Category Archives: Lesbian

An Inconvenient Pink

Mom again in dress

My Mom ~ September 20, 2006 ~ August 18, 2006

IF I KEPT A BOOK OF REGRETS, my first entry would be that I failed to appreciate the wedding dress my mom made for herself.

She took such pride in it.

She loved it, so.

My mom looked and acted younger than 92 when her eyes took a sudden drift towards blindness and a fall the year earlier demanded she could no longer live alone in the town of her birth and lifelong residency. It broke her heart to leave her home, her two elder cats, and all of her possessions behind during her acquiescence to my sister Sue’s Texas ranch those last months of her life.

 

Among the few possessions she wrapped and packed with care was the dress she bought in 1969 to be buried in, and her wedding dress of 1938. Both of them, pink.

I couldn’t say if Mom intended for Sue, me, or our kid sister, Kate, to someday wear her gown, but I do know Kate and I had already declared by age eight that neither of us intended to marry. And, it must have been embarrassing (if not disheartening) for Mom when all three of her daughters so disdained Home Economics in school that none of us finished hemming even one dish towel to the satisfaction of Miss Merriman, the same teacher who’d first taught Mom to sew in 1926.

Nevertheless, I felt honored (and a tad smug) to be both Mom’s namesake, and heir to her love for the color pink, a pigment that looked best on her, and always brings out the best in me. I seldom wear any other color. I feel less poised when I do.

Mom wasn’t as obsessed with the color as am I, she being more of a fashionista whenever she left the house. But her outfits always included a splash of pink ,at very least, as an ornament in her hair, a bangle on her wrist, beads around her neck, a porcelain broach, or a cloth flower pinned near her heart.

Years ago, as I sat with sister Kate discussing Mom’s passing of a decade earlier, she brought out the wedding gown and conferred it to me for safer keeping.

“It is exquisite,” I marveled, after tenderly unwrapping the tissue.

Unlike modern gowns that average fifteen hundred dollars in apparel stores and run as high as ten thousand in bridal boutiques, Mom’s dress was an innocent, ultra sheer Heberlein organdy acclaimed for a crispness, yet light like gossamer.

The pastel pink fabric, embroidered with rows of one inch white flowers separated by rows of half inch white petals and stems, was perfectly cut as a single piece floor length gown, it’s mirrored left fold creased and sewn in matching pink thread up the right side with tiny hidden snaps under the arm, a flounce encircling the knee above the A-flared skirt, and puffy sleeves framing a single notch neckline.

“I’m ashamed to say I spent six years as a production control manager in New York City’s garment industry purchasing piece goods, and dealing with jobbers, cutters, designers, and sewers daily — yet never once, Kate, did I think to appreciate this dress by Mom.”

“Yeah. Well. That’s true. But it is a wedding gown after all. Why would we?”

“I know. Still. The pure, perfect intricacy of it blows me away. And that she chose pink! How audacious.”

“I don’t follow.”

“You know, it being 1938 and all. Her going against the catwalk code of wearing white.”

“That would be you, not her.”

“I get it from her.”

“But it’s not why she wore pink.”

I gazed up from the gown, puzzled. “No? Why then?”

“She’d been married before.”

Her answer stunned me. “Mom was married before Dad?”

———– TO CONTINUE READING ————
THE ABOVE ESSAY REPRESENTS AN EXCERPT FROM:
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t Know?
by Marguerite Quantaine © Copyright © 2019
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by Marguerite Quantaine © 9.20.2017
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INTIMACY MATTERS

A Reminder Of My Love

Intimacy, between those in love, is what you get to enjoy with one special person that you don’t share with anyone else on earth. It means, the partner you think of as ‘one in a million’ is actually 1 in 7.325 billion. It’s recognizing the state of ‘being in love’ as a blessing. It’s why falling in love feels destined.

If you truly want to grow old with the one person you love most, intimacy is sacrosanct. It’s not to be trampled on by others, or diluted through the disclosing of what makes you, as two, one.

