Sermon for Lent 4B

Originally posted on Mar 18, 2012

Syrian rebels ignited a new front Friday outside the capital, Damascus, in the first significant fighting there since regime forces swept over the suburbs weeks ago. The clashes highlight the shifting nature of Syria’s conflict, with rebels lying in wait to rise up when the regime turns its guns elsewhere.

-San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 16, 2012

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee today accused the Congress of engineering the ‘revolt’ by Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi and asked her party MLAs to go back to their constituencies and tell people that the Trinamool did not endorse the budget presented by the minister.

-The Indian Express, Mar. 16, 2012

With al-Shabab on the retreat in the face of gains by African Union (AU) forces in Somalia, the militant group is looking for new avenues to exert control both in and outside of Somalia.  The group is focused on recruiting Kenyan Muslims to revolt against, what they term, state-sponsored oppression directed against them.

-Voice of America, Mar. 14, 2012

Political revolutions leave chaos in their wake. Republicans cannot shut down their presidential nominating contest because the party is in the midst of an upheaval wrought by the growing dominance of its right wing, its unresolved attitudes toward George W. Bush’s presidency and the terror the GOP rank-and-file has stirred among the more moderately conservative politicians who once ran things.

-E.J. Dionne, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mar. 15, 2012

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”

-Our Numbers passage, written roughly 3500 years ago

Charles Darwin proved that evolution takes place over millions and millions of years, and nowhere in the Bible is it more apparent than in our Old Testament passage today. When people are unhappy, they do their dead-level best to let their leaders know about it. That hasn’t changed in centuries. In a lot of cases, people rise up against leaders with whom they used to be very happy, and such is the case with Moses. Everything was going great- the Israelites had been delivered out of slavery, and they were headed to the Promised Land. As time went on, though, there were certain… problems.

First of all, the desert known in the Bible as Kadesh is the current-day Negev. It is one of the driest, hottest places on earth due to its location east of the Sahara. They were no doubt suffering from sunburn, heat rash, heat stroke… to the point that “survival of the fittest” was taking its toll.

Second, the same people that rejoiced when God sent manna from heaven now thought it tasted terrible, and to top it all off, there was little to no water to wash it down. Whether it was actually terrible is a moot point- they’d been eating it day in and day out for YEARS. In short, their complaints were valid. It was miserable. They may have been slaves in Egypt, but at the end of the day, they could drown their sorrows in the farmer’s market with melons… and olives… perhaps a nice bottle of Claret. They had no idea where they were going or how much longer their current reality was going to be one of hard struggle just to stay alive.

That is when things go from bad to much, much worse. God is angry that the people have lost faith, and the hot, starvation and heat-crazed Israelites are now the hot, starvation and heat-crazed SNAKE BITTEN Israelites.

All of the sudden, Moses doesn’t look quite so bad. The Israelites beg Moses to go and intervene on their behalf with God.

Here is where things get interesting. God tells Moses to make a bronze snake and wrap it around a rod, so that when people were bitten by the snakes, they could look up at this makeshift, portable statue and be healed. My first question when I started researching for this sermon was, “WHY?” Why didn’t God just destroy the snakes? That’s when it hit me. God didn’t change the snake bites. God changed the Israelites. In order to be healed, the Israelites had to look straight at the thing they feared. God didn’t take away the pain of being bitten, God gave them something to take the pain away AFTER THEY ALREADY HAD IT.

In modern-day Portland, God is doing the same thing for us… even though the snake bites are almost always metaphorical. The economy is sinking businesses left and right. There are millions of homeless people. There is gang violence, addiction, mental illness, physical illness, communities and individuals that are aching for a cure.

But God doesn’t offer that. God offers a refuge to heal pain as it is happening, when we are willing to look straight at what scares us the most.

Because a cure would have been destroying all the snakes that bite us in the first place.

