Sandy butts and the hands of time…

When my first child was born 22 plus years ago, I was a much “looser” parent. I know that, because I’ve been watching old movies of myself, my kids and family, and my life as it used to be, far enough ago that there are people in my videos who I barely recall. It’s a project that I have had on my “to-do” list for years, converting all of my different video formats to digital files. It’s long, tedious work, but the trip down memory lane has been quite eye-opening, to say the least.

My younger version of myself in 1991 laughed and played with my then 2 year-old daughter, not giving a care for the silty, black sand firmly ensconced on her bare cheeks and squeezed into who knows how many cavities! Naked kids are fine, and by the number of naked kid videos that we have of her, my younger self didn’t care. Watching it now, I scream in my head, “what the hell were you thinking?!”

What was I thinking? I was thinking that kids are pure, kids are clean, and fresh, and should run around naked until they just don’t want to anymore. Imagine that world? I can’t anymore.

When that same daughter was just shy of four years old in January of 1993, we had the opportunity to attend Bill Clinton’s first Inauguration. It was a family affair, and lots of pictures were taken. That was before digital cameras, when the “old-fashioned” cameras required film, which then needed developing. Soon after arriving back home from Washington, I headed to the one-hour photo at the mall to do some shopping before picking up my child up from school. Little did I know that a film technician had alerted police that a certain roll of film that he’d processed had pictures that looked suspiciously like illegal material.

Upon my arrival back at the photo shop to pick up my finished photos, I was immediately flanked by 2 plain-clothed detectives. After identifying themselves, one started flipping through my pictures in front of me, asking repeatedly, “Is this your photo?” “Did you take this photo?” Do you know who this child is in this picture?” “Yes!” “That’s my daughter,” I said.

I was asked to come down the “station.” I was allowed to drive my own car, so I navigated myself to the building. I happened to have a mobile phone, which back then was the size of a breadbox, but nevertheless, was quite handy. I called my partner and frantically explained what was happening and she immediately called our lawyer for help.

I was led into an “interrogation room,” for the first time in my life, and although I was very nervous and probably sweating profusely, I still carried my well-honed butchy swagger. I would answer your questions, I decided, but I’m not holding back any contempt towards you when I answer, I thought to myself.

I was asked whether I had taken the pictures and I said “I don’t know.” “Why don’t I know? Because I’m not the one who ALWAYS takes the pictures!” If I’m not IN the picture, well, it could be me, or it could be my partner.” “Yes, I’m in a relationship with a WOMAN! Do you have a problem with that?”

He showed me a picture, of my daughter. She was standing in the doorway of our kitchen. We kept the camera right there on the kitchen counter so that we could snap away, and obviously one of us decided to capture the moment! She was naked, had slipped her little feet into my partner’s boots, and was standing there like a little naked cowgirl. When the shot was snapped, she smiled as big as day, shook her wet curly locks, and grabbed her crotch and pulled up! High. So high that it made you look again to be sure you just saw what you thought you saw!

“Can you explain this?”

“Yes. That’s my daughter. She had just gotten out of the jacuzzi and had decided to try on her mom’s boots. She was  proud of herself and loved smiling for the camera, so obviously one of us grabbed the camera and snapped it! Why? Is there something wrong besides she obviously grabbed her crotch right when the picture was snapped? What other explanation are you posing?”

“Who’s that?” he asked.

“That’s Ann Richards. We went to an event where she was at. You know her? She’s the Governor of Texas?”
(writer’s note: I know that all of my quotations aren’t perfect, but who cares, really…)

He went on, asking me about every photo, trying to trip me up when he asked questions repeatedly. I answered in a “tone,” I’m sure. It’s the same TONE that my wife hates, and I think I finally used it in its proper place as I sneered back at him!

“Why? I mean honestly…Why would I take pictures of the President’s Inauguration, and then add a few pornographic pictures at the end? And WHY, would I come to the mall and have them developed by some technicians? If I really wanted to be into that business, I think I’d be smart enough to either have a photo lab person who I trusted wouldn’t squeal to the cops, or I’d develop them myself!” I continued to answer his stupid questions…

“No, officer, I do not let my child wander the house with her hands in her “vaginal area,” and if we were to be precise, I would call it a “labia” (I did say that in my inside the body voice because I could tell he was pretty uptight) ” We have a policy that if she wants to touch herself, she can do it in her room where we don’t have to see it!” “No, that wasn’t one of those times. This was a spontaneous act!”

