Love

Another Mostly Unwise Decision

Last night, on a date, I had a conversation about what artists I absolutely had to see live in concert before I die. Actually, I’m not even sure it was a date. We were eating salads in a Cosi; that’s an ambiguous nether-region, like the lingerie section at Walmart. Ever since Cosi stopped being XandOs, the romance has just gone out of that place. But can we talk about this date for a second? (I’m, literally, one sentence into this blog post and I’m already off-topic). I don’t really know what’s happening with this guy and the ambiguity is kind of making me a little nuts. Well, it’s not making me nuts. Life is making me nuts. The fact that the thing I search for the most on Yelp is “brunch for one” is making me nuts. brunchI am making myself nuts. I know.

Anyway, I have learned in the past that it is a terrible idea to write blog posts about people you may or may not be dating. Terrible. Here is a 10-minute story about the last time I wrote a blog post about someone I was dating. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well.

But it’s okay, guys, because I thought ahead! Last night the Cosi guy asked me “Should I be reading your blog?” and I replied “It’s not essential” because I’m really good at false modesty. So, there’s no way that he’ll come across this blog! This is a foolproof plan.

We’re not even Facebook friends, so it’s not like it’ll come up on his feed unless everyone in the world shares this. (PS everyone in the world please share this; I want a book deal more than I want a functional relationship.) I did emphatically invite him to Google me, however. This isn’t a euphemism. It just occurred to me that it could’ve been. I have literally no game. Hash tag forever alone.

Anyway, we were in the Gray Zone eating salads and talking about concerts. Side note: I hear that’s the next Marvel movie, Thor: The Gray World. In it, Natalie Portman spends an hour complaining that Thor never calls her back until finally Idris Elba is like, Bitch you are just friends. You need to stop slapping him all the time; that is not a good look. Here, I made you a friendship bracelet that says “He doesn’t like you like that.” He lives IN A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE. I’m just saying, maybe give J-Date another try.natalie-portman-thor-2

ANYWAY, my date was listing all kinds of bands and artists from different genres, all good choices. He said, “What about you?” I was like “BEYONCE. CELINE DION. BETTE MIDLER. END OF LIST.” And if we’re being honest, I’ve already seen two out of the three. I eat, sleep and breath Beyonce. And I went to a Bette Midler concert when I was 13, which is why I’m gay.

He said, “Honestly, Celine Dion does nothing for me.” I whipped my scarf dramatically around my neck and said, “It’s clear that you have terrible taste and I bid you adieu. Just kidding, do you want to get married? I have a marriage license in my car. Just kidding, I don’t have a car. The license is in my pocket. Seriously though, have you heard her cover of ‘Alone’?”celine_edge

P to the S, I just remembered I was on another “date” this weekend with someone else and we also started discussing Celine Dion’s cover of “Alone”. Guys, I might need to diversify my areas of conversational expertise. I think Celine maybe cock-blocking me.celine2Anyway, I’m pretty sure this other instance wasn’t a date. I mean, I don’t know. We were at a coffee shop, drinking coffee, talking and laughing. Sometimes I get confused and think that’s what dating is because that’s all I really want. When I’m old and crotchety and still good-looking (black don’t crack), I just want to sit on the porch with my husband, sippin’ coffee and laughing like children. Also: living like lovers, rolling like thunder, etc. I don’t think that this is too high an expectation for life. It might, however, be too high an expectation for romance.

In any case, we were sitting at the coffee shop and Heart’s cover of “Unchained Melody” came on. I Shazam’d it as he correctly identified it. I was super impressed. Trivia skills are an aphrodisiac. A rousing game of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire is like porn for me. Another Heart song came on next, and then another and we realized this hipster-ass coffee shop was playing the entirety of The Essential Heart. We decided, even though it was getting late, the sky was dark and the wind was kicking up, we didn’t have a choice but to stay until we heard “Alone”. Because we’re self-respecting homosexuals and this is still America, dammit.

