Tea Time V

Okay, the Queen will provide the scones and clotted cream THIS time. Next time, y’all are on your own.

The Queen and the White Boys

When the Queen was a Puerile Poofer, one of his best friends was a kid named Gregory Agostinelli. He had this mass of strawberry blonde hair and long bangs that fell across his eyes like a golden blanket. When the bangs got in his way, he would adeptly remove them with a flick of his head and neck. The Queen was in awe.

So began my first white boy crush. Of course, as a seven-year-old I didn’t know just what it was. I just knew I was happy whenever he was around.

Such was the case with Davy Jones.

Like Marcia Brady, I was smitten. The Monkees was required viewing and Davy Jones in particular captured my imagination. Maybe it was his diminutive stature, or his cherubic face with which I identified. Who knows? All I know is that Davy and The Monkees are tucked away with all my other positive and joyous memories. It sucks that he had to leave this plane of existence so friggin’ early. But I bet it’s cool for him to sit up in Heaven and know that so many people think about him and smile. And at least one FBQ thanks him for introducing him to the deliciousness of white boys.

The Culturalist Queen

Okay, the Queen needs some advice.

Before I go into my diatribe, I need to say that I hate Facebook.

While I fully appreciate the benefits and power of Social Media (I mean who can argue with the unprecedented and awe-inspiring success of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement?), it also provided a way for all those people from High School that you never wanted to see again to get in touch with you.

As well as Old Lovers.

So I get this friend request from an old boyfriend. We haven’t seen each other or spoken in almost ten years. I paused before I accepted the request. He’s a really, really sweet guy, and there was a strong mutual attraction between us. But after about a year I ended the relationship.

Mostly because he is Deaf.

It wasn’t the deafness in and of itself. I loved learning a new language, and the beauty and efficiency of ASL had me enraptured. I also appreciated being able to work through my ignorance and prejudices about what it meant to be Deaf, and understand more of the culture.

And therein lies the problem: working to fit into that culture was a female dog.

My lover was wonderful. He did his best to involve me in every aspect of his life that he could. And I could see why. The community that I experienced was supportive, loving, extremely protective and giving…as long as you were a part of their insular environment. I understand this. We live in a hearing based world which can be blissfully unaware of the needs of people who don’t. It makes sense that smart folk would form a society which is able to provide a healthy haven from ignorance–no matter how unassuming it may be.

The community I was introduced to was very proud of their Deafness. It is not a disability, but a trait to be honored. There are segments of the community that take issue with devices for hearing enhancement–such as hearing aids–and consider being profoundly deaf an asset. There was a wariness of the hearing that was incredibly hard to break through. Not everyone, mind you–I made some good friends, but felt alone and frustrated when around a good deal of my partner’s colleagues. I worked hard to explain this–to compare it to the way deaf people might feel in a primarily hearing environment. However not being fluent in ASL, or understanding it’s nuances, made it almost impossible to articulate my ennui. So, like a shallow bitch, I ended it.

So we start to talk on Facebook, and he begins flirting. He lets me know pretty quickly that he’s been thinking a lot about me and misses me. As I’ve stated, he’s a great guy and seems to have only gotten better and better in the decade following our relationship. Miss Things, I know that I’m getting old older, and that hard good men are good hard to find. But the thought of working through my anxieties and frustrations at this stage in life seems extremely daunting.

Am I just being


17 thoughts on “Tea Time V

  1. You’re not being silly, but I do understand the issues on both sides. Unfortunately, it sounds like your ex felt trapped between the two.

    Parents of children with more involved disabilities (like myself) often seek out the company of others in their position. In many cases, exclusively. It’s just easier. We can end up being isolated and being around people who relate to our situation is comforting and provides a much needed sense of normalcy. I imagine those in the deaf community have similar feelings.

    Have you seen any of the documentaries exploring the issues you mentioned in regard to deaf culture?

    On a side note…I, too, HATE Facebook. I intermittently deactivate my profile, because I can’t take all the insufferable whining or weather updates (“It’s sunny today! Yay!!”). But then my nosiness gets the better of me and I come back to it. It’s an evil entity. 😉

  2. You are being thoughtful. You’ve probably asked yourself these questions, but the mom in me just has to run them down. Not for you to answer on your blog, but food for thought.

    First, could you two be friends (however close or distant) if you weren’t lovers? I hate to leave friends behind completely, but people who only fit in as lovers seem to fall by the wayside, sooner or later.

    Do you have time & energy to re-engage this situation?

    Are you contemplating a fun & maybe sentimental run down memory lane – whether that’s a few months of playing at a relationship or a one weekend booty call – or are you open to engaging and seeing if the relationship will have legs?

    If the latter, will you be too hurt/disappointed if his interest is just a desire to close out what feels like unfinished business (since you ended things) and then he moves on?

