Monday, June 30, 2008

Pat, We're Not in Bangalore Anymore

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

On June 30th -- Last Year -- We Were There

A year ago, by noon, India time, our friend Dearg met us at the Windsor Bengaluru ITC Hotel lobby and led us by foot to a tea house on Cunningham Road. It was my second trip to India and Pat's first time anywhere in Asia.

The trees were tropical, the sidewalks craggy and the thick traffic headed toward us the opposite way. Dearg wore a white, Indian shirt that day, which it turned out he had bought at Banana Republic before he ever imagined he'd be an expat in India.

I still remember the photos Pat took of us that afternoon and how new everything felt.

A Different Sort of June 30th

This morning, I received e-mail from Dearg:

Thought about you a lot yesterday - We had the first ever Gay Pride parade here in Bangalore - 650 or so people took to the streets to march here in Bangalore to repeal Section 377. Their were smaller parades in Delhi and Calcutta.

It was a real colourful spectacle with a lot of great media coverage both before and after the event. Some of the participants wore masks to cover their identity , others covered their faces in make up. Along the route several bewildered by passers looked on, half in amusement, half in shock. (We had a police escort of over 200 so all passed off peacefully). Best of all we had 4 IBMers march though not [yet] with the company logo....

Here is a related article -

When I got to the part about the police escort, I choked up with tears -- sad that we needed one, but grateful that we were being protected by the police and by extension, the government of Bangalore.

Tonight, I was driving through the Lincoln Tunnel with Pat, on our way to see our friend and colleague, Joy Howard's, brother Arliss, interview his wife Debra Winger on the book she just wrote. I said, "After this fall semester, by spring 2009, I'll be just about half-way through the credits I need to earn to complete this Masters, but 2011 feels so far away."

"Sarah, remember what a substantial time six months seemed at first in India, and how after the first three months, it flew by? The same will happen once you reach the mid-way point in your program; just keep chipping away at it."

Debra Winger on Self-expression

On a bulletin board at school this weekend, I saw a flyer, advertising "Introduction to Painting" and no prior experience was necessary. How fun that would be, I thought. Maybe I have a couple of electives left, and that could be among them next summer if it's offered again, I thought.

Meanwhile, I aspired to devote every Monday night to consuming or producing art of any kind. Tonight, it was a pleasure to consume the interview of Debra Winger. She was so appealing, sexy. It was her clean-featured face, athletic body, and great voice, but above all, her brain that delighted Pat and me.

Someone in the audience asked her, "How did you break into show business?"

She responded that acting has to be something, "...where you have to do it -- like you're going to die if you don't." I loved that and related to it; this weekend, as an icebreaker during the basic practicum on conflict resolution, we had to introduce ourselves, including our passion. I said, "Blogging."

Blogging for me is a less threatening word than "writing," and I do feel like I'm dead when I'm not writing, even though, typically, I don't make the time to spend, polishing the writing.

Debra Winger also said that while she believed in "...qualitative passion," she also felt that passion was "...mortal and quantitative," too, and that for her, she needed to do this and only this right now, whatever this was, so, for example, acting was one art and then writing the book another, and some years ago, even teaching; Professor Robert Coles invited her to be a teaching fellow of "The Literature of Social Reflection" at Harvard.

It was 9:45 pm when the program ended and we were ready to leave, but waited so that we could say hi to Joy's brother, who came out from behind the stage and was standing against the wall while his wife sat at a table, signing her books.

"Hi. I'm a friend of Joy. My name's Sarah Siegel and this is my partner Pat Hewitt." I held out my hand to shake his.

"Nice to meet you," he said, shaking our hands. We drove home uplifted -- just what I was looking for from a Monday Culture Night.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day 2 of Conflict Resolution Practicum

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Wishing to Form New Neural Pathways

Today, I played the father of Ana Delgado, a star student, who was made to quit high school, so she could work as a server in my the rest of the family.

The scenario was an extension of "Stand and Deliver," a film based on a true story, which I haven't yet seen, other than two short clips during class, where the Calculus teacher, Jaime Escalante, confronts two ETS reps, and also Ana's father.

"Why should Ana stay in school?" I argued, "Look around you [at my successful restaurant]. I achieved all of this with a 7th grade education." (We were allowed to take poetic license; I didn't know Mr. Delgado's education level.)

By the end of the negotiation, the teacher asked whether my wife and I would be willing to join his wife and him for dinner, to get to know each other better, since both of us wanted to see the barrio thrive.

I agreed that that would be nice.

Minority on Minority Fighting

Both scenes that I saw from the movie seemed to pit one Latino against another -- or that's how they ended up behaving in any case. I think that that's so common.

When a Jew assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, I felt that way, and the other day, when I expressed fury at the Orthodox Jewish mother for bringing her over-age son into the Women's locker room, I felt that way again.

During lunch in the park at the end of 120th Street, I told the locker room story to a Swiss, Catholic classmate and felt embarrassed to be telling her what bugged me about the experience most -- that I was visiting my rage on this woman because her ultra-modest physical appearance reminded me of how, in my experience, some Orthodox Jews feel like every other sort of Jew is less of a Jew, since we are not strictly observant.

