Let Them Talk

Today’s guest post comes from Steve.

When my daughter graduated from college with no job prospects, she decided that living in a nice place could be a good a start on her new life. The job would come in time. A college friend, Jessie, had parents in Portland who bought a brand new apartment for Jessie in a nice neighborhood. If Molly could pay her share of the rent, which was quite affordable, the two young women would not need to settle for one of those falling-apart roach-infested apartments that are so much fun to talk about twenty years later. They took the deal.

Things went reasonably well. The two young women dealt with the usual roommate annoyances for three years. Then Jessie announced she was fed up with cohabitation and wanted her own apartment. Molly wasn’t sorry. Jess was more self-centered than a “Seinfeld” character.

Molly helped Jessie lug her heavy stuff into the moving van. A surprise visitor during this process was Louise. Louise was the neighbor who was forever complaining about little neighborhood housing code violations. If someone left a car on the street three days without moving it, Louise was sure to call and complain. If someone failed to observe recycling protocols strictly, Louise would blow the whistle on them. Louise was the neighborhood snoop and the outspoken voice of its conscience. She had fierce opinions about right and wrong, and she wasn’t shy about expressing them.

Molly was sweating like a pig as she wrestled Jessie’s dresser into the van while Louise watched. Louise cooed, “We are all SO sorry to lose you and Jessie!” Molly decided to pretend she believed that. Then Louise added, “We all thought you and Jessie were such a cute couple!”

Molly groaned inwardly. Louise (and she probably wasn’t the only one) had decided that two pudgy single women living together with no boyfriends hanging about were a lesbian couple. Molly felt insulted by that, although that was embarrassing to her since she has nothing against lesbians. And after all, what could she say? “Aww, hell!” thought Molly, “It’s just Louise!”

What Molly finally did say was, “Well, I guess there comes a time when you have to recognize that the end has come to something, even something nice.”

Jessie moved. Molly, who could not afford the whole rent herself, moved into a new apartment.

Molly got her romantic hopes up when, months later, a new young man came to work at her firm. Brian was as gorgeous as a male model. “He’s so handsome,” Molly thought, “he has to be gay!” And, alas, he was. Brian was the gayest man she had ever met.

That didn’t prevent a great friendship. Brian enjoyed Molly’s sense of humor, and she liked his company. He began dropping by her apartment after work and staying overnight. Brian took delight in introducing Molly to some aspects of gay culture in Portland. Brian called Molly his “fag hag.” He said that term referred to a woman who was a trusted friend of a gay man. When he took Molly to a club in a seedy part of town, a club where men danced provocatively and threw off all their clothes, both Brian and Molly had something to watch that appealed to them.

Some people simply do not function before their first cup of coffee in the morning. Early in the morning Brian was comatose, shuffling about like a zombie, incapable of speech. On those occasions when Brian slept on Molly’s sofa, the next morning she would drive them to work, stopping first at the local Starbucks shop.

That was where they were one summer morning. Brian, quite apart from not talking, wasn’t even making much of an effort to stand up. He was draped all over Molly, letting her keep them both upright as they waited in line to place their orders.

And then Molly saw Louise standing a few feet away . . . Louise from her old neighborhood. Louise had a look of utter horror on her face.

”Oh, great!” thought Molly. “Now Louise knows why the cute lesbian couple broke up. She has figured out that Brian is my new boyfriend. Louise has to be thinking that I was cheating on Jessie with this hunky young man, and that caused us to break up. I could explain things to her. I could tell her that Jessie and I are not gay. I could say we were never a couple. I could tell Louise that I wasn’t betraying Jess with Brian because, well, Brian is the gayest man in Portland. I could . . . awww, hell, it’s just Louise!”

Molly waved to Louise but didn’t speak.

Have you ever let a misunderstanding … stand?

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85 thoughts on “Let Them Talk”

    1. I’ve heard that before, Clyde. Since people generally accept gay folks better, it shouldn’t be a terrible thing to be thought gay, and yet I’m sure it is mighty irritating at times.

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  1. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    What a georgous day out there.

    Recently I let a misunderstanding….stand. There was a person, a he person, who wanted to work in my group. We wanted a guy to work for us–we have been all women for years now, and the other guy I had lined up developed some health problems. However, over the time of his probationary contract, it became clear he had issues with women in authority and he misunderstood me and my attitudes towards authority. Then he started talking to other people. About me.

