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    Far from home

    Posted by Sean at 05:56, May 14th, 2006

    The Washington Blade has an op-ed by an American who’s living in the Netherlands with his Dutch partner:

    I’d like to come home to live in America. No, let me be clearer. I’d like to be able to live in America. But I cannot.

    Even though I am a native-born U.S. citizen who lived in America until I was 42 years old, I have been exiled by U.S. law. I am a “love exile.” Because I am gay, I am a second-class U.S. citizen, lacking the basic right to live in America together with my non-U.S. partner.

    The use of “second-class citizen” in the context of the gay marriage debate makes me curl up at the edges. I do think it’s more apt in this case.

    The problem is two-fold: (a) We who are abroad are politically invisible, and (b) a lot of Americans simply do not believe that it is difficult to bring someone to live in America. Even my well-informed friends in the U.S. will say to me, “But you can marry in Massachusetts!”

    That is irrelevant, because immigration is a federal issue. Or, “Surely Rik can get a green card!” or “There are so many foreigners here, I’m sure you can find a way for Rik.” But we can’t.

    Moreover, current U.S. policy is causing a massive brain drain. Thousands of our best-educated and experienced professional people are leaving the U.S. as love exiles, and we are taking our U.S. earned qualifications with us.

    “Massive” may be an overstatement, but the number of gays taking their credentials and productivity abroad to be with their partners is certainly considerable. (People really do seem to be blown away by how difficult it is for a highly-qualified foreigner to get a green card.) In East Asia, the issues are somewhat different from in Europe; here, what makes things easier is just that there are a lot of jobs for foreigners. It’s certainly not the presence of partnership rights. But if the pull factors are often different, the results are often the same.

    Of course, immigration is a complex issue (something you could easily forget listening to people bellow past each other over the last several weeks). If nothing else, Robert Bragar’s story (website for his advocacy group here) is a good corrective to the idea that gay unions are all “transient.” You don’t leave a comfortable life and career trajectory to spend the rest of your days in an unknown country for someone who just happens to be a good lay.


    The burden

    Posted by Sean at 07:16, May 7th, 2006

    Michael explains his support for the Fair Tax. (I kind of understand why that choice of name is shrewd, though it seems to me that the old designation National Sales Tax was more transparent and not all that scary. Reason solicited a bunch of opinions about whether the Fair Tax or the Flat Tax was a better replacement for the current Income Tax a decade or so ago. It’s still worth reading.)

    You won’t be surprised to see libertarian me endorse the idea. You also won’t be surprised to see Japan-resident me wonder whether it’s realistic to expect to be able to extirpate a deep-rooted bureaucracy that’s used to exercising a great deal of arbitrary power over citizens’ money and privacy and knows how to play the system (largely because in a significant way it is the system). In that Reason piece, the Cato Institute’s Edward R. Crane articulates the chief worry:

    Critics of a federal retail sales tax who point to the danger of politicians simply adopting the retail sales tax on top of reduced rates for the present system have a very legitimate concern. The last thing we should want would be a sales tax in addition to the taxes we already have. The movement for the sales tax must reject any deal that allows the income tax to survive even at one-half of 1 percent.

    The danger of a monstrous hybrid “reform” is very real, in my opinion. People bitch about income taxes, and everyone hates the IRS, but we’re used to them. A lot of Americans who don’t understand much about math and money could probably be pretty easily scared away by warnings that they’ll end up poorer under the new system. A lot of Americans who are affluent and keep track of their money have a stake in keeping their own constellations of deductions just as they are…and finding ways to get others to pay in more. A lot of tax lawyers and accountants (not exactly groups that lack connections) would not quietly resign themselves to being forced to look for a new line of work.

    Of course, defeatism isn’t part of the American mindset, and as Michael says, gays in particular have reason to bestir ourselves over the income tax issue:

    Much of the discussion surrounding the marriage equality debate has been focused on the more than 1000 tax benefits married couples receive that gay people cannot. And that’s a big point. Not to diminish the debate over marriage equality, but when it comes right down to it, the difference between a married couple and a gay unmarried couple comes largely down to money.

    Those of us with partners who are foreign nationals have issues that come into play a bit before the money part, but Michael’s essentially right.

    Speaking of the federal government and money, am I the only one who LAUGHED OUT LOUD at that proposal to give citizens a $100 rebate for gas money? I mean, people have been saying it’s stupid, but it was so…rube-ish. The legislative branch of the US government looks forward to serving you ($100 that you yourself earned, anyway) again!!!! Sheesh.


