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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pregnancy: The Cat Harness Effect

When I was 21 and living alone, I had one of those moments that most single women have.  I wanted a companion, but one that I could be sure would not get overly attached, care about me traveling 2-3 weeks out of every month for work, or get on my damn nerves.  Clearly a human male was not going to work.

So I got the next best thing.  A cat.  I realize how cliche that is, but in my defense I'm really a dog person.  Even I was not that selfish, though, given the fact that I would almost never be home.  In my experience, cats barely notice if you exist or not, as long as they have food, a place to crap, and plenty of blinds and carpet to destroy.  Fortunately, my Merrick Place townhouse was wall to wall carpeting, and I had plenty of friends who would cat-sit (stop by every three days to make sure it was still alive) for beer.

So around Halloween, I went to an adoption fair being held at Petsmart and found myself staring at an entire crate of solid black fuzzballs.  The adoption lady majorly oversold the adorable litter on the basis that it was almost Halloween and if they weren't adopted soon they would almost surely perish in some sort of satanic sacrifice ritual.  I picked up one or two, which promptly began to purr and snuggle their little faces into my neck.  About the third one I picked up narrowed its tiny yellow eyes at me and strained with all its might against my chest trying to get away from me.

I had found my non-committal companion.  And I named her Boo.

Boo did not act like a normal kitten when I got her home.  Instead of doing the usual careful sniffing and sneaking about her new environment, when I opened the crate door Boo took off on a 90mph sprint through the entire townhouse, upstairs and downstairs.  She stopped only a few times to gratuitously arch her back and hiss at me, before tearing off again.

I was in love.

Boo was a great roommate at that time in my life.  Had she had opposable thumbs, she would have been entirely self sufficient.  Because of her level of independence and her desire for near solitude, I never let her outside, as I was sure I would never see her again.  Plus, I didn't want her used in a satanic ritual.  She was happy to slink around the townhouse, alternating between rubbing up against my legs and hissing at me while swatting at my ankles.  She never let on for a minute that she missed me when I was out of town, which allowed me to live guilt free in spite of having a pet that I hardly ever saw.

A couple of years later, I allowed myself to be coaxed into buying my first house.  So I packed up my townhouse and my non co-dependent little eight pound roomie and headed into my future of practically non-existent tax breaks and having to pay for all my own repairs.

As soon as I opened the crate at the new house, I knew something was terribly wrong.  Boo would not come out.  I thought she was just being stubborn, or perhaps thought we had switched veterinary clinics to one with hardly any furniture or signs of other people and animals.  So I dumped her out on the floor.

What followed was five agonizing days of watching my independent, tough as nails, Halloween surviving black cat crawl around the house on her belly refusing to be consoled.  Night time became unbearable as she would lay under the bed and cry into the black Kentucky night, as though she had no idea who she was, why she was here, or how to escape the nightmarish hell that her life had now become.

In hindsight, day six was the day she got over it.  She started walking on all fours again.  She began exploring all the window boxes, which were something she never had at Merrick.  She found new hiding places to crawl into in order to launch surprise attacks against me.  She even managed to destroy a leather coat hanging in a closet that was shut.

Perhaps, it was my own misgivings about the move.

Or the feeling that maybe I needed a companion with a little less body hair.

Or some other emotion I was projecting onto my little roommate.

But rather than seeing a cat that had finally realized that life was not over, what I saw was a cat whose spirit had been broken and who was in need of major rehabilitation were she to ever be normal again.  What could I give her that would raise her independent little spirit from the dead?  The answer was clear.

I could give her the outside world.

Sort of.

So I bought a cat harness.

You've probably never seen a cat being walked on a cat harness.  There is a reason.


All the cat harnesses at the pet store had pictures of happy cats.  Cats standing proudly at the end of a leash, leading their owners on journies through the picturesque suburbs.  Cats stalking through yards, all the while carefully contained by 6-8 feet of nylon.  Cats that were proud to be outside, seemingly oblivious to having a harness strapped around their chest and belly.  I chose a harness in a brilliant shade of red.  Red for victory.

