Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Big News

I was out with Michael and the kids at a child's birthday party when I bumped into my friend, Quinn Cummings. (Klunk. That sounded like name dropping, didn't it? I honestly didn't mean for it to, but there's just no way to nonchalantly mention Academy Award nominated actress and now humorist author Quinn Cummings without sounding like some...forgive me...star fucker.) I always love my encounters with Quinn, she's intelligent, unpredictable and very funny. She was one of the folks who encouraged me to blog in the first place. Hers is a wonderful blog called the The QC Report. (I'm not sure if like in Stephen Colbert's show the "t" in Report is silent or not.) Be sure to take a moment and check it out.

Well, Quinn noticed I had not been posting as often as I used to, which is true, and I remarked I'd been busy with my shows, however I just happened to write a post-Independence Day piece about people against New York's passing gay marriage and those who write letters to USA Today called Mommy Has Got to Speak! And in the retelling of this post I must have been very animated, because Quinn got that look a woman gets when she believes she is in possession of a simply marvelous notion, a pearl so evident, so shiny, and yet, she imagines, so completely oblivious to the man she is talking to; an absolute truth of sorts she will later define for herself as intuition.

(By the way, Quinn, I've seen the same look on Cartoon Daphne just before she leads Scooby-Doo and the gang into the henchman's trap. "I think we should go this way.")


And with the forced calm one uses on a dim child, or I imagine Charlie Sheen, she said, "I think you've graduated from blog writing. It's time for you to write a book."

This is not the first time I've been the recipient of that sentence. And in fact, if I push the demons out of the way and allow myself a peek, writing a book is absolutely in my wheelhouse and should be the next logical step. I've just never been able to pinpoint what I should write about. Everything from a gay daddy/mommy memoir, to a noir like mystery, to a combination of the two has been a possibility.

"And I think I know the subject matter," Quinn teased as she ate raspberries from the buffet table, somehow evocative of Eve and the apple. She went on to explain that every writer should write what turns him or her on, and what turns me on...the proof being that I used the word "fascinating" about twenty-three times...is the various viewpoints people have about gay marriage in this country. Then she stood back and watched as my wheels started to turn, waiting for me to concur with the suggestion she so clearly thought was a grand slam.

"Quinn, you have got to stop looking at me like Snoopy when he pretends to be a vulture." She grabbed a few more raspberries and swept out of the room.


But whether Daphne or Vulture Scooby, Quinn had every right to gloat, because the subject is a damn good fit for me. Truth be told, I'm probably more interested in the beliefs of those who voted yes for Proposition 8 (the anti gay stance), then those who like me got married and are raising a family. I ate a raspberry. Yep, I was hooked.

The fact of the matter is I am going to write a book!...well, the treatment for a book. (Quinn likes the title To Have and To Hold...I'm not sold. With the future of gay marriage being so tenuous it might need a question mark...To Have and To Hold?) And I'm reaching out to the blogosphere for help. I'm looking for people who are willing to be interviewed. Please get back to me if either you or someone you know has a unique or impassioned take on gay marriage.

I certainly have my beliefs on this issue. Being married with two children, I'm sure my stance is evident. However, this will not be a preaching to the choir book. This is a complex, national issue and I want to illuminate its many layers. Thus, I need to talk to those who carry "God hates fags" signs as well as militant gay rights activists, and everyone in between.

At present I see the book as chapters of essays; interviews inter-spliced with personal narratives, like why haven't I asked my cousin why he voted yes on Prop 8? What am I so afraid of? (This might even open up that door of opportunity.)

The interviews will be done with respect. I do not have a gay agenda, whatever that is. (But if anyone knows the person who came up with the phrase gay agenda, I'd totally want to interview him.) I will be recording interviews in person or over the phone. Those interviewed may choose to remain anonymous, and refuse to answer any questions they feel too personal. But, as you can imagine, the more candid the interviewee, the more sumptuous the material.

Here's my wish list:

-Religious leaders (Scientologists included)
-Those with and without strong religious beliefs
-Those kicked out of a church or synagogue because of his or her homosexuality
-Political leaders (especially those whose public stance is different from their private one)
-Community activists
-Chaz Bono (he's just so popular right now)
-Gay people in the military
-Gay people against gay marriage
-Proud parents of gay children
-Parents who have disowned their children for being homosexual
-Business people who would benefit from gay marriage, i.e. photographers, caterers, ice sculptors, etc...
-Anyone else with a quirky perspective

Who wants to be heard?

