Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Disappearing Lesbian

By K. Pearson Brown

My friend Laura got a girlfriend in July 2005, and that’s the last I saw of her. Before the girlfriend came on the scene, Laura and I would catch a movie together once a week or so, have dinner out and talk about the dearth of good women to date. Then, she found a good woman, and Laura did like every other lesbian I know, she vanished into domestic bliss and coupledom.

Inevitably when a single lesbian meets a mate, in the rush of new love she completely neglects her old gal pals. Some of them hole up to have non-stop sex for months on end, some don’t want to take their new catch out in public and risk losing her to another woman, and others think now that they have found their other half, they don’t need anyone else.

In Girl Scouts we sang a little ditty that the situation calls to mind: “Make new friends, but keep the old…” But Laura had evidentially forgotten the refrain.

Eventually, these lesbian amnesiacs will come around. Of course I don’t wish it on them, but if their relationships falter or fail, they suddenly find your number. But barring a breakup, it seems the factor that leads friends back to their friends is time. It usually takes about one year.

Such was the hibernation period for another friend, Jennifer. After months of sporadic phone calls and her excuses for canceling get-togethers, I scratched Jennifer out of my little lesbian black book. Nearly a year later, I spied a vaguely familiar looking woman in the mirror in the ladies room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center’s Women’s Night. It was Jen, with new highlights, funky new eye glasses, a MAC makeover Boy George would tumble for and her new hairdresser girlfriend Myrna on her arm.

We squealed like straight girls to see each other. It was as if my long-lost friend had been found, like on one of those reunion shows where sisters who were separated at birth finally meet at an airport with bouquets of flowers and lots of teary relatives around. Jen was back. Back among the living lesbians who do things in a group or see their old friends without the new girlfriend stuck to their hip.

While I am delighted when my AWOL friends reappear, I am a bit resentful of their long absences. It isn’t fair that I have to endure a year without them, and I conclude, without conceit, that it isn’t good for them to do without me either.

The truth is, this 12-month desertion is as bad for the couple as it is for the forgotten friends. As new lovers nest and retreat from greater lesbian society, they lose touch with their individuality. They cut themselves off from all the diversity, stimulation, opinions, challenge, drama and support that come from others outside their primary relationship.

After a year of self-imposed quarantine, a lesbian may recover and reunite with her former friends, or she will stay in isolation and risk being consumed by Rubyfruit Jungle fever, which will eventually run its course, burning out the relationship. Then she will be not only single again but perhaps friendless.

To remain healthy in a new romance, we need to go back to our Girl Scout friendship ode and remember, “One is silver and the other gold.” We need to pledge not to disregard those who were our friends in need, and not just when we need them. For us, the forgotten ones, we need to stage an intervention. Don’t give up. You hear that Laura? That’s me calling, again. Pick up, for your own good.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Going Homo For the Holidays

By "Deborah"

When I was growing up holidays were somehow rather simple. I don't remember a lot of fuss and bother over which "side" of the family we'd spend the days with, although I'm sure that there was some. There is a little something tickling my brain about bickering regarding who would have Thanksgiving any given year but it couldn't have been too big a deal, or I'd remember more clearly.

Although we were (and are) Jewish, my father really got a kick out of seeing my brother and myself come down the stairs and head in to the den where a stack of presents awaited us. Presents from my parents and presents from Santa.

For Christmas we'd open our presents, then go "up the hill" (but not over the river or through the woods) to my mother's parents, and then exchange gifts with them. Thanksgivings I remember spending with my father's family. One of the brothers or the eldest sister would have the entire family over. I remember endless football games and delicious mashed potatoes courtesy of my paternal grandmother. (I also remember women cleaning up and men watching those games - but that's an entirely different subject)

Now that I'm older, and with a family of my own, there are more choices to make. We tend to do Thanksgiving with my side of the family, the dinner rotating casually between us, my mother and my sister-in-law. Quite often one of my sister-in-law's sister and her family joins us as we've quite extended our family over the years.

Christmas is also easy, thankfully. T's family traditionally has a Christmas Eve celebration, generally held by one of T's many sisters, while my family continues the Christmas morning tradition, now rotating that morning between us (although this year there's a new baby in my sister-in-laws side of the family, and we're being deserted by my brother and family as they travel to spend the baby's first Christmas with it).

