Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Single Parenthood

OK, I know parenting is hard. But I’m really tired of people with partners complaining to me that they have to be single parents for a day or two.

They have no idea.

The thing about single parenthood isn’t the big stuff. It isn’t the talks you have about how to navigate friendships. It isn’t teaching them the discipline of homework or piano practice. It isn’t talking about god or science or the whole Quinn/Finn/Puck pregnancy thing in Glee. It’s not about pausing the TV in the middle of Twilight to explain that we should be wary of pop culture that teaches women to be attracted to dangerous men. It’s not even about being gay, or why you and Uma split up, or who their sperm donor is.

No, the thing about single parenthood is the relentlessness of the little stuff.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sandwich

By Carrie Kaufman, copyright 2001

It was the sandwich that made me take the drugs.
The shmear of peanut butter
The dribble of grape jelly
The papier mache white bread left over from Thanksgiving,
The crusts cut off carefully, so he wouldn’t roll his eyes and have to do it himself, later.

The sandwich and the morning sun
Made me take the drugs.
The not-yet-seven-when-I-don’t-get-up-till-8:30 morning sun streaming in through our kitchen windows
Illuminating his face
Animating my hands
Refracting possibilities in my lover’s eyes
As I spread and cut and bagged and hummed
And thought about taking drugs.

The sandwich and the morning sun and the little boy made me take the drugs.
The sly smile I have known for six years
The compassionate heart that defies my eyes to stay dry
The large, soft hands that hold mine when he sits next to me in the car.
The boy who loves me.
The boy whom I love, perhaps more than anyone.
The boy who is not mine, though we have both pretended, from time to time.

The sandwich and the morning sun and the little boy and his mother’s imminent return, made me take the drugs.
I wanted this to last forever
Would gladly skew my day earlier
To make sandwiches for my child
To have breakfast talk with my child
To send my child off to school with a perfunctory kiss
And tear up as I watched him run through the playground to join his friends.

So I’m taking drugs.
And I’m popping eggs like they’re going out of style
I am fertile.
And carrying around cannisters that look like R2D2
With tubes of stuff that half of you will likely produce tonight. For free.
So I can get up early and talk and cry and make sandwiches in the morning sun,
Every day.

The New Oppression of Gay Marriage

November, 2008 (just after the presidential election)

When one group is oppressed, we are all oppressed. That was the lesson I learned from the Holocaust. Germans turned their eyes when Jews were stripped of their rights. They spat at the Gypsies who were rounded up. They laughed when the faigelah son of their next door neighbor was taken away. They started to worry when their “correct” neighbors disappeared, and they started to lose their own freedoms of movement and association. Then they couldn’t move at all, and they wondered how they got there.

Barak Obama is going to be president of the United States. When California closed its polls and Obama was announced the winner, tears sprang spontaneously to my eyes. Then I saw that Jessie Jackson, and Oprah, had them, too. When Obama spoke of the 106-year-old woman, Ann Nixon Cooper, and all that she has lived through, the floodgates in my eyes could not hold back. This election is truly an historic moment, not just for brown skinned people or for liberals, but for the world. Oppression has been overcome, and our kids are going to grow up not knowing what it was all about.
Well…not all kids.

At the same time that California voters were putting Obama over the top, they were also decisively adding an amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage. According to the tracking polls, Proposition 8 was opposed overwhelmingly by white people, independents and liberals. It was supported overwhelmingly by Christian conservatives…and African-Americans.

This was written a couple of years ago after spending Thanksgiving in St. Louis. The girls were just shy of their 5th birthday.

We’re at my Aunt Rose’s for Thanksgiving weekend. It’s Saturday morning and we’re hanging out before we hit the road this afternoon. Aunt Rose has lots of board games for her grandchildren. Delaney decides she wants to play the Game of Life. Great. We open it up and set out all the mountains and valleys and schools and churches. I read the instructions (believe it or not, I’ve never played the game before) and we pick out our cars. I read that we have to put representative people in our cars, so we open the bag and, to my amusement, there are only pink and blue “people” pegs. We each take a pink.

The game begins and we both take loans to go to college (‘cause I wouldn’t give her the option of starting a career without going to college), and we stop at the red squares and do what they tell us. Delaney gets to “Get Married.” She takes a Life card and dutifully picks out a blue peg and places it next to her in her red car. A few turns later, I hit the same spot. I pick out a pink peg to put next to me in my yellow car.

“You can’t pick a pink one, you have to pick a blue one,” my daughter tells me.

“No I don’t. I can pick any color I want,” I answer.

“No, you have to pick a boy.”

“I don’t want to pick a boy. I want to pick a girl.”

“But you can’t. You have to play boy/girl. See, there’s the picture.” She points to the picture on the game board of a bride and groom.

“But I don’t want to marry a boy. I don’t marry boys. I’ve never posed for that kind of picture in my life.”

“But it’s the rules.”

“I don’t follow the rules.”

“But it’s the rules of this game.”

“I don’t have to follow the rules of this game, either, if I disagree with them.”

She looks at me.

“Look,” I say, “If I followed the rules, you would never have been born.”

She rolls her eyes, shakes her head, then reaches down and spins the wheel.

What a great game of life lesson.