Self Identification

The world is more complicated now than when I was your age. Sexual orientation/gender identity was not something we needed to go around flashing like a business card. I knew at an early age who I was and that I was not like people around me. I didn’t fit in to the binary definition of gender. I suspect neither do you.

Sure, I was assigned a gender at birth as you were; but deep down, what am I? I still do not know for certain. What I do know is that it does not matter to anyone else but me. I do not need to tell people what my orientation is or what my self identified gender is. Never in the workplace, or in a social setting. It is personal to me.

That said, some people have to disclose because their identity is so different from their assignment that it makes it hard to get along in a binary-centric world. Imagine identifying as female in a gender assigned male body having to shower with cis-males in a gym. Feeling wholly uncomfortable. I could seriously empathize. Being forced to live along a gender stereotype they just did not align? When all they want to do is be who they know themselves to be without criticism, condemnations or harassments.

I hated my first year at college, because I neither identified as male or female and felt really out of place and crawl-out-of-my-skin uncomfortable when having to shower in the women’s dormitory where it was a large open space with a bunch of shower heads lining the perimeter. I would wait until the weirdest time of day to shower so I could do so in peace. I simply never felt aligned with other women. But I never felt all the way male either. If there was a gender in between, I could see that’s where I fell. I think I was fluid, though I thought I might be genderless in High School. Depending on the day I could tap into a feminine or masculine sensibility, but I never felt that I needed to pick a side. Except that society expected it of me.

We now live in an age where that expectation is being confronted with the words

Why?
Not anymore.

I am excited for the time when gender identity does not have to be part of the conversation. That people are accepted no matter how they identify or what their orientation is. There is no difficult decision in a changing room, or restroom, gym or dormitory setting as to what door to enter. That people are not discriminated against for living their truth. Nor are they excluded, disowned, attacked, murdered because an ignorant fuck feels threatened. That they don’t have to decide to exit this earth to get relief from a persecuted life.

That just because I marry a man does not mean I am turning in my queer card. It just means that I loved him enough to want to spend the rest of my life with him and bear his child because my body is wired to do so.  If I had met a woman who I fell for in the same way I would have married her. That I should not have to justify who I am or my choices to any group. And finally, that I need not grab a label to slap on my chest to inform everyone else what/who I am. I don’t care to share my pronouns because they are mine and not yours. And I am not offended if you choose to use a pronoun that matches my physical gender because you don’t know.

I recognize that the journey to this freedom has been paved by warriors and martyrs alike who paid difficult prices to get to that extraordinary time in the future. I know and respect that they need these pronouns to teach tolerance and acceptance.

Some day I will be able to go into a clothing store and not see a segregation by blue or pink and cringe. That I will see a time where restrooms are private and inclusive for all to use without pausing to look at signage to decide how to proceed.

If this happens to you

Since this happened to my great grandmother, her son and his daughter (my mom) , it could very well be happening to me and god forbid, then happen to you.

My great grandmother Nellie was a nice lady. And man could she cook! Her afternoon roast suppers were a thing to behold. Home made sweet dinner rolls brushed with butter, cooked fresh from the garden green beans, roast beef so tender you didn’t need to chew and a rich, savory, dark beef gravy that sounded like Barry White serenading you as it was poured over mashed potatoes.

Something began to happen to her the forgetfulness and the falling while she was living in the house on the river alone. Grace would find her. Then her cooking was done for. She was burning everything. They decided to move her out of her home and into ours so we could look after her.

She had no idea why and often tried to leave on her own to get back to hers. Though she had no mode of transportation she packed a bag and tried to walk there. (16 hour drive back to hers, imagine walking) Her mind was highly suggestible to the will of others which explained how her sister convinced her to leave everything she owned to her, and the ministry of televangelists.

She lost continence, often. And your Aunt and I were left to clean up after it. She was a big woman (like my mother) and bathing her was hard for two teen aged girls with no experience helping the elderly in and out of a tub.

After a bit it got too much and we had to send her off to a nursing home facility. She eventually died there and for the life of me I cannot recall the exact reason because the doctors only gave a non-specific notation on the death certificate.

Fast forward to her son, my grandfather began his journey with essential tremors, and the memory lapses with some issues speaking to be understood, and then the falling began in which he broke his hip and they put him in a nursing home to recover but he did not last long, he lost the ability to swallow and then died shortly thereafter.

Before all of this he was a great gardener. He was a great cook like his mother. In fact he had a hand in teaching me to cook. He was a builder and a general handyman and mechanic. There is nothing he could not fix. He made miniature furniture as a hobby. So losing him to this disease is heartbreaking. He was not a man of many words, but when he did speak he made it count.