The difference between a cure and being healed is in the details. As we read in the meditation, taking blood pressure medication cures high blood pressure… but it doesn’t relieve stress. Anti-inflammatories ease the pain in my wrists, but they don’t get me to stop typing all the time.

So often we reach for a cure, when what we need is healing, and that is the message that runs through our Gospel lesson, as well. I am sure that for those of you who grew up in the church- no matter what the denomination- I could wake you up in the middle of the night and ask you to recite John 3:16, and you could do it. However, I sincerely believe that when that verse is taken in isolation, it leaves out the most potent part of the story.

In the same way that God asked Moses to make a bronze serpent to heal the physical pain of a snake bite, God sent Jesus to heal the emotional and spiritual snake bites of the whole world. I use the phrase “whole world” intentionally, because Moses creating the bronze snake was specifically to heal God’s own people- Israelites, and specifically, Jews in covenant with God. The crucifixion was not only meant for Jews, but for Gentiles as well. The gift of a place to look for healing was extended to everyone, whether they were currently in covenant with God or not… John writes, “Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.’” Whoever. Believes.

That is the good news of the Gospel, but the next verses are the crux of our relationship with God. “Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

THAT IS AN INVITATION.

There are so many people that think Jesus’ message is grace, meaning that there is nothing you can do to get God to love you any more… or any less… and they’re right. However, those people are seeing the light of Christ for a moment, when what God is really offering is the light of Christ for a lifetime. It is a covenant that starts out with the initial promise of forgiveness no matter what… but in order to have a sustaining relationship with God, we have to do the work.

So, if God offers healing for all of the snake bites the world has to offer, why do some people prefer to, as Jesus says, “live in darkness?” Most of the time, it is not a matter of malicious intent, but a lack of understanding how to get there from here.

In preparing for my sermon this week, I called a friend of mine who is a transplant surgeon at the Liver Institute at Methodist Hospital in Dallas. Let’s call her “Dr. Anthony” (mostly because that’s her name). We were talking about the differences between curing and healing, illness and disease. One of the things that really struck me was when Dr. Anthony said, “some patients are overwhelmed with being well.” At BEING WELL??? WHY???

For people that have dealt with long-term illness, they have gotten comfortable with the role of Sick Person.™ Faced with the prospect of getting well, they’re having to cope with things that they haven’t had to deal with for a long time. Bills, housework, kid taxiing, you name it- all of these things are frightening to contemplate when it seems like there is a rushing river of activity AROUND them with no concrete entrance. Trying to jump in with both feet often leads to depression for people who are used to other people managing their lives- their only job has been wrapped up in the cure of their physical disease. The process of healing emotionally and spiritually is daunting.

Dr. Anthony also said that people who receive transplants are often guilty and angry after surgery, and she has to give what everyone on her service calls “The Tiffany Talk.” Intrigued, I asked her to give it to me. Instead, she responded with a story.

“I had this patient who was ordering the nurses around, being unpleasant to everyone around him- to the point that the nurses called me about his behavior. When I got to his room, I said ‘you have been given the ultimate gift of life, and you are being horrible to everyone that has rushed around trying to save you. Your actions are a DISGRACE to your donor’s family.’ By the time I left the room, he was in tears.”

I said, “because they feel guilty that the gift is so huge that they can never repay it.”

Often when we fall short in our covenant with God, there are elements of both these ideas. Doing the hard emotional work to become whole and healthy in the spiritual sense is just that: hard work. So often we rely on the grace of God because it is easier than staring straight at the things that frighten us… and the gift of refuge that God has given us through Christ is so big that we don’t have the first clue of how to repay it.

Dr. Anthony’s response to her patients goes something like this… “you do not realize how big a gift you have given to donors and their families. For the rest of their lives, they will be able to say that they saved someone else’s.” When you do the healing work required in your relationship with God, living in light takes on new meaning. You are more able to let light shine through you to others. God’s gift in sending Christ as healer for the world is God’s gift to us. How you use it is your gift to God.

