Friday, September 9, 2011

The Smack-Down With Mr. Wolf, Part I: The Retreat

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been struggling with worsening lupus for many years now.

Because the illness feels so very alive to me, as if it has an actual personality, I have referred to it throughout as “Mr. Wolf,” chosen because lupus is the Latin word for wolf.

I am sorry to say that my constant furry nemesis has gained an upper paw of late. As a result, I am taking a hiatus from penning this blog until I am again well enough to do the topics covered here the justice that they deserve.

As a sex-positive, bisexual woman, I believe that having a gloriously frequent, confident sexuality with a consenting partner of your choice (or being self-sexual) is vital in maintaining personal health – and even your very humanity.

It is also way beyond time that this country participates in a continuing frank and honest dialog about sex and relationships for the health of our children, and to promote a global/cultural understanding so that sex and gender issues no longer lead to hate, bigotry, bullying and too often to violence.

Those were the underlying goals that prompted me to begin this blog. Those goals continue to drive me, so I will remain very active on Twitter, re-tweeting news and commenting about these issues in a timely, and I hope, interesting and even challenging manner. I have found that penning 140 characters is much easier for me right now than writing and researching detailed posts required to put this blog together.

So, until Mr. Wolf gets sick of me instead of me being sick from him and I can resume this blog, please follow me on Twitter. Please do tell me what’s on your mind — and who’s in your bed and what you’re doing!

I cannot thank you all enough for your continued support throughout my battle with Mr. Wolf. I hope that I will be able to rejoin you here in this space soon. In point of fact, that is why I have called this post Part I: The Retreat, because when I am able to resume writing this blog that I love so much, the title will be Part II: The Return!

Happy living and loving, to all. Cheers.

— The Curator

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Would You Buy Your Daughter This Doll?

Is there such a thing as being too young to learn to breast-feed?

The Breast Milk Baby doll, from Berjuan Toys of Spain, is specifically designed to teach little girls how to breast-feed an infant, and learn about the bond between mother and child.

But, it has generated a lot of controversy among parents and child development experts in the U.S. Last week, Berjuan Toys announced plans to bring "Breast Milk Baby" to the U.S. market for the first time, starting with the ASD trade show that occurred in Las Vegas on July 31.

According to the company website: "The Breast Milk Baby will revolutionize our nation's attitudes to good infant health, while letting little girls share in the wonder and magic of motherhood. The Breast Milk Baby lets young girls express their love and affection in the most natural way possible, just like mommy!"

The Berjuan Toys sells a number of baby dolls as well as the Breast Milk Baby. The Spanish-language version of the doll, “Bebe Gloton,” has been available since 2009. The doll has already seen success in Europe, generating more than $2 million in sales for Berjuan, since the doll was first released in Spain four years ago.

The Breast Milk Baby comes with a special halter top for the child to wear while “break-feeding” that has two flowers positioned where nipples would be. The doll works by making motions and suckling sounds when a sensor in its mouth gets close to the flowers, which also has matching sensors embedded in them.

But breast-feeding experts and moms disagree on whether the toy is natural, useful, further sexualizes children, or is just plain disgusting.

Some critics say the doll can over-sexualize young girls, or force them to grow up too quickly. Licensed clinical social worker Deborah Finerty-O'Brien says the doll may open a dialogue with children, one that parents aren't ready to have.

"It gives mixed messages about teaching young girls modesty and the rules that are coming about in elementary school about sexual harassment which is the big issue now," said Finerty-O'Brien.

But the company and supporters say the toys can help teach young girls about the nurturing skills they'll need later in life, and others say that it will teach children that breast-feeding is natural and positive.

"Breast-feeding is completely natural," said Cesar Bernabeu, director of sales and marketing for Berjuan. Bernabeu said the toy allows children to imitate their moms – a natural part of growing up.

"We realized that the reaction was so positive with the girls when they were imitating their moms and saw that they react to the doll like it was a little sister," read Bernabeu's remarks, translated from Spanish. "Their faces of happiness said it all."

That line – where playing parent meets the reality of parenting – seems different for each expert, too. Psychologist Jay Reeve, CEO of the Apalachee Center in Tallahassee, Fla., said the doll's realism goes too far.

"Of course, children have played 'parent' with dolls for centuries, but this new twist seems to focus not on what babies are like as much as jump-starting a focus on breast-feeding," Reeve said. "I'm always a little disturbed by toys, games, or products that have the impact of accelerating childhood identification with being a full-blown adult."

