Cold Hands, Warm Heart: A Holiday Letter from J.J. / by D.M. Jerman


   I liked your message about my life, and at the same time it has me experiencing a kind of rude awakening, similar to one I had twenty years ago.

The beginning of summer in 1990, I attended a friend's wedding in Iowa, and I was one of the few guests that wasn't married, and the only one who attended alone. Another married couple invited me to their room, but I declined.

Single people often say that all the good ones are taken, but I was forced to consider that maybe I was the problem. Since that event, my relationship goal shifted from "quantity" to "quality"; I wanted to be monogamous and in love with a woman who felt the same about me.

Jenna and I got together a year later, and I never thought about "diligence" again. After Jenna died, I know why I rushed into the relationship with the psycho I was dating last year.
I guess this raises the question of whether or not a faithful relationship with a woman that has multiple personalities is technically a monogamous one.

My point is that I wanted that special feeling of intimacy again, but now I know it will never feel the same.
I responded to your text about diligence with the reference to the Lucinda Williams song Essence, because it's one of the most sensuous and emotionally charged songs of romantic desire I've ever heard, though it also sounds a lot like textbook sexual addiction and obsessive relationship with strong analogies to heroin usage.
Whatever... it's hot.

Remember at the beach when we were talking about the emotional growth you achieve by listening to the lyrics of the song and make that connection between your own feelings and the feelings of the person who wrote the song?

For me, the first song where that happened was the Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby song Heart Of The Matter. It really hit home during a breakup, and I had a couple of bad ones around when the song came out.
Since then, the song Keep Me In Your Heart by Warren Zevon did a lot to help me deal with Jenna's death. The song We Belong written by Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro for Pat Benatar helped me deal with my pain during the weeks that Jenna was dying.
The Fire Inside by Bob Seger has lyrics that put life into perspective when you're alone, walking through every day as you suddenly find yourself older than you'd ever imagine you'd survive to be.

I just wanted to pass this along, I think I have a compulsion for making lists.

The combination of watching Persepolis on Saturday and talking with you about it on Sunday have just stirred up all kinds of feelings that I want to share.
I am not bashing Islam, or intending to cause any offense, but hearing the speech in Persepolis questioning why women must appear to take all responsibility for the feelings of men made me think.

So here it is: I think Mohammed was the Oprah Winfrey of his day, depending on how radical any given branch of Islam may be.

I know I am making an over-simplification of something that I know very little about, but that never stopped Sarah Palin.

From what I've been told, Mohammed preached that the greatest suffering anyone can endure is the rejection that a man can receive from a woman, and one of the reasons that Muslim women wear the veil is so that no man will be tempted to fall for her and be so vulnerable as to experience the unbearable torture of heartbreak.

Compare this to Oprah, who has on occasion put men in the metaphorical television version of the stocks in the town square for being unfaithful to their wives. Held up for public ridicule and punishment.

It seems to me to be a grand display, for both Oprah and Mohammed, of "he said, she said." Each trying to put the feelings and natural behaviors of men and women in a position of dominance over the other.

I'll admit, the last time I saw an episode of Oprah was when I had no choice in a hospital waiting room in September 2003, so maybe I'm not being fair to Oprah.
Whatever, I remember what I saw very vividly.

So here's where I'm going with this:
I wonder if recent regimes have banned rock music because there are two songs that really need to be heard: The Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want, and Elvis Costello's Peace Love And Understanding.

Of course I'm biased because I've lived in this world and not that one, and maybe being prisoner of the veil is no worse than being a slave to fashion and public images of ideal beauty. But isn't it better to have the freedom of expression and choice?

Last Sunday you asked if I was looking for a new girlfriend, and I remember almost chuckling.
Yes, there's everything I said about completing the grieving process, which I know is still ongoing, but after the psycho I don't know if I can ever trust again.

I feel like a trust you. I'm grateful our artistic collaboration is evolving into a friendship, and I hope we stay close through the ebbs and tides of our individual futures. I am so amazed at how there's rarely a lull in the conversation between us, and when there is, it's OK, and your tolerance for my non-sequiturs, and the history of bizarre cinema that we share.
Now I feel that I am definitely at a turning point, living a new life of diligence, in both latex and emotions.

If you don't mind, I want to ask you about something personal and share something personal of my own, more personal than body hair grooming, more personal than going to the queer-positive sex shop, and more personal than setting ground rules, limits, and expectations for group activities...

What do you do for the holidays?

What are your fond holiday memories, your preferences or traditions, and what do you most look forward to?

I ask because you and I seem to connect in so many ways, and that time of year will be here soon, and for another reason that I'll get to after some specific questions.
Do you go back to Indiana, PA on Thanksgiving and Christmas?
If so, do you make an exception to the vegetarian thing for turkey?
Are you with divorced mom and dad separately, or together?
You and I have already discussed religion (Oprah), but is your family religious and do they get together for church things?
I've told you so much about my nutty brother that I don't remember if you have siblings, and how close you are...

OK, here is why I am asking.
As I am sure you're aware, the time between Thanksgiving through the Superbowl is the time of year when suicides spike. When people have the highest expectations and the greatest disappointments, usually because they are depressed or alone.

Holiday depression is intense for me because Jenna was really into Christmas. She was diagnosed just before Christmas 2006, and died on Thanksgiving 2008. I lost Jenna and her family, which meant I lost half the holiday events that I was used to for nearly twenty years, and on top of that all the loss was during the holidays.

Last Thanksgiving and Christmas I was so preoccupied with being unemployed and breaking up with psycho-ex, it just blew past and I didn't think about it much. I made dinner both holidays for my mother and brother, and just immersed myself in job interviews.
This coming Christmas, assuming something else devastating doesn't happen, I am going to be alone and vulnerable to dwelling on all that I had, all that I've lost, and all that will never be for me.
I want to try and channel all my feelings into art of some sort; writing, drawing, photos, etc.

I know I'm not alone in this sense of loss and isolation, so I'd like to try to create something to help others like me deal with it all in some way that isn't destructive. Whatever medium that I choose for my artistic expression, I have a feeling that the best start would be with poetry, and I suck at poetry.
You're a better and more experienced writer than I am, and I've got all the angst and issues of loss and madness, so I am hoping that we can collaborate.

That being said, I don’t want my gloom and ambitions to ruin the holiday for you and your family; these times are too precious.
In a way, I guess I am setting ground rules, limits, and expectations for a different type of group activity; a creative and artistic one. If this is going to be too much, and you’d rather not, I understand.  If you’re interested, then let’s start with my questions, do some brainstorming, and maybe get the ball rolling by going to a poetry slam...

What do you think?