Gratuitously Gay

Nobody is “openly black,” as George Carlin pointed out. Nobody is openly Oriental or openly female or any other type of sociological categorization. The only thing you can be “openly” is gay. Come to think of it, I have never even heard someone say “she’s openly lesbian.” Or bi.gayyoutube

Homosexuality is also the one category people feel irresistibly compelled to point out. “Wow, he’s is looking great today,” I said about someone in a course I was taking. “He’s gay, you know,” said the other person. I knew, but why did they feel they had to tell me? If I’d said that about someone married, would they have felt obliged to tell me he’s married? If he were Italian, would they say “He’s Italian, you know. From Milano. That’s why he always looks so fab.”?

If it’s not obvious already, I believe in equal rights for everyone of every sociological categorization, including LGBT.  This article is not about equal rights. It’s about the sexualization of the media and of our society.

Open gayness is huge these days. Every TV show seems to need a token gay as well as a token black or two. Some of the hottest youtubers are not just openly gay, but play their gayness up to a level that can only be described as stereotyping. It’s kind of degrading, don’t you think? If someone non-gay were portraying gays like that, it would definitely be offensive. (Apparently if you make fun of yourself, it falls into the “If you are black you can say the N word” category.)

I get it. You’re gay. I’m middle-aged. It’s not a fashion statement. It’s just what I am. (I wish being middle-aged were a fashion statement! Who is with me on starting middle-agedness as the new trend?)

I call this gratuitous gayness because it’s simply the latest in the media’s ongoing sexualization of everything. It’s no different than ultra-skimpy fashion, high-heeled shoes for 5-year-olds, and heroes whose shirts fly off before they transform into their more powerful form.

I’d say I’d expect more from a community of people who has fought so hard for respect and equality. I’d expect them to act in a respectful way instead of making it seem like sex is the most important thing about their identities. But why would I expect that?

The honor badge of today’s society is to wear your genitals on your sleeve. Why should the newly-acceptable gay community accept anything less than to be objectified and sexualized just like any other celebrity?

So congratulations to the LGBT community. In my teenage daughter’s infamous words:

“Don’t you know, mommy? Gay is the new straight.”


What If I Stopped Lying in Real Life, Too?

This week I opened my professional blog with an anecdote in which I told a potential customer, in a sales meeting, that his product was ridiculous, and I won the sale anyway.

If you are one of my friends, you are probably thinking, yep, that’s Rebecca. She tells it like it is. tattoo_no_lies__just_love_by_felicitycharlottex

Only I don’t. Not in my personal life, anyway. I know this because today a friend of mine who is going through a difficult separation said to me “You are a good friend,” and what I said was “Thank you.” What I didn’t say is “That’s because I’m hoping to get you into bed.”

I also know this because yesterday I found out that a good friend of mine got back together with her true love and what I said was “That’s great!” What I didn’t say was “I’m so jealous I can’t feel my extremities.” I also didn’t say “And now my life is over because you’ll never have time to hang our with me again.”

I’m jealous a lot. I used to think that I don’t feel jealously, but now I realize I just didn’t notice it because I feel it all the time. It’s like not feeling my feet. I mean, there they are all the time. Like the jealousy.

Pretty much when anyone says, does, or has anything, I get a rapid pang of jealousy which I immediately repress, rationalize out, or ignore, so it’s as if it’s not there. I’m jealous when someone gets married, when someone’s kid gets good grades, when someone sells a company, opens a business, wears a bikini, skateboards, or just seems to be happy for a moment. It’s so bad that, as I was telling a friend about it today, I said “I’m even jealous of so-and-so because she’s married and I’m not.” So-and-so is stuck in a loveless marriage she hates. My friend laughed at me, because I’m capable of being jealous of pretty much anything, no matter how silly. OK, that’s not true, either. I’m not jealous of people who are pregnant or who have babies. I finished that part of my life and it’s behind me, thank you very much. But all the other things I am jealous of, and it’s so automatic and persistent, it’s almost as noticeable as breathing.

Studies show that people lie 10-30 times an hour. That’s probably only when they are talking to other people. When I’m talking to myself, I lie a lot more than that.

At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I’m telling you all this. OK, I guess it’s not a huge risk. I am a jerk. Not more of a jerk than anyone else on earth, mind you. I just have my special version of it.

