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    Ann Rostow: Down the Rabbit Hole Again

    By Ann Rostow–

    Down the Rabbit Hole Again

    Every two weeks, before I start this column, I wind up spending an hour or so wasting time on internet listicles in order to avoid buckling down to “work.” Yes, I waste time online on other occasions, but there’s something about having a deadline that transforms an inane sounding link into a compelling invitation to pursue fascinating research. This time I was irresistibly drawn into a long account of the worst ways couples can blow money needlessly on their weddings. I think I just went through fifty examples.

    As usual, the entries were totally random. I mean, really. Is buying Champagne rather than Cava a waste of money? It’s extravagant, certainly, but hardly “wasteful.” And how about the cost of personalized napkins for the guests? In my entire life, I have neither seen nor heard of personalized napkins at a wedding or any other event, period. That’s like suggesting that couples save money by not renting a herd of llamas for the reception. Oh, and here’s a pro tip: splurging on a full open bar with high end single malt scotch will set you back a pretty penny. Stick with the basics, or have a brunch wedding and give everyone mimosas. Thanks, listicle writers. I guess swapping out the lobsters for sloppy joes might save you a few bucks as well. 

    After that, I pursued the nuptial theme, digging into the dozens of wedding traditions that are being abandoned by millennials. These include the garter throw, the cake in the mouth smash, walking down the aisle with Dad, rice, religious officiants, matching bridesmaids, white dresses, veils, and, well, pretty much the whole ball of wax. 

    Before you know it, we’ll all be reverting to the classic 1980s lesbian commitment ceremony. Everyone can troop out to a field somewhere, hold hands in a circle around the happy couple, and then celebrate together over a vegetarian stew and a keg of mead. Talk about value for money! Don’t forget to save the date three years down the road for the separation ceremony where we all write goodbye notes to the divorcing couple and throw the papers into the fire pit before toasting the ex-partners with elderberry wine and eating a single symbolic fig. (The ones who arranged public commitment ceremonies were often the ones to break up in dramatic fashion, in my experience.)

    Anyway, I’m asking myself how and why I can get caught up in these cyber-traps. I don’t have a particular interest in weddings to begin with, and in truth, I have been time-sucked into all sorts of lengthy thematic inquiries on a vast range of hitherto uninteresting subjects in this fashion. Am I alone? There’s some kind of psychic mechanism at work and it’s a little insidious.

    Thanks, Obama

    Moving along, would it surprise you to learn that the Trump administration has injected its antigay and anti-trans venom throughout the federal bureaucracy to the point that one member of the eight-person bipartisan Commission on Civil Rights called the devolution of gay rights since 2016 “devastating?” Commission Chair Catherine Lhamon told NBC News that the administration “has been as vocal as it is possible to be about its dismissal of LGBTQ rights as worth protecting.”

    “It will take us a very long time to dig out from under the damage this administration has caused to civil rights in this county,” she concluded ominously. 

    Speaking after the release of a 621-page report titled “Are Civil Rights a Reality?” another Commission member, Karen Narasaki, said that the policy changes she’s observed in the last three years are “truly unprecedented.” Trump and company “are not just shifting enforcement priorities,” she warned. “They are undoing decades of civil and human rights progress.”

    No, I have not read the report, but this is not news. Last week, I mentioned the ProPublica list of 31 destructive setbacks that we’ve suffered in the last three years, compiled under the headline: “Under Trump, LGBTQ Progress is Being Reversed in Plain Sight.” 

    Indeed, one problem, if you can call it that, is that the Obama administration put in place some extraordinarily positive government mandates that operated under the radar to influence courts and public policy throughout major swathes of American society. Whether it was in health care, in education, or through agency opinions on the scope of federal civil rights laws, Obama oversaw big shifts in let’s call it the “deep state’s” attitude towards GLBT equality. 

    Indeed, I remember being annoyed at some activists who condemned Obama for some minor misdeed late in his second term, seemingly unaware of the profound advantages that he had engineered on our behalf behind the scenes. Now, however, we are seeing the fragility of those, or any other, executive actions, as Trump’s sideshow of far-right freaks has been given free rein to replace Obama’s progressive policies with their own hostile mutations. These relentless erosions in ours and others’ civil rights can, in turn, be repaired by another administration down the road. But restoring that environment, so to speak, will require a long commitment. 

    Holiday on Ice

    Can we go back to listicles now? Oh, here’s something. Lifetime has released a Christmas movie that includes a married gay couple, Lex and Danny, who share a kiss at the very end of Twinkle All the Way. The movie also has a heterosexual plotline featuring the straight brother of one of the gay men, and in the end, their mother smiles at her two sons who prepare to live happily ever after. In reading about this cinematic breakthrough, I also learn that Netflix is airing Let it Snow, which also has something gay in it, although the details were unclear.

    I guess we’re all going to have to watch these for ourselves, a pleasant task for me, personally, as I confess a weird fondness for Christmas movies at this time of year. It’s like admitting a taste for Froot Loops or owning a collection of vintage plastic trolls—nothing I am proud of. Indeed, as I write, I have just fired up the TV, checked Lifetime On Demand, found the movie in question, and hit start. I know I don’t have time for this!

