God is a lesbian, so why should I care what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality?

The love between two human beings who have arrived at an age of reasoning and common sense is not a misdeed. It is love. And to act on that love is not a misdeed. It is an act of love. If your god tells you these things are sinful, then shame on your god.

Advertisements

I have not read the Bible.

Reading the Bible has never been on my things-to-do list. It isn’t on my bucket list, either.

Yes, I have a bucket list. You know, things I wish to do or see before I cease taking in oxygen and move forward to discover what is on the other side of this lifetime.

The bucket list, understand, is a product of aging. It is not something to which we grant substantial thought during our youth because, until we arrive at a station in life whereby we recognize our mortality, we seldom give credence to the notion that none of us gets out of here alive. I have arrived at that station in life. Thus I have a bucket list. Included are items such as singing the song Summertime with a live band. I would like to write a song that is recorded, not in search of fame and fortune but to just say I did it. I would like to watch a daytime ball game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. I would like to write something that will change another’s life forever. I would like to find a life partner, just to see if I can finally get love right. But reading the Bible? Not going there.

It’s not that I am uninterested in what people were saying and thinking 2,000-plus years ago. Quite the contrary. I subscribe to many of Jesus’s life offerings. More to the point, I recently drew the Stephen Mitchell tome The Gospel According to Jesus from my bookshelf and began re-reading it for perhaps the sixth time. Fifteen years after I initially opened it, I am still rendered dewey-eyed when reading the teachings of Jesus. Some of them are truly beautiful. So, my reluctance to read the Bible is not the child of a distaste for things biblical.

My difficulty with the Bible rests in the interpretation. It seems to me that people pick and choose passages simply to prop up their agenda while, at the same time, pooh-poohing the notions of another. It’s as if they are at the market shopping for groceries. I like this tomato so I shall place it in my bag, but I don’t like the look of that other tomato so I shall reject it.

For example, it has come to my attention that there exists a debate with respect to Jesus’s teaching on homosexuality. This to-and-fro has been heightened due to 21st century matters such as the legality of same-sex marriage, now the law of the land in Canada and gathering momentum in the United States. The gospel sharks tell us Jesus made it abundantly clear that the act of homosexuality is a sin. They quote scripture to support their belief. Many in the gay community, however, insist that Jesus never once spoke for or against homosexuality. They insist his silence on the issue indicates it is, in fact, a non-issue. Therefore, it cannot be a sin.

I ask this of you (and I know it will sound blasphemous): Why do we care what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality? Must we rely on someone from 2,000 years ago to tell us what to think about, and how to act toward, our gay brothers and sisters in the 21st century? Can we not think for ourselves?

This is not a rebuke of Jesus. As I have written, I’m a big fan. I do not, however, care if Jesus viewed acts of homosexuality as a sin or not. In this area, I don’t need him to tell me what to think.

Here’s what the Buddha taught about matters such as this:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

There are bigots among us not because they were born bigots. Bigotry is the offspring of the words and actions of others. When we are children in the playground, we care not if our playmates are black, white, Christian, Muslim, gay or straight. We are just happy to have playmates. It is not until we observe and listen to our parents and other adults long enough that we developed notions and concepts. Eventually, however, we are old enough to process what we have learned and make decisions, as the Buddha suggests, with our own reason and our own common sense.

That is why I say I don’t need Jesus to tell me anything about homosexuality.

The majority of my dear ones are gay. I love them. If they are sinners, it is only in the sense that each of us is a sinner because each of us has performed misdeeds. But the love between two human beings who have arrived at an age of reasoning and common sense is not a misdeed. It is love. And to act on that love is not a misdeed. It is an act of love.

If your god tells you these things are sinful, then shame on your god.

I prefer the interpretation of God as submitted by my favorite teacher, the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. At a Dharma talk in Plum Village, France, in 1998, Thay was asked what Buddhism says about homosexuality.

