Thursday, May 28, 2015

Are you listening, George? Somebody finally got it.

"Why I dare not come out of the closet"

I found myself looking up this entry in the original Morningside Papers anthology today, for no reason I can ascertain except that I remembered it. I remembered a story of a gay man, married, so closeted he can barely breathe, and convinced that the closet will be his fate, if not his doom, for the rest of his life.

But what startles me about this piece is the language. He reveals his orientation with  horror and revulsion, like someone who goes around murdering little children. After laying out the facts of his stable, wonderful, conservative life, he then rips open the cover to reveal a festering secret, a secret that seems to come right out of one of those 1940s "warning" films:

He likes men.

I like men. Almost all my close friends have been men, all my life. I've always felt a certain kinship with gay men because of that fact. I'm monogamous, meaning I haven't had the opportunity to spread myself out too much, but I like to look. I'm 61, and I like to look and dream and have some pretty hot fantasies. I like the smell of a man, the firmness of body, the hair, the voice, the hands.

I guess if I was a man, I'd be gay. Would all this be horrible?

If I was free to do so, would it be horrible for me to want to claim all this bounty sexually?

Obviously, I don't get it. I never have. But what I HAVE had are a few "confessions" over the years, mostly by older men, about their one sexual encounter with a man, sometimes coerced, sometimes not, and how they agonized about it, all the while living a hetero life. One man was sixteen when he lied his way into the army during World War II, and was blackmailed into sex with an older man with fear of disclosure that he was underage. When he told me this as an old man, barely able to look me in the eye, I didn't know what to say to him except, "I am honoured that you told me this. Thank you." And I meant it: I was, literally, the only person he ever told.

So the skinny five per cent this guy mentions seems puzzlingly small. Sexuality spreads out a lot more than that, waxes and wanes. We're not puzzle pieces. We flow. Our desires flow, but sometimes they flow strongly in one direction. This poor guy is so rigid that he believes he'll be executed if he's ever "found out". He skulks around in back alleys on business trips. He has a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality. Whoo boy.

Was this sad, sad piece written in the '40s, the '50s perhaps? No, it was written and published in 1984. Mind, that was 31 years ago (? How can it be true?), and so much has happened since then that this piece seems archaic, even a little bit insulting.

It's insulting to gay men who are proud of who they are. Yes, they existed in 1984 because I knew a few of them. It's insulting in the horror-movie language it uses, the description of gayness as plague and blight. The utter unbending certainty of "ruin" if this ever "got out" is, come to think of it, a little nasty, because it supposes a culture utterly devoid of flexibility or understanding.

This guy thinks he HAS to live a lie, and that he must be the Christlike sacrifice to keep the whole ruse going. But he isn't the sacrifice. His wife is: she doesn't even know who she is married to. His kids are: every day their father sits at the breakfast table across from them with a big sign on his forehead that says, "I am not who you think I am." Chronic deception causes tension in a household, often on a subconscious level that gnaws away and erodes emotional health. Nothing is as it seems, because it cannot be, "must not" be what it is. The truth is just too horrific.  This is a guaranteed method of throwing your family permanently off-balance. It's like living with Don Draper, for God's sake, with his false identity and ruthless sexual conquests, some of them acted out with his neighbor across the hall.

I wonder whatever happened to this guy. He seemed at the breaking point. I wonder if he continued to feel, as he seemed to feel then, that keeping up the ruse of "normalcy" at work and church and home was the only right thing to do. It's twisted, and it's an example of why things had to change, and why they need to keep changing.

In spite of what media blast at us every day, not everyone is "cool" with being gay. If you are from a fundamentalist background of any stripe, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, it is not cool. It is Sin. Sin is something you're supposed to atone for. Then, "go and sin no more". Bible camps seek to straighten people out with the hammer of guilt, even though the founder of one of the largest of these groups went on record to say that the whole thing had been a tragic mistake (before moving in with his male lover).

On the surface of things, this piece, very much of its time, shows us how far we have come. But it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Under the horror-movie language is a strange kind of boasting, very much in the Don Draper mode: look what I am getting away with. And fuck you, you conventional people, because I have my own little private world here and I'm going to make sure my wife and kids and colleagues never find out. I have known men who have made the decision to be married to women, and gay "on the side", so to speak. In some cases, their wives even know. Perhaps they've resolved the tension, or think of themselves as bisexual (and hey, whatever happened to bisexual? Nobody's bisexual any more. It has become extremely unpopular for some reason). It is society that creates most of the problems here, refusing human beings the fluidity and even androgyny that is deep in their nature.

