Friday, May 25, 2012

Voids and Music

Spuds is driving quite well and I've canceled the order for the dashboard defibrillator. I even let Mr. Learners Permit take the treacherous 110, now renamed, for an obscure reason and at considerable expense, The Arroyo Parkway. After a weekend of intense practice in the vicinity of the Glendale DMV Himself accompanies Spuds for the driving test. Unfortunately, the examiner discovers a blown turn signal bulb and the appointment is rescheduled for two weeks in the future. I can feel Spuds aching, like his brother before him, like me, to just get in the car and go. Wherever.

Spuds drives to school every morning. We've exhausted all of the non-filthy hip-hop material on his I-phone so I've taken to playing mine. He hasn't heard much REM and I play Murmur and remember a cassette I received in the mail nearly 30 years ago. It was labeled in my cousin's impossibly tiny script. I was living on Occidental Blvd. a block from the notorious Rampart Police division and right under the Hollywood freeway. I always remember it as the apartment where I first heard REM. I try to describe the sense of revelation to Spuds and I'm pleased that he likes the sound. Certain of my favorites like The Hold Steady and Jesse Malin are reviled by both of my children. I get that there is a certain distinctive vocal quality that they dislike. Conversely, the kids enjoy a more profane style of hip-hop than I can endure. But we understand each others' preferences. We make each other gifts of music that we would not necessarily listen to ourselves. I am happy that while our tastes diverge, my kids take after their parents and know that music is an essential nourishment and not a frivolous indulgence.

While we love that our kids adore music we are not above storming down to their basement lair in the middle of the night screaming “Turn that shit down!” More three a.m. rafter quaking is in store as Joe College is returning home after what was presumably a successful freshman year. Parents do not receive grade reports, only bills. Maybe they don't want us to fret about whether we're getting our money's worth. Nevertheless our big boy is undoubtedly looking forward to a summer of Netflix, cranking up our old vinyl records and partaking of a full refrigerator. I suspect the cast on the his arm, while beautifully illustrated, might be an impediment to his quest for gainful employment. This could result in a grim fate for all involved. Mom's office.

Spud's grudging labor of last summer yields this week a sale from a film he's archived. We'd put the kibosh on a number of Spud's summer possibilities for fiduciary reasons so we decide that the proceeds from the clip he found will generate a well worn-in first car. In 1974 my own dad traded film for my first ride, a 1967 Dodge Dart. Dad justified this with my work writing film descriptions. I hope Spuds loves his first car as much as I loved mine although I hope he is a better driver and way less stupid.

The grocery shopping and eating dynamic will change as I make the adjustments for the palate of our returning sophomore-to-be. I know the peculiar likes and dislikes of all three members of the nuclear family. If I make a casserole I only include a single ingredient that anyone dislikes so I can evoke the “You can pick it out” defense. I try not to include more than one taboo ingredient per entree so it is only when Spuds is dining elsewhere that I would prepare a dish that contains both raisins and olives. Some nights I prepare a casserole comprised of a starch, a vegetable and a protein combined with only a single ingredient that is found distasteful by any member of the family and nothing at all that would be reviled by two members. Other dinners are comprised of separate protein, starch and vegetable. If I've prepared a casserole Himself picks the ingredients apart and eats each component separately, starting with the food he least likes and culminating with his favorite. If I have prepared and carefully seasoned three unique dishes, Himself mashes everything together into a mound. We also have an issue with paper napkins being reused for days at a time.

When both of the kids are gone I sometimes prepare a sample empty nest dinner comprised of English muffins, a can of sardines and a sliced tomato. With one boy in college, and the other on the verge of driving and starting his senior year of high school, soon the empty next meals will be more frequent than the family ones. The more my fussy children are out in the world, the more they appreciate my cooking. This comforts me when I fret about their inevitable growing up and get wistful about the looming void. I will miss having the two of them under foot but there is an intimacy that defies distance. I know what they like to listen to and what they like to eat. I have them in my clenches but good. For the rest of their lives there will be foods and songs that will inevitably make them think of Mom.