    シミジミと

    Posted by Sean at 09:25, March 16th, 2006

    The Japan Meteorological Agency has announced that the cherry blossoms are probably going to open early this year–prepare for falling-down-drunkness and inescapable karaoke in t – 6 days:

    The JMA announced the dates that cherry (Prunus serrulata) blossoms are expected to open from Kyushu through the Tohoku region on 15 March. For the first time, this year’s blossoms are predicted to open between 1 and 4 days earlier than the average in Tohoku.

    The projected date for blossoms to open in Tokyo and Yokohama is 22 March.

    There are scores of classic poems about cherry blossoms–in the seasonal-devotion sense. But of course, they’re so woven into Japanese culture in March and April that they can become aesthetic placeholders for poems with other themes.

    The following is the first poem I ever read and understood (at least lexically) in Japanese:

    レモン哀歌

    そんなにもあなたはレモンを待つてゐた
    かなしく白いあかるい死の床で
    私の手からとつた一つのレモンを
    あなたのきれいな歯ががりりと噛んだ
    トパアズいろの香気が立つ
    その数滴の天のものなるレモンの汁は
    ぱつとあなたの意識を正常にした
    あなたの青く澄んだ眼がかすかに笑ふ
    わたしの手を握るあなたの力の健康さよ
    あなたの咽喉に嵐はあるが
    かういふ命の瀬戸ぎはに
    智恵子はもとの智恵子となり
    生涯の愛を一瞬にかたむけた
    それからひと時
    昔山巓でしたやうな深呼吸を一つして
    あなたの機関ははそれなり止まつた
    写真の前に挿した桜の花かげに
    すずしく光るレモンを今日も置かう

    高村光太郎

    *******

    Lemon Elegy

    You had waited so for the lemon.
    In your sad, white, bright deathbed,
    you took from my hand a single lemon
    and plunged your pretty teeth into it.
    Those few drops of heaven-sent lemon juice
    from which a topaz-colored fragrance rose
    snapped your consciousness back to normal.
    Your blue, unclouded eyes laughed a bit
    Your power so robust as you grasped my hand.
    There was a storm in your throat,
    and just at last possible second,
    Chieko became the old Chieko,
    and the love of a lifetime tipped into a single moment.
    And in the next instant,
    you took a deep breath as you had long ago at the top of a mountain,
    and with that your machinery shut down.
    In the shadow of the cherry sprig standing in front of your photograph,
    I will put a cool, glistening lemon today.

    Kotaro Takamura

    Kotaro Takamura and Chieko Naganuma had one of the most famous artistic marriages in Japan in the last century. Kotaro considered himself a sculptor more than a poet; Chieko was a painter. They had twin studios and shared household duties. Chieko had always been unconventional in dress and demeanor, but decade and a half after their marriage, she began to have delusions. She tried to commit suicide in the early 1930s. Of course, artists are famous for their erratic temperaments, but Chieko’s episodes developed into full-blown schizophrenia. Despite her tendency to break out of the house and harangue the neighbors, Kotaro kept her at home and took care of her for three years until it became too flat-out dangerous. She died another three years after he had her hospitalized.

    智恵子抄 (Chieko-sho: “Winnowings [of poems about] Chieko”), the book of poetry Kotaro published three years after her death, contains the above poem and others about their life together. I wrote my undergrad senior research project about it. That was the time I was coming out, of course–and though it might not seem like the greatest idea to be studying poetry about such an unstable person right about then, it was something of a kooky comfort to think that you could be completely falling apart and still have someone who would remain so tirelessly devoted to you.

    It’s known that many of the poems are idealizations–or rather, that they couldn’t possibly represent what their life was like in day-to-day terms. “Lemon Elegy” was composed in February, weeks before a cherry bough would have had swelling buds, let along blossoms, on it. Kotaro might have put a particularly shapely bare bough in a vase on the Buddhist altar with Chieko’s photograph on it, or he may just have written the poem as a projection into a time later in the spring. (Perhaps there’s some kind of critical consensus on that, but I’ve never seen it in any annotations.)

    Added on 17 March: I remembered last night after posting this that my college language partner, who’d returned with her husband to Japan by the time I was coming here in 1996 and let me stay with them my first week here, had a video tape of a television special about Kotaro Takamura. We watched it the first night I ever spent in Japan.