So what would happen if I started telling the truth to the people closest to me? I’m not really sure. I tried the it on the guy from the 3rd paragraph of this post. He was flattered, so that worked out OK. I’m guessing those conversations would go better with people who live within driving distance. I’m not saying that anyone accessible would ever be attractive to me or anything, but theoretically it could happen.

I’m not advocating radical honesty. I would never make it going around saying what I think about others. But what about just saying the truth about myself? What would that be like?

If you think it would be cool for me to tell the truth, just let me know. I’m taking requests, and I’m sure to have something I’m withholding from you. You already know I’m jealous of something you have. At the very least, I can express my gratitude.

What’s the most common lie you tell yourself or others? What would happen if you told the truth?

I am ashamed

I am ashamed.

“I hate that you say that whenever the Holocaust comes up,” she says.candle

I am ashamed.

“You shouldn’t say that.”

I shouldn’t say that. There were a lot of people who didn’t say things they shouldn’t say then. Weren’t there?

Then there were the people who did say what they shouldn’t have said. They didn’t fare so well.

Which one am I?

I’m ashamed, because most of the time I’m among those who didn’t speak.

Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Maybe it is easier not to say it, because then I can pretend I don’t know it. It makes it easier if I pretend, like we all pretend, that we don’t know.

But I know it. I know just what I am ashamed of.

“We should remember on this day. What, do you think we should forget?” she asks.

We remember, but we forgot why we should remember.

We should remember.

Why should we remember?

“We should remember so that it can never happen again.”

It’s happening again.

Have you noticed that it’s happening again?

“… so that we will never allow it to happen again.”

We are allowing it to happen again. We are doing worse. We are pretending it is not happening. We are pretending it is not our problem. We are pretending it is not our promise.

I am ashamed.

I am ashamed that in Congo, in Sudan, in Syria and in Myanmar, it is happening. I am ashamed that it is happening in Ethiopia, Somalia, Pakistan, in North Korea and in Afghanistan. I am ashamed that it took me all of 90 seconds to look up where the genocides in the world are happening today and they are happening in 9 countries.

I am ashamed that I don’t really care. Well, if I really cared, I would be ashamed. Maybe I don’t even care enough to be ashamed. Maybe if I think about it for more than 90 seconds and the problem is so big, I’m too small to even wrap my mind around it.

Let me start small. Let me start with the country that is supposed to remember, with Israel.

I am ashamed that my country has closed its borders to refugees from Sudan and Eritrea.

I am ashamed that we changed the law and that now we don’t call them refugees. We call them “Infiltrators.”

I saw a campaign poster in the January elections for parliament. It took full credit, it boasted, that it had succeeded in stopping infiltrators.

I am ashamed that my countrymen voted into power the party that is proud of its achievement of turning away refugees at the border. In every city a billboard. “We turn away refugees. Vote for us.” Not in those words. Because we changed the vocabulary, you see. I am ashamed.

We were once refugees.

It is Holocaust remembrance day.

We should remember.

Why should we remember?

So it won’t happen again.

I am ashamed that my country jails hundred and thousands of refugees, called infiltrators, with no right to legal representation, no name, no number, not even – not even – not even proper winter clothing for cold nights. Even in jail, the prisoners get clothes. Not these ones.

I am ashamed.

I am ashamed that at my country’s borders, my sons and sons of my neighbors sit and watch as the refugees reach the border and my soldiers, my sons, it is their job to watch and wait for the Egyptian soldiers to take the refugees away.

I am ashamed my soldiers are following orders. They are following orders to give the refugees some water and chat them up, and give them hope until the Egyptian soldiers come to get them, and I don’t know what the Egyptians will do with them.

Yes I do.

And they do.

And every. Single. One. Of those boys. Should recognize the phrase:

“I was only following orders.”

I am ashamed that I and my countrymen are not up in arms about this. At least one day a year. At least on this day. Holocaust remembrance day.

We should remember.

We were once slaves in Egypt.

We should remember.

We should be ashamed.

“You shouldn’t say ‘we’,” she says. “It’s wrong to generalize. You say it like you are blaming others.”

I am ashamed.

It is happening again.

I am allowing it to happen.

It is happening again.

I am doing nothing about it.

I am ashamed.

Gratitude Is Specific

Often, I use journaling when I’m feeling down. I can get very down, and it helps to put it on paper.

Today, I just picked up one of my little journals and read some stuff I’d written. I didn’t read the date. It was a whimpering gripe about some guy who didn’t love me. It’s a gripe I have today about some guy who doesn’t love me. When I looked at the date, it was 6 years old, and it was totally a different guy. It made me sick.gratitude

What a whining griper I am. How many years can I hang out with the same pathetic gripes about men? I love men! Can’t I think of something else to say about them?

