In transit

I’m in an airport, between planes. I’ll finish this up on the last leg home and post it tonight.


My fiancée went out West last week.

She started and runs her company. She’s turned over day-to-day management to her partners. So she can come and go as she pleases.

I had to go to Asia for work, but I’m free for the next month.


We will be married at my fiancée’s family’s ranch. It’s spectacularly beautiful, especially at this time of year. It’s in a valley bounded on both sides by untouched mountain wilderness. The sun will be going down over the mountains to the west during our ceremony.

Her family has spent the last year restoring the ranch house and sprucing up the yards and outbuildings.

Her great-great grandfather received the land as a grant for his service in the Civil War. He was an inveterate improver, innovator and experimenter.

My fiancée’s great-grandmother kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles about her father. Almost every edition of the county weekly newspaper had an article about one or another of his innovations – the electric generator and banks of batteries to light and power the ranch, the irrigation system that still waters the ranch, the various machines he bought. There are also articles about his lawsuits against mining companies for polluting the stream that waters the ranch.

He built the house in a grand style for his family of nine children.


We’ll be married in a field. The forecast is for beautiful weather. If it rains, we’ll be married in one of the old barns.


My fiancée will pick me up at the airport. We’ll have dinner at the restaurant where we met. Last year, we had dinner there on the first anniversary of our meeting. This year, it’s a little earlier. We have a more pressing engagement for the actual anniversary.

We’re going to have our rehearsal dinner at the restaurant Friday night. The ranch is 75 miles away, but the restaurant is in the nearest town large enough to have an adequate supply of hotel rooms.

Tonight, my fiancée and I will be staying at the B&B where we stayed after our anniversary dinner last year. Tomorrow, we’ll go to church at the church I used to attend, then each to her parents’ homes. I want to spend a few days with my family before starting a new life.

Mother

Mother: You never were afraid of me. Your sister and your brother, I think they are still afraid of me. They are so conventional. I frightened them into conventionality. So afraid of making a mistake. I had to be careful not to push them.

Me: You weren’t frightening. You were never angry at any of us. I think [brother] and [sister] are just timid. And you do have an overpowering personality.

Mom: They did things right because they were afraid of what I would say or do if they did them wrong. They were perfectionists in a by-the-book way. Not you. You were never like that. Never afraid to make a mistake. Never afraid to challenge me. Never afraid to challenge anyone. I don’t think you ever cared what I thought.

Me: That’s not true. I cared very much what you thought.

Mom: Nonsense. You did things right because you got pleasure from doing things right. Pleasing me never entered your mind.

Me: No, I was never afraid of you. There was never anything to be afraid of.

Mother: But you were so afraid of me about the most important thing in your life.

Me: I wasn’t afraid of you. I was afraid of losing you. Of losing our family. It’s the most important thing in the world to me. Well, now it’s the second most important thing in the world.

I just knew what you believed. The Church doesn’t accept it and you wouldn’t accept it.

Mother: Was it just the Church? That I would follow the Church? I wasn’t happy when you left the Church, but I accepted it.

Me: No, it wasn’t just the Church. I knew how you felt about it yourself. We were in Seattle –

Mother: Oh, no! The women kissing! I said something, didn’t I? I regretted it the moment I said it. Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.


Me: I’m sorry. I underestimated you. I never thought you would accept that I am a lesbian. I should have come out years ago.

Mother: You didn’t underestimate me. I wouldn’t have accepted it.

Me: But you did.

Mother: I never would have accepted it in the abstract. If you had come home any time and told me, “Mother, I’m a lesbian,” I would not have accepted it, even last year. I can’t say what I would have done, but I know that I could not have accepted it, not as I have. I doubt that I would ever have agreed to meet one of your girlfriends. It would have been forever a wall between us.

But meeting CA changed that. She put a face to it. Sitting here, talking all afternoon, having dinner, seeing what a wonderful woman she is, seeing what she means to you, having it slowly dawn on me that you two are in love. Having her so forthrightly admit her love for you. How can a mother resist that for her daughter?

Me: So stop regretting anything! If I had come out earlier, I never would have met CA.

Life happens

Life has been busy. Buying and starting to renovate an apartment, finding a donor, going home for Thanksgiving, wedding planning, …

We’ve bought an apartment.

It’s in a building built before the first World War. It has a lot of interesting details, – dental moldings on the ceiling, parquet floors, an insulated wine closet. It’s big, although not as big as our wildest dreams. A bedroom for us, two smaller bedrooms for kids or guests, an office/library for my Love and her books, a small office for me, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen.

