This piece was first published on Sep 10, 2015. I thought it might be time to circle back, plus back to school means back to busy busy for me! If you’re a first time reader, let me know what you think, and if you’re on repeat, well, do the same! xxxooo
Man creates divisions. Labels and categories. Lists of ingredients that make up our individual peace or community discord. Political parties create further divergence and careers choices further separate our education, lifestyles, even viewpoints. Over here are our scientists, heralded as those to solve the unsolvable while the engineers continuously redesign our pathways and roadways and pipelines and even the vehicles that move us; labeling deems some as teachers in a school building while the rest are only students despite the grey lines these labels cross over within the school building. The law abiding stand on one side of the bars and those who transgress reside firmly on the other yet of late we too often must question the validity of each stance. Bound by these allotments we trudge through our dull days. Yet somehow, almost miraculously, living in defiance to every man-made divider are those that challenge the status quo: the artists existing among us. Instead of maintaining practicality and order, their daring shapes and colors mystify emotion and intellect. In an artist’s hands every medium is played with, messed up, combined anew to create a different vantage. For me, lingering in one sorrow, an afternoon to view the old masters to the new ones is like drinking a nutrient rich and satisfying smoothie, lifting me beyond compartmentalizing into a free floating joy.
As I drift along on my daily walk, the one I started during this sheltering, passing by a large expanse of water and sky, I am reminded of how slowly change comes, and when it does finally happen, it’s due to a ferocious wind driving everything out of its path. I thought of my father today, on my parents’ wedding anniversary coincidentally, as he would remind me when I was frustrated with the lack of protections afforded queer people like me, and he would state some statistic like, “just remember Oscar Wilde was found guilty of gross indecency in 1895, not that long ago, and look how far the world has come” he would add. As sweet as his history lessons were the demands of today call for vast sweeping changes effective immediately. It is not enough to recant one’s prejudices or apologize how we got here, instead, it is time to kick into the cracks and bring down the shoddy notions of the past. Racial or economic or gender or sexuality or religious or any differences can no longer dictate who gets what in this one world.
In the suburban neighborhood I grew up in, each house had two parents, a handful or more of children, a cleaning gal who lived-in a few days a week, and an assortment of pets. Every household ran on the same schedule, with Dads out working, kids in school, while moms did everything they did until we returned to sit around the dinner table in our respective seats. Two houses down our lane was a family just like ours, until it wasn’t, and they moved across to the other hill in town, where properties were larger, houses grander, and then the husband left to make his bed with a younger woman in her city apartment. This mother, the one left with 5 teenagers still living in the grander home, she’s been on my mind, a lot, her image rolling around all this week. I picture her at her dressing table, drawing cat eyes with a black liner, a smoldering cigarette in a crystal tray, and a half-filled martini at her elbow. She was alone gazing into her mirror on those nights when we middle-schoolers were experimenting with beer and kisses downstairs in the oak-paneled den. I have no recollection about why I went upstairs to speak to her or what she even said to me, but I always did go. She’d flit about in a gold patterned caftan like Cleopatra, mesmerizing my imagination as she moved mythically from dresser to mirror, completing her toilet with care, as if her styling mattered, as if she was expected somewhere regal. Once properly primed she’d descend the wide staircase with care, imparting a question or a word, not a caution or warning, just a thought for our evening. Although I couldn’t capture her bleached-blond up-do or recreate that Valley of the Dolls barbiturate disposition, she has filled my imagination endlessly of late. I know nothing certain about her isolation or despair, but right now, those emotions lay torn open in me.