Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reflections on *Ek Naukrani Ki Diary* & *The Help*

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

We Are Not Essentially All the Same

...And the trick is not to be afraid of our differences while we're searching for common ground -- and not all ground needs to, nor should, be common. A light-brown-skinned Indian friend of mine recommended that I read *The Help* more than a year ago. At that point, I was in the thick of my part-time Masters program and wanted only to read books that I had found, since so little of my discretionary time was available for reading anything other than journal articles and textbook chapters.

A couple of months ago, I reached the point where I had much more time available and finally read first a fiction recommendation by my mom, *Cutting for Stone*, about twin boys raised in Ethiopia and much more, which was superb. When I picked up *The Help* directly afterward, I was jarred by the dialect and thought it was predictable initially, and put it down for more than a month. In its place, I picked up *The Stranger's Child*, the writing of which was beautiful, but the plot of which did not compel me the way the author's prior novel, *The Line of Beauty* had.

And then suddenly, Pat and many of her Facebook friends were reading *The Help* and loving it, and that was almost the nail in its coffin, since Pat and I rarely have the same taste in books. Still, I picked it back up and went ahead.

What I Related To:

Now that I'm done with the novel, which turns out to have borrowed from the author's experience -- and doesn't all fiction? -- I do appreciate it and feel enriched for having read it. *Ek Naukrani Ki diary*/*The Diary of a Maidservant*, which I found and read while we were living in India in 2007, was written by a well-educated man and translated by a well-educated woman, rather than having been written by an actual maid in India, and yet, I heard the maid's voice, just as I heard the voices of the maids in *The Help*, which was written by a well-educated White woman.

For six months in 2007, we benefited from the cleaning services of a daily maid. That was the first and last time in our lives, and the whole time I was reading the book, I was feeling like I needed to keep it out of sight of our maid, who spoke good English, and I was also feeling guilty, that is, there but for the grace of God or whomever go I. With *The Help*, a lot went through my head about my own Whiteness and the memory of recognizing it best when we lived in India. The same Indian friend who recommended *The Help* once said to me, "If I were in a wheelchair and you and I entered a restaurant, you would be attended to first [because of the color of your skin]."

In the United States, I always felt not quite White, since as a Jew, I was on the Ku Klux Klan's list along with Black people. I'm pretty sure I've written about this here before. And yet I also recall my dad's stories about growing up in Washington, DC in the '30s and early-40s and how discriminatory it was there for Black people, and also how during his U.S. Navy experience on the USS Alabama, he said that all of the Black sailors were waiters and they lived at the bottom of the ship.

Both books -- the Indian and the U.S. one -- were about abused workers who wanted a vehicle/voice to express the abuse, but who were not historically entitled to express it or protest it. How can I relate to them? Can I?

My second semester at Michigan, I needed more work-study hours and signed up to mop the cafeteria floors. They paired us up -- two per half -- and the cafeteria spanned the width of the super-wide dorm. As moppers, we were invisible, cleaning the floors pre-meals and then disappearing. It was the closest I ever got to being a maid or janitor and it didn't feel great. The difference was that when my shift ended, I could go study, or to class, or to play badminton with my friend Gerald or go eat in the cafeteria, and the janitorial identity was just temporary -- a means to help pay for my terrific education.

Wait, when I stretch back further, I recall a relative who treated my sisters and me like maids. Often, this relative lay in bed watching TV. Routinely, she would ring a cow-bell and one of us had to come running. "Get me an orange and a knife," she'd command. We'd run and get it. "You forgot a napkin!" she'd say with frustration and we'd go running again. She also paid us 50 cents an hour to clean her home. Back then, that felt like a good wage because we were eight and 13, though it wasn't minimum wage...and I don't think we even knew about the concept of minimum wage.

Still, ultimately, that was all temporary. Why was I born White, with education-oriented parents, in the 20th century? Many Indians would respond that it's the effects of karma, but it's mysterious to me. Still, through their maid characters, both authors did a detailed job of enabling the maids to observe the pain of their employers, of being anyone who's alive -- whether privileged or not. The jealousies and heartbreaks and pettiness-es and desires and shame -- they are the common ground.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Like the Jewish Cartoonists Who Invented Superheroes

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

Feeling Part of the American Family Once Removed

Every year around this time, I begin to feel un-American. U.S. Thanksgiving is the gateway to the Christmas season that many now inclusively refer to as the holiday season, but I always feel like many Americans really are still thinking of Christmas.

Thank God, this year, "a first look at life's newest solutions:"

This patented "menorahment" reminds me of a similar impulse I learned of five years ago with Pat and our friends Judy & Jim at the Milwaukee Art Museum. While there, we saw a terrific show on comic book artists. Through it, I learned that many of the most famous American superheroes were created by Jewish artists who were realizing their deepest fantasies of what it would be like to be ultra-American, which at that time, was a contrast to how they felt as Jews, i.e., to be loved/admired/respected by the whole community, and to be able to protect it from evil-doers. Somehow, this tree-topper seems born of similar wishes -- to be a star that is part of, yet in parallel apart from, the rest of the earth-bound ornament community. This item was featured in "Skymall" magazine, just in time for the holidays.

Who Am I Kidding?

When I am with people from beyond the United States, I'm reminded that compared to them, I'm as ultra-American as any comic book character, to the point albeit unwittingly of caricature occasionally. For example, with a Dutch friend who lives in Paris, I'm visible from a mile away when we're in Milan on business, in my bright red raincoat; Europeans do not wear such bright colors in their rainwear. Or I'm silly for taking a series of vitamins daily with my breakfast. But here, in the United States, I sometimes feel like a foreigner during this season compared to most of my fellow countrypeople. Perhaps it's the impossibly challenging combo of being a Jew who would never have need for a menorahment along with the challenge of staying engaged in the series of football games that populate our Green Bay branch of our family's home all day on Thanksgiving (and every Sunday and Monday night during the long season).

This year, though, I came to think about this outsider sensation in a new way, since I'm fresh from finishing my Masters thesis on cultural intelligence. Yesterday, I even tweeted about it: "In one way, surely, I'm culturally intelligent: I try to dress like the locals when in Green Bay; today, I'm wearing Packer-logo'ed pants." In the case of my thesis, cultural intelligence referred to being able to work effectively with colleagues and clients from other countries, but in my own life, currently, I've come to realize that there can be a domestic version as well. In addition to aligning my sartorial choices with those of the townspeople, when in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I need to be able to "talk cheese." Or at least, I need to be able to comprehend it when Pat and random strangers engage in it.

At breakfast today, the hotel cook chatted with us during his break and Pat and he went on endlessly with what I've always thought of as small-talk. I've never seen a conversation like this anywhere in the Northeast, where I grew up. Here, it's common. I first learned about it during -20 degree Fahrenheit weather, when Pat was pumping gas in Green Bay during one of our annual visits 18 years ago. "Where were you?" I asked Pat when she finally returned from paying the gas jockey.

"Oh, we were talkin' cheese," she answered simply.

Somehow, no matter how American I seem to my European friend, with my multivitamins and red raincoat, when we head into Football Season, into the Christmas gateway of Thanksgiving and into Green Bay, Wisconsin, I feel like one of these things is not like the other, to borrow a phrase from the American kids' show, "Sesame Street."

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Blog as Confidante

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

You're Not Going to Blog About This, Are You?

My thyroid's messed up. A few weeks ago, my mom and Pat & I did not yet know why I had lost 12 pounds in a month without any reduction in my food intake. It was pure scariness then. Total mystery. Blind anxiety.

When we first discussed my health a few weeks ago, "Please tell me you haven't blogged about this," my mother said.

"No, Mom, I haven't yet."


"I may want to at some point."

How can I explain that even though up to a couple dozen people stop by daily and I have some followers, my blog feels most of all like a friend in whom I confide.

Today, I went to the endocrinologist and she said that I have some form of hyperthyroidism and she's sending me for a bunch more tests to determine precisely which kind.

I will not be done with the tests until the 29th of November, my middle sister's birthday. On the up-side, the doctor complimented me on my fitness, which never happened before. My blood pressure was 105/70 and my resting heart-rate was 68 beats/minute, which for someone who hasn't done much exercise in the past month, and who is 46, we didn't think was bad at all.

God, I must count my blessings, rather than being babyish and anxious with fear. Next step might be to tweet about it and see who's willing to share any experience s/he has w/hyperthyroidism. As with most life-situations, I'm sure I'm not alone.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wishing to Realize a Fantasy

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

If We Visited My Parents' Friends, Then My Father (z"l) Was Not Dead

It was my fantasy. If my mother and I drove three hours plus, we could reach a place, where my father of blessed memory (z"l) was still alive. A place with lots of leaves and people who seemed part of their land, rather than guests of it. A place where I could hear my father's voice, which is only faint to me now. A place, where my father and I were relative giants once I was no longer little, and which was full of pleasant surprises. A place, where perhaps no one remembered me well because I was the youngest and the younger ones always remember the older ones more than vice versa.

The Gently Painful Reality

Yesterday, the station wagon arrived at the white-clapboard house with its stone-slab steps. My mother was in the passenger seat as usual. My father (z"l) wasn't driving it, though, and his daughters weren't clambering restlessly around the back-seat and the way-back. It was just my mother and me.

