Sunday, April 25, 2021

WORTH ANOTHER LOOK


Okay, so in my last post I devoted a thousand (plus) words to an encounter that consisted of four glances. Total glance time: 10, maybe 11 seconds. Total time, including moments of stunned ineptitude between said glances: 45, maybe 50 seconds.

 

It was actually 1,380 words. (That’s 27.6 words per second. Must edit better.)

 

Sorry. Maybe the past ten months saying I needed no one and professing to love being single without any possible prospects bore too much bluster. I still don’t think so. I like time on my own. What I’ve learned during various incarnations of lockdown is I miss travel. Men? Meh.

 

But if opportunity knocks…

 


Handsome Man Walking Dog notices me and suddenly I’ve entered Hallmark movie territory. Apologies to Luke Macfarlane as I may have taken one of his roles. (It’s a “sorry, not sorry” from one Canadian to another. How have I missed all eight of adorable Luke’s Hallmark movie appearances?) I decided it was worth considering another glance-fest, maybe even a daring exchange of hellos. (“Hi” sounds more casual, right? “Hey” is too casual, verging on coffee barista indifference.)

 

Over the next week I went back. Same place, same time. Not every day. That would be desperate. (I skipped Monday.) I can’t be sure, but I think he was there every time. I can’t be sure since he now had an extra dog and he didn’t look as good. Do I have that fickle gay gene? 

 

I reminded myself that there were no suitors waiting in the wings. Heck, there are no wings. They got repurposed after lack of use. 

 

My first day back, I was back to my old self. No confidence. Eyes on the pavement, avoiding the cracks that might break my mother’s back. Noble, right? (That should be rewarded.) If he looked, I wouldn’t know. Still, he could’ve approached, said something about the weather, COVID or Meghan and Harry. They’re the standard chitchat topics these days. Clearly, he couldn’t make a choice. I may have made him nervous. He walked on. 

 


The next day, I dared to look. It was the quickest of glances, but long enough for me to see him looking straight ahead, my image registering no more than a one of the dozens of trees in the park. As the days went on, I lengthened my gaze. It’s less gutsy when you know it’s perfectly safe. Still, I focused on the task before me.

 

No doubt, my look remained a work-in-progress. It wasn’t anything in the realm of “Come hither,” but it was a very clear “I see you.” And yet he didn’t see me. 

 

Maybe he’s the one with the fickle gene.

 

Then, it happened. He scowled. It wasn’t directly at me, but I was definitely in range. Message received. Even if it wasn’t intended for me, why would I want to date a random scowler? If he scowls for no reason, what would he do if I put the orange juice carton back with only a few drip-drops left? What if he found a hair of mine in the bathroom sink? What if I didn’t smell Irish Spring-fresh after a run? (These things have been known to happen.) 

 

Bullet dodged.

 


Anything gained? I’ll always have that fifty seconds of four over-the-shoulder glances. The fact he turned out to be The Scowler can’t negate that. So many possibilities never lead to anything. There’s also the chance that The Scowler with Two Dogs is just a case of mistaken identity, that my Handsome Man Walking Dog really and truly only has one dog and is still out there, Fido’s pee schedule too irregular for me to expect such an easy, Hallmark-approved Scene 2. “And cut. Can someone’s get Luke Macfarlane’s agent on the line?” 

 

Wasn’t meant to be. 

 

Doesn’t matter. For a moment, I felt noticed. I extended that moment into a week of what ifs and, dare I say, hope. (Bonus: I blogged that week in half as many words.) That’s enough.

 

 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER


I’ve noticed a shift when I’m out and about, doing my daily walks, runs and bike rides. I’m noticing men again. I suppose I never really stopped noticing them, but there was an extended period time when they mainly registered in a recently renovated part of my brain. (I never used the old frontal scrapbooking space anyway.) Thoughts about men had moved to the COVID police lobe. 

 

That guy isn’t giving me space as he walks toward me on the sidewalk. 

 

Is the dude behind me too close? 

 

Why isn’t that man’s mask covering his nose?! 