“Sometimes those discriminating against us act in the name of God, of the truth. We may belong to the third world, or we may belong to a particular race, we may be people of color, we may be gay or lesbian, and we have been discriminated against for thousands of years. So how to work on it, how to liberate ourselves from the suffering of being a victim of discrimination and oppression? In Christianity it is said that God created everything, including man, and there is a distinction made between the creator and the creature. The creature is something created by God. When I look at a rose, a tulip, or a chrysanthemum, I know, I see, I think, that this flower is a creation of God. Because I have been practising as a Buddhist, I know that between the creator and the created there must be some kind of link, otherwise creation would not be possible. So the chrysanthemum can say that God is a flower, and I agree, because there must be the element ‘flower’ in God so that the flower could become a reality. So the flower has the right to say that God is a flower.

“The white person has the right to say that God is white, and the black person also has the right to say that God is black. In fact, if you go to Africa, you’ll see that the Virgin Mary is black. If you don’t make the statue of the Virgin Mary black, it does not inspire people. Because to us the black people, ‘black is beautiful,’ so a black person has the right to say that God is black, and in fact I also believe that God is black, but God is not only black, God is also white, God is also a flower. So when a lesbian thinks of her relationship with God, if she practises deeply, she can find out that God is also a lesbian. Otherwise how could you be there? God is a lesbian, that is what I think, and God is gay also. God is no less. God is a lesbian, but also a gay, a black a white, a chrysanthemum. It is because you don’t understand that, that you discriminate.

“When you discriminate against the black or the white, or the flower, or the lesbian, you discriminate against God, which is the basic goodness in you. You create suffering all around you, and you create suffering within yourself, and it is delusion, ignorance, that is the basis of your action, your attitude of discrimination. If the people who are victims of discrimination practice looking deeply, they will say that I share the same wonderful relationship with God, I have no complex. Those who discriminate against me, do so because of their ignorance. ‘God, please forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.’ If you reach that kind of insight, you will no longer get angry at that person who discriminates against you, and you might have compassion toward him or her. You will say: ‘He does not know what he is doing. He is creating a lot of suffering around him and within him. I will try to help him.’ So your heart opens like a flower and suffering is no longer there, you have no complex at all, and you turn to be a bodhisattva in helping the people who have been discriminating against you. That is the way I see it, out of my practice of looking deeply, so one day I made the statement that God is a lesbian, and this is my insight.”

I like to think Jesus would agree with Thay.

At least one Christian zealot says there’s ‘no hope’ for me

I am not Jesus’s enemy. I find my identity in Jesus. But I also find my identity in the flowers, the sky, the trees, the wheat field, the child, the sparrow and the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama. I find my identity in my next-door neighbour. I find my identity in those who care not for me and those who share my life. I find my identity in all beings because I am all beings and all beings are me.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Let me begin by saying I think Jesus was probably a cool dude.

I mean, that water-into-wine thing…classic. Feeding thousands of people with a few fish and a couple loaves of bread…if only our local food banks could do that. Walking on H2O…brilliant. Calming the storm…we could use a bit of that magic once the November rains arrive where I live. Rising from the dead…the best.

Little wonder throngs numbering in the thousands would gather whenever Jesus came to town with his gang of 12 and a few other hangers-on dogging his tracks as he trundled throughout the Middle East countryside performing his holy hocus pocus. I’d want a front-row seat to that kind of sorcery, too, because it sure beats any of the smoke-and-mirrors illusionism David Copperfield has ever conjured up on a Las Vegas stage.

Do I sound flippant? To the gospel sharks, I suppose I do. I can hear them tsk-tsking me already. After all, writing off Jesus as a sleight-of-hand street busker is a blasphemous bit of business.

Well, don’t get your holy rosaries in a knot. Like I said, I think Jesus was cool. I’m a big fan. I would loved to have been one of his gal pals. Mary Magdalene and I could have taken turns washing his feet. Or she could have washed one foot and I could have washed the other. You know, a menage-a-pied.

