Two worlds, three women

25 06 2011

1.
When I was younger I was married for around six or seven years. I remember this as being one of the happiest times of my life, for three reasons. One was because the man concerned was an unusual one -talented, confident and quite comfortable with himself -a rare characteristic as far as Sri Lankan men go. The second thing was that for the first time in my life upto then, I was comfortable with myself. And finally the fact that for the first time in my life upto then, other people were comfortable with me.
Life as a queer woman in Sri Lanka, I find is a completely different experience. I am very used to feeling like the weird person in the room since childhood, since that is how I have always been. But being queer in Sri Lanka is a whole different level of weird. So many doors are closed to you, so many things you don’t say to so many people, (often the ones you’re closest to), and so many, many, many things you just don’t DO.
There are places one avoids, conversations one edits, dreams that one abandons, all because you know that for so many people, knowing exactly what and who you are would be just too much to handle. These are the two worlds that many of us inhabit – straight and queer. And still for its difficulties and trials, I know where I belong.

2.
I had girl friends before and after I had boyfriends. Boy friends were uncomplicated. So uncomplicated that I managed two at a time. I was doubly spoilt, taken out to nice restaurants, shown off and generally proudly paraded to friends and family.
With girl friends it’s always been hidden. Never met the parents, never taken home, never invited to dinner with family and rarely taken out.
Yet if you ask me now why I choose secrecy over acceptance I would say “to be myself”. With women I am me, not pretending to be someone I am not, just to please him or his family or just to save face. With women I can be that dark and dirty secret that lives in a closet – but that closet is my own and dark and dirty can be exciting!

3.
In school, for a long time, I was one of a handful of girls in the class who didn’t have a boyfriend. I would either be surrounded by discussions of how some adolescent male looked, touched, gave letters or arranged a secret meeting on the way to tuition classes with my classmates. Or I would have to listen to prim and snooty comments of ‘we’ were much better than ‘those girls’ who had boyfriends. I didn’t want to be in either group. Then in my early twenties, I had an intensely boring and terribly depressing relationship with a man for too long.
Life was much easier, though. It didn’t even occur to me that there would be a time when I would look wide-eyed at how joyfully people around me would greet news of upcoming weddings. Or that I wouldn’t be able to hold hands in a restaurant with the person I love. Or edit certain parts of my life when talking about myself. Or that half the family – the half that had tedious marriages and lackluster lifestyles – would be talking about me in horrified tones. When you are straight, you take these things for granted. I only had one complaint.
Men just didn’t work for me. Nothing to do with lesbian tendencies in denial. The men I was with blamed it on a home with ‘too much’ independence and an education that was ‘too feminist’. With women, my world fits together nicely.





We’re back!

18 05 2011

We’re back! And we’re sorry we’ve been away for so long. As you must have realized, our posting has dwindled over the last few months and has now come down to zero. That’s because we’ve all been caught up in the demands of work and home and have had no time at all to write.

But rejoice, devoted readers, we are back! We’re planning to get right back into the groove and start posting regularly again. Please send comments and critiques and most of all, keep reading.





And a partridge in a pear tree…

24 12 2010

These days, for most of us, Christmas is a festival of food, drink, glittery stuff and….presents! But how do you choose the gifts you give? How do you select from the dizzying range of gifties available in our shops, which go from sublime to kitsch to crap?

The JC Penney commercial linked here, is an advertiser’s guide to how not to approach the matter – for men at least. (The solution is –  jewellery!)

We found the whole thing disturbing in many ways….yet interesting as a view on what presses people’s buttons.

How do you buy gifts for the people you love and live with?

1.

When I go gift hunting I think quite carefully about the person I am buying it for. If they like Lady Gaga, that’s what they get, whatever my own opinion of the dreadful LG might be. Price is a factor too obviously, but I try hard to find something I can afford, that they will like too.

The other point I consider when buying gifts, (and this is why the man in JC Penney went into the doghouse) is to try and get something the giftee would not usually get for themselves, and certainly nothing – god forbid, useful. In other words, a little Luxury.