Keep sloggin' forward, folks. Keep that banner hoisted high. Think of Dublin! And think of this poor sod, who is perhaps not even alive any more, the homosexual who dares not come out of the closet.

"You had me at hello"

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Untruth in advertising: the Sea Monkeys conspiracy

I'm not sure what this is - at first it looked sort of like a weird Christmas ornament full of mythological creatures. gryphons or gorgons or whatever. But then I saw the resemblance to the classic old Sea Monkeys comic book ad. Same riotous creatures, partying their little faces off. Here, dancing the cha-cha.  I think you are meant to wear this glass globe around your neck, meaning the multi-legged creatures would have to hatch inside it. Be born, live on their sustaining sludge mixture, and die. But why are they GREEN?

Everyone knows, of course, that it's false, that they're really flesh-coloured, and speak perfect English. 

I don't remember Sea Monkeys being advertised on television, but they must have been, because I found a slew of bizarre old ads on YouTube.

As the 1980s wore on, truth in advertising won out. The little bastards aren't green OR flesh-coloured, but mucky, slimy beige. At least you knew what you were getting. Though people still want them, and spend money on them today. They're more of a science experiment than a pet.  My brother raised amoebae and paramecia in his bedroom, feeding them on a seething, fermenting solution of water and Brewer's yeast. The advantage of these little slimers is that you can actually SEE them.

Why is a chimp advertising Sea Monkeys? Maybe this one was snagged from that old Red Rose Tea ad.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

The hummingbird of perpetual self-satisfaction

SUCH AS. . .

rent money
a compatible partner
someplace to live
harmonious family relationships
more money
stuff to make a meaningful life

ALL provided for you, presumably FREE, at the exact time that you need it. There will also be no more flash flooding, traffic accidents, cancer, etc.

That is all.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Joy for Ireland: the rainbow connection

Joy: Ireland is on the verge of a historic change

Rainbows have been photographed over Dublin as Ireland becomes the first country to permit gay marriage via a popular vote.

Dozens of pictures of the rainbows were posted online as the country chose to permit sex marriage through a referendum.

One Twitter user said the beautiful rainbows were a sign that gay marriage got Jesus's vote.

With 39 constituencies declared, the Yes vote is 62.3% and No 37.7%.

The number of Yes votes is 1,128,209, with 682,932 votes for No.

There are three constituencies still to declare - Cork North West, Cork South West and Cork East.

Key campaign groups fighting the reform conceded defeat before any formal declarations.

The referendum now paves the way for the necessary laws to be passed by the summer and potentially opens the door for the first gay marriage ceremonies to be held by the end of the year.

Early on, the reform was most popular in Dublin South West with a near 71% backing.

But in Taoiseach Enda Kenny's own back yard, Co Mayo, the contest was much tighter with only 52% of voters in favour.

It is only 22 years since Ireland decriminalised homosexuality.

Voters were asked one simple, specific question on whether to amend Article 41 of the 1937 Constitution by adding a new clause to a section titled The Family.

It asked them to support or reject a change to the 78-year-old document which reads: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex."

It does not suggest any change to the definition of the family or remove any outdated references in the section, including those that state a woman's place is at home.

If passed, it would be the 34th amendment to the constitution but, regardless of the result, the campaign will rank with other hotly contested issues such as divorce and abortion.

(It's written in the sky, folks. Change is coming. Get with it, or end up suffocating and choking on your poisonous old medieval Catholic dogma. Love walked in. . .and it changed everything.)

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Gangsta geese in the 'hood

Canada geese form ‘gang broods’ in Burnaby

Two adult birds with 33 goslings grab attention at Burnaby Lake


A family of Canada Geese with 33 goslings at Burnaby Lake May 21 2015.

METRO VANCOUVER -- A new gang has claimed Burnaby Lake as its ‘hood.

Although a pair of Canada geese normally give birth to five or six young, Burnaby streamkeeper John Preissl documented two adults with no fewer than 33 goslings in tow. “As I walked down the trail near Piper Spit Pier, I noticed the large brood ... following the pair,” he explained Friday. “About 45 minutes later they swam right by me and across the lake to spend the night. It was good to see most of the rowers stopped for the family.”

