Saturday, November 22, 2008

High school memories

Since I've joined Facebook, I've gotten a bunch of friend requests from people I haven't seen since high school. Some are people I'm genuinely excited to hear from, people I have occasionally thought about over the years and wondered what happened to them. Some are people I wasn't all that close to and/or didn't know well (i.e., I haven't thought of them since graduating) but I don't really mind 'friending' them because I have generally friendly feelings about them. But a small handful have been people I didn't like then and can't really imagine why they would even ask to be my 'friend' now, other than they just want to have as many 'friends' on Facebook as possible. I generally just ignore these requests but for some reason, they nag at me. Some part of me feels bad, partly because I suspect they don't have the slightest clue why I'm ignoring them.

I'm a big cliche
The problem is, I hated high school. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way, but my guess is that anyone who knew me in high school would be slightly surprised to hear me say that. Back then, I was the poster girl for well-rounded over-achiever: straight-A's, choir, student government, mock trial, you name it. And of course, I was a cheerleader dating a football player (though not the quarterback, thank god). What did I possibly have to hate about high school?

Well, as anyone who has seen Can't Buy Me Love knows (yes, I loved Patrick Dempsey long before he was McDreamy), the only high school cliche more persistent than the cheerleader dating the football player is that the kids who are all friends in grade school go their separate ways in junior high and high school, forming stereotyped cliques that all have their own table in the cafeteria. And for reasons that I still don't understand after years of therapy, I was not accepted into the "cool" clique when we hit junior high. I spent most of 7th grade being a tagalong, trying to figure out how to fit in with girls I had been BFFs with just the year before. By the start of 8th grade, I mustered up the self-respect to find some real friends and tried to get comfortable with my new group but a part of me never really let go of what happened. Then junior year, I made it onto the varsity cheerleading squad and suddenly people who hadn't talked to me in four years were asking if I wanted to get together. But I was always so aware of the shallowness and two-faced-ness of most of the "in crowd" that I just never trusted them. At the same time, me being a cheerleader seemed to make my smart friends (with whom I still had a bunch of AP classes) less comfortable around me. So other than my football player boyfriend (who I still think of as probably the most decent guy I've ever dated), my last two years of high school were pretty lonely.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying I don't have some great memories of high school, and I like to think that my experiences then made me a much more compassionate person today. And I know that it was all twenty years ago and I'm sure most people have changed (though would it be terribly snarky of me to say these are not people who ever struck me as the type to be very introspective so I sort of think there's also a good chance they have not changed all that much?). But even if they are now the most amazing people in the world, if the only thing we have in common is shared memories of a time I don't even care about remembering, am I obligated to let them back in my life?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reflections on the election

[The following is an email I received yesterday from a dear friend from college. Adam lives in Los Angeles with his family and I asked if I could post his email because he expresses so well what is in my own heart but does it far more eloquently than I could.]

Dear Friends and Family,

Aman and I awoke this morning with unfortunately heavy hearts. We found ourselves unable to fully enjoy or celebrate Barack Obama's historic win, because of the heartbreaking passage of Proposition 8, which enshrined discrimination against gays and lesbians into our California constitution. We found ourselves thinking of our two beautiful children and of our own marriage, which 45 years ago would not have been possible in much of the country because of very similar ignorance and fear.

Proponents of Proposition 8 do not like it when parallels are drawn between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. But the similarities are too overwhelmingly obvious to be ignored. Forty-five years ago, in much of the country, Aman and I would not have been allowed to marry and have a family. We would have been denied these rights because so many folks felt that interracial marriages were unnatural, contrary to tradition, contrary to how marriage has always been, and against God's will. Sound familiar? These same arguments were all heard from Proposition 8 supporters. The Yes on 8 campaign advertisements focused on allegations that children would be taught about same-sex marriage in the schools and that free speech rights would be limited because individuals and churches would be forced to officiate and accept marriages that they believed were ungodly. These were also arguments that were regularly voiced with respect to interracial marriages.

As we sat with our two kids early this morning - they got us up at 5:00 a.m. again - we found ourselves wanting to fully celebrate what President Obama's incredible victory represents for this country. But we found ourselves unable to fully do so because of the heartache of knowing that yesterday Californians enshrined discrimination into our Constitution by denying certain Californians the right to marry the person of their choosing.

For those who think that the same-sex marriage issue was pushed too fast and too soon, I would point you to the poetic words of Langston Hughes who said:

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Our hearts ache this morning for all our gay and lesbian friends and family members who last night were told by the people of California that they can not marry the person that they loved -- that they can not fulfill their dreams in the same way that the rest of us can.

Our hearts ache for the gay and lesbian boys and girls who are struggling, as all young people do, with who they are and what their place is in the world. Last night, the people of California once again told these young people that they were unnatural and deviant, and that they are not entitled to the same rights as the rest of us.

Our hearts ache for our two children, whom we love more than anything. Last night the American people helped to make the world a better place for our children by electing Barack Obama. But last night, the people of California said not so fast, there is still much work to be done.

Just like the struggle to allow interracial marriage, the struggle for full marriage equality for all will not be won overnight. These fights began with individual couples who refused to give up on their love and their dreams just because others said that such love was unnatural and wrong. They spread to friends and family who become allies in the cause. As they picked up strength, political leaders began to speak out, the courts came around, and eventually the general public did as well we are obviously still working on this last step with respect to same-sex marriages.

What we learned from last night is that we still have a lot of work to do especially in low-income communities and communities of color. At root, I believe that opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in fear and ignorance. Fear of something that for generations we have been describing as icky and unnatural. Ignorance of the love and commitment that infuses so many same-sex unions. We can change these things. We will change these things.