    Do you have time & energy to re-engage this situation?

    Are you willing & able to put in the work to re-immerse in his world, only this time getting MORE fluent in the hopes that you could work through the issues that will arise, without any guarantee that that will, in the end, ensure that things work out?

    If both you & he are able to work farther through whatever arises, and you are together for a while – if it ends, will you still have any friends/community from that time in your life? Will you still be able to fit in? Will you have been able to maintain other friendships & community, if you no longer fit in?

    Do you have time & energy to re-engage this situation?

    Having brought up all these possible negatives, I am usually in favor of engaging with people one likes, even if it’s in a guarded way. I like people.

  3. Oooh, Tea Time! Pass me a scone!

    1. Though he wasn’t a crush of mine, Davy Jones was undeniably adorable. I get why you and so many others found him irresistable. The video brought back memories of watching the Monkees on late Saturday mornings while enjoying a bowl of Frosted Flakes with my then best friend Campbell from upstairs. We must have been about 7 years old. Wow, that was a long time ago. RIP Davy. RIP my childhood.

    2. As for the old lover issue, the comments above do better than I ever could. Those questions asked by formallyamom are all great ones. (Can we all consult you when we need to work through something, formallyamom?) What I have to add is that unless you decide that you really want to pursue it, you can just maintain light, friendly contact for a while and see how that goes. Have you interacted with him enough to determine whether he is really interested again, or is it possible that he just contacted you because he is going through a lonely period right now? It might be hard to tell right off the bat. Also, since you ended it (and called yourself a shallow bitch for doing so), make sure that you’re not just tempted to try and right what somewhere deep in your mind you might percieve as being a wrong (“I left him because he is deaf”). It sounds like you made a great effort at the time, and you finally realized that it just wasn’t going to work for you. That’s not wrong at all, but I know what a persistent bitch guilt can be.

  4. Nostalgia always makes old lovers tempting but like more fluent commentators have already said, “beware, dragons lie sleeping just ahead.” Unless you truly feel that this person was a missed opportunity for a lifemate second chances are very difficult. My husband and I separated after 10 years of marriage, spent 13 months apart then reconciled to spend the remaining 16 years of his life together. It can be done but its more than twice as hard as a brand new relationship and you have to be willing to let go of old baggage and any lingering resentments.

    Davy Jones was my very first crush, too. I think I was all of eight. Watching The Monkees on Saturday mornings and arguing with my sisters and friends about who was the cutest. It was always Davy as far as I was concerned.

    Whatever you decide to do about your former lover, please take it slow. You appear to have such a tender heart and in such a jaded world that can make you open to intentions that might be more careless than yours.

  5. Well, Davey Jones was my second pop crush, after Paul McCartney, so I’m showing my age. In short order I ditched them both for John who I decided in my great maturity was SO much cooler than either of those pretty boys.

    Anyway, Scotty, you’ve got some great relationship advice above. Coming off divorce “drauma” as I am, I’m so far removed from considering a relationship now — I’m much more focused on cultivating my independence and, well, just kind of rebuilding out of the rubble. But if I’m ever ready I know where to come for advice! I’m starting to feel pretty content, though, with my friends, my dog, my sons, and my city (which may be just about the most romantic relationship I’ve ever had, after all!).

    But one thing I was struck by was when you described the “supportive, loving, extremely protective and giving” community that your lover was so fortunate to be part of, I wondered if you had something comparable in your own life, because it sounds like that was very much part of the attraction. Kind of like an only child can be attracted to someone from a large, boisterous family. I think we do that a lot in relationships, try to fill needs we never had met, repair childhoods, recapitulate our parents’ relationship in order to “fix” it…all that nutty stuff that so seldom really works, and REALLY burdens our relationships. And, of course, it doesn’t help that we do it all rather blindly. But maybe one of the take-aways of that relationship is that it brought out something that you want and need to have in your life, that kind of connected and supportive network. And maybe it’s better to work at bringing that into your life outside of the context of a relationship.

    I like to think, in case I ever want to try this damned relationship business again, that at this stage of life it can all be very different. I think when we’re young, relationships are part of how we learn who we are, but I would hope that at some point it gets to be that who we are is what we bring to the table. I like to imagine a relationship that starts off by saying (but a lot more artfully!), “This is who I am. These are the things I want in my life. These are the things I’m doing to bring them about. This is what I have to offer. How about you?” (Okay, that sounds like some bad speed dating, doesn’t it?) But maybe if I could articulate all that to myself, let alone to someone else, I could be tempted to give it a shot….

    • Oh, I like that second sentence of your last paragraph. Thoughts are more powerful when concisely articulated & that’s a great summation of one way to look at relationships in the 2nd half of adult life.

