My Queen is Not Okay With This

She has been roiling about it since the news dropped on Thursday: Juneteenth is now a federal holiday.

“So white people get a day off? White people are gonna be throwing Juneteenth barbecues now?” she steams over and over, to me in our apartment, on the phone, on social media. “When we were kids the cops used to bust up the Juneteenth parties. White people didn’t even know about it. They just called the cops on us.”

She’s right, of course. I support her, agree with her, but don’t know how to meet her in her rage.

“White people need to spend Juneteenth in an all-day anti-Racist seminar. Let this be Juneteenth for us, and Juneteenth Awareness Day for the rest of America.”

I want to stand up and applaud her at that. She is brilliant and wise and crackling with power. She is witnessing the days leading up to a Black celebration, co-opted. Gone away to white America. This year marks the first time. The inauguration of the shift.


When the day arrives, she sleeps through half of it. I’m not sure how to greet her when she wakes. “Happy Juneteenth,” I say, holding back a tumble of regrets. In the pause before she answers, I swallowing down a litany of weak disclaimers: I’m sorry they, I’m sorry we, stole this one from you too. I’m sorry nothing’s changed. I’m sorry for the vultures who come, and come again to feed on the creativity of Black America. Sorry that I’m, sorry if I’m, sorry to be one of them. “Happy Juneteenth,” she answers, before I crack into saying some stupid shit and ruining the first moment of a day that should be hers to celebrate, not mourn. A day that can never be the same again.

We live in a stark-white town. Most of the Black community that she once had here have moved away for good, or are living elsewhere temporarily as long as work remains remote. We are far away from family. There are no barbecue invitations.

She spends the day alone. “I’m luxuriating with the ancestors,” she tells me before folding herself away into a sequence of yoga and journaling and revising the blurbs on her vision board.

And as for me, well– I can claim no righteousness for my first Juneteenth Awareness Day. I do not spend the day educating myself about racism. Instead I bike around the town, thinking. Somewhere in the most rural reaches of this small, white town I smell barbecue, and cannabis burning. They are having cookouts. White people are having Juneteenth cookouts. She was right. She always is.


She’s on the phone with her favorite cousin when I get back in, sharing a libation over video chat. After blowing my kisses into the phone and wishing her Happy Juneteenth, I settle in out of frame and they pick up where they were.

My wife says, “It’s going to go the way of Saint Patrick’s Day. Of Pride. We didn’t ask for this.”

“They just Americanize it,” her cousin answers. “Same as this country does with everything. Think about it. How many people even know what Cinco de Mayo is about? But every year, out come the sombreros and the Mexican beer… That’s what this country does. Turns a profit off of everything.”

She goes on, picking up steam. “They knew they had to give us something. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has not been passed. Our voting rights are slipping away. So they give us Juneteenth off and they think, maybe this will shut them up for a while.”

“But it won’t,” says my wife.

“No, it won’t,” her cousin continues. “We won’t shut up. We never will. And as for Juneteenth going mainstream– if it makes more white people aware of the truth about this country, then I say it’s a good thing. Because they need to think about their ancestors, too. To think about what their ancestors created. People are so ignorant. They’ll try to re-write history. But America needs to remember what it is capable of.”

My wife sighs. “I guess you’re right. I’m just grieving it, is all.”


Reader, I have no answers I can offer to anyone for any of this. There is nothing I can say that should guide any white American to anywhere the mind can rest. The vertigo of my discomfort tips and spirals and swells. By next year it will likely be even worse.

Darkness comes. At the window, I look out over the pristine loveliness of the small, white town that daily finds new ways to alienate this woman, this regal spirit who I’m lucky enough to get to love.

“Happy first Juneteenth, non-Black America,” I whisper. “May we spend it well.”


Photo by Askar Abayev from Pexels

Pure and Fleeting

Lean your forehead
into mine. Encircle
me in arms and snare
one fist at the nape 
of my neck.
Then,

scream. Unleash
a window-cracking
pterodactyl screech
right in my face as you 
spew a gutload of hot,
curdled breastmilk
down my shirt. 
Then,

smile. Throw your gums
wide open to display 
the milk-chunks
clinging to your 
tongue. 

