Monday, August 30, 2010

Rebel Without a Clue

Big has drawn a line in the sand. Specifically, the Jersey Shore. Up until now,she would wear the full body pink bathing suit meticulously chosen from the children's catalog for its coverage/spf ratio. If it was zipped up,it covered every cancer prone part of her sweet little three year old body-except her face. That was slathered with sunscreen and forcibly hatted with a matching spf swim hat. She was proud to prance about in her pink bodysuit, buying wholesale my advice that it was really the best choice she could make. She and her sister looked like some strange girlie hazmat unit on assignment as they dug in the sand in their matching ensembles. They could frolic on the beach in the blistering three o'clock sun without getting fried, we saved a fortune on sunscreen, and no pervs ogled any part of her body but her strong Scottish ankles and kumquat shaped toes.

I am not Muslim, but I want their bathing suits-aptly and sadly named "burkinis"- which are exactly as you'd imagine. An adult sized full body bathing suit in a cute color with a matching deep sea diving style hood. No unsightly flab, no damaging sun, no surprise bosom escapes that no one tells you about until you go to the bathroom. Aside from the gasps and stares-what's not to like?

Well, this year it was all fine with the big pink suits until she saw her cousins wearing bikinis. The cousins are also sisters, each slightly older than mine by a few months,who happen to have gorgeous olive skin that turns caramel colored in the sun.My children have alabaster skin that turns fire engine red in the sun. Big took one look at the divine polka dotted bottoms and the adorable bow in the back of the top and kicked her full body suit to the curb. She literally threw it across the room when I asked her to put on her bathing suit. Luckily, I brought her yellow one piece with the tutu around the bottom in case we swam in a pool. It is super cute but not even close to a bikini. I have an aversion to little girls in bikinis.Too soon is all I can say. They have plenty of time to discover the joys of dressing provocatively when they get older. However, I did let her wear the yellow one to the beach with her cousins after a serious one sided discussion about the dangers of overexposure to the sun. She tearfully clung to the yellow suit, begging for the very same sunscreen she'd slapped away just one day before. I held my ground for the first five minutes in favor of the long pink suit,but eventually gave in because I really don't want her to have a complex. We are pale people, but no one is going to end up in a side show because of it. She sashayed to the beach in her yellow bathing suit,her body glistening with sunscreen. I did make her wear a hat as part of the deal until they got into the water.

I am so insane about this issue because I spent most of my youth frying in the sun. Every photograph of me is squinty and freckled. I am certain I will pay for it later. I have yet to take one of those infrared photos that shows you exactly how ruined your skin is, but eventually I will have to because I expect it will be bad. In middle school I slathered baby oil along side my peers on my pale thighs and ended up fire engine red and/or freckled while everyone else turned golden brown. I stopped in eighth grade after it just seemed like a whole lot of effort to peel for three weeks afterward. By ninth grade I had resolved that this was me and I wasn't going to be able to change it. I was reminded of my differentness when a popular girl in my class,with gorgeous tan legs, stopped me on the way to gym one afternoon and peered at my legs with concern. She pressed a manicured finger onto my upper thigh and pulled it back, saying,"you really need a tan". I mumbled something in response, resisting the urge to say "Well, you fucking moron, if you knew anything about genetics, you would know just by looking at me that what you just said is as offensive as if you told a black person to lighten up a little. It's just not possible." She wasn't wrong, I suppose, as pale skin just doesn't look as nice as tan skin does when exposed in public. I wore shorts only when mandatory and phased them out entirely when I was liberated from high school.

Watching Big prance and play in the yellow bathing suit gave me mixed feelings because I want her to cherish her pale skin and not try and make it something else like I did. I want her to protect it and not envy other people's golden tans. Unless she goes the spray tan route, she will always be pale. She will try to tan with the sun and she will get freckles-lots and lots of freckles. When I was in my twenties, I tried self tanner and ended up with a lovely golden hue. I was delighted until I went to the gym and noticed that the tanner seeped through my clothes when I perspired, leaving gigantic brown sweat stains everywhere. I must have looked like I was bleeding internally as I made a hasty exit from the gym. I tried rub on bronzer but,again, any contact with moisture rendered me an instant leper, with blotchy, patchy skin. I also ordered those melatonin pills from a magazine ad but was dissuaded by the carrot color of the "after" pictures they had in the brochure.

