Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oldie, 3/8/09: In the Church of the (Presumably) Gay Science Teacher

A gulf separates the average teenage girl from her mother. One of the major differences in their viewpoints is their respective attitudes toward gay men.

Mothers (as a general rule) see no point in their daughters' attraction toward gay men because they aren't likely to be good husband or father-of-grandchildren material.

The daughters, on the other hand, are often drawn toward gay men because they usually aren't macho, threatening, or domineering. They are quite often fun, and at the very least, they present a "complicated" aura that appeals to a girl's romantic sense of mystery. The younger the girl, the less likely she is to even understand the concept of homosexuality. If it isn't spelled out, and if the girl's environment treats the whole thing as terribly taboo, it's easier for the girl to build a fantasy around the gentleman in question.

From my own experience, this is especially true when the man is a teacher.

Oldie, 3/3/09: Happy Six

My friend Michele has challenged me to share 6 things that make me happy. This isn't terribly difficult -- last month the subject of happiness was everywhere. The church I attend had a 3-part series, and another online venue that I frequent had a similar challenge. That one was to describe one thing that makes you happy for eight days in a row and tag 8 others. This is a scaled-down version.

My Sextet of Happiness, in no particular order:

1. My family. This is actually one of those "subset A/subset B" types of things, since we are not the most cohesive unit. But while my son and husband occupy separate and distant galaxies in my universe, I catch myself "lighting up" at an unexpected encounter with either. They have both given me support, nurturance, inspiration and purpose in my life.

2. Writing. I don't draw (or even doodle), paint, craft, sculpt or compose; all my pictures and tangible concepts involve the English language on a page. If I ever stop scribbling, someone had better take my pulse. I'd generally rather write than eat.

3. Freedom. You know it when you've got it, and when you haven't. I suspect this a more common and universal state for humanity than many of us realize. Is it possible to be happy when you lack freedom (however you may define it)? And conversely, is it possible to be completely miserable when you own a sense of control over your circumstances? Freedom can be as "macro" as the right to assemble or express an opinion, and as "micro" as the ability to swivel your desk chair in a circle without banging your knee on something.

4. Laughter. Sometimes it's absurd physical comedy (admit it, at some time or other, Chris Farley doing the Chippendales can and will make you smile, however briefly), scathing social commentary a la George Carlin, or a simple, unintended Spoonerism. I'll take 'em all. I'll even take the ones where somebody peers at me disapprovingly over the tops of their eyeglasses and says "That's not funny at all." You're right, it's not. But for a second or two, in another dimension, it was.

5. Intelligence. I don't mean the ability to perform quadratic equations from memory or even to articulate the origins of life in the universe. Intelligence, for me, is when reason prevails, especially when people reach out to each other, think beyond their own self-interest and make something happen that keeps things moving forward and brings hope for the future. The Innocence Project is just one example.

6. Music. Goes with laughter and writing. Life would be meaningless and empty without any of those.

There are too many of you out there to limit a tag to 6, so consider the question of what makes you happy and post something.

Oldie, 2/21/09: Yet Another Reason to Admire Christopher Hitchens

Warning: This post contains a plague of run-on sentences.

As one of those "quiet types," I harbor a not-so-secret admiration for the biped bull in a china shop who WON'T put up and shut up until a lot of people are listening closely. While the rest of us little angels modestly hide our opinions or diffuse them with diplomacy, people like Christopher Hitchens are on the front lines, writing and acting simultaneously before a live audience, knowing that cheers and jeers are likely to follow in equal measure, but reasonably confident that one day, their truth will become so universal that they will no longer have to hammer at it, because a comfortable majority will have finally adopted it and convinced the rest.

So Hitchens may shock and irritate when he suggests that Mother Theresa was, at heart, an incurably unmarried woman who was willing to do a lot of hard work mainly because she liked the publicity, rather than some ethereal symbol of supernaturally imposed ideals. He slices through the philosophical theories of religious belief by asserting that religion "poisons everything," daring those who disagree to show him where he's wrong. Hitchens, to use a terribly overworked phrase, never declines to "walk the talk."

Last summer, Hitchens took a break from grousing about religion to sharpening the debate over torture, and the US's proper role in conducting it. Is waterboarding torture, or isn't it? he asked himself. And rather than sift through other people's answers, he decided to find out first-hand. He contacted the military unit that originally taught American soldiers how to survive "enhanced interrogation" at the hands of enemy captors, then shifted to teaching them how toperform such tasks.

In his Vanity Fair article, Hitchens describes the secret location, the indemnification agreement (releasing the military from liability in the event that Hitchens didn't survive the experience), the prearranged signal or safe word that would tell his obliging hosts to cease and desist (not unlike the technique used in consensual S&M activities), and finally, the main event.

As he relates it, Hitchens probably lasted less than half a minute before panic set in at having water poured into his face and all breathing blocked.

He was terrified.

And then, when his breathing and heartbeat were getting back into the normal range, he said he wanted to try it a second time.

Hitchens is 9 years my senior and some of his descriptions struck a sympathetic chord. Like me, he suffers from chronic, disruptive "acid reflux and mild sleep apnea," as well as the memory of a near-drowning incident in youth. He is overweight, non-athletic, and a heavy smoker. Other than the smoking and childhood trauma, his age, physical circumstances and sedentary lifestyle could easily describe me. It could also, realistically, describe a nameless, faceless "foreigner" swept up in an ambush and flown 7000 miles to a prison where journalists and lawyers are barred. Or an American soldier, seemingly in top condition, but possessed of all the human characteristics that make prolonged survival under drowning conditions impossible.

Christopher Hitchens' purpose in chronicling his experience with waterboarding was to offer a first-hand, non-simulated look at this highly controversial practice. My purpose in posting this is to express my respect for the courage it took to subject himself to his voluntarily, at the risk of his very life.

Oldie, 2/14/09: 10 Things My Mother Wanted Me To Know About Sex

Note: Okay, this really is meant as humor, though everything listed here actually was said to me by my mother, either directly or by implication. This, in the midst of bragging about how open-minded and "hip" she was compared to HER mother.

Not sure why I feel the need to warn that some may find this offensive, but in any case, consider yourself warned.

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!

1. All men have a "thing."
2. If a man is in your bedroom but doesn't see a bed -- just a studio couch -- he won't think about sex.
3. French kissing? That's when a man tries to kiss you, but then he goes and STICKS HIS TONGUE in your mouth!
4. If you're about to have a romantic moment and then one partner gets distracted for even a second, it will kill the entire mood, and you might as well just forget it.
5. It is the height of rudeness for the man to ask the woman if she enjoyed it.
6. If you're holding hands with a boy and he scratches his finger against your palm, that's a signal that he wants to have sex, so you should avoid him.
7. I've heard that there are some guys who actually want you to put your mouth on "it." Or they want you to let them stick it in your butt.
8. I understand that sex can actually be quite pleasant.
9. Don't sit with your legs apart. Someone will come along and try to stick something in there.
10. One day, if you're not careful, some man will come along and force you to lie down and "connect" with him. ["connect" was the term I invented for intercourse when I first learned about it]