 

Brain overload. I may have had an overly active survival instinct or maybe it was just a mutation of my ever-present need to control my environment. Men represented danger, but then, just to make it clear I’m not sexist, so did women, people who are gender-fluid and maybe the occasional statue. Deep into a pandemic, I was anti-bodies.

 

Think I’ve (mostly) worked my way through that. Now it’s back to seeing men as humans, some of them aesthetically pleasing to this gay guy’s eyes, some of them possibly even being gay. (My gaydar has always had reliability issues. Now it’s rusty and further hindered by mask coverings. It’s as if everyone’s being coy with me.) 

 


Possibilities? Nah. Pre-COVID, it wasn’t like I ever caught other men glancing back at me with that Hey-he’s-aesthetically-pleasing-and-possibly-gay-like-me kind of look. There was a brief window of time for a few months before I turned fifty when that kind of thing may have happened, but never ever at any other point in my life. Most certainly not after I hit the half-century milestone. Hello, pasture. Let me graze on hay and the occasional sugar cube.

 

Today, a man looked my way. I contacted a skywriter to assist with the big announcement, but his fee was astronomical. (If I’d said “sky-high” it would have been too on the nose, yes?)

 

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t get your hopes up, dear reader. This isn’t going to lead to anything.

 

Vancouver is enjoying a string of days of sunshine, with temperatures getting warmer each day. We’re in that weird spot in the calendar year where some people step outside in shorts and t-shirts while others continue to wear puffy winter coats and gloves although I think many in the latter group do so out after establishing a months-long habit, much like I see people carrying umbrellas on days with no chance of rain in the forecast. They’re locked in with, This is my outdoor look. Change is hard. I wore jeans and a sleek, form-fitting navy sweatshirt with a thin horizontal ribbon of hunter green across the chest. It’s the kind of understated, clean garment I see a lot in Stockholm; indeed, I bought it at a trendy men’s boutique in the city’s hip Södermalm neighborhood during my most recent visit. (I just Googled the tag to learn it’s a German label.) The item comforts me, reminding me of my geographical happy place, while also giving me the cool confidence of a faux Swede in North America. 

 

I loaded my backpack with my laptop and headed out for a midday walk to do some errands and to do some writing outdoors, a rare treat I’ve only done a couple of times in this year (plus) of lockdown. Between errands, I stopped in a favorite café, ordered my go-to drink, an oat milk latte which I first “discovered” in, yes, Stockholm several years ago during my first visit. (I was an oat milk convert before it became a thing in North America.) Drink in hand, I walked two blocks to a waterside park, sat on a shaded bench and fit in a half hour of writing, a decent chunk of time given that it had been a while writing in a different venue than my windowless home office/recycling nook. (I'm so glad Zoom isn’t part of my life. Eyes off my sad space, people!)

 


As I packed up and began to walk out of the park, I spotted a nice-looking man about my age walking a small dog on the sidewalk across the street. Our eyes met. Normally, such a moment prompts me to do a lower my head and conduct a safety check. Are my shoelaces securely tied? Could that knot be a little tighter? But, on this occasion, I didn’t look away and neither did he. In fact, I got the distinct feeling my presence startled and pleased him, much like his pooch might respond upon seeing an approaching Pomeranian. (Ghastly breed, but then dogs aren’t very discerning.) In all, the look may have lasted two seconds, but that’s a long time to hold a gaze on someone, enough time to feel one’s personal space has been invaded. Naturally, I came to my senses and looked away. My double-knotted shoelaces were indeed securely intact. 

 

History proves that I am a complete failure in executing The Second Look. On that rare occasion when I attempt such a move, degree of difficulty 4.8[1], it’s a belly flop. My timing is all off. I wait until it’s safe. I don’t turn around until I feel certain that the moment has passed. It’s absolutely counterproductive. But I like feeling safe. I turn and, sure enough, the guy is a full block away, looking forward, getting on with the ordinary thoughts of his day. Did he turn back moments earlier? I’ll never know. Yeah, safety kinda sucks.

 


This time was different. Maybe it was my swanky sweatshirt. Maybe it was a radical move, brought on by months of being cooped up. Maybe the past ten months being dateless produced temporary amnesia regarding the sting of dismissive rejection. Whatever the reason, I pivoted my head slightly—subtly?—and glanced back. 

