Thursday, July 26, 2012

Go Write a Blog About It

Blogging is hard.

I know that sounds like the complaint of a whiny teenager, but I feel stupid writing here again after a six month hiatus without acknowledging this.

My book club just read “A Visit From the Goon Squad”. I devoured this one over the course of a week on Lake Michigan, and it rocked me. It restored my interest in fiction. And I knew I would love it early on, somewhere around Chapter Two, when Bennie was introduced and immediately characterized by his ruminations about shameful moments in his past. I do this. I have a mental reel of stories I turn on sometimes, titled “WHY WOULD I SAY THAT OUT LOUD?!”. The trailer would show scenes of me disclosing my sexual history to an entire classroom of future colleagues and speaking candidly about my history of depression to a shady news group that exploited my naiveté. All of these vignettes go towards a truth about me that I love but resent at times: I am not just an open book, I am a loud and reactive one as well.

So when I received some criticism about this blog, I shut down. I worried that I had done it again—put my self, and my sense of it, too far out there. I felt like the lesbian blogger equivalent of the Kardashians*, deluding myself into thinking that my personal experiences were somehow helpful to the masses. Despite all of the encouragement I’ve received from day one of this project, all it took was one flippant comment to derail my belief that this blog was a worthwhile exercise, and to create the fear that I was being perceived as self-serving and histrionic.

And then Lindsey left town for two weeks, which means I watched an excessive amount of Netflix documentaries. The topics ranged from Dr. Tiller’s murder to a small protest movement in support of a gay teen forced into inpatient reparative therapy, but the theme underlying each story was the beauty of standing up for what is right, no matter the obstacles. Each time the music swelled under the narrator’s motivational concluding message, I cried, and thought “Good for them. The world is better because of what they did.”

I don’t think the world will be better because of this blog. But, I will be better because of this blog. And if the issues I write about here inspire one person to get involved, that’s enough to outweigh the possibility that I sound like a politically-minded Kardashian.

*I totally watch the Kardashians.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Planning a Wedding with an Anxiety Disorder (or, Adventures in Irrationality)

Let's play a game. I'll give you a wedding planning scenario and some choices for how one could respond, and you choose the one that sounds closest to how you would react. Fun, right?!

You are scheduling a meeting with your caterer to discuss details like timing and linens. In order to make sure you pick a time that works for everyone, you start an email to those who will probably attend the meeting. You:
A) CC your partner
B) Send it to your dad and stepmom, who have been active in the planning process
C) Have a mild panic attack. Should you include your younger sister so she doesn't feel left out? What about the family friend who offered to help with the menu? And should you really send this to your dad and stepmom? What if they feel pressured to come and it ends up being a big hassle and they don't really want to go because who really cares about this stuff unless it's your wedding, it's NAPKINS. But if you don't send it will they think you're not taking their opinions into consideration? Maybe you should include a disclaimer that you totally understand if they don't want to come. But then it might sound like you don't want them to come, and you do want them to come, and that would hurt their feelings. Forget it, you'll deal with this later--just add it to your to-do list. Omg you have a 74-item to-do list. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a snapshot of what it's like to plan a wedding with an anxiety disorder. There are lots of stereotypes about crazy brides who freak out about peonies v. dahlias (dahlias, obvs) or which fabric to use for their aisle runner, but so far my anxiety has nothing to do with the actual wedding and everything to do with FEELINGS. I spend more time thinking about people's feelings than I spend actually planning the damn thing.

I should have seen this coming. It's not like before proposing I was a particularly zen person. I once called the national office of an NGO my sister traveled to Kenya with because she didn't update her blog for 4 days. I also called my dad and stepmom's boutique hotel in rural Italy (three times, while furiously typing "I need to speak with my father" into Google Translate) because they weren't able to email me and say they got there safely. My anxiety is probably one of the first things one would think of when asked to describe me, though I'm sure it would be euphemistically packaged as "extreme concern for those she cares about" or something social work-y like that.

So even though my "extreme concern" is not a new phenomenon, it shouldn't be surprising to me or anyone else that "extreme concern" + major life transition + event involving lots of people = raging hamster-wheel-inside-my-mind anxiety.

And it sucks, because it's not helpful to me or to anyone else. The ruminations and thought circles don't actually improve anyone's experience; we're pretty nice people in general, so it's not like a panic attack is the only thing stopping us from being assholes. I'm making a lot of assumptions about people's needs and reactions that might be (probably are) completely off-base, and also probably assuming that people care about the wedding and their involvement with it more than they actually do. But even though I'm probably not giving people enough credit the worries feel extremely real to me. I want to be the zen bride I read about on the indie wedding blogs and see in most of my engaged friends--focused on nothing but the marriage itself. I am counting down the weeks (31!) until I can promise my commitment to Lindsey in front of everyone we love, but I can't get out of my head long enough to really enjoy them.