I will not ever not be a mom. My challenge is to cope with the decreased requirement to physically mother. For twenty years I've played the mom card instead of chastising myself for poor progress in the self-actualizing department. I've written for as long as I can remember but not much has come of it. I complete the manuscript for a memoir back in September. I want editorial input and the friend I choose to grapple with the thing is unable to complete it. I begin to outline several stories during the waiting period but I am unable to get a fresh start on anything with the big project unfinished so I've essentially wasted eight months with a piss poor excuse. Impatient, I foist the book off on another friend who is an intimidatingly fine writer. I hear nothing for several weeks and then I get a brief e-mail stating that the book is “fantastic.” I respond confessing that his opinion has rendered me giddy. The terse answer to this is “It still needs a lot of work.”

I pick up the edited manuscript and if I didn't know that his overall opinion is favorable I'd be pretty devastated as notes like “cliche” and “saccharine” appear with embarrassing frequency. I accept however that these comments are apt and that indeed there is a lot of work ahead. But it's cool at least to know that I've actually got a large scale project that has been deemed worth more of my time. It takes me several weeks to muster up the courage to tell Himself that I've enrolled in a workshop on the presentation of personal essays before an audience. I am sheepish about confessing to wasting time and effort on what I imagine others perceive as a pipe dream that I should grow up and get over. I do have adolescent fantasies about MacArthur genius grants and how neat it would be for everyone who ever belittled me to learn that I'm a well regarded writer. But really I would be quite happy just to be able to call myself a writer. I can refer to myself as a mother and blather on about my great kids easily and with pride but it is very difficult for me to refer to myself as a writer without feeling like a poser asshole. One kid returns to college in a few months and the other is scheduled to fly the coop next year. I will always be a mother but as the demands grow less rigorous perhaps I'll have no excuse to also become what I wanted to be before.

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Am Sally Draper

Sometimes we debate about the best of television. The Sopranos and the Wire are obviously among the best of the best. I would add the remarkably subversive Breaking Bad to the list. A lot of seminal shows, like I Love Lucy, are memorable, but more as historical artifacts. There are scads of programs laudable as great popular entertainment but only a handful that transcend this and are destined to be studied and revered as passionately as the works of Shakespeare or Mozart. I'm smitten with Mad Men, which in my opinion belongs in the pantheon of high art TV, but this week's episode particularly blew me away. Betty and Don are divorced, having had three kids together. Betty is now remarried to a political functionary and she and the kids live in his old family mansion. Betty's gained a ton of weight. It is suggested that she still carries a torch for Don, whose new wife is young, trim and sophisticated. The Draper's eldest daughter, Sally, would have been born in the late 1950s, like I was.

There's an essay in the New Yorker by Adam Gopnick which explores nostalgia in culture, particularly vis-à-vis Mad Men. Gopnick theorizes that the cultural pattern is to hark back about forty years. As we as we reach midlife it is satisfying to explore our childhoods from a mature perspective or for a younger audience, to paint with color their parent's oft told tales. Mad Men is often rich with poignant reminders of days bygone but watching the most recent episode I experienced more than a saunter down Memory Lane. Fat Betty attends a Weight Watchers meeting. This was all the rage in the mid sixties and my mother dragged me to my first meeting in about 1964. Back then the program required the consumption of fish five times a week, in four ounce portions for lunch or eight ounce portions for dinner. Beef was restricted to three meals a week and in this episode, Betty discovers her husband cooking a steak in the middle of the night. He confesses that he's sick of fish. I was given Weight Watchers frozen dinners and remember choking down a huge piece of dry haddock a couple times a week. One of my current Weight Watcher buds is also a lifer and we reminisce about old treats, including diet Shasta soda prepared with unflavored gelatine and a “Danish”consisting of cottage cheese with vanilla extract and saccharine slathered on toast and topped with cinnamon.

