Sunday, January 27, 2008

Toast to the Lasses

Entry for 25 January 2008:

The Toast to the Lasses is a traditional part of the Burns Supper celebration, commemorating the birth of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns in 1759. It’s appropriate to incorporate Burns’ songs or poetry into a Burns Supper speech, which is what I’ve done here by interspersing verses of Burns’ famous ode to women, “Green Grow the Rashes, O.”
Green grow the rashes, O;
Green grow the rashes, O;
The sweetest hours that e'er I spend,
Are spent amang the lasses, O.
For as long as I can remember,
I have preferred the company of women.
They have fascinated me.
As a result, I have never been able to understand
Freud’s concept of a “latency period”
during which boys and girls
are not supposed to be interested in each other.
There's nought but care on ev'ry han',
In ev'ry hour that passes, O;
What signifies the life o' man,
An' 'twere na for the lasses, O.
I don’t know why I am like this.
I have wondered if, like my gay friends,
I was simply born with a certain sexual orientation.
Or perhaps it was because I was without any sisters
until I was 7 years old.
Certainly, I was a lonely boy
and felt little in common with the other boys in my neighborhood.
The warly race may riches chase,
An' riches still may fly them, O;
An' tho' at last they catch them fast,
Their hearts can ne'er enjoy them, O.
Beginning in first grade and going through high school,
I developed a series of crushes on girls my age, mostly notably:
Kathy, Connie,
Brenda (for whom I pined for years, even after she and her family moved to Trinidad),
Margaret and Susan.
But gie me a canny hour at e'en,
My arms about my Dearie, O;
An' warly cares an' warly men,
May a' gae tapsalteerie, O!
In college, there was Diane, whom I met in our first week,
Diana, my first serious relationship,
and Debbie, with whom I had an unhappy affair
that drove me into my first experience of therapy.
For you sae douse, ye sneer at this,
Ye're nought but senseless asses, O;
The wisest Man the warl' saw,
He dearly lov'd the lasses, O.
And Diane has outlasted them all,
and is still here just shy of forty years later.

It’s more than that, because in the same way,
I’ve never been able to think of God as a man, bearded or not.
As a small child, when I was in church,
my father was not in heaven;
he was at home mowing the lawn.
But my mother was kneeling there next to me,
and teaching my Sunday school class.
Auld Nature swears, the lovely Dears
Her noblest work she classes, O;
Her prentice han' she try'd on man,
An' then she made the lasses, O.
So it’s the Goddess for me still,
hovering over the chaos,
bringing everything forth
Out of the void quantum foam.

The important religious figures in my life
Have been women: My grandmother, my mother,
My friend Margaret, for whom I became a Baptist for time,
And a succession of female priests.

In my journey, I eventually
grew out of the having of crushes --
with the help of therapy.
And I find myself wondering if this is the part that
Rabbie Burns was searching for but never got quite right
in his brief life:

That the most difficult, amazing journey
is to stay with one person, man or woman,
another self in the same way that I am a self,
living a rich texture of sameness and difference,
seeing where that leads, through dark places and light,
fighting against the staleness that kills relationship.
always discovering new parts of her and me,
Green grow the rashes, O;
Green grow the rashes, O;
The sweetest hours that e'er I spend,
Are spent amang the lasses, O.

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