Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fobletter '07: The Crappy Version

Our friends Theric and Lady Steed make quite the production of their yearly Last Day of the First Month of the New Year letter, both in the writing and in the publication, and the result is always impressive. So much so, in fact, that a couple years ago all the stuff that didn't make it into the final cut made for a handful of entertaining "deleted scenes" blog posts. Consider this post my attempt to follow in Theric's tradition, except for the minor detail that Theric's excrement is better than my gold. And this is not my gold. Really, I'm just putting up this first draft of our Christmas letter instead of the real thing because Theric told me it kills the joy of getting the paper copy to have the same thing available online. So this is my overwrought, undone way of saying Happy Holidays to you, dear blog readers. Thanks to FoxyJ's honest criticism, the final version is much, much shorter and really entirely different. If you feel you've been unfairly excluded from the paper mailing list, let me know and I'll be happy to add you.

(An alternate, crappier version of the photo we used in the real letter.)

Dear Fobby Fans,

It has come to the attention of the editors of FOB: Family of Ben that some of you may not be following the monthly adventures of your favorite heroes: Mr. Fob, FoxyJ, S-Boogie, and Little Dude. In order to help you catch up, we’re providing the following synopses of the last twelve issues of FOB:

FOB #63 (Jan 07). The Fobs team up with veteran heroes Grandma and Grandpa to fight crime in Seattle. Meanwhile, FoxyJ fights a personal battle against the evil Dr. Hemorrhoid and wins, but only after a visit to the emergency room.

FOB #64 (Feb 07). Little Dude acquires a new superpower: standing up. He practices this new ability nonstop, particularly in the wee hours of the night while banging his crib against the wall.

FOB #65 (Mar 07). In a crossover with Team Thteed #78, the Fobs visit friends in Berkeley, where they find a new weakness at Crepes-A-Go-Go. The epic storyline then crosses over into Ohana Utah #69 when the Fobs go to Utah Valley in search of the extended Family of Ben.


FOB #66 (Apr 07). In “Job Search Part 1,” Foxy sets out on a quest to find a long lost ally, Employment Woman. Mr. Fob takes his turn in the ER when he is attacked by someone who appears to be the nefarious villain Heart Attack. As it turns out, it is only the not-quite-so-nefarious villain Stress-Induced Panic Attack.


FOB #67 (May 07). “Job Search” continues while Foxy defends another ally, Thesis Lad, against the evil Thesis Committee. Little Dude celebrates the first anniversary of his First Appearance (as seen previously in FOB #55).

FOB #68 (Jun 07). Foxy takes a brief break from the search for Employment Woman to make another trip, along with S-Boogie and Little Dude, to Utah. In his civilian identity, Mr. Fob starts the Avocado for President campaign.

FOB #69 (Jul 07). Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

FOB #70 (Aug 07). In “Fobbing Around the World Part 1,” the Fobs take the Fobmobile to Utah, where Foxy receives her master’s degree in superheroism, then they board the Fobjet to fly to Hawaii.


FOB #71 (Sep 07). “Fobbing Around the World” and “Job Search” both conclude this issue. The Fobs return to the Fobcave with sand in their tights after witnessing the beach wedding of Mr. Fob’s brother in Oregon. Foxy finally finds Employment Woman teaching Spanish classes at a technical college outside of Seattle, and a new adventure begins as S-Boogie enters Professor ABC’s Training Academy for Young Superheroes.

FOB #72 (Oct 07). S-Boogie learns the hard way that superheroing is a dangerous job when she ends up in the emergency room with a split chin. She wows the doctors and nurses with her bravery and charisma.


FOB #73 (Nov 07). In an issue guest-starring Foxy’s sister, Skywoman, Foxy shows off her culinary superpowers with the most amazing Thanksgiving meal ever. Unfortunately, the next day she is caught off guard by the villainous Stairman, who puts her in the emergency room yet again, this time with a sprained ankle.

FOB #74 (Dec 07). Because they haven’t put enough miles on the Fobmobile this year, the Fobs travel again to Utah and then to Las Vegas. At the time of this writing, this issue is still in production, so the surprise ending has not yet been revealed. Will the Fobs make it safely home? Read to find out.

Conclusion blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Love,

The Fobs

My 2007 Report Card

I'll just come out and say it: 2007 was a shitty year. It's rare for me to admit such a thing, even to myself, because I tend to believe in the adage "All's well that ends well," and I tend to assume even in the midst of whatever's happening that it will eventually end well. But when I step back and objectively think about everything I've been through this year--emotionally, physically, and fiscally--and then add on top of that all the crap I've made my loved ones endure, I have to admit that as years go this one kind of sucked.

That said, this year really does look like it's going to end well. I'm at a happy place right now, at peace with myself as a husband, a father, a student, a writer, and a human being. Despite many setbacks throughout the year and the most recent news that FoxyJ will have to find a new job this quarter because her classes have been canceled, I think our family is doing well too. Foxy is a confident woman, I suspect even more aware now than she was a couple years ago of what she is capable of. S-Boogie loves preschool and seems to make friends everywhere she goes (and at the moment she wants me to write SUIIEL, which is apparently pronounced "cage-on"). Little Dude is bursting with cheer most of the time and communicates quite well with his two dozen signs and half-a-dozen words.

And through it all, I feel like I've done pretty well on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. Which is why it's surprising to look objectively and see that I haven't. Here's the breakdown:

1. Cut down to 15% body fat. This is the one I'm most surprised by. I've worked out pretty consistently through the year and probably lost about ten pounds. I feel healthier and in better shape than I was a year ago. Nevertheless, the body fat scale I borrowed in January told me I was at 22%, and the body fat scale I bought with the gift card my dad sent last week has been telling me pretty consistently that I'm still at 22%. It may just be the difference in scales, so I'm going to go with my gut instinct and believe that I've made progress here, even if not all the way to 15%. I think I'll make this a goal again in 2008, except this time I'll have a better plan as to how I'm going to get there, taking into account not only exercise but also eating habits. And now that I own a scale I can better keep track of my progress.

2. Make five writing submissions, or one successful submission, whichever comes first. I haven't quite met this one, unless you count the fact that two of my pieces will be appearing in the forthcoming Fob Bible as a "successful submission." As excited as I am about this anthology of Fob literature, self-publication isn't quite what I had in mind. I did, just this very afternoon, finally submit my paper on lesbianism and homosexuality in the Library of Congress Subject Headings and Classification systems to a journal, as well as a query for my current novel to an agent. Cross your fingers for me!

3. Read at least twelve leisure books. Pshaw. I totally kicked this goal's butt. I think it's safe to say that I'm finally at a place where, despite all the reading I have to do for school, I've made enough of a habit of reading for fun that I don't need to make it a goal anymore. I've read two books just in the last three days.

4. Read the New Testament. Meh. Making the transition from reluctant Mormon to confused Christian to comfortable agnostic this year has sort of killed this goal. I read some at the beginning of the year with Foxy, then a bit more when I was attending the United Church of Christ, but then I lost interest. I have been reading a lot of Bible stories and poems written by my fellow fobs, though. I'm sure that counts for something.

So I guess that all adds up to about a C-. I'll do better next year. And of course there's still tomorrow left for 2007.

2008 goals to come.

Her Ex is Having Sex With Rex

I first learned of Jennifer Lee's memoir My Ex is Having Sex With Rex in a review on C.L. Hanson's blog. It sounded like an interesting book so I put it on my Amazon.com wishlist, but never got around to buying it until my brother got it for me this Christmas. It's a quick and entertaining read and provides an enlightening look at a mixed-orientation marriage and its aftermath from the perspective of a woman whose husband has left her for a man.

(As a side note, I always find it interesting when people talk about how the woman's perspective is generally ignored in the discussion of gay men marrying women, because the extent of what I've come across on the topic are books like this and Carol Lynn Pearson's Good-Bye, I Love You and Amity Buxton's The Other Side of the Closet, which are all about women who are divorced from gay men. Since the rise of the blogosphere I've seen a lot of married and divorced gay men blogging and a few lesbians here and there, but what I've seen very little of is straight women who are currently married to gay men, a lack I'm hoping to remedy a bit with the series of interviews I'm doing on Northern Lights.)