The authentic depiction of the early Weight Watchers experience was incredibly potent but the portrayal of young Sally's navigation between mother and stepmother is heart-stoppingly accurate. Even decades after the fact it is reassuring to know that I was not alone in my experience of this, although it is very painful to watch. Fat Betty arrives to pick up the kids at their father's swanky Fifth Avenue apartment after their weekend visit with him and his new wife. Betty, once the height of fashion herself is now relegated to a fusty old mansion in the 'burbs and the matronly selection of plus- sized clothing that was available in the 60s. Seeing the ultra-modern impeccable apartment and the nubile new wife provokes Betty to some real nastiness and sets up the unwitting Sally to put it into play. My own mother, like Betty, resented my stepmothers and heedless of the effect it would have on me, often plotted to stir up trouble.

I lunch with an old friend who has evolved from participation at a slick, Reform Hollywood synagogue, to rigidly Orthodox practice. His first wife is gentile and therefore, by virtue of his current religious affiliation, his adult children, despite having had (Reform) Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, are not considered Jewish. The situation is far more complicated than could be unraveled during a lunch or particularly a short paragraph here, but my friend's children no longer communicate with him. I think the rift is due largely to his embrace of Orthodoxy and consequent tacit rejection of his own, now non-Jewish, children.

My mother and sister were estranged for long periods. I had my own knock down, drag out fights with Mom. If I ever experienced even a nonce of the venom and resentment I felt for my own mother from my kids, I would open a vein. Spuds is taking his driver's test and Joe College is able to manage the treatment of a broken wrist with only a couple of phone calls home. They are naturally gravitating out of my orbit and I am at the stage in motherhood where it is realistic to strive for quality, knowing that quantity will become less and less of an option.

I beg Number One son to come home to see his brother in the play and he obliges. I bring a frozen dinner to each of the performances. I assiduously avoid the sweet and savory treats I strive to make appear appetizing and abundant as I plate them. Because Sunday is the final performance of the play, requiring the break down of the concessions area and cast party it occurs to me that there will be no celebration of Mother's Day for me. After the Saturday performance I ask Spuds if he's hungry which is an incredibly stupid thing to ask a teenage boy who is in the middle of a growth spurt. His brother has just arrived in town and agrees to meet us at an all night joint in Chinatown. We suspect that the management must drug the health department sanitation inspectors. Spuds and I descend to the dining room down a short flight of stairs. I hold the handrail as Spuds bolts down the rubber matted steps. “Sticky,” we both mutter in unison. Big boy arrives and I see his cast for the first time. There is a perfect ink sketch of the hand and wrist bone with a small arrow indicating where the bone is broken. He reports that “a girl” drew it and in that my kids are absolutely mum about their personal lives, at least I like the idea of a girl (and a talented artist, no less!) holding his arm for the hour or so it must have taken to illustrate the cast.

The restaurant is filled with mariachis, who finishing their Saturday night gigs, cross the bridge from East L.A. An ancient abuela arrives with her large family. Five waiters are unable to get the antiquated wheelchair elevator to operate so the grandsons gently lift her from the chair and carry her down the mucilaginous steps. We order three dishes and they are delicious, particularly so I guess after a week of Lean Cuisine. The kids shovel it in and there are still leftovers enough for two meals in the fridge. The bill is $17 and the server is delighted with her $4 tip. Midnight pig outs with the two kids will be less and less frequent and by the time we finish eating it is officially Mother's Day and I've never had a better one.

