Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wait, where did this closet come from?

I imagine* that by the time you’re gay parents in the suburbs, coming out of the closet is sort of a not issue. At least, in regards to other parents and neighbors. At the very least, it seems likely that by the time kids coming over to your house to play with your child, their parents already know that so-and-so has two moms or two dads. The fact that they are bringing their offspring over anyway means that they have decided that’s not a dealbreaker.

 Apparently, despite the complaints of some non-poly Millennial parents that everyone assumes they are sleeping with their roommates, it is possible for someone to reach the point of bringing their kids to our house without having jumped to [all the right] conclusions about our living arrangement. And suddenly I find myself realizing this in the middle of a conversation where I have to decide on the fly just how much to reveal as I answer questions about how we came to all be living together. On the one hand, we are not closeted in the neighborhood. If I don’t lay it all out on the table now, will this mom feel lied to when she eventually figures it out? On the other hand, her kids are currently in the middle of a game with mine in my house. If her first reaction is horror and she scoops them up and whisks them away how will that affect MY kid (who is already having a difficult time making friends)? With seconds to decide I dodge and redirect and immediately face the regret and anxiety of how and when I’m going to have to actually answer her.

 I understand and acknowledge that we are exceptionally privileged to be able to pass as normal, white monogamous heterosexual couples when we need or want to. And yet, I wonder if life may not be easier in some ways if the closet wasn’t an option and we never had to worry about when or how to come out of it; never be startled to realize that we were in it when we never meant to be and trying to figure out when it’s safe to leave. I wish, sometimes, that people could just look at me and know exactly what kind of freak I am and just decide whether or not they’re willing to be friends before we ever talk. Maybe that’s why I’m a 32-year-old, middle class, suburban housewife who still dresses like a punk teenager. It’s the flimsy armor of “Hey, you should have realized I was weird when you met me.” But we are a specific flavor of weird that a lot of people still aren’t used to and can still have strange knee jerk reactions to. And it was a lot easier to have an “I don’t give a fuck what you think” attitude before I had a kindergartener who just wants people to play with.


* I fully acknowledge I could be very wrong about this and I am coming from a place of privilege.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Politics, Parenting, and Scared Kindergarteners

I want to take a moment to talk about #parenting and #politics. A few months back, on the day of the election, AL told me that he had heard that if Donald Trump got elected all the "brown people" would have to leave America. He was worried about them. It was a fear he mentioned again after the election. His best friend's mother is here on a Greencard from Kenya. The kids he and Kalem play with the most in the neighborhood have parents from Venezuela and Mexico. Down the street, our cat adopted a family from the Muslim country of Uzbekistan (I think). And it would not surprise me if a huge chunk of the Spanish speaking students at Evansdale have family members who lack valid documentation to be in this country. All this in mind, I couldn't tell him that he shouldn't worry about it; that it wouldn't affect him. What I told him was "We will try to make sure that doesn't happen." A few months back we were battling with AL about bedtime every night. If he didn't fall asleep before I left the room, he would be up 1000 times complaining about being scared. He wanted to sleep with the light on, with someone in his room. He wasn't willing to lie still and let sleep come. I admit, we were frequently less than sympathetic. Especially since he could never tell us what he was scared of. If he woke up in the middle of the night he would crawl into bed with me. Sometimes he cited bad dreams, sometimes he was "just scared." He could never articulate why. By the time the President started signing Executive Orders, he was crawling into bed with me every night, and I'd given up on relocating him back to his own room, since he would frequently just wake up a few hours later and crawl back. At bedtime I'd just started trying to stay until he fell asleep, even if it was after our allotted time. He switched nightlights with his older brother for one so bright I just consider it a light. My boy was terrified and needed me, and nothing else I said or did seemed to help except just being there. And then we went to the airport to protest Trump's immigration ban. AL decided what he wanted his sign to say (America is for Everyone). He held it up proudly to be photographed so it could be shown to Donald Trump. He chanted "Love, not hate, that's what makes America great!" And then we went home. Cold, exhausted, very hungry, and a little overstimulated. That night he understandably crawled into bed with me just like he had every night the weeks prior. But he's only done it once since then. Since the protest my son has crawled into my bed in the middle of the night *once.* The baby's new sleep routine frequently means me putting KH to bed right after I finish reading to AL, and he simply lies in bed waiting for me to come back and lie with him (sometimes even falling asleep with out me). He has, *on more than one occasion*, chosen to turn off his nightlight and sleep in the dark. I can't say for certain that these events are causative and not correlative. But I can tell you that to me there seems to be a very strong Before Protest and After Protest mentality to my son. This little boy still has plenty of behavior problems, but being inexplicably, cripplingly scared all the time, doesn't seem to be one of them anymore. Which isn't to say it won't come back. But regardless of what politics my boy ends up with as an adult, I will never regret teaching him that he has the power to DO something about the things that worry him. He has a voice, he can make it be heard. He can be brave.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fate looked down at her loom and contemplated how to continue. She studied the two threads and their current positions in the tapestry.