    Part of it was a dramatization of certain poems as they were read in voice-over. In the segment for “Lemon Elegy,” when the actress playing Chieko Naganuma died, the lemon dropped from her hand, landed on the floor with a meaningful thud, sat there for one dramatically fleeting second, and then wobbled dolorously away.

    I. LAUGHED. SO. HARD. It could hardly have been more campily entertaining if it had been performed in drag.

    While television dramas with naturalistic acting have become more common here, it’s non-mimetic theater, of course, that’s traditional. Scenes of emotional intensity are frequently stylized or exaggerated. (When Chieko returned momentarily to sanity, the look that flashed across the actress’s face was, like, Damn! I think I locked my keys in the car!) It’s a credit to Kotaro’s limpid, direct style that despite having those images in my head, I can still take the poems in question seriously.


    It was plain to see / That the lady was loveblind

    Posted by Sean at 02:04, March 6th, 2006

    Richard Rosendall’s newest column posted to IGF is on the verbose and meandering side, but he outlines the strategic problems in the current push for gay marriage or civil unions pretty well. One passage that puzzles me, as things like this always do:

    Being in love, I sympathize with those who are unwilling to wait for a more conducive political climate. Unfortunately, wanting equality now does not make it so, any more than demanding my two-minute egg instantaneously will make it cook any faster. But while we remind our compatriots that our struggle is a long-term one, we must deal with the reality that some gay people will ignore us and go charging off making messes that the rest of us will have to deal with.

    Not just the rest of us, though–those who come after, too. After all, that’s what makes the “long-term” part important. The problem, to extend Rosendall’s metaphor, is not just whether we get our eggs as fast as we’d like but whether it ends up that gays who come up in future generations get any eggs at all.

    And that very first participial phrase suggests that Rosendall is also not attuned to one of the other crucial dividing lines in this debate: those who see public policy in the role of validating love and conferring dignity on people vs. those who simply want the government to get out of the way while they arrange to take care of each other.

    The latter consideration is important enough. Last month, after the New York state legislature voted to allow people to make burial decisions for their domestic partners, Ex-Gay Watch posted about this astonishing bit of argument through cheap expediency by Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America:

    “Family has been given preference for a reason,” says the pro-family leader. “And to say that grieving parents, for instance, just have no rights over what happens to their child’s body is a perversion of the law.”

    Interesting. I assume that if a single woman brought up in a Muslim (or Wiccan, or atheist) family converted to Christianity and then formally designated someone she trusted in her new congregation to take care of her body, CWF would say that the law should allow her parents to give her a non-Christian burial anyway?

    The fact is that our country wouldn’t even exist if men and women of principle had not been willing to leave behind traditions of their elders that they could not in good conscience agree with. It’s a shame that estrangement within families sometimes happens, but it’s a fact of life in free societies for plenty of reasons besides homosexuality. While we can all agree that community living involves duties, the idea that an adult’s registered instructions regarding the disposal of his or her own body should be overridden as a sop to his weeping relatives should be chilling to anyone who professes to prize liberty.

    Speaking of sentiment, framing the discussion about marriage or civil unions in terms of how much we loooooovvvvve one another only invites people to think of the issue in terms of feelings. Does it still need to be pointed out that most people’s feelings about homosexuality are ambivalent at best? Even gay marriage advocates who have meatier arguments about rights and responsibilities to make frequently slip into lugubrious pronouncements about needing marriage for “validation.”

    All that notwithstanding, Rosendall’s essential point is sound: On the gay side, we need to look for ways to give each other a fair hearing and find points to cooperate on, even as we acknolwedge that, in a free society, gay advocacy is never going to be “unified.”


    Weekend

    Posted by Sean at 09:42, March 5th, 2006

    Whew. Fever-pitch week. Friend whose boyfriend dumped him a few weeks ago decided to break Rule #1. He–not making this up, guys–showed up at our hang-out looking for my friend. Found him. Proceeded to tell him, “You know our friendship is very important to me.”

    “It’s not that I don’t care about you–you know that, too, right?”

    “I miss having you around.”

    “You have no idea how hard it was for me to break up with you.”

    You can imagine the rest. I showed up about halfway through this particular scene and took a post on the opposite side of the bar until it became clear that it was Intervention Time. I put on my best clueless-American-being-heartily-friendly act and wandered over. “Evan! [blink-blink] Have you been here the whole time? I just got here ten minutes ago.” I gave him the chance to give me the look that says, “Now isn’t a good time” and got the look that says, “Help!” Luckily, he’s a strong-minded guy, so he just needed an hour or two of being listened to. I still entered the weekend kind of drained.