Yet toy expert, professor and author Diane Levin, said the problem with the doll isn't the breast-feeding. Levin has a problem with any toy that limits the play to a single activity.

"It's not good for children to have everything structured for them," said Levin, co-author of 'So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.'

Levin has witnessed girls pretending to breast-feed dolls – especially after seeing their mothers nurse siblings – and thought it perfectly natural. But she said play, including boys playing soldiers, needs to be spontaneous and initiated by the child.

"As kids get used to instructive toys, they need more structured toys," Levin said. "We take the creativity away.”

For me, the argument that this toy sexualizes girls is ridiculous – as breast feeding has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with nurturing. Despite rejecting that argument outright, I do have a concern: For me, this toy yet again further divides the sexes into stereotypical models of expected, very traditional social behavior. More than any other doll, this one specifically trains girls to grow up to be moms. In the past, little boys have played with dolls, but they will certainly learn that only little girls can use this one.

— The Curator

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thank You, Mrs. Ford!

It’s difficult to articulate the impact former First Lady Betty Ford had on my life as well as on our country during her era, so her passing is a real blow – frankly, it actually feels like a personal loss.

Mrs. Ford died last night at 93. She was a towering, iconic figure on behalf of women’s health and reproductive rights – not to mention alcohol and addiction treatment services.

I was in high school when she burst onto the national scene, and remember her vividly. At a time when the wives of presidents were best known for what they wore and not what they said, the wife of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the U.S., said things, important things about social issues, that first ladies never said – then or even now. And, she was a Republican!

She spoke frankly about sex, once famously saying that she would be sleeping with her husband during their White House years.

According to Mrs. Ford, her young adult children probably had smoked marijuana – and if she were their age, she'd try it, too. She told "60 Minutes" she wouldn't be surprised to learn that her youngest, then 18-year-old Susan, was in a sexual relationship (an embarrassed Susan quickly issued a public denial).

Mrs. Ford mused that living together before marriage might be wise; thought women should be drafted into the military if men were; and spoke up unapologetically in favor of abortion rights, taking a public position contrary to the president's.

"Having babies is a blessing, not a duty," Mrs. Ford said.

Her unscripted comments sparked tempests in the press and dismayed President Gerald Ford's advisers, who were trying to soothe the national psyche after Watergate. But to the scandal-scarred, Vietnam-wearied, hippie-rattled nation, Mrs. Ford's openness was refreshing and she remained hugely popular throughout her life.

Candor worked for her, and she built an unplanned, enduring legacy by opening up about the toughest times of her life as public example.

In an era when cancer was discussed in hushed tones and mastectomy was still a taboo subject, the first lady shared the specifics of her breast cancer surgery. The publicity helped bring the disease into the open and inspired countless women to seek breast examinations.

Her most painful revelation came 15 months after leaving the White House, when Mrs. Ford announced that she was entering treatment for a longtime addiction to painkillers and alcohol. It turned out the famously forthcoming first lady had been keeping a secret, even from herself.

She used the unvarnished story of her own descent and recovery to crusade for better addiction treatment, especially for women. She co-founded the nonprofit Betty Ford Center near the Fords' home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in 1982. Mrs. Ford raised millions of dollars for the center, kept close watch over its operations, and regularly welcomed groups of new patients with a speech that started, "Hello, my name's Betty Ford, and I'm an alcoholic and drug addict."

Although most famous for a string of celebrity patients over the years — from Elizabeth Taylor and Johnny Cash to Lindsay Lohan — the center keeps its rates relatively affordable and has served more than 90,000 people.

"People who get well often say, `You saved my life,' and `You've turned my life around,'" Mrs. Ford once said. "They don't realize we merely provided the means for them to do it themselves, and that's all."

In 1973, as Mrs. Ford was happily anticipating her husband's retirement from politics, Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced out of office over bribery charges. President Richard Nixon turned to Gerald Ford to fill the office.

Less than a year later, his presidency consumed by the Watergate scandal, Nixon resigned. On Aug. 9, 1974, Gerald Ford was sworn in as the only chief executive in American history who hadn't been elected either president or vice president.

Mrs. Ford wrote of her sudden ascent to first lady: "It was like going to a party you're terrified of, and finding out to your amazement that you're having a good time."