Intimacy is being on the same wavelength. It’s how attentive you become when the other enters the room. It’s in how close you stand and sit. It’s in the tenderness of talk and the eagerness to listen. It’s accidentally-on-purpose brushing up against each, repeatedly, in the course of a day. It’s in the glances, the face making, the hand signals, the code spoken, the names given, the notes passed, the cards signed, the double intendre of places mentioned, music played, words whispered, initials added to wet cement, and carved in wood, and formed by toes in wet sand. It’s in hands held while falling asleep.

Intimacy is disguised as brooches, beads, bangles, bracelets and bands, accompanied by promises made, many of them etched in silver, or gold, and crowned with jewels.

And, as we age — especially those of us who are women without children — we begin to wonder, what’s to become of those tangibles?

No, not so much the house, or car, or investments requiring named beneficiaries early on — but the special gifts, the private collections, the photographs, the love letters, the anniversary and birthday cards, the journals, the trinkets, the lockbox keepsakes.

What’s to become of our rings?

Because these decisions, too, are intimacy matters, emblematic of what two people in love quietly cherished about each other.

Historically speaking, older gay men have shown the tendency to become involved with much younger men, paving the way to name their last dalliance as a beneficiary, and leaving single men in their 30s and 40s much better off (financially) than they might have been otherwise. It’s one reason given to account for gay men as having the highest rate of  disposal income in the nation.

Successful lesbians rarely adopt such pecuniary practices late in life. Instead, we tend to make the nieces and nephews we never knew, of siblings we seldom see, our beneficiaries. It might account for lesbians averaging the lowest rate of disposal income — in the world.

I’d like to see us change that (sans the May-December gay tradition) by taking more of  an interest in the welfare of younger lesbians who are making an earnest effort in their struggle to get ahead .

Since knowledge of herstory is power, I’d like to think we’ll each donate our personal papers to the June Mazer Lesbian Archives, housing a century of lesbian and feminist artwork, manuscripts, books, records, and reference material for free access by researchists, historians, writers, feminine studies and interested parties.
www.mazerlesbianarchives.org

And, too, my hope is that more seniors will find and friend women who are 10-15-20-25 years younger; women who share our individual interests and personal values; women who demonstrate the kind of work ethic that proves a credit to our communities.

Mentor them, fund them, gift them with something worthy of being treasured, recorded, and passed on to the future generations of ‘us’.

The time spent needn’t be intense, nor the gift substantial.

It simply needs to be meaningful enough to remind both the giver and receiver that objects soaked in love should never be taken lightly, nor disposed of easily.

Because, ultimately, intimacy matters.

Most.

#   #   #

Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine 2015


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HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU . . .

Kate b:w

“You’re always a happy camper,” my kid sister, Kate, says to me, frequently. “Even from back when. I’ve seldom seen a photograph where you weren’t. Whereas, the rest of us…”  She sighs as her claim tapers off; the ‘rest of us’ being our four older siblings.

     I’m in her Florida home, fifty-eight miles southeast of mine, enjoying faded photographs of her and me during childhood, a monochrome to Kodachrome procession of us aging over the years, corralled in silver and brass frames crowding the desktop in her den.
     “You’re smiling in them, too,” I insist. 

     “But even when you aren’t you’re happy.”

She’s right. In every print I stand guilty as charged, picture-proof that regardless of the rocks life hurled at me, I caught them as stones and skimmed them as pebbles across a body of blue. Setbacks, solutions, and silver linings have ruled my world in that way.

     Kate triumphs, too; but does it differently. Unlike me, be it a word, a look, or an action, she wounds easily and holds onto the hurt as lifeblood. She can recite the time, place and reason for every slight she’s perceived from others, intentional, or not. She suffers the “slings and arrows” of both fortune and misfortune. Her self-esteem rarely rides on an even keel.

     Most of that is reflected in Kate’s self-deprecating sense of humor where she casts herself as the ugly duckling and also-ran. 

     Until she turned 12, she shadowed me like a stray puppy inviting approval — but as a tall teen, she began rolling her shoulders forward and slumping down to avoid attention. She took a back seat in all her outings with friends. She never challenged authority. She catered to the wishes of others. She refused to go to her junior prom with a boy she had a crush on unless I agreed to find a date and go with her. (I did.) She always worked harder to strive higher because she felt, in doing so, maybe, just maybe, someone would love her.

