Sunday, September 26, 2010

Like-minded partners

My wife and I aren't as happy as we could be. We're fine and all, just a little deflated. Tony Stewart finished 21st in today's race and 10th in Chase for the Championship points. He had a terrible finish last week after taking a gas gamble, too. Her favorite driver, Kevin Harvick, finished the race at 15th and 5th in the points. My Pittsburgh Penguins have won all three of their pre-season games so far, but her Detroit Red Wings have only won one. (And one of those losses was against the Penguins!)

Then there's the way the whole world seemed a bit prickly and oversensitive this weekend. I sure was. Some of our friends started bickering with other friends. My wife got into it, too. We think it'll blow over, and nobody felt the need to kick anyone out of our house or storm out in a huff, but it wasn't comfortable. Two women I like on Twitter felt personally insulted by things the other had said; one left today. My brother and I got argumentative on the phone, and I was stupid enough to call my mother, which never ends well. At the grocery store, I got into disputes with the cashier, who refused to accept my coupons, and the bagger, who crammed everydamnthing into one canvas bag even though I gave him four. That bag would've exploded as I walked!

L'Ailee and I got into an argument about our religious differences over dinner last night. I'm Pagan, she's atheist. Well-intended advice for Pagans and atheists in interfaith relationships usually addresses only the Big Three monotheistic religions, or just Christianity. They don't talk about the real differences that can arise when one person is superstitious, likes ritual, and believes in thousands of Gods, including Gods of computers and cars Who haven't been named yet, and the other prides herself on her lack of superstition and doesn't believe in any Gods at all.

Yesterday, I went to Pagan Pride Day at Battery Park. L'Ailee had to work that morning, but she didn't want to be there for even part of it. She'd gone to some Pagan gatherings and rituals before, and simply couldn't get into it. She can't even watch me give a small offering or do even a brief and informal ritual without wanting to laugh, so she walks away and leaves me alone. I went with my best friend Yemaya O'Reilly, her wife, and their nine-year-old daughter. Yemaya and her wife share Pagan, polytheistic beliefs, and while the daughter will be allowed to make her own choice, she gets into the holidays and insists on wearing a small pentacle. I felt like a third wheel. Other couples and families were there, too.

I feel like bragging to type this, but I had to tell five people, "Thanks, but I'm married." Three men and two women wanted a date, a number, a Twitter or Facebook handle, an e-mail address from me. That *never* happens. One of the men was looking at his cell phone and excitedly told his male friend, "The Rangers just put Redden on waivers!" Wade Redden was a grossly overpaid defenseman for the New York Rangers. That caught my attention, so I had to ask if I'd heard right. The man smiled broadly. We talked hockey a little, and then he asked me if I wanted to go "have dinner or something" after the Pagan Pride Day festivities. After I said no--gently, I hoped--I heard him tell his friend, "The Gods have a sick sense of humor, don't they? I finally meet a Pagan girl who likes hockey, and she's married!" I felt a little proud, and then a little mean for being proud, that I could still cause this kind of reaction in a person.

The people who approached me all wanted a like-minded partner who would understand them, and it seems perfectly reasonable that a gathering of people who share their minority religious viewpoint would be a good place to look. And the ring I held up as I said "Thanks, but...", was a near-identical twin to one worn by someone who thinks my Gods don't exist and my rituals are ineffective. I wasn't angry, but I'd under-estimated how sensitive I would be later.

At dinner, L'Ailee asked me how it went. She smiled when I told her about the belly dancing workshop. "You had to be the best. No, maybe [Yemaya] was the best, but you had to be at least the second-best." (I'm the first to admit that Yemaya totally blows me out of the water.) She shook her head at the T-shirt I'd bought: "That looks like a busy mess." Her eyes glazed over when I described the symbolism in the design: "Look, the apple is for the fall harvest, and also, we live in the Big Apple." Then she laughed when I described the harvest ritual at the end. That set me off.

"Look, maybe you think my religion is just hilarious, but I happen to think those rituals are beautiful," I told her, trying not to cry or raise my voice. "I don't even care if it works--it feels good."
"Perhaps it does."
"I think the seasons are something to be thankful for. I think our food's something to be thankful for."
"Listen, why are you so upset?"
"It's bad enough that you couldn't come with me, so I had to be the third wheel with [Yemaya and her wife], but then you had to go and laugh at it. And you asked how it went! If you were just going to laugh, why would you ask me like you cared?"
"I wondered how that makes you feel. Would it have been better if I went with you?"
"It would be better if you didn't think it was funny."
"But I think all religions are funny in some ways. That is why I don't believe in any religions."