Amen.

Sermon for Proper 29, Year B

The following is a re-post of the sermon I did on November 25th, 2012.

Christ the King Sunday was invented by the Roman Catholic church in 1925 as a celebration of Christ’s lordship. It is the very last Sunday in the liturgical year- we start fresh next week with the first Sunday of Advent. In the new paradigm of power with instead of power over, when you ask most preachers what they’re doing for Christ the King Sunday, they immediately tell you how they’re going to preach about Thanksgiving.

Christ the King Sunday is not an easy topic for preachers because a lot has changed since 1925. Congregations all over the world are put off by the topic of Christ as a King… Ruler of all our hearts… dominion over the entire world… a living, breathing, professional Christian superhero who knows all things and leads our lives in the direction he chooses fit.

Additionally, the phrase “reign of Christ” gives a lot of people the heebie jeebies. It brings up images from the past that don’t sync with our modern view of Jesus… like when the Bible was used to advocate slavery, anti-semitism, misogyny, violence against gays, and anything else that could possibly be justified having a Lord over all would imply. Because a Lord over all means that basically, we can pick one side of the story, and that side of the story is good enough for everybody.

Has the practice of anything that I just mentioned completely gone away? Especially in the United States of America in 2012, ask yourself: “Is there still slavery? Well, maybe not in the US, but certainly across the world.” “Is there still misogyny? Well, it’s all over the place, but at least in the United States, you can make the argument that it’s more polite.” “Is there still discrimination against same-sex couples? Yes, some people are fighting for their lives as we worship.”

It’s STILL. ALL. HERE.

That side of the story hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years. People are still struggling every day with fear and loss and pain and all the other emotions that encourage them to grab power where they can. In some parts of the world, the Bible is used to browbeat people into believing that the Bible provides religious leaders with a power they don’t have… the power to change what God believes into what sounds suspiciously like their side of the story. Moreover, since that story is “God’s” story, it cannot be challenged or changed in any way.

You could also make the argument that liberal Christians are also creating their side of the story. Jesus as anti-hero. Jesus serves instead of reigns. Jesus couldn’t possibly agree with the story that’s been created for him by fundamentalists, because the conservative evangelical story sounds so, at best, old fashioned, and at worst, mean spirited and petty. Liberal Christianity sounds suspiciously like our side of the story.

What about people of other religions? Whether Christians choose to persecute or welcome them is decided on a case-by-case basis. Coexist has become a convenient catch phrase for a lot of Christians, but how well we practice inclusion of other faiths is, to the people of those religions, their side of the story.

And then there are the people standing outside of Christianity, looking at all Christians as one group and lumping us all together as one body, one belief, one set of customs. What they believe about us is just as important as what we actually do. In a lot of cases, perception is reality. How we come across to the world outside of Bridgeport to people who are either unchurched or have made a conscious decision not to attend is their side of the story.

With so many sides of this one story, our human story, the question begs to be asked: whose side of the story is Jesus on, anyway?

For you, does it get more personal than that? I know it does for me. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been in a situation where I’ve made poor decisions based on only knowing one side of the story. I, as everyone does, have a singular lens through which I see problems bigger than me. I find out later that there was a crucial piece of information I missed, and I crumble. I argue with myself that I did the best I could with the information I had, but if you’ve ever really stuck your foot in it, you know that saying is useless.

I rage like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer, in the famous scene the day after he’s been left at the altar. His ex-fiancee is listing off everything she hates about their relationship, and Robbie, Sandler’s character, says, “Once again, things that could’ve been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!”

It is exactly that point at which we find Pontius Pilate. Theologians have argued and will argue which side he was on for millenia to come. I choose to believe this one: Pilate didn’t know the other sides of the story.