My mother started with hallucinations, dizziness, constipation, issues with memory and the essential tremors, dehydration and then the falls. While I was there in that summer to help organize her house for a transition to the nursing home, she suspected she was having incontinence issues and she had the pain in her groin like I am having now and they gave her exercises to try to stretch out the muscle that was giving her trouble. Turned out she had a bad UTI that caused sepsis. I will never forgive her doctors for not checking that out.

When she was transitioned into the nursing home her ability to complete a thought went right out the window and she became non verbal shortly after. She went like her father with the inability to swallow and ultimately died.

Now, I have minor memory issues, but I am having some numbness/ neuropathy which is so fucking random that each day is like a roulette wheel of which area of my body is going to be the trouble spot. So far no essential tremors.

Thank christ.

But my muscles are randomly seizing while I sleep which gives me the pain I often complain about and I have the dizzy spells my mom had, though I have not fallen. I have come close but I have caught myself.

I am often severely dehydrated and the dry mouth and eyes are something which make me nervous to think that I have Sjongren’s syndrome. With the pain in my groin, I worry that I have a UTI but the doctors tell me it is not. With that is a bit of urinary incontinence.

The thing I have that I do not recall my great grandmother, grandfather or my mother having was being able to poop logs long as tree branches daily to the point where there is an urgency to release it several times per day.

So the reason I am telling you this is to keep track of the progression. This is a generational thing. And I am so sorry if I pass it onto you. I had no idea this was a thing. After three people getting it I can only guess that I am carrying it and I may have passed it onto you.

What I can say you have 30 to 50 good years ahead before it is something that could arise. Live it to the fucking fullest. Do everything you’ve ever wanted to do. Don’t think later will be better. It may not. Do everything while you are able.

Tire Swing

There’s a lyric to my favorite song which I thought really did capture who I was.

“If I stay in one place I lose my mind. I’m a pretty impossible lady to be with.”

Tire Swing – Kimya Dawson


Usually, when there is a problem I look inward to see what of my failings caused this issue. Because I do know I am a hard person to live with.

Though this situation – your complete ambivalence to your family is not of my making. These are your choices and your failings. Not mine. I taught you better. I showed you better. And yet, you *choose* to be less.

We had a talk about this when you decided the most important person in the house was yourself at 12:30 am on a week day. I recall specifically that I said your actions speak louder than your words. And that if you didn’t like the rule we had in this house you could do as your peers at the age of 20 and move out on your own.

That was an invitation that you chose not to accept, thereby communicating that you were willing to abide by the house rules. Which you have set out to break at least one more time since the brouhaha over the breadwinners need for sleep.

So here we are again but this time it is a brouhaha over being a decent fucking human being with a kind enough heart to make a person’s birthday not about you.

Tell me again why you want to be a teacher?

Because I have lost all point of why. I know most teachers to be kind, generous, models of upstanding behavior. They are not selfish. They’re not stingy. And they don’t hold petty grudges because of some past hurt they experienced by people decades ago. Just because you were bullied does not give you license to be a bully or to shut out any shred of kindness to your family or a fellow human being.

When you become a teacher, you not only teach the subject, but also you parent. Like it or not. These kids are now your kids too. You are teaching them the subject matter, but also life’s little lessons. The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” is entirely accurate. You are part of the village, my boy.

You influence the children you teach by your behavior. If you are rude to them, you teach them it is okay to be rude to others. If you are kind and generous, you show them it is model behavior. You get what you give. You become a people maker.

Your influence is power. Regardless if you think you are making an impression you are. And believe me, there will be kids who will try your patience and test your commitment to the job. They will be awful – mind bogglingly so. It will leave you wondering what kind of parents allow this kid to behave in this manner. And it will be your challenge to teach this child, through your persistent influence how to do and be better.

Which leads me to my question, how is it that I am recognized as an influence in your work ethic but none of my attention to kind acts and traditions over holidays and birthdays have made any impression at all?

How is that possible? Why is that possible?

Look deep within for the answer, what choices have you made to lead you to ignore or abandon that influence. If you begin to answer by pointing a finger at someone else then start over with your internal inventory. Dig deeper.

Asking yourself:

What kind of person fails to remember a birthday of a loved one?
Is that person so self involved that they cannot celebrate the fact that the human who contributed in giving them life should have a special day commemorating their trip around the sun?

Even if the birthday boy/girl is mean, does that justify those around them to be mean as well? Or can they rise above and be a better person and show an element of kindness which grows past the hurt and resentment?

