about Machiavelli, the notorious 16th Century Italian political theorist, probably because I teach political theory. I was paired with Chef Ian Kleinman, who introduced Molecular Gastronomy, of all things. Machiavelli is certainly not a thinker I felt like I’d mastered, but I deepened my knowledge a lot in the process of putting the talk together, and it went swimmingly all in all. In fact, I felt like it was a better venue for my speaking style and hunger for engagement than anything else I’ve done. I often get the feeling that academia is just training for something else I’m meant to do and this talk gave me a taste of that.

Anyway, mostly I’m posting these pics for Mom. Thanks to Marshall for taking them, and to all of you who came to the show.

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Camping

I do have thoughts, stories, and reflections lately, but between one consistently sore R.A. wrist and the anxiety of summer slipping out of my hands, with still so much I had intended to get done, I can’t seem to pull it off lately. (How is it August 11th already??) So for now pictures will have to suffice.

Here’s a gallery of camping photos. Me, Katie, and The Beast in Poudre Canyon, Colorado, and Snowy Range, Wyoming.

Click for a slightly larger view; I’m not sure, yet, how to enable even larger views on WordPress.

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