    She (me) must be really rich.
    She must be a ball-buster.
    She must want to run everything.
    She must hate men.

    In the end I did not like him much and I let him go. He assumed all kinds of things about me, about my need for money and power. Although I tried to explain to him that when I started my business, I did not intend for it to get so big, he could not comprehend this or bring himself to see me as a real person.

    And so he met yet another woman with whom he could not work. HMMMM. And in the end I explained no more and let his misunderstanding…stand.

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    1. You’ve mentioned office tensions recently, Jacque, without getting specific. It sounds like a case of “good riddance” on this guy. It has to be complicated for you being both a working therapist and now the manager of a group of complicated personalities.

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      1. It is a role I never expected to have nor did I want. But here am I! The Trail helps a lot just by always “Being There” much like Peter Sellers.

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        1. chancy gardener is exactly who you need. his advice was alway perfect. let your garden grow by watering it and letting the sunshine do its work. words to live by.
          never thought of you as a ball buster before…..

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      2. And I should say that the big issue is that we never get ahead of the demand for what we do and I am always struggling to stay one step behind! While it is a nice problem to have, it remains a problem.

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    2. It took me years to learn to let most office personal information misunderstandings and opinions stand without refutation.
      WP and I have starting last night a misunderstanding about email notifications.

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      1. Yes, WP and I have had several of those lately. It seems to clear up the misunderstanding when I obsessively look at the two check boxes below the reply box that say “Notify me” and chronically uncheck them.

        GRRRRR

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      2. oh clyde. wp needs to let their garden grow and their fertilizer causes problems sometimes but they are trying to be good gardeners. they are just learning that when you plant a seed it may grow in ways you dont expect and require more care than you were prepared for. i like wp.

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  2. Daughter is sometimes approached by older men, sometimes customers at her work, sometimes at other venues, who ask her if she has a boyfriend. She doesn’t perceive their intentions as benevolent. She always says yes, she has a boyfriend, even though that is not the case. I tell her if they are particularly creepy to also add the comment that her father evaluates sex offenders. (That is true). We are off the Bismarck again today. I speak this afternoon for three hours and I can hardly wait for it to be over.

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  3. Like Steve’s daughter and her roommate, my best friend and I have often been mistaken for a couple. We don’t do much to dissuade people from this notion – why should it matter? And we have been known to play on this when the mood and situation suits. We used to go out dancing with a group of acquaintances (who would get quite distraught on our behalf if one showed up without the other), and a young man interested in me apparently asked another friend if Pal and I really were a couple or not (seems he was getting mixed signals, imagine that)…friend very coyly played along and said he should find out for himself. I’m sure a number of folks at the YWCA where we used to work out together thought much the same – especially with the way the treated us while I was pregnant and the horror and confusion on their faces when I showed up with the baby’s father (my husband) after Daughter was in the world…

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    1. I have a friend like that, Anna. It’s a lot of fun. I like that she doesn’t mind any more than I do. You’re right – why should it matter?

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  4. One reason I wrote this blog is that I’m intrigued by the way the issue of gayness has evolved. One of my best friends in college was a fellow who hid being gay from everyone, including his closest friends. He didn’t “come out” until about two decades after we graduated. I felt hurt that he had not trusted me with this secret. He felt hurt because he felt he was isolated from even his best friends because one of the most basic facts of his life had to be kept a secret.

    It is a wonderful thing that people generally accept gayness now, and yet it seems to be a complicating factor in modern life. Many groups–like Jacque’s office or maybe the Music Department of some college–have always had internal splits. The biggest one in the English Department at the U of MN for years was Old Farts versus Young Turks. But there were splits between Liberals and Conservatives, Men and Women, Tenured and Untenured, Republicans and Democrats. Now we can add sexual preference to that list, so that fights at departmental meetings show splits between gay and straight men as well as gay and straight women. As nice as it is that we so often accept differences like this it often feels to me that we keep finding more ways to be different from each other.

