December 01, 2006
I’ve been more than a little anxious in life recently. Winter is never really my strong season, but then again, is it for anyone? It’s cold, dark, and depressing. Kind of like the set of Grey’s Anatomy now I venture. The whole bad vibe of winter and the claustrophobia of being stuck indoors really messes with my head and throws my routine into a tailspin. And when I start to feel unsettled, well, everything becomes a big ordeal. I can’t concentrate on anything and my mood sours. Life and everything in it becomes one big giant bitch fest. And when you have that much time on your hands, it becomes so much easier to be sit back and bemoan the ills of life than to actually participate in it.
The silver lining in this winter blue madness is knowing I’m not alone. People in general this time of year are all stressed to the max, worn down, feeling under-appreciated and not confident in their abilities, personally or professionally. So stuck in a rut, one can’t possibly take the good with bad and feel balanced. If by some miracle things are running smoothly, we seldom take the time to stop and enjoy the view or the people in it.
I’m telling you, though, we do have the power to stop the negativity. As we go into the holiday season and a new year, I don’t want to do it with a cloud over my head and neither should you. So I say in lieu of New Year resolutions, you know, those ideas we come up with to better our lives but never actually get around to doing, we instead simply focus on getting through the winter, the simple pleasures in life and the few things we can do to improve our moods and spirit.
First of all, we must all learn to stop bitching about what we don’t have or don’t have time for! Instead, refer to these things as “one day I would like to...(pursue my chosen field, fall in love, have a romantic getaway with my lover, settle on a hair color that isn’t quite so intimidating...you fill in the blank), but quickly remind yourself “but until then, I will be grateful for...(the opportunities I do have, the love I do have for and from my family and friends, the five minutes we do have to tell each other how much we love each other, the fact that I can pull off blonde without looking like some kind of deranged queen...you fill in the blank). That right there will save you countless hours of grief.
There’s no better way to refocus crabby thinking and enjoy the life you do have than to stop staring at the four walls and get the hell out of your house. “It’s too cold to go out!” Bullshit. You go to work, don't you? You run those errands that have to be run, don't you? Make time out for yourself as important as any of those endeavors. Most of you have cars. Go for a ride. “The roads are bad!” Okay. I can’t really dispute this one necessarily as we do live a state known for unpredictable weather (however, every year one would think people had never driven in, let alone seen ice or snow before the way they all carry on!). But let’s just pretend the roads are un-drivable. How about taking a mental journey and reading a good book? In the great age of the Internet, do we all still know what a book is? I myself like to get a snuggled up in a blanket and spend my evenings with #1 New York Times Best Selling Author Janet Evanovich. Trust me. She’s better than most men I’ve had over lately.
If driving is not an issue, call up a friend and suggest a movie/television night. Your place or theirs doesn’t matter. Throw some popcorn in the microwave, open a bottle of wine, and flip on the tube or put in your bootlegged copy of The Star Wars Christmas Special. Watching Carrie Fisher stumble around a badly lit and decorated sound stage, potentially drugged out of her mind (and to be a part of this mess, I think you’d have to be) is my kind of holiday joy. One of two things will happen this evening. Your friend and you will have a good time, enjoying the program and company, or, you and your friend will get a bit tipsy on the wine, get through the first half hour of said program, and wind up going at it right there on the living room rug. Either would be acceptable, really. (Please note: it’s been my experience that the latter of these options should happen spontaneously. It does no good to plan it. During one particular cold, restless evening, I invited my best guy friend over thinking, “hey, he’s bored and always horny. I’m bored and always horny. This might work.” Well it didn’t. We sat there watching Battlestar Galactica for two hours, he happy in his sci-fi geek-dom, and me puzzled at how laser guns and space ships could possibly compete with getting laid. If anyone knows the answer, please e-mail me!)
Whatever the case, my dear readers, don’t let the gray skies and frigid temperatures get the best of you this winter. Peace, contentment, and a little ridiculous-ness is your God given right year round. Don’t forget that. I try not to.
Essential Download: "Take My Hand"
Available On: Dido Live DVD
Originally published in the December 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
November 01, 2006
After filling him in on the latest with me (a story involving a go-go boy, his “girlfriend”, and the Catholic church, but never mind), he admitted he had been so busy with work, sitting here was the extent of his social life. Just when I started to feel sympathetic towards him and his plight, he had to go and fuck it up by launching into a rant about the wickedness of Dubya and his Winged Monkeys (I’m assuming by that he meant Mr. Bush’s Administration) and how the gay community will be in ruins unless we all stand up, make our voices heard, and do some serious boat rocking.
As if the price of a Pepsi wasn't obscene enough.
As he continued this diatribe, a cute bar boy caught my eye. As he reached over to clean off a table, I marveled at how fantastic his ass looked in his William Rast jeans, and wondered if it looked as fantastic out of them. Apparently, I was more than a little obvious, as cute bar boy turned to me and smiled, and Aaron, incredulously, shot me a frosty look that would make Bea Arthur wince.
"Is that all you can think about? Getting a piece? The world is falling apart and our people are being ignored!" he said.
"Oh, don't be so dramatic," I replied, in between sipping my cola and telepathically seducing cute bar boy. "The world has been falling apart all of our lives. But that’s not why we are here. We are supposed to be catching up and relaxing. If I wanted to discuss politics, I would be having drinks with Hillary Clinton right now."
That's not entirely true, mind you. First of all, I don't know Madame Senator. Second, if I found myself in a situation that involved me talking to her, I imagine our chat would quickly dissolve into something like, "So Hill, I adore your husband and all, but seriously - girl to girl, was there ever a point where you just got so frustrated with his behavior that you wanted to cut the damn thing off? I mean, really. I would have gone ape shit has I been you.”
I know dear readers. I just can’t help myself. I would probably talk to the Pope like he was my girlfriend, too.