"Maybe she thought she could compromise my modesty because I wasn't even Jewish in her eyes, and so my modesty didn't count." Ugh, how could this make sense to someone who was not a member of my historically underrepresented group?

Tomorrow afternoon, I will have the chance, perhaps, to play the part of the Orthodox Jewish woman while someone else plays my part, and someone else observes.

A Girl Named Izzy

For comic relief that had a bit of an unhappy ending, in the middle of this discussion, a three-year-old, blond, ringleted little girl, Izzy, short for Isadora, we learned, rolled over to us on her tricycle and I marveled that Razor had expanded its product-line. She wanted to be part of our conversation.

My classmate asked her if she was hungry.

"No, I had my lunch."

"What did you have?" I asked.

"Tomatoes," she said.

"I like your Razor," I said.

"I don't have a razor," she said, "Daddy has a razor."

"Ah, right, I meant, what you're riding."

She just looked at me impatiently.

"OK, Izzy, time to go. Come with me, so that we can walk while the little man still says we can."


"Now, Izzy, let's go."

"No," and she fell off her trike and didn't hurt herself at all, it seemed, but she began to wail.

"Probably, she's tired," said my classmate to the distraught mother.

"Yeah, Izzy, maybe you'd like a nap," I suggested.

"No nap! No nap!" she insisted through her tears as her mother carried the tricycle and her away.

I don't know how that conflict ultimately was resolved.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Looking at My Own Art

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Child-like, but I Like It

A few nights ago, I was speaking with a friend of mine, who's a visual artist. She spoke of finally committing to her work through the use, lately, of extra-thick paint and sculptural brush-strokes.

I responded, "I'm not a visual artist, but I did take a lot of art lessons as a kid, and I enjoy drawing and painting. My hand has always pressed super-hard. I guess I've always been committed!"

She smiled generously.

It's true, though. I'm looking at a painting I did in water-colors a number of years ago that looks like the paint is practically acrylic -- only a slight exaggeration. It's called "Heavenly Hash," and it's of my dad, sitting in a shroud, bellying up to a hospital gurney, which is filled with junk-food.

When my dad died, I was sure it was from his poor eating habits. The painting was a cautionary tale to myself not to be like him. Suspended over his head is a pair of golden, priestly hands, hanging from a gold chain. It was a copy of a necklace that my father made for my mother for their anniversary one year. The actual necklace was sterling silver, but that was less dramatic for the painting, so I made it gold instead.

Death Explained By a TV Character

Now, I know that people's reasons for dying are a mystery, i.e., why he had common bile-duct cancer is anyone's guess. I learned that from watching the most recent episode of "Army Wives."

God, appearing as a hunched-over, older, black man, told the commander's wife that it was simply their daughter's time. I was feeling a bit manipulated, but Pat reminded me how much we used to enjoy the TV program, "Touched By an Angel," which had a similar plot-line, every week. As I sat down to watch the program, I asked myself how much more art of any sort I'd produce if I stopped watching TV.

Cheating Death Through Art

To my left is a drawing I did of an open, metal, Caran D'ache crayon box, containing 18 crayons. Instead of being labeled with their colors, each one is labeled with something I enjoyed as a child, e.g., nature classes; swimming-pool games; disco....

When I look at art I've drawn or painted, even if the subject is not happy, e.g., "Spring in Uptown -- Chicago," where I've drawn myself as a shadow in my apartment window, in the middle of a blooming tree, I feel calm and reflective; it's so relaxing and pleasurable to see what my left hand and right brain have created.

Creativity is the fountain of youth.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Conflict Non-resolution

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Wishing For An Alternate Outcome, But How?

This afternoon, I wrote this for the Conflict Resolution course I'm taking this semester; it happened earlier today:

Recently, my partner and I were returning to the women’s locker-room from swimming laps at our YMHA pool. The YMHA, which is the Jewish version of the YMCA, has strict rules designed to protect women’s modesty – for those who want the protection – including designated hours for women-only swims and a posted rule, stating that boys over the age of five are not allowed in the women’s locker-room.

Heading to the showers, we opened the door and as a small family of a mother, daughter and son were heading out of it. Dripping in our bathing-suits, I stopped nonetheless and said, looking at the boy, “This is not OK. I don’t want my tsniut (the religious, Hebrew term for modesty, which I knew she would understand) compromised by him.” He looked ashamed and afraid of my anger, and in parallel, way too old/tall, to be present in the women’s locker-room.

The woman herself was wearing a head-cover that concealed all of her hair and a floor-length skirt and long-sleeved blouse – all indicators of her Orthodoxy. She looked completely caught off-guard and asked, “What?”

“My tsniut. It’s OK for yours to be respected, but not mine?”

“It’s family-swim now.”

“Yeah, but it’s not family-shower,” said my partner, and then, “How old is he?”

“Yeah, I’m going to be naked in a minute,” I said, “and I don’t want him in the locker-room when I am.”

She didn’t answer Pat’s question and instead looked at me and asked, “What am I supposed to do?”

“Ask the lifeguard,” I said angrily and let them pass.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer's First Full Day

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Began with Tears

It was more like just one tear, but it was substantial as it made its way across my temple/cheekbone, since I was prone. My skin, in its trail, felt cold. I resisted wiping it away. I let it run its course.

