Straightening Up
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! January 25, 2001
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I once heard a lesbian comic rant about the cleaning up queers do in anticipation of a family visit. You know, hiding the coffee table erotica and the Annie Sprinkle videos, rolling up the rainbow bathmat, scraping the “We’re here, we’re queer!” stickers off the fridge. She called it “straightening up.”
          I’m not much prone to this tendency (straightening up or cleaning up). For example, during my mom’s recent Christmas visit and her inevitable busy-ness with the fridge, she happened to notice a few things on the door. “Pussy Palace?” she said one morning while re-organizing the lower shelf. “What’s that?”
          Since we’re both allergic to cats and she knows I’m a “LICK” (Low Income with Consuming Kid), I knew she would quickly deduce it wasn’t a high priced veterinary clinic. I casually laughed it off and changed the subject. She let me. There are some things that my mom, god bless her, knows she doesn’t want to know.
          So it’s a new experience to be the target of “straightening up” myself. My daughter apparently cares as little as I do whether grandma sees a half-naked, leather-clad picture of me on the fridge. She has begun to care immensely, however, if such a picture is visible to someone more her height.
          It’s not so much the gayness she’s concerned about. We have (hallelujah) made it to age 10.5 without having to pretend my husband is working overseas or just taking a long time in the bathroom. It’s the nudity and, by extension, the sexuality she’s worried about. In the year 2001, being an out gay mom is way less scandalous than being an out-sexual mom.
          Same as it ever was. Which of us ever wanted to know that our parents were sexual? How many of us could dissect frogs in science class with far less nausea than applying any newly discovered sexual information to our mom or dad? How many of us would’ve preferred to come into the world any way but THAT?
          On a day over the holidays, before a visit from one of her friends, my daughter removed all offensive material from the fridge and put it, diplomatically, face down on my dresser. The implication that it was a delicate and important enough matter not to leave to me was obvious, even though the task involved something akin to house-cleaning. She was gracious about it, however, with only slight condescension, saying “I’m sorry mom. I just don’t want my friends to see this.”
          Besides removing my own and other portraits of naked babes from atrocious visibility, she also tastefully turned on its face a photograph of a Modigliani nude, from the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris. I didn’t notice until after the scrutinizing visitor had come and gone.
          “That one’s Art,” I said in a bruised tone of offended culture. “I know,” she responded firmly. “I still didn’t want her to see it.”
          Quick! Drape the National Gallery before the next field trip of fragile grade fives.
          It was a few days more after that when I noticed she had also turned over an adorable photograph of herself, 3 years old, running naked and jubilant on a summer beach. Okay, so we’re both fair game. That makes the censorship it a bit easier to take.
          But this drill of turning everything over before she has friends in will definitely take some adjustment. As will remembering to turn it all up again before one of my acquaintances thinks that, like a lazy Christmas decorator, I turned it all over on “A Day Without Art” and left it that way so I wouldn’t have to do it again next year.
          But this adjustment may be minor compared to what’s coming. A little while from now I may just be ecstatic to turn the pictures over and hide all household nudity if I’m allowed out of the basement when she has company.

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It's a new experience to be the target of 'straightening up' myself.