  6. Wow.

    Okay, how much do I owe you all? It’s gotta be cheaper than what I’ve paid in therapy!

    What powerful and sage advice. I’m blown away by the words of each and every one of you. Thank you all for taking the time to post.

    A couple of points to address some of the issues that you folk brought up:

    First, I’m pretty sure he’s flirting. He sent me some R-rated pictures of himself, and asked for some of mine (I sent him fully-clothed shots. The most revealing thing I showed was my gray hairs, LOL). He could just be lonely and horny, but he is definitely flirting.

    Regarding the nostalgia aspect of all of this: honestly, other than the fact that he is a very sweet guy, there is nothing that I miss or look back on particularly fondly in our relationship. However there is a strong mutual attraction that I think would make a friendship without sexual tension fairly unlikely. And while I like sex as much as the next guy, and wouldn’t mind having a “friend with benefits”, I don’t think it would satisfy either one of us for very long.

    As much as I hate to admit it to myself, it really comes down to culture. While I was comfortable with %99 of what I experienced, it was the %1 that began to get under my skin. Although unintentional (which sometimes bothers me the most), there were elements of elitism–and even racism–that were extremely uncomfortable. ASL is such an efficient language. Instead of signing “I’m going over to the bookshelf to get Alex Haley’s Roots to read.”, you simply point to the tome in question and sign “Book. Read.” A friend of mine in the community describes signing as a visual language where the goal is to create a snapshot. Instead of getting caught up in a bunch of words, you form an overall picture of what you want to communicate. Nuance and subtlety are provided by facial expressions and variations in hand speed and emphasis–which often got lost on a neophyte like myself. So when a very good friend of my partner’s once signed to me “You’re good at signing. You should be an interpreter. A lot of black people are not smart enough to do it.” I’m SURE I missed something in the communication, but comments like that (and there were more than a few) begin to get to you.

    I would like to provide closure for both of us. But not at the expense of creating new wounds or unintentionally leading him on with a romanticized version of who we were together.I would love to be friends and explore his world and culture from a more emotionally detached place. I’m just not sure it’s possible with the language barrier and cultural divide. But every single one of you guys’ words has helped me look at things more objectively.

    Lastly, I just have to say–without blowing sunshine up your butt, as a good friend of mine would put it–that I am blown away by the willingness to share your stories and advice. I tend to be a little jaded by people sometimes (and Mary, Facebook doesn’t help that! LOL), but this experience of exploring the world with you all changes that a little each day.

    I’ll keep you posted.

    • LOL, it almost sounds like your deaf/hearing relationship could be a metaphor for many heterosexual ones, in the Mars/Venus kind of way: communication styles from two completely different planets (though I have major problems with that bit of pop psychology).

      But it also sounds like you’re being way too generous in assuming you were missing something in the communication there…

    • Well, good luck. I’m a fan of over-thinking and then acting anyway, with what I fondly believe are open eyes. I think a mid-life perspective makes us think a risk is worth it for a good human connection while simultaneously making us wary of the cost-benefit ratio of human connections.

      My (much more limited) experience with the deaf is that brevity and directness win out over fine shades of meaning (and tact) sometimes, as your book example illustrates. There seems to be less concern about how a statement will be perceived by others. So maybe you’re being too generous as Mefein says, maybe not. If you’re not sure you’re getting the nuances, it’s hard to be sure.

      The first thing I wondered about your example (given how hard the deaf I know work to communicate with the legions of us who have little/no ASL, leaving them to lip read) ) was:

      “Would it be any better if he’d said ‘a lot of black people I’ve met who try are not skilled enough to do it’ possibly meaning ‘a lot of black people I’ve met who try are not skilled enough to do it maybe because [subtext: like all you lazy hearing folk] they don’t work hard enough at it.’?” Doesn’t get much better, does it?

      But I could see a couple of my deaf acquaintances thinking they were merely stating the facts of their experience and feeling no need to qualify the statement to make sure nobody thought they were stereotyping.

      Your gut is probably your friend. If your gut says it’s an unconsciously (or consciously) bigoted community only you know if that’s something you can tolerate and at what contact level. You’ve made that call before. Lots of people who are perfectly great – within their limitations – are prejudiced in one way or another. I’m related to quite a few of them. I love a couple of them. But I don’t live with them or spend too much concentrated time with them.

      As usual, I’m kinda negative but then have to swing more positive overall. I like what Julaine said “we don’t have to start negotiating your dowry right away!”

