Saturday, October 10, 2009

Just a Work Friend

Sarah L posted a comment on my previous post that kind of struck a cord with me. It made me feel guilty and ashamed of myself. I tried writing a post about it but I had to delete everything I wrote because I wasn't getting my message across. I guess I don't know how to say it. But I'm going to try again.

Basically, it comes down to this: Why do people feel this horrible need to be mean and cruel to people who are different from them? And why do we try to force everyone around us to be like us?

Again, because this blog is specifically devoted to discussions about women-to-women relationships, I will confine my thoughts to lesbians and bis. Why do we have to be so cruel? And why did I allow myself to be part of that cruelty for so long?

When I was growing up I was taught in church we are supposed to love other people. That is in the Bible. I've read it myself many times. But why was this addendum added? "If they are like the established norms we have created." That is NOT in the Bible. I know. I've read it cover-to-cover several times. A few times looking specifically for that message. It isn't there. So why are we teaching it?

I was not taught to love people who are different than me. I was taught to love people who were like me. Conversely, this also meant that if I wished to be loved, I had to be like the people around me. I had to say the things they said. I had to do the things they did. I had to wear the clothes they said were appropriate for my age and sex. In fact, I remember punishments I received which involved clothing. I would have to wear clothing belonging to a younger age and the opposite sex. This was to show the world around me how 'bad' I was.

And so I would join in and harass people who were "different". Generally, this meant holding boys who didn't "act like boys" and girls who didn't "act like girls" in utter contempt. Inevitably, these children would be pushed into one of two areas. Either they became complete loners, waiting for the day when they could leave our small town rural community and go hide in the city, or they joined the majority and acted like they did. I did the latter. As much as I could.

But you know what? People seem to sense when someone is only pretending, and the older I got, the harder it became to fit in. I became more uncomfortable with things like harassment and began walking away from it. Did you know that if you don't join in with harassment you are somehow guilty of a crime in the minds of those who do? It wasn't until I became older that I found the strength to admit, not just to myself, but to others, that I don't hate people who are different from me. For one thing, I'm not so sure anymore that "they" and I are that different from each other after all.

I commented back to Sarah L that I now openly challenge people who make fun of, or laugh at the discomfort of, GLBT people. It's kind of become a one-person crusade to stand up against the same people who I grew up with and tell them they are wrong. Something I should have done all my life. But didn't. What I find comforting is that a couple of the people I have been challenging seem to have changed their tune (at least around me). Maybe they never wanted to be part of it either, and now that I have challenged them they are relieved they don't have to be that way anymore. Maybe I'm deluding myself. Listening to all the hate messages in the news I would say I am.

I look back on my past and I see certain patterns emerge. At the time I remember only vaguely wondering about it. Now it fills more of my thought.

Why was it that the boys who were attracted to boys, and the girls who were attracted to girls, found me as a person to be friends with? This began in my high school years, after I had quit joining the public harassing. But even after school, when I would be at work, if there was a gay, bi-sexual, or lesbian in the company, they seemed to find me and we would become work friends. (Work friends are people you only talk to at work. You go to lunch together, and sit next to each other in company meetings and at company events, but you don't socialize apart from work.) Often, their sexual orientation was only a rumor, and seldom did they ever talk to me about it. Sometimes they did, but mostly we were just work friends. Often I was the only work friend they had.

I find myself wondering about it. For one thing, I find it interesting that, as I became friends with the gay, bi, lesbian people who had sought me out, the non-gay, non-bi, and non-lesbian people wanted less and less to do with me. 

I think I know now what I am trying to say with this post. I'm trying to say, "I'm sorry", to a lot of people who befriended me, and with whom I was embarassed to be friends. Yes, I was their work friend. I wasn't mean to them. I didn't avoid them. But I was embarassed to be seen with them. How awful I've been. And do you know what's the stupidest part of it? All of my life the one thing I have wanted more than anything else is to be loved and accepted for who I am. And guess what? The people who I was embarassed to be seen with were giving me exactly that. And I never saw it. And now they are all gone from my life. I never socialized with any of them. Instead, I have lived a lonely life. And I'm not talking sex! I'm talking love. I should have loved them back. Because you know what? I think that's all they wanted, too. I didn't give it to them. I was just a work friend. And I'm sorry.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Don't Make Normal Unusual

I've read a lot of books, short stories, and such, and I've watched a lot of movies and television shows. And do you know what just irks me to no end? It when the writer of said book, short story, movie, television show, or such, wishes to show us how normal their lesbian women are by "telling us they're normal". Maybe it's just me, but if the writer feels she needs to go out of her way to tell us something, then it seems pretty clear to me that she doesn't think it's normal.