The explanation is that Canada geese often form “gang broods” — defined as two or more broods amalgamated into a single cohesive unit and shepherded by four or more parents — according a 2009 study in the journal, Condor.

Gang brooding is more typical among older, experienced geese, and among geese that change mates from the previous year, the study found.

Gang broods, or crèches, can reportedly range to 100 goslings following just a few adults and are more common in areas of high nest density, in urban and suburban areas.

Rob Butler, a retired bird scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, said he spotted the same gang brood at Burnaby Lake. While he’s heard and read about such large numbers, this is the first time he’s actually seen it. “I said, ‘Holy smokes, look at that pair, they have a lot of young.’ ”

Butler said gang broods may be a case of safety in numbers — more eyes to watch for predators such as bald eagles, and reduced odds of being targeted should they attack.

“It’s mutual protection, lots of eyes and adults around,” he said.

It’s not clear why Preissl photographed just one pair of adults with the 33 goslings, but it’s possible the other parents are nearby, are dead, or are younger adults with less experience at raising young. “Anything’s possible,” Butler said. “At Burnaby Lake, they all get together to mooch food off people. They get all these broods together. It’s pretty easy to band together into one big group.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

PLEASE NOTE: there's a really cool short video with this that I couldn't embed. Here's a link to the whole story.

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Geese What? Goslings Galore!

Three broods of goslings at Sasamat Lake. Taken last year. This was all I could find in video to illustrate the "Canada geese form 'gang broods'" story from today's Vancouver Sun. It's our own shaky home video. I believe we counted eighteen geese altogether, but the spectacular mega-brood in Burnaby Lake totalled 33 goslings swimming in one long line. We watch wildlife in Como, Lafarge and Burnaby lakes all the time, but we've never seen anything like this!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gay intrigue!

If this is the world's largest club, then why haven't I heard of it before? Never mind, God was saving it for this blessed moment. Not only do these sweet elderly women resemble a very genteel police lineup, they don't even have NAMES, just numbers (though at first glance I thought these might be their birth dates, or perhaps their ages).

In reading this, I can only decipher that it's a very early version of Christian Mingle for oldsters. Obviously, there's a dire shortage of men here, which means a fella can just about have his pick. There are plenty of widows to go around (making you wonder - if they ARE in jail - what exactly did they do to deserve it? Go watch Dateline, folks, women bump off their husbands all the time.) But my favorite part is the "gay intrigue". Gay didn't mean much more than "gay" back then - happy, sparkly, twinkle-toesy - but intrigue? I don't know if any of these old broads would be up to it. The whole thing reminds me of Zero Mostel in The Producers: "I LOVE YOU!" "Ehh?"

More gay intrigue.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Clothes are like skin to me

While blundering around in my files trying to find something, I found this. It was originally written for my first blog, the late and never-lamented Open Salon thing that was eventually driven out of town by vicious, insular harpies who didn't think I had a right to be there. Fine.

This essay, while relevant, doesn't entirely apply now, because my closet has since been vastly pared down (though it's surprising how many of the pieces I mentioned are still there). But I'm once more in a cycle of weight loss/body change. The more you do this, the worse your final shape will be. Today I look like a melted cookie. But perhaps it's still good for my health.

My blog style has changed, in that I no longer try to do "good" writing. No one wants to see it , and I don't feel like doing it. I see other people's blogs now and think I am in a hospital room. But only because mine is like a basement or garage or tool shed with spiders crawling around in it. No one reads it anyway, right? Well, not many. So why have I spent my life doing this? Hmmmmmmm??

I'll no doubt realize the answer a few seconds before I expire. Meantime, read this, it's pretty good, even if I no longer write in this sort of essay style - it'd kill me with boredom now

This is the kind of job I could put off forever. I don’t just hate my bedroom closet, I fear it. Long ago my husband moved his stuff out. Like a miniature version of Hoarders, it tells stories that ain’t pretty. Everything is so tightly packed in there that it emerges squashed into  ripply pancaked wrinkles that are nearly impossible to get out.

I am tired of this great whale, this leviathan that I have to wrestle with each day just to find something to wear. I am powerless over my wardrobe, and my closet has become unmanageable.