    • Scotty–

      You said: “…there is nothing that I miss or look back on particularly fondly in our relationship.” That, added to the fact that despite your best efforts, you never became comfortable in the culture, seems to indicate that another try at a relationship might not have a high chance of success. The fact that he’s a sweet guy and that there is sexual attraction doesn’t seem quite enought to go on. Of course, as you said, there’s the “friends with benefits” possibility, or I suppose that there is a possibility of just a fun little fling. If it looks like it’s going to go in one of those directions, all I would advise is to just make triple sure that you are both very clear about the terms so as to minimize the possibility that someone will end up hurt. Someone could still end up hurt, of course….there are never any guarantees. Still, you’re both big boys, and whatever you decide to do or not do, following some combination of your head and your heart will probably lead you in the right direction.

      Just curious–did you ever tell him what his good friend said to you? If my lover told me that one of my friends said something like that, I’d have to have a good long talk with that good friend.

      • Yes, I told him. But like I mentioned: this person was a very good friend of my partner, so his immediate response was that I must have misinterpreted what he signed. I told him that I thought the same thing, but if I knew no other sign, I knew “not smart”, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what else he could have been telling me. I found an almost “ignorant-bliss” around the subjects of race and hearing bashing which was a part of the discomfort. And I didn’t have the ASL knowledge to successfully communicate my issues and feelings.

      • Hmmm. Not a very satisfactory response on his part, and then not having the ability to discuss your feelings about it must have been frustrating. I’m starting to see why the cultural issues were so hard to overcome.

  7. I JIf a supposed friend of mine had made a similar comment (perhaps substituting gender for race) I’m afraid I would have accidentiy tripped and landed with my fist lodged up against his balls. Oops, erroring on the side of caution when it comes to that kind of stupid, you understand. I don’t think you you can misinterpret a statement like that one.

    I wish I had learned ALS when I was younger. I’m not deaf. Not really. I lost approx. half my hearing when I was 13 to a high fever. Doesn’t effect the day to day stuff unless someone has a really challenging accent but do I ever love my closed captioning when I’m watching the BBC America or PBS. Plus dark, crowded and loud parties and I’m the lady in the corner with the dazed and confused look on my face.

    This relationship may have more challenges than you can or want to tackle but it sounds like there is enough interest to at least suggest a face to face meeting. We don’t have to start negotiating your dowry right away. Start small, and let’s hope he leaves the idiot friend home for the time being.

    I’m curious. What does a R rated photo look like these days?

    • Well, being a couple of old fogies, his consisted of nothing much more than shirt off in some suggestive poses and one shot of his backside. Prude that I can be, it would probably be more appropriate to call them “PG-13.” 🙂

  8. 1st-so glad I found your blog, Scotty F! Now, onto the meat (no pun intended).
    I don’t think you were necessarily being shallow to end the relationship. To date outside of one’s own culture does add a whole other layer of difficulty; when that’s ignored it creates unnecessary difficulty. It’s about the entire community, not just about the two partners, working through that. Two people can be great together, but if you’re talking about a lasting relationship, it’s never just about two people. It’s simply realistic to acknowledge that you’re entering into unfamiliar territory, with obstacles and a steep learning curve. As a poor white female, I was raised in a very tolerant household; I was no more prepared the first time I dated someone of a different ethnicity than when I dated an upper-class white person.

    My husband is a (hearing) social worker who works with deaf and deaf-blind clients. A couple of random thoughts. Learning the language was the least of your barriers, although I think you are right, that not having a full understanding can lead to misinterpretation. But, as generalizations go, the deaf culture is exceedingly blunt, but not racist. Their blunt nature is often interpreted as rude by others; my husband used to take offense on behalf of others when they didn’t take offense themselves. That being said, I’m having a difficult time figuring out what else the person’s comment to you could have meant, except that they were being blunt and forthright about expressing their own racist views. Hellkell is right-they could just be an ass. The deaf community can indeed be insular-my guess would be it’s like a lot of groups that have been marginalized in the past. Sometimes that leads to an over-protective insulation and wariness of outsiders. Your former partner may have a group of friends that are successful professionals, but it is in the not very distant past when deaf people were automatically viewed as “imbeciles”-institutionalized or worse. Most of my husband’s clients over 50, all if they are not white, were never taught to read or write. This could be the story of these peoples’ parents. Regardless of where they are, they still likely encounter some type of regular discrimination. Eye-rolling of a sales-clerk, a doctor refusing to hire an interpreter, a boss deciding you don’t have enough people-skills, neighbors and co-workers who don’t get to know you because it’s too much work. It wears a person down and puts them on the constant defensive.

    Now, having written all of that, none of that makes their bias against you right, tolerable, or makes possibly rekindling the relationship easier. Even if the deaf quotient were removed from the table, I would counsel any friend to approach such a situation with extreme caution and awareness. One is only putting out only one side of one’s self, and the best side, with private online correspondence. It is easy to rekindle an old relationship, but not easy to reclose those old wounds once they are reopened.

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