Rip that fistful of hair 
from the base of my scalp 
as your laugh 
breaks over me.
Ouch! Fuck!
Little angel– 
no one else
can love me 
like you do. 

Shabbat Shalom, y’all. 😁

For Couples Who Are Opening Up

We meet them at a dance party in Provincetown, in between the hoards of boys, boys boys– a lesbian couple. Val and Rachel. 31 and 25, respectively. Absurdly cute, and here for the weekend.

Standing with Val, I watch as Rachel shimmies away into the dance floor. She’s following Blaire, another queer cutie who introduced herself to the group of us with hugs and exclamations of excitement. “I turned 21 during the pandemic so this is all new to me!” she’d gushed, before bobbing away into the bumping crowd.

Rachel soon returns alone, leaving Blaire to gyrate happily with the party boys. I take the opportunity to sate my curiosity. Casually, I ask them,

“So, I take it you two are open?”

The pair exchange a sweet, secretive grin. Without breaking the eye contact between them, they respond in two voices, still grinning:

“It’s been a conversation.”

Clearly, whatever conversation they’ve been having lately has them both excited. For many couples– for my wife and I, when we were younger– talking about opening up is a torment, an ongoing fight. It’s a pleasure to see them emanating joy as they confess their fledgling secret to two strangers.

When we divulge our own truth, that we’ve been actively poly for some years now, their eyes spark with intrigue.

“What advice do you have?” Val asks. “What are your top three tips for couples like us?”

My wife ducks behind her drink, tipping her head in my direction with a bemused smirk. “All you babe. You start.”

I pause, thinking. I want to offer something they won’t hear, won’t read anywhere else. Some nuggets of wisdom that one could only find along our strange path.

Here’s what I came up with.


1. Keep track of energy– where it moves and how it flows.

You are likely, in your poly journey, to take up relationships with other polyamorous people. That can mean getting involved with people who are nurturing other relationships, building families, negotiating the terms of commitments and marriages.

It can mean exposing yourself to other people’s mess.

In any dating paradigm, people are exchanging energy and impacting one another even outside of the time they spend together. But now that you’re thinking about dating while simultaneously co-creating a stable partnership, you’ve got more than your own energy to think about, and more than your own well-being to protect. Your new lover may thrill you, may fulfill you, but if they also drain your emotional resources and tamper with your mood, your left with that much less resource and that crappy mood to share with your partner.

Be on the lookout for a lover who is willing to share their disappointments about another relationship or partner. If on the second or third date your new love interest begins lamenting that her husband just doesn’t understand her, just doesn’t listen to her the way you do, find the nearest emergency exit and plan a route.

2. Love moves at its own pace.

It’s common to try to control the speed at which feelings and connections develop. But is it ever successful?

Not in my experience. I’ve never seen someone develop a crush more gradually in order to accommodate their partner. Think about it– it’s pretty impossible to control the pace of development of your own romantic feelings, let alone someone else’s. Have you ever successfully talked yourself down from an ill-advised crush, or convinced your heart not to get so excited about your newest prospect?

Attempts to control the development of someone else’s emotions or connections are a recipe for anguish, for yourself and for your partner.

If you are not ready to coexist with your partners new feels, then it’s time to get to work on your own jealousy. Look to your partner for support in the gut-wrenching labor of self-work. Voice your insecurities, seek reassurance– but if you ask your partner to stick to kissing their new sweetie until you’re ready for them to have sex, or to put off falling in love until you’ve wrapped your head around the concept, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

“You’re really just asking her to lie to you,” adds my wife.

She would know.

3. You are accountable to your other lovers, not just each other.

As a member of a couple, you are operating from a position of power on the dating scene.

It’s natural to focus first on yourself and your partner. You don’t want to hurt the person you love most. Sometimes, that means you just have to sideline someone else who you’re talking to, because your relationship comes first.

The only problem with that is that you’re being a dick.

