Aug. 30th, 2010 09:56 pm
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
I. (A dialogue between [ profile] debboamerik and VeryProtestantBoss)
[Scene: [ profile] debboamerik is getting her lunch out of the refrigerator. VPB stands in the kitchen doorway.]

VPB: I hear you go to a Russian Orthodox Church.

DA: Yes, I do.

VPB: Is it true that you have to pay to go to an Orthodox church?

DA [mystified]: No.

VPB: But you have to pay to go to the Greek Orthodox Church.

DA: No, you don't. You don't have to pay to go to any Christian church that I've ever heard of.

VPB: But they say you have to pay to be a member!

DA: Sure, but that doesn't mean what you think.

VPB: What does it mean?

DA: If you want to do things like run or vote for Parish Council, you have to contribute to the parish, and you have to be of age.

VPB: How much?

DA: That depends.

VPB: So do you have to pay to go to services?

DA: N... [repeats] You don't have to pay to go to services at any Christian church!

VPB: So... just to take Communion?

DA: NO! We let little babies take Communion; how could they possibly pay?

VPB: But you still have to pay to be a member.

DA: Yes, and not just in Orthodox parishes. Catholics do that, too.

VPB: [looks confused, is asked a question by someone else, walks away]

II. (Scene on the Metro)

Three young black boys were sitting on the Metro near me. The oldest one, who was about 16, was acting much younger than the youngest one, who was about 11. I was meditating on the classic style of the youngest one's clothes. He could have been from any era from the 1930s up, dressed as he was, and looked equally cute and stylish. The oldest of the three was being noisy and singing, and trying to get the other two to sing along, which, after a minute or two, they did. Then the oldest one took out his phone and started blasting music with it. I caught the middle child's eye and gestured that they should turn the music down. He gestured back in a class-clown sort of "I don't know" way, so I tried to gesture headphones. Same response. Finally, I caught the oldest one's eye and said, "Hon, you're going to have to turn that way down or turn it off. The rules are that you're supposed to use headphones on the train."

At that point, a skinny young white man stood up and started yelling at them, telling them that I was right and that they shouldn't be talking so loudly either. I ignored him and went back to my book. After all, I talk loudly with my friends on the Metro, and I am 32 years old. The kids waited a second, and then, looking at me rather than at the man, turned their music off. I smiled at them. They started talking (in an audible undertone) amongst themselves, saying that the man had to have a woman speak before he would dare say anything, which I found rather amusing.

When I got off the train at Twinbrook, I saw the people who had been directly opposite me on the train at the farecard machines. The woman said, "Thank you for saying something to those men! I was too shy to say anything myself."

"They were just boys," I said.


"The oldest of them couldn't have been more than 16."

"Oh... I was too shy to look, like I said..." I had this lady's number, and she knew it and was embarrassed.

"Kids are dumb," I shrugged. Anyone over age 25 would have agreed, so the woman did. I helped her and her husband work the farecard machines, and they gave me their trade-in farecards. Then I went to the grocery store.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Last weekend we had [ profile] klaughingbrook's daughter L., 8, and [ profile] silk1's daughter E., 5, over for the weekend. It was lots of fun... mostly hours and hours of swimming in the pool. The girls are adorable and E. taught L. how to improvise with Legos (L. is very rule-bound). I took them to church on Sunday. I am used to taking [ profile] klaughingbrook's kids to church; they are accustomed to it, and they love the atmosphere at St. Nicholas. E., on the other hand, had never been to a church like ours before. She had been to church with her grandparents, but their parish keeps the kids out of the church itself during the service. The kids play games and do crafts while the adults pray.

Orthodox churches are quite different. Most don't have Sunday School during the Liturgy, as it's considered important for the kids to be in church with the adults.

Poor E. had no idea how to behave, which surprised me for about two seconds until I remembered that her parents aren't Christians and she can have had very little exposure. I would remind her to whisper, but she forgot a lot. L. was incredibly helpful, taking her around the church to look at the icons and downstairs when she needed a break. The result of the whole thing, however, was fairly amusing. (Please note that all of these comments were made in the kind of conversational tone one uses when calling someone across a playground.)

E.: "Is it over yet? This is boring!" (cue Russian grandmother-types smothering giggles)

E., when I take her to get antidoran: "My mommy doesn't let me drink wine!"
Me: "Don't worry, E., it's OK this time. Your mother won't be upset."
E. tastes the wine: "That's all right, I don't like this!"

