Explain This

When George was two, my parents went to an afternoon movie after which they were going to come to my house to babysit. Around 6 that evening, my mother called to tell me that they were not “coming over” after all. “Um, you weren’t coming over, you were babysitting…” I said in a perhaps less charitable tone than I should have. It was then that she explained that my father had fallen asleep during the movie and she was unable to wake him. Huh? What does that even mean? Since he was a Type 2 Diabetic, she had tried, in vain, to feed him some of the Jr. Mints left over in his lap. (He must have “fallen asleep” early on…there was little that would keep my father from emptying a box of those little gems). Suddenly aware that something was quite wrong, I told her to meet me at the hospital.
When she arrived there with him he was, apparently, in such a frightening state (important visual: my father was 6’1”, my mother 5’1”…imagine her trying to “carry” him in) that they immediately bedded him and started to try to figure out what was wrong. It was a long night. By the end, we knew that he had had a stroke. That was the good news. The answer to the question following the routine chest x-ray of, “are you aware there is a large mass in your chest?” was “um, no”. That was the bad news.
At the time, I was a (mostly) happy stay at home mom. I had stopped working not too long before, in part because George was so wild and busily beating his own drum that the family day care sort of, kind of, might have thrown her hands in the air and cried uncle. So, the only help I had was for the one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day I would drop him off in the babysitting room at the JCC and (usually) work out. There was a lovely older woman named Alla there who was solidly unafraid of George. Perhaps it was the fact that she was Israeli and, as such, able to withstand more than most, but it doesn’t much matter. Not only could she handle him, she freakin’ adored him. The admiration was reciprocated and all was right, if only for one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day.
I was a no-show for several days following my father’s diagnosis. When I finally returned and told Alla what was going on she asked how she could help. She knew I had no other coverage and that the babysitting was only for when I was in the building (theoretically) working out. Without hesitation she offered to watch George at her home for as much time as I needed, for as long as I needed. At the moment, I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for help and after asking her about a hundred times if she was sure, accepted her offer.
George and Alla hung out together for the next several weeks. I would deliver George to her and know that he was safe and happy, even though it was evident that the world around me was crashing in. I still feel indebted to her and never will forget the kindness she showed me and George.
I’ve seen Alla many times over the years. I am even relatively certain that I have told her that George is now Jess. But, either I didn’t or she does not recall…because each and every time I bump into her, she asks for her “boy George”. Every. Single. Time.
Yesterday, I ran into Alla. Literally. I was coming around the corner at the market and our carts collided. We embraced. I told her, as I always do (because it is true) that she simply doesn’t age. She caught me up on her kids, two docs and one who is set to graduate next week from Harvard Law. And, as always, she asked about her “boy George”. I told her that “everyone” is great, getting older, keeping me on my toes. I mastered the ol’ sin of omission by not engaging in one single pronoun. She asked if I had any recent pictures and I, um, lied, and told her that my phone was in the car, hoping against hope that it didn’t ding, ping or ring right then and there. I was secretly relieved that Jess was not with me. Not because I am ashamed, but because it simply feels like it is too late/too exhausting/too old news/too overwhelming/too much a part of everyday life that I sometimes forget to have to explain it again.
This is not the first time I have skirted the issue of “explaining.” I have omitted the details to my elderly neighbor who moved away years ago, but with whom I still keep in touch – primarily by phone. I once skimmed over the details of the facts with two little kids who were too young and new to our family to tell. I was later accused of lying to them which stung a little, but I know I did the right thing by “explaining” only what they would understand. Things like this come up all the time. No, really: all.the.time. And, if I am being honest, I am getting tired of having to explain to every Tom, Dick and Harry that my daughter started off as my son.
Then, late yesterday afternoon, just hours after my encounter with Alla , “explanation time” came up again when I took Jess to Urgent Care for an ear infection. I checked her in, ponytail and pink-checked lounge pant-clad Jess who happens to have an insurance card that says George. I leaned in and asked the receptionist to please call her Jess and use female pronouns which, not surprisingly, caught her off guard. To her credit, she had a quick recovery, wrote it on the intake form and moments later, Jess was called. And then! Then, the doctor came back in with the prescription which was written for Jess, forcing me to tell her (kind of again) that the script had to say George. So many Ts to cross, so many Is to dot.
Jess is used to it. She heard me tell the folks at the new allergist’s office. And the blue-haired gal taking names at Super Cuts, and the on-call pediatrician, and the camp directors, and the gymnastics teacher… She’s corrected people who slip up and others who should know better than to, um, slip up. It happens.
Anyone who has ever read a word of this blog knows how I adored my father. What you might not know, however, is that I felt the same way about his father, my grandpa, who was named…yep, George. In 2001, most people were not naming little boys George. I even hesitated a little, worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But he could and did better than pull it off – he killed it. He was the man. He was Georgie, Georgieporgiepoopoo and “boy George”. On paper, she still is. Every so often, Jess will ask that we change her name legally, but never with an intense and desperate need. If and when that happens, it happens…but for now, it’s all cool.
So, I will continue to forewarn, correct, whisper, lean in and remind folks that the name George on the form is only the name on the form. I will share as necessary. I will keep my mouth shut when there is no purpose in telling our story. She is just my kid who doesn’t always need to be explained, but if she does, knows I’ve always got her back…just like my dad and Alla did.