But I digress. My evening of chilling and letting my hair down became tense. I'm sure my friend was not too enthused with my care free attitude regarding the state of the union, and I know I sure as hell was less than thrilled that, with alarming severity, every conversation I had with another member of my own tribe lately seemed to center on the battle between George W. and the gays.
How I long for the days when the only man I talked about with any regularity was Tom Cruise.
I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about me. I do care our current President is perceived by many to not know his ass from his elbow when it comes to both foreign and domestic issues. And no, I’m not okay with his continued refusal to open his eyes and ears to issues affecting someone of my particular orientation. I also care we are probably sending a not so favorable message to the rest of the world in how we handle our affairs. And of course, no one believes in freedom of expression and opinion more than I do. HELLO? Have you read some of things I’ve said in these pages?
But I ask you, isn’t there a limit to this all consuming madness? In spite of my excessive nature, I do believe there can be too much of something. This is where my problem lies.
As I listen to people speaking out and protesting the ills of the world, whether their arguments are in support of equal rights or whether they are expressing their displeasure with our involvement overseas, I more often than not see valid points getting lost by the volume of angry people screaming and carrying on. Sometimes I think people, like my friend Aaron, become so incensed by something, they work themselves up so much into a tizzy, they no longer remember what the hell they're supporting or protesting in the first place, BUT FUCK ‘EM ALL! I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE! They get hostile and loud. I think that's how they finally ended up carting old Ethel Merman off the stage.
I’m all for encouraging debate and dialogue, especially when it pertains to politics, humans rights, and “moral” values. I just don’t really want to talk about these things every twelve point five fucking seconds. Isn't that what we have Barbra Streisand for?
Right now I’m ready to turn off the news (I know, without me Katie’s ratings will surely plummet), put down the paper (not this one!), and think about and be thankful for the opportunities and the good things this country has provided me. I think a reasonable compromise is to stand firmly in your convictions, but also not get so wrapped up in them you start to not enjoy the life you have these convictions for.
Now back to de-stressing and unwinding. Maybe I’ll curl up in bed and watch some of my girl Paula Deen. What that woman can do with a stick of butter!
And no, I don’t really care that she lives in a RED STATE.
And neither does cute bar boy laying next me.
Essential Download: "We All Sleep Alone" Remix
Available On: Believe
Originally published in the November 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
October 01, 2006
That, dear readers, is the wisdom imparted to me via a fortune cookie not too long ago. Of course, I was hoping for something more inspiring like say, “your ideal weight will be achieved” or “your financial concerns will become a thing of the past”. But alas, this was not to be. MY fortune had to be somehow backhanded but hilariously accurate. But you know what? I have reached a point in my life where I can appreciate and recognize the truth in that statement. Why? Because I’m nearing the end of those crazy days we call our twenties. This month I’m going to be twenty-nine, which of course means I’ve got one year left until I hit the big 3-0.
And I have to confess I’m really okay with that. Honestly.
For the longest time, I always viewed myself as a minority amongst a minority. Now before you break out the tiny violins and roll your eyes at me, let me explain. I’ve lived the last 13 years of my life as an out, visible (Am I person or a billboard? Ponder that while I continue) member of the gay community. I’ve watched our community suffer. I’ve watched our community prosper. I’ve have pretty much seen it all. But the one thing I haven’t had is someone to share the journey with. I don’t mean a lover, but a peer, someone my age who came of age in the same era of time with similar experiences.
During this time I had to do what many young gay folk do: search for people whose lifestyles could possibly foreshadow my own. As a result, I always had a tendency to gravitate towards older people in the community. They became my mentors and role models. They were the ones with the life experience and knowledge I so desperately needed to get through my years of self-doubt and questioning. I was curious to know what being gay was and meant, other than what I had pretty much pieced together myself (which in my youth was limited to reading books and the occasional drunken naked slumber party…but I digress.)
I was lucky enough to find myself in situations early on in my life that lead me to being friends with older gay men and women. My introduction to this world coincided with my introduction to the work force.
Like many teenagers, I did the whole after school fast food job thing, where I kid you not, lesbian managers are a plenty. I worked for two different fast food chains, and in both places, I had lesbian bosses. Well, this was before Home Depot came along. Badump-chik!!!. How I adored them. Not only where they two of the most fantastic women I have ever met, but they both in their own ways took the time to get to know me and introduce me to their worlds and what they were about. They respected me as much as I did them and they included me. I had a similar experience in my early twenties when I did a stint at a popular bookstore chain. Now overall this experience was pretty ghastly (personally I was a big ole’ mess. Gotta love that age where everything in your life just sucks) but my fondest memory of this experience will be meeting some of the people I encountered during my employment there. You will never meet a more eclectic group of people than those who run a bookstore. Some of the most open-minded and engaging people you could ever hope to run across. And we all know that bookstores and gay go together like Katie Couric and perkiness. A very good friend of mine at the time introduced me to the works of Ethan Mordden. His book How Long Has This Been Going On?, a fictional account chronicling the gay movement pre and post Stonewall, changed my life, much in the same way that Armistead Maupin’s novels had done in my teens.
The experiences have just kept coming. I have spent the last four years working for, at one time or another, two of Rochester’s most influential gay themed stores. I don’t want to embarrass anyone here, so I will remain coy and brief! I have loved both experiences dearly, have worked with people that I am proud to consider part of my “family”, and have met people from all walks of life who share the vision of goodwill and equality for all, and most importantly, a history and camaraderie. And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how this very paper you hold in your hands right now has influenced and affected me. HELLO! I WRITE FOR IT! I don’t do this for recognition or to expand my already teetering on diva like ego, but because these pages and the stories, news, and views printed on them have been very much a part of my gay awakening and experience and I feel obliged to contribute and hopefully inspire, educate, and entertain others as it has done for me.
So as you can see, I’ve spent most of these thirteen years of my “gay life” chasing the gay life and surrounding myself with people to look up to and learn from. And it hasn’t always been easy. Compound the regular issues of growing up and add to that the responsibilities and uniqueness of being “not conventional” and you can have some pretty trying times on your hands. Not all of my decisions and judgments have been good ones. I learned a lot about some pretty adult related issues rather quickly, and sometimes I handled things maturely, and sometimes, like many people starting out in life, I just plain fell on my fucking face. But I never felt alone. I’ve always had the encouragement of my elder gay friends, who had been in my shoes one way or another.
