- 1. where did the handle "beowabbit" come from?
I’d thought that I’d posted this before, but I can’t find it in my
archives. Must have been in email to someone.
When I lived in New Jersey, I had a sweet and fun partner named Margoleath. (She often went by the nickname “Leafy” because, as she said, she was “flaky, but natural”.) I met her contra dancing. She was a high school English teacher, and, like me, a bit of an Old English buff. We used to tell each other “ic lufie þe” all the time, and one evening she showed me a great book, whereof I wish I could remember the name or author because I would scour the earth looking for it. It was a survey of history and literature, very thorough, if perhaps not scrupulously accurate. It had a reproduction of the first page of the First Folio, showing the Bard in shades, and announcing the contents as “WM. SHAKE-SPEARE: His Tragedies, Comedies, Sit-Coms, Miniſeries, &c. &c.”, or something to that effect. Anyway, among the gems was the epic poem Beowabbit, with lines like these:
Þonne Beowulf wæld / on Grendles æsse
Ond Grendles modor / gotte gepyst.
Þa cwom hæleð / to mede-healle
Dryncan Cucca-Cola / se reol þing.
When I first got a LiveJournal account, I didn’t expect to be posting, so I didn’t put much thought into the name. (I used my old account name on the IBM mainframe in college, SEKJAYA.) I just got it so I could read friends’ juicy friends-only posts. When I decided I actually wanted to maintain a journal myself, I decided I wanted something that was whimsical and suggested that I was a bit of a humanities geek, so I picked “beowabbit” (which I had earlier used as my Slashdot login). Originally I had the idea that I might do some posts in the voice of Beowabbit, about how the brave burrower with bright teeth cunningly slaughtered countless cabbages, valiantly besting the vegetable horde. But I ended up never doing that. Perhaps I should.
Incidentally, you can find another version of the Beowabbit epic, different from the one I read in the book at Margoleath’s, on her web site at http://www.margoleath.com/beowabbit/. [EDIT: Link repointed to Wayback Machine archive; Margoleath died in early 2011, and her domain’s not up any more.] She says on that page that I gave her a photocopy of that. I don’t remember that, but it certainly seems plausible. The one on Margoleath’s site is a translation into Modern English; the one I read in the book at her house was in a passable approximation of Old English.
- 2. what was your favorite activist moment ever?
Probably one I don’t remember. Most of the really important ones
haven’t been moments, really, but slow gradual things, like the
growth of Poly Boston. Working on the Fifth International Conference on
Bisexuality in Boston was great, but that wasn’t really a “moment”.
So I’ll just mention a moment on the T that I happen to be able
to remember. (Beowabbit remembering anything is noteworthy!)
I had a button on my backpack that said “Racism — Sexism — Homophobia:
Recognize the Connections”, and I had set my backpack on the floor
of the train in front of me, so the button was visible. There were
three young white women sitting near me, chatting and joking. (I think
they might have been coming home from Bunker Hill Community College.)
They had a working-class, not very intellectual air about them. One of
them noticed my button, stared at it for a moment, and asked me what it
said, as though she had read the words but couldn’t quite make sense
of them, so I read it. She asked what that meant. I said I thought it
meant that those three things were all about dividing people up into two
groups and pretending that “our” group is better than that other group,
that the three kinds of discrimination were basically the same thing
applied against three different groups of people, and that it made sense
to oppose all of them together. I said that more elegantly at the time,
and also more slowly, as she was asking questions and drew more and more
out of me. At the beginning, I thought
the other two young women were about to joke dismissively about
it, to tease the one I was talking to for talking to the fag (since I
obviously wasn’t female or nonwhite), or something like that. But as
she paid attention to me and asked questions they stopped giggling, and
then they started asking questions too. When they got off at their stop,
the one I’d mostly been talking to said “Thank you, you’ve given
me something to think about,” and as she passed me one of the others
leaned over and pointed at the button and said “I don’t like those
Not high drama, but it was a fascinating little moment of connection. I should put that button back on my backpack. (I think I took it off when I was flying somewhere once and never got around to putting it back.)
- 3. How old were you when you came out to yourself? to your friends? to your family?
