Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lend A Hand

Have you ever heard the terms "circling the wagons", "call in the Calvary", "lend a helping hand" and Hilary Clinton's "it takes a village"?  When it comes to family and friends in need of support or an extra pair of hands, pitching in is what I do-- And they do the same for me.  

Over the years, I've had my share of ups and downs. Loved ones have helped with everything from chicken soup when I'm sick or fixing flat tires, to holding my hand in a crisis and helping me pack for cross-country moves. I've gladly reciprocated with a sympathetic ear, baby sitting, cooking, cleaning, painting, whatever was needed to help and support these near and dear to me.  

No one in my "village" has ever looked for a pat on the back or recognition for their efforts because we just naturally rally around each other when someone needs a boost, support or encouragement.   There is no name for this kind of caring beyond an occasional deadpan "Hey, it take a village and I'm the village.", because it all comes from the heart.  

But today, as I accompanied my BFF-- a single mother, and her young child to a doctor's appointment, apparently I lent a helping hand because I'm gay.  Who knew!

First off-- There is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay. That is not what this post is about.  

It's about two women, and a very cool kid, who are often seen together by the same group of people, who automatically assume, we're gay parents.  It's not the first time it's happened and I'm sure it won't be the last.

And it makes me sad.  

Don't people help each other anymore unless they're a "couple"?  What happened to best friends, sisters, brothers, parents, family, extended family?  Have we gotten to the point that lending a helping hand to people we care about, but aren't in a relationship with, is such an odd occurrence?

My BFF is an amazing single mother to a very Cool Kid who has a mountain of medical issues.  Since Cool Kid was a baby, the three of us have schlepped to doctors all across the county.  I go along so BFF can focus on what the doctors are saying, while I wrangled a wiggly baby, anxious toddler, and now a rambunctious adolescent who would rather be anywhere but in a medical exam room. BFF has a lot of information to process at these appointments so we "tag team" the docs allowing her, and ultimately Cool Kid, to get the most out of the time with the medical professionals.    

It's the doctors, nurses and medical staff that usually attach the gay "label" and comment on "The two lesbians with the cool kid." behind our backs.  I would think hospital staff see lots and lots of different people helping loved ones with medical issues, but apparently, some people think help only happens if you're in a relationship. 

I don't get it.  Nobody has ever asked if we're sisters or if I'm the grandmother, which, I suppose by age, I technically could be.  They only ask how long we've "been partners" and if we "adopted Cool Kid together?"


Like I said, we've heard it many time over the years and always laughed it off.  And in all fairness, it's not just medical people who've made the comment.  The three of us often travel in a pack and we've heard it in a variety of other places too. But today when I heard it, well, it pissed me off.  And I'm partly to blame....

Yes, that was me bitching about all the drama over Michael Jackson's passing. I'm so over the whole thing that I swore I was not going to blog about it.  I refused to watch his televised memorial Tuesday and groused about my tax dollars being used to close freeways for five Rolls-Royces carrying Jackson family members to the memorial service.  I thought, enough already!

And then I saw Jackson's young daughter on the news that night saying how much she loved her dad-- Not a superstar, not a king, not an idol, just her dad.  She was surrounded by family and extended family, all offering her heart-felt love and support. And I felt ashamed for all the "labels" I'd attached to the mourning of Michael Jackson over the past nearly two weeks.  

My BFF put it all in prospective for me--  She said, the memorial is not the way we might mourn or lend a hand, but it's the way the Jackson family lends a hand.  The memorial was their "village", and their way of mourning and supporting one another.  In those simple terms it made sense to me and I stopped complaining about it.

I know someone dying too young is not in the same league as schlepping to doctor's appointments and I do not in any way mean to minimize or compare the two as equal. But it was a reminder for me to lighten up, forget about the "labels", stop being so judgmental, and just be part of the "village" I'm so happy to belong to-- all be it a much smaller "village" than the Jackson family's. 

