I’ve heard you should write about what you know

Here’s what I know.

I know how to be single.

I know how NOT to be single, which curiously, is not the same thing as knowing how to be in a relationship.

I know that in gay years I’m 375 years old and I’m on the 6th or 7th incarnation of myself.

I’ve got a long way to go.

Yes, I keep coming back as me…a nuanced version.

Like the new and improved Iphone tadaaahh!

Or sometimes like the New Windows that has to be sent back for glitches that can’t be fixed, not this time around. Live with the glitches.

I know that each new me looks a little different; smells a little different, depending on who’s touched me, or held me in their arms.

I know that I’ll pick up a new word, forget an old song

and not be able to place why I hate peas now, when I used to love them.

I know that I know that I know that I know how to be single now.

I’m not afraid to admit that I like it…

Especially when my clothes pile high in the corner of my room and there is no sign of me lifting a finger to fix it

I like single when I can go to bed at 8 pm or 8 am and no one will frown at me in disapproval.

I like it when I sing too loud or want to stay silent for days.

I like single because it CAN be all about me

Or it can be all about giving         all         of          me           for something I love.

I know I hate single because I have to fold the sheets alone.

I hate single ’cause there’s no one to help with the dogs.

I know  how    to    be     single though.

Now, this time around

and I’m good at it.

I know how to be the only single person in the room and still have fun.

I can go to a new restaurant sans company and leave full and proud of myself.

I can challenge myself to do something I’ve never done before but always wanted to try

and be my biggest fan when I succeed.

I can fall flat on my face

lose my mind just a little

and see

that I am good enough anyway.

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The Day After Tomorrow (written on Nov 5)

Tomorrow is important. Everyone I know is posting political opinions (one way or the other).  We are all waiting in anticipation for the imaginary voting bell to ring…and we’re off.  Most of us voted early. I am a fairly impatient person, and I despise lines. Republicans are right. If they want to win, taking away early voting is one way to possibly stop people like me from getting to the polls, but not this time.

Tomorrow is important because there is the possibility that progress can be undone, that “all the us’s” (Harvey Milk speech) will go back to being the outcasts, the marginalized, and the…well, squashed minorities.  Sometimes I cannot believe that we (LGBTQ people) are closer to equality than I had imagined we could be just four years ago.  We no longer have Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and my friends in the armed forces don’t have to hide anymore. Can you believe it? I have had more than a couple of friends who have been discharged, or worse, had to hide a part of themselves for their entire lives. Not anymore.

LGBTQ people now have hospital visitation rights. It seems like such a small thing, but it isn’t. It’s huge.  In my early twenties, my then partner was rushed to the emergency room. I couldn’t do anything. Her mother lived out of town, and was shocked when I told her they wouldn’t allow me to see my partner without her there. I was no one. I waited in the lobby all night, until her mother arrived  and gave the doctor permission for me to be there. It was one of the most painful experiences I have ever known. I even had a nurse spew hateful words at me. I didn’t want to be kicked out, so I remained quiet.

Earlier this year, the President of The United States of America stated that he believed that “I” deserved the right to be married.  There was a collective cheer from me and my friends I was with, and I couldn’t help but cry.  I can’t explain the feeling, but I’ll try.  When I was a teenager, like many, I hid.  I didn’t date. I didn’t care to date. I met a woman and I fell in love. I hated myself for it. When we broke up, I dated a lot of men…too many. I was pretending that I was straight, overcompensating for the struggle I was going through.

Thankfully, my struggle didn’t last long. I found a community of gay men and lesbians who not only didn’t care that I was gay, but welcomed me into their world, their families, their homes. I knew I would be ok. The outside world was scary, starting with my own family (excluding my supportive mother and a couple of cousins).  I knew life would be more difficult for me, for all of us. I remember hearing over and over that my “lifestyle” was a choice. My answer was always the same. Who in their right mind would choose to be a societal outcast? I had once been a servant team leader in my church.  According to my old church “friends” (granted, not all of them) I was going to hell. I was the worst kind of sinner.

So when President Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage, it meant that he was acknowledging my full personhood. I know I’m a full person, who deserves the same dignity and rights that heterosexual people enjoy.  But finally, if in word only, the most powerful leader in the world, said “I” deserve the opportunity to pursue happiness in love and life.

I will never forget that.

But I am not “just” a lesbian. I am a Chicana, a woman of color. I am a brown woman. The brown part…I am a U. S. citizen, as is my mother, and her mother before her, but I remember the border town fear of the Border Patrol. I remember hearing the word “migra” and knowing that there was some reason I should fear them.  As I grew into myself, I changed that fear into activism.  I believe in the Dream Act. I loathe SB 1070.  I have protested, marched, written letters, and organized. Others who are brown like me, but have no documents, deserve the right to pursue their dreams and live without fear.

The woman.  I was not around when Roe v. Wade was decided, but I have reaped the benefits.  I have had the right to choose, and as a lesbian, you might think that it doesn’t mean much to me. It does.  It means that I am the master of my own body, and that I have the power to decide when and if I want to start a family.  Granted, starting a family is more complicated now that I have stopped trying to prove that I am straight…cause I’m not. And women’s healthcare and choices are so much more than pregnancy and termination.  I am the ONLY one who should have dominion over my body, period.

All of this means that tomorrow is indeed very important. If Romney wins, he has vowed to stand with right-wing-fundamentalist-anti-woman-anti-comprehensive immigration reform types.  This means that the day after tomorrow could bring the reality of a drastically different future, at least in the short-term.  History moves forward, and backlash is inevitable, but I am banking on the progressive momentum of this country’s people to keep the wheels moving in the right direction, towards equality and fairness.

