A knitter would know this move: you've started a lovely bit of work with a yarn you really like, and then when you look at it, you realize it's all wrong. You put down the work and the skein and the needles for a while because pulling out all that work can break a tender heart. If you've got a little merry-go-round type thingy and can use it to unravel, the whole process becomes a little game, or else a secular homage to the prayers of a Buddhist monk.

I spent a morning doing just that thing, with three skeins worth of Lion Brand Homespun. It was a morning my dad and I call Day 433, which was dad's idea in the first place. To save all the trouble of counting backwards, 433 days ago was January 11, 2004, and that was the day I woke up and heard "It's not good news... it's cancer."

Now, because I seldom do things the way people would expect, I got my cancer in my colon, and I did not arrange for the type that contains itself nicely, and I did not catch it early, and I am not nearly old enough for it. At the Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, I was known simply as "that young woman." Alternatively, I was known as "the one with the smile," and "the girl who knits."

With cotton/poly microspun just the right shade of off-white and size seven needles, I took two weeks worth of chemo treatments to make my new nephew a new blankie. They were bamboo needles because the chemo makes your hands sensitive to cold, and metal needles are too cold. Then I started knitting a blanket for me, to wear during chemo. They keep the day room very cold to control patients' nausea.

The needles were size 13 bamboo circulars, and the yarn was thick and soft. It felt like hell, running through my fingers, but it felt nice on my arms and legs. The fibers absorbed some of the chemical smell of the place. At least, it seems that way. Perhaps I'm only imagining the smell of bleach and poison, which I only imagine makes me a little nauseous. I worked away at the parts of the blanket, spreading them over my chest and belly, and occasionally pulling out long strands of hair as I shed them in clumps. Even bamboo started to hurt my fingers, so I never finished the work. It never looked quite right anyway.

433 days later, the patches of completed blanket are unraveled and rewound into tidy globes with an end sticking out the top that pulls as smooth as milk pouring. I wind pull-skeins well, if I do say it. On day 345, or thereabouts, I learned the gentle and tedious art of the Granny Square, and just grabbed the remaining skeins of Homespun to make a blanket that would match the chaise. Until today, I wasn't conscious that I'd be pulling apart the work I got done while I patiently, smilingly endured my cool beige purgatory. Smiling on the outside; on the inside, I dreamed of taking that skein and slowly strangling the next person who mistook my colostomy bag for an unborn baby. That skein never touched the neck of a single person, but when it gets looped into a plain border for my Granny Square afghan, I imagine it'll feel nice snuggled around my neck.

And that was day 433. To review, I took apart the less-good thing I'd made during chemo, and replaced it with a better thing during the course of a normal life. I think the nurses at the Cancer Center would be happy about it, if I saw them to tell them, and if they recognized me with eyebrows.

I'll apologize upfront for my shitty poetry, but it sounded pretty good when I first wrote it, or maybe it was just the copiuos amounts of drugs I was taking...

bad poetry from a bad poet

nights, days, vacations, it all flows together in the end
we wake up
do what we do
then return to our places of slumber
next days are relative to their yesterdays
people come and people go
the world remains the same

yet we fall in love with it
and we provide the emotions and joy
the meaning we try to convey
to make the world a “better place”

change is sometimes needed, however
by the time we grow old it’s too late to change
and death becomes a realization
mistakes of the past are avoided through the wisdom
passed on to future generations

in the end we are what we are
and all that that is is some dust from the stars
convincing ourselves of anything greater
makes life interesting

and the industries grow
and philosophies change
but the people remain themselves

In the inner castle that is my heart I hear them fight. Cordwainer Smith, the Christian apologist, and Charles Kinsey, the Christian apostate. I also hear the voices, in the background, yet clearly heard, of Aldous Huxley, of Timothy Leary, of Willam Burroughs, of Allen Ginzburg, of the Luces of Time/Life, of Ralph Ginsberg, and even of Hugh Hefner and William F. Buckley.

All good men, and good people. I also hear the voice of the aggregate intellectual progressive community of New Haven, Connecticut, and of Yale University. I hear (though it may be foreign to me) the voices of the conservative Christian community, and know that I should be able to account for myself to them, as well.

All I ask is to hear my voice.

I started this yesterday evening by musing on what I would tell myself if I were ten years old. For that is when my sexual history begins in earnest. I was told nothing.

I didn't know the difference between men and women, other than that men were (often) bigger and stronger. My immediate family was matrilineal: men married, bequeathed their names to children, and died in middle age. Women were clearly the dominant sex: they cooked, cleaned, were there when you were sent home from school, and produced articles of virtu and wonder. In old age, they traveled and always had cool stuff to mess with. Men wore suits, had jobs they hated, and had inconsequential leisure pursuits, mostly things that needed doing anyway, like cutting grass and doing odd jobs around the house. Babies came from ladies, but I wasn't keen on knowing exactly how, thanks to Life Magazine I had a working knowlege of embryology, but little idea of what set off the whole process. I can only count one time that I saw the anatomical difference, when I was seven, I saw a naked boy. The strange tube I saw hanging off his body, I figured, was some rubber thing he'd stuck on to frighten me, and so I pretended not to notice. My father, I knew, could urinate from across the bathroom, but he was always showing off magic tricks, so there.

