I have a crush on Staceyann Chin

Yup, that’s right.  Wicked mad crush on Staceyann.  It’s not the way she looks, although she’s very beautiful it’s not even her bangin’ body, which is bangin’.  It’s her memoir, “The Other Side of Paradise” that I started reading this week that has made my crush on Staceyann Chin what it is today.  http://www.staceyannchin.com/v2/bio.html

I’m not that far into it, truth be told.  This really cute (possibly queer) girl at Greenlight books in Fort Green sold the hard cover to me.  I’d been eyeing it for a month but was working on finishing “Wuthering Heights.”  I make a point to only have one new book in my possession at a time, otherwise I’ll drop one for the other and most likely not return to the first.  I just finished “Wuthering  Heights” and had about 15 minutes after yoga and before Tongues to get to the bookstore to buy “The Other Side of Paradise.”  My book store crush asked if I knew anything about the author, that she’d been wanting to read it.

“Well, she’s queer…” I started (to see if she was, too.  She gave me that knowing look.  Aha!  One point for Erika gaydar.)  “She’s a feminist and activist, she had a one woman show on broadway in the mid 2000’s…”  I went on and on spouting my Staceyann knowledge and she agreed that she’s buy it too, when she was finished with the book she was on now.  She also made mention to another author, Dorothy Allison, that I should look into when I was finished with “Paradise” 

innocent flirting at the bookstore.

I’m still in Part One and just wrapped up page 46 through teary eyes on the C Train.  I love when a book can move me to tears.  And it wasn’t just the book or its content but the way that a good writer can not only make you feel like you’re there with them in the text but their ability to make you feel what the protagonist is feeling.  In that moment of feeling like a helpless 7-year-old girl being ridiculed by her Aunt while her grandmother helplessly watches the abuse, I felt like I was Staceyann in that brief moment of prose. 

I’ve never had to watch a woman I love do domestic work, as Staceyann watched her Grandmother.  As I’ve disclosed many times here I lived what most would describe as a priviledge life.  Reading “The Other Side of Paradise” awakens so much of my race identity and the itch that was my memoir (lost in computer oblivion) comes racing back into my mind and the memories of my childhood come pouring to my frontal lobe.  (it is the frontal love of the brain that controls memory, right?)

My parents are both black so my race identity isn’t lost in that.  It is, however lost in my education, my speech, my back ground.  Here’s a little snippet, that “Paradise” has forced me to remember.

I remember being in fourth grade.  We’d just switched from the YMCA day camp to the Catholic Club.  I went from having a mixed race group of friends to all black friends.  I am and always have been a social butterfly.  I walked up to the girls who looked my age and asked their names.  Their names I don’t remember.  I do remember, however the looks they gave me.  The way that made fun of the way that I spoke.  The entire summer, even in the small cluster of friends I managed to make I was mocked and taunted for “sounding like a white girl.” 

Funny thing is, as I grew up and my parents continued to enroll me in predominantly white, upper middle class schools in which I excelled socially and kinda sorta academically my father became the taunter.   It wasn’t just him, though.  At family reunions cousins, aunts, uncles would look at me bewildered when I spoke.   I was told that I wasn’t proud of my color, I didn’t embrace it, I was trying to be someone that I could never be.   Looking back, I’m not sure what else was expected of me.  Was I supposed to ignore the rules of the English language in favor for double negatives and slang?  It’s not who I am.  I sound ridiculous trying to “talk black” whatever that means.  

 Now at 30 as a proud black lesbian when I see him he asks why I don’t relax my hair.   “You’d look more professional with straighter hair, Erika.”  “I was going to buy you a comb for your birthday”   A little ironic, no?

This blog doesn’t make much since.  It’s a stream of thought, ideas, and memories evoked by a special lady whose childhood was way more, dare I say, fucked up then mine ever was.  When I listen to the poems and prose from some of the women in my writing group-stories of mixed race childhood angst echo.  Stories of what it means to be a black Latina, what it means to have a white father who didn’t acknowledge your existence or a white mother who tried to mold you into a white daughter are experiences I can’t relate to.  On the other hand, what does it mean to be a black child and never really know you were black-or more accurately, never know what it meant to be black.

