Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Cork Incident

I have random trains of thought and the one just now brought me to an event that happened in June 2006. It's a favorite story, I've found; people really seem to enjoy it, so I figured I'd write it down.

Summer 2006. My then-girlfriend, Jen, and I planned a 3-week trip to Italy to visit my family. I've been out and openly dating women for 13 years, but this was the first time ever that my mom would meet one of my girlfriends. Jen was my first real, serious long-term relationship and in the time we had been together up until that point, she had heard stories and was pretty well-aware of my mom's personality. But, as I tried to warn her, stories weren't adequate preparation for the real thing...

Things didn't go very smoothly. Jen, God love her, was so easy-going and tried really hard to get to know my mom and to get along with her. It drove Jen crazy that we got stuck in Monterosso due to my mom (every day, she'd call and say, So, today, I need you to..) and it upset her that my mom and step-father treated me like shit. The visit was kind of a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs.

One night after dinner, Jen, my mom, and I were sitting at the table outside on the terrace. The scene was lovely: candles burning, the sound of waves lapping on the beach mere feet away, all three of us had a nice, happy wine buzz going. We were chatting and gradually the conversation turned to my mom's childhood.

Without going too deep into detail, my mom had a really fucked up upbringing and like me, it's amazing that she got out of it and became such a successful person. As much as she drives me crazy, I have always admired her strength, determination, and pluck. I hadn't heard the tale of her childhood in probably two decades, so I listened with interest. The prosecco flowed like a river and we just kept drinking and talking.
She gradually got more and more emotional as she told her story, until she was crying. The moment was really touching and I hadn't felt that close or loving toward my mom in years. Jen, having just earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology, was a bit awed at the sudden outpouring of honesty and vulnerability.

At the end of the story, we each had tears in our eyes and I got up and gave my mom a huge hug. I felt really close to her, something that rarely happens, and I was so touched and sad for her.

We sat in silence for a time, collecting our thoughts, drinking more, listening to the waves. I can say definitively that, at this point, we were all pretty drunk, but the prosecco kept flowing. It was a nice, peaceful moment that I savored, feeling full of warmth and goodwill towards my mom and Jen.

After a time, my mom spoke up and the atmosphere and tone of the conversation did a complete 180°. She started asking Jen questions about her mom. It started out innocently enough, but then gradually became more and more prying, causing Jen to prickle.

Jen's mom is a lay nun in the Franciscan order, so she is really, devoutly Catholic. When she and Jen's dad divorced when Jen was 12, Jen's mom decided she'd sinned enough by getting the divorce and never dated anyone afterward. My mom kept asking, But Jen.. I don't get it. Why do you think your mom never had any boyfriends?

Jen tried to be patient and kept telling my mom she was uncomfortable answering that question. It was obvious she didn't want to discuss it and any normal, polite person would have dropped the subject. My mom, however, was seriously drunk at this point and apparently super feisty. She kept poking, prodding, prying, asking basically the same question again and again, in an increasingly more irritated, frustrated way.
Jen started to get irritated, too, that her boundaries weren't being respected. She finally put her foot down and said, You know, Paula, I really don't feel it's right to discuss this, I'm not comfortable, and I would appreciate a change of subject.

I was sitting at the table with Jen to my left and my mom to my right. There was a period of silence after Jen told my mom to drop it. I looked down at the table to collect my thoughts and the next thing I knew, I saw a wine cork bounce across the table, from Jen across to my mom.

I looked up sharply, my brain unwilling to comprehend. One glance at Jen's angry, disbelieving face confirmed my suspicions, another glance at my mom staring at Jen with a challenging expression, then back to Jen, it all sinking in slowly.

Uuuuuuhhhhh.. no way, I thought. But.. yes way.

My mom, in her frustration at Jen's unwillingness to give her the dirt, threw a wine cork at Jen's head. The cork hit Jen in the forehead, bounced off, and then went bouncing along the table. Jen was stunned, as was I. They sat there for several very long moments, glaring at each other. My brain was still having trouble processing what had just happened, and all I could manage to say was a worthless reprimand: "MOM!"

I had no idea what to do, but then Jen got up abruptly and started cussing my mom out, including several instances of the F-bomb. I managed another "Mom! I can't believe you did that!" before getting up and following Jen down the steps and back to our apartment. Jen was raging pissed and it took some time to calm down enough to go to bed.

At about 10 in the morning, my phone rang and it was my mom. I answered, not having any idea what to expect. Surprisingly, she was very humble and apologetic. The first words out of her mouth were, "Do you hate me?"

"I am so, so sorry. I don't even know what to say. I can't remember the last time I was that drunk. You guys just kept pouring more! I woke up at 4 in the morning with the worst hangover and headache I've ever had in my life. Please forgive me."

The cork incident: perhaps forgiven, but definitely not forgotten.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trapped in the Shallow End of the Dating Pool

In the gay world, the dating pool is generally pretty small, no matter where you are. In the straight world, if you see someone you're attracted to and with whom you hit it off, you have a pretty good chance that the person at least goes your way. It's estimated that 10% of the population is gay; among that 10%, I don't know what the actual breakdown is, so I'll just go 50-50 on gender. If you look at the numbers, straight people have pretty good odds (90%) and a pretty extensive dating pool. When you're gay, things quickly turn a bit incestuous on the dating front.

Nowhere else does this hold true more than in the lesbian community. It's impossible to avoid, no matter where you live or how hard you try. You end up creating a network of lesbians, and the more the web builds, the more incestuous it gets. Working in the same circles and socializing with other lesbians, you repeatedly cross paths with the same people. People you know, people who know you, people who know the people you know, and so on.