I don’t think she’s ever accepted that everyone does love her — not because she played a great game of league softball for nine years, or bested those at any table where board games ruled, or succeeded at every task she undertook, or graduated from college summa cum laude, or even when she became an executive at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, rubbing elbows with celebrities, daily — but because she is without guile. She’s soft spoken and generous. She’s never late for anything, ever. She’s decisive and dependable. She is the first to answer the call, to offer her time, and provide for others whether asked of, or needed, or not.  Her meek demeanor matches her downy curls and wise eyes the color of a Russian Blue.

She’s also a coincidental copycat. Although Kate lived 3,000 miles away for a decade, she’d somehow manage to buy the same label slacks, sweaters, and shoes that I wore, paint her rooms the same colors as mine, be partial to the same movies and songs, plant the same flowers, and even managed to select the identical holiday cards for my mom, with both hers and mine delivered in the same mail, on the same days for seven years running. 

     When she moved to Florida eleven years ago, she arrived in the make and model of car I drove. Eventually, she gave me that car, and added my name to the title of her next one so I could have it someday, without any fuss.

     It’s what I’ll be driving, soon — and what I’m driving at.

     Kate visits regularly, making the trip from Deland to spend the day with her gal pal, my Elizabeth. They leave within moments after she arrives to scan pawn shops and scour garage sales, saying when they’ll be back bearing gifts, and what they want to eat upon return. I’m chief cook, baker, bottle washer and decider of the games we’ll play into the night. 

     Sometimes she stays over, but more often, twelve hours of each others company is one hour shy of perfection. Before she leaves we belt out a chorus of,  “Happy trails to you, until we meet again” as we did while in our matching cowgirl outfits, sitting on the floor in front of the Sylvania set during the 1950s, joining Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in their signature song.  Then I wait by the phone until she gets home and calls to say she’s safe and sound.

     My dear, sweet sister, Kate.

     So, imagine my surprise when, after a splendid celebration for her 67th birthday on January 22nd, followed by wishes exchanged for Valentine’s Day, and plans made for Elizabeth’s birthday on February 24th, she called to say, “I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to it. But…”
K&M& Andy Car

     She’d felt nauseous with a sharp pain in her side so, assuming it was her gallbladder, she visited the clinic, which ordered the ultrasound, that revealed the liver cancer. The following week an MRI found pancreatic and bile duct cancer. A PET scan upped the ante to bone and spinal column cancer, after blood tests confirmed it was everywhere.

     No, this is not the kind of diagnosis that responds to clinical trials, chemotherapy, or radiation. Hers is the type that robs you of 25 pounds in 25 days and makes you hope for enough time to get your affairs in order.

     Nothing seems real now. We act on automatic, listening to orders we don’t want to hear and filling out forms we’re forced into finishing, as if any of it matters more than these last precious days spent together.

     When she asks me to translate the results of her latest tests I relay a bowdlerized truth, and she listens with an editors ear, both of us trying to alter the inevitable.

     If it were me, there would be levity. 

Instead, it’s Kate, who counts on me to be there for a final cowgirl singalong.

     Yes, I smiled when she asked it of me.

     But I am not a happy camper.

#    #    #

Marguerite Quantaine © 2015

WHEN BAD REVIEWS HURT GOOD AUTHORS and what can be done to change that

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Imagine you are Meryl Streep sitting in the audience, nominated for a Best Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes and Mia Farrow’s name is called instead of yours.

It doesn’t matter that a vast majority of the general public and international acting community think — make that know — Meryl Streep is the finest actress to grace a screen since the talkies. And, it doesn’t matter that her performance far outshines that of any other actress on the planet.

She must sit and smile and be grateful just to know that she’s the superior actress, even when saddled with being lesser so, by those who are not as talented, or as accomplished as she.

(And by ‘she’ I mean those of ‘you’ still up there in my opening line, imagining yourself as Meryl Streep.)

The point is, being the best at what you do is never enough to win the acclaim of those around you.

Indeed, the chances are good it will elicit exactly the opposite results, regardless of your profession. Because that’s the nature of awards and winning and — especially for the craft of writing — book reviews.