Maybe my dad would be there already.

Last time we visited, I didn't even have a driver's license.

"Station Road. You just passed it," my mother said.

"Potter Road is what the GPS is telling me, not Station."

"I remember it was Station."

My mother remembered everything, too.

We got out of the car and saw that the party was down a mini nature-trail, in a clearing in the distance. My mom looked hopeless. "I can't make it down there [with my walker and bad back]."

"We'll ask the Gaineses to come up here."

"We can't expect them to leave the party they're hosting, Sarah."

"Well, let's at least go to the bathroom now."

I got my mother's walker out of the way-back, and she looked up at the house in despair. "I can't make it up there."

I had been the father, driving us to the Gaineses, and now, I was the mother. All I came for was to be the kid again, with two parents.

"I'm sorry, Mom, but I've gotta go," I said without making eye-contact.

A new, pleasant surprise: Two young boys appeared and said they would help us. I asked the older one to lead me to the bathroom inside the house.

"Here's the downstairs one," he told me, and as I walked toward it, I saw three horses in stone or cement relief on the wall and remembered them from when I was a kid. Nothing else other than the layout of the house was familiar.

When I emerged, I saw my mom sitting in the foyer, like magic; she had gotten herself up the steps -- or had the boys helped her?

And then more magic: My mom rolled slowly down to the clearing in the woods. My parents' friends, their youngest daughter and her musical husband -- who were the parents of the two sweet boys -- and several other friends were there, but my father wasn't...and my mother was, thank God.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

B'nai Mitzvah, Turtlebacks, Moonbeams and the Jets

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

"No, they won't have a moment of silence at one o'clock, Sarah; they want people to order food and drinks, not lose their appetite." Pat told me this on the way to the restaurant, where we met our friends Felice & Stacy. Pat was right, as usual.

While waiting for our food, we talked of where we were that day. Me: in Manhattan, at 590 Madison Ave., till my Boca-Raton-based manager at the time sent me an instant message, telling me to leave the building immediately, as he worried that whoever had destroyed the World Trade Center would keep going after U.S. landmarks, and even if they didn't want to blow up our IBM building, we were next to the Trump Tower, which he thought could become a target. I talked of how I saw the dark cloud in my rear-view mirror the whole way up Madison Ave., and how parents were rushing across my path at red lights, holding their kids' hands -- the kids who they went to get from their schools -- and how it seemed that all of us made eye-contact....

In May, I posted a collection of several years' worth of commemorative blog-entries, but never did gain the energy to post screenshots of 2002-2006 entries. And I'm not going to re-read any of the entries today.

Living in Metro-NY, we've had a ton of coverage, and even our twin nephews' bar mitzvah remarks referred to 9/11, since they became b'nai mitzvah (plural of bar mitzvah) on 9/10/yesterday. They were just three years old when the Towers went down, but the tragedy touched their special day in any case.

On the way home from the celebration, heading toward the Midtown Tunnel, Pat & I saw a number of commemorative billboards, including this one:

Tonight, it's a full moon and I'm glad I can see moonbeams, but no longer the twin-beams from NYC, since the backyard trees have grown fuller over the past 10 years. Today, I was determined to have a life-affirming time, which we did by going to the zoo with Stacy & Felice after lunch. Here I am on a lizard sculpture:
Even so, I made sure to take my cellphone with me today, just in case, and found myself extremely anxious as I watched the start of the Jets-Cowboys game, where the whole crowd was chanting, "USA! USA! USA!..." Please, don't provoke them, I said to myself and then turned to Pat and said, "You know that I've always thought that if terrorists wanted to do further monumental damage, they'd blow up a football stadium full of top teams and fans. God forbid!" It hasn't happened, and God willing, it won't. Pat & I swam this morning, spent time with friends and animals, watched football, and now, we're tired. Please, God, keep this 10th anniversary of 9/11 safe.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Same As It Ever Was

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

...Only More Satisfying

Last week, while Pat & I were vacationing in Alaska, our niece Zoe started her first year of college. In these days of Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry and Fountains of Wayne, may she find life-long friends and suffer minimal turbulence while living apart from her parents and brothers for the first, real time. Zoe's milestone vividly takes me back to the days of Talking Heads, Madonna, Al Jarreau and Laurie Anderson, i.e., my freshman year, especially because Pat & I ended our trip with a couple of days of vacationing in Vancouver with two of the first friends I made in college.

Lisa, Marni and Sarah at the Vancouver Public Library

When I began college 28 years ago, I couldn't imagine affording an Alaskan vacation, nor that I would wed a woman. Still, as extraordinary as both events would have been to my 18-year-old mind, not so much about me has changed since then, other than seeming more relaxed. Lisa and Marni confirmed this for me. They're right. I am more at ease, since revealing a number of secrets.

The review of Wendy Wasserstein's biography that I read in last Sunday's "New York Times" reminded me of openness vs. secrets. As a sophomore, during a Women's Studies course, I read Wendy Wasserstein's play, "Uncommon Women and Others." The play focused on a post-college reunion by a group of female college friends.

As I read it, I found it comforting to see their post-grad development combined with effectively muscle-memory conversations with one another, as though they had never parted company. When I read the NYT review, the critic honed in on how, for all her wide-open writing, Wendy Wasserstein was a pretty secretive person when it came to her own life, e.g., not telling people that she was dying, plus some other earlier family secrets.

Don't many of us try to keep secrets? In college, mine were that I was more attracted to women than men; had an eating disorder, where I binged whenever I could; and also a number of family secrets that were my family's to tell, not mine. It never occurred to me that my friends probably had their respective collections of secrets as well.

Who knows what Zoe's secrets are? Or her friends'. I just pray that she can have the same warm, funny, challenging, healing, fun, earnest, sad, buoyant, hopeful time as Wendy Wasserstein's characters, Marni, Lisa and I had when she reunites with friends post-college.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Playing Outside

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

Weeding While Singing

Pat cajoled me; she got me to do major weeding this afternoon, and she helped, which made it bearable. What if I were Jain? Seems sad to uproot any living thing, but Pat tells me that the weeds choke the flowers -- the gladioli, the roses, the lamb's ear, the irises and dahlias -- so....

While weeding with my iPod on, I sang along loudly to Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do for Love" and Scritti Politti's "A Perfect Way." The first song came out when I was 13 and the second when I was 20. The first song put me in a romantic mood when I was a new teen and the second one made me smile, imagining that *I* "...knew a perfect way to make the girls go crazy."

Finding a Scooter Buddy

When we got done, I saw the little kid next door, playing on her driveway, with her foot-powered scooter lying on its side at the top of the driveway. Either she moved in a month ago, or was staying with her grandmother for the summer. She couldn't have been more than six or seven. I went into our garage and took my Razor off its hook; Pat had given it to me for my 35th birthday, when Razors were especially popular, and to make my commute to NYC more streamlined. I unfolded it and pulled its neck to its full length, then walked out of the garage and called over to the girl, "Guess what I have?"

She did a double-take and then ran up her driveway to get hers. I scootered down our driveway into the street and to the foot of her driveway and asked, "May I come onto your driveway?"

She nodded. I seemed to be at least twice her height and width.

"I'm Sarah. What's your name?"


"That's a cool name --"

"My mom found it in a baby book."

She was fast. I followed her to the top of her driveway. "Look," I said, pointing to the foam on the handlebars and to the wheels, all of which were orange. "Orange is my favorite color," I said.

"Black is my favorite color," she answered, and I saw that her Razor's trim was classic-black, and then, "Look at this," and she shut her eyes and rolled in a big circle.

"That's great. Your eyes were closed," I said, when she stopped. "I'd be too afraid to do that."

"I just pretend that my mother is holding the handlebars as I do it."

Sweet. "That's great. Have you told your mom that?"

"Yes. It's my sisters' birthday today. They're twins."

"Happy birthday to them." When's the party? Why is she alone, playing outside? How come I've never seen them? How much younger are they?

"I thought they were boys when they were born because they had no hair."

"Did you have hair when you were born?"

"I just had a curl on the top here," she said, pointing to the center of the top of her scalp, which now, was covered with cutely arranged, long, dark, fuzzy corn-rows.

"I had thick, black hair, I'm told, but no eyebrows. My sisters prayed for them to grow and they did, but you can see that they're still not that thick." She didn't look.

"I didn't have eyebrows either." Hmm. Do I believe her? No.

"My mom had a baby yesterday."

"Is that really true?"

"Yes, a boy."

"What's his name?"

"Brian. It's my father's name."


Eva scootered over to a patch of dirt next to the driveway and talked about some vegetables that they had planted unsuccessfully.

"Well, we planted tomatoes on our deck and guess what happened to them?"

She looked at me, wanting to know.

"There's a squirrel who's been eating them."

"We put garbage bags over ours with a hole at the top for the water and then the animals just think they're garbage."

"That's clever." And the plants don't suffocate?

We do some more scootering and I spot a smooth, small, light-purple, semi-faceted chunk of plastic in the middle of the driveway. "Hey Eva, come here! Look, this matches your dress."

