Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No, Thank You!

Back in August, the Husband and I went to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah for two of his cousins' children. You might recall that a good time was had by all.

About a month later, we received a thank you note that made me laugh so hard I cried. Just like the invitation to the event itself, the thank you note was addressed to "Husband and Guest." That was funny enough, but it really made me laugh when the card itself said, "Dear Husband and Guest ..." I joked with the Husband that this was his mother's doing. I imagined the following conversation between the Husband's cousin and mother:

The telephone rings. Mother stops putting pins in the voodoo doll and answers the phone.
I had a quick question for you. What is the Husband's partner's name? There were so many people at the party I think I missed his name.
I have no idea what his name is.
Oh. Really? I thought they'd been together for five years.
I choose not to know his name. And you'll make the same choice if you know what's good for you.

That's perhaps an exaggeration, but she does seem to make a point of misspelling my name.

But that's ancient history!

Yesterday, a card arrived in the mail. It was addressed to the Husband and I, correctly using both of our names, from the other cousin's child. Inside, it started out with great promise:

Dear Husband and Mark,
Thank you for the gift. I have used most of it. I'm glad you were able to come to my Bar Mitzvah.

The gift was cash, so it shows incredible forethought that he's kept such careful track. Perhaps he has a future as an accountant. But then things went horribly, horribly wrong.

It's signed, "Love," but then "Love" is scribbled out and replaced with, "From."

It made me remember what it's like to be thirteen, when you'd think that people would care if you signed a note, "Love," to someone who, when you get down to it, you probably don't love.

I can see the young man writing the card. He's in a groove, signing all these cards to members of his family, and then he accidentally signs "Love" on the one to some cousin he's never really met. He envisions the following scene:

There are lots and lots of wallpaper borders. Everywhere. Mark and the Husband are opening the card.
Oh. My. God. "Love?" He said he loves us?
Seriously? What is wrong with him?
He seemed very awkward at that Bar Mitzvah.
Yeah, but doesn't he know the difference between "Love" and "From?"
Apparently not.
I'm going to send him pink stationery for Hannukah.
I'm going to drive to his high school and tell all of his friends that he loves us.
That's a good idea.

I really don't miss high school.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Under a Pile of Boxes

Help! I'm trapped under a pile of boxes! Send food!

Well, maybe not, but it sure feels that way. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind, but we've made some progress toward inhabiting our new house. The kitchen is unpacked, at least, so it's not like camping any more.

There's a lot to share, though. First, the closing. It almost didn't happen. I got a call at 5PM the day before the closing, telling me, "It looks like it's not happening." The sellers had some sort of problem with the title, and they hadn't bothered to fix it in the two weeks we'd known about it. Now they were being obstinate about letting the closing attorney dictate how it was to be handled. Eventually they realized that selling a house was better than acting like fools, so the closing was back on.

There was a very special gay married moment at the closing. There are mountains of documents to be signed, and you eventually get into kind of a rhythm of signing one and passing it on to be signed by the next person. When we needed to sign some federal tax forms, though, the Husband and I had separate forms. I was briefly confused, more by the breaking of the rhythm than the reason, but the Husband and the attorney reminded me that I'm not married in the eyes of the federal government.

The attorney said something like, "That's one way that DOMA complicates things."

"Yeah, it complicates a few things," I laughed.

At this moment, the seller decided that she needed to prove her street cred with the gays, or something. So she started to tell a story about her cousin, who shares the same first name as the Husband.

"He's the nicest, sweetest guy," she said.

Ah yes. All gays are nice and sweet. We smiled and nodded. But ... there was a "but" coming!

"But I just had to draw the line at him flirting with my husband on our wedding day."

I think the attorney snorted a little, but she quickly buried herself in mortgage paperwork. The Husband and I were stuck, though. There was no obvious route away from this conversation.

The seller started explaining how her cousin thought her husband was "really hot." And she's fine with that! But the wedding day just seemed like inappropriate timing.

I hoped she was done. The Husband hoped she was done. The attorney hoped she was done. The seller's husband seemed oblivious.

The seller, however, was not done. And it was at this point that the uncomfortable conversation became a really uncomfortable conversation.

The seller started to explain how it wouldn't have bothered her, except that her husband seemed mildly interested in gay cousin's advances! Her husband kind of nods, as if to say, "Yup."

Finally the attorney lifts her head, and pushes a stack of paper at the seller. "You need to sign these."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Guest Post

I recently reconnected with a friend from college, Allie of AlliesAnswers.com. She's got a great blog about earth-friendly solutions to everyday living, and she's been incredibly supportive about my blog. She recently asked me to write a guest post while she's taking a well-earned vacation. (Well, "vacation." She's probably mothering orphaned seals or testing out her new solar-powered aircraft.)