When I brought the harness home, I waited for Boo to get curious about where I had been.  Eventually she skulked around the corner and began sniffing the Petsmart sack, wondering what treat or toy I had brought her.  I pulled the harness out of the bag and held it out to her.

"Boo, how would you like to go outside?"

Her vacant expression did not contain quite the enthusiasm I had hoped for.  I, on the other hand, could barely contain my excitement.

What followed does not even bare description really, as anyone who has ever met, seen, or even heard of a cat can probably guess what happened when I tried to get the harness on.   After nearly having both arms severed, my face flayed off, and every ounce of dignity duly crushed by wrestling something that weighs 8 lbs, the point is that I finally DID manage to harness my cat.

Let me provide an illustration of what happens when one harnesses a cat.

Upon the final snap of the harness, Boo became, for lack of less of a pun, catatonic.  Legs stretched out, tail limp, eyes dilated, she simply lay on the ground and waited for sweet death.

Still undeterred, I dragged her out into the backyard like a brick on a leash, completely confident that once she got a taste of freedom, she would transform into the cats on the packaging.  A victorious cat.

She remained bricklike.

Every pet owner makes mistakes, but something about pets not being able to verbally say, "Hey, asshole.  This is the worst idea you've ever had," makes the mistakes drag out just long enough that you not only destroy the dignity of the animal, but you also lose a tiny part of your soul that you'll never get back, in the process.

I lost a piece of myself that day, as I desperately dragged my cat around the yard, watching as her pathetic face with gaping open mouth and erect legs made a sad, crushed path through the grass.  When I finally realized the extent of the damage I had done, I lifted her limp, lifeless body up into my arms and carried her back in the house.  

It was the only time to this day that the cat let me pick her up.

I removed the harness.

Several hours later, Boo finally pulled herself off the floor, cast me a look that clearly said, "We will never speak of this again," and retreated to the recesses of the house, not to be seen for several days.

Sometimes you don't fully appreciate the suffering of another creature, until you experience that same suffering yourself, even years later.

I am a black cat.

Pregnancy is my harness.

It's not that I don't love my children.  I do.

But pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a red harness that the world is trying to convince me is the greatest thing I will ever experience, when in reality it's a soul crushing tether which represents 9 months worth of me being dragged through the grass with my limbs limp and my mouth pathetically hanging open in a daze of horror.

Some women love being pregnant.  They are the happy, victorious cats on the packaging.

Some women would have been better to stay at the townhouse, never knowing a freedom outside the glorious freedom of being in charge of one's own body and destiny.  Never knowing a world of, hemorrhoids, dragon heartburn, kidney pain, muscle tears where muscle did not even exist, insomnia, imbalance, pitting edema, and enough of the color pink to send a Tibetan monk over the coo coo's nest.

Just as Boo is now allowed outside, without a leash, I have finally been granted immunity by my friends and family, who have promised to never again ask, "So are you going to try for another one?"

I have been wrestled into this harness.  Twice.  I have a week or two left.  Once those weeks are up, and I have my second little girl safely in my arms...

We will never speak of this again.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Reasons Every Christian Should be Pro Gay Marriage

Last night, New York became the sixth and largest state to make gay marriage legal.  In a Republican run Senate, it took four Republican senators to swing the painfully close vote.  Republican Senator Saland, a junior in the chamber, cast one of the deciding votes and had this to say about his decision to change his position on the issue:

"While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience," Saland said in a statement to the AP. "I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality."

Last night, as I was overwhelmed with pride in my country and joy for my gay and lesbian friends for whom this vote means so much, I too profoundly felt the weight that the Senator is feeling. As I made the supportive gesture to a community for which I feel particular compassion in changing my profile picture to the "Proud Ally" rainbow, I could feel the buzz and rolling eyes of many of my Christian friends and family on Facebook. 

