Giving Boxes

In a lot of people’s lives, we’re gearing up to gift-giving season. (Not in my life. I give gifts when I see something that makes me want to get it for someone.) While you’re getting things for your parents, kids, siblings, aunts, uncles, best friend, and landlord, stop and think about someone else: the stranger, the outcast. The homeless.

Make a Giving Box. (Giving, because you give it; also because the box itself keeps giving.) Get a box or bag with a handle; waterproof is a definite plus, such as a resealable plastic gallon baggie or something similar. Now, go put some things into it. Not toys, not tchotchkis, not stuff that’ll be thought a nice novelty and then tossed as it proves un-useful. Not that stuff. We’re talking real stuff. Important stuff. Vital stuff. There’s a list below, but feel free to adjust it to suit your ability to give and your local populace’s needs. Once your stuff is in your baggie/box/whatever, stick that in your car in a place that you can reach without asking anyone’s help, in case you’re the only one in the car. That way, if you’re out and about, it’s there and handy even if someone approaches your car on a freeway and asks for loose change. You just reach into your glove box, pull it out, and be on your way without holding up traffic when the light changes.

Here are the things I can think of, for putting into these Giving Boxes. Think of more stuff, and comment. All these things should be trial-sized or mini-sized, when possible.

  • Soap, washcloth, and face towel. When you’re homeless, the hardest need to meet is the need to be clean. People often give money or food, but how many of them will open their home to a stranger and let the stranger shower? But it is possible to get most of your body clean just by using soap and a cloth in a public bathroom.
  • Hotel/sample sized shampoo and conditioner. Comb or brush.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste. Bonus points for dental floss and alcohol-free mouthwash. Alcohol-free because there are enough problems for the homeless, and they don’t need something that will trigger a dormant addiction if they’re trying to quit.
  • Chapstick or other lip balm. Band-Aids and a teeny bottle of rubbing alcohol. Package of tissues.
  • A couple of dollars in quarters. A small amount of laundry detergent.
  • A packet rain poncho.
  • Tampons and/or maxi-pads, individually wrapped.
  • A laminated list of resources such as shelters, food banks, and the like. Also places to get assistance getting out of an abusive situation.
  • Sealed, non-perishable or long-lasting foods. Raisins, nuts, granola bars, perhaps a microwave meal since 7-11 will usually let a person heat those up in the store.
  • A gift certificate to a nearby restaurant or grocery chain.
  • A bus token, train pass, or the local equivalent.
  • A prepaid phone card.

Again, you don’t have to put everything on this list into a box, but let this list serve as inspiration for your Giving Box. Very small, simple things can save lives, or at least make life more bearable for someone.

DOMA, and the first gay couple I ever met

Today I want to talk about the first same-sex couple I ever encountered. That is, the first same-sex couple I knowingly encountered — as I was a theater kid growing up with theater people in the semi-rural areas of Arkansas and Mississippi, I have no doubt that there were more same-sex couples that just weren’t comfortable being known as such in the 1970s.They were a male couple. One was tall and slender, serious and introspective. He was fond of the finer, quieter pursuits: he read books, liked very healthy foods, collected things and catalogued them meticulously — just as meticulously as he cleaned their shared home. He noticed the most mundane things and found beauty in them — the patterns on a linoleum floor, the texture of his bowl of breakfast, the sounds his pet birds made when they were happy. His voice was higher, and sometimes sounded a bit pinched.The other was shorter and a bit husky, and he loved what I thought of as “play.” He ran; he had collections that were really more like jumbles, and sometimes he wouldn’t put things away. He liked to play little jokes on his “best friend” to amuse himself, but also I think it was to make his best friend laugh, because laughter and silliness didn’t come naturally for him, and the little guy just wanted to make his  friend smile. Sometimes the jokes were even played on himself, when his friend couldn’t fail to notice. It was easy to see what was being communicated. When I heard the words to Endless Love, “I’ll be a fool for you; you know I don’t mind,” I thought immediately of these two men.

Their home was modest — just one bedroom, just one bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen — but the doors to both  were always open unless they were in use, and the home was always open to anyone who cared to drop by. They’d welcome you into their fun, and you’d feel like family within seconds. You’d be welcome to share their meal, talk about your favorite things, look at the new thing they found. They’d tell you about adventures they had, show you tiny models they’d built of circuses or houses, and they never made a kid feel less important than an adult. Everyone mattered to them, mattered deeply. They were sort of halfway between favorite uncles and playmates that felt like they were my own age sometimes. (Maybe because they insisted on being known by their first names, rather than by Mister or Sir.) Best of all, to me, they were always singing. One would start, and the other would come into the room just to sing along. It didn’t even matter what the song was about. They could sing about rain, or tadpoles, or oatmeal, or friendship — a very common theme with them — or about learning things. Sometimes they’d make up a song right on the spot.

