I do though perhaps question the genre of “They do it better” books. Jared Diamond suggests we should emulate hunter-gatherers in their techniques. Not the Incest and knife-play parts, but the rest we should consider. He advocates co-sleeping, wearing children close to the body in things like slings, letting them stray a little farther and take more risks (no helicopter parenting here), and sharing parenting duties with many others. I’m for all of that and I believe a great deal of it is practiced by subsectors of American society already and has been for forty years (see the 1970’s).
In another example, Paula Druckerman, the author of “Bringing up Bebe” says we should borrow from the French, teaching patience, only feeding at mealtime, and speaking with authority so as to not let our children run our lives. Looking around further we can find advice on following African examples or the Japanese.
I not so recently returned from a two month trip to India. While I was there I set my sights on what I could glean from their parental strategies. Parenting there was definitely different in some key ways. It’s hard to say in a county that big that there is a unity of practice or belief but I saw stuff there that would just not occur in the States. Families of five rode along on one scooter. I saw kids walking alone in big cities narrowly dodging cars. I watched a mother hosing down a baby’s butt with freezing cold water next to a bus station while the baby yowled. Parents handed over their infants to me without any concern for my being a stranger. Taking a train from Agra to Varanasi, we shared a cabin with a couple who had a toddler. Less than ten feet away, the train’s door was open. In thirty seconds he could have taken off and ended up on the tracks. I was nervous enough myself, a couple of times, to get up and try to shoo him back in. The parents were much more laissez faire about it.
I was not however sure what meaning to make of the difference. Take the scooter example. The thing is people have to get places and they have to take their kids with them. Since affording a car is out of the reach of a majority of the population doing things like putting their kids on a motorbike is acceptable. Parenting, worldwide, is often about necessity.
I’m not sure the majority of global parenting is entirely as intentional as some of the literature might imply. Most of the world is consumed by the most basic foundation tasks involved, getting food on the table, keeping their children safe as possible, providing shelter.
Watching people parent internationally makes one question what is actually necessary though. We here take for granted that babies must be put in car seats but our parents were raised without them. People used to hold their children in hand while riding in the car and that was that. Since no better option existed there was an acceptance of what we’d now consider unsafe.
In fact much of what we are scared of is a decision. I’m not advocating making the world less safe for kids nor I am suggesting that people in the third world wouldn’t like to make their children safer. It did however remind me of the lyrics of the Mumia Abu-Jamal piece, Hip Hop and Homeland, which says “For here (in America) more than any place on earth wealth is more wide spread and so bountiful. What passes for the middle class in America could pass for the upper class in most of the rest of the world. They’re very opulent and relative wealth makes them insecure.”
We kowtow to fear as a luxury, a choice not afforded to most of the world, and it changes the way we parent. Different cultures have different freedoms, along with different philosophies and moral codes. The dangers may well be the same (there exists rape of children in India, as well as rapes here) but our reactions are different (we, in the US, shelter our kids more).
There are also structural differences that count for something. If I put my whole family on a scooter without helmets I’d be arrested. There would be legal issues if you tried to import all those enticing international practices here. You might end up getting your kids taken away. There have been multiple instances in which immigrants have come into conflict with the government because they were treating their kids in a way that would fly at home but not here. A great example comes in the form of the book “The spirit catches you and you fall down,” which pits the spiritually focused Hmong community in California against the strictures of Western medicine, in a case of a child with epilepsy. We may admire the way far off people parent but we can’t always successfully apply it back home.
Furthermore, no one is parenting in a vacuum. You can’t opt out of the society you exist in. One might layer in a variety of approaches but there is still the underpinnings of what sits outside the front door. You can attempt to withdraw but culture is pervasive. We internalize it into our perspectives to a point that it is inescapable. Even if we fight against it, we are from it and working in reaction to it. Is one Culture and its parenting better than another? Does it matter? Most of us don’t have the ability to uproot ourselves and try again elsewhere. Even if we did, we’d bring our culture with us.
My perspective is that I am a product of this culture but can appreciate others. What irks me is the suggestion that one form or another of parenting is RIGHT. As though somehow their ways of doing things are producing superior (smarter, braver, more well- behaved) children than our own. Now I don’t mean to be a crazy nationalist. I’m not saying Americans produce the “best” kids but judging parenting, culturally speaking, is a faulty and useless endeavor.
