Destiny’s Child’s—Say My Name
Charles drives over to Chip’s house. He tries not to go there too often since Chip’s wife Trixie felt they had enough visitors, what with church folk constantly coming by to seek Chip’s advice, blessing, or to help him with various house and yard chores. The house is a low, long, cinder-block-walled, flat-roofed, typical south Florida home. It was painted, badly, an institutional lime green.
Charles knocks on the front door and Trixie lets him in. Charles can’t tell if she’s annoyed that he’s come over or just peeved to be interrupted.
“Hi, Charles. I was just stripping the kitchen floor. Damned ancient linoleum. Stupid church building committee won’t pry loose the money to replace it. Ruins my nails whenever I have to do this.”
“Wow, you never hear of anyone having to strip the wax off floors anymore. What a bummer.”
“To live is to suffer, my daddy used to say.”
Trixie, born Beatrix, was from an old, traditional Southern Baptist family that had been heavy into sugar cane in Cuba until Castro overthrew Batista in 1959. Her father, Beauregard Pettus, lost his fortune as a result of the revolution. During Trixie’s younger years, her father struggled to rebuild his cane business in Florida, fighting displaced Cuban cane growers for a share of a market that was nowhere near as lucrative. Beauregard was as conservative as they come, in both his business and his religion. When the strong-willed Trixie told her father she wanted to marry a United Methodist minister, he threatened to disown her. They married anyway, and her father did not carry through his threat but did refuse to attend the wedding. Trixie and her father have rarely spoken ever since, nor has Trixie seen much of the rest of her family, despite them living up the coast a ways in Vero Beach.
“Well, enough about me. Charles how ya doon?”
“I am well, thanks for asking. At least I don’t have to strip my kitchen floor. Or maybe I should. It might be as old as yours.” They both laugh.
“Charles is down in the ‘Man Cave.’ Go on down.” Charles notices Trixie also has the habit of emphasizing things with air quotes.
Charles heads down the stairs. Chip’s parsonage sits on the edge of an old sinkhole and, because of the drop in grade, actually has a walkout basement, unlike the vast majority of Florida houses, and a pool in the backyard. The room opens out to a patio underneath the first-floor deck, and thus is partially lit with natural light. The two sit across from one another on parallel couches. Between them is a table Chip made from a weathered wooden high-tension wire spool upon which he had painted the red N of Nebraska football.
After the two open a couple of beers, they are idly chatting about women when Chip asks, “What’s the deal with the ring, dude? I’ve been meaning to ask. You haven’t been married for years.” Charles holds up his left hand and looks at the gold and silver wedding band, turning the hand back and forth.
“I made a commitment for life. I may be divorced, but I never stopped being married.”
“So, you’re a fucking monk—no nookie for all these years?”
“Well . . .” Charles begins but stops. He is sure Chip is going to tease him or call foul.
“Well, what, douchebag?”
“Well, she started it!” Charles says, trying to make light of the fact that not only was there a period after his divorce when he screwed anything with boobs, but he still occasionally swiped right on Tinder. And that was something he didn’t want to get into with Chip.
“Blessed are those who rejoice in her, and do not burst forth in ways of folly, eh?” Chip quotes with a snort.
“What the fuck?” Charles said, utterly confused.
“Just baffling you with my erudition about the Dead Sea Scrolls, Padawan.”
“Big deal, Scholar Boy. Anyway, I’ll never take the ring off, and I’ll never remarry, ‘cause I’m still married.”
“Well then, your wife’s a bigamist! Didn’t she get married to her lezzie lover once the law got changed in Oregon?”
Charles winces at the thought. Gay marriage is a sore point for him. In fact, he hates the idea of homosexuality in general. There had been many times during their marriage that Charles had thought maybe Karen was gay. Like Edie, about whom Charles had had similar suspicions, Karen had exceedingly close female friends, and when together, the women couldn’t keep their hands off each other, hugging and smooching, if only on the cheeks. He always blocked these suspicions about his wife from his mind. Charles thinks, So . . . what? I’m only attracted to queer women? Am I that kind of sicko?
Pulling himself back out of reverie to the current conversation, Charles says, “I hate gay people. With good reason.”
“So I gathered from your tirades in the World. But, dude, hate is a strong word to use on an entire class of humanity. John said, ‘Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.’”
“John didn’t have to live with my ex! I don’t think I’ve ever told you about Munch.”