I admit to having a hard time, when reading this book and Pearson's, of taking these accounts of another person's experience as just that--another person's experience. It's too easy for me to read about Lee and her ex-husband and say, "Oh, that's just like FoxyJ and me" or "That's nothing like our relationship." It's too easy to look at others' experiences and see them as omens of things to come, to see the pain these women have felt as pain I will inevitably cause the woman I love.

At the same time, I'm bothered by statements Lee makes like "Bottom line: There's no hope of having a committed, connected, love-at-the-very-core-of-your-being marriage between a straight woman and a gay man." Really? Really? Have you based that statement on researched scientific data? I will never argue with Lee or anyone else who has come to that conclusion about her own marriage. I would not even argue with anyone who came to that conclusion about a potential marriage she chose not to enter upon learning her fiance was gay. But I have a hard time accepting such blanket statements made regarding all straight-gay marriages. This is not a matter of me defending my personal experience; I would have and did say the same thing when Foxy and I were separated with the intention of divorcing.

That said, I enjoyed My Ex is Having Sex With Rex. It's the honest story of a woman who was thrown unknowingly into a really crappy situation and is now in the midst of making the best of it. Quite admirably, she's concerned not only with making the best of it for herself but also for her children, her ex-husband, and everyone else involved. Even her conclusions about the impossibility of mixed-orientation marriages seem to be coming from her charitable attempt to view the end of her marriage and the pain it's caused her not as the result of her ex-husband's decision to leave but as an inevitable result of their situation. Ultimately Lee comes to a conclusion similar to one I came to this summer: it's not about whether she's happier now as a single woman than she was married to a gay man; she had a happy life as a married woman and she's made a happy life for herself now. In both situations there have been pain and joy. Lee's story is one of recognizing the past and possible futures for what they are and living in the present.

As for how it all applies to FoxyJ and me, well, that's for us to decide.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Moral of the Story

(But I'll spare you the week-long story.)

Windows Vista will not connect your laptop to the Internet unless you have some kind of Norton anti-virus software installed. You don't even have to have an active subscription--you just have to have it installed or you will get nothing but that cursed Local Access Only message until you do. McAfee doesn't work; it must be Norton. There is no way around this. Not even plugging directly into the router or DSL modem with an ethernet cable will work.

This is assuming, of course, that the moral of my story can be generalized to all Vista-running laptop owners in the world. I assume that's a safe assumption.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Favorite Lines From S-Boogie's New Books

From Snow by Uri Shulevitz, wherein a little boy hopes a few snowflakes are a sign of more to come:
"No snow," said radio.
"No snow," said television.
But snowflakes don't listen to radio,
snowflakes don't watch television.
All snowflakes know is snow, snow, snow.
From Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann, wherein a little girl eats too many pink cupcakes and wakes up pink, much to her parents' concern:
My hair was the color of raspberry sorbet. I cried because I was so beautiful. I even had PINK tears. I put on my pink fairy princess dress and twirled in front of the mirror, while Mommy speed-dialed the pediatrician.
I love love love the image of a four-year-old girl crying because she's so beautiful. If you don't read picture books, you really should.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Bounty

I will not lie to you; I love getting presents. I enjoy giving presents too, but mostly because I project how much I enjoy receiving them onto other people and so experience the joy of getting vicariously. When I was a kid I would take a picture each year of me with all the presents I'd gotten. I'll spare you the photo because we left our camera cord in Utah, but I'll make up for it with a thousand words listing my loot, all under the guise of public gratitude:
  • Thanks to my sisters, who got me and FoxyJ a gift certificate to a Peruvian restaurant in Orem and provided babysitting so we could enjoy the meal. You can never go wrong with food or free babysitting.
  • Thanks to my mom, who got me a Hawaiian Christmas CD by the Brothers Cazimero. It's quickly become a comfort CD, taking me back to the years when we'd listen to my mom's Cazimero Christmas tape over and over and over.
  • Thanks to my dad, who got us a very generous Wal-Mart gift card. We'll be braving the after-Christmas crowd tomorrow to use it. We still don't know what we'll get, but that's half the fun of a gift card--deciding what to spend it on.
  • Thanks to my brother (I think, but I realized tonight after throwing all the packing slips away that I'm not entirely sure all three Amazon.com boxes were from him, or any of them for that matter), who got me a CD and several books from my wishlist. He also got me The Simpsons Movie, which was not on my wishlist, so I can't imagine how he guessed I'd want it--perhaps the fact that I own the first ten seasons on DVD tipped him off.
  • Thanks to S-Boogie, who got me a Superman action figure. FoxyJ says she took S-Boogie to the action figure aisle and it was S-Boogie who found and chose which one to get. And this was before I decided to get a Superman figure for her. As it turns out, the Justice League Unlimited Superman figure S-Boogie chose is much more durable than the DC Direct collectible figure I chose, whose hands have both broken off already.
  • Thanks to FoxyJ, who got me an alarm clock (because she has appropriated my old one for herself) and an iTunes gift card, which I've used to buy The Essential Michael Jackson. It's a great collection of all his hits from the Jackson 5 days through Invincible. The only song I think I'll have to buy individually is "Scream," which I've always liked despite the disturbing image of Janet Jackson peeing in a urinal in the music video.
  • Thanks to everyone who got S-Boogie and Little Dude presents. It's been just as fun to see them enjoy new toys and clothes as it is for me to get presents myself.
I've realized this year that there are people who like to be surprised with gifts they didn't know they wanted and people who know what they want, and for the most part I am in the latter category. Not that I don't enjoy getting unexpected gifts; I absolutely love that FoxyJ thought to take S-Boogie down the action figure aisle to find a present for me, and that S-Boogie chose Superman. Seriously, do I not have the coolest wife and daughter in the world? But it is always very exciting for me to get books and CDs and DVDs from my Amazon.com wishlist, and equally exciting to receive gift cards. I spent an hour or two this afternoon deciding what to get with the iTunes card and hardly noticed the time pass because I was having so much fun. This likely says unflattering things about my personality, but oh well. I'm happy.

Merry Christmas to all! What was your favorite present this year?

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things (Besides Avocado)

  • Cheese balls
  • Storms
  • Chocolate fudge brownie ice cream
  • Cheese Whiz
  • Dharma & Greg
  • Peanut butter
  • String cheese
  • Wyclef Jean's new album
  • Satay
  • Cheesecake
  • The smell of my children
  • Fudge
  • Pepper jack cheese
  • Brown paper packages tied up with strings
  • Food
  • Cheese

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekly Confession: Unholier Than Thou

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. As with many of my sins, this one boils down to pride, and also as with many of my sins, I've only come to recognize this in myself because it bothers me so much in others.

There are a few blogs in Outer Blogness (the ex-Mormon blogosphere) that I follow regularly and a few I check in on now and then. The ones I enjoy more and thus follow regularly don't identify themselves so much by their ex-Mormonness and lack the bitter and condescending tone that so many ex-Mormon bloggers take toward Mormondom. I don't tend to think of myself as ex-Mormon so much as a guy who used to be Mormon, and I tend to gravitate toward people of like minds. In even the least bitter and condescending of these blogs, though--including my own, I'm realizing--the occasional post sneaks in wherein the author sets up the brainwashed, backwards-thinking Mormon straw man in order to make him or herself look oh-so-enlightened in comparison. "Thank Humanism I don't buy into those ridiculous beliefs anymore."

Everyone, of course, is going to find his or her own convictions and value system to be the best, the most logical, but I think there's a problem when we (I) become so convinced by our (my) own way of thinking that we (I) discard other ways of thinking as nonsense. If Mormonism or Buddhism or Catholicism were nonsense, then you would not find as many intelligent people believing them as you do. Rather than dismissing belief systems that don't make sense to us, we'd do better to try to understand why people adhere to them. You'd think those of us who used to be believers ourselves would have an easier time of understanding those who still are, but I think the reality is just the opposite--we see our own path leading away from belief as a logical progression, and thus can't help seeing believers as being somewhere behind us on that path. The problem is that we're (a) projecting our own life's experience onto another person it may not apply to and (b) assuming we're at some kind of destination point where we can objectively look back and see the world through an unfiltered lens.