Mirs and I talk about race identity all of the time.  What it will mean for us, as partners, to raise black Jewish children.  Our future children’s Jewish heritage is just, if not more, important to Mirs and our children’s black heritage.  No one will know, looking at them, that they’re Jews.  But they’ll sure as hell know that they’re black.  We have to have answers for them.  We always discuss when you start talking about race, identity, religion, and the injustice of so many peoples in our society. 

When we talk about my black identity, especially as a child, I always have to think about it really hard.  Clearly, looking in the mirror I could see that I was black but what my skin color meant; the struggles of my people, were never relayed to me.  When I honestly think about it I’m pretty sure that I learned the most about the Civil Rights movement from a white nun in school.  I asked my parents, and was given a book on MLK. 

My mother had the most insight, she lived in the segregated south until she was twelve.  She would tell me stories about visiting her mother, a domestic worker, at her job and having to use the back entrance.  She told me stories of using separate water fountains.  And I would listen to them and her and appreciate her taking the time.

My father, on the other hand, never told me anything.  Like so many instances in my life his childhood, his experience of being a black man living in New Jersey during the Civil Rights movement is a mystery to me.  I could ask him now, sure, but for a person so formative in my black identity or lack thereof as he often reminded me his imput is completely obsolete.  It doesn’t exist.  But the scars of his constant ridicule is.

Clearly, another reason for therapy.  Or excess money so I can quit my job and spend all of my time writing my memoirs or a work of autobiographical fiction.  So, thank you Staceyann Chin for what is shaping into an amazing and inspiring memoir.

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Who Ever Said Co-Habitation was Bliss…

…never lived in a 200 square foot studio apartment. Seriously, ya’ll…shit is not okay in the merry land of gay love. I mean it’s definitely not that bad, okay it’s that bad. But not that that bad. It’s definitely not good, though.

I don’t even know where to start. I actually started two other blogs that were complete and utter bullshit because it’s so raw and open and real when I discuss my relationship here. But, it’s what I do. It’s real lesbian life-with all of the real tears, anger, fears and frustrations. Minus the make up artist, wardrobe assistants and amazing homes you find in your average L Word Episode. Shit has hiteth the faneth.

I don’t even know how it happened, really. We had a really amazing weekend. We planted our heirloom tomatoes, tended our herbs, biked through Brooklyn, ran into friends in Prospect Park…all was fine.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, in Prospect Park on a blanket with organic pale ale, black berries, and raw cheeses she made the face. That face she makes when she’s thinking about something that she’s not yet ready to discuss. But that something is causing her to think, to ponder. She’s thinking and pondering and it’s effecting her. She’s making the face.

“What’s wrong” I ask

“Nothing” she lies

“Yes, something’s wrong, Mirs. Don’t lie to me, tell me what it is.”

It sounds super cliche doesn’t it? It sound super lesbian, “I know you’re hiding from me, tell me what it is. I can feel you feeling something. I know you’re thinking about something, tell me.”

So she finally talks and it’s about the apartment and all of the shit every where.

Let’s fast forward to 10AM that day. She woke up in what my mother has always said, ” A piss-poor mood.” So piss-poor the moment I left the house, which was more like escaping the death trap of exaggerated sighs and slammed doors, I phoned my mother. I got her voice mail and left her a frantic message once again comparing the love of my life, the woman that I want to marry, the person who completes me to my father.

There is a reason that you shouldn’t EVER need someone to complete you- and this is it. They’ll be your father. Besides the fact that you should find yourself completely whole before getting into a committed relationship with anyone and therefore be a “complete” person who just needs a partner. Don’t fret-I’m complete on my own. Keep reading. It gets better.

So Mom doesn’t pick up and I find myself walking the 3 blocks to the L train talking to her answering machine as though I’m having a real conversation with her, the person. I’m rambling on about how Mirs is more and more like a horrible hybrid of them both with every passing day, how she’s not only a completely neurotic clean freak like she is also a complete bipolar, with crazy mood swings that seem to come out of no where, like my father.

The train pulled into the station and I sat down with an audible sigh and crossed my arms over my chest and sulked.

