Marriage Equality and Toothpaste Removal

There is a great deal of conversation happening today about marriage and what it means. Whether, this is a religious issue or a civil rights issue. My Facebook wall is full of red equal signs and in between are postings saying, “I believe in God’s definition of marriage.” I am naïve and I do not understand why this has to be such a divisive issue. It seems pretty clear cut (to me) that you can’t offer a portion of the population a right and not allow the same right to another population.

One of the arguments I have heard, besides the classic Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, is same sex marriage will make traditional marriage less valuable.  If I wake up tomorrow and same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, I will still be married to Carvell. I will still love him and hate the fact that he is fundamentally incapable of rinsing the sink out after he brushes his teeth. My parents would still have been married for almost 40 years. That doesn’t change. What would change is that in a moment of crisis, perhaps after a car accident, a same sex married couple would be able to make decisions about their loved ones care. If there was a tragedy and the husband or wife died, the spouse would receive bereavement leave and have access to any pension. These are just a couple of the benefits of being married.

On average married couples live longer, have fewer risky behaviors, are in better health, and have higher incomes. Being happy and married is just generally good for our population as a whole. As a married couple, Carvell and I are seen as one unit, our incomes are considered to be one, and we receive discounts on our home, health, and auto insurance because of this. Our home and anything inside is jointly owned under the protection of marriage. If something unfortunate happens to Carvell, such as a giant glob of toothpaste coming to life in the bathroom sink seeking vengeance on him, the property in the house is immediately mine. This is a protection that is offered to me because we are married.

Another argument that I have heard is, “What’s next? What if someone wants to marry their dog?” No one will marry their dog, because dogs are assholes that dump garbage cans and pee on my dirty clothes. Wait, only my dogs may be assholes, but still it is safe to say that bestiality will continue to be frowned upon.

Yesterday I heard an argument against marriage equality that I had never heard before. It was argued that marriage was created for the purpose of procreation. This one threw me for a loop, because I have married friends who have made the decision to not have children, and their marriage is still recognized as valid. Under this argument marriages where no children are produced for personal or medical reasons should be annulled. We will just pretend that these marriages never happened because without children a marriage cannot exist under this argument. This seems like questionable logic at best.

Children are being brought up in the debates. Everything from what happens to the children to how do I explain this to my child. My children are very open minded and I have worked hard to be honest with them when explaining things. Here is the conversation I had with Saidee who is five.

“Momma, why are those guys kissing?”

“Because they are in love, Saidee.”

“Like you and daddy.”

“Yep.”

That was the entire conversation. When explaining that friends of ours are getting married there was no need for me to explain in detail what would be taking place on the wedding night. Marriage is about so much more than sex. It is about joining your life together with another life. It is a promise to love and protect each other. It is a partnership. I think that these are the things that need to be discussed with our children not so much the dynamics of a couple’s sexual relationship. A friend once asked me if I would let my children spend the night with a same sex couple if their child had asked mine to a sleep over. I answered yes. First, let me put your mind at ease. If your child ever spends the night at my house I can absolutely without a shadow of a doubt guarantee that Carvell and I will not have sex in front of them. We will cook popcorn, put in a movie, let the kids play games, take them out to eat, and yell, “Go to sleep.” I may nag Carvell about rinsing the sink out after brushing his teeth. But, what we will not do is be sexual in any way, because we are adults and have common sense. I feel confident that same sex couples act in much the same way.

If this issue is truly a religious issue and not a civil rights issue then as Christians we should no longer accept the legal benefits of marriage. If our spouse dies without a will then we should accept that the state or their families will dictate where the assets are distributed. We should agree to no longer be carried under a spouse’s health and car insurance. No longer should we be able to receive wrongful death benefits or bereavement pay. With the arguments being made, we as Christians should just be content that our union is recognized by God and not worry about the benefits given to us on this worldly plane. I do not believe that marriage equality is an attack on Christianity. I am confident that God still hangs out in Massachusetts where same sex marriage has been legal for a few years now. What attacks Christianity is forgetting that it says in Matthew 22:37-40 – Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

