Buon anno da me, dalla bionda e dal nostro piccolo aviatore!
Questo 2018 noi vogliamo cominciarlo così.
1. OH, I’M JUST GETTING STARTED
In the beginning was Jude or Mary LilyLiver. Or rather, in the beginner were Jude and Mary LilyLiver because, all things standing, it was sure to be twins.
Now I realize these nicknames might seem, well, inappropriate for one’s own children— but that’s only because you don’t yet know what was going on. And to know what was going on, you have to walk around in the shoes I was wearing at the time. These shoes, to be precise:
- You’ve just turned eighteen, you’ve got graduation exams coming up in school, and you’re pretty near flunking out. And with their own string of college degrees, your parents, mis amis, aren’t exactly thrilled with the situation.
- Fifteen minutes ago, you just experienced your first sexual encounter. You’ve dreamt about it for years, read books and tabloids on the subject, listened to your friends’ stories (because of course everyone except you has already done it), and flipped through your brother’s porn magazines (not to mention the fine video material, of which he is also a purveyor). And your first sexual encounter, mis amis, just ended with a ripped condom. In that moment you finally understood the saying “you never forget your first time.” You still dream about it to this day.
- You and the father of your hypothetical children have been together for about two weeks. If you think you’re young because you’re only eighteen, remember that he has not yet turned seventeen. Your little toy boy to boot.
- Pour terminer, while you are not even baptized, the strapping curly-haired youth whom you just got to “know” all the way through to the final catastrophic biblical sense of the word is a zealous Catholic who falls deep into mystical crises when someone even just mentions abortion.
This was the situation surrounding the possible, at that point probable, or rather—given how things were going—by now certain conception of the ill-fated children.
And so, during the two weeks that stood between me and the feared pregnancy test, while I was actively invoking the patron saint of menstrual cycles, I was also imagining the destiny of little Jude and Mary LilyLiver. An inescapable destiny of drug trafficking and prostitution, all cinched by the names I thrust upon them.
In the end, though, luck was on my side. My period came, I stopped panicking every time I saw Curly’s copious mane, and before long I became one of the world’s leading experts on contraceptive techniques.
Years passed, I found other boyfriends, and with time Jude and Mary LilyLiver became just a story to tell at dinner parties.
Such, at least, until one day on the beach of a beautiful Spanish island, I found myself uttering these words: “If it’s a boy, Arthur; if it’s a girl, Nina.” From the names alone, you’ll already have guessed that now things were different. Normal names, a secure bond between a couple that’s been together for years, and a healthy desire to start a family. Not to mention the birthday candles that by now had started to sink in the icing on the cake.
There’s just one small particular to mention. The person with whom I was planning these spectacular times to come was a woman. That’s right. After years of an honorable career as a heterosexual, I had met the Blonde with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
Now, on those Iberian shores, the Blonde and I confided in each other our mutual wish to have a child,—but from that moment of romance, magic, and all the rest, a good seven years would pass before the little peep came into our lives. Why all this time? Mea culpa.
After establishing that there was a little child to be had, I couldn’t help but consider how Citizen Julia, ever since falling in love with the Blonde, had been demoted. If once—without giving it a second thought—she frolicked about in society’s Class A, she now found herself suddenly relegated to Class C2. And all without moving a muscle. Now that’s better than David Copperfield’s magic.
Of course, even before the infant came into view on the horizon, I had an inkling. When, for example, I arrived out-of-breath at the hospital after the Blonde had been in a moped accident. The triage nurses asked who I was, I responded, “her comrade”—and they immediately took me for a nostalgic Marxist-Leninist. Or when, in the middle of a candlelight supper, I asked the Blonde if she wanted to marry me. Ecstatic, she whispered a decisive “yes,” then in the same breath but quite a different tone added: “But it can’t happen!”—and from there went off on a tirade about how Italy doesn’t recognize couples like us.
Oh, so in our country even the Circeo monster can get married, but the Blonde and I can’t? (I don’t need to tell you that the image of the Circeo monster standing at the altar sort of killed the romance of the moment.)
But what plagued me most now was that, if the Blonde and I, however unjustly, circulated in Class C2, so, too, would our little munchkin. And here the company of the ripped condom made a full comeback: Jude and Mary LilyLiver, in all their treachery. For although I had set them up for an unfortunate future, even the children of a ripped condom, the byproduct of two adolescent’s clumsy sexual experiment, would have enjoyed more rights than our little puppet: a desired and longed-for child, the fruit of two grown people’s mutual love.
In the end, Jude and Mary LilyLiver were guaranteed the right to have two parents, even if Curly and I were the Soap-Maker of Correggio and the Curly the Butcher of Rostov. Yet in the eyes of the Italian state, the Blonde would be nothing other than a generous philanthropist who, out of the mercy of her heart, nurtured and provided for the child of single mother.