If this sounds more like the same soapbox I'm always on than some new revelation, that's because it is. For all my talk about respecting people who are different from me, it's all too often little more than lip service. As one example, in a post a few weeks ago I made a passing comment about how bigotry is the reason same-sex marriage has been made illegal in so many states, as if that were an accepted fact. Now, I do believe that in most cases people are opposed to same-sex marriage because of ignorant bigotry, but the way I phrased it didn't acknowledge the many people who base their opposition to same-sex marriage in reasons that--though I disagree with them--are not bigotry. It's easier for me to point a finger at the bigoted straw man than to acknowledge the complexity of the real world, and doing so served my rhetorical purpose at the time, but it's not fair to the people who are opposed to same-sex marriage but aren't bigots, which I imagine describes some of the people who read this blog. I apologize for being so condescending.

I don't mean to blow my sin out of proportion. Despite my shortcomings, I believe that I, just like my ex-Mormon, Mormon, and completely-unrelated-t0-Mormondom co-bloggers, am making a sincere effort. But I also think it's valuable for us to recognize where our efforts fall short, in order to do better.

As penitence I will do my best to treat everyone and their beliefs with respect, and to recognize and apologize for any lapses that I'll surely make. I'd invite you to point out instances where I don't show enough respect for others' beliefs, but only if you promise to do so very gently and kindly; Blogger knows I don't handle criticism well.

I am sorry for this and many other sins of my past and present life.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Done

I am thankful for professors who allow me to email final research papers to them so I can start my vacation as soon as classes are done, but I am not so thankful for the papers themselves. Spending the first week of vacation doing homework while everyone else has fun kind of sucks. But I'm done with the quarter now, and for those of you keeping track, I only have two more quarters to be done with, ever until the end of time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Problem With Losing Weight

When I was first married, my wedding band was a bit loose. I probably should have done something about it, but that would have required more effort than just wearing a loose ring, so I didn't. This turned out to be a good thing, because then I got fat. I completely forgot, in fact, that the ring had ever been loose.

In the past several weeks--likely because it's been cold--the ring has been slipping off all the time. I haven't lost it (permanently) yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Perhaps I need to get fat again. It's a good thing I've spent most of this past week snacking on holiday treats.

Curiously

Do you suppose people refer to "Hillary" while in the same breath referring to "Obama," "Giuliani," and "Romney" because she's a woman or simply to distinguish her from another well-known "Clinton"? Granted, I've seen a lot of references to "Mitt," but usually in a derogative sense, and I've seen very few references to "Barack" or "Rudy." What do you think?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Weekly Confession: Indoctrination

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. I am indoctrinating my children in the ways of my religion.

It all started, I suppose, when S-Boogie was a baby and I got in the habit of putting on Justice League DVDs while trying to get her to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. That planted the seed. Then when she was two, I dressed her for Halloween as Supergirl. This past year I've brainwashed her with the full canon of our scriptures, starting with the complete series of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited DVDs, then on to Teen Titans and Batman and most recently Superfriends. I have put the icing on the cake of indoctrination, as it were, by buying her her very own idol as a Christmas present:I justify this blatant projection of my own values onto my daughter by reminding myself that just last week, while watching Superfriends, she said of her own free will, "Superman's my favorite." (I later asked, to clarify, whether she liked Superman or Supergirl better; she replied that she liked them both the same. I debated with myself as to whether Supergirl would provide a strong female role model or simply yet another example of a teenaged girl dressing like a skank in order to impress men. Ultimately the comic book shop decided for me by having only Superman figures.)

Obviously her statement of preference is more proof that the brainwashing has already happened than justification for further acts of brainwashing. (Though, truth be told, I like Batman better myself.)

I'll be honest; I have no intention of stopping this rampant brainwashing of the innocents. I will likely continue to watch superhero cartoons with them, buy them superhero toys now and then, and encourage them to read superhero comics when they're older. I will, however, encourage them to explore other faiths as well. And most importantly, as they grow up I will support them in whatever choices they make, even if they decide they like Marvel Comics superheroes better than DC Comics superheroes or (Krypton forbid!) that they don't like superheroes at all.

So I guess I'm not all that sorry for this sin, Blogger. But at least I admit it is one.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Problem With Taking Classes Outside of My Program

My European studies professor's comment on my introduction to a paper on public library service for immigrants in Denmark, Sweden, and Spain:

"But why should we care about library services for immigrants? What can libraries do for them?"

Me:

"What can't they do?"

It seems I need to be more explicit about the assumptions of my profession.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Warm Fuzzies* and Cold Pricklies

Tonight S-Boogie showed me a pink ball of fur she'd found in the toy box. She explained that it was a warm fuzzy, and that she'd gotten it from school. I vaguely remember hearing something about discussions they'd had at her school about warm fuzzies, and their archnemeses, cold pricklies, but I'd forgotten that she'd actually brought a warm fuzzy home.

On an intellectual level, I understand that there are many serious problems in the world that will not be solved with warm fuzzies. Sometimes cold pricklies are called for. On an emotional level, though, I can't handle the prickliness. Contention makes me feel sick to my stomach and it makes me intensely uncomfortable to see anger in others or in myself. Nevertheless, a passion for principles and causes that tend to be controversial together with an ego that demands to be seen as right get me into confrontations increasingly. The problem is that I am simply not equipped to handle negative emotions. I don't know what to do with them.

Several unrelated events of the past month, most of which I've already talked about here, have left me feeling vulnerable and irrationally scared. I got up from the computer earlier this evening and felt momentarily terrified at the realization that the blinds were open. I quickly closed all the blinds in the apartment. (Perhaps I was worried a bicycle would come flying through?) My compulsion to check my email as frequently as possible now butts heads with a constant fear of getting another comment in some blog comment war I've been part of. I could simply unsubscribe from the comment feeds so they don't show up in my email, but then I wouldn't know what people are saying and I fear the uncertainty would be worse.

The worst part, at least in so far as one specific incident is concerned, is the implication that the verbal attacks against me and my family are my own damn fault for putting aspects of our private life out where people can see and therefore debate. This stings particularly in the context of the several warnings I received two years ago, that I would regret making myself and my family so vulnerable. When considering the possible ramifications of putting ourselves in the married gay Mormon spotlight, FoxyJ and I took these warnings into account, but decided that the potential for good outweighed the potential for bad. I will also be the first to admit that my motivations for publishing essays and appearing in news media and blogging were not purely altruistic; as I've admitted before, I like attention. But I am self-aware enough and self-repressing enough to not allow myself to do something if I know my only reasons are ego-driven. I allowed myself to speak publicly and FoxyJ supported me in this, despite the fact that she does not share in my need for public approval, because we wanted to open up the discussion. I have seen evidence to suggest this has indeed been the result--not just the people who have contacted us to thank us or the people who say nice things about us, because as wonderful as that is a bunch of folks agreeing with me and telling me how wonderful I am isn't discussion. It's warm fuzzies. As much as it hurts me emotionally, on an intellectual level I am happy to see that people are saying my arguments are crap and that gay men who marry women are misogynists and that no ethical gay man would even think about subjecting a woman to such a life of misery and hey why isn't anyone talking about gay women? I'm happy to see this because that means people are talking. This was not the case five years ago. I certainly don't take full responsibility for the fact that mixed-orientation marriages and all the complicated issues they involve are being discussed more now than they ever were before, but I do think I've had a part in that, at least in the Mormon sphere.

So yeah, it hurts, but for the moment I'm going to fight the impulse to run away and hide from the internet, because I believe there's value--for myself and for others--in continuing to engage in discussions about marriage, sexuality, religion, parenting, politics, and above all, avocado. I will, however, keep away from the living room window.

Thanks to everyone who's left me warm fuzzies over the last month, either publicly on this and other blogs or privately via email.




*Which I accidentally mispelled at first as warm fuxxies, which is an entirely different way of making someone feel loved.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Why I [heart] Dora

I was first exposed to Dora the Explorer when my niece was about three and in love with her. FoxyJ and I were new parents at the time and therefore even more self-righteous about parenting than we are now, so of course it appalled us that parents would ever let their children lay an eye on a television screen. Add to that the fact that Dora talks loudly in a sort of annoying voice and the plot of each episode is about as formulaic as you can get, and you get a rather disgusted Mr. Fob.