There are four performances the second weekend and I am so hammered that twice I leave for home without locking up the cash box containing more than $2000.00. Fortunately, the theater staff finds it and secures it but I take this as an omen that after twelve years of peddling cupcakes it is time to retire. I am lucky to find an enthusiastic (for now) replacement so the Sunday performance is my swan song. Number One son has a ticket for the last show. He is unable to use his GPS because the cigarette lighter in his car which powers it is on the fritz. Himself, unable to grasp that some people are less directionally inclined than he is, has drawn the boy a map. Himself's carefully rendered maps have always been of only decorative value to me and the boy calls ten minutes before curtain, hopelessly lost. Being navigationally retarded myself I have one of the other parents try to right the boy's course, to no avail. There are several heated phone conversations. Voices are raised. Tears are shed. I know that pathetic sick feeling of being utterly lost and late. Finally I convince the boy to just park the goddam car and call me when he figures out the intersection. The play begins and I use Siri to guide me to the City of Commerce, about 8 miles from the theater, via heavily congested freeways. I find the kid and he follows me. He is embarrassed but grateful that Mom knows the way to go.

The kids stop by my office during the week and order pizzas, a vegetarian one for themselves and pepperoni for the employees. I am surprised during my walk to the beach that when we traverse Pico/Robertson and there is a poster for a Lag Ba'omer celebration, I can't for the life of me remember the significance of the holiday, although neither could the rabbi's daughter walking beside me. Reading up now I discover that it is the 33rd day of the counting of days between Passover and Shavuot. Our Jewish practice has diminished over the years to the mere lighting of Shabbat candles, token observance of the heavy hitter holidays and abstinence from pork and shellfish. Joe College reaches for a slice of the pepperoni pizza. I tell him I don't really like him eating treyfe in front of me and add that I'm considering invoicing him for a refund on his Bar Mitzvah. He says, “OK Mom, I'll take it off. He carefully removes the slices of pepperoni and forms a neat stack, which he pops into his mouth. His face is lit with such naughty impishness that I just shrug.

The kids balk about the handful of temple visits we make during the year. They tolerate Shabbat because we speed through the blessings, I make a better than average meal and it is the one night of the week with guaranteed dessert. During the first few weeks of college, the freshman is a bit at sea and I encourage him to seek out the campus Hillel and he looks at me like I'd suggested he attend a Coldplay concert. Soon, he gets acclimated and reports having made some friends at the tiny college. A bunch of his college friends come stay at the house and I overhear discussion about Torah and realize they are all Jewish. There is even a picture on Facebook of my little pepperoni eater attending a makeshift Seder with half a dozen other Jewish students.

Betty Draper resents her ex-husband's glamorous life with great fervor. Betty's fury blinds her to what consequences her machinations to bring down her ex and his new wife might have on daughter Sally. In a Chicago Tribune review of Mad Men, Maureen Ryan writes, “you could almost sum up the AMC drama by calling a prelude to Sally Draper's inevitable years of therapy.” I wonder how Sally has fared in therapy and if she's grown to understand her mother's brokenness. I wonder if Sally is able to parent without the hobbling fear of wounding her children or pushing them away. I hope Sally is able to forgive and love her mother for what she was. I hope that Sally feels secure that her own children love her even when they choose to do things their own way and reject things that are important to her. Maybe Sally's mother didn't deserve her daughter's love and acceptance but I hope Sally is sufficiently healed to proffer it anyway.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Mother Load

May is particularly poignant for me because my sister Sheri's birthday falls within a few days of Mother's Day. This will be my third holiday without a mother of my own. It is Sheri's 69th birthday and I have to pull her death certificate from my office file to confirm that she has been gone now for nearly 13 years. She was spared the death of both of her parents, and missed the bar mitzvahs of her two nephews and the wedding of her granddaughter.

My mother and Sheri were estranged for several years. When it became clear that Sheri was losing her battle with multiple sclerosis I took my mother to Las Vegas for a visit. The nurse was making Sheri presentable when we arrived. My sister's ex-husband had pawned all the furniture and there was only a mobility scooter that Sheri was never strong enough to operate. We sat on folding chairs at a card table and through a crack in the bedroom door we caught a glimpse of Sheri's leg. My sister had always been an ample girl and my mother had not seen her in several years. The leg was fleshless and withered, evoking grizzly holocaust photos. My mom's face at the first glance of Sheri's leg is probably the most palpable grief I have ever witnessed.