I'm in therapy. I'm working on it. I'm trying this new thing where I remind myself that everyone is in charge of their own experience, not me. I'm trying to laugh at myself. But like any other mental health issue, it can't just be turned off or wished away. I'm hopeful that at least on the day itself (if not far sooner), I can let go of it all and just enjoy the moment. Until then, I'll be the one writing four drafts for every email.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just Say No to Saying "Homosexual"

“Language is not merely a means of expression and communication; it is an instrument of experiencing, thinking, and feeling ... Our ideas and experiences are not independent of language; they are all integral parts of the same pattern, the warp and woof of the same texture.” –William Chomsky

I believe in the importance of language. I believe in the power of words to do both harm and good. I believe that words are not just words— they are weapons, change agents, olive branches and identifiers. They are perhaps the most important tool we possess. So yes, I fixate on language. Some (many) might even say I harp on language. Annoying as it may be for others, that’s a badge I wear proudly. And as trite as it may seem, one of the words that makes me cringe the most is “homosexual”.

I get it. There’s no one word that works for everyone, and no matter what you say, you’ll probably offend someone.  Not everyone has reclaimed the world “queer”. Using an acronym such as “LGBT” forces the user to choose an order or hierarchy of identities, and either excludes people or becomes too long to use (LGBT vs. GLBT vs. TBLGA vs. LGBTAAQQP, etc.) “Gay” may offend the radical feminists of the 70’s. “Lesbian” doesn’t jive with many young gay women. And so on, and so forth. So I understand why people might gravitate towards “homosexual” as a neutral term.  However.

If you google “homosexual” and skim past Wikipedia and dictionary definitions, you arrive at the following:

1) What Causes Homosexual Desire ( (“Most of us fail to understand why anyone would want to engage in homosexual activity. To the average person, the very idea is either puzzling or repugnant.”)
2) Homosexuality ( (Basically, How to Avoid Being or Raising a Gay)
3) Homosexuality ( (Homosexuality is like being an alcoholic)
4) My personal favorite, a collection of old videos about The Homosexual Menace. “Boys beware!”

And it just gets better from there: Americans for Truth about Homosexuality! Multiple reparative therapy options! Research on homosexuality and finger length! (…Really? Nothing?)

Further, until 1974 “homosexuality” was a diagnosable mental disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (which remains the most widely-used manual for diagnosis of mental illness). That didn’t just result in some gay kids going to therapy (not to minimize the trauma I’m sure that caused), it meant that gays could be institutionalized against their will for consensual sexual behavior. It meant that gays couldn’t run for public office or work with children. It meant they couldn’t seek help for other mental health problems without having to work on their gayness as well.

All of this should tell you something—that the word “homosexual” has been used not as a term of endearment or empowerment, but as a stigmatizing, pathologizing and even demonizing word historically used to instill fear and discomfort—and that continues today (you don’t hear Hilary Clinton using the word “homosexual”—you hear crazies like Rick Santorum and Fred Phelps using it). No one says “Homosexual Pride Parade”; they say “homosexual agenda”. The term is used against us, not for us. Not with us. When I hear that word, I hear all of those awful contexts along with it. It sounds like oppression and discrimination and pain, to be frank. It makes me want to throw up and punch something at the same time. 

I don’t claim to speak for the gays of the world, or the gays of the country, or the lady gays, or really anyone other than myself. But I do know that I’m far from alone in my disdain for this word. So please, folks—think again before uttering the word “homosexual”.  It’s just gross. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Long December

When it rains, it pours—and those of us in Michigan know it has been a freaky, unpredictable, omg-the-world-is-burning-around-us kind of month filled with unseasonal downpours. Life since Thanksgiving seems to have mimicked this pattern. The holidays are always a bit stressful, but that was augmented this year by all of the little bugs that come with going through a major life transition. Navigating families and family time. Watching my anxiety control my actions more than I did. Sharing space with the wedding boycotter while she pretended nothing has changed, and far worse, the anticipation of that evening. Walking back to my desk after talking to our bank and slowly realizing that I’d just been blatantly discriminated against for the first time, and having to scramble to move our money because of it. Listening to politicians spout hate-filled, irresponsible lies about my life, my relationship and our future. Watching my state sign discrimination into law, again. My car dying, and desperately searching for a new one. It’s been difficult for me to write here through all of this. Each attempt left me feeling so overwhelmed that the blog became a source of stress instead of the outlet I had come to value. 

It has been a long December. But as my spiritual leader Adam Duritz tells us, this year will be better than the last. Our stressful car search fittingly ended just as the rain stopped and the snow arrived, restoring order and direction to what has felt like a chaotic and stagnant few months. As always, I’m reminded of the incredible privilege of sharing a life with someone who walks so gracefully with me through all of this and makes me laugh when all I want to do is throw things. 

Now that we are less than 9 months out from the wedding, planning is starting to pick up—and along with that, I anticipate more anecdotes worth sharing and more experiences worth processing. Expect to hear about coming out to strangers, navigating the legal process of trying to become a family, planning a wedding with a raging anxiety disorder, and the anti-gay political climate in Michigan. But also expect some updates about dresses and invitations, because everyone needs a little fluff sometimes. At least that’s what I tell myself when I watch the Kardashians. And the Real Housewives. I’ll just stop there… 

Thank you all for your continued support :) Please come back on Monday for a discussion of why the word “homosexual” makes me want to throw up and throw elbows simultaneously.