A most interesting phenomenon to me is that when lesbians break up, there is so much more of a tendency to remain friends than in any other orientation. I don't know why we do this, but it's so true. I have remained friends with nearly every girl I've dated and the ones that didn't make the cut were excluded for good reasons, such as toxic craziness.

Having people in your life that know you better than anyone else is extremely nice. I heard once that having a romantic relationship with someone is like taking a lengthy, upper division course in them; while you're together, you are majoring in that person. You spend so much time learning about this other person, you see the real person, you've seen them at their worst, shared intimate and vulnerable moments together, you know who they are and vice versa. When you break up, what are you supposed to do with all the knowledge?

I imagine any straight guy reading this is boggled right now, unable to get unstuck from the notion of being friends with exes. Uh, what? My girlfriend gets jealous if I even mention the name of an ex! That may be so, but in the lesbian world, it's more accepted than not. Now, I'm not saying there's no jealousy, or that all lesbians keep their exes around. Just that it does happen frequently enough that it's understood. Individual results may vary.

So, why does this happen?
The way I figure it, I really cared for and admired all of my exes at one point. There's usually good reason for this and it doesn't end when we figure out we don't make a good couple. When it comes to that sudden arrival of excess knowledge and experience, I want to bank it, not throw it away.

I don't have a lot of family and the family I do have, I'm not emotionally close to. For someone like me, it's a cherished thing to have someone I was myself with and who, at the very least, has a deeper understanding of who I am than other people. I'm a guarded person and I can be difficult to know. A couple of my exes expressed frustration at trying to chip through the walls. It's tough for me, so it takes work, but these girlfriends that tried diligently, they have seen things I keep hidden from others. They have seen me bursting with joy and at the depths of despair. They took care of me when I was so sick that I had no pride left. These women and I have been through some shit together. Isn't that the very definition of a friend, someone who is on your side through thick and thin?

On the other side of the coin, so as to not overly glorify ex collecting, the baggage rarely goes away entirely. Whatever resentments existed, the things you disagreed about repeatedly, the hurt feelings; these things might fade to nothing, but chances are their ghosts still linger in dark corners. While it's amazing to have someone who knows you that well, it also can be aggravating to have someone who knows you that well.  My ex friendships have generally mellowed over time and our hurts forgiven, but there are several girls out there who know exactly how to push my buttons. ;)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


We're grateful that most people treated us like crap in our childhood, because it taught us both to value kindness & happiness above all other luxuries or generosities, & it brought us together in friendship & love.

I found this really poignant. I've often wondered how, despite a dysfunctional family and all the shit I've had to swallow over the years, I managed to turn out so well. This postcard made it all clear in an instant -- my experiences have made me deeply value goodness, kindness, honesty, and love.

Friday, September 17, 2010


The world is creeping ever-closer to my idea of Utopia -- a world where you never have to leave your house or interact with anyone. (mostly kidding)

Have you ordered a pizza from Domino's online lately? I was a delivery driver/manager for Domino's ages ago and generally can't stomach it, but they had some tantalizing coupons. Check out this pizza tracking system! A PIZZA TRACKING SYSTEM. Genius.

However, now I know that my pizza came out ages ago and is now sitting in the store getting cold, waiting to be delivered. :\

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How to Care for Introverts

  • Respect their need for privacy.
  • Never embarrass them in public.
  • Let them observe first in new situations.
  • Give them time to think. Don't demand instant answers.  [Ed: OMG, f'serious!]
  • Don't interrupt them.
  • Give them advanced notice of expected changes in their lives
  • Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing before calling them to dinner or moving on to the next activity.
  • Reprimand them privately.
  • Teach them new skills privately, rather than in public.
  • Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities; encourage this relationship even if the friend moves.
  • Do not push them to make lots of friends.
  • Respect their introversion. Don't try to remake them into extraverts.

(stolen from Lynne)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Fritatta with Onion & Fresh Herbs

Frittatas were originally a peasant food, made cheap and easy with whatever ingredients were at hand. Frittatas are super delicious and usually a big hit with people. They are super easy to make once you get the hang of them and you can use whatever kinds of ingredients you want. I think my favorite frittata is the egg and parmesan with leftover pasta that had been tossed in my mom's ragu sauce. It may sound weird, but don't knock it until you try it! So yummy.  :9


  • 1 Onion, thinly sliced or 10 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 - 6 large eggs (you can use up to 8 or 9 if you like your frittatas thicker), as fresh as possible
  • 4 Tbsp. assorted fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, etc.)
  • 1 Tsp. assorted dry herbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano, grated (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    Optional additions:
  • 3 zucchini, sliced
  • 3 golden potatoes, cubed or sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 12 oz spinach or other greens
Place onion, oil, salt and pepper in large sauté pan. Cook until transparent, about 8 minutes using medium heat. Add optional ingredients.

Beat together in small bowl eggs, herbs, cheese, salt and pepper.

When onions (and other veggies) are cooked, add egg mixture to pan. Cook while using a spatula to push the cooked edges toward the middle, tilting the pan to allow the uncooked egg to run into the space. Do this all around the pan until the egg doesn't run anymore.

Check to see if bottom is slightly browned and the mixture is beginning to hold together. If you have an oven-friendly sauté pan, preheat your oven to 350 and when the bottom is browned, pop the pan in the oven until the frittata has cooked through and the top is well-set.

If you don't have an oven-friendly sauté pan, carefully transfer the frittata to a plate or pan cover, then invert back into the pan. Cook the other side then invert onto a serving plate.

Garnish with more fresh herbs and freshly ground pepper, serve warm or at room temperature.