Except When…

To the outside world, I exude confidence.  Perhaps it is because I am able to find the humor in just about any possible situation, so it therefore appears that I am in control and can (perhaps) handle all that is thrown at me.  I am outspoken, honest and (perhaps too) open with whatever is happening in my life so the natural assumption is that I am down with it, cool, unfazed, and confident.  And, to be fair to myself, sometimes I am.  Most of the time I really do believe that “I got this” and that the curveballs and bumps in the road are not enough to throw me off my axis.  Except when they are.

That is when I ignore said jolts in the hopes that they will be magically worked out through some sort of divine intervention.  You know…the whole “fall in your lap” kind of thing.  And, if I am being honest, I have been fortunate in that sometimes that has indeed happened.   Except when it hasn’t.

A mountain in Chile which took my breath away.  In part because they told me we were going to climb it.

A mountain in Chile which took my breath away. In part because they told me we were going to climb it.

Case in point: I am a pretty good writer.  I can tell a story.  I can, for example, strike up a conversation with a woman at Uniqlo (she mentioned “the sisterhood”, I was in), talk to her for an hour and then write about it.  This usually garners a supportive laugh or other form of appreciation from someone like you.  (I haven’t had a chance to write about it but it is a great story including our discussion of body image, foreign travel, divorce, transgender and, wait for it…heroin.  All while standing in the middle of the frenzy that is Uniqlo.)  I willingly go up against the hysteria of any given day in my life and relay it to you in a way that you respond to.  I actually love to do that and it isn’t, frankly, too hard for me.  Over the years, folks have told me to do something more with that skill…as in make a living from it somehow.  And that, friends, is the precise moment that I become totally, completely and utterly immobilized.  Wha??  Make a living at it?  You smokin’ dope?  Yep…there it is: the abject fear which stops me in my tracks, resulting in my total inability to do a damn thing.  Despite my propensity to be riddled with self doubt over the little stuff[1], I don’t generally think of myself as a fearful person. Except when I do.

Then there are those women who do a little something on the side (with nary a thought of it becoming a big something) only to find themselves sitting across from Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” [2]couch chatting themselves up.  Man, does that mess with my head, setting in motion a viscous internal battle between over-confidence and crippling insecurity as to any possibility of enjoying my own such trajectory of success.  Of note: most of these gals didn’t necessarily set out to do it, rather it just, well, happened.  (See divine intervention above.) Regrettably, I have this (ridiculous, dangerous and often disappointing) desire for all things[3] to happen organically, without contrivance or strategy. And, truthfully, that has happened in my favor.  More than once, even.  Except when it hasn’t.

I know what I want.  To make more money.  To have more freedom.  To create for people things that they might not be able to, because, while they rock this world with their particular brand of expertise they do not happen to be great writers.  (No judgment: I can give you a list as long as my arm of things I suck at…math comes to mind.  And science, yeah, science does, too.) I know what I am good at and where I thrive.  I am 50, after all, so I have it all figured out.  Except when I don’t.

p.s. If you know someone who wants a scribe…you know where to find me.

[1] It is always the little stuff.  Big stuff I take on fiercely.  If you don’t believe me, ask my mother. Or my brothers.  Or my kids. Or Mary.  Or Barry.  Or Marcia.  Or Janet.  Seriously: I had an easier time with cancer than I did with choosing whether or not to let my gray grow in.

[2] I’m talking to you, Jill Smokler…

[3] Not really all, but many.

