Thursday, May 17, 2007

95. New York

Alright, so here I will begin with part 2 of my chronological journey through my blog thoughts.

So, I ended my European excursion by flying to New York, where I met my mom and spent a week with her – 2 days actually in New York. Being a person who loves (LOVES) shows and musicals, I insisted that we see at least one show while we were there (I will not tell you how many times I went to the theater in London on the grounds that… well, it would be embarrassing). I actually very much wanted to see Wicked, having seen it in London and loved it (it’s my new favourite show) and I wanted to see the New York production… I like the idea of seeing the same story played out by different actors. My mom, on the other hand, had heard good things about The Color Purple, which made me very nervous. This may cause you some confusion, because, as I noted in a recent blog entry, The Color Purple is my favourite movie. If my mom hadn’t been there, The Color Purple would have been very high on my list of shows to see, it’s just that… well, it is my favourite movie, I’ve seen it many times… and I’ve read the book. The movie is fairly clear in expressing how the two main female characters have a lesbian relationship (incidentally, this is in no way the reason for this movie being my favourite), but I suppose if you chose to you can ignore this fact (it’s amazing how many people do). But I have also read the book, and the book is explicitly clear about the relationship between Miss Celie and Shug Avery. Miss Celie is a lesbian, Shug is bisexual, and they have a long term relationship that actually carries over into some of Alice Walkers other books (I went through an Alice Walker phase a few years back). So, when my mom suggested this particular show to me, I got nervous, because I didn’t know which end of the spectrum the musical would take… would it sort of skirt around the whole lesbian thing? Or would it be explicit… maybe somewhere in the middle? Where ever it landed on the whole ‘gay spectrum’ I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to enjoy sitting next to my mom during the show.

She was insistent, however (and in case you’re wondering, we reached a ‘compromise’ by going to both shows… an expensive compromise, to be sure), and so we went. And I was right, it was uncomfortable. It didn’t help that the first thing I did was look through the playbill at the song list to try see if I could determine how gay the show was going to be by the song titles. It didn’t really help me figure that out, but one of the songs in the show is called “Push Da Button”, and like I’ve said, I read the book, and knew exactly what that song was going to be about. I don’t think anyone would like the idea of sitting next to their mother during a song about… well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to spell it out for you.

So, where did the musical land on the ‘gay spectrum’? Much closer to the book than the movie, by which I mean it was extremely clear that Miss Celie was a lesbian, and her relationship with Shug was very much in the forefront. At one point I was actually afraid my mom was going to make a scene or walk out… I sat there praying that she would at least wait until the intermission to express her disgust. But aside from not clapping at the end of the big lesbian love song, she made no comment.

And at the end of the show, she jumped up and applauded long and loud, even shouting out an “Amen!”. As we walked out, she exclaimed “Wow, that was as good as going to church!” I was stunned. As I said to my good friend, “it’s like she just blocked out all the dykey bits!” She kept pointing out how she could see the actresses mouthing “Thank you Jesus” at the end (which is true, we had excellent seats, and could totally see what Fantasia was saying at the end, which was cool). And I cannot deny that it is an incredibly affirming and spiritually moving show, it is… I enjoyed it… go see it if you can. But seriously, my mom? The anti-gay crusader… she should have been all over that. But I wasn’t about to point that out to her so I left it alone.

The next day, we were walking down 8th Ave when she turned to me and said “You know, I woke up last night thinking about The Color Purple… it suddenly occurred to me that it could be a subtle advertisement for homosexuality.”

I stopped walking and just stared at her because… well, first, an advertisement? Seriously? No one who knows anything about the story could see it as an advertisement for anything really, no one is going to watch that show and think “Man, that looks like a good life, I think I’ll be a lesbian like Miss Celie…” I mean, come on! That’s just insane. But, to be honest, what shocked me more was her use of the word ‘subtle’. And she realized that almost immediately because she corrected herself. “Well, it wasn’t really all that subtle, was it?” I could only shake my head. She went on to say “well, at least it tried to explain it, you know, explain homosexuality in a new and different way.”

Again, there was nothing to say to that. The “explanation” that I’m assuming she saw was hardly ‘new and different’, it’s what conservative Christians have been saying for years… the only explanation that they can come up with for lesbianism (the Freudian explanations they use for male homosexuality seem to fall short, even to them, when it comes to women) is sexual abuse, or to use a quaint phrase I once read on one of those books “the misbehavior of men”. I, of course, being the coward that I am, said nothing at all in response to anything she said as she went on trying to justify the fact that she liked this show that showed a lesbian relationship in a positive light. A later conversation between her and my aunt (whom we went to visit after New York) went on to say that Miss Celie was so desperate for love, and Shug just wanted to ‘bless’ her… which, seriously, I wouldn’t mind a blessing like that! Just kidding. Sort of. But whatever my mom needed to do to get around it, it was weird.

And, as our conversations continued, it became quite clear that my mom has either forgotten that I’m gay, or has decided that I’m not gay anymore or something like that. She had stopped making reference to my ‘future husband’ after a conversation we had a few years ago where I told her flat out that I didn’t think I would ever marry a man and would appreciate it if she stopped trying to force that on me. But she told me, while we were out for lunch somewhere in New York that she has been praying for me to meet ‘a nice older man, I don’t know why I think he should be older, that just seems right to me’. Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that she saw a ‘nice, older man’ start a conversation with me in a restaurant and thought that he was hitting on me, which I doubt, I just have some sort of weird personality quirk that makes strangers talk to me – male and female. I don’t know what it is, it just happens, and I doubt this man was hitting on me, but even if he was, well, I just am not interested. But back to my mom and the whole ‘gay amnesia’ thing. I don’t think I’ll come out to her again, I’ve had that conversation with her twice and it isn’t fun. Unless something happens (ie: I meet someone and end up in a long term relationship of my own), I don’t really see the point if she’s going to keep forgetting like this.

As a complete aside, I loved New York! I want to find a way to live there at some point… only for a year or so, maybe even just 6 months, but I don’t know how to go about doing that, as I would most definitely need a job, which means having a work visa and all that. It would be doable as a teacher, I think, but honestly, in New York I wouldn’t want to teach because I’d want to have time and energy to explore the city, so I’d kind of want a crap job, like sweeping up after shows on Broadway (that would actually be a total fantasy job, not a crap job at all!) or something like that that wouldn’t require much thought. Any thoughts on how a Canadian citizen could go about doing that?

And I’ll leave you with this, it has no relevance at all, except that I talked about Wicked earlier in this post and I love that show so very much -- the soundtrack is in my car and I'm having a blast driving singing along at the top of my lungs, so I thought I’d share a little bit of it with you. Enjoy.


Leo said...

I'm glad to see you writing/blogging again as I thoroughly enjoy your writing. I've heard the "The Color Purple" playing in New York is good and I would love to see it. I can imagine and relate to just how awkward it would be to see it with your Mom. I doubt quite seriously she's forgotten you're gay, she's probably just pushed it to the back of her mind and wishes she could forget. The whole Mother, with lesbian daughter situation is a particularly tough one sometimes, I should know, most of us want our Mothers approval more than anyones and if they're very conservative and/or religious it's usually not forthcoming in the aforementioned situation.

marauder said...

They actually have a song called "Push the Button?" And that's *subtle*?


I wonder what it would take for the musical to deal with lesbianism overtly.

Peterson Toscano said...

I LOVE Wicked. So glad you got to NYC. Welcome back to the USA.