jeudi, juillet 18, 2013

Waiting it out

How do you manage this?

How do you ever let them go?

Parents of teenage sons (o.k., let's be honest, mothers of teenage sons) I need help. Advice.  Encouragement. Perspective.

The first week, it wasn't quite so bad. After all he and his friends were only away for a week. Actually, five days, but who is counting?

Then his dad and I drove him to Boy Scout camp.  I didn't really need to go with the two of them, but, ya know, leaving me behind wasn't really an option, either.

I missed you, Mr. C., I said to him as we sped towards Maryland.

"I missed you too, Mom" he said (if you have a teenager at home, you know how rare these words are, and how treasured).  Then, with the resilience and optimism of the young, who see nothing but blue sky before them, he commented: "But you have me here for an hour."

After Boy Scout camp, another week flew by. Now he's about to return from the youth group teaching camp in the city.

He and his dad leave on vacation for another week Saturday.

When my son is gone for this long,  I start to feel disoriented.  I miss him inviting me to see some college humor YouTube video, or watching an old movie together, talking at dinner or discussing current events in the car on the way to Wegmans or church.

A perfectly normal size when he is here practicing his drums in the basement or reading "Les Mis" on the safe across from mine, the house seems way too big without him.

Don't get me wrong. I miss my daughter, too -- but it's different.

With her, my job is still convincing her that she isn't old enough to move into an apartment with the boy she thinks she wants to marry and set up shop.

She's closing the doors faster than I can reach them to swing them open.  They are opening naturally for her brother.

With him, to be candid, my big job over the next three years will be learning to let him go to his own life.

The time to develop my own isn't looming down the pike somewhere.

It is here.

The job seems harder for single parents who don't have the buffer or comfort of a spouse. As an introvert, I also find that it takes some emotional capital to make new friends and seek new companionship.

But it's part of what is going to make his journey towards adulthood successful. I know that.

I'll be really pleased when I see him blossom into the wonderful young adult he's going to be.

But for now, I'm ready for the summer to be over. Even though it isn't.

mercredi, juillet 17, 2013

The language of love

I've lost two really good interview opportunities this year --both because the writers were so mistrustful of my ability to report their words correctly that they insisted on responding in an email.

No dice, babes.

It wasn't personal. They'd never heard of me (no, I'm not that famous). I'm just weird, right?

Fact is, I try to stay away from email interviews as much as I can (if the interviewees are in Italy or in prison,  I make an exception).

If it is arrogance on my part, it's a kind of twisted, principled arrogance.

Written responses are about as useful as press releases.

I don't know why we have such trouble communicating in our culture, but problems abound.

So does temptation.

Temptation to cut corners. Temptation to come up with the cutting comment.  Temptation to

It seems to me that technology is responsible for a lot of the problems we have.

Or maybe it's the way that texting and emails (yes, that old fashioned form of conversation) and yea, even Facebook, have played into our human tendency to default to shorthand instead of the painful task of sorting things out face to face, or heart to heart.

Why talk when you can text?

Why tell someone you are hurt when you can just ignore their emails?

Why confess that you kind of like having them around there are all these electronic toys to play with?

Techno-toys make it easier to cover up our vulnerabilities, but we are still as frail as we were before we had access to them.

It's not that talking about sensitive topics is easy.  When two people have skin in the game, it can be a virtual minefield.

That's where grace and acceptance and a certain degree of self-understanding come in -- as well as the healthy release of shared laughter.

That kind of openness is rare, but it's real. You can probably count on one hand the people with whom you have it.

It is, at bottom (au fond, as the French put  it), the language of love.

The language of creating and creator.

Of solo and duet.

Of nettle and flower.

Of waiting and ripeness.

Of parent and child.

Of a friendship just begun and a marriage of forty years.

It is holy ground on which  someone will see us for ourselves (as much as we see anything or anyone clearly), and still say, when the tears have been dried and the laughter stilled: "I love you."

It is presence itself.

mardi, juillet 16, 2013

The downside of guileless

If you are ever planning on doing something nefarious, like overthrowing a government, cheating on a tax return, or stepping out on your spouse -- don't come to me.

I'm horrible at keeping secrets.

It's probably best not to even trust me with your husband's surprise party. Let it be a surprise for me too.

Pretty much everything I feel, and a lot of things I happen to know, are written on my face. That is, in part, why I love acting.  I can have someone else's secrets furrow my brow.

Secrets of the "confessional"? I solve that problem by forgetting that I knew them.

Perhaps you have physiognomy that tells the world, also.

There are times, however, when I wish I had wiles.

What used to called "feminine" (unfairly, undoubtedly) wiles, in particular -- evasions and asides, appropriate blushes, fluttering eyelashes.

When I flutter my lashes, it looks like there's something wrong with a contact lens.

Instead, I blush when I'm actually embarrassed, feel the need to face delicate topics straight on, and have no idea to how act cool when I'm happy or indifferent when I'm not.

There is little of the mystery woman about me.

And this can be a problem when it comes to circumstances that require a delicate touch -- finding a job, for instance.

One isn't supposed to come right out and say how excited one is by the opportunity lest one appear, well, too eager.

The opposite applies, of course, when you are asked to do something you don't want to do -- it would be nice to have a blank stare on file so that you can take a moment to deal with a child's request for twenty dollars for a movie you don't know he was going to until an hour before it began.

Have you been to the parent's academy of vague generalities? Can you give me the URL?