"Oh, that's from my collection of diamonds. Come here, I'll show you," she says, scootering down to nearly the foot of the driveway and letting her scooter fall over into the grass. She crouches over a pile of them and keeps unearthing them from under the mulch near a Bonsai-ish pine tree. "They used to be around this tree, as decoration."

"How neat," I said, and felt like it was the most magic I'd seen in a long time -- these sleek, purple, plastic jewel-pebbles, being pluckable from the black mulch. I felt sweat trickling down my temples from the heat and the weeding and scootering, and didn't know what to do with my awe and childhood-reminiscent thrill. "I'm sweaty and I have to go inside now," I said a bit abruptly.

She nodded without looking up at me. "Nice meeting you, Eva." She nodded again. I scootered down her driveway and back up mine, pressed the code to open one of the garage doors and looked over and saw her watching me. When she saw me see her, she looked back down at the purple pile.

A couple hours later, Pat & I were on our deck, sitting in our double-rocker and hearing party-noise next-door. Pat: "Yeah, they've got 'Happy Birthday' balloons out front."

Maybe Brian does exist. Why not, if there can be purple diamonds?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Have You Been Here Before?

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

Yes, Five Years Ago

I push this new friend's shoulder playfully and say, "Don't wait another five years to come back!"

"Well, I'm from Berlin," she says and I feel silly.

"Ah, well...."

Pat & I are headed out of Shabbat services last night when I see a woman, standing by herself near the exit. Is she an older version of a young woman I knew when I lived in Jerusalem? I look at her like she looks familiar, but then realize she's not. She's not at all old enough to be that friend.

She has thick, nearly black hair to just above her shoulders; dark, twinkling eyes; is almost slight in physique at a quick glance; and is a few inches shorter, and many years younger, than I.

"Lots of young Israeli lesbians are coming to Berlin..." she says when I ask her how big the community is where she's from. I'm trying to act casual about her homeland, but it's still wild to me to meet a young, Jewish person, let alone a young, Jewish lesbian, from Germany -- it's just the generation I'm from, I guess, but I'm still stuck in a Holocaust time-warp when I least expect it.

"I was in Hamburg once, but just overnight for a focus group, for business," I say, and she becomes excited that I've been to Germany. "I've been told that when I go back, I really need to see Berlin."

"Yes, definitely, you should," she says, looking at both of us.

Pat recalls that a congregant's family is from Germany and that he gave a Torah from the family to the local, re-built synagogue in the town they were from.

I bring him over to meet her. Pat & I want to leave in any case, as that's how we spotted the woman at the exit in the first place, but we don't like to ignore strangers.

Once the woman and he begin speaking in German, I excuse us. The woman looks anxious and I say, "Are you on Facebook?"

"No, I've not wanted to be, but I can see that I'm going to need to be before long....Let's exchange e-mail addresses, in case you come to Berlin."

"Sure." I write down Pat's and mine and she writes hers -- her name spelled backwards.

Wow, a young, Jewish lesbian, living in Berlin today....Humanity hosts so many stories.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Do You Remember Minky's Bike Shop?

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

Rabbi Weiss' Mother Nods, Yes

Instantly, I'm 21 and reliving the Summer of '87. I'm in the storefront-shop, near the corner of Devon & Mozart, in the Jewish and Indian neighborhood of Chicago. Could Rabbi Weiss' mother and I be contemporaries, since her mother remembers Minky's?
Rabbi Weiss' age is a bit of a mystery, except I'm sure she's younger than I.

It's comforting to make a quick connection with the rabbi's mother, since Rabbi Weiss met mine when she officiated at our wedding, and since the Rabbi's name appears with our families' and ours in "The New York Times" announcement. The rabbi's mom and I know Minky's!

When I Was a Struggling Magazine Intern in West Rogers Park...

Minky's was tiny, and messily full of -- in my memory, anyhow -- mostly used bikes. I bought one of them for $25 from Minky himself; he was a white-haired, older guy with a sweet face and thick, bike-grease-painted hands. I'm pretty sure he, too, was Jewish, though not observant enough to wear a kippah. I bought the bike just days after moving three blocks away from the bike shop, into a tiny room on the top floor of a blond-brick three-flat, 6137 N. Mozart. I joined two female roommates, who needed a third. One had a fiancé, earning an MBA at Northwestern.

Even in 1987, $25 was cheap for a used bike; it was a cheerful blue, similar to the blue of the "Preview" button in, where this blog is made, only a bit less powdery, and brighter. It was the color that appealed to me. I don't think it had any speeds/gears to shift. During the first couple of weekends, I rode it down to the Rocks at Belmont Ave. and the Lake, and I'd sit with it among my people, but would not speak to anyone. And there was no way I was going to go to services at Or Chadash, the gay synagogue, where I would have found more of my people -- and where, three and a half years later, I found Pat -- because I was in a Judaism-has-no-room-for-me-as-a-lesbian phase and I was intent on proving myself right.

Through reading the gay newspapers, which I picked up for free at The Closet, a lesbian-owned bar near that part of the Lakefront, I learned where the gay and lesbian people hung out on the Lake. What I wanted to know culturally, I read, rather than speaking with anyone; they were just a bunch of strangers who made me feel lonelier in their friends-clusters and boyfriends and girlfriends-pairings.

My own girlfriend at the time was finishing her English Master's that summer in Ann Arbor, which was where we met at the start of my senior year of undergrad. She visited me just once that summer prior to our moving in to an apartment together in the fall...which we should not have done, as we weren't suited to each other, but I have digressed.

What I have digressed from: naming the experience of living in a brand new city, effectively alone, at 21, and the loneliness and insecurity that it inspired.

Fewer than 10 days after the purchase, my blue bike was stolen from the the three-flat's basement. The only other luxury I bought myself that summer was a cassette-tape-playing Walkman, which I would play during the six-block walk back and forth from my summer internship at "Inside Chicago" magazine.

Amy Feldman was the journalist who supervised me directly and tried to help me learn to write for the magazine. I must contact her. Probably, she was just a year or two older than I, and kind, but I was closeted, i.e., never declared myself; probably, she knew and simply was gentle with me. Our editor was Debbie Loeser, who was fun and generous, too.

How unfortunate that I couldn't let myself be myself; if I had, they might have gotten more than my little travel-piece on Ann Arbor, including much more useful help with the Dr. Lauren Berlant interview. Oh, boy, what a great article that could have been -- a U. of Chicago English professor, who chose to meet with me at the Randolph Street McDonald's, and who spoke for much of the time on Rap music as poetry. Sadly, I was so guarded and so full of pound-bags of nearby, gas-station-convenience-store cookies and Fluky's hotdogs that whole summer -- I ate to tranquilize myself in the face of my aloneness -- that I couldn't produce any more than I did.

I've written about this Devon Avenue moment a number of times, but during that lonely summer, it seemed all too apt when I passed a doorway in the Indian part of the neighborhood that was still wet with new paint and over which the painter had hung a sign: "FRESH PAIN."

Meanwhile, a Quarter of a Century Later...

On Friday night, in New York City, during the Summer of '11, my partner of 19 years -- and wife of 15 days -- and I find our favorite spot at services, right in the middle of the second row. A minute later, Rabbi Weiss brings over an attractive woman, who is closer to my age than Pat's, to sit in front of us and then the rabbi returns to the pulpit, where she prepares to begin the service a few minutes later. I wonder if the woman is her mom and after she has settled into her chair, I say, "Shabbat shalom," and introduce myself and Pat, and she responds, "I'm Marcie, the rabbi's mother."

When we establish that we had lived just two blocks away from each other in Chicago -- even though probably during different periods -- I time-travel to the neighborhood where Rabbi Weiss' mother grew up and where I spent my first summer out of college and become that lonely, young woman again. Pat brings me back when she tells Rabbi Weiss' mother how special our mother/mother-in-law, and we, think her daughter is, and how stellar Rabbi Weiss was as our officiant.

"I should have recognized you. You two were in Facebook; I saw it!" she says, perhaps because I had tagged Rabbi Weiss when I posted the NYT announcement-link in my profile. The rabbi's mother also acknowledges our kudos, saying that it's a special pleasure to visit our synagogue, to hear all of the nice things congregants say about her daughter.

The next day, while driving from Pat's & my house in Montclair to my mother's house in Stamford -- the same house, where I grew up -- I think of Rabbi Weiss' mother's role in healing my life; she gave birth to, and helped raise, the rabbi who sanctified Pat's & my long-time relationship.

In my car-ride-length fantasy, I imagine a five- or 10-year-old version of Rabbi Weiss, running around her neighborhood at the same time that I, during my 22nd summer (I turned 22 in mid-July), am learning how to live in the world [of West Rogers Park], as a college-grad without much else to claim. During my trip back to Stamford, where Pat & I also were married two weeks prior, I enjoy thinking that the rabbi's parents start out with her in West Rogers Park and then move to Evanston later, after the Summer of 1987.

