The October 8th Ruling: Ghoulishness Even Scarier than Halloween 🕸☠

As the leaves perform their leafy magic, and the October 1st tax increases loom here in the Constitution State, I’m commiserating with those eager to flee Connecticut because of high taxes and seemingly endless budget deficits. Another of Connecticut’s nicknames, the “tax you to death,” is no doubt well-earned.

However, unlike most of my compatriots who dream of or are actually planning a move to a more financially stable state, I know I won’t be leaving any time soon, for one, because I’ve already adapted to the $.10 plastic bag tax, never having been a fan of seeing them flap in the wind from bare tree branches in winter. But the reality is I can’t leave, not if I want to continue having the audacity to live as an out lesbian and be a public school teacher.

Currently, in nearly thirty states in this “free” country of ours, I can be fired from my job for living openly as a lesbian. All it would take is a complaint or two from parents, and suddenly, my livelihood is in jeopardy because, in certain parts of the US, I’m viewed as unfit to educate children. My lifestyle is immoral, and according to some serious right-wing extremism, I may be secretly pushing my gay agenda on impressionable youngsters—as if we could win free timeshare points for every kid we recruit. I wish. 

On the Weekends We be Extra!

Now this may sound like the plot of an old black and white movie about rampant bigotry in the pre-Civil Rights South, but it isn’t. This is 2019. And while, it’s long been illegal to fire African-Americans from their jobs simply because they’re black, it is still legal to dismiss members of the LGBTQ community if an employer feels that our lifestyles conflict with their religious sensibilities. This is because the LGBTQ community is not specifically listed as a protected minority in the Civil Rights Act pertaining to job discrimination.

Atticus Finch, where are you?

But on October 8, 2019, our Supreme Court will issue a highly consequential ruling that will either change that or solidify it. And frankly, I’m terrified of the possibility of it being solidified, as it is a ruling that will likely stand for the rest of my life. (click link below for article)

https://www.businessinsider.com/lgbtq-employment-supreme-court-cases-explainer-2019-9

What that means is I’m stuck here in Connecticut, the tax-you-to-death-state because it’s one of only about twenty that have legislated equal rights for its LGBTQ citizens in all aspects of our lives. In essence, the ridiculously high taxes most residents here view as an unjust burden, I view as “protection money” so to speak, like one would pay to mobsters or prison gangs—money that I shouldn’t have to part with, but if I want the dignity to live and work safely and in true freedom, money I must pay.

So to anyone who still thinks presidents and politicians have no say in Americans’ civil rights, let me remind you once again that they do. Had Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell not obstructed President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be quite so riddled with anxiety right now awaiting my fate as it now rests in a majority of justices whose ideological beliefs mirror the conservative anti-LGBTQ values that continue to oppress us. 

I have to admit that it requires more mental energy than I care to expend to process living in a country where my access to equal protection under the law has to be voted on every few years. The angst is worse than trying to choose the quickest checkout lane in a grocery store during the busiest time of day. But at least if I pick the wrong lane, the worst thing that can happen is my rotisserie chicken won’t be as warm as I’m hoping when I get it home.

Get it while it’s hot!

If the Supreme Court chooses the wrong lane on this issue, I won’t ever bring home a warm rotisserie chicken again. As I count down to their decision on October 8th, I can’t help contemplating how I will feel should they rule in favor of discrimination instead of equality. How shitty will it be if I’m condemned to live the rest of my life in a state I may not choose to because in over half of all the other states, I’ll still be regarded as a second-class citizen?

So from now until October 8th, while you’re getting all curmudgeony that your trip to Shop-Rite now costs you $.30 more, be glad you’re not standing with me in the express lane to inequity. And if you decide that you’re fed up paying all these taxes and want to evacuate the state like a refugee of an economic disaster, be glad your main concern won’t be finding a state where something as insignificant as who you love can cost you your career.

Jean Copeland is a high school English teacher and award-winning lesfic novelist from Connecticut.

Shop her books: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Copeland/e/B00P7YT9DS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

The Anniversary of a Promise 🤞

Twenty-nine years ago today I started a job I didn’t want in a career I wanted even less. I remember the day as if it were yesterday for both the warm, sunny late summer weather outside and for the dark, depressing pall of doom that hovered over me inside the building. I didn’t want to be a receptionist.