    Luckily, Atsushi was here, which always improves things. When we went out for dinner last night, we were, purely by chance, given a private room at the restaurant. That was not only nice but also useful, since when the waiter brought our lamb ribs, he deposited moist handtowels next to the plates and said, in that gravely expressionless waiter voice, “To enjoy it to the last morsel, you’ll have to pick up the bones and eat the meat off them.” So Atsushi and I got to sit on opposite sides of a table and watch each other hungrily sucking meat off bones. Put me in a very…you know…primal mood.

    Speaking of primal–or rather, atavistic–I also polished off While Europe Slept. Yet another reason to be glad Atsushi was nearby, since reading deeply disturbing stuff like that is always easier when your man is reassuringly at the other end of the sofa. And it was disturbing, though a lot of the reportorial details are familiar if you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last several years. Some passages also seem to be adapted from this essay of Bruce Bawer’s a while back (not that that’s a problem). In a way, the flat-out atrocities and terrorist acts weren’t as rattling as, say, this passage on p. 57, which made me snarf my Earl Grey:

    In many Western European countries, indeed, some laws are different for natives than for immigrants. For native Swedes, the minimum age for marriage is eighteen; for immigrants living in Sweden, there is no minimum. In Germany, an ethnic German who marries someone from outside the EU and wants to bring him to her to Germany must answer a long list of questions about the spouse’s birth date, daily routine, and so forth in order to prove that the marriage is legitimate and not pro forma; such interviews are not required for German residents with, say, Turkish or Pakistani backgrounds, for it is assumed that their marriages have been arranged and that the spouses will therefore know little or nothing about each other.

    I live in a country in which there are different rules for natives and foreigners, but here–quite justifiably, as far as I’m concerned–the laws favor, you know, the natives. (I try to hold out hope that the normally-exacting Bawer is misinterpreting something in the German legal code, but the phrasing he uses neither is ambiguous itself nor seems to refer to the kind of policy that could easily be misrepresented.) Sheesh. (See also this by the Grand Stander.)

    Added on 6 March: My parents and I kind of have an arrangement whereby they treat Atsushi like one of the family but we don’t discuss gay stuff head-on. I’m amused, though, by the way their Christmas present to him always manages to seem subliminally racy. Here’s this year’s:

    inajam.jpg

    Yes, yes, “Intercourse, PA” is a cheap schoolboy joke. But still, my parents live at the edge of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Every town significant enough to have a crossroads has some little collective of farms that makes jelly and relishes. There’s nothing easier than NOT choosing the ones made in, of all places, Intercourse.

    Of course, my thinking is probably affected by last year. This was what arrived for Atsushi for Christmas 2004:

    twinsticks.jpg

    As I said at the time, to the extent that I could form words while laughing, “I would call this a coded message of approval for our relationship, but I’m guessing there wasn’t quite that much subtext intended.”


    The Keystone State

    Posted by Sean at 02:58, February 18th, 2006

    I lost sight of this a few weeks ago without posting about it, but the Casey senatorial campaign is getting into gear in my home state (via Gay News):

    In a Senate race that is looking to be the most closely watched and most expensive showdown in the nation, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. is looking to win the gay vote.

    Casey, who said he is gearing for nine more months of hard campaigning, will introduce himself to the region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community Feb. 18 at the Human Rights Campaign Philadelphia Region Steering Committee’s annual gala.

    If he gets on the Democratic ticket, Casey is running, of course, against Rick Santorum, one of the least gay-friendly major politicians in America. (And yes, I know he has a gay communications director. I’m speaking in terms of ideas and policies.)

    Already he has the backing of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization; HRC’s political action committee endorsed Casey in October.

    Ken Oakes, chair of the HRC Philadelphia Region Steering Committee, said an early endorsement like this is quite rare, but warranted.

    “They [HRC] believe, and we agree, this is the race of the nation,” Oakes said. “Whatever happens here with Rick Santorum and Bob Casey is really a bellwether for the nation.”

    Casey supports civil unions and domestic partner benefits, but stops short of supporting marriage equality.

    But, compared to Santorum — who has equated gay sex with bestiality, and said there is nothing wrong with intolerance — Oakes said Casey is a fair-minded candidate with a proven record of respecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and working on their behalf.