There is hope in the exit polls from Proposition 8, which found a massive generation gap: the under-30s voted for marriage equality by 67 to 31 percent; the over-65s voted for discrimination by 57 to 43 percent. I have no doubt that there will be many other struggles that we will bequeath to our children. But this will not be one of them. It will take longer than we had hoped, and that makes us sad. But, make no mistake about it -- this is a fight that we will win.

Although we feel much anger and sadness, Aman and I are still hopeful. Barack Obama is correct when he says that much of America's genius lies in its ability to change. In his speech last night -- which was as inspiring as he so often is -- Obama used many lines that were used by Martin Luther King. At one point Obama referred to "the arc of history." After the famous march to Selma, King was asked how long it would take to achieve justice. His answer is well worth remembering at times like this:

How long? Not long. Because the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.

In solidarity and love,

Adam Murray
Executive Director
Inner City Law Center

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!

Please vote! If you aren't sure where to go, Google makes it easy: go to and enter your address. I'm actually a permanent mail-in voter but I'm taking my ballot to a polling place today so I can get an "I voted" sticker to put on my Obama pin!

As a Californian Democrat, my vote in the Presidential election won't mean much (other than being able to tell my nieces and nephews that I voted for Barack Obama), but fortunately, we have all those lovely Propositions to keep us on our toes. Prop 8 is pretty much in a dead heat, which I just find sad. I don't know if it's the appalling ads that are freaking people out but in my mind, even if you don't approve of gay marriage, discrimination just doesn't fit with the California culture of 'live and let live'.

The only Proposition that I'm actually voting FOR is Prop 11, the redistricting measure. I've been meaning to write a post about it - maybe I still will - but the short version is that my time in Sacramento made me a much bigger fan of term limits and convinced me that the current system is seriously messed up. Everyone up there talks about people's terms as if every incumbant will be re-elected for the maximum terms possible (i.e., a new Assemblymember's term isn't considered to be two years, it's assumed to be six). Maybe that's not a bad thing but then why don't we just change term length to six years and at least let them focus on governing instead of spending so much money on campaigns that don't really mean much?

At any rate, whoever or whatever you are voting for, today is going to be an historic day. Get out there and vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Crazy cat lady

I've always been a dog person. I've never actually owned a dog but when I was growing up, I SO wanted a dog and I was always bummed we couldn't have one because of my mom's and sister's allergies (though I actually found out many years later that apparently the real reason was my parents couldn't agree on what kind of dog - my mom being a small dog person and my dad being a big dog person - but that's a whole different post). When I was finally living on my own, I kept thinking that I'd get a dog as soon as I got settled somewhere; I distinctly remember that when I got my current job eight years ago, I thought that I needed to find an apartment that would let me have a dog, or buy a house as quickly as possible so I could have one.

So although I've never owned one, I've definitely always thought of myself as a dog person. I definitely was NOT a cat person. Cat's have never liked me and I've never particularly liked them. What's to like about these weird animals that seem to think they are doing you a favor if they deign to look in your direction? But five years ago, I somehow became a cat owner. I'm still not quite sure how it happened. Well, I mean, I know how it happened - my sleeping partner at the time was going on sabbatical and couldn't find anyone to take care of his cat and was about to take her to the shelter so being a complete sucker, I said I'd take care of her for the six months he would be gone. And at first, it wasn't that big a deal. The upside of cats' notorious aloofness is that they are incredibly low maintenance. You pretty much just feed them and scoop out their litter box once a day (and if you have an outdoor cat, not even that). I didn't really pay much attention to her. But slowly, day by day, she began to grow on me. She would come sit on the couch with me while I was watching T.V., and then she started sleeping on my bed. She would bump my legs as I was sitting at my computer until I'd pick her up and then she'd just sit there in my lap. Somehow, by the time her former owner came back to town, she had become 'mine'.

What's particularly weird is that other cats seem to know that I'm now 'a cat person'. It used to be that if I encountered cats in other people's homes, they ignored me, just as I ignored them. Now, it's like they can sense something - if I walk into a house with cats, they will make a beeline for my legs. And my cat is curled in my lap as I write this, purring away.

So given my cat history, I loved a recent post from Bella DePaulo, about the stereotype of singles and their cats:
I wonder why it is that single people - women especially - are so often cast as cat-crazy. Is it a way of attributing a cat-like caricature to singles - say, aloof and unsociable? Or maybe even a more flattering portrait of cool and unruffled independence? By itself, the perception of singles as cat-people (or pet-people) doesn't bother me. What does rub me the wrong way is the interpretation that is sometimes offered for the supposed link between being single and having a pet - that singles have pets as "compensation" for not having a spouse.
In the comments, Becky points out that dogs simply require a lot more time and work: "So it's not a crazy lonely cat lady, it's a person with a full time job and social obligations without kids to keep them home... if you have control over it, a cat is often a more practical and humane choice in a pet if you are a busy single." That is certainly the view I have come to have. I love that I can go away for the weekend and not worry about what I'm going to do with my cat. If I get caught up at the office, or decide to spend the night somewhere at the last minute, I know my cat will be fine. She's still happy to see me and still keeps me company when I'm just hanging out at home but there's no guilt when I leave either. I still love dogs and I stop to pet every dog I see on the street. But I've come to think about dogs the same way I think about kids: they're adorable and I love to play with them at other people's homes, but I certainly don't want to give up my life to have one of my own. So go ahead and call me a crazy cat lady - I'll just take a lesson from my cat and ignore you...