Monthly Archives: January 2011

Tom Cruise is what?

When Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globe awards last week, he said, “Also not nominated was ‘I Love You Philip Morris,’ Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Two heterosexual characters pretending to be gay. So the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then.” At the time, I had no idea who Mr. Gervais was insulting.

When I found out, I also discovered that I am, apparently, the last person on earth to have heard the rumor that Tom Cruise is gay. “Look it up,” I was told. “Go to Google and type in ‘Tom Cruise gay’ and see what you get.” So I did. And yup, that gets a lot of hits.

Of course, the fact that it’s a popular topic on the Internet doesn’t mean that it’s true. It means the speculation attracts attention. This is, presumably, the same reason that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association asked Ricky Gervais to host the Golden Globe awards for a second time: his presence attracts attention. I’ll bet there is a mathematical equation that can prove that each time he insulted someone, x number of viewers decided not to change the channel.

After I caught up with the rest of the world regarding Tom Cruise, I couldn’t help but Google the only other famous Scientologist I know of, John Travolta. Lo and behold, people also think he’s gay! Did you all know that, too? Where have I been?

The fact that both of these men are married to women, and have children with them, does not preclude the possibility that they also sleep with men. But would that not make them bi-sexual rather than gay? I don’t mean to split hairs here, but is it not possible that these men love their spouses, want to share their lives with them, and are happy with their choices, even though they also like to sleep with men?

Rather than making them gay, doesn’t that just make them horrible husbands who cheat on their wives?

A good friend of mine is a lesbian, married to her partner of twenty-eight years. They have a son. You don’t need to speculate about them, they are what they say they are. (You can read more about her family in an article she wrote called, Moving is stressful enough without anxiety over neighbors’ reception.) It’s true they’re not famous, and they’re not Scientologists, but still, you don’t catch anyone spreading rumors that they’re really straight.

Straight or gay, when you get married, you agree to stop sleeping with people you’re not married to. If you can’t abide by that simple rule, you’re a schmuck, straight or gay.

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Is this seat taken?

I got on the MBTA’s red line at Park Street last week, heading for the station at Alewife. It was early afternoon, but the train was filling up; most of the seats were taken and some people, rather than squish in next to strangers, were standing and holding the bar overhead. Those people swayed along with the train. The rest of us were so tightly wedged in that we stayed firmly in place.

Lots of people got off at Harvard Square and by the time we reached Davis Square I had noticed an interesting public transportation phenomenon; no one had relocated to a seat where they would no longer be shoulder-to-shoulder with a stranger, including me. I didn’t change my seat because I was afraid my neighbor would interpret it as a reflection on them. As a result, when the train pulled into Alewife I was still sitting—in the middle of an almost empty car—next to the woman with music leaking out of her earbuds who sat down next to me at Central Square.

It reminds me of something I saw on television many years ago. A man drove his wife to the supermarket and let her out at the front door. Then he drove around looking for a parking spot. He finally found a spot between two vans that turned out to be a very tight fit, so tight that he couldn’t open his door far enough to get out of the car. While he was trying, he dropped his keys and in scrabbling for them pushed them further under the car. Unable to either get out or move the car, he was reduced to holding his unopened umbrella out the car window so his wife could find him when she finished her shopping. When she came out of the store she waited a bit, looked around for him, and finally hailed a cab. As the day wore on the parking lot emptied, except for the two vans on either side of the hapless hero. Once seated on the subway, despite my physical ability to move, I feel as trapped as that man in the car between two vans.

In all likelihood, the person next to me on the subway would take no more notice of my moving than they would of my presence in the first place. And if they did notice, they’d probably just think I wanted a bit more elbow room. After all, the woman who was sitting next to me hadn’t moved either, and I doubt she was worried about my feelings. She was probably just oblivious.

If everyone on the subway started actively engaging their neighbors, would we have a series of interesting interactions, or would it just become one never-ending game of musical chairs? Let’s stop the music and see.

