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.

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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.

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.

Choosing to be a lesbian

At my fiancée’s family cookout last month, someone asked me,

When did you become a lesbian?

I gave the stock answer:

I didn’t become a lesbian. I was born this way. Nobody would choose to become a lesbian.

And that’s true: Nobody would choose to be a closeted lesbian in a heterosexual world dominated by the intolerant. From my own history, I know that a teenage girl or high-school-educated woman in a remote farm or town would not be likely to choose to be a lesbian.

The firebrand conservatives say that’s a good thing. Decriminalization, social acceptance, legal equality – make it easier to be a homosexual, encourage the spread of homosexuality.


There’s a joke:

Two guys are out golfing. A bolt of lightning kills them. At the Pearly Gates, St Peter is befuddled: These two guys weren’t supposed to die today.

St Peter says he has to send them back. As compensation for their trouble, they get to choose who they want to go back as. The two guys huddle, then come back.

Two guys: We want to be lesbians.

St Peter: Lesbians? Why lesbians?

Two guys: We still want to have sex with women, but we want to use the ladies’ tees.


That joke gives me a warm smile.

Loving a woman is glorious. Absolutely, utterly glorious. I love everything about it, about her.


Of course, I love a woman because I was born this way. I never got the chance to choose to become a lesbian.

But, now, I am glad I was born this way.

I would choose to be a lesbian.

In that sense – and in the sense that I have chosen to come out, chosen to meet a woman and fall in love with her, chosen to ask her to marry me, chosen to accept her request that I marry her – I have chosen to be a lesbian.


There was a time, and there are places, where no one would choose to be a lesbian.

Not New York, of course.

Not back home, either – at least, not for my fiancée or me. Conservative Christians and Mormons may disapprove, may even tell me that I’m going to Hell. That doesn’t bother me. I’ve dealt with much worse disapproval and heard a lot worse things said about me – for things that I have chosen. There’s not much that they can do to us beyond tut-tut.

I can live happily and openly with the woman I love.

I choose to be what I am: A lesbian.

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.

We aren’t in Kansas anymore

Nor, indeed, in my home state.

Everyone I knew growing up was white, other than a few Hispanic and American Indian families. Everyone was a Christian. Everyone worked on a farm or ranch or in a business that supported farmers and ranchers.

I first met an African-American at the University. I had a Jewish roommate, but everyone she knew was Christian.

Most of my home county is uninhabited. Even in the valleys, ranch houses are miles apart. The largest town in my county has a population of just over 1,000.

My Love’s county is even emptier, whiter and more agricultural. The towns (all three of them) are even smaller. Much smaller.

Our home counties are poor. The per capita and median incomes are only a few thousand dollars above the poverty line. Over 20% of the population is under the poverty line. The median income is less than two-thirds the national median income. The distribution of incomes is flat. My family was comparatively well off – certainly in the top quintile – but I would have gotten a full scholarship at any decent college.

More concretely, the table of census data below hints at some of the differences between home (figures for my Love’s and my home counties, combined) and Manhattan (New York County).

A few things to note in particular:

  • Our two counties together are about 200 times the size of Manhattan. Yet Manhattan has over 100 times the population. The population density of Manhattan is 20,000 times that of our home counties (almost 70,000/sq mi vs 3.6/sq mi).
  • Home is overwhelmingly (93%) White.
    • There are maybe 25 African-American families, in an area larger than Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut or New Jersey.
    • The largest minorities are American Indian and Hispanic, and their numbers are negligible.
    • Almost everyone was born in the United States and speaks English at home.
  • Manhattan, on the other hand is ridiculously diverse:
    • A quarter Hispanic.
    • Almost a fifth African-American.
    • An eighth Asian.
    • Over a quarter are foreign-born
    • Almost half speak a language other than English at home.
  • Almost everyone at home lives in a single family home. Almost no one in Manhattan does.
  • Per capita income in Manhattan is 3 times that of home.
  • The entire economy of our home counties is agricultural.
  • People at home are more than 5 times as likely to have served in the military.
  • Although the percentages of high school graduates are about the same, the percentage of college graduates in Manhattan is about three times what it is at home.
Home Manhattan
Population 14,573 1,636,268
under 18 17.6% 14.7%
65 and over 26.1% 14.2%
White 93.1% 65.0%
African American 0.3% 18.4%
American Indian 3.5% 1.2%
Asian 0.4% 12.1%
Hispanic 2.5% 25.8%
Foreign born 2.1% 28.5%
Language other than English at home 3.4% 40.4%
High school graduate (age 25+) 87.4% 86.0%
Bachelors degree (age 25+) 18.9% 58.9%
Veterans 13.3% 2.6%
Housing units in multi-unit structures 5.2% 98.5%
Per capita income 20,749 62,498
Median household income 35,602 69,659
Persons below poverty line 20.5% 17.7%
Private nonfarm employment, 2013 2,544 2,116,201
Manufacturers shipments, 2007 ($1000) 8,315,093
Building permits, 2013 4,856
Land area in square miles, 2010 4,488 22.83
Persons per square mile, 2010 3.6 69,467.5