As a non-Jew, I’m not even sure that Pilate knew what was going on. He was a prefect of Judea, which meant that he had jurisdiction, but very little is known beyond that. Who knows how much he’d taken in about the Jewish faith, the laws that governed it, or the power players involved. Before Jesus was brought before Pilate, he was tried in a Jewish court by the Sanhedrin~ basically the governing body of Judaism in the region. Who knows what Pilate understood about that process, or why Jesus was in front of him in the first place. For starters, Pilate couldn’t even see a crime… at least not in the traditional sense.

Jesus was no help. Was he the King of the Jews, or wasn’t he? Did he blaspheme or didn’t he? And if he had, why would the Sanhedrin care so much about it that they were willing to put Jesus through what turned out to be a very public execution? Pilate made the only decision he could with the information he had. And then, venturing into fiction, I think he probably vomited into an urn. Because that’s what happens when you know you don’t know something, and you don’t even know how to put your finger on what it is… and very real consequences are riding on your mistake. Your stomach hurts. You get dizzy. You want to roll back time and do things differently… especially in Pilate’s case, where there was a very permanent solution to what seemed to him like a temporary problem. Jesus was probably just a nut job. But that didn’t mean he needed to die over it, did he?

The other side of the story that will never be known is what would have happened had Pilate really understood the concept of Jesus’ kingship. For all of Jesus’ incredible works and amazing way with words, he often did not help himself by speaking where other people could understand him. If you asked a simple question of Jesus, you were often on the receiving end of a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Pilate says, “what have you done?” and Jesus replies, “my kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

I’m sorry. What?

I can feel Pilate’s frustration. I can imagine him desperately trying to think of something to say that won’t upset the crazy man in front of him. “Ok, Pilate… speak softly, no sudden moves… when am I going to learn that when they say ‘take a vacation,’ I really should go…”

Pilate just didn’t get the concept of living in two worlds. I mean, what would happen in the modern day if I said I was Queen of somewhere, but you couldn’t find it on a map and I couldn’t really take you there unless you died?

Pilate didn’t get it, but Cecille Bechard did. I found this while looking for research on my sermon, and it illustrates the concept of living in two worlds perfectly:

Cecille Bechard is a Canadian who visits the United States several dozen times a day- when she goes to the refrigerator, or the back door, or to make tea, for instance. To read and sleep she stays in Canada, and she eats there too if she sits at the north end of the kitchen table. Mrs. Bechard’s home sits on the United States-Canada border. The frontier cuts through the kitchen wall and across the sink, splits the salt and pepper shakers, just misses the stove and passes through the other wall to sever the Nadeau family’s clothes line and cut off the candy counter in Alfred Sirois’s general store. Almost anywhere else in the world, Mrs. Bechard might need a passport to take a bath.

Cecille Bechard lived in two worlds without even thinking about it. Jesus lived in two worlds the entire time he was on earth, intentionally and with great care. For Cecille Bechard, the boundaries between the two were clearly drawn out on a map. For Jesus, each world weaved in and out, one from the other, to the point where his two worlds were one in his mind.

The problem came in when his two worlds clashed with everyone else’s. People were just beginning to understand his side of the story, and they didn’t always agree with him. Most of the time, understanding of Jesus’ story was through small groups of people, not large crowds. I have to believe that this was intentional as well. When I am teaching a small group of people, I find that they listen more intently. They ask better questions. I am more assured that the information I have tried to give them has actually stuck. I have heard their frustrations, and I have given them answers. I am comfortable with what I teach because computers do not have an emotional story. Logic dictates that in every if, then statement, there is a right and a wrong answer.

And yet, the condition of being human diverges sharply into several thousand right and wrong answers, all based on different answers to the same story. How can we ever get it right?

The Good News of the gospel is that no one ever does. In just about every verse in scripture, we are faced with someone making a decision without knowing the full measure of the situation.

So if there is no perfect answer, is there at least a good one?

