The day the questions started

SOS has this elective class in school in which the kids, guided by teachers, debate various subjects, ranging from what are effective recycling methods to whether adoption records should be sealed. 

Adoption.  Yes,  Our lives.  It had to come up.  I didn’t think it was going to be age 10.5.  And for a debating class, no less. 

SOS has always known that a sperm donor helped us have him.  There was never a time he didn’t know that.  He has also always known that POB is his biological mother, but somehow he always thought (however irrationally) that he was connected to me in some way that was in addition to nurture.  Until today.

So we brought out the old records.  Together, we read through the information we had on the donor — his medical history, his academic achievements, his personal statement about funny things that happened to him and his hopes and dreams for his own children.  POB described his voice.  

We showed SOS the petition for adoption and report by the social worker which was submitted to the Court, as required by law.  I didn’t tell SOS this, but the social worker interviewed me for 4.5 hours and made me cry.  She asked about my recently dead mother and other pressure points in my life.  At the end, she asked how would I deal with having a straight son.  I was so emotionally and mentally exhausted that I responded honestly, “It happens in the best of families.  And I understand attraction to women, so I would be totally good with it.”  The social worker was stunned and I thought, “oh, no, I have blown it now.”

Luckily, the social worker’s report was strongly in favor of the adoption.  The judge who originally contorted New York law to allow same-sex couple adoption was the judge who heard SOS’s petition and, as her last act before retiring, she so-ordered our joint adoption of SOS.  We told him that this was a big deal to have this judge approve his adoption.  He asked to feel the official seal on the certified copy of the order.

SOS told me earlier in the day, in anticipation of this afternoon’s discussion, that I am just as much his mom as POB.  I think he was scared and, yet, he was trying to protect me.  But new information can change things.

At the end of the discussion, SOS was concerned because he finally realized that it is “only” nurture that connects him and me and that 50% of him is the donor’s genes.  So we talked about the power of nurture, love and commitment.  I told him that before I adopted him, I could have walked away, without legal liability for his well-being.  But I took on that responsibility and I can never undo that.  I chose to be responsible for him.  That had some resonance, but I could hear the wheels of his brain turning about the donor’s genes.

“Dude, this is not the only conversation we are going to have about this.  You may need to seek out the donor.  It is ok.  I am ok.  You are my baby.  Ok?”

“Ok, [Blogger], I love you.”

“I love you, too, buddy.  More than you will ever know.”

And so ended the first episode of “The Questions”.

Another Gut Check Moment in New York City

I don’t take cabs as much any more — economical and environmental reasons — but so often when I do take cabs, I learn life lessons from the drivers.

Thursday night was no different.  The driver had a French African accent I found hard to understand and identify. After we both understood our destination, I asked, “Where are you from?


Where in Africa?

Burkina Faso.”  This was the first time I had ever met anyone from there.  And now that I am used to the cadence of his English, he is very well-spoken.

I have heard of it. It used to be called Upper Volta.” I said more for my benefit as if telepathically showing to my parents — one dead, one alive — that there was something to my liberal arts education after all, even amid the four years of debauchery.

Is your family there?” I continue.


That must be hard. Do you see them?” (Of course, I make that inappropriate assumption that others have families like mine, whom I would dearly miss.)

Ten years.

How long have you been here?

Ten years.

Do you have a family here?

I come with my friend.

My friend. Ahhhhhhhh.

I am a lesbian; is your friend a man?

Yes.” He says with openness but no relief.  We weren’t navigating the great divides between our lives.  We were just able to be less vague and more truthful.  I was still a white, well-heeled American sitting in the back of his cab and he was the refugee driving me around and trying to make a life in a strange and, at times, harsh city.

And you can’t go home?

I would be killed.  Even by my family.

We reached our destination.

I am glad you are here and I am sorry that you had to leave your home.”  Not a brilliant sentence but heartfelt, even if for a stranger.

It is the punishment.

“It is the punishment.”  As much as this man traveled to be free, he carries the homophobia inside.  Two people in the same car, worlds apart.

