Observations from Inside the Closet - A memoir.
George Dallah - 09:59pm Nov 18, 1999 PST (# 378 of 385)
I remember being "different" for just about as long as I remember. I guess reflecting back on some of the dreams that I still remember at a VERY young age (involving men with hairy chests...which remain to this day, my weakness), I knew that I was not as perhaps some wanted me to be.
Several years ago, we got out the old super 8 movies and when I saw myself riding my first horse and clowning for the camera, I thought to myself "God, could I have been any more obvious?" Well, I suppose if I'd been riding side-saddle, that would have been more obvious.
I told NO one during my childhood years, prefering to just push it back. Even when I was a teenager I kept it to myself. Chasing after women who had no interest in my (who could blame them?) and even dating a few. Didn't seem to fool the tough guys in high school. Strange how in a home economics class full of guys, that there would be a pecking order. Guess who was the one picked on. That's right. Me. The only guy in the class that was friends with the 2 females in the class.
I'm still amazed that I made it through childhood without doing myself in. Being teased for being (I guess) effeminate, and since I was also overweight at the time, what was termed on Seinfeld as "male breasts" made me an easy target. Fag, homo, and all the other words were things I heard directed at me through my highschool years. And I was still in the closet.
I should perhaps state from the outset that I HATE my hometown. I think of them now as nothing but rednecks. I was shocked when I went with a fellow escapee to the one gay bar there last Christmas. Seems it's quite a happening place now.
Finally I went to university just when talk of "the plague" started up. No one knew exactly what it was. But I was terrified. I was still in the closet. I won't make excuses for reasons why. Just was. Afraid to come out. Finally just before school ended, I was meeting a classmate regarding a project we had to do. I don't remember the specifics, just the first kiss. Leaning over the card table (which is what I had as a kitchen table) and both of us kissing and wanting it at the same time. I've never had a kiss that resulted in such electricity since. We spent the next few days in bed, (and a week later I was delousing myself...but that's another thread)
After graduating, I got a job in the airline industry (totally unrelated to my degree). Suddenly, gossip went from who's gay, to who's straight? It was like falling through the looking glass. People didn't usually ask if I was gay, but when they did, I said "yup!" and that was that. It was really like living in another world.
Course some passengers where always there to remind me that there was "the dark side" out there, with their snide comments, since everyone knows that all male flight attendants are/were gay. (Although sadly, at my carrier, nothing could have been further from the truth)
My first real boyfriend was a priest. Couldn't tell anyone about him. Couldn't really share with anyone but my gay friends. Second boyfriend was HIV+ (this was back in 1985 when people REALLY weren't comfortable even talking about the whole HIV issue let alone know for sure what it meant). I was young, couldn't handle it, and though the guy treated me wonderfully, I just couldn't get past that fact, and competing with the ghost of his recently departed lover. Again, couldn't really tell anyone about it.
These days, I'm out to most of those that I consider friends, and to those that ask, but I still can't drop that bomb on my family. As I live overseas, I was going to do it several years ago...had planned a visit home specifically to tell my parents, but a few days before I was scheduled to leave, my dad died. My mom was so shell shocked she developed health problems of her own. I just couldn't dump that on her and then say....well, I'm off back to Japan, see you next year!
I suspect like most moms, she knows. Hello? I'm a 37 year old single man who sings countertenor operatic arias. As Nathan lane once said...."you do the math". Still, I just can't bring myself to do it. (And I will fiercely deny EVER quoting Nathan Lane ;-) Maybe this year will be it. I haven't decided.
I sometimes think that I'm the only one in the world that has no hostilities towards my parents. I really miss my dad, and love my mom so much that I can't bear the thought of hurting her in any way.
I haven't figured out if that makes me unselfish, or just REALLY selfish.
What is a Jew anyway?
Mind and Spirit
Daniel Abraham - 12:43pm Nov 18, 1999 PST (# 490 of 512)
The thing which most bothered me during my stay in Israel last year was the gulf between "secular" and "relgious" Jews. I dislike seeing it replicated here. I would like to see (a dream, I know, but bear with me) a respect on both sides of the divide for the way in which those on the other side take after Yakov and wrestle with God.
I believe that chauvinism on behalf of the accomplishments of the Jewish people is unjustifiable if the chauvinist is unwilling to inconvenience him- or herself by engaging that which created, defined and preserved the Jewish people (i.e., the mitzvot) from antiquity to the present. Many Jews have done so in a secular way, whether they recognize it or not; the non-religious Jews whose commitment to unionism and other forms of social justice are very much an attempt to implement the social justice of the Torah spring to mind. But I have also seen that the secular commitment to realization of the mitzvot does not survive for more than two generations as an identifiably Jewish impulse. And I believe that is unfortunate.
It is not, and will not be, the haredim that have created and sustained Israel. Nor will, nor have, the majority of the Jews in galut--or Israel for that matter--any desire to become haredim. But Klal Yisroel needs the haredim as an anchor--though they won't admit it.
At the same time, the haredim need those of us who are not of their number. Life is better for the haredim both in Israel and in galut because Israel exists--though they won't admit it. Life is better for haredim in the US because of the vigilance on behalf of religious freedom which is maintained by Jews whom the haredim consider appallingly secular.
All of us must wrestle with God individually. Those whose commitment is to full Torah observance should recall the adage "Four went down to a vineyard..." which refers to four sages contemplating the Torah; one died, one became insane, one became an apostate, and one emerged whole. Those whose interest lies in Torah alone should ponder whether they are not one of those who emerges whole, and--granting that possibility in themselves--look with less harshness on the struggles of their brethern. Those whose interest does not lie in Torah to the same extent should turn their backs on their birthright less quickly, and remember the transitory benefit which comes from exchanging it for the bowl of lentils which is life in the secular world.
I do not expect, ever, to live in the world of the haredim. But I find the dismissal of the haredim to be small-minded in the extreme. I do not believe Jews can sustain themselves within wholly secular life. But I recognize the Torah impulse in the lives of many secular Jews. And I would like to see Jews on both sides recognize that each of us wrestles with God our own way, and to forswear the impulse to hinat sinam.
Creative Writing Programs
carmen hermosillo - 11:35am Nov 16, 1999 PST (# 569 of 587)
meritocracy strikes me as a somewhat romantic idea, particularly when one is talking about the arts and the academic world. having worked for years in both universes, i find that experience has taught me that corporate politics do not hold even a small candle to those to be found within the culture & academic domain.
also i think it would be easier to accept the writer workshop/ grad program as something other than the literary equivalent of the vanity web site if the whole concept were not so painfully and self-evidently self-indulgent. it would also be easier to understand the financial and emotional investments that people make in these programs if the goal of art were primarily therapeutic.