In any case, my post went up today. It's about trying to keep an eye on the green while moving.

Thanks for the opportunity, Allie! I really appreciate it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Not Ready to Make Nice

The Dixie Chicks had it right.

Barack Obama thinks that "family should be off limits." He's right. Family should be off limits. But if Sarah Palin's family is off limits, mine should be, too.

How does that sound, Governor Palin? You stop using my family for your politics, and stop trying to legislate religion, and your family will immediately be off limits. Deal? No, I didn't think it would be.

And that's why I'm not ready to make nice.

My family is dangerous. It says so right in the Republican party's new platform. They support an amendment to dissolve my family.

But it's not just gays like me who need to be afraid. Sarah Palin wants an America where no one except Sarah Palin has any freedom.

Women are dangerous, and shouldn't be allowed to make their own choices. Sarah Palin opposes abortion in all cases, even when the mother is a victim of incest, or has been raped. (And once young women are forced to carry these pregnancies to term, Sarah Palin will help to ensure that they are homeless!)

Jews are dangerous, and they put Christians at risk with their refusal to accept Jesus as their savior. Sarah Palin attends a church which believes that terrorism is God's way of punishing Israel for not converting.

Science is dangerous. It teaches people how the world works, and helps them make informed, intelligent choices. Sarah Palin seeks to undermine science education and enforce religion in our schools by teaching creationism.

We've seen what happens when an ignorant leader tries to force his morality on America, and it's not pretty. John McCain's age alone means that a Palin presidency is a serious possibility.

There's too much at stake to make nice.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fly Your Freak Flag High

My best friend and I often find that we share a brain. We've known each other since early childhood, so I'm usually able to predict what she's thinking, or what her opinion on a given topic will be. We often alienate others with our connection, so we don't tend to have many friends in common. It makes sense -- no one wants to feel like the third wheel, and we're not very good at helping people not to feel that way.

One of the things that drew me to the Husband in our early relationship was that he didn't seem intimidated by our friendship in the least. To him, it simply was what it was. That's a fairly stark contrast to my best friend's husband, who, after twelve years, is only just beginning to feel comfortable. When I moved to California in 2003, I think he was relieved that there would be some distance.

A few years later, and I have to laugh that he's upset we're moving. We're moving about half an hour away, so I don't think it's really going to have much of an impact. But for a guy who nearly threw a party when I moved three thousand miles away, being upset about twenty miles seems ironic.

Back in early 2002, I was surprised to see a difference between my best friend and myself. We're different in plenty of ways, but I generally know what those ways are, so I'm taken aback when I find an unexpected difference. In this case, I hadn't thought that I would see an American flag inside my best friend's apartment. It was not long after September 11, and American flags were suddenly everywhere. They were taped inside the windows of cars, they were hanging on antennas, and they were outside so many homes.

To me, all the American flags felt like jingoism or artifice. Most people, I assumed, were using the flag as some sort of fad. And I think I was right -- those flags have been replaced by silicon bracelets for causes and Crocs. Those who weren't using the flag as a fashion statement I found even more troubling. It seemed to me that they were using the flag to usher in a new era of American backwardness -- rushing to war and constitutional amendments would soon follow. Again, I think I was right. The Bush Administration capitalized on the "You're either with us or against us" sentiment to lead the country down a very destructive path.

Voicing my concerns, I questioned why my friend was displaying the flag.

"You're absolutely right, Mark," she said. "I hate how people are using the flag, and what they want it to represent. And that's why I have a flag."

I didn't understand.

"Someone has to display the flag for the right reasons. I fly the flag to represent what I think America represents, and what I think it means to be an American. If we let every flag represent the Bush Administration, then they win."

She was right, of course. She almost always is. But it's taken a long time for me to return to a comfort with the American flag. I'm not sure that I'm there yet.

On my morning jog, I pass by a small monument next to a dam. It's inside the fence that keeps people from falling into the water. It looks like a tombstone, and there are two small American flags flanking it. I don't really know who the memorial, or the bridge which shares the name, remembers.

This morning, while going past the memorial, I noticed that one of the flags has fallen over. It was under some dirt, and obscured by grass and weeds. Wondering if any of the other joggers would notice, and think I was desecrating the memorial or terrorizing the local water supply, I climbed under a broken part of the fence. I picked up the fallen flag and brushed off the dirt on my t-shirt. Satisfied that the flag looked pretty good, I put it back into the ground, once again flanking the monument.