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Stranger than Fiction

I know what I was wearing when I had my first orgasm: A V-neck purple shirt, a black skirt, and black and white panties pushed to one side. I thought that the outfit had something to do with the orgasm. I wore it again the next time I had sex to try to re-create the magic. It didn’t work. Unlike the characters in my Grandmother’s romance novels I did not start my sexual life being agile and able to have multiple orgasms my very first go around. There was no tearing at my bodice and sweeping me off my feet. I never said no when I meant yes like the women in books. There was nothing even close to rape. Sex was something that I wanted. My virginity felt like a dress that was too tight and ill fitting. I wanted to shed my virginity and I did in a clumsy coupling of groins and lust. I didn’t orgasm the first time I had sex or the seventh. It wasn’t until the fated day that I wore the purple shirt and black skirt that I had that orgasm. I was sixteen and my life has at times been dictated by the sexual decisions I made.

This summer my reading was dedicated to erotic fiction. I enjoyed the world of wealth and privilege, and even had a few not erotic at all dreams regarding a helicopter named Charlie Tango. But I noticed while I was reading the books that my mind often wandered. The main characters have sex multiple times in one night and I think, “God, the chaffing would be terrible.” They have sex in a bathtub and I would say to myself, “No one has ever had good sex in water; it’s too damn drying.” Somewhere near sex scene number 63, I say, “She has to have a rocking urinary tract infection.” It was at this point I couldn’t help but think I had wasted a good deal of my sexual whimsy on a misspent youth.

Like many people I had a false sense of my own sexuality in my late teens and early twenties. And I have little doubt that that false sense was related to a belief that I could do anything without being hurt. Everything was an adventure, whether it was sex in less than desirable places or moving out on my own with nothing more than a minimum wage job and a raging ego. Now, if I was asked to have sex underneath a train trellis I would throw my head back and cackle, but from age 16 to 25 it seemed like a great idea. The fog of hormones and need led me to places that I now would never consider. That fog made me brave and more than a little stupid. The same fog led me to curled toes and fevered kisses.

In my twenties I, without fear, met people on the internet. “Are you going to kill me with an ax?” was the extent of my vetting process. On a night I drank a great many margaritas, I had reckless (although somewhat safe) sex with a virtual stranger. He turned out to be a nice guy and we ended up in a kind-of-pseudo relationship for a few years. Now that well over ten years have passed I recognize it for what it was: a long standing booty call. What I reminisce about is not the sex but the bravery and sureness of my sexuality. My body issues existed but not in the way that they do now. I don’t remember concentrating on the heaviness of my breasts and the rolls on my back as much as I do now. I was naked in both a literal and figurative way in my twenties. I was a part of my very own short-lived sexual revolution. These relationships gave me a chance to be sexual and at the same time live independently due to the long-distance aspect of the relationships. It was “playing house” and practicing for my next real relationship.

My next sexual relationship took place under the watchful eyes of Meg Ryan. I was now in my late 20s and embarking on my first real relationship since being divorced. Above his bed was a large cut-out of Meg Ryan; she was witness to many rounds of Music ADD which was a game that Carvell and I would easily play til two in the morning. Meg Ryan, the patron saint of new relationships. It was in the bed, under Meg, that I fell in love and what Meg didn’t witness, Frank Sinatra did.

Now in my late thirties, my priorities have changed. Instead of becoming surer of myself, I have regressed. I am full of doubt and worry, and most days I question my place in the world. It’s not that I miss the sex of my youth. I miss a world where I wasn’t afraid all the time. I miss the brave me. I miss the escape that sex offered if only for 10 minutes in the front seat of a car. Life and responsibility are too real now and I sometimes want to escape this reality. Books like 50 Shades offer women like me an escape. They offer a world where you know that in the end the characters come out on top (no pun intended). The books offer a world where there is always a happy ending (pun intended). The decisions of my youth are just that, decisions of my youth, and I made the decisions with a sureness that the adult me now admires. 