Fun with Bob and Ted, Carol and Alice

When you meet a straight couple, let’s say, Bill and Jill, it is mostly pretty clear who is who.  Even if their names are run together, like, “this is Bill-and-Jill”.  Chances are pretty good that the boy is Bill and the girl is Jill.  (Chances are also pretty good that you feel sorry for them because their names rhyme.)
But if you are introduced to a gay couple, as in, “let me introduce you to Bill-and-Ted” and they just say hello, then you will never ever know who is who, even if, later, you ask someone who knows them. It will never sink in.
And if you’re lesbian being introduced to gay male couple, forget it. All men look alike. (I’m sure the boys say that about girls, too.)And it is not like we all look alike (yet).

All I can say is, every now and again, it is a relief to meet a straight couple unless their names are Lynn and Tracy.

We’re Here, We’re Queer, and We Miss It

In the 1980s, ACT UP used to chant, “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!!”  It was a rallying cry in the City for civil and social rights.

By the mid-1990s, there was a cartoon in the New Yorker, that featured two men on a couch, with one talking on the phone, responding to the caller, “Oh, no we aren’t going to the Parade. It’s just that we’re here, we’re queer, we’re used to it.”

I laughed when I saw that cartoon.  We were young and childless living a gay cultural mecca. We were still lovin’ it.

By 2002, POB and I were more interested in “Mommie(s) and me” groups than tea dances or gay events.  We huddled with our straight friends with children and talked about the best baby strollers, or how to get our child into the right “twos” program that would feed into the right pre-K program that would feed into the elementary school, and so on, so that the only angst was in paying for our child’s trajectory into happiness and financial promise.  (Actually, life doesn’t — didn’t — really happen that way but more about it in another entry.)  There were playground parties, play dates, and child-centered socializing schedules that rivaled even our single days being “out, loud and proud”.

Our son is 10 years old and he is more independent. So, POB and I can start to dream again of having an adult couple’s social life.

Still, yesterday, an Op-Ed in the New York Times decried the “death of gay male culture” as a little like the “exaggerated” reports of Mark Twain’s death.

Today, I was on a long run to meet the family at our synagogue’s Gay Pride family picnic.

Sidebar: Ok, the “run” involved running, walking and taking a cab, because this ol’ broken down body was “running out of time” to get to the picnic.  More on that later.

There was a real energy as I jogged into Chelsea and then into the Village.  It felt good.  I wished I were wearing something with a rainbow.

I realized as I mingled at the picnic, we are NOT assimilating; we are NOT over being gay.  Being gay is different.  And that different is good.  We are just on hiatus while we raise our kids.

And when you have kids, NAMBLA (National Association of Man-Boy Love) is a little scary.  Let’s just be honest.  I don’t need to take my young son to a parade where NAMBLA members are also proud and marching, rather than being on trial like Jerry Sandusky.

But, in 2020 when SOS is 18 years old, watch out, because two recently emancipated 56 year-old lesbians will be tearing up the dance floor, celebrating Gay Pride, all-out, all loud and all proud.


My new trainer

My fitness trainer abruptly left the gym and I think the city about ten days ago.  I am worried about him.  But enough about him, let’s turn it back to me, because I need Michelle Obama arms for my wedding.

He texted me and suggested one of the other trainers whom I will call FTOB (fitness trainer of blogger).  FTOB is very, how shall we say, vivacious.  She spontaneously lifts people off the floor when she is happy.  She likes to take dance breaks, which makes me think of the Ellen DeGeneres’s show (the episode I saw) during which she danced with her guests. 

Still, the clock was ticking and I have an unforgiving dress.  I called FTOB and scheduled an appointment.  She is high energy and very effective.  But while I was learning from FTOB, I had to teach her two things: (i) I don’t have a booty and (ii) I don’t have ta-tas.  As to the first, I have a tushie, behind, derriere, butt or any number of variations of those words.  As to the second, I have breasts, a chest or, if necessary, boobs. 

No-no-no to ta-tas.

FTOB was awesome about this.  The second session contained no references to the “b” or the “t” words.  Strong work, FTOB.