As poly, or as bi? As poly is easy; I’ve known monogamy didn’t feel
right to me since before I was consciously sexual. I was the sort of
child who thought about things and tried to work them out from first
principles. It seemed to me that if I loved someone, I'd want them to
be happy. And if it made them happy to love and be loved by somebody
else, well, I’d want them to do that, wouldn’t I? And if it makes
me happy to love and be loved by one person, wouldn't it make me even
happier to love two? And wouldn’t somebody who loved me want me to
be happy? And if somebody was a wonderful person and deserved my love,
wasn’t it kind of arbitrary and unfair to deny them that love just
because I also loved somebody else? My thinking has gotten a bit more
sophisticated and realistic (read cynical) since I was six or eight or
so, but I’ve known I was polyamorous as long as I can remember thinking
even in the abstract about romantic relationships, which is to say since
a couple decades before the term was coined. And since that was the
sort of thing I talked to my mother about and didn’t make any effort
to hide from my father, my parents knew about it early on. (I didn’t
really have friends as a child, at least not friends my own age.)
As far as coming out as bi, as a child I was basically afraid of men to some degree; I was afraid of the power and authority they represented in the world around me, and the alien values that seemed to drive their actions. (Father issues? Moi? Couldn’t be!) Anyway, when I entered college, I started having male friends. (There had been a few boys in grade school and high school that I hung out with, but not really to the extent of letting my emotional guard down.) And, wonder of wonders, I discovered that some men were actually human beings! Yeah, men could be people just like women could! Wow! And of course that meant I could be attracted to them. I was aware of that in an abstract way for quite a while, was first conscious of actually being attracted to a man several years later (a folk singer whose concert I was at), and started identifying as bi a few years after that, when my wonderful housemate I. introduced me to a bi (and poly) community. So it was a very gradual process. And I didn’t make a secret of any of it, so my mother and my sister and my friends and co-workers learned about it pretty much as I did. (In fact, my co-workers at my first job out of college learned about it before I did. On learning that I had only started identifying as bi a year or so after I met her, one of them told me that she and some of our co-workers had assumed I was bi when they first met me. To be fair, it was really just a matter of adopting a label; I’d realized for a while that I could theoretically end up involved with a man sometime down the road.)
Amusing anecdote: Because I wasn’t trying to hide anything, I’d assumed that my father was clued in too. But I was never as close to my father as to my mother, and so he didn’t hear about my life in as much day-to-day detail. So at one point he was in New Jersey for a conference, and I met him at the hotel and went to dinner with him and a bunch of his colleagues. Sometime during the dinner he asked me if I was involved with anybody or if I had any prospects. I allowed as how I wasn’t involved with anybody, but I had a couple people I was kind of interested in. One was a real sweetie, but I wasn’t sure he was quite my type. The other one was definitely my type, but I didn’t get to see him very much because he didn’t get out to Princeton as often. I had no idea it was news to my father that I was bi, so I was puzzled about why his eyes were getting so big. We laughed about it after dinner in his hotel room.
- 4. Would you rather have friend you talked to infrequently but saw in person, or a friend that you talked to all the time, but never met off-line?
- That’s hard; I want both! I think if I had to choose, though, I’d rather have a friend I saw in person, but I’m not sure. But I can do with seeing somebody in person only at long intervals, and staying in touch most of the time through email.
- 5. Is there anything you simply won't eat, and why?
There are a lot of things! For instance, iron filings, broken glass,
tomatoes, laundry detergent, and automobile tires, and all for the same
reason: They’re just not food. Totally inedible. I know that there
are some weird people who will eat things like that. I forget the
medical name for that condition, but somebody posted a story to
LiveJournal yesterday or the day before about a mentally ill person who
died after having to have his stomach removed because it was completely
full of coins and pins and necklaces. And sometimes large groups of people have those sorts
of demented, uncontrollable cravings. For example, (our more sensitive
readers may not wish to read further) I understand that in Italy,
eating of tomatoes is so common that it has lost its power to shock,
and some people actually mix tomatoes in with their food.
So basically, I don’t eat things that aren’t food. There are some foods I don’t eat if I can help it, though. For instance, I have the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap, and the only shellfish I eat is shrimp.
Interview questions from dan4th
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