Teach your children well

I always thought of myself as a generous person. I have a list of charities that I donate to annually, and I respond to all kinds of stray petitions throughout the year. Then I got laid off and discovered that what I really am, is a fair-weather contributor. Last year, I cut several of my annual contributions in half, sponsored only one friend in the Pan-Mass Challenge instead of two, and hardened my heart against the General Israel Orphans Home. Rather than feel good about what I gave, I feel ashamed about what I didn’t give.

While my loss of salary doesn’t create a financial hardship for my family per se, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it does substantially reduce our combined income; hard for me, anyway, not my better half. He continues to donate to his chosen charities generously. He doesn’t think we give enough; cutting back on my giving is not something he encourages.

Some of the wealthiest Americans, like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, have signed ‘The Giving Pledge.’ They’ve agreed to give away half their wealth. That’s mighty impressive. Of course, most of their wealth is ‘on paper,’ and not the kind you spend at the supermarket. If Andrew and I gave away half of our wealth, it could jeopardize our ability to eat during retirement, or buy the dentures we’ll need to do it. Given that medical expenses are the single biggest cause of personal bankruptcies, how can you even know how much you’ll need to retire? Who’s to say that near the end I won’t be tin-cupping outside the General Israel Orphans Home to pay my medical bills?

I’m not trying to make excuses for my recent charitable parsimony, I’m trying to understand it. Apparently financial well-being is as much a state of mind as a reality. I’m confident that when my mind catches up to my reality, I’ll loosen the purse strings again.

In the meantime, our daughter’s allowance is provided with the following caveats: twenty-five percent has to go into long term savings, and twenty-five percent has to go to charity. She puts the money aside and makes her charitable donation at the end of the year. This past year, she had enough to buy a pig through Heifer International. (Pigs provide, “…a valuable source of protein, income from the sale of offspring and manure to nourish crops and soil and increase crop yields.”) Our hope is that charitable giving becomes a habit for her, even if some years all she can afford is a flock of chicks.

Would it kill you to email?

It’s traditional to review ‘the year that’s been’ as we prepare to enter the year ahead. The media does this with top ten lists; I do it by transferring birthdays and anniversaries to my new desktop calendar. This year I am using a Sierra Club Engagement Calendar. I bought it because they say a portion of the proceeds go “…to preserve and protect our environment.” And because I think the pictures are pretty. Ironically, I keep the calendar folded to the current week to minimize the space it takes on my desk, so I only see the pictures for a second when I turn the page.

As I perform my annual ritual, copying birthdays from one calendar to the other, I indulge in my own version of judgment day. Names that evoke a warm response, cause me to wonder how they’re doing, or make me feel happily nostalgic, get carried over to the next year. But if a name causes a negative reaction, no matter how small, then it doesn’t get written into the calendar for the coming year. (I’m not making any John Lennon-like claims about my place in the universe, but it’s hard to miss the similarity between what I do and Yom Kippur.)

My negative reactions are not the result of the person having done something to me. The person has done nothing. They haven’t written or called, Facebooked or tweeted, or even left a comment on my blog. I make it a practice to contact people I like at least once a year. When a birthday appears on my calendar, it’s a sign that it’s time to check in. (These days Facebook keeps track of birthdays, but that’s only useful if you’re satisfied dropping a three-word greeting on someone’s wall. I like to send a card, and for that I need advance notice, the kind you get when you can look a week or two into the future, on your calendar.)

Anniversaries I track include the first date Andrew and I had, and our wedding, both of which are likely to be noted until one or both of us drops dead. I also track the date we brought our cats home from the shelter. Some anniversaries have a finite run. I no longer note the date we closed on our ‘new’ house (fourteen years ago, mid-January, dang, what was the date?), nor do I any longer keep track of the date I quit smoking (which I’m pretty sure was March 10, well over twenty-five years ago).

Transferring birthdays and anniversaries (while important) is also an excuse to review every week of ‘the year that’s been.’ I revisit lunches I had with friends, meetings of my critique group, our bookclub get-togethers and dinners with friends, Hannah’s soccer games and piano recitals, holidays with my family, and vacations with the in-laws. 2010 was a year full of friends, new and old, family, near and far, and the freedom to pursue a dream. It was a good year.

May 2011 bring health and happiness to you and yours. (And don’t forget to check in with me at least once.)