Who does she think she is? Why would she want me to live there when she’s so clearly miserable. Her shit is every where, EVERY WHERE and my shit is crammed into the tiniest corner in the whole fucking place. What the fuck? What more can I do? Why, oh why did I move out of my peaceful escape in Harlem!?

I was on the train not only escaping her wrath but to find a clothes rack to put my shit. I got off of the train at 14th street and walked to Home Depot first. We needed more organic Potting Soil for our last heirloom tomato.

…TO BE CONTINUED

Quickie

Mirs and I are on our way out. We’re meeting one of her friends downtown to see a RomCom. Mirs’ friend and I love RomComs, Mir does not. I got a promotion at work this week and my lovely girlfriend is amusing me by taking me to the movies, dinner, etc. She even got me flowers; this amazing bouquet that’s totally “me”. ‘Cause she knows me really well.

I think that flowers should be given and received with frequency. I like Just Because flowers and flowers of congratulations. On Valentine’s Day before the plague attacked Mirs we were at Harefield Road, a little bar and brunch place in Williamsburg, waiting for our table. We were sitting at the bar stools looking out onto the street and we watched at least 4 guys walking by with roses in their hands for loved ones. Some had red roses (love) some had pink (friendship) and one had white (purity) I wonder if these guys know the meaning of rose colors or if the women they were intended knew either. I doubt it. I mean, if someone who I love presented me with pink or yellow roses I’d be pissed. First pissed that they weren’t red and second that they brought me roses. I know they’re expensive and all and smell like, well, roses but can you be more generic?

Roses take absolutely no thought, they’re not creative and they’re the go-to flower for the sake of flower giving. I may be just a crazy girl who doesn’t appreciate flowers when they’re given to me, but everyone that I know knows that if you’re gonna bring me flowers, I’ll reject the roses.

The bouquet Mirs got me can’t be identified by me, I’m sure a flower connoisseur could, but I cannot. I just know that I like them. They’re mostly greens, like branches from an evergreen with small pink buds and leaves that look like bay leaves. There’s one statement tropical-looking bloom at the center of a bunch that’s mostly green. They smell good; fresh. And they have personality. And, they are not roses.

in other news, I called my father and my sister yesterday and those blogs need some thinking through before I can post.

Computer Swap-Father Talk

I’m not very technologically savvy. I got my first laptop a year ago as a gift from my father. It’s really a long story, but my father and I have always had a very strained relationship. One of the novels that I’m working on has a lot to do with “Daddy Hate” He’s a wonderful man, really, but not an amazing father. My sister and I lived a charmed life, full of everything materialistic that a child could ever want. He bought our affection and traded actual quality time with toys, trips, books, money, anything we ever wanted.

When my sister and I were young and we’d talk of my parents divorcing we’d always sit for hours in my bed looking up through my canopy debating who’d we live with. Would we move out of our mansion into an apartment that my mom would live in? Give up all of the stuff to be with our Mom who loved us unconditionally, whole-heartedly, passionately, and madly. OR would will live in the big house with the big cars and all of the stuff with an absent father. We’d go back and forth for hours and always conclude that we’d live with Mom.

I can remember having these discussions with my sister when we were in grade school, as well as when we were in high school and always, always we’d decide to live with our mother. My mom is amazing. She’s my best friend. Even now, though she’s still convinced that I just need some dick and that I’m not really gay, she’s the person I can count on to be there for everything. She always has.

I can’t remember a single event of my childhood that my mother missed. Kindergarten graduation, she was there. Every Christmas Play, every sporting event, every game I cheered in, every cross country meet in every small white bread town in Ohio, there was the sole black parent cheering and yelling and rooting me on.

In Cities my sophomore year, I was running JV cross country. I was feeling amazing. I had no clue where I was placed for the entire run. I knew that I couldn’t see anyone in front of me and I didn’t hear anyone running behind me. When I entered the clearing towards the finish in the last half mile of the race I spotted my mother. She had a broad smile on her face and I could see her cold breath in little puffs of opaque emitting from her mouth. As I approached her, she started screaming, “You’re in second! You’re in second, baby!” You’re times 19:02, 03, 04…”
“Okay, Mom, ” I gasped I was starting to kick now, ’cause I could see the finish in the distance. I was at 19!? and only a few hundred yards to go? My PR was 21:01! I’m gonna break my PR!
I expected that my mother had stopped running, but no-she was right there. Seriously, running right next to me. On the course. In my second to last race of the season. She was going to disqualify me.