If that weren’t enough, those sneaky twins made me think about just how much more ready society was to accept them—drug dealer and prostitute though they were—than to accept two women with a child. As long as they defined themselves with cool terms like “pusher” and “escort,” they were in the clear. But at the end of the day, we would just be what were were: “two lesbians with a baby.”
So my mantra became: society is not ready. The baby is not safe here.
Instead of fantasizing like everyone else about my baby’s first smiles, his first tooth, his first words, his first bicycle without training wheels, his first junior swimming championship, and his first Master’s degree in the United States, I imagined terrible accidents in which I inevitably dropped dead and the Blonde, devastated by the pain of my passing, had to endure the additional agony of not being able to claim custody over her son—who would certainly end up in some institution run by barefoot nuns with moustaches.
So for years I did nothing but wait. Wait for some decisive legislative measure that would finally put an end to all of my fears. I mean, was it so difficult? Legalize same-sex unions and we would’ve all lived happily ever after, without doing anyone any harm, not even Jude and Mary LilyLiver. Really, was it so difficult?
Yet still nothing happened.
It was only when I realized that, in the race against suspended national politics, my menopause was beginning to gain the upper hand, that I understood it was time do so something. But not for me or for the Blonde. No, it was time to do something for the baby that, so many years before on a beach in Spain, inched his way into our lives and then never slipped away.
There he remained, on that faraway island all by his lonesome self, waiting for his mommies to come and pick him up.
Now, his more doubtful and scaredy-cat of a mommy was finally ready to face her fears and set off on the most spectacular journey of her life. But before embarking on this adventure, there was still one thing that needed to be done…
2. THE CHOSEN ONE
Thus it was decided: we would go to look for the baby on his island. Neither I nor the Blonde knew how long this journey would last. We didn’t know how strenuous it would be. We didn’t even know if in the end we would be able to find our little long-lost munchkin.
We knew, in short, just about nothing.
But that wasn’t what was worrying me. What was worrying me was that we were about to go rip this unsuspecting little babe out of his perfect world and catapult him d’emblée into this, our sort of a world—a world that’s quite a long way off from perfect.
Worrying, though, wasn’t going to help anybody. I had already wasted too many years ruminating on how society wasn’t ready. Now it was time to mobilize.
The moment had arrived in which I, too, would do my part to make the little critter’s welcoming committee just a little bit warmer.
The plan was simple. I would find the largest arena of homophobes possible, throw myself headfirst into their midst, and try to save at least one. One would be enough to convince me that, when all’s said and done, there was hope for all.
There was only one place that would fit the bill: the “comments” section under articles in the big-name online newspapers, breeding ground par excellence of our people’s worst natural instincts.
You see, every morning the strangest thing happens. Hundreds of people wake up with an unbearable and primordial need: the need to broadcast their morally-questionable opinions on any and all issues. When it comes to discussing minorities, especially homosexuals or immigrants, these people give their very best, inundating the web with prejudices, clichés, and, more often than not, insults free-of-charge. Then, pleased to have done their part in making our country a better place, they can begin their day.
The Blonde tried in every way possible to dissuade me from my philanthropic intent. According to her, certain people could not be made to reason: it would be like trying to convince the director of the Ku Klux Klan to sing in a gospel choir. But I didn’t think so. I was sure that, thanks to my irrefutable arguments and decided diplomatic prowess, I would be able to get the cloaked members of the Klan to intone all of Oh Happy Day. Smiling and clapping their hands to the beat.
So one morning, when the faithless Blonde wasn’t around, I turned on the computer and pulled up an online paper. Without even trying, I immediately stumbled across the jar of honey my little bears were looking for: an article about the umpteenth phantom legislative proposal on civil unions. Published online at 6:30 in the morning, by 7:30 it was already swarming with ferocious critics. And this despite the fact that we were talking about, that’s right, measly civil unions. Tell that to a Dane, and he’ll shit himself from laughing so hard.
To proceed with the selection of the chosen one—the diehard homophobe whom I would lovingly extract from the enveloping darkness—I first needed to calmly and rationally read through the flood of comments that, minute by minute, was rising with frightening speed. And here I discovered that what at first seemed to be a uniform maremagnum of homophobia was in fact subdivided into three distinct categories, each with a precise set of characteristics.
1. THE EXHIBITIONISTS
They’re your basic model. They include people who take great pleasure in declaring how much homosexuality disgusts them. They don’t express actual ideas, and their capacity for argument is akin to that of a three-year-old child in front of a plate of vegetables: gross, barf, poopy, pee-pee. It’s useless to talk with them, we’re at the level of “win or lose, Team Lazio, just kick ‘em into the dirt.” Sure, you could try to tell them that Rome also played well, without meaning any disrespect to Lazio. But I repeat, it’s a waste of time. You’d never get past: the referee is a dick, your mother’s a whore, and you, shit-faced Roman, should go burn in Hell.
The important thing when encountering people like this is to not take it personally. Ultimately they detest gay people just like they detest anyone different from them. Today it’s homosexuals, tomorrow it could be left-handed people or redheads.
