Monday, June 13, 2016

The Big Reveal

My daughter was born a girly girl. Her first word after the parental syllables was "shoe." She was boy crazy at four, passing toys to the neighbor boy between the chain link fence next to our townhouse. By the time she was eight, she'd had more boyfriends than I had in my life. She did ballet for ten years. She giggled in the back seat with her friends about high school dances and holding hands with boys on the ferris wheel. Her favorite color was pink. Or purple. She adored makeup.

She was the stereotypical girl.

She also loves to play the guessing game when she's afraid to tell me something. Which she did ten days ago. It goes something like this:

D: I have to tell you something.
Me: Okay....
D: Only I don't want to.
Me: Okaaay.... (immediately irritated)
D: Well, I want to tell you, but I don't.
Me: .......... (rolling my eyes and heavy-sighing)
D: It's just... I wish you just knew already.
Me: How can I know if you don't tell me?
D: ......
Me: Fine. You had sex.
D: No.
Me: You got drunk.
D: No.
Me: You got in another accident.
You quit your job.
You're friends with that horrible girl again.
You're pregnant. (Because after exhausting the obvious and the stupid, I start throwing out the crazy.)
You're gay. (AmI right? This girly girl? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.......)

She looks at the refrigerator. The girl has zero poker face.
But you're kidding, right?
You can't be serious.
Yes, Mom.


I'd had a cocktail at this point and quickly gulped down the equivalent of another shot. Remember the stereotypical girl? Which I asked her. Or, rather, told her. "You were always boy crazy." Yes, she thought she was, but then she wasn't. But what about her boyfriends? What about drooling over Josh Hutcherson and Ian Somerhalder? What about, what about, what about?

I took a quick break in the bathroom where I furiously texted my best friend. "Don't judge, I said." Her response? "Oh God, what did you do???" When I told her what it really was she said, "We have always supported the gay community. Now it's just time to prove it." Okay......

Yes, I was in shock. It was the last thing I imagined from D. I knew her. I gave birth to her. I held her and cradled her and met all of her needs as an infant. It wasn't that I was against it. I wasn't and I'm not. I had even commented to friends in front of her that I would accept having a gay child but I would mourn my dream of what I thought they would be. That was what she remembered. That is what stuck in her heart and why she was so afraid to tell me.

So I finished my drink and I tried to let her talk. I tried to ask the accepting questions, all the while my brain was reeling from the news. I told her over and over that I'm not disappointed. Not like she thought I would be. It's not necessarily disappointment, but an adjustment. I have to shift my thinking.

When she was a senior in high school, she was temporarily but extremely suicidal. I reminded her that I would take her and keep her any way I could get her but I never want to lose her. I told her she could see how it felt without choosing labels yet. She told me she was confused. Ah, confusion. It's not real. Just a phase.

Now, if anyone thinks at any point thus far that I said the wrong thing or reacted the wrong way, you're entitled to that opinion. But if you're just not prepared for something, you can't predict your reaction. This outcome had just never occurred to me. Not in a million years.

The next day was a struggle between reassuring her that I do love and accept her, which I completely do, and balancing my own confused feelings. I asked if she was sure because she had been confused the night before. No, she was talking about being confused when it all started for her. Oh. Well, damn.

My second concern was for her safety. My whole life has been about protecting her. It's my job. I'm not so afraid that she will be physically harmed, but the thought of someone slamming her with vulgarity while she walks hand-in-hand with a girlfriend makes me want to rip an imaginary asshole. It's hard to embrace something that I think will hurt her.

It's been a process. I'm still processing it. A few days after she came out, I asked if she was sure this isn't just a phase. I got the hateful teenage reply that basically identified me as in insensitive dinosaur.

The next day I asked how long she'd known. Since freshman year of high school, which equals five years. I had known for five days. She agreed this wasn't fair and allowed me to ask any and all questions I had, which I prefaced by saying that I'll always love her and I will get to the point where I openly accept and embrace this "new" identity but that it will take time. I asked questions I didn't really want answers to. We supported each other throughout the conversation.