She was 56 when she moved into the White House, and looked more matronly than mod. Ever gracious, her chestnut hair carefully coifed into a soft bouffant, she tended to speak softly and slowly, even when taking a feminist stand.

“The point is, I am an ordinary woman who was called onstage at an extraordinary time," Ford wrote in her autobiography, "The Times of My Life." "I was no different once I became first lady than I had been before. But through an accident of history, I became interesting to people."

Her breast cancer diagnosis, coming less than two months after President Ford was whisked into office, may have helped disarm the clergymen, conservative activists and Southern politicians who were most inflamed by her loose comments. She was photographed recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital, looking frail in her robe, and won praise for grace and courage.

"She seems to have just what it takes to make people feel at home in the world again," media critic Marshall McLuhan observed at the time. "Something about her makes us feel rooted and secure — a feeling we haven't had in a while. And her cancer has been a catharsis for everybody."

The public outpouring of support helped her embrace the power of her position. "I was somebody, the first lady," she wrote later. "When I spoke, people listened."

She used her newfound influence to lobby aggressively for the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed nonetheless, and to speak against child abuse, raise money for handicapped children, and champion the performing arts.

Historians have said it's debatable whether Mrs. Ford's frank nature helped or hurt her husband's 1976 campaign to win a full term as president. Polls showed she was widely admired. By taking positions more liberal than the president's, she helped broaden his appeal beyond traditional Republican voters. But she also outraged some conservatives, leaving the president more vulnerable to a strong GOP primary challenge by Ronald Reagan. That battle weakened Ford going into the general election against Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Carter won by a slim margin. The president had lost his voice in the campaign's final days, and it was Mrs. Ford who read his concession speech to the nation.

The Fords retired to a Rancho Mirage golf community, but he spent much of his time away, giving speeches and playing in golf tournaments. Home alone, deprived of her exciting and purposeful life in the White House, Mrs. Ford drank.

By 1978 her secret was obvious to those closest to her.

"As I got sicker," she recalled, "I gradually stopped going to lunch. I wouldn't see friends. I was putting everyone out of my life." Her children recalled her living in a stupor, shuffling around in her bathrobe, refusing meals in favor of a drink.

Her family finally confronted her and insisted she seek treatment.

"I was stunned at what they were trying to tell me about how I disappointed them and let them down," she said in a 1994 Associated Press interview. "I was terribly hurt — after I had spent all those years trying to be the best mother, wife I could be. ... Luckily, I was able to hear them saying that I needed help and they cared too much about me to let it go on."

She credited their "intervention" with saving her life.

Mrs. Ford entered Long Beach Naval Hospital and, alongside alcoholic young sailors and officers, underwent a grim detoxification that became the model for therapy at the Betty Ford Center. In her book "A Glad Awakening," she described her recovery as a second chance at life.

And in that second chance, she found a new purpose.

“I'm not out to rescue anybody who doesn't want to be rescued," she once said. "I just think it's important to say how easy it is to slip into a dependency on pills or alcohol, and how hard it is to admit that dependency."

"There is joy in recovery," she wrote, "and in helping others discover that joy.”

Her beloved husband died in 2006, he was also 93.

One commentator referred to Betty Ford as a "rascal." Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley agreed with that assessment: "I remember there's a photograph of her just dancing on the desk in the Oval Office. This was something that wasn't previously done. Certainly Jackie Kennedy had brought in a new sense of style and flair and fashion [to the White House], but Betty Ford was a truly liberated woman.”

Amen to that, and may your unique and amazing soul continue to soar!

— The Curator

Monday, July 4, 2011

Let Today Be YOUR Independence Day

Today in America we are celebrating our national Independence Day, but I believe it is also the perfect time to reflect on our personal independence, and perhaps to even declare our sexual orientations if we have not already done so.

Last week on Twitter, I suggested that members of the LGBT communities in the U.S. who are still closeted consider coming out today. I make the suggestion only if they feel safe and secure to do so. I’m a bisexual woman who came out in fits and starts over the course of many years.

I told my family and close friends as soon as I understood my orientation. That was almost 30 years ago when coming out was still fairly rare. To say that it was stressful is to understate the experience: I have never done anything that filled me with more horror and dread.

And guess what? It was worse than I imagined. My mother disowned me and actually damned me to hell. We never fully reconciled, and she died still believing that I was an abomination in the eyes of God and man.