Until my BFF and I can think of a good comeback line to the "lesbians with the cool kid" label, we'll remain quiet and know our "village", which includes my husband, by the way, is happy, content and thriving.

How big is your "village"? 
Welcome to The Fifty Factor  -  Joanna
Photo Credit: © Dwight Davis -


  1. Thanks for sharing. It all boils down to one's perception. We must all remember to step outside our box and look in from another's view point. When we assume...we make an (ass) out of (u) and (me)...(assume) :)

  2. I think this is a fab reminder, Oh Snarky One. Our eyes lie to us all the time...and our brains just go along for the ride without questioning. DUH!

    But, I have to tell you, the gay chicks with the way cool child? That's mostly because you live on the Left Coast. I'm thinking here in the sedate eastern side of the States, we wouldn't immediately jump to that conclusion....

    Circle those wagons against them Injuns my Sister! And know that this Snark Queen's got your back in any fight!!!

  3. I'm at a loss for words. As if you don't have enough to deal with? Maybe it's time to move out of California. Or, maybe you and your BFF should start holding hands in public.
    What a shame that people would label you like that. Don't people have better things to do with their time?

    I'm sorry you have to deal with this crap!


  4. You are doing great no matter how people label you! I do agree with Holly that you are labeled quicker on the west coast - I don't think that would happen as much here in Michigan!

  5. It's interesting that people would jump to that conclusion. I wonder why?

    It makes me think of going to my OB when I was pregnant with my son. My husband had to work late and I was too far along to drive (could barely reach the steering wheel over my stomach!) so my dad took me to my appt. He left the waiting room because he thought people would think he was my husband and, therefore, robbing the cradle! It never occured to me that anyone would assume that.

  6. We all make assumptions, to help us make the best sense out of what's in front of us. It's only human; we can't help it; a lot of us have trouble accepting the craziness that Michael's life became.

    As for your "partner" situation, I think a lot of people may be trying to show off how "okay with it" they are by saying they don't have a problem with accepting that kind of relationship.

    (Though, as a Real gay woman, I often find myself responding to the "I know a lesbian" comments in my mind with "If you were really 'okay with it,' you wouldn't have to point it out to me!")

  7. Lots of thoughts flying on this post. For one, I agree that there aren't enough people that care enough to lend a hand. The sad thing is that those who do are labeled somehow. But it's often because people are so distrusting of others that at times, they want to know the "motive" behind your actions.

    When people volunteer, "One of my best friend's is black", it says to me that they are communicating their curiosity and masking it as friendliness.

    By viewing you and your BFF as lovers, just shows you that they are hoping you'll confirm their suspicions.

    I think you're a great friend for lending a hand.

  8. I admire that you "remain quiet", because I sure couldn´t.
    But this is a great post and am glad for my "village" that consists of some very good friends!

  9. 1. What a great friend you are!

    2. What you say is true, we get so bogged down in "labels" sometimes that we miss the point entirely.

    Great post!

  10. Very thought provoking post. I hate to say this but labels will exist wherever you go and some people always seem to expect things in return.

    Towards the end of last year I was in a nightclub when a guy was punched, hit the floor and got KO'd. I rushed over to help him, checked him over etc and soon found myself covered in his blood because he had split his head open and do you know what happened? Nothing. The bouncers didn't come, people laughed thinking he was drunk and he was stepped over like his life meant nothing. I stayed with him and even ended up helping to take his 6ft height and drunken weight despite me being only 5ft 4 to the paramedics outside. Not a single person helped me in the whole time I was with him. After, I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror to see my face, hair and clothes covered in his blood and when I went back to my boyfriend he asked me why I had helped the boy so quickly and appeared so upset. I was outraged. Do I have to know another human for me to show them compassion and help them in their hour of need? What if I was on the floor and people had stepped over me? I was furious that my 'village' didn't get involved but I am proud that I did. I saved that man's life in a club where not a single person ran to the boys aid; he turned 18 that day; what a way to start his adult life. I think I lost my faith in humanity that night and I'm still not sure I've found it. I will never change, I will always be the person that helps and although it's appreciated, I don't need a 'pat on the back', just paying the kindness forward is enough for me.

