Sunday, October 30, 2011

Accidental Traditions?

(Ammon and I with our friend Ashley. We danced with her on a fake stripper pole. I don't want to talk about it...or show you pictures.)

I remember very few Halloween traditions as a child. We all watched "Lady in White," which to this day terrifies me. So much so that I haven't watched it in years. Part of me wonders if I watched it today, if I would be irrevocably underwhelmed. I'm ok with not watching because 1) If it does suck, I don't want to waste the hour and a half and 2) because it's one of my few Halloween traditions, I would prefer to keep the feeling in tact. Everything else surrounding Halloween was done at random. Sometimes, if there was time, we trick or treated. Sometimes, we just stayed home and watched movies. A couple times I don't think we did anything, or at least I don't remember it. There was no real method or ritual. For whatever reason, I still love Halloween even though it was a haphazard holiday.

(This was the hostess with the mostest. She went as bath salts, but don't worry she wasn't actually on bath salts.)

Now that I'm getting older, I am interested in creating some of those traditions. This process has got me thinking, were the rest of my holiday traditions put together accidentally. Did we open Christmas Eve pajamas because my parents wanted to build our sense of anticipation? Or did we open Christmas Eve pajamas because they wanted the ten children to shut up about opening gifts? Since I am towards the tail end of this child train, the idea that this tradition was enacted for either reason is quite possible. I should call and ask my parents. The point is, I don't think it really matters. If our tradition of sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve arose out of convenience (I'm sure it's easier to make sure ten children are not watching you wrap gifts if they are sleeping in the same area), it doesn't lesson how much I loved that tradition.

(Us with Lindsay and Craig. We just really like them. The costumes help.)

At this point in my adult life I'm starting to make my own traditions. Focusing on Halloween (my second favorite holiday, Thanksgiving being the first), these traditions are purely created out of convenience and habit. Getting dressed in couples' duo costumes and going to a friends party: totally a tradition just because it's happened three years in a row and I had fun each time. It didn't come from some other family tradition of mine or Ammon's. It wasn't a conscious decision made to enliven the spirit of the holiday. But, like I said, it doesn't matter. I've been looking forward to my friend Melissa's Halloween party for weeks. It may have happened by accident, but the Halloween party attendance as a couple tradition has made me enjoy the day that much more.

(This is our friend, Liz. I was trying my hardest to be serious in this picture. But, well, she was a giant chicken. I laughed hysterically every time she spoke and human words came out of that bizarre mask.)

We went as Edward (me) and Jacob (Ammon) from Twilight. We thought it would be funny because teenage girls sport "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" shirts. Looks like everyone on "Team Edward" AND "Team Jacob" will be disappointed because Edward and Jacob are looking at each other instead of Bella. We started the night with our friends, Linds and Craig, who were gender reversed Frankensteins. Then we headed to Melissa's party. We continued this accidental tradition for the third year running. Granted I was totally inebriated and only remember parts of the night. Don't judge me, I now know not to drink Jim Beam as part of my pre-gaming strategy. I'm sure some of our other holiday traditions will emerge more purposefully. As we head out of Halloween and into the more intensely ritualistic holidays (not going to lie, some Christmas traditions make me annoyed), I look forward to the birth of our traditions. On purpose or accident, the traditions made will be ours. Let's hope some of the new ones aren't as crazy as the Halloween party. My body is angry from last night.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Entrails and acceptance from "the dark farm"

Family has always been vital to me; it happens when you’re Mormon. When you can’t really get into heaven without a spouse, families become paramount. As a side note, you CAN get into Mormon heaven without having kids, but you have kids once you get there. Moving on. Being Mormon was not the glue that held me to my family. Believe or not, work filled that function. We grew up on a farm and ran a butcher shop. New England families have time “out at camp.” Hoosiers were big on family reunions. Mormon families have Monday night “Family Home Evening.” My family had deer season, where relationships were forged over a pile of deer carcasses.

We could be incredibly harsh towards each other; “You lazy asshole, I tenderized last time!” and at times distant; “Just grab that tray of roasts and don’t talk to me.” Most of the memories I have though, were of me and my nine siblings laughing while griping about how much we wanted to be anywhere but there. I have fond memories of, what I later started calling, “the dark farm.” I cherish my family and even though that sentiment was born out of barrels of beef remains, I daresay we are a stronger family than many.

For me, the biggest
challenge to these ties that bind was when I came out. Family members cried, a couple yelled, others avoided it. Some were hurt, and some were hurtful. But over the past two years (I can’t believe it’s only been two years) my family and I have made some amazing strides. I recently returned to Utah for my baby sister Sierra’s wedding. When I asked if Ammon was invited, Sierra replied: “Of course he is! Who do you think I am?!” We have made it to the point where we can joke about it and everyone has accepted my relationship with Ammon as a reality and not some adolescent phase.

