Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Ones I Like More . . .

When I was young, my cousin Tiki started dating this guy Marc.  I loved him instantly. He was a really great guy.  When they broke up, I was quite sad, because frankly, I liked him a lot more than most of the people who were in my family!  Much to my surprise, they not only got back together a few months later, but eventually ended up getting married!  I have always considered Marc the best thing that happened to our clan. 

A few years ago, Marc ended up being the second on my dad's side of the family to find out I was gay.  While he was shocked, it almost seemed to make him love me more . . . which only made me love him more. 

You see, my dad's side of the family is conservative.  Very conservative.  In different ways, really.  Three of the siblings (including my dad) are more or less Evangelical.  The other (and eldest) is a strict Seventh Day Adventist.  Needless to say, there have always been religious tensions in the family (especially considering the 2 younger siblings weren't really all that Evangelical traditionally), and this has brought no end of drama to family functions - not to mention the drama that arises simply from personality variances.

This comparatively quiet storm of personality and religious differences crescendoed to full-scale war a few years ago over who was to take care of Granny when her health started to deteriorate.  To keep a long story short, let's just say that we've only had 2 large family gatherings in the past 6 or 7 years.

Any close followers of this blog know what has personally transpired in my life the past 6 or 7 years.  So yes, you've guessed correctly that I haven't exactly felt safe to share my gay tale with one and all.  Through the course of divulgence and grapevine, all of the cousins found out that I was gay, and that I was in a relationship.   Not many of them were invited to the wedding - and there's apparently been some contention that that side of the family was largely uninvited, even though they'll in the same breath admit that they wouldn't go if they were invited!

Whether they knew or not has never been much of a concern to me.  Except for Granny.  She's the one person I wanted to tell, but never knew if it was worth rocking her little world.

Yesterday was Granny's 91st birthday, and her eldest sister (92) along with other relatives from the South drove up for the occasion.  Suddenly, the idea was for the entire family to show up for a surprise party.  And this made Darren a little nervous - because it would be the first time that they had to face GAY Darren, and his partner to boot! 

I didn't even know the relatives from the South!  I've seen them maybe twice in the entirety of my life.  But 2 amazing things transpired.  First, the night before the party, my dad told everyone (including Granny) that I was gay - which is amazing considering he's been a bit bashful about this.  Of course, everyone already knew, but I was proud that he was finally able to say it.  Second, my family was actually civil and decent towards us, and warm to J!  Marc, not surprisingly, was the warmest of all.  He congratulated us, and made sure J knew he was welcome in the family.  The Southern relatives were just as wonderful.  They invited us down to their respective places in the South, and assured us they were quite excited to tour us around.  They even told my Dad after we left how much they loved J. That's so gratifying.  

But I'm still pissed at my dastardly brother.  It was hard seeing him - as he never said a word about skipping our wedding.  It was hard keeping the bitterness in check.  I managed though.  And my aunt was slightly cold, as was one uncle.  But for the most part, they were all OK.

I'm just  not sure whether it's a sweet blessing or a shameful tragedy that Marc (an extension to the family) and the Southern relatives (whom I barely know) are THE ONES I LIKE MORE in my family, rather than the ones I grew up with.  But such is the life for outcasts and pariah like us modern-day leper-gays . . .

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oh Boy! The Holiday Season!

Yes, yes.  You can smell it, can't you?  October is almost here, which means Thanksgiving is just around the corner!  And after that . . . Christmas!  Yay, baby Jesus!  And right on his heels comes New Years!

And yet, as I think about the upcoming holiday season, I have one feeling: DREAD.  Something told me that I would do better not to bring up with J the indeterminable question: "How should we proceed with holidays this year?"  Deep in my gut, I knew this would simply not end well for me.  Not just because it's the one issue that makes my already introverted partner clam up quicker than a lez at a straight bar, thus making me feel all the more alone.  But also because of all the nasty, icky emotions it stirs up inside of me.

I dread this holiday season.  I dread my own family interactions; wondering if my brother will show up this year with the family, or if he'll be the coward he has been for the past year, and find some other place to be.  Anywhere but having to face his filthy, gay brother who's actually happy and alive for the first time in his life.

And I dread having to see J's family.  I think it's pretty clear that there's nothing . . .and I mean nothing . . . I could possibly do to get in their good graces.  If I'm quiet, then I'm somehow at fault for "not sharing my heart."  If I'm vocal, then we're (J and I) clearly incompatible.  I'm damned no matter what I do.  So I've just given up, and don't give a damn anymore (excepting for the fact that I do).  I have to face these people - and pretend that I'm OK.  But really, all that I feel is the sickening, overwhelming sensing that I am not good enough.  Rejection.  Rejection all over again.  And again.  And again.  You'd think I'd be used to the grand story of my life though, right?