At twenty-one, I wanted to be an actress or a screenwriter—my heart knew it, my soul knew it, and my Leo astrological sign knew it best of all. That was my destiny, to embark on a journey of creative exploration through which I could reach the masses, not as a mere computer keyboard-poking paper pusher.

The screenplay I had written a year earlier and a literary agent in Texas had agreed to represent, not surprisingly, was not picked up for production by a Hollywood studio, so after a year under contract, the agency had returned the manuscript to me with their warmest regards. Dejected, bordering on despondent but still living with my parents, I felt obliged to at least try to assimilate like a normally functioning adult in the working world.

And so it was, the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend 1990, I sat down at my new post at the Fuchs Lubricants Co. reception desk, a job handed me by a friend who was headed off to her senior year in college, and tried desperately not to bawl my eyes out. The thought of eight hours a day, five days at week staring at fake plants, 1970s interior décor, and the faces of a bunch of adults with that definitive look of having given up long ago, loomed over me like the Grim Reaper of hopes and dreams.

Seriously? A lesbian working for a company called Fuchs Lubricants?

I don’t remember anything of what was said to me that first day or what I’d said to others, but I remember each syllable of the promise I’d made to myself. “This isn’t forever.” I’d whispered it aloud as I willed my eyes not to pool and dug deep within my self-preservation reserve for something, anything to help me believe it.

But it wasn’t easy.

Life, low self-confidence, and the lowest of expectations anchored me in the job for the next thirteen years. As the years went by, I feared that this was indeed my manifest destiny. My heart never accepted it, but my brain, ever the realist, observed, as each year came and went, the light of the hope of future greatness dimming ever so gradually until it finally went black.

That was about when my life partner at the time rigorously encouraged me to quit my wretched employment and embark on a new journey toward a profession that would bring me at least enough fulfillment that I’d stop coming home each night and making her life miserable with a never-ending litany of job complaints.  

When I reached the stage where even I couldn’t stand myself anymore, I took the dive—quit the security of that full-time position, endured the culture shock of full-time college campus life, and somehow found the self-discipline to do at thirty-three years old what most people were doing at twenty. The end result? I became an English teacher. Huzzah!

Almost exactly fifteen years to the day I’d nearly surrendered all my dreams to a steady paycheck and impressive health benefits package, I’d finally made good on the promise I’d made myself that sad day in 1990.

I was now a high school English teacher…a nervous high school English teacher who needed to get a Master’s degree to keep her full-time position.

Enter the creative writing program at Southern CT State University. Again forced into something I probably never would’ve pursued through my own volition, I opted for the creative writing thesis to avoid having to take two extra classes. During that time, I gave birth to my first “child,” the thesis novella that would become the coming out, coming of age Goldie award-winning lesfic novel, The Revelation of Beatrice Darby.

Biggest, Bestest Surprise Ever!

Now as I observe the twenty-ninth anniversary of the most important promise I’ve ever made, I write this to commune with all those who’ve ever promised something to themselves and have made it happen, are still waiting to make it happen, or have simply never had the inspiration to make a promise to themselves at all. To all of you, I say make the promise, and for fuck’s sake, keep the promise! No matter how long it takes, remember what you wanted, remember what you felt you deserved from this life and scrounge up the fucking the courage, whether you beg, borrow, or steal it, to make it happen.

At age fifty, am I the rich, famous writer I’d fantasized about being as a kid? Fuck no. But I’m living my best life, and I make no apologies and harbor no regrets.

I teach, I write, and I live. What more can I ask of this crazy, messy cluster fuck of an existence than to be free enough to allow myself permission to feel satisfied with myself and my life at the end of each day?

Shop Jean’s novels at:

https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Copeland/e/B00P7YT9DS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

50 Years of F*cknuttery: What it Took Me Half a Century to Learn

Now that AARP has seduced me into its cult of early-bird specials and discounted movie passes, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the past fifty years of life in this kooky world and share my musings with you all.

As we know, the ideal beginning for young people includes following a linear course in life, aspiring to make wise choices that will guide them down the path of least resistance. And then there was me. I was the one always veering off the road into ditches or getting stuck in the vortex of those vexing rotary circles at every opportunity.