I am not such a cultural relativist to say that anything goes. I think corporal punishment, which occurs cross-culturally, is always wrong. I feel that way regardless of where it’s happening. “Good” and “Bad” parenting happens in every society, in every culture. My main point is that choosing how to parent or which trends to follow or even reading half the baby books on the market is a great priviledge and perhaps a fool hardy one. Because, in the end, a lot of the things people say are contradictory and although lots of the folks out there preaching the new ideas about global parenting say to give kids lots of space, engagement is my favorite thing about American parenting culture.
I recently moved my new boyfriend in with me. I was interested then to read the Atlantic’s article about the different expectations men and women have regarding cohabitation. It added to the “living together will keep you single” trope by saying that a number of women, who think the man they are living with will marry them someday, are wrong. They framed it by asking whether respondents, 18-26 in age, are “completely committed” and “almost certain” their relationships are permanent. Commitment and permanence are strongly associated with marriage. They may as well have asked- so are ya’ll going to get married someday or not? More of the women studied think it’s headed in that direction.
The article has a tone of warning about it. Look around, it says, are you in one of those relationships right now? If not, beware lest you fall into this trap. There’s even advice given- talk about commitment before moving in- get on the same page- don’t slide into marriage. Being on the same page is great but unless you have bi-monthly check-ins it might be difficult.
Ultimately you can’t control other people. They may say one thing and mean another. How many of the men studied would fess up similarly to the ladies with whom they are involved? They may mean what they say at one point and not another. Relationships are journeys. People change throughout the time they spend together. Commitment is a sort of defense against that inevitability but it too can waver over time. Even marriage is hardly a guarantee of permanence these days. The most troublesome part of the study for me was the near 20% of married respondents who were also on the fence.
While making the leap under these circumstances may seem inadvisable and naïve, I did it with knowledge of the possible consequences; I’d heard before that people who live together before getting married are less likely to tie the knot and more likely to divorce if they do. In fact, I knew first hand. I lived with my Ex for three out of five years of our relationship, during which I assumed I was headed towards marriage (because he said as much). Before making a similar leap again into “living in sin,” I asked myself -was it the living together that had done us in? A preview is not always a good thing. That being said, men aren’t the only ones who’d like to taste the milk first, so to speak. I, personally, would rather know what I’m getting into- it’s why I don’t buy clothes online.
What of the women who are in these relationships with men who don’t feel the same way? The 15% who feel “completely committed” while their men can’t say the same and the 13% who are “almost certain” when their fellows aren’t, how should we feel about them? Pity? Consternation?
You might call them hopeful. Wanting to move in sounds positive. Who wouldn’t want to take it to the next step? That next step that everyone’s mom keeps telling you is the Promised Land.
You could say there’s more pressure on women to get married and settle down and so we delude ourselves into seeing possibility when it’s absent. Perhaps men are more hesitant to be vulnerable since they are taught it is a weakness. It puts you out on a limb to say these things, “completely committed” or “almost certain.” They are verbal leaps of faith. They offer up the opportunity for heartbreak and disappointment.
Marriage is totally scary and without significant social pressure folks are less likely to want to do it, especially when they see the current success rate. Maybe they are even less likely if they can get all the same perks by cohabitating. The generation in the study is one raised in the era of divorce, an upbringing that has made some people more serious about marriage and others more avoidant.
The example in the article is a friend of the authors who breaks up with a non-committal boyfriend of five years. She sets an ultimatum and when he falters, moves on. It sounded like agency on her part actually. She probably got to the “marrying age” when most of her peers were coupled, with kids, and decided she wanted that for herself; which is within her rights, as much as it is within his to be honest with his feelings when the ultimatum arrives. You can’t pressure someone into loving you and pressuring someone to commit is relatively the same.
You can formalize the process. The two life paths of cohabitation vs. commitment were like the organic vs. the formal. Marriage is in its essence a formality- a set of rules, a contract, official papers, ceremony. It is perhaps in the fullest form of that definition when someone is in fact uncommitted despite the terms implied- say when in someone else’s bed.
So is the answer then to try and hold out on them? The same basic theory as withholding sex that ends with me not getting laid (lose-lose in my opinion) but with housing? For my own good, (which assumes marriage is still the ideal outcome), I should delay personal gratification in order to tease out commitment from my mate?