To be truthful, my sentiments on being accused of hypocrisy or being a bad Christian are better summed up by what another of the swing voters had to say.  Roy McDonald, a two term Republican senator and former military man had this to say to critics:

"F--- it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing."

Yep. That's pretty much it. 

Except I do care what you think, particularly if you are a Christian.  I care, because your beliefs and attitudes on this matter are what will propel us forward or hold us back on an issue that says everything about who we are as lovers of Christ and lovers of this country.

Here are three reasons every Christian should be pro gay marriage:

1.  Open Mindedness

Open mindedness is not typically the first trait that non-believers associate with Christians, and why should they?  So many of our brothers and sisters are enslaved by religious dogma and unable for even a moment to believe that there is a difference between theology and principles...between scholarly theory and core values. 

If we, as Christians, are truly honest with ourselves, we will come to realize that open mindedness is paramount, not only to our own faith, but to the shepherding of others.  Many of us, particularly those who grew up in the Church, take for granted the amount of open mindedness necessary to believe in our faith.  We ask ourselves and others to believe for example that a man was swallowed by a giant fish and vomited up three days later to tell the tale.  We ask that people believe that a man herded two of every creature onto a boat while the earth was consumed by water for 40 days.  We ask that people believe that a God who murdered priests for using the wrong kind of incense on His alter is the same God that loves us all unconditionally.

We expect people to believe that a man was nailed to a hunk of wood where he was slowly suffocated to death, and then rose from the dead three days later to hang out with his friends and loved ones one last time before ascending into heaven.

These are not easy beliefs.  They are only made possible by open mindedness.  By the ability to accept that there are things we can't understand, that there are portions of the Bible that are open for interpretation, and that, at the end of the day, its OK that we don't know exactly what is right and what is wrong as long as we obey what Jesus told us to do: love God more than anything else and love our neighbors.

So try to stay open minded while I explain why I do not believe that homosexuality is a sin.

In arguments about gay marriage, we often here Christians use the phrase, "The Bible clearly states..."  I think what they mean is, "My preacher clearly states..."  The Bible doesn't "clearly" state anything about homosexuality.  It is mentioned only six times and NEVER by Jesus.  It is mentioned under the Old Testament doctrine as part of Jewish law in Genesis once and Leviticus twice.  The New Testament is modernly interpreted that Christians are no longer under the Old Testament Jewish laws (and thank God for that, or we would ALL be in a heaping lot of trouble).

It is mentioned three times in the New Testament: once by the Apostle Paul, once in Romans, and once in Timothy.  Never does it say specifically which acts it's referring to AND many Biblical scholars believe the word "homosexuality" itself is being taken out of context.  In Biblical times, homosexuality referred to the common, popular practice of keeping catamites or young boyfriends.  And when I say "young", I mean offenses you would be jailed for. Child molestation.

The Bible never addresses LOVE between two members of the same sex, nor marriage between the same sex.

The point is, like many issues: gambling, dancing, drinking, women's rights, animal rights, etc, the Bible requires an open mind and open heart and even THEN the fact that Church members can't agree on these subjects means that no one is really going to know the answers to philosophical questions until the day when we can sit down with God and have everything clarified.

Jesus was very clear, however, about what we can be certain about in our behavior.  Love God above all else, and love your neighbor.  I have a hard time believing he was excluding gay neighbors OR that being close minded and advocating inequality in His name was OK if applied to gay neighbors.

You can be a Christian and proudly and with Biblical justification say "I do not believe that homosexuality in the modern context of two men or two women being in a loving committed relationship is a sin."

It just takes open mindedness.

2.  Love

I hear a lot of Christians say, "I am against gay marriage, because I think homosexuality is a sin.  But I still have gay friends," or "I believe that marriage is between a man and woman, but that doesn't mean I hate gay people.  Hate the sin, love the sinner."

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

A nice tidy phrase that is being exploited throughout this country to justify basic inequality. 

You know how I know that gay marriage is not a sin?

Because I have known love.