 

By god, he was doing the same thing.

 

No way. This was too much. I felt embarrassed. Caught! I quickly came to my senses and looked forward. Safety again. I wouldn’t want to risk walking into a tree. Again, a counterproductive stance. Come on, man. What are you doing? You looked and he looked. Somewhere pigs were taking flight. (Hopefully from a factory farm. Fly, Porky, fly!)

 

Doing something daring once—this was like parachute jumping for me—feels less so if you do it again immediately thereafter. I turned back again. Alas, all I saw was the back of his head. But then…he looked back again, directly at me.

 

A bit thrilling, but I panicked and pulled the parachute, looking forward. 

 

Another jump—er, look. Same from his end.

 

Um…now what?

 

I didn’t have a clue. Another mutual glance occurred before I looked forward again in case some prankster tree had snuck up on me. I walked on, a building now blocking any possible view of Handsome Man Walking Dog. Whew! That was quite a ride. A little “Weee!” in my day. Time to hit the grocery store. (Oat milk on sale!) 

 


Perhaps I blew an opportunity. Somehow, I was supposed to make something out of that exchange. How? I need a dating tutor. Maybe I should start with Flirting 101 or enrol in a campy retro course: Cruising for Love. (My luck, it would be all about Captain Stubing and “The Love Boat.” Incidentally, did Lauren Tewes ever get back on track? Must Google.)

 

A quick reflection two blocks away told me the dog was the conversation starter. Duh. Apparently, I can’t think and execute over-the-shoulder glances at the same time. Still, it would have looked odd, the two us of walking on separate sidewalks, heading in different directions and me suddenly changing course, feigning an urgent need to shake a Yorkie’s paw. Too obvious. 

 

Sigh. Sometimes obvious IS the objective! It’s good to know I’m fifty-six and I still have things to learn. I just wish it was something else—baking bread or top five metropolitan areas in Siberia. 

 

Heading home, canvas bag of groceries in hand, I’d already worked past feeling incredulous over my ineptitude. I was smiling, the day felt a little brighter. I’d been acknowledged. Ain’t that something.   



[1] This, according to a 2017 answer to a query on technologyreview.com, is currently the highest degree of difficulty for any existing dive thus far attempted in competition, a reverse 4 ½ somersault in the pike position. Truly comparable.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

RIDING THROUGH A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS


We live curated lives on social media. A tastefully garnished brunch at a trendy restaurant. A smiling couple with a sunset in the background. A buff shot doing dumbbell curls at the gym. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Living the best life! But what about all those unfiltered shots that got deleted? (Jeez, Frank, could you at least try to smile?) And what happens between pictures? 

 

I’ll admit that my life, as portrayed through posted pics, looks pretty good, too. Why would I post a shot of me scowling? Why would I even think of that moment as time for another selfie? Same goes for my Saturday nights on my sofa doing crosswords and my cottage cheese lunches, spooned straight out of the container. Real life has a whole lot more colors; they just happen to be all the muted tones and lots of grays and browns. (Is brown anyone’s favorite color?) 

 

I try to make this blog about real life. I strive to be honest. I share my struggles. I’d like to think people can connect more to these moments, to feel reassured when they or someone they love struggles as well.

 


Yesterday was a whopper in terms of struggling. I got up before my alarm, but felt tired and peculiarly famished. (I have an eating disorder and don’t allow myself to eat until noon. (Hello, cottage cheese!) Sometimes I’ll cave and have a banana, but not until 10:15 at the earliest. Those are the rules. People with eating disorders have lots of rules.) I knew that the combination of fatigue and hunger wouldn’t bode well to start my normal writing routine so I chose to do my ninety-minute daily walk first. Wake up those endorphins (which I swear are mythical beasts), feel refreshed. Then get to it.

 


Half hour into my walk, I felt my mood was off. This happens. Don’t panic; keep walking. It’ll pass. But it didn’t. Things didn’t worsen; there was just this pesky little cloud lurking. At that point, I couldn’t even give it a label. I decided to stop in a café and treat myself to an oat milk latte. That’d do it. My go-to drink order, a nice walk—the rain that had been forecast was even holding off. I’d get back on-course.

