Once upon a time in a land not so very far away, there was a young man who thought he was the center of his queer universe. He knew all the right people, went to all the right places, and stood out in a crowd with his hair bleached within an inch of its life, and if it was covered in leopard print or sparkles, he found some way to wear it.
He was infamous for his naughty but fun ways. Girls adored his bubbly and campy personality, and boys envied his sexual freedom and his ability to be secure in who he was, without having to resort to the same old macho bullshit every other man around had to. Yes, he was the quintessential gay boy in a big city… and everyone loved him.
Well, I’m not quite sure when it happened, but somewhere between the ages of 22 and 26, I went from being that crazy gay kid having all the fabulous adventures to becoming the wiser elder gay all the other young crazy gays came to for advice and guidance. Yes kids, yours truly had become a modern day Auntie Mame.
As I’m sure you can imagine, this newfound role did not go over so well initially. I tried to handle the change with dignity and grace… OK, now I’m blatantly lying. I reacted like Joan Crawford in a dirty bathroom. I completely flipped my shit.
This isn’t happening to me! I’m young and fabulous! How can I be a washed up has been? I’m not even close to 30! Screw this! I’ll show them all! I’ll get botox! No. I don’t like needles, so no botox! I know, I’ll use those tape things, the ones that pull your eyelids back to your asshole. No. I can’t do that either. I’d probably end up looking less like Janet Jackson and more like Janet Reno, and how the fuck does that solve my problem?
Eventually, after several more conversations with myself, marathon viewings of Beaches, Steel Magnolias, and Terms Of Endearment (a trilogy of terror if there ever was one!), and a good old fashioned pity party, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and decided, in spite of my new position in the gay hierarchy, to go out and reclaim my life, no matter what version of my life I found myself in.
Things took an interesting turn a few weeks later. One evening while sitting with my friends, indulging in Cosmos, I noticed a young man sitting all by himself in the corner of the bar. His name was Jacob. Through other people, Jacob and I had become good acquaintances about a year prior. He was looking a little uncomfortable and little bit sad sitting there all alone nursing his beer. This troubled me.
“Hello Jacob darling!” I exclaimed, making a beeline for his corner table.
“Oh, hey Robby!” he lit up upon seeing me. “I haven’t seen you in a while. Where’ve ya been?”
Well, I’ve been dealing with a bit of a nervous breakdown the last three months because every year it gets a little bit harder to compete with you Abercrombie boys with your toothy grins, your perfect hair, and your tight little asses that look like they were carved out of marble.
“Well, you know. Busy writing and being fabulous!” I answered routinely. “How about you? What’s a sweet, pretty little thing like you doing all by yourself in the corner?”
“Oh nothing, really,” he offered glumly. “I don’t wanna ruin your night.”
“Oh don’t be ridiculous,” I protested. “Move on over and tell your Auntie Robby what’s going on.”
Did I just say that? Out loud?
Over the next hour, poor little Jacob poured his heart and soul out to me on the troubles of being one of the young, pretty ones. This kid was dealing with some issues. How everyone’s expectations of him were too high. How he wasn’t experienced enough in dealing with people, personally or professionally. He was also completely worked up about where he was on the gay scale. Was he 100 percent straight? Was he 100 percent gay? And what about his girlfriend?
“I feel trapped,” Jacob said.
“Trapped by what, honey?” I asked.
“All of these questions and the fact that here I am, 22, and have no freakin’ clue what I’m doing with my life,” he answered. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“Well for starters, do you honestly think all of these things running through your head are going to be taken care of in a day? Jacob, cultivating relationships, whether they be with someone you work with or someone you play with is a skill you will work on for the rest of your life. There is no one simple way to deal with people. The more you put yourself out there, though, the easier it becomes.”
“How do you put yourself out there, as you say, when you’re not even sure of who you are?” he asked.
“That’s the million-dollar question, honey. How much are you willing to admit to?” I asked. “Cause if you can’t admit to having certain attractions or tendencies, you’ve bigger issues to deal with.”
“I’m…um…you know…attracted to guys. And I’ve fooled around with some guys. I just don’t think that makes me completely gay. I mean, I do love my girlfriend.”
“I know you do," I reaffirmed, “First of all, being attracted to a member of the same sex does not mean you are gay. Trust me. I’m attracted to chocolate. That doesn’t make me a candy bar. And secondly, it’s perfectly natural for someone your age to be curious or maybe even to experiment a little.”
“What if it’s more than a little?” he inquired.
“Well, that can mean a few different things, too," I opined. “For some people, yes, that’s a pretty good indication that they’re not entirely straight. For others… well… you’re a 20-something and horny. Girl, boy, pillow, watermelon. It never seems to matter if your hormones are out of control.”
“I just wish I were as confident as you,” he said. “You seem so together and so sure of yourself. It’s hard for me though. I don’t know how to be like you. Everybody loves you. And you’re so much braver than I am. You’ve got the gay thing down pat and I can’t even make up my freakin’ mind! It’s so confusing.”
“Well, thank you for saying I’ve got the gay thing down pat (what does that mean exactly?), but I hate to burst your bubble, honey. It’s not like I sprang forth from my Mother’s loins singing Bette Midler with a rainbow boa sticking out of my ass (shut up Mother! I did not!). I’ve had a long time to deal with some of these issues. I bet I have a decade on you (note to self: do not use words like decade in public, they age you!) when it comes to dealing with some of this stuff. I’ve had my share of breakups, fuck ups, and triumphs. That’s just life in a nutshell. Gay or straight. You’ve got plenty of new adventures and experiences ahead of you that will most likely work all of this stuff out. Give yourself some more time to think about all of this. Remember, you’re only 22. You aren’t expected to have all of your shit together at this point. That would make the next 70 years of life quite boring, don’t you think? And don’t you worry too much about being like Robby here. You just work on being the best Jacob you can be and I promise you’re life will figure itself out.”
“Thanks, Robby,” Jacob offered sweetly, giving me a hug. “I’m glad I have you to talk to. No wonder everyone loves you.”
OK. So maybe this Auntie Mame thing isn’t so fucked up after all. It’s kind of nice being the one who seems to know everything for a change. God knows it feels better than all the stumbling it took to get here. My only request? Please let me be the Rosalind Russell version of Mame. Lucille Ball’s gives me heartburn!
Essential Download: "Popular"
Artisit: Original Broadway Cast
Available On: Wicked
Originally published in the May 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.