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.

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!”

No U-Haul jokes, please

My fiancée and I are looking at apartments.


My Love had to move out of her sublet at the end of September. She moved in with me.

My apartment is just a small one-bedroom, but it isn’t too crowded. Neither of us has accumulated worldly possessions beyond clothes, books, kitchen equipment, computers and a TV. Books are a problem; my Love has more books than my home town’s public library. They are all boxed up in the living room.

The toughest thing about giving up the sublet: Its kitchen. The owner of the apartment is a classically trained chef with a very high-end catering business. She designed the kitchen around a 6 burner Wolf commercial range. I’m going to miss it.

We had gotten used to making dinners for new friends.


We’re looking for a biggish apartment. Three or four bedrooms, enough to have kids of both sexes. Room for a couple of offices, assuming that we’re going to be working from home a lot when we have kids.

We want an awful kitchen with room to replace it with a great kitchen. We’re going to rip it out and replace it. We’ve discovered to our dismay that the range from her sublet is not approved for residential installation, so we can’t install that model unless we get approvals.


We’d like to stay on the Upper West Side. We love our neighborhood. It has many large apartments, so most of the residents are families.

It’s also foodie heaven  – great bakeries; great vegetable, meat and fish markets; great casual restaurants with all kinds of cuisines – three kinds of Thai, a half-dozen Chinese regions, Korean, two Peruvian (my favorite), a half-dozen Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Turkish, halal, and, of course, Japanese, Italian, French, American, pub… Two first-rate burger joints. A couple of jazz bars.

We’ll look downtown and in Brooklyn, too.


In New York City, the usual form of apartment ownership is a cooperative rather than a condominium. One owns shares in the corporation that owns the building and has a lease tied to the shares. The board of directors of the corporation has to approve any transfer of the shares. They have almost complete discretion, subject only to anti-discrimination laws.

We’ve been told that coop boards don’t like unmarried couples buying together, and they don’t like half a couple buying with the intention of later owning jointly.

If it’s easier to buy as a married couple, we might get married at City Hall (or wherever one gets a quickie marriage in NYC). We’d like our wedding next summer to be the legal as well as the religious marriage, but we’re pragmatic.

It’s not the heat …

Now I understand the line,

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

The last few days, the heat in New York City has been brutal. Yesterday, the high was 96 F (36 C). It’s much hotter on the subway platform. The subway cars are air conditioned, but that just means pumping the heat out of the car and into the stations and tunnels.


Back home, it gets hot in the summer. 90 F (32 C) to 100 (38 C) – or hotter – during the day.

The air is thin. Cloud cover is normally, at most, lovely little puffs that march in a lattice across the impossibly blue sky. The shadows race across the valleys.

It doesn’t rain much. The summer rain tends to be in thunderstorms, which can be violent.


I don’t mind that heat back home.

It’s hot, but it’s dry. Sweat evaporates quickly, leaving me feeling clean and cool. Here, sweat is just sticky.


Even on the hottest days back home, it gets cool in the evening. On a 90 F (32 C) day, it will usually be 50 F (10 C) or cooler in the evening.

I love to sleep with the windows open, with the breeze just tickling the curtains. When I was a little girl, I loved to wake up just as the sun was coming in the window, the cicadas starting to make noise, the curtains rustling, the warmth on my back, the smell of the clean air.


I hate air conditioning. I hate the processed taste of the air. I hate the noise of the compressor and fan.

The only times I used air conditioning back home were in job site trailers, to keep the dust down.

I don’t have air conditioning in my apartment. My Love has a couple of window units, which were inadequate to cool even a single room the last few nights.

We’d both rather turn them off and open the windows, even on the hottest nights. Her bedroom has a big ceiling fan, which is wonderful.


The heat is an incentive to work late – Stay in the office air conditioning; avoid the crush on the subway platform.

It’s also an incentive to go to the beach house. It’s normally 10 F (5 C) to 20 F (11 C) cooler, with a nice breeze and (surprising to me) less humidity.

My Love has been working from our rental house on Fridays and Mondays. She goes up Friday morning and picks me up at the train on Friday afternoon. She drops me at the train early Monday morning and drives down on the afternoon.

I didn’t want to do that – I thought it would send the wrong message to the senior guys in my firm. But they all work from their weekend houses on Fridays (and some of them on Mondays, too). They told me I’m crazy to be in the office on Fridays. I’m going to take them at their word.

So we’re both going up tonight and coming back on Monday night.

Family evaluation

My Love and I want children.

I’m going to my Love’s GYN.

Both of us are going to a fertility clinic that our GYN recommended. When I asked our GYN if the clinic is lesbian-friendly, she laughed that a fertility clinic in Manhattan has to be lesbian-friendly. She was right: The clinic made us feel very welcome.

Initial tests indicate that neither of us will have a problem. We shouldn’t need to take extraordinary measures.

With a new, high-profile, high-pressure job, I can’t consider taking a pregnancy leave for at least a year. I need to establish myself before taking extended time off.

My Love hasn’t any restrictions. She can work as much or as little as she wants. She could take time off, or work from home, or even retire. She’s the undisputed boss of her firm: She started it and built it into a powerhouse. To give herself time to build a personal life, she turned over day-to-day management to her partners, although she is still The Boss. Even if she weren’t, her partners would happily let her do whatever she wants. She has made them a lot of money. Financially, after starting with nothing and having been broke a couple of times, she could retire today and live very comfortably for the rest of her life.

Her only restriction: We’re planning to marry next August (2016). She doesn’t want to be a pregnant bride.

My Love: I don’t want our teenagers to look at our wedding album and think that premarital intercourse is OK.

I think she’s serious.


On the other hand, neither of us is getting any younger.

I’m in my mid-30s. She’s in her late 30s. I’m not sure how much time we have to try turkey basters before we need to go to more scientific measures.


My Love is funny. Her business is using quantitative methods to project probabilities of extremely complicated business options. Yet, she is incapable of planning anything, even lunch.

I’m an engineer. I need a planning document, P90s, critical paths, PERTs, gantts, requirements.

Me: We should be planning this a little. Understand the conditional probabilities of the options. Have a critical path, a timeline, alternatives, fallbacks.

My Love (rolling her eyes): Oh, for goodness sake. People have been doing this for a few million years without any of that.

Me: Lesbians haven’t. It’s a little more complicated.

My Love: I’ve inseminated hundreds of heifers and cows. How complicated can it be?