I know my family was worth the fight, because during this process we have been able to meet halfway. Even if I could, I would not want to change how they feel about it. I don’t care that they think it’s RIGHT, I just care that they treat me equally. I concede that I don’t know the eternal nature of the universe or everyone living in it. I could be wrong and it could actually matter significantly that I’m gay. My family has seemed
to adopt the reverse of the same principle. Maybe it’s wrong, but I can’t say for sure that you’re a bad person or that you’re going to hell for being who you are.

Not everything is quite so amicable. Being Mormon, they have some serious ideological issues with me being gay. I can’t say as I blame them. When I started to realize what I was, I myself wanted to die to escape it. How can I hold it against them for not wanting to be around it either? I can’t and I won’t. This is not to say that I don’t stand up for myself. “Can I ask about your guys’ sex life?” Sure, if I can talk about how your husband uses his penis in your marital interactions. “Can you just marry a girl?” Can you just divorce your husband? “You can’t have babies.” You’re right, maybe we should also make it illegal for infertile people to marry.

This week, after Ammon and I satirically performed interpretive dance to Kelly Clarkson in our kitchen at random, I wanted to call my sister and laugh to her about it. I didn’t, worried that rather than a laugh on the other line, there would be tense silence and a change of subject. It’s hard not to be able to share some of my happy moments with family, because they don’t find them happy. The beauty of meeting in the halfway though, is that we are slowly finding those times to share. Later this same week, when talking to Sierra about married life, I told her that Ammon and I really bond over home improvement. We love the time together and function best when we have a project to complete. Even if she was just trying to be nice, hearing “that’s cute” on the other end of the line gave me hope that one day other things will get better.

Maybe, just maybe, my parents (pictured above, it’s ok to admit they’re cute) will one day be able to tolerate seeing Ammon. Even further, maybe one day we will be welcomed together for the holidays. In striving for the destination of a middle meeting space, we have remained close. I know my family loves me and they know the same of me. Growing up in the Miner household, “the dog” as we called it (our butcher shop was Bulldog Meats), has taught me that a shared experience in the middle of two hemispheres is possible. There is a nether region where I can think they’re wrong and they can think I’m wrong, but none of us care enough to be apart. Maybe to learn this lesson all it takes its growing up in pig guts and we just got lucky in that respect. If that is the case, I will thank God every day that I was blessed enough to be part of “the dark farm.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

First time loners

Ammon and I are entering another frontier; living alone together. We lived in our own separate places living in Cedar City, UT. I had my matchbox apartment and elephantine dog, he had his borderline-condemned dorm hole. I also lived in my sister's basement shortly before moving to Maine. Shortly after moving to Maine, Ammon moved into the same sister's basement. Thanks, Dani. We both owe you one.

When I moved to Maine, in an even smaller apartment (Geneva basically had to stand in one position), Ammon still lived in Utah. When he moved out to Maine we did live together in that tiny apartment for a few months. It was hell and Ammon would tell you the same thing. Nothing prepares you for suddenly splitting your life with someone else. “No, you can't spend that money, that's MY paycheck.” “What do you mean you're not going to clean up that mess?” We fought like hyenas on crack for those few months but learned a lot about what it meant to be in a partnership. Making it through those fights taught me that my paycheck is OUR paycheck, that trips need to be planned jointly, family time gets split, and chores are never fun even when there are two people doing them. Except for cooking meals; we LOVE cooking nice meals together and particularly when we are cooking for other people. But that is a different entry.

Then we moved into the Maple house. It was interesting trying to navigate our own relationship while at the same time living with (at one point) five other people. Fights were certainly more awkward because it's hard to say "you make me want to suffocate you" in front of roommates without dragging them into it. We had good times living there but like every living situation it was time to move on.

This brings us to our Grant Street home. We love this house like it was our own child. It is the first house either of us actually own and we did it together. We came into the house with big plans and have carried some of those out. Some of them are still in the works.

We moved into the house with our good friend Cami who was working for the Penobscot Theatre Company. Cami is one of our dearest friends and it was amazing that we got to share our first home owner experience with her and Ashley. Ashley, another close friend of ours moved in about a month after we did. Cami moved back to Utah in August and it was Ammon, Ashley, and I holding down the fort. All three of us are very particular about how we live and there were some tense negotiation moments during our time together. "Yes, Ashley I WILL wash the knife by hand." "Fine, Jeremiah, I will turn the fan off when I leave the room."
But in all those usual roommate moments, we never fought, we never grew apart, and we never lost respect for one another. It was the best thing that could have happened to our friendship and I'm sad to see Ashley go.

