Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thank You, Mr. President

I was recently forwarded this thank-you card template from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force urging me to thank the president for his words of support for gay marriage. I did just that.

Their form letter begins:
Congratulations, Mr. President, for making history today by becoming the first sitting president to explicitly support marriage for same-sex couples. Millions of families now know that their country’s leader believes in fairness for all.

We celebrate this moment and also remember that the right of loving, committed couples to get married is just one of many issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It is heartening to know the president stands with our families in the pursuit of full equality, economic security and justice.

I am an Ohio voter. People talk about how this could hurt you in Ohio. There are plenty of Ohioans like myself who applaud your position and will use it as fuel in our efforts to ensure your re-election. I am twenty-six years old. I am the daughter of a civil rights attorney who fought in 1993 to strike down a Cincinnati charter amendment that essentially legalized discrimination against homosexual employees. He lost. Cincinnati only recently overturned it. I really hope that when my kids are growing up, this issue has been put to bed for good. I really hope that no matter what sexual orientation my kids have, they know that the leaders and the policies of this country support them in their love, career, and educational aspirations. While your announcement does not end the fight for this vision, it does help me sleep better at night.

One of my best friends in the world is a gay man who is in a committed relationship. The two of them have taught me much more about love and commitment than most of my heterosexual friends. While they have yet to announce marriage plans, I am ready to stand by their sides someday if they decide to say I do. Their love is not a political statement. It is just love. While your statement has been called "playing politics" by the right. I understand it as a call to say what is the truth and if that is political, I'm fine with that.

In our world where war, inequality, loud-mouthed-one-sided-close-minded disagreement seem to be the norm, it is nice to take a moment to affirm that all love is equal. And, lord knows, this world needs all the love it can get.


Jessica Gingold

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Failures: Textual Hiatus

So... ummm... about that commitment not to text this month. I put it out there all public-like, and then the fifth of May happened. Hilary asked me to text her the address of where she was meeting me. I could not very well refuse her that. With the text of my address, it hit me, texting has a purpose in our world. And with that realization, a hard line stance on texting no longer made sense.

The next text I sent was to a good friend in Chicago. Most of my best friends are living in cities other than Cincinnati. Emma and I were both getting ready for our nights out in our respective cities, communicating via google chat. The best way to virtually share that experience is by sharing and commenting on each other's outfits. I tried to e-mail her the picture of my new dress. But, it was taking too long. Pic text sent.

Then, I sent a text to a friend who I realized would probably never listen to her voicemail that I had left several hours prior where I invited her out. I was right. When I texted, she texted right back.

Next, came the exchange with my new housemate who invited me to come back and play a game of Settlers of Catan yesterday afternoon. I felt like calling him back was just unnecessary given we are new friends, and this was his way of reaching out. Then, I was running a little late, so I texted to tell him I'd be back around 2:15. Clearly communicated, nothing more necessary.

Then, my boss texted me. I am doing some consultation work for Mikva. If your boss texts, you text back.

Up until the third transgression, I thought maybe I could still keep it going at least for another week. But, here I am, one week in, with too many transgressions to make the commitment legitimate any longer. So, I quit.

But, I do not quit without lessons learned. Turns out texting is not all bad. I never really thought it was, but I did maybe think it was more bad than it actually is. While this metaphor is a little drastic, my texting ban is somewhat like saying I am just going to write letters from now on, no more e-mails. While it is cool in theory, your friends might start to hate you for not responding to them. The thing is, people text. And it is convenient. The more voicemails I left, the less conversations I seemed to be having with people. Additionally, as a youth worker, I could not deny that part of me that knows text messaging is a legitimate form of conversation for many young people. Maybe in the 1990s we talked on the phone to share our deepest emotions, but the truth is teenagers can communicate a lot with their thumbs. Texting has found a comfortable spot in modern communication, and the refusal to use it when it is the right form makes me a luddite.

Thus, this is not a failure really. Sure, I did originally intend not to text for the entire month of May. As of today, or really Saturday, I am texting again. Still, I hope to maintain a level of intentionality. Sometimes we just need a little breather to reassess and then can move forward with a more balanced perspective. Let's be real here, I was never going to give up texting for good. So, here are my new texting commandments:

  1. Choose phone call first in most cases: if you are choosing text because you are scared of the call, call.
  2. Limit texting when with other people (or just don't do it at all).
  3. If you are running late, text.
  4. Information the recipient would need written down (i.e. addresses) should be texted.
  5. Pictures make wonderful and practical texts, but once again, always consult # 2. If you are taking pictures and sending them to everyone in your life instead of sharing the moment with whomever you are with, you should probably at least wait to send the pic.
  6. Do not text and drive, duh. 
  7. Texting really can be such a present, but when there are constantly presents, they stop being as meaningful. Additionally, no one expects presents on any day other than your birthday, hence, don't look at your phone with baited expectation.
  8. Always call parents.
  9. Be wary of texting in new relationships, sarcasm, enthusiasm, flirtation, anger may not translate well.
  10. Text with awareness.
First I failed my 10-day silent retreat, now my texting ban. I guess I really like to talk.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Oliver is 1 Month

A couple weeks ago I visited my newborn nephew, Oliver, in Atlanta. He is exactly what a nephew should be. He never made eye contact with me intentionally. He cried a bit. He sucked on my bicep. He did not laugh at any of my jokes. He never asked me how I was doing. He did not learn my name. But, the connection was deep. Very deep.

Also profound in the visit was watching my big brother Ben and sister-in-law Katy be parents. Ben is six years older than me, and while we are mostly equals now, throughout my life I have looked to Ben for guidance, protection, and love. Ben is the one I call when deciding what new bike to buy because I know he will actually take the time to thoroughly think through ever angle of the purchase. Or a more recent example, Ben was the one I called after a late night back pain-initiated panic attack because I knew Ben wouldn't panic with me. He is cool and steady and clearheaded almost always. Watching him father, I saw everything I have ever known my brother to be plus something. A giggle at Oliver's weird twisty faces. A concern for the well-being of his child and wife. A tenderness as he simultaneously baked bread and changed diapers.

Ben and Katy amaze me. They brought this damn cute new child into the world and all of our lives, and while they are making him their number one priority, they are also not giving up who they are. Everyday I spent there we ate gourmet breakfasts of pancakes with fruit, frittatas, and homemade bread with almond butter and apples. We went out for craft beer. We went on a long bike ride (just Ben and I, no baby....yet). We ate delicious dinners and desserts. Katy breastfed Oliver with joy, never once complaining of being tired despite the fact she had been up every two hours to feed him. I am so very impressed with them. In honor of all their hard work in Oliver's first month of life, I put together a video highlighting all of his tricks.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Commitments: Textual Hiatus

The New York Times wrote an article recently about the lost art of conversation in the face of the technological world we now live in and are consumed by. There was nothing radically notable in the article. It said the things my friends and I have been conversing about for years now. Still, it hit me this time. It hit me in the way that made me want to act. It is so much easier to think about the problems of our world than to act on them. So, in an effort to make May a meaningful, learning month, I venture into a month with no texting. Of course, I already did this for two months while I was in Mexico. But, I was in Mexico. So, that was a good distraction. In the US, where I yearn to be connected to all those I love, choosing not to text is more of an effort. I have already caught my fingers in mid-leap toward the phone, pulling them back away from the keypad. They are left with that tingly tension of desire.

If I had not admitted it before, the tension in my fingers right now has shown me that I am a texter. I do not text to nearly the extent that my students do. I do not text with that many people even, but still, I feel attached to it. I look to my phone with expectation that it will deliver me a present from the world of my social network, and when there is nothing, I feel disappointment. I send out texts and hope for responses, feeling powerless in the in between time. Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic, but sometimes it feels dramatic. And that is exactly why I want to break that. I also feel like texting feeds a growing cowardice in me. In high school, my friends and I talked on the phone for hours, sharing our ideas and feelings, making plans, supporting each others’ dreams. My parents had to buy a second line to accommodate all our chatter. Now, phone conversations feel like work, and can even get wrought in anxiety. What do we do when we want to say bye? How will I transition from the casual conversation to why I am really calling? Is it ok to call just to talk to someone because I want to talk to someone? Do I need an agenda for the phone call? Will it be weird if I call someone if we have never done that before? And so to avoid any awkward silences and rude goodbyes, I text. I am not sure when I started getting scared of the phone, but I am sure that texting is not helping.

Increasingly, my networks are spread and I have less face time with those I most care about. I think that by being in text communication, we are connected. But, that connection is no proxy for real communication, authentic conversation, dialogue. In the month of May, I am challenging myself not to text, but also not to shy away from communication. To pick up the phone and call people I want to talk to. To send e-mails when I want to have a dialogue. I also do not want to be rude to those who do text me. Thus, I will respond... but in some other fashion. I recognize that the biggest limit is time. That most people who are not on a YOOT with a flexible life schedule are not reflecting about texting with this grandiosity. It is simply the most efficient way to communicate. That may be so. Still, time is always about priorities, and I am not convinced I just text to make things easier and faster… How often do we try to plan things via text only to realize a 30 second conversation would have done the trick?

But I wonder… will not texting promote more conversation or will I just end up less connected?