Monday, November 2, 2009

Where it all began.

I'm currently working on a final project for my previously mentioned 1st Person Narrative writing class. My final product will be about my relationship (so-called) with stand-up comedy and will be comprised of 3 separate pieces. This is the beginning of the first part, a memoir about my life as a performer. Enjoy!

“Make 'em laugh! Make 'em laugh! Don't you know everyone wants to laugh?” – Singin’ in the Rain

When I was 4 years old, my father taught me how to tell a joke.

To be more specific, he taught me how to be the straight-man so that he could tell jokes. My aunt and uncle – his sister and brother-in-law – were coming to visit from Florida and my dad decided that we were going to put on a vaudeville-style comedy routine. For the first bit, he’d say “Think the rain’ll hurt the rhubarb?” Me: “Not if it’s in cans.” Him: “What, the rain or the rhubarb?!” Hilarious. I’d say “Can you tell me how to get to the post office?” and he’d go into a complicated explanation of how to get there, which involved a lot of backtracking and starting over, and end with “Naw, you can’t get there from here.” Comic gold. The third one was a little different, though, because it was my job to tell the punch-line. He’d say “Lived here all your life, farmer?” and I was supposed to say “Not yet!” But I’d always mess it up, and say “so far!” which isn’t so much a punch-line as it is an answer to the question. The thing is, when my aunt and uncle got there, and we did these jokes for them, they laughed. Even when I screwed up. In fact, they laughed harder because not only did I get it wrong, but I was an adorable little four-year-old.

This is my earliest memory. Of anything. I have literally been a performer as long as I can remember. And I learned one lesson from this experience: If you can make someone laugh, they’ll forgive anything. Nearly every experience I’ve had in life has been somehow based on or informed by this singular lesson. It’s gotten me into trouble, but it’s also helped me to deal with some of the most difficult situations I’ve faced. And – most importantly – it explains nearly everything about me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why "Clueless" is my Fave Film (or at least on the list of Fave Films)

So, I don't want this blog to become one of those failed projects where my life gets so busy that I stop posting stuff. However, I am in grad school. As such, I spend a lot of time teaching, coaching, and studying. This really cuts into my blogging opportunities. Sad day. However, I have also (until now!) failed to use my graduate school life as a supplement to my blogging life. Today, I fix that. This is a piece I wrote for my 1st Person Narrative writing class. Enjoy!

"Okay, so you're probably going, "Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?" But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl." - Cher Horowitz

Maybe this has happened to you – it’s happened to me many times – that experience of loving something as a child, being totally devoted to it, perhaps a movie or a book or a band, but then someone who has no idea about your devotion to that thing makes a casual comment and you’re never able look at it the same way again. For example, as a teenager I loved Margaret Cho. In fact, she was the first stand-up comedian of whom I would ever have called myself a “fan.” Her satirical commentary on gender, the LGBT community, and eating disorders are both insightful and hilarious. It wasn’t until someone else pointed out that she almost always goes for the easy joke – making fun of her immigrant mother or the sexist pig trying to pick her up – that it even occurred to me that she could be anything other than totally awesome. I’ve never been able to see her with the same reverence or awe that I did as a silly little thirteen-year-old. And this has happened to me multiple times. My devotion to things like Boyz II Men, Seinfeld, and even Iron Chef America have all suffered as a direct result of some off-hand comment of some unknowing critic.

There are some things, however, that have the unexpected power to endure. The movie "Clueless" has held up against the criticism constantly flung at it by those who believe it to be a shallow, simple high school comedy. And it some ways, it most certainly is. For those of you who, due to your lives as – I don’t know – hermits may have missed this quintessential 90’s cinematic experience, "Clueless" follows the day-to-day life of Cher Horowitz (played by Alicia Silverstone). Cher is a fifteen year-old valley girl who seems to be only concerned with the implications of her wardrobe. When the new girl, Tai, comes to town, Cher takes it upon herself to teach Tai how to get along in her new high school. And, as is so often the case with high school comedies, hijinks ensue.