Thanks, Bruce

No, I have not seen the Bruce Jenner interview.  Yes, I have every intention of watching it…just not sure when. No, I don’t have a reason for avoiding, er, not tuning in.  Yes, I realize those are two hours of television I should most definitely have watched by now.

bruce

Okay, so in the three plus years since Jess has transitioned the public awareness of transgenderism (I think I made up that word) has exploded.  Way back in 2012 it was way weirder, way less common and certainly way less publicized than it is now.  Admittedly I am more tuned in, but I am quite certain that there was not a seemingly daily story on the subject like there is now.  My kind and well intentioned friends send me links to stories on television, the radio, online, in print and overheard at the local CVS nearly every day.  Many I have seen by the time they are forwarded to me, others I have not.  Some I read, some I do not.  Each time I skip reading the story I feel a pang of guilt; I should be well-versed on and interested in everything good, bad, thrilling, infuriating, scary, despicable and ground-breaking that happens in the transgender community, right?  I should be a loud and proud voice for my child, right?  I should know the what, where, why and how of the LGBT community so I can educate, explain and improve the world view, right? Only here’s the rub: sometimes I just want to be a regular mom with a regular kid with regular issues.  Sometimes I literally cannot bear the thought of hearing one more tale of transition or acceptance or rejection or triumph or catastrophe…so I do things like avoid, er, not find the time, to watch the Bruce Jenner interview.

To be clear: I am all for educating, explaining, protecting, supporting, and normalizing the transgender experience.  I applaud Bruce Jenner and Laverne Cox and Brad & Angelina and Cameron and Aiden and Connie and Rogina and Jill Soloway and Diane Sawyer and Jazz and Mimi Lemay and every other man, woman and child who puts themselves out there.  In fact, I have been one of those people.  With each new story I already know what the comments will be…they never change:

“A child is too young to make this decision.  If they said they wanted to be a pony would you let them?”

“G-d doesn’t make mistakes.”

“These are the most wonderful parents ever!”

“These are the worst parents ever!”

“Crazy mother didn’t get the girl she wanted, so she’s doing this!  For shame!”

“I wish I had had parents like this…it would have saved me years of pain.”

This cycle is, as I am sure you can appreciate, exhausting.  What’s more: at this point in the game, I sometimes forget that Jess was George.  I see her as my very cool, very complicated, very interesting, very unusual, very artistic, very independent thinking kid.  I think of her as my kid and not as my transgender kid.  I don’t bring it up in conversation, nor do I hide it.  It is what it is.  Maybe your kid has issues with anxiety or anger or learning or obesity or is so obnoxious that it is legendary…and you don’t need or, frankly, want every article, story and debate over your given malady because you are living it.  Yep.  It is the same thing here.

I know that each and every person who has ever sent me a text about or a link to an article or story is doing so with kind, loving and supportive intentions.  I really do.  I know that the media has latched onto the transgender story and that it is doing wonderful things for the community.  I really do.

From everything I have heard, seen and read since his interview it is clear that Bruce Jenner did a wonderful thing for himself, his family and the world by sharing his story.  I am grateful for that.  I hope it throws some tar down on the newly paved road for kids like mine.  I also hope it takes a little bit of pressure off of us parents who, despite enormous support and love, often feel like we are flying solo.  By not watching, and not weighing in with an opinion, I feel a sense of relief that someone else can talk the talk and walk the walk for me, if just for a few days.

Fifty

50Today I am 50.

Yes, I was born on April Fool’s Day.  I double dog dare you to come up with one I haven’t heard.

Anyway, when I awoke this morning I received a text from a ridiculously dear friend that read: “Welcome to the “I’m good with myself and I don’t give a shit what you think” decade!”  I had two thoughts: “Amen, sista!” and “Wait, I can only feel that way for a decade?!”

I then got a call from my mother who asked how I felt on this “momentous day”.  The real question, I told her, was how did she feel?  I am, after all, the baby of the family (not to mention my father’s favorite) so it has to be weird for her that I am, by all accounts, a grown up.  Took me til 50 to feel that way, but now I am solidly in the “bring it on” phase of my life which, in my mind, gives me bragging rights on being an adult.

Anyone who has ever read anything I have ever written (ever) knows that my 40’s were a little shall we say, tumultuous?  I had cancer, deaths, divorce, gender transitions, surgeries, moves and the occasional bout of hysteria so intense that my eyes swelled shut from crying.  I was filled with fear, anxiety, a stunning lack of confidence and, thankfully, a posse of supporters holding my hand, kicking my ass and reminding me of my very own mantra; “I got this.”  Relationships, living situations and the world I had always known changed repeatedly.  The forties were tough.

