Friday, December 31, 2010

Michigan: Day One Memories

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


Never saw the country west of
Pennsylvania prior to Day One of
My Freshman year in Ann Arbor.

Do you also try to be reminded of
More familiar people, places et al
When you are in a strange environment?

State Street reminded me of a patch of
Downtown New Canaan -- just for a moment --
And that calmed me.

Where are you from? So many held up hands
Like Mittens and pointed to a spot with
Their other hand.

Benton Harbor...Birmingham...Bloomfield Hills...
No suburbs I'd ever heard of. What was I doing

Michigan was more foreign to me than Israel,
where I had a grandmother, aunt and many cousins.
Michigan squirrels had dark-orange-ish, not gray, fur.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Filling Up on Memories With My Omelet & Soup

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

Fighting Wistfulness

My former classmate and Phil Jones Dance partner and I have lunch this afternoon; at 12, we took lessons in preparation for many upcoming Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and for life. We were also at the University of Michigan at the same time, but I don't have much memory of that till he reminds me:

"The last time I saw you was in 1985, in the Fishbowl [the all-glass part of Mason Hall in Ann Arbor]. You seemed really uncomfortable; in fact, whenever I ran into you on campus you seemed uncomfortable, but that day, you were with some girls and one of them --"

"-- had a mullet?"

"Yes, and one's hair was multicolored."

"Well, the one with the mullet is a guy now." (Not sure he's heard me.) "Really. He was a guy back then, too; he's transgender, but hadn't yet transitioned and I didn't know then, but yeah, that was really awkward, seeing you then."

He nods acknowledgment and then says, "You know, if you hadn't acted so odd, I'd have never guessed about you, but since you did, I realized [that you were a lesbian], and thought, She probably doesn't want her mom to know, and I never told a soul."

"Well, you were who I was supposed to want -- you, a good-looking, smart, nice, tall, Jewish man and so of course, I felt awkward."

He's flattered, but what is there to say in response?

Our Dads (z"l)

Both of them died at 56, of the identical, rare cancer. We agree that we became adults overnight at the time. His dad (z"l) died in '88, when he was 22 and mine (z"l), in '82, when I was 17 -- right around the same time of year, within two weeks of each other. I sit there, feeling jealous and competitive; at least his dad saw him graduate from high school and college.


He is a gentleman, a mensch.

I have yet to regret getting together with anyone from my Stamford past.

This lunch, plus Teena Marie's passing earlier this week, are making me feel tons of pre-teen and adolescent memories. I'd rather feel my feelings than ignore them, I guess. How can I channel them for further good, though?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Teena Marie: Magic

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

Need to Photograph, Scan & Post My Roller Skates in Tribute

Teena Marie, who died at only 54 last night, was among the best musical reasons to go on when I was a teenager.

Her music was the soundtrack for so much of my rollerskating, and then rollerblading, solo-sessions from 13-27. Moving to her music on or off my skates, she made me feel romantic, joyful, soulful, even beautiful, and in good company....If she could sing this great music that played mostly on "urban contemporary," i.e., Black radio stations, then it also made sense that I, a Jewish girl in the suburbs, loved listening to it.

This feels like when Aaliyah died, since I love both of their voices, but Teena Marie's death reminds me that my adolescence definitely has passed.


The thing about cats is that they don't comfort their human parents reliably the way that dogs are famous for doing. I'm just lucky that it's warm behind the computer and Phoebe's little face is facing me while I grieve and write and listen to a YouTube Teena Marie playlist in parallel.

In tribute, I'll re-post a Facebook note I responded to here:

My Life as Teena Marie Song-titles
by Sarah Siegel on Sunday, July 12, 2009 at 9:35am

"Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to 15 people you like (or think will actually do this) and tag me. Try not to repeat a song title. It's harder than you think."

Your Artist: Teena Marie

Are you male or female: If I Were a Bell

Describe yourself: Ooh Wee

How do you feel about yourself: Still in Love

Describe where you currently live: Out on a Limb

The first thing you think of when you wake up: It Must Be Magic

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Behind the Groove

Your favorite form of transportation: Don't Look Back

Your best friend is: You're All the Boogie I Need

Your favorite color is: Midnight Magnet

What's the weather like: 14K

If your life were a TV show, what would it be called: Ooo La La La

What is life to you: Squarebiz

What is the best advice you have to give: Work It

If you could change your name, what would it be: A Rose by Any Other Name

Your favorite food is: I Need Your Lovin'

How I would like to die: Just Us Two

My soul's present condition: Jammin'

The faults I can bear: Young Love

How would you describe your love life: Since Day One

What are you going to post this as: My Life as Teena Marie Song-titles

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Prepping for oSTEM at U of M Remarks

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

Cannot Reminisce Tiresomely; Rather, Must Give Them What They Need

Here I was at 21, appearing in my college yearbook. I wanted to look sporty and pretty at once. No more wearing feminine stuff just to fit in. I wore a navy-blue Michigan hoody sweatshirt over a turquoise, tropical shirt and completed the look with a doubled strand of translucent, plastic, magenta beads 'cause for the first time ever, no one was there to suggest an outfit for my yearbook picture; as someone who had just finally opened up publicly about my sexual orientation during senior year, unwittingly, yet apparently, I was going for a butch-femme blend....Well, I can reminisce tiresomely here, but not at the oSTEM at U of M session.

oSTEM stands for Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (as in, out about one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity). How did *I* a Comparative Literature major come to be speaking to such a student group about six weeks from now? How did I come to be working for technology companies for 20+ years, practically my entire career so far? In my experience, like with learning, the most interesting outcomes in life tend to be incidental.