In creating this blog-entry, I check my reality by researching Rabbi Weiss a bit and see that she is 11 years younger than I and a native of Evanston. In that case, Rabbi Weiss would have been 10 during my first summer in Chicago, and instead, was playing several miles north-east of West Rogers Park at the time. That's all right. It still was real that Rabbi Weiss' mom grew up just two blocks from where I got my post-college start, and still, I could feel healed, knowing that a girl from that mostly-Orthodox Jewish (and Indian) neighborhood gave birth to Rabbi Weiss, who gave birth to Pat's & my legal marriage.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Long-time-coming Contentment

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

Relief Rollercoaster

Rabbi Rachel Weiss, smiling a beautiful, broad smile, as she has done practically throughout the relatively short and very sweet ceremony: "Now, if anyone would like to say a word -- not a sentence or paragraph -- about what they're feeling right now, please go ahead."

Pat, Rabbi Weiss, and me

Oh, no, I think silently, but loudly, this is the pressure-part for everyone. What if no one says anything? An otherwise surprisingly relaxing ceremony feels suddenly tense for me.

My mother begins, "I don't want to give away either of you because you're both too precious to me."

My tension drains. How perfect. Unsolicitedly, my mom has taken up the mantle, serving as the proxy for Pat's mom, who, at 87, is too frail to travel from Green Bay for the wedding, and for both of our dead fathers (z"l). My mom is all of our parents for the day, and also, finally -- genuinely -- Pat is her daughter-in-law.

"OK, 'precious.' Who else?" asks the rabbi.

"L'chaim!" says my brother-in-law Gary, coming into view behind the rabbi.

"Mazel tov!" says our friend of 18 years, Carol Vericker, who's holding one of the chuppah poles.

"B'hatzlichah!" says David Chase, our friend of 17 years, and another chuppah-pole holder.

"To your success [or good luck]!" the rabbi translates.

I reward David with a big smile. David, who's an athiest, is the most respectful person I know when it comes to others' religious and cultural traditions. I don't recall when he found out that "B'hatzlichah!" was an appropriate phrase to use with Jewish friends, just that it was prior to our occasion, for another pair of friends.

I don't say a word then, but if I had done so, I could have chosen from, "finally [after 19 years]" or "relief" or "joy" or "buoyancy" or "phew!" These words remind me that we were invited by the team to create a 3-minute-or-less-in-length video of how we met and got together, and we did so. In addition, we submitted an announcement, which was published today.

Directly prior to the wedding, my words would have been, "awed," "self-conscious," "on-display" and "torn."

Our niece Zoe, her grandmother -- my mom -- Sam & Max, Zoe's brothers, at the High Line

"Awed" because I was feeling that it was practically too good to be true that my immediate family and four dear friends-as-family were gathered for an occasion that was in honor particularly of Pat & me. That feeling stayed with me all day, including at lunch afterward as I looked at everyone around the table; at the High Line prior to Shabbat services; and then again at shul, during services.

The only other time I had ever had a special moment(s) with a rabbi prior to a ceremony that involved me was for my dad's (z"l) funeral when I was a year younger than Zoe (and our other nephew Zach), at 17....I don't even recall a rabbi at my bat mitzvah, which I celebrated with my family at Camp Ramah...and that was not my finest hour, as I had been too busy, having a vivid sleep-away camp experience, rather than practicing my Torah reading, and so I was a tentative performer; I guess I'm trying not to remember that occasion.

"Self-conscious" and "on-display" because I was wearing the most beautiful, most classically feminine, most cadet-blue dress I had ever had on in my life, including open-toed dress-sandals with lavender-painted nails and I felt as vulnerable as I predicted I would. I was convinced to wear what I did by a heterosexual friend who had said to me some weeks ago, "Well, doesn't everyone feel vulnerable on wedding days in any case?" By "vulnerable," both of us meant, super-public, rather than private, and in various senses, almost naked, rather than armored, no matter what we're wearing.

Another two, lesbian friends were influential, too, as both of them had chosen to wear a dress for their weddings in Massachusetts because, they agreed, it was an ultra-special occasion. One of them and I also share a love of using virtual worlds for learning and I said, "And besides, you're familiar with that Stanford research that says that thin avatars influence their obese creators to lose weight? Well, as you know, my Second Life avatar is super-femme and I think she's influencing my real-life choice of outfit."

My friend understood, and I think our avatars would have been proud of me.

"Torn" because three of my relatives hit traffic and were late, and the ceremony already should have been in progress. While waiting for them, I experienced a bonus-dilemma: I ran into a friend I had met through another friend and our affiliation with a national organization that advocated against gender-stereotyping. I didn't realize that she worked in Stamford's Government Center, where we held the ceremony, outside of the cafeteria on the 4th floor, in a space that resembled a city-park.

She was with a colleague and I was happy for the coincidence, but anxious about our late-start, and our conversation was holding up the proceedings further. Pat walked over and I said, "This is Pat, my...fiancée."

"Yes, hi. I think we've met," she said -- and I recalled Pat, being with me at a benefit or two for the organization. Since my friend lived in Stamford and my mother still did, too, I had brought her to my mom's house to meet my mother some years ago. Pat's presence by my side reminded me of the occasion and snapped me back into the present.

In a split-second, I decided, no, I won't invite her to join us; this is going to go as planned, as much as possible. We are having just my immediate family -- my mom, two sisters, brothers-in-law and collectively, their four kids, plus four friends to serve as Pat's proxy-family, and who we chose because they were the first two couples to befriend us as we were moving to New Jersey from Illinois more than 15 years ago.

"I hope you'll understand, it's just a small, family wedding," I told my friend.

She nodded, of course, and I hugged her and walked back over to Pat and the rabbi. Oy! I wish I had been more flexible and just said, "Please join us."

After the ceremony, which was brief by design -- about 20 minutes in length total -- I saw that she was still at the picnic table, where she had been prior, though her colleague was gone. I approached her.

She said, "I like to work outside when the weather's nice. Guess who sends her best wishes?" She had called our mutual friend to let her know that Pat & I were marrying. I felt like a jerk for not including her, since I'm supposedly so committed to inclusion everywhere, all the time; oy! Pat came over again, which helped wash away my guilt for a moment, as I was happier than guilty in saying, "And here's my wife."

My friend smiled and Pat made a nice comment about the friend this friend had called, and then walked back to the rest of our family. My guilt returned. I looked at my friend sheepishly and she switched topics, "You know, I still have those tefillin for you," she said.

"I *know*. Every time I'm in Stamford, it seems I'm here with my mom and then gone and back to see my mom and then gone, but yes, we have to figure out a time."

This friend is a transwoman and while she recognizes that women, who are not Orthodox Jews, are welcome to wear tefillin, they remind her of the years, where she had to present herself as a boy and man, which wasn't true to herself.

I wonder what she was thinking as I walked away. I hope she forgave me.

Bonus Reflections By My Mom and Me

Two days later, as I write this, above all, I'm happy to be Pat's wife, finally, after nearly two decades. It reminds me of a shirt that our friend Gerard changed into for the evening, which featured a great photo of David and read, "Married to David in 2003" above the photo, and below it, "His fiancé for 16 years."

As I pressed, "Publish post" just now, my mom called me. "You said that Pat told you I looked contemplative during the ceremony?" my mom asked.

"Yes, 'contemplative.'"

"I was. I was thinking, Thank God I lived to see this day."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Our Wedding Day

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

Feeling Like the Translation of My Name

"Sarah" is the Hebrew word for "princess." And I do feel essentially female and lovely, and even regal today. Please, God, let it last. Other than wishing I had had 90 minutes more of sleep each night for the past couple of weeks, I feel fresh and excited.

All these years, I've felt sort of in limbo societally -- more fish and fowl than human, as I had gotten to age 45 without experiencing either of two classic milestones of human adulthood: being married and having children. Today, I'm declaring my humanity ultimately through marrying Pat. The up-side of having to wait so long is that our lovely niece and nephews can participate in our wedding in more substantial ways, e.g., Zoe's gonna take candid photos.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, Pat," I asked as we woke up this morning, "How worried are you?"

"10. Just kidding. I'm not worried at all," she said. Fundamentally, I believe Pat, which is another reason for marrying her.

Please, God, let today go spiritually. May we do Your will. Amen.

Note added on Saturday, post-wedding: My oldest sister Deb's toast to Pat & me included her assessment that paradoxically, I'm the most conventional of the three sisters/daughters, i.e., we were the first to buy a house, we live in a suburb...and so if the reference above to "classic milestones of adulthood" sounds ultra-conventional, I guess I gotta admit to having conventional taste in a number of areas.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Get Married? Why Get Married Now?

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

Why Marry Pat?

Rabbi Rachel Weiss, our congregation's assistant rabbi, and the rabbi who is officiating at our wedding, asked us to meet with her today with the answers to these questions written down. We were to read them aloud to each other...which we did. Here were my responses:

• Why get married:

For a sense of security, and to solidify and legitimate and assert the value of a love-relationship. Because I grew up, expecting to marry. Because it’s societally normative and I crave feeling normative. Because lots of people can relate to my being married better than to my being in a domestic partnership. Because we’ll be able to switch our Facebook statuses to “Married.” Because I celebrated my sisters’ marriages and it’s my turn.

• Why get married now?

Because we can legally in Connecticut and it will be recognized in various places worldwide, including Canada and Israel, where we’ll be this year and next on vacation, God willing. And because our mothers are 85 and 87 and we don’t know for how much longer they’ll be with us. Because it’s time, i.e., I’ve worked on my internalized homophobia and finally feel readier than I ever have.