My emotions have been all over the map and probably around the globe a dozen times. I'm scared for her. I felt deceived by her and lied to. I have to clarify that these are not rational emotions, but we can't control feelings. I can't. I felt that if I had been a better mom I would have known. How the fuck did I miss THIS one??

There have been other thoughts too. I was never hung up on having a son-in-law. Weddings with two brides are often beautiful. I halfway adopted a handful of her friends growing up anyway, I'm used to it. Plus she's promised me I will have grandbabies. That's all I really care about, I'm just asking for a couple extra now.

Over the last year, I have been worried about her capacity to love. We moved to Nashville and she went through half a dozen boys in a matter of months. She seemed to get bored or to lose interest really quickly. Of course I blamed myself for divorcing her father and for dragging her through the subsequent Bad Relationship. All of this must have affected her ability to be intimate, to love someone. Now it's somewhat of a relief that might not be the case. I want her to love deeply and be loved to the core of her being. I'm not going to be able to choose that person anyway, so why should I choose their gender?

She had the brilliant millennial idea of coming out on Facebook. I didn't expect that today she'd be ready. Always keeping me on my toes, that one. The shooting in Orlando over the weekend was her motivation. She's scared now. She should be. I'm scared for her. And yesterday we went to the vigil downtown because I wanted her to be with people like her and to see that there is love in the fear. I want her to know that she's supported, that even if I can't be there always to protect her, I will do everything in my power to ensure that she feels loved and supported. She said she wanted to be brave. The truth is, this wasn't just an act of bravery. Brave is what she is. She's been brave with her depression, she's been brave with making her own choices about her future and she's brave now to come out when it would be safer to hide.

Her responses so far have been overwhelmingly supportive. I suspect there are some who aren't and they're just staying quiet and that's okay. Their silence still speaks and she knows it. I wonder how my own friends and family will react. I wasn't going to say anything until she was ready, but now that she's just jumped into the deep end, I'm jumping with her.

I'm still scared. All the more so now. I've avoided much of the news from Orlando because it hits too close to home this time. My best friend says it always should have been personal, and she's right. I just lived in a smug little straight-privileged bubble when I thought my child wouldn't be targeted. I'm flying the PFLAG now. I have to be as brave as she is.

I was never in love with anyone the way I was when this precious child came into my life. Never since and I never will be again. The thought of someone taking that from me, or from any other parent, chills me to the bone. Nobody has the right to take love from us. I am scared, but I will not live in fear. I will love her and I will love people like her and I will stand with them and next to them.

I'm proud of her. I'm proud of Nashville, our city. Last night's vigil gave me hope. Hope that I won't have to be afraid forever. Hope that love will prevail. Hope that she will love and be loved.

That's all any of us can hope for, really.

Like a Giant Push-Up

Last week I was veering dangerously close to a depressive episode. I felt it coming, heard the rumbling in the distance. The days leading up to Friday were fraught with events and activities that were draining any emotional energy I was trying to hold onto. I was running on empty. The temptation to hide under my covers until the storm passed was great. This happens to me on occasion. Sometimes I know why, sometimes I don't. This time I knew exactly why and I feared exposing myself to further energy drain and risking a deeper depression.

All of this is to say that Nashville surprised me. Nashville fits me more the longer I'm here.

Friday was a long-awaited burlesque show, which included dinner beforehand with new friends. Having to be "on" around new people is risky when I'm on the edge like I was. I know I was a little bit manic in my animation to make up for what was lurking under the surface of my skin, but it was manageable. (Manageable mania - oxymoron?) The show itself was wonderful and inspiring and full of acceptance and love, the way that burlesque is intended. There were hugs and laughter and beautiful costumes and quirky routines. It was just what the doctor ordered. If the doctor prescribed boobs and pasties.