It all tends to work itself out, and we've only all stopped talking to each other a couple times over the years over planning the celebrations.

Not everybody molds and mends families so easily, and there are dynamics involved for gays and lesbians atop the basic stress of the holiday season.

For the single queer, there may be the stress of "When are you going to get married?" for those who are not out - and "I hope you're not bringing *them*" for those who are out and seeing somebody.

For coupled queers, the standard pulls from each side of the family can exist in even larger proportion.

If you haven't told your family, you're expected to participate with them as holidays are a family time, and you don't have "anybody" with whom to spend the time.

(By the way - holidays can be an interesting time to come out - as one comic suggests trying, "Please pass the gravy to a homosexual.")

If your family doesn't know, or isn't supportive, they're going to expect that you spend the holidays with them - and not worry much about what your "friend" or "roommate" is doing.

Personally I would refuse to attend a "family celebration" that didn't include my spouse, but that's a decision each has to make for themselves. When I was growing up none of us much liked my Uncle's wife, but she was always included in the celebrations.

Even if your family (or one of your families) is accepting of your relationship, it's a rare set of parents that isn't jealous of in-laws under even the best of circumstances. It's harder still when they don't quite "get" that these strangers really are your family too.

Your family may suggest, "This is a time to be with your family, let [your other half] go to theirs and you'll come here" without realizing that your other half is your family.

Even if everybody and every side of every family is "cool" there still may be time conflicts. "But we always celebrate XYZ together!"

One solution is to create your own traditions as you have your own nuclear family now. Invite both "sides" of the family over for Christmas/Thanksgiving. It's a lot of work, but think about the joy of not having to drive anywhere.

Or, just spend the holidays with each other - go out of town, or if you're staying in town annoy both "sides" by telling them you're spending the time with the other "side."

It's also possible that all sides of all families are "cool" but you and your other half each want to do it "your" way.

All in all the dilemmas surrounding this time of the year are not that much different than anybody else's, with just a few added wrinkles.

Friday, December 16, 2005

How I Learned to Love Pussy

By Imani Williams

I was never a fan of cats. The phobia traced back to my pre-teen days when my neighborhood 70s peace guru taught Bible study to the kids on my block. Her name was Paula and everyone loved her. She was 'different' in her own right. She wore daisy dukes before they had a name and was the crush of all the teen boys on my block and at least one pre-teen girl, yours truly. In addition to daisy dukes, Paula had blonde hair that she wore in two very cool braids along with a peace headband and the funkiest colorful halter-tops ever made.

As sexy and cool as Paula was she came with a flaw. She was a cat owner. Paula's cat was a mere nuisance to work around, always nipping at your ankles and in my case hissing at me. However, I was always eager to spend some quality alone time with Paula. So, each week before Bible study began I devised a way to make that happen. I volunteered to help with the refreshments before the rest of the kids arrived.

One particular Wednesday I cautiously placed napkins and chips on the dining room table as Paula took a baked to perfection bunt cake out of the oven. I thought I would die when the cat climbed on the table and ate a chip from the bowl. I died a second death when Paula laughed and swatted the cat off the table but left the chip bowl for people to eat from. I was too through.

As much as I disliked cats, I loved the treats Paula served. There was, however, no way on God's green earth that I would eat from Paula's table ever again. No matter how much prayer went on before or during our weekly sessions.

Adding insult to injury, the cat quietly walked up behind me as I sat on the couch trying to work out this dilemma in my mind and taunted me further by raising his back and hissing at me while clawing at my arm.

On that day I vowed that cats and I would not share the same space. I have had friends over the years that have owned cats but who loved me enough to put the cats in other rooms when I visited.

My lover came with a cat. Because I love her, I got used to Jolee and we've become very close as cat and human. When my girl and I decided a companion would be good for Jolee I went to the Humane Society to check out some kittens.

One kitten looked in my eyes and reached for me through his cage, catching my attention. I fell in love on the spot. I named him Courage. He is a rare Manx, a tailless breed. He is white, with tan features and handsome as they come. He has, in no uncertain terms, stolen my heart.

My girl and I call Courage our 'love child.' He is teaching me to have patience in this crazy world we live in. Something that I find helpful as I go through my daily activities.