There is a larger lesson here and I need to stress it. You inability to show kindness will eventually shut you out of opportunities for love, a sense of belonging and feeling fulfilled. It will be a long road of loneliness, resentments and bitterness. The more people you hurt, the more alone you will become in this world and it will only be by your actions and yours alone.

I thought I would never have to whip this one out of my arsenal of things to try to snap you out of it but here goes, courtesy of my grandmother, Mimi:

I may have to love you, but I don’t have to like you.

If your knee jerk response is “I know, and I don’t have to care.”
I can show how to pack your bags and you can show yourself out. Leave the keys on the table when you go.

On Superficiality and Excuses

I think it was my mom who said, “Do you know what people find most attractive? Self confidence.”

It might have been my grandmother who said it. It has been so long ago. But at the time, I was a gawky, albeit chubby, bookish nerd with self-esteem issues surrounding my height, lack of beauty, and physical maturity; so what was said was like the muted trumpets in a Peanuts cartoon.

When I hear you go on about how women will not find you attractive because you are not the “ideal” height, I think back on that statement said so many decades ago and hold my tongue. Because I know if I deliver that same line, you are going to brush it off as I did when it was delivered to me.

Though in my years of experience, it is true. Those exuding confidence, really, are the ones toward which other flock.

One has to be truly happy in their own skin before accepting the affections of another. (Like a happily put “take me or leave me, I can manage on my own” mentality.) If you are not there and are still fixated on comparisons with others who have qualities you feel you lack, do not expect to embark on a successful relationship.

Your superficial hangups will get in the way.

But please do not confuse confidence with arrogance. No one likes an arrogant cunt. You can be confident in yourself as in: how you look, your sense of style, personal values, etc., but the moment you begin to feel superiority over others, that’s when it turns into arrogance. And it is a put off.

I saw a meme this weekend that stated in so many words “Whether you know it or not, someone out there secretly finds you attractive.”

Another truth. It could be someone you work with who cannot muster the courage to let it be known. Or maybe someone at school who are letting you know in such subtle ways that you are oblivious to it.

Sure, on the surface, that meme sentiment seems stalky and creepy; but understand, people do have secret crushes that either they keep secret due to pride, insecurity or straight out fear of rejection.

A friend of mine told me that back in college there were a number of young men in my life who held a torch for me and I was not aware. My reaction was exasperation. I wanted to find romance and a good relationship but none of them said a word. Though I reckon if they had I might never have met your father and you wouldn’t be here.

So there’s that.

Remember this: Miss Right May not be right now.

Keep that always in the back of your mind even when the infatuation is high and finally reciprocated — she still may not be the one.

On Adaptability

One of my favorite shows of all time was a short lived series on NBC entitled “The Pretender”. To give you a synopsis of the series, a young man who had been held captive since childhood for his savant-like genius is on the run from his captors and uses his natural abilities to quickly learn new skillsets in order to impersonate any profession so that he may assimilate into the current location without raising any suspicion. It was based on a real life serial imposter – Ferdinand Waldo Demara.

I think what made this a favorite series for me was the fact that the character, Jarod, demonstrated that one could be anything if they took the time to invest in learning. He adapted in order to stay on the run and in hiding.

This goes back to my grandmother’s tenet –
“You do what you have to do to survive.”

I cannot stress that enough. Adaptability is key to making it in this world. I know full well that routine is comfortable. Maybe even preferred. However, change is all around us; some predictable – others unpredictable.

In the years I have been put on this earth I have learned a variety of skills:

  • Teaching
  • Psychology – Experimental Design and Counseling
  • Visual Arts – (Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking, Silkscreen, Ceramics, Sculpture, Glasswork)
  • Art History
  • Art Framing – Gallery work
  • Basic Food preservation – jams, marmalades and jellies
  • Textile Arts – (Crochet, Knitting, Basic needlework, felting)
  • Software Testing and Programming
  • Database administration
  • Basic Plumbing Home repair
  • Cooking/Baking
  • Household upkeep skills
  • CPR and First Aid
  • Basic conversational Spanish
  • Website building – HTML Markup
  • Sight reading music – Percussion
  • Gardening

Overall, it seems like a short list for my 52 years compared to what Jarod achieves in just 4 seasons of the show. But the point is: If we give the time, we can learn and master a number of skills to the point of becoming what my High School English teacher referred to as a “true renaissance man/woman”. This is one who has amassed knowledge in a variety of skills for practical application – they are highly adaptable to any challenge. They can pick up a new skill with ease.

These are the people who survive, those who can do anything. They see learning as a vehicle toward problem solving or keeping mobile.

