Tag Archives: 1980’s

Dear Diary, It’s A Vlog!

Standard

It’s pretty self explanatory. I love crafting, Martha Stewart and all things sparkly. I am just really, really bad at it. I grew up in the 80’s which was the crafting decade. We latch hooked and cross stitched and barrette braided and friendship pinned and shrinky dinked our childhoods away. Some of us were better at it than others. I am one of the others but I have never accepted defeat. In the land before Joann Fabrics and Michaels and A.C.Moore, crafting was a real treat. Now it has become a way to make a living for many…or in my case, a way to keep myself entertained. Enjoy my incompetence!!!!

 

AIDS

Standard

because I figured I would have been censored if I put a picture of a naked man, but Terry would have LOVED these shoes ūüôā

I remember exactly where I was when I first learned about AIDS. I was standing in my grandma’s kitchen and we were getting dinner on the table. I was maybe 8¬†years old…we had the evening new on the tv. The anchor was reporting that they had now named the virus that was linked to homosexual male cancer. It was called Auto Immune Deficiency¬†Syndrome. He went on to explain that they still were unsure how¬†the virus¬†was being transmitted, but it was most likely through blood, seamen, saliva, tears and mucus. The anchor was warning everyone that any exchange of these fluids with an infected person would lead to death.

The first thing I heard was AIDS causes death. I immediately burst into tears. My grandma had a box of “Aids” in her refrigerator. They were a dietary supplement she had been using to try to lose some weight. I insisted that she throw them out. She did. Wether to calm me down or because she hated the damn things anyway, I don’t know.¬†The second thing I heard is that they weren’t sure exactly how the virus was being transmitted but it was probably through everything that comes out of our bodies. Oh and through kissing and using public toilets. My mother was a nurse, so I told her she had to quit because she came into contact with sick people everyday and now it was way to dangerous for her to go to work. She didn’t quit.

She didn’t do much to¬†relieve my fears either. She simply said that they were doing all sorts of research and that sick people needed well people to take care of them and she was not sick so she would take care of those who were. I didn’t really care for her logic. My dad had to institute all sorts of new techniques when it came to the care and handling of the deceased. In my family, AIDS¬†was a presence in¬†our lives.

The first person I ever knew personally to have AIDS was a guy I met when I lived in Houston. I was 17 and living with my best friend in an apartment complex (think lower income¬†level Melrose Place). Just below our apartment was Terry. He was a very stereotypical¬†gay man who was very funny. He was dying. I got to be quite close to Terry in the 6 months that we lived there. He had TONS of house plants and his bathroom was collaged¬†from ceiling to floor with pictures of naked men. Classic naked man pictures or funny naked man pictures….ceiling to floor. And it was a large bathroom!! Very creative, if you ask me.

Terry’s family had abandoned him when they found out he had AIDS.¬†He would bounce between understanding, self loathing and anger in regards to his family and his diagnoses. He drank openly to try to escape, at least for a little while. He didn’t have much money, he couldn’t work. He had lost most of his friends and he had lost his lover to the disease the year before. He had more medications on his kitchen counter than he had food in his cupboard. But Lord was he funny!!! Towards the end he began giving away his “stuff”. His friend who was always (I am not exaggerating when I say always)¬†in jean¬†cut offs, a white tank and work boots¬†came up to give us three of Terry’s bigger house plants that he had been growing for years. We all knew the end was near. I think after that, Terry and I made one final trip to the liquor store, vodka for him, Bailey’s for me. We went back to his place, changed into caftans and¬†furry slippers¬†and we got drunk and laughed, we hugged and cried, he got mad and stormed about. We sat on the bathroom floor and he told me the stories behind each picture on the wall.

Terry taught me that I did not have to fear a victim of AIDS. He taught me that facing death is partly brave and partly not brave. However fleeting life may be it holds significance, no matter the cause of death. I hope Terry knows how he changed my life.