“They’re both theatre students,” she thought. “Let’s start with that.” Her shuttle began to fly across the threads. The Boy went to college to pursue acting, but the age gap was too large. He’d be done by the time the Girl went to school. The threads are tugged, tightened, repositioned. The Girl is going to college two years early. They should just overlap. Only an attempt to twine the threads together causes a snarl. They’re still too far apart. The Boy went to college in Middle Georgia, but in order to go when she did the Girl is attending school in West Georgia. Fate looks down at her loom, selects a new thread, and begins to weave again.


“No, there is nothing subtle about biting into someone’s neck in the middle of the street, even if she is a prostitute!” The debate was good humored as the participants argued about whether or not a player’s feeding had been as blatant as the storyteller thought. No one really gave any consideration to how their dining hall conversation might sound to the people sitting around them until the girl sitting alone at the table next to them turned around.

“Are you talking about Vampire: the Masquerade?” she asked. After a startled pause, they admitted they were. She joined the table and proceeded to regale them with stories of her game. She invited them to come play. There is a natural prejudice ingrained in table top gamers against LARPs (after all, even nerds like to feel superior to someone), but Fate was tugging at their threads. It sounded fun, and she was nice. Then she mentioned that it was in Milledgeville.


Fate felt the threads tighten and pop out of her grasp. They were too taut and would never stretch that far across the loom. With a heavy sigh, she went back to the threads that surrounded the Boy and began to weave again.


“What the hell are we supposed to do? Gabe’s no longer HST and they’re leaving the Org. We’re screwed.” The anger and despair was thick in the air.

“We could just start our own game,” someone suggested.

“But where would we play? Brandon controls the student organization.”

And Fate tugged at the strings that ran across the loom.

“I’m working as a Resident Coordinator at West Georgia now,” the Girl From the Dining Hall said. “We could play there. Just move the game to Carrollton.”


Fate smiled as the threads all began to come together, but the smile soon faded. Though the threads were weaving in sections side by side, the thread of the Girl and the thread for the Boy never crossed. Fate managed to pull a couple of the threads that surrounded the Boy across the Girl’s path, but nothing came of it. Finally, a couple of the the threads surrounding the two became closely intertwined. They tugged at the Girl’s thread, trying to pull it over those last few inches to blend into the other section of the tapestry. Finally, with one hard yank, they succeeded. Fate almost cheered until she looked over and realized that, while she had been focussing on the Girl, the Boy had escaped to an entirely different, and largely inaccessible part of the weaving. The narrow margin by which they had missed each other was enough to make Fate bang her head against the loom. However, she only allowed herself a second to mourn before she picked up the threads again. And with a sigh, she sent the shuttle flying.


The threads danced across the loom. Sometimes they grew closer together, sometimes even further apart. Once they even crossed paths, but not long enough to make much of a difference. Only a few threads continued to run between them, but Fate fought hard to keep those threads connected. Their weavings mostly revolved around others, though. Both threads grew a little more frayed. The Boy experienced traumas that reopened old wounds, and created new ones. The Girl discovered how love could lead to loss as well as heartbreak. Fate looked at the threads with concern at first, but as she studied them she saw how the rough edges made them more likely to grip to each other. If she could get them to cross again, it would not be like the last time; there were no longer any smooth sides to glide off of each other and into other parts of the tapestry.