 

Except I didn’t. When I returned home, I still wasn’t feeling I could write. This never happens. I firmly believe in a quote ascribed to both W. Somerset Maugham and William Faulkner: “I only write when inspiration strikes; fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” It’s the writers’ version of “Just do it.” (Writers can be so wordy.) 

 

For the next forty-five minutes, I gave it a try. I tried some writerly tasks that weren’t actual writing. Alas, it failed to fool me. (Damn, it had worked SO many times before.) I headed out on a writerly errand, printing copies of some documents on my flash drive. Sometimes I need to see my work on paper instead of on a screen. The copy shop is only a block away so it wasn’t even much of a diversion. Less time than falling into a black hole extremely tangential “research” on the internet. Still, during all this time since my morning walk, my feeling of being off gathered momentum. By the time I was back home again, it had gained a label:

 


Anxiety.

 

This isn’t working, I told myself. I’ll try writing after lunch. Cutting myself some slack is rare. Kudos to self for allowing it. I wouldn’t get my allotted amount of writing in, but it would be okay. Quality over quantity. Or something instead of nothing.

 

My anxiety continued to rise. Why? What was happening? This wasn’t about writing. This was something bigger, something I couldn’t control. I’m an extraordinarily logical person. If I could identify a reason, I could come up with a sensible response. Or I could at least understand it. Okay. Yes. Now I get it. 

 

Nope. That bugger was like a party crasher at the wrong address: Well, I’m here anyway so let me just have my fun.

 

Wouldn’t leave. Rudest guest ever.

 

My anxiety spiked to a new high. I was frightened. I didn’t know how to handle it. I tried to rest, but that was hopeless. It’s hard to rest when your house is on fire. I thought about calling my psychiatrist. He’s a new guy, doesn’t really know me. I couldn’t do it. I thought of friends. A few names popped up, but I dismissed them all. My reflex of childhood came to mind: Mom? Nope. She wouldn’t understand at all. I’d only worry her (even though she claims to be the picture of perfect mental health) or she’d say trite things that would trigger me. 

 

I don’t think you’re getting enough Vitamin C. Try some orange juice. 

 

Why don’t you stand in front of the mirror and smile? 

 

This is what happens when you live in a big city. Cities are dangerous.

 

Seriously.

 


I suddenly remembered that a previous psychiatrist (who retired early—did I cause that?) had prescribed me a medication for anxiety emergencies. In four years, I’d only taken one pill. I searched the pill bottles in the bathroom vanity for twenty minutes. (Man, I’ve been on a lot of different psychiatric meds.) Found it. Took one. I figured it’d be like Ativan which I’d been given in hospitals before. Twenty minutes and I’d be calm and sleepy. 

 


Nope. Somehow, my anxiety found another level. It only took ten seconds to Google a crisis line for my province. I made sure it wasn’t for people contemplating suicide. I couldn’t have my call get in the way of a suicidal person having someone to talk to. I punched in the numbers, let it ring twice, panicked and hung up. No particular reason. This is what anxiety does. 

 

I paced. I picked up my phone, put it down again. My breathing got shallower. Tears were running down my face even though I didn’t feel like I’d been crying. I called again and forced myself not to hang up. 

 

I got a voice recording. “If this is an Emergency, call 911. Otherwise, leave your name and number at the beep and we’ll get back to you.” 

 

Well, okay then. This is how to respond to a crisis. I managed to leave my message, explicitly stating that I wasn’t suicidal, my voice shaking the entire time. I tried four or five times before I could articulate my phone number. (Since I hadn’t spoken out loud at all during my crisis, it was jarring hearing how fragile I sounded.) 

 

I found an unfinished crossword and lay on the sofa, reading clues, filling in nothing at all, crying, entire body shaking, waiting. The hospital is four blocks away. They would admit me as they’d done before. On those occasions, what I’d needed twenty-four hours of care. One full day of observation and recovery. But I knew if I went there, they wouldn’t let me out, as they hadn’t before. Nine days in the psych ward; fifteen days in the psych ward. I continue to contend that I didn’t experience clinical anxiety until during that first hospitalization. Going to Emergency this time was NOT an option.

