Friday night was a very, very typical pre-Halloween Friday night for me–after missing it last year, partly because I think it was in a different town, I made my triumphant return to The Rocky Horror Show live onstage, complete with bold makeup and bright-pink fishnet tights. I laughed, I shouted until I was horse, and I did the Time Warp. A good time was had by all.

On Saturday morning, probably around 11:15, I stopped for gas on my way to get my hair dyed and was scrolling through Twitter when the news broke–a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At the time, the death toll was four but they were pretty clear they know that number was gonna go up. When I was sitting in friend/stylist Emily’s chair an hour or so later, it was eight. When I was driving home an hour or so after that, it was 11, and almost all of my programmed radio stations had stopped playing music altogether and were instead playing news broadcasts and press conferences.

I only lived in Pittsburgh for six months, but I’ve spent my entire life hovering nearby. I grew up about an hour south, went to college at a University of Pittsburgh branch campus, and after those six months on Mt. Washington, I moved to another small city about an hour away. I’m far enough removed that I don’t feel like it was my community itself that was harmed, but I’m close enough that it hurts. I’ve teared up reading the news. I’ve seen my Facebook feed turn into nothing but an endless timeline of shock and grief and my notifications a string of people marking themselves as safe. Seeing the city in the national news is weird, and seeing it the national news for this reason is heartbreaking.

Part of me isn’t surprised–southwestern Pennsylvania isn’t known for its diversity and tolerance, particularly the area where I grew up, so much so that a coworker from that same area messaged me pointing out the last name of the shooter is common there and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn if that’s where he was fro. But part of me is surprised because a violent, anti-Semitic Pittsburgh isn’t the Pittsburgh I’ve ever never known, and because of that, I knew that the city would really come together in the aftermath. The anecdotes are uplifting–people opening their homes to reporters covering the shooting, people cooking for the police, singing at vigils, huge turnouts at blood drives, massive amounts of money raised for the synagogue and victims, though admittedly not all from this area. As I write, the Pens are playing with patches on their uniforms that say “stronger than hate.” People are sharing slogans saying hate can’t bring down a city of steel and images that replace the gold diamond of the Steelers logo with a gold Star of David.

I love Pittsburgh. The only reason I don’t live in the city itself is mostly timing–when my housemates all decided to go our separate ways, I just couldn’t find an apartment in the city that I could afford at the time. But I spend a lot of time there. I go to concerts there (I’ll be there Thursday), I see shows, even go to the movies sometimes. It’s been a difficult few days for everyone, especially the victims and their families above all, and I hate that this happened and that there are people out there who support the shooter or support similar acts. This is a very sad, hateful chapter in our history not just as a city but as our country and I’m eager for it to be over, but I know it will end. It would be nice to say a lot of uplifting things about moving on and putting it behind us, but the unfortunate reality for those who were there is that this is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Still, I want to close with optimism.

So like I said, I love Pittsburgh. I look forward to more fun nights out with friends and family, and I know this does not and will not define the city.


When Priests Are Also Assholes

So, obviously, the wedding day was hectic. At rehearsal, I’d expected to pay the choir, organist, etc. because at some point, that is what I’d been told, but none of them were actually there. So while I was sitting all done up waiting for my cue to go down the aisle, I was writing out checks to whoever I needed.

I forgot a check.

I remembered just a tad too late–after we’d left after the ceremony–that we still owed the church $150. “Whatever,” we thought, “we’ll take it to the office next week.” And we kind of forgot about it plus had other things going on, and on top of that, getting to the church office before it closes is tough. It closes at 4, and typically, Paul works until 3:30 and that’s when I’m just getting home, but lately, I’ve been working until 4, 5 the past two nights specifically. Paul can be home within 15 minutes, but then you have to truck it up to church fast. So it just wasn’t working out, and we had the post-wedding chaos of returning alcohol and mixers and taking care of anything else we needed to. The church check, honestly, slipped our minds, but the business manager did remind us. I asked him the best way to get it to him, he took a couple days to reply, and by then, it was the weekend. Paul even asked me in the pew this past Sunday if we could put it in the collection basket, and I said no, it has to go to the office. That or we could mail it, but why waste a stamp when we can just walk it up?