So what does all this rambling mean? What in the hell does all this have to do with me pitching a tent about getting through twenty nine and turning thirty? And why am I so cool with it?
Well, I guess I’m feeling like I’ve begun to reach the part of my life where biologically and emotionally I’m starting to feel more balanced. I’m no longer that “kid” trying in earnest to break into that grown up world. I’m done chasing the life I wanted to have, because I’m living it. I’m no longer searching for people who I can relate to because my life is filled with them. Every moment since I came out at sixteen has been about becoming the person I was meant to be, successes and failures both at every step. And again, I never had to face it alone. I have begun to appreciate the fact that every situation in life, good and bad, leads you to today. If you take the time to get your head out of your ass (for me this happened at twenty seven), you will see that there are lessons to be examined from each and every one of life’s experiences and the people you come across in it. And maybe, just maybe, you will have a better handle on your feelings, your direction in life and the importance of the people around you, because after all, it is the people in my life that I’ve gotten me where I am today. I’m ready to do pass on the strength, encouragement, and acceptance they have given to me
I hope that doesn’t sound too Madonna preaching Kabbalah of me.
As my twenties come to an end, and with it the years of struggling to belong and identify, I look forward to the new faces and adventures my thirties and beyond will have in store.
And I’m really, really, okay with that. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.
Essential Download: "Life For Rent"
Available On: Life For Rent
Originally published in the October 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
September 01, 2006
The first gay themed books that I ever bought myself.
The year was 1994 and I was sixteen years old. Many of you already know that that was the year that I came out. That happened later. This was early January. I was sitting at the kitchen table working on homework when something in the newspaper lying next to my stuff caught my attention. "LOCAL PBS TO AIR TALES UNCENSORED". Hmmm? What was this all about?
Apparently, this miniseries, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City was really pushing a lot of people’s buttons. Stations across the country were debating whether to let it be, edit it, or cancel it all together. Why? Well, as the blurb went on to say, because of its “frank depiction of the homosexual lifestyle in San Francisco circa the 1970’s, strong sexual content, and nudity.” Just when I thought I’d chuckle at the thought of there being “strong sexual content and nudity” on PBS (What would they think on Sesame Street?), the other part of that statement froze me in my tracks...
“Depiction of the homosexual lifestyle.”
I had known since well before puberty that I wasn’t “like” the other boys. But when you’re that young, what the hell do you really have to compare or relate life to? Now days, everything has a gay sensibility, but in 1994, well, we had RuPaul and Jerry Springer. So the prospect of anything even remotely resembling my feelings was exciting and terrifying. Was there really a world out there with people who felt like I felt? According to the ink used to write about this upcoming miniseries that people were up and arms over, there was. Hold on a second. I didn’t have to wait for that, did I? It’s based on a book, right?
I must have this book NOW!
That, dear readers, is exactly what happened.
I ran down to the local bookstore intent on finding “my world”. What I hadn’t considered was how I was going to summon the courage to waltz in and get it. Some of you may remember the days when all of our books were isolated at the bookstore in a section who’s label screamed, HOMO’S YOUR BOOKS ARE HERE! Maybe my memory is more dramatic than the reality of it, but HELLO! I WAS 16! My balls were only so big. The walk from the front of the store to the back of the store seemed like miles. You would have thought I was trying to score crack I was so nervous. So of course my way of getting in and out of this section with the book I was looking for was to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and make a run for it. I kid you not. This would have been perfect had I not mowed over a sales associate in the process.
“Honey, are you okay?” the older male employee asked me, more concerned about my well being than his, leaving me caught off guard by his sensitivity.
“I’m so sorry, sir,” I offered meekly. “I’m okay. Are you okay? I’m sorry I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“Well,” he started laughing, “that’s kind of hard to do when you’re running with your eyes closed. Speaking of which, why are your running with your eyes closed?”
“I was, you know, running and stuff cause, well, um, I’m really, really sorry about knocking you over and stuff, but I’m looking for um, a book, and it’s, well it’s,” and I whispered and motioned grandly this next part, “over in that section over there.”
“Why are you whispering?” he asked, whispering back.
“Because I’m kind of embarrassed,” I answered softly.
“Oh, nonsense,” he replied full out. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. There are many spectacular works and gifted authors in that section. Ethan Mordden. Rita Mae Brown. Who are you looking for?”
“Tales of the City,” I blurted out.
“Ah, Armistead Maupin, You’ve no doubt heard about the miniseries and want to read the book first. Excellent choice. I usually do the same. You know, I don’t want to make you feel worse than you already do, but because of the miniseries, we actually have a table display at the front of the store.”
Of course they did.
“You may not know this, but there is actually six books,” he began, walking me over to the table display. And for the next thirty minutes, he proceeded to give me a little background on how the books originated (a serial column in a newspaper!), what order to read them in, and spoiler free, but interesting tid bits about the books that convinced me to buy the whole set.
“Good. You’re one of us, then. Welcome to 28 Barbary Lane,” he smiled as I collected my copies.
“Huh?” I asked.
“It’s from the book. Great scene.”
As I finished gathering my purchases and headed for the cashier, I thanked the man for his help.
“Yes, you should,” he replied.
On noticing another confused look on my face, he added, “another great line from the book.”
What a strange, but interesting man I thought myself.
But he was right. In time, I was one of them.
I devoured these stories. How I loved them. Even though they chronicled the lives of these eccentric characters, some gay, some straight, that were older than I, living in a time and place I hadn’t, and living lives I, at that point, could only dream of, I found myself IN these books and knowing these characters. I WAS MaryAnn Singleton, making a fresh and independent start for myself. I WAS Michael Tolliver, reconciling my homosexuality with other aspects of my life. I AM Mona Ramsey, an opinionated individual, though slightly eccentric and a little left of normal, fiercely loyal and protective to those I love.