Of course, the fact that I’m a part of all three of the those categories doesn’t exactly help things much.
2. THE MYSTICS
Really, these people have nothing against homosexuals, but they have received clear directives from on high—that is, from the Most High—because of which, like cavemen up above, they cannot stay away from any article that even remotely touches upon the topic of homosexuality.
The one difference between them and the exhibitionists is that they sprinkle their invectives with citations from Holy Scripture, citations more often than not invented or so vague that they could refer to just about anything: as much as to gays as to the wandering shepherds of Kirghizstan.
With them, too, any attempt at discussion is useless. Not to mention, when it comes to religion, I prefer to stand aside. After all, who am I—an unbaptized atheist—to speak about the word of God? It’s well-known that the Bible and Gospels are crawling with admonitions against homosexuality and, in particular, against same-sex civil unions. Everyone has heard Jesus’ parable on gay marriage. But did you know that the waters of the Red Sea closed with a crash to impede the passage of families with same-sex parents? Not to mention the two gay unicorns that obviously had to be thrown off of Noah’s Arc. And then, of course, there’s Leviticus. You can’t avoid Leviticus. It’s written black-on-white, passage 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with man as one lies with woman: it’s abominable.”
Understood? A-b-o-m-i-n-a-b-l-e. Serious stuff, not like one of those little venial sins worth two or three Hail Mary’s.
It’s also true that in passage 11:10, eating any marine animal that doesn’t have scales and fins is also said to be abominable.
So here the most fervent believer will put a single shrimp—that abomination of abominations—at the same level as your average sodomite. And it’s here that I get a bit confused. Because if the goal of these inspired missionaries is to save humanity from the abomination of gays, crustaceans, and mollusks, they’re not doing their job very well. I mean, the gay part seems to me to be pretty well covered. But the rest of it?
Then again, maybe I’m the one who has misunderstood.
Our ostentatious indulgence of clams and prawns could instead be the first sign of the Church finally putting to rest some decidedly antiquated precepts.
So the next time you find yourself in front of a succulent plate of spaghetti al scoglio, recognize it for what it really is: an important contribution to the fight against homophobia.
3. THE HOBUTPHOBES
They are definitely my favorite category.
They’re the “I’m not homophobic, but…” ones, who, along with the substantial group of “I’m not racist, however…” folks, make up the largest rank of homophobes and racists in the country.
Finding them couldn’t be easier. Every self-respecting hobutphobe, in fact, has three distinct traits:
- they repeatedly assert that they have nothing against homosexuals;
- they brag about having swarms of gay friends; and
- they have an enormous amount of time on their hands.
This last characteristic makes them immediately recognizable in the mass of online morning commentators, because unlike the exhibitionist, who—after flinging his or her “poopy, shit, pee- pee,” feels more or less satisfied and moves on to rub salt in someone else’s wound—or the mystic, who—on a mission in the name of God—gets by on a few citations from scripture mixed in with insults, the hobutphobe doesn’t let it go. The hobutphobe responds, argues, and participates in the discussion even for weeks on end. And he or she tends to win by shear force of will.
As far as point a) goes, it’s worth noting that this peculiar category is seriously convinced of being friendly and open towards homosexuals. So much so that, if someone hints to them that being friendly and open is not exactly the same as belittling or, put simply, denying rights that should belong to everyone, hobutphobes get mad. But this is only because they are naturally a very sensitive sort of bunch, so you have to be careful when you reason with them. They also tend to suffer from an unsettling paranoia–persecution complex that makes them believe in mysterious organizations that operate in the shadows with the sole objective of taking away their free speech. And for the hobutphobe, free speech is more than a right; it’s an out-and-out duty.
So hobutphobes express themselves, always and in whatever means they can. Naturally, they express homophobic ideas—but that seems to be beside the point.
The whole matter of gay friends, on the other hand, remains a mystery. That is, the terms of this friendship are not very clear. Seriously, who would want to hang out with people that, for the most part, think you’re something unnatural, perverted, and inferior? Either these friends don’t realize that they’re gay, or these gays don’t realize that they’re friends. Or, more simply, we’ve got quite the fringe group of masochistic homosexuals on our hands.
It goes without saying that my chosen one needed to be selected from this most fiery category. But I wasn’t looking for just any old hobutphobe. If I was going to save one of them, that one would have to be a role model for all of them. So I wanted one that had all of the subcategories covered—even that of the “fantasist,” who sees gay marriage as the first step towards bestiality. I wanted, you might say, the hobutphobe of hobutphobes.
The selection process took a few days. And finally I found her.
Behind a mellifluous and billowing nickname, their indisputable leader disguised herself. For all appearances polite and sympathetic, she was in reality a person animated by barbaric intolerance and resentment.
She was SoftSucculentSnail66. And I would make her see the light.
(un grazie infinito per questa traduzione a Daniel Rietze, brillante e gentilissimo laureato di Yale, che mi ha fatto dono di questa emozionante ventata di internazionalità)