In this column, I shall talk one last time about the Olympics, and then declare the post-Olympic Suni Lee the most watchable Asian American in the world.
But first things first.
If you’ve seen the word “Cuomosexual” in print suddenly, or showing up on women’s T-shirts protesting Governor Andrew Cuomo, I am proud to say that’s my word, my neologism.
I birthed the word 30 years ago and to see it pop up again now in publications such as the New Yorker makes be beam like a proud papa.
Just to see it on display as a New Yorker headline. It’s like seeing your offspring on the balance beam at the Olympics.
Besides making sense, one of the few things a writer can do is make up new words. Not facts, mind you, but words themselves, coinages, one at a time, that then exist to serve the language and the public. Words usually run their course and go dormant. (When was the last time you used “gallimaufry”?) But now the news has given “Cuomosexual” new life.
I can tell you precisely when I first used it, or when I invented the term (though I am not claiming that this is anything like Marconi and his little radio). It’s just a word I made up.
Cuomosexual is a real word that’s both adjective and a noun. It could be in the Spelling Bee.
Birthing it was quick. I was a host (believed to be the first Asian American Filipino) to have his own general interest (meaning “white”) news talk show in the Washington, D.C. market in 1991. I was at the now defunct WRC Radio and talking politics with my friend, the late Andrew Kopkind of The Nation and the Village Voice. Kopkind was a fervent radical progressive. I was more left-leaning vegetarian Californian. When it came to who should run for the presidency, I fell hard for then New York Governor Mario Cuomo, Andrew’s father.
Why? In a public declaration, I defined my condition. I had “an irrational love” for Cuomo. I was a “Cuomosexual.” And thus the word was born.
Kopkind laughed at the joke’s originality. And I used it often during the political season when Cuomo ultimately declined to run, leaving me and other Cuomosexuals spurned–again.
My Cuomosexuality never extended to Mario’s kids. And the word has been somewhat dormant until Covid, when Andrew and his CNN brother Chris would talk on cable TV and express their brotherly love. The brilliant Randy Rainbow also sang the word in a parody last year.
I didn’t sing it. But I used it in 1991.
Now the word has emerged in the story involving the 11 women accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment. It’s a serious matter. And I want to see justice for the women. Meanwhile, Cuomo is going Trumpy and arguing due process, as is his right. But the kiss of death may be the support he’s received from the disgraced Rudolph Giuliani.
Me, I’m just pleased the word I coined and lay claim to has picked up second and third definitions. The word could apply to Cuomo supporters who, despite the allegations, continue to back the governor. It could be applied to the women who claim they were made victims of Cuomo’s unwanted sexual touching. What a versatile word. English truly is alive.
It’s a small point for a writer who doesn’t make up facts, but who did in 1991 make up that word.
Of course, if you can predate my usage in 1991, I shall drop all bragging rights. Until then, I am the Write Brother of that Kitty Hawk. Cuomosexual.
OLYMPICS ENDS AND THE SUNI LEE BEGINNING**
By now you know how I feel about the diversion known as the Olympics. (See previous columns here and here.)
On Sunday with more than 203 million cases of coronavirus worldwide, and more than 4.3 million deaths, can you honestly say the world really needed a full dose of rhythmic gymnastics?
Or that thing now called artistic swimming, which I call aqua breakdancing?
Of course not. And yet all it takes is one human story and it changes you and the games.
I started warming up when an historic first gold medal in fencing (women’s foil) went to Filipino American Lee Kiefer.
And when Simone Biles withdrew from her biggest gymnastic events, allowing Suni Lee to emerge as the gold medalist in the all-around, the Olympic rings had me hooked.
I was the sixth ring.
I started caring about sprinters, and the middle distance runners. And the hurdlers. Asian, non-Asian, it didn’t matter. And as I was flipping around social media on Friday, I noticed Mollie Seidel, running in only her third marathon, challenging the Kenyans to the finish right to the end, two and half hours later. Bronze.
I noticed Jordan Windle, who finished 9th in diving, but had a gold medal story as a 2-year old in a Cambodian orphanage adopted and then raised by a gay American father.
The Olympics? It’s more than just games and medals.
And while the finale almost had me yelling, “No, no, don’t go away, Olympics, please stay,” there was something about those awfully poltergeist-y looking wisps of light, moving and morphing like a viral plume. LIke that virus we can’t see. It came at the start of the celebratory fireworks and had the opposite effect. It was more like a jolt of reality. The world is still a viral cauldron. We all have work to do. Olympic vaccination. And it’s a marathon. End of Olympic feel good.
Like the anchor runner in the relay, NBC had one last montage to recapture that lost feel.,While it ends with 11-time medal winner Allyson Felix expressing her gratitude, then fade to black. But the penultimate video swath is of Suni Lee telling her Hmong American family, “I love you.”
POST-OLYMPIC SUNI LEE IS GOING TO BLOW UP**
Of course, NBC was setting us up for the Summer of 2024 in Paris–and the star that we know to come? Just as Simone Biles emerged after Rio 2016, the Olympics has made Lee a household name now.
I asked on my shows on www.amok.com if there is a more watchable, more famous Asian American right now? Not just America, but on this planet? One listener chimed in, “Olivia Munn?”
Are you kidding? What did she do in the uneven bars?
I don’t think we’ve seen an Asian American female with this young dynamite quality since Connie Chung.
Or an Asian American period, man or woman. After all these years when the Hmong were the anti-model minority and the example of our Asian American invisibility, here is the brightest light amongst us, and now she’s going to Auburn.
Auburn? Alabama? The least vaccinated place in the United States?
Which is why I hope Lee stays masked and healthy.
The gymnastics program at Auburn, part of the SEC, is stellar, with a head coach Jeff Graba, whose Minnesota roots no doubt helped land Lee.
Last week, when Lee won the gold in the all-around, there were tweets from all over, including the Cal Gymnastics program at UC Berkeley. How they would have loved to have Lee on their team.
I guess they couldn’t sell her on the Cal campus being 40 percent Asian. And how she’d fit right in, unlike Auburn with its 700 or so Asians among 30,000 students.
She’d stick out without a gold medla.
The Cal tweet is Lee in that classic stick-em-up post dismount, with arms raised high and that big Olympic smile.
And now all her images will be gold.
Lee enters college after the NCAA just changed its rules in June that now allows athletes to benefit from their images on t-shirts, hats, memes, you name it. I guess she’s buying the pizzas.
Judging from her actions during the games, I trust her father John Lee, the guy who built the backyard balance beam for her, will remain close to guide her to whatever she wants to do in life.
John Lee’s paralyzed from the chest down, but now it looks that the Lee family will have the means to get all the treatment and care his condition requires.
And Suni? She still gets to do the fun part. To compete and figure out what she really wants out of life.
It’s all part of an Olympic-sized fairy tale that’s really just beginning as Suni Lee enters a unique moment that makes her the most watchable and influential Asian American on the planet.