Fast-forward a couple years and now you have a Mr. Fob and FoxyJ who, through the course of parenting a real life child, have been forced to lower our standards a bit (but don't worry; we still sneer appropriately at those parents whose standards are even lower). We've learned that it is good for the sanity of the parents for the child to absorb the soporific radiation of the television god for an hour or two a day, and it so happens that S-Boogie's drug of choice is Dora the Explorer. And you know what? It's precisely that formulaic plot and loud, annoying voice that make the show appeal to kids her age. Duh, they're kids. I would feel worse about so willfully not recognizing this earlier if not for the fact that, if I'm to believe the end credits on each episode, it took about thirty people with PhDs to figure it out.

Apart from the fact that Dora does an excellent job of exposing children to Hispanic culture and the Spanish language in a very natural way, I love her because she is a strong, relatively gender-neutral female character. There's an interesting conversation happening on a blog I read about gender in children's toys. It seems most toys marketed to boys are relatively gender-neutral, made in simple primary colors with few frills, while toys marketed to girls are all pink and sparkly. The message most girl toys seem to send is that you can aspire to be either a princess, waiting for your Prince Charming to come rescue you, or a teenage sexbot.

Dora, on the other hand, is a little girl who has adventures exploring the world, presumably inspired by her mother, an archaeologist. Even the episode "Dora's Fairytale Adventure," which is an obvious sellout to the Disney princess phenomenon, has Dora complete certain tasks in order to become a princess, which she does in order to save her friend Boots the Monkey. In this loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty, the male monkey is the passive "damsel in distress" and the girl is the active "knight in shining armor."

Telling of Dora's success in avoiding gender stereotypes is the fact that boys like her as much as girls do. Now, the existence of the spinoff show about Dora's cousin, Diego, says that marketers did see the need to create a boy character to appeal to boys, but within my social circle at least I know of several little boys who are as obsessed with Dora as S-Boogie is.

And the little boys who think Dora is a "girl show" obviously have parents who are not as stellar in teaching egalitarianism as FoxyJ and I are. Thank goodness for parents like us.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

With Apologies to Undergraduates

cash advance

Get a Cash Advance



I wish I knew what all the options on the scale are, and where they lie. Is College better or worse than Genius? This is important, folks. I need to know whether I should improve my vocabulary or dumb myself down.

Weekly Confession #4: An Inconvenient Truth

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. I have made the Earth unlivable for my children and my children's children. I contribute to global warming with the electricity I use, the car I drive, the furnace I run constantly to keep my poorly-insulated apartment from dropping below freezing temperatures. (I've also contributed to global warming by adding to the Earth's massive overpopulation with my own offspring, but I can't in good conscience apologize for that.)

FoxyJ and I watched An Inconvenient Truth last night. If you haven't, you really should. It's a well-made documentary with some amazing visuals that will hopefully give all of us the slap in the face we need to wake up and actually do something about this problem. Just the statistics shown, comparing the astronomical jumps in atmospheric carbon dioxide, human population, and average temperatures of the past fifty years to the relative stability of the preceding hundreds of thousands of years is enough to make me realize how much bigger the problem is than I thought. If nothing else, it's convinced me of an argument I've heard many times before--that all the talk of gay marriage and abortion in presidential elections is stupid, because (a) presidents have little to do with those issues and (b) as important as those issues are, it won't matter if we don't have a planet to debate them on.

As my penance, then, I'm going to vote for elected officials who recognize the threat of global warming and intend to do something about it. I'm going to be as efficient as I can with the energy I use--something helped by the fact that energy-saving light bulbs were on sale for supercheap this week at Bartell, so I replaced all the energy-wasting bulbs in our apartment (with the added advantage of brightening up the place and presumably lowering our electric bill). If at all possible, the next car I buy will be a hybrid (Foxy is not quite so convinced on this one, purely for financial reasons; even I'm not idealistic enough to believe we could afford a fuel cell vehicle in the next year or two, so I consider the hybrid a compromise). I'll think twice before adding another child to the Earth's population (but I don't make any promises, since this is another one Foxy has a pretty significant say in, though I think we're agreed in that we won't be reproducing again in the next couple years). And I'll blog about An Inconvenient Truth and encourage people to watch it (hey! I can check that one off the list now).

I am sorry for this and many other sins of my past and present life.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Part I Object To

I have had two spots of basal cell carcinoma removed before, so I went to the dermatologist this morning knowing that they would lay me down on the table, numb my forehead, and cut out the red spots that have been hanging around there for the past six months. I don't like having minor surgery performed on me, in fact the very thought of incisions makes me sick to my stomach, but I understand it needed to be done.

I was going to a UW clinic and I know that they all exist largely to provide a practicing ground for UW medical students, so it didn't surprise me to get a student doctor doing his dermatology rotation. I know that at some point students need to make the jump from practicing on dummies or corpses or whatever to doing real work with real live people, and I don't mind being one of those practice patients. I've never felt that I was in bad hands with a medical student. My student doctor this morning was both warm and professional, in fact, and I'm sure he'll make a very good doctor.

I understand that medical students, just like real doctors, are human and make mistakes. I don't mind that my student doctor this morning had two failed attempts at sewing up the incision--the first because the suture tore right through the damaged skin and the second because he pulled too hard and broke the suture--before the attending physician did it right. Really, I don't mind. It was a minor mistake that is apparently easy to make, and no permanent damage was done. As much as it grosses me out to think about it, it's okay.

And that's where the problem comes in. As I lay there with a bright light in my eyes, a numb forehead, and two men over me, doing mysterious things with sharp objects, I did not want to think about what was happening. I did not want to know there was some kind of trial-and-error thing going on with the bleeding open wound in my forehead. I closed my eyes because I didn't want to see what they were doing; I could have been spared the play-by-play narration. If the thought of it now makes me queasy, imagine how I felt at the time. It's no wonder I started to black out afterward while scheduling a follow-up appointment with the receptionist, and had to sit down.

So yes, medical students of the world, you are welcome to practice your suture technique on my forehead (assuming, of course, that the procedure is necessary in the first place). Mess up as much as you want, as long as it gets done right in the end. But please, please, don't talk about what you're doing out loud. Use sign language.

...

Actually, scratch that idea. Sign language doesn't go well with the whole carrying-sharp-objects-with-one-hand-and-holding-the-pieces-of-my-head- together-with-another thing. Speak Latvian instead.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What I Want For Christmas

So considering my profession, I probably should have heard of the Amazon Kindle before now, but I tend to be out of the loop that way. At any rate, wow. I like it. I've seen other attempts at portable reading devices, but I'm really impressed by this one. It seems to be lightweight and easy-to-use (or at least Amazon says so), and it uses ultracool technology that gives the screen the look of printed paper. And it makes perfect sense that Amazon.com would be the people to make the portable reading device that is actually going to work, since they already dominate the market in all kinds of related media so they're in a position to back the device up with a service that makes it usable, but for some reason the idea never occurred to me.

Considering Marvel Comics' recent foray into digital comics (and DC is sure to follow sooner or later), I'd say it's only a matter of time before I'm reading my weekly comics on the Amazon Kindle that you're going to get me for Christmas (yes, you--c'mon, it's only $400).

And you know what? I'm okay with that. Call me a traitor to librarianship. Yes, there will always be books that I want to have in a tangible form on my wooden (well, plywood) bookshelf, but I'd say the majority of what I read I'd be just as happy to read without paper. Why kill another tree?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gay Mormons on YouTube

I saw references to these YouTube interviews with gay Mormon Clark Johnsen a few weeks ago, but didn't feel a strong desire to go see them. Yesterday Ron Schow suggested I watch them for a perspective on the whole gay men courting straight women issue, and I'm glad he did. I don't actively advocate gay people dating and marrying heterosexually (nor do I get the sense that Johnsen does), but if you're going to do it, this seems like the most honest way to go about it--Johnsen told her before asking her out the first time.