I was thinking of having seen my mom last night and how increasingly, visibly painful her mobility is. Charlotte, from Charlotte's Web, comes to mind more and more when I visit my mother.

God willing, my mother will live for many more years and ideally, not with too much pain, but however long we've got with her, she is definitely slowing down, like the spider did. My third grade teacher read us that story aloud and it was among the only times I ever felt anything other than an impatient temper from that teacher. "Don't make me use my hairbrush!" she'd address the class, and of course, never did. What a sick threat, though. I imagined that she'd hit us with it, with the bristle-side slapping our skin.

Charlotte's Web, then, is not a purely heart-warming/breaking story for me, as it's laden with my otherwise, mostly unhappy memory of 3rd Grade.

You Have to Go Home Again

Back to my mother: I'm not purely, positively nostalgic about my mom either, but I adore her. Last night, upon grocery-shopping for her after work:

"Mom, I don't buy house-brands for Pat and me. We're lucky that we don't need to economize to that extent."

"Your cousin Billy told me that pantyhose at Orbach's was actually Hanes."

"How would he know that?"

"What do you mean, 'How would he know that?' He was in the industry. Did you take Economics in college?"


"Well, there are 'monopolistic...' [I can't recall the full term she referred to] and 'product differentiation.' Often, you're just paying for their advertising when you buy brand-names. And you're probably really strict about codes on food, too."

"Yeah, I'd never eat anything past the expiration-date."

"I just freeze it and it's fine. Sarah, you think I'd want to eat garbage?"

"Well, since you asked, I know times were tight during the recession [in the '70s], but I really hated drinking powdered milk."

"We didn't drink it because it was cheap. We drank it because it was skim-milk. I always breast-fed my babies on skim-milk because I didn't want them to have the fat-cells."

"Well, you never mixed it properly and it was always clumpy and watery."

Saying Goodbye and Shabbat Shalom

All day at work yesterday, I looked forward to seeing my mom as a celebration or consolation at the end of the day; we had a checkpoint review for a big project at work yesterday at 4 pm. Fortunately, it was a celebration.

Driving to her house, I thought, I'm so tired from the heavy work-week and I wish I could just put my head in my mom's lap and rest. And that's probably where the trailing-tear came from this morning, thinking about my mom's deceleration and how great it felt to fulfill my own wish before leaving last night.

I emptied my mom's groceries and helped her into her house. She needed to rest on the steps inside. I sat one step down from my mom and told her what I'd been wishing for all day and then went ahead and put my right ear and right temple and right cheek on her lap. She rubbed my back in a circular motion that felt like an ancient memory -- and she confirmed that she used to do that for me when I was a baby.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hungrier for Self-expression

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Than for Food

All day, I was in a meeting at the original IBM headquarters. I am tired the way only solid socializing and brainstorming can make me. And I am torn: I want to eat dinner and spend the evening with Pat. And I want to spend a minute here. This blog is my continued pleasure.

Self-expression is a hunger, too. Unfortunately, my writing-eyes are bigger than my writing-stomach now, I guess, because now that I'm here, I am unable to figure out how to get my fill.

On the way to work this morning, I wondered if I might employ Harry Mathews' technique of writing 20 lines a day while sitting in traffic during my commute. But then when would I call my mother, listen to pop music, do my makeup, eat breakfast and take my vitamins?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Eery Glow

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Don't Shine Too Much Or You'll Scare People

On page 65 of the June 23 "New Yorker," I saw the most marvelous cartoon:

A managerial type in a suit stood by a guy's desk, addressing him. The guy, who sat at the desk was a pure sunburst, other than his glasses, nose, smile, tie and arms. The caption read: "Take my advice, Roberts, and hide your light under a bushel."

Tonight, a Montclair friend read a passage from a book I own and need to read all the way through, The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri.

It was about how artists can be scary. I couldn't find the book when I hunted for it just now and instead, found Harry Mathews' 20 Lines a Day. He was inspired to write the book by something Stendhal wrote,"Vingt lignes par jour, genie ou pas" ("Twenty lines a day, genius or not.")

My copy of 20 Lines a Day was a gift from an ex-girlfriend, who was trying to encourage me to write; this was in 1989 and she inscribed the book:
You have much to give but require the discipline to accomplish your...goals. You should not at all feel bad that you lack the discipline....You will find the tools and you will utilize them. You will affect the course of lives of others through your ideas and philosophies. You have to be strong enough to share them....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dreaming About Paul Newman

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

The Sub-conscious Mind Is Remarkable

Here's a photo of my parents in Manhattan in 1955, on their way to their honeymoon. For context, please keep reading.

This morning, I woke up from a dream about Paul Newman, where I spent time only with his wife, who in the dream was Yoko Ono. We walked through the western part of Greenwich Village, not far from where my parents had their first apartment in the '50s.

We arrived at the home of Paul Newman and his wife, which was in a brownstone building with a wooden number seven on the door, though I didn't recall the street. We climbed a flight of steps once inside and walked into the most artful home I'd ever seen.

There were porcelain platters with Chinese landscapes in blue placed at, below and above eye-level all over the living room and gorgeous, generous furniture that really looked as though it lived there along with the couple, and modern, but not garish, art papering the walls.

I became tearful, looking at all of it. When I spoke to compliment Paul Newman's wife, I said, "I've never seen anything as artful as this home. I mean, I could never have put it together myself, but I *can* recognize and appreciate it."