I was and to this day still am inspired by Armistead Maupin, his characters and his stories. He (and that nameless sales associate) provided me my introduction into this world of gay-themed storytelling, which I am so proud to support and even in my small way be a part of, and for that I have much gratitude.
Essential Download: "You Sexy Thing"
Artisit: Hot Chocolate
Available On: The Full Monty
Originally published in the September 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
August 01, 2006
I knew exactly who to start with.
I picked up the phone and called my Grandmother, Alice, back in Rogersville, Missouri, who, until this point, I had spoken to only a handful of times and had seen once in over a decade.
“Hey Grandma. It’s Rob.”
“Well, hey there kiddo,” she replied. “Whatcha been up to?”
“Well, I thought I’d stop being a stranger and call and say hello. That and I have some cool news. Remember how I always said when I was little I was gonna write a book one day?”
“That’s all you talked about.”
“Well, I still haven’t written a book yet, but I’ve started writing a column for one of the papers out here…and um…well, it’s a gay paper and it’s called The Empty Closet and it focuses on the gay community out here, and well, I am a member of the gay community, so why not?”
Smooth, Robby. Smooth. Had I pummeled the poor woman with too much information? How many times did I say GAY in that sentence?
“Well, it’s about damn time you started doing something with your writing. You better send me copies,” she answered.
“Really?” I was a bit shocked.
“Sure. I wanna read what you’re writing. I’m a big girl. I think I can handle it.”
Apparently my Grandmother was so much cooler and more secure with certain facts of life than I was.
That was the start of our new relationship.
For the next nine months, I made sure to send copies of the paper to her. She in turn would show it to the rest of the family and her neighbors. Every Sunday we would telephone and she would always make an effort to point out something she has read in the paper. During this time, I managed to cart myself down to Missouri for a long overdue visit (which I wrote about in my November 2005 column.). I was touched to see that sitting beside her easy chair was the stack of the papers. She had saved every one. Of course after spending a week with her, I didn’t want to leave. I’ve never been big on goodbyes. But my Grandma had a special way of making me feel better.
“This isn’t goodbye. This is I’ll see ya later. Besides, you can get home and write about your visit”.
Which of course, I did.
Then in late March, I received the news that my Grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The doctors, she explained, were hopeful that aggressive treatment would take care of this situation. Everyone was pretty confident.
“Don’t you worry about me,” she offered. “I’m gonna be fine. I gotta lot more bitchin’ and hollerin’ to do to check out now,” she would reassure me. “But I do need you to do me a huge favor.”
“Anything,” I answered.
“I need you to find me some hair. I know you can handle that.”
Of course we both busted out laughing over that. My family is fully aware of my preoccupation with all things hair.
As it turns out, though, I would never get the chance to follow through on that favor.
It became obviously quickly that the situation was a lot worse than anyone had anticipated. Then came the call that she was being sent to the hospital. My Dad started to make flight arrangements. I couldn’t get a grip on just how quickly the situation had declined. I sat at my parent’s kitchen table and cried like I haven’t cried since I was a child. I kept telling my Mom I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready to let my Grandmother go. I just got her back in my life. I wanted more time.
It was pretty clear that this trip back to Missouri would not be a good one for me emotionally. I decided to remain in Rochester and look after my parent’s house. That may sound bizarre to some people, but it was the right thing for me to do at the time. I just couldn’t handle the idea of going back there to watch my Grandmother die.
I did, however, need to do one important thing. Almost exactly like I had done a year prior, I took a deep breath and picked up the phone.
I called my Grandmother’s hospital room. Thankfully, though medicated, she was perfectly coherent and was able to talk on the phone.
“Hey Grandma. It’s Rob.”
“Well, hey there kiddo,” she replied. “Whatcha doin’?”
“I just wanted to call, you know…I don’t think I’m gonna be able to make it back this time.” I started, my voice beginning to crack. “But I want you to know that I love you very much and I’m sorry I waited so long to get back in touch with you and hope it doesn’t hurt your feelings that I’m not….”. I had to cover my mouth at this point because I was choking back my tears.
“Now, you listen to me,” she began. “Don’t you go feeling bad for what happened yesterday and I promise I’ll try not to feel bad for not being around for you tomorrow. We’re with each other in sprit. Deal?”
“Deal,” I answered.
“I’m happy we had the time we did. I sure did get a kick out of reading your articles. Maybe when you’re ready you’ll write about me again”
“I love you,” she continued. “I’m going to be just fine where I’m going, so don’t be sad. Remember what I told you when you were down here visiting? This isn’t goodbye, it’s I’ll see you later, okay?”
Those were the last words my Grandmother said to me. She died the next afternoon.
The moral of this story is simple: if there is someone in your life that you have been meaning to reconnect with, stop whatever the hell you’re doing and do it right now. Don’t waste another moment. Nothing is worth putting it off.
I try not to regret the years I didn’t appreciate and spend with my Grandmother, and per her wishes, try to focus and think fondly of the time we did have instead. She was my biggest supporter and my brightest inspiration. I miss her everyday. Especially on Sundays. But I know that somewhere out there, Alice Smith is still paying attention and keeping tabs on a certain Serial Blonde. And for that I am truly grateful.
Essential Download: "Flies On the Butter"
Artisit: Wynonna Judd
Available On: What the World Needs Now Is Love
Originally published in the August 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
July 01, 2006
“I’m just completely at the end of my friggin’ rope,” I wailed to my newest, closest confidante, who in turn nodded sympathetically and offered me a drink from her sippy cup.
Yes ladies and gentleman, I have resorted to taking council from an 18-month-old baby.
With the month I’ve had, who could blame me.
I’ve recently begun the process of moving into my new apartment. I’ve taken to calling it a process because, being who I am, I can’t just move in somewhere until it meets the Serial Blonde seal of approval. The best part of this is I have my landlady’s full permission to make the space my own and do whatever I want to it. Lucky me, right?
