As I have written about previously, when I was living in Mexico City, I frequently had a difficult time understanding their concepts of elastic time and what is considered polite. And just this weekend, I had another example of it from a friend of mine who is visiting New York this weekend. Last time he was in New York, I found out about it on facebook and told him I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see each other. Perhaps not wanting to get caught out again in the same way, this time he told me (one day in advance) he was coming to New York, and we made plans to have brunch today. He told me he would call me to setup the details (why calling instead of email I don’t know, but no big deal). And yesterday, I got a call from a florida number that was apparently his, but when I picked up the phone, I could not hear anything on the other end, so I hung up. They called back and I let it go to voicemail, but there was no message, so I assumed it was a wrong number. Many hours later I get an email from my friend telling me he tried to reach me but was unable to, and that he would call me again today so that he could “at least hear my voice on the phone”. I responded with details about the phone problems and asked if we were still on for brunch. Two hours after that, I got another message from him about his phone calling again, but ignoring my question about brunch, so I asked it again. I didn’t hear back from him, so I sent one more this morning when I woke up, and then received a message from him telling me he had made other plans, but would try to call me.
I have to admit, this whole scenario pushes my buttons about planning things while I lived in Mexico City. I feel like my friend never really intended to have brunch with me, but felt it was more “polite” to make fake plans and then pretend we couldn’t keep them, rather than just saying up front that yes, he was coming to New York (sure that I would see that on facebook) but no, didn’t really have the time to see me. I would have much preferred that version to making plans (to satisfy the Mexico City idea of being “polite”) and then being stood up. It is not “polite” in my book to waste other people’s time.
My parents have been in town the last few days visiting, and we have taken the opportunity (as we always do) to eat some great food (trying out some new restaurants) and walk around the city a bit. On Thursday night we went to a place called ilili for Lebanese food that was really spectacular. Every dish was nuanced and incredibly delicious. Last night we went to a place called Craft that is always on the best-of lists, and it was very very good, but really did not hold a candle to ilili in my opinion. This morning we went to the always excellent Whitehall for brunch with Josh and Michael, and tonight we will go see the revival (new staging, whatever) of Porgy and Bess on Broadway. All in all, a very New York trip for my parents.
They leave tomorrow, and I will be spending the next week starving off the pounds acquired while they were here, catching up with work, and preparing for the inevitable arrival of summer.
I just bid adieu to my friend Dimitri who was here staying for the last couple of days. Two days before that was my friend Digraj who stayed with me for three days. The week prior to that my friend Jose. All in all, this year I have had guests staying with me for 32 days out of this year, or close to a quarter of the year. And my parents (whom I adore) are arriving in 3 days for a 5 day visit. I enjoy having guests, and with all the hospitality that people have shown me over the years, I am happy to return the favors, either directly to them or in offering the same kindness to others. But there does come a point where one needs a little alone time, and I think I am close to that point. After my parents leave I am going to try to have a few weeks with no one sleeping in my apartment but me.
God, this was a long time in coming. And did anyone seriously believe that Obama didn’t personally believe this a long time ago? And why now, why not weeks ago when it could have made (some) difference in the North Carolina Amendment One debacle? Is it a brave thing to do? Yes and no. It would have been braver yesterday and less brave tomorrow. That is the way history is. The President is clearly calculating that we have finally come far enough as a nation that this stance will no longer hinder him. Although I highly doubt anyone strongly opposed to same sex marriage would ever vote for Obama anyway, it could hurt him somewhat. And it could help him, certainly by energizing some on the left. Obama is a cool, calculated thinker, I have to give him that even when I disagree with him. This was a smooth political act with all that implies.
And yet, even knowing all that, I sit here with tears in my eyes. Today the leader of our nation stood up for equality. I have spent the better part of my adult life forging my own path, and a lot of that is related to the fact that I am gay. Would I have felt the wanderlust I did had I been raised in a part of the world or a time that was more accepting? (It is interesting to note that of the several members of my extended family that are gay, none of them live in our home state of Indiana. My family there is as wonderful, progressive and supportive as any family anywhere in the world, but I would not say the same about the state in which they live.) At this point in my life, I truly consider being gay to have been the single biggest gift I was ever given by the universe. It has forged in me a strength and curiosity about life, and a respect and fascination with difference that would never have blossomed in the same way. It has given me a terrible appreciation of the use and abuse of power, and a strong ability to follow my own moral compass. It has not been easy, and there were many times that I felt the petty hatreds and misunderstandings of people living in ignorance and fear. But these things ultimately made me stronger, and hopefully more compassionate towards those with outsider status. And although I have long seen this struggle as a blessing, I yearn for the day when being gay will make as much difference to how someone lives their life as being left-handed or having green eyes. When the choices they will make will be based fully on their own hopes and dreams, and not at all on the irrational bigotry of others. I have seen a lot of movement towards this goal in my own lifetime, and today is another step along that path. Thank you, President Obama.
I got into a slightly heated discussion with a new friend of mine the other day. He is Mexican, and just arrived here with his partner a couple of months ago. They will be living in NYC for the foreseeable future, as his partner got some posh job here. My friend, like me, is freelance and we meet about once a week for lunch. We were talking about comparisons between gay life here and there and he was remarking that he thought people were really uptight here about public displays of affection. Having lived in both cultures, I could see his point on one level (as there were many times I saw young lovers really going at it in the parks in Mexico City). But on another, I never saw gay people doing much PDA in Mexico, it seemed to me to be definitely something reserved for the straights. And even then, it seemed to me this was because so many young people lived with their parents and had no place to go. And on the subject of gay rights, he (rightly) pointed out that Mexico has country-wide marriage rights, something we still lack in the US. And my protestations to the contrary, he honestly believes that culturally, Mexico (and other Latin American countries) are far more accepting of gay people. Again, having lived there and traveled extensively in Latin America, I can only speak to my experience, but let’s just say it ran contrary to his impressions. He noted how much stronger the family unit and connections were in those countries, and that is something that (notwithstanding my own close-knit family) I granted was true. But I asked him if he was out to his family, and he replied that “they knew” about him and his partner, but that he didn’t bring it up or throw it in their faces. To which I replied that for me, equality means living as openly as any straight person, and having my life and relationships treated with the same respect and openness. He replied that he didn’t need that, and he honestly believes that things are better for gay people there. It was striking to me how different were the notions of equality that we each had. And how different our experience of each place was. I have no illusions about the United States, and I divide the country into regions or bubbles of equality. New York is a very different place than Omaha, and my daily experience is of course local, and very much equal on a societal level. I will not rest until we have full legal equality under the law, but I believe that is coming soon (although not soon enough obviously). And further, I am under no illusions that the Republican party will soon turn over a new leaf and let go of their disgusting hatred of us, but I am hopeful that they will have less and less sway over the culture. I think that our biggest point of divergence is over openness, and that is something that I will never relinquish– to me, that is the mark of equality. And that is probably why I think that the most powerful thing anyone can do to advance the cause of equality is to live openly, and refuse to be treated as a second class citizen. Coming out, and living openly is not “throwing anything in anyone’s face”, any more than living an openly heterosexual life is. It is all part of our human condition, and equally deserving of dignity and respect.