I used to tell myself that when I was sixty, I will have beautiful skin while everyone else will look like old shoes. Dermatology has come a long way and, now that face transplants are available, the playing field is definitely leveled in that respect. However, the cancer thing will always be an issue, and with the common recommendation being "avoid the sun between 10 and 4 daily" I can only hope that my vigilance with my girls will pay off down the road.And let's be honest-aside from the cancer issue- my resolve to avoid the sun is also a modesty issue. After two kids and forty one years, Victoria's Secret isn't offering me a modeling contract anytime soon, so I choose to remain a mystery to everyone but my immediate family. My girls love to pat my belly roll before I get in the shower or jiggle my behind while I get dressed. They think it is hilarious that I go to the beach in a hat, leggings and a linen tunic. I will say that,while a few other people at the Shore wore sunhats, I was certainly the only person wading in the water with their clothes on. Frankly, there were several people staring at me in their bathing suits who could've used a few more clothes themselves.

I want my girls to appreciate their bodies for what they are and not spend their teens and twenties wishing they were different like I did. I realize now that my body is beautiful, despite the parts that make me cringe, and that I need to regard it as such. It tells the story of me in every wrinkle,freckle, spider vein and pound of unshed baby weight and, if I am lucky, I will be in it for many many years to come. In the words of Popeye the Sailor "I 'yams whats I ams, and dats all that I 'yams" so I might as well choose to be happy about it. Perhaps it will rub off on my little ones like the self tanner that dyed my palms a lovely lingering shade of burnt sienna all those years ago.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I went to animal fair..the birds and beasts were there....

The circus is in town,again. The grand old Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus that started in 1907 and was the circus of my youth. I have a clear as day recollection of riding in  my grandfather's gorgeous jet black Cadillac to the circus when it came Denver in 1978.He had passed away the year before and my father had been driving it,determined to keep it pristine. He was obsessed with the noises the car made, and any squeaking or jiggling or humming would cause him to request total silence as we drove along so he could determine the source.
We stopped a few times on the way to the circus because of a slight hum in the front speaker but made it to the parking lot with about ten minutes to spare. We drove into the lot, past the various circus cages where the animals were either on display or awaited their turn in the ring. As we passed the enclosure housing the black panther-which was pacing frantically- it lifted up its tail and sprayed the side of the Cadillac.It never even broke stride.  I remember my father letting out a strangled yelp and declaring that the panther had,in fact, pissed all over the side of the car. He went on to explain that the acidity of the urine was devastating to paint and after that I don't remember much. It was always a funny family story about that time that we went to the circus.

I am afraid that my kids will not have the opportunity to tell their "when I went to the circus" story,because I have no plans to take them. It isn't my fear of panther piss. I just cannot sit there and clap while the elephants perform tricks that they were bullied into doing. They are too smart to be circus freaks and they are endangered to boot- so where is the joy? It seems unfathomable that Halle Berry can take her kid to the circus and not notice that it seems a little weird that an elephant is doing a conga line, or that the lion tamer needs a bull whip to get the lion to balance on a tiny stool.The circus seems wholly unnatural and entirely passe, in my not so humble opinion. The food is worse that a minor league baseball game, and ever since it was discovered that John Wayne Gacy enjoyed dressing as a clown, I've run out of reasons to go.

One of my favorite quotes on the subject of animal suffering is by Matthew Scully "When we wince at the suffering of animals, that feeling speaks well of us even when we ignore it, and those who dismiss love for our fellow creatures as mere sentimentality overlook a good and important part of our humanity". To accept the circus as entertainment is simply inhumane on it's most basic level. It isn't a brutal as dog fighting or cock fighting,but it is the pimping of defenseless living things for financial reward. I realize that many of these circus animals would otherwise be dead or awaiting certain death on the plains of Africa as the poachers circled, or they would be stuck in a tiny zoo in some godforsaken place.I know that plenty of humans suffer a lot more than having to do cartwheels when they don't want to. However, the majority of humans have a voice and reason and could ask for help if they needed it.
I doubt that any of the Cirque du Soleil performers are being held by chains between performances or poked with cattle prods before they shimmy up the high wire to balance on a chair. And if the tiny Malaysian spool throwers were being beaten with metal hooks and forced to toss heavy wooden spools to one another with small pieces of string, you can bet that Amnesty International would be on the case.