This weekend, when I went to church, I saw a friend's five-year-old daughter lifting up her skirt at the end of the service, showing (an underskirt? a slip? her underwear?) to a friend while standing right in front of the steps to the altar as the priests came out. The nearest adult woman caught her and brought her back. I whispered to her mother, "What was O. trying to show her friend?" and her mother said, "I'm afraid to ask!"

We went miniature golfing this weekend with [ profile] scooterbird. Today we're going to see G.I. Joe with [ profile] silk1 and her husband. There is a heat advisory, so the pool should be nice and warm this evening.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
I've been feeling rather restless and out of it for the past six months or so. It seems that my tolerance for staying in one place is about that, six months. I love to travel; even if all I get is a weekend abroad, I feel better when I come back. It compounds, for me, the sadness of not having a job in my field. Most of those jobs would involve travel. I don't know how to live here, and just here. I've always been vaguely uncomfortable with American culture; people here are friendly and often kind, but not warm or close. I much prefer the French way, in fact, of being a little distant to strangers but very tightly connected to the people you know. I prefer places with a more human pace, places where people value things like time to read, time to spend with friends, and time to raise your children more than they value time to work. Many recent newspaper articles have suggested that, with the economic downturn, that attitude will come back to the U.S. I hope so.

I've also been thinking about childhood with its confusions. Many of you know the rather grimmer picture of my youth, but it wasn't all grim. I was, I think, always a fun-loving and innocent little thing under all my reserve, and under that protective coating of arrogance. I wanted so much to be everything I thought was good. I wanted to be the perfect student, the perfect friend, the perfect daughter. I was none of these things. Instead, I was an erratic student, a distant friend, and a very disappointing daughter.

For a long time, I counted my disinterest in boys to my credit; I was being age-appropriate, I thought; I was certainly too young to be interested in boys. That fell to pieces one warm October day in 1991. I was on a school retreat. My high school did marvelous retreats; they were really times away from the routine and the hustle-and-bustle of daily life. The group leaders were always other students. On this, my first retreat, my group leader was a Junior with butter-yellow hair and turquoise eyes. She gave a talk about some of the struggles she'd gone through when she was a Freshman. Involved as I was at that time with my dying godfather, I sensed an immediate kinship with her.

I couldn't take my eyes off her, even at the breaks.

As the weeks passed, I wrote her sonnets. I would pack my bags early to leave religion class, knowing that her history class was right across the hall. I waited on the Freshman lawn to see her arrive at school. And still, I thought I was straight. I truly believed that this would be the year I got a boyfriend. I even went to a school dance, where I concluded that either I was afraid of boys or, perhaps, I should try Loyola boys, since Crespi boys were clearly not my style. Thinking about this, I marvel at my belief in such self-deceptions. I can't imagine why they were so effective.

I realized that I was gay during religion class in April of 1992. I was sitting across from a friend (whom I later learned was also gay), looking out the window, waiting to leave class, and suddenly I started to write. What I wrote was dark and frightening; it had come from the deepest part of me. The walls came down, and I was bare and vulnerable. It was August before I told anyone. I told my oldest sister, who will be here on a visit with her husband in a few days. I told her just days before my godfather died.

Now, when I look in the mirror (as I sometimes do) and see myself on a particularly dykey day, I often truly like what I see. That self-respect took further years of work, of pain, and of learning. I am still amazed by my joy in who I am.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Myra, leaving the apartment: "It's cold!"

Me: "Oh, yeah! Fall came. I forgot to tell you."

And I was in earnest.

Also, last night in bed, she elbowed me in the nose. I woke up saying, "Ow!" and she said sleepily, "Oh, honey." I said, "It's OK, don't worry," and toddled off to the kitchen, where I applied frozen broccoli (the first thing that came to hand - I was still basically asleep) to my sore nose. I have decided that this means that I am a very nice person.

A few days ago, when I went to pick her up at work, I ended up walking in at the same time as one of the parents. I'd seen him a few times before, so I said, "Hi! Coming to pick up B, I see."

"That's right!"

"I'm picking mine up, too. Only, she's taller, and she has dredlocks."

"And she's a better cook."

"Yeah, that's probably true."

He proceeded down the hall to get his 4-year-old daughter; I waited in the lobby with my book. On his way back, he said, "I told Myra her better half was here. I think she kind of resented my presuming that you were the better half."

I patted him on the back and said, "I knew there was a reason I liked you."


debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)

January 2011

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