“Munch? What’s that? A new kind of potato chip?”
“No, Munch is Karen’s wife.”
“. . . or maybe a new kind of rug?” Chip roars at his own stupid joke.
“Very funny, Chip. Munch stole my wife from me. Can I hate her?”
Chip, instantly becoming serious again, says, “Well, since I don’t know the details, I can’t say for sure, but probably Munch was just trying to pursue her own happiness. And you shouldn’t hate anyone.”
“Let me tell you the whole gory story,” Charles proceeds to fill Chip in on his wife and the dissolution of his marriage.
After Charles married Karen, they were happy for a few years and had a son. But it wasn’t long before he became suspicious that Karen was fooling around on him. Eventually, Karen confessed to two indiscretions.
The first one was with one of Charles’s students. Charles had had a class over for dinner at the end of the semester and the student had groped her when she went into the laundry room for another bottle of vermouth. She had reprimanded him, but two weeks later, after finals, when he saw her at the campus soda shop, he asked her back to his dorm room to see his etchings—he was an art major and he actually did have etchings. They had no birth control handy, so she gave him a blowjob. That was almost worse for Charles. Seduction and the heat of the moment is one thing, but he thought of blowjobs as being rather calculated, and something that a person could help oneself from doing.
The second one was when an out of town friend came to stay for a week and Charles went on his first business trip in his new job. Although things between Charles and Karen had been better, the friend had always had a thing for Karen, and they had been smoking dope. They decided to play strip poker and when she was down to top and panties, she took off the panties, which the friend took as a sign that she wanted to screw. She had only taken the panties off because she was ashamed of her small breasts, however.
After confessing these incidents, Karen swore she would be faithful. But there was a final unfaithfulness that Charles didn’t find out about for years. Munch, a teaching assistant Karen had met at Charles’s son’s preschool, became fast friends with Karen, and soon they were meeting for coffee in the afternoons when Karen picked up their son. Munch was married to a Syrian she met in graduate school. It was an apparent green card marriage, since the macho, Islamic Sepehr cared more about hanging out with his Syrian friends than spending any time with Munch. Charles actually suspected, from some of the random interactions he saw between Sep and his friends—the grappling, wrestling, and rolling around on the floor—that perhaps Sep was gay. No matter. He paid almost no attention to Munch who confided in Karen that they rarely made love.
Munch eventually demanded that Sep give her a child, and after some months of trying, Munch did become pregnant and bore Sep a daughter. This was, to Sep’s mind, a huge disappointment. Of course, being a typical Middle Eastern man, he wanted a male heir. He neglected Munch and the child and spent even more time with his friends. Munch and Karen soon became inseparable and when Charles would come home from work, it was a rare day when Munch and little Katie weren’t at his house, playing with his son. Charles brought this up with Karen, saying that it was hard enough for the two of them to have alone time without having these other people around all the time, eating dinner with them almost every night and staying until way after the kids’ bedtimes.
“It’s OK, sweetie. Munch really needs us right now,” Karen said. “Sep has been married long enough to be able to stay in the US if he divorces her, and that’s all he can talk about now. Poor Munch.”
Charles resigned himself to hiding out in his study and working on a series of never-completed novels while the whole Munch/Sep divorce played itself out. In the process, he not only withdrew from his wife but also his son. When the heartbroken Munch, kicked out of the house by Sep pre-divorce, began living with them, it was the last straw for Charles.
“Look, Karen, she’s got to find her own place right away.”
“C’mon, Charles, you know she can’t afford that on what she makes at the preschool.”
“I don’t care, Karen, her being here all the time is affecting our relationship, and I’m sick of it. I need her out of here right away.”
“Well, if that’s the way you feel, perhaps you can find your own place,” Karen said in a cold voice. “I think we need a break.”
Charles was stunned. Had he overplayed his hand? Was his relationship with his wife really that bad? How could things have deteriorated this far?
Luckily, Charles was scheduled to go to a week-long conference in San Francisco, so he persuaded Karen to agree to wait until he returned to discuss things further. “I’d really like it if Munch and Katie were gone when I got back,” he said.
“You can dream,” Karen replied.
