Map-maker, map-maker, make me a map

steinbergexcerpt
[A slice of Saul Steinberg’s endlessly riffed upon 1976 New Yorker cover, in which he depcits the westerly view through the prism of a stereotypically myopic New Yorker. Or, depending on your vantage point, through a good clear set of binocs. Nice little bit on it here on strange maps.]

Those of you who frequent the lesbian familial blogosphere — and I won’t make any presumptions; I know many of you do, but some of you probably don’t — will know that we’ve been having fruitful chit-chats of late about motherhoods, bio- and otherwise. I mean, we always do. We talk about motherhoods, bio- and otherwise, and about our kids, either hoped for, or in the hopper (whosever’s hopper that may be), or running around underfoot. What with the whole lesbian parenthood thing being defined by two women, in a couple, being parents together, you can imagine that the ongoing project of defining and supporting our motherhoods crops up often as a topic of conversation.

To this end, Trista posted a pithy piece, Advice for Bio Moms, on An Accident of Hope. I thought it so valuable a catalyst for thought that I couldn’t help but point at it from my Friday berth at LesbianFamily.org (Fridays I assay a little chit-chat over there). Then Trista (a fellow contributor to LesbianFamily.org), followed with this post rounding up more related conversational themes in blogs that list on LesbianFamily. If you’re a parent like me, reading these stories is just necessary. Like looking up and checking road signs as you drive. You do it all the time, so often you don’t even notice when you do.

Common themes emerge, helping us to separate what’s idiosyncratic from what’s lesbiansyncratic about our families. That stress and tension we’ve been having lately? Ah! Not alone! Happens to X, and Y, and Z lesbo families, too, when they confront the same issues. Hey, they get that crap, too? (/fall into that trap, too?) I thought we were the only ones. Oh, now there’s a great idea. Next time I run across that problem, I think I’m going to ______ (fill in wise notion or cunning hack culled from lesbian parent comrade’s blog, or the commentary thereon).

Online communities of all ilks engage in this stuff; at their best, they break down our isolation. Ours also feeds us vital coordinates. Watch out; the continent drops off there! Hey, don’t overlook the oaisis, tucked over there behind the stand of trees! Things of this nature.

Because the arrival of kids, whether they come pint-sized or prepubescent into our lives, is like the emergence of a big huge volcano where there once were only rolling hills at most. That, or like one continent bashing up against another. All of parenthood entails re-surveying and re-mapping the dramatic new contours of our lives. But the work of the lesbian parent — and any alternative, non-normative parent, for that matter — at this point in the history of the family includes some extra bushwacking. If the maps to our quasi-pioneer lesbian family lives were compared to maps of the known world, I think we’d find most are still no more accurate than those thought up by, say, Ptolemey. Or maybe a little more advanced. Columbus knew perfectly well what he would find if he sailed due west across the Atlantic from Europe (India, of course, you ninny!).

Which is why I so value our cartographic project here (online, through hundreds of conversations short and long, half-baked and well thought-out). Slowly, what’s emerging are maps of new, lesbian parent cultural practices, new language, new traditions or rituals, common refuges. If all goes well, our kids who go on to form their own families — lgbt or straight, nuclear or extended, traditional or non- — will find some of our maps useful, perhaps even take them for granted. Which, to a cartogrpaher, may be one of the most complimentary things they could do.

Dada Friday: Reich at a crosswalk

reich at the light
Celebrity sighting, a la Berkeley: we may not have movie stars, or captains of industry, but we do have a surfeit of Nobel Laureates and the random legendary former public servant, like the one pictured above, humbly waiting for the crossing green.

I was going to subtitle this “Reich at a crossroads,” but while that had a more literary ring to it, he doesn’t seem very conflicted by his life these days; in fact he seems quite at peace with himself. Enjoing his teaching gig at the Graduate School of Public Policy at Berkeley. Savoring the quiet on his sunny stroll either back home, or to the subway. Reveling in his privacy, far from the hurly-burly of the White House Press Room. (Okay! It’s not like I was going to shadow him to find out where he was going! Covertly photograph him: yes. Shadow him: no. Great cameraphone shot, though, don’t you think?)

I ask you: if you saw Robert Reich at an intersection on your afternoon bike ride home from work, could you possibly (a) resist the perversity of taking a picture of him with your camera phone, and (b) stop there, and not share it with someone? And why stop at “someone”? Why not, upon returning home, share it with the motley assortment of actual, virtual, quasi-anonymous and completely anonymous chums who, for whatever elusive and stupifying reasons, continue to read your blog thingie?

[By the way: wanna know what he just posted on his blog, just a few hours before this image was nabbed? Here. Yeah, whatever. So what. I never claimed I was going to do breaking news & isues commentary. You don’t see me complaining about the dearth of cute kid pictures on his blog, either.]