We almost gave up after about an hour. We started to put on our coats when all of the sudden the deceptively light opening chords came sailing across the bustling coffee shop. We threw our vestments to the ground, tilted our heads back and cried “The night goes by so very slow and I hope that it won’t end though… ALONE!!!”

Guys, if this were a romantic comedy you would already be pre-ordering the DVD/Blu-ray.

What I love about music is that it always legitimizes the huge feelings we all sometimes have or the insane scenarios we (well, I) make up. Heart is blasting across a coffee shop and I am transported to a rainy fire escape, wearing a leather jacket and kind of being a little stalker-y. “How do I get you alone?” I’m pretty sure that’s the super-objective of every villain on Cold Case.prince john

But when you sing it, it’s not so crazy. And I love that. When I fell in love, I was amazed, literally amazed, that every love song was totally true. I was like “Omg Taylor Swift is so right right now!” And then when that love ended I was amazed, sadly amazed, that every song about heartbreak was totally true. I was like “Omg Taylor Swift is so right right now!”

Despite my love for music, I almost never see live concerts. I get uncomfortable. The general public really seems to not understand that I need a lot of space for jauntily swinging my elbows, I need the crowd to not sing too loud, and I need the headliner to wrap it up so I can get home at a decent hour.

Nevertheless, I went to see Big Freedia in concert a few weeks ago. It was fantastic, of course: raw and gritty and sexy and utterly ridiculous. At one point, Big Freedia started spinning her arms above her head as her dancers began to orbit her in a traveling booty-bounce brigade. Eventually, the show dissolved into a full on twerk-magedon. It was dazzling!

Actual footage

Actual footage

Ass! Ass everywhere. I started singing Aerosmith. “I don’t want to close my eyes! I don’t want to fall asleep. And I don’t want to miss a thing.” I got it all on video for posterity. But apparently I’m too old to figure out how to not delete the one good video on my phone, leaving only pictures of food and Oprah GIFs.

I will say, though, the concert had one major drawback. There was this tall dude standing right in front of me who felt the need to dance extremely expressively in a way that was just unnecessary. He kept poking me and shoving his ass into me and grand-jete-ing in my personal space. Finally, I decided I needed to say something.

“Ma’am! Ma’am!” The woman in front of me turned around. “No not you miss. I’m talking to the tall man beside you flailing like Yo Gabba Gabba. Yes, the gentleman right there. I’m  addressing you, ma’am. Excuse, I don’t mean to be rude but you’re doing too much right now. I don’t profess to be an expert on booty bounce but I can assure you that it’s much better for everyone if you don’t do it whilst spilling your drink down my arm. Yes ma’am. I know we’re all here popping our toots and whatnot but you’ve added a new permutation to the dance. I call this addition ‘getting on my last damn nerve.’ Yes ma’am. See you’re all gesticulating hands and yoga extensions and flipping those forlocks and that’s lovely and all but it’s too much, honey. You don’t need to whip your hair, sweetheart; it’s past Willow Smith’s bedtime anyway. Let the beat come through your taint. I don’t want to have to fight you in this twerk pit, but I will if I make the acquaintance of your elbow one more again. I’m from Baltimore, baby. I’ll take out my booty bazooka. Plam plam!”

He was unmoved. I sulked the rest of the show.

I think I’m too old for concerts. Not that they’re an inherently young thing, but a lot of perfectly acceptable concert behavior falls on my list of “tomfoolery and nonsense”, so maybe I just need to stay my ass at home.

And that’s okay. I can blast Beyonce all day long in my bedroom and never once get hit by a stranger’s flapping Single Ladies hand. And there’s a certain freedom in saying, “I like this thing but it’s not me anymore.” And maybe “too old” is the wrong phrase but it’s a nice shorthand for “I’m going to let this go.”

