Hospitality

 

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Although today in the West, “hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival and is more associated with etiquette and entertainment” (“Hospitality”), in premodern times, in hostile environments like the Middle Eastern desert and the Scottish highlands, hospitality was a cultural imperative. When the weather could scorch you, drench you, starve you and kill you even if all you did was sit there for, say, a six-hour stretch, you probably are going to need some help. So in these cultures, hospitality meant that if a stranger came to your door, even if that stranger was your sworn enemy who had killed your father because your dad had killed his dad, etc., you had to put him up for two or three days (the time depends on the culture, but is usually strictly prescribed), give him the best of your food and the best place to sleep and protect him from his enemies, even giving your life if you had to. And if you wandered into his locale, he would have to do the same for you.

I think of this now after spending the last two or three months going to lesbian meetups: museum tours, happy hours, a dodgeball game. For the most part, the women I’ve met at these events have been kind and welcoming, allaying my fears about not fitting in and recommending other groups or events for me to try out. (And yes, it did turn out that the dodgeball game was untraumatic. In fact, watching women throw these shiny red balls at each other reminded me less of middle school gym bullies and more like a larger than life garden salad tossing itself, albeit a salad that was high on tomatoes and very, very low on lettuce.) Admittedly, at the last happy hour I attended, I did encounter one or two rather odd ladies, but for the most part, it has been uniformly positive.

I can only imagine that when you and your community have faced the hostile weather of institutional oppressions, it’s going to make you a bit less likely to reproduce that oppression and a bit more likely to combat it.

Note on the Illustration: “In the Caribbean, Europe and North America, the pineapple became associated with the return of ships from extended voyages, and an emblem of welcome and hospitality that made its way into contemporary art” and architecture, particularly in port cities (“Pineapple”).

“Hospitality.” Wikipedia. 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

“Pineapple.” Wikipedia. 6 April 2016. Web. 6 April 2016.

Queering Holy Week, Cont’d.

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So Wednesday, my church did the Women’s Stations of the Cross, a service made up of short (1 page) monologues by all the different women that Jesus interacted with and healed, recalling their relationship with him and watching as he makes his way to his death. Written by Katie Sherrod, it’s a moving service, especially for those of us reader involved in it. The last time we did it, I read his mother Mary receiving his body, Station 13, which was harrowing. This year, I did 12, Mary Magdalene watching him die on the cross. Sherrod uses some of the ideas from the Gnostic gospels rejected from the canon by Constantine in 325, including that Jesus called her “beloved disciple” and that Peter was jealous of her–these details get seeded into a few of the other women’s parts as they look to her as a leader among the women followers. We love the service in part for its good theological and elegant emotional writing and for its being a service led by non-clergy who are all women. So not transgressive in a big way, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t play well in Rome.

I was going to go to the Holy/Maundy Thursday service on Thursday evening but ended up binge-watching Season 5 of Ellen instead. Watching the earlier seasons I remembered why I had stopped watching it in the nineties–her funny but hapless dates with men in the first three seasons reminded me too much of my own failed efforts in that directions. Oh, the irony. Season 4 and 5 are encouraging for similar reasons.

Since I had already gone through the crucifixion on Wednesday, I spent Good Friday evening at a lesbian happy hour, a monthly meetup that always draws 50-80 women of a variety of ages and backgrounds. A woman I had met the previous month and found interesting did remember me (teachers are better at remembering names than other folks apparently). She is a flannel shirt butch but also kind of feminine with a brightness about her that draws people to her, so she is always surrounded at these events. I met almost a dozen women, from a physical therapist to an MIT grad student

A doctor who is recently out and I were talking. She looked past me at a woman sitting at the bar, fifties and relatively feminine, and asked if I thought her attractive. Assuming she was asking for encouragement to go talk to her I said, “Sure.” She turned to the woman and said, “My friend here thinks you’re attractive” and introduced us. Luckily the woman’s older friend was a realtor, so we could talk about how the Internet has changed her field and I managed to conduct a four-way conversation about nothing much until I could drift into another small group. Before she left, the doctor said, “I’m always looking to help people!”

Thanks, doc. The next time I need a wingman, you won’t be the first I’ll call.

Another set of women, finding out that I’ve only been thinking I’m bi for three months, reacted in a way I’m getting used to: not quite hysterical laughter. Finding out I’m only out to four people, they assured me, “Oh, honey, your parents already know. They might not know they know, if they’re old, but they know. Your siblings and friends too.” Yes, yes, terribly funny. Glad I amuse. I suspect that being lesbian is more straightforward than being bi (you should pardon the expression).

They also thought that “since you like men” might explain my attraction to somewhat more masculine women like Katherine Moennig and Ellen Degeneres (and the lady in plaid behind me regaling her new friend about the gay scene in Santiago that she should check out on her vacation next week). I managed to get myself back into that conversation, successfully guessing that the vacationer was Swiss (I recognized the accent). I was drinking a mai tai, which had a purple flower in it, which I gave to the Chilean who talks like a born American and she tucked it behind her ear and went off and joined other conversations.

I met a writer who gave me bad advice about writing and relationships, neither of which I intend to take. When I saw Flower Girl again she told me she had gotten a lot of compliments on it. She wondered out loud whether she would get anyone’s number by the end of the evening.

I said, “You could have mine.”

She looked surprised, so I said I thought she was cute.

“It’s because of the flower, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s why I gave it to you.”

Eventually, we exchanged cards. This flirting thing is hard. I feel like I am trying to flex a muscle I haven’t used in years and never was very good at in the first place.