Friday, June 19, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg in Bloom

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

I Heart the Mayor

Why did I feel like crying, seeing Mayor Bloomberg, standing on our congregation's bimah (pulpit) tonight? I figured it out in the moment: I was staring at him with a lump in my throat, thinking, He's not very big...his tie is a cheerful pink-orange color and perfectly knotted and dimpled...he's getting a standing ovation from us and why do I feel like standing...? His being here is a simple, powerful sign of respect for my people and me; that's why.

On Sunday, Fred Phelps and his crew will be protesting our synagogue and I worried during the packed service that maybe one of them would be arriving early and would opt to blow us up. I thought, too bad I'm sitting so close to the front of the church because it will be extra-tough to get out if the need to do so should arise -- seats were saved up front for my hard-of-hearing friend, her partner and me (Pat was at the U.S. Open).

Pat's wry, sad comment whenever I worry about that, e.g., when thousands of us meet at the Javits Center for High Holiday services, is, "Don't worry, Sarah, they won't hurt us because who would be upset to hear that a bunch of gay Jews had been killed?" Oy!

My big wish in life is always to transform indignities into art and my thoughts of being imperiled strike me as an indignity I suffered even as I visited it upon myself.

What would art be by contrast? Which art could combat the "God Hates Fags" fans of Fred Phelps? I'm recalling my dinner conversation with my friends and it begins to counter him, just replaying the dialogue in my head, i.e., his hate might be in the air, but our love and loveliness is, too:

At dinner, among other topics, like exquisite salt, a special restaurant in Vietnam, the time-suck of Facebook and the essential nature of micro-blogging, we talked about how flirting manifests itself, and how none of us feels like we're naturally-inclined to flirt.

"Yeah, but what about that time in the elevator between you two?" I asked, recalling their narrative of the first time they saw each other and the electricity of the meeting.

One of them responded, "That wasn't flirting; that was a fait accompli."

The whole discussion on flirting was in response to my saying, "I'd tell this story if Pat were here, too [and did tell Pat the other night, after it happened], but I had such a great time at work the other day: I was at the Watson Research Lab in Yorktown Heights for an internal conference and I spotted a lesbian Researcher I knew from an EAGLE dinner [EAGLE is our GLBT employee group] a number of years ago. She was walking down the hall in jeans, which happens in Research, and suddenly, even though I was in a very grownup suit, like most of the people at the conference, I felt less alone there -- like I was not by myself."

I spoke her name, but it turned out to be the name of the only other openly-lesbian IBM Researcher with whom I'm slightly acquainted, rather than hers. I don't even know if they know each other. If so, well...I was embarrassed in any case.

"You have triplets, right?" I asked her, trying to redeem myself, memory-wise.

She smiled generously, "Yes."

"Well, it's good to see you. Are you still working on that cool project? The one, where I was the only non-Researcher, who called in to hear your presentation and asked all those questions that revealed how little I knew?

She smiled again. Her smile relaxed me and also made me feel like she was either deeply amused by me, or also delighted by not being the only one of her kind for a short bit of her day: "I'm working on solar panels now," she said.

"As in solar energy?"


"Wow, you're reminding me of my 7th grade science project. I won Honorable Mention in the Connecticut State Science Fair for 'An Answer is Blowing in the Wind.'"

"Wind generators," she said animatedly.

"Right. Ah, you make me feel like I'm 12 again, which is a good thing," I said, and began to walk away.

She turned and walked away, smiling further.

"That never happens at work, you guys," I said, feeling a bit sheepish, "Typically, I never flirt anywhere, but it felt great for the two of us to be right there in the glass-hallway, enjoying that rare moment of feeling totally at home beyond our homes.

One of my friends said, "Sure, and it was a lift."

It was. It did lift my spirits. I went into the conference more confident, more receptive and happier.

Wouldn't it be nice to figure out how to feel at home beyond my home more often...without having to flirt with a genius mother of triplets.

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