• Why marry Pat?

Because I love her. Why do I love her? Because Pat is kind, loyal, honest, funny, pretty and handsome, graceful, smart, dignified, silly, takes care of me and our household, loves me and is attracted to me, believes in me and is on my side. She’s a safe haven to come home to and she relaxes me – helps me feel less anxious. Because she supports me and because I enjoy no one’s company better than Pat’s. I’m never bored with Pat. She entertains me. I’m her best, of many, fans.

I also want to marry Pat per se because we share core-values, even though our taste differs in books and art. Our values include that we’re Jewish and not just culturally; we enjoy being affiliated with a congregation and with CBST specifically; we’re more gullible and innocent than cynical; humor matters and so does kindness, as well as doing service and demonstrating leadership; we’re both out and stand up to indignities publicly, even when no one else does.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

No Dad to "Give Me Away"

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

Nor Cousin Alfred...

By the time this high school yearbook photo was taken, my father of blessed memory/(z"l) already was dead. There was no other photo of me over my lifetime that looked as sad to me as this one looked. Back then, I did not yet know that I would have lasting love and be a bride of someone with whom I was in love; an excellent, restored relationship with my mom; great higher education; a stimulating job that included my being sent on assignment to India for six months; additional, terrific higher education; lovely niece and nephews; and impressive physical and mental health (k'ayn ayin ha'rah/as long as the evil eye stays away).

My dad (z"l) died in 1982, at 56. I was 17.

As he lay on his death-bed during the summer of '82, I told him that my high school boyfriend, who had broken up with me when we were 15, had written to me from college, saying that he wanted to get back together. "What should I do, Dad?"

"Buy a wedding dress," he said.

Out of fear of losing my father's love, I did not also say that into my decision, I needed to factor my secret girlfriend -- secret to him, but not ultimately to my mother, who found out just weeks after my dad's demise.

Here's a picture of his grave that I snapped while visiting it this past Wednesday in the late afternoon. You can see that the right half is empty; it will feature my mom's name in Hebrew and the dates of her birth and death, too. Since his funeral on November 2nd, 1982, I've visited my father's grave just a handful of times. My fiancée Pat and I will not be permitted to be buried with a joint-headstone in that cemetery, since it's affiliated with an Orthodox synagogue. We will be buried in our synagogue's cemetery instead. How would my dad have received the news that I'm marrying a woman and not a man?

My father (z"l) is not here corporeally to give me away and neither is my cousin Alfred of blessed memory, who walked both of my sisters down their wedding aisles. Pat's father passed away years ago, too. As Rabbi Rachel Weiss from our congregation officiates, we will give ourselves away to each other. Pat reminds me of my dad: She is tall and carries herself with dignity, and has a great sense of humor, and indulges me. In the car with either one, for example, I'd plead, "Don't turn the radio station! It's my favorite song!"

"Which favorite song is this, Sarah?" my father would ask, smiling -- and Pat has learned to ask as well -- but then neither would touch the dial.

Leaving the cemetery on Wednesday, I washed my hands ritually to cleanse myself of the old and new deaths around me and then added my own ritual: I blasted the radio as I pulled out of the driveway. The song at that very moment was one of my all-time favorites from 1982 -- the year of his death(!) At that point, I felt like my dad was with me, whether or not he'd have relished giving me away to a woman (or enjoyed listening to that particular song). Maybe he was telling me that just as he always let me listen to the pop music I loved, he would support my marrying the person I loved....

When my beloved dad was dying, the song really spoke to me, particularly its refrain, "Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge; I'm trying not to lose my head huh huh huh huh huh...."

My father was with me again, I think, when my mom and I headed to dinner the following evening. On Thursday nights during the summer, Stamford's Bedford Street features live bands. As we were crossing the street toward the restaurant, my mom started dancing along as she rolled by with her walker. A police officer smiled at us. Turns out, it was a cover of J. Giels Band's biggest hit. We sat down to dinner and my mom laughed when I told her the story that the song tells. While blogging just now, I looked up the year that the song became a hit: 1982!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Historic Moment

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

Re-posted from My Internal, IBM Blog, "Learning to Lead"

In the ladies room earlier, I ran into a colleague who has been with IBM for nearly half of its history. In my case, my service counts for 21 years in July, though I joined IBM in July of 1996, from a joint-venture at the time called Advantis.

I was telling my colleague that I'm in awe of her, and also proud of my own lasting-power (knock on wood!), to have service-credit that adds up to a fifth of IBM's history. She was generous in acknowledging my tenure and I know why she's lasted so long; she's intellectually curious, rather than complacent:

Recently, she asked me for my perspective on how Cloud Computing will be profitable for IBM long-term. I wasn't sure of the answer, but knew who to ask...and I think that's one of the secrets of why I've lasted as long as I have (k'ayn ayin hara/Yiddish for Banish the evil eye [which would stop my tenure, God forbid]!) -- I know how to ask for help from smart colleagues. Another secret -- not that anyone asked but I'm marveling and also reflecting on my service -- is that historically, I've been great with change. (I might appear inflexible occasionally in day-to-day work --hope not, but I know I can feel inflexible sometimes, whether or not I express it aloud -- but when a huge change comes down the line, historically, I've morphed along with it.)

IBM's 100 Icons of progress, especially e-business and Building an equal opportunity workforce are fun memory-joggers, but none of them precisely reflects the career moment I'm proudest of so far; at CHQ's Centennial celebration, we were invited to reflect on the hugest moment we could recall in our careers or that we've witnessed at IBM. I wrote about the marvelous experience of being sent on a six-month assignment to India to co-design & co-facilitate accelerated leadership development offerings and in parallel, helping plant the seeds for IBM's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) diversity network group in India.

So many wondrous accomplishments have happened in IBM's 100-year history, and that's the power of as many as 427,000 brains applied to many missions within a single, ever-more globally-integrated enterprise. Similarly, in a fifth of that time, I still marvel at how much good has happened in my career and life, primarily fueled by a much smaller pool of brains and love. God willing I will be married on July 1st and then, again, God willing, I will earn my Master's in Adult Learning and Leadership by no later than May, 2012. Neither of these events was a given, and better late than never in my case. I have so much to be grateful for.

This morning, I posted a notice in the Connections Community for the organization I'm part of, the Center for Advanced Learning, stating:

Smarm alert: As we celebrate IBM's centennial, I'm honored be to where I am in my IBM career. Besides feeling that I'm in the right mission, I love the colleagues of my team & our CAL organization because you're smart & menschlich (Yiddish for humane). This notice will expire on the 17th by design.
Posted on 16 Jun 2011 at 10:56 by Sarah Siegel

The notice will expire by the 17th, just as IBM's actual 100-year birthday will end at the end of today, but my gratitude for all that I have is endless.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lesbian Life Underground in Milan

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


Four young women, standing on the Milan metro platform at 11ish pm. One is tall with a mohawk hairstyle and a tender face. The rest wear their long hair gathered up in loose buns at the tops of their youthful heads. One of the blond ones, in cargo pants and chic glasses, hugs the brunette one who's just her size. Are they consoling each other? Or just drunk? What are they doing out so late (what am *I* doing out so late?...It's my last night in Milan and I'm on my own, coming back from the Navigli canal area, where I took myself to dinner at El Brellin).

They're not drunk. They're perfectly alert and they see me, and the men, watching them. They begin kissing ardently, as though they're alone, or as though they're showing off for an easy audience.

Am I under the influence of alcohol? No, I don't drink. Am I seeing a mirage? I flash back to another business trip: Miami, early-July, 2001, when a gorgeous couple of young women emerge from the ocean, naked, holding hands and walking gracefully past me up the beach. No one comments. Most try to pretend they don't notice. Both times, in Miami and in Milan, I express a little smile, of gratitude for their gorgeous display of affection, of desire, of rueful longing for the days when I was similarly youthful, of love and affiliation.

When the Milan subway-train arrives, I enter their car. In their continual, contrasting, chaste-ness, the mohawk-sporter and the other blond-bunned woman sit across from the couple, ignoring their behavior like indulgent, ennui-filled parent-figures. At first, the woman in glasses stands in front of the other one, doing a little dance with their knees. When she sits down, her girlfriend leans into her and they begin kissing again, but just briefly. This time, again, most seem not to notice, other than me, who is further delighted and trying not to be too baldly voyeuristic, and an older woman at the far end of the subway-car. Her expression is angry, disgusted and transforms into one of dissatisfaction when she catches my eye and I do not mirror her apparent revulsion.

My stop, the Duomo, is next. We arrive, and I hate to get off the train. As I exit, I force myself not to turn around for one more look at the bold young women.

Lady Gaga & a Leadership Development Conference

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

Re-posted from my IBM internal "Learning to Lead" Blog

I snapped this photo at the Galleria's Massimo Dutti store, by the Duomo; to me, they looked like a couple.

"Dio errori non ne fa." / "God makes no mistakes." This was among the only statements translated into English in Francesca Giuliani's article on p. 53 of the June 7th edition of Italy's newspaper, "la Repubblica;" it seemed to be a reference to Lady Gaga's new song, "Born This Way," and her planned appearance at yesterday's festival associated with Rome's Europride celebration for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. How apt to read that statement as I flew from Newark to Milan to help facilitate the GLBT Leadership Development Conference that I co-designed for 30 IBM senior, but not yet executive, GLBT leaders from across Europe....