The Boy had been back from the war, and back in Georgia, for months now. He was feeling at a loss. In his mother’s small town he only really had his family and one friend. Too often he found himself alone with the crushing burden of still being alive. As he stared at his computer screen, longing for a better form of escapism, Fate tugged as hard as she dared. The thread had grown so thin and frayed that every pull risked snapping it. Her gamble paid off, however. On a whim, the Boy decided to go to Atlanta and see if he could find the game he’d started all those years ago.

“Does anyone have a place I could crash?” he asked at the end of the night. Back in Carrollton he would have gotten a half dozen replies. Now, however, there was only one house that could consistently accommodate travelling players. This was actually the way Fate wanted it, only she looked down to find an error in the weaving. The Girl and her husband weren’t there to offer crash space. Fate tugged at their roommate, but the thread was snarled and refused to budge. Finally, awkwardly, someone offered floor space. The situation was so bad that the Boy was convincing himself not to bother to come back. Fate looked at the fraying thread and began to feel desperate.

The threads were close enough now, though, that the errors in the Tapestry were much easier to fix than they used to be. With so many threads running between them, they were naturally drawn together. The Roommate returned to the house and began to tell his housemates about the game.

“... and there was a guy who is apparently an old player who came back. He was looking for a place to crash, but I didn’t want to just offer your house out to a stranger.”

“An old player?” they asked. “Who was he?”

“I think his name was J---- D----.”

“We know J---- D----!” they replied almost in unison. In truth, they’d only ever met him once, but they’d been hearing stories about him for years. The Roommate’s refusal to offer hospitality to a stranger was a point of disagreement in the household. The Girl and her husband always welcomed anyone who needed a place to stay, and felt the Roommate should have extended that courtesy. The Roommate did not, and would never, feel comfortable with this. However, the whole conflict was rendered moot when they realized who the individual was. The Husband sent out an email informing the Boy that he would be more than welcome to crash with them in the future. After his next visit to town put him crashing with friends an hour further out, this offer was the only thing that convinced him to come back one last time. And this time, the Girl was finally there.


“Really? I thought you said ‘This potato tastes like sand.’ I mean, that’s what I heard anyway.” The Girl realized that she was correcting the story of the person it was actually about and began to feel a little self conscious. Until he replied,

“Huh, yeah, I think I said that, too.” And he looked at her, really looked at her, for the first time. “By the way, I’m J---- D----.”

“I know who you are,” she said smiling, “We’ve met before. I’m Anie. You’re staying at my house tonight.”

He blinked and focussed again on this pretty girl sitting next to him. He felt certain that he would remember having met her before, if he had. Of course, he didn’t remember the first time he met his wife either. It was a fact they had always found notable. He began to feel a little off balance.

Back at the house, an impromptu party was being held as other out of towners were also crashing there (and many people wanted the opportunity to see and socialize with the Boy again). Conversations flitted from topic to topic and the Girl walked into the dining room just in time to hear the Boy say, “I just don’t believe open marriages can work.”

Fate felt the thread twitch between her fingers and almost laughed with delight. There was nothing the Girl loved more than a challenge. She smiled, a flirtatious, sadistic smile as she replied, “Mine seems to be working just fine.”

The Boy found himself gaping awkwardly under her gaze as he tried to figure out how to reply. Before he could form a response, the girl at the end of the table changed the subject. The Girl was left with an unsatisfied desire to talk to him further.

The Boy continued to visit, and the two continued to talk, until every waking moment was filled with discussion. They texted, used messaging clients, and (when possible) slipped away for private moments of intense conversation. Soon the ache to be with each other grew too strong and they Boy and the Girl were forced to discuss the issue with their spouses.


Fate had the tapestry well in hand now, however. All the threads were in the right places and she could see clearly how to weave them into the picture they were meant to form. Oh sometimes there were snarls that had to be worked out, but these were minor setbacks, easily overcome with a little patience. The two frayed threads grew stronger as they twined more tightly together. The threads danced as the shuttle pressed the weaving into place.


