When 31 isn’t cool…

Being a big sister has been rewarding in many ways, but mostly I was different than all the other sisters in the world; I was cool.   In college my brother proclaimed, “I’m going to live wherever you live when I get older, sissy.”  His loyalty ballooned my heart and helped me catch my breath in various stages of my life.  There was always this little guy that thought I was the coolest person in the world.  When my bruised ego pushed my shoulders to the ground, there he was–I was cool.  When I felt I couldn’t love anymore, there he was–someone I truly loved. 

While I did the college thing at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK, my little brother tagged along a couple weekends as I visited the local hangouts.  When I lived in Dallas, Texas during my Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out phase, he was sent to stay with me and get me out of the Tie Dye.  After fame and fortune left me like a one-night stand, he came out to New York City to let me know that I was a star in his world.  There hasn’t been a place I’ve lived that my brother Blake hasn’t visited. 

This visit was different and as my place in life had solidified over the past few years,  his was changing in every way every single day–adolescence.  In fact, for the first time in his life I wasn’t cool.  I suppose I thought I would always be the cool big sister and never that old fart that referred to his uber bass levels as too loud or the uncool old hag that couldn’t point out cool truck rims from regular ones.  Even working at MTV wasn’t cutting it in his world since ‘MTV hadn’t been cool in over a decade’  and Maplewood, NJ was a suburbia he didn’t think he could live.  For the first time in my life I had moved from an era of cool into 31 is not cool.

As he walked out the door this morning from my New Jersey Colonial  to head back to Oklahoma after a visit to my first laying of roots, I knew our dynamic had shifted.  No longer would life send my little brother to check on me and lift me up, but rather I would be sent into his to return the favor. 

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The People of The United States of discrimiNATION

As a child, I had no experience with discrimination so therefore I did not have any prejudices (other than food).  Around the age of five or six while vacationing with my family in Truckee, California, I saw my first transgendered person.  I was playing on a pile of lumber (yes, my parents let me play in a lumber pile which is more dangerous than the hello I shared with the transgendered stranger) and a deep orange VW bus putted along the back road as the passenger took in the breathtaking scenery that the Truckee River offers.  I was immersed in my own world of play as the Doppler Shift of the hippie music pulled me out.  I turned around to see the passenger’s hand making hand waves out the window as the VW bus inched closer to my makeshift playland.  The Dr. Frank-N-Furter looking person watched me watching him with a curiosity that was frightening.  As his/her face softened into a loving smile, my scared feeling faded into a safe smile and I turned to run into the house.

Initially, I was afraid of the stranger because he/she was different and I didn’t know why he/she looked like that.  As the hippie music moved closer and I saw my first transgendered person, I can’t say I innately had any prejudices other than why is this person different looking?  With my own experience, THAT moment was a defining moment of whether or not I would be a product of my environment and carry on a legacy of discrimination because my experience was a smile and a ‘Hello little one’ out the window.  My experience wasn’t hate-filled, but it certainly was one I had never experienced before.

My mom told me that just because someone is different from me doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same things I feel.  I asked but why did the boy look like a girl.  She told me that sometimes people have to figure out who they are in life.  In a defining moment, my mother asked me if the transgendered person scared me.

“Yes, mom.”

“Why?” She asked.

“Because he wasn’t like us,” My sponge-like brain awaited answers.

“Did he do something to hurt you?” She hugged me.

“No.”

“So then why are you scared?” She continued.

I thought of his different face and how his soul beamed through his eyes as he looked at my fear dead on and with a caring heart smiled a warm smile at the little girl in shock.

“He smiled at me.”  I answered.

“So even though he was different he was a nice person, a good person maybe?”

I thought for a moment and replayed it in my head, “yep, he was nice.”

There is a moment like that in every one of our lives; a moment that shapes our perception.  Truth be told, I later found in life I was the one different and having been on both ends of the potential discrimination table I can tell you that discrimination is inherited.

I feel very fortunate that my mother, A TRUE CHRISTIAN, had an infinitely open heart to teach mine to be just as open and is currently teaching my little brothers the same.   Many parents are not like her and hand down discrimination to their children  and so on and so forth.  I told you this story because deep down somewhere you too have a moment like the above and if we can educate children about the facts of discrimination and stop spreading it, the world will be one big open heart.

Please read these facts and then join our fight for equality.

DFNF

Family versus Family

 

About eight years ago I moved to New York from my native land, Oklahoma.  I had spent a good twenty-three years surrounded by my family and their incessant wonderment of my future.

 

“Got any boyfriends,” Uncle Thed would badger me.

 

“No.”
 

 

“Well, got any girlfriends then,” He just wanted an answer.

 

“I got nothing.”

 

“You going to use your college degree or be a hippie forever,” Aunt Glenda joined.

 

“If it all works out, both,” I knew this wasn’t the end of it.

 

“Do you really think that little band of yours will amount to anything,” My grandmother worried.

 

“Yep, otherwise I wouldn’t be going to New York, Granny.”

 

Within minutes the conversation jumped into the latest gossip about some poor soul in our two-hundred folk town.  I know most people long to be known like the theme song to Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name,” but all I wanted to was to be somewhere that not one single soul knew my damn name.  I needed to breathe for a minute and figure out who I was without everyone else projecting it onto me or reminding me where I came from. 

 

Fast-forward eight years and in taking on a new last name, I also inherited an additional family that is ten times larger than my own immediate family.  Theoretically, my wife and I could have plans every single day of the week if each one of her siblings decided to have a dinner.  The only difference between this is that the back-catalogue of my greatest hits and the infinite collection of tear-in-my-beer songs aren’t carried in the in-law format so excuses like “I have to write because an agent wants my manuscript” are just irrelevant eight-track excuses. 

 

I could write books-upon-books (pun intended) on Alisa Ben, but Alisa Olander really is the forever hippie weaving in and out of responsibilities that amount to a whole lot.

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