Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

In less than two years of living in Ottawa, I have done some pretty amazing things. So here’s a list of what Ottawa’s given me in the last 22 months:

Concerts/performances: Melissa Etheridge, Alanis Morissette, Rufus Wainwright (RUFUS!!!), Margaret Cho, Sam Roberts, Show Tune Showdown (2008; also attending the 2009 edition on May 9 – a fun and hilarious evening)

Plays/theatre: Wicked, Mama Mia, Spamalot, Top Girls, Macbeth (at the NAC – terrible!), Broue, Corteo (Cirque du Soleil)

A Company of Fools performances (a must see when in Ottawa): Romeo & Juliet, Tempest in a Teapot, Richard III in Bouffon, 

Other: the Haunted Walk (Ottawa and Kingston), Roller derby (AWESOME!! We’re going again in June), a screening of Nosferatu (silent film) with a live band (including Balinese gamelan), the Diefenbunker, The 1930s: the Making of the New Man (exhibit at the National Gallery)

This doesn’t even cover the free things: Busker Festival, Tulip Festival, weekly trivia at a local pub, knitting groups, skating on the Canal . . .

Damn I love this city.


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Wedding progress

We have a date:  May 15, 2010.

As an accountant, my partner assigns special significance to numbers, and she likes the numbers this date creates: 5-10-15. Which is cool in itself, but when added together, they make 30. The number 3 is her”signature” number, so to speak, so the date is perfect.

We also have a location for the reception: a lovely old historic restaurant in the market. Before we started looking for a venue I had an image in my mind of what kind of space I wanted for the reception, and when we walked into the restaurant I knew we had found it. Old stone walls, large wooden roof beams, black window frames, wooden floors. It’s perfect – a warm, cozy and friendly space. The last thing I wanted was a big empty and impersonal hall.

The wedding ceremony itself will likely just take place at City Hall, which has a wedding space that only holds about 10 people including the couple getting married, so we would have to leave most people out of the ceremony. We’re both fine with that. To me the exchange of vows is very personal and intimate, and I’d rather have a small group of people there who really love us and support our decision.

Which brings me to the next item on my To Do list: telling my parents we’re engaged. At this point, I’m less concerned about their disapproval and more concerned about my mother being pissed that we’re having the wedding in Ottawa. And that I don’t intend to invite any of my extended family. And that we plan to have a wedding with no church, no priest, no white dress, no bridesmaids, no flowers, no bouquet toss, etc. By most western standards, it won’t even look like a wedding. But it’s exactly what we want, and it will reflect who we are as a couple.

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Birthday blessings

Yesterday was my 35th birthday. It’s a bit of a milestone, but nothing that would warrant a big to-do or much fanfare. My partner asked me what I wanted to do to mark the occasion, and I said I’d like to have some friends over for a pot-luck games night. Nothing fancy: just good times with good friends. Which is exactly what happened, but to me it was so much more than that.

It ended up being a very interesting mix of people, from friends I’d known a few years, to some I’d known about a year, to a couple of people I’d never met before. It’s always a risk, bringing people together from different sectors of your life, but in the end it was a good mix. Not to mention we were pretty well-matched in our game playing. We each won a game of Outburst, with less than a five-point spread between teams each time.

MC and I have been busy the last several weeks, and hadn’t had guests over in ages – probably since long before the xmas holidays. The bus strike has also put a damper on the social lives of many Ottawans. So it was a real pleasure to host so many close friends (and a couple of strangers). I guess it’s silly, but I just felt incredibly grateful to have all these great people around me on my birthday.

This feeling of gratitude was amplified by the fact that my parents didn’t contact me at all on my birthday. No phone call, no card. This is very unusual, especially since we haven’t spoken since the xmas holidays. My brother at least sent me a card. It’s strange. In high school, I remember my mother being jealous of my friends and telling me that the only people you can really count on in life is your family. In reality, it’s my friends who have always been there for me, who celebrate my life choices and accomplishments, and my parents (my mother in particular) who are the first to judge and criticize and generally let me down.