These were grownups you could have trusted to babysit you, not the creepy sort that would make you hope your parents would stay with you or take you with them. I spent many a happy day in their company. I even made up little stories to myself when I was playing alone, about how I was at their house instead. They were best friends who got to share everything together, and never got told that it was time to go home when they were done playing, because they were already home.

They were just “the guys.” Seeing them as just “the guys” rather than as The Gays helped me see myself as just a person when I came out at the age of nineteen. That is, after I realized that they probably were, in fact, like me. Gay. A couple. Together. I knew I was supposed to look down on that and shun them, and shun myself because I was the same way, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. They weren’t “those awful perverts” talked about in hushed voices, or “evil beings with evil desires” that were talked of with excessive enunciation in church. And if they weren’t bad, then neither was I.

I thought about their relationship more closely once I realized that they were probably romantically attached, not “just” best friends. But indeed, they were best friends. The very best. Each of them had things they loved to do, loved to share with each other, and they shared even activities that one loved and the other didn’t, because they loved watching each other be happy. They talked out their problems. They never hit each other. When they yelled, it was comedy rather than verbal violence: there were no insults, ever. They were the first happy couple I knew, even though I didn’t know to call it that when I first knew them, and they were the model for every relationship I wanted to have, and they still are. When I was in a relationship that wasn’t like theirs, I knew it was time to move on.

One day, they moved on too. I wasn’t there when it happened — I was already an adult, and I’d lost touch, but resumed my acquaintanceship with each of them almost immediately when I found out that they were living apart. I cried at the news. If their friendship, their relationship, had ended, what hope was there for any other relationship? They were so perfectly matched! What had gone wrong?

Well… it was people. People talking about their relationship. Making assumptions about it, making comments about it. I guess the pressure got to be a bit much. They were such good people, but gossip is such an ugly thing, because even if it’s true, it’s truth being uttered with hatred beneath it. Snide whispers, making their beautiful love sound like something nasty and dirty and secret. I felt sick to my stomach, sick to my bones, when I heard people speaking in such a tone of voice about these men, this couple I’d looked up to for years, hoping to find something like what they had. It made me too sad to see them apart, even though they promised they were still best friends, and I couldn’t be around them when they looked so… amputated, I suppose, each without his other half right nearby. It was a dark, horrible time, no matter the smiles they put on and no matter how cheerful I know everyone tried to be about it.

I wasn’t there when they got back together, either, but it made me so joyful that I couldn’t stay away any longer. Seeing them back together was like seeing the sun shining through rain, making rainbows everywhere. I know that’s such a cliché, but truly, if you saw it, you felt it: the world was beautiful again and nothing hurt.

Today I saw a picture of them. Not one in an album; my albums and shoeboxes are somehow devoid of images of them, singly or together. No, I saw them on the cover of a magazine, sharing a warm, private, loving embrace as they reacted to the news of the striking down of DOMA. Or, as I should say, the striking down of Section 3 of DOMA; the rest of the Defense of (Heterosexual) Marriage Act remains in place, so the celebration is bittersweet, but still, there is some sweetness in a partial victory. I saw their picture and immediately wanted to hug them. All I could do was cry. Mostly, the tears are happy, but not completely. We still have a long way to go before the United States will give them the right to be married, not just in New York (which is where they have resided for quite a few years now), but in the entire country. Please, when you vote, think about me. But even more, think about Bert and Ernie, the first same-sex couple I ever met, and probably one of the first that you met, too.

BertErnie

Queer Baiting

I don’t think I’ve ever said that TV would be better if all the characters were gay. At least, not while sober and actually thinking. That doesn’t reflect the world at large.

I have said, and will keep saying, that queer baiting is wrong.

“What’s queer baiting?” Queer baiting is when you dangle the chemistry between actors and/or characters in front of an audience that has a very strong LGBT membership, to get their attention and make them want to watch the show…

[Right now, smart people are saying “But wait, dangling possibilities is just how any show can and should get higher ratings!” True. Let me finish.]

…and then, instead of acknowledging that, owning it, and then just not letting it happen…

[because after all, who wants to see ACTUAL GAY PEOPLE as the stars of a TV show? surely no one! not real Americans, right???]

…actually mocking that viewership and saying, in effect, “What? No, absolutely not. There’s no gay content in this show. There’s no gay subtext. You’re imagining things. We don’t do that, we don’t pretend to do that, that’s not any part of this show, and you’re all crazy for thinking it or suggesting it or wanting it.” EVEN WHILE YOUR TWO MAIN CAST MEMBERS SAY OPENLY AND OFTEN THAT THEY PLAY IT UP ON PURPOSE.