Buying it was complicated. As I’ve mentioned, the board of a cooperative apartment building has to approve any transfer, and they can be very intrusive if they want. Boards normally require several years of tax returns and asset statements. I’ve earned at New York levels less than a year. My Love’s business requires a ridiculous level of security and confidentiality, to the extent that she can’t give a board the information it usually requires. We can easily afford the apartment and the monthly maintenance charge, and fortunately the board was pragmatic rather than a stickler for protocol.

We haven’t moved in yet. It’s a complete wreck. It has to be almost completely rebuilt; all the walls have major cracks and the ceilings in two of the rooms have collapsed. There’s water damage all over the place.

And we’re ripping out the kitchen and consolidating it with a small bedroom (what they call a “maid’s room” here in NY) to make the kitchen of our dreams.

The design work is done and we’re getting bids. It’s interesting for me personally to be an owner. We needed an engineer for the kitchen design; hiring one was particularly amusing.

We’ve found a donor.

My fiancée has thrown herself into pregnancy planning.

This is bizarrely uncharacteristic. It’s funny, actually. Or it would be, if the potential for disaster were not so high:

  1. She is a force of nature. When she gets the bit between her teeth, there’s no stopping her.
  2. Never having planned anything, she has no idea how to go about it.
  3. She has the best part of a year to waste spend on this.

It’s like being in Tornado Alley with a thunderstorm on the way. You know there’s going to be havoc, you just don’t know where it’s going to hit.

She has scored some early successes. She’s proposed a donor (this time with the potential to help us). It’s a guy who once proposed marriage to her. (She turned him down.)

I initially rejected this. It’s just too weird. But I’ve met him now, and, for a lot of reasons, it turns out not to be weird at all. I just hope that, if we have a girl, she looks like my Love.

Wedding planning is progressing.

On the other hand, she’s not permitted to do any planning for our wedding. Our mothers, our sisters and I have pointedly excluded her. She’s allowed to ask questions and make requests (which have generally been excellent), but not to participate.

Her father says that makes my fiancée the man in our relationship.

We’ll let her pick her wedding dress. That’s it. She has exquisite taste in clothing. Her business has been so successful that her budget is effectively unlimited.

I’d love to have her pick my wedding dress, but, of course, that is out of the question.

The next best thing: Our sisters are coming to New York next week. First they’ll help her. Then, armed with that knowledge, they’ll help me.

We are going have a lot of fun. It will be my sister’s, and one of her sisters’, first time in New York. There’s not much room in my apartment. Either it’s going to be a big sleepover on my living room floor, or hotels.

Thanksgiving was lovely, thanks.

I’ll write more about that when I get the chance.

Faith

I intended this blog to explore my Christian faith, my traditionalist, conservative values and my love for another woman. Instead, it has exclusively addressed the last.

Partly, that’s because life with her has been such a revelation to me. Partly, it’s been that after a dozen utterly unmemorable years, my world is alive with joy and meaning that I never imagined. Partly it’s that everything in the last year has been new to me. I want to babble like a kid coming out of a movie.

But part of it is that I’ve found it difficult to express ideas about faith and values that are probably foreign to most people who read this.


One of the most startling things about New York is its pervasive secularism. Faith is as embarrassing topic as an alcoholic uncle would be back home. My Love warned me about that before I came out here, so I haven’t committed that faux pas at a fancy dinner. Still, it’s disorienting,

So I’m not sure how to address it. I don’t even know if anyone would be interested in it. If New Yorkers are any indication, I suspect most people would just click on after the first couple of sentences.


If that sounds like I’m ashamed of my faith, or afraid of what people will think, or afraid of losing followers – well, I’m not. It’s just honest perplexity.

I’m just not sure how to proceed. We don’t speak a common language. We don’t have a common cultural base.

It may just be my anecdata, but most people – believer and non-believer both – seem to stop thinking critically about God when they’re teenagers, if not before. If they think about God after that, it’s to read something that reinforces their belief – either the latest God-is-love inspirational or the latest Dawkins screed. Neither stands up to critical thought, but people aren’t looking for critical thought. They are looking for something to reinforce their uncritical thought.


I’m not condescending.

I understand that for most people, thinking critically about God isn’t as important as their job, or their kids, or the latest Bond film. It’s just not a part of daily life.

I’ve struggled with faith every day of my life. I had to. I could not accept the Catholic doctrine of my upbringing. But I could see that my argument was with Rome, not with God. It took a long time to find Him, although He was there all the time.

At 15, my fiancée became a thoroughgoing atheist. At 20, she heard the still small voice. She was just too damn self-aware and too damn logical and too damn brilliant to ignore it.

So I’m planning to write about faith. Even if you have none, I would value your attention.

She’s going to sivilize me, and I can’t stand it

I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

I am a challenge to my fiancée. She is the most cultured person on the planet. I don’t know anything about art, literature or music. Unlike Huck, I’m not going to light out for the Territory.