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    1. vonneguts clubs concept. you belong to a group and could join like minded club members anywhere in the world and feel at home with a group of like minded and spirited souls.
      my daughter who graduated from college this week was a gay barometer. all the guys she befriended in elementary school turned out to be gay. many of them didnt know and we waited for them to discover it as they went through adolescence. i had a roommate in high school who was gay before i knew what the term meant. it was possible to go through an entire childhood in the 70′s being aware that gay people existed and not knowing enough to put two and two together. gay teachers, gay artists, gay clergy, i knew em when i knew em but i didnt recognize it in people who i grew up around, they were normal. today is a much healthier world with everyone being allowed to feel good about being who they are. there are stigmas in wyoming and elsewhere but i am not too crazy about rednecks so i get the notion that what floats your boat may be a different cup of tea from what floats mine.

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    2. My closeted gay friend from college, Dave, shared a memory with me when we were together. He described a night we sat up together weeping as we played a very emotional Harry Belafonte record, “Love Is a Gentle Thing.” It was a highly sentimental album of lullabies and folk songs. I was crying just because I’m such a sentimental sap, I guess. Dave was crying because the words of one song spoke to his great secret: “I never will marry, never take me a wife. I expect to stay single, all the days of my life.” It is funny how one of the most intimate moments of sharing meant entirely different things to us!

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  5. i told a friend at school once when he asked what my dad did that he worked for the mafia. i dont remember the conversation ( see yesterdays blog) he said for years he thought my dad who was a salesman who worked out of the house was a guy who just did little tasks and looked afte rodd jobs for the godfather. when he asked 10 or 15 years later if my dad really worked for the mafia i said heck no where did you get that idea. man we had a laugh. mickey jones the irish mafia guy, better story than real life.

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  6. Good morning. The first case that I can remember of not clearing up a misunderstanding occurred when I played on the junior varsity basketball team in high school. During the half time of the game the coach gave me credit for making free throw shots in the first half of the game. I heard another player say that he was the one that made those shots and I knew that was right and didn’t say anything.

    I could see that the player who made the shots didn’t think I should get the credit, but he let it drop when I didn’t tell the coach he was the one who made those shots. That is a misunderstanding that I wish I hadn’t let stand. That happen a long time ago and wasn’t a big deal, but somehow I still feel guilty about not clearing up that misunderstanding.

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    1. it says a lot about you that you remember that jim. i think your integrity is intact. just dont ever let it happen again

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  7. Son #2 and I visited Washington DC for a long weekend a few years ago. THREE times while we were there, people made comments indicating that they thought we were husband and wife. (“Would you and your wife like to buy a commemorative cap to support Vietnam vets?”, “Are you and your wife enjoying your stay in Washington”, etc.)
    People have always said I looked young for my age but this was a bit over the top. I was so flattered and knew that they’d be mortified so I just smiled quietly to myself. Then he and I had a laugh once we were out of earshot.

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  8. Two women friends of mine once declared they were lesbians and then later recanted and married men (both marriages doing quite well many decades later). It seems to me that women have that kind of freedom with sexual identity. Not men. A man who announces he is gay probably doesn’t have the freedom to change his mind later, although I don’t know of any gay man who has wanted to do that.

    One of the women I just mentioned, Melinda, was Maid of Honor at my wedding. She came out as a lesbian shortly afterward and settled into married life with Karen, a dancer. Then one day Melinda met a wonderful guy named Frank and she decided she wasn’t a lesbian after all. The problem was that she and Karen had a great flat at low “rent-controlled” prices. Anyone who has lived in New York City would know what that means. They couldn’t afford to get new apartments. So Melinda and Karen put up a clothesline and draped sheets on it to divide their apartment into two apartments. On her side of the sheets, Karen entertained women, while Melinda entertained Frank on her side. I always thought that was the perfect setup for a TV sitcom.

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  9. Morning all… I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of some misunderstanding that I’ve let slide. Still can’t think of anything. Maybe I’m just not a “let it slide” kind of person?

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  10. When you are a pastor you keep your politics out if it, if you are really a pastor and not a preacher. After many visits with church members, most assume you are keeping your politics out if. The two ends assume you agree with them because you gave neutral responses to their statements. As my daughter says, it’s a compliment when people assume you agree with a political point of view you do not have because you are doing your job first.
    For a variety of other reasons, mostly because of my rather neutral point of view anyway and because I avoid political discussions, people assume my point of view incorrectly in most circumstances.
    I will be obsessive about check boxes. I will. Check check check.