 

Twenty minutes later, the crisis line called back. We talked for about ten minutes, my voice quivering the entire time while a nice lady stuck to her script, restating whatever I said. “So I’m hearing that…” Yes, yes. You’re listening to me. Got it. No advice. No probing. I’ve never been good with scripted psychology. I’ve had counselors and psychiatrists hand me worksheets, even a PowerPoint presentation once. Nope. Next, please.It’s why I chose to end the call. I could see it wasn’t going anywhere and I worried about other callers who’d had to leave messages and were waiting. Maybe this kind of thing would actually help them. I thanked the nice lady profusely. She was a volunteer. Good for her. Truly.

 

I have to admit it did help a little. Saying things out loud—to another person—had some benefit. And, more importantly, my anxiety pill seemed to kick in. I climbed into bed and slept for an hour and a half. Unheard of. I haven’t been able to nap in the day since I started taking various meds several years ago. 

 


I woke up, still anxious. At least I’d had a ninety-minute reprieve. I thought about writing. Impossible. I went outside and ran in a light rain for an hour and a half, choosing a route I knew wouldn’t have many people on it while also allowing me to run by the water which usually calms me. By the time I was home and showered, I was anxious all over again. I couldn’t shake the sucker. I’d never before experienced such heightened anxiety for such a prolonged period. 

 

That’s when I surrendered. I couldn’t read anything substantial, couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t listen to music. I’d scrolled through all the apps on my phone umpteen times. I went on Twitter and asked followers for photos or memes of anything to help distract me. That was as much as I could process. People came through, sending puppy pics, silly selfies and telling me about a jazz festival in New Orleans. Bless them. I was embarrassed to reach out to strangers but, as vile as Twitter can get, I’ve seen people offer support to others many times. I’ve tried to do my part, too. It was enough to help me ride out the evening and turn in early, my heart pounding forcefully as I lay on the mattress. I knew I’d never fall asleep. But I did. Exhaustion will do that.

 


New day. Anxiety gone. I don’t generally write on Saturdays so I showered and headed out for a couple hours of walking. All good. My chest still feels tight, a reminder that that mess of a day yesterday really happened. Wounds take time to heal. This applies as much to mental health as physical health.

 

I am okay.

 

I knew this. I knew I just had to get through yesterday, as scary and unpleasant as it was. I can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve heard other people with mood disorders repeat the phrase “This too shall pass” during group sessions, but it’s true. In the moment when things are so intense, it’s hard to believe that. Anxiety and depression can feel utterly unbearable. It’s about waiting for the next day. Or the next. Or the one after that. I’ve waited for months at a time when it’s been depression. Still, it does pass. I’m proof of that. I hope others who need a reminder will remember this post.

 

I’m glad I called a crisis line. I’m glad I reached out for distraction on Twitter. I’m glad I’m choosing to blog this. Tonight, I might just order takeout. (We’re still in lockdown.) Something tasty, something that looks amazing to update my Instagram. I’m back in the “real” world.

     

Thursday, April 8, 2021

GOP vs. (LGB)T


I call BS. Suddenly, once again, Republicans have taken up an interest in people who are transgender or are seeking to become transgender. They’re whipping up bills to hinder transgender progress so the world doesn’t go to hell. Action required! This is one topic for which they seem to think thoughts and prayers are not enough.

 

Trans are targets. It’s not enough that so many face harassment and physical violence. Let the politicians wreak havoc, too. Picking on trans is easy pickings. According to a 2016 study by The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, 0.6 % of Americans identify as trans. Passing legislation that interferes with this group and, more importantly these days, speaking to the media against trans progress, is a calculated, opportunistic decision. A savvy, heartless politician is willing to play with the lives of a paltry minority group—a piddly 0.6%; a group that’s historically not well organized—because talking trans pays big dividends. 

 

Looking with a broader lens for a moment, this is part of the GOP playbook which has been in full view, particularly in the past six years, but has been around for as long as I can remember. 

 

(1) Identify an issue that plays on conservatives’ religious beliefs and threatens to shake up the status quo. 

(2) Make sure there is considerable ignorance on the particular issue. Ignorance is key. 