And then I began the ascent to 50.  I worked hard to obtain a firm grasp on the next set of rules and regulations and, while I would never say I have it all together, I can honestly say that I am facing 50 feeling pretty damn fine.

I am good with myself and I don’t give a shit what others think.*  I am surrounded by people I love who think I am all that.  I am (working on) feeling more confident.  I crack myself up most days and even when I get annoyed, frustrated or disgusted I am not (usually) (or with anywhere near the regularity of days gone by) brought to my knees.

I’ve never been a planner (rather, I was more of a reactor…never a good thing to be) but I am starting to plan.  I’ve never been entirely comfortable in my own skin but I am starting to embrace my body, spirit and soul.  I’ve never been as confident as my parents (or brothers) (or friends) (or teachers) (or partners) thought I should be, but I am beginning to go easier on myself and am respecting others for however the crap that they have had to deal with has made them into the flawed people that we all are.

I am more about the sisterhood than ever before.  We women and moms need to stick together so that every one of us feels the way I am starting to feel now that I am 50.  We all deserve a sense of calm, happiness and joy in our lives and we can, as women, help make it happen for one another.  No need for competition, gossip or criticism.  That’s part of being 50.  You know, the “I’m good with myself and I don’t give a shit what you think” decade!

I plan on eating cake, singing loudly with the sunroof open, facing fears, making things happen, keeping my sense of humor, having compassion for every single person out there who, despite perhaps acting in a manner I deem assaholic, deserves acceptance, laughing loudly and often, loving desperately and reminding myself how far I have come.

Today I am 50.

p.s. I found this just the other day.  Miss and love my dad and so desperately wish he was here to celebrate that 78th…

notefrondad

 

* Well, if we are being totally honest, I don’t entirely give a shit what other people think.  What?  Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

What Was I Scared Of?

scaredof

Well…

I was walking in the night

And I saw nothing scary.

For I have never been afraid

Of anything. Not very.

Then I was deep within the woods

When, suddenly, I spied them.

I saw a pair of pale green pants

With nobody inside them!

I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped

What could those pants be there for?

What could a pair of pants at night

Be standing in the air for?

And then they moved? Those empty pants!

They kind of started jumping.

And then my heart, I must admit,

It kind of started thumping.

So I got out. I got out fast

As fast as I could go, sir.

I wasn’t scared. But pants like that

I did not care for. No, sir.

After that a week went by.

Then one dark night in Grin-itch

(I had to do an errand there

And fetch some Grin-itch spinach)……

Well, I had fetched the spinach.

I was starting back through town

When those pants raced around a corner

And they almost knocked me down!

I lost my Grin-itch spinach

But I didn’t even care.

I ran for home! Believe me,

I had really had a scare!

Now, bicycles were never made

For pale green pants to ride ‘em,

Especially spooky pale green pants

With nobody inside ‘em!

And the NEXT night, I was fishing

For Doubt-trout on Roover River

When those pants came rowing toward me!

Well, I started in to shiver.

And by now I was SO frightened

That, I’ll tell you, but I hate to….

I screamed and rowed away and lost

my hook and line and bait, too!

I ran and found a Brickle bush

I hid myself away.

I got brickles in my britches

But I stayed there anyway.

I stayed all night. The next night, too

I’d be there still, no doubt,

But I had to do an errand

So, the next night, I went out.

I had to do an errand,

Had to pick a peck of Snide

In a dark and gloomy Snide-field

That was almost nine miles wide.

I said, “I do not fear those pants

With nobody inside them.”

I said, and said, and said those words.

I said them. But I lied them.

Then I reached inside a Snide bush

And the next thing that I knew,

I felt my hand touch someone!

And I’ll bet that you know who.

And there I was! Caught in the Snide!

And in that dreadful place

Those spooky, empty pants and I

were standing face to face!

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.

I howled. I yowled. I cried,

“OH, SAVE ME FROM THESE PALE

GREEN PANTS WITH NOBODY INSIDE!”

But then a strange thing happened.

Why, those pants began to cry!

Those pants began to tremble.

They were just as scared as I!

I never heard such whimpering

And I began to see

That I was just as strange to them

As they were strange to me!

So…

I put my arm around their waist

And sat right down beside them.

I calmed them down.

Poor empty pants

With nobody inside them.

