Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Orifice-Count

Well our little shih tzu fell through - not literally. But we're really on it now. Bets and I visited a shelter yesterday and will keep going back until we've found another dependent creature to take into our lives.

I have so screwed up this week, the final week of Betsy's vacation, juggling the work/childcare conundrum. It took me, Lucy, and a babysitter just to survive Monday and Tuesday and today will be a total mess of working from home and plugging Bets into videos and then scooting her off to work with Faith for a couple hours. We're off to NY tomorrow and it didn't even cross my mind until yesterday afternoon I had not arranged for a kitty sitter.

I 'm going to bring a dog into the mix?

I think I just need to surrender. I need to realize the days when it all goes as planned and I have covered every base are the exceptions. Mostly life with a small child is like this: unruly. Maybe a dog will help by pushing me over that edge. Maybe I should get a ferret and a hamster too. Then I will have no chance to assume I am an autonomous being.

Which brings me to the next chapter in the Lesbian Divorce: Whattup? series, and that is Kids: You Can't Live With Them and You Can't Live Without Them.

A good friend and I were having dinner last night. This friend is a psychologist and we were talking about sex. Without having heard me tell about the Bunny Syndrome she suggested one of the biggest most giant pitfalls of any marriage as far as she can tell are the childrearing years when couples - gay and straight - slip away from being two separate people and come closer to being siblings. That's when sex pretty much dries up.

Kids demand of you so much time and energy and constant negotiating, a marriage can become more like a small business. Each parent's needs are put aside in order not to rock the delicate balance of a boat that is barely above water what with tuition costs, karate classes, day camp, after school, soccer games, ADHD, teen angst, colic, and the family pet(s). It's easier to just go into battle mode and lose yourself. And if you're all merged out with your partner, or feeling like you're in business together, or focused solely on your children, then sex is usually the first casualty.

But you have your marriage certificate, your parents, your friends, your government, clergy, your children's school to support you. There are infinite books about you and your family and your marriage to guide you.

Imagine if there weren't. Imagine if on top of the supreme amount of effort it took to raise a family you had no legal support, very little emotional support, and some school systems didn't want you. Imagine if - thanks to the sexism of the dollar - as well as you and your partner's compulsive need to do any work but that in finance and real estate development you also had limited financial resources.

Then imagine your relationship faltered. Imagine you stopped having sex, you and your same-sex partner. Would any one care? Imagine you were at risk of splitting. Would the world gather to help you survive? Would your family?

There is just so little support for lesbian families even here in the bastion that is liberal Boston. Venture around the block from a cozy two-family home with lesbian families up and down and you find 17 families who would prefer those families did not exist.

It's hard to stay together.

It's hard to stay together.

And for those who have, mazel tov. Hold tight, if it's right.

Sometimes relationships are meant to come apart. But that is another story, nothing to do with gender or the orifice count within a household.

That's how I have come to think of gay vs. straight households: the orifice-count is different.

Otherwise what plagues us and brings us joy is pretty much the same as far as I can tell. It's only the context within which we exist that is so different and which has the power to knock us off our feet.

I leave you with this riddle: What is a shih tzu in a bath?

A cat.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Fully Competent Spouse

Oh my God I am a mountain of mania. I have tons of work to do, a huge zit on my face, and Bets is on vacation for another week - she had a great time in Chicago where she fell in love with a big old Golden Retriever and so now we have decided to definitely get a dog only we seem to be heading for a shih tzu named Tamara. Before we dive into lesbian divorce, does anyone have anything to tell me about shih tzus? The only one I know will only eat off of wet paper towels.

So the couples not having sex off-shoot of the Bunny Syndrome has really gotten people in a tizzy. My friends in NY insist everyone in NY is having sex - gay and straight - it's just Bostonians who are not having sex. My friends in Boston think the New Yorkers aren't having good sex, that it ain't the quantity it's the quality. My friends on the west coast are too busy having sex to comment.

A very close friend of mine avoided marriage for as long as he could for fear he would instantly stop wanting to have sex as soon as he tied the knot with his girlfriend of 10 years. She would just smile and roll her eyes whenever he said this.

Another couple I know - straight - has sex once a year.

It seems the lesbians not wanting to have sex thing is mostly mythology. Maybe lesbians are easier to accept when people tell themselves, oh they're not having sex anyway.

Oh, and what about Brittany Spaniels? I hear they're sweet but a little rambunctious.

Sex is complicated regardless of the participants. Gender aside, the black hole of doom is when couples fall out of the habit of intimacy and then cannot for the life of their relationship figure a way to jump back in. And with lesbians, it's not like the world is encouraging you to. The world would prefer you remain bunnies, palatable and platonic.

But I'm no expert. I'm just a writer. How about Basset Hounds? We need a docile dog who will not need to go for a walk every morning but will be content to poop in the yard until I we can walk her later in the day.