Courage is nine weeks old and getting stronger and smarter every day. I find myself at Pet Smart and similar stores looking for things to stimulate his mind and body. These pet stores are as close to wild kingdom as I ever need to come. Nevertheless, I am spending countless hours in said places, and online finding out what makes my Courage tick. I make sure he is on time for his shots and that he is comfortable. His purring and affectionate nature has brought me two months of sheer pleasure.

As I contemplate whether to make his holiday gift a "Litter Maid," which at $150 is costly but perhaps worth it, I think back to how I said I would not clean up after another breathing being. I lied.

I hold my breath as Courage and Jolee feel each other out. Jolee at a year is now a full-grown cat and three times the size of Courage. He must know in his spirit that he will be larger than her in a few months. Therefore, he plays rough and I, being a protective mother, hold my breath as he finds his way.

As I watch these tabbys getting used to each other I am reminded that in this life it helps to use the words "I'll never" sparingly. We never know who or what might steal our heart.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Little Left in Marriage to be Ruined

By Colleen Gleeson
Clemson Tiger

Homosexuals simply cannot get married. Opening such a revered sacrament to unions besides those between a man and a woman would simply ruin the meaning and significance of the institution of marriage.

But honestly, who cares if it is ruined? The average heterosexual American doesn't. After all, the sanctity of marriage means nothing to him outside of the same-sex partnership debate. If it did, would he live with his girlfriend for years, 'trying out' the relationship before he got married, the way he test drives cars? Would he pay a lawyer to draw up a pre-nuptial agreement determining beforehand which partner got what in the event that the relationship dissolved? Would the increasing trend be for his wife to keep her own or hyphenate her maiden name, and to maintain a separate checking account? Would the family dog outlive the typical marriage and the pet goldfish last the average span between unions? Probably not.

The truth of the matter is that marriage is no longer sacred, nor has it been so for a rather long time. Couples can get married on the strip in Las Vegas while in an intoxicated state that would deem them unfit to drive or carry on a coherent conversation. Divorces are increasingly easy and popular, typically only a signature away. It seems as though, in anticipation of divorce, couples go ahead and get most of the paperwork out of the way up front. Pre-nups cover the financial issues; the practice of separate accounts, names, and personal lives handles the rest. This is the state of marriage today. At least from the surface it does not appear as though there is very much to protect.

The latest U.S. Census sheds an ominous light on the issue. Half of all first marriages end in divorce. They last an average of seven to eight years, and after the split, divorcees typically remarry within three years. During such a short period of time, it is evidently possible to go from promising the rest of your life to one person to devoting yourself completely to another. No wonder second marriages endure for only six years on average. Approximately one third of marriages make it to the quarter century mark, and less than five percent see a fifty year anniversary. These are not the numbers of an institution truly held sacred by society.

The religious argument holds little water for the average American. True, most religious doctrines specify that marriages are to be between a man and a woman. Most also indicate fidelity, respect, and longevity as being part of the deal. Who dictates whether it is better for a man to cheat on his wife or marry another male? Society certainly accepts one, while vehemently abhors the other. It would be interesting to investigate how often those who use this line of reasoning actually apply the doctrine they argue to the rest of their lives.

Maybe marriage is not on the decline, but has simply been redefined. Take the word 'forever.' People are living longer these days, and it might be asking a bit much for marriages to last that long. It might be more appropriate to use terms such as 'until the going gets rough' or 'while my partner is still attractive.' Perhaps the last line of the vows should read 'until inconvenience do us part.' If such is the case, can't the part about 'man and wife' be doctored, as well?

So the question arises: Why get married at all? From a purely fiscal sense, the average divorce costs more than the money saved on taxes by being married over the course of the average union. Emotionally, it would be less tasking on the heart to break up with a boyfriend than to divorce a husband because the fa硤e of forever would never have existed. Vows would not be broken, and society could be a great deal more honest with itself. That anyone, no matter their sexual orientation, puts any faith in the institution is quite a curious concept. The question should not be whether or not to allow same-sex marriages, but rather why in the world homosexuals want to partake in such a meaningless and outdated tradition.

Why is it that Americans can ignore the sanctity of marriage while cheating on their wives, arguing with their husbands, beating their partner and changing their spouse more often than their hairstyle, yet still passionately campaign to exclude homosexuals from lawful unions? The truth is, marriage is not sacred anymore. Whether or not one agrees with same-sex marriage, it is ridiculous to claim that homosexuals would ruin the sacrament. There is little left to destroy.