I choose to believe that the answer comes in stopping everything you are doing. Stop making it worse! Stop making it better! Sit down. Make a pot of tea. Go to the store and get some of those little cookies you like while your Earl Grey is steeping. Take your tea and your cookies and find a big comfy chair. Don’t even think about moving until those cookies are gone and you are attempting to read your tea leaves. Spend some time alone, in the quiet, and slowly enter the river that is divine consciousness. Create a space for God to speak, because when God is speaking to you, you are listening to the one voice that has heard every side of every story. Ancient wisdom to modern slang. Every thing and every one that has ever come into being is in that divine space.

It will take time for the answers to come. It will be minutes, hours, before your mind is still enough to take in wisdom that is of you and in you and divine all at the same time.

When wisdom comes, sit in the center. Let it wash over you in only the way that peace can. This time, you have received wisdom. Next time, you might give it.

The reign of Christ is at hand, right here in our world, but it not of our world. It is every side to every story that has ever been written, or ever will be. It is a unifying thread that runs through every being on earth. All you have to do is sit still enough to find it.

The question that’s begging to be asked, “whose side of the story is Jesus on?” has a simple answer: “mine.” With that belonging, though, comes the responsibility to say- out loud- “but he’s also on everyone else’s.”

Amen.

Hits

Good God. I’ve become the blogger I didn’t want to become… again. I suppose it’s a natural thing, like going back to what you know, but I didn’t expect it to take hold this fast. I am literally a slave to my post views, as if I’m expecting to explode overnight. I’m like one of those people who constantly watches their stock portfolio, instead of concentrating on the overall picture.

I’m also constantly thinking of new things to write. I make mistakes because I’m trying to get content together. The true Catch-22 of blogging is that if you don’t pay attention to your hits, you will wind up in obscurity. That’s because every time you post, you give the Google bots a chance to find you. Other people come in and leave their contact information. You visit their web site and leave your URL. More hits.

If things go right, you’ll end up like Dooce. Dooce has been my hero since she first started blogging. The blog starts with writing about struggles with her Mormonism, her job, and her life in general. The blog started to explode nationally to the point where she was able to support a family just by posting, taking great pictures, and talking about herself.

Man that seems rude, talking about yourself.

Until you realize that you can’t write about anything else, because writing something else would never satisfy the need to communicate with your soul. It’s the need to express the things going on in your life so that your friends and readers can come along and say, “Oh my God! I felt exactly like that when…” The trick is to write well, and to open yourself up to both criticism and praise. If you don’t, then you’ll get down when the trolls attack you and your hits are exclusively created by bots and not readers.

Writing well is about taking an experience and making it universal. With some things, I just can’t do that because the situation is so weird that you can’t equate it to anything else. But with almost everything else, you end the post with an invitation to action, even if that action is as small as a smile of remembrance.

Because smiles of remembrance lead to sharing, building more than a web site. Building an online space where people can come to commiserate, laugh (often in spite of themselves), and leave comments that will interact with me, but more importantly, allow my readers to interact with each other.

If your blog can’t run independently of you, you’re not doing it right. Because these are the same people that will read you over and over again, not because you’re that great a writer, but your web site is where all their friends are.

At first, I thought Facebook was the way to go. I have a built-in audience of over 600 people there. However, with Facebook, you really don’t have the design control that you do with a real blog. At this point, it is more crucial than ever to create hits, because unless I’m missing my mark, most people get their “friend news” on Facebook and rarely venture out into other areas of the web.

That’s why Dooce is so special. She was before Facebook, and she grew this web site into such a juggernaut that she’s been a Jeopardy! question.

I can only hope that I can create that kind of safe space on my own web site, where we can get together and start talking. We’ll share and share and get through life together. Thank you for making me part of your life.

I need the hits. :P~

entropy

In a space where life is disheveled, you have to create your own structure. For someone who is ADD, this is not all that easy. I cope with it by having a writing schedule. Without fail, I am at my computer by 9:00, and I am writing… whether it’s crap or not.

