The Scarlet L(etter): the “L” Word Revisited


While on the faculty at Oral Roberts University, I wrote the following poem.  The year was 1988.  I had been teaching a women’s literature course, a senior seminar.  When I introduced feminist criticism, I used a text, which I then loaned to a student, a copy in which I had (scandalously) underlined the word “Lesbian.”  This female student took the book to the dean, in an effort to report my behavior (apparently unbecoming an ORU faculty member).  I was then called into the Dean of Women’s office to “discuss” the matter, where I was asked about my sexual orientation–I kid you not.  At the time I hadn’t discovered yet that I am, indeed, (blush, blush) a Lesbian.

In reading back over the poem, planning to discuss the incident with my now partner, I think to myself, “What kind of God-forsaken place was this!  It’s no wonder I subsequently had a nervous breakdown.”

I hope you’ll read the poem and tell me your thoughts on the matter.

inquisition

i balance on the edge
of a yellow wing back
chair in a room that’s
clean and at odd angles
with a window and  
a view of roof
 
it’s easy to think
of her as an enemy—
the fat woman with stiff
hair across the desk
from me
 
we don’t want you to
feel like this is
a witch hunt, she says
 
but, of course, we both
know that it is—that
it’s me at stake, because
i’ve got a back that’s
made of bone,  because
i bleed
 
we don’t believe
in blood, she says,
we don’t believe
in bone.
 
(poem written 7 December 1988)

Not-so-instant replay


I’m preparing a post for next week about why Sara and I are weird as a couple.  (And the fact of the matter is, we are way, way weird.)  However, that new piece won’t mean as much if you haven’t read the one I’m re-posting below. 

I wrote what appears here only a few days into the life of this blog, so few of you will likely have seen it in its original incarnation.  It was called “Top 10 Reasons I’m Pretty Much a Freak.”  Hope it entertains you over the weekend.

Let’s face it.  I’m not normal.  My partner Sara has always said I was weird—actually her word was “eccentric”—but you get the picture.

At any rate, amid all the seriousness I face living in Haiti, I’ve decided to lighten things up here today by offering you the top ten reasons Sara still insists I’m what you could call—well—“quirky:”

#10.  Left to my own devices, I eat mostly from what my friend Milana and I call the “white food group.”  Edible items in this category include: baguettes, bagels, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, lots and lots of sugar—sugar cookies, cakes, unimaginable amounts of pie crust—and if I were a drinker, which I am not—wine!

#9.  I’m a double fisted drinker.  Not with wine, of course, but with hot and cold beverages, mostly hot tea, Lipton (though since we’ve come to Haiti, coffee has become an option), and Pepsi Max, when I can find it—(Coke Zero, otherwise).  Now, for me, this only works in one direction.  Namely, if I drink something hot, I have to have the cold cola to accompany it.  However, chilled drinks can stand alone—not always needing the hot accompaniment.

 #8.  I tend to collect things—and not the kinds of things most would consider collectables, but which I gather in the name of “potential art”—items I prefer to call “collagables”—buttons, beads, ribbons, rocks, shells, business cards, bottle caps, maps, matchboxes, newspaper clippings, play bills, and, among other things, sales receipts—in my mind the most under-rated and readily available of all the collagables—a free gift with each purchase, so to speak.

#7.  I have a lot of bags.  For a fairly inclusive cataloging, I refer you to a post from 13 July 2009  “Not dog on grass—Not bag on floor—Not bike on . . . .”

#6.  I never use a top sheet.  Don’t believe in them.  Never have.

#5.  I pretty much live with a saint— We’ll call her Saint Sara the Orderly.   (And I have saintly siblings, but I’ll leave that for a later post.)  Sara has “placement issues”—a problem she blames on her training as an architect and which she insists I knew about prior to our partnering and simply can not change, as they are, in fact, evidence of her Saintly origins—rituals of the Order, so to speak.  Bottom line—Sara likes to arrange things: drawers, cupboards, closets, the contents of the refrigerator, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup arranged in tidy rows—like items lined up together—like soldiers—an army of condiments ready for edible action.  Need I say more.

#4.  My partner does disaster response.  She’s a disaster response expert.  Now there aren’t a lot of these people on the planet (though there are quite a few of them in Haiti these days).  I believe (and you are free to disagree), that’s it’s the relative scarcity of this species that makes disasters so, well, “disastrous.”  In all seriousness, I’m grateful that Sara does this kind of work.  It helps make meaning in our lives.   And though that “meaning” often means traveling a lot, we’re not exactly heading to what most would call “vacation destinations.”

#3.  My mother wears clothes pins as fashion accessories.  Actually, at age 72 she uses them as a mnemonic device, so let’s not get all uptight about this one.  However, for further discussion of this semi-strange sartorial habit, I refer you to a post from several days ago called, “Airing Family Secrets Via Haute Couture.”