He then went on to tell me that he had 10 kids and “None of them did things like that!” To which I said, “I’m sure that they do. All kids touch themselves. If you spent more time with your kids you might actually see that, so don’t tell me my kid is some kind of anomaly!”

I realize I’m using a LOT of exclamation points now, and trust me, it was an exclamatory day!
How dare anyone accuse me of something like that? What? Taking a picture?

The lawyer finally called, told me not to talk to them anymore, and I left. They didn’t have a charge per se, but they were putting the incident in for an “investigation”. The State Police became involved. It was a scary time. We could only think in worst case scenarios. We had a baby then as well, who was just 16 months old. We grabbed them both up and took off to a hotel for the night. Our lawyer updated us daily, and after 2 weeks, several outside investigative visits and a $1000 legal bill, we were cleared. But our case was put on “probation,” meaning that we needed to not come up on the system again for at least a year.

Standard procedure? I don’t know. Am I more cynical now? For sure. I know that from that time on, I have been a changed person. I think that we all have been changed little by little over time. I know that I am more fearful than I used to be and I am less and less trusting. I don’t take naked pictures of my kids anymore. Afterwards, my friend, who wrote for the local newspaper, wrote a feature on our story and I heard parents everywhere talking about it. Most of them were saying that they had “TONS” of pictures of their kids naked! The world we lived in as children is not the same as it is for our children or will be for their children. Time changes things. Years go by and life goes on and we adapt. We change.

I worked at an event last Saturday. It was an event for LGBTQ and the rest of the alphabet if they wanted to join us! We had a great time, good food, entertainment, and the weather held up well, but one surprising point was when a well-known elder in the lesbian community came up to me and introduced herself. It was a woman named Alix Dobkin, one of the revolutionary lesbian-feminist songwriters who debuted in the 1960’s, when I was just born. She wanted me to be sure to know about the “Old Lesbians Organizing for Change” group, and that they would love to have a chapter opened in the Northampton area. I think she must have asked someone about me- my gray hair, my radio headset on (I was working the event), my “take-charge” look – and focused in on me as a new recruit for the group. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to do. I thanked her, smiled, smiled again just to be sure she saw it (because I know I’m pretty limited in the number of them that I’m willing to give out on a daily basis), and I tucked the cards into my back pocket. I tucked the memory into that bin I keep of stories to tell the wife when I got home. Can you believe her calling me an “old lesbian?!” When I googled the group, it was for over age 60 lesbians! I just hit 50 a little over a year ago so don’t rush me! Who thought up that gem of a name for the group, anyway?

I’m not willing to be “old” yet. I will call myself “experienced,” “mature,” I don’t mind “wise,” or “super,” or “cool,” or “super-cool.” I’ve been “awesome” on occasion, and I like “interesting, smart, but “old?” “Old and lesbian” together? Sure, time has passed since that reddish dirty-blonde hair of mine was showing all over, but if I were to start an uprising, it would be more aptly called, “The Raging Hormones” than a name that has the word “old” in it!

Sure, I’ll admit it, the hands of time can be cruel and challenging, and just when you think you’ve got as much as you can handle on your plate, here comes another helping. My life, and all of the lives of friends I know, have gotten more complicated over these years in many ways which I think has created a feeling that often resembles a top spinning out of control. Some people resort to drinking or drugs, or sex, or other forms of addiction. Some folks seek medical help and subscribe to the more acceptable forms of control like anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, or other prescription drugs.

I often think about the people in countries like Libya who have spearheaded uprisings in their country. I wonder if they have the availability like we do for the use of anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs. I wonder if anyone has ever studied that impact and if not, if anyone ever will.

I believe my “fiery” energy is here for a reason. It’s here to ignite ideas, creativity, fluidity, movement – life! If I let the anxiety or depression win, then I’m resorting to something that will suppress it. That may work for depression, but sometimes anxiety is telling us something, telling us that we need to channel that energy into something positive!

I heard a line used on the radio last week by Thom Hartman, one of the smartest guys I’ve ever heard on talk radio. He asked a guest on his show, “what’s the opposite of love?” His guest answered, “hate.” No, said Thom, a wise person once said, “the opposite of love, is apathy.”

Here’s to love, happiness, and more time for fiery energy!

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