(3) Misstate and distort facts to maximize a conservative uproar. Instilling fear is best. The conservative base will believe these “facts” (fact checking is tedious), whether they are of the Kellyanne Conway “alternative” variety, fabrications pulled from thin air (see Giuliani, Rudy or Powell, Sidney) or something that can be linked to a conspiracy theory—ooh, exciting! 

(4) Document reactions from The Opposition, labeling them once again as [choose one]: liberals, the radical left, socialists, antifa or the woke police. Bonus if you can add a tweet from AOC/Ilhan Omar/Rashida Tlaib/Ayanna Pressley/Nancy Pelosi or an interview of one of them on an enemy-of-the-people fake news outlet, preferably CNN. [Did you notice all these politicians are women? Hmm.] Now it’s a battle! 

(5) Introduce a bill or go straight to Fox News to further stir up the issue into an impressively frothy substance.

(6) Watch your social media followers grow. Block haters. (Dang liberals!) Count your retweets and likes.

(7) Claim you’re under attack from The Left. Add a hashtag about cancel culture. Reel in those followers!

(8) Now for the clincher. Since you’re being attacked, you MUST fight back. Fighting requires funding. Ask your supporters/followers to donate to your never-ending political campaign. Cha-ching! $$

(9) Implore your worked-up “fans” (this isn’t just politics anymore; as Trump proved, it’s an arena sport) to VOTE. America cannot lose on this token issue! Save the status quo! Protect your exclusive rights to American opportunities! 

(10)        Research the relative success from stirring up this issue. If it fires up your followers and significantly boosts your campaign funds, keep at it; otherwise, consult unhinged GOP darlings (e.g., Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert) for other “winning” issues.

 

 

The GOP knows its supporters. They’re not interested in platforms. There wasn’t even an attempt to have a platform in 2020. Remember that healthcare plan that was always just two weeks away from being announced? The campaign in a nutshell: Just go with Trump. And that same slogan, Make America Great Again. (Never mind that they already had four years to work on that. Doesn’t keeping the same slogan show it didn’t happen? To quote Winnie-the-Pooh—and that’s at the comfort level for comprehension: “Oh, bother.” Why be reflective?) 

 

Republicans keep playing the frenzy-triggering issues. Save our statues! Masks violate civil rights! Stand for the national anthem! Don’t take away our guns! When all else fails, go back to tried and true snappy chants like “Build that wall!” and “Lock her up!” (Who care if Hillary isn’t a candidate? It’s fun to yell.) 

 

There is a difference in how much people are motivated to vote on either side of these issues. Conservatives get more riled up. These issues are more digestible than headier topics such as the economy, environmental responsibility, transportation infrastructure, sexual harassment and systemic racism. Bah! It’s easier to rest on the oft-stated, patriotic contention that anyone can live the American dream if they just try. To fit in, just be like us. Assimilation trumps diversity. Understanding differences risks a pesky headache.

 


And these days, what’s more different than people wanting to change the gender they were born with? Their God-given gender! As I read on trans blog recently, their quest to become their "true" identity is shut down with "God makes no mistakes." How do you argue with that “logic”? (Surely, these are the same disciples of "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.")

 

Honestly, I'm willing to bet that many politicians seeking to deny trans rights don't care much about the subject at all. I even suspect that quite a few of them personally have no problem with trans people being in the military, getting gender-affirming treatment as teens with parental consent and using whatever public restroom feels right. I'm confident that many GOP politicians see the logic in allowing all of it. But trans rights are galvanizing. Trans people are too "foreign" in the eyes of their voters. Being as they represent only 0.6% of the population, chances are many people don't know an openly trans family member, neighbor, friend or coworker. 

 

There is no genuine urgency to restrict or deny trans rights, but it’s quick and easy legislation, it greatly satisfies conservatives—Whew! Earth back in balance—and it’s a no-brainer based on even the most rudimentary cost-benefit analysis. Loss of conservative voters? Next to nil. Approval of conservatives—Look! We’re action oriented—and increase in campaign funding? Substantial. This is a classic case of playing politics, with transgendered people being the fall guys/gals/non-binary people. Trans people are mere pawns.