I don't even know what it's like for them, but I do know that they are pretending about as much as I am.  But what lies hidden behind those forced smiles?  God only knows.  I'm not even sure they know half the time.  But what shall likely remain clear (and thus completely painful to me at my core) is that we are not fully accepted.  Included at the table, sure.  And all things considered, maybe I should just count my blessings for what I can get.  But what we are not is equals at that table.  My marriage is a sham.  A forgery.  A deluded figment of my confused state of heart and mind.  Our love is "less than" - a cheap image - if it is indeed "love" at all.  Thus, our commitment does not get due consideration.  Where to sleep all the couples doesn't even apply to us.  We're not a couple.  J is a beloved (though benighted) family member, and I am a charity case, who's lucky to be invited, but has little say in what befalls us.  Fair enough though.  If I'm at your house, I go by your rules.  It's how the game is played.  (Hmm . . . maybe next time any of them comes to visit, we tell them how much we genuinely love them, but can't handle their heterosexual deathstyle, so they should remain in separate rooms.  Would this not make for a FABULOUS reality t.v. show?  Let's follow the straight couple living in the gay household, following the roles and rules that would be placed on them if the houses were turned!)

And so, I wonder: what will be our conditions this year?  In what ways will we have to pretend that we are not as we are -- or who we are -- in order to quell the potential drama?  Maybe we should just make it easier for everyone, and do separate holidays so that it's easier for everyone to pretend like none of this is actually happening.  Or maybe I should just shut up, be the martyr, and do what I need to do to keep the peace.  Or maybe I'm just giving into that all-too-familiar victimhood that has taken residence in my bones the past few years.  Maybe I should just get over myself and recognize that, by and large, things have gotten better, right?  Right?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Honeymoon: Day 2

Tuesday, August 17,  5:00pm

Last night, we caught up on some much-needed z’s, slumbering from about 9:30pm until 9am this morning.  We did a little bit of that stuff that only married people ought to be doing, and decided to head to the beach.  Considering the previous evening’s harrowing travel through the narrow roads etched into the hills, we made sure to have our route all mapped out in our heads and on a Google map long before Jonathan ventured behind the wheel of our modest Fiat Panda - a car that (at least from the passenger’s chair) seems without much pep, though nimble.

It’s not clear whether we actually followed the Google route we originally traced, considering street signs in this area are rather sparse, but the myriad traffic circles do a very good job of pointing the way towards various destinations.  So long as one of the markings said L’Estaque, we kept following it.  If we’d had big breakfasts already, we no doubt would have vomited at some point traveling around those circles, but we (fortuitously, apparently) opted to eat once we got to the beach.  The coastal roads were absolutely gorgeous.  I (D) stared at the high cliffs and old bridges as much as possible, steeling myself for our impending car accident given the Mexico-like driving skills of the marseillais.  However, we finally managed to park at the Plages de Corbières, where the highway overlooked the most beautiful, tiny beaches we could have ever imagined!  And the weather was absolutely perfect today!  It felt like it was in the high 80’s, with a steady, light breeze.  The water was crystal clear, though practically frigid.  We didn’t spend as much time in the water, but I find that as I age, I simply don’t need the same amount of time I used to in order to leave the beach feeling peaceful and satisfied.  Frankly, it was nice to spend so much time under the warm sun, feeling the wind traipse across my skin, and being lulled to sleep by God’s creative hand in it all.

We’re back home now, getting showered and dressed.  Tonight, we shop!  We found the  local Devred at the mall last night, and did a little reconnaissance :)  I’ve already mapped out which areas of the store to hit, and the items I’m going to try on!  Right now, we’re feeling very pleased with all those folks who purchased us Honeyfund shopping sprees!

Honeymoon: Day 1

Monday, August 16, 11:12 a.m.
Somewhere over central France

We’re on the last leg of our journey into Marseille — a one-hour flight from Charles de Gaule airport down to the Mediterranean coast where, they promise us, it is significantly warmer and drier than the 50-degree, sopping wet Paris that welcomed us. Our flights have been on time, mishap-free, and relatively restful — well, for me (J), anyway. D barely slept at all overnight. I think we’ll both be ready to turn in early this evening.

We had the unexpected pleasure of connecting once more with our friends, Joe and Topher, who were also connecting through Atlanta on their way home. I love airport rencontres (not the kind that happen in the bathrooms) — the reminder that we’re all not too far away from one another, and the chance that we might just meet up with someone we know far from home.

I’m already experiencing the jitters of plunging back into the language — the anxiety as flight attendants speak rapidly, the worries about finding our rental car, and then our apartment. But at the same time, the phrases and the terminology — carte d’embarquement, cabine telephonique, crème solaire — are starting to come back as I dust off that slightly hardened portion of my brain.

We’ve begun our descent into Marseille, so away goes the laptop. A bientôt

Same day, 8:01 p.m.

After 35 kilometers spent traveling the wrong way on the autoroute, two tolls that we needn’t have payed (5 Euros in total), and countless wrong turns down unlabeled one lane roads leading up and down the hills of Marseille at impossible angles, we found our new home for the next few days. The architects of this neighborhood were creative. Rather than build one large house in the center of the hill and try to make it work with the incline, the designers decided to split up the residence into terrasses: the top level houses the main house; about a meter down into the hill, our little one bedroom apartment sits, a stand-alone, but ever aware of its dependence on the main house for things like the high-speed internet cord, which the owner swaps out for his own computer whenever he decides he needs it more than we; below us is a small patio housing the laundry facilities (a trek which almost negates the benefit of having your own lavelinge); below the laundry, a small studio where the owner rehearses with his fusion band; and finally down one more level, the garage, which opens onto the negligible rue Berger. The effect of such a layout is that it keeps one outside much more than a normal day of household chores would in America, which obviously has it’s benefits and drawbacks.