Maybe I’m not the marrying type. I don’t see the value in avoiding cohabitation for the sake of some future probability. The man I marry will have to live with me for a long time so he’d better get used to it early. On the other hand maybe that is the sort of thinking that together with other decisions will combine to make my life different than the normative one. I’m more okay with that than most. Maybe ladies need to ask themselves how important marriage is and how many of our decisions we are willing to make on the basis of increasing the likelihood of it happening.
I am trying to go into it with my eyes open this time. While I would claim to be “committed,” I wouldn’t say I’m “almost certain.” Very little is certain in life, other than change being constant and death being at the end. My strategy is to try and avoid things that are some sort of investment towards future dividends because that led to resentment in the past. I could live in fear or even break-up with someone I love to try and prevent heartache in the future or forestall some outcome I find unideal. Life is a set of managed risks and we are better off being aware of which ones we are taking and how risky they in fact are. Maybe it’s my non-traditional upbringing but I say “follow your bliss.” Maybe you won’t end up married but then again maybe you won’t end up divorced either.
I was stuck in the usual crush of LA traffic, impatiently pushing the buttons that change the radio station (my car’s old-school) when Power 106, the major hip hop station switched songs. It had a good beat, a catchy chorus and as I tuned into the lyrics I realized a watershed moment had come. The song “Same Love” by Macklemore was about homophobia, particularly in hip-hop, and more generally about the need for equality and gay rights. The lyrics include the gem, “I might not be the same, but that’s not important. No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it.” I couldn’t help that upon its reaching my ears, tears sprung into my eyes. My favorite verse begins looking forward to “the day that my uncles can be united by law.”
Macklemore, famous from his single which raves about thrift store bargains, on this track laments, “When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart. A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are.” He concedes, “And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all. But it’s a damn good place to start. He sums it up as, “Whatever God you believe in. We come from the same one. Strip away the fear. Underneath it’s all the same love.” That’s what I’m talking about.
A decade ago as an assignment for a required English class in college I wrote my own version of this song. It wasn’t nearly as eloquent, and was backed by very rudimentary beat boxing on my part, delivered in between verses. “Boom patcha, boom, boom patcha!” It contained gems like “Your homophobia is bothering me; it makes you a wack MC.” I got an A on it, which in retrospect seems very generous.
I therefore can’t credit Macklemore fully for the novelty of the concept. He isn’t the first rapper to challenge the homophobic status quo in hip hop but he is symbolic of a larger change. It wasn’t just that it’d been written, other rappers like Brother Ali had beaten him to the punch (Tight rope from 2009) but that it was getting airplay, in a major market.
Equal Rights has hit the mainstream. And for some reason it’s just slowly hitting me that it’s the case. As more and more states pass marriage equality into law, I’ve celebrated and waited for California, my home state, to come around, while I watched the lawsuits wind their way through the courts. My own mother got married in the first round of gay marriage in San Francisco that went on to be annulled. Maybe this feeling, like it could get taken away, like we’re one Republican president away from being back at zero, has distracted me from what going on a the culture at large. When I googled anti–homophobia rap song, I found a PSA from A$AP Rocky advocating equal rights in the classroom and on the sports field. There were quotes from Jay-z and Kanye West lending their support. These signs strike me as more permanent. They can’t be shrugged off as political pandering. They aren’t based in the push pull of the electoral cycles. They are cultural shifts.
Turning on the television, I see an Ad for a new show, produced by JLo, featuring two moms. This adds to the bumper crop of gay characters on TV shows like Modern Family and Glee etc. JC Penney’s ads for both Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day have same sex parents. The New Yorker cover follows suit. This is the definition of a zeitgeist.
When I got dumped, and I mean, majorly, after-five-plus-years-everyone-thought-you’d-get-married, dumped, a million people told me it would be a good thing if I were single for a while. At the time I held it against them. My take was that they were saying I was needy and dependent and should get my sh-t together without further inflicting it on the public at large. First off, how the heck did they know what was best for me in my time of need? I thought the ideal solution would include a bevy of suitors and looking good in revenge. Secondly, why would the answer to my newfound loneliness be solitude? A delectable but casual rebound seemed far more appropriate.