However, when buying gifts for one’s wealthier friends who have vast disposable incomes, this always becomes a major issue, because what the hell toys/treats/accessories can you get them that they haven’t already bought? This is when ingenuity has to be used, to pick out/ create and devise something no one else would think of, to bestow upon your unfortunately rich bud – a meal at Pilawoos or gift vouchers from one of those tiny shops in Pettah spring to mind…

2.

I have to say I am very bad about this gift giving business. I usually forget people’s birthdays, Christmas and New Year are upon me before I’ve remembered that I have to give gifts and sometimes, even after I buy the gift, I forget to give it till much later! Come to think of it, the only time I remember and make plans and buy gifts is when I come back from a trip abroad.

When I do buy gifts, though, I like to think about what would please the other person. There are times I’ve given useful gifts because at the time that I was buying it (usually in the middle of rushing around somewhere just before the event) I knew they needed and were looking for such a thing. Most times, I am boring and give books and chocolates – the easiest when you are surrounded by people who love reading and sweet things! Sometimes, I’ve given gifts that were useful but that others wouldn’t think of, like a little mortar and pestle as a housewarming gift. At other times, I just see things that make me remember a specific person, like random books and gizmos I pick up for my father or coffee for my coffee-loving friends. And at times, for people I love, I go looking endlessly for things that they will be amused and surprised by!

3.

When I buy a gift for someone I love, I try to think of what it is they need…you see, I am the practical sort. I bought my best friend a cutlery set when she moved into a new house, and this year was thinking of getting her a microwave but changed my mind! As for my partner, I usually buy her books. She loves books, particularly political books, so I guess I tend to buy her something I know she would enjoy. The same goes for friends. My friend who loves night clubs and is a DJ, will get a disco light; my sporty friend will get a sporty spray and my girlie friend will get another pair of earrings!

I generally try to avoid gift vouchers. Mainly because they have the value of the gift voucher displayed on them and somehow the gift becomes less personal. I have to admit that I have once or twice recycled gift vouchers I have received, i.e re given them to someone! Terrible I know! But so easy to do if you don’t know the person very well.  However, overall, I do love buying people gifts, wrapping them and sharing them. It makes me very happy!

for more partridge humour





The Moment

20 12 2010

We pinched this idea from one of our favourites – Smith Magazine: describing a Moment that transformed our lives. The Moment might be “a split-second decision, something you witnessed, a message sent or received, a literal or mental discovery. Moments can be serious or silly, as short as a tweet, as long as 750 words, told via a single image or illustration, series of photos, or a scanned letter or post-it note…” (Smith Magazine)

Here’s ours…

1.

I think my moment was when I said yes to adopting a kitten this year. I was sold the idea after some effort, involving pathetic descriptions of how pitifully she was found, sheltering from the pouring rain under a car until M picked her up and brought her home and now she needed to be adopted, poor thing. An innocent question about what colour she was, brought a hail of abuse upon my head, featuring the words ‘appearance based discrimination’ and ‘how cruel’. So I hastily accepted the tiny creature who has turned out to be a strong minded individual (more than most, and I should know, having had many) who never moves slower than a dash, usually speeding from place to forbidden place, who is oddly more interested in investigating exactly how the loo flushes than in her next meal, is voiceless, but still communicates her wishes perfectly, never answers to any name, doesn’t mind getting wet but hates being laughed at above all things.

My cat is a frequent troublemaker, constant entertainment and perfect companion, who has definitely transformed my days. Saying yes to adopting her was one of the best moments of my life.

2.

When I left Sri Lanka for the United States I knew I would come back. Gut feeling in the face of ‘you might want to stay’, ‘it’s the kind of study environment you will like’, ‘everyone says they will come back but when you go there and experience the comforts you will think differently’.  Even, ‘when you come back you will want to go back because it is so dirty and dusty and chaotic here’. So I went to the States, and I loved it there. The parks, the cafés, the hundreds of books, the people not staring, the freedom of walking back home alone at 3 in the morning without much fear. I immersed myself in that. But I was waiting to come back because I found out what it is like to not have a patch of garden to walk on, not talk to neighbours over your wall, not have friends who will flock to you whatever time of day or night if you are in trouble and not to be able to get to a hot beach in a couple of hours.

