Saturday, March 26, 2011

You Only Think You Want To Be Married To Lloyd Dobler

All of us have -or at least I hope we all have- an internal filter that goes off when we start to say the wrong thing.  I call mine my "Not helping, Sister!" filter and sometimes its not quite as effective as I would like for it to be.  Earlier this week was one of those times.  I tried to be Switzerland when someone called on me for some female solidarity. 

I guess this blog post is my chance to say what I didn't get to say that afternoon.  It will probably cause at least a few people who read me to mutter, "Throwback." and delete me from their RSS feeds and bookmarks.  Oh, well.  Here goes...

Okay, you have every reason to assume that I'm going to be sympathetic with your significant other's desire to spend an afternoon at Big!Huge!OutdoorManlyManEmporium! with the guys looking at fishing lures and deer pee and whatever else they look at when we're not around.  However, you are probably coming to this conclusion for all of the wrong reasons.  Let's get this out of the way right now.  Yes, I work in a field that has been traditionally the domain of male interest and is still dominated by men.* I enjoy the company of the people I share a camera perch with and am lucky to cover a group of guys where are decent and drama-free. 

In spite of the fact that I spend a large portion of my week knee deep in all things macho, there are times when I just want to be around other people who have voices as high as mine and talk about shoes and knitting. Does this make me anti-male because I want time with my girlfriends?  No.  The flip side to that is that your husband's or boyfriend's desire to do  things with his buddies is not anti-woman or anti-you or anti-anything.  It's a healthy desire to identify with his own sex whether it entails sitting in a duck blind at dark thirty o'clock or comparing the munsell scale of tubes of cerulean blue acrylic paint at Plaza. 

As his life partner, you should be his best friend and his favourite person in the whole world. As his BFF and his FPItWW, you should also recognise that he needs time with his friends following his interests just as you should be wanting time with your friends following your interests.  Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person seemed to have no friends and no enthusiasm for anything beyond spending time with you?  Does it sound like something out of the movies?  Is it the manifestation of the fantasy we're all supposed to have where Lloyd Dobler steps right out of the screen wearing his trench coat and  blares his damned boom box full of Peter Gabriel at your bedroom window? **

Let me tell you from personal experience that being completely, totally responsible for someone else's happiness is a bigger burden than you think it's going to be.  Let's face it, even if you did end up with Lloyd Dobler, the first week you might be thinking, "Lucky me waking up next to Lloyd Dobler! He looks just like 80s' vintage John Cusack. I done good!" But from roughly Wednesday of the second week on, he'd be telling you that all he wanted in life was to be at your side while you'd be thinking, "Please, for the love of God! Go read a book or something!"   I've been there and believe me, the man who looks to me to complete him is the man who will cause me to run for the hills with my trusty shih tzu at my side.

So listen, girlfriend.  He was complete when you married him or you wouldn't have wanted him. Does he want to spend ALL of his time with his friends instead of you?  No?  Are his friends jerks or are they respectuful of you as the person he has chosen to be with?  Respectful?  Check.  Okay, then. The fact that he has a group of decent friends who are either happily attached themselves or are what Benjamin Franklin might have called "unclaimed blessings" and they think enough of him to want to spend time with him says a lot about his good character. Unless they're all out buying crack or hiring hookers, that time spent isn't hurting anyone.  If anything, it reestablishes that you trust and respect who he is. It should free you up to follow some of your own interests.   Just my .02.

*For the few of you who don't know, I'm a sports columnist and photographer. According to my BGBF, Kevin, who submitted a bunch of pictures to Getty (via his current media wonk squeeze) on my behalf last week and caused me to curl up in a closet and breathe into my yoga bag for twenty minutes, I am now the real thing.

**I've been told that "Say Anything" is supposed ot be the ultimate in Chick Movie romantic fantasies.  This supposition must have come from a focus group composed of two dozen male college students who were working on their degrees in marketing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

Responses to the death of Elizabeth Taylor have been varied.   Some people are bowled over by her physical beauty and acting talent. Others view her as tabloid fodder, famous for being famous.

I first encountered the work of Ms Taylor as a horse-mad tween. My late night sleepover TV fare usually consisted of scratchy local station prints of The Thin Man series, Hammer Horror movies and the sublime delights of Godzilla and his pantheon of clumsily destructive but sadly misunderstood monsters. One night whoever was at the switch at the Lubbock UHF station gave everyone a break from the usual silliness and ran "National Velvet".

I was enchanted. Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet Brown was pretty. She was smart and she was spunky. She rode horses. And best of all, she had the same color eyes as me. No "freaky devil blue eyes" as the fundamentalist crotch fruit loved to call my own dark blue orbs.* Miss Taylor's eyes? They were violet. I wanted to be Velvet Brown and race horses and have an adorable, crushworthy red-haired guy sidekick.**

I'm sure I saw her in movies over the years that followed but the next time she would impress me would be a little over ten years later. While working as a volunteer stitcher for those who needed help with memorial panels for The AIDS Quilt, I would often see the men seated around me stop what they were doing and glare at images of Ronald Reagan on the evening newscasts.

"Say it," someone would mutter.

"He won't," responded another volunteer, "He never does. He never will."

Everyone would shake their heads and get back to work as the list of the dead lengthened and Ronald W. Reagan refused to ever publicly utter the the words "GRIDS", "AIDS" or even "homosexual" while he was in office. All of this went on as many people who made his career in Hollywood possible fell to the strange virus that was cutting a swath through the LGBT community.

Not everyone would be so afraid to put themselves out there in order to help their friends. One night another famous face appeared on the news. It was Elizabeth Taylor, older, thicker, but still possessed of those blue/violet eyes and whatever personal reserve of courage she pulled from to breathe life into Velvet Brown.  Ms Taylor spoke up for the people who were abandoned by individuals who once declared their love but who now ran scared in the face of  men and women who thought nothing of declaring the purple, bruise like marks of Kaposi's Sarcoma to be modern-day Marks of Cain.   Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first people to lend her face and name to the cause of AIDS awareness, of extending mercy to people who were being subjected to what amounted to a witch hunt. She named the disease and she named the sufferers and she asked all of us not to forget them.

To be honest, I hadn't thought much about her lately, but in considering her very long, very storied life, her activism is the first thing I think of now. Whenever someone tells me that causes x, y, or z aren't my fights. I remember that living in the comfort of being part of the majority culture as a straight, white, heterosexual theist doesn't necessarily give me the automatic privilege of happy obliviousness of the lives of others. I will also remember that for may in my generation, this ethos was explicitly demonstrated and prescribed when Elizabeth Taylor did not turn  her back on her friends.
Godspeed, Ms Taylor! I hope your heaven is a place full of glamour, cute lap dogs, comfort and all of the friends you had to say goodbye to way too soon.

*Okay, the fact that I used to do a very good impression of Linda Blair as Regan and that this was the late seventies did not help matters. I offer this bit of data in the interest of fairness.

**My parents mercifully let me keep my crush on that movie; so for many years I had no idea that Taylor would grow up to change husbands the way John Mayall changed bands and that Mickey Rooney would grow up to be, uh, Mickey Rooney.