Behaving like that is like tossing down a wonderful, catnip-infused toy and, when the kitten leaps on it excitedly because it’s never had a toy before and is thinking, “FINALLY, ROWR!”… kicking the kitten clear across the room and sneering, “You little asshole, I knew you’d go for it. There’s no toy, idiot.”

You know what it makes you when you do that? Yeah. You’re the asshole.

JANET TAMARO.

Adorably Round

Today, inspired by http://fatshionelle.wordpress.com/ (blog by my new friend Natalie Slaughter) and also by http://www.xojane.com, I am deciding that I will never again try to be thin.

No, seriously.

Ipstenu adores my body BECAUSE of all the things about it, not IN SPITE of the things about it. I’ve realized that I love it, too. Know why? Because my body has been with me for as long as there’s been a Me to be with. It’s stuck by me. It’s given me enjoyment and pleasure, it’s helped me to enforce the decisions my heart and mind make, and it’s strong.

Last week, I found the budget for gym membership, and today I get to go there and finalize the membership and indulge in my first proper workout since leaving Chicago.

“Now, wait,” I hear you saying in honest perplexment. (Perplexion. Perplexitude. Purple. Something like that.) “Now, wait. Wait just a dang minute. You’re going to the gym? But you just said you don’t care about being thin!”

But you see, I do care about my body. Remember? I just told you I loved it. But because I love my body, I want it to be strong, and flexible, and have stamina. Well, more of those things, which I already have to some extent. (An extent that may not seem fair to those of you who’ve been working out all your lives and staying thin all your lives, just to get to be as strong and flexible as I am. Don’t hate me because I’m naturally gifted. Really, you’re doing well, and I’m proud of you.)

Yes, I want to work out. A lot! I love working out, feeling strong and awesome, sweating and breathless from pushing myself. Because although I love my body, I’m not satisfied with it. I don’t mean I don’t like the way it looks. I mean that I believe that I have room to grow. That’s right, I said grow, not shrink! I can be tougher. Faster. Stronger. More flexible. Right now, I’m strong for an average person. But I think I can be strong for an athlete, too. Look at the beautiful and amazing Sarah Robles — if she can do such amazing things with her beautiful body, maybe I can, too. I’ll know, when I try.

My body is great. It has substance. Comforting bulk. Ask anyone who’s had the privilege of hugging me: It is wonderful to hold me, a sybaritic and hedonistic pleasure, precisely because of my size and shape. I am the shape considered divine — literally — by many cultures, both now and throughout history. I am an inspiration for artists — I, myself, was once an art model, but also other women of my size and shape have been immortalized in paints, marble, and bronze. I am generosity, I am voluptuousness, I am abundance, I am life.

I will never again insult this beautiful, steadfast body of mine, nor try to change its shape to please anyone, nor change its size on purpose (my size may change as a result of my current-and-increasing exercise regimen, but that is not my goal, only a side result). What I want isn’t a new body, but rather, to do more things — more efficiently, more often, and for longer at a stretch — with this body. This gorgeous, yummy body.

And if you can’t get down with that, then you probably hate your body, and I hope that you will learn to love it as I love mine, so that you will have enough confidence to just exist in your own beauty rather than trying to convince others that they don’t have their beauty. I wish the best for you, even and especially if you are feeling like flaming me right now. Love yourself.

My name is MrsIpstenu, and I am adorably round.

Stuff Even *I* Know About Horror/Sci-Fi Movies

I don’t even watch horror movies, but I know this:

  • If it lands during a meteor shower, and especially if it glows, don’t talk to it, pick it up, take it home, name it, and for the love of G*D and little fishhooks, don’t get any ON you.
  • Virgins live, unless they’re over 35, in which case they die and nobody mourns them. Unless they’re hot despite their Advanced Age, preferably female and blonde, or Asian and previously a monk, in which case they are either the hero or the one that the hero falls for.
  • Non-virgins are fair game for whatever the Great Evil is. Great Evil is apparently filled with good Christian morality, and hates those who have sex outside the confines of the (heterosexual) marriage bed.
  • Along with non-virgins in the “fair game” category are non-whites, gays, overweight people, Jews… basically any minority, really… as well as women who shriek, anyone unattractive (by WB/CW/Disney/Fox network standards), nerds/geeks, the socially inept, and whoever is smart enough to figure out what the Great Evil actually is, how it got that way, and what to do to make it stop killing.
  • All but the last category mentioned above will die in ways that will be presented as horrifying, but also as acceptable, because these are not The Golden People and therefore they are less than fully human or worthwhile, and it’s okay to kill them just to make the body count rise. The last one, the genius who could have solved the problem, will be not sad, but scary, one final moment for the audience (which is not you — you’re a potential victim, remember?) to realize that the situation is dire, if not irretrievably doomed. The only time it’s actually sad for someone to die is if they are conventionally attractive, a virgin, and/or a child.
  • If it looks like a gigantic body part (human or animal), but “not like one I’ve ever seen before,” walk the heck away. Slowly and with dignity, so as not to alert the Great Evil to the fact that you know it is, in fact, Evil. If it knows that you know, you will become its food.
  • The creepy child is possessed. Either kill the child (and make peace with your deity of choice later), or learn to love having everyone around you disappearing, one by one, only to be dismembered later.
  • The pretty child is (1) an innocent victim, (2) onscreen more than all the other innocent victims put together, (3) not all that bright, and (4) the only one who will be saved/brought back mostly unharmed (but with superpowers that will turn it into the creepy child in the sequel), and it will be Heartwarming when the child is reunited with whoever’s left of its family.
  • If you hear a weird noise, and you can’t just leave the house and call the cops or Ghostbusters from the neighbor’s place, at least bring a gun or baseball bat with you.
  • If you hear a weird noise while in the shower or bath, stop to rinse the shampoo out of your hair before you go and stupidly investigate. You don’t want to slip in suds and fall down and hurt yourself so you can’t run anymore.
  • Your car should be gassed up, with an extra 5-gallon can of gas in the trunk just in case. Your batteries should be charged and in the flashlights. Flashlights, candles/matches, first aid kit, a bag of non-perishable food (plus your medications and maybe a couple of bottles of water), and fully-charged cellphone should be in locations you can find in the dark. And all these things should be true AT ALL TIMES. Having a cellphone is essential, because the Great Evil can’t make it stop working by cutting the telephone wires. You should probably also try to get in good enough shape to run at least two miles at full speed without breaking a sweat.

And finally, the most important point of all:

  • If your pet barks/growls/snarls/hisses at it, they are right. They are always right. You, in your human arrogance never trust them, because they are an “inferior species” to your vast awesomeness as the pinnacle of creation; also because they complain that they’re starving when their bowl’s full of kibble, not because they are actually starving, but  because what they really want is the good stuff, i.e. canned food, and that annoys you, and anyone who annoys you deserves not to be trusted. But they ARE telling the truth about the stuff they perceive, which is a heck of a lot more than what you perceive, because your human brain is filled up with TV shows, commercial jingles, and internet memes, while their brains are free to focus on Stuff-That-Keeps-Me-Inside-My-Fur or Stuff-That-Will-Definitely-Separate-Me-From-My-Fur. When your pet sounds the alarm, here’s what you do: you pick up the pet, cradle it tenderly and securely to your bosom, say “Good baby!” and run like you stole something.

We are now… civilized.

Today, even though the man felt the need to insert some words that I don’t care about from a religion I don’t practice, our “Certificate of Marriage/Civil Union” document was signed. It’s not enough. It won’t be enough until there is no legal difference between my status and a heterosexual’s status in terms of the rights we can expect to be honored in every state in the US. It’s not enough until a judge can just sign a damned paper, or at least have the courtesy to ask whether we want him reciting words from Christian ritual to inaugurate the “secular” (in the US, that term is almost meaningless, given the Christian-centric nature of Western culture) protection of a union between two Jewish woman.

I don’t want to have a civil union. I want to have a marriage. I don’t want to say, “This is my civil partner.” I want to say, “This is my wife.”

I didn’t want a civil court judge to recite words which originated in a Christian wedding ceremony; I didn’t go to him for the sake of a ceremony at all. I just wanted him to sign a document that would guarantee me some of the rights of marriage, and which will eventually be replaced by actual marriage rights when my country decides to honor my right as a human being to have legal protection of my partner’s right to carry out my wishes when I can’t do that for myself — medical decisions, distribution of my worldly possessions upon my death, et cetera.

But today that document was signed, and in ten days we will have the full legal certificate to show that the papers were filed with the state. My online handle, MrsIpstenu, is even more fitting today. I got to stand beside my beautiful Ipstenu, who looked extremely dashing by the way, and say yes, I will view her as my full partner throughout our lives. The court worker who took our documentation and our photograph has a daughter who also recently became civilly unified with her girlfriend/wife, and he was a darling, and he wished us over and over a long and happy life together. He couldn’t have been happier for us if he were one of our own fathers. “Long, happy life!” he kept repeating with a big smile and little tears.

Kein, y’hi ratzon. Yes, may it be (G*D’s) will.