Maybe they were busy yesterday. Maybe they thought I would be out on my birthday since it fell on a Friday night so they didn’t bother to call. Maybe they’ll call today. Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about it.

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For as long as I can remember, I have never wanted to get married. Not as a young child playing with dolls (and my preferred dolls were Barbies, not babies); not as a hormonal teenager with obsessive crushes on badass boys with long, greasy hair; not at 22 when I truly fell head over heels in love within a mature relationship for the first time.

This may be because of the nature of my parents’ marriage, which appeared to be tolerable at best. As far as I could observe, there was, and still is, a complete lack of respect between them. And neither of them appeared very happy with the situation. Like most kids, I made a conscious decision to avoid a life like my parents’ at all costs. I always hoped to find a loving partner that I could share my life with. I just never intended to enter that prison called marriage.

After several long-term relationships, including one of four years, my thoughts on marriage never changed. In fact, I had received proposals from three different people and I turned them all down flat. It just wasn’t an option. For the record, these refusals had nothing to do with the gender of the person asking: my long-term relationships were with people of both genders, as were the proposals.

But this time was different. On November 18, my beloved partner MC proposed to me. We’ve been together for nearly a year, but have talked about marriage often. After our first few months together, when we were in that crazy, passionate, excited stage of the relationship, she would sometimes turn to me and say “Will you marry me?” The first dozen times she asked me, my answer was a flat out “No.” The next hundred times I answered “Not today.” 

The months went by and our relationship only got better and stronger. I was amazed at how easy it was — she was easy to love, easy to respect, easy to talk to and to have fun with. One day (I suspect she was tired of me skirting the issue) she explained to me why she wanted to get married. It’s not about the lavish ceremony, or the dress and tux, the flowers, the cake, putting on a show for the neighbours or any of that bullshit. It’s about making a commitment to someone, and caring enough about that person and that commitment to take a day out of your life to honour it. To say together, “Yes, you are what I want. I promise this relationship will be my first priority for the rest of my life.”

She makes a lot of sense. And when you take all the religion and bullshit out of it, it’s a really nice idea. So when she got down on one knee last week, quite out of the blue, and asked me for real, I had to say yes.

We’ve agreed to keep the ceremony small, intimate and simple, and to reflect who we are and what’s important to us. The plan is to have a handful of people at the ceremony, then a big party afterwards. Maybe spring or summer 2010. But for now, I’m just enjoying being engaged.

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Escaping family

What is it about family that makes me shut down and run away? Sometimes talking to family members makes me want to sit on the floor, close my eyes tight, cover my ears with my hands and sing “I can’t hear you!!!”

I’m pretty sure I love them – if one of them were to die, I would be very upset. Devastated even. But they feel tangential to my life. I do cultivate a certain distance with them (OK, maybe a chasm) both geographically and emotionally. And I don’t really look forward to talking to or seeing them – some of them, anyway.

Tonight, for example, I was writing to one of my younger family members (now in his early 20s) who suffered an injustice from the rest of the family a couple of years ago. He hasn’t really received a proper apology from everybody yet, and I fear he may never get one. I can tell it bothers him, and to be honest I haven’t fully apologized for my role in this debacle yet, either. But I just dread dealing with it. I just want to throw my little fit on the floor and make everything go back to the way it was . . . I hope what I wrote to him today will help in some small way.

Incidentally, I came out to this same family member tonight as well. He may have already known, but I wasn’t sure, so I told him. And it was still difficult to choose the words, though it gets a little easier each time. But there’s still that fear of rejection, the terror of the look of disgust on his face (despite the fact I can’t see his face; and haven’t seen his face in about three years now).

All this just reinforces my dread of the xmas holidays. Maybe I can hold my breath until it’s over . . .

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One of my oldest and dearest friends sent me a card recently to congratulate me on coming out to my family after spending a ridiculous number of years in the closet to no one except them. It was a lovely gesture. Like she says: Nobody bakes you a cake when you come out, but they should! 

