25 November 2008

This Teddy Bear has Teeth

Anybody read the ridiculous story about the guy who climbed into the panda zoo area? I know it sounds like the opening line to a really stupid bar joke, but it's for real.

Okay, so there's this guy in China who climbs into the panda zoo area...

What do you think happens? No, he doesn't die from that supreme act of silliness, but he also doesn't get the warm and fuzzy cuddles he was hoping for apparently. Instead he scares the crap out of a huge being with teeth. Granted they are the grinding and chewing sort of teeth rather than the tearing and ripping kind, but they do the job pretty well on bamboo stalks. According to one reference I checked, a giant panda can consume over 3500 stalks of bamboo in a day. Now that's a lot of chewing and grinding. It's the kind of chewing this one goofy young man was subjected to during his not-too-swift, nearly worthy of a Darwin Award, maneuver. The panda defended himself against the intruder by chewing on his arms and legs. Heck, he might have just thought they were a new kind of bamboo.

Anyway, that fool survived his trip inside bear habitat, but a drunk guy in the Ukraine this past summer wasn't so fortunate. He ended up being mauled to death by two brown bears when he fell into their pit while trying to get his picture taken near them. Now there's something wrong with this story on so many levels. To begin with, why is the guy drunk at the zoo? Do they serve alcohol at the zoo in the Ukraine or did he smuggle it in with him? Either way, getting drunk and then trying to get chummy with brown bears, whose teeth are the ripping and tearing sort, is not the world's smartest move. I have to wonder if he has been nominated for a Darwin Award yet.

Sometimes the human brain is a wonder to behold. And then stories like these surface. Makes you wonder.

Here are links to both stories in case you're curious.



24 November 2008

Simply Irresistible

Everyone once in a while I come across a quote by some famous person that moves me deeply in some way. Sometimes it's poignant, sometimes it sad, and occasionally it's a little shocking or funny. The quote I share with you today is one of the latter. They are the words of one of America's most beloved and influential First Ladies who, in case you're not up on your American history, quite possibly had a lesbian relationship with her long-time friend and companion, Lorena Hickok, known as "Hick." Only a few of the many letters written by Eleanor Roosevelt to Hick survived. They were preserved and published a few years ago. Many other letters, however, were burned by Hickok at the passing of the First Lady in 1962. The ones that survived certainly imply intimacy and affection between the two women.

Hickok was a well-known lesbian in her day. Apparently she wore masculine attire and drank scotch, which may seem a little tame in today's world, but would have tended to make her more than a little bit notorious in the 1930s. She also smoked cigars and played poker with the other reporters. She was one of the first female reporters in America. She covered the First Lady on behalf of the Associated Press until she was forced to resign because her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt "compromised her journalistic integrity."1 Hickok gave Eleanor a sapphire ring, which she wore on Inauguration Day in 1933. Later Hick moved into the White House and went to work for the Democratic National Convention.

While people try hard to deny that this relationship was lesbian in nature, you have to do more than your fair share of sticking your head in the sand to deny it successfully. One line quoted from an extant letter from Eleanor to Lorena reads, "I want to put my arms around you & kiss you at the corner of your mouth."2 I don't know about you, but I rather doubt that a woman who didn't love another woman romantically would write a line like that in a private letter, particularly when the recipient was a known lesbian. One wonders what might have been revealed in the letters Hickok later burned. I, for one, am glad that Hick protected Roosevelt's private thoughts and words, given the homophobic atmosphere that prevaded the country at the time of her passing, which still lingers in the political arena today.

All that aside, I share with you some of Eleanor Roosevelt's more public thoughts and words. They certainly allow a glimpse into the lively internal world of this First Lady:

"I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: 'No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.' -- Eleanor Roosevelt

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A493535
2. Doris Faber, The Life of Lorena Hickok: E.R.'s Friend, New York: William Morrow, 1980, page 111.