I was however one of those people who had hardly been single since puberty. Someone whose relationships unfortunately often overlapped. And somehow despite my best intentions I internalized their admonishment. Officially speaking,(meaning Facebook) I haven’t called a fellow my boyfriend in the last half decade. While my best friend might find some of that time debateable-a whole separate conversation would need to be had over what counts as being in a relationship with someone- I can say that I have been commitment free. Able to make my own decisions, “follow my own drummer” and screw whoever I like. That’s what being single means to me. What a 180 I’ve made in terms of preference and perspective from when I couldn’t imagine life alone.
While I am loathe to give into a dialectic that defines being single as either a defect vs. a strength, I can’t help now perceiving coupling as a fear based decision. Something tied to our fear of mortality and of helplessness without a help-mate. A while back there was an article on the teenage brain in National Geographic. One of the things it talked about was a study on decision making that looked at how teenagers perceived risk differently from adults. It used a scenario in which the participants decided on whether or not to run a yellow light. The results showed that teenagers had the same level of judgment but that their actions were dependent on there being peers in the room. When their friends were around they took more risks to show off.
What struck me most was the part that talked about how teens perceive social acceptance as a life or death proposition. It made me think about all the recent bullying deaths and how being ostracized was so traumatic to those who ultimately killed themselves. It makes sense when you think about it on an evolutionary level. There is safety in numbers. We generally speaking feel safer when not alone. There are shared resources, skill sets and deterrent force. The sense that one has utterly failed at the task of assimilation and will be alone in life must be terrifying and overwhelming. And the adolescent phase is when it counts. When I think about who I consider my closest friends/allies I realize that I collected the majority during those same formative years. I was trying to build a community that would sustain me in my adult life. Indeed, especially during the time in which I’ve been single, those relationships have been crucial.
The phenomenon in which people, when coupled, isolate themselves from their friends and community is an unhealthy one. I know a bunch of girls who regret having let their platonic relationships dissolve when they fell in love. Later when their significant other is less dreamy, they wish they had outside support. It is also unfair to demand that one person fulfill the totality of one’s emotional needs. Anyone would seem needy under that guise.
So much of what we do is still animal thinking. I am not a proponent of some of what has been extrapolated. I don’t for instance believe that men are hardwired to seek multiple partners, while women benefit from a single mate scenario. I doubt if anything that people are hardwired for monogamy at all- (see the book Sex at Dawn) but I do believe that most unconscious decisions are based in fear. We are programmed for survival above all.
I think it is brave to be single. It takes courage. Even if it’s not by choice. I learned a lot about keeping myself company in the last few years. I found a few pitfalls along the way,(who knew I was so annoying?) but those too taught me more about who I am. At this point being single feels safer oddly enough. Less chance for surprises and disappointment.
So… I think it is also brave though to give love a try. Whether for the first time or the fifth. I don’t mean to make it seem more noble to stand alone like the great American ideal intones. Being with others means vulnerability. Being vulnerable takes strength. Trust is inherently a leap of faith. It isn’t predicated on evidence or logic alone. It has some relationship to reciprocity but the two are not mutually intertwined. Ideally we want to take the sense of self developed independently and preserve it while accepting and appreciating another human being. We want to see and be seen. This is really hard work. When that alchemy happens it is worth the heartbreak that might be to come later. My mom said, when I was feeling rather desolate, that I shouldn’t worry about being able to love again. Time will pass. You know how to love and be loved, that is what’s important. That’s what we all have to keep practicing. Single or not.
I woke up this morning feeling as though some existential threat had been lifted from me. The way Israel might feel if Iran disappeared. As both a woman and the daughter of lesbians, I had a lot riding on this election. With the gains made in terms of same sex marriage in Washington and Maryland, the retention of Justice Wiggins in Iowa and the record number of women candidates prevailing, progress saved the day.
But before I move on and selectively forget the names and faces of those Republicans who caused me so much anxiety over the last few months, I’d like to say farewell and goodbye to those relics of repression and hate. Goodbye Todd Akin, Richard Murdoch - otherwise known as the “Rape Team”. Thank you for inspiring women to turn out to the polls. Goodbye Republican Presidential nominees one and all, I hope the next set builds their careers on something other than our families backs….. See, every few years often concurrent with the electoral cycle, gay families are brought to the foreground of political debate. No other group, other than perhaps welfare mothers, is used so regularly as political fodder.
