Saturday, July 04, 2009

Five and a half years ago as Fritz and I were preparing our Massachusetts wedding, we had some talk back and forth about how we’d refer to each other. Partner was OK but had never really excited us (corporate somehow); lover seemed a little too private, although many gay men had been using it for decades; husband had inevitable heterosexual connotations. Was there, I wondered, a new term coming out of the inventive gay mind for a man married to another man?

Well, faute de mieux, we eventually decided on being each other’s husband and are totally comfortable with that. But last night I discovered that there actually IS a term for a man married to another man or for a woman married to another woman:

Dolos (pl, dolosse) n.
1. (South African, uncommon) The bones that are thrown for divination.
2. (South African, uncommon) The ankle bones of sheep or goats formerly used by children as playthings.
3. Interlocking blocks of concrete, used for protection of seawalls and to preserve beaches from erosion.
4. A gender-neutral alternative to the titles 'husband' and 'wife' for those in same-sex relationships, as in, He is my dolos; we became dolosse on June 17th, 2008. It is intended to convey the intrinsic strength of the engineered form, made even stronger when tangled together by the force of ocean waves.


Over on Facebook, Christopher Ugo tagged me on a Ten Books meme. The deal is to name ten books that always have and always will stick with you, and not to drag it out—think for ten minutes, tops, and come up with the first ten you can think of.

Chris admitted that it was difficult given the millions of books out there and the fact that every genre was eligible, including plays—which of course played right into my career.

After that, the usual rules apply: tag ten others and watch it spread.
Here are my ten, with some explanation why:

1) The Bacchae by Euripides (play). Fifth century B.C., but in the 1960s, Euripides’ politically explosive examination of the confrontation between a sexually repressed young tyrant and Dionysius, god of excess read and played like what was going on in the streets all over this country. There were hundreds of productions, audiences in awe of the god’s seduction of Pentheus and the fury of the Dionysian women who tore him to pieces with their bare hands.

I designed sets and costumes for it early in my career in a fascinating production that the director and I placed in an Edwardian drawing room where elite Londoners gathered to read material that would not normally be accepted in public. Some it transfigured, others it destroyed--just as in the play.

2) Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom by Suzan-Lori Parks (play). The last play I designed at MIT, by a brilliant young African-American playwright who uses language with dazzling skill.

3) Pacific Overtures by Steven Sondheim (music & lyrics) and John Wiedman (script) (musical theater). One of my best design experiences ever. Pacific Overtures is a brilliant piece of theater.

4) Angels in America by Tony Kushner (play in two parts: Millennium Approaches and Perestroika). When I read these two plays for the first time, I was elated that there was an American who could still write this superbly.

5) The Rise and Fall of Paradise: When Arabs and Jews built a kingdom in Spain by Elmer Berdiner (history). This book began my thirst for knowledge of the real interface between Islam and Europe in the middle ages (completely distorted in my Catholic school history courses). I did an in-depth study for several years and wound up teaching the subject to students who were stunned by the immense discoveries and advances in all branches of math, science, medicine, agriculture, pharmacology, chemistry, engineering, geography, etc. that were made by Islamic pioneers centuries before the Europeans to whom they are routinely credited.

6) A Distant Mirror: The calamitous 14th century by Barbara Tuchman (history). Writing on history at it’s very best.

7) Wagner and the Art of the Theater by Patrick Carnegy (biography, arts history). The way we attend theater today descends directly from practices at Wagner’s own theater. Carnegy gives a full picture of the single most theatrically experienced and skilled composer in opera history.

8) The Loon Trilogy (Song of the Loon, Song of Aaron, Listen--the Loon Sings) by Richard Amory (fiction). From the 1960s, an idyllic fantasy of the joy gay life could be if there were acceptance and freedom for homosexuals—much of which has eventually happened. If not the first, The Loon Trilogy was among the very first works in American literature to depict happy, mentally healthy, sexually liberated and validated men in stories that didn’t end in their murder or suicide.

