L'Ailee and I are experiencing a most unwelcome 1980s flashback. She grew up in Russia and I grew up in America during the tail end of the Cold War, when schoolchildren in both countries were still taught to hate, fear, and mock the other "superpower." That usually doesn't affect us too much. Now the memories are flooding back. We've been sharing them with each other.
"We starved. We were cold. I wished they would stop spending money on those stupid bombs. I could see better things to spend it on, like better cars," L'Ailee said.
"I knew the Russian kids, probably most of the Russian adults, weren't coming up with those ideas. They all seemed to come from the idiots on TV, the politicians and generals," I said. "I got to really hate politicians. They weren't the only ones going to face the consequences of their ideas, you know?"
"I know." L'Ailee nodded vigorously.
"I wondered if the Russian kids got scared about nuclear weapons too, worried that they were gonna have to deal with nuclear winter or they wouldn't grow up."
"We did," she assured me. "Our generation is old enough to do different things, not the same stupid things. Why don't they remember?"
L'Ailee came here in the late Eighties, the early-teenage daughter of pro-democracy advocates who managed to get political asylum. Her two best friends are here for similar reasons. They fret. They've *been* fretting.
Her friends are a male couple, like us a bisexual and an all-the-way-gay person. There was a brief window of tolerance when "sodomy" was decriminalized and T.A.T.U. came out. (L'Ailee had spiky black hair like one of their singers when they first hit the radar; young Russians in her--our--neighborhood would approvingly tell her she looked like Lena.) But as in our country, there are forces working really hard to slam that window shut again. You can see what I mean if you read this awful Pravda editorial about a charity concert Elton John's doing in the Ukraine. L'Ailee and I really believe that when it comes to the level of freedom in a country, LGBT people are the canaries in the coal mine. Where our siblings are repressed, everyone's freedoms are in jeopardy. Where all people are relatively free, our siblings enjoy the freedom, too. We see the theory confirmed in Russia.
I am once again grateful that I get to go home. I whine about the way my relatives act and talk about how this is the year I'm going to skip Christmas and surf in Hawaii, but I have that *option*. Florida and my right to go will be there for a while. L'Ailee, meanwhile, can't get permission to go home. And her home's kinda sucking anyhow.
My mother's trying to be really nice to her, which is a little weird, but we'll take it. She grew up listening to her grandfather, who was one of the first farmers to lose his farm to the Communists, talk about why he had to leave Russia. So she sympathizes. She sent L'Ailee a Jolly Roger bikini that she saw on sale, thinking she'd like it, which she does. She asked to speak to L'Ailee and told her some of my great-granddaddy's stories, then commisserated with her over the end of Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
I'm being nice, too. I'm not teasing her. (Me and the aforementioned best friends, her brothers from other mothers, are the only ones who get to tease her, and boy do we take advantage of the privilege!) I'm making her things she likes a lot and I can tolerate. I can't pass her without giving her a kiss. I watch her sewing or doing a sudoku, and my heart just swells up in my chest. I am so grateful that she's here and not there! My babydoll made it out! It seems like such a miracle that we met, and where else but in New York City could we have done it? She's like a flower that grew in a crack in the sidewalk--little and tough and slightly messed up and shockingly beautiful. And she's miiiiiine...
Once upon a time, there was a chubby blond girl in Florida and a skinny black-haired girl in Siberia. They were supposed to be enemies, even though they didn't know each other. But even though they were oceans and deserts away from each other, they knew they shared the same sun, moon, and stars. Sometimes they would look up at them, and wonder what life was like for some other little girl far away. Eventually they would meet, and find out.
I think of that now. Right now, a child in America and a child in some "enemy" country are wondering who is on the other side of the world, and what they're really like. I hope that twenty years from now they'll meet in a city that's strange to them both and instantly recognize what they are to each other. I hope they'll marry and sit close on a couch, sharing memories. I hope there will be a twenty years from now.
I close with links.
THE FIRST OPENLY BISEXUAL MAN WAS ELECTED TO THE NY STATE SENATE THIS WEEK!!!!
Forget trans-fats bans or "Click It or Ticket"--Andrew Speaker showed us what a *real* public health issue looks like.
A blog full of yummy vegan "ice cream" recipes, and a few other desserts as well.
Female composers in classical music. Not only did I learn something, so does L'Ailee, who loves classical!
Finally, sex toys marketed to Christian married couples. NOT A HOAX!