At this point, the waiter asked if everything was okay, and we chorused, "We're *fine*!" in such a way that he scurried off. I'm laughing a bit at that right now. It wasn't funny last night. I'll spare you the middle, but this was the end:

"I want to think you respect me," I said.
"I do respect you."
"I usually feel like you do."
"But not tonight," she inferred. I nodded. "Your religion is something that makes you feel good and makes you want to be a better person, so I support it for you. But it is a hard thing for me to understand. I used to spend time in a church, praying. I think now, what a waste of my time. I laugh when I think about putting on my long church dress and the scarf on my head." She was once Eastern Orthodox. "I am sorry that I laughed. I did not mean to laugh at *you*."
"Okay," I said. "I felt so good today. I looked forward to seeing you again tonight. I don't know why I got so upset. Sorry."
"Let's eat our food before it all gets cold. Do you still want to go to the movie?" We were planning to see Never Let Me Go.
"I do if you do."
"I do," she said softly. We were quiet until we got out of the movie. On the bus, we looked for our teams' scores on our cell phones and discussed them. Before we went to bed, she apologized again and I asked if we were okay. We agreed that we were.

L'Ailee and I have many things in common. We both respect science and love nature, although we don't love spending a lot of time in raw nature with no electricity or running water. We want to leave the world a slightly better place than we found it. Our childhoods were difficult, and we believe it's not too late to have a happy childhood now. We take care of our adult responsibilities the best we can. We love food and friends and animals and music. Although our beliefs about the Divine are quite different, we both believe in the wrong number of Gods as far as the majority of people are concerned. We've both had many opportunities to see conservative Christians, and sometimes Jews and Muslims, at their worst. This is the main reason why we support the Park 51 community center. The protestors looked much too familiar.

We defend each other. When the Christine O'Donnell "dabbling in witchcraft" comments became news, L'Ailee told people, "[Lilo] never had any picnics on bloody Satanic altars with me. She can't even watch a full episode of CSI." I've shared our jokes about how atheists are "cute and cuddly" and use her as an example of an ordinary atheist life. We point each other to books, articles, and websites. We're glad we aren't trying to raise children together--some friends of ours are raising our children as interfaith couples (or ex-couples), and sometimes it gets confusing or contentious. Not every spouse or partner at the Orlando Samhain gathering will be Pagan, and I won't be the only one going alone.

There are many things that I wouldn't be if it weren't for her. I've known her my entire adult life, longer than I knew that some people still worship the ancient Gods, and longer than I've been one of those people. I don't know what I'd be without her, but I'd be different. At Battery Park, the conversation about hockey happened because she got me into that sport, and if I looked attractive to other Pagans, it's because she knows exactly what I need to do with my hair, clothes, and makeup. I know how to belly-dance because she insisted that I take advantage of the domestic partner membership at the gym where she teaches and that class appealed to me. We both shuddered at Never Let Me Go, and we both needed to read the novel beforehand. I know there are ways I've gotten to her and shaped her, too. In the last post, I mentioned that we had a mizpah necklace when we first launched our relationship. We knew even as kids that we'd found the missing puzzle piece.

I hope the people who approached me at Battery Park find someone else who'll say yes to them. Those people may not share their beliefs. This won't be a bad thing, but sometimes it will be a challenging thing. Another thing L'Ailee and I have in common is that we have no problem with challenges.

Lots of links, if you care to read more:

Beautiful Autumn Equinox rituals from all over the world

We both laughed hard when we saw Saturday Night Live's Ground Zero Mosque that does gay weddings bit online this morning.

New Yorkers need to forget about things like Park 51 and unite against the real enemy--bedbugs! They're taking over!

Y'all probably saw the Republican Party's "Pledge to America" this week. It's like the Contract with America, only with smaller words and 50 percent more anger. The Real Pledge to America site is hilarious.

It's Banned Books Week! I can't afford anything new, so I should probably revisit one of these books that have been banned or challenged.

I won't be able to make Jon Stewart's Rally for Sanity on October 30th, as I'll be in Orlando for Samhain. But there are Rally for Sanity Meetups going on all over the country!

When will we get a professional womens' hockey league?

Homophobia is not all religious, and it sometimes comes from "tolerant" people who claim not to have a homophobic bone in their body, but... This article is a case in point. The author believes that same-sex couples should be kept off of arena Kiss Cams for his young daughter's sake. I'd be happy to get rid of the Kiss Cams altogether, but something tells me he'd also not want his kid "exposed" to L'Ailee and I holding hands.

Finally, shouldn't mens' underwear come in cup sizes, too?

1 comment:

Marisa said...

hey Jayelle,
I'm kind of interested in blogging again which I did as a Christian, but it's not fun without blog friends, so I'm looking for some :P I hope it's ok, I just added your blog to my links on mine..
Marisa (from extians)