Excerpts from "a man wearing a dress"
Poem: What is Love?
I love you
in the movies
And they kissed
I love you
without a sound
while lifting his mother, gently
from her wheelchair
She said I love you
only by her smile
as she served soup
who had none
He entered the room
with the negotiator
from the other country
as if to say, I love you
and your people
She opened the box
to let the spider out
into its natural world
The spider never said
I love you
But this love was true.
When he slowed his car
to leave a gap in traffic
he said I love you
with a wave of his hand
All across the world
in this way
I love you
One brief moment
then each one’s gone
not ever counted
on the evening news
Their numbers game
some Tuesday in November
But we elect
our true administration
when we say
I love you
Essay: Boxing Lessons
To summarize, although I am not gay, I do have a strong feminine side. When I was a boy, I didn't really understand that about myself, but, looking back, I certainly was no good at most competitive sports (as boys were supposed to be), and I secretly envied the social interaction the girls seemed to enjoy with each other. As I mentioned earlier, boys could not be tender with or supportive of each other most of the time. We were each on our own to compete with others instead. I got teased and bullied a lot and occasionally I was referred to as 'a queer' ... a term with which I was not familiar (except from children’s stories, where a ‘queer little old man’ was mentioned - which I thought just meant ‘strange’). So I was unaware of what they were referring to.
Because of my father’s rages, I had become extremely afraid of someone’s threats or expression of anger. I expected that it would lead to violence and I would be unable to defend myself. After all, I was typically smaller and weaker than they were. Some of the emotional scars of this have stayed deep within me for a very long time.
After we moved to our second house, and I walked into a class of strangers in first grade, it seemed as if I was already set up to be in the ‘victim’ role, so the bullies took full advantage.
Being bullied was a source of much concern in my house. Both my parents had plenty of suggestions for things to say back to the bullies to defend myself against their taunts, but it really didn’t do any good. I was frightened, and couldn’t remember what to say. The real problem, my own lack of self confidence, wasn’t being addressed. Feeding me clichés to memorize did nothing to help.
One theory my parents had was that I just didn’t know how to defend myself, physically. So, my grandfather helped them pay to send me to boxing lessons.
I didn't mind the lessons themselves so much. There were only a few boys in the small gym (situated in a small wood building, one floor above a car repair shop, surrounded by woods). We wore big fat boxing gloves and protective gear on our heads, so it felt safe enough to practice what I was being taught. When they said ‘no hitting below the belt’ that meant that I was unlikely to be hit in the stomach, which was what I feared most. I didn’t understand at time that they really meant no hits to the groin, but as they didn’t actually say that, I didn’t really ‘get it.’
But as you might be able to guess by now, all this technique really didn’t help me out on the school yard. Bullying was mostly a psychological fight, not a physical one. I had pretty much lost before I got to the stage of hitting anyone else.
In a way I was being bullied at home, by the other kids in school, and by the school system itself. I attended Christian Science Sunday school in those days, so there was no minister to approach, either. My grandparents had a similar relationship, where my grandfather was the sensitive, easily upset and angered one, and my grandmother was the shy one who held back and tried to calm him down. Anyway, they were family, so whatever I might say to them might get back to my parents.
Even then, I didn’t see any way that things could be changed, even if I were able to confide in anyone about how trapped I felt. The guidance counselors at school were part of the school system. They wanted me to get good grades like anyone else. It was clear that none of them or the teachers or other school officials did much of anything about the bullying. I think they just thought we’d all grow out of it.
So, I really had no port in the storm. No one really understood, or if they did, no one seemed to be able to change things in any significant way. Therapy, or its equivalent, didn’t really exist. Back then, I remember my father saying that if you went to see a psychiatrist people would think your were sick (mentally ill) and you could lose your job and end up unemployable and destitute. That was the general attitude around that time.
I am, by nature, a non-violent person. Getting into a fist fight, when it finally happened (at my bus stop after school one afternoon, late in junior high), didn't actually solve anything at all. I ended up stumbling home in tears with the wind knocked out of me from being punched hard in the stomach. The next day, back in school, I was still the 'geeky' boy who was stuck in pretty much the same status.
In spite of what I was told hundreds of times by my parents, "just hit them once and they'll leave you alone after that,” participating in that fight didn’t really change anything.
Essay: Fashion Trumps Everything
When you think “fashion,” you might imagine runway shows in Paris or New York, or giant magazines on the tables at salons featuring makeup, jewelry, and clothing.
But I use the term to mean what’s “in fashion” in a much larger context. I’m like that. I often take many steps back to take a look at the bigger picture.
Here, I’m referring to everything we feel like doing, whether it’s what we wear, what movies we watch, music we listen to, what foods we eat or what products we buy, what research gets funded, which party gets elected, and whether a war is popular or not. Yes, even war can be “in fashion” in a way. Sometimes what’s in fashion crosses boundary lines between cultural aspects. Features of military clothing are worked into designs for civilian clothing, for example.
Many people I know blame government or major corporations for dictating what the public will do. They cite these institutions’ desire to concentrate power or increase profits as the motive. But I contend that it doesn’t necessarily work that way. Instead, I see the public as usually having the final say in the long run.
Why do people do what they do? No one can really tell you. Oh, there is plenty of research into human behavior, but in the long run no one can predict what goes viral. Why did “Valley Girl Speak” infuse the language here in the US, and around the world? No one really knows. What makes something “cool?" The answer is likely, “I don’t know, I just felt like it.”
Language itself is probably one of the best examples, as no one (not even the French government) can really dictate how it evolves. We do have dictionaries and book editors and so on, but they are typically following changes in language, not leading them. Language is very much an egalitarian or decentralized exercise, where all the power ultimately lies with the public.
I contend that what’s “in fashion” trumps art, science, commerce – practically everything we do. How can fashion trump science? Well, what we have discovered through scientific investigation depends on what we wanted to find out about in the first place. We fund research into things we’re interested in, the things we’re most curious about, or the things we are motivated to prove. If we’re not all that interested in something, then we won’t spend as much money, or put in the effort, and that area of knowledge will end up being weak.
Of course, it all depends on who “we” are. The process of making decisions by large numbers of people is incredibly complex. The classic three branches of government they still teach in civics class are just the beginning; it’s way, way more complex than that!
Ultimately, we still don’t know how our own brains really work. We make decisions based on a mixture of logic and facts along with plenty of intuition, hunches, and gut feelings. Where do these things come from? It’s still largely a mystery.