I’m not thrilled about the fact that we weren’t prompt with it. It’s one of our shared faults. I won’t deny we dropped the ball on that one, or that I should’ve replied to the business manager to let him know we’d be taking it to the office. However, the way it got handled after that is…unfortunate.

The main priest at the church e-mailed me this morning–not the one who actually performed the ceremony as he was transferred in July and came back for the wedding, but the main priest in charge at the parish now. When my phone pinged, I thought, “Oh, fuck, he’s probably not happy, better shoot a text to Paul to tell him to take a check up.” And honestly, all either of us needed was just a little prod. If you want to argue we shouldn’t need that, fine, whatever, but people forget things, shit happens, and that was honestly all it took to jog my brain right to, “Tell Paul to take a check.” So I’m expecting displeasure but otherwise civility, and what I got was pretty rude.

In retrospect, it’s not that bad, but it’s…not great. It’s a bit much under circumstances, especially between a priest and parishioner. The basic gist of it is the business manager forwarded our correspondence to the priest, who said, “I am disappointed that you continue to delay this process. Your casual manner in dealing with the payment due to the Church is ill-mannered,” and as a sort of PS, “This is the first time in 45 years I have had to send a ‘Second Notice’ regarding a Wedding.”

I won’t touch his questionable use of capital letters.

For starters, I take issue with the business manager going to the priest at all. To me, that’s something that should be a last resort, something you do when we’re not responding at all or we keep saying, “Yep, we’ll bring it tomorrow,” and failing to do so. I feel like the business manager couldn’t handle it himself and went whining to the priest, when all this whole thing needed was a simple, “Hey, you still owe us.” That’s a whole bitchy e-mail chain avoided right there.

As for what the priest actually said, I take issue with that, starting with the implication that I’m intentionally not paying them or dragging this thing out for, what my health? Entertainment? What, like all I do is sit around at home thinking, “Huh, how long can I drag this out?” I feel like I was being spoken to like a child, like I was being reprimanded, and on top of that, like the priority is money. We owed them. I get that. They have expenses to cover, and the diocese is evaluating which churches to close over the next year or so. But it comes off a certain way when your e-mail reads like a Catholic version of, “Bitch better have my money.” Frankly, with his word choice, it felt like he was attacking my character and had zero compassion or understand regarding, you know, life.

So I sat and stewed over it at work–it came in about quarter ’till 11, I was stuck there until 5, got home at 5:30, and that whole time, I was fucking pissed. I felt like he took a tone with me because he’s a priest and he thinks he can. Terra thinks he didn’t think I’d respond. My sister-in-law Emily thinks if he’d been communicating with Paul, he wouldn’t have used that tone at all.

So with the help of my mom, I crafted a reply. I mostly used her as a proofreader and Bitch Editor–you know, someone to look at it and say, “This sounds good, this is too much, use this word and not that one.” And the basic gist of that was just about what I said here, just more concisely and worded very directly and concisely. I apologized for the delay but said I hoped he understood that it’s a busy time and we lost track of some things–he clearly didn’t, or else he wouldn’t have sent that e-mail, but hey, I figure he deserves his own smidge of passive-aggressive condescension. I went on to say that despite this, the tone of his e-mail was disrespectful, condescending, unacceptable and uncalled for, that it was particularly disappointing coming from a priest and going to a parishioner, that it made it seem like all he cared about was the money, that I didn’t appreciate his unwarranted criticism based on how he interpreted the situation, that the business manager should have communicated with me directly rather than involve him, that I felt it was blown out of proportion over a relatively small amount of money.

There was a time when I never would’ve sent that e-mail and would’ve let it go–deleted it, sent the check, felt shitty, and moved on, but man, fuck that. I’m not gonna let a priest be an asshole to me about 150 bucks. Sure, I’m dreading getting a reply and I freak out a little every time my Gmail pings and I’m having worst-case-scenario imaginings of him making his sermon about me, but shit, I’d rather make it clear that I won’t be spoken to like that than just take it. I mean…really? Of all the ways you could’ve said we owed you money, that was what you chose?

I need to call my shrink, but that could be weird because he goes to that church. Whatever.

Look, based on everything I’d heard from other people who went through Catholic marriage prep, I expected the whole thing to be kind of dumb and boring.