She smiled.

And then in a hurt tone I added, "Well, it's my first time [i.e., visit] here." I was poking at her for not being a better relative and not being more involved with our family....Huh?

Yeah, my sub-conscious was thinking of Paul Newman as family because my mom always said that my dad, may his memory be blessed, looked like Paul Newman. It's true that my dad was handsome and had blue eyes, but personally, the comparison always seemed a bit remote.

Paul Newman's wife left me on my own in the living room for a moment -- perhaps to go to the bathroom -- and I walked to the window to look at the street. It seemed far below us, considering the single flight of stairs we had climbed.

And then I was on my own, walking back from the experience and thinking, I want to send her a thank-you note for her hospitality. I remember the "7" on the door, but not the street itself. I'll have to re-trace my steps. And then I was awake.

Some of Why I Had the Dream, Perhaps

Recently, Pat mentioned that Paul Newman had cancer. I hope he'll be OK. My father died of cancer. They would have been the same age if my dad had lived, if I remember correctly. I did a report on Paul Newman in elementary school and recall his being my parents' age, and having been born in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Last night, prior to falling asleep, I read an article my mom gave me from "On Wisconsin," her alumni magazine, about 15 students and a couple of professors taking an LGBT history study-tour this past spring to learn about LGBT history first-hand, from some of the people, who made it. Graciously, a number of the luminaries told the students, you are making LGBT history yourselves, with what you're doing.

Their tour included a visit to the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, which was relatively close to my parents' apartment, which was on 10th and Bleecker. I've written here before, I think, that my mom used to try to fix up a number of women in her building with men, until she finally understood that they were not interested in meeting men. This was in the '50s.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Lesbian Leadership Looks Like

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.


"When I was a high school junior in Junior Achievement (JA), I never imagined I'd be here with you, having this conversation... though I was self-aware [of my lesbianism] by age 11."

The lesbian leader from the company that sponsored my section of JA smiled at me in response.

"I mean, who knew that when I was selling our products, Berry Pretty Pine-cone Wreaths and Plexi-pocket picture-frames, to colleagues outside the cafeteria at your corporate headquarters that we'd be here in the future, having this exchange?"

Twenty-four of us from 16 firms met tonight at the Times Square office of Ernst & Young for a forum on women's participation in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) employee networking groups.

With all the work I've done over the past 13 years in behalf of the GLBT business community, I'd never before had the opportunity to join a forum just of women, who likewise dedicated themselves to our advancement. Afterward, I called my mom and said, "You know how you've said you're proud of the work I've been able to do with IBM for human rights? Well, I was in a whole room of women like me tonight, from many different firms..." featuring:

  • Ernst & Young
  • Time Warner Cable
  • McDermott, Will & Emery
  • Bank of New York Mellon
  • IBM
  • Goldman Sachs
  • International Paper
  • Accenture
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Morgan Stanley
  • UBS
  • Lehman Brothers
  • Showtime Networks
  • American Express
  • Citi
  • Credit Suisse

...And Dressed for Success

They were pin-striped, salwar-kameezed, jewel-bedecked, modestly-bejeweled, silk-shelled, starch-bloused, long-haired, short-haired, readable, unreadable, gorgeous, attractive, handsome, brilliant and hopeful. Tonight, I felt a hunger satisfied that I didn't even really recognize prior: a hunger to know women like me, who had taken risks and been bold in their careers and lives in ways similar to me. They allowed themselves to have a voice -- and one that wasn't necessarily always initially welcome, but which was included ultimately.

It's weird how affinity can work: While I was talking with one of the women, another walked in, wearing a white, subtly-patterned salwar kameez. I had to excuse myself to speak with her. It was like I was doubly-home, seeing her.

My 16-year-old self as a JA participant couldn't have predicted tonight's first-of-a-kind conversation, as I mentioned; likewise, prior to last year, I'd not have imagined a particular affinity for Indians in Indian clothing. Something about her being not only Indian, but dressed hiply and traditionally in parallel made me feel extra-comfortable, speaking with her.

Both of us, we discovered, were Americans, who had completed assignments in Bangalore last year. "I almost wore one of my salwar kameezes," I said, since it was so hot today, "but I chickened out."

She was encouraging. When we said good night, I pledged that if another event occurred while it was still warm enough, I'd definitely wear one of them next time.

...And as Compelling as Disco Rollerskating

My new friend and colleague couldn't know how therapeutic it was to meet her. The whole time I was in India in 2007, I never met any out lesbians, and my partner and I tried to operate on the "down-low" when we were not with IBMers. Yet here she was, a visibly Indian woman, who identified as lesbian, and who had worked to make her company in India even more inclusive to GLBT colleagues, just as I had done with mine.

This evening reminded me of the hours and hours and hours of rollerskating I did by myself as a pre-teen, which enabled me to show off my skills and finally find peers during roller-skating parties when it became a mainstream craze while I was in high school. I don't know if that translates....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Worlds Collide

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...When I Least Expect It

The woman with whom I came out purposefully and lived with for two years and eight months in the '80s had an undergrad degree in English from Princeton, a Masters in English from the University of Michigan (where we met) and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago (right after we broke up). She also had a subscription to "People" magazine. And we rented the latest film-videos from the nearby store on Broadway near Roscoe and watched "L.A. Law" and "Cagney & Lacey" every week.

