Just to set the mood for this post, here’s a video from K’s Choice (PJ and I saw them open for Alanis Morrisette in Knoxville years ago, though that’s neither here nor there):

Today I taught Larry’s Kramer’s 1985 play, A Normal Heart, one of the first AIDS plays produced in the U.S. I’m a little surprised by the fact that a) I enjoyed reading and teaching it and b) my students seem to have a lot to say about it too. It’s not only an important play; it’s a thought-provoking one.

I decided to teach it as part of a unit on Kramer, AIDS, and their literary legacies. Next we’ll read Angels in America, and we’ll end the course with Wayne Hoffman’s Hard. I’ll be emphasizing these next two works as responses to The Normal Heart. Parenthetically, I wish that I had had time to show them The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, a dvd of David Drake’s one-man show about how Kramer inspired him to political activism.

One of the things that hit me about A Normal Heart today was a speech that Ned makes about gay men of the late 70s and early 80s. When a physician tries to get him to become a leader in the gay community and tell his fellow homosexuals to stop having sex as a preventative to spreading AIDS, he rejoins that this would be an impossible message since for gay men sex is an “addiction.”

My students responded to this by agreeing that people — all people, not just gay men — would find it impossible to give up sex but that it’s not quite right to see it as an addiction. Instead, they see it as a necessity, different but no less important than eating and drinking. (I should say that we read Dorothy Allison’s great story “A Lesbian Appetite” for Monday’s class; we talked some about the similarities and needs for food and sex in that piece, so we have comparisons between the two on our minds this week!)

When I got home, I soon ended up at my computer, checking email, surfing the web, the usual. And I started wondering what I’m addicted to.

Actually, that’s not quite the sequence of events. I’m going to reveal one of my deepest, darkest secrets here: I got home and, as usual, immediately started playing a flash game version of tennis online. I am completely addicted to playing it. So, while I was playing (as Martina Navratilova, no less) I realized that I am completely and utterly addicted to playing this game. That realization then reminded my of “Not an Addict” by K’s Choice.

It’s not that I could never give it up — at least I don’t think that’s the case — but I do play it a lot. As in all the time. At home. In my office at school. If I have several minutes of free time, I’m probably “playing” tennis.

What I love most about it is the chance to play as Monica Seles or Venus Williams, though I am terribly conflicted about the fact that Venus is white in this game — in fact, all of the players are the same “woman,” who looks kind of like the shape-shifter people in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (not that I’m a Star Trek geek — I’m a Star Wars geek, thank you very much).

Playing online tennis has nothing directly to do with Larry Kramer, A Normal Heart, or gay sex as an addiction, but it’s certainly my biggest addiction at the moment. I’ve always felt that watching tennis while I was a kid in the 1980s was somehow connected to my queerness (Boris Becker’s jockstrap made me gay!). I’m also struck by the fact that, while Kramer was writing The Normal Heart and thousands of gay men were dying from AIDS related illnesses, I was watching Chrissie and Martina battle it out at Wimbledon. I knew nothing about AIDS and little about drama. It’s difficult to fathom how much I’ve changed — how much the world has changed — in 22 years. Except I’m still playing tennis and imagining I’m Martina beating Chris in the finals.

Regardless, I’m so proud, if that’s the right word, that my career enables me to share what I have learned in the past 22 years with my students. Kramer and his work is certainly important, even if I don’t agree with his solutions to the problems. And I’m delighted that I can indulge my latest addiction. (I have to get back to it — I’m ready to play as Venus again!).

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