And to Think That I Saw It in Paducah, Kentucky

This was the type of winter that I can’t stand. It was cold and wet, but not the good kind of cold and wet that leaves your yard with inches of fluffy clean white snow and sends you deeper under your blankets for extra sleep. Nope, this winter was just gray, and as you drove home at night it sleeted or rained just enough to warrant the use of the windshield wipers.  The wipers would then proceed to skip and squeak because the windshield just wasn’t wet enough. But on March 8, 2013, that all changed. On this day it was 50 degrees and sunny. The world just looked a little different and you could almost see Mother Nature at work. I left work on my lunch break and decided to start my annual hunt for long spring skirts.

While in my car I noticed that there were lots of people on the paved but uneven sidewalks. The warmness had people moving and they were an odd lot of people. The first person I passed was an elderly black man with a cane and a black hat pulled low over his eyes. He crossed the street in a most leisurely manner. In my mind he had worked for the postal service for years. He had been a good employee but had hurt his back and was forced to retire early. He was bitter at first because the job helped him to pass the time. See, his wife died a few years ago from diabetes and he hasn’t gotten over it yet. He isn’t sure he ever will. So now, every day, he walks to pass the time. He walks with a leisurely manner and thinks of that first June he and his June ever spent together.

The next person I saw was a young man walking with a guitar. The car in front of me stopped and pointed at the young man with the long brown hair. The boy with the guitar stopped and turned to face our cars and started strumming. He faced us with all the bravery in the world. His long frame seemed to take an almost defiant stance as he strummed and the man in the car in front of me slapped at his passenger to get her attention. I wondered about both of their lives, the young man with a guitar and the man with a shaved head driving the car. Maybe they had been friends in high school, but had turned into adversaries after the man with a shaved head had made fun of the guitar boy’s dreams.  Perhaps, they had been neighbors growing up and this was their moment to reconnect.

At the Post Office I passed a woman wearing a red parka and her head and face were entirely wrapped with a black scarf. The only skin that showed was around her eyes. It was as if in the middle of Paducah, Kentucky, this woman made the decision to put on a burka and shield herself from the sun. I had put aside my pants and made the decision to force spring by wearing flowing skirts. As if by sheer will I could coax the sun out and cause the temperature to rise into the 70s. She had wrapped herself tight in winter as if she wanted to hold down the sun like a child fighting to hold a beach ball under the water. She and I were having a duel of will and desires. I need the winter to be over. The sunlight will bring an end to the funk that I have been feeling. My nights won’t seem so short and when I leave work the sun will still shine. The lady with the parka with only her eyes showing will eventually be forced to embrace the sun. I hope that the next time I pass her she will have thrown off the heavy coat and put on her sunglasses. I hope, for no reason at all, that when she drops that parka and scarf underneath is a shirt of bright blue.

These are not the only people I noticed that day. Walking past the library I saw a man in white tennis shoes listening to an actual tape player and singing along. I imagine his tape collection at home filled with oddities and a loose Iron Maiden cassette with no jewel case. A man with a bandaged face, who has received endless $1.00 bills from me, shuffled past a fountain on his way to an oasis that I hope houses his real life. Downtown Paducah, Kentucky, is by no means a sprawling urban area that I dream of living in, but it does feel a little like my very own Mulberry Street from Dr. Seuss fame.

I create little worlds for them in my head. I think about their joy and pain. What led them to be standing on the sidewalk on a day that I happened to drive by. I hope they are happy and I wish I could tell them just how much they each mean to me, but they will never know that for a few minutes on a warm day they were the stars of a play that only plays in my head.

Opening Lines

Here are a few of my favorite opening lines from some of my favorite books. I would tattoo them onto my fleshy arms if I could.

 (1). “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”  – A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

(2). “For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town.  – Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

 (3). ”There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”  – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

 (4). “The human head is the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken.”  – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

 (5). “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”  – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

 (6). “My mother is standing in front of the bathroom mirror smelling polished and ready; like Jean Nate, Dippity Do and the waxy sweetness of lipstick.”  – Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

(7). “I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something warm dripping down my chin.”  – A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Just so Damn Random

I fear being part of a crime and having what is under my finger nails collected for evidence. Today I have picked both my nose and Saidee’s nose. I scrapped something sticky off of my favorite bracelet. I dug my nails into the softness of the steering wheel as I drove. I scratched at the pimple on the back of my neck. I ate a Weight Watchers peanut butter cup (okay, I ate four).  The remnants of this are collected under my weak and misshapen nails. So what I picture happening is David Caruso swabbing under my nails after I scratch a would-be assailant. The techs would process the nail gunk and the results would come back that I am disgusting. They would never find the criminal I scratched because they would be focused on how a single person can be so gross. I wash my hands, I swear I do, but I also just scratched my ear, so whatever gunk was on/in my ear is now transferred to my fingernail bed and just waiting to be mocked by a crime scene tech.