Luckily, my coach stopped her from running, I ran off, laughing and surprised at how fast my mother was running and so happy that I had such a dedicated mother. I ended up placing second, broke my PR and the girl who placed first finished 2 minutes before me and CLEARLY should have been running in the Varsity race so I could’ve placed first.

Dad was no where to be found.

As I entered my teens and twenties the complexity of my family relationship started to get sorted out in my mind and I understood things more clearly. I started to resent my father, his money and his control over the family and started feeling more compassion towards my mother. I made a decision that I would never be dependent on anyone other than myself.

My father and I have had many conversations about his involvement in my life. I have told him many times that, in retrospect, I would’ve wanted to have a father who was more involved in my life rather than a father who was just a provider. I told him how I never felt affection from him, rather his affection was shown by material things. His response is always that I never rejected the material over the physical. True. What child is going to reject a new toy, a private school education, a car, trips to Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean… We’ve had the discussion several times. This computer I’m writing on is the last thing that I took from him.

I actually offered to pay for half of it and in grand Vince Davis fashion he brushed me off and slapped down his American Express over my Wachovia Visa. Fine, I thought pocketing my card, I can’t afford this anyway. There was a small part of me that knew I should’ve rejected the computer and charged the machine I couldn’t afford. On the other hand, I couldn’t afford to not have it. My computer back in New York was the computer I’d purchased on my own my freshman year of college-ten years prior. It was dying. I needed this thing. It’s how he always gets me. I knew I’d regret it.

I did regret it, about three months later when we were having a talk about the fundraising I was doing for the marathon I never got to run in San Francisco. I was raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and not having much luck. I was just talking to him about it (I didn’t dare ask him for money) and he remarked, Well, “I’d help you with some fundraising but I’m still paying off that bill from when I flew you home last and that computer I gave you.” Ouch. That is Vince Davis for you.

It’s ironic now that my parent’s are actually divorced and my mother hasn’t been happier. My father hasn’t been more miserable. They’re doing this weird dating thing now. He comes to her house for dinner, takes her out, he’s actually taking her to Vienna in August. He’s trying to woo her back. I have to keep reminding her to use a condom if they decide to have sex, and not to give it up too quickly.


So started this blog about a computer swap. Clearly, I had Dad drama on the brain. That’s fine. It’s like therapy, only cheaper. If I were in therapy, at this point the therapist would ask what my real problem with my father was. If I peeled away the resentment for his material affections, took away my issues with him as a husband, took away his lack of involvement in my life-what was at the center.

The answer is that I want a dad. I hear Mirs talking to her father on the phone and I feel pangs of jealousy. My roommates and their father have an amazing relationship. It’s all jealousy and the need and desire to share the same types of relationships with my own father (and sister). I’m impossibly stubborn, a nice trait I picked up from my father. I could call him, be the bigger person, pick up the phone, put all the shit behind and start fresh. Instantly, even writing it, my mind is telling me why it wouldn’t work. He’s the same man, he’ll keep bringing up old crap to throw in my face, etc., etc. I’m working on it. Maybe I’ll call him this weekend. Again, my mind is telling me why I won’t; I have to work, a friend is coming in town, I have to work on my book. Lastly I think, the phone works both ways. He could call me. In fact, the last time I spoke to my mom my dad was at her place. I told her to tell him hello for me and that he could pick up the phone and call his daughter. He said, to my mother, that his daughter could pick up the phone to call her father.

I will do it, though, this weekend. I only have one father, after all. With all of his flaws, at the end of the day he’s my father. I asked Mirs how she and her father got to the place they are now. She tells me that they’re relationship is far from perfect. He’s still dealing with the gay thing, the democrat thing, and he’s a lot like my own father. She deals with him by realizing that she can’t change who he is, and even though she doesn’t like it, she has to learn to accept it.