    I’ve already seen several of these this year, including four in a row that included scenes where a) the couple went skating, b) one member of the couple could not skate, and c) the klutzy person fell on the ice, the other one tried to help but also fell, so the two of them wound up in an accidental embrace. All four movies featured the exact same relatively rare event. What are the odds? I have this Twinkle movie running in the background now for journalistic purposes, and will let you know if a skating scene appears. Surely not. 

    If I’m not mistaken, one of the characters is actually named “Twinkle.” I’m not sure because I’m not really paying attention. By the way, you can watch this movie December 8 at 1 pm. Later that evening, you can watch the premier of the new L Word on Showtime. Fire up the popcorn.

    The Beat Goes On

    I have a couple of negative anecdotes about people behaving badly to members of our community that clash with the festive music emanating from my TV. We had nasty pastor Josh Layfield, who complained about the gay kids’ book Prince and Knight after someone discovered a copy in the Upshur County, West Virginia, library. Layfield called the book a “deliberate attempt to indoctrinate, especially boys, into the LGBTQA lifestyle.”

    I’m kind of impressed that Layfield came up with this community abbreviation, given the context. Hey, even I’m not exactly sure what the “A” stands for. Asexual? Is that an orientation? At any rate, the book has been pulled pending a review of some sort. As its author, Daniel Haack, pointed out: “If the protesters are worried that reading this book will turn someone gay, I can easily refer them to all the gay adults who grew up only reading about straight romances.”

    Then we read about the substitute teacher in Utah who told a fifth grader that “homosexuality is wrong” after the child gave thanks for his gay dads. A trio of girls reported the incident to the principal, who fired the sub at once. The substitute was subsequently axed by the staffing agency that had placed her at the school. Oh, and one of the dads is Louis van Amstel, a choreographer on Dancing with the Stars, so there’s that. 

    Or how about the thirty-something priest in Grand Rapids Michigan who denied communion to a local judge even though she had given thousands to support the church. Judge Sara Smolenski, 62, has attended mass at St. Stephens Parish for her entire life, but after marrying her wife Linda, Father Scott Nolan took it upon himself to blackball her from the sacrament. Nolan also denied communion to two gay parents at their child’s baptism. What a piece of work.

    I could find you some more examples of religious people behaving badly, but it would be a little un-Christian, don’t you think? Let’s end this section with the story of the mother who rejected her son after he came out of the closet. Before this sad incident, the young man had convinced her to share her secret meatloaf recipe, and she had done so with the proviso that he take the details to his grave. But as I said, that was before. Afterwards, he was angry enough that he posted the recipe, explained the situation, and called it “revenge meatloaf.” Of course, it went viral. 

    Much Ado About Nothing

    Update: The brothers’ mother is the one named “Twinkle” because her father said that she was born with a twinkle in her eye. One brother is a widower with a six-year-old daughter. He is not ready for a relationship because he is still grieving for his dead wife, but he has met another parent at school, a single mother with a daughter who has become friends with the other girl. The gay brother does not seem to be married, so I’m not sure how that will come about. Was my original reporting in error? We will see. Oh, never mind. He does have a husband. But the guy is not a main character. Hmmm.

    Mel is watching this movie more closely than I am, every now and then screaming at the screen about various plot inconsistencies. And she actually made popcorn. She also just told me that Kamala Harris dropped out, which was not surprising after that scathing New York Times article about mismanagement on her campaign. I’m sorry. I liked her. But the campaigns themselves provide evidence of management expertise, or lack thereof. 

    Speaking of campaigns, what’s with Joe Biden’s “No Malarkey” bus tour? Folksy is one thing. Smarmy’s another. And why expose us to another mid-century expression? Hold up a gosh darn minute, Uncle Joe, while we fetch some soda pop from the ice box and put on another record! 

    Okay, the movie is coming to an end. And there’s the kiss. 

    I’m frankly disappointed. Seriously. The straight couple had several passionate kisses at the end of this movie, which is normal considering that they just got together and the romance had been building. But the gay kiss was an antiseptic peck on the lips. I watched the entire program for basically nothing. I didn’t even get my skating scene. As for the original article that inspired me to watch Twinkle All the Way, if this dry little smack is considered grist for a lengthy Daily Beast post (which it was!), we’re in trouble. 

    “The Gay Kiss in Twinkle All the Way Could Herald a Lifetime Christmas Movie Revolution” read the headline. Of course, I watched it! 

    Brian Sills, the actor who played the gay brother, told the Daily Beast that he is “quite overwhelmed” with the progress in gay acceptance that the movie represents. “It has moved and awakened me,” he said. “The ‘Stonewall Riots’ moments in our lives are so important, but so are these quiet moments of progress and evolution.”

    Stonewall Riot moment? Um, not quite. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I think we can do better. Even in cable TV Christmas movies.

    Published on December 5, 2019