Everyone else who you encounter has feelings and needs, just like you, and just like your partner. You might not be able to prioritize anyone’s needs over yours and your beloved’s, but you don’t get to disregard those other people’s needs, either.

Be aware of your impact, on your own love interests and on your partner’s. Say you change your mind about opening up, and you demand a return to monogamy just as your partner is embarking on a new romance. Now there’s a third person in the mix to consider. Should your insecurities spell that person’s broken heart?

Anyone who shares their time, their body, and their love with you deserves your gentleness. They deserve clear and honest communication around desires, expectations, availability. They deserve to be treated as a whole person, not as an experiment or a practice space for your pre-established relationship.

So, get out there and love freely. Share yourself with the world, unburdened by the conventional constraints of couplehood.

Just try not to be a dick about it.

Do you agree with my advice? What other tips would you offer to couples who are opening up?

Photo by Tim Douglas from Pexels

Slamming on the Brakes at Our Intersection

This conversation is becoming a weekly ritual. Next month she turns thirty. I’ll be close behind. And we still can’t seem to make up our minds:

Do we want kids?

We trudge through the usual debate points and musings. “We’ll have to eat dinner at 5:30.” “We’ll be broke. We’ve barely got the money for the sperm.” “If we don’t, who will take care of us when we’re old?”

Then, suddenly, she calls up a different kind of trepidation. Says,

“You think I’ll make them hate being Jewish.”

Screeeech! Hit the brakes. Where did that come from?

“Baby,” I say. “No I don’t. You’ll be a wonderful Mom to Jewish kids. You already know the most important blessings…”

“No. I won’t be.” She pauses, considering something. “Maybe it’s just… it’s them having an identity that I won’t have. It’s too much. Being Black is hard enough, but Black AND Jewish… It’s a scary intersection.”

I blink. “It’s our intersection.”

She nods, slowly. “Yeah.”

She’s got a point. Would we be cursing our future children by deciding to have them? Is it fair, to put challenges onto our children that neither of us have faced ourselves?


On the coffee table in front of us a copy of The Color of Water by James McBride lies open, near its end. I have almost finished reading McBride’s telling of his mother’s story, in which she flees from her Orthodox Jewish family, marries a Black man, and raises twelve Black children. She overcomes the divide between the two communities that hold her life by destroying the Jew in herself, and never looking back. She changes her name, comes to Jesus, starts a church.

In my own family, I see the same pattern reflected. My eldest auntie married a Black man in the 1960’s and faced the rejection of her family and community for years. Though she never converted to a different religion, though she reconnected with my grandparents before I was born, she did not raise her son Jewish.

I remember my shock when I overheard her on the phone with her grown son in the week leading up to Rosh Hashana, explaining to him, “We eat apples and honey to celebrate a sweet new year.” My forty-year-old cousin didn’t know this simple tradition that was second nature to me by preschool?

One generation later, my aunt sends me pictures of her grandson lighting a menorah for Chanukah and reading picture books with Jewish themes. She is teaching him to take pride in his Jewish roots, and to understand that the history of the Jewish people is his history, too. But embracing one’s Jewish ancestry is not the same as being Jewish. I don’t know how my little cousin will identify as he grows. Will our traditions become his?

My wife and I have long since decided that, should we have children, we will raise them Jewish. They will be Black, of course. That part will most likely be determined by phenotype; it was never a subject of debate. We will raise our babies to be proud of their Blackness, to celebrate their heritage as descendants of the African diaspora. So why, I used to argue in the earlier days of our commitment, should the children we bring up together reflect her culture, her people, and not mine? Over time, she relented. It was a decision we reached before we married, and a condition of the marriage itself.

Our children will be free to reject Judaism if it does not suit them. Up to 70% of Jewish kids outside of the Orthodox community choose not to live a Jewish life when they grow up. And our babies will have more reason to reject the religion than does the average Jew. A wide majority Jewish communities in the US are white-dominated, and they harbor the same diseases as other white enclaves. It is unfortunately likely that the congregants of the synagogue where we enroll our children in Hebrew School will alienate them with racist comments, harassing them with questions like “how are you Jewish?” and “are you adopted?” Maybe our kids will want out of all Jewish spaces by the time they reach B’nai Mitzvah age at around 12, going through the sacred rite of passage into Jewish adulthood only if we force them, and withdrawing from the community immediately after.