And now, we meet quite often,

Those empty pants and I,

And we never shake or tremble,

We both smile and we say…”Hi!”

So goes my very favorite (and seemingly little known since anytime I quote it I am met with blank stares) Dr. Seuss story, “What Was I Scared Of”.  I used to read it to my kids when they were little, particularly enjoying the singsong verse and fantastic message that I wanted to teach them, despite my inability to necessarily abide by it.  The opening line frequently pops into my head as I, admittedly, am a person who has struggled with what I know (intellectually, anyway) are silly fears.

I have just returned from ten days in Chile – a gloriously beautiful country with breathtaking views, delicious food, incredible wine and wonderfully warm people.  But perhaps more important than the scenery, food and companionship was the number of fears that I faced and, damn!,  conquered.

Admittedly, many of said fears will seem ridiculous, silly and even slightly pathetic but, as I often remind you, I am nothing if not honest.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. The plane ride. The thought of being on a plane for any amount of time, let alone nearly ten hours used to bring me to my knees and, truthfully, kept me home.  My plane would never crash…it is the knowledge that I cannot get off if I find myself in a situation in which I want/need/absolutely have to or I will die in a flame of hysteria.  While I long ago learned that taking a Xanax would ease those fears, over the past decade I have moved from taking a Xanax, to just having it in my handbag (only occasionally clutching it) to not even filling the prescription. Check.
  2. Illness or Malady. Every single time I ever go anywhere I spend an inordinate amount of time prior to departure worrying about getting sick while there.  (Of note: I hardly ever get sick when I am home, so why I would worry about it when I am away is a sign of bat-shit craziness. That being said, I did get quite a nasty upper respiratory infection last year while in Las Vegas…but I also lived to talk about it.)  Interestingly enough, during my trip to Chile not one, not two, but three of my travel companions came down with an antibiotic-requiring ailment.  I did not.  Check.
  3. Climbing a mountain. Okay, I have never had a fear of climbing a mountain, per say, but the symbolism of finding myself somewhere inconvenient to medical (or emotional) intervention should the need arise not only left me on the sidelines but made me a prime candidate for a shrink’s field day.  The “what ifs” were bigger than me: “what if I trip and break my ankle?” “what if I have to go to the bathroom?”, “what if I freak out for some ridiculous reason?”.  Nope, nope and nope. Check.chilemountain
  4. Sticking my head in a sink to cool off. While I never put any thought to the pros and cons of submerging my head in a sink, it was nothing I have ever nor thought I would ever have even contemplated, let alone done.  My hair, the origins of the water, all that wetness…yeah, no.  Well, I learned that once you are halfway to the top of the mountain and it is 90 degrees and you are offended by your own smell, dunking your head in a sink is awesome.  Obvious Freudian explanation notwithstanding: Check.sink
  5. Eating empanadas on the side of the road, a steak and avocado sandwich from the bottom of a backpack or strange looking soup with filled with stranger looking fish. I firmly believe that milk should be taken from the fridge, poured into the glass and then promptly returned to the cold, lest bacteria begin to grow and cause a violent case of vomiting, cramps and/or the trots.  Lesson learned: if you work hard and climb a mountain you become infinitely less insanely neurotic about food borne illnesses.  Metaphors abounding and: CheckIMG_0163
  6. Sharing a bathroom with your boyfriend’s parents. Well, this one did not come to fruition and the discovery of a second full bathroom in the cabin (which happened to be situated in perhaps the most beautiful spot in the world) was an emotional deal changer, but I am confident I would have lived through it had it actually happened.[1] Pre-worried (extensively) over that one for nothin’. Check.

This trip was a big deal for me.  Despite being wrapped up in a beautiful package with incredible scenery, food and companionship it challenged me.  It forced me, in a very four star environment, to step out of my comfort zone, kick some ass and allow myself to just relax…because really, what was I scared of?

boots

And a special shout out and thanks to this guy…for holding my hand literally and figuratively…

bts

[1] I love his parents, but certain things need to remain sacred.  Love to FS who, sensing my apprehension lovingly told me, “Mi bano es tu bano”…

Safe. Secure. Free.

I just never know what it going to send me reeling.  It could have been the fact that Jess had one side of her head shaved[1] and then, just to shake things up, dyed the fuzzy spot bright pink.  Or perhaps it might have been the conditions of the Frat house that I helped Harrison move into last month which no self-respecting mother would ever have agreed to had she seen it prior to the signing of the lease.  It might even have been the accumulating snow and resulting days of cancelled classes which will likely propel us into the depths of July before school lets out for the summer.  Nah, it was none of those things.  Instead, it was a parking spot.  Well, sort of.