My father, to his ever-lasting credit, worked to understand and accept who I am without judgment. It wasn’t always easy, but we remain very close and love each other without reservation.

I told very few people in my work life, and wasn’t fully “out” until I left my employment all together several years ago because of worsening lupus. Honestly, I just didn’t have the guts to be out at work back then, and I still regret that I wasn’t able to do so.

I present my personal history so that readers will understand that I don’t make the suggestion to come out lightly. What I do know is that unless I allow myself to live authentically, to be free to live as I desire, I will never truly be happy and prosper.

And that concept is exactly what the Fourth of July is all about.

The preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence says it all: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...”

The Founding Fathers called equality “self-evident” when the document was drafted in 1776, but we still haven’t achieved that lofty goal. They were white males, many slave owners, who penned arguably the greatest Constitution ever written. Since then, African-Americans were freed. They were given the right to vote, and women eventually followed in being granted the opportunity for their voices to heard in the selection of those who govern them.

Nonetheless, bigotry and hatred remains. People of color, different religions, women, or those of us with different sexual orientations are all too often still victimized. In addition, the country is grappling with whether to allow same-sex couples to marry.

I believe that being able to marry if you are in a same-sex relationship is an “unalienable right,” as defined by the Constitution.

Just what does that term mean? Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, clarifies the term: “You can not surrender, sell or transfer unalienable rights, they are a gift from the creator to the individual and can not under any circumstances be surrendered or taken. All individual's have unalienable rights.”

Thus, if you are an American, regardless of your ethnicity, faith or lack of faith, gender, age, or sexual orientation, you have the legal right to your life; to be free; and to live your life in the way that gives you the most happiness.

Even if you are not a member of the LGBT community, there may be some other aspect of your life that you might want to declare today. I am a pagan, a follower of Wicca. Perhaps you are a pagan, too, or an atheist and you have been holding that within you as a secret.

Whatever is the truth of your life, every American has the right to live it to the fullest, safely and without shame. That is what today is all about.

— The Curator

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Scars Should NOT Matter!

It’s been more than 1½ years since British author Belle de Jour posted an unforgettable blog entry about facial scarring, and the resulting positive impact it has had on her life.

In the meantime, has society eased its harsh condemnation at all of anything that falls outside its narrow definition of female beauty? No, if anything it’s gotten much, much worse.

I was reminded of the issue last week when Dr. Brooke Magnanti, the real woman who has written the international bestsellers using her famous erotic pen name, posted the following June 25 on Twitter:

“Open letter to genre novelists: How about just once, the person with facial scars turns out *not* to be a bad guy? Love, Me”

Last year, Brooke wrote that she was grateful for the "gift" of her scars, that they saved her from being just another boring blonde! Her wonderful attitude underscores her astounding inner strength and fortitude.

I do not have facial scarring, but I was an overweight kid and teen, and was teased mercilessly by other teens, and even strangers who taunted me and, more than once shouted insults at me as I walked down the street.

I, too, keenly remember what it felt like to be judged by my superficial appearance and not my actual self. But unlike Brooke, I am not grateful for those experiences. They did affect my self-esteem, which had already been hammered by suffering sexual molestation for years at my elementary school by the elderly male janitor, and my mother’s worsening alcoholism.

With bullying in the headlines almost daily, and a concentrated attempt to teach teens to accept gays and lesbians they encounter — or to accept themselves if they are gay or lesbian — it seems the perfect time to reassess the pressure we put on kids to physically conform.

Both girls and boys are bombarded with overt and covert messages that their bodies should look so-called “perfect.” They know that anything that deviates on any portion of their anatomies is to be loathed, or at least that they should feel ashamed if they cannot conform, or at least come close to the norm.

Well folks, it’s past time that we mature as a culture here and in the U.K., and start looking beyond the mere physical. We need to start sending the message that scarred people are heroes, and fat girls can be legitimate romantic leads, not merely comedic foils.

Ironically, I grew up to have Lupus, which is taking away my ability to walk. I manage with two canes, and again have drawn the attention and cruelty of strangers and teens who frequently taunt me, even though I'm 55!

Hey Brooke! I am now secure enough to be able to say, FUCK THEM! I am still blown away that Brooke was secure enough as a person to be able to say that when she was a teen. She is one amazing woman.

Brooke wrote about her experiences via a post on her old blog. Since then, she has launched a brilliant new blog, Sexonomics, and has also promised we fans a new book.