What people tend to miss along the way is the insightful social commentary hidden among the “as ifs” and “whatevers.” When Cher’s bff Dionne gets angry at her boyfriend Murray for calling her “woman,” he responds with the comment “Okay, but, street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily in misogynistic undertones,“ and then he sticks his tongue out. Cher makes use of an extended metaphor during a speech in her debate class about why the U.S. Government should try to make room for “Haiti-an” immigrants. Cher’s narrative monologue provides constant criticism of her peers, her generation, and her life of privilege. And of course, in the end of the film, she ends up with the man of her dreams because of the fact that she has learned to stop thinking too much of herself, and put the concerns of others first. Plus, let’s not forget that this film is actually a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma.

I think this is why Cher, Josh, and the whole gang manage to stand up to the derisive comments of people who don’t see the significance of this film. Ultimately, I think it is the critics, and not the characters, that are “clueless.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'd like to teach the world to sing. And by "sing" I mean "debate."

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

"Yeah, and this guy and the guy on before him are our only line of defense." - Michael Steudeman, On Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (respectively)

I've been thinking about writing an entry about why I decided to go into teaching. This will actually only kind of be about that.

I wish I could say that I had some beautiful moment of inspiration where I suddenly felt a higher calling to teach. You may be picturing a scene from Stand and Deliver or Mr. Holland's Opus
. In reality, it was much more like a scene from Daria:
Picture a 13-year old Marj (at this stage, she actually looks a lot like a boy). She's sitting in her 8th grade Algebra class, hating everything. Especially Algebra. Strike that. Especially her Algebra teacher. See, the thing is, she understands Algebra. She's understood it since her dad explained it to her when she was, like, 11. What she doesn't understand is why her teacher is so terrible at explaining it to everyone else in the class. She's so upset with some of the events of her life (that's a whole 'nother blog entry, if not a whole 'nother blog), and so frustrated with the teacher and her classmates, she could scream. She doesn't, though. Instead, the following thought pops into her head: "Jesus Christ! I could do a better job than this bitch and I'm only 13 years old!"
It was in this moment that I decided to go into education. Not inspiring at all. Not even slightly warm and fuzzy. It was a bitter, angry moment in which I decided that since I could do a better job, then I should do a better job. The world (or at least Huntley Middle School) needed my help. At the time, though, I was under the impression that I was a terrible writer, I had no interest in science, and (most importantly) I was still two years away from my first public speaking class. Interestingly, I thought I would end up either as a Math or Music teacher. I was way off.

Between then and now, there have been a few heartwarming moments which have helped to shape my passion for teaching and reinforced my belief in myself as a capable teacher. These are very touching stories indeed, and you won't find them here, because - more often than not - I find myself reliving the frustration that led me down this path to begin with. This happens to me a lot when I watch "The News" or try to talk to people on "The Facebook."

Two recent examples of people - journalists, even, who
should know better! - completely wrecking the national conversation that immediately come to my mind include the "Birthers" (who recently seem to have shut up, for the most part), and the so-called "Town Hall Rioters." Don't know what I'm talking about? Where have you been? For a quick recap, please watch this and/or this. Now, I understand that both of these movements represent positions with which most people would just automatically assume I disagree (and most people would be correct). But here's what drives me crazy: the problem here is not a simple difference of opinion. The problem here, as I see it, is a total disregard for the rational standards necessary to construct a legitimate argument.

Evidence. Reasoning. Impact. These things aren't that difficult to comprehend. Tell me where your information comes from, please. Link it to your assertions. Tell me why it matters. Hold yourself to a high standard and represent your position in the best way you can. I'll do the same. If we don't agree, at least we'll move the conversation in a constructive direction. Please, don't call people names, use scare tactics, or (and this one's a biggie) make things up. And remember: being the loudest doesn't make you right, it makes you the most obnoxious. Not only do these fallacious methods piss people off, they also completely destroy the possibility of actual debate and informed decision-making. You know, those little things that some call the cornerstones of democracy.