After Terry, there was my old dance teacher Rinaldo. My mother was with Rinaldo as he took his final breath, holding his hand. His last words were “I am dancing again….” Another friend John was in end stage¬†when he and I reconnected briefly. He held my eldest daughter when she was just 6 months old and he made her laugh, he gave her a kiss and told me she was beautiful. John really mellowed in the last few weeks of his life because I remembered him as the skin head mean guy who threatened to stab my best friend’s mother if she tried to drag me out of the bar we were in.

Because¬†of these people I knew, because I got an upclose¬†and intimate view of exactly what AIDS does to a person’s body and spirit, I was always scared of contracting it myself. Not through touch or tears or even a kiss. I was not scared to hold these dying people as they cried. But by the time I came “of age” we knew that AIDS did not discriminate and the incidence of women with HIV/AIDS was almost as high as gay men. I was a statistic waiting to happen. That I saw this disease in action was a very good thing. While my girlfriends were out having sex, unprotected with no care in the world, I insisted on testing before and protection. My girlfriends¬†hadn’t lived through watching someone die from the disease. They had no clue. I was fearful for them. I tried to explain what I had experienced to them and they just did not believe it could happen to them. I knew it could happen to me.

Having children who are coming to age in this day, I have impressed upon them the fact that AIDS kills. Sure, with the drugs available, people with HIV (the pre-cursor to AIDS) are living longer, healthier lives. Regardless, living with HIV is no walk in the park. I have told them that getting pregnant is not the only consequence to having sex. Death is still a possibility. I know we are better educated today, I know that we have better medicines and better research but AIDS still kills. People are still contracting AIDS.

Not just in Africa, here in America. Our kids are not learning about AIDS the way we did. For my generation AIDS¬† was a lead story on the evening news 7 nights a week. We watched the progression of awareness from it being a “gay cancer” to being a “gay plague” to being a full blown,¬†worldwide epidemic. It seems that the panic has taken a backseat as we have learned more about the disease, like it is only transmittable through blood and sexual fluids. As cancer has replaced AIDS in the epidemic category, I can’t help but worry that we are doing our children a disservice by not keeping AIDS education in the forefront of¬† our awareness. Kids are not catching cancer.

AIDS is still out there and no one is immune. The fight still continues against this horrible and sad disease. As a tribute to those who have fought and lost we all need to keep the fight going, we need to protect our kids with information and we need to find the cure. It’s out there, it can be done and in the meantime, I will put on my silk robe and furry slippers and drink a toast to Terry….I have to wait till the kids are grown to re-decorate the bathroom though…Love.

Thank God For 80’s TV

Standard

lesson? never stand in front of a flying chair

My generation was the first of the “latch key kids”. We were the ones coming home to empty houses and afterschool specials. An after school special was a made for tv movie that had a theme we kids would especially relate to like teens and drugs, teens and sex, teens and divorce. They were designed¬†to help us have conversations with our working parents. I was a bit too young for these after school specials. But I watched them anyway. Anything geared towards kids was a special. We didn’t have entire channels dedicated to kids. We had “specials” every once in a while. That’s all.

When Nickleodeon¬†finally did come on the air, it went off at 6pm. So, it was just a couple of hours of cool kids shows like You Can’t Do That On Television. That left us¬† to surf either reruns of old shows like Mary Tyler Moore and Maude or watch¬†the evening news, Wheel—-Of—-Fortune and Jeopardy. CHiPs was another rerun that was on and Kojak. Dr.Who and The Lone Ranger were generally always on channel 24 (PBS).

Now, we kids were not supposed to be¬†watching the afternoon¬†talk shows like ¬†Phil Donahue or Oprah. Much of their content was questionable for young impressionable minds.Like the time Phil wore a dress on his show. ¬†Sally Jesse Raphel¬†and Jerry Springer and Geraldo¬†were on the major networks. Phil taught us about cross dressing, Jerry taught us about relationships, Sally taught us about transgendered¬†people, Geraldo¬†taught us about racism and ¬†Oprah taught us how to feel about it all. They taught us not to be scared of people with AIDS, that it was now perfectly acceptable for white people and black people to get married and that we all needed to make ourselves happy and not rely on others for said happiness (it was the 80’s, the “ME” decade).