Yeah. Lucky. Keep reading.
The previous tenant, a lovely, creative woman, got a little too lovely and creative and had painted the entire space bright yellow and lilac. That’s right. BRIGHT YELLOW AND LILAC. Imagine if you will the end result of Big Bird and Tinkie Winkie ejaculating all over your house…and you might have a better appreciation of how I felt. I wanted to cry. But I didn’t have time to. With the fifteen years of wall priming I was about to undertake, who had time for a BEACHES moment? Certainly not I.
Whoever perpetuated the stereotype that gay men are born decorators is full of shit. I would rather endure a penis swab at an STD clinic. I spent a week agonizing over paint samples. I like bold, dominant colors, like red. But who knew there were so many variations? Apple, fire engine, blood from tearing my hair out. We’re talking hundreds of shades here. And don’t even get me started on the window treatments. The plan was to be creative and design my own. Perfect on paper. Excruciating in reality. I am quite possibly the only homosexual on the planet that hasn’t the foggiest flippin’ notion on how to work a damn sewing machine. I did happen across a print that I thought would look fabulous on the windows, but all hell broke lose as a result. It was blue. That’s when I started to hyperventilate because I had already spent so much time debating the merits of red, and no, I won’t mix red and blue because, for that matter, I could have just left the yellow and purple up, thrown in some orange, painted a green stripe through the whole mess and held this year’s PRIDE festival in my fucking living room and…why is that sales girl looking at me like that? That’s when I noticed my reflection in the storefront window and realized that at that very moment, Cujo and I shared more than a passing resemblance.
At times like this there is only one thing you can do.
So I said screw it and drove to Wendy’s for a Frosty.
I wonder if Martha Stewart ever does that?
Amidst the chaos of decorating, my parents and friends have tried to be supportive and helpful. Notice the use of the word “tried”.
My Mother, God bless her, kind of makes me want to be on drugs when we discuss my new digs.
“Are you sure you want to put that there?”
Which is followed twenty minutes later by…
“I still don’t think that’s going to look good over there.”
And my favorite…
“Do you even need a bed?”
My best friend Aaron was amused when I mentioned the possibility of working with the color blue. He made the mistake of asking, “Blue? Isn’t that kind of masculine for you?” I wonder if he’d ask me that if I had him bent over the counter with his pants around his ankles and his ass in the air? I’ll give you masculine, all right.
My girlfriend Louise seemed completely puzzled by my stress level, but tried to be sympathetic, in her usual back handed way. “I don’t know why you’re getting all worked up about this. Everything will be fine. WE’RE going through the same thing with our house and you don’t hear me complaining.”
The key word there is “we” as in she and her husband. The only “we” I have are the voices in my head…who unfortunately are not going to help me paint or move. So the new key word is “no” as is no she doesn’t understand my stress level because she is part of a “we” and I am just a “me”.
Damn. I knew I should be more supportive of gay marriage rights. I overlooked a perfectly valid form of volunteer labor.
This brings me back to the baby, the one person in my life who has managed to be a calming influence (okay, second…my Dad has actually been extremely helpful and more importantly, low on opinions!)
Right now the baby and I are playing inside her playhouse.
Hey, it’s actually not so bad in here. And it’s a neutral color.
Essential Download: "It's Hard To Be Me"
Artisit: Cyndi Lauper
Available On: Shine
Originally published in the July 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
June 01, 2006
I woke up the other morning to find my guy-friend (read: friend with benefits) watching me.
Staring at me.
With his eyes.
It was a bit startling.
“Um…good morning. What are you looking at?” I asked him.
“You,” he answered.
Did one of my hair extensions decide to migrate while I was sleeping? Was something, God forbid, hanging from my nose?
“Um…okay. What about me?” I asked rather anxiously.
“Just that I feel so good when I’m with you,” he replied.
“Well, I have been doing this for a long time,” I joked, making an obscene gesture with my fist and lips.
“I’m being serious,” he pouted. “I’m not talking about the messing around. That’s great too, but I feel really connected to you. I think I’m falling in love.”
“Oh my God,” I blurted out.
“What?” he asked.
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
“Why? It’s true,” he explained.
“Well, I…wow. Where are my boxers?”
And with that dear readers, I leapt from the bed, grabbed my shit, gave my guy a quick kiss, told him I’d call him later, and ran down two flights of stairs and across a parking lot, all the while clutching my boxers in one hand and some of my “hair” in the other. I do believe I frightened a few pedestrians that morning.
I was frightened too.
You see I don’t have a real good track record when it comes to romantic relationships. I’m a (sometimes) good son. I know I’m a great friend. And lets just say I know my way around a bedroom…or a laundry room, or a dorm room, or the backseat of a car for that matter. But I digress, when it comes to the concept of committing to intimacy on a more emotional level, I suck. And not in a Chi Chi LaRue way.
My lack of allegiance to this idea, I’m afraid, is tied into my first gay experience.
Kris, my first love, was a boy I grew up with. He was my first kiss, my first date, my first…well…you know. It was under the dining room table Christmas Eve. Don’t judge me! It’s not like your first time was Buckingham-Fucking-Palace. The feelings we had were so exciting and new. They were also terrifying and confusing. We were two teenage boys living and playing with some pretty grown up ideas. Maybe a little too grown up.
I always had a strong feeling that my life was meant for something bigger than just being ho-hum me. Kris, on the other hand, had a hell of a time dealing with his sexuality. I became more socially and politically conscious of what being homosexual meant and thrived under the notion that I was somehow a part of a change coming to the world. He never quite got the grasp of finding his true identity. He couldn’t rise above the homophobia and intolerance that fill our world. I think the saddest part of all is that he could never truly rise above the homophobia and intolerance he had in himself.