So, here I am, again. Remembering why I decided to go into teaching to begin with. I want to try to teach these important skills to the "next generation" of politicians, journalists, and facebook users. I only wish I didn't have to get all pissed off to remember how I got here.

Here's the sad part: this is what I watch to make myself feel better. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lists about the last month.

"Rollin' with my homies..." - Coolio

"Tardiness is not something you can do on your own. Many, many people contributed to my tardiness. I would like to thank my parents for never giving me a ride to school, the LA city bus driver who took a chance on an unknown kid and last but not least, the wonderful crew from McDonalds who spend hours making those egg McMuffins without which I might never be tardy." - Travis,
Clueless

As recently noted by a dude I know, it has been over a month since my last blog entry. This is the result of multiple factors. The month of July was an interesting one for me. I did lots of things, made a lot of new friends, saw a lot of old friends, and generally lived my life without writing about it that much. In order that my readers (if there are, in fact, more than one of them) might know what's what, here's a list of lists regarding the last month of my life. (Blogger's note: These lists are incomplete, but representative.)

Things that I did in July:
  • Moved
  • Attended MUUSA (Midwestern Unitarian Universalist Summer Assembly, spiritual content in entries to follow)
  • Rode a zip-line
  • Played Volleyball
  • Worshiped / Meditated / Prayed
  • Attempted (and failed) to chase a possum out of a building
  • Laughed
  • Cried
  • Made friends
  • Went to the Chicago Pride Parade
  • Went swimming
  • Worked (A lot)
  • Made up a word: Luttery
  • Partied with co-workers
  • Mastered Bloons TD 3
Things in my life that changed during July:
  • My address and the location of all of my belongings
  • The number of people with whom I live
  • The amount of groceries in the fridge
  • The number of bathrooms to which I have regular access
  • The amount of Television I watch
  • The number of Netflix accounts I have
  • The kind of music I listen to (has expanded, really, not changed)
  • The amount of marching band music in my life

Things that I watched in July:
  • Fireworks (twice!)
  • Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series
  • Clueless (like, four times!)
  • Rocket Science
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Funny People
  • A lot of TV
People I met for the first time in July:
  • Anna
  • Emmett
  • Jennifer
  • Maya
  • Meredith
  • Mike
  • Nat
  • Nukahh
  • Raina
  • Ron
  • Suzelle
  • Tim
People I got to hang out with (that I already knew) in July:
  • Zoe
  • Jim
  • Robyn
  • Vic
  • Andrew K.
  • Taryn
  • Jeremy
  • Brent
  • Hilary
  • Michael
  • Laura
  • Bug
  • Andrew P.
  • Andy
  • Chris
  • Dan
  • Elise
  • Justin
  • Laurel
  • Nick
  • Nic
  • Pamela
  • Rachael
  • Trevor
It was a really great month. Alas, now it is over, and August has begun. So, I believe one more brief list is in order.

Things I'm looking forward to about August:
  • The return of Chase and Hilary
  • Classes starting again
  • Coaching
  • My 23rd birthday
  • The end of my summer work with ITS
  • The end (we can only hope) of the birther "debate"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Open Letter of Recommendation

Blogger's note: In case you hadn't noticed, I like epigraphs. So, even though this entry doesn't really call for one, I'm including it. After all, it is very appropriate.

"Ooh, I'm da bomb like, tick.. tick..."
-Lil Wayne

To Whom it May Concern:

I am excited to have this opportunity to highly recommend the services of the BestDateEvar escort company. I was recently accompanied to a wedding by BestDateEvar's founding escort, Meta Physics, and can say from experience that this was, indeed, among the best dates I've ever had.

