Friday, July 20, 2012

Speak up!

This weekend, I was camping at the California WorldFest in Grass Valley, and, as in the last five years, I had a real blast there. There were incredible musical acts from all over the world playing on a number of stages all day and evening, as well as amazing food vendors and friendly, laid-back people, not to mention sweet eye candy everywhere. All this in a nice, woodsy setting and at really a bargain price. I highly recommend it, and, of course, I can’t wait to go back next year!

I say this even though the toilet is a bitch for me to use and although I felt like a huge fool for not really knowing about the band Cake, which attracted an insanely large and intense crowd (even more so than when Ziggy Marley and Ozzomatli appeared in years past) on Saturday night (I did recognize two songs they played at the end!). I also regret not even saying hi to a very cute guy in a wheelchair (with a “Stop the H8te” sticker.....mmmm) who was there - yes, on Saturday night - even with my Vmax speech device. I was shy. I was scared - scared of rejection? or success?

Later, on the trip home, I thought about two other times when I didn’t speak up or did speak up.

For years and years - and this was before I had the Vmax - I attended an annual Quaker retreat. One year, the facilitator was a gay man who had AIDS and was greatly admired in the queer Quaker community. Throughout the retreat, he clearly avoided me. It didn’t help that I had a bad cold; I later learned that he didn’t want to get sick. A few years later, he died, and I have always been sad and, yes, bitter that I didn’t make a connection with this guy who is still talked about with remarkable affectation.

Several years later, the retreat was facilitated by another gay man who also avoided me. This time, I wasn’t sick, and, after two or three days, I confronted him. The next morning, in front of the group, the man explained that his father had been disabled and had abused him as a child and that I reminded him of this. It was riveting - extremely powerful and emotional (in a group that happened to be already convulsing with emotion). All I could say was that I wasn’t his father and that I loved him. For him, as well as for me and the rest of the group of about 40, much therapy was done. It felt like a huge piece of junk had been at last dislodged.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No time to grow up

I know a young woman whose parents are both psychologists. I feel for her. She must feel that everything she does and everything she says is analyzed. I wouldn’t blame her if she was paranoid!

It seemed to me that all kids in our society don’t have it much easier these days. I’m not talking about the bleak future they face in the poor economy. I’m talking about the mixed messages they are getting. It is like no matter what they do, it’s not the right thing.

On the one hand, in recent years, kids have been told that they have to be super-achievers if they want to get anywhere in life. There is tremendous pressure on high schoolers to take accelerated classes and spend hundreds on test-prep classes in order to get into and do well at the top colleges. Some parents will do anything to get their toddlers, if not babies, into the right kindergartens that will feed into the right schools leading to the most prestigious universities. Last year, there was much talk about the Chinese-American “dragon mother” who demanded that her child studied and performed at the highest level.

I recently read about parents who threatened to sue officials when their graduating daughter was chosen to be the second-rated salutatorian instead of the first-rated valedictorian - the difference between 4.5 and 4.55, five hundredths of a point - at a Los Angeles-area high school. The mother complained of the daughter’s “sleepless nights” of studying being “for nothing,” while the father fumed, “You don’t want your kid to be a loser.”

On the other hand, there was the now famous high school commencement address a couple months ago in which an English teacher told the assembled graduates that they are “not special.” Not only is this a complete reversal from the popular good-try high self-esteem that they were brought up on in the last couple decades, it is probably a bitter pill to take with all the hard work they have had to do to get ahead.

When you add in the comments by some, as I’ve quoted here recently, that the new healthcare law babies young people by letting them stay on their parents’ insurance policy, it wouldn’t be surprising if kids nowadays feel they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t. No wonder they’re lost on their iPhones.