She had a thing for Cagney. I didn't get it. She definitely had a thing for pop-culture and ultimately, she became a Sociology professor. That made sense to me.

Our first summer after my undergrad. graduation -- she was a year older than I and had just completed her English Masters -- we pitched a tent at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. It was the last camping experience I ever had. I hated the camping, though I liked how there were women, women everywhere.

She picked up shigella from the spoiled food that was served. Her grandparents, to whom she was not out prior, put it together when they read the "Detroit Freepress" the following Monday and learned that a bunch of lesbians had been food-poisoned the prior weekend.

Worlds collide. Last night, after a fun meal with a Montclair friend, I came home to the latest issue of "Vanity Fair," which Pat left on the hallway steps for me as a treat, since Angelina Jolie graced this month's cover, and since Pat was at a 92nd Street Y program.

Flipping toward the feature on Angelina Jolie, I passed a multi-column grid the right-most column of which featured the Michigan Womyn's Music Fest...right in the middle of the magazine to which my ex-girlfriend no doubt has graduated by now from "People." It made fun of it, the way "Vanity Fair" makes fun of whatever ends up in that section. No doubt, the magazine thought it was being anti-hiply hip by publishing it.

Talk Radio Doesn't Fully Express Itself...

I'm reminded of driving home, listening to WNYC-FM this evening. How cool that NPR is hosting an "LGBT singles event" this month. I had several moments, where I felt warm, thinking about it...and then I recalled other ads for non-LGBT WNYC singles events:

For the heterosexual versions of the event, they have always said, "Join so-and-so and so-and-so" (at least one or two radio personalities) at the event. This one did not say, "Join so-and-so." Maybe I'm thinking too much, but why wouldn't an on-air personality or two be visibly affiliated with this event?

I went hunting just now on the radio's web site and found that there is a host listed, Richard Hake, but I wonder why they didn't name him during the announcement. I don't want to be ungenerous, but let's put it this way: WNYC-FM, you're doing such a lovely thing in acknowledging the humanity of the L, G, B and T among your listeners. From now on, please do include the host's name, so that the chip on my shoulder doesn't get any bigger. Thank you.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Friendship-joy Inventory

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Worry and Pleasure

Often, I feel bad that I don't invest in friendships much with anyone other than my partner, Pat. Work and school and commuting take up so much of my time that I don't get to play with friends like I did as a young kid through college. It's kind of like downhill-skiing. I did it a lot as a kid and loved it, but now that I've got premier equipment, I hardly go.

Probably, I'm a more desirable friend than ever, with all the maturity and interesting experience I've gained over my lifetime so far...but I don't want to spend this blog entry, flaggelating myself about my lack of friendship time-investment. Years ago, Pat told me a great point that I recalled often, including now; she learned from a Psychology professor during her Psych. MS program: "At any given time, people are doing the best they can."

So I do want to imagine further what I began thinking about during a commute home the other night: What if I could put together a table of friends from over my lifetime? What if they got to meet one another? Some of them already have met one another, but....I'd love it if all of them took turns, describing to one another how they became friends with me and what I was like as a friend....When else could a scenario like that take place, other than at my wedding or funeral?

They'd start their conversation that way, and then they'd get to know one another and would see further what terrific taste I have in friends!

I wish it didn't take an occasion like that. I'd make a huge table, including the people that I still consider friends, no matter when we last saw one another.

Probably only five of the 57 friends ever read this blog, and yet, I'm worried that I've forgotten to list someone essential....

Selected Emotions that Accompanied Scenes from the Friendships

In Childhood:
Peacefulness: standing on the front-steps of our childhood home, looking up at the towering tulip tree with Deb
Exhiliration: bike-riding to the Dorothy Heroy public pool with Kathy
Splashy joy: swimming in JJ's pool with JJ and her little sister Erica
Pride: discussing Israel Test preparation with Sarah during our school-bus rides

In High School:
Awe: watching Atalia do ballet exercises
Delight: picking a fresh orange off the tree in Israel with my Israeli cousin Nitzah
Anticipation: learning from Susannah how to give tours to school-groups at the Museum of Philosophy in NYC

In College:
Serene excitement: looking at the Chinese art collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Scott
Mystery: planting tulips in nearly frozen ground at Marni's house near Detroit, and then seeing photos of our labor's fruits in the spring
Relief: going swimming five days a week in Jerusalem with Cathy during my junior year abroad