 

Spin the wheel and it’s bound to land on an (LGB)T issue quite often. (Other categories on the wheel include Immigration, Muslim terrorists, Antifa, (Socialized) Healthcare and Gun Control.)

 


Past issues LGBT issues that have stirred up conservatives:

            Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography and 

               the National Endowment for the Arts

            AIDS as retribution, and related hysteria 

              over toilet seats and doorknobs

            Gays in the military

            LGBT adoption

            LGBT marriage

            Bert and Ernie’s relationship

            Gay wedding cakes

            Keeping conversion therapy legal

 

I’m sensing that Republicans are easing up on lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Until recently, Ellen DeGeneres has been too aw-shucks likable. And “Modern Family” was kinda funny, Mitch and Cam being innocuous. With more people coming out over the past few decades, queer people are more familiar (See “contact hypothesis”) and, as it turns out, far more normal than those scandalous once-a-year photos from gay parade floats. It’s still okay to throw a gay or lesbian under the bus, but polls are showing a change in opinion and the bang for the buck has diminished.

 

Time to focus on trans people:

            Bathroom invasions!

            Trans in the military 

            Trans (MTF) competing in women’s sports

            Trans-affirming treatments for minors 

            


Quick! Spot the males.

Decrying trans rights also creates a handy diversion from other matters. Forget the siege on the U.S. Capitol. Time to download a Squirrel Moment (as in the Pixar movie “Up”). Or another way to look at it, if you prefer: Time to follow drag queen Jada Essence Hall's diversionary tactic in a faux political debate on the twelfth season of "RuPaul's Drag Race."  Can’t we all just move on from that hugfest with police on January 6? Let's spark an outcry over Potato Head going gender-less. Never mind that politicians were not behind calling a potato for what it is: a sexless vegetable; it was the decision of a corporation, Hasbro.

 

Kevin McCarthy reading Green Eggs 
and Ham. News flash: This book
remains in print, but viewers (like my 
Mom--sigh!) won't Google this.

Forget any serious discussion of mass shootings. (Don't thoughts and prayers prove our compassion? And our deep faith?) “Squirrel!” Let’s rally behind Dr. Seuss instead. Let's shame the "woke" liberals! Never mind that virtually no one is familiar with the outdated content of the half dozen lesser-known Dr. Seuss books. Let's get incensed! The radical left is trying to take away beloved toys and censor an iconic children's author! (This was the decision of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the company that controls Theodor Geisel’s books and characters.) 

 




Forget whatever it is that Matt Gaetz is accused of doing. (But keep talking about Andrew Cuomo and, just for good measure, Hunter Biden.) “Squirrel!” The video for the top song on Billboard includes its singer simulating sex with the devil! This is perfect fodder for inciting “The sky is falling” rhetoric. The singer is Black and queer so the indignation won’t alienate People Like Us. (Lil Nas X benefits, too. The controversy gets more attention for the song.)

 

Dear Lord, save us and the GOP! We're worked up and, here's the important part, we're willing to put money where our mouths are. Yes, we will donate to indignant Republican politicians' coffers. God save America! Protect us from change!

 


Trans rights represent an ongoing wedge issue. (A wedge issue, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is, "a divisive political issue, especially one that is raised by a candidate for public office in hopes of attracting or alienating an opponent's supporters.") There are trans teens taking up girls' deserved spots on sports teams. (Oh, the indignation from people who've never followed women's sports and have never questioned the pay disparity and the TV/media coverage gap between men's and women's sports.)

 

They’re playing with trans lives because trans people are, in their view, dispensable. Every member of the LGBTQ community and every LGBTQ ally should be outraged and should be rallying to support transgendered people. If we are indeed a “community” in any sense of the word, a threat to the rights and freedoms of one group of us is a threat to all of us under the Pride flag. The political gamesmanship dealing with their rights must be called out and stopped.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

BETTER AS A SOLO HIKE


Not long ago, during our coldest spell of this mild winter season, I set out on a five-hour hike, hoping to catch Norvan Falls completely frozen. I’d seen photos online from the weekend but, by the time I arrived on the scene midweek, the water was crashing down again although it still looked cool with the icy bits that framed it on either side. A decent day. As I walked back to my car, I noticed a marker for The Varley Trail and a large sign that explained it was so named for a famous Canadian painter, Frederick H. Varley, a member of the Group of Seven. He’d lived in this area for a number of years and the trail purportedly covers much of the land he strolled as he searched for inspiration. I knew I’d be back to check it out.