It is children's theater season and I am in put upon/control freak mode. Other parents work hard and are good sports for the sake of the kids but after twelve years, I just get more and more cranky. We use a gorgeous theater which it is impossible to reach without passing through Skid Row. I am proven wrong in suggesting that the dicey location would have an averse effect on ticket sales as the shows are sold out. My own objection to the areas is not that I feel particularly at risk but that it is difficult to juxtapose the degraded hordes just a few blocks away with our own board trodding privileged children.

I am not good with pain and suffering and although it's been dissed, I think Jeffrey Eugenides' chapter in his novel “The Marriage Plot,” about working at a Mother Teresa mission in Calcutta is a cunning depiction of our ineptitude at facing the human condition head-on. My niece, the daughter of my sister, is enduring chemotherapy for the treatment breast cancer and I shout out to her from here once in a while and “like” (will Facebook trademark the word “like”?) the pictures of her in wig du jour. But I haven't called or sent a lot of e-mails, shamefully ineffectual and unable to take that extra step to confront her suffering.

We used to hold a Mom's Night Out on the Saturday before Mother's Day. The hostess of the last soiree passed away about six months ago, after suffering miserably for a long time. Since the memorial I see her husband at a few social events. He is honest about his grief at the loss of a wife who was an extraordinary human being and one of the smartest and funniest people I have ever met. I drop food on his doorstep but I hold his sorrow at bay. I do not invite him over until a week ago. I might have postponed this even further but I left some drink bins I need for theater at his house after the memorial. I ask him when he'll come to dinner and how he is. I am optimistic that he might indulge wistfully that it's getting a little easier but he practically explodes, “I'm great and I'm bringing somebody.” I am curious about who is being brought.

I accept the challenge of another forced march from Silver Lake to Santa Monica before I realize it is a theater weekend. I can't bear to wuss out so I meet up with my fellow walking moms at 6 a.m. The number of participants has swollen from our original three to sixteen and the pace is way brisker. There are a few women I've only seen at parties and I am introduced by name for the first time to a familiar face. I am advised later in happy whispers that this is the lady who's responsible for the “I'm great!” response and she who is going to be brought.

Drivers arrive intermittently to fetch the five moms who set out with no intention of walking the entire insane route. A familiar looking man with silver hair pulls up and I do a double take. It is my widower friend come to retrieve his new gal pal. I did not recognize him. He looks decades younger than he did several months ago. There is a collective pitty pat of hearts as he whisks her away. Someone reports that he says he still cries when he thinks about his wife and we marvel at the heart's infinite capacity for both sorrow and joy.

We compare notes about the first year of college. I share my wistfulness about Spud's imminent departure and how I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what will be left of me after twenty years of full throttle residential mothering. Nine out of sixteen make the finish line but there is some grumbling about bait and switch, as our destination is Santa Monica but the restaurant chosen by our leader, that we finally descend on--like friggin' wolves--is actually spitting distance from Venice. I enjoy a convivial salmon lunch and am transported back crosstown. I have a three minute public service shower and rush off to theater where I help set up and sell concessions for five hours in order to raise money for the theater group that's been the center of my kids' lives for over a decade.

The phone rings at three in the morning, although this is sentence almost as hackneyed in its foreboding as Bulwar-Lytton's “It was as a dark and stormy night.” Joe college says he's broken his arm and is uncertain how to use his insurance card in the event that he is able to locate someone sober enough to drive him to the emergency room. I am pretty sure that if I'd hadn't worked concessions and walked twenty-one miles I would have been on the road to Redlands instantly but I can barely reach over to pick up the phone. Fortunately, the boy is able to locate and awaken a teetotaler with a driver's license.