As a result of the conference, a delegate in a critical role pledged that he would not accept a lucrative offer that was on the table from [a competitor]; another decided that pursuing a promotion was worth the effort after all, though prior to the Conference, he had convinced himself not to try; another recruited six other delegates for half a year's worth of monthly programs in the podcast series he calls "Radio Eyrie," which is designed to be a collection of informal learning on what selected gay, lesbian, bi and trans IBM leaders know about their parts of the IBM business and can explain to any IBMer who wants to listen; hope they add a link from it to IBM's Informal Learning Exchange (ILX).

In addition to the delegates' commitments to further developing business, GLBT Community initiatives and themselves as leaders, I found the following moments of the conference to be among the most profound:
  • Delegates' arrival; hadn't been a host of what felt like such a warm reception line since my Bat Mitzvah at 13; everyone seemed so pleased to be there, and I was, too
  • Lucio Toninelli, HR VP, Italy, talking about how Italy as a country has some distance yet to go in becoming GLBT-friendly: "You don't change a culture of centuries overnight, but you don't give up"
  • A delegate's:
    • Enthusiastic reaction to the cost-of-thinking-twice flowchart that openly-lesbian IBM Managing Director Claudia Woody adapted from IBM alumnus John Martin
    • Gratitude for being helped to expand his career vista simply by being asked in plenary, "Is a future IBM CEO in this room today?"
    • Self-reminder that she needs to shut down negative self-talk that says, I'll never fit in and so never will reach my potential
    • Plea for more decision-making power/empowerment as a manager in response to another delegate's experience that anything is possible...if one is willing to go through however many necessary checks and balances, i.e., so many checks and balances should be unnecessary, he felt, if we are serious about Our Value of Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships
    • Conclusion about external speaker, Andrea Notarnicola's, quote from author Martha Nussbaum's message, "...disgust is not an appropriate guide for decision-making;" the delegate realized that just as she hopes that non-GLBT leaders heed the message when they assess GLBT employees, she needs to heed it as well, regarding anyone with whom she is not natively comfortable
  • Delegates' selected, early experiences of first recognizing themselves as leaders, including:
    • Being put into the officers' stream of the Royal Air Force and accepting the role (and then being discharged for homosexual activity)
    • After 5 or 6 months as a first-line manager, being introduced as "my boss" by one of his direct reports; he realized then that he needed to rise to the occasion and demonstrate real leadership
    • Becoming the Head Boy in a South African boarding school, after speaking no English just four years prior, and managing 15 Prefects, and then being a people manager for his entire career so far
    • Not seeing self as a leader, but:
      • Rather, as a thought leader, e.g., being asked for a rationale on why Database Marketing & Market Intelligence should merge, and this was 10 years prior to the industry doing the same
      • Having it thrust on him, since first serving as a Prefect at 16 and then always managing teams in his career.
    • Helping advance GLBT inclusion among:
      • The UK's Sea Cadets
      • A major, national Lutheran youth organization.
    • In the movie theater, where he worked at 15, suggesting to his management that he could do the best job as the manager and having his management listen and appoint him...and he *did*
    • When he was a kid, having all of the other kids always looking to him for what they would play every day and now, fast-forward to his volunteer-work, leading a national association for Gay and Lesbian people in Denmark.
  • My reminder that IBMers have lived/worked/done business in many countries other than their own, and so even though everyone currently lived in Europe, a substantial number had lived/worked/done business everywhere from Indonesia, to Malaysia, to Mozambique, to Thailand, to the United States, to Zimbabwe and others
  • External speaker, Andrea's, smart-phone metaphor about the 21st century and gay, lesbian, bi & transpeople's leadership opportunities: Our lives are in our hands....I agree!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One Month from Today...

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

Pat & I Will Be Married

July 1st is the day. I found what I'll wear the other day online -- we'll see if it fits when it comes. Pat never reads this blog, so I'll tell you that it's a floor-length, silk-cotton dress with a cowl neck in front and back, in cadet blue. She'll see it for the first time on our wedding-day. Pat knows only that it's a dress and told me today that she's surprised that I'm choosing to wear a dress.

"Do you not want me to?"

Pat didn't answer.

"I just think it's a special day," I said, but I know what she means, since I've worn a dress just twice the whole time we've been together, to two formal gala events. Well, this is not formal, not a gala, but it is a major milestone, so I think I wanna do so. It'll depend on whether or not it fits. I'm too self-conscious to shop for it live, so if the online route fails, I might not do it. We'll see.

The nightmare I blogged about previously reflects my vulnerability around wearing something other than pants to our wedding. So it's easier to talk about what I'll wear than what it means that I'll be married 30 days from now. Today, I read a "New York Times" article on how it's easy to like technology, but how hard to love people in all the complexity that love requires.

People are complex. It will mean more when we're married than it means now, even though we've been together for nearly 19 years. It is a big deal. I'll need to blog more about it over this next month. Gonna go back to Pat's & my Florida vacation w/our friends now. More later....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Last Night I Dreamt I Wore a Mini-skirt to Work...

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

...and Stood in Front of a Breezy, Full Classroom Sans Underpants

Perhaps it will take some time to decompress from work-mode, but this blog-entry's heading and sub-heading sum up the anxiety that comes with three good problems: my being on vacation; thinking about an upcoming trip, where I need to stand in front of a classroom and be effective, so that the participants can be effective; and day-dreaming about my upcoming marriage to Pat.

I left my ThinkPad at home while we're in Florida and so cannot look at work e-mail even if I wanted to do so; was thinking that I should have brought my modules with me to practice for the trip; and am puzzling over what to wear when Pat and I get married on in July. In reaction to my clothing dilemma, a new friend said the other day, "I think that as humans, we need to be feeling some struggle at all times, and another friend said more practically, "Sometimes, it's more about the color and the fabric...."

The dream, I guess, was trying to tell me to spend time, preparing for the class I'll facilitate, and that no matter what I choose to wear to get married to Pat, be sure the outfit includes underwear.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What a Difference a Week Makes!

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

Allowing Contentment, and Even Excitement

"You haven't changed. You're a worrier," said a mentor emeritus; he retired in 2006. We were at a party to celebrate two other colleagues who retired this year and we were talking about my self-questioning nature -- to put it tactfully.

The declaration, "You're a worrier," was both upsetting and a relief. On the one hand, who wants to be recognized as anxious, rather than resolutely confident, and on the other hand, it was a healthy dismissal of the things I was saying as nothing more than free-floating anxiety, rather than as reality.

...which reminded me of how I had been thinking of Pat's and my upcoming marriage a week ago: tons of questions with a big helping of internalized homophobia. How different I feel just a week later. Here's why:

  1. Pat & I met with our rabbi to discuss how she'll officiate and it sounded beautiful, and she acknowledged, and did not dwell on my internalized homophobia, but rather spoke in practically, purely positive terms
  2. I told more people our news, all of whom were happy for us and encouraging
  3. Pat & I bought rings yesterday, which are beautiful and which we'll give each other during the rabbi's service; we also liked how the seller spoke of his company's early granting of domestic partner benefits
  4. I told another couple -- women who've been together for 23 years -- of our plan and they were persuaded to consider marrying in a country or state, where it's legal, too; like us, they did not realize how relatively simple it now was to transform themselves into a legally-married couple.
The rabbi wants to meet with us again and wants us to bring written answers to the following questions that we'll share with each other and her at the same time, at that meeting:
  1. Why marry?
  2. Why marry now?
  3. Why marry each other?
The request is so appealing to me, but so unappealing to Pat. In her typical irreverence, she said to me as we drove home from meeting with the rabbi, "Would you do my answers, too?"

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Getting Married This Summer

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

Why Doesn't It Feel Paradisal?

Note: This blog-entry is being published with Pat's readily-granted approval...which is another of the many reasons I want to marry her.

I have a therapist and I have friends, and yet my blog also comforts me by being a tireless host for my reflections.

This blog has about eight followers a day, so there is only a small chance of most people I know (or don't know), seeing this news. Perhaps, I'm being weird about it and yet not as weird as some; otherwise, the term elopement wouldn't exist. I'm being weird, so far, because I've announced Pat's & my news only to my mom and siblings; Pat's mother and sibling -- both of our fathers died years ago; four friends; our rabbi; and my manager, with whom I wanted to negotiate the honeymoon-week for next year, after my Master's is done. Why haven't I told my all of my friends, or teammates at work?

Perhaps that's not the weirdest part. Perhaps it's weirder that Pat & I just want our family with us. Well, again, that's where elopement comes in, i.e., so far, we haven't done *that*, so I suppose we could be even weirder.

