Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why my life (on the West Coast) is (also) great

I am a nice person. I really am. I am truly one of the nicest people I know. That being said, I am not the nicest person in the whole world. There are lots of ways in which I am not nice: I am not always generous to men who use cheesy pick-up lines, even when, in the spirit of total disclosure, I sort of appreciate that somebody is hitting on me. I am vain. I spend too much money on shoes and don't give enough to charity. I was guiltily happy when I myspaced the girl that made me cry in seventh grade and saw that she'd gotten fat. I take things for granted all the time. Against all my better efforts, I waste food.

This is all to say that I don't always know that I deserve the amazing life I have right now. Sometimes I don't know if people are meant to stand feeling so braced with fortune; I know that I did not know a thing about how to expect this kind of happiness for myself. Tonight I went to a thought-provoking modern dance performance/documentary viewing about the diverse voices of Palestinian women with two of my favorite San Diegans, J and D. I learned the history of the Palestine-Israel conflicts in a way and from a perspective I hadn't explored before. (Something that always strikes me when watching footage of people in extended states of crisis: for as long as they are able, children always still play, and for as long as they are able, women always still gather together and talk to each other. The universality of human urges is always reassuring.)

Afterwards we discussed the event while walking to a dive bar, where we ate burgers and cheese fries. (In my vision of heaven, there is a dive bar in walkable distance from everywhere.) While we were eating and eventually laughing through our ketchup, Jam Guy texted me that he was making salted butter caramel ice cream.

Salted. Butter. Caramel. Ice cream. How could I not want to marry this man? How can I not be happy in my life? How can I not be overwhelmed with gratitude at every step, walking around with my hair down every day if I want to?

Oppression, we said over our drinks tonight, happens everywhere, on millions of levels. Nations oppress nations and steal from one another while in the act; our human race oppresses our environment and millions of other, less disruptive species; a man oppresses a woman every day, over and over again, under her very own, her preciously owned, roof. Some kinds of oppression are quiet, and sometimes they are quiet not because the oppressor is hiding his ruthlessness but because the oppressed doesn't know how to use her voice yet.

I flew all the way to San Diego from New York to start things all over, and I am doing it, I really am. There is a man who loves me exactly as I am. There are friends who really try to understand me, laugh at me but with kindness, listen to me. There is family who at bottom always has my back with no questions asked, even though I know sometimes they are watching me with circumspect bewilderment. I am loved. So it took me thirty years and more than thirty flights across a continent to learn that love is the opposite of oppression when it is the right kind of love. Love is freedom, and I rise in it.

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