An X-ray confirms that number one son's wrist is indeed broken. I explain how to make a doctor's appointment to have the arm set in a cast and how to pick up a prescription and that no, it isn't a good idea to double-up on the Vicodin. I do not chew him out for riding a skateboard, or even being awake at, 3:00 a.m. I do ask him to come for Mother's Day and he, in the middle of a big school project, says he'll try. I picture him in a cast. Will people sign it or is he too old for that? I have never had a broken bone except a finger that was slammed in the bathroom door due to an errant overall strap. I imagine a broken wrist as I mince an onion or type on the keyboard. I see the boy, in pain, waiting in a hospital emergency room. The guilt at having been too tired to drive down and attend to him still stings a bit but I am proud of myself for being a bit less helicopter and accepting that my son has to hone some independent coping strategies.

I forgave my mother long ago and have accepted that I will never understand what formed her. I still have to stay vigilant about not letting Mom's imperfections weigh on me. Nevertheless, when I am overwhelmed, my first impulse is always to call her. Then, I realize I can't and I recite her phone number to myself like a mantra. Shortly after her last visit with her older daughter my mother succumbed to dementia and I presume the snapshot of her emaciated child faded away with so many other sorrows and joys.

For those of us whose brains have not yet quite so atrophied, wounds stay fresh. I would like to be stronger and brave enough to take on the suffering of others without feeling obligated to end it. It is important not to sweep grief and sadness under the rug but also to let the heart's infinite capacity to savor sweetness act as buffer. Sorrow heaped on sorrow. Wasting illness. Inevitable death. Bones mend. People fall in love again. I hope my boys forgive me and accept that there are things that formed me that they will never understand because I don't understand them myself. I hope my children aren't at sea when I am no longer there for them to call but I hope they remember my phone number.
Shabbat Shalom. Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Respite from Selfless Altruism

Himself is back in the classroom and Spuds has rehearsals so I've had a bit of unsupervised time to bottom feed. My nadir perhaps is Toddlers and Tiaras. I have actually trained myself to look away from car accidents and I even reach over and cover the eyes of my passenger at the slightest possibility of mangled steel. Yet, I am almost giddy when no one is home and I can sit with a bowl of popcorn and watch this camp fulfillment of The Drama of the Gifted Child. Alice Miller's seminal study is not about brainy kids or prodigies. It examines parental expectations and the adult consequences borne by children who were raised to act out their parent's dreams. Toddlers and Tiaras really takes this to the max as even infants are gussied up and sexualized. The pageant circuit requires an enormous outlay of cash although pageant prizes are meager excepting great big crowns and trophies. Kids are professionally coiffed, made up, spray tanned, coached and many parents report being financially bust after spending thousands of dollars for a single costume or an elaborate prop. It's way over the top but also eerily anachronistic and maybe I wouldn't want to step into the time machine to check out the future and how these girls fare as adults.

Actually, I can watch RuPaul's Drag Race out of the closet and Himself even confesses that he finds some of the contestants sexy. It's another glitzy beauty pageant show but has a much more affirming subliminal message than Toddlers and Tiaras. The show is funny and raunchy but also fascinating. A successful drag queen has to spend a lot of time deconstructing things feminine and these perceptions, from the outside looking in, can be riveting and somewhat unnerving. The show captures the fine nuance required of great drag and gives talented performers exposure beyond the fringe. There is of course requisite kitsch and bawdiness, for example, the competitors are judged based on Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent. Anagram anyone? Nevertheless, the message of self acceptance rings through all the silliness and it is gratifying to see a group that's historically been so marginalized hit the mainstream with such a splendid sashay.

The casts of Sixteen and Pregnant and Teen Mom are often kindred spirits to the Toddlers and Tiaras crowd. The shows are completely formulaic and obviously more than a little staged but they certainly improve the karma of Jersey Shore broadcaster MTV. The point that teenagers are ill-equipped to raise children is hammered home heavily. The participants are apparently well remunerated, so while we see them wrangling with a newborn in a squalid setting, both Mom and Dad generally drive nice cars. The little white lies of the show don't bother me because it is propaganda at its most brilliant and is crafted to paint a pretty accurate picture of the fate of teen parents.