While I was popping around on YouTube, I also came across this interview with Lester and Barbara Leavitt, a couple I've heard of before but never looked into too deeply. They are former Mormons and he came out as gay a few years ago, after they'd been married for more than twenty years. I'm not entirely clear on their current marital status--I get the feeling that the video was made during a transitional stage in their relationship, but it appears they've now separated to pursue other paths while remaining friends. Apart from some overgeneralizing they've done in making statements about "the Church" when referring to stupid things local church authorities and members have done or said, what strikes me most about the video is the love they have for each other. Their strong relationship shows in how they talk about each other and how they interact. They seem like good folk to me.

Oh, and did you know I'm on YouTube? I am. It's nothing new--just last year's Fox13 interview with me and FoxyJ. It's nice to know it's on YouTube now so more people can make mean comments about us. It's okay, though--ignorant criticism is much easier to take than educated criticism.

Wow.

Complete and utter weirdness.

Moral of the story: don't name your kid Lemuel. It can only lead to bad things.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Straight Spouses on the Go!

The first of the (hopefully) ten interviews I'm conducting with straight LDS women and men who are (or were) married to gay men and women is up at Northern Lights. I also recommend you read the foreword to the interviews, mainly because I wrote it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Weekly Confession #3: Fostering Dependence

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. I seem to be hellbent on raising children who are entirely dependent on me.

We had a family conference with S-Boogie's teachers at her preschool the other day. The conference went well and I was happy to hear that S-Boogie is having fun, being friendly with all the other kids, and adapting well to change. The areas of improvement that the teachers would like to work on with us don't surprise me. They want to help S-Boogie manage her emotions better (i.e. not break into screaming fits every time something goes wrong) and to encourage her to develop better problem-solving skills.

This goes right along with something SkyeJ noted after spending the afternoon with S-Boogie on Friday. S-Boogie had asked to do construction paper art, it seems, and Skye quickly realized that what this meant was that S-Boogie wanted her to do construction paper art while S-Boogie watched. If Skye encouraged S-Boogie to do her own cutting or gluing, she would insist that she couldn't , that she needed Skye to do it for her.

This is basically how any project goes with S-Boogie. And I take full responsibility for encouraging it. In the past couple weeks she and I have made some cool-looking butterflies, mice, cats, boats, and fish with construction paper, and in each case her involvement is limited to telling me what to make and what colors to use. I don't insist she do cutting and gluing herself because I don't want her to hurt herself with the scissors or make a mess with the glue, and when it comes down to it I don't have confidence in her ability to make that butterfly look nearly as good as I know I can. She wants to make something pretty, and I want to help her. So I do it myself.

There's a similar dynamic when I help her brush her teeth. She is fully capable of doing everything by herself except turning on the water (because our sink has a particularly difficult knob), but I tend to rinse off the brush, put the toothpaste on, and fill up a rinsing cup myself because I know that if I do it the brush will actually get rinsed off, toothpaste won't be wasted, and it won't take us all night to get through a simple process.

The emotional management part of the equation comes into play when she gets frustrated that she can't do things. She'll be trying to build a Duplo tower, for example, and when it falls over she'll cry and scream. I don't like to hear her crying and screaming, so I'll rush in and fix the tower, rather than helping her work through those emotions of frustration and encouraging her to solve the problem herself.

In short, I encourage my children to be dependent on me because I'm a perfectionist and I don't trust children to do everything perfectly.

As penance for my sin I will slap myself every time I start to solve a problem S-Boogie can solve herself or do something for her that she can do herself. I will work together with FoxyJ and S-Boogie's teachers to teach her to manage her emotions and to find creative solutions to problems. And I will buy her some children's safety scissors.

I am sorry for this and for many other sins of my past and present life.

Penance or Blasphemy?
You Decide

As penance for last week's Weekly Confession, Scot suggested I perform ten Hail Scotties. This sounded like a good idea until I stopped to realize that Scot is a member of that most abominable of species: married men. Never mind the fact that he's married to a man; his sole purpose in life can only be to oppress women and take advantage of his patriarchal power. Add to that the fact that he's a former Mormon and it becomes quite clear that his goal in making such a suggestion was to oppress FoxyJ by luring both her and me into some kind of polygaymous marriage arrangement.

So I've decided to take another reader's suggestion and do ten Hail Foxys instead. If I'm about to offend any devoutly Catholic readers, stop me now.

No objections? Okay, here I go.

Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.
Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.

Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.

Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.
Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.
Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.
Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.
Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.
Hail Foxy, full of grace, Blogger is with thee; blessed art thou among bloggers, and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, S-Boogie and Little Dude.
Foxy Foxy, mother of blogs, blog for us sinners, now and at the hour of our disconnection. Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dear The Ram Restaurant & Brewery,

If, despite the fact that you are located all of thirty feet away from student family housing (i.e. where lots and lots of small children live), you feel the need to have a beer garden for every UW football game, with the intent of getting already-irrational football fans stark raving drunk, please keep your drunks caged up until they are sober enough to not throw bicycles into my living room window.

Sincerely,

Mr. Fob



P.S. No, the broken window is not your fault and in fact I have no way of knowing that the culprit was one of your drunks, or even drunk for that matter, but I have to be angry at someone, don't I? And the fact that your drunken football lunatics are still disturbing my peaceful Saturday evening with their yelling and swearing as I write this, you're an awfully convenient target.

My Post-Thanksgiving Brag

FoxyJ has much more to brag about than I do, as she put together an amazing meal yesterday and did so while hardly breaking a sweat, but I want to show off the very cool namecards that S-Boogie and I made:


What's so cool about those namecards, you ask? Well, since you're so fascinated by every little thing I do, I'll tell you. Knowing that I was in charge of the crafty decorative stuff, Foxy sent me a link to a website that has cool Thanksgiving crafts to do with kids. The site did have some good stuff on it, but unfortunately if you want anything bigger than a thumbnail to print you have to pay for a membership. I could have searched more for free templates, but the site had given me enough of an idea to do it on my own. So I drew the pictures, cut the cards out, and penciled in the names. S-Boogie colored the pictures and traced the names with pen over my pencil.

What I really want to brag about, though, is not the cards themselves, but rather the innate talent for literary criticism shown by my four-year-old daughter. The observant among you will notice that I followed in the colonial tradition of my white ancestors and other-ized our Thanksgiving guest, Foxy's sister SkyeJ, by representing her as a stereotypical "Injun," feather headdress and all. (I also dehumanized my children by turning them into traditional holiday food items, but that's another story.) S-Boogie, in true postcolonial form, subverted my colonization of her aunt by other-izing Foxy and myself, turning our pilgrims into a Smurf and a demonic scarecrow. She also highlighted the crudeness of my caricaturization of Native Americans by making Skye look like a black-face minstrel show performer. S-Boogie's postcolonial "reading" of the "text" of my Thanksgiving namecard pictures reveals not only the oppressive history behind the holiday tradition but also my own latent racism. In my defense, I did extensive research to represent 17th-century Native American clothing accurately; SkyeJ's dress is based on the one worn by Pocahontas in the Disney movie.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Child from Bizarro World!

As many of you know, my daughter, S-Boogie, was Supergirl for Halloween this year:


I'm beginning to wonder if a more appropriate costume wouldn't have been Bizarro Supergirl:


Besides her naturally pale skin and her backwards logic, there is her handwriting to consider. Take a good look at this picture of Bizarro Superman, then look at the handwriting sample below. Notice, particularly, the "S" in her name.



Keep in mind, folks, this image has not been flipped. That's how she writes her "S"es. There is no possible explanation for this peculiar phenomenon except that she's a spy from Bizarro World. Or she secretly wants to be Z-Boogie. I'm banking on the former, though, as at least that way I'll always be a winner in her eyes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Year Seven, Day One

This morning FoxyJ and I woke up in the loft of a farmhouse on Whidbey Island, with a view overlooking Useless Bay. Thanks to Tolkien Boy for changing his work schedule and skipping a class in order to give Foxy and me a night away from the kids.

And thanks, of course, to Foxy for six years of marriage.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Six Years Ago Tonight

It was a Monday night. We had a big pre-wedding family dinner at Olive Garden. It was good. Several people had tummy trouble the next day, FoxyJ included. I still like Olive Garden anyway.