I’m a person that generally requires answers to my questions, and there is so much about our story that has been left blank. Why are some people designed to withstand certain situations and prosper, while others crack under the pressure? Do people really have any idea that this ongoing fear and intolerance towards gay rights and acceptance is sending damaging messages to our youth? I see the kids today (I laugh to myself for calling them that, because I am SO OLD at 28. Who the hell am I? Marianne Faithfull?) and I pray on everything that is holy to me (right now a stack of Madonna CDs, as they are handy) that they take advantage of the resources available to them and that they live strong, confident lives. ANYONE taking his or her life because of something we are born with is so unnecessary and tragic.
I wish someone had been able to tell Kris that.
Why isn’t love enough to save those we love from all of this bigotry, hatred, and intolerance we encounter in this world? I’ve grappled with this question for years now. I confess that not coming any closer to an answer has tainted my view of relationships in general. It’s hard to get truly close to people when you’re afraid that something bad will eventually happen. So really, it’s no surprise that each of my subsequent relationship have been doomed from the start. I mean, come on. With this frame of mind, even Prince Charming doesn’t stand a fucking chance. I know there are a lot of people out there like me. They’ve been burnt, hurt, rejected, and dejected all in the name of love.
But it can’t stay like this forever, can it?
I’d like to think that someday my views will change. Just imagine it: me recognizing the importance and validity of commitment, shunning my fear of it and embracing it. Then you. Then the world! Wouldn’t that be something?
Or is that a little too Oprah, even for me?
For right now, though, one step at a time.
Maybe I’ll get the balls to tell my guy-friend that I have feelings for him too.
But first I think I’ll have a cigarette.
Essential Download: "I Know Things Now"
Artisit: Original Broadway Cast
Available On: Into the Woods
Originally published in the June 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
May 01, 2006
I’m not quite sure how I feel about this.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate high school. My issues were way more personal than that. Like most teens, I struggled for an identity. I was new to the area, shy, and awkward. But these are not qualities one aspires to have when they want so desperately to be heard and seen. That’s all I really wanted: to be remembered. A trailblazer, if you will. So, with the same impact as a bird hitting a windshield, I busted out of the closet as a sophomore, quickly gaining the reputation of being that “funny, gay boy Rob”. I gave myself one rule to live by during those years: be as fun and ostentatious as you want, but never let people see you sweat, keep them on the surface.
While most of my class mates were agonizing over writing papers, dissecting fetal pigs, or brushing up on their Algebra, I was learning the fine art of the back handed compliment, cruising for boys, and making myself the center of attention. Now if I had had a final in any of these subjects, I would have been vale-fucking-dictorian. This bravado kept most of my peers in stitches, enabling me to surround myself with some pretty cool people, and best yet, kept the bullies at bay. I had created a persona that was so much stronger than I really was. I went from being a “Veronica” to being a “Heather”.
Being out was great for my social life, because being different was in during the nineties. Being young and flaunting and celebrating your sexuality so openly was like a Louis Vuitton hand bag. Oh so fashionable and trendy. I remember vividly my best girlfriend and I sitting at a table during lunch many a time mapping out how all of our loves lives interconnected, the boy on boy on girl on girl and back again sea of teen love and sex we were sailing in (this was eight years before The L-Word and their infamous The Chart, mind you, so we were pretty revolutionary, thank you). It was so exciting to be so daring and ahead of the curve. We’re we special, or what?
It’s hard for me now to look back on that time and not be critical. The passing years have given me a perspective that makes me regret many of the choices made back then. Sure, I thought I was doing myself a favor, protecting a fragile ego with such an over the top version of myself. But was the distraction and spectacle really worth it? My options and resources were limited at the time. We didn’t have the gay friendly groups kids fight for the right to have these days. Hell, I was the Gay Alliance in my school. But did I ever use my abilities for the better of others? Did I ever stop and think that someone might look up to me as a role model for being okay with being gay? No. I was too busy protecting and promoting my own self-interests. And as far as my personal relationships go, most of them were as superficial as I was pretending to be.
In the years since, I have remained close with three people from high school, and only because they had the sense to look beneath the carnival that was me and truly understand who I really am on the inside. And though I cherish them to this day, I am remorseful that I didn’t allow myself to have more real relationships with some of the other people from that part of my life. There was one girl in particular that I was very fond of. She even went to the prom with me. Even though everyone knew what the real deal was, we were trying to be coy, cute, and clever. She and I started becoming close, but the minute my veneer started to crumble; I walked away from her and her friendship. Same thing with another friend of mine. He was such a sweet, sensitive, good looking, and charming guy. He was such a great friend. My sexuality meant nothing to him. He genuinely liked me for me. I do believe I was in love with that boy. But I didn’t think I could afford to be so vulnerable, so open and honest, so again, I walked away. I walked away a lot in those days. It was so much easier being carefree and boisterous than to put your true feelings on the line.
Today I still consider myself funny, and yes I’m still kind of in your face about things, but now it comes from a healthier, more sincere place. My heart and feelings are bigger and more important now than my sexuality or my ego. I must confess thinking about my high school years raises the same fears and insecurities that got me into this mess in the first place. That’s why the thought of attending this reunion freaks me out.
How do you go about reconciling who you were then to who you are now? Do you make amends for questionable behavior, or do you chalk it up to youth and inexperience? Can Robby Morris in 2006 really compete with Rob Smith from 1996? Do I have to? Will my former peers embrace the idea that the boy who showed up for play rehearsal in full drag, that boy who lived to be provocative and trendy has grown up and become a more confident young man whose place in the world is a complete 180 from where it once was? Will they even care? How will I feel seeing that girl whose friendship I still long for but threw away so many years ago? Will she understand? Am I really going to be able to face seeing that sweet boy who I was in love with now that he’s married and living a life polar opposite of mine? Will ten years and a fresh perspective really matter when I am face to face with the people from my past? Will I or should I even care?
I don’t think I’m ready for this.
Give me another ten years and we’ll see.
Essential Download: "High School Confidential"
Artisit: Carole Pope
Available On: Queer As Folk
Originally published in the May 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
April 01, 2006
I was sad at that moment, too. Sad because here I was paying someone for the same exact lecture I could have just as easily given myself for free.