But if it’s really going to be Dada (and of course this isn’t; there’s thought behind anti-art and nonsense verse, just as there’s structure behind un-structure and Anarchism is not anarchy). But if this offering is really going to be perverse, then I have to include more than just a perverse picture. So with it I couple the following list of the various search strings that have brought various hapless souls to this locale (with color commentary). Because along with confusing memes and such, which I am only now beginning to comprehend, the occasional perverse search string list seems to be one of the emerging literary traditions defining the medium of the blog. (As soon as I figure out what to do with the memes I think I was recently tagged with, you’ll hear more on that score. Don’t hold your breath, though; we got two kids in diapers and precious little sleep to go on in these parts.)

Now to the top five among the top twenty search strings that sucked folks into this vortex:

    • lesbian dad (makes total sense to me)
    • aztec warrior (singular and plural; got to think they were a little disappointed here. though I know what lured them in — here, this one)
    • genderqueer (now we’re talkin’)
    • lesbian (okay; fine; but there’s qualifiers to that all over this site, so I think this searcher — or these ten searchers, actually — may also have been just as disappointed as the forty-nine schmucks in search of aztec warriors. here, we got not just any ole general lesbian stuff. we got fairly specific, sentimental, left-leaning, Bodhisattva-wannabe, parental lesbian stuff. oh, yeah, a sentimental left-leaning Bodhisattva-wannabe parental lesbian who’s genderqueer and has imprints of aztec warriors in her long-term memory; there we go, now it makes sense)
    • klimt (ah, how erudite. klimt, following monkey scat. this is what sucked in the klimt seekers. er, probably not what they were looking for. plus I’ve yet to make the case that Klimt’s Danae really does look like s/he’s got a 5 o’clock shadow, which was the whole reason for the klimt reference. just wait; one day when we have only one kid in diapers I’ll photograph the print on my wall and you’ll have to agree.)

In the remaining 15 search strings, one will find

    • pregant ladies (eek! I worry, people, I worry what they were really looking for, those that added “ladies” to pregnant. move on! move on! that is sick sick sick!)
    • am i ready to give birth now (oops! not like anything they found here would have been any help on that one! unless it gave them the idea: Hey! I can redundantly vacuum stuff!)
    • boy skirt (eh? I love utilikilts, but they don’t make them small enough for our lil’ peanut yet) and
    • farm boy (double eh? one stray reference to my father’s father’s upbringing as a farm boy on the lonesome plains of South Dakota, one time, and now it’s viable as a search string. hauled in two poor saps. hope they didn’t spend too much time scratching their heads. “Lesbian? Dad? Farming? I don’t see the connection.”).

LD is one today

cupcake-candle

Or, Get out your snow goggles, it’s a blizzard of links!

A few stray posts on this blog date back to May 2005, but those are false labor signs. Blogular Braxton-Hickses. I sent up a flare from the blue-black darkness following my nephew’s death, then went back to licking my wounds and staring a hole in my daughter every night as she slept.

March 2nd of last year marked the first proper turn of the blogular wheel, which, though it took another month to actually pick up some regular momentum, has been rolling along weekly for a year. Highlights include:

  • participating in Mombian’s Blogging for LGBT Families Day and learning how enlightening and enlivening it would be to jump into this ongoing national conversation about parenting and life, queer and otherwise;
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  • ‘virtually’ meeting other lesbian parents who are sharing their thoughts and lives through their blogs online, like Dana at Mombian; Lisa at Lesbian Fatherhood; Liza at Liza Was Here; all the other contributors at Lesbian Family like Art-Sweet at Artificially Sweetened, J. at Cheese and Whine, Kwynne (currently plowing her online writing into Lesbian Family, and offline writing into her Ph.D. diss), Round is Funny at Round is Funny, and Trista at An Accident of Hope;
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  • forging connections with progressive-minded dads, who see the big picture and think it’s as filled with love and possibility and humor as I’d like to think it is, folks like Brian at Looky, Daddy! and Jeremy at Daddy Dialectic and Eric at DI Dads Speak Out;
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  • reconnecting with old friends, some offline and one on, simply as a result of them stumbling across this assemblage of lesbo bon mots and sussing out that it was indeed I, their chum from days of yore, who was churning them out;
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  • feeling palpably connected to of all sorts of people I’ve never met before and likely never will, of all kinds of persuasions (parental and non-, queer and non-; you name it) who have been kind enough to strike up conversations here, and/or offer words of comiseration or congratulations;
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  • stumbling into, then hanging on for dear life during the wild and wooly roller coaster ride that was the 2006 Weblog Awards Best New Blog competition (it was by no means a simple meritocracy), which taught me (a) the Power of Isis! and her friends, since so many people actually bothered to vote this thing into first place, and (b) the Power of Hate and its opposite, since that’s what I saw as the primary engine behind the head-to-head hullabaloo that defined at least my own experiene of it;
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  • feeling, from time to time, either as a result of a post, or from things people have written me offline, as if I might actually be able to do some real service with this thing, other than foist an endless stream of baby pictures upon a hapless and unsuspecting public;
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  • realizing, after a year of putting my half-baked thoughts and images out on the windowsill to cool in broad daylight, in front of goddess knows who, that we really are never alone, and that probably everything’s going to be alright after all.
  • Gentle reader, I thank you for your time, and assure you that the pleasure’s been all mine.