MTV makes another stab at social responsibility with the wonderful Savage U. Dan Savage has written the syndicated column “Savage Love” for years and frequently appears on This American Life and Real Time with Bill Maher. For the MTV show, Savage visits college campuses and answers student's questions about sex. Savage is so easy going and matter of fact that Himself notes that the show, while very fun, is almost bland. I love the comfortableness that Savage models with regard to sex as well as his emphasis on respect and responsibility in addition to gratification and pleasure.

Weirdly, Savage is at odds this week with another of my heroes, writer Jay Michaelson. In addition to being an elegant writer, Jay holds a JD from Yale Law School, an MA in Religious Studies from Hebrew University, an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence, and a BA Magna Cum Laude from Columbia, and he's currently completing a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought at Hebrew University. His mom must way out kvell all the other ladies at the beauty shop. Savage and Michaelson are both gay but each consistently deliver, eloquently, messages rich in universal appeal.

At a high-school journalism convention two weeks ago, Savage said, “We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people … the same way we learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery...” When a few presumably religious kids walked out, Savage called them “pansy-assed.” Savage, the mastermind of the wonderful “It Get's Better” anti-bullying campaign, does so much good it saddens me to think that this might undermine it.

Jay Michaelson points out that Savage suggests that the only alternative for homosexuals of faith is to separate themselves from religious communities. Savage apparently does not see the irony of encouraging further marginalization nor does he seem to be up on his bible studies. I note that Savage professes atheism but declares himself “cultural Catholic.” He attended, in Chicago, one of the last high school seminaries. I don't know the details but perhaps the environment fomented in Savage some negative feelings about religion. I will add too that unlike most Protestant and Jewish religious training, Catholic education is much more focused on the doctrinal than on the scriptural.

Michaelson clarifies, “We do not need to “ignore” what the Bible says about gay people, because the Bible says nothing about gay people at all. “Gay” is our construction of sexuality, not the Bible’s. What the Bible does discuss, in six verses out of 31,005 in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, is a set of specific sexual acts, in the context of drawing boundaries between the faithful and the Canaanites, "pagans," and so on. With no more textual acrobatics than we apply to basic moral norms like “Thou Shalt Not Kill”—which despite its seeming clarity is universally understood as not applying in cases of capital punishment, war, or self-defense—these extremely limited verses can be understood literally, narrowly, and with virtually no application to loving, same-sex relationships.”

I presume that Dan Savage's personal experiences have colored his opinion about faith and the bible but I hope it dawns on him that quest for inclusion should not pertain only to institutions that he can relate to. Still, I've saved every episode of Savage U on the VCR and told the kids it's mandatory viewing. When I'm out of the room.

Spuds reports that the third episode of the HBO series GIRLS is hilarious but just like Savage U, we don't watch it together. The series has been panned for portraying 20 something girls engaging in sex that is joyless and demeaning. Based on my own recollections it is however so dead-on that it gives me heebie jeebies. It also makes me sad, as having been raised to believe that sex was essentially a commodity to be exchanged for material stuff and feelings of self worth, I thought maybe things would better for our daughters. Even though modern girls usually aren't out for a meal ticket, self acceptance seems far too equated with sexual desirability. The anchorless Hannah, the character 25 year old series creator and writer Lena Dunham plays herself, returns again and again for ungratifying sex.

Lena Dunham is astoundingly talented. I hesitate to use a term that's way over bandied but the girl's a genius. While when I was in my twenties I would have insisted on being called a “woman” and not a “girl” I was also at sea and searching for mooring in all the wrong places. The character of Hannah is, as confessed by the creator herself quite autobiographical but Dunham is absolutely ruthless and unsparing. And extraordinarily human, loathsome and then loveable in the blink of an eye.

Spuds won't have rehearsal next week so he'll probably watch GIRLS downstairs while I watch it in the living room. Maybe he'll get through all those Savage U's I've been saving for him too. I am optimistic about the increase in openness there's been since my own coming of age. I hope my kids don't have the same hang ups and misconceptions about sex that I did. I hope they are able to discuss sexual issues freely and without self consciousness. Just not with me.