I don't know what the monument is for, but I know what the American flag is meant to represent.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wallpaper Borders and Paint Treatment Dreams

It's been a busy week! Last weekend, the Husband and I went to the Rhode Island International Film Festival, to see the absolutely adorable film Were the World Mine. Since the showing was fairly late, we planned to spend the night at my parents' house, just north of Providence. It's a good thing we did, because the film didn't start until nearly an hour late!

I drove down to my parents' house on Friday afternoon, with the dog. The Husband took the commuter train, and I picked him up at the station. When I picked him up, he said to me, "You know, it took almost exactly the same amount of time for me to get here as it does for me to get home from work most days."

We'd been looking at communities along the commuter rail lines, but we hadn't wanted to look quite as far outside Boston, thinking it would make his commute longer. Apparently we'd been miscalculating, and it opened up some new possibilities! No longer were we tied to properties represented by used car salesmen real estate agents.

We looked at some houses, and found one within walking distance of the train station. The price was right, and all of a sudden we were making an offer, going to a home inspection, and learning about the potential for ancient boilers to shoot through the roof. (A small, but exciting possibility.) The house is in great shape ... physically. The owners have made some interesting interior design choices, though. The dining room, for example, has a paint treatment that is best described as "Malibu Barbie's Tuscan Dining Room Retreat." It's pink and white, with blue and purple stenciled squares. I'm going to hold off on posting pictures until everything is finalized, but I'm hoping that my gay powers of family destruction can be directed toward my gay powers of increasing property values, and that before and after pictures will produce appropriate amounts of ooh-ing and aah-ing.

The rooms that don't have horrifying paint treatments tend to have their own little ugly accents -- wallpaper borders. I've been trying to find stores where one could purchase these atrocities, but my Google searches for "wallpaper borders that look like failed oil painting concepts" have turned up nothing. I'm especially partial to the border in the kitchen, which depicts straw hats used as planters for flowers. Aw. Maybe kitty cats playing with balls of yarn was sold out?

I'm hoping that my powers of interior design will quickly manifest. (Wait! What if they aren't genetic? Maybe they were a choice I've forgotten to make!)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"That's Permanent!"

On Sunday, the Husband and I went to five open houses. Some of them had some potential, but all of them had serious drawbacks. One house was large, but had a terrifying little kitchen that looked like Typhoid Mary had been the live-in chef. Another house was tiny, but awfully cute, and the upstairs looked some sort of museum homage to 1968. I think one of the dolls was following my movements.

The worst house was also the one where we spent the most time. When we arrived, we stepped in through the open door. I called out a couple of times, but no one seemed to be there. We went back out the front door, and that's when things started to go south.

The real estate agent was approaching the house. As he said hello, I immediately noticed that he was wearing a Republican National Committee pin on his blazer. I wouldn't advertise my political affiliations in a business capacity -- especially in sales! -- but to each his own, I guess. I also question the wisdom of advertising your Republican status in the suburbs of Boston. Seems like you're more likely to turn people off than impress them.

After introducing ourselves briefly, he said, "So are you brothers? Good friends?"

I held back my snort. "We're married," I offered.

"Oh," he paused. "Well, good luck to you."

"Um, thanks?"

This real estate agent must have been a used car salesman in a previous career, because he was big on the hard sell. I half-expected him to say, "What would it take for me to get you to drive this house off the lot today?"

The house is awful. The floors have just been replaced, but the flooring is buckling and bubbling. It's almost hard to walk. The house isn't helped by the fact that the guy who is doing the work is temporarily living there. There are little signs of human presence in scattered corners, and it looks as if someone has broken in and is squatting there.

We escape out the front door, but the used car salesman Republican National Committee real estate agent is laying in wait. He springs forward to attack:

"Have you seen the backyard? You'll really like the backyard."

As he leads us to the back of the house, I notice that the vinyl siding is in particularly poor shape. It's discolored, it's warped, and it looks like it's about to fall off in segments. The backyard has a lovely huge tree -- it's the only redeeming feature so far.

Now the agent begins his real hard sell on this awful house. He points out how sturdy the back porch is. This makes me wonder why a large stone seems to be holding the steps in place. He says that the roof is in excellent condition, and since I don't see any obvious holes, that might be true.

Then he tells us about the vinyl siding. "It's one of the great features of this house. That's permanent! You don't ever have to worry about replacing it."

Really? Even that part that's about to be on the driveway? It still protects the house? Fascinating.

As we finally escape, the Husband turns to me and says, "That part about the siding being permanent. Did he mean that as a threat?"