Is it Gay to Call Gays Gay?

I get shocked looks or nervous laughter from my friends when I do it.  There are programs in schools to teach kids that it’s a bad idea.  An entire reclamation movement wants to make it a thing of the past.  But I still do it.

I say, “That’s gay.”  It’s long past time for me to explain why.
The common wisdom among openminded people is that it’s inappropriate to use gay in a perjorative sense, as in “weak, stupid, ineffective.”  The wisdom stems, I believe, from the impression that this usage of the word links those traits with homosexuality.  I don’t believe it does.  Rather, I am of the view that it’s a circular definition which stems from the ridiculous attempt to change the definition of gay to “homosexual” in the first place.
Gay used to mean happy.  It was a perfectly nice word.  Then some group of wordsmiths managed to get people to start using it instead of “homosexual,” which is a long word desperate for a shorter cousin.  Gay is a short word, but unless you believe homosexuality can be entirely encompassed by a pale caracature of limp wrists, tittering, and pristine nails, it really doesn’t fit.  It’s two dimensional, shallow, and insulting to try to make that word synonymous with homosexuality, and I don’t think it entirely worked.
Granted, gay has entered the English lexicon along with queer and other terms, but I think the language has resisted this change.  In fact, it seems to me that the attempt to turn gay into homosexual is “weak, stupid, ineffective.”  It doesn’t make sense.  However, the dismal failure of the word has successfully attached itself as a definition.
There is precedent for words receiving meanings unexpected and ironic.  Language is guided by the collective will of its speakers, and nothing that does not follow intuitively really ever gets adopted.  Hussy comes from the Middle English houswif.  A girl was a child of either sex, a knight was a boy, and a counterfeit was once a legitimate copy.  We sometimes try very hard to control the meanings of words, but invariably the one that makes the most sense survives in the end.
I never liked gay as a homosexual label, and I think the perjorative definition is more a comment on that usage more than it is on homosexuality itself.  I expect the language to give gay up entirely to that perjorative meaning, and finally free the queer community from its insulting associations.  I just wish we could move things along and ditch this turd of a word once and for all.

MLK Day – How Convenient!

Hey, a holiday in the doldrums of late January!  We can take a three-day weekend, maybe get away somewhere . . . wasn’t it nice of Martin Luther King, Jr., to be born on the third Monday?

I really think this holiday is a sham.  Not that King doesn’t deserve some sort of recognition for his amazing life, mind you, but if the intention was to honor him, why do you need to do it on a Monday?  Is it more difficult to have observances of his life on a Wednesday or Saturday, if that’s when his birthday falls?  MLK was a great man, and I think just as much could be done in his memory regardless of the day of the week.  So why make it a Monday?
The only reason to mandate that a holiday fall on a Monday is because there’s interest in a long weekend.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to take Mondays off, but if that’s the reason for a holiday, why not just make a Third Monday of January and close businesses for that reason alone?  Would the movement to honor King have lost steam if didn’t offer a mechanism to eliminate those two pesky Presidential birthdays in February that so rarely gave us a weekend?
I still leave in fear of seeing a 9/11 White Sale before I die.

Tithing Enough for Love?

I think I’m ready to steal tithes from the Church.

I’m only thinking about the idea of tithes, mind you – Pagans and Christians have a long tradition of sharing ideas, and I’d like to put this one on the Mantle of Good Ideas alongside “seminary” and “Christmas carols.”

A wise man once said to me, “Anybody can save ten percent.” A longtime Boy Scout leader and surrogate father to countless boys, he explained to me that saving is all relative. The poorest of the poor could learn to scrimp by without one penny in ten and not notice the difference, just as the stratospherically wealthy could. In fact, income being no measure of financial management skills, some of the wealthy would have a tougher time of it.
Albert Einstein, birthday boy
Another man whom I admire is Albert Einstein. It’s hard not to look up to a man who owned a set of identical suits so he wouldn’t have to waste time deciding what to wear. I don’t even know if Einstein said it, but he is often quoted as remarking that compound interest is either the most powerful force in the Universe or the most powerful human invention. Einstein was a smart enough man that he probably could have said all sorts of wise things that he never did, so I’ve always taken it on faith that, at the very least, he would have agreed with the sentiment.

Anyone can save ten percent. Compound interest is an immensely powerful force. And, lest I forget, money is congealed energy. I think these ideas can be molded into a tithing model that fits the Pagan worldview.

Where would I pay a Pagan tithe?
Pagans areCan an offering bowl be a Pagan icon? a self-determined lot. Even large, organized Pagan groups tend to cluster off into smaller covens and circles. We move from one group to another as circles dissolve and new covens are born. Our legally-recognized churches aren’t known for opulent sanctuaries built as a tangible acknowledgment of the love we feel for our gods. The structure we’ve created really isn’t conducive to passing a collection bowl around and using the proceeds to run a methadone clinic. Who’s going to be responsible for the money we collect, and decide how to use it?

Well, if want want a job done well you’re going to have to do it yourself. We’re going to have to pay that ten percent tithe to ourselves.

How is a Pagan tithe spent?
Covens, groves, and solitaries should make those decisions. Who better to make sure that the money is used appropriately? Just setting aside that ten percent in a separate account is a victory, though; that’s a step towards controlling the flow of money. The larger the amount that’s saved, the more impact those decisions can make. The possibilities are boundless:

Just don’t spend the money on anything without thought. Not everyone would want to spend their tithe promoting industrial hemp, but as long as you feel dollars thus spent will improve the world, it’s appropriate.

