Monday, July 24, 2017

Haircut, with a Side of Sexuality



Went and got a haircut last week.
Oh, you kid
When I went in I figured, who knows when I’ll be able to afford a haircut again? And, it’s summer. And, I’m tired of messing with my long bushy hair.
“Cut it short,” I said to Jan. “Cut it all off.”
And she did. Gave me a splendid, short haircut. I like it. It is as low maintenance as a haircut gets.
Most people liked it after the initial shock, and said it was cute. One friend did not like it. “It’s butch!” she said, meaning, too butch, but she’s getting used to it. One gay friend said, “It’s butch!” and meant it as a compliment. He thought I looked great. He suggested I might meet somebody. You never know.
While I’m flattered that someone would think I am still relationship fodder, and I won’t rule it out because as he said, you never know, I’m not really in the market. I mean, twenty-three skidoo, oh you kid and all, thanks, but I’m tired. I don’t think I’ve felt a spark since the Clinton administration. That’s when Rick got cancer the first time, and after that life became arduous, and not very sexy. If I’m in the market for anything it’s companionship and friends.
Meanwhile I’m pondering the thoughts that have been raised by reactions to my haircut. They have been interesting.
Can you tell a person’s sexual identity by looking at them? You can try, but you might get burned. The way people think of themselves and the way you think of them might not have anything in common.
I have heard that sexuality is a spectrum and most of us are somewhere on that spectrum between heterosexual and homosexual, leaning one way or the other, with some brave souls admitting they can be either/or.
Confronting the truth of your own sexuality is not required of people in our culture who identify as heterosexual. You’re expected to be heterosexual in these here parts. You get an imaginary stamp on your imaginary sex passport and go galumphing into the catastrophe of your unaware adulthood. Wahoo.
When I was in college I once saw a person on campus whom I found extremely attractive, and all my hormones went into high gear. When I realized she was a she and not a he, I was mortified, embarrassed, and ashamed – splutter splut splut.
Sometime later I saw her again, and the same sequence of feelings happened all over again. I guess she was my type.
When those feelings happened with guys, I didn’t feel embarrassed.
As an adult, in midlife, I did what I had never done as an adolescent: I considered my sexual identity. I realized that except for that woman in college, it had always been men for me. That was my track record, leaning toward the hetero side of the spectrum. So what did that make me? Boring. Just my opinion.
Considering that as we grow up in American society we are inculcated with a sick model of sexuality (I refer you to rock and roll and almost all country music lyrics, for starters), and considering that many of us are sexually abused and broken when we are young, people must have courage to take an honest look at their own sexuality. It’s a scary thing to do.
It is so scary that some people project their fears about themselves onto other people, and become homophobic. Then we have tragedies.
That’s a gross simplification, as is this whole essay, but there’s some truth in there.
I wish we could all be folded into Jesus’ loving arms, and be fixed, and healed, and whole, and unafraid.
Unfortunately, that is not how Jesus works. We are the loving arms. We must hold one another, and love each other into healing and wholeness, and live with our damn fears together because life is terrifying sometimes.
Can I get an amen?
Regarding my haircut, well, it will grow out and I’ll be back to my “explosion in a Brillo factory” look, as my father-in-law called it. For now, it is summer cool and easy.
As for me meeting someone - Rick has been gone now for three and a half years. It would be just my luck for love to rear its ugly head, but for the moment, after decades of taking care of many other people, I’m concentrating on meeting myself. And, of course, paying the property taxes.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Saints Peter and Paul



June 29th was the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul in the western Christian church calendar. Some of you are slapping your foreheads and saying, “Oh no, I forgot.” If you are part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, in which case you are on the Julian calendar, you will observe this feast day next week, so you’re good.
Peter was the second of Jesus’ original twelve apostles, his brother Andrew being the first. Originally his name was Simon, but Jesus called him Peter, which meant rock, because Jesus said Peter was the rock upon which the church would be built. Peter was the one who denied that he knew Jesus when Jesus was on trial for his life. Jesus left his legacy in the hands of the guy who denied knowing him when it was dangerous to know him.
Just in case you wonder if you’re “good enough” to do something. Pull up your socks. You are good enough.
Now Saul (Paul) was a good Pharisee and opposed this sect following Jesus, seeing Jesus as another false messiah. Saul was on his way to Damascus intending to arrest believers, and you know what happened, don’t you?
Anyone?
Okay, he was blinded by a bright light and fell down in the road, and God asked him, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul, blind and on his posterior in the dust, did not have an answer to this question. God told him to get up and keep going to Damascus, where he would receive further instructions. Once in Damascus Saul sat for three days, blind and bewildered, waiting for God’s next message. Meanwhile, the Lord spoke to a man named Ananias, a leader of believers in Damascus, and told him to go see Saul. Ananias replied, “Lord, I’ve heard of this Saul. He is bad news for us!” The Lord said, “… he is an instrument I have chosen to bring my name before the Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel …” *
So, Ananias said, “Right, Lord, you’re the Lord.”
Long story short, Ananias laid hands on Saul, the scales fell from Saul’s eyes, he was baptized, renamed Paul, and began preaching the gospel. He traveled over much of the Roman Empire, preaching the gospel for the rest of his life, and making tents, which was his profession. He did not want to be a financial burden on anyone. He was the only apostle who seemed to advise, “Don’t quit your day job.”
Peter and Paul disagreed on who could become a follower of Jesus. Peter believed that only people who were Jewish could be initiated into the teachings of Jesus, and if someone who was a Gentile wanted to follow Jesus, they had to convert to Judaism, which was not easy. There were requirements regarding the laws of Moses, but one requirement was that men be circumcised, which was a sign of the Hebrews’ covenant with God. Paul, on the other hand, believed he had been called to preach to the Gentiles, and that Gentiles should be welcomed as believers in Jesus without being circumcised. There was a lot of heated discussion over circumcision.
You women reading this are rolling your eyes, and saying, “Men! Honestly!” Yeah. Things like this send women right out of the church, not to mention the various atrocities committed over the centuries and the various atrocities being committed right now in the name of Jesus, backed up by Bible verses pulled out of context to prove male arguments for controlling women and other human beings. Well, sisters, we “have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.” Bookmark that. Back to the patristic narrative.
Peter loosened up a little over time and did allow Gentiles to be baptized, intact. I don’t know about you, but to me it is impressive that a founder of the Christian church would change one of his core tenets in the direction of acceptance and that two leaders with divergent opinions were able to disagree with one another and still communicate.
Peter and Paul founded the church in Rome, and they both lived and taught there. Peter is called the first Bishop of Rome. Christianity was illegal at that time, and they were both executed in Rome, around 66 A.D., during the reign of Nero.
Three centuries later the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, so Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Everyone was marched down to the river and baptized.
A rare moment of unity in the Christian church. I jest. I’ll bet there was plenty of arguing going on. It has never stopped.
*Acts 9:15, New Oxford Annotated Bible