Almost three years later, the Boy and the Girl are driving to a party in Carrollton. Their spouses are driving up in a separate car. It’s a trip almost guaranteed to make them nostalgic. They both have history with this city and this trip and it seems strange to them that this history doesn’t overlap. They’re comparing stories and memories, and discussing the early days of their relationship. The Boy grows melancholy.
“I just realized how fragile it all was,” he says, as he begins to choke up. “If one little thing had been different, we never would have met. We never would have gotten together.”
In a different part of reality, Fate rests her head against her loom and laughs until her sides ache.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The B Horror Movie that Just Hasn't Been Made Yet

Battling kudzu is, to me, the ultimate futile fight of mankind against the inevitable. Finding a wayward patch, you grab it and pull. Yards upon yards of leaves and vines file through your hands as you tug roots up from the ground or pull the curled vines free from trunks and branches. But the branching, ever multiplying plant has no true end. Ultimately, you have to choose the point at which you declare “enough.” Even as the plant comes free in sweet release, your relief can only be physical. You have not won the war. In truth, you have not even won the battle. With a snip of your shears you have merely determined the location from which the fight will next resume.

You would think, with all the money we invest into biological warfare and gene tech, that someone out there would be able to develop a poison I could spray over my entire lawn that would only target the specific genetic structure of kudzu (Though I would be willing to sacrifice a few other ivies along the way if necessary). Yet, if such a product exists, people are completely failing to market it because I have yet to find it. When faced with a yard rung with kudzu, the most you can hope for is to declare your battle lines and to try to keep the enemy from crossing them. I pull vines free from the trunk of the one tree in my backyard which has not already had them intertwined into branches too high for me to reach. I monitor the fence that separates my back yard from my neighbors to ensure that the kudzu that covers it has not begun to creep along the ground. And I patrol the edge of my house while keeping a sharp eye out for any vines that have sought to cross over the thin strip of lawn in order to attack my foundation.

Should the vines ever reach the house, we’re done for. In a matter of months, kudzu can demolish a home. It twines through the foundation, busts through windows and tears down rafters. We bought our house in November, when the bare vines are barely distinguishable from all the other grey foliage, and we gave them no notice. At the closing the previous owners mentioned that the yard had “a bit of a kudzu problem” that we should keep an eye on. Of course, at that point it would have been too late for us to back out, even if we had realized the true implications of that innocuous comment.

The truth is, I love my house. At the most, the kudzu problem may have made me argue for a lower purchase price, but I doubt it would have been a deal breaker. I keep the pit of vines mowed back and monitor the lines I have declared. One day I hope to have the money to call in a landscaper and ask them how many thousands of dollars it will cost to have some professionals come in and clear out all the kudzu on my land (and that of my immediate neighbors, because otherwise there is little point). Hopefully, it will be a price I can afford. Perhaps it might be best to save this for closer to when we’re thinking of selling. While such an investment may definitely count as a battle won, it is still just buying time against the inevitable, unending war. After all, even a professional will ultimately have to pick the point at which they simply declare “enough” and and give the snip that merely redraws the battle lines anew.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Settling Down in My Home Town

These days it seems like the everyone is moving across country (or to another country entirely) from where they grew up. I can understand the desire to go someplace where no one knows you and you can get a fresh start. And sometimes, it’s just the best decision based on where the availabilities in your field can be found. However, I feel there are some definite advantages to growing older in the same town where you grew up.

I was born in Atlanta and grew up deep in the heart of Midtown. Growing up I was walking distance from my middle and high schools, from a movie theatre, a (small) grocery store, numerous restaurants, a couple of laundry mats, a hair salon we never used, the biggest park in the city and a neighborhood convenience store that probably had a name, but was always just called Richard’s Store. My husband grew up in a nearby suburb, and taught me that sometimes it’s okay to go someplace for an evening that’s more than ten minutes away.

I love Atlanta and, despite her mass transit problems, I have no desire to leave her. Other cities just don’t have enough trees, for one thing. But more than that, I know this town and she knows me.

I have never had to look for a mechanic. It seems like a taxing process. I have friends who have had their cars totaled by incompetent mechanics, and heard tons of horror stories of people being tricked and defrauded by those who are less than scrupulous. This has never been an issue for me. When I was little my parents used Bob Todd as their mechanic. When he retired, he passed the business, and their custom, on to his son, John. One of my first memories of being back in Atlanta after graduating college was taking my car in to get my blinker repaired. It was just a matter of replacing the casing and it only took a minute. When Mr. Todd (as I still call him much to his great annoyance) was done, I asked him how much it cost. He looked at me like I was crazy and told me “I’m not gonna charge Robert’s daughter for that.” It felt really good to be home.