In that sense, I’m too old for a lot of stuff:

monicaI’m too old to keep track of the earbuds to my iPhone. Sorry, people of public transportation you’re just going to have to sit there while I blast a really sad episode of This America Life followed by “The Boy Is Mine” in this otherwise quiet subway car. You can’t expect me to commute in silence, can you? My internal monologue will overtake me. Chaos will ensue. Thanks for understanding.

I’m too old to take a good selfie. You ever notice how after a certain age people’s selfies get weird and uncomfortable? They always have facial expressions like a baby going poo poo in its diaper. The angle never makes any sense and seems physically impossible. Did you break you arm to take this picture? Why do you look like you’re enlisting right now? Get off of Facebook and go watch the new Murder, She Wrote.

I’m too old to get into jogging. Look, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. I always think it sounds fun and then I start and I get to the corner and it’s like I’m the guy in Memento. I’m like, “How did I get here? Why am I dressed like this? I can see my house from here, why don’t I just go back there?” Jogging defies logic. I’m sorry. It’s logic; you can’t fight it. Now who wants a Frosty? We’re already outside, we might as well.

I’m also too old to be freaking out about stuff that happened years ago. Hakuna matata!

And I’m too old to be freaking out about stuff that hasn’t happened yet. I said, hakuna matata, bitch!

And I’m too old to be fretting about whether I’m on an actual date with a boy I like. I’m too old for shyness and semantics. I’m too old to be worried about somebody not texting me back. As my girl Tracy Chapman says, I’m too old to go chasing you around, wasting my precious energy.

…okay, that last paragraph’s not altogether true. Dating can bring about all kinds of neurotic thoughts: Am I good enough? Does anyone like me? Who’s paying for dinner? (Not me.) So I do enjoy the occasional over-dramatic internal monologue, the romcom fixation. Like a Celine Dion ballad, it’s so serious that it’s ridiculous. Love songs and crushes and uncertainty and twerking and irresponsible blogging all exist in the same plane. It’s not a place I want to stay forever but I’m still young enough to visit. And that’s important. It’s essential. It let’s me take a step back and laugh at myself. It let’s me protect my heart.celine3

rericthomas.com

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Happiness

15 Things You Need to Do THIS INSTANT

The Internet sure does have a lot of opinions. There’s a few list-icles being passed around of late that are variations on the theme “Things Every Gay Man Should Do Before Death”. Actually, only one is “Before Death”, the others are “Before 40”, which is probably the same thing to some members of the community.  (Oh no he di’n’t! Girl, did he go there? Oh, he went there, girl.) Personally, I think these lists, in general, are ridiculous. They’re built on stereotypes that are either hackneyed  (“Stop being afraid of lesbians.” Okay, thanks for the advice, Bruce Villanch) or weirdly specific (“Have sex on a beach, in an elevator, on a roof, in a car, in the desert, and your parent’s house.” Nope. Sand. Claustraphobia. Emotionally scarring.). Also, they don’t have enough GIFs (so much reading! What is this, grad school?). I decided I could do better. After all, I am an expert at having opinions.

NEVER FORGET

NEVER FORGET

One of the pitfalls of these lists is that they all seem to come from one point-of-view, one kind of gay man. Specifically, Brian Kinney from Queer as Folk. And although it’s a well-known fact that affluent, emotionally distant sex addicts give the best advice, I just can’t forgive him for letting Justin slip out of his arms. I. Just. Can’t. I talk about it in therapy at least once a month. And, every time, my therapist has to slyly flip through her notes to figure out who the hell Brian and Justin are. And, I have to admit, I am not here for the look of disappointment when she comes across the page, which I imagine reads “Jesus, whatever you do don’t let him start talking about the damned TV show. Bring up that time they sat him outside in the rain at Green Eggs Cafe. That story is always good for killing 15 minutes.” I AM ON TO YOU, DOCTOR!