And I still remember the moment when I realised that the sunshine was an illusion – you can walk in it but it wouldn’t warm your skin. My entire two years there was one long Moment.

3.

My life changed completely – for the worse – last week.

I switched my mobile phone brand from a Nokia to a Blackberry. Ever since owning a mobile phone, I have embraced the easy to use and functional Nokia. Last week I got carried away by the messenger service of the Blackberry (BBM) as my family lives overseas and  I wanted to communicate with them more easily and for free, so I went out and bought the 9300 Curve 3G.

Firstly, it took a whole day for Dialog to activate the Blackberry service for me, and then I learned that it would cost me an additional 1,100 rupees per month on top of my current mobile bill.

Then I made the mistake of linking my personal Gmail account to my hand held device (after all that’s what its there for, right?) I now receive emails all day (and night) – on the device and on my computer. It hasn’t stopped making burping sounds since it was activated. Worse, I can’t tell the difference between an SMS, an MMS, an email alert, a Facebook update and the phone ringing. They have all merged into one big belch!

What really took the cake was when this afternoon my mother sent me a BBM message asking me what I had for lunch!

This is the beginning of my end…





First love…

2 08 2010

1.

I had two first loves. The first first love happened when I was 13. The second was when I was 25. The second first love had more of a life impact on me, so I will make that one the subject of my contribution to this post….

I was 25 and she was a year older than me. It was the first lesbian experience for both of us, so it was all very intense and consuming. We were good friends before we became lovers. We were both straight at that time and we both had boy friends. None of our friends knew and neither did our parents. (However her mother found out towards the end of our relationship.) We were together for two years before we broke up. During our relationship we read sad lesbian stories and books where the gay or lesbian character would often die at the end. Our favourite was ‘Lihaf – the Quilt’ – a short story by Ismat Chugtai. We both loved the sea and spent a great deal of our leisure time in the water…

It took us an age to break up…and even when we stopped being lovers, we continued to see each other as friends. Trying to keep up a pretence of friendship when you still desire someone is not a good idea. It was very difficult and I don’t recommend it to anyone.

(Next time it has to be a clean break and no seeing the ex for a good while I told myself!)

Are we still friends? Yes we are. Not the best of friends but friends nonetheless.

Sometimes when I see her I am reminded of our old relationship, but we never talk about it or discus it. I think an old flame is easily rekindled, especially the first. But we have never gone back. Some things are best left alone.

2.

As above, I have two first loves. Or I should, because I came to loving women later in life. But I spent the last few days trying to remember which boy or man I first fell in love with, and I can’t! I suppose falling in love with a boy is not really a life changing experience.

When I first met the woman I fell in love with I had no idea I would fall in love with her. If someone had told me at the time that I would fall in love with a woman half a dozen years later, I would have laughed. Some things become significant only after events have unfolded. Memories are strained through a sieve then. The sand is allowed to fall through and checked for specks of gold. The shiny stuff is kept separately.

What is chronological time when you measure feelings? At the time I used to think that we went our separate ways too soon, but maybe it was just right, that time. When the beautiful die young they are forever beautiful. Pardon my macabre sense of humor. But because there were beautiful things in it, we could remain friends. The shiny flecks could be sifted for gold and it didn’t have to be all thrown away. Why would you want to send away someone who knows you far better than most people around you, listens to the stupidest things you’ve done without judging you and gives you a hug when things are really bad? Such friends are fine gold, and I keep them close.

3.

I remember the first time I saw her.

It was such a long time ago, or so it seems to me now. Maybe that depends on the event too…and on the person. The distance and space it all acquires as time passes and you move on from your self. From the way you were then, the thoughts that passed through your head and the feelings that moved your heart and hands. The way you remember things sifting, shifting and maybe taking on qualities they never had at the time.

