A (Grownup) Christmas Story

I was running. Hard, sloppy running. Arms flailing. Legs moving faster than I could keep up with. I couldn’t catch my breath. My side started hurting; my lungs were burning; my heart was racing.

This wasn’t a dream. It was real life.

My dog, Durango (Cesar Chavez Blvd.) Cox, had jumped the fence – like in a single bound – and took off down the alley behind my house.

Asshole.

Like a gorilla, she jumps.

Like a gorilla, she jumps.

I was running after her, breathlessly shouting things like “Durango! Stop! Come! Durango! This isn’t funny!” There were even moments of pleading, “Please stop. Please. I can’t run anymore.”

But she didn’t. She just kept running – pausing briefly to pee on various neighbors’ lawns, (you’re welcome, neighbors!), then bolting as soon as I would get close. We ran down two streets and around the block, circling back towards my house.

Then, finally, I outsmarted her – or she got tired…whatever – and I caught her. In the middle of the street.

And it was at that point that I puked. It was the hard running coupled with the flashes of watching her get hit by a car should she reach the busy street by my house.

I grabbed her in a bear hug and collapsed in the middle of the street. (Drama much?) It was while I lay there, hoping that if a car came they would notice me and not kill us both, that I was overcome with sadness. Apparently, sprinting can bring out the grief in you. I guess while you’re catching your breath, nostalgia creeps in. Who knew?

It was the day after Thanksgiving – the second Thanksgiving since my father died. It was also the day before his birthday – the second birthday since he died.

Stupid, asshole dog.

I was tired. I had collapsed in the street. I had vomit in my short hair. And now…I was sad.

I realized that I had been planted in the middle of the street longer than one probably should be, so I grabbed Durango by her collar and crawled to the curb, whereupon I was promptly struck in the head by an acorn.

Stupid, asshole tree.

I was now officially crying, holding my dog by the collar, looking up as acorns pelted me from above when I heard, “Holy shit, girl! You were running like a mother fucker.”

The laughter was immediate. I mean, seriously, who blurts that out to a crying stranger in the street?

I looked up. It was an older woman. And by “older,” I mean, she was in her eighties or hundreds or whatever. She had on knee socks, an oversized housedress, and a scarf that covered her head.

And now, I was cry laughing – my favorite kind of laughter.

“I caught her,” I managed to snort out.

“Hell yeah you did,” she shot back.

She was chuckling – a smoker’s chuckle. Why is it that smokers always live until they are 412 years old? I was laughing through my tears. We laughed for a moment, holding each other’s attention from across the street, then…

I yelled “Happy Thanksgiving!” as I picked up my stupid, asshole dog and walked away from the stupid, asshole tree.

“You, too!” She shouted back.

Then, I laughed all the way back to my house.

Today, as I celebrate the second Christmas since my father died I am struck by this recent memory. Laughter is my favorite antidote. Even in sadness, a woman shouting curse words from across the street can bring a smile to my face.

So, on Christmas, and in the coming year, I wish you laughter. I urge you to find the humor in the sadness. More specifically, Merry Christmas, mother fucker!

Meetings. Shoes. Newtown.

I hate meetings. It’s not news. Everyone I know knows that.

A meeting is typically an opportunity to waste my time. We’ll talk about nothing. We’ll leave with nothing. There will be no action steps.

But we’ll identify problems and “dialogue” about them.

And that is where my brain went directly following the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

newtown-newtitle

Here we go, again. We, as a country, are gonna have another meeting. Quite frankly, we’ve been in the same meeting since Columbine.

We’ll “dialogue” about gun control and mental health and about the glorification of the shooter. We’ll ask things like, “How can this happen?” “Where have we gone wrong?” “What can we do to stop this?”

The right will yell at the left for trying to “take away their guns.” The left will yell at the right for “being crazed gun lovers.”

The 2nd Amendment will be bandied about as though we’re all Constitutional Law professors. We’ll regurgitate the same arguments.

So, I say this with the most love I can muster: fuck your dialogue and fuck your political meeting.

There comes a moment when we have to move from problem identification to problem solution.

In 1999, after Columbine, we identified problems – video games, violence in movies, bullying, and accessibility to guns.

In 2007, after Virginia Tech, we identified problems – a history of unanswered disciplinary issues, mental illness, and accessibility to guns.

In 2009, after Fort Hood, we identified problems – mental illness, “terrorist sympathies,” and accessibility to guns.

Early this year, after Aurora, CO, we identified problems – violence in movies, mental illness, and accessibility to guns.

And now, after Newtown, CT, we are identifying problems – autism and accessibility to guns.

This is a short list. Here’s a timeline of mass shootings in the United States since Columbine.

Each time, we identified the problems. And each time, accessibility to guns is acknowledged.