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    1. i have a number of people who i assume are intelligent correct minded people that when i state my views to, they do feel obliged to tell me they are form the other side of the fence. in some cases i am glad to know we have the ability to have a bipartisan discussion, in others i have a new lessened commonality and the relationship has maxed out. i cant imaginge that anyone wonders where i stand but then again…

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  11. Gee, you guys are kickin’ out some great comments. I’m going to have to duck out of here for maybe three hours to visit Noerenberg Gardens and an old friend. See y’all later.

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    1. your mentioning it made me suggest it to my daughter as the place to have her wedding in july, shes booking it for the 28th. thanks baboons. she was having a tough time finding the right spot and that was it. obvious once it came up but not before. thats how you know its a good idea. when you say why didnt i see that from the very begining it is so obvious.

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      1. I had the same thought when I was there today, tim. Google “Three Rivers Parks District to see their locations for weddings (it is under “Activities”). There is also a non-denominational chapel very near Noerenberg, and it makes an excellent place for a wedding. My nephew was married there, and we used that chapel for the memorial services for both of my parents. Google “Woods Chapel” near Orono to see the web site for that. If your daughter gets married in the “pagoda” building on the Noerenberg grounds (with Lake Minnetonka as the backdrop) she’ll be uttering her vows about 15 feet from where my parents’ ashes were returned to Earth.

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  12. My Dad told me that if some people had wrong negative thoughts about him, let them think what they want, it was not his problem. I guess most people with strong egos think like that. Still, that statement, coming from my Dad, seemed especially wise to me.

    I think people have once in a while thought I am gay because I am not very aggressive or at least that is what I think. I have had a couple of gay men make advances which I didn’t appreciate. However, I have had fun dancing with a male friend in public where men weren’t dancing with each other.

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  13. Lisa’s comments about traveling to D.C. reminded me of being in Norway with Husband. Seemed like no matter where we were – restaurant, museum, shop – people would speak to me most often in Norwegian first, but always spoke English to Husband. It was hard not to spill the beans, though, that I wasn’t a local and only spoke enough Norwegian to say, “please,” “thank you,” and “I don’t speak Norwegian.” Realized just how much I looked like a local the night we were at a restaurant waiting for a table, Husband had gone to the bar to grab us drinks, leaving me on my own…while I was waiting, a nice looking man came over and started chatting me up in Norwegian – I finally had to just say, “I have no idea what you’re saying”…he was kind enough to translate. Took me a minute to realize I had just been hit on. Then I graciously explained that I was waiting for someone. Frankly, I was more pleased that I looked like a native than that I had been hit on…Husband and I had a good giggle over it when he arrived with my beer.

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  14. The following might be TMI:

    I’ve been letting a long-term misunderstanding stand, though I’ve only recently realized it IS a misunderstanding. About 6 months ago I stumbled onto the concept of asexuality and an internet community, named AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network). I pretty quickly realized that I’d found my true orientation. However, for over 25 years I’ve been identifying as lesbian (I knew I didn’t really like boys and I had/have a mildly butch gender presentation, so what else could I be? Hey, it was the 80s!) and that’s how all my friends know me. So, I’ve been debating if, when and to whom to come out; it is, after all, an awkward subject to bring up, and I’m terrible at discussing feelings and personal crap like that. Actually, my friends are pretty cool people and probably wouldn’t be phased for long, but it would hurt if they were dismissive or thought there was something wrong with me–there’s a long thread on “Worst responses to your asexuality” on the AVEN forum, and some of them are truly painful to read. I got zero support from my family when I believed I was gay, and it’s hard to not expect the same stony silence now, even though it’s very unlikely to happen.

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    1. How lame is this? – I had to look up TMI in the online Urban Dictionary.

      Hope you find that your friends are supportive if/when you come out, CG.

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    2. CG – sorry about the zero-support family. While I love my family, I do heartily subscribe to the “you don’t get to choose your family, but you can choose your friends” camp.

      Hope you know that here on the Trail, we’ll take your insights and (always well-written) comments no matter what!

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    3. It’s struck me as odd from time to time that the SF/F fan community is so accepting of pretty much all comers, but they can be selective and quirky in their acceptances. Same with some folks in different GLBT communities. Hope you are with friends who are supportive. You are part of our tribe here – and I am glad that you are.