It is time for us to decide what sort of society we want to be. If the heir to Baskin Robbins can give it all up in the name of animal suffering, then can't we let the lions be lions and the monkeys go back to the trees? Does it truly enrich our lives to go to the circus or is it just a habit?

I think we all want our kids to know what we knew,to have the same idyllic memories of childhood that we had. I fear that time has passed, and, because they will inherit generations of laziness, greed and complacence, we will have to forgo the jaunts down memory lane and ready them for the rough road ahead.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Nitwit Society

I never even knew what gay was until I was around eleven. A family friend pointed out some lesbians having lunch at the next table. I looked over and saw two heavy set women in shorts, t-shirts and Tevo sandals. They had short hair cuts and did not wear any makeup. One was wearing a fanny pack. "How can you tell?" I asked. She shrugged and said "You can just tell, I mean look at them." I looked at them again, and saw women that resembled every female gym teacher I had ever known, but nothing said lesbian, specifically.


Well, obviously things change as we get older and our ability to navigate the world takes on more layers. If that same friend pointed them out today, I would be less likely to question her assessment and more inclined question her need to point them out. In Los Angeles, that's like saying, "look, a heterosexual couple".

Our generation was raised much more liberally than the one before it, and our children's generation even more so in that department. My kid, Big, plays "family" a lot, with her girlfriends.When they cannot agree on who is going to be the mom or the dad, they choose to be two moms and have a fabulous time. I attribute this to her second year of preschool.There were four same sex couples in the class. I love it because it reminds me that hatred and intolerance are learned and not innate.

People who hate gay people for being gay are just stupid. They have been gravely misled by religion/their parents or have simply chosen to wear cultural blinders. People who hate gay people for being gay are shallow and unexamined.They swallow whole the contents of the Bible, which was written a really really REALLY long time ago before, well, EVERYTHING. Let's face it, the men that wrote the Bible were trying to do some serious crowd control, and they used fear and intimidation to get their point across.It is filled with morality tales and rules so that the people living in the dirt all those centuries ago kept procreating and did not die from eating food with the same hand that they wiped their asses with. It was a work in progress,edited hundreds of times. I mean, the shellfish issue is clearly an early public service announcement. On a few occasions, back in the day, some unsuspecting slave must have eaten shellfish for lunch.When his face blew up like a balloon, or his throat swelled up and he keeled over dead,the authors of the book of Leviticus took note, conferred, and the next chapter they wrote suddenly called shellfish an "abomination". Someone else discovered the "other white meat", didn't cook it enough, and died horribly.Voila, no more pork for anyone. I would be much more impressed if they had noticed how smart the pigs were and decided to ban their consumption for that reason.

It is all a little Orwellian for my taste, the idea that a few hypocritical people get to boss around everyone else and keep changing the rules as they go, especially with regard to homosexuality. It seems that many people who believe that the Bible is the word of God have clearly let some of its directives go because they are outdated and/or illegal.Here are some paraphrased examples I found from seiyaku.com:

Genesis 38:9-10 - death to masturbators, adulterers and those who practice birth control
Leviticus 18:19 - execution for a couple who have sex during the woman's period
Deuteronomy 23:1 - no entry to the church if you have had a vasectomy
Deuteronomy 22:13-22 - death to brides who are not virgins and death to adulterers
Mark 10:1-12 - divorce is sin
Mark 12:18-27 - if a man dies before he has produced a child, his widow should have sex with each of his brothers in turn until she bears a child
Deuteronomy 25:11-12 - a wife shall have a hand cut off if she grabs the private parts of a man who is fighting her husband

It is as if they let prepubescent nine year olds make it up as they went along. Rape, murder, incest, and animal sacrifice are also a little less popular today than they were back then. Things are a little more sophisticated now and adjustments have been made. Shellfish made a massive comeback from its abomination status-why not homosexuality? The Bible says that to "lie with a man as with a woman" was an abomination, but it is not why I thought. A website called Religioustolerance.org explains it this way: " 'To lie with a man as with a woman' violated the dignity of the male sex. Women were [considered] property but men were the direct image of God. To treat a man the way a woman was treated was to reduce him to property and, thereby, to violate the image of God." I was a little stunned after reading that. I knew the Bible wasn't exactly a girl's best friend but really? That is why gay people have been treated so horribly for all these years?Because assuming the role of a woman is so undignified? Because a female is such a disgusting wretched thing? How can modern people accept this nonsense as the word of God? I always thought that the condemnation of gay men came from sheer jealousy-the straight guys were just pissed about all the sex that the gay guys were having, without all the squalling children interrupting all the time. Evidently it has nothing to do with sex or even with homosexuals, really. It is all about misogyny. Unless,of course, the women want to have a three way-then it's cool to be gay.