***Disclaimer: I realize this is a simplistic argument. I know I’m leaving out legitimate arguments about mental health. I don’t care. I’m done “talking” – I want legitimate solutions.***

Now, let’s shift attention to Richard Reid. Remember that guy? He showed up on a plane in 2001 with a bomb in his shoe. Know what happened? You do if you’ve been to an airport since then. We take off our shoes, and they’re scanned. It’s a pain in the ass; I grumble every single time. But here’s where it’s ok for me…we identified a problem – shoes can now be made into bombs – and then we solved it – OK, everybody, take off your shoes.

Let’s call this shoe control.

Where was the outrage of the footwear lobbyists? You can’t control my shoes! You’ll have to pry my chucks out of my cold, dead hands!

Oh…there was no outrage: A) Because shoe lobbyists don’t have NRA money; and B) Because if a shoe can be made into a bomb, why not just make everybody take off their shoes?!?

So, I ask you, “Why? Why the hell are we still having this same ‘meeting’?”

Accessibility to guns is a problem – it’s been identified each and every time a mass shooting takes place. When Liviu Librescu was shot, we lamented the gun use. When Jessica Ghawi was shot, we bemoaned the gun use. When Olivia Engel was shot, we protested the gun use.

And yet, we can’t get everyone to just take off their shoes.

If accessibility to guns is the problem, then let’s make them less accessible. I’m not going to come pry it out of your cold, dead hands – that’s silly. You’re not gonna shoot me if you’re dead and it’s just in your hand. I want them while you’re still alive. I want them when you could snap. You know, after legally buying one, and spending time at the shooting range, then realizing you’ve got nothing left to live for, so why not take a few people out with you – that’s when I want your gun.

The meeting is wrapping up, and I’ll end it the way I end every meeting I run…with the following question: “What is the action step?”

Seems to me it’s to get everyone to take off their shoes, but I’m not a lawmaker. Hell, I’m not even a gun owner.

So, gun peeps – and you know who you are – stop telling me you have a 2nd Amendment right. No. Seriously. I get it. Help us fix this problem, you law abiding gun collector/enthusiast/hunter.

Stop the “meeting.” The “dialogue” is over. Take off your shoes.

Sex Talk with Neighbors

Sex makes me uncomfortable. Wait…that’s not right.

Talking about sex makes me uncomfortable. There. That’s better.

“So, why write a blog post about it, Cox?” you’re probably thinking to yourself. And, yes, I’m aware that I’ve already written the word “sex” and my last name is Cox. It’s unfortunate, but it’s real.

OK…so the reason for this post…and this isn’t the “news” part of it, but it needs to be stated just in case you didn’t know: (PS peep my hair. There’s a clue.) I’m gay. And when people figure out that you’re gay, they immediately start thinking about sex. How do they do it? What’s gay sex look like? Can they even have sex?

Disclaimer: I know that not ALL people immediately begin thinking about sex when they find out you’re gay, but a lot do.

So, one of my neighbors is an…umm…older woman who has both insulted and complimented me on more than one occasion. For example, this exchange actually happened while my house was undergoing renovations:

Her: You have done so much to your house. I envy your energy. Now, tell me, is it just innate that your people know how to fix stuff up? You’re all just so handy.

Me: My…people?

Her: Aren’t you gay?

Me: Umm…yes. And gay girls are pulled aside in 5th grade and taken to shop classes, while gay boys go to theatre camp.

Her: Well, now, you’re just pulling my leg.

Me: Yes, ma’am.

This was followed up later in the day with me in a dress heading out to a party, and her completely flabbergasted that “my people” are handy AND wear dresses.

fence

Which brings me to the conversation I had with her on Thursday morning.

My lady neighbor caught me as I was getting in my car, presumably to leave my house to go somewhere. It was at this time that she decided she’d like to talk to me about my “people.”

The conversation went as such:

Her: Can I ask you a question?

I immediately think, “Well you just did. You mean another question?” But I respond with, “Of course.”

Her: Have you always known you were gay?

Me: Well, good morning to you, too.

Her: I’m sorry. Good Morning. (slight pause) Have you always know you were gay?

Me: No.

Her: Do you think my daughter is gay?

To be clear, I’ve spoken to her adult daughter that lives with her exactly one time. I think I waved at her from across our two lawns, and she said, “Hi.” I shouted “Hi” back. The end.

Me: Umm…I don’t know.

Her: You can’t tell?

Me: No. She hasn’t filled out a membership application yet, and I am the Membership Chair, so I would definitely know.

Her: (completely deadpan) You’re making a joke.

Me: Yes.

Her: This isn’t a joking matter.

I study her for a moment.

Me: Oh. You’re serious. You think your daughter is gay?