Contact me. I created a new email for this very project, mommywithapenis@gmail.com.

So there, Quinn Cummings! I just hope the henchman's trap isn't around the corner.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lost and Found

There is probably little more excruciating for a parent than putting the safety of your child into the hands of a total stranger only to have them not show up at the appointed time.

Bash is doing summer school this year and for the first time he gets to ride the bus to and from school. He's so thrilled at the prospect of ditching his booster seat he's pretty much forgiven us the fact he has to do summer school.

The bus takes him from our home school, which is four blocks from our house, to the summer school, and then in the afternoon brings him back to our home school. Wednesday was the first day and Michael and I met the bus driver, Grove (no, I don't know how he got his name...Grover? Mangrove?), who seemed perfectly trustworthy and told us to be waiting in front of our home school no later than 1:30, although he may be as late as 2:00 due to the fact that first days are often a cauldron of chaos and confusion.

Michael and I were a bit early for pick-up which turned out to be unnecessary. We waited...and waited...and waited. Finally, at 2:20, I could see my husband was beginning to split at the seams. Now, there is nothing subtle about Michael in a state of duress. When he's worried the entire world damn well knows it. The poor guy can't help but gnaw on every possible horrible scenario, and I see it as my job not to get sucked into his vortex of doom.

There's nothing I can do in moments like these. If I babble on and on, trying to distract him, he gets POed. If I remain silent, letting him sort out his own shit, he resents that as well. The only saving grace, and I realize how selfish this will sound, is that I deliberately focused my attentions on Michael and his irrationalities, thus was spared any pangs of distress I may have had for our son, who was over an hour late.

Finally, while maintaining a modulated calm any television therapist would envy, I offered to go back home, find the number for the bus company, call them up and see what the fuck's going on. Michael agreed that would be best.

Once home, it didn't take me long to find the Notification of Student Transportation Schedule Summer 2011. Immediately, I called the bus company and after following the prompts if this is an emergency, press one now I was unceremoniously put on hold. And anyone whose called any hot line in any American city knows the word emergency is a hoax. It felt as if I was on hold longer than it's taken Congress to figure out what to do with our debt ceiling. I waited...and waited...and waited. It was a horrible sense of deja vu, only this time indoors and with Muzak.

Michael texted me, then he called me, then he called the school and found out why Bash's bus left late, then he called me back to tell me the reason which turned out to be a missing kid (that certainly doesn't instill confidence in LAUSD), all the while I remained in that purgatory called on hold. At this point it was 2:55 and I had been holding for twenty-six minutes. After a couple more calls back and forth Michael demanded, "Go to the school, now!" Which was then followed by, "Hold on, I think I see him." Click.

About a minute after Michael hung up...you all must see where this is going...a male human from the bus service finally got on the line. And even though I knew Michael was collecting Sebastian as I spoke, I felt I had every right to say my piece and scatter a little buckshot, if for no other reason, for having to endure mind numbing Muzak for thirty-three minutes. But as I was explaining the situation, I heard the key turn in the lock and any fire and brimstone I may have had had diminished to a smouldering ash. The resounding shame on you! I had planned to say turned into a feeble never mind, thank you.

Sebastian was beaming. The bus riding experience surpassed all his expectations. Turns out the missing boy was in the bus the entire time. For whatever reason, he decided not to answer to his name when roll was taken. (I hope the kid was subjected to hours of Sarah Palin's speaking voice.)

It finally made sense why kids today have cell phones. Bash could have called us quashing any Sturm und Drang we were manifesting. Then it hit me. "What am I thinking? Sebastian couldn't have called us. He doesn't even know our phone numbers or our address."

I'm ashamed to admit, I haven't sat down with my eight year old to teach him the basic information I knew when I was five because of his learning disability.

I interrupted his chronicling of the day's events, forget about your first day of summer school, buddy. I'm going to teach you something really cool, my phone number. It's much easier than our home phone, my cell has repeated numbers and it's an easy shape to memorize on the phone's keypad. Well, guess what, learning disability be damned, that little bugger learned my number in a snap...and he hasn't stopped calling me since. My slight irritation of the constant ring tone (Janelle Monae's Tightrope) is quelled by the fact that the more he calls, the more certain I am he'll remember the number.

