Friday, January 27, 2012

Eye of Newt, Toe of Mitt

Today, Newt Gingrich, who wouldn't know respect for the "institution of marriage" if it jumped up and bit him squarely on his fat, self-righteous butt, weighed in that 'gay marriage is a pagan idea' and that it will lead to the decline of western civilization! (GASP!)

Okay, a.) clearly Newt doesn't know diddly-squat about Paganism, and b.) I think our inability to produce our own food and create a stable economy are more likely to cause the downfall of western civilization...but I'm a history professor. What do I know?

A young lady I knew as an undergraduate at the Baptist college where I was previously employed has recently come out of the closet and was among a group of Maine LGBTs who yesterday delivered the ballot initiative petition for legalization of gay marriage to their governor. Had you known her when I did, you'd understand the gravity of this situation and the figurative light years traveled between then and now.

I once heard a speaker from the New York Public Library, in reference to their commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising, say that there is a 'continuum of outness' among LGBTs...let's just say I've witnessed more than one person move from the far-right Closet of Denial to the extreme-left Personal Gay Rights Parade of Outness...and this is not a journey that isn't fraught with peril. LGBTs, even in this day and age, are frequently rejected by their peers and families when they choose to come out. Even if those around them cope to some degree with the news, when the layer of gay rights or gay marriage is brought up, the tenuous peace accords break down and you can hear the Queen of Hearts in the background screeching, "OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!"

What I've learned from the math professor who mentored me through the tenure process is something that I hadn't really considered until he stated it bluntly: these are not 'special rights' for which LGBTs are asking, they're basic civil rights. My great-grandparents had what, under the law of their day, was a mixed-race marriage...and in the strictest sense, illegal- my great-grandmother was Cherokee and my great-grandfather was Caucasian. Miscegenation laws finally changed, and it is now legal in the United States for people of different races to wed each other. At the end of the day, fundamentally, how is the "Gay Marriage Question" so very different?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Truth and Memory

The Boyfriend put a pointed question to me about high school during a conversation last weekend, and I ended up depressing myself so badly that I went and hid in my bed afterward. While I have a lot of memories from high school, some good, but quite a few bad, I can usually balance my reminiscences so that I'm not whimpering in the corner later; this time, it didn't work. While The Boyfriend's high school was a violent, drug-riddled Hillbilly hellhole in Eastern Kentucky,  mine was a relatively quiet, rather calm place in the central agricultural region of the state. His school featured beatings, stabbings and murder; mine featured a dance every Friday, well-attended school functions, and the kind of high school drama portrayed in a Judy Blume book.

Somehow, he encouraged me to evoke every moment of rejection and bullying that I endured, including the ones from the unlikelier sources. For instance, I only officially dated one boy from my school; I was such an outlier (not to mention that about half the boys in the school were terrified of my dad into the bargain) that I couldn't buy a date. I was lucky in that a couple of times, I lit upon some rare birds from other schools, so I could demonstrate that I wasn't a dateless loser. Of course, both of them treated me pretty shabbily in the end- at least I didn't know exactly how shabbily in the latter case until months later, when I ended up in the University Honors Program with his best friend- interestingly, it was the day after that particular boy had driven from the University of Louisville to take me to see The Princess Bride. When the cat was out of the bag about the cheating angle, though, Joe was over for once and all. I finally told my parents because Dad had really liked him; he was in engineering school. Must everything we cherish be sacrificed to Speed?*, indeed...

The gruesome reality about my own high school is that even the nerdy boys had no interest in me. In some respects, I was the asexual geek buddy; it simply didn't register that I was a girl. "Smart" was my entre' into the clicque...I was that other guy at the D&D game who happened to have boobs. It still scared the crap out of them when I did that 'teenage girl mood-swing' thing and went from hyper and slightly saccharine to bitchily moody. That forced them to uncomfortably confront my actual non-guy-ness and they didn't like it at_all_. It's so much easier if you can pat the girl on the head and pretend she's just one of the fellas (just be careful that she doesn't rip your arm off and beat you with it).

I'm the consummate actress; never let it be said that I failed to hit my marks. I managed to pull off the unheard-of fat girl coup of attending prom three years running, but the dark secret of that is that the guys I dated both my junior and senior years didn't invite me to their proms and took local girls instead. I rarely admit that, but it's the truth; I was especially bitter about my junior year, because I tried for months to get my parents to let me break my date so I could ask Hopkins- I think they were worried that I'd end up dateless when my backup plan naturally fell through. That particular guy, Edgar, not only came to our prom, but a) hit on several of my friends, b) tried to pick another fight with Hopkins (they'd had a little set-to at Beta Club convention the previous December), and c) made an ass of himself on the dance floor. It was so bad that the guys who were in the drumline with me cornered him and had a word, to wit, that they were going to beat him up if he didn't straighten up right. that. minute. This is excluding the fact that he tried to rape me later that night. What a swell guy. I should've let the guys beat him up.