WHY, GOD, WHY?! I mean, does it make any sense at all? They’re perfect for each other! They’ve been through so much! Honestly, in my mind, the last episode of Queer as Folk doesn’t exist and they never say goodbye and they’re still together forever now. And, by God, they’re happy. Finally. ::sobs quietly::

Anyway, I had an inkling that my list might either be similarly slanted to my particular point-of-view (or comprised solely of QAF fanfic scenarios and theories about Scandal) so I enlisted the help of a friend. Sean is whip-smart, hilarious, and, at 18, is hip to all the things the kids are into these days: Snapping their chats, twerking their Mollies, and such. We put our heads together and came up with a definitive list of things every gay man needs to do. But we realized it was such a good list, we shouldn’t limit it just to gays. We changed a couple of pronouns, took out a really excellent Lady Gaga reference, and now it’s for everyone! Except you, Brian Kinney. There’s only one piece of advice I have for you.

15 THINGS YOU NEED TO DO THIS INSTANT

by R. Eric Thomas & Sean Simon
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Happiness

Money Can’t Buy Happiness… JK, It Totally Can

So, we’re seriously going to do this “winter” thing again? Really? At this advanced age? Haven’t we wasted enough plastic utensils and spilled enough oil and melted enough ice caps to avoid this nuisance? It is cold! Why? Every year when it gets this cold I get irrationally furious at the Pilgrims. Why would you stop here? You live in log cabins! You don’t have access to hoodies or temperature-controlled environments! This is not a good life choice. What I think the Pilgrims needed was a sassy Native life coach to help them out. “Here’s a picture of San Francisco. Put it on your vision board and get to steppin'”

Look at those ridiculous shoes!

Look at those ridiculous shoes!

Ugh, winter! It is still winter even now! I thought it might have ended while I was typing that paragraph but no. Every inch of skin is dry, and I am back to my natural shade of Nilla Wafer brown as opposed to my summertime hue, which is in the Nutella category. And everyone likes Nutella more than they like Nilla Wafers. I can’t even eat Nutella and I like it better. Ugh, Nilla Wafers, upgrade your life!

not stablerI just don’t understand why we have winter. I don’t see the point. Neither do bears; they fucking sleep through it, like it’s an episode of SVU that doesn’t have Stabler. All winter long I’m like, Why are we watching these two Not-Stablers stumble around New York failing at busting white slavery rings when we could be watching Stabler punch a wall and have marital problems. Ugh, SVU, upgrade your life!

The worst thing about winter is that it always tricks me. Winter has a stealthy approach, like really cocksure snake. Or the leader of white slavery ring. It’s all gently descending temperatures and entreaties of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and then BOOM! there’s a foot of dirty snow on the ground and you’re locked inside a cargo ship en route to a Russian brothel.

Here are the stages of winter, please print this out and warn your loved ones.

At first it’s like, Ooh! Scarves and cardigans! Cuddle weather!

And then, Yes! Kids in Halloween costumes! Cuteness overload!

Then, Aw, changing leaves! Smells of cider! Let’s go hiking like white people!

Then, Really, Christmas carols this early? Where do I store my gloves? Why don’t I have a better system of organization in my own damn house? Do I own gloves? What is my life even?

Then, GIVE ME ALL THE TURKEY! Give it to me! GIVE IT TO MEEEEE!

Then, Christmas carols! Yay! 

Then, Christmas carols? Still? Oh, look, Love, Actually is on.

Convince me otherwise.

Convince me otherwise.

Then, Alright, enough with the Christmas carols! You know, Love, Actually is kind of sad. Laura Linney can’t have sex with the hottest man on the planet and the Sheriff from Walking Dead tries to steal Keira Knightley from his best friend? Fucked up, man. That best friend was a slave for 12 years! Can’t he catch a break?

And then it’s January and it’s cold and there’s nothing good on TV and you’re like Fuck! Got me again, winter!

Every fall my best friend Jake says that winter is a great time to get boo-ed up and hunker down under a duvet with a warm body. And this is true. But Jake is a massively successful dater and I am… not.