While in San Francisco, Charles thought about trying to find Edie, who years ago had said she was moving there. He had mixed emotions. He was worried about her and whether she had managed to pull out of the tailspin she was in years before. But he also felt that she might actually have understood him better than Karen did. He went back and forth in his mind: Should I call her? Should I leave well-enough alone? Finally, Charles looked up her name in the white pages in a tiny phone booth in a crowded restaurant on the pier. There were three entries with her first initial. He sat there in the tiny booth for 10 minutes before deciding he lacked the courage to try them all.
Of course, Munch was still there when Charles returned home, but Karen had cooled down a bit. Nonetheless, she relegated Charles to sleep in his study, on the very uncomfortable old couch he often used to catch a catnap while writing. One evening, Karen went out with Munch and came home at 6:00 am the next morning after Charles had been up all night with worry.
“What were you two doing?”
“Oh, we just went out, got too drunk, and Munch had this idea to break into her and Sep’s apartment. She knew he was out of town, so we did it. Did you know that Munch knows how to pick locks? I sure didn’t. But we got in and decided we were too drunk to drive anywhere so we just stayed the night.”
“And you couldn’t call me? I’ve been sick with worry.”
“Sorry, Charles. I was pretty out of it. Sorry.”
Charles had his suspicions about that night. What had those two been doing? Was his wife gay? One thing was for sure: Karen no longer had any regard for his feelings or his love, so he packed and moved out. He had no illusions about getting back together with his wife, but if he had, the fact that Munch officially moved into his former house to live with Karen, and that friends were constantly sidling up to him and whispering that they had seen the two of them go into this or that lesbian bar downtown, seemed to make reconciliation an impossibility.
All his waking hours, Charles was plagued by thoughts of Karen’s infidelity, of getting divorced, and the collapse of their marriage. Did Karen become unfaithful to goad him into leaving her? Was she just lonely and trying to fill a void? Had she always been a lesbian? Who left whom?
Charles hit the booze, grass, pills, quite hard in the aftermath. He ate compulsively and ballooned to almost 300 pounds. He clung to his job only because his boss was extremely understanding, having gone through a divorce himself. Eventually, Charles surfaced, breaking clear of the ocean of his grief, still married, and refusing all efforts by Karen to finalize the divorce. Even once he finally did sign the papers, he refused to take off his wedding ring.
After telling the tale, Charles lets out a huge sigh. “Afterward, I mostly felt betrayed. I was emotional, sure, and lovesick, but the betrayal thing was huge. It was a long time before I could trust anyone—male or female—again.”
“Wow, man, that’s tough, and it breaks my heart. But don’t you think that Karen was perhaps always gay, or bi at the least? Don’t you think that her acting out with other guys and eventually with Munch could have been a way for her to try to find her own happiness?”
“Why couldn’t she have tried to find it with me?”
“Well, I don’t rightly know, but did you even know she was unhappy?”
“No, I guess I didn’t.”
“Could you have?”
“Did you do everything you possibly could to enable her happiness, or were you more concerned about your career, your friends, your life?”
Charles is stumped by the question. Had he really been the perfect partner for his ex-wife? He had to admit he hadn’t. I’ve always had to have my own way, he thinks. I definitely could have done more to satisfy Karen. He thinks about their lovemaking in the years leading up to the split. He realizes that she probably hadn’t been satisfied sexually for quite some time. And, he thinks, I’m not exactly the warmest person in the world. I certainly could have given her more support.
Chip, in full pastoral counseling mode now, says, “I’m not saying you’re to blame. It takes two to tango, and if Karen had unfulfilled needs, it’s reasonable to expect she should have taken the initiative to communicate them to you. So, don’t worry, Little Buddy. We’re all flawed, and we all make mistakes and sometimes shit happens for reasons we have no fucking idea about.”
Charles manages a wan smile before saying, “Thanks, Father Confessor. I appreciate your insight, and I’ve got a lot to think about. But I’m not taking the ring off.”
“Keep it on, sure. I’m not trying to get it off you. Just wondered why you still wear it.”
Two days later, Charles publishes a column on the subject.
Touted as an equal rights question, the question of gay marriage is likely to be decided by the courts, not by the people, in the case Pareto v. Ruvin. Far from reflecting the will of the people, a gay success in this case would be actually a major win for those who would legislate morality, and the politicians they own.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, here’s a summary of the case. On January 21, 2014, six same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute filed a lawsuit in Florida state court in Miami claiming that Florida’s laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate the United States Constitution’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.