I fear farting during sex and killing my last sexy moment. Sometimes bending in an odd position just causes you to pass gas. I understand that there is nothing wrong with this and it is a natural occurrence. I am self-aware enough to know that I am holding onto any remnants of sexy by a very thin thread. I think that I lost my sexy card the week I had Saidee. In an attempt to fix damage done by previous C-sections my doctor cut me hip bone to hip bone. A grown man could have been pulled out of the incision that was made. To make the pain less they threaded a pain pump in with the incision. So, this left me with about 30 staples holding my insides in, a pump dangling from my body, a poorly groomed vaginal area, a stomach covered in iodine, and greasy knotted hair from being on my back for two days. I needed a shower in a bad way. I made my way to the shower, hunched over like a 90 year old women with osteoporosis, shuffling my feet the entire way. Once in the shower I became deathly ill and called Carvell for help. He held me up and a nurse found me a chair that I could sit in while I showered. The entire time I was in there he stood next to me and held the pain pump that was tethered to my body. To me sexy needs to have just a hint of secrecy and that day I felt like I had been sliced open and all my secrets were pulled out one by one. That was the day I turned in my sexy card.

I fear having a car accident on a day that I don’t wear underwear. On days that I don’t wear underwear it is not because I am trying for sexy. It is that I can’t find a pair of clean panties in the mound of clothes that rivals Mount Everest that blocks access to my washer and dryer. Normally, I get out of the shower and walk to the laundry pile and start to search. I then become quickly irritated and give up the hunt for my plus-sized underwear. I get dressed in an outfit that will be least likely to show that I am a trollop without any panties on. My fear of being in an accident with no underwear on is directly related to a car accident I had in which I was wearing underwear two sizes too small. I was driving down a road that I didn’t know on a night that was dark, cold, and rainy. As I got ready to turn into a driveway, two idiots who had stolen gas and were trying to make a quick getaway hit me. They didn’t just hit me once. They bumped me, which caused my car to turn, they then t-boned me, which crushed in my driver’s door and pushed my car into a propane tank that busted and began filling my car with the gas. I managed to escape out the passenger side and went for help. While this seems traumatic enough for most people, the real trauma came while I was at the hospital. One of my favorite people in the world showed up at the hospital, Trish “the Dish” Estes. She knew most of the staff and was using any pull she had to get me into a room quickly. She also proceeded to take pictures of me in my too small underpants that kept rolling down onto the middle of my ass. This was not the only time that Trish would photograph me in a compromising situation. She also documented the night I broke my leg and my friends rolled me over like a beached whale in an attempt to straighten my pants and drawers. I love that girl like she is my sister and I know she would give me a kidney if I needed one. I also know that she would poke at the incision from the transplant and photograph me while my hospital gown gapes open from behind.

Other things I fear are birds in flight, sink holes, the fact that there are websites dedicated to the eating of other humans, big scary crickets, mice, large groups of people, and panic attacks. I am working on not concentrating so much on the things that scare me. I will concentrate on the knowledge that Dairy Hill is opening back up and soon on a warm spring day we will go place an order for a cheese dog and some onion rings. I am concentrating on taking Saidee to the park and watching her run and practice cartwheels. I am concentrating on watching my daughters strap skates to their feet and lining up for a two minute jam.  I am concentrating on my love of Pine Sol and just how good it smells.

Today I try for fearless and I concentrate on unconceivable joy.

The Casualness of Family

I have written a great deal about my Mom and what she meant to our family. She was a good and kind woman who loved us strongly and boldly. She touched many lives and is greatly missed, but there was always someone standing beside her and that is my Dad. He is a man who loves my sister and I a great deal. He also loves his grandkids with the same ferocity that Mom always showed.