Sorry you have to suffer through these posts. I know they’re kind of scattershot, and so do you, but you’re willing to read me anyway until I get this whole posting schedule thing down. Because right now, I don’t have the luxury of a back stock of entries. I can’t just tell the web site to post something incredible on a schedule, because I’m starting from scratch (and by that, I mean cron jobs, not that the computer can post for me. My computer is a moron).

It’s as if my body is saying that it doesn’t care whether I’m tired or not. There is new content to be delivered and t-shirt graphics to be fixed and the house is a mess and nothing will get done if I think of everything I have to do as one large mass.

I get overwhelmed and panicky, as if the nuclear bomb is already set and I’m just the guy standing next to it. I’m not even quick enough on my feet to be MacGruber.

My one saving grace is Google. I’m not kidding.

If you let it, Google will save your life. Their calendar app alone is worth signing up.

For truly heartfelt instructions on how to set up an .ical feed, leave a comment. I’m not typing up all that stuff for my non-nerds. 🙂

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is hard.

Forgiveness is so, so hard.

Forgiveness is hard because it has its own therapied vocabulary that, in the end, does work. But it doesn’t erase the questions around why you had to forgive in the first place. Those are the tabs that stay open in the Firefox of my mind.

Some of forgiving and being forgiven is about learning new words for it. There are three outcomes to a conflict, and they rarely change:

  1. Both people are happy
  2. Both people are miserable
  3. One person gets what they want, and the other person doesn’t

The first two are easy. The last one will keep you up at night. Both people being miserable might seem hard, but you can go to sleep knowing that both parties are in equal pain. Only one person getting what they want is damned unsatisfying.

However, if you’re the person that got what you wanted, there’s really no reason to go over and re-negotiate. Why should you? You got what you wanted! The other person may still have unanswered questions, but it’s ok. Your part is over. Go drink a margarita and celebrate your victory. Good job! You’re done.

If you are the one who didn’t get what you wanted, no margarita for you. Because you have more important things to do. You lost. You’re covered in loss soup with loss croutons on top. You have been beaten, and it hurts.

Time to pick a therapist. Mine is a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt (Today is Free Cone Day), but do what works best for you. Preferably both. Get a therapist to think about your grief, and get the ice cream to forget so that you can put down an impossibly large mind worm.

If you’re on the right track, though, the impossibly large mind worm is going to start with yourself. Taking credit for what you did wrong seems counter-intuitive, but it’s not. By admitting your side of the story, you are releasing yourself from a situation “that happened to you,” into a situation in which you have some control. You may think that someone is withholding information from you, but really, you’ve just missed the signs that have been cropping up all along. In our humanness, we have a tendency to just stop communicating because we have no idea how to say what we need to say. Often, when the truth is what’s necessary, it’s avoided and covered up to save someone’s feelings.

It’s a human trait to try not to hurt people (or, at least, I hope it is). It is also possible for passive aggression to lead to thermonuclear war. The longer you lead people on, the harder it gets to extract yourself. Waiting to tell someone the truth morphs with the lie until you believe it, too. But the other person doesn’t know that. Doesn’t see the way you pull away because they aren’t aware of the possibility… aren’t prepared for the possibility.

If there’s anything we as humans hate, it’s to be caught off guard. It makes people angry because it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to think of how much time you’d been doing something wrong and been denied a chance to make it better. It’s embarrassing thinking about how long this person must have been “putting up with you,” because no human wants to be an obligation. When you call someone on something they’ve been doing for a very long time, they tend to respond like a wounded animal because they didn’t know there was a problem in the first place. It’s injustice. It’s more painful than the explosion that would have happened when you were angry, because it would be over.

Carrying around a grudge against someone is like accepting their resume and never calling them back. They’re hanging on to the hope that they still might get an interview, and you’re concentrating on your anger so much that every day that resume sits on your desk, you’re adding more wood to the fire.