So my therapist threw a wrench into my life when she uttered this phrase, "the fully competent spouse."

The first thing you do when you hear "the fully competent spouse" is wonder whether your spouse/partner is fully competent. Can she cook, clean, sew, drive a truck, lift heavy objects, put entertainment centers from Ikea together, talk, not talk, drive, play tennis, grow bonzai plants, reupholster, catch a ball? And then you tally the no's against the yes's and realize you have like 18 no's and 3 yes's and that makes you wonder whether you should dismantle your life.

Then I noticed that when I said "fully competent spouse" to straight women they laughed. But when I said it to lesbians they got all serious and furrowed their brows.

That and the lesbian divorce rate got me wondering if maybe women expect too much of each other as partners. Many of the straight women I know shrug off the inadequacies of their husbands/boyfriends as par for the course. They don't expect to be fulfilled by the man in their life. They figure their girlfriends will provide the missing links and their girlfriends agree and television and movies and books all reflect the same: you marry your man for the things your girlfriends can't provide and you hang with your girlfriends to grab that which your man can't offer.

But lesbians? I'm thinking maybe we expect to get it all from each other. We expect to be fulfilled sexually, intellectually, spiritually, gastronomically, astronomically. It's a tall order. Many of the lesbian couples I know who have split have left relationships surprisingly functional in comparison to their straight counterparts.

Do we hold women to a higher standard?

Do we not have enough models for how to work through the incompetencies we all possess?

Do we always assume straight couples know something we don't know and therefore are doing better than us and so we denounce that which we have?

Is breaking up a form of internalized homophobia?

And what about dachshunds? Too little? Too hard to train?

It took me a long time to realize - duh - there is no such thing as the fully competent spouse. It's a fantasy on the part of anyone who ever loved somebody. And realizing that was the first step to a healthier relationship.

Now I think I'm looking for the fully competent dog. But you saw that coming. Some poodle mix? A Basse-poo?

Maybe a lesbi-poo.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hippity Hoppity Let's Stop Having Sex

That's the first item of business. I've got a post up on the Beacon Press web site. It's a story that ran here and at But check it out if you'd like and always pass it on.

Next, I've been invited to write a six-word memoir. It's such a great idea but "I don't know where to begin." There they are, the six words that sum up my life. "I don't know where to begin."

My life in three words: "That was quick."

Thanks to Robin Reagler of for the tag. She has an awesome blog on which I found the most fabulous photo of buttons.

And so I tag the following:
1. The incredible Polly Pagenhart, who is creating new language as she redefines family at
2. The brilliant Sara Whitman who is representing at
3. Our lesbian mom font of information Dana Rudolph who keeps us all informed at
4. The poetic and inspirational Ms. Moon who blogs in my cyber neighborhood at
5. Millie Garfield who apparently is the oldest blogger on the internet. I don't know her but she's a nice Jewish bubbe and this lesbo mom hereby tags her and her blog

Now on to lesbian divorce.

It's a huge, monstrous, unwieldy topic that I might need to address in installments. Today's installment, in honor of the upcoming Easter holiday, is called The Bunny Syndrome.

Faith and I definitely fell victim to the Bunny Syndrome. It wasn't our only struggle, but it's an insidious one and eats away at a lesbian (or gay) couple in a most damaging way. The Bunny Syndrome is when, to keep the peace and be accepted within family and the outer world - a couple allows themselves to be thought of as special friends, friends who cuddle and share a home, or well, bunnies, rather than as two people who are in love and have sex. This seems to happen when the outside world is "kind of okay" with the couple, they are not disowning of the couple, not outraged. But they also are not entirely comfortable with thinking of the couple as a couple in a man/woman, penis-in-vagina kind of way.

So the couple, because the blessing of family and work places and friends is critical in life, allows themselves to become bunnies in the eyes of the outside world and does not demand to be treated as a couple. And then I think it gets hard to remember in the privacy of your own life to turn back on the sacredness of your partnership. Not to mention the internalized homophobia of it all, the denouncing of your intimate self.

Here's an example. Every summer my mother rented the same one room cottage in Provincetown. The cottage had a sofa bed and a queen-size mattress in the loft that sat above and opened into the mainroom, i.e. there was not a lick of privacy. Faith and I stayed in the loft for a week every summer for seven years. We were young and didn't have much money so on the one hand the situation afforded us a free vacation. But looking back I ask myself why was it okay to spend our summer vacation without a shred of privacy? Whenever my sister and her husband came to town it was assumed they would stay at an inn. My mother once even expressed her discomfort about sharing the cottage with them or any other heterosexual couple.

She shared it with her brother and a male friend, so it wasn't about there being a man there. It was, I presume, about there being a sexual couple there.