  11. How weird is that?

    And apparently, "The Village" is also the city of LA, who spent like 1.4 million dollars on the memorial, and are now asking for donations to help pay for it, because it has wiped them clean.

    For shame on the Jackson family for making the city pay for it.

  12. It is so easy to understand why ANYONE would be proud to be your BFF, with or without a COOL KID.

    I did watch most of Michael's memorial. Some of the speakers I did not want to hear so I did dishes, but when his daughter spoke it broke my heart. I admit I am a Jackson fan and I am sorry for his family but mainly the kids. Kids are the innocents in everything.

    Anyway, I will pat you AND your friend on the back for being there for each other.

  13. You are a wonderful BFF for your BFF. The lesbian label, I agree - WTF? Goes to show that many of us are judgemental. I have been judgemental on many occasions, however, life has a wonderful way of giving us all a universal 'slap' every now and then and knocking some sensibility into us. Gulp. Sorry.

  14. Toni - dumbfounded that no-one offered any assistance, that IS sad and definitely shows that others are either too busy being judgemental, frightened (of what?), or simply not bothered.

  15. today's post made me laugh a couple of times then feel tearful remembering MJ's memorial. You're a great BFF. I think in big cities we've lost that small town community feel where people know and help each other and there is a move to bring it back along with the greening of our environment.

  16. I wouldn't see it that way, having a best friend who would help you in this way is a wonderful thing but it is hard not to be label in some way sometimes, I would ignore like you

    thanks for your visit to my blogs, I really appreciates it & I hope you are having a lovely day

  17. Oh. My. Freaking. God.

    Joanna, you are so amazing. I want to be your family. I want you to call me up on the phone for a girl day. I want to be your lesbian lover (well, you know what I mean - in the utmost platonic way).

    Yes. We are a silly culture. We put labels on everything. We judge. We castigate. We rule from our lofty posts. And then we get slapped in the face when emotions take precedence over our superiority. I went through the SAME thing regarding MJ. I posted an awful piece about him just after his death (replete with ghoulish mask photo), But by Tuesday, the worm had turned. I was put in my place. I guess what I'm saying is that you can regret a lot of things in life that you do wrong (whether it's based on bias, prejudice, conjecture, ignorance, etc.) - but you NEVER regret kindness, tolerance, and understanding. My sisters give me grief a lot for being too soft. I mean, honestly, what self-respecting far right Christian conservative would stoop so low as to give Michael Jackson a break? Well, in the grand scheme of things, we all could use a break. Whatever he was, whatever his sins... in the end, MJ was just a man who also did great works, was the greatest philanthropist for global causes, and suffered unimaginable dysfunction. Self inflicted or not, I stand with you and say, love your fellow brothers and sisters. Be charitable. Help when you can.

    You will never regret love.

  18. I wish it still took a village- these days it seems like if you're not getting anything out of it people don't think you should be putting any effort into anything. I blame the media, as it seems selfishness is more marketable than altruism.

  19. I sent this to a friend of mine because she has a best friend who is like a second Mom to her kids. My friend and her husband feel blessed to have a best friend who is just another member of the family. Someone made a comment believing the friends were partners. We all got a good laugh about it.

    The reality is that we should all be so lucky to have such a friend.

  20. Sadly, my village is not what it used to be. Moving out of Utah and away from my village has been hard at times. But Brandon and I are running a good village here all by ourselves.

    I loved this post. I wish you lived you closer to me.

  21. Wow! Good post. Love your honesty. We're all guilty of being judgemental in so many aspects. I know I am. Working hard every day to self-improve.

  22. Joanna, I'm not going to get wordy with you, because there's nothing to add. I loved this post, and agree that a support system is essential. xo

  23. Hi everyone! Thanks for commenting. I admit, I was a little nervous about posting this because people seem to have very strong opinions about MJ-- And I didn't want to offend anyone with the gay couple comment.