Of course, living in the town you grew up in isn’t always discounts and name dropping. Sometimes it’s realizing the consequences of your favorite neighborhood bar also being your father’s favorite. There I am, sitting at a table full of my friends, my Guinness has just arrived and I am reaching to get a cigarette to accompany it when my father spots us and joins our table. Now, I am not a smoker. I just feel that beer, specifically Guinness, tastes better with tobacco. But after the years I spent giving my father grief about his cigarette addiction, the times I watched him try to quit, and the general “don’t ever start smoking or it will haunt your life for all time” sentiment in my house growing up, there is no way I can smoke in front of my dad - even as he bums a cigarette off my roommate and starts puffing away. Now, my dad is generally accepted amongst my friends to be pretty awesome, so there is no lack of engagement to drive him from the table. Meanwhile, my beer is growing warm and I really wish he’d go find his friends so that I can indulge my vices with out parental supervision.

Still, if my dad randomly showing up to curb my bad habits is the worst of my complaints, then life in my home town is treating me pretty well. And truly, his proximity is far more of a blessing than a burden. My husband and I only have one car between us, and MARTA doesn’t run to his office (did I mention that Atlanta’s mass transit sucks). Tomorrow I have an invited dress rehearsal for a show I’m doing costume design for at 8:30 in the morning in another part of town with out MARTA access in the opposite direction of my husband’s office. This would be an impossible situation if it weren’t for my dad who is graciously willing to pick me up at 7:45 and drop me off at the show. Because he loves me and is, as is generally accepted, awesome.

And this is with out even getting into the perks of having the in-laws nearby. Whether it’s help moving, help mounting shelves, or help getting around town, it is definitely nice to have the built in support structure of family. And when looking for reliable businesses, it’s a lot easier to spot them if you’ve been using them for over a decade, and possibly went to school with the owner’s children. I can understand the appeal of a fresh slate, but as for me? I really like being home.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Day the Dishes Fell

I originally wrote this as a comment in response to, but decided it was a little tangential to post over there. Still, it is a good story, so I figured I'd just copy it over here.

The other day one of the shelves in my kitchen collapsed. I thought I caught it in time only to have the other half give way. I couldn't catch it with out letting go of the side I was already holding. I watched helplessly as the shelf full of discontinued brown glasses which I had so painstakingly matched to my brown plates (all of which were wedding presents) went sliding to the floor.

At my cries for help and the subsequent crashing sounds, my boys rushed into the kitchen. Upon their arrival I simply burst into tears. "I've lost everything." I was convinced that I had lost not only the contents of the shelf, but that the crashing had no doubt broken everything on the shelf below as well. "I know they're just dishes, but I like having nice things ..." "I know," was all my husband said as he put his arm around me and steered me from the room.

While I sobbed into his arms in the bedroom, my boyrfriend cleaned up all the broken pieces and tallied up the damage (a task I don't think I could have born). After I had calmed down he came into report that I hadn't lost nearly as much as I thought.

Neither one of them, even once, made it seem like I was in any way unjustified in my sobs and desolation - even though I thought I was being ridiculous. I was given love, comfort, support and practical help. And I've been rarely been so glad to have two men to provide me with these things, as neither had to choose between giving me the comfort I needed and the natural male urge to fix the problem (which was also needed). They each just swooped in and took care of what had to be done. In that moment of pure emotional ridiculousness I felt completely loved and cared for.

Sometimes, it's not just about plates.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Battle With Insanity

I am not battling infertility. After only a few months of “trying” I can’t make that claim. What I’m battling is insanity.

I want a baby. Now. More accurately, I wanted one a year ago, but when my husband switched to a new job (with it’s corresponding pay cut) we decided to put it off until we knew we could live on our new budget. However, I waited as long as I felt I could and once the budget was stable for a few months, I pushed the issue.