At any rate, there’s nothing to be achieved in launching a fire-and-brimstone volley in my direction. It’s already been established that there’s “no hope” for me. I’ve already booked my ticket to hell.

I say that because of a comment that visited my ears during a channel-surfing session I undertook the other day. I landed upon something called the Life Today show which, on this particular morning, featured the Bible-thumping brayings of a young lass named Christine Caine.

“You have to find your identity in Christ,” she told me and the other five or six people who might have stumbled upon this show at 5 o’clock in the a.m. “There’s no hope without Jesus. None.”

She neglected to explain exactly what there is “no hope” for, but I took it to mean there is “no hope” for eternal salvation for those of us who struggle with the notion that Jesus is our lord, our saviour and our master. Thus I am a no-hoper. I am destined for the burning coals of hell that my many ruler-wielding Sisters of St. Mary teachers at St. Alphonsus School cautioned me about.

But wait. Who is this Christine Caine and who is she to tell me I have “no hope” if I don’t do what she tells me to do?

Well, a Google search took me to her website, whereupon I discovered she is a pastor from Down Under, the director of Equip and Empower Ministries, and she trots the globe to spread the word through speaking engagements and promoting the many books she has written in an effort to convince us no-hopers that the only way to salvation is through a gate called Jesus. Her site includes daily musings, one of which I found quite interesting.

“We cannot just talk about the need, cry about the need, sing about the need; we must BE the hands and feet of Jesus.”

I read that and thought, “Terrific. She wants to wash Jesus’s feet, too. Now what are Mary Magdalene and I supposed to do? I mean, the guy’s only got two feet. Mary Magdalene and I don’t need another set of hands to wash the feet that walk on water. I sense a cat fight brewing. Three girls fighting…won’t that be exciting for the apostles?”

Oh, there I go being flippant and irreverent again. Little wonder there’s “no hope” for me.

Anyway, I have no desire to squabble with Christine Caine. I just wish she would stop telling myself and others who have yet to embrace Jesus and our lord, saviour and master that we have “no hope” and we are the “enemy.”

I am not Jesus’s enemy. I find my identity in Jesus. But I also find my identity in the flowers, the sky, the trees, the wheat field, the child, the sparrow and the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama. I find my identity in my next-door neighbour. I find my identity in those who care not for me and those who share my life. I find my identity in all beings because I am all beings and all beings are me.

I accept that Jesus was flesh, blood and bones. He was born (not to a virgin) and he was crucified. Most scholars are in agreement on those two points. I accept that he was a remarkable person, a gifted, profound teacher, a storyteller, a sorcerer and a bit of a bad-ass rebel (a depictive that some churches have used to woo young people to the flock) whose non-conventional notions got him nailed to a wooden cross at the behest of Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judaea. Most everything else I have been told, read or heard about Jesus is iffy. It comes across as pure fiction.

Yet, unlike Christian zealots such as Christine Caine who debunk those unwilling to share her unbending belief that Jesus is the only way, I cast no stones of ridicule or condemnation at those who accept the gospels as fact. I only wonder why they must use fear tactics to promote their dogma.

She says there’s “no hope” for me. “None.” I disagree. There are many fires and each fire grants warmth to all in the room, not just he who fetched the wood and she who lit the match.

Heteronormative undertones at Paparazzi? Tell me another fairy tale

The gay collective must keep one thing in mind: It isn’t ownership or management that gives a club its identity. It’s the patrons. If it’s a gay bar you want, then make Paparazzi a gay bar. You don’t do that by posting a “Gays Only” sign on the front door. You do it by supporting the business to prevent it from joining other venues in Victoria’s gay bar graveyard.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Some people still don’t get it. So, for those of you who don’t understand how the 21st century works in Canada, let me help you.

Repeat after me: Everyone is welcome.