At 16, little did I know that I was gathering up a cache of fucks that would haunt me for the next 25 years.

Robert Frost suggested that taking the road less traveled made all the difference. However, at times I’ve posited that the reason the road was less traveled in the first place was because most people were smart enough to avoid it. It’s overgrown and littered with the fuckery of such things like incompetent people rising to the top and the exasperating inanity of perpetually picking the slowest line in the store or the lane of traffic zipping along only to grind to a halt the moment I switch into it.

No matter what I did, it seemed I was destined to do it ass-backwards. Even my early educational path was obstructed with dubious choices. Later when I got my shit together, I’d think, dammit, if I knew then what I know now I would’ve installed myself in an all-girl college and joined the field hockey team. But nope. By the time I realized I wanted to finish my college degree, I was almost old enough to play the Rodney Dangerfield role in Back to School. Yes, I eventually earned my master’s degree, but what had I missed out on taking such a divergent path? A big lez-fest of sorority house pillow fights in our bras and panties? Or was that just lesbian pulp fiction wishful thinking?  

Missed opportunities in Sapphic experimentation aside, by the time I’d turned 40, my “happily ever after” long-term relationship had ended and my life had become a cliché in desperate need of a total reboot. Ironically, the evil empire that is Facebook would be my deliverance, and I would never again doubt the power of female friendships, both old and new, in enhancing the enchantment of life’s journey.  

Now as I turn 50 (insert Sally O’Malley impression here), I feel like I’ve finally learned the most practical and beneficial of life lessons. I’ve come to realize that every time I gave a fuck about the minutia in life that won’t matter a year, a month, or a week from now, I was giving away a piece of my joy. Recently inspired by the self-help idea Du jour of “decluttering,” this year I decided to declutter my vast collection of fucks to free up space for more joy. Yes, when I’d used up the last fuck on something like feeling the need to apologize simply for being me, I vowed that once my fuck reserve had been depleted, I would not restock. 

When I say I’ve defucked my life, I’m not talking about the simple daily fucks one needs to give as a member of a civilized society so we’re not banished to the colonies—things like caring about my career, my loved ones’ and my health, and recycling so that I’m not part of the army of douchebags who continue to leave their toxic footprint on the necks of our future generations. I’m talking about the big, festering, self-defeating fucks we store up and then expel in the form of crippling guilt and anxieties. Women worry much more than men that on any given day we’re failing everyone around us or that we’re not measuring up to some ridiculous, idealized expectation society uses to oppress us. Then we allow those fucks to sit there on our shoulders, weighing us down, stiffening our backs, and upsetting our stomachs. Those are the fucks from which I have resolved to divest myself.

For some reason Millennials have been able to figure this out with their “Imma do me” mantra that often irritates the shit out of elders around them. Maybe what we are so annoyed with is that these young’uns have reached this level of clarity a lot sooner than we have and thus, will enjoy many more years of living their best lives. 

But now I’m sounding like the fuck of bitterness has perched itself on my shoulder. So do you know what I’m going to do? Flick that fuck right off me and remind myself of my own mantra, “what is.” That’s the tricky part. When the fucks land on you, you can’t allow them to roost. You must be mindful to shoo them away like a horsefly at the beach the minute they alight on you, trusting in your new fuck-free existence.

Now that I am further out than in, I approach all things with a hearty helping of perspective. While I’ve not yet entered that Zen zone of total enlightenment and still drink too much craft beer and laugh too hard when someone farts, I know that I’m doing the best that I can. Some days it will be enough and some days it won’t. But rest assured that even on my worst days, I’ll disperse no further fucks against myself.

I don’t give away my power to anyone or anything anymore. I’ve been through enough to know that no matter how bad it is, we all find our own ways to cope and press on with our lives. I’ve been luckier than some in this world and others have been luckier than me. But that’s how the fucks crumble. And if I can convince myself that I possess the power to make it rain on a beach day or ground the airplane that was supposed to carry my high school friends and me to Vegas, then I know that I also have the power to live in peace and find and accept joy in all its forms.

Going fuck-free is the best 50th birthday present I could’ve given myself.

Jean Copeland is an award-winning author of several lesbian fiction novels. For more info, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Copeland/e/B00P7YT9DS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share