We met drag queens and KKK members and single mothers¬†and teen parents and “little people” aka midgets, and people who loved their pets more than their partners. If it wasn’t for Phil and Oprah we would have never known that too much excercise¬†was actually a disorder and that pills and booze don’t mix. And sex, don’t forget all we learned about sex!! How to please your husband, how to get your husband to please you, how to know if your man is cheating, how to cheat on your man, how to tell if your man is gay, how to tell your man your gay. The new American family was becoming legitimized. Kids with two dads, being raised by grandparents, foster kids, kids living on the streets. Sally loved to do the shows with the homeless kids. And ofcourse¬†there was the famous chair throwing incident on Geraldo.

While our parents were at work, we learned that we were good enough and smart enough and worthy of love and a large income and how to make couscous¬†and salmon. Self esteem was the hot new buzz word. Phil would start with the disclaimer that today’s show had “adult topics” and all children should¬†be removed from the tv viewing area and then do¬† show on incest. Ask me how I know. I mean, I was a kid and Phil specifically told me to leave the room. As if just by telling me to leave the room because of adult subject manner was gonna get me to move. What it did was make me go grab the chips and dip and make sure I was back in time for the juicy stuff.

Without Oprah and Sally telling me that I was equal and deserved equal pay for equal work, I would have never known! I have to admit, I was too young¬†to actually be a “latch key kid”. And I was lucky enough to have my grandparents in town. All that meant was that I would catch the last of Guiding Light while eating cookies and milk (or peanuts and Pepsi)and then be banished to the¬†playroom to do my homework, where I would catch one of the talk shows or after school specials. Gram wouldn’t kick me outside till 4, after my homework, and Oprah, were done.

I have to give these talk show hosts full credit for being prepared¬†on my wedding night. Ok, before my wedding night(but they said that was perfectly¬†ok and acceptable)¬†They prepared me for high school, college and life. They told me about crack cocaine, the night club scene, swingers¬†and cancer, STD’s and how to prepare for the end of the world. There was so much they taught me, that they explained to me, that they proved to me was “normal”. I think most of us can say this is true. Really, without these important people on tv, would we children of the 80’s be as evolved¬†and accepting as we are today? I think not. We were on our way as most of our parents had their minds opened by living through the 60’s and the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution and the Beatles. But, our parents were not necessarily forthcoming with their own personal experiences which is why we needed to hear about Darren Robinson (the Human Beatbox…come on you totally knew that one!).

Today, our children have round the clock programming geared specifically towards their emotional and educational level. But really, what are they learning about the hard realities of life? Their programs teach tolerance but it doesn’t teach them that there are¬†people in this world who are not tolerant.And the way to deal with those people is by whacking¬†them with a chair.¬†It is teaching them their ABC’s but are they learning about the 90 year old¬†great grandma who is going skydiving AND bungee jumping at the same time? I mean, really, TV may have been our companion, but for our kids it is their babysitter. Look at us, how bad did we turn out? Is it not our generation who has given our kids Yo Gabba¬†Gabba¬†and Secret Life¬†of the American Teenager (starring Molly Ringwald!!)? Those are two shows that never would have been born without a Phil show on LSD and a Sally show on families struggling with teen pregnancy.

Everytime¬†I speak publicly I remind all the 30 somethings that without Oprah we wouldn’t even know the word co-dependent and we would all still be stumbling¬†around our own sexuality. We owe these icons a great debt. While many of our parents were on the ME decade train and completely¬†focused on climbing the latter of success, these talk shows were taking care of our emotional growth. Thank you Jerry Springer for all of the¬†paternity tests and ways to confront¬†our cheating baby daddy brother’s uncle. Thank you Sally for showing us the reality of¬†running away from home. Thank you Phil for allowing gay married men and women to be¬†out, loud and proud. Thank you Oprah for showing us that we can be¬†black and rich. And thank you Geraldo for showing us how to forgive the assholes who break our noses. I love each and every one of you in a very special way. Not in a “I’m gonna be on Jerry for loving you” way, but special none the less.