    Many members of the sexual and gender minority communities probably cannot understand HRC’s endorsement of Casey, Oakes said.

    The HRC’s early commitment in this case is a much more sensible unusual move than its idiotic endorsement of Joseph Whowasthatagain against gay-friendly (and very powerful) senior Senator Arlen Specter two years ago. Of course, the fact that Casey is a Democrat means everything falls cleanly along pre-conceived party lines this time, thus sparing most people involved from asking uncomfortable questions about, you know, principles and stuff.

    Of course, as the PGN notes, this year’s race is, for a lot of gay voters, as much about giving Santorum the heave as it is about getting a friendly candidate elected. Suppose you’re a gay Pennsylvanian who occasionally thinks about the economy, or education, or the WOT? The Casey campaign’s website is still on the thin side, but here‘s its issues page:

    Bob Casey is running for the U.S. Senate because he wants to help bring change to Washington.

    ZZZZZZZZ…wha? Oh, sorry.

    As your Senator, Bob Casey will fight to put the needs and concerns of Pennsylvania’s middle-class families first.

    Bob Casey has stood up for our seniors as Auditor General and successfully fought to improve the Health Department’s response to complaints about life-threatening abuse and neglect in nursing homes. He will continue to fight for our seniors in Washington.

    Bob Casey has led the fight to improve the quality of child care in Pennsylvania and make it more affordable for low-income working mothers. And his performance audits helped save money for our schools. He will continue to fight for our children and for public education as a U.S. Senator.

    Bob Casey also successfully fought to protect children from sex offenders. His investigation into compliance with Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law led to passage of tough new legislation in 2004 that requires information about all convicted sex offenders to be posted on the Internet. In Washington, Bob Casey will continue to protect our children and to give law enforcement the tools they need to fight crime.

    So he likes the usual array of entitlements–not surprising, if you’re worried about such trivialities as whether you can get elected. Casting himself as an opponent of excessive spending–using his work as auditor general and state treasurer to give the image dimension–while supporting all the spending programs that are dear to the middle class is a good strategy. (He also wants you to sign a petition to save–of all things–Amtrak. Some fiscal watchdogging there, eh?)

    So I’m not sure, at this early date, what change Casey will be bringing to Washington, besides the fact that there would be one senator fewer from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who doesn’t go to gay advocacy fundraisers.

    Casey’s Democratic rivals, perhaps because they recognize that they have a lot less name recognition than the son of a former governor, have much more fleshed-out policy pages. Assuming gay issues are your first priority, Chuck Pennacchio clearly supports civil unions and appears–though the relevant paragraph understandably kind of hedges–to support gay marriage. He also likes the assault weapons ban, calls the Iraq invasion “reckless and deceptive” in origin, wants all campaigns for federal office to be publicly funded, and (as if you couldn’t guess) thinks we’re not dumping enough tax money into the public school system and Medicare. Alan Sandals has his soundbites in handy chart form. He supports gay marriage and thinks we should begin withdrawing from Iraq. Otherwise, the same: more money for senior citizens, end the K Street Project as one in the eye for Santorum and the GOP.


    Concern

    Posted by Sean at 11:15, February 15th, 2006

    This is the kind of malarkey that always yanks my chain (via Ex-Gay Watch). People have religious convictions against homosexuality–fine, they have a right to air them. There’s self-destructive behavior in sectors of gay life–it’s only honest to point that out, too. It’s when people’s post-Enlightenment guilt consciences start getting the better of them–and they start making inane, pseudo-rigorous statements that mime the use of reliable scientific backing–that they become insufferable:

    Can a society create more homosexuals? The answer quite clearly is yes. That is how current homosexuals, in fact, came to be.

    People, especially the young, can be seduced into homosexual behavior and have their identities molded around the homosexual lifestyle through a combination of persuasion and circumstances that may include the following:

    • being convinced homosexuality is acceptable;

    • reading or viewing explicit homosexual pornography;
    • having a close relationship with a peer who is practicing homosexuality;
    • admiring an older teacher or mentor who is homosexual;
    • attending homosexual social venues (a “gay” club, bar, church youth group);
    • being homosexually molested;
    • having parents who espouse homosexuality or engage in homosexual activism;
    • lacking strong ties to a church that remains faithful to the historic Christian faith, and hostility toward traditional views.