    I feel really lucky to have such a great "village" of friends and family. And I'm thrilled to be making new blog friends in my "village" too. Thanks a million for all your support.

    Thanks for joining me today. I really appreciate it.

    Keep those cards and letters coming! xo

  24. I'm really at a loss to understand this! I guess its probably becoz we never had a concept of a nuclear family till just recently so I could always count on going anywhere with some one who was not necessarily my husband!
    Some people are just odd.

  25. Jeez, finally I'm able to comment after 3 wks of not being able to!

    Actually now that I think of it, there are many who won't be happy about that....

  26. I just feel sad at how judgemental we have all become.
    Why is that?

  27. We're all judgemental, even though we don't mean to be. In the past couple of years I've caught myself on a few occasions and chastised myself afterwards. I try not to judge, but sometimes it just slips back in.
    As for MJ, I'm with you, I'm tired of hearing about it. I didn't watch the memorial either, although I caught some of the highlights that evening as it was almost impossible to get away from. I got teary-eyed listening to the daughter.
    I have mixed emotions about the whole big production. On one hand, all the visitors to L.A. created a lot of revenue at hotels, restaurants, cabs, airlines, etc., on the other hand, the city govt was griping about who was going to pay for their million+ $ expense. Part of me feels they should present the Jackson family with the bill.

  28. beneath all of this is a beautiful picture of community. the thing is most people don't have it now. their village has shrank, so it is inconcievable that some actually have a BFF, rather than 682 random acquaitances, posing as FB friends. sad really.

    but i guess i can get rather judgemental as well. more love. more power. have a great weekend!

  29. I have a similar situation with my employer. She is a single mother of two small children. I often take them to the dr without her or other appointment. People assume I'm her partner instead of her office manager. Yeah, my job included a lot of outside the office tasks. *sigh*

    BTW,your friend is blessed to have a friend like you in her life.

  30. Wow, this is a fantastic post! How is it that I have never been here before? I will definitely be back!

    Glad you have such a strong village, it's something I am still working on in my life.

  31. Have a splendid weekend.

  32. Great post. I might suggest that the reason there is an assumption of a partner relationship exists between you and your BFF is because of the compassion and love you have for one another and the ease at which you work together to take care of the Cool Kid. That is rare among couples, let alone BFF's.

    You're unique, and even though you're not in love with each other, you obviously dearly love each other. It's beautiful.

    Their assumption is, to me, more of a nod of admiration.

    Course, I'm not there, so what the flip to I know? :)

    As far as a great comeback if the doc/nurse/whatever is a man, embrace enthusiastically, turn to him and say in unison with delicious smiles, "You wanna join us?" He will never say another word and will be so distracted you might be able to steal his stethoscope and give it to the Cool Kid.

    Just a thought.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate the company.


  33. Joanna, how do I bring you chocolate?

  34. Joanna, now you did it! You made me cry just like Barbara Walters does to her guest. The labeling hits a cord in my heart and makes me so sad and yet sad for the people that freely label others because they are different from them.
    As I'm sure like others, the stories I could share about my labels. Instead of being weighted down with a chip on my shoulder I have choosen to get back up brush the dirt off my knees and find my way to embrace the same person that brought me to my knees. A hard task, but I know in my heart I don't want to become a woman with a bitter heart.

    I'm sure this is why I reach out to help others that have fallen to their knees I know what it feels like to be there.

    A wonderful post my friend!! You keep doing what you do best and be a great BFF!! I'm sure in time you will think of something witty to say.

    Have a golden weekend! xoxo

  35. Good for you for being such a great friend - and you ARE family, just not in the same way that is being assumed. But I have to say....even if they're making the wrong assumption, it's not really judgmental, is it? Is this being said in a mean way? At least they're assuming that you're a family unit...

    Great post, as usual.

  36. I was born to lend a hand, or butt in, depending on one's perspective. Part of it is being observant and aware of life and others' lives around us. Some people are blind in that respect. I never ask myself " why do something?" I always ask "Why wouldn't I?"


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