I’d like to point out that contrary to the way it was portrayed in this election,my family is not a point to win in a debate, not something to be used as political leverage. It’s a Civil Rights issue, plain and simple. Imagine if it were another demographic being spoken about in this manner, a racial group for instance that it was being suggested was unfit to parent, imagine the outrage that would cause. What if someone asked what the consequences of their parenting would be? There are an estimated 2.3 million children of LGBT parents. When politicians degrade our families it feels like a punch in the gut to every one of them. And although I was hardly harassed growing up in the most liberal corner of the country, I consider the statements made by the Republican candidates to be a call to arms for anyone who might be interested in perpetrating violence against our community.
Here’s a few of the highlights from this round.
Caught on tape back in 2005, the Boston Globe’s story highlighting Mitt Romney’s actions and statements around children with same –sex parents did not surprise me. He joins his former Republican rivals Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum in the club of politicians who say ignorant things regarding gay families. It seems to be some sort of GOP initiation rite at this point. The pattern seems to be a denial of our very existence, followed by denial of the numerous studies that say our families are healthy and finally, denial of our rights.
Never once in that process are we as potential political constituents sought out or listened to. According to the GOP, direct testimony as to our experience is considered untrustworthy and so we have to depend on outside opinions and studies that corroborate for us what we already know, our families are legitimate places to raise happy children. Unfortunately for some, like Mr. Santorum, even the opinion of a well respected group like the American Psychiatric Association on the subject of gay marriage is held suspect. In a video that circled the web, Mr. Santorum gets in an argument with a college student. She says the APA has come out in support of gay families and he goes on to say that they are just a group of people who agree with each other. Sure, a group of people we put a lot of faith behind, because after all we depend on them to decide what’s crazy and what’s sane.
Finally Michelle Bachmann in a confrontation with an eight year old boy. Although Dan Savage disagrees with me, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a child to defend their family’s right to exist to a politician. What I find offensive is that we as a society have put children in the political cross-hairs. Growing up with gay parents puts one constantly on the defensive and until there is equality that will continue to be true.
I wish I could stand behind a statement like the one made today by Zach Wahls, that the anti-Gay Culture War ends now. I can at least have a momentary faith though that the war will ultimately be settled in our favor. I’d like someday to have a chance, for instance, to vote for candidates without taking their views on my families right to existence into consideration. I am forced to be an issues voter instead. Regardless of how I might feel about the economy, I will be voting democrat for the forseeable future.
I read an article online titled, I’m thirty two and my family bankrolls my lifestyle. It featured a lady whose family financially supports her so she can pursue a freelance writing career. According to the comment section she might as well have been Hitler. Among the 500 or so comments the majority were focused on how selfish and lazy she was. A sample : “ i personally do not know how you can be ok taking advantage of everyone around you. my parents will often forgo paying their own rent in order to support my brother in his not wanting to work a full time job because he’s an artist. bullshit.” Or “Yeah my entire thought while reading this was get your shit together and stop mooching off your friends/family. At 32 being broke while sponging off people isn’t cute.”
Now maybe I’m inclined to identify with her since I’m 31 and also often accept offers of cash from my folks with glee, while I work less than full time so as to make space for artistic pursuits, but I think there is more than that at play here. I think Culture is involved.
See in other times and places, Artists were supported in a variety of ways, from patronage in Medieval times to the modern day European government funding of the Arts for example. Here in Capitalist America, we have chosen against Public arts funding for the most part, leaving artists to find private channels of support.
Some artists are paid enough money for the art they make to live but by no means all of them and talent is not always a deciding factor in who succeeds in that sense. We can all think of commercially successful artists who pale in comparison talent wise with those who are broke. And because we as a society have devalued Art, fewer people are willing to personally invest in Art in the way that is needed to support Artists. We need enough people buying art, from artists, to make private arts funding really work and it ain’t happening. This also makes Art an entirely commercial venture which defeats the purpose, frankly. With neither public nor private funding largely accessible this leaves us in a situation where only the independently wealthy can afford artistic careers- and I can tell you a lot of Artists these days do have trust funds. That being said I think it’s a shame and a cultural loss for the rest of us. Which brings me back to the subject of the piece, the middle class girl whose normal family is trying to let her play on that field and the Haters who be hating….