That is to say, we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that tells us it is a no-no to refuse entry to, or dismiss, a patron from your business based on her or his sexual orientation. If, for example, you are heterosexual and wish to bend your elbow in a venue that is recognized as a gay space, such as Paparazzi Show/Nightclub in Victoria, B.C., just walk down those 16 stairs from Broad Street to the basement and belly up to the bar. Ownership cannot and will not attempt to stop you and turn you away if you fail to produce a gay ID card. They’ll ask you what you’d like to drink, not if you prefer to do the dirty with men or women.

Conversely, if a group of three gay men and a lesbian gather for some suds and munchies at a mainstream watering hole/eatery such as Bart’s Pub, the goings-on in your boudoir is of no concern to staff and the bar’s stewards.

This is how 21st century Canada works. This is how it is supposed to work.

Yet there remain horse-and-buggy thinkers among us, an example of which was presented by a patron who attended Paparazzi on the weekend past.

This fellow has run off with the notion that there exists “heteronormative undertones in the place.” I took that to mean the gathering wasn’t gay enough for him. Or, to put it another way, he submits that owners Attila Bassett and Terry Bex, in concert with CEO Helina Kinnersley, foster an environment that, by definition, promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation within society.

Good grief. That’s like saying I’m Lady Gaga.

Look, I’ve lived, worked and played in Victoria’s gay community almost exclusively for the past six years, so I understand the desire for gay safe spaces. You want a spot where you can talk your own language. Tell your own jokes. Hold hands. Hit the dance floor with each other. Put on a wig, heels and a frock if that’s some guy’s thing. But you don’t feel comfortable being yourself if there are a bunch of hetero bigots gawking at you. I don’t blame you. There was a time when I shared that sentiment.

Not once, however, have I encouraged or endorsed the practice of segregation. More to the point, I reject any suggestion that “straights shouldn’t be allowed” in Paparazzi.

Trust me, that remark has visited my ears on a number of occasions (I’ve also heard “women don’t belong”), and it smacks of reverse bigotry. The gay collective has been battling tooth and toenail for equal rights since the late 1960s and now you want to deny heteros one of those same rights? That’s heterophobic. It creates an us-versus-them mentality. It’s wrong-thinking.

If it is the agenda of the gay community to function on level footing with mainstream society, then it must continue to progress in its thinking, not retreat into the closet.

Ownership/management at Paparazzi have recognized the swiftly changing currents of the hospitality business. They’re attempting to stay ahead of the curve. If that means more heterosexuals walk through their doors, so be it.

The gay collective must keep one thing in mind: It isn’t ownership or management that gives a club its identity. It’s the patrons.

On a typical afternoon at Paparazzi, for example, the patronage is close to 100 per cent gay men of dog-eared vintage. Every so often a few stray females will wander in, and they’re usually gay. Thus, it’s a gay bar.

I no longer attend Paparazzi at night, but I know it becomes a mixed bag of nuts once the sun has disappeared. As one of the club’s former cover girls on Friday and Saturday nights, I can tell you that it is not uncommon to see groups of three, four or five straight women on the dance floor. Many straight couples join in the fun, as well. Some gays bring along their hetero friends to party. So, while the gathering remains predominantly gay, it assumes a mixed-bar hue due to the makeup of the crowd.

The thing is, I didn’t demand to know if patrons were gay or straight before I accepted their $5. I didn’t stamp a pink G or a blue S on their foreheads so we could distinguish them from us. We didn’t have a goose-stepping, gay gestapo storm the dance floor to ferret out those big, bad heterosexuals. The heteros were welcomed and told to enjoy themselves. And they were told to “come back soon” as they made their way to the exit.

As stated, some gays didn’t like that, but we can only hope those gayosaurs eventually join the rest of us in the 21st century.