Her: Yes.

She begins to cry. On my front lawn. With my car on. I get out of my front seat.

Me: Do you want to come inside for some coffee?

She is hesitant. She wants my advice, but she’s nervous to be alone with me in my house, I guess. In the open air, I’m not nearly as contagious.

Me: How ‘bout we have some coffee on my back patio?

Her: That would be delightful.

I love when people use that word to describe stuff.

She heads through my gate into my backyard. I kill the engine on my car and walk inside. I fix two mugs of coffee and meet her in the back. It’s slightly chilly.

I won’t bore you with the entire conversation, but basically her daughter’s lack of dates with men and insistence on hanging out with her girl friends have led her to believe that she is a lesbian.

Her: What am I going to do?

She asks this legitimately, as though I will commiserate.

Me: I don’t know what you mean.

Her: Isn’t it hard?

While she asks this in all seriousness, I can’t help but think, “That’s what she said.” Or, in this case, perhaps, “That’s not what she said.”

Me: Hard?

Her: Your life. Aren’t people mean to you?

Well, now we’re getting somewhere.

Me: Yes. Sometimes.

Her: And what about the love of a man?

Me: Umm…well, that’s the thing about lesbians…

Her: No. I know. But you can’t be taken care of in your house or in your bed.

Me: We’re not actually going to talk about sex are we?

Her: Well, I want grandchildren. I want my daughter to feel loved…taken care of.

Me: Right. Umm…

I’m horrifically uncomfortable. I’m sweating. And it’s cold.

Her: Can you even be satisfied?

Me: Umm…

I can’t answer these questions.

Her: Can you even have sex?

Me: Umm…

This isn’t happening.

Her: What do two women do in bed?

Me: Umm…

Make a joke. Make a fucking joke. Get out of this!

Me: Well, sex between lesbians always starts with brushing each other’s hair. Which is hard for me ‘cause my hair is short, and I use a lot of product.

There’s an uncomfortable silence. Then she starts to chuckle.

Her: You’re messing with me.

Me: I am.

We laughed together for a minute.

Her: What am I supposed to do?

Me: You’re not going to start having lesbian sex are you?

Her: NOOOO!!!

Me: Well, then I don’t know what you mean.

Her: What if she’s gay?

Me: What if she is?

That stumped her. She sat there, looking out over my backyard.

Her: Her life will be hard.

Me: Some parts…yes. Other parts? Not so much.

Her: Isn’t your life hard?

Me: Meh. I live in a great house. I drive a decent car. I own my own business. I have many people who love me.

Her: How can I let her know it’s ok to tell me?

Me: Tell her that. Let her know it’s ok to tell you.

Her: Then, what if she is?

Me: What if she is?

Her: I guess it doesn’t matter.

Me: That’s the best possible answer.

Her: But what if she’s not?

Me: What if she’s not?

Her: I guess it doesn’t matter.

There was more, but I was struck with how it ended.

Her: You don’t know me at all. And yet…here you are, talking to me.

Me: My people are good listeners. I mean, why do you think we’re so good with talk shows – Ellen? Rosie? Oprah?

Her: Oprah is gay?!?

Me: While debatable…no. I just needed a third. Comedy happens in threes.

We stand. She hugs me. Oh, also…I’m not a hugger.

Her: Thank you. I think I’m ready to talk to her.

She was teary.

Me: Absolutely not a problem. Remember, if she is gay…nothing for her has changed. She is no different than she was yesterday. You just know more about her.

She took my face in her hand. She would clearly catch “the gay” now.

Her: You are a good person.

She walked home.

I was late going home that night and kept my fingers crossed that she didn’t walk her twenty-year-old daughter over to my house with a hairbrush in tow. But I didn’t see her.

She did, however, catch me Friday evening as I was (again) leaving. She waits for that, I’m sure. “Oh…she looks like she’s going somewhere. This is the perfect time for a chat.”

She explained that she waited for her daughter to come home, then sat her down, told her she loved her, and asked her if she had anything to tell her. She said that her daughter got really quiet, and she readied herself for the news.

Apparently, her daughter has been seeing a guy for quite some time. It’s “real love…maybe her first.” She’s not ready to introduce him to her mom and knew that would bother her, so that’s why she hasn’t told her.

“She’s not gay!”

She seemed genuinely happy. She nearly shouted it. She hugged me.

Me: Umm…I’m happy for you…?

Her: I didn’t tell her I thought she might be gay.

Me: That’s probably for the best.

Her: It would have really been OK if she was. I mean that.

Me: That’s good to know.

Her: Mija, I want you to know that I think you would make a fantastic mother. We’ll have to find a man that’s worthy enough to give you his sperm.

And, really, there’s not much more to say about that.