Meandering through my undergrad years, I had no idea what my career would be; I knew just that I wished it could include writing and that I could make good money at it. Since I didn't have the particular talent for screenwriting or blockbuster-best-seller writing, good money and writing struck me as mutually exclusive...till an ex-girlfriend -- she was a current girlfriend at the time -- introduced me to the tech. writing profession. And that's how I got my start....

What I want to ask the undergrads who attend my session

  1. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being most integrated, how integrated do you already feel your personal and professional identities are?
  2. Have you met the love of your life here at Michigan, or while in college?
  3. Are you out to your family?
  4. Have you studied abroad? If so, where?
  5. Are you open to going on an international assignment for your job?
  6. What does your research or word of mouth tell you are the LGBT-friendliest companies or organizations to work for?
  7. Do you see your sexual orientation or gender identity & expression as a potential barrier to realizing your deepest ambition? Why or why not?
  8. Are you open about your sexual orientation at your internship or current part-time job if you have one?
  9. Do you plan to be out about your identity from Day One on your post-graduation job?
  10. What does success look like to you?
If I had answered some of these questions at their age, #1 would have been, "1," as I had zero professional identity then, unless you count the temp jobs I had, doing office-work during school-breaks....It never occurred to me to find a co-op job at a company like IBM; #2 would have been, "Yes," and would have been incorrect; and I would responded yes for #3, as I came out to my family during senior year. Question #6 was not even in the realm of my imagination back then; and paradoxically, considering I felt so unsure of what I wanted to do for my career, #10 would have been a similar answer to the one I'd give today, fortunately: to have stable love and stable work to make me much richer than I'd be without either one.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

If I Were a 17-year-old Boy

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

Boy? Man? Guy.

First, I wouldn't want to be called a boy. do novelists do it? I'm having a failure of imagination. I can picture only what I *was* like, as a 17-year-old girl:

I was amorous and lonely; grief-stricken at my dad's death on November 1st of my senior year; and an active dancer among my friends at high school dances. Fortunately, we went as a group and danced as a group.

At 17, I had a girlfriend and a boyfriend and the boyfriend did not know about the girlfriend, but the girlfriend -- and my mother -- knew about both. A tumultuous existence. I felt money-strapped and privileged; and smart finally, but half-hearted about school once my dad died. I was anxious about which college(s) would accept me, or not, and wanted to be out of the house without knowing how challenging that would be, having lived there for a solid 18 years.

I was furtive and gregarious. Kind and fake. Prudish publicly and hyper-sexual privately. Active with skiing and with eating as much candy and junk as I could bare, and more. Luckily, my metabolism is so fast that I didn't need to vomit. "Don't drink. Don't smoke. What do you do?" From an Adam Ant song that was popular then....

I wanted love and security and to be a star, but of what, I wasn't sure. All of this occurs to me as I get ready to spend the afternoon in Manhattan with my 17-year-old nephew Zach.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Kind of Coming Out During This Season of Giving

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

Re-posted from the GLBT IBMers & Friends Community Behind IBM's Firewall

I almost didn't go. Ultimately, I became convinced to show up by reminding myself how much I had enjoyed every other event I'd ever been to that had been hosted by Thinking Out Loud, a lesbian professional group that had been started by some great women at Ernst & Young in New York City.

December 15th, all day, was a busy time at work -- when isn't it? -- and yet I deserved the gift of seeing the group; I'd had a work-meeting conflict with the prior event this past spring and wanted not to miss another one. The invitation went, "Being near the holidays, we thought it timely to talk about women and our role as LGBT leaders in giving back. Our guests to lead the conversation will be Ellen Glazerman, who heads EY’s foundation, and Jane Canner, president of non-profit, Classroom Inc."

Maybe all of you are super-open about your philanthropic inclinations, but historically, I've only told if asked, and hardly anyone has ever asked.

There was a smaller crowd than usual, perhaps due to the bitter cold, or the less central location this time, or that others felt similarly shy about discussing how they gave philanthropically, but in any case, 10 of us introduced ourselves, including:

* For which firm we worked
* To which GLBT organizations we contributed.

Nine other women listened to, or at least witnessed, my list: "[In terms of the GLBT Community,] I give to NCLR [the National Center for Lesbian Rights] through United Way, and we give to Lambda Legal and to our GLBT synagogue, Beit Simchat Torah, and that's it." (We give the token donation here or there, when asked, e.g., to AIDS rides, but I was referring to Pat's and my mutually-designated organizations.)

Ellen Glazerman of EY quoted the Institute for Gay & Lesbian Strategic Studies and a Harris Poll, saying, "Gay donors tend to give 2.5% of personal income..." compared with "...the general population, which tends to give 2.2%...." GLBT people give it, she continued, as follows: 25% to GLBT issues; 23% to political party/candidate; 22% say it's important to give to politicians who support us.

She also told us that a Denver-based research organization, Ordinary Magic, stated, "20% of lesbians surveyed said they didn't give because they weren't asked..." and that openly-lesbian and openly-gay people give more than those who are not out.

IBM, like most firms, I'd guess, has a no solicitation policy, and this blog-entry [remember, this blog-entry is also sitting behind the IBM firewall, on an IBM server] is not a specific solicitation, certainly. It's more so another coming out on my part.

Like sexual orientation, historically, money-topics have been a bit taboo, depending on the people you're with and I guess I'm challenging the taboo with this entry.

Annually, for years, my IBM colleague, David Chase, has done the most constructive thing related to this charitable giving topic. He has informed U.S.-based IBMers of the GLBT organizations already on IBM's United Way list, and also has provided guidelines on how to apply to have a favorite GLBT organization added, if it is not already there.

After the session ended, I confessed to one of the participants that I almost didn't come because I was uncomfortable with talking about my charitable giving.

She was compassionate in response. Finally, I was glad I went because like with any truth-telling, I felt less heavy afterward.