This proves to me that I am guilty of dumbing down my son over the years, giving in to but I can't do it, letting him basically get away with murder. So, tomorrow I'm going to teach him something else. Maybe his social.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mommy Has Got to Speak!


At the W Hotel in San Francisco the reading material is thin. There's USA Today and, oh yes, USA Today. And in thumbing through last Thursday's paper, which took me all of thirteen point six five minutes, what most grabbed my attention were the letters commenting on New York passing gay marriage.

There were four letters total, two pro New York's decision, and two anti. (Interesting to note, the dissenting voices were given double the space.) One of the naysayers was from Texas and the other Ontario.

What's wrong, Ontario, did folks stop listening to your vitriol in your neck of the woods, where gay marriage is legal? Did you so want to be heard that your only recourse was to reach across the border, finding voice in the Letters section of USA Today?

To support their same sex marriage argument, the two anti letter writers cited the Constitution, the Bible, our Founding Fathers, American values, scientific data or lack thereof, and Merriam-Webster; an auspicious grouping to say the least.

On this week celebrating our Independence, it is my intention and indeed civic duty to speak out against these recycled arguments. Mommy has sat back too long and no USA Today sound-offs are going to get the better of me.

Texas cited the following Merriam-Webster definition of marriage, "the state of of being united to a person of the opposite sex...", which firstly, made me question the decade his dictionary was printed. Then, it struck me, if the Bible and other holy books are not to hold sway in the high courts of our land when making laws that effect the human rights issue of our time, then I'm pretty certain a 1964 copy of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is about as impactful a mosquito bite to a rhino.

Texas continues: If other states follow [in legalizing gay marriage], our history books and our dictionaries will need to be rewritten.

I decided to do a little legwork and went to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary and what did I find? The exact definition Texas cited, with one glaring omission: a second definition, the state of being united to a person of the same sex...

Shame on you, Texas, for cherry picking definitions. It seems our dictionaries have already been rewritten. And you might want to brace yourself, Texas. In regards to rewriting history books, it's my understanding your state is in the process of doing just that.

Then Texas goes on to wring his hands, if this trend continues, America will cease to be America. Can you hear the opening strains of the Star Spangled Banner playing in the background? Can you see the fields of wheat blowing in the wind, superimposed over a waving flag? Because Texas is gearing up for his final volley, it's time to stand up for America, and the values it was founded upon - God, country and family. There it is, the tear-streaked Native American's face, the freshly baked apple pie cooling on the windowsill, the worn quill in Thomas Jefferson's calloused writing hand. Texas threw down a trump card, invoking the sage wisdom of our Founding Fathers. That must be our cue not to look too deeply. We should all just bow our heads in aquiescing silence. Right?

WRONG.

Is anyone else tired of those who hold up "American values" as a pinnacle of cultural excellence, unattainable to others? I'm sure the French, or the Japanese or the Namibian would have something to say about that. I personally cringe when either the left or right spout such platitudes. America is not a sports team that we root for with foam fingers and then once the game is over go our merry way. To quote Dorothy, "This is a real, truly live place. And I remember that some of it wasn't very nice. But most of it was beautiful." America's positive is very much tethered to its negative. Now, I love this country and I appreciate the benefits we are afforded, but to revere anything without looking at its whole is extremely short sighted.

And while on the subject of American values, Texas glaringly omitted a biggie...freedom. Freedom to live. Freedom to pray. Freedom to bare arms. Freedom to love. Freedom to marry. Freedom to raise children. Freedom to wear white after Labor Day. Freedom to let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas. I'm as American as the next flag waving dweeb and my sexual orientation should never discount my freedoms.

Along the same lines, Ontario claims same sex marriage is unconstitutional. Have you noticed that unconstitutional is the politically incorrect of the day? With disquieting regularity, our political contenders bandy about that word without really knowing what exactly is in our fair Constitution. For clarity... What does The Constitution say about homosexuality? NOTHING. What does it say about marriage? NOTHING. (Ontario might have been confused with the time when George DubYa Bush tried to add the Federal Marriage Amendment to The Constitution, which would have legally defined marriage as a union between a man and woman, without Merriam-Webster's second definition. Had it succeeded, it would be the only amendment denying human rights. Talk about unconstitutional.)