    Strong religious faith, especially traditional Christian morality, often acts as a protective barrier to the development of homosexual desire. When children grow up trusting God as the Designer of masculinity and femininity, and if they are not sexually molested or have their innocence assaulted by other traumatic events, their feelings will be channeled normally toward heterosexual sex within marriage as an obvious and desirable goal.

    Madam, not to put too fine a point on it, but you are an idiot.

    My own upbringing, point by point against Ms. Harvey’s imaginings:

    • Not a week went by at church when the threat homosexuality posed to society was not held up as a reason America was in deep trouble. From the moment AIDS was first identified in the early ’80’s, my parents reacted to news stories about it by saying that it was God’s punishment for sinful behavior;

    • Yeah, right;
    • My parents wouldn’t have stood for that for a second;
    • The only teacher known to be gay at my high school was the kind of shriveled-up, mean, trollish guy who made Charles Nelson Reilly look benevolent. I did not, I can assure you, look up to him. Otherwise, I grew up around churchgoing manual laborers and their wives;
    • The idea of a gay social venue for teenagers in Emmaus, PA, in the 1980s is the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. My parents believed in fun, but they monitored our access to artifacts of popular culture very closely;
    • No–I realize that a lot of virulently anti-gay types cling to this explanation like a security blanket, but no;
    • By telling fag and dyke jokes when activists were featured on television, maybe?
    • I was brought up in the Worldwide Church of God, a church so utterly off-the-deep-end fundie we weren’t invited to the rest of the Christian right’s play dates. My father was the teacher for our highest level of youth Bible lessons (like Sunday school). He read to my brother and me from the Bible nightly before tucking us in until I was sixteen or so. After that, I was expected to study the Bible, also nightly, myself. We had two-hour services every week. You took notes.

    So “That is how current homosexuals, in fact, came to be”? Sorry. Try again.

    I don’t mind opposition. Two or three of the earliest friends I made through commenting on blogs frequently commented on what they believed was the sinfulness of homosexuality.

    I do very much mind having my biography rewritten by ignoramuses–or rather, people can think whatever insulting things they like about me, but I mind the implications for the people I grew up around. You can’t say that irresponsible parenting leads to homosexuality in the abstract without, necessarily, saying that the individual parents of individual homosexuals fell down on the job. Well, my parents did not. They pushed me firmly toward traditionally working-class boyish activities. They set an example of a great marriage. I think some of what they did was misguided–specifically, the anti-gay stuff and the constant playing of Ringo Starr solo albums on the stereo–but nobody’s perfect. They managed to turn out resilient kids with fully-functioning bullshit detectors and a can-do approach to tackling life’s problems.

    None of this is to say that sex ed bureaucrats with intrusive condom-on-banana programs can’t confuse and screw up children, or that some people who are unhappily homosexual can’t learn to function in a straight relationship, or that child-rearing is currently in the greatest shape in America, or that pop culture isn’t increasingly hard for parents to play gatekeeper with. It’s just that single-issue explanations that–how convenient!–just happen to support people’s preconceived ideas about how the universe works are of little help to people who believe in individuality and the disinterested pursuit of truth. (And yes, it’s just as annoying when gay activists do their “we were OBVIOUSLY BORN GAY” routine.) They do, however, cause harm to parents who are thus haunted by the thought that there must have been something they Could Have Done.


    If she knew what she wants

    Posted by Sean at 03:46, February 14th, 2006

    This weekend I wrote to another blogger that I was going to try to put a lid on the fifteen-paragraph posts slamming friends who needed to complain sometimes–you know, as if it were an earth-shaking deal.

    I’d just like to note here that I made it at least a good forty-eight hours. Maybe it would have been longer had I stayed home all weekend.

    There seems to be a certain type of person who arrives at the coming out phase and thinks, Hmmm….Lots of affectionate pity from friends…extra lenience for bad behavior [overdrinking, overspending, screwing over friends, screwing over boyfriends, screwing over friends with their boyfriends]…a ready excuse for not dealing well with my parents…I could learn to like this, and decides to camp there indefinitely.

    I doubt that that’s a conscious decision for the most part, you understand; it’s just this whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing. Nearly everyone starts out in gay life wondering whether he’ll make any friends and whether any guys will go for him at all, let alone whether he’ll ever find love. It’s kind of scary at first. No shame in that. Reasonable people figure that, hey, a little open rejection every now and then is way better than a lot of being closed off and closeted and borderline-suicidal all the time…and besides, if a few million other guys and girls can do it, so can they. And they’re right.