“Don’t think of me as the bad guy,” he continued. “I just hate to see someone who is relatively young and has so much going for them squander it away.”
“And what, pray tell, do I have going for me, Doc?” I asked, anxiously awaiting the end of this appointment. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed in his office and would have given anything for a cigarette. No. What I really wanted was a candy bar. Yes, a candy bar and the biggest Pepsi known to man.
“You’re always talking about the book inside you that you can’t wait to write,” my doctor began. “And your life is filled with people who love and need you. Not only do you owe it to them, but more importantly, you owe it to yourself to want a more healthy, productive life.”
“I’m worn out and empty,” I replied, wearily. “There are too many things in my life I’m not thrilled with, so many things I want to change. Too many things, actually.”
“Well, you can keep ranting about how awful you feel, how tired you are, and how the obstacles are too much,” he observed, “or you can focus the same amount of attention on doing something positive for yourself. Don’t throw your hands up at all of the challenges. Pick one, just one, and start working from there. Rome wasn’t built in a day, Robert.”
And instead of whipping him upside the head with his stethoscope for being so cliché, I actually sat quietly and contemplated what he had laid out for me. Maybe he was on to something.
The evening after this particular appointment, I dimmed the lights, lit some incense, loaded massive amounts of Bette Midler into my iPod (cause really, who’s musical catalogue would be better suited for self reflection than the Divine One’s), and sat at my computer with the intention of making a list of issues I really wanted to address in the coming year. Find a more natural looking hair color? Yeah, like being natural has anything to do with being me. Delete. Quit smoking? Well hell, I quit drinking and recreational drug use is no longer part of my repertoire, so I’m allowed one vice, am I not? Delete.
Try and take some of this weight off because I am extremely unhappy with the way I look and the way I feel.
“I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” started playing at that moment and I, on cue, started crying. Only this time, I was not crying for Barbara Hershey, but for myself.
The issue of my weight is one that I have struggled with all of my life. And more often than not, the struggle has been more against myself than against the world.
People are always surprised when I comment that my figure was not a major source of ridicule for me as I was growing up. Likewise being a plus sized gay man in today’s look obsessed culture. I’ve always had that kind of “take me as I am, or screw you” mentality when it came to my looks. I’m simply not that interested in what someone else thinks I should be or how I should look. And while on the outside I was the epitome of confidence and good humor, on the inside, well, as usual, that was a different story. I may have been able to deflect the fleeting comment or two that someone threw my way about my weight (or my sexuality), but I was less successful at shielding myself from the worst critic of all: myself. I have always been far more cruel and harder on myself than anyone else could ever possibly be.
One of my most vivid memories of high school involves a sleepover I had with one of the popular jocks in my grade. Sleepover is such a quaint description, isn’t it? So anyway, there I was, lying naked next to one of the hottest guys in my class. There he was, also naked, gasping for breath, and marveling at this new thing called gay sex, taking it all in. I, on the other hand, was too busy holding my breath, holding my stomach in, and contorting my shape to try and slim and flatten the areas of my person that were neither slim nor flat, wishing the fucker would hurry up and go to sleep so I could put my damn clothes back on. I felt gross naked.
Only I would have self-esteem issues after fucking a quarterback.
And that has been the story of my life. Perfectly awesome opportunities, ruined by my self-loathing.
Now, it was time for a change.
In finally doing something about my body issues, a lot of the work has been dealing with the emotional aspects of my weight problem. I had to address the fact that I am an emotional eater. Not only did I inherit my Mother’s eyes, I got this trait from her as well. Eat away the drama. Mom and Dad are fighting? Pass the chips. My brother is out getting stoned and terrorizing the neighborhood? I’ve got dibs on the cookie jar. What do you mean Erin Daniels is leaving The L-Word? Where the fuck are the Twinkies? You get the point. I am slowly learning there are more viable outlets available to counteract stress than eating (like coloring your hair, or writing a column and confessing your secrets to the world.)
Another big deal for me was having a real heart to heart chat with myself about the things I eat and the amount of physical activity I get. Sure, I can still have a Pepsi, but I don’t need to inhale a case of it. I can eat out with my friends, but I don’t need to reenact the Last Supper, do I? A slice of toast is not the enemy. An entire loaf of bread is. I have developed a love affair with vegetables and have discovered that I CAN drink eight glasses of water a day without having to piss every twenty seconds. I have started walking a lot more. I’ve even taken up an hour of aerobics at least three days a week (gotta love Fit TV, Digital Cable Channel 438!).
It has now been nearly three months since that fateful day at the doctors. I’ve lost about thirty pounds. But more than the actual weight, I’m pleased with the amount of personal bullshit I have lost along the way. I’m no longer getting hung up on the false projections of what I used to think I should look like or be. Those chains no longer bind me. It’s a cool feeling getting used to liking myself without exception. (And, as a bonus, my Mother has been working on her weight issues as well. She has lost eighteen pounds and has been an amazing inspiration to me.)
I’m not going to delude myself into thinking that just because I’ve been so far successful in losing some weight, that’s it’s all sunshine and roses from here on out. Everyday is a struggle to make healthier choices, and some days are better than others. But in being kinder to myself and coming to terms with my body image issues, I think the path to a healthier, trimmer me has been made a little easier.
Now if I could just find such solace with the issue of my hair color.