I didn’t doubt its usefulness to a degree–while I knew it covered things that most couples discuss before getting married, I also knew that not everyone does that and that for some couples, this absolutely would be the first time they faced questions about finances or having kids. But Paul and I kind of pride ourselves on being this smart, rational couple who’s just about covered all of that, especially since by the time we’re actually married, we’ll have been together for seven years. When you go from college to the early days of careers where you’re not making much money and the job maybe doesn’t even last and ultimately move in together, you get a pretty good idea of your opinions on these things and how compatible you are. Seven years can throw a lot of shit at you, and you learn a lot about each other in the process.

I’d also heard about a lot of religious aspects to it that I wasn’t really interested in.

But the whole thing kind of surprised me in the end. I don’t doubt at all some of the sillier stories I’ve heard, like couples being told to “keep Jesus in the bedroom,” but I came to the conclusion that the church I went to, where we joined and will be getting married, has a pretty good program going.

It kicked off on a Friday night with a talk on family planning, which usually isn’t the opener but due to scheduling, that’s how it worked out. Having gone to Catholic school, I’d actually learned that already, and to be honest, I’m totally okay with the entire concept of natural family planning. I get why the church promotes it. Where they lose me, though, is their stance on birth control, and when I later read through some of the handouts we’d been given on it, I was rolling my eyes a lot.

Saturday was the big one, with a day full of talks from various married couples in the church on everything from finances to communication. And for the most part, I was right–we were going in pretty well-prepared, although I appreciated the fact that so much of the information was practical and not religious. I told Terra that later, and she said hers hadn’t been like that at all, which I think is kind of unfortunate. Even if I wasn’t sure it was for me, I do have to give the Catholics credit for doing it, and to be honest, I think divorce rates might be lower if everyone did some sort of marriage prep like this. Like I said, we may have discussed almost all of these issues ahead of time, but we’re not indicative of everyone. Some of the handouts we got were useful, too, like one where we answered questions about how we handle money. It’s a good thing to know going in.

And funnily enough, my shrink and his wife ended up giving two talks, which were my favorites. Sure, I could be biased, but his personality and probably his job as a therapist make him well-suited for it. One of our biggest, most useful takeaways actually came from one of his talks, and it’s a nightly exercise where you each list something you appreciate about the other, new information you may have, any questions you may have, any complaints or requests for change from your partner, and your hopes for the future. Things like that sounds kind of hokey, which again, I think that contributes to break-ups and divorces. Everyone talks about relationships being work, but not necessarily about actively doing exercises designed to address issues. Still, though, I thought it could be something useful for us, and Paul expressed interest in doing it, too. It’s turned out to be pretty good–it forces you to tell your partner something you appreciate every day, which makes them feel loved and valued, and it gives you an opportunity to bring up any issues, which has been more useful for Paul than it has for me. I’m far more likely to bring something up as soon as I’m bothered, but he’s far more likely to keep things to himself. Doing this every night, or at least most nights, actually encourages him to bring things up, and it’s probably stopping arguments before they even start.

The whole thing went faster than I expected to, especially for being something like six hours long. We got a nice little catered lunch, which included wedding soup because duh, and then when we were free to go, Paul and I decided to head out to the mall.

So at least in the church’s eyes, save for one more compatibility quiz we’ll have to do, we’re prepared for marriage.

Paul decided he wanted to go to church Sunday morning–late Sunday morning. The good thing is the church up the block has like five masses every Sunday, so an impromptu “I’d like to go to church” isn’t a big deal. And I don’t mind going with him on occasion, but I have made it clear that he shouldn’t expect me to go all the time, especially when he starts staying with me while he works a few minutes away. Which, by the way, starts in a few days, really. He starts Tuesday morning, so I’d better enjoy these last few days of having my apartment solely to myself while I can. I’m glad to have him come in, but I am bracing myself to get a little irritable and miss my alone time. I’ve been living alone for about three years now.

Anyway, church. We haven’t gone in a while, and apparently in the time we’ve been away, they extensively remodeled the church. So much so that we just happened to catch their first mass back, which featured the Knights of Columbus in a procession with feathered hats and swords, the bishop, and an altar blessing, all on Palm Sunday.