Before the date had even been scheduled, Mr. Physics's services were both timely and immensely helpful. I contacted BestDateEvar when I found out - last minute - that my originally scheduled wedding date had encountered transportation issues and was trapped in Albany, New York, unable to make it back to DeKalb, Illinois in time for the wedding. Nervous, I quickly sent a text message to Meta, asking if he would do me a favor and make the trip to DeKalb from BDE's headquarters in the northern Chicago suburbs. Within the hour he had called me back, assessed the situation, and agreed to be my date, free of charge. All of this occurred less than 24 hours prior to the wedding itself. This willingness to help out a friend in need on such short notice is one of the many convenient services offered by BDE. Other such services include (but are not limited to):
  • Pre-date wardrobe consultation
  • Included umbrella
  • Frequent trips to the bar
  • Extensive and fascinating conversation with myriad wedding guests
  • A variety of photo ops (see enclosed)
  • An in-car cooler stocked with food
  • Extra care in securing vegetarian meals
  • Dancing like you would not believe
It became immediately apparent to me that Mr. Physics took this "fun" stuff very seriously, and as such I fully recommend his services for anyone in need of a date and a good time.

Thank you for your consideration,
Marj


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another list, plus bonus spiritual content

"Pray? No. I communicate." - Maude, Harold and Maude

"And I'll keep on saying prayers of thanksgiving. I'm not sure whom I'm thanking, but I've become addicted to the act of thanking."
- A. J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically

Yesterday, I finished the book from which this second epigraph was taken. The Year of Living Biblically is a fascinating book that everyone - both religious and not - can learn something from. For those of you unfamiliar, A.J. Jacobs undertakes the massive project of spending a year (which ultimately comes to a year + 2 weeks) of living his life by the literal commandments of The Bible. He refrains from shaving his beard, he wears tassels on the "corners of his garments" (whatever that means), he stones adulterers, and - most interesting to me - he prays. Multiple times a day.

Now, don't get me wrong, this book didn't convince me of anything I didn't already believe. I think that would have been missing the point, actually. But it was fascinating that Jacobs, an agnostic who describes himself in the beginning of his journey as "Jewish in the same way that the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant," finds himself trying to connect, to communicate with some Higher Power that he may not even believe in. To me, this is the ultimate act of Faith. That's right, people: capital F, Faith.

Not to give too much of the book away, but his favorite prayers are the prayers of thanksgiving. In order to be thankful, one must, by definition, be thankful to someone or something. Somehow, Jacobs puts it all in perspective; it's important to be grateful for the multitude of things we recieve in this life, because it doesn't all come to us just because we deserve it. And to be thankful to someone or something whose existence you may doubt? That, my friends, is Faith.

Here, then, is a list of things for which I am grateful to Whoever's In Charge Around Here:
  • my family
  • my friends (special shout-outs at the moment for Zoe, Mary, Hilary, Chase, Michael, and Brent)
  • my jobs (special shout-outs for my students)
  • a roof over my head
  • food in the fridge and in the cupboard (such abundance!)
  • the educational and experiential opportunities I've been given
  • music
  • NPR
  • books (both religious and secular)
  • coffee
  • the Internet
  • the people who do certain jobs so that people like me don't have to (for example: cleaning public buildings, caring for the sick, teaching math, etc.)
  • forensics
  • stand-up comedy
  • my church, my Faith
  • air conditioning
  • language
As before, it's not an exhaustive list. It is, however, nearly everything I could come up with off the top of my head in the last 2 hours.

Thank You.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Obligatory Blog Entry

"You're welcome, Internet!" - Whitest Kids U'Know

I used to be on MySpace. I canceled my account about a year ago for a number of reasons. The biggest: Spam. I'm over it; I'm on Facebook and Twitter - and now I'm a blogger, apparently. MySpace became both redundant and annoying. I did have one MySpace friend, though (I want to note, she was my Real Life friend, first. Just sayin'.), who was almost enough to keep me plugged into that particular online social networking scene. You see, in RL conversation, she has the kind of smart, quick-witted cleverness that leaves one with the impression that she's got someone writing her dialogue for her (someone more like Tina Fey than David Spade). But, where I think she truly shines is on the Internet. That might sound like a dig: it's not meant that way. What I mean is that she's a wonderful writer. Her wit and humor combined with the kind of self-reflective and other-critical irony that characterize her writing style just play so well in an online setting. And while I always loved reading anything she put out there, I was always slightly jealous.