I say ‘especially’ because book reviews and letters to the editor are the two areas of the media where everyone, regardless of their intent, intelligence, or lack thereof, can participate as an authority.

And, because of this, both (along with the installation of the five star system) have become the weapon of choice for malcontents.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is simple: Am I complicit?

The answer is YES if you:
(1) Write a good review for your friend or relative, simply because she is your friend or relative, not because her/his book is as good as the review you’ve given.
(2) Award a five star rating to a book because it was authored by a friend or relative, not because her/his book is as good as you’ve rated it.
(3) Issue a bad review for a book you haven’t read.
(4) Issue a bad review for a book you haven’t read because you carry a grudge against the author, or you have a friend who carries a grudge.
(5) Award a low star rating for a book you haven’t read.
(6) Award a low star rating for a book you haven’t read because you carry a grudge against the author, or you have a friend who carries a grudge.
(7) Sabotage an author whose publisher is in competition with your publisher.
(8) Sabotage an author for revenge.
(9) Sabotage an author out of jealousy.
(10) Sabotage an author because you can, and that ability gives you power.

About now you’re wondering how this essay became about you instead of those so-in-sos who gave you a bad review.

That’s the thing.

When it comes to writing — just as when it comes to all other areas of life — it is never about what is done to you.

Rather, it is always about what you did to help create an atmosphere where such injustices flourish.

And, by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, and ‘us’, and ‘we’.

Like every journey, this one takes one step by one person at a time.

It takes resolve.

It takes a decision by each of us to (1) refrain from giving credit where credit isn’t due, and (2) refrain from sabotaging those we don’t like, and (3) choose to learn from those whom we consider to be more talented, more creative, or more accomplished, and (4) mentor all who are receptive, in an effort to improve our craft and our writing community.

It isn’t necessary to like every writer. But we must try to respect every person who makes the effort, takes the time, and risks the rejection that results from writing a book, regardless of its caliber.

And, if we can do that, we will know
our own worth.

And, if we can do that, we will rejoice
in the success of others.

And, if we can do that, we will accept, as a burden,
that there will always be those whose low self-esteem,
jealousy, envy, ego, or anger won’t allow them
any other recourse
but to lash out.

And if we can do that, we’ll realize, as a blessing,
that the next essay, article, story, or book we write
will be better because of it.

And if we can do that, we will each,
we will all, know what it’s like to be
Meryl Streep.

# # #

by Marguerite Quantaine © 2015

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IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (TOO)

Birthday Greetings - Woman in White Dress, FlowersWere I to write my epitaph, it would read, “She lived a charmed life.” Those who have only known of me might not agree — but those who’ve known me well, would.

Consider this as evidence of that.

August often stifles New York, as it did forty years ago, with temperatures so high and rain so scarce a brownout swept over all five boroughs, leaving the city sweltering in virtual darkness from dusk until dawn.

We were living in Bensonhurst by then, renting the upper two floors of a 1925 three story duplex; a stucco, fort-like house located on a tree-lined street between Avenues O and P, not far from a rumored underboss residence. It was a neighborhood where no one locked their doors at night and old-country madonnas garbed in basic-black sat in fold-out lawn chairs on cement sidewalks, waiting for the intense fragrances of Sicilian sausage, fennel seed biscotti, and basil-based sauces to waft through their kitchen windows, signaling meals had simmered to perfection and were ready for serving.

Our home’s private entrance had four steps up to the front door. Once inside there was another seven steps up to the hallway landing leading to a bedroom, living room, dining room, and bathroom, with a second flight of stairs to two more bedrooms. A doorway leading off the dining room opened to an eat-in kitchen. Another opened from the living room onto a second floor veranda stretching 25 feet long and 15 feet deep, with a 4-foot high wall leveling off just below the treetops.

We loved that place and porch, especially in August when sleeping outside beat the heat of the house by thirty degrees, and the starlit sky with its dreamsicle moon overhead was about as romantic as any heart could wish for, or mind could imagine.

It was after 10 one night when we were out there, lying on army surplus canvas and wood framed cots, listening to the neighbors battery operated radios synchronized to Casey Kasem naming, And I Love You So, by America’s favorite barber as “holding at 38” on the Top 40 charts when we heard a knock on the door and Liz called out, “Who’s there?”