Now, I didn’t realize an altar blessing is a big fucking deal. We Catholics will bless anything, so I was thinking this would be one of those deals where there’s a brief prayer in the middle of mass and we otherwise go on with our Sunday. NOPE. It’s a whole long ordeal. That ends with inviting the entire congregation to go up and kiss the altar, which I felt weird about doing as just a casual churchgoer–especially there, when I’m only in every few months. But nope, Paul insisted. We’ll probably never attend one of these again, he said. Again, it’s a big fucking deal. So he grabbed my hand and I could’ve easily resisted and won because no way would he tug at me for more than a few seconds before giving up, what with being in a church and having people behind him waiting to go up and all.

So I went up and did it. I kissed the altar. And it was about as weird an uncomfortable as I thought it would be, and I probably should’ve resisted Paul more.

On top of that, Palm Sunday mass always runs a little longer because for some reason, that’s when the church does its reading of Christ’s crucifixion as opposed to, oh, I don’t know, the reading of Jesus’ entrance with the palms. I always thought it was because the church assumed it was the best way to make sure people actually heard it every year instead of counting on them to go to mass basically every day of Holy Week. Speaking of, happy Holy Week!

We also saw my therapist there.

In the end, that mass lasted 2 1/2 damn hours. Killed my whole damn day, since it started just after noon. By the time it ended, I decided we ought to just jump in my car and do my grocery shopping, but of course Paul was hungry, because how could anyone not be? So we grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at Max & Erma’s, then did my grocery shopping. All while still smelling like church incense. I could still smell it on my hair in bed that night.

I’ve had a busy week.

From Friday through Wednesday, I was making about an hour-long drive every day, first from my place to Paul’s, then from there to my parents’ on Saturday, back to Paul’s Sunday, then back home Monday.

I never updated my address when I moved out of my parents’ house and my mom pretty much told me not to bother until I move into a permanent home–because I can assure this apartment sure as hell isn’t permanent–which means I have to drive back over to vote in elections. I almost sat this one out and even though only one of my candidates won, I’m glad I didn’t. People in the state are obviously pretty displeased with Corbett–that’s why he got beat by Wolf and became the first governor in decades to lost reelection–and I didn’t think he stood a chance of getting reelected, but I didn’t want to count on that and skip voting. Which seems like a decent number of people don’t bother doing in this country, which is sad. I understand being cynical about the candidates and the process, but you’ve got the ability to at least try to make something happen. Use it.

At the same time, I was thinking about it, and my parents set a good example. I always remember them making it a point to vote on election day whenever they had the time, and I remember them talking about it pretty openly, though I don’t remember much discussion of the candidates. And I have to give my dad credit because as much as he’s a total, stereotypical Fox News-loving bigoted Republican goon, he’s told my brother and I since we were 18 that he didn’t care who we voted for, but we would vote.

So I did, and I’m optimistic for the future of Pennsylvania with Wolf at the helm. Maybe our priorities will be in the right place and the people will all benefit.

I went back into the area yet again Wednesday for Paul’s youngest brother’s confirmation n the Catholic church, and I only went because Paul asked me to. I guess a confirmation is technically a big deal because it’s when you sort of officially join the church and affirm your beliefs, but when I was a kid, they did ours at the same time as our First Communion. And the whole point is that you’re supposed to be old enough to understand what you’re getting into and make the decision for yourself, but we all know these kids are raised Catholic and generally don’t have much of a choice–it’s expected of them, and breaking out from under your Catholic parents when you don’t believe in the church anymore even as an adult can be rough.

The bishop was there, and I have to give him credit for starting off sounding like he really knew how to talk to the kids on their level without being condescending or too childish. And then he ruined it with what was easily a half-hour-long homily. I should’ve timed it. The service itself ran close to an hour and a half, if I recall correctly, and it wasn’t even a full mass. A full mass would normally run about an hour. So the bishop managed to take a shorter mass with fewer parts and make it longer than a full mass. On top of that, he played the “Catholics are persecuted” card, albeit more lightly for the younger audience, but that’s a really popular topic in local churches these days. They seem to think people disagreeing with them is oppression, and it’s irritating and misleading. Especially to kids like, say, Paul’s brother (and the rest of the siblings, though not so much now that they’re getting older), who have a very opinionated but ignorant mother who’s gonna reinforce that message. I’m just lucky I haven’t yet had to explain to her that I stopped going to church in college and lost interest long before that. Pope Francis, though, is changing things. I don’t know that he’s gonna get me back in church, but I have to give him credit for trying to set a good example and recognizing that the church needs to make some changes.