She also sent me this comic cell, in response to my comment about bisexuality NOT being a stopover on the way to Gay Town. Maybe next time she drops in at Vonny’s Vag she could give us the source. Is that Superman on his way to Gay City?  (gasp!)  I never knew, and my gaydar is pretty good . . .

So it occurred to me to provide an update on the whole coming out process. Since coming out to my parents in early July, they have called me precisely once, to wish me a happy Thanksgiving. Which is something. On Labour Day weekend I brought my partner down to my hometown to meet the family. We stayed with my brother, who dealt with the whole thing remarkably well, considering. My parents were civil, but clearly uncomfortable. They made no effort to initiate conversation with my beloved, but they were friendly to her when she spoke to them.

On the long drive home, I tried to look on the bright side. My 70-something parents have probably never met a gay person in their lives. (At least not knowingly.) At this point, it was important that they see that I’m still the same person, and that my beloved is not a green three-headed monster. Mission accomplished.

Now we have to figure out where we’re going to spend xmas — our first xmas together as a couple. My parents will be upset if I don’t spend it with them, and my partner’s family will be upset if she doesn’t spend it with them. But neither of us wants to spend xmas apart, especially since it’s our first one together.

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Intimidated by ignorance

I remembered something strange today. Ten years ago this month (possibly even this week — I don’t remember the exact date) I moved to China to begin teaching ESL. I had finished my BA that April, and was off to see China for the first time. I had been fascinated with China for some time, though I can’t now remember why. When I got the job teaching English at a private school in the south, just outside the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen, I was thrilled. In my innocence and naïveté, I thought I would never come back to Canada. I flew into Hong Kong, at what was then the brand new Chek Lap Kok airport. (I was deeply disappointed not to be flying into the old airport, which was apparently right downtown. The planes landed amid skyscrapers!)

Anyway, I remember taking a shuttle bus from the airport into the city, so I could catch the train to Shenzhen. I cried tears of joy as the bus drove through Hong Kong. I admired the buildings that looked piled on top of one another, was fascinated by the bamboo scaffolding, and entranced by the lush green hills. 

In Shenzhen, I was met by an American couple who had helped arrange the contract for me online. The administration at the school did not speak English. So they picked me up at the train station, where I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people constantly passing through the doors there. They picked me up and we took a cab the 40 minutes or so, outside the SEZ and to the town where the wealthy Shenzhen families sent their children to boarding school.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out I wasn’t going to become fast friends with this couple. They were both born again Christians from Arizona, and made use of every opportunity to broadcast it. They made it abundantly clear that they didn’t like the Chinese, disapproved of their “Godlessness,” their table manners, the way they raised their children. They sat me down one night in their apartment and told me it wasn’t enough just to be a kind person — you have to PRAY, and ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST as your SAVIOUR.

But the one thing I remembered today, out of nowhere, was a brief exchange I had with Mrs. Born-Again. I was trying to learn Mandarin — at least enough to do simple things like barter for vegetables at the market, tell the motorcycle-taxi where I was going, explaining to people where I was from. (Wo shi jia-na-da ren.) That kind of thing.

So I bought a book in Hong Kong, but Mrs. Born-Again kindly offered me her pinyin workbook designed for Chinese children. It even came with a tape to hear the different tones of the language. (There are four. Ouch.) So she asked me, “Do you know what pinyin is?”

“Sure,” I said. “It’s the phonetic transcription of Mandarin into the Roman alphabet.”

She stared at me blankly. “No, it’s Chinese in English letters.”

(sigh) I didn’t even know where to begin. I shrugged and let it go. Their ignorance was so overwhelming, I was actually intimidated by it. And it’s not just the “English letters” comment. It’s the whole blind, self-absorbed, intolerant package. I don’t know what made me think of it, unless it’s an inner clock that reminded me I embarked on this grand adventure exactly 10 years ago.

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