Case-in-point: The very first blog entry she wrote on MySpace was entitled "Obligatory First Entry Where I Defend My Presence On MySpace." I don't actually remember any of this "defense," but the title resonated with me. Especially when it comes to online writing, I frequently feel a strange burden to justify my presence. So, here it is. This is my obligatory blog entry. It's not the first one, but I tend to be bad at doing things in order.

In ten, brief words, my witty friend was able to both exemplify and mock one of the inherent paradoxical problems of the Internet. I may take several steps to explain it, so stick with me. First, there's the innate human desire believe that whatever it is that you have to say is actually worth reading. Second, there's the Internet, an outlet in which everyone can publish whatever they want for everyone to see with the oft-mentioned "click of the mouse." Third, there's the opportunity (and it would seem, the compulsion) for friends, family, and strangers alike to "comment" on anything you put out there, regardless of whether they happen to agree with you. And finally, there's the strange cultural belief that "there's no such thing as bad press." Somehow, even when we get negative responses to the things that we say, we end up strangely affirmed in our own, original (unchallenged) ideas. What we have here, my friends, is the perfect storm for a vicious cycle.

As such, the participation in online social networking media (blogs included) has become a hip, convenient, borderline necessary way to communicate with everyone in your life. Paradoxically, though, our sense of self-importance is pretty dependent on the idea that we are special and unique snowflakes. Thus, participating in these very same online social networking websites has simultaneously become cliche. In order for your avatar to stand out in this 6 billion strong crowd, you must demonstrate that what you have to say is unique. Like, really unique.

Pressure's on.

So, in the face of all this, why am I here? On Blogger.com, the home of "Push-Button Publishing"? Because I wanna try. I have a few goals that I would like to accomplish by blogging. Here they are:
  1. I would like to improve my writing. This is goal numero uno. Top Dog. I'm actually a pretty confident writer. But I know that there's always going to be a lot for me to learn. I mean, all the best writers are known to have been frequent journal-ers, as well. I've never been into the idea of writing in a journal or diary, and I think that I'm missing out on some important practice.
  2. I would like to promote discourse. This is a very close second priority. Despite the seemingly problematic contradiction discussed above, I still think that the Internet is a really nifty thing! It creates a venue for complex and necessary conversations that would otherwise be somewhere between difficult and impossible. This matters to me. For a better explanation of this principle, watch this video when you have a chance. It's worth it. You'll see what I mean.
  3. I'm up for the challenge. I want to challenge myself to maintain that tenuous line between the significant and the cliche. In order to even rationalize blogging, I have made myself the following promise: I will only ever publish something if I feel that it's something no one else could write. This will be the hardest part. I'll probably fail, in some ways. But it's worth a shot, right? Worst case scenario: no one reads it anyway.
Recently, someone whose opinion really matters to me, told me that he liked the writing that I had produced on this blog so far. So, I think I'm gonna keep trying - See? This is the cycle I was talking about. There's something especially powerful, though, in the opinion of those whose writing you truly respect.

Here I am, Internet: Marj, the blogger. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sometimes, things are hard.

I like lists. A lot. And I don't just mean, "I'm a list person, who utilizes lists as a part of my daily-productive-routine." I try to be that kind of person, but really, I love the list as a literary form. I think that a well-written list can be as entertaining, enlightening and fun to read as a poem or an essay (more on those forms later, to be sure). As such, this blog will probably (no promises) be populated with its fair share of list entries. This is its inaugural list, and it requires an introduction.