Our plan for the day was to buy a quick lunch and sunscreen, then hit the beach. Unfortunately, by the time we made it through the two-level Carrefour supermarket, discovered that we had no reliable map of the region, and realized that it was already going on five o’clock, we decided to buy dinner and call it an early evening. Unfortunately, in all my theft-preemptive forethought, I had only brought enough cash for sunscreen. Another quick trip up the torturous rue Berger, then back down to Carrefour, and we finally had our dinner: one white baguette, a wheel of delicious chèvre cheese, a bottle of Chateau du Dauphin 2008 Saint-Emillion wine (a Bordeaux), a few slices of salame pavé de poivre, and three of our landlord’s garden tomatoes (the tastiest we’ve eaten all summer!). Every time we go out in our rental car, we see another near-accident which seems to be the way of life for the marseillais. Every time, we pray it doesn’t involve our limited rental insurance.

I (J) have found few dishes more powerful than the simple staples of French cuisine. Were I to eat nothing but a baguette, a wheel of cheese, and a glass of inexpensive French wine every meal for the rest of my life, I’d live a long, happy, and healthy life. This was pretty much my steady diet when I lived in Troyes a few years ago (unable to afford much else, the second half of the baguette would become my breakfast the next morning), and, as might be expected, I lost weight. However, I (D) would probably need a little more spice to life!  (Though admittedly, I don’t think I’d be complaining too much about the savory simplicity of French staple.)

We ate our simple meal tonight out on the terrasse, under the drooping grapes, soaking up the late afternoon sun reflected off the red roofs of Marseille and the Mediterranean, which we can see from the apartment. Does life always seem to move more slowly in Europe simply because we only vacation here? Do les français feel as harried in their daily routines as we do? Or does the fact that they live in a nearly-timeless environment somehow temper the tyranny of the urgent? Are there whispers of ancestors that tell them to drink wine at lunchtime as well as dinner? And do we have any access to similar voices of our own ancestors, or is our new society doomed to its continually recreated and renovated voices of the future to tell it how to live?  Ahhh, the blissful musings of two Americans on a French honeymoon . . .

Good Lord . . .

It's so ironic (in the Alanis Morissette sort of way, anyway), that what inspires me to blog now is actually contrary to the very spirit of my previous post (On Gays, Ex-gays, Unsure Gays, and the Kingdom).  It appears that the Lions couldn't stand next to the Lambs for too long for fear of devouring them :-/

In other words, that very kind ex-gay lady who shared the stage with us at Cedar Ridge's sexuality panel, recently left the church (see J's blog for more on that).  She wanted us to be aware that it was not because of us.  No sir, it's because of the leaders.  She and her husband are perfectly comfortable sharing a pew with us disobedient, lowly gays, but she couldn't *possibly* stay at a church where the leaders supported us!  But again, it's not about us.

REALLY?  Are you kidding me?  So the church you've been a part of for years, the church where you've grown, and seen others grow . . . the church where the fruit of the Spirit was clearly visible is suddenly unworthy of your continued presence because you've just now found out what the leaders believe on this issue??  So the fruits you've been eating all along are what now?  Rotten?  And how am I not supposed to take that personally?  I'm good enough to fellowship with, but not if the leaders aren't willing to de-gay me?  WTF?!  What happened to all that talk about loving each other and having fellowship through disagreement?  Good enough for you and me, but not good enough for you and the pastors?  You'd not deign attend a church where you disagree with the pastor on something theological?

I've got news for you.  The same Bible that you feel condemns my sexuality, also condemns female pastors.  And you've sat under Pastor Patsy for YEARS!!

And just yesteray, another one bit the dust.  I was beckoned by a teary-eyed mother J and I have had few interactions with, as she told us of her family's decision to leave because of the church's stance on same-sex relationships.

This is exactly what I feared.  I've blogged about it before as a guest poster on Andrew Marin's blog (here and here).  This really does break my heart.  It hurts a lot.  It's all I've thought about since yesterday hearing the news of the second family to abandon ship.  I'm angry.  I'm disappointed.  I'm upset.  And I hope that one day soon the Church recognizes that we more powerfully demonstrate the power of Jesus when we do as he said (remain one in the Father- even through our disagreements) rather than splintering every time someone baptizes in a way we don't like, or speaks in a weird tongue, or votes for the other party, or interprets Scripture differently.  Who is convinced by the power of the cross when we show the maturity of three year olds, and make new friends every time someone's theology doesn't line up with our own?


In other news, I'm going to have to blog a lot today, apparently.  My hubby and I were supposed to be synchroblogging our honeymoon, but Mr. Sneakypants that he is, he failed to mention to me that he'd already blogged 2 days worth, and did our 3rd today!  So expect a few from me :)