In 2009, Brooke revealed her identity after a newspaper was about to disclose it without her permission. Brooke, formerly of Bristol, England who now lives in Scotland with her husband, was a noted scientist whose specialist areas were developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and had worked at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health as part of a team that researched the potential effects on babies of their mothers' exposure to toxic chemicals.

But, from 2003 to late 2004, Brooke worked as a high-class call girl for a London escort service. Her original blog was award-winning, and she penned the bestselling books based on her experiences as a sex worker. Her writing also formed the basis of the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper in the title role of "Belle," which is now available on DVD.

I have been a fan, and honored to be a stalwart friend of Brooke’s for many years. Her’s is an important voice that should be heard. As usual, I do not have the writing skills to adequately describe her post from last year, so I am reprinting Brooke’s blog entry here in full:

mercredi, janvier 13

Let me tell you about the best gift I ever received. And it's not a bit of sparkly jewellery, or a shiny car, or even a thoughtful trinket of affection.

I'm talking about my scars.

I had terrible acne as a teenager. By the age of 16 it was so bad a dermatologist said it was the worst she'd ever seen, which, ya know, is not super encouraging. At the hospital where I volunteered mothers pulled their children away from me, convinced I was plagued with something contagious. Strangers avoided making eye contact.

It was so bad I could not wash my face without bleeding. Many mornings I woke up stuck to the pillowcase. And oh yeah, it was only on my face. Not one blemish anywhere else on my body. To this day, I still never have seen a photo of anything like it - apart from some daguerrotypes of smallpox patients.

It was a very long, and very expensive, journey to improving my skin - remember, this all went down in America, where having a disfiguring condition you have no control over is not covered by health insurance, and duh, there's no NHS.

Long story short, a lot of Roaccutane and Dianette did for the acne. And more importantly, here's what I learned:

1. Beauty is fleeting. Thank fuck for that.

I had a narrow escape from being just another boring blonde - not to mention an early release from the cycle of self-hatred and frantic desperation that plagues many women as they age. Corollary 1a: The larger part of how people perceive you is how you present yourself.

2. People can be hurtful to strangers. That's their problem.

My best childhood mate had spina bifida. She walked on sticks and refused to use a wheelchair for reasons I only started to appreciate years later. Looking like a medical oddity gave me, for a very brief time, a very small taste of what she encounters every day of her life. It made me pity people who equate someone's appearance with their value as a person. This generalises magnificently to strangers judging you for, in fact, anything at all. Corollary 2a: The most vocal critics are often the most insecure.

3. Other people have things you don't. Big deal.

There is no such thing as the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (sorry Buttercup). Who cares? What is considered desirable is not especially worth getting hung up on. You may not be a six-foot Amazon so will never have legs up to your neck - but for all you know, that same supermodel would give her left arm to have your hair. This concept generalises to wealth, success, talent, and intelligence as well. Corollary 3a: Envy of other women's looks is a zero-sum game, and uses far too much time and energy to be bothered with.

4. Quality of love is not a function of attractiveness.

Elizabeth Taylor, for instance, has been married eight times. Beautiful people have dry spells and get their hearts broken like everyone else. The most worthwhile and loving relationships in my life all happened after my skin problems. And for what it's worth, I've been fortunate to date some pretty nice, smart (and attractive) men in my time. See Corollary 1a above.

5. Confidence doesn't come overnight.

It also doesn't happen in a vacuum; it requires nurturing. As with anything else worth having it's work. But let me tell you, it is so worth the work. A mate recently told me about a magazine 'happiness quiz' in which one of the questions was, "are you comfortable with your body, and do you exercise regularly?" If you can see why this should not have been a single question, you're on the way. Corollary 5a: Confidence happens when you let it happen. No one gives it to you, which is great, because it also means they can't take it from you.

6. When someone says I am beautiful, they really, really mean it.

There is something about knowing someone sees you, quirks and all, and likes what they see... something rare and kind of overwhelming (in a good way). 'Beautiful' is one of those words (a bit like 'awesome') that has lost meaning in being overused as a generic affirmative. We call all sorts of people beautiful in one sentence and tear them down in the next. I'm happy to be different enough that anyone who uses it to describe me sees more than just hair and makeup.


Oh, and as for Brooke today — she remains a beautiful woman, inside AND out!