It's telling that one of my best memories of that night was when we junior girls who were starring in the prom skit gathered in the foyer for a 'garter picture'. Hopkins passed by as I was trying to fish my leg out from under twelve layers of crinoline. The dress had a low sweetheart bodice, and what can I say? Still bent over my skirt, I looked up and waved, inadvertently calling his attention to my chest. He almost fainted on the spot. I was rather pleased with myself, although it didn't seem to have much lasting effect. Such was ever the way- lots of near-misses and me making a fool of myself in the end over yet another boy who didn't want me.

This all came out in the course of the conversation. By the time it was over, I retreated, pulled the covers over my head, and went back to sleep for several hours. Yes, I have good memories, but some of the most uncomfortable ones still drag me into personal hell. I suppose it's better to face them, but this time it really ruined my long weekend.

*Nota bene: Joe enrolled in the Speed School, the engineering college at the University of Louisiville. When my father was at UofL, this particular legend adorned the door of one of the guys who lived in his dorm. Daddy told me this story when Joe won a National Merit Scholarship and informed me that he'd declared in Electrical Engineering. I should've listened to my godfather and uncle, both civil engineers, when they told me that "E.E. guys are weird"...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Adventures in Airedale Parenting

Hairy Fiend, as a baby. He got bigger...about ninety pounds bigger.

Airedale Terriers are a breed unto themselves. Mine are both kind of spoiled, and Hairy, pictured above, has a tendency toward bouts of pancreatitis. Henry I, aka "Big Henry", my first rescue for Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption (ATRA) was from the same breeding and has turned out to be an insulin-dependent diabetic as he's aged, and I'm a little worried that we're headed that direction with momma's baby. After the last round of pancreatitis (shortly after it happened, an acquaintance's Airedale died from a bad pancreatitis attack), I cornered The Boyfriend and declared all people food off-limits. No more scraps, no more bread, no more windfalls while I'm cooking- zip, zilch, nada, ninguno. The Airedales' reaction was understandably cranky. Begging had never yielded much, but this meant it would yield nothing at all in future.

This has led to an incredible amount of stealth on the part of both dogs. They've become unpleasantly aggressive about the remains of certain foods (beef fat, pork bones, etc.) and this culminated in two things over the weekend: I turned my back on a chicken that I'd boiled a few days before that I was preparing to pull the meat from and freeze- I heard *snap* *SNAP* ***slurrrrp*** and turned to find that Hairy had just made off with an entire cooked thigh quarter. Had it been raw, I wouldn't have been quite so worried, since uncooked chicken bones are flexible. Cooked ones, however, are not, so I called the vet about fifteen minutes before their Saturday closing time. There was some danger of the bone splinters puncturing his digestive tract on the way through. One of the common interventions is to feed the dog a few slices of bread to enrobe the fragments before they have a chance to wreak havoc- so Hairy got an unexpected side benefit of several slices of Sunbeam bread. Mother was Not Amused.

The end result was that Hairy was further pissed off by his vet's insistence that he be given six small meals of his regular (expensive Blue Buffalo) food instead of two bigger ones. After the chicken and bread, he was down to a half-cup of dry dog food every three hours. He glowered and skulked and rang the Poochie Bells on the door incessantly to inform of us of his ire. Airedales mutter and mumble under their breath anyway, but it ramped up parallel to his displeasure to the point that I knew he was cursing us under his breath for not giving him what he wanted.

Then came the coup de grace: The Boyfriend ate a leftover pork chop for lunch on Sunday, and as he was throwing away the bones, Hairy deliberately bumped him to jostle the plate. The dog quietly retreated to his crate in a blur of black and tan; about a half-second later, we realized he was eating something. I managed to distract him long enough to see that he'd cadged a thin pork bone on which he was crunching away. Desperate to get it away from him, I grabbed his collar and tried to get him out of the crate...not the brightest idea I've ever had, but one fueled by full-on maternal panic. As I recovered from the bruising Vulcan Death Grip he laid on my wrist, I cooked plain white rice for him and fed him a couple of slices of bread, cursing him under my breath. He's at least had the decency to be ashamed of himself.

If you're thinking it was a coincidence, guess again. One of the things that most Airedale owners really prize about the breed is their ability to process complex ideas. They're a highly cognitive breed. Hairy had been planning this move for quite some time, and unfortunately for him it was the last straw for Mother. All plotting aside, we have a new rule at my house: under no circumstances are Airedales to be out of their crates while humans are consuming food. They aren't getting out until the meal is over. Meanwhile, Hairy seemed a bit constipated this morning and I was worried because the vet had said to be concerned if he wasn't eating and eliminating normally within about three days of the first incident. The Boyfriend called me at work a little while ago to let me know that HF had finally 'produced'. Ah, the joys of parenthood. The highlight of my Monday, the first day of the new semester, is dog poop...there's something sort of Freudian about it. Hmmm.