It’s a short trail through the forest with many wooden walkways built over muckier sections. A rushing stream flanks it for much of the way. After dodging mountain bikers on a connector path, I came to a loop around the rather compact Rice Lake with a few mountain views. All lovely. Still, my hikes are never less than three hours so I wandered onto other trails midmorning and after lunch. Meandering took me along a muddier trail—no user-friendly platforms this time—and eventually down a couple hundred wooden stairs. (I have such appreciation for trail builders. Who built these stairs? How long did it take, carting all the supplies from a car parked miles away? Was something about a preexisting dirt path deemed too treacherous?) There, a mere thirty feet from the bottom of the steps, I experienced déjà-vu.



More like déjà-eww.


Oh, the scene itself was spectacular. A pool of impossibly green water glistened, the water so clear, the rocky bottom was in full view. Last time I’d been here, was on a Saturday in April six years ago, when the sound of water cascading downward at a point mostly hidden by protruding rocks was drowned out by dozens of people looking for photo ops after checking out the nearby Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. Today, I gloried in having the place to myself, in part because it was a weekday, but also because, as I soon discovered, the suspension bridge was closed, access completely fenced off.



Six years ago, I welcomed the noise of the crowd. I was on a go-see first date that arose from a guy reaching out to me on Plenty of Fish. Such occasions had become routine: show up at a coffee spot, sit and sip, strain to make the conversation feel like something beyond an interview. I was excited that he’d suggested we grab a coffee and head out on a short hike. We could experience something as we chatted. The conversation would flow more naturally while walking and talking, similar to what happens when two people are driving somewhere. Even if we weren’t a match, it would be fun to get out and see a beautiful forest area I’d only explored once, twenty years prior when I’d first moved to Vancouver.



The date was dreadful. It felt like I was on the receiving end of an excruciating silent treatment, whatever conversation that happened being all give, no take. I’d lob a question, he’d answer in the fewest possible words and forgo the courteous, common sense “What about you?” that normal, socially aware people lob back in a get-to-know-you exchange where two people search for a shared interest. He didn’t even bother to pose one of those standard questions like “What do you do for a living?” or “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” Okay, I’ve never asked or been asked the latter question. For the record, a weeping willow. On that date, at least. Emphasis on the first word. No actual tears but the experience was painful—weep worthy.


What made things worse was being stuck on the date with no handy exit plan. In a cafe, I could have stood up and said, “Nice meeting you, but I’ve got to get home to [insert something that sounds infinitely more exciting (e.g., re-grouting my shower tiles or self-administering a root canal)].” I was stuck in the middle of a forest, at least half an hour away from where he’d parked his car, my own vehicle still parked near a coffee shop I had no idea how to get back to on my own.


I recall feeling shunned. To this guy, I was some sort of pariah. It seemed he was gritting his teeth, just trying to get through this experience, something in his mind worse than the combined torture of waterboarding, a fully body waxing and Michael Bolton playing on an endless repeat cycle. And that’s where we finally found common ground: his torture was my torture.


Dates like that are best forgotten. Largely, I’d done that although the wall of silence was so off-putting that the outing has occasionally come back to mind on subsequent dud dates as a point of reference and perspective. No matter how flat any other date felt, I could always tell myself, At least it wasn’t as bad as that hike in the forest.



I’m glad I stumbled on this familiar ground again. While the beauty of this spot registered even six years ago amid that air of awkwardness and that throng of people scrambling for selfies, I now had a chance to fully appreciate it. No interruptions. No nagging thoughts in my head like Am I simply hideous? or Do I have halitosis? Body odor? Boogers swinging from dangling nasal hairs?

I’m grateful I got to experience this spot again, to take it back, to have this moment as my own. Such a beautiful place. It deserved another chance.


After twenty minutes and lots of photos—not a selfie in the bunch—I turned back to face the daunting set of stairs. Onward and upward.