There are some things in life that are supposed to be difficult. Sometimes, the challenges we encounter are supposed to be dig-your-heels-in, eat-and-sleep-when-possible, work-your-ass-off-for-some-major-payoff ordeals. I've always been taught that God or Life or The Universe or Whoever is In Charge Around Here (we should really try to nail that down...) sends us these trials so that we may accomplish great things for the betterment of the world around us and to teach ourselves that hard work has its rewards. Passing revolutionary human rights legislation. Democratic elections. Finding "love." Balancing budgets. Making a really great dessert. These things are difficult because what you get at the end is worth working for. Some things, however, just don't seem like they're worth all the fuss. Here, then - observed from my own life and the lives of my friends - is my list of things that are way more difficult than they should be:
  • Going to the grocery store in the winter
  • Parking on college campuses
  • Eyeliner
  • Taking care of an itch on the bottom of your foot
  • Choosing which film to rent
  • Talking to a Real Live Human Being during a customer service call
  • Finding a pair of jeans worth buying
  • Getting hired for a job that you'd be really, really good at
  • Singing the full range of our national anthem
  • Literature reviews
  • Making the bed
  • Laundry
  • Deciding what "to do" with friends
  • Watching season 2 of Dexter
  • Painting your own fingernails
It's not an exhaustive list, by any means. But, there it is.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Ideal Wedding

"I have a great blog idea! I'm going to write a blog about all the plans I've made for my ideal wedding.

Finished."

- Brent Damsz (AKA: Meta Physics)

This was his response to the observation that I find myself out of touch with the general female population in that I have given almost no thought whatsoever to what my ideal wedding would be like - except, of course, that I would want a tiramisu wedding cake and that I want to walk down the aisle to Salt 'n Peppa's "Shoop," obviously. Am I strange? Perhaps. But it frees up a lot of mental space for other things that may or may not be more worth it. No telling either way, really.

It's not the most profound thing I've ever written, this blog. But, ironically, I think about the fact that I don't think about my own wedding a lot. How's that for some crazy, meta-, PoMo shit?

Monday, June 8, 2009

I wrote a poem.

Get it Write! or: Why Knowing When To Break “The Rules” is As Important As Knowing “The Rules” in the First Place.

“Watch the word wrap.”
Punctuate the gap
between lines with hard returns,
and don’t capitalize your concerns.
Language is not like a metaphor.
Language is metaphor.
So make your choices better for
your Audience. They need your help.

Writing awkwardly, don’t let modifiers dangle
with descriptions in a tangle,
unless your angle is to amplify
the two-ply purpose that words
Create and debate.
Reflect and reinforce.
Question and quest
for the right word.

The written word is a tool
with rules.
But grammar serves to deter the
aversion that humans have
to understanding each other.
So, brother,
can you spare me
a dynamic verb?
a direct object?
Can you spare me the diatribe?
Saying, “prepositional phrases belong
in the beginning.”
Our heads are spinning,
because it’s not about winning.
It’s about the right word.

Agreements require compromise, so
subject-verb agreement is subjective.
It’s not reflective of intelligence
or hard work.
Language has transience,
So I smirk at teachers irked
by non-traditional syntax.
Because what you say has impact
whether you speak well,
or not.

And while teens learn that
the Future Perfect Progressive
conjugation of a verb leaves it unfinished,
I will have been searching for the right word.
So curb the work and write a blurb about
some future, perfect, and progressive
leader.
Some speaker whose words seek
to reach beyond the flattery,
and the socially constructed pattern
that our language helps to maintain.
Speak plain and rephrase the refrain
because the right word,
the write word,
the written word,
can organize a revolution,
can sustain a movement,
can create a constitution.
And in order to form a more perfect world,
we must be willing to change it.

Here's the Deal: One Gayby's Arguments on the Gay Marriage Debate

This was originally published about a month ago among my "Notes" on facebook. Since then, New Hampshire has decided to legalize gay marriage and my own home state has decided not to legalize it. Again. So even though this is *slightly* out of date, I think it makes a pretty good first blog post. So, um, here it is.

”I find hope in what eyes don’t see / I find hope in your hate for me / Have no fear when the waters rise / We can conquer this great divide.”
- Hanson, The Great Divide

I've recently been thinking a lot (as has the rest of the country) about gay marriage. I don’t need to tell you that recent legal actions in California, Iowa, Vermont, etc., as well as anti-gay rights propaganda disseminated by organizations like NOM (as well as a hilarious spoof by Colbert: video here) have brought the issue back to the forefront of public discourse. And, unfortunately, whenever everybody’s talking about something, the bigots get their say as well. Needless to say, as a gayby my hackles have been up of late.