The day after tomorrow I will be able to have lunch with my Republican friends again. I’ve been avoiding them pre-election. Come to think of it, I’m sure we are avoiding each other.  The day after tomorrow, I will unhide them from my Facebook feed.  I hope, that after Obama wins, they will unhide me also, and perhaps we will still consider each other friends.

When in pain…paint

Somewhere along the way, I developed a couple of healthy coping mechanisms to accompany my very unhealthy ones; one of which is painting. Around the age of 19, I realized that I could draw a face and body that amounted to more than just a stick figure.  I had recently moved to California, and didn’t have many friends. I lived about a five-minute drive from the water, and so I would take a journal and pencil and draw the faces of my friends from back home. I missed them. I soon bought some paints and canvas and trusted that my hands wouldn’t fail me.

Ever since, I have used painting as a release. It’s a gradual release after all. It takes time to imagine the image, pick the colors, project the pain from inside of me onto the canvass. Afterward, I have a visual timeline of my trials. It allows me to look back; see how far I’ve come.  I’ve painted happier things for others; joined an art show here and there, but my painting has really been for me.

Here are a few.

This is called Ten Cuidado Con Mi Corazon. (Be careful with my heart)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never gave this one a name. This is a self-portrait. I am obviously angry and sad, and I remember wishing that memories were flammable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is called Gravity. The words on the side are the lyrics from the Sara Bareilles song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Inside Out.The textured pieces on the right of the painting are dried flower petals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This wasn’t actually painted during trying times…well fully. It began as a gift for my ex. She was moving into a new house, and wanted art for her walls. She returned it to me after we broke up last year. In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea to paint us as calaveras…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is called Rebirth.  I painted it in the last year as a reminder of the journey back to sanity that I have made since my ex and I broke up. I purposely made her pink (some would say bruised) and weak, because in my head, that’s how one begins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is my most recent work.  It is unfinished. I look at it every day and think maybe one day it will be finished.  It’s called Lady In Waiting.

So I hear you think I’m Gay…

So I hear you think I’m gay?

I had just stepped down from the karaoke stage, beaming with self importance and knowing the bar tab prize at the end of the night was mine. (I was underage) I high-fived some fans on the way back to my vodka sour when a man stepped in front of me. I glanced at my vodka drink, just over an arms length away, and willed him to step aside.

He didn’t. Instead, he offered to buy me another drink. I hesitated, knowing my acceptance could lead to an evening of uncomfortable conversation and awkward silence.

I pictured him standing in the bar alone, wondering why I had never returned from the bathroom. I said “yes.”  He smiled. I immediately regretted my reply.

Oddly enough, he didn’t turn and walk the ten steps to the bar to get me a drink of his choosing, nor did he ask my preference. Instead, he posed a question I haven’t forgotten, one that sent my life spinning in the direction it still follows.

“So,” he said. “Before i get you a drink, I need to ask you a question.”

“Ask away”, I replied, not really caring that my annoyance showed through my fake smile.

“Are you gay?” he said.

My brain snapped to attention.

“Excuse me?” I replied. “What kind of question is that?”

I mentally placed an invisible mirror in front of me, scrutinizing my choice of outfits. Red and white striped shirt that showed off my teen-aged midriff, jeans, black boots…hmm Nine West’s version of combat boots, maybe that was it. It couldn’t have been my perfectly applied make up, my long straight Indian hair. Lesbians didn’t look like me. Did they?

“The reason I ask”, he said, interrupting my self scrutiny, “is because my ex wife left me for a woman. I’m extra careful now.”

I looked at him, really looked at him for the first time.

He was in his twenties(I guessed). He had a premature receding hairline he was obviously sensitive to (He had combed his hair forward to minimize its impact on his ego). He was Caucasian, blue eyes, not at all unattractive, but for his belly that pooched out over his khaki Dickies, and perhaps the fact that he was not only wearing khaki Dickies, but that his plain, brown, boring loafers peeked out from under those Dickies. I was too young to know if I had a type, but there, in that moment, I was sure that this man in front of me, was not it.

“Oh”, he said, interrupting my thoughts. “I also asked you cause my sister said you’re gay.”

I looked up at him, and could only ask, “Who’s your sister?”

He pointed to the bar where a woman sat at a stool with her back to us. From where I stood I could see her flannel shirt, (no joke) her tight jeans, and her REAL combat boots. I laughed. “Does she know she’s gay?”, I smarted.

“She’s not gay,” he replied.  I immediately thought of his mystery ex wife. He was not a good judge I would say.

I excused myself, forgetting that I still had not received the drink, remembering I had never answered his question. Drinks with conditions didn’t seem worth the trouble.

I walked up to the bar and planted myself next to her, deliberately staring at her profile, knowing she could no doubt feel my presence. If I kept staring, she would turn soon enough.

When she did, just a few seconds later, straw in mouth and in mid drink, I said, “So I hear you think I’m gay?”

She giggled, a reaction I didn’t expect, given her combat boots and brown flannel shirt.  I immediately softened, and smiled, felt flutters in my tummy I didn’t expect.

We closed the bar down, talking about everything and anything. I sent my confused friends home. We continued our conversation outside, long after the bar staff had turned off the last light and dumped out the last box of clanging bottles in the nearby dumpster.

I had my first kiss that night. Not my first kiss ever. I had kissed a guy, but this was my first real kiss, the first kiss teens dream about, with imaginary magic fairy dust floating in the air around you. I thought of her brother’s earlier question, and smiled as we kissed one more time before finally sitting in our own cars and driving away. I answered his question under my breath, “Yes, I guess I am.”

17 years later…We are friends. 🙂