That's all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekly Confession #2

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. I married my wife for all the wrong reasons. Well, no, that's an overstatement. Several of the reasons for which I married my wife were not good ones. Rather than tell the whole story again, I'll copy and paste the narrative as I frame it in "Getting Out":

So I came home from my mission less sure that marriage and family were in my future. I’m not sure what kind of life I envisioned for myself—a lonely celibacy, I suppose—but for a month or two I’d resigned myself to it.

Here’s where Epiphany #1 comes in. This must’ve been in January, because I’m pretty sure it was before Jessie came home from her mission. I’d attended one of those BYU firesides where they tell you to get married. I pretty much tuned out the entire thing because it didn’t apply to me, but then I got home, sat on my bed, and had a distinct impression that yes, it did apply to me. Yes, I was gay, but that didn’t mean I was excluded from Heavenly Father’s desire for his children to marry and have families.

I thought of a sister missionary that had been in my district for nearly eight months and was coming home soon. I really admired her intelligence and her love of reading, and her complete disregard of whether people thought she was cool or not. She seemed like the type of person I’d like to marry. So I planned it all out. I’d email her when she got home, and we’d build our friendship while she was in Maryland. Then she’d come out to BYU and we’d start dating and then we’d get engaged and then we’d get married.

I think more than anything I liked this plan because it seemed like a Normal Mormon Guy type of thing to do (or at least a Normal BYU Student type of thing—it’s hard to distinguish after being in Utah Valley for so long).

What we have here, basically, is premeditated falling in love and courtship. This is at best creepy and at worst misogynistic. I think the truth lies somewhere between those two poles, personally, but since I'm the one confessing my sins and you're the one absolving them, I'll let you be the judge of that. I have acknowledged this creepiness before. In the paragraph immediately following the above, in fact:

To my surprise, the following months happened exactly as I’d planned. This is quite disturbing, now that I think about it. It must have disturbed me then, too, because on the morning of the day that we were to mail out the wedding invitations, I was still worried that I was marrying Jessie for the wrong reasons. I didn’t want to marry her just to prove to myself and others that I was normal, or to avoid hurting her feelings, or because it was the right thing to do. I wanted to marry her because I loved her and I wanted to be with her. Which I was pretty sure I did.

Now, I come from a literary school of thought that values subtlety, so when I'm acknowledging a bad quality in myself I generally don't come out and say "and this is a very bad quality, of which I am deeply ashamed and hope to rid myself completely" because I assume my readers are intelligent enough to figure it out. I assume that if I say, for example, "I am a narcissist," that everyone knows I don't mean it as a compliment. It's come to my attention, though, that the subtlety in the above paragraphs has been lost on at least one person, so I'd like to be clear about what I'm confessing to here. Among the possible motivations I had for marrying FoxyJ were:
  1. God told me to.
  2. In abstract, "she seemed like the type of person I'd like to marry."
  3. That was the way I'd planned it.
  4. It "seemed like a Normal Mormon Guy type of thing to do."
  5. To "prove to myself and others that I was normal."
  6. To "avoid hurting her feelings."
  7. Because "it was the right thing to do."
Let me be absolutely 100% completely and for totally sure clear: These are all Very Bad Reasons to marry someone. KIDDIES, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Yes, even if God told you to marry someone but you're not sure you want to, please take Emily Pearson's advice about "the danger of taking 'every spiritual experience ... at face value" in situations such as these" (as cited in Holly Welker's "Clean Shaven"). If the narrative of "Getting Out," framed as it is in the discourse of personal revelation, seems to excuse the Very Badness of the reasons listed above and makes them seem Not So Very Bad, then I have compounded my sins by representing them as That Which Is Good and True. Which they are not.

I said before that to say that all my reasons for marrying FoxyJ were bad ones is an overstatement, and I feel the need to clarify what I mean, even if doing so detracts from the purpose of confessing my sins. So here are the good reasons I had for marrying FoxyJ, some of which are present in "Getting Out" and some of which are not:
  1. "I really admired her intelligence and her love of reading, and her complete disregard of whether people thought she was cool or not."
  2. I was "pretty sure" that "I loved her and I wanted to be with her."
  3. She had said that she loved me and wanted to marry me.
  4. I felt happy when I was with her and could see that being with me made her feel happy.
  5. She and I shared many values such as our faith, education, family, liberal politics, and social justice.
  6. She wanted to marry a traditional Mormon patriarch no more than I wanted to be one. (That is to say, not at all.)
  7. Despite the strong feelings I had and knew I would always have for men, I had been surprised over the course of our relationship by how excited I was to be with her--the tingly sensation at first holding her hand, the butterflies before our first awkward kiss, the unignorable arousal we both felt once we finally figured that kissing thing out.
  8. She was not afraid to talk frankly about sex, to acknowledge that she was nervous and excited about having sex, and to discuss (or joke about, as the case may be) the logistics of our future sexual relationship. (One of the funnier discussions we had was about whether it's okay to have sex on the Sabbath. Or when you're fasting.)
  9. One of my happiest memories is driving home from a date with her and putting a mixtape she had made into my sister's car stereo. The first song was Lauryn Hill's cover of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You." I felt giddy all over and almost cried at the realization that this very mature college student, this incredible person with whom I'd had so many intellectually stimulating conversations, would do something so teenage-romantic as making me a mixtape to say she was in love with me. And she'd used a Lauryn Hill song!
  10. Marrying her meant I wouldn't have to buy my own copy of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
So there. I've confessed the Very Badness of some of my reasons for marrying FoxyJ, as well as the complexity introduced into the issue by the good reasons I also had. So what penance can I do to make up for these sins? How do I right this wrong?

I decided earlier this year that the bad reasons outweighed the good--it's easy when one wants to focus on the bad to ignore the good, or vice versa--and that the best way to make this right for me, for FoxyJ, and for our children was to divorce and start over. I would have a man who loved me, Foxy would have a man who loved her (the way that only a straight man could), and our children would have not only two parents who loved them but the added bonus of two stepfathers who would love them just as much. The problem with this plan was not that divorce is inherently bad or even that divorce is an inherently bad option for us. I believe that for the three months we were separated we did an exceptionally good job of co-parenting and relating to each other respectfully as formerly married friends--this is much more to Foxy's credit than to mine, as it is easy to be nice to the person you have wronged but not so easy to be nice to the person who has wronged you. The problem with this attempt at penance, see, is that just like in the case of my original sins I was doing something Very Very Bad: I was deciding for myself what was best for us. Divorce was never Foxy's idea; it was all me.

After realizing this grave error, acknowledging the complexity of my reasons for marrying her and the fact that I did indeed still enjoy spending my life with her, I regrouped with Foxy in order to come up with a plan together. We talked more honestly than we had ever before about the problems in our relationship. We discussed frankly what each of us would need to sacrifice in order to make this marriage work, and whether the benefits of the marriage would make it worth it for each of us. We considered together all the less-than-noble motivations that might underlie our mutual desire to reunite--chief among these questionable motivations was the financial stability our continued marriage would provide for the duration of my master's program and her doctorate. Ultimately we decided together that we had enough genuinely good reasons to stay together and enough faith in our ability to work through the difficulties that it was worth another shot. I am happy with that decision, and happy most of all that we made it together.

As penance for my past sins, then, I propose the following:
  1. I will continue to take intuition (what I once would have called God speaking to me) into account when making choices, but I will not do so at the expense of other factors and certainly not at the expense of other people.
  2. I will do my best to love FoxyJ not as an abstract idea of the type of person I'd like to marry, but as a real human being.
  3. I will not adhere strictly to plans I have made when those plans involve the lives of other people; rather, I will include those people in the making and evaluating of such plans.
  4. I will not do anything because it's the Normal Mormon Guy thing to do. At this point in my life, I think that goes without saying. In addition, I will not do anything simply because it's not the Normal Mormon Guy thing to do, or because it's the Normal Agnostic thing to do, or any such stupid reason.
  5. I'm going to stop trying to prove to myself and others that I'm normal, or that I'm anything. This one's a bit harder, because I tend to put a lot of energy into proving all sorts of things about myself, and really I just need to get over it. I'll do my best.
  6. I will avoid hurting Foxy's feelings, but not by thinking only of what I think she needs, but by listening to what her feelings really are and working with her to honestly address those feelings.
  7. I will not do things because they are the right thing to do. Rather, I will do things because I and others affected agree that those are the best things for everyone's best interest. This is a subtle difference, I know, but the important thing here is thinking through the consequences of choices I make and not objectifying others in that process.
I am sorry for these and for many other sins of my past and present life. I hope that through my penance and FoxyJ's continued Foxy-ness we can make the next six years of our marriage even better than the first six years have been.