To them I say: We need not resent people who are supported by their community. We can be jealous but we needn’t tear them down. Collectivism is natural. Call me a commie but the whole doing it by ourselves thing moves against nature. Look at ants.
They (the internet) are upset that she takes money from people who aren’t rich but only middle class. Somehow it’s better that rich people should be helped by their parents, while the poor (or middle class) aren’t allowed to be subsidized. Well, frankly, that gives even greater advantage to the wealthy, who are allowed to accept their parent’s money, while we the working class cannot?!
Still, in the working class pooling funds is common practice. Rich people run to the banks for money. The poor call on each other. People chip in as a sign of belief in what their friends are doing, and as a form of social investment. Among the commenters there was much talk of “enabling,” but what if that is reframed as investing, or enabling in the more positive sense of the word, as in “allowing to make possible,” It could be seen instead as a beautiful gift, a vote of confidence. If people have some cash to kick down they do it, it’s hardly highway robbery.
I’d like to note that the people who are funding her lifestyle are adults making independent choices about their own finances. Nowhere in the article does she describe anyone as deprived. She isn’t conning the elderly or stealing candy from babies. The people who buy her lunch and pay her bills have the right to do so as they wish. They can pay for her main/pedis and choose to support her in pursuing her dream, for whatever motives they might have. I don’t sense that she is begging them for favors. If people appreciate her enough to throw some cash toward it, well I see that as a more intimate version of Kickstarter.
So she works one day a week. I get feeling saintlier than thou, or more hard-working and tougher, but why does your superiority have to result in her inferiority? It was as though they took personally her situation. The writer is lucky to be that privileged. But it’s not like she wrote the article to complain. She seemed to be confessing, she came to divulge something that she feels ashamed of and embarrassed by. Everyone is so sold on the idea that working three jobs and making art on the side is ideal.
Why should the ability to hold down multiple jobs be the standard bearer for true artists? What if making that a requisite means losing out on the potential creativity of those who are tapped out after a fifty hour work week? If we demand that every artist who isn’t trust funded work full-time before they make art, I think we may miss out on someone’s masterpiece. I know that sometimes I actually get more done when I’m busy and I definitely gain creative inspiration from the stuff I encounter on the job but I would still rather have more time to get art done. What with all that work, less art gets made that’s all there is to it. And maybe I am a weaker person for not being able to juggle it all but that’s just the way it is and it doesn’t make my art any less valuable for that being the case. There are some artists, fragile flowers that we are, who might benefit from some leisure. Art is about process ultimately and you can’t always force that out in the one spare hour before you fall into bed. So if we take all that into consideration, is it the worst thing in the world that this Lady’s family is helping to make that happen for her?
Another shitstorm was started over the Lady’s fantasy that some well- off man would come and save/support her someday, transferring responsibility from her family onto his bank account. Folks lambasted her as anti-feminist and again Lazy. But the thing is- It’s a fantasy. She never says she is living her life in a way to make that happen. She isn’t getting dressed up and hitting hotel bars or whatever it is gold-diggers do anyway. Who doesn’t want to be rescued from their own mundane existence?
This is the “crime” they are accusing her of: She is trying to eke out a living as an artist, is lucky to be financially supported and doesn’t work as much as many. I question this adherence to capitalist philosophy. Community support: its how a lot of artists/people get by.
So clearly I took a European style vacation from blogging (read: eight weeks long), during which time I managed to accomplish a life-long goal of mine and became a fully professed member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. For those not in the know, the Sisters are an international non-profit organization whose mission is to expiate stigmatic guilt and shame, while promulgating universal joy through habitual perpetration. A mouthful, huh? We do a lot of fundraising for charity and social activism work, along with providing spiritual ministry to the community.
For more info you can check out Wikipedia or our local chapter’s website.
I have wanted to be a Sister since I was about four years old. My family used to attend the Lily Street Easter celebration, the pre-cursor to the event the Sisters now hold every Easter in Dolores Park. I remember seeing the larger than life Glamazons, in their glitter and jewels, wielding towering headpieces and thinking, if only one day I could be one of them….And the time has finally come!