9) The Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality and the shaping of American culture by Douglas Shand-Tucci (history, sociology). A shocking history of institutionalized homophobia and persecution at one of the country’s leading universities at a time when Boston/Cambridge was perhaps the great center of homosexual culture in the country.

10) Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe by John Boswell (history). Controversial, but a moving and scrupulously researched account of a real past in which here were male-male and female-female marriages, including in the early Christian church. Not light reading, but very rewarding.


It was Men’s Week in Milan as the big designers showed their new collections.


In her rambling, very strange press conference speech the other day, Sarah Palin said that she had decided to resign as governor after "prayerful consideration that sacrificing my title helps Alaska most".

Well actually, no. Had she resigned her title, she would then have had to pack up her beauty queen tiara and send it back. Not that she realized it, but what she was actually resigning was her office. Ah, Sarah, the hits just keep on coming. As one wag put it, if Ms. Palin does decide to seek the presidency in 2012, Tina Fey is going to have SO much work--and SO much material work with.

I love that tangled together What a beautiful lesson I've learned.
Out of all the theatre I have seen at the Stratford Festival in Canada, The Baccahae remains one of my favorite dramas ever.

I see the thin, 'heroin look' remains popular in men's fashion models...
Yes, Michael--as does having them stalk down the runway with a glowering expression as quickly as possible and then, after a very quick pause, turn and retreat as blankly as possible. I don't know whether or not that shows the clothes off to their best advantage, but I don't think it shows the boys off terribly well at all.
I don't understand why male models are so thin like their female counterparts. I mean they should have at least a bit muscular (but not overly muscular) just to show a more masculine look.
It's funny, isn't it, how it's the simple things that confound us. We settled on Husbands, too, though for some reason it feels more 'natural' to say Partner, but I think perhaps that's because it's been 'code' for same-sex relationships for so long. Somehow, though, 'partner' doesn't carry the same weight as unmarried straight couples use the term, too.
Charles, I think the standard of beauty for men and fashion now is boyish rather than fully mature/masculine. There's not a lot of interesting clothing being designed and marketed for older (over 35, say) men. Fritz and I have commented on this for years.

I have had to develop my own look over the years and it does NOT involve business suits or the dull stuff in Men's catalogs. I've even made some of my own clothing on occasion.
never mind the fact that the models are thin - what in the name of god are the designers thinking? i wouldn't buy those clothes in goodwill. jesus..
I followed the instructions. I tought about it for a short time & just put them down. I didn't include plays that I saw or was in first, but ones that I read:
Our Town- Thornton Wilder
The Book of Joe- Jonathan Tropper
The Amazing Adventures Of Cavalier & Klay- Michael Chabon
Flesh & Bones – Michael Cunningham
Dog Days- Mark Doty
A Streetcar Named Desire- Tennessee Williams
Tales of the City (the entire series)- Armistead Maupin
The Hotel New Hampshire- John Irving
Naked- David Sedaris
Cold Comfort Farm- Stella Gibbons
Yesterday when we took Leon in to have his hand worked on, I was the person who was there to look after him, receive after care instructions, and drive him home. We've been through the 'nature of the relationship' question there before. The only relationship name that is ever allowed for us is 'friends.' "Partner," "life partner," and "husband' are all rejected. I'm finding it increasingly offensive.
When Civil Partnerships came in, there was an avalanche of pro-gay feeling, which was both heartwarming and surprising at the same time. Even the British Museum started running exhibits (Hadrian, the Warren Cup) which, rather than shying away from homosexuality in a historical context actually hilighted it.

I suddenly became proud to be British! Everywhere was Gay-Gay-Gay.

What's interesting to me is that companies were required to add Civil Partner' onto forms, but many now seem to have reverted to just having 'Married', but they have no problem with us ticking that box, even though it's not techically correct.
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