And I can't count the times I've not kissed a partner in public, or held her hand, or expressed any one of a number of affections men and women do. In all honesty, only on rare occasions is this to avoid being killed. Most of the time it's so others won't feel uncomfortable.

So if you let yourself become a bunny in public, what happens to you in private? And if your community sees you and your partner as bunnies, then how can they support you when your relationship falters?

It's just a thought and begs the infamous question: Are lesbians couples having less sex than straight couples? In the past couple years I have learned that hardly any long-term couple I know is having sex - gay or straight.

So there. Next installment, The Fully Competent Spouse.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Well this blogger slipped away for a week. Probably because blogging can be so incredibly tedious and some weeks or days well it's all just so boring: we raked leaves, we went swimming, we made dinner, we got new toothpaste, a bottle of water spilled on my cell phone.


This week is different and today is different, because today is Evacuation Day! Evacuation Day! is a day off for all state officials which as far as I can tell means Massachusetts has come up with a way to give everyone St. Patrick's Day off without saying they are making St. Patrick's Day a holiday. Sneaky Massachusetts.

As far as I'm concerned a state that has legalized gay marriage can certainly give people the day off to eat boiled corn beef and cabbage and drink green beer.

Evacuation Day! always happens to fall on the Monday after the St. Patrick's Day Parade - you know the parade that excludes gays from participating - so, in a way, today really should be called "Hangover Day." It's a good thing my family and I are not allowed to march or I'd be sporting quite a headache this morning.

This is the kind of blog that will cause my father to call and say, "You seem angry."

If there's anything that pisses me off more than being excluded from a St. Patrick's Day parade it's being told I sound angry.

In honor of Evacuation Day! Faith is taking Betsy to Build-A-Bear. Bets has the next two weeks off from school (the more you pay, the less they go). On Wednesday Faith and Bets are going to Chicago for two days which will be so sad and weird and nice and strange for me. My plan is to clean the house, paint the radiators, and finish my thoughts.

One of the thoughts I need to finish is why do so many lesbian moms break up. Why? I have a load of ideas, not all of them nice. Let's make that the topic of my next blog.

Coming up - sooner than a week, I promise - the lesbian divorce rate. And why lesbians seem to battle over custody more than straight couples do.

For now, I must Evacuate!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pour the Tooth Fairy A Tall One

Hell's a popping. Betsy lost her first tooth in more ways than one. First a rice crispy treat loosened her loose tooth to the "hanging by a thread" point and then Bets just yanked it out. This all happened in the car so naturally I had to pull over to the side of the road to cry and clean up all the blood.

What a lot of blood there is when a little tooth comes out.

And then Bets got excited about putting the tooth back in her mouth and pulling it out again and again until the little bloody thing slipped from her hand and got lost in the upholstery of the car. Gone forever or so it seemed.

Bets was surprisingly resilient. She cried about the lost lost tooth a bit but was distracted enough by the space in her mouth and how it felt with her tongue not to be sad for long. I left a dollar underneath her pillow anyway of course and figured we had 19 more chances to hang onto teeth.

The next morning Betsy woke up a different child. She was the freshest and rudest most sassy little girl she ever has been. Not only was she rude to me and her best friend Zoe, she was rude to her toys.

"I think that tooth was your nice tooth," I only half joked.

"Yeah," she agreed. "I'm so fresh now."

This went on for days, was not even alleviated when Lucy miraculously found the lost lost tooth. (I still don't know how she did it, first located the place in my car the tooth had fallen into and then actually retrieved the tooth.)

But even with the tooth safely stashed in a pink satin purse Betsy roared on. She said she hated school and after school. She announced she hated camp as well as Zoe. She refused to put her coat on and then refused to take her coat off. She said she wanted to hit me and then stormed off into her room. She learned to roll her eyes.

This is it, I told myself, adolescence is here early and this is what our life will be like for the next 12 years. It made me so sad. I felt lonely like I had lost my child and gained instead a raving lunatic. I half-expected her to go out and pierce her nipples.

Lucy tried to comfort me by saying it was just a perfect storm of developmental and social angst: she lost a tooth, spring vacation is coming, she's getting over a cold.

I blamed myself. For having separated two years ago, for not having a bigger home, for not having more energy, for not cooking better meals.

I took her rock-climbing and swimming. I bought her new pants and another rice crispy treat. I reasoned with her. I gave her time outs. I held her at times and others I walked out of the room.

"Maybe she should go to boarding school," I said to a friend. "I'll miss her but I think it's best."

"She's six," the friend reminded me.

"They don't take them that early?"

After four days of this it was my night of the week to go out overnight. In addition to dinner and bath a couple nights, one night a week Betsy's other mom Faith comes to the house and sleeps over and I go off to Lucy's to allow them space and make sure Faith and I don't kill each other. While Bets has come to like this arrangement, it's taken me two years not to feel guilty about it, to embrace this night out each week. Still usually I am torn to pieces.