Passive aggression is kindling for emotional destruction. Send a response, even if that response is “I hired someone else.”

Dark

I always get those memes that ask questions like, “tell me something that I don’t know about you.” Sometimes, answering those questions are hard, like, “I have to pick just one?” Today, that answer is easy.

Because I grew up as a preacher’s kid with very specific instructions on what I could and could not say (self-imposed, being the oldest child), I am an avid fan of cringe comedy. My heroes are Jim Norton, Bill Burr, Bob Saget, Lisa Lampanelli, and the list goes on. Before you go through my list of comics to hear them, let me warn you that Bob Saget is the dirtiest motherfucker you will ever hear in your entire life. He’s not the “safe one of the bunch” just because he played Danny Tanner on Full House.

Actually, come to think of it, I think Bob Saget is as dirty as he is for the same reason I’m as dirty as I am. It’s a rebellious phase. It’s lasted a while. Maybe we should see a doctor.

This has caused no end of hilarity and confusion as people realize that I am funny, perky, innocent, child-like, etc, and at the same time, when playing Cards Against Humanity, the black card was “How did you lose your virginity?” The white card I put down was “African children.”

I’ll wait while you gather yourself. Yes, I am that dirty.

I only have three or four friends who can go down that rabbit hole with me who I know for sure won’t disown me, because they know that I’m just going for the cringe and I don’t mean anything harmful by it at all.

It’s just the one time that the mask comes off, and I’m not pretending to be anything other than who I am… a middle-aged white woman who is tired of being a middle-aged white woman and all the implications that come with it.

Cringe comedy is a way not to be invisible.

The Scary Gays

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article. It creates a thunderstorm of emotion for me, because it is an exact description of the kind of crap I’ve lived with my whole life. The good thing is that now I have better answers than when I was a teenager.

When I was in middle school/high school, the gender roles “wave” hit hard core. I wasn’t sure I was a lesbian, but I for damn sure didn’t want to be a “woman.” By that, I do not reject the fact that I am female. I reject all the bullshit that is required to be “a lady.” I dress the way I dress and talk the way I talk (and write the way I write) to expand what it means to be female. I do not, in any way, want to feel that I am for sale. I do not want to dress so that men look at me that way, that tantalized look that says “I want her, and she’ll give in eventually.” I genuinely enjoy male company when it’s just “being one of the guys,” but when the same guys turn around and look at me differently because I don’t have the same parts, I’m out of there. In short, I dress to protect myself, and it confuses me. I don’t want to be part of the weird gender-assigned roles that argue I should be submissive to men, and I don’t know enough about myself to judge whether that’s totally weird or not. Stay tuned.

It’s hard to step out of my comfort zone, because to me, dressing up is putting yourself out there. I turn on the charm and flirt with everyone, male or female… also in protection because I think if I’m funny enough, people will focus on that instead of the outward shell. If I punch you with humor, you’ll be laughing too hard to notice anything else… like my baseball cap with REALLY short hair underneath. If I’m lucky, you won’t notice I’m gay.

It’s true, and I didn’t even put that together until now.

Growing up in the South taught me that I wasn’t normal at an early age, and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. I just wanted to be me, and it seemed like everyone had an opinion on whether I should be gay or not. Never mind that I could change my sexuality as easily as I could change my eye color. Actually, I could change my eye color easily with contacts, and that would turn out as real as “being straight.” It’s a mask where authenticity should be.

Moving to Portland and out of the Bible belt allowed me to start asking who I really was, because Portland doesn’t have a problem with gay people being affectionate in public. I do.

I friggin’ remember all the gay bashings in the Montrose. I remember getting royally hassled at High School for Performing and Visual Arts- a school that would lead one to believe I’d be safe(r). It’s a good thing that when bad things happen, it makes for good writing. I wrote a lot.

I come by it honestly, and I’m still working on it. In the meantime, though, I have to believe that I am hilarious.