FTOB has a FauxHawk (modified Mohawk, where the the sides aren’t shaved, just very short).  In this last session, her hair was slicked back and it looked like it was all one length.  “I love your hair!!” I exclaimed, almost matching her general exuberance.  “You think so?  It got wet and I gelled it back.  I am getting it cut soon.”  Ahhh, it was only a temporary NoHawk. 

So, in a moment that can best be described as my mother inhabiting my body, I blurted out, “You know, I asked [my old trainer] once to introduce us, because I wanted to say to you, ‘You have such a lovely face, why do you have your hair cut that way?'” 


“A good haircut can make all the difference,” I said.

I think we were both shocked at the exchange and I was a little weirded out having had a Freaky Friday moment with my mother in my body.  And FTOB is so good natured that she took it in the spirit in which it was meant — concern.

It turns out she has a girlfriend who likes her hair.  “Well, then, don’t listen to me; listen to her.  But if you are single again, listen to me.”

Oh, Mom, next time, give me some warning, ok?

The Undergarment Day

Today was the day.  It is a ritual in every woman’s life, especially on the occasion of one’s wedding.

At least once in your life, you go to a place where a woman says, “just as the doctor says, naked from the waist up!!” and then leaves for five minutes.  When she comes back, she sizes up your breasts.  All this in the elusive search for undergarments that give us shape, without the need to re-enact post-partum Scarlett O’Hara trying to get into her pre-pregnancy whale-boned corset.

With the wedding looming large, POB and I walked into The Town Shop, a storied place, where the owner (until the day she died) would “cup” each customer.  WITH HER HANDS.  So you stand naked from the waist up and an old lady comes over  (WITHOUT drawing the curtain on your dressing room) and grabs you and yells out the size and model.  First, humiliation and then triumph.

Even though the proprietor died, her family keeps up the place, and there are enough old women who are brutally honest to make the process just as humiliating and then triumphant.

Bessie helped us today.  She had the air of a Southern black woman whose mama taught her well. Except, she started by telling us she just got the cast off her right arm and made me feel the pin that the doctors inserted.

We told her that we needed help getting the right, supportive undergarments for the wedding dresses we brought with us.

“Which one of you is the bride?”

“We both are”.

“Hmmmm,” with some incomprehension.  It never ceases to amaze me how this still happens in New York City.

She turned to me.  “Let me look at you first.”  Ok, Bessie studied my breasts.   She looked at the dress.  “I am going to have to concentrate very hard here.  Come out here where the light is better.”  That meant I had to step outside the dressing room in full view of everyone in the store — man, woman, child and cat.  “I am thinking D cups for all that! And [looking at the bra I had been wearing] you have some ratty old bras, doncha?” she yelled.  I looked at the floor hoping that the earth would open up so that I might crawl in.

“I also need something for the waist down . . . ” I said as force-ably I could muster after she was off for my new bra.

Bessie came back with a bra.  She strapped me in and then said, “Lean over and let them things settle!” I did as bidden.   “I said LEAN, not pray!”  “Now sit down and jiggle.  Hands up!!  Jump up and down!”  I have never been to Club Med, but this is sounding familiar.  “Ok, now PRAY!” Bessie asked for quiet while she concentrated “fiercely”.  “We need to get you something tighter ’cause you all over the place.”

We settled on a bra that lets me shake, rattle and roll without falling out all over the place.  Then we got to the knee to waist issue.  She brought something so tight, I didn’t know how I was getting into this.  “Well, this will cover that pooch,” as Bessie pointed to the area below my two-pack abs.  “Water gain — she has been traveling,” POB said indignantly and in my defense.  (I POB.)

“How many people are helping you get dressed?”  A question that implied it would take a village to get us ready on the morning of our wedding.  And she hadn’t even started on POB.  I was ready to call off the wedding, until I thought of Elinor Donahue in Father Knows Best winning the basketball game and having her friends crowd around her and get her into her prom dress so she could be crowned queen.  So, I am thinking about a scrum in rugby, except that we will emerge looking FABULOUS in our dresses.