“I’m looking for Marge,” came a baritone response.

“Who are you?”

“Mike Kelly.”

“Are you Irish?”

“I am.”

“Then the door’s open. Come on up.”

At the time, I was still recovering from a crash that left me chronically disabled the year before. As predicted, I’d regained my ability to walk, but still needed a wheelchair or walker, occasionally, and a cane, always. As I struggled up and into a lightweight, summer robe, Liz donned hers and, with a Coleman lantern in tow, greeted the fellow, leading him out onto the porch, and offering him a seat at the fold-out card table stationed there for Canasta and Hearts competitions whenever family or friends visited. Then she excused herself to get us all some iced lemonade while I tried to read his face by candlelight.

I liked what I saw. Mike Kelly had a crinkle-eyed smile plastered to his super-sized mug, with a pencil mustache complementing his noggin of silky grey hair.

“I’m sorry to bother you so late,” he began, “but you never contacted us. I had to take the Long Island Railroad from Port Washington after work and two subways — then got lost while walking here from the El.

“Why should I have contacted you, Mr. Kelly?”

“Mike, please.”

“Mike.”

“Didn’t you get our telegram about winning Publisher’s Clearing House?”

I laughed out loud. “Come now. You can do better. Although, I must admit, I’ve never heard that line before.”

He grinned. “Darn. I wish I’d thought of it before I got too old and too happily married for come-ons to matter anymore.”

“What’s so funny,” Liz chimed in, sliding a tin tray of refreshments onto the table.

“I was just telling Mike here about my last encounter with Publisher’s Clearing House.”

“You had one?”

“Sort of. While I was partially paralyzed for a few months last summer I passed the time by answering all those ridiculous Cosmos questionnaires before playing wastebasket wad-ball. I confess. One of the wads was a Publishers Clearing House entry.”

“She’d ordered a photography and a camping magazine,” added Liz.

“True, but I figured I’d never be going camping again, and wouldn’t be anywhere interesting to shoot photographs for a while — so I wadded it up and made the basket.”

“Well, that explains that,” chuckled Mike.

“What?”

“Your wrinkled entry.”

“But I didn’t . . .”

“I did,” Liz interjected. We both turned towards her. “I took it out of the wastebasket and smoothed it out the best I could and mailed it in. Whenever a magazine came in the mail I hid it. I thought I’d give them all to you on your birthday. I guess I was hoping, by then, maybe, you’d feel like camping and taking pictures again.”

I turned to syrup inside.

Mike Kelly beamed. “This is where I tell you – again – you’ve won Publisher’s Clearing House.”

I’ll end this on that high note — but not because there isn’t more to tell about the trip around Manhattan included with the monetary prize; our suite at the Waldorf Astoria, the nights on the town, dinner at the Rainbow Room, orchestra seats to A Little Night Music, the yacht ride to Port Washington, the catered brunch, a tour of the PCH facility, the awards ceremony, the photographer and limousine at our disposal for the weekend, the parties, the clubs we closed, the new friends made, the fun and the fanfare. It’s just because — you really had to be there. (And I’d rather not ruin the surprise.)

Receiving the 1973 Mystery Prize check from the President of PCH.

Receiving the 1973 Mystery Prize check from the President of PCH.

The following year I agreed to make (what I was told was) the first televised commercial for PCH. It ran between 11:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on all three of the only networks back then. If you were watching television in December of 1974 and saw a news program, soap opera, game show, sports event, or family favorite like The Rockford Files, The Waltons, Kojak, Medical Center, Mash, and Chico And The Man — yep. That was me saying it could happen to you (too).

There’s no drawback to the entire Publisher’s Clearing House experience except in one, small respect, and that is — no matter what I’ve done with my life, who I am, where I live, whom I love, what I’ve accomplished, or contributed — each time I meet those from my very distant past, the first thing they mention is that I won Publisher’s Clearing House, followed by the implication that my life has been “easy” because of it.

And, I always let it pass.

Because — even though the $17,500.00 was before taxes were deducted, and the balance went in one lump sum to pay off past-due medical bills — I’ve led a charmed life.

I know it.

And for this I am, truly, grateful.

# # #
Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2013.
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