She took me to the opera the second time I visited her in New York. Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. I was hooked. Yes it’s silly. But it’s gorgeous.

She’s taken me to Don GiovanniMacbeth, Don CarloThe Death of Klinghoffer, Ernani and Otello.

Great stuff. I’ve loved every minute. Even when the guy next to me snores.


Which brings us to Friday night.

Game 3 of the World Series.

vs

Turandot.

I was prepared to be grumpy. I wasn’t prepared to be revolted.

Go read the synopsis. It beggars belief. The three main characters:

  • A prince, the son of a deposed king.
  • A servant to the deposed king, who loves the prince because he smiled at her once and has ignored her since.
  • A princess who murders her suitors for sport, reneges on her oaths and tortures the servant to death to get information that would let her murder the prince.

But it’s all OK, because the princess, after torturing the servant to death so that she can murder the prince, falls in love with the prince. Because he’s trying to rape her.

Really. I could not make this up.

Maybe this is just a story to hang music on. Maybe it’s the product of another time and place (even if that time and place is Fascist Italy). Maybe it’s really a man-hating-feminist, smash-the-patriarchy text. But it’s vile. And stupid.

Oh, you say, one must admire the music separate from the drama. But isn’t the point of opera music plus drama? (I deduce from synopses of La Boheme and Madama Butterfly that the coherence and plausibility – even the intelligence – of the drama were not priorities for Puccini.)

The production only makes it worse. It is colossal, garish, tasteless and overripe. I felt as Martin Luther is said to have felt when he saw the opulence of the church in Rome.

Then there’s the racism.

And for this I missed a World Series game?

Am I just an uncultured lout? Is there no hope for me?


Saturday night – Halloween – she doubled down by taking me to the Philharmonic.

I could be handing out tooth-rot to the kids in my building?

I could be watching the World Series? The penultimate game of the season?

What kind of a woman would do that to me?

I’ve listened to Beethoven’s Fifth on CD. Who hasn’t? But a live performance? Extraordinary!

Also on the agenda were Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23. The Mozart was lovely, but I loved the Britten.

Don’t tell her, but it was worth missing the kids and the game.

She’s a pro

My fiancée grew up on a ranch, what’s known in the business as a “cow-calf operation”. They have a herd of cows and heifers, each of which bears a calf every year.

They also have bulls whose purpose is, in sperm donor jargon, NI (natural insemination).

To maintain genetic diversity and for cows that haven’t been naturally inseminated, they use, again in sperm donor jargon, AI (artificial insemination). They buy frozen sperm from the owner of the bull or from a semen dealer. (One of her favorite caps has the logo of a semen broker, the name of which includes “Breeders”.)

She has inseminated thousands of cows and heifers.

I’m already feeling performance anxiety.

Donor search

Flipping through the donor book from the fertility clinic:

Me: I’d love to come across a physicist or mathematician.

My Love: Supply and demand, sweetheart. If they were in here, their DNA would get taken right away.

Me: You’d think the geeks that can’t get a date would be lining up for this. The demand for their DNA would be so gratifying.

My Love: Easy there, my sweet: I was a geek who couldn’t get a date.


A little later:

Me: I worry that we’re engaged in a eugenics experiment. Gorgeous genius DNA looking for hunky genius DNA?

My Love: Think about it, sweetheart. What do you think straight people have been doing since forever? A straight woman wants to marry somebody who’s as smart, as ambitious, as good looking as she is. If we were straight, we’d each be married to some hunky genius. How’s this any different?


A little later:

Me: At this point, I’d settle for a doctor or a lawyer.

My Love: Is this a Jewish mother joke?


A little later. She tosses me a file:

My Love: How about an investment banker?

Me: Eww. Wolf of Wall Street?

My Love: My sweet, those guys were traders. Traders are animals. Investment bankers are very smart, very hard working and very ethical. At least the ones I work with.


A little later:

My Love: We are using the wrong sampling technique. This population is guys who advertise that they will jerk off in a jar to spread around their DNA. That’s fine, but the population we want to select from is geniuses.

Me: Right. And where do we find geniuses? In grad school.

My Love: Exactly. Columbia, NYU, right here on this very island.

Me: Princeton and Yale an hour away. Harvard and MIT up in Cambridge. Heck, my grad school. Get some of that good mountain DNA. So what do we do? Sneak into the science center and put up flyers on the Math and Physics boards?

My Love: With the little tabs at the bottom with our phone number?

Me: Run an ad in the Math and Physics journals?

My Love: “Wanted: High quality sperm for baby-fever lesbians. No further obligation. All expenses paid! Lube and jar included!”