#2.  I taught at Oral Roberts University.  This may speak for itself—except that I might mention having arrived on campus in 1986, just after Oral sequestered himself in the Prayer Tower for a number of weeks, claiming God was going to “bring him home” if believers didn’t donate 6 million dollars.   I know some of you may be too young to remember this, but it’s true.  He did it.  I was there.  And the play the drama department performed that semester just happened to be—“Death of a Salesman”—I kid you not!

#1.  My father was in the mafia–pretty much, that’s what it boils down to—Enough said.

Now, none of these items in and of themselves makes one weird—not even two or three.  It’s the global picture I’m getting at.

And I haven’t even included here the biggest reason I’m a weirdo.  But, let’s face it folks, we don’t know one another well enough yet for me to share all my secrets.  It seems though the picture’s becoming clearer—

Bottom line–I’m pretty much a freak. 

How about you?

Top 10 reasons I’m pretty much a freak


Let’s face it.  I’m not normal.  My partner Sara has always said I was weird—actually her word was “eccentric”—but you get the picture.

At any rate, amid all the seriousness I face living in Haiti, I’ve decided to lighten things up here today by offering you the top ten reasons Sara still insists I’m what you could call—well—“quirky:”

#10.  Left to my own devices, I eat mostly from what my friend Milana and I call the “white food group.”  Edible items in this category include: baguettes, bagels, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, lots and lots of sugar—sugar cookies, cakes, unimaginable amounts of pie crust—and if I were a drinker, which I am not—wine!

#9.  I’m a double fisted drinker.  Not with wine, of course, but with hot and cold beverages, mostly hot tea, Lipton (though since we’ve come to Haiti, coffee has become an option), and Pepsi Max, when I can find it—(Coke Zero, otherwise).  Now, for me, this only works in one direction.  Namely, if I drink something hot, I have to have the cold cola to accompany it.  However, chilled drinks can stand alone—not always needing the hot accompaniment.

 #8.  I tend to collect things—and not the kinds of things most would consider collectables, but which I gather in the name of “potential art”—items I prefer to call “collagables”—buttons, beads, ribbons, rocks, shells, business cards, bottle caps, maps, matchboxes, newspaper clippings, play bills, and, among other things, sales receipts—in my mind the most under-rated and readily available of all the collagables—a free gift with each purchase, so to speak.

#7.  I have a lot of bags.  For a fairly inclusive cataloging, I refer you to a post from 13 July 2009  “Not dog on grass—Not bag on floor—Not bike on . . . .”

#6.  I never use a top sheet.  Don’t believe in them.  Never have.

#5.  I pretty much live with a saint— We’ll call her Saint Sara the Orderly.   (And I have saintly siblings, but I’ll leave that for a later post.)  Sara has “placement issues”—a problem she blames on her training as an architect and which she insists I knew about prior to our partnering and simply can not change, as they are, in fact, evidence of her Saintly origins—rituals of the Order, so to speak.  Bottom line—Sara likes to arrange things: drawers, cupboards, closets, the contents of the refrigerator, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup arranged in tidy rows—like items lined up together—like soldiers—an army of condiments ready for edible action.  Need I say more.

#4.  My partner does disaster response.  She’s a disaster response expert.  Now there aren’t a lot of these people on the planet (though there are quite a few of them in Haiti these days).  I believe (and you are free to disagree), that’s it’s the relative scarcity of this species that makes disasters so, well, “disastrous.”  In all seriousness, I’m grateful that Sara does this kind of work.  It helps make meaning in our lives.   And though that “meaning” often means traveling a lot, we’re not exactly heading to what most would call “vacation destinations.”

#3.  My mother wears clothes pins as fashion accessories.  Actually, at age 72 she uses them as a mnemonic device, so let’s not get all uptight about this one.  However, for further discussion of this semi-strange sartorial habit, I refer you to a post from several days ago called, “Airing Family Secrets Via Haute Couture.”

#2.  I taught at Oral Roberts University.  This may speak for itself—except that I might mention having arrived on campus in 1986, just after Oral sequestered himself in the Prayer Tower for a number of weeks, claiming God was going to “bring him home” if believers didn’t donate 6 million dollars.   I know some of you may be too young to remember this, but it’s true.  He did it.  I was there.  And the play the drama department performed that semester just happened to be—“Death of a Salesman”—I kid you not!

#1.  My father was in the mafia–pretty much, that’s what it boils down to—Enough said.

Now, none of these items in and of themselves makes one weird—not even two or three.  It’s the global picture I’m getting at.

And I haven’t even included here the biggest reason I’m a weirdo.  But, let’s face it folks, we don’t know one another well enough yet for me to share all my secrets.  It seems though the picture’s becoming clearer—

Bottom line–I’m pretty much a freak. 

How about you?