But what does this matter, when we're talking about blasphemy? Well, after a while, I began to be curious about sex -- everyone talked about this interesting thing that adults did, but no one was telling me what it was. And in the sexually revolutionary year of 1969, it was rather easier to get first-hand practical experience than to get written information. Even, or in some cases especially, if you were ten years old -- in those days, you needed a permission slip from your parents to get Biology textbooks from the library. And one way or another, from pedophiles to sexually precocious classmates, to a sexually predatory stepparent, to understanding friends, to two bisexual soulmate honeys (yuppers, at the same time), to swing scene, to now and then, from 1969 to now, I have found partners, and had sex. It was not always what I would have told myself to do, now, but I was operating under the only data that was clear, and logical: sex was good, sex was healthy, sex will never hurt you, if you don't judge, don't question and use contraception. And I was good to the good thing, and in general, the good thing was good to me.

In the long run, it was a lie: for as the desire has matured in me, has become keener, more refined and focussed, as my amatory skills have progressed, I've been forsaken. One of my dearest loves has died, and the other is old and broke and impotent, and doesn't want me anymore. No one wants a fat lady of forty-six with no career,and no skills other than coupling, keeping house, and a good line of banter. The "zipless fuck" future, where everyone could have sex, with no strings attached, never materialized, even without the help of a conservative backlash, gender feminism, and a lot of bad business deals: the swing scene has fallen to AIDS, to which I'm immune, apparently. Now I'm single, broke, and facing a childless future.

So what support would the opposition give me? The same words that were on the lips of my classmates when I tried to tell them that I had loved: Slut. Whore. Lesbian. (My Kinsey number, like Institute associate Paul Gebhard's, is 1...but like him, not for lack of trying!) Pervert. Town pump. (This, from the stepparent whose abusive wrath I had once tried to assuage with my body.) Deluded fool. (The feminist community, and the intellectual progressives.) Sex addict. (The helping community.) In exchange for a promise from me of further lifelong chastity, I'd get...what? a career spreading misinformation among high-school girls to get them to stop giving their boyfriends blowjobs? At the end of the day, I'd still probably be watching Jay Leno on a set with a wire hanger antenna alone, without even a good wank to put me to sleep.

Is it any wonder that I've tried to stand by the side that at least will offer me dignity?

Dr. Kinsey was wrong on several things. The vaginal orgasm. The exact percentage of exclusively homosexual men in the general population: 4%? 3%? 1.4%? (Come out, come out, where ever you are!). Heck, I'm even willing to concede that Rex King was probably not as nice to all those kids as he said he was (though I did find at least one obliging older gentleman who gave me great sex as a preteen...and otherwise we had about as good an intergenerational friendship as it gets...really!) He had a sticky private life, and tended to substitute sensation for actual intimacy (but don't we all?). I sometimes wish that Aldous Huxley, or a young and in training Timothy Leary, or Kenneth Anger, or Jack Parsons, or Paul Linebarger, or someone had tipped him off to the fact that ecstasy, in its truest sense, isn't just a question of having an earth-shattering orgasm, or an emotional reaction, and that religion wasn't just a set of social conventions and prohibitions, but something else altogether in human experience. He needed to be told about the role of oxytocin in the human body, as opposed to sex hormones and vitamin D. His ideas on women, in general, needed maturing. But it was a start, and that's all that I, or anyone, ever asked.

Yes, I was wrong. I should have been putting my energy into men who would give me a stable future instead of experiences, no matter how pleasurable and exotic, in the here and now. I should have turned in my stepfather, instead of 'trying to make things right'. I should have learned to rely on masturbation and wet dreams, keep my legs crossed, my mouth shut, and my hands to myself at least until I was old enough to know how not to get hurt, as opposed to not getting pregnant (which I knew from the jump). I should have listened less to the hedonistic propaganda of the Sixties and Seventies, and more to my grandmother, who, come to think of it, didn't like masturbation, either.

But in many ways, I've had a good life. No, I wasn't a porn star, a stripper, or a whore. I've read and written about sex for as long as I've been having it, and sometimes quite well. I've gone and done things, seen places, and had experiences and sensations that most can only imagine. (Or read about in my writings!) My sex life isn't over. Neither is my life away from sex, nor my imaginative and writing life. There's even an outside chance I'll have children, a husband, and at least a good-enough career to keep food on the table and teeth in my head. I can still pass on my wisdom, which, as Hildegarde of Bingen remarked, is to make children in Heaven. I go to a gay-friendly, liberal Anglo-Catholic church, support gay ordination and other sex-positive causes and have participated in sex studies (the boring kind) to help sort out what's really going on. In many ways, I'm very happy.

Now I'm sorry about dragging this whole thing up, but this is the first time I've had to spend about a week doing nothing but research for a WU, in response to loud cries of "You're going to stir things up, get your facts straight." The trinkets were fine. The public response, however has been pitiful, considering that I've had a WU about 18th century Scotland that got upvoted faster, and apparently, none of the Teeming Millions want to engage in any kind of dialog whatsoever. I keep on being told to "give it a rest" when I wasn't even talking in the first place, and that I worship some "god" that I don't even know exists. If there's been fighting, talk behind my back or within the editors or gods I'd like to hear about it. I've liked reading Arts and Letters Daily, and several other non-sex-oriented WU's; if I could get some better feedback on how and why the author feels this way, I could perhaps get a better handle on the truth. (I try to be even-handed, even if I like controversial people and things...even because I like them.) If there are any other people who are willing to spend time with me, nitpicking and shooting down, and debunking, I'm more than happy to accomodate them. In other words, "Honey, you mean to tell me, after all that foreplay, you want me to sleep?"

This is a season of penance, and of peace. I tender the above as an abject apology, and will gladly keep my own counsel from now on. Thank you very much.

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