On July 25, 2014, that imbecilic court issued a decision striking down Florida’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples and ordering Miami-Dade County to allow same-sex couples to marry. The court stayed the order pending appeal.
It’s now looking likely that the court will lift its stay, perhaps as early as this week. Concerned Floridians need to make their voices heard to prevent this attack on the institution of marriage and prevent the spread of immoral behavior throughout society.
There is compelling evidence that gay “marriage” would be a tragedy for our society. On their website, the Family Research Council puts forth some very persuasive arguments from the Witherspoon Institute, including the following:
- Children hunger for their biological parents
Family Research Council and the Witherspoon Institute, whose paper they quote, say that homosexual couples using in vitro fertilization (IVF) or surrogates deliberately create a class of children who will live apart from their mothers or fathers. They quote research that reports children of IVF often ask their single or lesbian mothers about their fathers, questions such as: “Mommy, what did you do with my daddy?” “Can I write him a letter?” “Has he ever seen me?” “Didn’t you like him? Didn’t he like me?” Other research shows that these feelings are similar to those of children of divorce.
- Children need fathers
The research states that one result of same-sex “marriage” would be that most same-sex couples with children would be lesbian couples. Thus, even more children will be raised apart from fathers. Having a father reduces antisocial behavior and delinquency in boys, and sexual activity in girls.
- Children need mothers
Despite being less likely to have children than lesbians, gay men are and will be raising children, thus denying children a mother and the emotional security they provide, especially for daughters going through puberty and adolescence.
- Evidence on parenting by same-sex couples is inadequate
Although many leading professional associations assert that there are no differences between children raised by gays and those raised by heterosexuals, their research is inadequate, preliminary, and suffers from serious methodological problems.
- Evidence suggests children raised by homosexuals are more likely to experience gender and sexual disorders
Sociologist Judith Stacey, an advocate for same-sex “marriage,” found in a review of the literature on child outcomes, “lesbian parenting may free daughters and sons from a broad but uneven range of traditional gender prescriptions.” Studies show that sons of lesbians are less masculine, and daughters of lesbians are more masculine, and in general, report having a homoerotic relationship or attractions in larger numbers.
- Same-sex “marriage” would undercut the norm of sexual fidelity within marriage
Gay “marriage” would probably damage the norm of sexual fidelity. Andrew Sullivan wrote in Virtually Normal, his book in defense of same-sex marriage: “There is more likely to be greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman.” Imagine the effect on sexual fidelity norms if this sentiment were presented as normal to the public in sitcoms, magazines, and other mass media!
- Same-sex “marriage” would further isolate marriage from its procreative purpose
Throughout human history, marriage and procreation have been tightly connected. The best argument for the institution of marriage is that it secures a mother and a father for each child. Same-sex “marriage” fosters an anti-child-bearing mindset that could fuel population decline, causing gigantic social, political, and economic strains on society. Breaking the necessary link between procreation and marriage would produce an ever-dwindling world population and associated crises caused by global growth slowing to a standstill.
- Same-sex “marriage” would further diminish the expectation of paternal commitment
Political scientist James Q. Wilson states that the advent of no-fault divorce destabilized marriage by weakening the legal and cultural meaning of the marriage contract. Nobel laureate and an economist George Akerlof found that the sexual revolution, driven by the widespread availability of contraception and abortion, enabled men to abandon women when they got pregnant, giving them the ability to blame their girlfriends for not using contraception or procuring an abortion. Legal recognition of gay “marriage” would further destabilize the norm that adults should sacrifice to get and stay married for the sake of their children by institutionalizing the concept that children do not need both a mother and a father.
- Marriages thrive when spouses specialize in gender-typical roles
Same-sex civil “marriage” of necessity de-genderizes marriage, amping up existing social and cultural pressures to neuter our thinking and our behaviors in marriage. According to University of Virginia psychologist Mavis Hetherington, when spouses specialize in gender-typical ways, marriages typically thrive, and couples are less likely to divorce when the wife concentrates on childrearing and the husband concentrates on breadwinning,
- Women and marriage domesticate men
Research has shown that men who are married earn more, work harder, drink less, live longer, spend more time attending religious services, and are more sexually faithful. Their testosterone levels also drop, especially when their children are in the home. It’s hard to imagine similar social and biological effects arising in gay “marriages.”
If the preceding didn’t concern you or make you sad, you have the heart of a stone.