How did I know the time was right? I mean, our finances were balanced, but there isn’t exactly an excess of funds. We own a house, but it seems constantly on the verge of major calamity. We have a great family support network in our paramours, but they currently live far away and will soon be going through a massive move/job hunt/general transition as they relocate closer. So why not wait until after we found out for certain about the husband’s raise, or the foundation was repaired, or the rest of the family was settled in town? Because every time I saw a Facebook update from a friend announcing their good news I couldn’t bring myself to say congratulations; usually, the only thing I could think was “I hate you. IhateyouIhateyouaIhateyou.” and it took all the willpower I had to just not say anything. And every time a parent, cousin, or grandparent made an offhand comment about when we would be expanding the family I wanted to yell at them and burst into tears.

Like I said, I’m going a little insane. Because once we “stopped trying not to” it just got worse. I no longer had the vaguely comforting answer of “we’re tracking our budget and waiting to see if it works out.” Instead I would just stare at those well meaning family members in silence for a second and hope that they would move the conversation along before noticing my awkwardness. You see, I don’t want to tell anyone that we’re trying. Perhaps out of a superstitious fear of jinxing it. Or perhaps out of a much deeper fear of being embarrassed if they know we’re trying and it keeps not happening. Regardless of my motivations, I don’t want to talk about it. And so, I have no reply except anguish.

I remember when I used to greet my period with joy. I heard other girls my age gripe about being on their period, wishing them away, and I was confused becauseI knew these girls were also sexually active. For me, getting my period was something to celebrate. Sixteen and NOT pregnant. Unwed and NOT a mother. Of course that feeling ceased almost the moment we were married. I’m hardwired for maternity. The only thing that kept me from wanting a baby was thinking of the expressions on my Orthodox cousin’s faces. Sure, once we were married we still couldn’t afford a child, it still wasn’t a good idea. But, no longer fearing judgment and social scorn, my period post wedding was met with a mild mixture of apathy and ambivalence and nothing more.

Now, however, things have changed again. My response is perhaps even more emotional than before. My period is met with the many stages of mourning. First comes denial, “Maybe it’s not really starting. Maybe it’s just light spotting. You can get some spotting and still be pregnant.” Then there’s the anger, as things progress and become irrefutable. I want to punch the bathroom walls and kick the toilet and call all my pregnant acquaintances and easily made mothers and tell them how much I despise them. Of course the anger drains out quickly and the grief comes pouring in to fill the void. Tears spring to my eyes and and I just want to collapse onto something and sob (what a terrible idea to design female biology such that the revelation of such disappointment will always coincide with the time when we are most susceptible to emotional outbursts). Finally, of course, there is acceptance. “Obviously, this ‘not trying not to’ strategy is not good enough. Next month I’ll actually chart my cycle.” “Okay, this was the first time we tried the cycle timing. Let’s look into what else we can do, like figuring out what the temperature thing is all about.”

The acceptance phase gets me out of the tears, but it doesn’t help with the desperation. I constantly feel like I’m running out of time. I always expected to have a child by the time I was twenty five. The thought of not even being pregnant by the time I turn twenty six is heartbreaking. My mother reminds me that she was much older when she started having kids. My rebuttal is that I am well aware of that, as looking at her worrying about college funds and retirement at the same time is the very reason I wanted to make sure I started before entering my late twenties.

Of course, the major contribution to my desperate feeling is my boyfriend’s sons. There is about two and a half years between them and I watch them play together and entertain each other. I want my child to be able to play with them, too. Or at least to have a similar relationship to the younger one that he has to the older one. But if I got pregnant RIGHT NOW, he would be three by the time the baby was born. Every day I watch him grow older. Every day he speaks more clearly, masters a new skill and becomes more independent. With every clearly stated sentence I feel my window of opportunity slamming shut.

I want to get fertility tests done now. If something is wrong I don’t want to spend a year “trying” before we do something to fix it. Because the truth is, my husband and I haven’t used tangible birth control for years, but have never had an accident or “scare.” If you combine that with not getting pregnant promptly, I feel justified in worrying there’s a problem. And if there is, I want to know and deal with it now. Actually, I want to have known 8 years ago when my husband and I first started fooling around. Because the only thing that could have almost make this craziness worth it, is if I hadn’t spent so much of my youth terrified. How much less stress would we have had if we just hadn’t had to worry about it, ya know?

And that’s my tether to sanity. That annoying frustration of “if this is the case, I wish I’d know it then, damn it.” I keep bringing it up with sardonic amusement. Because with out it, there’s nothing to mitigate the despair.

And it’s only been three months.