So here’s the bottom line, kids: If it’s a gay bar you want, then make Paparazzi a gay bar. You don’t do that by posting a “Gays Only” sign on the front door. You do it by supporting the business to prevent it from joining other venues in Victoria’s gay bar graveyard. As for “heteronormative undertones in the place,” let’s just say that’s a 21st century fairy tale (pun intended).

Why do we choose to be mean?

Meanness exposes our frailties and our inferiority, not those of others. Meanness is a weakness, not a strength. If you are mean to another it says nothing about that person and everything about you.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Each of us has a meanness quotient.

That is, each of us possesses the capacity for uttering mean-spirited words and performing mean-spirited acts. There are no age restrictions on meanness. There are no gender restrictions on meanness. Little boys and little girls can be very mean. Men and women can be very mean.

For example, I remember the names of two children from my first years of grade school at St. Alphonsus. That’s all. Just two of my many classmates—Maria Buccini and Dennis Toupin, each of whom had a physical difference that established them as targets for the mean-spirited among the other children.

Maria had a withered left hand and she hobbled, dragging her left foot as she slowly moved about the schoolyard and hallways. Kids called her “The Booch” and feared catching “the cooties” if they were to come into physical contact with her. They were convinced their own hands would then wither and they would develop a walking impediment. Maria didn’t smile a lot. She was withdrawn. Her eyes spoke of sadness and low self-worth. That, of course, would have been due to the stares, the whispers and the taunting. I always felt sorry for Maria. She seemed like a very nice girl, but she could not play hop-scotch or dodge ball or skip rope with the others. She was an outsider.

Dennis Toupin, meanwhile, had a head that did not fit the rest of his tiny body. It was very much oversized. Think of a bowling ball sitting on a glass of milk. That gives you an idea, albeit exaggerated, of Dennis’s noggin in proportion to the rest of his chassis. Unlike Maria, Dennis did smile a lot. There was a fresh, happy innocence about him. It was quite evident that he saw a perfectly normal-size head perched on his neck and shoulders when he looked in the mirror. No one disliked him, but they teased him about his head and seldom invited him to participate in their schoolyard adventures. He, too, was an outsider.

As we all know, children are a joy but they can also be cruel. Many of the children (especially the boys) were cruel to Maria and, to a lesser level, Dennis.

Kids, however, cannot always appreciate the gravity of their mean words and actions. Until a parent, guardian or supervisor schools them in this area, they are incapable of recognizing the depth of hurt they inflict upon a playmate, a family member or a complete stranger. So, their words/actions, while objectionable and unacceptable, are somewhat understandable.

Adult meanness, on the other hand, is shameful and cannot be glossed over with the sugar coating of youthful innocence. There can be no excuses for adult meanness.

I know of two men who are notorious for their mean-spirited and oft-harmful gossip. They flit about spreading their fabrications and their mistruths in the misguided belief that it buys them friendship and will posit them as important players in their community. In reality, it renders them as quite the poisonous pair of peas in a pod. They are maligned, not admired. Scorned, not saluted.

Why are we mean to one another?

Well, meanness can be the offspring of jealousy and envy. It is often the spawn of a power grab, whether it be in a sandbox or in a Bay Street boardroom. We mistakenly believe being mean makes us feel better about ourselves. That it makes us superior to another. And I suppose it does that very thing in the minds of the mean-spirited. That, however, can only be a fleeting feel-good moment. In any final reckoning, it is quite the opposite. Meanness exposes our frailties and our inferiority, not those of others. Meanness is a weakness, not a strength. If you are mean to another it says nothing about that person and everything about you.

As the late publisher Malcolm Forbes put it, “Meanness demeans the demeanour far more than the demeaned.”

My schoolmates Maria Buccini and Dennis Toupin had physical differences, but they clearly possessed greater inner strength than the rest of us kids. Through all the teasing and taunting, I never once detected a hint of malevolence in either of them, in words or behaviour. I never once heard them complain.