This is not the first time I have bitched, moaned, complained and, yes, cried, over such a predicament.  Nor, I suspect, will it be the last.  With the disclaimer of fully acknowledging that it is a first world problem and one that I should be a little bit ashamed of fixating on, I will share.  And, yes, I know, again, that it isn’t about the parking spot.

For twenty years I lived in a single family home not three minutes from where I am living now.  While there, I had three housemates: my husband (now my ex), my son (now at college) and my daughter (who sleeps til noon on those blasted snow days).  Between the husband and eldest son, the driveway plowing was taken care of while I was in the house lovingly baking cookies and preparing hot cocoa for when they were done. [2] It was often a long, protracted event for them but once it was done it was done, save for whatever “plow pile” might crop up throughout the storm.  We were dug out, free to move about the world and armed with the comforting knowledge that the driveway would be open and available when we arrived home.  Man, I miss that.

Now, despite the fact that I have engaged in the solitary (and thankless) exercise[3] of  digging out my car not once, not twice, but three times from this past storm alone I am literally fearful of ever relinquishing the spot.  While I was painstakingly removing the snow and carting it by the (crazy heavy) shovelful three spaces down to respectfully deposit it onto a pile[4] away from neighboring cars, no one else seemed to be doing the same.  On either side of my humble little Honda are two cars which have, by all accounts, been abandoned.  That is not even taking into account the countless other spaces which are going to be occupied til May.  So….when I have to leave to, oh, I don’t know…go to work…I will, in all likelihood, arrive home to find that some asshole has taken over MY spot.  And today, that was enough to make me cry.

What surrounds me. And, makes me cry.

What surrounds me. And, makes me cry.

car3

Exemplary shoveling job, am I right?

Exemplary shoveling job, am I right?

I tried to be logical and pragmatic.  Really, I did.  I tried to be optimistic.  That didn’t work, either.  I tried to be open-minded.  Yeah, no go.  So, I cried.

I’ve thought a lot about this.  Yes, I get that there is a practical side to this; a “move your meat lose your seat” kind of thing.  But, more to the point, it is a matter of feeling safe, feeling secure and feeling free.  I don’t feel safe: I am going to take my life in my hands maneuvering out of my perfectly shoveled spot to hit the open road.  I don’t feel secure: Someone is, most definitely, going to snag that spot that very second I leave it. [5] I don’t feel free: See all of the above.  And, at the end (and frankly, the beginning) of the day, that is really all anyone really wants…to feel safe, secure and free.

And, yes, I will bring this back to my last blog post which took a lot of (expected and appropriate) criticism.  I do not care what Bruce, Maura, Jess or Harrison’s Frat house look like.  I care that they that they feel safe, secure and free, because, in whatever iteration and for whatever reason one does not feel those three things it sucks. Trust me, I know.

Today I don’t feel safe, secure and free because of a parking spot.  On any given day, Bruce, Maura or Jess my not feel  SSF[6] because they are not accepted, or understood.  In fact, any one of us is at risk of finding themselves in that situation, and, perhaps this is my momma bear coming through: I don’t like that.  Not one little bit.

I know that the snow will (eventually) melt.  I know that I will, someday soon, be able to find safety, security and freedom not encumbered by a parking spot.  But today I ain’t feelin’ it.  So I cried.

[1] With not quite my blessing, but my approval

[2] Okay, I didn’t do that.

[3] You bet your ass I am considering it exercise.

[4] Which had a good six inches on me..and I am 5’6”

[5] I would.  It is prime real estate, beautifully cleared, nary a sign of snow.

[6] Safe, secure and free

Maura, Bruce and Me

Transgender-related stuff seems to be everywhere these days.  I used to think that I was just more in tune to it, but am beginning to realize that is not the case.  The campaign to increase the general public’s knowledge and understanding truly is everywhere.

