A WRITER'S WIT
Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim.
Born February 4, 1921
A Tough but Redemptive Outing
Sometimes I read a book out of curiosity, not because I think I'll love or even like it. I first became aware of the Cobb/Taylor book it through my college alumni magazine. And because I'm not always quick in ordering books I want to read, I just now find time to read one that was published three years ago. But I'm not sorry I bought a copy.
Ms. Friedan's epigram above calls upon me to think of my own days in seminary, many years ago, a testament to my faith that failed. Coincidentally, seminary, the same one that Joe Cobb, co-author of Our Family Outing attends, is the place where I learned that in marrying a woman, I was a gay man who had also attempted to fit in to the societal norms Friedan references. The book is painful reading for one who has already forged his own way through this wilderness, but I admire Cobb and Taylor for publishing their account of their ordeal.
Our stories cross paths in so many ways, though we've never met. I grew up in Wichita. I also attended Southwestern College, the undergraduate school that Joe did, only more than a decade earlier than he. I know some of the people whom he references in the book, ministers of churches in the Kansas West Conference, the one I would have returned to once I finished my M. Th.—if I had finished it.
I have great admiration for Cobb who, although he left the Methodist church in Kansas, did choose to continue serving as a minister in other ways and eventually became ordained through the Metropolitan Community Church, the noted MCC of gay communities across the country. I parted ways with the Church, not only because the Methodist Church in particular would have demanded that I return my credentials, but because I no longer wished to be part of an organization that would de facto reject me. Now, part of that stems from a childhood practice of rejecting my father and his actions before he could reject me, a game at which we both excelled. But I ultimately felt I'd rather serve humanity as a public school teacher than through an archaic religious structure that to this day still rejects the legitimacy of the lives of gay men and women.
This criticism betrays my bias, but the authors are more successful when they stay with the concrete, rather than slipping into philosophical or theological realms. For example, Joe says, after he's left his wife and is experimenting with his behavior in a favored bookstore:
Leaning against literature, while reading poetry,
I looked down the aisle of science fiction and mystery.
A clerk walked toward me followed by two men.
The third man wore a red bandanna,
brown curls of hair peeking out from beneath.
As he turned the corner between mystery and science fiction, he winked and smiled.
I nearly dropped Emily Dickinson.
I had no words,
only a reality,
This will be a terrible and liberating gift (79).
I dated a mortician for a month. He was a beautiful man who excelled in make-up for the deceased. At the end of the month, right after we watched a romantic movie, he looked at me and said, "I'm not falling in love with you." I tried not to take it personally, but I felt like lying down and having him do my make-up (155).
NEXT TUESDAY: A PROFILE OF PLAYING ST. BARBARA
WEDNESDAY: A HAWK IN THE BACK YARD