Home for the Holidays

by | December 26, 2020 | General | 2 comments

I hope everyone reading this is enjoying the winter holidays as much as possible.

I can’t help thinking of WW2, when my parents were engaged for Christmas in 1943, and married in January 1944, when the U.S. Navy promoted my father to the rank of Lieutenant and deployed him to Staten Island, NYC, where my mother awaited him. One of the perks of promotion was the right to marry.

I’m well aware that Americans weren’t experiencing the same war as the British, or even other citizens of former British colonies, including Canada. For everyone in the former British Empire, the war started in 1939, when King George declared war on Germany. After France fell to the Nazi regime in 1940 (along with several of the Channel Islands), everyone in the British Isles waited anxiously to find out their own fate. Children were sent to the countryside or to other countries while planes with swastikas on them dropped bombs on London.

I’ve been told that my London-born great-grandmother Bessie, a proud Cockney living in New York City, felt personally offended that her city was being bombed by a monster called the “Luftwaffe.”

At this time, the fate of the Jewish diaspora within Nazi-controlled countries was literally unspeakable. No one outside those countries knew anything with certainty. It was only in 1945 and later that my mother’s New York Jewish friends found out what happened to their extended families in Europe — or, in some cases, they had to make reasonable guesses, based on the known facts.

Americans, like Swedes, were safely neutral all this time. Only after the Japanese Air Force bombed the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1942, did the U.S. government declare war on the Axis countries: Japan, Germany, Italy. So The War for my parents (the most serious one, the war that defined their young adulthood) really only began in January 1943 and lasted until spring 1945.

After the U.S. joined the war, the tide turned, and the chances of a worldwide Nazi/Fascist conquest which would last for a thousand years grew increasingly unlikely.

Why does the dumpster fire of 2020 remind me of the war? The most obvious answer is: Nazis! Fascists! The other obvious answer is the worldwide pandemic, which affects everyone on earth, but not all to the same degree.

Governments have responded with various degrees of caution—with lockdowns, partial-lockdowns, reopenings and reclosings. In the absence of a cure or any form of prevention apart from quarantining, governments have had to try to balance the health of human bodies with the health of the economy. As a result, some countries are still in free-fall, while others are almost completely Covid-free.

Just as patriotic citizens in London and New York were told to stay indoors after dark and cover their windows with blackout curtains (or better yet, avoid turning on lights), people in countries with lockdowns are being encouraged to stay in our “bubbles” of a few close companions, and keep a lid on festivities. (Drinking alone now sounds more wholesome than it has in the past.)

The wartime carols, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (for sure), and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” sound more poignant to me this year than they have for a long time.

The news of a vaccine sounds like news of an armistice. So there is change on the horizon. The big question is: will everything go back to normal after the vaccine is widely distributed? Will some people be left behind, because they are overlooked by the local health-care system, or because they refuse the vaccine because they distrust the system (often for good reasons)?
Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I hope that being home alone with a Significant Other or a few is a sexy experience for at least some of you.

I’ve been teaching university classes from home, and it has turned out to be more fun than I foresaw when the local university shut down in March 2020 (in the middle of a semester!) Not having to catch a bus from home to school in the cold and the dark of winter (when classes are scheduled before 9:00 a.m. or last beyond 4:00 p.m.) has been a great convenience. Although I haven’t been able to see my students, they have shown up in surprisingly large numbers for Zoom classes, possibly because they also like the convenience of attending class from home. I know I still don’t understand all the technological bells and whistles available to me, but I’ve been able to communicate with students in various ways, and several have told me they enjoyed the classes.

Meanwhile, my female spouse Mirtha has had numerous Zoom meetings of her own because of her position on various boards and her job as the co-ordinator of a group of local LGBTQ elders (age 55+).

When we wake up in the mornings, I ask her what meetings she has, at what time, and which device she plans to use (phone, laptop, or the Mac in our spare bedroom, called the “library”).

We could have spontaneous sex any time we’re not otherwise occupied, and we could do it anywhere in the house. Yet we don’t.

I’m well aware that we’re incredibly lucky compared to many other people: we live in Canada, where basic health care is available to all, and where dental and eye care (which are not part of the government health-care system) are covered for us by work-related insurance. We haven’t needed emergency government funding because our incomes have never been interrupted. We follow the local safety protocols, and we’ve stayed healthy.

