*late night update: ohmygod! i just got another message from an old high school buddy who looked up my email on the reunion website. he just told me he'd carried a torch for me all through high school and i never knew. wtf? and he told me all these really sweet things he'd thought about me over the years!
(i decided to come out to him and banish his hopes of a mid-life fling - he was asking for photos and my current hometown. he's probably still a fundaMENTAList and i kinda adore shocking them.)
i'm broke, middle aged, wrinkled, and i'm 40 more pounds than i was in college. but i do love myself and i love life. maybe that's the best aphrodesiac!
i like how my lovers can call my bluff and really nail me to the wall and get me to mature more rapidly than i would prefer.
my persian overheard me on the phone talking to my reunion friends who'd called. he said, "honey, you still care what they think, don't you." (i'd decided to just go ahead and come out on the phone to my child hood friends.)
and he was right! why on earth, after 30 years do i still care if my small town friends accept me the way i am? why should it matter? i think it's because i grew up in such a sheltered environment thinking that the entire world revolved around whether they approved of you or not, that it's still hard to shirk those feelings of inadequacy.
if people tell you during your entire upbringing that your value as a girl depends on if you are beautiful and popular and making all As, you're bound to get a little fucked up.
(i came from a long line of beauty queens and cheerleaders who weren't content to be just cute. no, they had to go and be valedictorians too! or the first female pharmacist in the state or the most sought after speaker on the circuit and the first labor organizer in the church or........ad nauseum!) to this day, i still think i got bad grades and when people find out my gpa, they laugh! i got almost all As. but since Bs counted for nothing, and Cs were shameful, it feels like i must still try to be perfect.
i'm struggling too with the shame of poverty. i still often dress middle class, i speak middle class, i buy in middle class neighborhoods, but i left the respectable middle class over a decade ago when i fell into poverty after my divorce! my trans girlfriend nailed me on it. she too comes from respectable middle class which refused to accept her transition from male gender assignment to female actuality.
so she confronts me every now and then on my clinging to middle class ways for advantage.
i really struggle with class (natch) struggle! i was volunteering with my parents in public housing by the time i could toddle. i taught countless poor inner city kids to read throughout middle school as a peer tutor and i was leading low income neighborhood improvement projects by the time i was in high school.
but i realized that until i lost all my money and privilege, i had no fucking clue what poor people had been going through. i still struggle with the guilt of southern white privilege. as soon as i saw the astounding poverty of brooklyn and the bronx (during my summer job in college) on my home visits to my clients, i changed majors and became a social worker.
but i had no clue what it would be like to be on the other side until lately as i've wandered the mission, not sure if i had enough money to make it till the end of the month.
i'm thankful for bell hooks who taught me that race, gender and class are all hopelessly intertwined. that privilege and oppression is a hard egg to unscramble.
but i still feel unbelievable sadness at all the struggle around me on the faces in the mission or the tenderloin.
i think that what i'm being taught through my hard times is this: when i had privilege, i could maintain the illusion which pema chodron talks about in her amazing buddhist essays, of otherness. i could be the helper, they were the clients.
now it's just all of us struggling down here together. i've learned the hard way that money truly doesn't buy you happiness. freedom and authenticity do.
money just gives you a really nice cushion to fall on.