Pagan tithing should be as individual as Pagans, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make a big impact on our world.

Why Men Can’t Pee Neatly

Warning: graphic biological content ahead.

Women (and some men) that live with men and boys can periodically be heard bellowing the cry, “Lift the seat!” when they are tasked with cleaning the toilet. Dried urine stains on all parts of that porcelain appliance can be pretty disgusting to deal with, and it’s a challenge that has divided the genders since we first started putting a roof over our peeing-places.

I’m familiar with more than one strategy to deal with the unsanitary fire hoses men were gifted with upon their creation.

  • When in Rome: My brother, once he had his own toilet to clean, accepted his poor aim and started peeing in a seated position. I once suggested this as a solution to a coworker, a single mother with a two-year-old boy, but she told me, “I want my son to pee like a man.” She may have had a point; a kid trying to head for the booth in the boys’ room at school might quickly discover how cruelly his peers treat anything that hinted at being different. Nevertheless, I’m and adult and can handle criticism, so I’ve tried it, only to discover that aim-and-pray is rather hardwired in me by now. I only remember after I clean the bathroom, and then only for a few days.
  • Up against the wall: My mother always found the idea of urinThe place where men cannot miss the toiletals “disgusting.” She didn’t clean bathrooms for a living, or maybe she would have been more appreciative. Yes, it’s a little nerve wracking the first time you’re asked to stand at attention and stare at the wall (particularly if you come from a home where nudity isn’t the norm), but newer mens’ rooms have partitions to afford a bit more privacy. And it’s much better than the trough you still find in bars from time to time.
  • Go outside: A boy’s memories should include trying to write his name in the snow. Peeing against a tree or behind a bush has all sorts of problems, including tickets for exposure, sanitation problems if it’s done too often, and frostbite if it’s done too far into the winter. But you don’t have pee stains staring at you the next day, and it is kinda fun.
  • Take cover: I make it a habit of lowering the toilet cover after every use. That way, I reason, the next person will be lifting something to do their business, and I can’t imagine a guy lifting the cover to pee while leaving the seat in place. It’s just as easy to lift both as one. The only complaint I heard about this was from a woman who said that she’d be just as likely to pee right on the cover in the night as not. That, I contend, is not my problem.

So why is it that men have such terrible aim? After all, we use this thing several times a day; it should be a snap to get the targeting computer calibrated. Well perhaps I can give a hint of a clue by way of this anecdote:

I awoke, feeling the pressure in my bladder, and after clearing the cobwebs from my brain I arose and walked unsteadily to the bathroom as my sense of balance tried to catch up with my newborn wakefulness. I lifted both cover and seat and took aim at the bowl some two feet below, using all the skill and practice of my nearly four decades of urination. I released the bladder muscle and let fly. My urine burst forth in a split stream; on part hit the edge of the bowl to scatter about, while the other splashed upon the tiled floor. Frantically I tried to stop what I had started, which is no easy task with a nightful of urine clamoring for escape.

This probably doesn’t occur in societies without clothes, but for the rest of us, stuff gets in there from time to time and messes with the flow. I don’t know about other guys, but I don’t make a habit of performing a pre-pee inspection, although it’s obviously a good idea.

I’m going back to peeing sitting down again, but I doubt it will last.

How Vermonters Welcome the New Year

“2008 is dead, now let’s see the birth of a Champ!”

When I went up to Vermont for New Year’s Eve, I expected a pretty quiet night. The last time I celebrated the turning of the year in that state, in the early 90s, I spent most of the night looking through a telescope; I learned a lot about the stars and how many layers I was wearing that night. This time the plans had included First Night, but Burlington was a bit far and a bit expensive, so I figured a few drinks with friends, maybe some talk about resolutions to pass the time, and we’d be set.

However, as the hour of reckoning approached, we found out that the neighbors had a tradition of their own that they liked to follow. My friend whom I’ve called Noodleman in past posts became our gatekeeper as surely as Tom Bombadil did for the young hobbits, urging us excitedly into the eerie stillness that comes from great cold in the mountains. We skittered across the road and down the snowy slope to where a flammable, man-shaped construct had been assembled of scrap wood, cardboard, clothing and rope. Introduced briefly to the family and resident partygoers, we all stood around as the father immolated this vaguely manlike representation of 2008. As it went up in flames, it looked almost, but not entirely, unlike the picture to the right. The smell suggested accelerants and the way the construct collapsed kept us well clear of the heat, so it was with no little relief to me when our attention was directed within the tiny house itself.

There were more than a few comments about whether all the attendees, now that our merry band had come across the road, would fit within. As we removed our shoes we were greeted by happy dogs, curious cats, and a warm hostess whose name was lost to me as the barely-controlled crowd entered her home. It seemed large enough for us all inside, so I wasn’t clear about the concern as we were all handed drums to play. Then, however, the whole lot of us was taken into the darkened bathrooms with our drums. In the half-full tub was a wooden boat, upon which was a wax effigy of Champ, the creature that lives in Lake Champlain. Pounding our drums with gusto, we forced the boat around the tub with sound alone to propel it. Once, twice, thrice it circled the claw-foot tub before the officiant declared that Champ had been born. There was much rejoicing, and the people did feast upon the orangutan and the fruit-bat and . . .

Well we actually returned across the road at that time, declining the drum circle invitation, but full of a new wonder for Vermonters and their traditions. They don’t all build a Wicker Man with the same types of materials or level of skill, but apparently they do so whether they’re Pagan or not. And now I suspect that a Champ cabal is alive and well in Starksboro, Vermont. We Discordians must stick apart, indeed.