And on the other side, how will their Black cousins and friends who are not Jewish shape their views of themselves? Will the same ugly conspiracies that have led me into tearful fights with my inlaws worm their way into my babies’ ears? Who will be the first to tell them that the Nazi Holocaust is a big lie, that their white mother is not a real Jew, that white Jews stole the religion from its Black rightful owners? Will it be family, a cousin they look up to? If those conspiracies don’t erode their sense of connection to their Jewishness, it may be that their Catholic elders will convince them that they are bound for hell until they come to Jesus.

None of these outcomes would surprise me. And there’s not a lot my wife or I could do to prevent them, or to protect our future children from the bone-deep confusion of belonging to two communities and feeling out-of-place in both– not a lot, beyond deciding not to have children at all.


For tonight, we run out of steam for the debate. She heads to bed, and I flop onto the couch to finish The Color of Water. In an afterward included for the 10th anniversary edition, McBride reflects on his family’s story with these words that feel uncannily apt, tonight:

I have met hundreds of mixed-race people of all types, and I’m happy to report that– guess what, folks– they’re happy, normal people! They’re finding a way. … The plain truth is that you’d have an easier time standing in the middle of the Mississippi River and requesting that it flow backward than to expect people of different races and backgrounds to stop loving each other, stop marrying each other, stop starting families, stop enjoying the dreams that love inspires. Love is unstoppable. It is our greatest weapon, a natural force, created by God.

James McBride, The Color of Water

I want to wake her. To rush into her quiet, shake her, tell her, “See! We won’t be failing our children by raising them. Our children can proud of who they are.”

“We will raise them in love and safety,” I want to tell her. “They’ll know a struggle that’s familiar to neither of us, it’s true. But they will know a peaceful home– they’ll know joy and healthiness that was also unfamiliar to us. We made it through our childhood hurts. They’ll make it through theirs, too.”

“Our children, our Black and Jewish children, if we have them, are gonna be okay.”

Instead, I resolve to show her in the morning. I tuck myself beside her, press my skin against her back, and join her sleep.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Shalom Bayit

You enter your bedroom.

It is dark, and I

am inside, singing

swaying with 

your infant son

against my chest. I 

am ten years 

younger 

than your wife 

and my voice is soft

and lullabye-pretty.

.

You move quickly 

into and out. I

turn my back, eyes

latching on the eyelids

drooping in my arms.

.

I mean you no harm 

and you mean me no harm. 

You take your shirt, 

go, and I continue, 

rocking in the dark room, 

singing.

.

(Shalom Bayit is a Jewish value. It translates to “peace in the home”, and describes familial wholeness and healthy connection in a marriage.)

If She Found Me

If she found me and approached me, asking, demanding, I wouldn’t deny it.

I would say:

Sister, you are right. I have wronged you.

Sister, you deserve the truth.

I have been eating bread out of your mouth. I have been stealing from you in a hundred different currencies– in labor-time, attention, emotion, kisses, sweat. He’s your man. All of his resources belong, rightly, to you.

You deserved none of the harm that I’ve done you. Sister, you are blameless.

If she stuck around long enough to hear it, I would tell her: of course he does not love me. You are the only woman he has ever loved.

And if she were looking for specifics, wanted to know how I came upon her man, I would tell her: see the latest indictment of a sitting member of the US House of Representatives for the web address.

Soon she’d have her fill of confirmation. Ready to take her leave of me, she’d wipe the filth of me forever from her hands, and I would tell her:

I am gone from your house, now. This, here, between you and me, is the final exchange.

And.

If she found me, I would swallow back everything I wouldn’t say. I’d withhold some of the finer points, like:

I am gone, but there will be another to replace me. He’ll apologize, he’ll weep, he’ll immolate himself before your feet, promising to change. He might even take a month or two away from seeking. He may truly want to be, for you, a better man.