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      1. Thanks, you guys! I talked to my two closest friends a few months ago and they seem okay with it. I know I’m just letting shyness and bad memories hang me up. Anna, I know a lot of people in fandom who are probably asexual, and the community is very accepting, much more so than the mainstream. It’s just that the idea of asexuality as an orientation rather than a symptom of autism/neurosis/lack of social skills/etc. is barely 10 years old and I’m not expecting everyone will understand what I’m talking about.

        I have big plans, actually–Memorial Day weekend is WisCon, and not only did I propose a panel on ace characters in SF/F (I’m not on it because I wasn’t sure I could afford to go until after signup was over, alas), but I have an asexual symbol t-shirt to wear during the weekend(purple-outlined triangle with white on the top, black at the bottom and gray inbetween). Coming out at con will inform half the people I know, between actual attendees and gossip ;-)

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        1. I wonder if it is more difficult now to identify as ace since society is more accepting than it used to be of folks’ preferences – they still need a “tag” for everyone, and “ace” probably isn’t on the radar. When you just didn’t talk about not being straight, it may have been easier to be just another (spinster) woman living on her own, “married” to her work (like the family friend who used to baby sit for me – she was sort of an adopted grandma)…or that nice man who never married (pity – he seems like he’d be a catch). The wags would cluck their tongues and that would be it.

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        2. Have a great time at WisCon, CG. I’m sure that will go well for you. And thanks so much for trusting your fellow baboons with intimate information. We’re honored by that and wish you well.

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        3. Now I had to look up “ace”. I couldn’t find it as an acronym and I doubt it’s American Coaster Enthusiasts. Further sleuthing revealed what might have been obvious – it’s a word for an asexual person.
          CG thank you for telling your story and opening my eyes a bit more. I’m glad you felt safe sharing it here.

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    4. CG, glad you have found a sexual orientation label that you identify with. I think a lot of straight people take their sexuality for granted and don’t really spend any time contemplating it. I find that my gay/lesbian and transgender friends have all thought a whole lot more about their sexual orientation, and some have struggled with coming out. Understandably so, considering that some people have a hard time understanding that you don’t choose your sexual orientation any more than you do your eye color or being left handed. Thanks for sharing this very private information, it speaks volumes about what you think of this community.

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      1. PJ, your comment on straight people’s obliviousness to issues of sexuality reminds me of how people of color live with issues of race on a daily if not hourly basis while “white” people don’t give it a second thought.

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  15. Not by choice. There are two people who have most misunderstood me in a big way(former neighbor from hell, and a sister-in-law who started out as a friend, then left the entire family). I tried to explain, really I did, and they didn’t want to hear it. I still grieve the losses sometimes. Husband helped me see that sometimes it’s more about where they are than what you did or said.

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    1. I think it is part of the core Middlewestern value set that we don’t want to offend anyone. Folks from some parts of the US just don’t sweat that the way we do. There is a businessman who hates me. We did business one time and had a misunderstanding. He jumped to some nasty conclusions about me and told me I have no integrity. I could explain this to him if he would let me, but he hangs up if I call and won’t open a letter from me. This man is a notorious “hothead” who over-reacts to people all the time, but it still drives me nuts that someone hates me over a misunderstanding.

      The adult response for you and me is to shrug and accept the fact you can’t please all the people all the time–as you seem to understand–but it goes against our upbringing.

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      1. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

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  16. I know that there have been times when I’ve let misunderstanding stand, but none of the specific instances are very memorable – or too complicated to explain. Great story by the way, Steve – it made me smile.

    OT (although if it’s about food, it’s never OT, right?) – I made Rodgod med Flode (the Danish Rhubarb Pudding some of us had at PJ’s a few weeks ago) for the second time yesterday. This time I added some black currants (that were in my freezer) to the rhubarb. It’s a beautiful ruby red and it tastes absolutely divine. It is absolutely incredible. If any of you have black currants and rhubarb, you have to try that combination.

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      1. Sorry, tim, it will all be gone by Sunday plus I used the last of the black currants in the freezer so you’re out of luck. But I’m going to definitely freeze some rhubarb in the freezer and then I can make it when the black currants are ripe…and I’m going to do raspberries and black currants, too. And I’m going to propagate my black currant bush so I have more bushes next year…nothing like them. Amazing flavor.