The thing is, I take care of my clothes, almost fanatically. I hand-wash and I hang-dry and I don’t bleach and I do all those things the little tags tell me to do, or not do. Because they irritate shit out of me, I remove most of the tags surgically, with a stitch-ripper. I take such fanatic care, the result is that nothing dies. There are items from every year going back to (bllompfdhhd). Items going back to so many fluctuating weight levels, I’m embarrassed to even think about it.

Shape-shifters like myself have always had a hard time finding anything nice to wear. Not to mention pyramid-shapes whose hddd’pvlms are a tad larger than “normal”. And those with penguin-flippers for arms, so that shirt-cuffs lop down 2 or 3” longer than “normal”. Turned-back cuffs do not look casual, they look sloppy and weird, as if you’re a kid playing dressup.

My body is not normal and my psyche is not normal, so what do I do?  Recently I’ve been on yet another round of weight loss, and though I’m not trying very hard at all (and so far, not using a scale to prevent the usual salivating obsession), I’m getting results. ALL my coats fit, that is, the ones that aren’t a little tight, but they all button up. I’m slowly beating the “bottom button” curse which all pear shapes will know about, the top of a blouse fitting beautifully and the last button pulling violently apart as if it’s three sizes too small.

What’s getting me now is that I know I have to get rid of some stuff, if only to make room for the things I’ve just snarfed up in the spring sales. There are pants in there that go back to 115 (AD, not BC) and (gasp) 165. There are pants with high waists and pleats. There are sweaters shoved in the back, probably from the 1980s, with big firm shoulder pads.  (For me, with no shoulders to speak of, they were a great blessing, and I hated it when they went “out”). There are unwise purchases covered in glitter or beads or even feathers. And there are lots of things that I take out once in a while, look at and put back, convinced they’re too nice to wear. I’m not sure what I am saving them for.

Then there are those few (very few) indispensable pieces, things I just wear and wear because they make me feel good. Blazers have always made me look great, almost as if I know what I’m talking about, because they’re structured (and I’m not) and have shoulders (and I don’t), and I have a cranberry one in pinwale corduroy and cranberry is my favourite color, well, next to turquoise (and there’s that turquoise blouse, and the t-shirt I picked up in New Mexico with the little “milagro” all over it – the t-shirt that DOES NOT GRAB MY ASS!) And stuff like that.

A few years ago, stretch fabric stormed the racks. Now it seems to be everywhere, and damn I like it, maybe a little too much. This past weight gain, which I put down to the dense regime of medication I must use to keep my health from falling apart, everything just sort of – flexed. Suddenly I could sit down OK. Waists slid down at least an inch or two even on the most conservative clothes, which for some bizarre reason flatters me. What better excuse to buy this, and this, and this!  Three-quarter sleeves, now ubiquitous, solved another chronic fit problem.

But jesus guys, I can’t take this any more. I am in closet limbo. This place is ready to explode, and most of it isn’t even really wearable. If I cull out the dead wood, I tell myself, I will reveal to myself treasures that I had forgotten existed. I have every reason, but the thing is, I hate reason.

Clothes are like skin to me. Not that I always like them. Liking isn’t the point.  They represent me, in some way that makes them hard to bag up and throw out. I can’t imagine some other woman wearing them, not even someone shivering on a street corner. They’re too old and dowdy, for God’s sake! Well, not all of them. But by now they’ve taken on my shape and scent and form and give and take. An imprint. My “vibes”, you might say. Do I love them? Maybe, but that depends. What’s love?

This morning I am going to take two or three green garbage bags and set to, ruthlessly defoliate. Rip, rip, rip (and RIP). Big chunks will be pulled out by the roots, never to be replaced. Some things I will just have to try on, even if for the last time (for I am now 2” less in the hip than I was 3 months ago), to see if the miracle will happen.  Or not.

The great law is, supposedly, if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. How many times have I rediscovered something I haven’t worn in ten years, tried it on and thought, Jesus, where did I get this? Thank God I didn’t donate it. They just don’t make stuff like that any more! Then put it back in the closet where it will slowly work its way back to where it was.

These items wait in the wings. I will wear them. Or I won’t. Each blouse or sweater or pair of pants seems to give off a scream of anguish as I rip it out of its socket and throw it in the bag.  Why have you forsaken me?  We saw some good times together, didn’t we? Can’t we have them again?

I try to get them to shut up as I open my third or fourth bag. But the uncomfortable truth is, it’s me that can’t move on.