Saturday the bestie and I went to see Stephen King speak. I wasn't sure how it would play out, I knew it wasn't a typical book signing with so many people there. SO many people. So MANY. People! The line wrapped around the building. Around the alley, behind the bars on Broadway. During CMA Fest. Cigarettes and drunk people and sewage liquid on the road. In the heat. The hot, hot southern heat. The Ryman was hot. Crowded. Sold out. Over-stimulating. Between the crowds, the confusion, and the odors, I was nearing a meltdown.

Ann Patchett walked out onto the stage. I feel a bit smug knowing that I can go into her business space any time I want at Parnassus Books. It's like my little nerd privilege. So I perked up. She introduced Donna Tartt to introduce Mr. King. Her small speech reminded me that it's okay to be different. It was beautiful and heartfelt and touching, without any pandering sweetness.

When Stephen King walked onto that stage, he was greeted with a standing ovation. There was an immediate sense that we all, in that audience, shared a common ideation in our love of writing, of books, and of a certain author, if not authors in general.

I want so badly to remember every word he spoke. He didn't only talk about writing, or his creative efforts, but he also gave us glimpses into who he is as a person. Someone who is not only a brilliant and prolific writer, but a humble family man with a wicked sense of humor. He curses in the exact appropriate places and he's just academically intimidating enough without being a boorish snob.

The whole experience of being in his presence, of sharing fellowship with others who chose to forego music festivals and street revelry to talk about a shared love of books, left me with a full heart and renewed soul, knowing it will never be duplicated because momentous events like that are rare and precious.

I woke up Sunday to the news of the tragic shooting in Orlando. Tragic shooting. Act of terrorism. Loss of lives. Devastation. How do I put what happened into words that make sense when the act itself doesn't? How to define the emotions. The anger, the fear, the complete what-the-fuck and why-is-this-happening-again. The overwhelming sadness and desperation to control something that can't even be predicted because who thinks of doing things that are so terrible when you're just going about your life and you're celebrating that life in a way that doesn't hurt another person and yet you and the people you care about are targets of something that can only be described as hate. Random hate because how can you even hate faces you've never met?

I don't understand it and I will never understand it and I'm tired of trying to understand it because there is no reason, no justification. Because it wasn't 50 people. It was 50 plus those who loved them currently plus those who knew and loved them last year plus those they were meant to affect and love and be loved plus the impacts they had that they don't know and we don't know and will now never know. 50 plus 150 times 18 plus infinity. It is indirectly countless people around the world. How does one person cause so much hurt?

Our mayor in Nashville, Megan Barry, posted on Facebook. She and other members of our local government and our police department organized a vigil for the victims. I knew I had to go. Whatever it meant on whatever scale, I needed to be among that support. I needed to contribute with my paltry presence. By that point I wasn't able to connect at an individual level with anyone there and had a hard time feeling like I belonged, but my body needed to be there.

Despite the disconnect, I was proud of the people who were there. The mayor. The police. The members of the city council. Those holding flags and posters. Those who changed what plans they had to show up and be present and to be heard. I know I planned on watching Game of Thrones last night and resting up for the week, not spending yet more emotional energy on things I can't make sense of.

Our city was beautiful last night. There were rainbow lights. Candle lights. Faces of determination. Hugs and displays of support. The noise came from the music in the bars, sounds of joy. Inspirational speeches and choir voices raised in community spirit.

Although I felt sad, the storm of depression had abated. I lay in bed feeling all of the support I had received over the weekend. The support that Nashville gives to the arts, whether it be burlesque or literature. The support of the LGBT community. I felt over and over that Nashville cares about the things and the people that I care about. In each instance I felt a sense of belonging and of validation. The connections brought me back from the loneliness of depression.