One Thing (For Now)

A clarification, because I don't like to be misunderstood:

A large part of Holly Welker's argument against "Getting Out" rests on this paragraph:

I don’t understand people who call themselves liberal and progressive but are threatened by homosexual reparative therapy enough to try to stop people like me from having that option. In my mind, this kind of thinking is anti-progressive. The whole point of the civil rights and women’s liberation movements was to allow blacks, women, and other minorities to break free from what had been their traditional roles. We live in a world now where it’s okay for blacks to do what was once considered “white” and for women to do what was once considered “male”—get an education, have a career, etc. Why then is it not politically correct for a gay man to venture into what is usually considered the exclusive territory of straight men—to marry a woman and have a family—if that’s what he chooses to do?

Apart from her accurate criticism of my painting the women's liberation and civil rights movements in such broad strokes, her objection, if I understand correctly, is that I seem to be co-opting these movements for my own purposes, essentially equating my position as a married gay man to that of women and black Americans. I can see how it may appear that way superficially, and if you interpret it thus it is certainly offensive. As Welker has pointed out several times, there is absolutely no legislation against gay people marrying heterosexually, no institutionalized bigotry as there has been and continues to be against women and racial minorities. I would have to be a complete moron and self-serving jerk to claim that I've experienced anything comparable to this kind of oppression.

If you read what I've said carefully, though, you'll see that I haven't made any such claim. What I've said is that it's contrary to progressive thought--for which I list as examples the progressive thinking behind the women's liberation and civil rights movements--to say that anyone--using myself as an example--should not be respected in their choice to marry any person who wants to marry them. I've not said that anyone is denying me that right, because no one is*, but that my choice is not considered "politically correct." This is demonstrated by the fact that Welker and others like her immediately jump to the conclusion that any gay man who dares to express his right to marry a woman who wants to marry him must be a backwards-thinking conservative hick. Would they accuse a woman expressing her right to marry another woman of having an overblown sense of entitlement? No; Welker has said as much. Why then the double standard? Why are some choices more politically correct than others?

A commenter on Welker's blog says that she is "astonished by the backwards reasoning of that paragraph you deconstructed, particularly the idea that having a woman to reproduce with and run your household for you has historically/traditionally been denied to men who are attracted to other men." I would be equally astonished by the backwards reasoning of such an idea, had I read an essay that made such a claim. What I actually say in the paragraph above is that "to marry a woman and have a family" [notice I've said nothing about who is running the household] "is usually considered the exclusive territory of straight men." There is a huge difference between the phrases "is usually" and "has historically/traditionally." The latter, hers, makes claims about historical reality, while the former, mine, speaks only of present social attitudes. No, gay people have not traditionally been denied heterosexual marriage, because traditionally gay people haven't been a part of public discourse. Notice also that I use the word "straight," which is not necessarily the opposite of "men who are attracted to other men"; I'm speaking not of sexual preferences that have existed for thousands of years but of sexual identities that have existed for less than two hundred. I would argue that yes, in the past fifty years or so since lesbians and gay men have legitimately entered the discourse, the assumption is that their rightful position--at least as far as progressive thought is concerned--is in lesbian and gay relationships. As I point out elsewhere in the essay, gay people in heterosexual relationships are "not even recognized enough to be repressed."

So if I'm not being oppressed, why then does it matter that some people, in the name of progressive thought, are so critical of mixed-orientation marriages? If there's no legislation against me, why am I complaining? Because bigoted legislation doesn't magically appear out of nowhere; it is borne of widely-accepted bigoted discourse. Twenty-six states haven't adopted constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage just because. They've done so because the majority of voters in those states believe the bigoted rhetoric against homosexuality that is so prevalent in our culture. Welker rightly criticizes my oversimplified statement that "We live in a world now where it's okay for blacks to do what was once considered 'white' and for women to do what was once considered 'male.'" No, as much as I would like to think so, we don't live in that world. I would like to live in a world, though, where no one's choices are limited by their gender, race, or sexual orientation, and I believe that world can only exist once we start respecting those who make choices different from our own, even choices we don't understand.

I am thankful for the many, many people--whether or not they would call themselves liberal and progressive--who have respected me in the choices I've made. I will do my best to return the same.


*Except for the campaigns against homosexual reparative therapy that I reference in the paragraph preceding the one quoted here, which I'll freely admit is an entirely different argument than the right to marry. I'll also freely admit that my conflating the two arguments in the paragraph above is confusing. On the other hand, they do both come down to respecting the right of mentally capable adults to make the decisions that they deem best for themselves. The only difference is that in the case of reparative therapy we're talking about a single person--the one who seeks out reparative therapy--while in the case of marriage we're talking about two people--the two spouses who, as consenting adults regardless of their gender and/or sexual orientation, decide to marry each other.

Friday, November 16, 2007

eMeanness

This morning I read the inevitable mean-spirited responses to the mean-spirited posts I wrote a couple weeks ago.

Meanwhile, my friend L expresses nostalgia for the happy place the MoHosphere used to be before it degenerated into sophistry and rudeness.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post cites horribly rude internet commentary about Kanye West's mother, who died earlier this week, as an example of the cruelty and malice that electronic anonymity seems to bring out in people.

Meanwhile, another friend of mine has been receiving extremely rude comments on her blog, and to be fair she and I and other readers responded with rudeness, but now the rude commenter has resorted to making threats of physical violence, which crosses all sorts of social and legal lines.

So I spent today thinking of the response I'd write to Holly's rude response to my rude response to her rude response to my rude response to her rude attack on my character. FoxyJ has suggested it would be wiser of me to, if I feel the need to write the response, set it aside for a while before putting it anywhere public. I think Foxy is a wise person. It bothers me to leave untruths about me out there unrefuted, particularly when said untruths portray me as an enemy of values that are in fact very important to me, but unless I want to spend the rest of my life arguing with this woman then I'm going to have to eventually just leave some things unsaid. For the past several days I've been composing an essay about feminism and Mormonism and illiberal liberalism and ex-Mormonism, but I've decided to leave it alone until I'm sure my motivation is to say the things I want to say, not to express my frustration with Holly.

I will say, though, that I appreciate the comments of Rebecca and MoHoHawaii, who spoke in defense of my character on Holly's blog without taking sides in this feud. They both did an admirable job of respecting both me and Holly rather than jumping on Holly's Ben is a Misogynist bandwagon or my Holly is a Hater bandwagon. If more people (myself included) could respond so maturely to complex issues, the internet would be a nicer place for everyone.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Green Lantern's Wisdom

"My power ring can't stop those yellow comets, so I'll have to move the Earth out of their way!"

--from the Challenge of the Superfriends episode "Invasion of the Fearians"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Booga Basement Ban

If you are in the habit of reading S-Boogie and Little Dude's blog, send me or FoxyJ an email so we can invite you to continue reading it. We've decided to limit access to people we know (either in real life or in the blog world). Sorry, I know this means it won't show up automatically in readers, but we've decided there are enough psychos in the world that we don't want to regularly share pictures of our children with.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Self-Sacrifice

Tonight a friend had to decline an offered slice of the delicious peanut butter chocolate pie left in our fridge after another friend's visit last night. He explained that he does not have a nut allergy but his girlfriend does, which means that if he comes home with traces of peanut butter in his beard, she'll, like, die. In order to protect her from this fate, then, he denies himself the pleasures of peanuty goodness.

As someone who will often pull the peanut butter jar out of the cupboard just to sneak a fingerful, I can't help but see this as the highest and purest form of love.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekly Confession #1

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. This is my first Confession.