In order not to embarrass POB, I will just say that POB fared only a little better with our straight-talking Bessie.  POB doesn’t have ratty bras because she came from a good home (as she reminds me).  Ok, except when it came to the zipper for POB’s dress.  “Did you try this dress on before you bought it?” Bessie offered “helpfully” as others needed to assist us because of Bessie’s healing arm. REALLY?

After we were finished, I asked POB if she had arranged for us to be Medi-vac’d home.  “No,” she said, “but we could have a snack on our way to the shoe place.”

This wedding stuff is NOT for the weak. (As for Bessie, I am going next Saturday for some new bras.)

The Checklist

In my professional life, I always having a closing checklist for each transaction.  Every piece of paper, every action, every issue goes on a centralized list, with responsible parties, deadlines and status.  Good practice (or malpractice) starts with organization.

As for my personal life, well, not always.  I try to maintain some type of order amid chaos, but let’s face it:  without POB, my life would be a compost.  Even POB was surprised, initially, at what lurked under the veneer of successful urban professional: my bespoke blazers and trousers held together with staples and scotch-tape (but never spit).  Indeed a metaphor for my life then.  The saving grace:  I did have someone come in to clean, do laundry and re-stock toilet paper and other essentials.

So, I wasn’t joking 10.5 years ago when, during a discussion about whether to have a child, I asked POB, “am I not baby enough for you?”  And now we have SOS and I have matured beyond my post-adolescent years.  I am now a somewhat disciplined person in my personal life.

Still, a wedding.  That is a huge undertaking and our mothers are not alive (and even if alive would not be young enough) to take over the process, make it their own, and forget about the two main characters.  How I long for that.  Yes, I said it.  If I could outsource this to our mothers, I would in a heartbeat.   I would get endless blog material.  So, clearly, outsourcing to a professional wedding planner is, well, no fun.

So, here is where we stand (using lavender, as the official color of gay weddings):

  • Dresses:  
  • Undergarments: next weekend (stay tuned)
  • Shoes: next weekend (stay tuned)
  • Flat tummy and chiseled arms:  works in progress
  • SOS’s suit, shirt and tie: next weekend
  • Rabbi: 
  • Venue: 
  • Caterer:  tasting ; final menu:  open
  • Photographer:
  • Band:
  • Centerpieces:  in process
  • Wedding cake:  
  • Invitations: in process (proofed; waiting for printer to send)
  • Ketubah: in process (actually waiting for feedback from rabbi)
  • Chupah: in process (poles reserved; cloth to be determined)
  • Ceremony:  needs work
  • Vows:  oy, don’t ask
  • Our song: still need to tell the band
  • Get:  get what? 

A get.  Let’s just say that one of us needed a religious separation from a long-ago prior commitment.  Traditionally, a get is something that a man gives a woman.  But a man can say no and still, he can remarry (I think).  If a woman doesn’t get a get, she is in limbo; she cannot remarry and her community will shun her.  Forever.  And there are horror stories even today about women in this very circumstance.  It is a terrible rule that confirms a woman’s second class status in traditional Judaism.

In our case, the prior commitment was with a woman, so no need to get a get, right??  Pretty good argument, eh?

Well, since marrying two women under religious law isn’t exactly, let’s say, kosher, our rabbi considers that the getting of a get should also be gender neutral.  Especially since, according to our rabbi, in its best sense, a get is a mutual release from the past.   Really, rabbi?  Sometimes, the past should just hang out there in the ether.  No one ever got bit from a sleeping dog.

Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok.  Service of papers at last known addresses, summons to appear before a Beth Din, a religious court of three rabbis.  Pretty serious business.  The religious court convened on Friday, in the West Village.  The three rabbis, two lesbians and one transgendering person, conducted the proceedings and finalized the releases.  (To show our diversity, the rabbi officiating our wedding is straight.)

The ancients and the current, living orthodox would have keeled over.  But they would have keeled over at the thought of the wedding.  So, I say, let ’em roll, let ’em roll, let ’em roll.

So, to update our checklist:

  • Get:  GOT

A Way’s Away but Feels Almost like Tomorrow and Certainly Yesterday

Yes, we are at 10 years old in this rendering of a picture.  Camp Wingate, Yarmouth, MA.  Summer of 1974.  You can tell the picture is partially a fake because I was wearing shorts and NOT a skirt.