So, Nashville, thank you for being the giant push-up bra that held me together, that lifted me up, and that kept my emotions from sagging and dragging me down.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Summer Book Drive

It's Friday night and for once I'm home. It's storming, I have a martini and I'm just waiting for the kid to get home so we can have pizza and watch movies. Also, Facebook is being a shit right now which limits my ability to waste time mindlessly.

So, I'm going to try to do something useful. I'm not sure how effective it will be since like two of you regularly even pay attention to what I say here, but I'm making the effort anyway. The road of good intentions or something like that.

Since we moved to Nashville, I've been listening off and on to a radio show. I say off and on because it's a country format and we all know that's not my favorite. But my drive to work is now 45 minutes and I get bored. I mean, the lake is pretty, and I look for my horse friend every day and now there are babeh donkehs, but the rest is boring.
I digress.

 A couple of weeks ago, the host of the show (DJ? star? main dude?), Bobby Bones, released a book that is mostly about his life and the struggles he has overcome and how he got out of his sad little town and achieved his success thus far. D and I went to his book signing because she has a little crush on him. She was so super excited and I coached her on what to say to him. It just so happens that he gets his hair cut where she just got a job so that was an easy in. She was cute. He drew a little stick figure of himself in her book with his hair. It was all cute. Until I did my normal thing of freezing up in front of the author. It doesn't matter who it is. If my dog wrote a book, I'd just stand and stare at her while she pawtographed my book, mutter something resembling "thank you", and back away slowly. Ultimate book nerd.

A few days later, I saw this on Twitter:

Since I'd read his book (in like two days), it really confirmed that he is the person he appears to be. Honestly, sincerely good. My second thought was, why don't we all do that?? Mr. Bones has a huge following. He was #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List after about a week. There were loads of posts about how people were reading his book, even people who hadn't read in years. And I LOVE reading and I LOVE books and I want to spread this love and I don't think anyone should go without a book they want because of stupid money.

Now, this is where I become a copycat. Jenny Lawson, A.K.A The Bloggess, (if you haven't read her blog, go do it now. I want to kidnap her and make her be my friend but she lives in Texas and I'm too lazy for long-distance shenanigans) organizes gift-giving for those with less at Christmas. She's been doing it for a few years and her method last year works PERFECTLY for my little idea. She asked people to make a wish list on Amazon for things their kids were asking for and then her readers could purchase those gifts for them. It was basically brilliant.

Here is my idea. Scads of people want Bobby Bones's book. Maybe someone else wants a different book from someone they admire. Or a child is a voracious reader and her parents can't afford her disgusting reading habit. Whatever. It's not Christmas, but books aren't seasonal. I want those of us who HAVE to help those who HAVE NOT. And books aren't expensive. And Amazon is easy.

This is what you do. If you are someone who is book-thirsty but resource-poor, make a wish list on Amazon and post your link in the comments. If you are someone who feels generous and you are able, follow the link, purchase the book(s) and fulfill that wish. If you want a whole set of  Harry Potter, add the whole set. The Generous People can buy one or two or the whole dang set as they wish. Don't worry about being greedy. There's no such thing when beautiful words on pages are in play.

You may notice that the woman Bobby Bones helped out also wanted a bottle of wine. I see nothing wrong with this. The only beverage better to drink with a book is Irish tea. So add a bottle of wine if that's what you need. Even if you're asking for kid books, you may need the wine to get through the bedtime process. I remember what a process it is.

If you need recommendations for good books, I have a ton. Bare Bones is not just the inspiration for this effort, it's also really good. It's honest, sometimes raw, and completely relatable. And if you're a Bones fan, you'll want other people to read it too. D and I have some favorite kid books. I've read several classics and can steer you away from the bores. I have over 200 books on my "to read" list on Goodreads if that tells you anything.

Alright. Are we ready?

1. Make your wish list.
2. Add the link in the comments here.

Or -

1. Buy a book (and wine) for someone.
2. Share with anyone who wants a good summer read or anyone who wants to participate in my book drive.

And...... go!!
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