For many years I wondered why theirs are the only two names I can recall from grade school. It’s not like Maria was my gal pal or that I hung out with Dennis. We scarcely conversed. Thus I could arrive at just one conclusion: They showed me that being mean is an option. That it is not an imperative in life. We can choose to be mean and perform our spiteful, damaging deeds and spew our spiteful, stinging words, or we can treat others with the respect and kindness they deserve.

Maria and Dennis showed me that there is a goodness quotient in each of us that we can, and should, add to daily.

Who decides what’s normal and what isn’t normal?

It’s an unfortunate reality that some of us allow others to do our thinking for us. We must think for ourselves. We cannot allow others to tell us what is normal and what is not normal.

By patti dawn swansson

During lunch with a friend, the matter and merits of same-sex marriage was on the menu and we were on opposite sides of the debate.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

“I don’t think it’s normal,” my friend said.

“What isn’t normal?” I asked with no small measure of cheek. “Getting married isn’t normal? Or gay people getting married isn’t normal?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yes, I know what you mean. And I agree. Getting married isn’t normal.”

“Don’t be so smart. Do you think same-sex marriage is normal?”

“What’s normal? And who decides what’s normal?”

“Society decides.”

“Society is an ass.”

Certainly any society that denies two loving people the right to be wed is an ass.

Gay people shouldn’t be penalized simply because straight people have made a mess of marriage (40 per cent of first marriages in Canada end in divorce). Gay people shouldn’t be expected to pay for the sins of straight couples. Fortunately, Canada provides equal opportunity in the arena of wedlock and our gay people can mess up just like all you straight folk.

Seriously, though, the concept of normalcy is greatly flawed, whether it be in reference to sexual orientation or how often we should marry.

It’s an unfortunate reality that some of us allow others to do our thinking for us. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, tells its flock what to believe in, so the faithful believe in God, a virginal birth, Jesus is the Messiah, heaven, the fiery coals of hell and the Ten Commandments. They therefore have a set of standards that dictate their version of normal. For others, however, the belief in the virginal birth of a messiah is not normal thinking. It is fiction. Charles Manson told his flock what to believe, so they wandered about Los Angeles killing people. It was normal for them to follow Charlie’s instructions, but to most others it was not normal to do the bidding of a mad man and kill innocent people. We tell our children that the use of profanity is wrong and not normal, but the family down the street is quite vulgar and punctuating their conversations with four-letter words is perfectly normal. I have a female friend with tattoos covering much of her body. Some say that is not normal. But it is normal to her and all others with art decorating their bodies. Suicide bombings are not normal in Canada, but they are normal for some extremist groups in parts of the eastern world such as Pakistan and Iraq.

Normalcy is a shifting climate. Once upon a time, you seldom saw female police officers. Now it’s normal to see them every day. Back in the day, it was normal to listen to our music on vinyl records. Today that isn’t normal. It’s normal for a young child to believe in the Easter Bunny, but it’s not normal for him to hold that belief by the time he’s in high school.

So, you see, nothing is normal and everything is normal.

We must think for ourselves. We cannot allow others to tell us what is normal and what is not normal.

When I had the luncheon conversation about same-sex marriage with my friend, she was unaware that I have a gay son. He is married. So, because she was not armed with this information, she sat across the table from me and said people such as my son are not normal. She was being honest and true to her beliefs. But such a belief is close-minded and could be harmful. I could have been quite offended. I could have lashed out and abandoned her. Instead, I let it slide because I don’t imagine she woke up that very morning and decided same-sex marriage isn’t normal. She had been programmed all her years to think there is something “not normal” about the gay lifestyle.

To me, there is nothing abnormal about two people in love exchanging marriage vows, and in this area I trust I am on the side of the angels. Love is not discriminate in the concerns of sexual orientation. Only a mind that has been shuttered by a cultish belief system would think otherwise and promote the notion that a same-sex union is an anomalous undertaking.