Ontario then says, The Bible clearly and unequivocally condemns homosexual acts. Let me point out right off that I'm not a Biblical scholar of any sort. Also, I don't want to hold up the "separation of church and state" banner like Wonder Woman's deflecting bracelets without articulating any position on religion whatsoever.

Interpreting anything from the Bible and applying absolute truth to today's modern sensibilities is a tricky task. Take the following passage: If a slave owner hits the eye of the slave or handmaid and ruins it, the slave owner must let the slave go free. There's a whole bunch of wrong with that biblical wisdom, the least of which being no mention of restraining orders or health insurance premiums. Our world was so incredibly different back then. For instance, you could blithely say "slave owner" without feeling seven shades of mortification.

There are those who point to Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of how "God hates fags." They tell us He showered fire and brimstone upon the twin cities to rid them of dykes on bikes and fancy nancy boys. If this is your belief, I invite you to reread those passages. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were filled with greed, avarice and nasty people who were just plain mean. There is no mention of Lot and his wife living over the Pleasure Chest.

There are those who say certain biblical passages bespeak of intolerance towards homosexual behavior. After all, in Leviticus it does say, You shall not lie with a male as those who lie with a female; it is an abomination. However, if you read just a teensy bit further, you find out it's also an abomination to eat shellfish, wear garments made from two types of material, trim your beard and sport tattoos. But there doesn't seem to be a plethora of sign carriers and vitriolic Ontarians condemning shrimp eaters or those who wear mixed blends.

I don't find it hard to imagine there were those in Jesus's time that frowned upon same sex couplings, nor that these beliefs ended up in the Bible. But the Bible and other holy tomes are merely blueprints, and our interpretation of these blueprints must adapt to suit our ever-growing, ever-changing society. We no longer keep slaves. Women can be our spiritual leaders. We wouldn't think twice of denying a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose entrance to a church. It's time for our views on homosexuality to shift as well.

I'd like to ask two simple questions. What did Jesus say about homosexuality? NOTHING. And by insisting on a gay life style am I breaking one of the ten Commandments? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Then, without missing a beat, Ontario glissades from religion to science, which makes me snort iced latte through my nose...just a little.

I'm not saying religion and science cannot live side by side, but some Bible quoters wear their Creationist beliefs with pride, and I am amazed how they can disregard irrefutable scientific data when it suits them, and yet shout from the tallest tower when Science supports their argument.

Ontario claims scientists cannot with one hundred percent certainty point to a gay gene. Here's the thing, Ontario. Gay marriage shouldn't have to hinge on whether scientists finds homo DNA. Sure, there is a continuum of gayness. There are some, like my husband who's had that special tingle towards men since he was three. Trust me, if a gay gene exists, Michael has it in spades (no racial slur intended.) But we have to accept that there are those who might not have been "born this way," no offense to Gaga. And like my brother who became Catholic when he married my sister-in-law, I know those who have embraced a homosexual life because they chose to follow their hearts.

In a recent interview for a hoity toity elementary school, my son announced with prescient clarity, "Daddy is a drag queen and Papa is a half queen." I think what he would have then said had we not shhhed him with our eyes would have been, "And it's all okay."

People are gay, Ontario. And not finding the gay gene does not disprove that fabulous and undeniable fact.

And then, in my opinion without thinking, Ontario barrels right into the marriage is for procreation assertion. You don't need me to poke holes into that chestnut. We all know couples who got hitched who weren't going to have children. Besides which, all you have to do is read the juicier tabloids to find out marriage is also for Green Cards, and health insurance, and unplanned pregnancies, and making new Hollywood super couples, and corporate mergers, and hiding gay lifestyles, and paying the big bucks to Charlie Sheen's divorce lawyers. I'd like to add one more to the list; my personal favorite, partnership. Marriage is for good ol' fashioned partnership. But procreation? In this over-populated world, really?

In the USA of today, not the Nazareth of yesteryear, whether born this way or not, homosexuals want the freedom (there's that word again) to live with, love and marry who they choose. And when broken down to those few words it seems silly to withhold rights. Doesn't it?

Hats off to New York.