I couldn’t swear to any of it. What I am now is so different in every way, it could have all been a dream. There are doors in my head though, that were not there before, and I have to open a great number of them, one leading to the other like Russian dolls, deeper and deeper, into the very heart of myself, till I reach that place where I look at what I saw once and then lost and I feel the first tear burn my skin like fire.

But the pain that I imagined infinite then, has passed of course and I remember all of those events as a learning experience only, as a time in my life when I was transformed, and that is enough. I do not ask any more of it, of her, of myself now. It has been such a relief to forget, to cease wondering, to enjoy every moment of every day without waiting for the day I look up, look around and see her there again.

But when it was happening it was a continuing story in my mind, with all the passion and fire of any script, any song, any poem, any tale told to any child or lover. For it is mine, you see. It is part of my story and I am it.





All time favourite books…

26 06 2010

1.

A word child Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch is possibly my favorite writer and this may be my all time favourite book. It is the first book by her that I ever read, and I like it because it deals with obsession, guilt, human nature, time and love. It is the story of an (anti) hero – a man who works with and is fascinated by words, who is doomed to repeat the most significant mistake of his life. Murdoch writes brilliantly as always, and she always lets her readers draw their own conclusions.

Written on the body Jeanette Winterson

I like Jeanette Winterson’s preoccupations with love, loss, magic and quantum physics. But also because this is one of the few books that ever made me weep.

Tortilla Flat John Steinbeck

This review says it all.

“What it’s all about are friendships and the dynamics of interpersonal dealings between immortal characters. Immortal in that every generation has their Pilons and Dannys, and of having things that you can hold in your own hand versus things that cannot ultimately be bought or sold. The appeal is due in part to the similarities in our own lives and in the lives of others. In every Steinbeck novel is a little gift of insight. This has many.”

Also although the book is set in California, it always reminds me of Sri Lanka and people I have known.

2.

John Irving

Lets just say I love all his books – I love the bears, the sex workers, the boxers and the struggling authors that live in every one of them. He is a master story teller and wonderful entertainer. I loved The Hotel New Hampshire most of all: it made me think about the attraction of the forbidden.

Graphic novels

I love graphic novels. My three favorites are The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman and Kari by Amruta Patil. Although very different, they each deal with something close to my heart or something I am fascinated with. There is something wonderful about this art form that appeals to me. It’s like reading a movie. When I was a teenager, I read the movie “Grease” as a comic and ever since then I have actively searched for this form of writing/drawing.

Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides

I loved this book because it made me question my assumptions about sex and sexuality. I read it early in my coming out days and it threw open a whole plethora of questions. The fact that I still remember the story line and can easily recall some of what I felt when reading it, reminds me that it was one of my favorite books!

3.

Daughter of Fortune Isabel Allende

Most times the books we read resonate because of the particular moment we read it in I think. Every time I think of this book, I remember the road to the library in Harlem and the book’s beautiful thick cream pages with large letters. The prose is lyrical; it makes you want to visit Chile, and is sweeter and more romantic in mood than The House of the Spirits. I discovered my love for magic realism with this book.

The Harry Potter series JK Rowling

I love the magic in these books – witches, wizards, beasts that talk, spell making, all of it. I like the author’s use of the many classical mythological references in the naming of things, it adds layers of meaning. My favorite book is the first one and I don’t think the entire series is perfect, but it is still a series I read over and over again, especially when I feel sad.

A short history of nearly everything Bill Bryson

If you are wondering why I am including a pop-science book in this, the answer is I am a geek. The other answer is that it is a well-written book on science and makes things from super-volcanoes to atoms to black holes seem more titillating than porn.





No one could accuse me of…

27 04 2010

Being the life and soul of the party.
Having too much energy.
Being too loud.
Not reading enough.
Being tone deaf.
Remembering everything.

No one could accuse me of…

Not being bitchy.
Being nice to men.
Not loving enough.
Ignoring soft butches.
Not getting off on a mindfuck.

No one could accuse me of…

Hesitating to write letters of complaint.
Not having enough (ex) girlfriends.
Not being willing to try almost anything at least once.
Keeping a lizard as a pet.
Not enjoying renovations.