Plenty of blank pages were left in that little journal, so I decided to start with gratitude. I decided to be specific. I started with the father of my children. I wrote a whole page of all the specific things I was grateful for, all the gifts he’d given me. I started thinking of all  the guys I’d never thanked, for all the guys I’d judged, guys who had no idea of how much they contributed to my life. I took time on each one. I spent about 3 hours at this, throughout the day. I was specific. I named names, I wrote the little things we’d done together that I was grateful for, the lessons I learned. I thought about the complete mystery of friendship and human connection.

I went to the gym. I sat in the Jacuzzi. A cute guy chatted me up. He must have known what I was up to with that notebook, because guys don’t chat me up much these days. Possibly because I’m usually a whining griper. Ya think?

I added some more people to the notebook. I’m going to add the women, too.  I have no goal in mind, just gratitude.

If you are my friend, you are probably thinking, OK, can I read this page you wrote about me? Nope. You have to call me and hear me read it to you out loud. If I don’t yet have a page for you, I’ll make something up spontaneously. I promise you’ll be surprised by some of the things I’ll say. I was surprised.

Here’s what I learned about gratitude:

  • Specific gratitude is incredibly powerful. Being grateful for the time my Dad picked me up when my spirit broke down on a bicycle ride seemed more powerful than “thanks for always being there for me”. 
  • Writing it down is powerful. I’m such a lazy cheater sometimes. Every day I do gratitude exercises, but I just say it in my head. Having it on that piece of paper brought out other things. Also, now I can read that notebook in another 6 years and it won’t be full of whining gripes. (I can be grateful to my friend Greg for that. We had dinner last week and he told me that every day he writes down 5 things, and then reads it at the end of the year. I thought, that sounds like a lot of work. I said “wow, cool” and then went home and tried it.)

I learned about myself, too. If you’ve read this far, you must be a friend of mine. If you are a friend of mine you probably know that I value friendship more than anything else. If you’re a family member of mine, you probably noticed that too. Sorry. But I’ve never given a lot of thought about what I valued most in friendship. After 30 pages of gratitude, I now know.

  • Love. We say “that goes without saying.” Well, that’s for sure. And I don’t just mean I should say it more, but I mean I should hear it more. As I did the gratitude pages, I was aware of how much the men in my life love me, but how deaf I am to that most of the time. Love is shown in the little things, like pointing out something beautiful as you drive by in a car. I spent a vacation with a guy who did that the whole trip. He’d be saying “look at this” and “look at that” and the whole time I wondered why kept doing that. It was an expression of his love and attention, but I was oblivious. 
  • Humor. Not everyone has it, but it was a recurring theme. When someone smiles, it’s a light on all the world. That wasn’t funny, but you can laugh anyway. I remembered specific funny things people had said or when they laughed at my jokes or appreciated my humor. Humor is my favorite way to deal with things that aren’t perfect, as in, everything.
  • Forgiveness. We all make a lot of mistakes, and the ones I make tend to be rather huge. It’s like I have this crazy radar that knows the absolute worst thing to say with the precise worst timing, and I do it. A guy once pointed this out to me, but knowing it didn’t stop it from happening. If you are reading this, you probably know exactly what I mean and can point to at least one of those instances. My good friends forgive me all my transgressions. If they didn’t, I’d have no friends.

The side effect of gratitude is warmth. I’ve walked around all day with this warm feeling. I feel completely excited and inspired to fill up the whole book. That never happens with journals where I gripe.

The last entry I wrote was to a friend who I’ve known for over 30 years. That’s a long time. I was quite immature 30 years ago and even 20 years ago, and sometimes it’s hard to believe anyone could have put up with me through all those years. I mean, this is one of the people who has seen the worst of my gripes, my ups and downs, really seen it all. What I had to say was this:

“With you I never felt you had to forgive me for my faults. It was as if you never saw them.”

Recapture the Joy!

I’m on the phone with my graphic artist, discussing the redesign of when there’s a tremendous outburst of laughter in the background from three teenage girls.

“Sorry about that,” I say. “That seems to just happen spontaneously, the loud teenage laughter.”JOYjoyjoy

“It happens,” he answers.

“That’s what I need,” I say. “The joy. Where did the joy go? Listen to them, they are loud and happy. What happened to that? I want that.”