Our mind is as the cup which holds our tea. We finish our tea and refill our cup. The cup always welcomes more tea. Similarly, our mind must be receptive to optional schools of thought. For example, if you believe in the virginal birth of Jesus, you must also allow for the possibility that the story is fiction. By the same token, if you disbelieve it, you must also allow that it might be fact. That is an open mind, a welcoming tea cup.

It is wrong-thinking to believe there is no other way or no other possibilities. To question or challenge so-called normalcy is right-thinking. If we empty our mind of the beliefs others have placed there, we can refill it with fresh views and values and notions.

Believe everything is normal and believe nothing is normal.

Boys will be boys, but spare us girls the pathetic pick-up lines

Here’s a clue for you, guys. If you want to chat up a girl (and we all know you want to), don’t hit her with a pathetic pick-up line that’s been used for the past 200 years. Here’s the best pick-up line of all, boys: “Hello. How are you?” No girl I know is offended or threatened by a polite, sincere greeting. She won’t think you’re Ted Bundy. She might even invite you to join her.

By patti dawn swansson

So, I’m walking the sidewalks of downtown Victoria on a lovely afternoon in autumn. The sun is warm and welcoming, and an ever-so-gentle breeze is flirting with my long, red and streaked-blonde locks. It’s a good day to be a free spirit.

Or so I thought.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

While in rapture, I turn left off Broad Street onto Johnson and I hear a voice to my right.

“Are you single?”

I look over my shoulder and there walking toward me is a fiftysomething man with a crooked, creepy grin and a hairpiece that looks like the pelt from a dead skunk.

“Excuse me?” I say.

“Are you single?”

Eeeeuw. El creepo.

I hasten my pace. So does he, all the while nattering about my hair and wondering if I’m single.

It isn’t until I escape into a Best Western hotel that I shed myself of Mr. Skunk Head, leaving me to wonder this: When exactly did the street become a pick-up joint? Did I miss the memo?

I mean, it’s one thing for some guy to chat you up in a bar. That’s what they do. Only they’re worse at it in a bar because booze comes into play and they’re not nearly as good looking as they think they are. And their pick-up lines take a nose dive when they’ve got the vodka goggles on (more about that later).

But a complete stranger hitting on you on the street?

I wish I could report that this recent bit of male mookery was a one-off, but I’m afraid not. It’s happened on a number of occasions, and I don’t include those incidents involving frat boys who bray like jackasses as they drive past while you wait for the street light to change. No, I’m talking about the guys who walk up to you on the street and dispense some horrid pick-up line and expect you to be flattered.

I recall the first such occasion, at which time I was a ditzy blonde. Again, I was strolling along Broad Street when a chap intercepted me at Yates and Broad.

“Do you wanna to go for coffee?” was his opening gambit.

“Pardon me?” I replied, quite startled.

“Do you wanna go for coffee?”

“My goodness, I don’t even know you. I’ve never seen you before in my life. Why would I want to join you for coffee?”

“So you can get to know me.”

I wanted to say something real cheeky. Something like, “I don’t think my girlfriend would like that,” because men are uncomfortable when they discover the girl they’re hitting on would prefer to bed another girl. That’s just something they can’t wrap around their macho minds.

At any rate, I said nothing more to this fellow. I just toddled off.

I must say, though, that these street-walking episodes are not as clumsy (for the fellow) as what often transpires in a bar.

One evening at Paparazzi Nightclub, two trolls hit on me in a span of two minutes.

I guess my “stay away from me creep” vibe wasn’t working, because I was sitting on my own about 9 o’clock when this young Asian fellow plopped himself down on the stool next to mine. He didn’t have the good manners to ask if he could join me, which clued me in to his insensitivities, and he promptly delivered the absolute worst pickup line since Adam said to Eve, “Nice tits, blondie.”

“Are you drunk?” he said.

“Excuse me?” I replied.

“Are you drunk?”

“Not drunk enough to make you good looking or interesting, sonny boy, so you can move along any time.”