To me, it seems very simple: All citizens of this country deserve to have the same rights.

I've been saying for quite some time that if I could just sit down with the people who oppose legally recognizing gay marriage and just talk to them, I could make them understand. And of course, this will happen. Over time, more and more people will discover that they have gay co-workers, bosses, teachers, students, family and (gasp!) friends, and that "the gays" are not so bad. In fact, they're just like us heteros.

But in the mean time, I've been working on what I would say, given the opportunity to talk to the haters out there. In fact, I frequently wonder what it would be like if I could assemble the Limbaughs, Coulters, and Santorums of the world, stand in front of them, and say: "I'm Marj. I have gay parents. No! It’s ok! Don’t be scared. I'm just going to tell you why they deserve to have the same rights that we have. Afterward, I'd be more than happy to take questions, but just shut up for a second and listen."

This is my half of that conversation:

Here's the deal. Marriage currently exists as two separate institutions. There's the religious institution, under which a faith (of the couple’s choosing) recognizes a couple's spiritual union. And then there's the legal institution, under which the government recognizes that two people operate as a unit (for legal and economic purposes). Gay people are not asking for a law that forces religions to recognize their unions: that would be unconstitutional – just like it's unconstitutional for one set of religious beliefs to dictate legal matters (see what I did there?). Gay folks are asking for a law that provides all the same rights from their government that straight couples receive. This is the problem with civil unions. They don’t provide the same rights to everyone. Remember “separate but equal”? It’s like that. For a list of rights afforded to straight, married couples that gay couples don’t receive, I encourage you to read the GAO report of 2004 (PDF here) or check out www.equalitymatters.org. Apparently, there are 1,138 of them. I have not counted them personally.

But, what about the CHILDREN? Won’t this destroy the “American Family” as we know it?

Well, first of all, there is no evidence (let me repeat that) NO EVIDENCE that children raised by gay parents suffer as a result. In fact, a study completed at Tufts University concluded that an analysis of 25 years worth of studies found no differences between the children of heterosexual parents and the children of homosexual parents “in terms of academic achievement, self esteem, or gender typical behavior. In fact, children of gay parents tend to be less aggressive, and more tolerant towards diversity.” See? It takes all kinds of families to make the world a better place. (Some of you may recognize this last bit from my ADS a couple of years ago. The research still stands.)

And ok, I’m gonna say it. That thing that gay families don’t normally say. Ready? Here goes: LGBT families are not perfect (Whew! Feels good to get that off my chest!). Sometimes, we have problems. We don’t always clean up after ourselves. We don’t always get to eat dinner together. We fight. We yell. Sometimes, there’s drug abuse, or spousal abuse, or child abuse. Sometimes, gay people make crappy parents. Sometimes, things just don’t go the way they’re supposed to. Ultimately, this is just evidence that our families are just like families with straight parents, or single parent families, or blended families, or inter-generational households, or any other type of family you could think of. These problems don’t happen in gay families because of the presence of gay people. These things happen because of the presence of humans. Further, in the more extreme cases of such problems, we need the help of governmental protection and civil rights, just like everyone else.

Personally, my parents were wonderful (all of my parents, the gay ones and the straight ones). I always had a roof over my head, food in the fridge, praise and discipline in appropriate amounts, and all the love a child can ask for. I’m currently a grad student at NIU, a teacher, and a coach. I vote. I try to make the world a better place. Some would call me a contributing member of society. I also have my faults. I’m self-centered. I’m very messy. I procrastinate. I talk too much. Sometimes, I make stupid choices. I’m not saying that because of my family my life is perfect. What I am saying is, despite the concerns that somehow my family would permanently mess me up, I’m fine. And so are the vast majority of gaybies out there. And I would like the haters to stop using us as an excuse for discrimination. It’s insulting.

So, there you have it. An explanation of why gay couples deserve the right to get married.

/Rant.

Any questions?