Questions that Prevent Me from Feeling Pure Euphoria

  • Why didn't this happen for me in my twenties?
  • Why couldn't I have been attracted to a man and marry a man?
  • Why fix something that's not broken; after all, we've been together for nearly 19 years?
  • What should we wear?
  • Why are some of my family trying to make me feel guilty about who I want to include?
  • Will we have any pictures or will we be too shy?
  • Will I be uplifted by the experience itself [because so far, there have been some less-than-delightful administrative moments]?
  • Will our mothers be able to be visibly happy for us? (Both were lovely in their response to our news, but what will their faces look like in the moment, or is that just my own, internalized homophobia that might wear a scowl?)
  • How will I feel, standing there -- peaceful finally or still a range of emotions?
  • What would it be like if we could get each other big rocks for our fingers and if money were no object?
  • Why do I feel so vulnerable and raw, so out of control whenever I tell the few people I've told so far?
  • Why do I care what anyone thinks of me?
  • Will I feel less bitter about same-gender marriage still being outlawed federally if Pat & I marry legally, where it *is* possible?
  • What's the heterosexual version of this sort of suffering around getting married?
  • Not to flatter myself, but if anyone of my Facebook friends stumbles on this entry, is it fair to ask them not to post publicly on my wall with their reaction, but rather to send me a private message?
  • Why, in contrast to my wish re: Facebook above, do I hope that someone/anyone adds a public comment to my blog-entry here?
  • Why do I wish we could marry now, rather than waiting another minute?
  • What if the blurb we submit doesn't get included in "The New York Times?"
  • Why don't Pat & I plan to do anything beyond:
    1. Being married by our rabbi in a Connecticut city hall
    2. Having lunch afterward with our family and the rabbi
    3. Going to synagogue that night with our mothers, siblings and their families and sponsoring the simple kiddush (reception)
  • Do I wish I could just wake up married?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Memories of 9/11, 2010-2007 & 2001

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

News from 11ish pm (ET), 1 May 2011, Reminds Me...

There is no rejoicing, just remembrance:

I have 2002-2006 entries as well, but have to add them as multiple screenshots as time allows in the coming day(s). The entry from 2008 makes no mention of the 2001 events and I like that. Hope that September 11th can go back to its former non-significance from now on...but this September will be the 10-year anniversary, so we'll see.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

One Last Nap Before Waking

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

Shhh; Mostly, Buds Are Still Nestled Under Their Covers

Pat and I went for a walk last weekend, after the winter storm watch stopped. We drove to Pound Ridge, New York & Bedford, New York and here is some of what we saw:

This is the Morgenthau Preserve in Pound Ridge, New York, about 20 minutes from where I grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, and so the terrain -- rocks, trees, stonewalls, native plants -- is the same. Just a few steps into the trail, a huge, fluffy, white dog with muddy paws burst toward us from up the hill. There's a sign at the front of the preserve that reads, "No pets," so we figured it was from a neighboring house. A moment later, a woman walked by above us, acting nonchalant and not calling to the dog. Otherwise, it was the peaceful sort of place to walk around with another person, but both of us have seen too many crime-shows and agreed we'd never walk around there alone, sadly.

By contrast to these woodsy photos, I'm listening to fun R&B as I write the narrative for this entry, and Kashif's "Help Yourself to My Love" is playing on Probably, this was among the songs that played on my FM radio headphones (pre-Walkman days) as I rollerskated up and down Hickory Road, across the street from my childhood house. Hickory Road featured a stonewall like this one all the way down one side of it. Pat liked the lichen all over these stones.

It's hard to tell, but if you know skunk cabbage, you can see the center of some in the middle of this photo. My neighborhood-friends, Didi, Helene and HoneyB and I used to pull out these cores and toss them at each other to be funny. Skunk cabbage is called skunk cabbage for a reason. Didi grew up to be a Pan Am flight attendant and then a jeweler and her little sister Helene is a luxury travel agent based in London; HoneyB also lives in a London suburb...but there we were as little kids, tromping around in the sometimes swampy Connecticut woods among stonewalls, vines and skunk cabbage.

Here's the sign Pat and I found at the start of our hiking adventure in Bedford, New York, which is next to Pound Ridge. As we walked, we felt like we were in a scene from a PBC Masterpiece Mysteries show, which usually happen in the English countryside. It was a cloudy afternoon and chilly. Again, had we been alone, a pastoral day in the woods and fields would have felt creepy, I'm sure.

I figured it was a Dogwood tree -- hard for me to tell without flowers -- but Pat, who's taken a class on tree-identification more recently than I (last year for her vs. 35 years ago, for me, when I was 10) assured me that it was a Magnolia. I would not have thought of Magnolias as being native to the Northeast; I always think of them as a Southern tree -- maybe due to that movie, "Steel Magnolias." I liked their peach-fuzzy buds. The bad news was that almost nothing was in bloom yet during our visit. The good news was that we had the sense that everything was taking a final nap prior to waking up for the season, and the other plus was that we had the garden and fields to ourselves.

Inside the box labeled, "Bedford Audubon Society," were charcoal pencils for sketching and stickers of birds. I felt like a kid again and wished I had paper with me to do some drawing, but settled for photographing what I saw with my Droid phone instead. It's interesting that when I was a kid, the closest thing to my cellphone camera would have been a Polaroid camera, but while the photos likewise would have been instant, they would not have been instantly, globally distributable. Miki Howard is doing her version of Boz Skagg's "Lowdown" now on -- the original version also is from my early years.

It's easy to see where they found the stones to build this house. When we moved from Illinois to New Jersey 15 years ago, Pat was sad about our soil. She was used to rich, black dirt in Illinois. Northeastern soil is full of rocks. And in my case, I found Illinois soil disorienting in its purity.

When Pat and I lived in Bengaluru/Bangalore, India for six months in 2007, one of our favorite leisure-moments was a guided tour of the Lal Bagh by a local botanist. Lal Bagh is the city's park and botanical garden. It featured so many tree-varieties, including a gigantic Banyan tree, the tall roots of which accommodated a large Muslim family or group of friends as a natural sofa. This little American Beech couldn't have been more different than the Banyan. Many of the trees in the woods in Bedford had been labeled, including a Sugar Maple, White and Black Oaks and even Witch Hazel. I didn't even know there was such a tree. I just thought that Witch Hazel was an astringent that came in a bottle. Now, I know where the medicine comes from.

Probably, my life-long love of rocks and minerals began as I played outside as a child. There are so many interesting geologic formations in the part of the world, where I grew up. Most common was mirror-like, silvery, layered mica, orange-pink feldspar and gneiss. And while our soil was challenging for gardeners, the land hosted giant boulders that always made me think of ancient times, when they first must have emerged. Here's one that Pat has walked past: a big bunch of gneiss.

Finally, here's another natural toy we played with as kids: Milkweed. This photo shows how the pod already has burst open and the wispy, silky seeds are beginning to fly out on their own. When we were young, milkweed was a miracle. A bunch used to grow on the left side of our driveway and the neighborhood kids, including my sisters and I, would split open the pods and if they weren't yet ready to release their seeds, the inside was milky. We'd pull out the seeds with their feathery tails in any case and toss them around. The whole area should have been full of milkweeds, considering our yearly campaign. Sometimes, by myself, I'd open a pod and rub the silky parts against my cheek and would feel soothed, less lonely.

Now, on, the Brothers Johnson are urging everyone to "Stomp." How can I be blogging about tender childhood moments while listening to R&B music on in parallel? The answer might be found in this excellent article by Virgina Heffernan. She talks about how the Internet is no more an addiction than other, "...classier pastimes..." e.g., reading fiction or listening to operas. So why not be writing, posting photos and listening to songs from my youth concurrently?...I think I know why: It's likely that I could have focused and made a more poignant product if I had just been blogging around the photos, without the additional musical stimulation. Or perhaps not. Maybe a different creative product emerges with pluses as well as minuses.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Poems Inspired by a Book

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

Where My Sisters and I Are

Where are the sisters who read *Hiawatha* to me?
Who gave me magic-mask shampoos and rides on the
soles of their upturned feet?

Where are the sisters who played Chess with me and
Serata and taught me to bike-ride? Who made
whirlpools to gather leaves in our tree-canopied
pool and skinny-dipped with me on summer-nights?

Where are the sisters who taught me how to sing
"Ma Nishtana" at the Passover Seder? Who watched
forbidden TV with me when our parents were out?

Where are the sisters who mothered me and helped
me defy our mother in parallel? Who spent time
with me when our mother was too tired and who
baked Scotch Shortbread when our mother was out,
since she almost never brought sugary snacks
into our home?

Where are the sisters who taught me "The Facts of
Life" at the school bus-stop, when I was seven? Who
endured the aftermath of my eating an entire box of
Sunsweet(TM) prunes during an eight-hour ride, as our
father (not yet of blessed memory then) drove us up to
Rochester for my mother's mother's -- our nana's --
funeral when I was eight?

Where are the sisters who celebrated my first birthday
as a teen by taking me to a Pointer Sisters concert in
Central Park? Who hosted me in Tel Aviv and at
Columbia University during two special weekends, also
in my teen-years?

Where are the sisters who left their record collections
behind when they left the house, enabling me to play
Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Steeleye Span, Leonard
Cohen and Aqualung albums, which reminded me of them,
even as I preferred groups like the Pointer Sisters?

Where are the sisters who left me, feeling effectively
like an only-child day-to-day, since I was the only
daughter left in the house from ages 11-18? Who helped
me dress for my father's (z"l) funeral at 17, selecting
a red, paisley, wool scarf to wear over black, and then
cutting the scarf for me while I was wearing it, as a
sign of mourning?

Where are the sisters who bailed me out in Chicago, when
I needed an urgent, $200-loan? Who made me feel hopeful
during low periods? Who sacrificed a good chunk of their
childhoods to be second and third mothers to me?

They are parenting their own children now, making life-
histories with their husbands and helping me keep our
aging mother company.

Where am I? Still providing companionship for my mom, but
also parenting, and receiving parenting from, my partner
Pat, and co-parenting two adopted cats. I'm glad I've lived
long enough to form my own family, and wish I didn't still
feel pouty about my sisters' genuine children, interrupting
the attention I got from my sisters back in the day.

And I am grateful still to have one out of four of my
original parents left, and a new one in Pat, over the past
nearly 19 years.

Pausing on Page 124 for Reflection Disguised as Poetry

Jill Bialosky's youngest sister did not finish her life
I have a sister Jill's age, and one in between; I'm the
youngest, like Jill's baby sister Kim.

Never wanted to kill myself, except fleetingly, in Chicago,
in my early-twenties, after a love didn't work out and since
I felt like I was in a job beneath me with no idea of how to
climb out from under it. No romantic love, no real money and
neither in sight; those were my reasons for despair.

My friend, Marsha, coincidentally from the same Cleveland
suburb as Jill and her little sister, Shaker Heights, said,
"You don't want to die. You just want the pain to stop."

True! That's all I wanted. And I never again contemplated
suicide. Probably, what had kept the idea at bay till then, as
much as a lack of desperation up to that point, was an elementary
school lesson:

We were taught that it was forbidden for Jews to kill ourselves
and that those of us who did were buried on the fringe of the
cemetery, not alongside the rest of our family and community.

Little did I know that since my dad of blessed memory was
buried in the cemetery affiliated with the Modern Orthodox
synagogue, where we belonged when he died, I'm not qualified to
be buried alongside my family and community in any case, since I
want to be buried next to Pat[ricia], with a joint-headstone that
indicates our couplehood.

In my case, and ultimately in Jill's little sister's case, the
early-twenties were challenging to survive. My middle sister
encouraged me once during that period: "Sarah, turning 30 was like
being let out of jail." Everything became easier once my twenties
were over.

I wish Kim Bialosky had had a friend like Marsha, or had been
haunted by the Orthodox rabbis' warning or had not lost her father
so early, or....Like Jill, the author, I am wishing for a solution
to the mystery of her sister Kim's suicide and maybe all there will
ever be are clear clues -- looks that way so far....

Both of these poems were inspired by *History of a Suicide: My sister's Unfinished Life;* here's a link to an interview with the author.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Impressions of PFLAG's 2011 Straight for Equality Awards Gala

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

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

Joseph Bertolotti kindly asked me to be his guest at PFLAG's 3rd annual Straight for Equality Awards Gala at the Marriott Marquis in NYC. We were grateful that in her role, Pinki Modi organized IBM's presence at the event. Here's a picture from the experience:

It was like old times; Joseph and I started up the GLBT Sales team in 2001 and worked together closely for three years. We live just a few miles from each other's home in New Jersey, though we didn't know each other prior to serving in our roles. Joseph pulled up in the driveway and we were so psychic: My blouse under my suit and his tie were solid, complimentary, similar shades of blue. "Joseph, look!" I said, pointing.

"Just like the prom," he said smiling...the prom I never went to. Joseph went to three, and I was never asked :-(

We walked up to the reception outside the ballroom on the fifth floor and I spotted one of the most beautiful lesbian entrepreneurs I recall from Joseph's and my selling days; an unexpected shyness gripped me as Joseph exclaimed excitedly that we needed to say hello to her...after each of us used the facilities. Upon meeting Joseph outside the men's room, near the coat-check area, I ran into Tim Collins from IBM and his partner Tom; I'd not yet met Tom. MetLife, Tom's employer, was going to win the Corporate Award, so the couple wore the tuxes they were married in. There's something so cool about a tux, on any gender.

Paul Frene came over while we were getting to know Tom. Paul and I were among the founders of what became Out & Equal - Metro-NY and it's really Paul's work that got MetLife to the honored place it would hold that evening. We introduced Paul to Tom as colleagues and then excused ourselves to talk with the beautiful entrepreneur, figuring that we would be seated at the table with Tim and Tom and could talk more then; Paul and Tom launched into shop-talk, so we figured they wouldn't miss us.

The woman was even more charismatic than I remember and she introduced Joseph and me to some of her female colleagues, pointing at us and saying, "These guys are old-school --"

"Thanks a lot," I interrupted, "So we're old!"

"No, no," she said, "They really got things going, what, 10 years ago?"

We smiled. IBM really was in the vanguard in 2001, when Joseph and I started up the team dedicated to the GLBT business-to-business market.This whole section of the evening had a poignant sweetness about it, like Joseph and I were being given an opportunity to time-travel back a decade, back when we stood and sat side-by-side at so many of these great community occasions. And even though all three of us were 10 years older, we still looked pretty good and were healthy, thank God....If only I were less vain....

We came to the table and already, seats were filled around Tom and Tim, and so our plan of socializing with them over dinner was foiled. I felt shy again. The people at the table who struck me as PFLAG parents were gracious and welcoming, but I felt a bit disoriented at first. Really, I had been hosted at a GLBT gala just once, by Erica Karp of UBS, at New York City's LGBT Center Women's Event some years ago, and rather, was used to *being* the host, along with Joseph. I guess I'm saying that I was comfortable, ushering people to the IBM table and hosting them, but not as much with arriving at a table of strangers, other than Tim and Tom, though Kathy & Robert Reim, and Tammy & Rachel Reim-Ledbetter, plus Mike Neubecker and Dr. Steve Krantz weren't strangers for long. During the Broadway Boys' opening entertainment, I started feeling uncomfortable that I hadn't yet introduced myself to Tammy & Rachel, the two young women, sitting across the table.

During the first break, I asked Joseph to come over with me. We introduced ourselves to Tammy and Rachel and learned that they were a couple, and were the daughter and in-law of the couple to their left. And then I learned that they worked for an Alaska credit union, and so I asked Joseph and them if I could sit down and talk with them about Alaska, since Pat & I were planning a trip there in August. Joseph understood and went over to Walter Schubert's table to say hi; as the first openly-gay man with a seat on the NYSE and as a founding board member of NGLCC, Walter was a great partner to Joseph and me in our work. I went over to say hi a bit later.

As I talked with the young couple, even though they were beautiful like the entrepreneur, I relaxed and felt at home and comfortable for the first time that evening; a beautiful couple is easier to talk with than a beautiful woman in a couple whose partner is not with her, and when my partner's not with me, e.g., in the entrepreneur's case. Their faces were kind, and I could imagine Pat, meeting and enjoying them as well. After the Alaska exchange, we traded stories about how they go with their mom/mother-in-law to rural towns in the Washington State region, including to cowboy bars, and win over the patrons through sharing their family experiences. My unexpressed stereotype was that heterosexual cowboys wouldn't necessarily get it; their cowboy-bar stories reminded me of the time my sister asked me to come talk with a group of 11th graders at the Brooklyn International High School, where she was the principal at the time, about being out at work. "These students are not privileged. They're new immigrants and refugees, and can you guess who was the most receptive to my visit? A visibly Muslim Arab girl; she wore a hijab....She told me she related to my story around being stigmatized by society; this was not long after September 11th."

Tom came back to the table and I was in his seat, so I excused myself from the conversation with Tammy and Rachel and went over to Walter, who just happened to be speaking with Claire Buffie, Miss New York, along with Joseph and Miss New York's boyfriend. Willowy and gorgeous though she was, I wasn't shy at all. Something shuts down in me when I know that a woman is heterosexual; she had already been introduced from the stage as a "straight ally." Unbelievably, I didn't already know her story. I asked, "What made you run on a gay rights platform?"

"My sister's a lesbian," and I don't remember the rest of what she said, as I was distracted, imagining a lesbian version of her. And then I was able to compose myself to say, "Our rabbi for 10 years, at the gay, lesbian, bi and trans synagogue, where we belong had a lesbian sister, too. As a rabbinical student, the rabbi was a prodigy; everyone in the Conservative movement thought she had an amazing future ahead of her and when she chose our congregation, they asked, 'Why are you wasting your talent *there*?" She still does have an amazing future, but she married another rabbi and left the synagogue to continue building her family; they had one baby-girl while she was our rabbi and then she bore a boy since her departure, if I remember correctly. No doubt, they'll grow up to be wonderful citizens, like Claire Buffie and their parents, no matter their sexual orientation.

It's practically dinner-time now on a Friday, and I could go on for awhile longer, but I'll end here, with a heartening exchange that Joseph and I had with Steve Krantz, who was sitting to my right. Steve is a Distinguished Engineer Emeritus, retired from IBM, but back supplementally, to support one of our GMs, as well as well as a PFLAG National Board Member. He's the father of a Los Angeles-based 29-year-old son, who's a lawyer and single, in case anyone needs a great litigator or boyfriend. (Hope Steve doesn't mind my trying to be an agent.) Toward the end of the evening, Steve said, "My son made me a better person."

"How did your son make you a better person?" I asked.

"He made me want to change the world."