I covet my wife's intelligence and worse, I am proud of it. FoxyJ is one of the most well-read and well-educated people I know, both in the sense of formal education and that of informal education, in the form of the wide array of facts she can recall from the thousands of books, newspapers, and websites she's read in her lifetime. When I need to know something about history, literature, politics, or whatever, I ask Foxy, my personal living Wikipedia (except with less web vandalism). I am truly grateful to live with such an intelligent person, not only for the education in trivia she provides regularly, but for the inspiration she gives me to learn more about the world. I have to admit, though, that I am not infrequently jealous of Foxy's intelligence. Why am I unable to recall every random fact I've ever come across? Why can't I glance at a page and process in an instant every word on it? Why don't I have the interest in the first place to read the New York Times on a daily basis and devour nonfiction books about war, food, and famous people? The downside of living with such an educated person is that I feel, in comparison, very uneducated.

The greater sin, I believe, is the pride I feel in regards to my wife's education. I brag about her master's degree every chance I get, find ways to work into conversations the fact that she passed the test to be included in Jeopardy's contestant pool. I am proud of my own high score on the GRE, but even prouder of her perfect score on the verbal section. This may all seem innocent enough, perhaps you're even thinking that it is forward-thinking and decidedly unsexist for a man to be so proud of his wife's intellect, but that's exactly the point. I flaunt my wife's education precisely because I believe it makes me look good. Ultimately, this is no better than the man who shows off his trophy wife, the perfectly pretty woman who exists solely as a symbol of his own social status.

As my penitence, Blogger, I vow to show my appreciation for Foxy's other positive qualities, whether such appreciation makes me look like the feminist-minded man I want to be or not. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, for example, how much I appreciate the delicious food Foxy cooks every day, because I fear that puts me in the category of chauvinistic men who expect their wives to be barefoot in the kitchen, preparing nice meals for their husbands to enjoy upon returning home from work. The fact of the matter is, though, FoxyJ is a chef extraordinaire, and that is a talent she values in herself, so I should not be ashamed to admit that I do too.

I am sorry for these and for all--well, most--the sins of my past life.

Friday, November 09, 2007

S-Boogie's Wisdom

"Life* is kinda like Corn Chex."

Really, I can't think of an apter metaphor.









*The cereal, that is. But still.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Found

I remembered tonight that last Tuesday, the last night I saw the wedding ring, I had been going through a suitcase that we use as storage. So I pulled it out of the closet, opened it up, and sure enough there was my white gold ring, sitting on top of all the old papers and childhood memorabilia.

Nine Things (Not a Meme)

  1. New favorite candy bar: 100 Grand
  2. New favorite sitcom: Aliens in America
  3. New favorite Spanish word: defenestrar "to throw [someone] out the window"
  4. Grade on the first paper I've written in Spanish in more than four years, which took me ten hours to write ten pages: 10/10
  5. Favorite new Blogger feature: the "Email follow-up comments to" check box--it stuffs my inbox, thus making me feel loved
  6. Most recently lost possession: wedding band
  7. Most expensive lost possession: wedding band
  8. Favorite birthday gift: an afternoon nap (thanks, Foxy)
  9. Justification for letting my four-year-old daughter watch such violent shows as Batman, Justice League, and Teen Titans: this article

Cross-Posting
(which is a lot like cross-pollination, or so I hear)

Yesterday I guest-posted on Northern Lights a Call for Questions and Interviewees for a series of interviews with straight spouses of gay people I'm hoping to guest-post over there. It occurred to me that I'm likely to reach a different group of people by soliciting help here as well, so here I am. Here is what I need:
  1. Interesting, insightful, and respectful questions to include in the interviews. What do you want to know about straight people who marry gay people?
  2. Interviewees. The implied focus of the interviews at NL is straight and faithfully Mormon people who are currently married to gay people, simply because that's the nature and scope of the blog, but if there are any straight people who are not (currently or ever) Mormon and/or who are no longer married to gay people, I'd love to interview you as well and post it in another venue (perhaps here?). So if you fit any of these categories and are willing to be interviewed (either anonymously or nomynously), comment here or email me at bgchristensen (at) gmail (dot) com.

The idea of these interviews, both in the public and personal spheres, is to shed light on an oft-discussed issue from the perspective of people who don't seem to be quite so oft-discussed.

Thanks much for your input.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Things That Have Made Me Happy in the Last 24 Hours

  • Last night I wrote a short story that I'd been wanting to write for a couple weeks. I like it. The title is "The Changing of the God," a pun that according to Google only eight people have thought of before, ever, and even several of those seem more like coincidences of syntax than intentional puns. I hereby declare myself clever. Given my co-editors' approval, it'll be in the forthcoming Fob Bible, about which you will hear more in the near future.
  • A very intelligent friend asked for help with a cataloging question this morning. I was quite flattered.
  • I registered this morning to take advanced cataloging next quarter from one of the leading researchers in the field of cataloging and knowledge organization.
  • I watched parts of a very funny movie this morning while cataloging it.
  • This afternoon S-Boogie and Little Dude went to a friend's house while Foxy and I went on a date.
  • We saw some very cool exhibits at the Bellevue Arts Museum, which has free admission on the first Friday of every month.
  • We ate some very yummy avocado eggrolls and Thai chicken pasta at the Cheesecake Factory.
  • We are now going to eat the very yummy cheesecake that we brought home with us.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Costumes, Candy, and Poop

S-Boogie wore her costume all day. Me too. I was the only one in my metadata class this morning wearing a costume, but that just shows how much cooler I am than everyone else (last year a classmate dressed up as the FRBR model, which I thought was one of the coolest costumes ever). After class I headed over to S-Boogie's preschool to help with pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating. It was a lot of fun to see all the kids' costumes and to see how excited they were to get candy. The school gave parents the option to have our kid's treat bag swapped for a healthy treat bag after the trick-or-treating, and FoxyJ and I decided to take that option since S-Boogie already had a bunch of candy from trunk-or-treating on Saturday and we knew she'd get more tonight. She was suprisingly cool with this, very excited when she got home to eat her bag of "special treats"--fruit leather, apple sauce, carrots, and juice.

After school and snacks, S-Boogie and I went to the comic shop to pick up my comics for this week. I figured that if anyone would appreciate our homemade Supergirl and Bruce Wayne costumes, it would be comic shop people, but no one said anything. I figure it's because they were amazed to the point of speechlessness.

This morning I had wondered if it was a good idea to dress Little Dude in the red turtleneck onesie he needed for his Robin costume this afternoon, but I figured it would be fine. When I got home from the comic shop and opened his bedroom door to find him sitting pantsless in his crib, licking poop off his fingers, I realized that I should have listened to that still small voice of Halloweeny wisdom. FoxyJ gathered up the dirty clothes and bedding and threw it in the washer while I cleaned off the child, then on her way out the door suggested I use LD's red coat for his costume, since it was cold outside and the turtleneck onesie was no longer an option. A poopy disaster turned into a blessing, as the red coat ended up looking even better than the onesie (under the coat he's wearing a red short-sleeve onesie with some car design printed on the front; if I'd had a green onesie under the coat it would have been perfect):


So S-Boogie, LD, and I went trick-or-treating at the shopping center that doubles as our backyard while FoxyJ headed off to teach her class. My only complaint with that experience, besides the crowd, is that everyone was giving out lollipops and Smarties. Where's the chocolate, folks?

The best part of the day, I have to say, came at the end: after sloppy joes and tater tots for dinner, then a quick bath (eliminating the final remnants of poopiness), we turned off the lights, put The Batman vs. Dracula in the DVD player, and ate as much candy as our stomachs could handle. I'm all for encouraging kids to eat healthily, but c'mon, it's Halloween! That's the point! And in my defense as a responsible parent, LD went to bed halfway through the movie and after only one package of Smarties and one lollipop. One-and-a-half-year-olds don't get to decide how much candy their stomachs can handle.

S-Boogie went to bed just a little late, a few minutes after FoxyJ got home from work, and then I lay down in bed and read my comics. The perfect end to a perfect holiday.