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    Ann Rostow: Cuckoo!

    By Ann Rostow–


    I find myself looking forward to the day after Thanksgiving when I’ll be able to cross two holidays off my mental list, with only three to go. Ironically, I actually like these holidays at this stage in my life, but after decades of grumpy seasonal affective disorder, vague anxieties, and memories of crowded travel, I can’t completely let go of this annual sulkiness. 

    It all starts with grocery store decorations, specifically with the pumpkins and skeletons around mid-September. It’s bad enough that summer’s not half over before we get the “back to school” business thrown in our faces, but then, with the days still warm and the leaves still green and heavy, we get barraged with Halloween and by extension the onset of dark evenings, cold nights, heavy stews, and I want to scream that it’s still summer out there.  

    Worse, it means that we stand on the brink of winter. Months of it, marked by ritual pauses. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, until finally, one horrible day in the freezing rain as we pull our grocery cart away from its mates and walk it through the automatic doors, we see a new display. With bunnies. We’ve made it! “Sumer is icumen in.” Loudly sing cuckoo and break out the Campari and soda. 

    As I mentioned, however, I’ve grown to enjoy winter. I like the holidays. Every season has its positives and negatives and summer itself is not always an extended sojourn on the beach now, is it? Mosquitoes, sweltering heat, all that Campari. By contrast, who doesn’t love an outdoor fire on a cold crisp night? The crunch of snow on a brilliant winter day? A velvety boeuf bourguignon with a 12-year-old Nuits-Saint-Georges? 

    Well, I haven’t had a fine bottle of Nuits-Saint-Georges in years, but it sounds good in theory. At any rate, I have my cake and can eat it too at this point. I like winter and the holidays, and yet I still retain an atavistic satisfaction as each one is over and done with. It’s schizophrenic. Like hating Christmas commercials, but going out of my way to watch those Lifetime movies about Santa’s daughter who lives in Manhattan and has an MBA but who comes back to the North Pole to help out with the “family business” when Santa gets sick. Except, he’s not really sick. It was a ploy by Mrs. Santa to reconcile the two since Santa was originally mad at his daughter for leaving home, so Mrs. Santa put something in the old man’s cocoa. But she revives him after Know-it-all Daughter with the fancy degree manages to screw up the manufacturing timetable, and after a shouting match the two of them realize that they each have something to learn from the other and, with help from the wise elf who has been foreman of the toy factory for lo these many years, they save Christmas!

    For Pete’s Sake

    Can you guess that I’m avoiding GLBT news and information this week? Can you blame me? It’s the holidays!

    I had planned on leading off with Mayor Pete and his sudden rise to the top of the heap. I have a thousand articles on this subject, and I have my own misgivings to analyze. In short, I worry that Pete can’t beat Trump because he’s gay. And what does that say about me? I’ve spent my career reporting on GLBT discrimination and our communal fight for civil rights! Am I now to shrug my shoulders and dismiss a leading presidential candidate based on residual social prejudice? Oh well. Don’t even try, Pete. You can’t win? 

    I also am not a hundred percent behind him to begin with, but I could say that about any of the candidates. In Buttigieg’s case, I think he’s too young and inexperienced. But that said, look who’s running the country as I write. Ethelred the Unready reincarnate. On the other hand, if we use Trump as a standard, virtually anyone would be better suited to the presidency. 

    (Note: I was taught that “unready” in Ethelred’s nickname meant “unread,” as in ill-educated. I just checked and learned that it means “poorly advised,” which still works as a Trump comparison.) 

    At any rate, after spending a lot of time reading about the primary, on top of the time I already spend reading about the primary for my own pleasure, I read myself over the top and now don’t want to discuss it further with you the readers. You might call me Ann the Ready.  Still, I am torn about Pete. He’s like the elusive potential boyfriend or girlfriend who suddenly becomes available. Woah, Nelly! Not so fast! I still have feelings for Elizabeth. And I’ve always thought Kamala was cute. 

    Bad Penguins!

    So, I have also seen a lengthy article on same-sex behavior in animals. Perhaps some of you also read it, the results of a serious-sounding Yale study that explored why same-sex behavior would survive the Darwinian mandate to reproduce the reproducible. The answer, posits lead author Julia Monk, is that a generalized urge that encompasses both sexes maximizes the number of potential mates, and in cases where it’s hard to tell the sex of another animal, this could be helpful. Hmm. Okay then! The study also points out that there’s very little downside to same-sex behavior, so assuming it’s always been a feature of animal behavior, there has been no reason for it to be drummed out by evolution. 

    But, but. Why the penguins, we wonder? Actually, I’ve read that it’s hard to figure out the gender of a penguin, so maybe that fits with the scientific theory. Perhaps penguins survived by attempting to mate with all of the other penguins regardless of gender, thereby increasing the chances that they’d arrive at a male/female pairing. Maybe this free-for-all led to the evolution of gay and bi penguins with indiscriminate proclivities. Loose penguins, louche even. I’m imagining the dystopian Pottersville from It’s a Wonderful Life, except it’s Penguinville, with drunk penguins shuffling through neon-lit streets, honky-tonks and penguin porn shops. I see them bellying up to the bar. No mulled wine for these birds. Neat whisky, if you please.

