Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Mother Of A Day

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

It started weeks before, the commercials for flowers and candies and brunches, and the soft news spots that culminated Sunday when mothers and children were out in force, young ones and old ones, rich and poor. Broadway was lined with them going to shows. Restaurants dumped their normal menus to offer prix fixe meals at prices guaranteed to test your filial love. The security guard at the gallery announced, "The building is closing now. You must leave. All you women, have a Happy Mother's Day." Even beggars in the subways wished every female the same hoping it would earn them a few extra dimes.

Not from me. I was out with my girlfriend and her mother. And theoretically I didn't mind. We've all got biological mothers, even dykes, and why not show affection if you want? But there's an age difference between Marina and me that means when we're out with her mother, we get mistaken for three generations of women, and people get these Hallmark smirks on their stupid mugs just thinking about all that heterosexual procreation. They stare at me in particular, wondering if I'm the last of the line, or I've left my own kiddies somewhere ready to carry things on.

I can practically feel my ovaries glow under their X-ray vision, and my womb protrude from their expectations that if I don't have any, I must want some. And I did for five minutes. Until I started an online magazine and running it took as much time and money as raising a kid. The only difference was I could kill it when it hit six years of age. With equal regret, but no prosecution.

Next Mother's Day I'll get my freak on. Go out in leather chaps -- if I can find a pair to borrow. Though I might still be pegged the dyke granddaughter unless my girlfriend wears a shirt, "I'm with her." Or conversely, I'll go with the heterosexual flow, borrow a kid myself, bring it along and see if the appearance of four generations of females can score us a couple of free drinks.

With the growing environmental disaster, and population pressure, there should really be a holiday celebrating women who resist biological urges and haven't popped any kids at all. We should get tax breaks like factories who reduce carbon emissions. Not that many women do. Dykes included. We're obsessed with babies. We inseminate or adopt, and probably screw up our children like our parents did, and in a couple of years all those novels about failed holiday dinners will have queer parents at the center of the plot.

I hate holidays. The family stuff. How they progress in pairs. Thanksgiving then Christmas, Mother's Day and Father's Day all shadowed by images of the ideal nuclear het family in which everyone gets along, and a puppy begs for scraps under the table. The only holiday I can stomach is Gay Pride. Long live Queer Nation. And even that's changed.

Remember when we used to complain that all the news stations only shot drag queens, or leather guys with studded collars and whips? Now, it's all scrubbed earnest faces talking about diversity in identical tones. The newscasters don't even call us homos anymore. Except for the context, we're indistinguishable from the hets.

Is that progress? Invisibility in the midst of visibility? How far can it go? Will we get punished if we step outside the lines? Probably.

The Hallmarkization of America is not just aimed at queers. I couldn't help noticing that the Obama-adoring press reserved a special kind of race-tinged vitriol for the so-called big-mouthed, ambitious, self-centered Reverend Wright that radical white preachers like Jerry Falwell never got. Al Sharpton got his share last week when he got arrested blocking traffic to protest the death of Sean Bell and the court decision that the cops that shot him had no responsibility. He's still a charlatan, exaggerator and seeker of attention, not justice.

Other than skin, style, and maybe degree, there's little difference between them and any white garden variety politician, performer, preacher. Nobody hits the public eye without effort and ambition. Mother Teresa didn't become a household name by keeping her hands folded in her lap. The trick is to wear the right mask. Shape the context. Pander if you can. Smile when they offer you roses for Mother's Day. Be gracious. Keep a stash of Xanax in your bag. Drink heavily. Fit in. It's 2008, after all.

Like for professional golfers, the key to winning these days is conformity. Go to the gym. Shape your body to be like a mannequin. Eliminate the plaid pants, knickerbockers and beer bellies of yore. Hide the peculiar hats, individual styles, quirks, perversions, rage, delight. To succeed, put away joy.

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