Essential Download: "My Mother's Eyes"
Artisit: Bette Midler
Available On: Divine Madness
Originally published in the April 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
March 01, 2006
When straight people lavish so much praise and attention on a well known gay themed film, such as Brokeback, it at times comes across that it is expected that 1) as a gay person, I should be happy that they are not offended by said film, 2) as a gay person, I should be thrilled that we are getting positive attention from the exposure said film generates, and 3) as a gay person, I should just piss myself silly with pride that a straight person is supporting said film. I actually had someone say to me that she felt that by recommending Brokeback to her family and friends, she was, in her way, endorsing gay rights. I wasn’t sure what to make of that statement. Sure, the gesture is good-natured, but really, that is just about the most stupid fucking thing I have ever heard in my life. The same thing happened about a decade ago with a little movie called The Birdcage. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. As much as I think that movie is a hoot, it hardly speaks for the gay community and its issues. But people round the world were delighted to discover that us “gays are so funny and charming.” (Which would be wonderful if it were true. Personally, I know I’m hysterical, but I also know a lot of really boring and un-amusing gays as well!). Yet, we seemed to appreciate the attention, however misguided.
My dear gay brothers and sisters contribute to this dilemma as well. I think we are so anxious to see our faces and voices out there being represented, we take this attention and exposure as a step in the right direction, and not for the blind apathy it could potentially be. So many of us want to be accepted, praised and identified with, we’ll accept any positive feedback as flattering. As one of my friends asked, “Isn’t any form of recognition that puts our lifestyle in a more accessible light a good thing?” And maybe, he’s right. But I question any queer friendly film, or gay themed television program’s for that matter, relevance to the real issues we face as individuals and as a community. Are good reviews and sympathy towards two love struck cowboys back in the 1960’s really going to aid us in our seemingly never ending quest for equal rights in today’s day and age? Do you really think Brokeback’s multiple nominations and awards are going to break down the establishment and reward us in the same way?
The whole idea of positive attention and representation is one I have always found fickle in the gay community. I find it both ironic and offensive that we, it would seem, would be willing to accept the praise and recognition mainstream successes such as Brokeback Mountain or even TV’s Will & Grace receive for their representation of gay life, while the images programming such as Queer As Folk and The L-Word project earn our scorn for being stereotypical and not representative enough. Would someone please explain the logic behind that? Why are we okay with this? Is it because the latter are more aggressive in their approach? We don’t want to piss anyone off, do we? Are we conditioned to be more secure with publicly accepted stereotypes than ones that are not seen on a regular basis? Do we crave acceptance and respect so damn much, we’ll settle for this double standard?
I certainly hope this trend end. It would be nice to watch a film or show without feeling like its job is to be a poster boy (or girl) for my lifestyle, but rather, to simply entertain me.
I suppose if Brokeback Mountain does win the Oscar for Best Picture, I will be pleased. But only because of its merits as a film, not because of what is does or does not represent. And maybe one day soon, we’ll all find a healthy compromise between being the individuals we are and supporting our common causes without such a strong emphasis on the need for mainstream representation, least of all a movie, to accomplish that.
Essential Download: "You Don't Know"
Artisit: Cyndi Lauper
Available On: Sisters of Avalon
Originally published in the March 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
February 01, 2006
I have made a vow this month to try my damnedest to not threaten the lives of Cupid or anyone who may be in the greeting card business. Really, its not them, its the happy straight and gay couples that make me want to snip the blooms off of roses, cuts holes in paper hearts, and set box of chocolates on fire this time of year.
A lot of these couples, as Valentine’s Day looms, have apparently become experts on that certain “L” Word: love, and what it and relationships should be. And if you aren’t a part of it, boy, do they try and sell it. I have issues with that. I don’t buy into the stock mentality that unless you are a part of a couple, you are somehow lacking as a person, that you have no real sense of what love is, and worse, because of your single-ness, Valentine’s Day for you must be as pathetic as Lindsay Lohan’s driving record. Some couples of the world have some pretty heavy concerns about us singles.
“You must feel awfully sad and lonely being single.”
I’m sorry. I’ve been spending a lot of time hiding in this dark cave, writing sad poetry and wondering how Sylvia Plath really did it, you see, so I didn’t hear what you said.
Um…No. I’m fine, thank you.
“But it must be miserable not having someone special to celebrate Valentine’s Day with!”
Bring on the razor blades and easy listening radio for poor pathetic me!
Now what kind of bullshit is that? My life is filled with special people. I don’t need to date them, dine them, or fuck them to validate their existence. Nor do they mine. Some of my best Valentine memories involve nothing more than just hanging out with friends. Sure celebrating the holiday with a significant other would be fantastic, but I’m not going to fall apart if that idea is not in the cards. Celebrating with the other “loves” of my life, platonic as they may be, can be just as fulfilling.
“Jeez, you sound like you’re really anti-relationship. How sad! Did you have a bad experience with a man?”
Great. That’s a concept I know I (and apparently Lesbians), LOVE to deal with.
Believe it or not, I LIVE for love. Like anyone with a pulse, I crave emotional and physical intimacy, have had good and not so good relationships, and like those who still haven’t found Mr. or Mrs. Right (as opposed to Mr. or Mrs. Right Now, which I think a lot of us tend to fall for when we’re emotionally vulnerable…or just plain horny!), I march on with hope and optimism. I know that if you kiss enough frogs, eventually one will turn into a Prince…or will at least buy you dinner. But until that moment arrives, I can buy my own dinner, thank you very much, and am just as content to do so.
The only anti feelings I have on the subject is not wanting to concede to other people’s expectations and ideas of what love and relationships are supposed to be, or their importance. If you have a man (or a woman), good for you! If you are in a loving, committed relationship, God bless. If you are dating up a storm, giving the girls from Sex & the City a run for their money, you go girl. But please don’t assume that just because my love life, whatever shape or form it may be in, does not mirror yours, that I am some poor old soul weeping away the years by myself, or worse yet, a bitter, jaded queen who thinks relationships, romance, and all that jazz is nothing but headaches and heartaches. I simply live and play by my own set of rules. You do your thing, I’ll do mine (a concept us gay folk have mastered).
Now that we have that settled, perhaps we can spend more time talking about that other “L” Word. You know, I just love that show! I totally dig the character Shane.
“Isn’t she the one that is afraid of commitment? How sad!”
Oh, here we go again…
Essential Download: "Original Sin"
Artisit: Elton John
Available On: Songs From the West Coast
Originally published in the February 2006 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.