Yet fear of the virus seems to be universal, even for those of us who live far from major coastal cities. There have been anti-mask demonstrations here in Saskatchewan, on the Canadian prairies, and the arrival of winter weather brought a predictable Second Wave. Just because many people in the world couldn’t find Saskatchewan on a map (it’s a large rectangle in the middle of the continent) doesn’t mean we’re safely isolated.

I’ve been told that the possibility of imminent death gives some people the urge to live as fully as possible while they can. Some of that joie de vivre seemed to spring up during WW2, although the possibility of imminent death really varied by location and occupation. (Obviously, anyone in the armed forces was at greatest risk. They were the front-line workers of the time.)

This situation might have affected me—and possibly my spouse Mirtha—differently when we were younger. Maybe we have a different relationship with death now than we did in the past. Then it seemed like a villain that could attack without warning. Now we know we’re guaranteed to meet it sooner or later (within the next thirty years), and it won’t be a surprise.

Whatever your methods of keeping fear, anxiety and depression at bay, I wish you well. (But if you’re an anti-masker, please consider the evidence that there really is a war on.) If you’ve been inspired to have lots of actual sex, or write a lot of erotica, good for you.

Personally, I’m still waiting for the publication of my erotic novel, Prairie Gothic, because apparently the publisher is still waiting for a review from Publishers Weekly, which had good things to say about a story I had in a major erotic anthology in 2014. As with many other things, their response to my novel remains to be seen.

I haven’t written much this year, but I do have plans for three single-author collections, and will take a stab at writing something between now and New Year’s Day 2021, before I start teaching two new on-line classes.

Life, lust, energy, inspiration, and determination all seem to be related. I wish more of all that to all my fellow ERWAns in the new year.

Jean Roberta

Jean Roberta once promised her parents not to use their unusual family name for her queer and erotic writing, and thus was born her thin-disguise pen name. She teaches English and Creative Writing in a university on the Canadian prairies, where the vastness of land and sky encourage daydreaming. Jean immigrated to Canada from the United States as a teenager with her family. In her last year of high school, she won a major award in a national student writing contest. In 1988, a one-woman publisher in Montreal published a book of Jean’s lesbian stories, Secrets of the Invisible World. When the publisher went out of business, the book went out of print. In the same year, Jean attended the Third International Feminist Book Fair in Montreal, where she read a call-for-submissions for erotic lesbian stories. She wrote three, sent them off, and got a letter saying that all three were accepted. Then the publisher went out of business. In 1998, Jean and her partner acquired their first computer. Jean looked for writers’ groups and found the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, which was then two years old! She began writing erotica in every flavor she could think of (f/f, m/f, m/m, f/f/m, etc) and in various genres (realistic contemporary, fantasy, historical). Her stories have appeared in anthology series such as Best Lesbian Erotica (2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, Volume 1 in new series, 2016), Best Lesbian Romance (2014), and Best Women's Erotica (2000, 2003, 2005, 2006) from Cleis Press, as well as many others. Her single-author books include Obsession (Renaissance, Sizzler Editions), an erotic story collection, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press), and The Flight of the Black Swan: A Bawdy Novella (Lethe, also in audio). Fantasy stories by Jean include “Lunacy” in Journey to the Center of Desire (erotic stories based on the work of Jules Verne) from Circlet Press 2017, “Green Spectacles and Rosy Cheeks” (steampunk erotica) in Valves & Vixens 3 (House of Erotica, UK, 2016), and “Under the Sign of the Dragon” (story about the conception of King Arthur) in Nights of the Round Table: Arthurian Erotica (Circlet 2015). This story is now available from eXcessica (http://excessica.com). Her horror story, “Roots,” first published in Monsters from Torquere Press, is now in the Treasure Gallery of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. With Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman, she coedited Heiresses of Russ 2015 (Lethe), an annual anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. Her realistic erotic novel, Prairie Gothic: A Tale of the Old Millennium, was published by Lethe in September 2021. Jean has written many reviews and blog posts. Her former columns include “Sex Is All Metaphors” (based on a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas) for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, July 2008-November 2010. The 25 column pieces can still be found in the on-site archives and in an e-book from Coming Together, www.eroticanthology.com. Jean married her long-term partner, Mirtha Rivera, on October 30, 2010. Links: www.JeanRoberta.com http://eroticaforall.co.uk/category/author-profiles


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    I look forward to seeing more of your writing in print, Jean. Warmest wishes to you and Mirtha. I’m glad you’re safely (more or less) hidden in that empty rectangle!

    • Jean Roberta

      Thank you, Lisabet. I hope your part of Asia is relatively safe.

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