    By contrast, the determined whiners are the boys who in five years go from a tentative Will anyone ever be interested in me for real? to the confidently crabby I hate the bar scene–everyone’s so shallow! without ever stopping at Maybe it’s MY behavior that’s flawed and I should GET OVER MYSELF and try modifying it in between.

    When one of these characters starts getting wound up–here as at home, you generally know you’ve got trouble when the words “bar scene” are uttered–it is, I have learned, a mistake to try to head him off at the pass by suggesting that he might want to try other possible ways to circulate. Guys have a bizarre way of objecting to Internet classifieds as “kinda pathetic” immediately after complaining that they’re dateless and friendless at bars. And recommending that someone join a sports or activities group is useless when his whole problem is that he thinks happiness should bestir itself to come and find him.

    Well, all right, you don’t like bars, but you don’t like the other options any more, so you’re stuck here unless you decide to go into a monastery. How about doing what everybody else does? You talk to people. Some of them won’t be interested, and some of them won’t be very nice about the fact that they’re not interested. That stings, but it won’t kill you. And talking to guys who don’t seem likely to become boyfriends or best buddies reminds you that you’re not the center of the universe and everyone has problems. You’ll eventually have a relationship that doesn’t really go anywhere, or that lasts a year or so before you realize it isn’t good for you. You call it a learning experience and move on. That’s one of the things that happen when you choose for yourself rather than letting family elders and other matchmakers filter out possible partners. If liberty’s not working out for you, maybe you’d prefer to go back to the older system and get your parents to pick. You probably won’t be any happier, but at least with you and your wife sharing the same loveless marriage, she might have some empathy to draw on while listening to you mewl.


    And are you here when I hold you? / I wonder…I wonder….

    Posted by Sean at 05:46, February 7th, 2006

    Rondi Adamson has seen Guess Which Movie and offers this:

    But…what struck me–and admittedly, I’m seeing this from the narrow and exasperated point of view of a single woman in the midst of dating horrors–was that this movie showed how men are big, fat f*&^wits even in gay relationships!

    It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for even smart straight people to be hoodwinked into believing that gay male relationships must be easier to navigate because two men are somehow on the same wavelength in ways that men and women are not. One hates to disabuse people of fantasies in which they’re clearly deeply invested, but…well, no. Sorry. How representative I am I cannot tell, but face-offs over the course of my own relationship history have frequently centered around the following lines (and no, I’m not going to tell you in which cases I was the deliverer vs. the deliveree):

    • “Dammit, GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME! Every time we start having a discussion about something that I think MATTERS, you think you can avoid the subject by coming on to me.”

    • “Why are you so afraid to express your feelings?”
    • “I just vacuumed the floor on Friday, and it’s clean enough for me. If YOU want it kept in a constant state of perfect dustlessness, why don’t you vacuum it yourself?”
    • “Are you going out of your way to humiliate me in public? … Oh, don’t give me that! You were flirting with that waiter and the whole table knew it!”
    • “I don’t think you’re the kind of guy who’s ready for commitment yet.”
    • “Do you think I’m getting fat?”
    • “Okay, look–here is a pen, and here is a piece of paper, and here is what you are going to do for me: You are going to write down all these little rules–I have to kiss you goodbye every time you leave the house, I have to call you if I’m going to be more than 13.5 minutes later than usual getting home, and I have to say “I love you” in three different major ancient and modern world languages at breakfast every freaking third Thursday. Write them all down. I will memorize them. I will follow them. But stop getting all pissy at me for not doing what you want when I can’t figure it out and you won’t TELL ME what the hell it is!”

    Now, does that mean the dynamic is the same as in straight relationships? Certainly not. We don’t have to factor in the possibility of pregnancy or, in most places, marriage. And while in straight relationships I gather that the person who wants everything clean is also statistically more likely to be the one who wants to talk about feelings, things don’t cluster that way for gay guys. (The biggest crybaby I ever dated was a dockworker who appeared to be wholly innocent of the knowledge that it was possible to put things on any horizontal surface other than the floor.)

    Anyway, my point is that in just about any relationship, one partner is more demonstrative than the other, or wants to have sex more often than the other, or is less inclined to talk through problems than to think through them silently, or what have you. Who’s being the big, fat f*&^wit usually varies by situation; it’s not always the one who’s acting more stereotypically male.

    Added on 9 February: Okay, there seems to be some unwritten rule that commenters named John have to make remarks about the vacuuming thing. It’s slightly OT, I guess, but let me just note two things.