To me, if a writer is going to write a story (screenplay) about lesbian women, and she wants it to be natural, then don't tell people it's natural, just treat it as natural. If we, as writers, don't make a big deal out of something, our readers should grasp fairly early on it isn't a big deal.

That's the way I want some of my stories to be. That the women are in love, or even married, is not integral to the story. It's just a part of it, like having a heterosexual main character. Maybe she's married. Maybe she has a boyfriend. As a writer we would never think about making a big deal that she's married to a man, would we? Then, if the story doesn't call for it, don't make a big deal that she's married to a woman.

At the same time, I angst about things a lot, and so for a good many of the stories I have been writing the fact that my main character is in love with a woman is important to the story. I recently wrote one in which my main character had to flee her village because she had been discovered with her lover. A friend arrived in the night and helped her escape before the lynch mob arrived. The story followed her flight to a new village, where she had to begin her life anew, only to find a new partner and be caught again.

I suppose there are those who would criticise my main character for becoming involved with another woman so soon after being separated from her previous lover. But the truth was there was no reason for her to believe she would ever see her previous lover again. The friend who helped her escape could not even guarantee her lover got away. Besides, one thing I know for certain from personal experience is this: lonely people are incredibly susceptible to love. We are not promiscuous people. We just want to be loved. And depending on the level of loneliness, and the number of hurts inflicted, we can do a lot of things if we even slightly believe we are loved. And so I felt my character was in character. For who is lonelier than the person whom no one accepts?

I guess I kind of strayed from my original point. Now I'm writing about angst. But angst is important to me right now.

While searching for a place where I might be able to submit some of my work for possible publication I came across something a man wrote about coming out stories. He said he was sick of them. He was tired of the angst and all that went with it. He wanted stories about gay people who were already comfortable with themselves. I understand his point. But at the same time there are a lot of people who are still struggling with who they are. Angst is very much a part of our lives. So I don't think there is no longer any need for such stories. I mean, old-fashioned romance novels are still selling like hot cakes after one hundred years. Right?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why are We Taught to be Ashamed of Who We Are

I'm going to take Sarah's advice. Haven't yet. Kind of timid. But I'm going to do it. I'm going to write a fleshy, down-and-dirty, love scene. Going to use all the words I can think of. Just because. Just to say I wrote them. Just so I can look at it afterward and say, "I wrote that." And not, "I wrote that?" Won't be posting it here, that's for sure. What Sarah said was to keep this one secret. This is just a break out piece. Once that's done perhaps I can write something a bit more tame? More in line with what actually turns me on. I'm blushing writing that. I know I am. My neck feels warm.

It's funny about sex, isn't it? I don't mean "funny ha-ha". I mean funny, as in strange. Well, that was probably a bad way of putting it, too. I don't mean strange sex, I mean talking, or writing, about sex is so different than talking or writing about anything else. I find it far easier to confess my failures as a person, an employee, a parent, a child, a sibling, a friend, an athlete, a writer, a singer, a performer, or anything else, than to admit my failures regarding sex. I can talk about those other things, usually without blushing, with complete ease. But as soon as sex becomes the topic I'm blushing.

Is it me, or am I just the product of how I was raised? How I was raised seems a bit too easy, although it certainly has to come into play. Maybe it's because so much of the punishment I endured as a child was sexual in nature. One wasn't just spanked, one had their pants pulled down. Generally in public. Bedwetters were publically diapered and laughed at. That was the thing, you know. Punishment not only involved physical pain, but emotional pain always had to accompany it. Humiliation was the order of the day. And it always seemed to revolve around sex somehow.