In Early Career:
Playfulness: marching around our Chicago apartments, singing Ma'oz Tsur... during Chanukah with Robyn
Comfort: eating dinner my U.S. cousin Sari during a D.C. business trip
Amusement: meeting Steve for Middle Eastern food during his Chicago business trip
Pure fun: going dancing after a "10% Show" shoot with Jack and some of the production crew
Intrigue: visiting my synagogue-friend Ed in his John Hancock apartment prior to going to a Jewish film festival together
Abandon: reaching out to touch Grace Jones' leg during a concert that Robert, may his memory be blessed, took me to on his 26th birthday
Spiritual fulfillment: enjoying Werner as one of my two best friends at work, though his dad had been a rocket-scientist in Nazi Germany
Pleasant surprise: sitting on the Belmont rocks with Pat at Lake Michigan
Purpose: trading experience with Paul every day during our commute to Schaumburg -- his on artificial intelligence and mine on GLBT community voluntarism
Merriment: delighting in discovering Rob's and my compatible sense of humor during a business meeting in Austin
Love: during our walking-tour of Greenwich Village, David, finding a Daisy-Dukes-hot-pants-wearing-blonde can-holder as a gift I could give to Pat upon my return from my business trip
Adoration: listening to Gerard describe his total love for David at their wedding in Toronto
Self-assurance: setting up the workshop-room at the 1995 International Gay & Lesbian Business Expo with Lyn, where she, with her architecture degree from Princeton, was asking if I needed her to run and get a tape dispenser -- whatever it took to ensure Rob's and my presentation's success
Faith: hearing Mary Alice describe her plan for conquering large health challenges and then her doing so...twice, and also hearing how she established a popular, essentially lesbian, sorority in college more than 25 years ago
Silliness: at the "Adirondyke Weekend," Deb and I sitting across from each other at dinner and laughing non-stop
Pleasure: walking around Mia's and Deb's house with Mia, learning of all the cool ways she opted to design the inside of their home
At homeness: Kathy, reminding my mother of a woman I had a crush on in college, except that in Kathy's case, my mother liked Kathy
Redemption: dancing to fast, '80s pop-tunes with Sheila while pretending that we're in high school still and it's no issue for us to be dancing together
Holiness: being invited to succeed Carol as the Tri-State co-leader of our GLBT employee networking group; I said, "I don't want to lead it," and Carol said, "But it has to be led."
Appreciation: Carmen, always listening so presently always makes me feel beloved
Rescue-sense: avoiding the conference-center bar after-hours at IBM's Global GLBT Leadership Conference in 2003, and having Suzanne, also one of the delegates, who skipped it explain a Catholic concept, "...avoiding the near occasion of sin"
Fondness: AnnaMae, discovering that my birthday was identical to her daughter's and how that delighted Suzanne and her
Kinship: commuting with Jennifer to NYC from Montclair and learning that she had gone with a friend to the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival even though she's heterosexual....I had been to it once, in 1987, with my girlfriend at the time, and hadn't loved the experience because I don't love women's music, and so all the more so, I was impressed by her adventuresomeness
Hilarity: Joel, explaining why he would no longer enter a particular synagogue that met in a church, saying that he refused to go back to "Saint Nebbish's"
Gratitude: famous for her ultimate pragmatism and no-nonsense attitude, Kathy was marvelously compassionate when I learned of my otosclerosis
Hope: Julie's creativity thrilled me when I read what she considered an early version of a novel she wrote; if I could have such a talented friend, then perhaps my own talent, if more modest, might shine a bit someday, too, if I labored at it
Relaxation: spending a long afternoon of my vacation, walking down much of the pedestrian path of the Westside Highway to Battery Park with Richard, talking about our lives and dreams.

In Mid-career:
Safety: Joseph, making me feel I'm in funny, stylish, smart, good hands when I'm with him
Glamorousness: attending the GLAAD Awards at the Kodak Theater in L.A. with Mike in 2003
Energy: Jane, dancing during the holiday party at her home a number of years ago to that Country song, "I Feel Like a Woman..."
Ease: Laughing and relaxing over Montclair dinners with Nancy
Amazement: Silvy, letting her daughter Kay splash around in the pool, where I was swimming during my 40th birthday; I looked at Silvy's face for a moment and couldn't believe all the ways that she is active -- as a mother and at work
Entertainment: Sylvie, artfully tucking a pair of oranges into a white napkin that she had fashioned into a bikini-top on our dining-room table, for us to discover after work one evening while staying with us
Privilege: Jim, helping me be a better facilitator at work, since he is a menschlich Master Trainer with marvelous experience, and in parallel, whenever we have enabled each other to laugh hard during our workdays
Adventure: Chitra, finding books with me at the Stamford Public Library's book sale while she was in the States and my book discoveries with her at Blossom Bookstore in Bangalore
Reassurance: Keiko, giving me some Washington State apples she had found in the grocery store when we were on business in Bangkok
Sense of possibility: Linda, encouraging me to apply for a Masters at Columbia's Teachers College; she had just earned one herself
Inspiration: Wendy's many-years survival of an advanced stage of cancer and her positive attitude around it continually impresses and inspires me
Confidence: meeting Radhika while I was in India and becoming friends with her boosted my self-assurance about being able to find and befriend kindred spirits anywhere in the world...and that there could be kindred spirits anywhere
Appreciation: Shalini, giving me gifts prior to my departure from India -- some great earrings from the desert in the north and a wool, patterned shawl -- I saw that she really did enjoy our colleagueship while I was in India and I felt then that I hoped we'd be friends ongoingly
Shelter: Inder, hosting Pat and me for dinner at his family's home in Bangalore, and their maid cooking delicious food
Succor: Dearg, meeting us for lunch on our first afternoon in India, and taking us to a queer film festival at the Alliance Francais in Bangalore
Elevation: Sapna, who's heterosexual, volunteering to help lead the India chapter of IBM's GLBT employee group, saying that she was for anything that helped advance humanity
Happiness: discovering that there was another lesbian, living in my town, working in leadership development like me, with my same name -- and spelled with an "h"
Validation: Sarah's partner Helen, having a Masters in the same field as I'm pursuing mine, and agreeing that it's challenging to pursue a Masters while working full-time
Kinship: My classmate Susan, joining me for dinner after class one night and discovering so much in common despite how differently we have led our lives so far.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Kissing Controversy

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Nearly 20 Years Later, It's Still Provocative...