It was just yesterday.  But by the time we are married, it will have been 38 years since we were best friends that summer.  In truth, we didn’t know each other from 18-32; and yet, we have always known each other and been inextricably tied one to the other.

Soon, it will be our wedding day.  Two little girls holding hands as adults who have been through so much, apart and then together.  And we will celebrate all that is us.  The good, the not-so-good, the sad, the joyous, and the things still evolving.

We have all we need (enough flatware to serve 24, for example).  So, when the invitation asks that in lieu of presents you make a charitable donation and we list a few that are important to us, please abide by our wishes.   We have enough and we are healthy and happy and truly there are no greater gifts.  Besides, if I have to store your gift in the limited space of a Manhattan apartment, I am going to regret having invited you.

Share our joy; spare our apartment.

Love, Family and the Wedding

Today, SOB (sister of blogger), Dad and I planned to have brunch and then go visit our cousins who sell antiques and are in New York City for a show on the antiques circuit.

SIDEBAR:  This is NOT Antiques Road Show, where a sculpture of a hand holding a bird is estimated to be more valuable than two birds in the bush.  How do I know my cousins are a notch above?  First, they travel the world over to buy the “stuff”; second, they charge a lot for the “stuff”; and third, they had to buy a whole other house to keep the “stuff”.  (One still maintains a day job.)

We told Dad to meet us at noon at a coffee shop not too far from his house (he likes to walk a little to get the blood flowing, which is essential at 91.5 years old).  Knowing that Dad arrives at least 30 minutes early, SOB and I decide to get there even earlier so we can have a pre-Dad schmooze.  We arrive at the coffee shop at 11:10am.  As we enter, we see Dad walking up.  (I am glad we said noon; if we had said 10am, Dad would have arrived at 11pm the night before.)

We had our usual conversations, punctuated by what was happening in the GOP primaries.   SOB and I are attuned to Dad’s rhythms.  We can tell from his body language that he is about to make a loud and slightly aggressive request for more coffee.  We also know that he did not hear the server say that a new pot was brewing and he would freshen up the coffee as soon as the pot was ready.  So as his hand is going up, SOB gently guided it back down to the table as I repeated (louder this time) that the coffee is coming.

SIDEBAR:  I attribute our gentle ballet to the skills we learned playing Capture the Egg on Sundays at camp.  For those of you unfamiliar with the “sport”, it is Capture the Flag but with eggs.  The winning team has the most number of intact eggs at the end of the game.  Some of the eggs are hard boiled, some are soft boiled and some are raw.  When your teammate runs into “enemy territory” and gets trapped, she then has to throw the egg to you as you stand on your side of the field.  You need to assume it is raw but hope it is hard boiled.  The trick in catching a raw egg is that you don’t catch it like a baseball; you catch it like a football — a cradle-like reception, as you gently reduce its spiral and speed.  And then, when the raw egg nevertheless splatters all over you, you call, “first in line for the shower!!!” Ok, I digress.

Dad is really steady at his age, but snow and ice is a challenge.  Of course, he wanted to take the bus.  I wanted to take a cab.  And I didn’t have enough on my Metrocard for a ride.

SIDEBAR:  It is true that my Metrocard was low; but it was convenient on a cold day on the icy streets of New York when I want my father to be in one piece for my wedding.

SOB said to Dad, “If we take a cab, we will save [Blogger] money on her Metrocard.”  We throw in test of logical thinking every now and again to assess Dad’s mental acuity.  He rolled his eyes, so we know he is ok.  SOB is non-confrontational, yet effective.  Strong work.

We arrive at the Antiques Show at the 26th Street Armory (in case anyone is wondering, I paid for a cab or two on this adventure).  Our cousins were there, as was another cousin.  The other cousin talked about his son’s engagement to an Iranian Muslim.  I noted that the successful marriages in our family were mostly mixed or same-sex marriages.  We all looked at each other.  Yep, we were all happy and either our partners were not Jewish or, if Jewish, the same sex.  So, I suggested to my cousin that we should all be relieved that his son was not marrying a Jew, for the sake of his future happiness.