If you have any interest in thoughtful discussions about sex-related and scientific topics, I urge you to follow Brooke's blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.

She is a unique woman, and an equally unique writer whose work continues to dazzle.

Brooke's books include: Belle de Jour’s Guide to Men, 2009; Belle’s Best Bits, 2009; The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, September 2005; The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, May 2007; and Playing the Game, June 2009.

You can find all of her books at the U.K.’s largest independent bookseller, Waterstones.

Also check out Brooke's op-ed articles on a variety of topics including reforming libel law in the UK, as well as the importance of ensuring the rights of sex workers.

— The Curator

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York Says YES to Gay Marriage!

In a narrow 33 to 29 vote late last night, New York’s Republican controlled Legislature legalized gay marriage — proving that love belongs to NO political party or even ideology.

As a bi-sexual woman living in New Jersey, I rejoice in this brave vote approving the legislation, which was quickly signed into law by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo shortly before midnight.

The legislation was enacted almost 42 years to the day that the modern-day LGBT rights movement was born amid violent encounters between police and gay activists at New York City’s iconic Stonewall Inn, referred to as “The Stonewall.”

It takes effect in 30 days, and same-sex couples are already lining up to become the first to be married.

This landmark law makes New York the sixth and largest state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. Sadly, it will no doubt be challenged in the courts, but let’s tackle that another day. For now, I want to let this glorious ruling seep into my very being.

As might be imagined, the news sparked massive celebrations in the streets of New York City, where members of the LGBT community from throughout the country had ironically been brought together for the city’s annual Gay Pride Weekend. [Note: The above photo was taken outside The Stonewall when the news broke.]

A note of clarification: I refer to the new statute as legalizing “same-sex” marriage, which is the wording of the actual law, rather than "gay marriage." As a bi-sexual, I am not gay but am living with my same-sex life partner.

It was deeply and profoundly emotional for me when I woke up to the incredible news. I know that it is the right vote, the human vote.

I was married to a man, and we divorced. When I met my same-sex partner, the love I felt, and still feel, for her is as genuine and sacred as the love I felt for my former husband. Rejection and hatred of me and my same-sex union, and millions of others nationwide, is a wound that is impossible to describe and will take a very long time to heal. This statute goes a long way in making that happen.

I did not choose to be bi-sexual, I simply am bi-sexual. It is not a lifestyle anymore than being heterosexual is a lifestyle. I am the exact same woman who was allowed to love and marry a man, but denied that same legal option to acknowledge my female partner.

I am also a spiritual person. I feel the guidance and daily presence of the Divine. I am not an aberration, but a soul who was created bi-sexual by that same loving and all-knowing Cosmic Other. Thus, I am as blessed as each and every person — every living being — on Mother Earth.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the vote, "a historic triumph for equality and freedom,” and I could not agree more.

Thank you, New York, for acknowledging me and thousands of others. Even though I live one state over, your action gives me hope, and makes my heart dance with indescribable joy!

I also fervently hope that this momentous step will be the action that prompts other undecided states to join this inevitable civil rights movement. In fact, a recent poll by a respected agency finds that 53 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage. It is the time for all same-sex couples to be able to choose to sanctify their relationships legally no matter where they live.

— The Curator

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hey — At Least Someone Scored!

Their very passionate and public intimate embrace juxtaposed against a fierce-looking team of riot police made the news photograph completely unforgettable — at least to me, as well as millions of others around the world.

They appeared to be locked in truly unrestrained, utterly surprising and spontaneous passion, depicted lying on the pavement amid the broken glass, arson fires, tear gas and the heavily geared riot police.

Sigh. It now appears that the photo that instantly went viral on the Internet captured less an act of total intimacy than of consolation — at least according to the couple and family members.

According to news reports, the couple, identified as Alexandra “Alex” Thomas and Scott Jones, an aspiring actor, only felt terror and feared for their safety.

Speaking to the a newspaper, Thomas and Jones, who were photographed in between police lines at the Vancouver riot following the city’s loss of the Stanley Cup hockey final's Game 7 on Wednesday night, described a very different scenario than what we thought (and I hoped) that we saw. According to the couple, it was an innocent act, propelled into the spotlight thanks only to a well-timed camera.


“We were struck by police shields, pushed to the ground and I was just very, very frightened,” said Thomas. “Everything happened so fast, faster than we could ever imagine it could happen.”