“They don’t have so many worries,” he said. “I remember that. When you are enjoying yourself as a teen, the rest of the world doesn’t exist.”

“No, it’s not that. They are studying for a math test and they still  have the joy. They have worries we don’t have. Like, when we get a pimple, it’s like, ‘oh, well’  while they obsess about it all day. They have plenty of pressure with math tests and dance class and all that stuff they do. But they still have the joy. I’m going to do that. I’m going to recapture the joy.”

“You should do that,” he says.

“Yes, I’m going to do that. Right after I get that price estimate for printing my business card. Gotta go, have a call with a customer coming in.”



Confessions of a Revolution Addict

I remember when I said I would never go to a protest again. It was in 1986 or 1987.  I was a sophomore in college and I had the privilege of seeing police violence against my fellow students. It wasn’t even horrible violence.

You say you want a revolution?

You say you want a revolution?

It was enough violence for you to understand that seeing violence on TV does not prepare you for seeing violence in real  life. It was enough violence for me to say I would never go to a protest again.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t protest or take action. I just didn’t go to those gatherings called protests. Every now and again, though, I get sucked in. It’s like this insidious addiction. It’s a form of persistent and irrational belief. An insidious and irrational belief, that indeed, things can change. That indeed, those few crazies will make a difference somehow.

Tonight I went to a protest.

It wasn’t a big or loud protest and it wasn’t a violent protest. It was a weird protest, in fact, because these loonies are running for parliament.

Since when do revolutionaries run for parliament?

The funny thing is the protests look the same as ever. I strolled down the boulevard in Tel Aviv to see those same washed-out signs, long-haired stringy-bodied guys in ripped jeans, tables with printed papers, alternative band playing music, people sitting on the floor, and smoking. Smoking! In 2013, the revolutionaries are still sitting cross-legged in a circle and smoking tobacco. They’re still choosing slangy slogans with double entendre inappropriate for polite company.

It was fun. It was familiar. They used the R word a lot. (Revolution. Remember, that’s what this article is about.)

I thought about how far we have come. These revolutionaries are talking about breaking the bonds between big business and politicians, between money and the media, between capital and capitol. We weren’t talking about that 30 years ago. We were fighting to even have a nation. We’ve come a long way.

When I see these revolutionaries, I’m glad. I think of Abba Eben. I think of his wish that we would become a “normal” nation, like all the other nations.

We have become such a nation. Our economy is like those of our Western colleagues, with a growing gap between rich and poor. Our government has become layered with unnecessary spending that doesn’t result in better services for our citizens. Our educational system is failing us. We suffer from internal violence and drunk driving deaths more than wars or terrorism.

And we have those same revolutionaries as they have all over the world, protesting those same things, talking about social justice. We have the same protests. The same breed of people thinking that they will get together in our boulevards, our plazas, and ultimately our capitol city, and make a difference. We had a million of them out in the summer of 2012. A million. Our population is only 7 million. A million of us are angry enough to show up and protest, at least once.

“We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt,” they might say. “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check–a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind [our nation] of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” Yes, they might say that.

Martin Luther King

Happy Martin Luther King day, to the revolutionaries, and to all who have revolution in their heart if not in their feet or on our lips. Happy Election Day to all of us, and may us all vote with our hearts and not with our fears or even our logic.

Let us, the voters be so bold tomorrow as to remember that it is us, not the pollsters, who determine the outcome of our elections.

Godspeed to us all. Let freedom ring.

How Many Refugees Are There?

The government propaganda would have you believe that the refugee problem is this huge threat to our identity as a Jewish nation. The numbers don’t show that is the case at least not for now. I will devote at least one entire blog on “what will happen if we treat them well and they all come?” But that is not this entry. This is a short blog with just the current official government numbers.

  • 57,000 is the approximate number of refugees currently in Israel. The majority are Eritrean (35,900), with approximately 15,000 Sudanese.
  • 75,000 is the number of legal migrant workers. This includes construction and agricultural workers, mostly from the Far East. The government mandates these workers and takes a hefty tax on each one who is brought here.
  • 95,000 is the number of people who just outstayed their visas. These are people who are not refugees, who have passports, and who came here looking for work. This is a bit of a mixed bag, but to my understanding, mostly people from Eastern Europe. This blog series won’t touch on the traffic in women, but obviously, this category covers that situation as well.

So there you have it. Looking at the numbers, it would appear that the refugees aren’t our biggest problem, and that there is something else behind the scare tactics to demonize them.