Adventures in Babysitting

So I’ve been avoiding this whole blog phenom for years now but I am finally emerging from the dark musty dregs of my proverbial blogger’s closet. I am, and have always been, just as opinionated as your average blogger, but until now, I have tended to reserve my ramblings and musings for the innocent and unsuspecting roommate, neighbor or passerby. My soapbox is full of bubbles, mostly a relentless barrage of questions for quirks in reasoning. The aim is to show that our linear attempts at rationality are mostly just shots in the dark. I know too well how sometimes, like in a good Johnny Cash cover, that gun can go off in our hands, slaying the rider while the horse runs on without him. It is just such an event that has inspired this cry in the dark wild wilderness of the wide blog abyss.

See, my wife loves nature. Every time she sees a hawk on a branch on the side of the highway her eyes ignite with that primal crystal clarity that says “I’ve been your story Mr. Hawk and I wanna go flying.” Everywhere she travels from Colorado to the Carolinas she climbs whatever mountain or hill or dune she can find to get her bird’s eye view of this thing called creation as if to say “it is good” to a mystery of her very own design. She walks the way of a quiet sage, seeking balance with her surroundings and carrying a subtle, peaceful Knowing alongside in her trusty Columbian shoulder bag.
She also loves children. She loves the way the little ones stare at you because they haven’t learned yet that it’s inappropriate not to look away. She loves that six year old boys have a sound effect for everything (which she in turn loves to imitate) and how the thirteen year olds are figuring out that it’s sometimes healthy to hold a certain disdain for pretty much everything the world tries to pass off as real. She loves teaching Pink Floyd guitar chords to the teenagers who are just beginning to realize the living ain’t as easy as they once thought it would be. She loves watching life unfold through young people and is frankly a great witness to pretty much anyone’s journey.
Given that these are her two great loves (present blogger not included) she believes that a career in wilderness therapy is apropos. After researching programs across the country for over a year, she found one that seemed most appropriate for her in the expansive deserts of the southwest. After jumping through myriad hoops and securing references from a Louisiana soccer dad/coach, an Indo-Tibetan Buddhist scholar and a Jesuit priest, she was offered a job with the organization. She quit her job in Wallingford, CT and we packed our bags, desert bound.
The Hitch:
After a day and a half of training and a moving “blanket ceremony” of trust and commitment, inspired by the “ancient ones” of the southwestern lands, her assistant field director caught a glimpse of the silver tree-of-life band wrapped comfortably around her left ring finger and innocently asked “So what does your ring symbolize for you.”
It was, of course, her wedding ring. She proceeded to tell him about it and about me and the tell-tale “problem” indicators appeared upon his otherwise personable and engaging countenance. He took his shot in the dark and told her that she would not be hired because the parents would not consider her a trustworthy representative of the organization’s values because she was – dun dun duhn!!! – GAY! He also said that it was his understanding that the organization’s “no sexual intimacy outside of marriage” policy did not pertain to same sex couples. He left to confirm this with his supervisor and a few hours later my wife found herself off of the trail, jobless, and sleeping in her car in a nearby hotel parking lot.
When she was interviewed by the organization’s president two days later, he confirmed that the big issue was in fact her gay marriage. Since our marriage was not legally recognized by the state, she would have to agree to abstain from “sexual intimacy” with her chosen life-partner if she were to work for the organization. He did not address the other points made by the assistant field director, but he did admit that everyone who had worked with her reported that she was an excellent candidate for the position. He even offered to help her find another job. Thank you Mr. President.
The Problem:
1. At least two of the organization’s employees were under the impression that gays were not welcome to work there, so unwelcome in fact that they found it appropriate to invite her to leave the training immediately upon learning of her “sexual orientation.”
2. Even if the organization does not discriminate against gays, it does discriminate against “married” gays. Even if a gay couple is in a state recognized “civil union,” it is still not a marriage and therefore would leave a job candidate in 47 states shit out of luck in the face of this organization’s policy. Does this not reinforce what we learned with the 1954 overturn of Plessy vs. Ferguson, that “separate but equal” is a farce?
Today is the birthday of my mother’s hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. My mother was a civil rights activist in the 60s and a student at Howard University during the 1968 DC riots. She raised me to understand the movement was about basic civil rights for all people. I can’t think of a more basic right than to create and support a family with a person that you love and hold in your heart of hearts. It has been 80 years since the birth of one of the last century’s biggest dreamers, and 80 years later America is still not free. Are we still arrogant enough to believe that we can determine the content of our neighbor’s character, or validity of their union, based on distorted judgments and perceived differences?
So to all the fearful grown up children that judge, legislate, and discriminate; to all of the whiny playground bullies that draw their little lines in the sand about what gets canonized as American values; to all the beautiful little babies whose fears we “others” coddle and protect with our various discretions, privacies and myriad rainbows of closeting techniques, I have only one thing to say, and I do say it with all the love in my heart: Grow up America.

5 comments to “Adventures in Babysitting”

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  1. JML - January 16, 2009 at 3:16 am Reply

    Lilli!

    I can’t believe that, I just read your post to Robert and I just can’t believe she had to go through that horror. I am so mad and frustrated!

    I also want to say that your description of Liz is so beautiful and so perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a touching tribute to another person.

    We both miss you guys. Tell Liz we say hi! and keep writing.

    ~Julia

  2. Manisha Shahane - January 16, 2009 at 9:03 am Reply

    My jaw is still somewhere in the Dead Sea. Yeah, that’s how much it dropped when the field director dropped the news on your wife.

    I’m grateful that you have taken the time to write about this sad experience and that, too, in such a profoundly moving way. I agree with your friend Julia – your tribute to Liz is moving. And, while I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting your wife, I feel as though I know her through your words.

    Welcome to the world of blogging, my fellow sister of song.

  3. Gal - January 17, 2009 at 10:45 pm Reply

    This is outrageous. I was deeply moved by your story – it sounds like you treat words with the same love and respect your wife gives to creatures of nature – and felt sad and angry to learn about the discrimination the two of you suffered. Trying to look at current events with a historic perspective, it seems that America is on the path of growing up, but the pace is slow and painful for those of us who want to live in a land free of discrimination and bigotry today. For the time being, living among the people who accept and respect our differences will have to be good enough. Please keep writing.

  4. a - February 26, 2009 at 4:01 am Reply

    sounds like a shit place to look for therapy.
    you should write the name of the place in your blog, there’s no reason everyone shouldn’t know what kind of people are running it.

    you guys are awesome! something better is waiting around the bend, something that blows that job out of the water. now, i’m going to go force gabriel to write something that beautiful about me.

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