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        1. Black currants are called solbær in Danish, sun berries, and the pudding you make with them is called Solbær Grød, one of my favorites. My Dad considered himself the world champion Solbær Grød maker. He also made a mean Kirsebær Grød with cherries from what he claimed was the largest cherry tree in the kingdom of Denmark, ours.

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      1. I’m going to try raspberries and black currants this summer. since I grow both and I think they will both be ripe about the same time (if not, the freezer will help out). Black currants have such a great flavor, but they seem to be below the radar of most people.I don’t grow strawberries, so have to go pick them – and I never take the time to do that. I have bought some at the farmers market…so I’ll keep that in mind.

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  17. It’s hard for me to let misunderstandings go. It’s something I’ve been working on. I get a very unsettled, unbalanced, uneasy, unresolved, and unhappy feeling when misunderstandings are allowed to persist. I’ve done some thinking and reflecting on this topic and I’m trying hard to let some of these things go when I’m able. It’s better for my health to just let go of it. Yoga and breathing exercises have been helpful.

    One thing that is always hard for me is when people assume that I’m unintelligent because of my job classification. It happens every day, sometimes in very blatant and offensive ways. I used to try to prove that I’m just as smart as the other people with whom I work, but it turns out that most people really don’t care. They have their worldview and their assumptions, and they are content with them. My attempts to smash their icons only frustrate them and further alienate me from them. So I’m learning to let it go. This blog helps with that. I appreciate being able to write and know that someone else is reading what I have written. It’s become more important to me than you would believe.

    With regard to some of the discussions above: I’m 53 and I’ve never been married. I am not seeing anyone, male or female, right now and I have no plans to start seeing anyone. I think people do assume that I’m a lesbian but people who know me can remember many of my relationships. Those who know me well also know why I don’t pursue another relationship. That is a misunderstanding that I’m happy to let stand.

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    1. Krista, I think I would believe how important it is “to write and know that someone else is reading what I have written.”

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    2. My son’s point was the same, except he was in the dating market and did not want women to assume he was not interested in them. Otherwise why would it matter, especially in the creative industry in which he works.
      As Cow Girl alludes to, there are people out there, such as my wife despite my efforts to get her to butt out of other people’s lives, who are driven to match up the single. Not sure what that impulse is.
      Krista, thanks for the update on the trail. Now that I think about it the DNR closed the trail only the last two years. The two previous years it was Mankato and their stupid multimillion dollar bridge to nowhere. I can easily get to the trail north of the new 12, which is the stupid bridge, on a very nice county trail. I just cannot ride west into Mankato. I am very pinned in right now. With Madison all torn up, and dangerous to cross at the a very places I can, and all the city streets torn up. Where did Mankato get all the money?

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      1. Randy told me that there is a nice Blue Earth County trail that connects to the Sakatah Trail on “quieter” side streets, but I don’t know where it is. Is there a way to get there on Victory Drive? I’m afraid I don’t know the area very well, but I do know that Mankato is aggressively continuing industrial development to the east. The heavy development is going to surround that segment of the trail, and that doesn’t seem very attractive to me.

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        1. P.S. Clyde: Randy said he would not make any promises, but the trail could reopen for awhile in a few weeks. That is because of the problems they’re having getting a contractor to bid correctly on the culvert replacement.

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  18. You have a gift for apt musical choices, Holly!

    We attended a Red House summer concert once in the 1980s. I was walking around when I came face to face with Kate. She flashed a smile I’ll remember as long as I live.

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  19. Many people in town think that my husband and I aren’t married since we have different last names. I don’t disabuse them of that notion.

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    1. My wife and I worked such different hours and seasons and moved in such different circles that about the only time we were in public together was at church, which led to many jokes.

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  20. And if you’re a little older… :) The music and words aren’t necessarily in synch:

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      1. Well, I cop to being “older”….but I’m not dead yet! Don’t you love those jackets?

        OT – Attended Sarah Jarosz’ first concert in Minneapolis this evening with Linda (tickets courtesy of Radio Heartland. What a terrific young performer. This was my first time attending a concert at the Varsity since it has been converted into a funky concert venue; the bathrooms alone are worth making the trip. Fun evening.

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