Did I mention that he loves you? He loves you. He does not relish hurting you. But.

But.

The compulsion in him will not die. I do not take it with me when I walk away.

He’ll fight against it for a while. He does want to be a better man.

But sister, he isn’t a better man.

The need in him is absolute, consuming. It will rise again to devour every other concern in its path. Why else would he have done this to you in the first place? He does not relish hurting you. He loves you.

I won’t tell her that the next girl, and the next girl, and the next won’t care a lick about him, or about her. They’ll show up for the money, and they’ll grit their teeth through every hotel encounter.

Sister, do you prefer it that way? I won’t ask.

If she ever found me, I would eat her hatred and wish her peace of mind, hoping that she’d never find out about the next girl, or the next, or the next.

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

To Love With Impunity

On my second night babysitting, the youngest of the three wraps herself around my leg and stares up at me with a jack-o-lantern grin.

“I love you,” she says, eyes huge and fixed on mine.

I smile back, but am surprised to find myself uncomfortable at the toddler’s love-declaration. I’m not ready for this yet.

“I’m glad to be here,” I tell her. She goes on grinning and staring, too little to feel any sting.

My intellect knows that she is right. Love is the default state for humans in proximity. We don’t need to know each other well to love one another. Young as she is, she understands this implicitly. She loves freely, with no thought towards protecting her heart. Time and maturity will take this from her, just as it does from all of us. As we grow we deaden our instinct to love automatically, transforming love into a formal exchange between committed parties– family members, the truest of friends, romantic partners who have put in some requisite number of months together.

But we had it right, were wiser when we were tiny children. Before we learned to defend our spirits’ connection sites, we understood that love bonds could be transient. That the giving and receiving of love was no weighty milestone. A one-time babysitter, the new kid in preschool, a puppy walking down the street– each of us once understood the joy of instant and simple connection, and offered it freely and widely to anyone who made us feel good.

But grown folks will do what grown folks do. Confronted with this child’s wise and open heart, I refuse to meet her in simplicity. Some part of me reads an imaginary contract in her words, her eyes, her smile, and rejects her instinct to trust.

I have spent a lifetime learning how to complicate the simple.

Is it too late, now, to uncomplicate it?

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

Pleasure to Meet You. Nice House!

What you need around here is what I offer.

I’m that little bit of extra that you need to keep your house from falling down. That spare morsel of energy, time, attention, care that you otherwise can’t muster. I am work, beyond what fits into one day for one woman. I’m your teammate, making it possible.

I’m a workday if you need one, a night out if you can spare one on occasion. I am the peace of mind that allows you to walk away from your children, knowing you’ve secured the love they need to make it through the day.

But if I’m not the structure of your days, I’m a shadow here. I do my work in secret. I cast soft eyes over your husband in a nearby hotel and send him home, those needs, for the moment, quieted.

You know me, or you don’t. Either way, I’m holding up parts around here. I’m taking the ends that don’t meet, and meeting them.

If you know my name, you trust me utterly. I’ve got your baby in my arms and your house key in my pocket. You exhale relief when I arrive, on time, on your stoop every morning. You feel safe when I’m here, like nothing is especially likely to go wrong.

And if you don’t know me, well… I’ve suspected for a while now that you at least know about me. Or at least, that some part of you does. That’s not to say that you know about me, per se. Just that you know that he’s got somebody. That he’s been entertaining a passing band of somebodies for years now. You’re smart. You know when you’re not alone in a room.

If you’ve ever heard my name, then you’ve heard your children screech it at the window glass in the middle of breakfast every weekday.

If you haven’t, I may or may not know yours, depending on how reckless your husband is. I never ask, but some spill eager with the facts of who they are. For the careful ones, I’ll address my love to a pseudonym, no matter how many years we spend getting together.

I only offer one service per family. If I care for your kids I won’t fuck your husband. If you trust me, you are right to trust me. And if you would hate me if you ever met me– well, you’d probably be right about that, too.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels