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....