[Note: I'm "reprinting" this from our internal gay, lesbian, bi, trans (GLBT) community database, where my friend and colleague, John Martin, posted a link to an article in his local paper, "Lesbian Kiss at Seattle Ballpark Stirs Debate," which inspired me to reminisce:]

In 1989, a bunch of lesbians staged a kiss-in at Water Tower Place in Chicago. I know because I was there, interviewing the kissers and the passers-by for "The 10% Show" of Gay Cable Network. It was the segment that I was proudest of producing.

A couple of guys in Chicago Bulls regalia stopped to stare and I approached them with my mike and the camerwoman with her camera and asked, "What do you think?"

"God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," said one of them, not taking his eyes off of the crowd.

"This is Eve and Eva," I responded.

"Well, it's disgusting!" he answered.

"Then why are you standing here?" asked one of the crowd, who heard him.

He pushed his friend, "C'mon, let's go!" and they shuffled off.

Another woman, a Marshall Fields employee with her badge still on, stopped to talk with me; she was with her teenage daughter. "Hey, it doesn't bother me!" she said and gave a nervous laugh, but seemed sincere.

"What about you?" I asked the daughter.

"It's a little scary," she said.


"Yeah, I'm just not used to it."

I thanked them and they made their way down Michigan Avenue while I spoke with some of the kissers, who said they were there to be able to kiss their partners in public, on the street, " we never get to do."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Recalling My Mother's Former Vigor

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...and My Youth

"Mom, you looked frail today when I first saw you," I said without meaning to, and then, "I mean, not weak, but rather, too thin." (Unfortunately, she looked both, but I did not want to encourage the power of suggestion.)

"I know. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw it," she agreed. My mother appeared more physically vulnerable than I've ever seen her, other than the morning after her major car accident, which was three months ago today.

After we said goodbye, I felt suddenly desperate to see a childhood friend, who would remember my mom and me when we were much more vigorous. This friend and I were best friends from age two and a half to age nine or 10.

One of my friend's daughters was wearing an adorable sun-dress that my friend used to wear, which her mother had made for her when she was a kid. Sitting with the child while my friend attended to another one in the other room, I felt like I was sitting with my friend again, at her early-childhood size.

"Your mother used to like to play School and she was always the teacher," I told the five-year-old, who was looking up at me through her little glasses -- a brunette version of her mom at that age -- "She tried to teach me Math....It didn't work -- not because your mom was not a good teacher; I was not a good student."

My friend's daughter kept looking at me and I felt like a giant, and was compared to her. "Your mom also taught me to play jacks and Backgammon. Do you know what Backgammon is?"

My friend's daughter showed me a fantastic piece of mica that she had found and I praised it sincerely. My friend and I agreed that both of us enjoyed collecting rocks when we were growing up.

We acknowledged how natural it felt for us to sit with each other and talk; we had seen each other in person maybe twice in our lives, since age 10. I brought up her dad, may his memory be blessed, and a bit about my mom, but not a lot, since we didn't want to upset her daughters by talking about the accident.

My friend's essential face in all its expressiveness was the same, and the easy laughter between us delighted me. My awkwardness at our not having seen each other much as teens or adults caught up with me at the end; as fun an exchange as we had had, where she said she remembered my favorite color and more, I still tripped over imagining how we could sustain the friendship beyond e-mail exchanges after this spontaneous visit. It was so much more fun than e-mail, speaking with her in person.

Maybe I didn't need to worry about how I'd entertain her husband and kids if they came over to our house, and maybe I could let myself be continually natural with her, or maybe the practicalities of our lives would make in-person visits challenging if they were too planned. Simply, I needed to be grateful that she was home earlier today when I called, and welcomed my visit.

Before I was leaving, she said, "One year, for my birthday, you gave me a purple, pink and maroon scarf and I always took it with me wherever I moved. Once, when my father-in-law was visiting us, he was cold, and I let him have the scarf. And he still wears it. And I think of you whenever I see it on him."

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Lump in My Throat

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Is From Considering Human Potential, Yearning for Fulfillment

Pat and I just watched an episode of "Cold Case," which was repeated from November, 2007, when we were living in India. The case this time featured Sam(antha), a gay young man trapped in a young woman's 1963. You can guess the tragic ending.

This weekend, I read a "New York Times" article by Kenji Yoshino, which ended with, "If more straights could come to see marriage as a universal right that belongs to all human beings, that would, indeed, be a convergence of interest." After quoting the line, I told Pat bitterly, "Yeah, but first, we need to be acknowledged as human!"

During the same weekend, I read a marvelously hopeful article in the same newspaper, about how New York's Governor Patterson:
...said he does not see his support for gay marriage as an issue of political fortitude, but rather something more human and almost reflexive.