While I don’t agree with all of the above assertions, I have seen many of these trends and themes at work in my own life. Many of you know from past columns that homosexuality broke up my marriage. My now ex-wife fell in love with a woman, snuck around behind my back carrying on an affair with her for years, and a year-and-a-half-ago married her lover in Oregon. To say homosexuality destabilized our family would be a huge understatement. The judge gave my homosexual ex-wife complete custody of our son, and I rarely saw him until he became an adult. He grew up mostly in the company of women, without my help and guidance through the horrors of puberty, and the uncertainty of finding his way into adulthood. To this day, he remains somewhat estranged, and I’m lucky to see him a few times a year.
The only positive effect of the advent of same-sex marriage for me personally was that I no longer need to support my ex-wife for the rest of her life.
And now, in Florida, unless you act, same-sex marriage may soon become the law. This could happen to you!
The day the column is published, Chip calls Charles.
“What the fuck, dude?! That was a seriously nasty column! What were you thinking? I know you’ve got a bug up your butt about lesbianism but keep it to yourself!”
“I’m just telling it like it is, man. Homosexuality is a threat to society.”
“Oh, come on! Really? You think persecution of a sexual minority would be good for society? Perhaps we should put them all in prison. Don’t you think making the stability of marriage available to all would be a good thing?”
“You read the facts from the Family Research Council.”
“Facts? You call vague inferences from supposed experts and bald assertions like ‘children of gay people are more gay’ facts? That stuff has been totally debunked.”
“Why aren’t you on my side, by the way? Isn’t your religion against homosexuality?”
“Well, United Methodism can’t ordain gays or promote the gay lifestyle, but the church commits to not reject or condemn gay members and friends. It’s not exactly ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but rather live and let live.”
“But the Bible is clear about condemning homos, right?”
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it outright condemnation. In Genesis, Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed because of a crowd of men who wanted to rape two angels that Lot was protecting. So, the Bible could be condemning gang rape. And why would angels have gender, anyway? But the passage goes on to basically condone incest between an unsuspecting Lot and his daughters, so you need to take all this with a pillar of salt.” Chip smiles at his pun.
“Funny, Funny Boy!”
“Anyway, Lot’s daughters’ actions, which gave rise to a whole race, the Moabites, are condemned in Leviticus 18 along with polygamy, infidelity, human sacrifice, bestiality, sex during menstruation, and male homosexuality. Homosexuality is called detestable, but that’s a way less judgment than most of the other things on the list, which are called profane or wicked. But, dude, anyone who wants to live strictly by Leviticus would need to stop doing a lot of pretty common things, like swearing, eating crab, shellfish, pork or fat—goodbye bacon—haircuts and beard trimming, infidelity—I agree with that one—having pimples or disabilities, drinking alcohol in holy places—like taking communion at church—eating or touching the carcass of flying insects with four legs, going to church within a month or two of giving birth—it’s two months for a daughter because, I guess, daughters are more unclean—holding back wages for a day, failing to stand in the presence of the elderly—I ain’t standing up for you, bucko—working on the Sabbath, and selling land permanently.”
“You got that stuff memorized?”
“The subject of many of my sermons. You need to understand and interpret the underlying meaning of the Bible. Many of these strictures—like not eating shellfish—are codes created to prevent sickness. Others, like not tilling a field to its very edge, are intended to do small but important things like prevent erosion. The Bible was a code of behavior that goes beyond the spiritual. The United Methodist church teaches that we should interpret the Bible by asking ourselves: What did a passage mean to its original hearers? How does that fit into the whole message of the Bible? How does the passage reveal what God is saying in my life, community, and world? And what changes should I consider making as a result of my study?”
“So, you’re not literalists? That’s good.”
“Hey, let me tell you my favorite Methodist joke.”
“Please, please, please, no!”
“OK, here goes. A Methodist minister and his wife were driving along Lake Shore Drive, in Chicago, and they were pulled over for speeding. As officer O’Malley approached the pastor, he saw the man’s clerical garb and mistook him for a Catholic priest. ‘Oh, sorry about dat, fader. Uh, youse just try and slow it down a little, OK?’ As they drove away, the pastor’s wife said, ‘Shame on you, Harold! That was unethical. You know who he thought you were!’ ‘Oh, I know who he thought I was,’ replied the pastor. ‘I’m just wondering who he thought you were.’
Charles just buries his head in his arms.