Finally, Thursday I got to sit my ass home, and it’s been my usual, uninteresting routine plus work for the rest of the week. I’m working Saturdays all month, so Paul’s currently over and on my couch with a headache, and we plan to see a movie tomorrow.

Friday Five: Rebel Rebel

Before we begin, let me say that I typically didn’t rebel solely for rebellion’s sake–I had a reason for it.

  1. In what ways have you rebelled against your upbringing? The biggest one is probably religion. I was raised Catholic, and although my mom’s not super devout or super religious, there was a level of expectation for me to follow it and it didn’t happen. I remember losing interest in middle school, and the older I got, the more boredom shifted into distaste for a lot of the church’s teachings and policies, continuing up to now. I remember in high school, interestingly enough, that we used to do these AIM chat rooms in the summer to keep in touch–before social media really existed–and I mentioned once how I didn’t foresee myself keeping up with Catholicism as an adult when my mom couldn’t force me to go to church, and Leah did accuse me of doing it out of rebellion and not because of my actual opinions. Wrong. I think my dad also had this hope of raising two Republicans, and that failed. He also tried to get Brandon and I to be super prepared, like preparing clothes and things the night before, and neither of us ever really took to it.
  2. In what ways have you rebelled against your schooling? I went to Catholic school until I got to college, so it was very similar to my upbringing. In fact, I think Catholic school kind of helped turn me off of Catholicism because the teachings and reasons for them didn’t make sense and really started to feel like they were designed to control rather than uplift and enlighten–not that religion tends to always do that. Funnily enough, Paul once was a tad buzzed at an auction at my high school and started talking to our freshman religion teacher, telling him he knows a lot of people who came out of Catholic school abandoning the religion and he didn’t, which he felt was due to that teacher. I do have to admit he was one of the best in the school and went farther than just telling us what the church taught–we had real-world applications and discussions on why the church believed some of what they did and why they might be wrong. The problem was that teaching didn’t continue throughout, and it became very easy to say, “This is ridiculous. I’m out.” Another thing was the fact that I majored in writing–math and science were pushed heavily in elementary school and although English was valued much more in middle and high school, it’s not exactly something people want you to try to make a career of. In a way, this was a rebellion against my parents, too, because very few people want you to major in writing, really. I’ve said before that people want you to be well-read and articulate until you want to do it for a living.
  3. In what ways have you rebelled against American culture? Majoring in English, which is the double whammy of not just choosing a slightly unconventional career path but also choosing one I loved (and the added bonus, though this doesn’t count as rebellion, of actually knowing that’s what I wanted to do within my first year of college). I’ve also been really drawn to countercultural things since my early teens, which is more subtle now, but it still tends to manifest itself in what I like to read, listen to, watch, and even how I like to dress. Not that I dress super weird (most of the time), but even jeans and t-shirts aren’t what girls tend to wear. My youngest cousin, when she was little, once asked me why I dressed like a boy because I wear jeans and t-shirts and her sisters were a little more girly and and a little more mainstream. I’m a vegetarian, too, which is especially frowned upon in rural Pennsylvania. And I swear a-fucking-lot, which seems common yet frowned upon. And so help me God, when I’m in a position to dye my hair pink or purple…
  4. Is it possible to rebel against yourself? I don’t know that I’d call it rebellion, but I think self-sabotage is very real. I think as far as actual rebellion goes, it’s probably more like people trying to change or do something different and struggling with it. I think it’s highly possible to lash out against something you’re doing or thinking, but I think a lot of this stems more out of unhappiness and frustration then anything else.
  5. What’s your favorite song about rebellion? Probably either Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel” or Green Day’s “Minority,” because it’s so damn catchy with great attitude. And I don’t think this really counts as a song about rebellion, but I really love Bob Geldof’s “The Great Song of Indifference.”

A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to the Man Who is Refusing to Eat Due to Utah Same Sex Marriages

A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to the Man Who is Refusing to Eat Due to Utah Same Sex Marriages.

via A Gay Dad’s Open Letter to the Man Who is Refusing to Eat Due to Utah Same Sex Marriages.