Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Love = Love = Love

Math has never been my thing. I have never liked math. I have never really understood math. I know how to take an additional 20% off a shirt that’s already 15% off and that’s pretty much all I need. Ironically, I come from a family of mathematicians—math majors, accountants, actuaries—you name it, we’ve got them.

My brother comes home with perfect scores in math, and receives copious amounts of praise, bragging rights to the rest of the family, and maybe even a test attached with a magnet to the refrigerator door. I excel at writing, and get, well, pretty much nothing. Or, even better, “Why can’t you ever write anything normal?” Because normal is what it’s all about. Math is normal. There’s always a right answer. Right answers are normal. 1+1 = 2. That’s it. End of discussion. Normal.

However, despite my lack of mathematical skills, I am still able to see one equation that does not seem to make sense in my mother’s head:

Lesbian ≠ Butch ≠ Transgender

You think a person with high math degrees could figure this out better than one who is struggling in her first AP math class. But so it goes…

Sit on the couch with your best friend. Watch the “I am Smith” video. Eat sorbet out of a frozen pineapple. Invite your mother in to see the nice Jewish girl on the screen, a cute curly haired Israel activist who plans to dedicate her life to community service. G-d forbid. But none of this matters to mother because:

a) All women’s schools = all lesbian schools (if you are not into women already, you will be…)
b) Students at all women’s colleges = LUGs (let’s not get into this…)
c) This girl’s name happens to be a boy’s name as well, so therefore, this girl is transgender

Maybe it is my mathematical deficit that forbids me from reaching these astonishingly accurate conclusions. Perhaps it is not. I can conclude however:

Ignorance ≠ Stupidity

I give her credit; she’s a very intelligent woman. It is so much easier to hate what you do not understand than to learn about it, consider it. It is infinitely more effortless to draw up false equations with fictitious solutions than try to find the real ones. It’s forever frustrating to me that any logical point I try to make is completely disregarded.

“Mom, that makes no sense.”
“Remember when we visited Northampton—they were all transgendered!”
“I’m pretty sure most of them weren’t”
“All these girls were wearing (gasp) boys’ clothes.”
“Well, they probably weren’t transgendered, they were just butch or whatever you want to call them.” (Not that I advocate categorizing anyone, but for the sake of the conversation…)
“Well, how do you know what they had going on DOWN THERE?”
“Because a lot of women just dress that way. It’s not a big deal.”
“It is a big deal. They are getting sex changes. It’s very common over there.”
Etc. Etc. Etc. Lesbian = Butch = Transgender= Bad, Really Bad
“Ok mom, enough.”

And that’s where the non-math people come in. We have to do our best to try not to reduce the world to these silly equations which make absolutely no sense. People are not numbers, not figures that can be substituted in algebraically and solved for a single correct answer. World peace cannot be solved on a calculator. Friendship is not a derivative of imaginary numbers. Love is not measured on an X and Y axis.

So as I go off to study for AP stats, I try to take a long deep breath, remember that there is always tomorrow: a day farther away from yesterday’s equations, a day with new solutions, new probabilities, and most importantly, new questions.


Julie said...

Wow...Mel, this is really good writing--if it were up to me, and/or I had a magnetic refrigerator, you'd better believe your stuff would be up there!
Love you!

Anna said...

Hey Mel! Love the blog! Very 7th grade of you...
I think that by categorizing people by "math" and "non-math" you are contradicting yourself. You wrote that you don't "advocate categorizing anyone," yet the spark for your argument is that your mother is a math person and you are a writing person.
Also, you need to take into account that there are plenty of variations of people with different amounts of skills. My sister, for instance, is a statistics major and also a religion major which consists of many philosophy classes. She is happy taking them and succeeds in both types of classes. She is not ignorant and she doesn't like being around people who are.
Maybe it's just the way your parents have been raised. They both had pretty conservative backgrounds and the topics that you write about (homosexuality and gender transformation) are very easily misunderstood and are touchy subjects.
Keep on blogging! This is my new obsession! Congratulations, you have temporarily replaced Barbra.
i love you

Anonymous said...

I am responging to YOU and your wonderful post. And since I was present at this cafuffle, I belive I can truly say that you interpretted the situation very nicely. Melissa=future best seller
love, the bestie from the couch