The process of becoming a Sister is very involved. It takes at least a year and a half. Because I am special, I took over two years. I started loitering around them in April 2010. The Sisters don’t recruit members, in the same way the Jews don’t prosletize, by which I mean they make terribly hard to get in and come off as insular and possibly hostile. I kept waiting for someone to invite me into the group or otherwise instruct me me in joining. They don’t ask you to join, you just have to state your intention of doing so publicly at one of their meetings. It took me seven months to figure this out. Seven months of attending meeting and events with them and no one mentioned this to me. That’s Drag Queens for you.
But I kept at it, and they became friendlier with time, and now I can say that at least a few have tempted towards heterosexuality on my account. Okay, probably that is an overstatement, but I do like to joke that I am a conservative plant sent on a mission to convert them. No luck so far, but I’ll keep trying…wink wink, nudge, nudge.
The journey I’ve taken with them over the last two years has given my life here in LA additional meaning and has made up for some of what I’ve otherwise lacked (adoring fans, flashing bulbs, chances to wave to crowds). My mom always says to find things that are both selfish and altruistic. I like saying that I do a lot of volunteer work, when really most of takes place in bars. It allows me, as Queerspawn to maintain a relationship with my community. That’s one of the tricky things about being a grown up child of gay parents, especially if you are straight yourself. How do include yourself in the Queer world? The Sisters have been my answer and I am very grateful they welcomed me in.
On the slight chance you are wondering how it is that I’ve gone this long without previously mentioning them herein, I can blame their rigorous and dense policies and procedures that state that as a novice or prior I could speak publicly about the Sisters but not as their representative. This precarious protocol scared me enough to wait. When you’ve wanted something like this for as long as I had, you don’t take chances. But now that I am a member…HAHHAHAHAHAHHAHA! I thought that the moment I was a Black Veil (what fully professed members are called) I would want to race out and misrepresent us, but so far the idea of putting on all that make-up in the heat has stalled me. I like white face better in Winter.
This week was pretty colossal coming out wise. What with Anderson Cooper’s statements starting us off and then Frank Ocean’s letter about falling in love with a man going public later in the week.
I was actually more interested in the latter since it was by far the more surprising. It isn’t everyday a rapper comes out- if we can call it that, he doesn’t ever necessarily self-identify as gay therein. Still it is a brave and bold move especially considering that his group Odd Future have been charged with misogyny and homophobia more than once.
I found myself on the roof of my apartment wednesday night watching the fireworks, and asking whether they(Odd Future)may, in fact, be the most progressive group on the hip-hop scene. They are certainly the only group with two “out” members ( along with Frank Ocean, their DJ Syd tha Kyd is a lesbian). What does it mean when that is combined with a front man whose favorite word seems to be faggot?
As a kid growing up with gay moms that word had serious bite. If I heard it used by someone it meant they were no longer a potential friend. I often lectured children on the playground against using it.
“Do you know what that means?” I’d ask them.
“It is a bunch of sticks used to burn people in the middle ages!”
The etymology is still the same. I still cringe most times I hear it said, even in the gay community I’m wary; I wouldn’t ever call someone a fag. But my younger, hipper friends and Gawker suggest it is perhaps slowly losing power. That it doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing it did thirty years ago. I think this is all up for debate since I have yet to hear a usage that isn’t interwoven with some sort of misogynist intent. Try me though- For serious…
Look, we all use harsher language these days. We swear in front of our mothers. At least I do.
So is using the word so frequently while in life setting an example of tolerance by including gay people in your peer-set possibly subversive? Maybe when the older generations are long gone and progress has come all these words will be less touchy? They will be properly reclaimed? All the gay kids will wear cute baby tees proudly proclaiming themselves “Fags”? And be safe doing it? That seems like a pipe dream but if so then Odd Future might be the right name for them afterall. Is this what the beginning of progress looks like? In which case, I’m sorry I’m so P.C. but when I was your age….
In my diverse and progressive hometown there were nonetheless stereotypes about racial groups’ perceived opinions around certain sex acts. Jewish guys were known to be glad to go downtown, good luck getting a Mexican guy to give you head and Black guys did it but didn’t admit to it.
This was reflected in Rap music where the mentions of blowjobs were rife but no one talked about reciprocation. Even when they did it was with caveats, like with Kool G Rap’s lyric, “Because you gotta be brave to eat the tuna, G/So when it comes to pussy-lickin’, I’m the chicken of the sea.” Hardly an enthusiastic endorsement. One explanation given suggested that in cultures where machoism dominated, pussy eating lagged.