Jones, 29, and his girlfriend had been watching the game at a friend’s house downtown when they first heard there was a disruption. They decided to go see what was happening.

“We wanted to go down and see for ourselves but it was crazy,” said Jones, a Perth, Australian native on a working holiday in Vancourver. His girlfriend is a Canadian. “We didn’t know where we were supposed to go. We wanted to get out of there and we ended up in the line of police marching forward.”

Thomas said she doesn’t remember the exact sequence of events, but knows she had been struck by a surge of police and was on the ground. Jones was also struck and, while on the ground, was trying to keep her calm. “I just wanted us to go home safely. It was unbelievable that it was happening and all I wanted was for us to be safe,” he said.

Jones said he remembers that his girlfriend was very stressed out and all he could do was help her out.

“Nobody was getting out of the way. It was all of a sudden they charged us. Very strong-handed and we were in one spot. The only thing we could do was try to stay calm and try to get up,” he said.

He said he talked to her and tried to calm her down by kissing her, then helped her up.

Their now infamous smooch, captured by Getty Images photographer Rich Lam, was the perfect paradoxical photo. At first, many wondered about the kissers' identity and if their kiss was possibly staged. (The Internet is notoriously skeptical, particularly about love.) But once the smoochers were identified by name, the Internet fell in love.

Suddenly, their embrace amid the chaos in the streets made for a touching photo. Jones is seen on top of Thomas, kissing her, as shield-laden riot police keep the violent protesting Canucks fans at bay. (I had thought it was a lot more intimate because the kiss appeared to be quite deep, and her clothes were also askew, exposing more than a little bit of flesh.)

Thomas said bus closures downtown meant the couple weren’t sure at first where to go. They walked to the train station and took a train out of downtown.

The next day, the couple was shocked to see their experience had been captured on film.

“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘No way, that’s not ... I can’t believe that’s us,’ ” Thomas said. “Then I looked some more and realized that is us. That’s a very revealing picture of us.”

Thomas said the response from her friends and family has been overwhelming.

“When I saw that picture I couldn’t believe it and then I looked at it more and realize it’s quite artistic and really something beautiful,” she said.

[Above: Jones and Thomas enjoy a laugh over the incident.]

On Friday morning, Jones spoke with his dad, Brett Jones, by Skype in Australia after his family first identified the couple when the photo was seen worldwide.

“How’s that for making love, not war,” the father declared on his Facebook page, telling the world that the famous Romeo in a Vancouver riot picture was his son.

“He lay down next to her to comfort her. She was crying and he just kissed her to calm her down,” Brett Jones said.

Even as a young boy, his son demonstrated his “gentle side for other people. I’m not surprised he would comfort Alex,” Brett Jones said.

Thomas, who graduated with a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph, works in Vancouver on the Zipcar street team and as a technician for the FreshPure reverse-osmosis water-filtration systems in Whole Foods grocery stores.

Jones and Thomas started dating shortly after the young aspiring Australian actor arrived in Vancouver. Since leaving acting school in Melbourne, Jones has mostly been bartending, as he has been in Vancouver, but he did get one standup comedy gig in the city.

Comedy performance is “his passion,” said Brett Jones. “He has a natural ability to make people laugh.”

Brett Jones can see that the couple’s now-iconic photograph may follow them for the rest of their lives, for good or bad.

“Relationships do buckle under that pressure unless you have the ability to be very centered. Even if it wasn’t Scott, the guy who took the picture captured a moment in time that is iconic.”

The couple is leaving in a few days on a trip to California before Scott Jones heads back to Australia.

Brett Jones has no idea how right he is, iconic and then some! As per the unspoken and time honored rules of the Internet, the famous photo must now be combined with other pictures — and the more unlikely the better.

Thus: Who knew Jones and Thomas were on the scene of O.J. Simpson's car chase down the 405?

...And they were in Baghdad in 2003 when the Saddam Hussein statue was toppled?

...Theirs is the kiss seen ’round the world, and thanks to the Internet, it's also timeless.

I must admit that I MUCH prefer to hold onto my interpretation of what was happening in that photo in my mind’s eye. In point of fact, I have already unaplogetically banished the actual truth of the event entirely, and am continuing to enjoy the surprisingly arousing image of a very bold young couple having satisfying and quite public sex literally in the very middle of a violent no man’s land. Here's to fantasy.Yes!

— The Curator