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Island Legends: the Dump



As you drive, or bike, or walk, on the roads of the island, you will come across furniture, flower pots, appliances, remodeling leftovers, and other miscellany left at the side of the road, usually with a sign that says, “Free.”
As I noted a couple of these offerings along the Westside Highway this morning I thought, gee, we didn’t used to have all these free things set out beside the road. I wonder why we do now.
Then I remembered.
Back in the days of yore, when Vashon wasn’t an upper middle class moated community, we had a dump.
Bulldozers carved huge holes in the ground. We backed up our vehicles to the edge, and tossed our trash into the pit. Everything, and I mean everything, went into the pit. First time I was there I saw a cow’s head lying down at the bottom, a byproduct of someone’s home butchering job.
If you had something that wasn’t quite garbage but you wanted it out of your life, you could leave it on the ground next to where vehicles backed in to offload. Someone else would find it and take it home.
It was fun. We never knew what sort of free treasures we might find.
There was a down side. Your spouse might come home from the dump with, say, a truck full of old Styrofoam pipe insulation for which he had big plans, and dump it in the yard, and never touch it again. I’m not mentioning any names here.
Bill Speidel once told me of the time his wife, Shirley, came home from the dump in absolute transports of delight. Someone had left some dishes that matched her pattern. Now she would have a complete set. Her joy lasted until she realized that the dishes she’d picked up were her own dishes, which she had taken to the dump the previous week.
So it wasn’t a perfect system, but mostly it worked.
Then for some reason the county began to object to people removing items from the landfill. After all those years of carefree “leave some garbage, pick up some garbage,” we were told we could not do it anymore.
The new rule was not well received. There was grumbling. Scrupulously honest citizens began to resort to sneakiness.
One day I went to the dump with a scrupulously honest friend, and it goes without saying that I am scrupulously honest. Don’t smirk. I’m honest, as human beings go. The two of us had combined our accumulated garbage to split the dump fee.
She backed her truck up to the garbage pile and we began to empty our garbage cans. By that time, the landfill was so crammed that there was a hill instead of a hole. You had to throw your garbage up on the garbage pile. No one left items to be claimed now that it was illegal. Although you could sometimes see things in the garbage that looked tempting, you resisted the urge to pick them up.
Or did you? As we worked, we spotted a VCR not twelve feet away, sitting atop a garbage pile.
My scrupulously honest friend’s eyes grew wide.
“Ooh,” she said. “My son needs a VCR.” Her son was in his teenage movie making phase.
She looked at me. I looked at her. We both looked at the entrance booth, and the bulldozer, to see if any landfill employees were looking our way. They weren’t.
So we casually moved around, trying to look natural. I continued to move garbage cans around, blocking the view between her and anyone who might object to her darting over the garbage and grabbing the VCR, which is what she did. She stashed it in the back of her truck. We loaded up our empty cans and left, a couple of law-abiding citizens dizzy on the heady wine of civil disobedience.
Eventually the dump was sculpted into the trapezoidal contours of Mt. Trashmore, a methane torch was lit that burned for years, and the transfer station was built. Now we don’t even know where our garbage goes.
Our recycling of still usable items has been taken over by Granny’s Attic, and what Granny’s won’t accept, the side of the road will. It was easier when castoffs were all in one place, but we are an adaptable species.
It is nice to catch a break, finding something you can use for free, maybe especially so when there have been laws passed making it harder for breaks to happen. So far the Roadside No Profit Mart is operating without let or hindrance. Let us enjoy it while it lasts.