Sunday, July 24, 2011

Celebrating Life Outside the Box

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood...
Spending time in rural California really brought the differences between urban and country life into focus. While the quiet simplicity of country living can be somewhat of a draw for me, the conformity of many small town folks is not. Marriage and family plays a huge role in the lives of most mainstream Americans. I realize that this is a no-brainer for the majority of people out there but, as someone who has live outside of the heterosexual family structure since the death of my mother and grandparents in 1973, it always comes as a bit of a shock.

Here in the Bay Area it is easy to find people who live outside the nuclear family detonation radius. The world of books, museums, education, science, friendship beckons from all corners. But during my recent travels in the hinterlands, the subject of marriage and children was continually being raised by strangers along with the unspoken assumption that we all participate in these rituals.

A waitress in a cute restaurant in Truckee chatted about her fiancee and finally setting the date. A group of hikers went on about the wedding they had just attended. Children and husbands were always near the top of the conversations initiated by store clerks and shop owners. I understand that these were not deep, substantive relationships but, back home, all these folks seem to have a broader range of small talk topics. And this is all because one word: diversity. I now realize that if I want to try living in a small town, it had better be a very non-traditional one.

Marriage and the subsequent offspring it brings forth undeniably serve as a cornerstone of life on this planet. Even young LGBT folks have taken to this approach with a vengeance. But, in a time like ours, when consciousness seems to be reverting back to the nineteen fifties, it is imperative to remember that the road less traveled is lined with priceless scenery. The greatest contributions to art, music, literature and the cultural life of a people have been made by outsiders, people who do not live by a pre-programmed itinerary, but make up the rules as they go. And urban centers have always been havens for these dispossessed, places where "otherness" can be both supported and validated.

As the conservative among us celebrate marriage, families and the rearing of children, we should step back and think of the artist in her garrett, that weird guy drawing science fiction comics, that eccentric old woman with her lovely garden and too many cats and, of course, ourselves, in all our limitless variety, rejoicing in drama, beauty, tenderness, sadness, even anguish in the blank space that once held only emptiness and silence.