He hadn’t even disappeared when another yahoo was at my side.

“My friend wants to know if you’d like to join us,” he said.

“Where’s your friend?” I asked.

“He’s over there in that area.”

“Which one is he?”

“You can’t see him.”

“Oh, you have an invisible friend. That’s cute. But most of us get past the invisible friend stage when we’re about five years old.”

Sad.

Here’s a clue for you, guys. If you want to chat up a girl (and we all know you want to), don’t hit her with a pathetic pick-up line that’s been used for the past 200 years. Here’s the best pick-up line of all, boys: “Hello. How are you?” No girl I know is offended or threatened by a polite, sincere greeting. Chances are she won’t think you’re Ted Bundy. She might even invite you to join her.

And one more thing: If, in the end, you discover she’s a lesbian, don’t take it personal. After all, the way most of you boys act, it’s a wonder all girls aren’t lesbians.

In times of trouble, I want your ears not your tongue

When we unload, we don’t want another person interrupting us every 10 seconds with their opinions and their views. And we don’t want them to zone out while we prattle on, either. We want them to listen. We wish for them to not just hear words but for them to listen to what we have to say.

By patti dawn swansson

Do you listen? I mean, do you really listen?

That is to say, when a friend—or a stranger, for that matter—needs to unburden herself of grief or worry, or just plain vent, do you lend her your ears?

Many of us don’t.

Too often we take an invitation to listen as a summons to offer unsolicited advice. Or, even worse, to meddle.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

For example, not so long ago a friend called and asked to meet for a drink. Her life had become a train wreck and she really needed to unload. So we connected later that day and, as she slowly and painfully exposed the gory details of a life gone off the rails, it was readily apparent that she knew what she must do in order to free herself from the demons that had consumed her. Yet she was reluctant, or unwilling, to take the appropriate measures.

The temptation to leap in with my two cents worth was fierce. At least half a dozen times I wanted to tell her to give her head a shake, to stop feeling sorry for herself and to straighten up and fly right. I rejected those urges, however, and allowed her to prattle on until she at last stopped to take in some oxygen.

“Are you finished?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “Sorry to dump all of this on you. You don’t need to hear my problems.”

“I don’t mind. But I don’t know what you expect me to say.”

“I don’t expect you to say anything…I just wanted you to listen.”

Exactly. My friend didn’t want to talk to a butt-inskie. None of us do.

When we unload, we don’t want another person interrupting us every 10 seconds with their tsk-tsks and put-downs. And we don’t want them to zone out while we drone on, either. We want them to listen. We wish for them to not just hear words but for them to listen to what we have to say.

This might sound crude, but basically we wish to use the other person as a toilet. The toilet willingly accepts our waste and then we flush. The waste is gone. Similarly, we use others to dump our mental and emotional waste and flush away our woes. We cannot do this if the other person constantly plugs our purging with interjections. If they haven’t listened, our waste remains.

Correct listening can be difficult, but it’s important that we are conscious of it if we wish to help others in their times of stress.

We must remember that we are not the only one listening. The troubled one also wants to hear herself speak. She has been burdened by these troubles for many weeks or months, and she has done so in silence. To voice her angst and stress is a powerful release. But there must be just one voice. Hers. She wants to speak so her issues can also reach her ears. She is listening to herself.

Consider a secret. Your most guarded secret is the heaviest burden in your life. Perhaps you are having an extra-marital affair. Perhaps you are a closeted gay person. A secret such as either of these will weigh you down so greatly that you cannot function properly at home, at work or at play. It keeps you tossing and turning at night once your head hits the pillow. Not until your secret is no longer a secret can you free yourself from the heft of the matter. Thus, you seek a confidante. And you want her to listen. Really listen. Once this is done, your burden is greatly lightened.

So when we are asked by a friend to lend our ears, that’s what we must do. Lend our ears, not our tongue.