These days though, suddenly Hip Hop abounds with Rappers praising their own skills at Cunnilingus. Sample rhyme courtesy of Lil Wayne on Drake’s The Motto, “I tongue kiss her other tongue, skeet, skeet, skeet, water gun!” Not only is he copping to giving oral sex but he’s praising female ejaculation! Can I have a Hallelujah? Donald Glover raps that, “Sixty- nine is the only dinner for two.” While Tyler the Creator says, “Tall skinny flaco, that’s for my nigga Paco/I enchilada bitches and I’m eating up they taco” and Wale counter-offers, “I’ll paint you with my tongue and stay in those bikini lines.” It’s a pussy-eating free-for-all on the Top 40 charts!
In fact, much of the credit can be given to Lil’ Wayne who has arguable made it cool in the rap world to give girls head. He wasn’t the first man to go there, Big Pun rapped, “I could go downstairs, Little brown hairs everywhere,” back in 1998, but that lyric is followed by a girl chiming in, “you nasty twin!” and though he claims not to care, there is an implicit judgment written alongside the assertion. Lil Wayne doesn’t just admit to the practice but celebrates his veracity.
On a list compiled by Vibe magazine of rap lyrics about cunnilingus, Lil Wayne appears over ten times. He raps that he “likes to taste that sugar, that sweet and low,” that “yes, I eat that pussy/ Oh, how, do I love that panty pie,” and “lemme just taste ya, we can f-ck later.” Let’s just say, Lil Wayne means business and in exchange I’ll happily give him mine.
Yesterday was officially Memorial Day, even though we all had Monday off in observance. Well, actually, I worked,(yay for domestic workers)but on my way to and fro I had a chance to hear NPR’s coverage of the occasion. They had interviews with veterans and others about how they were spending the day.This was the first year I remember there being a perceptable tension between recognizing the sacrifice of the troops and enjoying the beginning of BBQ season. On facebook there were a rash of statuses’that said, if I may paraphrase, “while you are out there having fun, assholes, remember someone died so you could enjoy this day. Freedom isn’t free!” It smacked of Jesus’ dying for my sins, frankly. On the radio elderly respondents lamented the lack of respect they perceived from the American public.There was a defensiveness, almost a hostility that divided the world, at least in the minds of those speaking into those who do Memorial day right and the rest of us.
What bothered me was the generational blame game that seemed rear its’ head. These kids they said, they don’t appreciate what we did- they don’t know how it is. The multiple calls to reinstate the draft sounded to me like frat boys standing up for hazing. While I get the logic behind saying that if everyone had to go to War we wouldn’t be so keen on starting them, whose babies will unwillingly be slaughtered to prove your point? and who says we wanted to start them in the first place? As though we voted on these last few. Who are we talking about, exactly, when we say “they”? “They” who don’t care about history, who don’t spend Memorial day putting flags on gravestones, who should be drafted so they know what wars about. Which generation is in question? Is it mine? I definitely got dragged as a child to the cemetery. Our baby boomer parents, even the hippies, emphasized the enormity of the whole WAR proposition early enough in our minds.Besides,the gray haired men who sign the budgets and bills to pay for the war, they are my parents age at least and their own experiences with the draft hasn’t seemed to stop them from making war.
I know for sure the kids growing up right now have a grasp of the concept, because imagine that if you are a twelve year old girl and you live in America, you must take for granted that from the moment you were born, the United States has been at war.You grew up slowly piecing together the letters that graced the bumper of so many cars, “Support the Troops.” You see the most recent Katy Perry video, Part of Me, in which the message seems to be if you get mad at your boyfriend maybe the answer is to enlist in the Marines. You are the target demographic of the artist in question and you have just begun to be involved with boys romantically, in the sense that they tease you mercilessly. There is a strong possibility that this could be considered recruitment material.
As a six year old, you watched Elmo’s dad come home from being deployed for multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Since when does Elmo have parents?) The subject matter is both treacly and deep all at once. What does the future hold for you? Why do all the old people on public radio want to draft you? Why can’t they let you enjoy the sunshine outside? Do peaceful societies need these kinds of holidays at all? Yesterday I said a prayer for all the fallen soldiers and for the generation that hopefully won’t become them.