    For the record, I have another penguin story. A couple out of DierenPark Amersfoort zoo in the Netherlands stole an egg outright from heterosexual parents. That egg is due to hatch (if fertilized) any day now, and the straight penguins have already produced another egg, so they don’t seem to care. This all fits with our new theory on penguin morality, or lack thereof.

    Corporate Culture

    Before we go any further, please stop and google “lesbian Renault commercial.” Unfortunately, Renault does not sell cars in the United States, otherwise I would run right out, sell our Mazda, and buy one, just out of affection for the company that could produce and run such a magnificent ad. 

    And before we drop the subject of commercials, let me say that I am annoyed by the red-haired slacker on the Amazon ad who wanders down the street in headphones musing about what’s on his “agenda,” looks like a moron talking to himself, and is seemingly unaware of his haircut appointment even though it’s the only thing he seems to have on his so-called agenda. That’s not an agenda, folks. It’s a single thing.

    I also dislike the GEICO ad where the office worker has to send the Gekko an email and it appears that the worker doesn’t know the Gekko’s name. But no. He doesn’t know the Gekko’s email address. That’s different. Just ask, “What’s your email address?” There’s no need to even broach the subject of whether or not the worker remembers the Gekko’s name. It’s irrelevant. A small irregularity perhaps, but I hate inconsistencies.

    Also, Knorr has a new gay-ish advertisement in India, featuring a handsome guy who knocks at the door on a rainy night and is invited inside by a well-known gay comedian who is not well-known to me, but is famous in India. The gay host hopes to “warm up” his visitor, but the handsome guy just wants soup. The gay guy makes Knorr soup and they kind of leave it at that. Still, there’s a lot of suggestive gay undertones, and unlike Renault, Knorr sells packs of instant soup in our country, so we can show our solidarity. 

    Finally, speaking of solidarity or lack thereof, I’m confused by Chick-fil-A. I recently read that the company had decided to stop funding antigay groups like the Salvation Army and the Federation of Christian Athletes. I also read that some far-right commentators were mad at this and were planning their own boycott. 

    Bear with me now. I may have mentioned that back in the day when we first decided to boycott Chick-fil-A, I read a powerful op-editorial by some gay guy who loved Chick-fil-A with all his heart and was nonetheless prepared to join the boycott. Personally, I’m not a fried chicken fan and had never tried Chick-fil-A, so my own boycott required no sacrifice.

    But this man’s essay provided such a compelling description of Chick-fil-A deliciousness that I was tempted to run off and get one immediately. Later, the GLBT community held a kiss-in at Chick-fil-A franchises around the country, and Mel and I loyally went to one of these. After it was done, some of my gay male comrades in arms bought sandwiches, which undermined the entire protest. I wanted one too, but courageously resisted. All of this is a long-winded way to say that I was thinking that now I might finally try one of these Chick-fil-A offerings! Guilt free.

    But then I read that the company is simply reevaluating its charitable donations and has stopped giving to numerous groups, including many that have nothing to do with our community whatsoever. The pause in gifts to the Salvation Army and many others has nothing to do with GLBT rights, and there’s no guarantee that the company won’t start funding these or other unpleasant operations in the future. So, the bottom line is, um, well, I’m confused and will continue to avoid the CfA temptation. One of these days.

    Into the Unknown

    I wrote myself a note about a ProPublica piece listing 31 ways that Trump has made life harder for the GLBT community. The article is clear and concise, an impressive presentation for anyone with a masochistic desire to remind themselves of the sheer nastiness of this administration and the insidious setbacks that we have been experiencing under the radar. In the end, I skipped the details, but those of you who feel like getting depressed can have at it. Happy holidays!

    Instead, let’s talk about Frozen 2. I haven’t seen it, but I read one review that suggests Elsa is a “queer icon,” and has always been. Writing in Vox, Emily Todd VanDerWerff provides a deft and really funny analysis, one that I was all set to joke around about until I kept reading and realized VanDerWerff was concluding with a legitimate point, namely that Disney presents itself as GLBT-friendly and woke, aiming to win credit for hinting at ambiguous sexuality here and there when, in fact, it’s high time for companies like Disney to just come out and put an actual GLBT character on the screen. Oh, and Elsa might be a lesbian at that.

    Now, it’s that time. Just a hundred or so words left and no opportunity to start a new section. I see from my list that one of the side topics I never got around to discussing was “dead tree,” the story of a tree, given to Trump by French President Macron, who dug it up from a forest outside Paris where American troops fought the Germans in World War I. The two leaders made a show of planting this baby tree on the lawn of the White House back in April of 2018. 

    Fast forward a year or so and the French announced that the tree had died. Apparently, as soon as Macron left the U.S., our experts dug up the tree in order to put it into quarantine since it entered the country from abroad. The tree didn’t survive quarantine and was never replaced. I don’t know. To me, the incident just typifies the careless indifference to history and symbolism that represents just one of this administration’s countless deficiencies. Not to mention the incompetence.

    Published on November 28, 2019