I have known the love of God, the love of His Son, the love of a father and a mother, the painful first loves of youth, ahd the sometimes harder love of marriage.  I have known the love of friends, of compassionate strangers, of a sister. 

I have known love.

So I know it when I see it.

Sometimes I think that Christians get so entrenched in this belief that homosexual love is perversion.  That it is icky.  That is it is gross.  That "ewww, I don't want to think about that." This is usually associated with what people are doing in the privacy of their own bedrooms.  I can think (or try not to) of about a million perversions perpetrated by the straight community, many on live television for all to see.  And, yet, I am still able to accept without question that a man and a woman can love each other, in the bonds of holy matrimony, and never think for one moment that it is perverse.

Why is it so hard to make that leap with two men or two women?

I think for most, it's because they haven't allowed themselves to see it.

Well, I'm here to tell you. I have seen it.  I have seen two men who are patient with one another. Who are gentle and kind with one another's feelings.  Who don't let pride and jealousy wedge between them.  Who are slow to anger with one another, and don't keep score of wrongdoings.  I have seen two men who trust each other, who honor one another with monogamy, and who hope for the future together, and persevere by supporting one another.

I have seen it more than once.  And if that isn't love, what is love?  It's certainly more than I can say for my own "sanctified" marriage at times.

So what is the true hypocrisy?  To claim that love cannot exist between two people of the same gender, because that is what we have interpreted the Bible to say?  Or to see love plainly in front of you and deny that it is there?

If you have known love, and you see love between others, how can you deny those individuals the right to consummate that love in the same way you and your spouse have?

Love your neighbor.  All of them.

3.  Fairness.

If you cannot open your mind to the possibility that there is room for interpretation on the Bible's stance on homosexuality, and you cannot bring yourself to see love within or share love with two members of the same gender who happen to be in a committed relationship with each other, then how about we travel waaaaaaay back to kindergarten, and just exercise basic fairness?

There was a time, not that long ago, that my marriage was illegal.  Not only were there a majority of people who believed that I should not be allowed to marry my Asian husband, but that my babies were illegitimate and an abomination.  Sadly, I'd say both of my own grandfathers probably would have held with this belief.

If you look at history, fairness and justice often intervene even where our blind spots and prejudices seem the most hardened and impenetrable.  Civil rights were not won, because suddenly the majority of people changed their minds.  They were won because ENOUGH of the majority said,"While I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know my vote is a vote of conscience," and "F--- it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing."

Enough people realized that even though it went against their beliefs, it was not their place legally or morally to withhold rights from another citizen based on those beliefs.

Furthermore, the reason for the separation of Church and State is not just to protect the State from religious zealotry.  It is also to protect Church from the influence of the state.  By extending the right of marriage, an institution which comes with many privileges and rights not extended to people who cannot marry, to everyone regardless of race, religion, creed, or orientation, ensures that if one day the tables are turned - those same rights have to be afforded to Christians.

Are we so blind to history that we cannot conceive of a time when the majority would want to deny Christians the right to assemble and practice their religion?

Are we that naive?

Protect the rights of everyone, and you protect your own rights in the process.

Open mindedness.  Love.  Fairness. 

Surely these are principles that Christians can share?  Surely we can be examples of how Church and Law are separate and we are truly immune from passing judgment on others and just want everyone to share in the Love of Christ?

If you cannot come to the conclusion that gay marriage is just, deserved, and right through open mindedness, love, or the basic understanding of fairness, then while you are praying for the souls of those you would damn for their lifestyle, I will pray for you.

I will pray that those you mean to shepherd are more open minded than you are able to be.

I will pray that you experience a transforming love that makes true love recognizable in all it's many forms, even those you least understand.

I will pray that you never feel the sting of inequality or the dirty disapproving looks from people who are supposed to be beacons of Christs love.

I will pray that you never have to attend a funeral for someone with people picketing 100 yards away.

I will pray that you never have a doctor or nurse tell you that you can't sit by the bedside of your lifelong partner, while they go to meet their maker.

But most importantly, I will pray that you can't find your way to a voting booth on election day.