And so we grow up with all kinds of inhibitions about sex. Taste a beer and one might get into trouble. What was the standard punishment for trying beer and cigarettes when I was young? "Make 'em drink until they get sick." "Make 'em smoke until they're ill." No one ever did that with sex. Get caught masterbating, or worse, experimenting with someone else, and the cry certainly wasn't, "Make 'em f--- until they throw up." No. The whole thing was treated as though it was the worst shameful act that could happen. More beatings and more humiliations.

And so we learn to keep it secret. That's private. Hell, I find it easier to talk about problems going to the bathroom than I do problems about sex. I suppose that's fine, but I want to write. I really do. And if I'm going to write something that seems real, I have to write in a way that presents whatever I write about as being real. And so I have to get past the past - without actually forgetting it. There is great value in remembering the pain. The shame. The anguish. The utter humiliation. Remembering these things helps me write characters who are experiencing pain, shame, anguish, and utter humiliation.

But how do I write a character who is comfortable with her sex, her sexuality, and her sexual preference (be it straight, bi, or lesbian, or whatever) when I am not so sure I am comfortable with those things for myself? I find myself envying those people who have come to terms with who they are regarding sex in all its forms. I think, if I could just be at peace with who and what I am I just might be able to write the things I want to write. But it's this shame thing. Still, maybe I can use that, too. Maybe that's where the tenderness comes from. The loving compassion which, to me, absolutely has to be part of good sex. If I could just put my feelings into it.

Meanwhile, I have an assignment. Going to write some rough, fleshy, down-and-dirty sex scenes. I doubt I'll find them arrousing, but the ice will be broken and maybe I can get through to the other side.

Good luck to me, huh?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why Be Afraid and Embarrassed

So I thought I would expand the idea of being "jarred" out of the story because of the way a love scene has been written.

Being taken out of the story can happen for other reasons than love scenes. Explicit anything can do that if it isn't done correctly. This is true with gore, profanity, humor, infodumping, etc. But as this blog seeks to discuss love scenes and such in particular I will confine my comments to that.

When I read a story I always try to identify with a character. Usually this will be the main character, but not always. Sometimes one of the supporting cast catches my fancy and I really identify with her (or him, or even it). Generally, the only character to get a love scene is the main character and whoever she is with. In these cases I identify with the main character.

For me, identifying with a character in a love scene means I am imagining myself doing/receiving whatever the main character is doing/receiving. This is where I suppose love senes become especially difficult. If the main character does something I haven't done (or thought of doing), I might recoil. The same is true if the main character has something done to her. This is where personal sensibility can get in the way of good writing, I think.

For instance, suppose I want my main character to be a wild and bold person, willing to try a variety of things. What happens when I put her into love scenes? The likelihood is I become personally embarrassed by her boldness. For just as when I read, when I write I have to "become" the characters. I have to know who is shy and timid and who is dominant and daring. I have to be able to write people who aren't me. With other characteristics it seems I have little trouble doing this. I don't think of myself as being a hateful person, but I think I can write hateful people. I think I can write cruel well enough. But when it comes to sex I'm embarrassed. Here is where I'm afraid to trust my imagination. Why?

I kind of wonder if it isn't because sexual things are so personal. In a way, it's like they cut to the core of who we are. And so the unspoken voice in my head is reading over my shoulder as I write. Everthing is fine. There are occassional comments about this or that. And then I write the love scene. "You find that erotic? That's sick/stupid/dumb/strange/etc."

I could write what I have actually done myself, but then the voice might say, "You did what? And you found that arousing? You don't really do that when you climax, do you?"

It's just so personal. But isn't that what makes a written character come alive? Is writing as much about courage as it is about knowing how to say something?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Can You Write a Love Scene

I'm up during the night a lot. It's when I do some of my best writing.

Lately I have been exploring new relationships in my writing; mainly, lesbian and bi-sexual characters. I have never written about sexual things before. In fact, I have been quite conservative in my stories until the last couple of years. But this year I seem to have awakened a creative area I never knew I had, and I find it most exciting. Even exhilirating.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to write pornography, and I don't think I can write erotica. But loving relationships. That I think I can do. But love scenes are part of loving relationships - or can be. I've been struggling with those a bit. To be honest: I haven't been all that successful.

If anyone has any thoughts, I am more than willing to hear them. How does one write an arousing love scene without becoming pornographic? I don't want to abandon my new world of creativity. I want my women to love each other. But I want them to be real about it.