I was never a Daddy’s girl that title went to Kara without a doubt. She was his shadow, following behind him as he did the simplest of tasks. If Dad went to get wood for the stove then Kara followed behind. If Dad took out the garbage then Kara was no more than three paces behind. She was his shadow, following behind him as he did the simplest of tasks. He coached her sporting teams and helped her practice batting and catching. While, I never was one for sports or the outdoors he drove me to the skating rink and took me to friend’s houses. Kristi and I would jam ourselves into his beige pickup truck and he would drop us off at the mall on a Friday night, and then at 9:30 he would be waiting at the front to pick us back up. Never did Dad make us feel like he didn’t have enough time for us. Never did we feel like we weren’t his first priority.

As each of us become parents we silently think about the way we were raised and what we want to do that is different or the same as our parents. I know that my Dad did that too. He, like many, made a conscious effort to not be like his father. He was there every day. He worked hard to provide for his family. He had an amazing work ethic, working when sick or hurt. “Make hay when the sun is shining,” is the adage that my Mom always used. He loved Mom and was not afraid to show it. Never, not one time, in my life have I ever wondered, if he thought Mom was beautiful. It was always obvious to anyone that he thought she was radiant. He set out to be a good husband and father and did a damn fine job of it if you ask me.

 If I close my eyes and picture Dad I think of our house on Herman Avenue. I see him sitting on the bed with his brown leather bible in front of him. He is propped up with a nasty pale blue backrest that Mom was desperate to throw away. This was the norm on a Saturday night. Dad working on his Sunday lesson and Mom coming home from work with a to-go box filled with fried fish and French fries. My mom would sit on her side of the bed and pull out a wad of one dollar bills from waitressing. Kara, Dad, and I would sit on the bed and pick through the box of fish while Mom told us about her night. It was the casualness of family that I remember so fondly.

Once I cut the knee out of a pair of jeans. Guess jeans, which in the late eighties was like ripping a hole in a brick of gold. I wanted to look like the girls in Poison videos on MTV. I was never going to be thin, buxom, and have hair that resembled a lion’s mane, so I decided that the least I could do is have the knees of one of those girls. In my defense the jeans already had a small hole in the knee, but that ended up being a moot point. I took a pair of scissors from Mom’s sewing box and started to cut on each side of the small hole. The line was as straight as a scalpel incision and in no way resembled a hole that would have been created by falling on the front walk. I cut, and little by little, the small tear took over the whole knee. When Dad returned home at precisely 5:17 like he did every night I started to spin a tale about how I had fallen (which was true) and ripped a hole into the knee of my jeans (kind of a half truth). That night my father said to me the two words that I dreaded the most, “Un-cool, Heather.”

I have no idea what happens after, “Un-cool, Heather,” is uttered. I assume that building fall and the sun is covered by a thick black fog. Birds stop chirping and the world is silent. Hearing, “Un-cool, Heather,” is a sign that my father is so angry that he is sitting on his hands in an attempt to stop from committing a most heinous crime. That night that I cut my jeans Dad put me in the car and drove me to Kingsway Skateland. He was literally so angry at me that I could not be in his sight. I have done some things in my life that deserved a little wrath. I cuss like a sailor. I have two illegitimate children. I have tattooed myself. I have pierced myself. I will talk endlessly and with little shame about my sexual escapades, but I have never seen him as angry as the night that I decimated my Guess Jeans. Luckily I escaped with little more than a lesson learned and a story that will live in Young family infamy.

Our family has changed forever and Dad’s place in the family is forever altered. I will never forget the sound of Dad’s voice when he made the phone call that Mom had died. I will never forget how much we laughed and cried while planning her funeral. The love of his life was gone and now he had to bury her. I cannot understand the pain he must have felt when he had to turn his back and walk away from the room she died in. What I do know is that I am thankful every day that this man showed me what love is. He showed me in a sometimes imperfect ways what a man should be: kind, loving, strong, funny, flawed, and a staunch defender of Guess Jeans.

I love you Dad.