Some of the most compassionate, funny,fascinating people I know happen to be gay.I genuinely would not want to live in a world without gay people. It would be a terribly boring, uneventful world. I am not outing anyone here-the internet afforded me the opportunity to remind us all exactly how awesome and influential gay people have been and continue to be:

In light of Target's ridiculous biting of the hand that gives it style, I will start with fashion-practically non-exisistent without the brilliance of John Bartlett,Zac Posen,Perry Ellis,Jean-Paul Gaultier,Halston,David LaChapelle( fashion photographer),Bob Mackie,Isaac Mizrahi,Thierry Mugler,Todd Oldham,Willi Smith,Andre Leon Talley,Gianni Versace,Alexander McQueen,Christian Dior,Cristóbal Balenciaga,Domenico Dolce,Giancarlo Giammetti,Giorgio Armani,Norman Hartnell,Rudi Gernreich,Stefano Gabbana,Valentino Garavani,and Yves Saint Laurent to name a few.

Sports would have suffered for it -Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King;David Kopay(football player);Greg Louganis, three-time Olympic gold medalist in diving;Glenn Burke, Ex-Major League baseball player;Dave Pallone, Ex-Major League baseball umpire;Bruce Hayes, Olympic swimmer;Bob Jackson, professional bodybuilder;Babe Didrikson Zaharias, professional golfer;and Tom Waddell, Olympic decathlete, to mention a handful.

The world of music would be a vastly different place without Elton John, George Michael, k.d. Lang, Melissa Etheridge, Boy George, Ani DiFranco, Brian Epstein, Liberace,Rufus Wainwright, Aaron Copland, composer,Johnny Mathis, Iggy Pop, Janis Ian, Michael Stipe, Joan Baez, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein,Paul Rutherford;Emily Sailers, musician (Indigo Girls);Amy Ray, musician (Indigo Girls),Peter Tchaikovsky,Josephine Baker, Benjamin Britten,Bessie Smith,Dave Navaro, and supposedly,David Bowie.

The written word would be a lot less interesting if not for Willa Cather,Radclyffe Hall, James Baldwin, Andrew Sullivan, Edward Albee, Sir James M. Barrie, Armistead Maupin, Rita Mae Brown,
William S. Burroughs, Gertrude Stein,Walt Whitman,Tennessee Williams, Hans Christian Anderson, Malcolm Forbes, Somerset Maugham, Sappho, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Emily Dickinson,Gore Vidal, E.M. Forster,Virginia Woolf,Alice B. Toklas, Edna St. Vincent Millay,Henry James,Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Byron, Allen Ginsberg, Noel Coward and, my personal favorite, James Kirkwood.

The large and small screen would be ever so much more mundane if not for the talents of Rock Hudson, Ellen DeGeneres, Gus Van Sant, Allan Ball,Kelly McGillis,Sandra Bernhardt, Siegfried and Roy,Dick Sargent, David Geffen, Jane Lynch,John Geilgud,Lee Daniels,Simon Callow, Michael Jeter,RuPaul, Sir Ian McKellen, Tom Hulce,Marie Schneider, Lily Tomlin, James Dean, Pedro Almodovar, Montgomery Clift, Clifton Webb, and Charles Laughton to name the few who have come out.

Art might still be religious bas reliefs if not for Andy Warhol,Jean Cocteau,Michelangelo,Georgia O'Keefe, Frieda Kahlo,Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Bacon,Keith Haring,Robert Rauschenberg,Herb Ritts,Jasper Johns,Maurice Sendak,and David Hockney.

In mathematics, a special shout out to Alan Turing, who, after being convicted of  “gross indecency” for being gay, committed suicide in 1954.He was responsible for helping crack the German codes during World War II-most importantly, the Enigma coding machine.

There are too many to list, and obviously there must be countless millions who suffer(ed) quietly in their closets, too afraid to be who they truly are(were) because of some bullshit pages in an antiquated book written by egomaniacal power hungry idiots whose agenda resembles our Afghan brethren, the Taliban, a little too closely.