I think you said to me once that you will eventually “learn to cook” via youtube. I reckon you have to have your back pressed against the wall in order to get there. But know that curiosity, in addition to interest and necessity, is key to ongoing learning.

Be nosey, ask questions, find out why. Don’t accept the current situation as is and believe you have no influence in the path or outcome of the situation.

Sharp Dresser

This month I took your father out to get him properly attired for events. He had gained weight and no longer fit into the one suit he owned since high school.

Read that last bit again.

Yeah. So I want to impart on you a rule that was imparted on me regarding staples in your wardrobe.

At the very least, while you are on a fixed budget, you should have what I call the interview, funeral, wedding suit. It works triple duty. It should include 1 power tie, 1 soft casual tie (pale/patterned in nature) and 1 dark tie. You should have two button down dress shirts for this suit. One white dress shirt and one of a pale/pastel color (gray, peach, ivory, blue) but whatever that pale color, it should coordinate with the casual tie and/pr dark tie.

When you get established, then you should expand your wardrobe to have a warm triple duty suit and a cool triple duty suit. (one for summer with lighter fabrics and one for winter with heavier fabric)

And you should then expand your wardrobe staples to have one sport coat. One that goes with jeans/khakis. Again, as you become more established, you will want a summer one and a winter one (winter == tweed/herringbone).

All the while, you should be frequently trying on said suiting to be sure they still fit you. If they do not, you should replenish/replace pieces as needed. Never get caught having to run out and buy whatever in haste. Bad decisions are made in a rush.

And expect this shopping to take hours with a tailor. Because well-made men’s suiting is not finished and ready to wear. It has to be tailored to your body and finished. If you buy ready to wear, expect it to wear out and be ill fitting. Take the time to get a good suit.

You are your father’s son and I hope you have his metabolism and not mine. If you have his you should be able to keep a suit for years without replacement. However if you follow me, you will need to restock/replace often due to the various weight fluctuations. Be mindful.

I know in the grand scheme of things this is the furthest from your mind; but it’s the little things I will want to mention to you before I am gone.

Fully Vetted Mates

We all think we are good judges of character. But as the reporters of Dateline would prove, it’s just not necessarily so.

The person in which you invest your time, affection, loyalty and devotion should be a person you fully trust. Their family – you would fully trust. The people with whom they keep company – you would fully trust.

I learned of a young man who is about to get married to a woman who, from all observations, should have given him enough red flags to never propose. Walking into an already established family when never having one is hard. but then top that off with a mountain of debt, and a family history of murder/suicide…

Walk away, brother, walk away. You do not want to be the highlight of next season’s Keith Morrison narrated, edge-of-your seat episode.

You’ve spoken that you have not found “the one” and there is a hint of bitterness laced in that statement. That you may never, because of your height. Though I am here to say that you will find the one at some point in your life, and now is far too soon.

You are too young to get married. You have yet to live. I mean really live. So I want you to really take an inventory of what you would be able to live with and what is definitely a hard pass. What would motivate you to walk away and never look back.

I’ll give some topics for consideration

Will you want to live the rest of your life with someone who

  • Is disliked by everyone you know? (They cannot get along with anyone you care about)
  • Is a hoarder
  • Is involved in or has/had committed a crime for which they served jail time.
  • Has killed a person or believes killing a person is a justifiable way to solve a conflict.
  • Talks down to you as if you are incompetent, childish or unable to think for yourself?
  • Berates your way of doing things
  • Controls with whom you speak/associate to due to insecurity and jealousy
  • Cannot take care of themselves due to a psychological or addictive reason.
  • Is constantly in debt or behind in their bills.
  • Has little to no respect for your belongings
  • Is unkind to animals or children.
  • Is racist.
  • Is fanatical about a belief you cannot accept.
  • Maintains the idea of marriage equates to a 1940’s role of man == provider and partner == dependent.
  • Uses physical aggression in an argument.
  • Cannot or refuses to share in the household duties
  • Has a history of cheating on their partner

Of course, there are more picayune reasons to walk away from a relationship; but really, the above should always be deal breakers. Do not let someone manipulate you with some challenge to your resolve/ethics or self esteem.

If someone plays into a weakness of yours to manipulate you to a proposal – like a fear of being alone and delivers an ultimatum such as,

“I expect a proposal by <insert timeframe here> or we are through!”

Your response had better be, “Thank you for the notice, we are indeed through.”

Additionally, just because your friends are marrying all around you and starting their families, this is not a competition or a race. Your life’s path is yours and there is no falling behind or getting ahead. Do not let others’ expectations dictate when you should find a life partner. You may end up settling with someone who is simply not the person you are best suited experience the rest of your life.

Be choosy. You deserve the best.