Not this week. This week I would have gone straight to a bar if I were the drinking type. Bets and Faith had a fine time. She gave Faith some lip but not too much. And by the time I returned the following afternoon Bets was happy as a lark.

We all had dinner together as we do each week (this is divorce lesbo style, which is a boundary-challenged mish-mash that in some ways resembles childrearing from the stone age whereupon a group of women wind up raising a group of kids). Bets was charming and delightful.

Later after her bath, Bets and I set out her clothes for school the next morning. Bets tried on a pair of pants we had bought three months ago. They were three inches too long then and I had to hem them. Last week I swear they fit. This evening I had to pull out the hems and still they were too short.

Bets and I looked at each other equally aghast. She tried on two more pairs, same thing.

"I think I just grew," she said.

"I think you did."

I read her two books, told her a story about poop, and off she sailed into sleep.

From here on I'm going to stop analyzing and trying to fix everything and just chalk up all bad days or weeks to growth spurts, for myself as well.

The next time Lucy and I argue, "Growth spurt!" I'll say. I'm going to try it at work too. And who knows, I might even get a bit taller. Lord knows one day my teeth are going to fall out.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Satellite of Love

Oh dear, I think it was Venus, our intergalactic neighbor who has been gassing it up recently. Sorry for the blunder.

Today I must devote my blogging energy to the web site and blogspot for the fantabulous Beacon Press, publishers of gay, straight, hip and hop, funk and intellect and incredible literary beautifiscence. Beacon is home to such authors as Mary Oliver, Mary Daly, the late James Baldwin and the even later Herbert Marcuse and of course the very much alive Harlyn Aizley.

The theme of my Beacon post will be "It's Because I'm Gay Isn't It?!"

In the meantime ponder this: what if sound which is after all just vibration could get trapped in the little nooks and crannies and crevasses of every day life such as a cave or under a bed or in the eave of a house, and then a breeze or a jostling of some sort could release that sound years maybe even centuries later. Would we hear it?

Betsy is a duck today in a play.

The cat drew enough blood from my fingertip last night for me to have had genetic testing done, which is something a dog would never ever do.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tick tick tick

I dreamed last night a friend dropped off her 6 year-old son to play with Betsy. We were in my childhood home in NJ of course. The boy walked into the living room and I was instantly overcome with anxiety. What will we do for THREE hours?! What if Betsy doesn't want to play with him? What if he gets sad or worse yet bored? I was in such a state it woke me up.

Long stretches of time in which I will be the only adult surrounded by one or two children in need of entertainment or referee-ing terrify me. When Bets wakes up at 7 on a Saturday and it's me and her all day without a plan...Well picture those Scream masks at Halloween. It has nothing to do with love, and everything to do with energy. What will we do? What on earth will we do all day.

I don't remember my parents having this problem. I also don't remember them playing with us. We played by ourselves or with neighborhood children. And my sister and I had each other.

But this recipe - an only child in a world where she cannot run free at age 6, who goes to private school and doesn't know the neighborhood children - is one that puts mommy on the hot seat.

"Mommy, let's have a dance party!" This before 7:30 a.m.

"Mommy, let's dig in the snow." Even though it's 22 degrees.

I tend to steer Bets toward the things I like to do: income tax returns, organizing, and putting up shelves. Once we peeled paint off the kitchen wall.

Our playground is the worst. Though we are blessed with a playground right across the street, it sits atop a hill and for some intergalactic reason hosts extreme temperatures. If it's 32 degrees at our house, it's 10 degrees at the playground. If it's 85 degrees at our house, it's 110 degrees at the playground.

"Mommy, let's play chase."

Some mommies get to sit and drink coffee on a playground bench and read a magazine or stare into space.

I consider these moments, dare I say these mind-numbing moments, seepage from my childless years. Little dewdrops from a purely narcissistic time in life when I answered to no one but my self (too bad I didn't realize it at the time) and expect to do so again. A friend said leakage like this happens when you have one child and think you still can be your old self, because when you have more than one you have to surrender. The holes are plugged.

Plus a 6 year-old in the 25% for height is one who wants to do some things she still physically cannot do.

"Mommy, hold me so I can reach the monkey bars."

"Mommy, catch me when I slide down the pole."

I've taken a Zen approach. When I feel myself hopping the wave of terror at 6 or 7 a.m. I remind myself to take it one hour at a time. If I think of it as 14 hours I'm doomed. From the opposite vantage point it always works out okay: we read a book, baked bread, built a snowman, saw a friend. Awesome day.

It's just that those activities took maybe an hour and a half total and it took another 12 and a half hours to get to them.

But that will just be this mommy's little secret.