“All the time when I’d hear Uncle Stanley and Uncle Ronald and my parents talk, they were talking about the civil rights struggle,” Mr. Paterson said. “In those days, I knew I wanted to grow up and feel that I could change something.”

In our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community database at work, a colleague referred to the article and wrote simply, "Visibility does matter."

Visibility Or Why I Blog

It does. When self-consciousness invades this blog, it's usually around worrying that the blog reveals my self-absorption or that it's too single-mindedly heralding of GLBT/LGBT/lesbian/or Jewish themes. On a good day, like today, I feel encouraged by my colleague's point, that visibility matters.

Thinking relatively, or at all, how many visible champions of Jewish lesbians -- or of any sort of GLBT people -- are there in the world? If not me, who? If not now, when?

Last week, a friend and colleague responded, "You're passionate about ensuring equality for gay people --"

"I'm passionate about ensuring inclusion of *all* people, including GLBT people," I answered, perhaps a bit sharply or more defensively than I wanted to do. That's not the sort of visibility I'm going for. When I'm an effective ambassador, I am loving and disarming, not at all shrill.

Human Potential Or Potentially Human

Before gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can reach our human potential, we need to help non-GLBT people recognize and acknowledge our humanity. As a human being, all I want is to be able to relate to other people, and for them to relate to me. For me, I aspire for that to happen least shyly through my writing.

Considering what I blogged last night, particularly the last several lines of the entry, I hope that a number of people could relate to feeling awkward during their teenage years, no matter their sexual orientation.

An extremely differently-abled, heterosexual colleague said to me several years ago, referring to my atypical sexual orientation and his extraordinary disability, "When you and I 'walk' into a room, it's our job to make people comfortable with us."

It made sense to me, even as a lesbian colleague commented in response, "Isn't that everyone's job?"

Still, I knew what he meant because had I never been acquainted with him, I'm not sure that people with severe, visible disabilities would have seemed as human to me as they did after he helped me regard them by his example, by letting me get to know him. Instead, they would have just frightened me by their difference, and remained abstract concepts. Yes, I've just written that. And it ought to mortify me, but instead, it just gives me empathy for the people, who in their fear and ignorance, don't yet recognize GLBT people as fellow human beings. They haven't yet known any of us, and so God, please give me the energy to keep blogging my humanity two-three times a week, so that any of them might know at least one of us. Amen.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

140 Adirondykes

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Older and Younger, Celebrating Ourselves

I've written about it here before, but I'm always inspired by it and so will use this entry to blog about our most recent "Adirondyke Weekend." My lovely friend and retired IBM colleague, Carol, and her partner of 38 years, Carmen, started it 13 years ago and we've been coming for 11 of the years, virtually since we moved to this region from Illinois.

In the saloon near Lake George, where we were dancing with 138 other lesbians last night, Gloria Gaynor's voice blasted, "At first I was afraid; I was petrified....I will survive...." One friend, who had survived breast cancer more than five years ago approached another, who had more recently survived it, plus some related scares and said, "They're playing our song." They began dancing together and I simply shuffled alongside them, smiling in awe.

Later that evening, one of the cancer survivors and my friend said to me, "It's more and more noticeable that we're getting older."

"What are you thinking about specifically?" I asked.

"Well, that our friends, Blank and Blank, couldn't come because one is lately suffering from what might be dementia --"

I agreed that it was tragic, as the woman had been super-lively -- downhill-skiing into her late-70s during the winter weekends and always vibrant on the dance-floor. On the lighter end of the conversation, we talked about how dying our hair wasn't something that either of us planned to do, no matter how gray we became.

In parallel this weekend, one of the celebrants was ~20 years younger than we were and still had ruddy cheeks and even what looked -- by comparison to our faces -- like a bit of residual baby-fat.

What would it be like to be that age again? All weekend, as I observed most of us, looking and behaving our real, and former, ages, I thought about how less-well-developed I appeared when I was the young woman's age.

Reunion Reminders

On the way home, I returned a phone call to one of my dearest friends, who told me that she had been to her 20-year college reunion this weekend. She said, "It made me recall what I was like back then, and how the college only provided a great, intellectual experience, but didn't help me become a whole person."

"It's funny that you had that experience because I met a young woman this weekend, who took me back to my college days, too. Just like me at that age, she was working on resolving her sexual orientation and yet was so mature in the rest of her world-view."

"We need to get together in person and talk more about this. I do have to go to help [her daughter] with an important homework assignment...." God, she has a middle-school-aged daughter already...which was the age we were when we were closest friends.

At the saloon, last night on the dance-floor, in addition to our dancing with each other, Pat danced salsa and meringue with Carmen while later, I had my standard couple of '80s-song, fast dances with our friend, who's my identical age, and who went to high school during the same pop-songs. I'm always thrilled to dance with her because I pretend that we're back in high school and that we're dancing with each other then...and that it's no issue.

I've told her this more than once and she always has smiled generously. Last night, for the first time when we sat down, I asked her, "Did you go to dances in high school, and if so, did you go in groups or with boys?"


"I just went in groups," I said, feeling uncool compared to her. "Did you go to your proms?" I asked.


"I wasn't invited to mine," I said barely audibly and felt like a reject all over again. I wished I hadn't asked her, and hadn't spoiled the pretending.