    One is–and I know no one’s going to be inclined to believe this, but I hope everyone here trusts my honesty–that my partner at the time was the one who was spazzing about the floors. Yes, I’m serious. I clean scrupulously, but not even in particulate-matter-rich Tokyo does the floor of a childless, petless household need to be vacuumed once every three days. I mean sure, do some spot-cleaning with the dustpan or one of those sticky roller things–I do that myself. But mewl at me that it’s my turn to do the full-on move-the-furniture-and-get-out-the-big-vacu-suck-machine maneuver when one of the two or three television shows I actually like to watch is on? No.

    The other is, John M. poignantly says, “I try and I try but I just can’t see the dirt….” Much as I appreciate the fact that this soul cry represents the sincere desire to reform, I feel obliged to point out that it gets things exactly backwards. You don’t notice the dirt. You notice the absence of clean. Once you can actually see dirt, you’ve reached the point at which getting everything ship-shape is going to be a major project. What you need to look for is the slightly peaked look that the tabletops and upholstery get when they have an invisible layer of dust dulling them up. When things are at that point, you can get them back in order–lovely sparkling, candid order–by going over every surface once and relatively lightly.


    More bang for your health care buck

    Posted by Sean at 03:25, January 21st, 2006

    You have got to be kidding me (via Ace Pryhill at Gay Orbit):

    University of Florida employees have to pledge that they’re having sex with their domestic partners before qualifying for benefits under a new health care plan at the university.

    The partners of homosexual and heterosexual employees are eligible for coverage under UF’s plan, which will take effect in February. The enrollment process began this month, and some employees have expressed concern about an affidavit that requires a pledge of sexual activity.

    Kim Tanzer, chair of the Faculty Senate, said she could understand why some faculty might view the affidavit as invasive.

    “I can see (Behnke’s) point,” she said. “If you ask married folks if they’re in a platonic relationship, that’s a personal question.”

    “Some faculty might view the affidavit as invasive”?

    Some?

    MIGHT?!

    And the rest are perfectly sanguine about having a “must fuck” clause built into their health insurance policy? Even Ace herself (“Okay, so while that sounds great, and totally could be used as ammo when one partner doesn’t think the other is giving up the booty with enough frequency, it’s really a stupid stipulation”) and North Dallas Thirty (in the comments: “True, but I can see their point…..DPs really are not meant to cover, as they put it, long-term roommate relationships that don’t involve anything deeper than shared space and bills”), both of whom are usually reliably reasonable people, don’t seem to see what an OUTRAGE it is to have bean counters passing judgment on one’s sex life.

    Because, you know? I really can’t see their point. Not even kind of sort of in a way. In fact, it’s so ludicrous that I clicked around the parent site a little just to make sure we weren’t being suckered by an Onion-style parody played straight. No such luck. Normally, I would be chary of interpreting “non-platonic” as meaning “sexual” to the bureaucrats interpreting it, but that’s how the UF people quoted sure appear to mean it. (And my understanding from people who have dealt with having their marriages observed for green cards and things is that even the INS only tries to determine whether you live together in an intimate way. If there’s some kind of bald sex requirement, it’s the one complaint about bringing a spouse back to the States that I’ve somehow avoided hearing.)

    This kind of thing is the perfect illustration of how the campaigners for gay marriage, with their squalling emphasis on achieving “validation” and “respect” and “dignity” through paperpushing, have been shooting themselves in the foot. If two people of undisclosed sexuality decide they’re never going to marry and want to be responsible for each other, why shouldn’t a domestic partnership arrangement cover them?

    I love seeing romance bloom, but I cannot for the life of me imagine having the effrontery to demand it of people. And when it comes to my own household, the only person whose business it is whether Atsushi’s being adequately serviced is Atsushi. I don’t even discuss what happens in our bedroom with my best friend.

    UF’s VP of Human Resources is quoted as saying he “had no plans to personally enforce the sex pledge,” which is nice, because even if the idea weren’t COMPLETELY CRACKERS to begin with, what would you do? Would a used condom with DNA from both partners suffice (in the case of men)? Or would they have to go for it right in front of a certified university employee who would then sign a confirmation that they both got off? And, for that matter, even if they weren’t really in a “non-platonic” relationship, couldn’t the benefits be good enough that gritting their teeth through one bone-dance session a year (if that were the qualifying minimum) would be worth it for two unmarried roommates?

    Unreal. Just unreal.