The day Ashley moved out, yesterday, was also a happy day though for two reasons. The first is that a friend from grad school called us out of the blue and made the drive up from Waterville just to hang out and catch up. Mandi is a high school English teacher down there and because she is so busy (and so are we) we haven't connected in several months. She made us an apple pandowdy (it was freaking delicious) and we went out to eat at UNO's so we could see Ashley who was waiting tables that day. We caught up on each other's lives and it felt like we hadn't skipped a beat, like the several months of no contact was just in our head and that we had actually been interacting this whole time.

The second reason it was a happy day is that we realized we will actually be living alone, having already learned the harsh lessons that living together brings. Granted there are still many more lessons to learn, but we have come
so far. We are excited to have the time to ourselves and experience life as a married couple without roommates. Our first order of business is to consider getting another pet. Geneva also got used to roommates, human and animal, and she is going to be STRESSED OUT living by herself all day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Friendships born, sustained, and passed on...

I haven't blogged since I started graduate school. Now I'm no longer chained to a desk, I realize how much I've missed it. This blog, for the time being, will be dedicated to my marriage even though I'm not legally married. We may as well be; everything we have is jointly owned including our home. I'm going to be making posts as new and interesting situations come up surrounding our marriage. What is it like for a gay couple to deal with:

-in laws

Is it in any different from a typical heterosexual relationship? I can't answer that for sure. My experience so far (particularly dealing with in-laws as a gay couple...stories to follow later) is that there are some aspects very different from normal heterosexual couple life. Ammon and I are trying to make our way in the world but it is difficult when we don't have a role model couple that we can look at and say "now there is a great, happy gay couple we'd like to emulate!" Neil Patrick Harris and whatever his partner's name is don't count just because we know they exist. And so this blog will chronicle these arising questions and hopefully subsequent answers. However, today's entry is not about all that. Today is different because I have something pressing on my mind.

My good friend from high school, Kimmie, called me today as she was heading to the hospital giving birth to her first born, Savannah. It meant the world that she included me in this moment. I picture Kimmie and I at 16, hating the world around us because we were hormonal and grateful to have each other because that somehow helped. She moved back to Georgia and we have only reconnected in person a handful of times since then. Despite the distance, Kimmie let me know her life was morphing into motherhood, and she would be the one hearing of equally important news on my end.
**Side note: she may in fact kill me for posting this pregnant picture so don't get used to seeing it. Moving on. ** Today a new friendship was born between me and my adopted niece and my friendship with Kimmie is stronger in the process. Like life, friendships are not just born and sustained.

Some friendships die slowly and others quickly. Since January I have lost one friend inches at a time, and two others in an instant (all three were roommates). The quick death friendships are not mourned by me. Our relationship was terminal and we didn't know it, like a blod clot just waiting to be dislodged. At the first sign of disagreement, those relationships were quickly ended and not by Ammon or I; no discussion, no goodbyes, and no apologies on either end. For a while I was mad at so many of my other friends because no one sought my perspective on the situation. I wanted to be heard and felt betrayed that no one even thought to ask. I have since let that go. What does it matter if someone heard my side of the story? It wouldn't have helped anything, it was over no matter who was providing the narrative of how it happened. People choose the perspective and I'm too tired of actually dealing with the situation to try and convince someone of another one.

No, the last few months I have been in the mourning process of the one grad school friendship that died a slow painful death. I do not mourn the actual friend because the friend is still alive and well. I'm assuming of course. The interesting thing I've come to find out through this whole process is: what I actually mourn is the friendship it was, the person she was, and the person I was. Because, to be honest, it wasn’t all always bad. We became friends for a reason, at a time that it mattered, and when we enjoyed one another's company. Somewhere down the road it got to the point where, not only did we no longer hang out, but we certainly did not enjoy each other's company. Interactions were tense, awkward, charged, fake, forced, blaming, petty, or sad.

Eventually I let my feelings take control of my actions and I lashed out. I yelled and I hate yelling. I said things I shouldn't have. What's worse is that, even though I am truly embarrassed of the way I behaved, it doesn't change the things I felt about where our relationship had landed. I can apologize for my actions, which were mean at best, but I don't know how to apologize for the things I felt and still feel. I want not to feel the way I do, but refuse to do so by ignoring what I experienced. This is why I am fairly sure it's dead; not dying, not sick. I know of no way to improve the situation while still being honest. So I will go on missing the person I knew, her knowing me the way I was, and the way it just felt to be friends with her at that time in our lives.

Like the death of a person, life inches on in the shadow of a dead friendship. It took a few months to feel comfortable enough to make new friends. I'd stopped because, well, I lost at least three close friendships in the span of two months - that’s weird. Now that I realized what I did wrong in the slow-death friendship, I have to take that lesson to heart in interactions with others. No friendship dies in vain. I focus on friendships left intact and rekindle some that had atrophied from daily life and 2000 miles distance. Some new friendships form, filling part of the void the previous left. I've come to enjoy my new normal, but have to remember I had great times living in a different normal that was, at the time, also worthwhile. I may not miss how things ended, but I'm certainly going to miss how they began.