As such, and a little late to the game, I finally binge-watched “Transparent” as the first of two blizzards in one week pummeled my house.  For those unfamiliar, it is a new series on Amazon which shares the story of a neurotic Jewish family[1] who are so self-involved as to be oblivious to the fact that their father is not who they thought he was. Mort, the family patriarch, after years of squelching his desire and need, is transitioning to a life as her true self – a woman named Maura.  As much as I love Jeffrey Tambor and his portrayal of Maura, I, the mother of a transgender child on an admittedly very primal and superficial level, felt broken-hearted watching this attractive-enough [2] man morph into a true meiskeit[3].  I wish it didn’t matter, but it does.

maura

Despite the make-up, hair extensions and dress, Maura’s masculine features, from face to feet, make it impossible for her to blend in.  I don’t care that this woman has a penis.  Nor do I care that she has an Adam’s Apple and a face that needs to be shaven every day.  I do, however, care deeply about the very real challenges, as a physically unappealing, homely woman, that she will face in her quest to conquer the world, incredible fortitude on board notwithstanding.

And then we have Bruce Jenner.  While his transition has been widely speculated for years, it is now in both People and US Magazine: therefore it must be real.  Bruce, a man-made famous by his incredible athletic abilities and then his almost more incredible (with its most literal definition) role of Dad to the Kardashian brood is not content to officially embark on his journey with any semblance of privacy, rather he is (allegedly), wait for it…going to be the title character in a reality show tagging along for all to see.  It will create a circus setting him and his family up for ridicule and (harsh) judgment.  I don’t like it.  Not one little bit.

Back when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, gay was something we all knew about but it was never discussed.  What was there to talk about really?  File under: who gives a damn that he is sleeping with him or she with her?  Now we, as a society, having somewhat mastered the whole gay thing, are learning more and trying to navigate[4] the transgender paradigm.  And, while I have a (not necessarily equal) admiration for and great anxiety over Maura, Bruce and the scope of their reach, I fear that they are both[5]  in danger of becoming caricatures of themselves. By dint of their fame and notoriety, they are both so powerful in their ability to potentially sway the masses’ perception of the transgender path as to be dangerous.  In fact, for me, the Golden Globe wins (Jeffrey Tambor – Best Lead actor in a Comedy and Transparent – Best Comedy) are, themselves, teetering on a slippery slope having been nominated in the Comedy category.  Their voice is loud, but what is it saying?

It may be unkind of me, but I am just going to say it: neither Maura nor Bruce[6] present as attractive woman.  I would like to think that their physical appearance doesn’t matter.  But it does.  I would like to think that we are evolved enough in our society to overlook their unconventional look.  But we aren’t.  I would like to think that they will not be subjected to loud whispers, quiet harassment and general discomfort.  But they will be.  That frightens me and, if I am being honest, makes me uncomfortable.  And if I am uncomfortable, I can only imagine…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Really, is there any other kind?

[2] …and that is a charitable and generous assessment

[3]  That’s Yiddish for: an unattractive woman

[4]  Some of us more out of necessity than others

[5] Yes, I am aware that Maura is a fictional character.  She is also a powerful one and her story is one that has legs, particularly on the heels of the show having won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical and Jeffrey Tambor for Comedy Lead Actor.

[6] I’ve not been made privy to a name change

Angelina: My Hero

I will unashamedly confess that I have a girl crush on Angelina.  She is, brave, talented, driven, accomplished, insanely cool, wildly accepting and, of course breathtakingly gorgeous (Aside:  In the picture here she had the chicken pox.  Seriously, who looks like that when they have the chicken pox?  Angelina, that’s who.)  And I thank her for making so little of something that so many find so huge and so scary.

f_fh_joliechickenpox_141213.vembedmed

When she and Brad realized the sincerity with which Shiloh insisted she is John they had a choice: go underground or give their child a voice that many (no, most) others in his shoes do not have.  They could easily have quelled the story.  So, too, could they have told him that their celebrity and fame stood to be tarnished by such an announcement.  And they could have used their myriad “people” to keep it out of the press.  They did none of those things.  In fact, they let loose and sent a very clear message: who the fuck cares?

They are, without competition, the coolest people alive.

The matter-of-fact attitude of the Pitts is utterly fantastic.  Their willingness to allow a person who they chose to bring into the world to live authentically and not according to script should be a lesson to every parent, no, every person, who ever happens to comes into contact with someone different from themselves.

The Pitts are not worried about John’s happiness or whether this is a “phase”.  They are worried about the very real fact that not everyone in the world sees things the way they do and that John definitely faces different challenges than Shiloh would.  They worry about the assholes that will pop up and create problems for their kid just because he doesn’t have a penis.  Why on earth it matters to anyone else is a mystery that will likely not be solved in our lifetime, but perhaps Angie and Brad’s unbridled acceptance will put a dent in things.