I'm also a horrible liar -- so I generally avoid doing it.  In a play, the truth usually outs in the third act. In the ones I write, the cat jumps the bag in the prologue.

And when it comes to dating, I tip my hand constantly.  They say a woman should keep a guy guessing (again, this may be dated dating advice). But not only do I give men answers -- I even suggest the questions. I am a caregiver par excellence, and I suspect it detracts from my curb appeal.

Would job hunting be more fruitful, dating more fun if I added a little Mata Hari to my persona?

Perhaps I could pull off the mysterious, volatile, glam woman of the world persona for a day or so -- just to see if its like catnip to employers and hot guys.

I'll let you all know when I'm ready to try it.

After all, you can keep a secret. Can't you?

The Music of the Night

It's wicked hot around here, making normal tasks miserable.

Yet if you persist in hope, the end of the day can be wonderful.

On the lawn, the fireflies danced in the growing shadows, as twilight slipped into night.

I sat on the porch swing for a while, watching them flicker among the trees.

My neighbors arrived home from a walk. Across the street, other friends entertained visitors.

After a while, I went inside, and picked up "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles -- one of those novels you dread finishing.  There is such a sense of loss when a book you love comes to an end.  Towles, who channels Wharton and Auchincloss, writes tellingly about class, accident, character and friendship in this 1930's period piece.

It's also a story of love, and of loss, with personalities that linger long after you have reluctantly put the book down.

Tears were most appropriate.

The "music of the night" is powerful.  If we are creatures of the day, propelled by work and leisure to imagine ourselves in control of our fates, then darkness can be unsettling.  Our guard is lower.  What has been buried during the day will not be denied in silence.

This is the silence of marriages sundering, mortality creeping in, the stuff of nightmares.

But it also can be a time for truth, for creativity, for ravishing beauty.

Often I say a silent prayer of thanks to the architect who added two windows to the top of my living room. Last night, the moon silvered the floor with fairy dust.

Here be dragons.

I cannot afford fairy dust. The price is too high.

So I went to bed, hoping daylight would bring composure.

I awoke to an email from a nocturnal friend, who asked me whimsically what I dreamed about.

I'll get back to you, I told him.

A dodge, I know.

But it is best for me, at least for the moment, to turn my back on the double-edged music of the night.

lundi, juillet 15, 2013

Our white problem

When I thought about it last night (once I got past my shock that a man who killed an unarmed teenager didn't get charged with anything), I really wasn't surprised at the verdict that acquitted George Zimmerman.

And it's not because I thought the jury was a bunch of racists or that the judge had done a poor job.

The prosecution went after a second degree murder charge, which made the case tough to try.

 Now the Justice Department has opened its own investigation to see if Martin's civil rights were violated.

There's also the possibility of a civil suit. When the rules of evidence are less restrained, Trayvon Martin's parents have a better chance of winning.

What's partly getting lost in the debate about race is the state of the law regarding gun violence (or gun rights). The way the "stand your ground" law is constructed favors the  rights of the shooter over the victim. And apparently, the people of Florida and about half of the other states across the country like it that way.

We can't seem to mobilize ourselves to battle the rising tide of vigilantes out there.

But we can make a choice to battle something more insidious and historically more persistent.

It's time to stand with our black brothers and sisters, white folk.

Trust me, I'd love to believe that we were past the question of skin pigment.

I'd like to think that we live in a post racial culture in which my daughter could marry a black man and it would make no difference to anybody.

I'd like to believe that black people get as big of a built in advantage when it comes to jobs that whites do.

This past year I've listened to black college students grapple with being called the "N" word by students on their own campus.

I've heard my own classmates at the school that I attend as a grad student describe a climate of "benign neglect" when it comes to racial issues. We can talk about supporting GLBT students, and professors do. Often.  But somehow, when diversity is the topic, African American students rarely get mentioned.

Several months ago I heard an NPR commentator say that as many Hispanics from other cultures assimilated into American society, they described themselves as, guess what, "white."

Not all, of course.  And for some brown-skinned immigrants, that's not an option.

In the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, my mind went back to that interview. The notion that white skin is desirable is persistent, often unreferenced, and toxic.

As a convert who has spent most of her life living among people who are not of her ethnic group, I know something of prejudice. I've heard it on the lips of some acquaintances and yes, friends, who didn't realize I was not of their tribe.

Perhaps that is, in part, why I do not belong to anyone's clan. Growing up in the melting pot of Brooklyn and being raised by kin with a passion for social justice also gave me a sensitivity to "otherness."

But as child of Jewish parents, I could "pass" in Christian circles, choose when to answer the slurs or when to be shamefully silent.

People of color don't have that choice. They can't walk away, even if temporarily, from the hue of their flesh.

And in a society which reinforces the idea that white skin is better skin (and, by extension, black skin is more dangerous),  it becomes harder to fully embrace one's astounding inner beauty.

Looked at logically, it's ridiculous to think that the color of your skin should define your aspirations, your income, your health.

But to a large extent, in our culture, it still does.

The rules aren't hard and fast.  The reasons for white dominance are complex, and so are race relations and relationships. In no way do I want to simplify this.

 Yet white skin privilege still runs rampant in our culture.

And until those of us who have it acknowledge it, until we choose to abandon that shabby, injurious and hateful old paradigm, black parents will have to continue to warn their sons (and sometimes, their daughters) to keep a wary eye on many of the whites around them.

Do you want to carry that burden?

Isn't it time, close to 50 years after Martin Luther King's march on Washington, more than 150 years after the Civil War started, that we woke up and started doing something about it?