One cousin asked about my upcoming nuptials.  Most of the details that are not quite settled relate to religious law.  Clearly, this makes no sense since a lesbian wedding is not sanctioned by tradition.   So why do we worry so much about complying with all of the rituals?  I tried to explain to this to our cousin, a non-Jew who married into the family, that Jews fearlessly go into absurd detail where others — except maybe the Vatican — don’t dare tread.  The mental gymnastics required to marry two women free and clear of prior entanglements are epic, as in Homer-like epic.  Too bad the Bard is not around to sing the tale of mighty warrior(ette)s slaying the various beasts, and overcoming the various challenges placed in their path by the gods on their way, so that they may seal their love and singular devotion (and have a little party).  All for a 20 minute ritual.  The things we do for tribal continuity.

Maybe PBS will do a mini-series.  The J-Word: Life Behind the Lesbian Chuppah.

Friday, the day that the Rabbi ate at Metro Diner

POB (partner of blogger) and I are going through the Jewish version of pre-cana.  Never mind that we have progeny and more than a decade together in our rear-view mirror.

The first time we met with the rabbi, she came to our house.  She couldn’t drink the Kosher wine because she was still nursing and she didn’t touch anything else, even though everything was Kosher and on glass plates (glass doesn’t absorb food particles so glass plates in a non-Kosher home are still ok).  I couldn’t concentrate on anything she said because I was thinking, “what Kosher rule did I forget that renders even Kosher things in my house treyf (un-kosher)?”  The whole session was a blur.  Then, the rabbi ate a grape.  My house was saved from shame.  But, I couldn’t tell you a thing about the discussion.

Today was our second meeting with the rabbi.  We met and ate at Metro Diner, a regular Upper West Side diner.  Really, rabbi?  So, I had to mention that I lived in shame for months after she came to our house last and ate only one grape.  “Oh, I had just eaten and I really wasn’t hungry!”  So, it turns out that there was no curse on my house, but just a rabbi — a JEW — who wouldn’t eat something right under her nose.  (She’s Jewish, right?)

So, I tried to concentrate on this session.  We planned the ceremony and talked about a bunch of things.  Very productive.  This marriage thing seems do-able.

Then, the rabbi reminded us we each had to write a letter to her about why we want to marry each other.  Don’t a child, a home, a mortgage in common qualify?  And I didn’t mention a joint retirement strategy.  That should just seal the deal.  Res ipsa loquitur, baby.

“Excuse me, these aren’t substitutes for the letter?  I’m sorry but I did not know that this was a term paper class.  I thought the final project was the actual wedding.”  Pause.  “Ok, when is it due?”  Pause.  “BEFORE the wedding?”  Harumph.

Not only do I have to finish all of my Continuing Legal Education credits AND lose 5 pounds before the wedding, I must write this letter.

Why is it such an issue?  I don’t know how to begin or where to end.

POB is my best friend and my favorite person in the world.  Her mere presence calms and comforts me.  I trust her implicitly.  I know she loves me like no else could.  I love her the same way.  I am safe with POB and she with me.  I adore POB, just adore her.  I have no logical explanation — I can’t help it.  She and I laugh together.  We think we are the luckiest people in the world.  We are strong because we helped each other grieve our mothers, nurtured each other during professional disappointments, supported each other during our son’s difficult early years and caught each other when we felt like we were falling.  We have gone through moments when we thought we wouldn’t make it together and then realized that we couldn’t make it EXCEPT together.   Now, we finish each other sentences and sometimes I think we are the same person (except she’s cuter). I will never cook, but I will do the dishes.  I have piles of clothes but POB has piles of magazines.  I let POB make the rules at home because she is a benevolent dictator.  I am responsible for customer service and technology issues.  POB never lets us run out of shampoo, moisturizer, food, and other necessities.  I will never be awake early enough to take our son to school, but I will stay up to help with math and science homework.  We are a team.

I am more in love with POB today than at any time before.  But check in with me tomorrow, and I will love POB even more.