I love that the arguably coolest people alive used their power the way that they did.  They were not defensive, did not feel a need to further explain the decision of their family and are doing what good parents do: walking alongside their child, helping him to find his way in the world.

Your kid might not be transgender, but I am willing to bet that they have something that makes them unique and presents them with challenges: maybe they are autistic or ADHD, or have huge ears or just happen to have an obnoxious personality (what? it happens)…do yourself a favor and take a page from Angie and Brad’s playbook and support the hell out of them.  Teach them to accept rather than reject.  Remind them to be kind and empathetic.  And then follow their lead.

The Pitts are my heroes.  Make them yours, too.

Keep Calm, It’s Not Contagious

Recently someone expressed their concern over their children having been “exposed” to Jess.  Let that sink it.

notcontagious

I don’t know about you, but when I consider exposure and concern in the same sentence here’s what comes to my mind:

  1. The flu
  2. The chicken pox
  3. Ebola
  4. Tuberculosis
  5. Yellow Fever
  6. AIDS
  7. Stomach bugs
  8. Pertussis
  9. Syphilis
  10. Pink eye
  11. Legionnaires Disease
  12. Strep throat
  13. Meningitis
  14. A cold
  15. Rabies
  16. Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E
  17. MRSA
  18. Bubonic Plague
  19. Chlamydia
  20. Diptheria
  21. Malaria
  22. SARS
  23. Athlete’s Foot
  24. Typhoid Fever
  25. Herpes

Here’s what doesn’t:

  1. Anything, anything related to LGBTQ

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

There is a Christmas tree in my living room.  It is understated, with glowing white lights (which do me the favor of not blinking) and simple silver ornaments.  It is situated perfectly in the middle of the window, shining out in the darkness of night for everyone to enjoy.  I actually love that Christmas tree.  Only it is not my tree, nor is it my living room.

xmastree

I spent twenty years in that house.  I raised both of my sons, and then, three years ago, a daughter there.  During my tenure I lived through construction of a big addition,  various paint jobs,  rearranged furniture, new carpets, replacement of appliances that all decided to die at the same time, play structures being constructed and ultimately, outgrown, great times and, frankly, some pretty dark ones.  My children, in all their incarnations and phases (some more pleasant than others) spent the entirety of their lives there.  And now, there is a Christmas tree not far from where the Menorah was illuminated for all those twenty years.

The end of this year rests in stark contrast to the end of last.  Everything, it seems, feels different.  And, for the first time in longer than I feel ashamed to admit, I feel blessed.

My children are doing fine.  Better than fine, in fact.  They have their moments (oh, who am I kidding…it is never just a moment) but all in all, they are good.  Harrison, (begrudgingly) home for semester break continues to make me proud.  (Well, makes me proud when he isn’t forcing me to use words to describe him that are unbecoming of a mother.)  He, as a sophomore (warning: brag ahead) was elected president of his fraternity.  He’s always been a leader and despite the fact that I really do not quite get the whole frat thing, is (when not home) wildly happy at school having surrounded himself with a great group of friends. For that I feel blessed.

Jess continues to be work in progress, but, despite her “significant” learning disability, rocked this semester with all As and Bs.  She is finding her way and is content.  (Full disclosure: I still worry about her.  Always will, I suppose.) She is an artist to the core and I fully expect to see her one woman show at The Whitney some day.

I’ve established two wonderful relationships; one being with my former husband, Rich.  The process of the dissolution of our marriage was unpleasant, no fun, felt interminable and nearly crushed my spirit, but we’ve both moved on and twice (yes, twice) in the past week have broken bread with our children in celebration of Jess’s birthday and then Hannukah.  No tension, no anger, no animosity and a bill split down the middle.  That’s how it should be.  The other is with my guy Barry.  His support of every single one of the complications that come along with me has been unfailing.  He loves me, my children (and I, his) and, with his ringside seat to the changes of the past year, has kept me laughing.  That is a gift.

2014 is ending high.  On paper, I have always had so much to be thankful for: a wonderful family, amazing friends, a nice home and good food, but, if I am being honest (which you all know I always am): I was having a hard time feeling blessed.  I truly do now.

Other than my, gulp, 50th birthday and a trip to Chile, I haven’t a clue what 2015 will bring.  In contrast to years past, I enter it not with trepidation, but with happy anticipation.  My ducks are in a row straighter than they have been for, well, a decade or so and I intend to keep them that way.

There is a Christmas tree in my living room, shining on me.  May it shine on you and yours, too.