10 November 2008

One Small Step

9:51 PM PDT, July 12, 2008, updated at 7:23 PM PDT, July 30, 2008
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

This quote is from the Tao Te Ching, a book I find most helpful on my own spiritual path. Rarely are we required to drop everything and jet off to the other side of the world. Yes, it does happen on occasion, but most often we get some warning and preparation time. But every journey we take, including a sudden, unexpected one, begins by taking one small step in the direction of the door. There is at some point, an agreement made to undertake life's journeys--both the mundane ones as well as the whirlwind tours of the entire globe. Most often we have multiple opportunities to change the journey, to get off the path we're on and onto another. Every bit of progress we make along life's path is made in small increments. Even if you tend to jog or sprint toward your goals in life, each footfall comes in increments of one step. In the end, it results in a journey from one place to another, from where you are to where you end up. Maybe we make it to the end of the journey and find that we are exactly where we wanted to go in the first place. Sometimes we end up somewhere entirely different, yet all along the way, the small incremental steps we made led us to our ultimate destination, wherever that ended up to be.

Where you end up is not nearly as important as acknowledging that all along the way, you made choices that led you to this place rather than another place. Wherever you do end up is not necessarily where you have to stay, since in each moment we can choose to take another step in a different direction, down an alternative pathway. If you don't see a pathway open to you that you like, you can always choose to forge a new trail. That's what pioneers do. Anyone can become a pioneer. You just have to be brave enough to take one step and then another and then another.

Tired of Kissing Jessica Stein?

Me too. I just watched that movie again, and it reminded me of what I never want to do again. It seems that straight, bi-curious, and sometimes conflicted and/or closeted women are attracted to me. Why? I don't know. Perhaps because I'm out and confident. A lot of women are drawn to strong women because it's part of themselves they want to affirm. Perhaps it's because I don't hang around with lesbians exclusively. Maybe that's a sign that I should. But I love diversity. I love people. I don't want someone's sexual orientation or even gender to decide whether or not I can be friends with them.

Even though I live near Seattle, I don't take part in the LGBT community really. I could say that it's because I don't have time, but the truth is that I'm mostly a homebody, which does make it a little harder to meet new women, women who love women, that is. I mean, I do meet them. I even found this one fast food restaurant near where I work, which has seriously skewed the Kinsey scale for lesbian representation in the general populace. There must be a fourth to a third of the staff there who are lesbian. I'm not sure how that happened except that maybe it was the domino effect. Let one lesbian in and next thing you know, that one will get a lesbian friend a job there too, and on it goes. Now all I have to do is find a few more places like that to haunt and I'll know half the lesbians in King County.

But seriously, other than on the internet, how do you find someone when you don't get out there where other lesbians hang out? I don't really drink, and I don't smoke. Vegetarians don't blend well at barbecues. Maybe I should get involved with another conservative Christian church. God knows I saw a lot of action there. Of course, that brings me back around to my original point. I'm tired of kissing Jessica Stein. I don't want to have to help yet another woman come out to herself, or worse yet, come out and watch her dive back in and deny that she was ever out there in the first place. That's a priceless experience. Moments like that make you wonder if you were imagining things or just acting out some totally self-destructive behavior.

I have had some relationships that turned out better. One was even with a woman who had originally thought that she was straight. She had even been married and had children. Only it turned out that she definitely is lesbian. Still is, after all these years. But too many times, women who have never been with women can't handle it once it happens. There are too many emotions and issues to deal with all at once. I feel empathy for them because it's not easy coming out at any age, and the older you get, the harder it is, and the older you are, the greater the chances that you have more cultural conditioning to unload.

But enough is enough. It's time to meet an available woman who loves women and isn't afraid to embrace that and admit it. I've spent years trying to get over the one who made a dive back into the closet not once, not twice, but three times. She deserves an Olympic medal for executing a triple twist closet dive, but now it's time to move on to lavender pastures. Not mauve, not lilac, not periwinkle. It's time to find a card-carrying member of the Lavender Menace who will watch movies and go for walks on the beach with me. Someone whose closet is filled only with clothes. Someone who isn't another Jessica Stein, just looking for a best friend.