It’s not that I’m bad at dating it’s just that I don’t have a stealthy approach. I’m all like, Hi, I’m Eric, thanks for visiting my online profile, you seem nice enough, how do you feel about a live band and a Photo Booth at our wedding? Do you know someone who can get us on to the New York Times Weddings and Celebrations page because that’s one of my life goals? Can you sign this paper right quick? It’s for the adoption agency? THERE’S A CHILD OUT THERE WHO NEEDS MY LOVE.

lucille-bluthAnd, I don’t know why but guys generally tend to not respond that well to that. Commitmentphobes, I’m sure.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what I’m looking for. It is Cuddle Weather and I am chilly, but one does not necessarily lead to the other. Winter is a tricky son of a gun.

A few weeks ago, when the air was still balmy, I went on a second date with a nurse. He was nice enough; he talked fast. I like fast talkers. Sometimes. Sometimes I’m like, “Yo, this isn’t the Christie’s Auction House, can I get a word in edgewise? And do you want that last corn muffin because I kind of had my eye on it?” We went back to his place and made out a little. In retrospect, it was kind of a meh experience. But I was so taken by the mis-en-scene that I mistook it for romance. His place was so nice! The air smelled good, the furniture looked nice, the paintings on the wall were so pretty. And he had this gorgeous white comforter, so fluffy and pristine. It made the blue checkered number I’d been using since college seem ratty and immature. I decided I had to have it.

Before I left I interrogated him on where he got literally everything in his apartment. He told me because I made it quite clear that I was a little on edge and it was going to be extremely difficult to get rid of me otherwise. And then I went out and bought it all–from the expensive comforter to the body spray to the Burt’s Bees flavored chapstick that made his lips seem less like a stranger’s. Everything.

This is a healthy coping mechanism.

After my ex-boyfriend moved out, there was a solid two week period where I would wake up every morning and refuse to get out of bed until I’d managed to convince myself not to get the lyrics to “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” tattooed on my body that day.

Okay, what are we not going to do today?
Eat healthily.
What else?
Go to a tattoo parlor…
That’s right.
But
No.
But the lyrics are so evocative!
You’re going to regret it in like a week.
You don’t know my life.
Girl, I am serious right now. You can’t get that song tattooed on your body.
Yo, but what if I get it tattooed in Chinese so nobody knows.
Who do you know that can translate into Chinese?
I don’t know, Chinese people. Shut up.
Listen, you are carnival crazy right now and I’m going to need you to sit on your hands. Just for today.Youre-Crazy-Reaction-Gif
But I’m sad!
You’ll get over it.
What if I don’t?
Then you can get the tattoo.
So, like, tomorrow?
Bitch, you testing my last nerve! Get out of this bed!
Who you think you yelling at? You better take that bass out your voice when you talking to me!

where do broken hearts go

The only way that I found to resist the pull of inking my entire body with Whitney lyrics was to log on to Amazon.com and start clicking. It started with shopping for the comforter that the nurse had. I added a couple of options to my wish list, decided all were too expensive, realized I felt a little better and got out of bed.

A few days later I logged back on and bought some air fresheners. My room should smell nice, I thought. Like a rest stop bathroom. That’s classy. And I felt better and got out of bed.

A few days later I went on a play-purchasing binge. If I’m going to throw myself into work to get over this breakup, I’m going to need these. For research! I owe the Philadelphia public library $86 from a DVD copy of Die Hard I forgot to return for two months in 2009 and I’ll be damned if I’ll ever set foot in one of those socialist money traps again, so I had no choice but to buy the plays. By the Way, Meet Vera Stark: own it. Peter and the Starcatcher: own it. One Man, Two Guv’nors: own it. And I felt better and got out of bed.

Then I bought a new set of pots and pans, bright red ones with smooth white insides. And I decided I’d hang them from the rack in the kitchen and told myself one day I’d start cooking again. And I felt better and got out of bed.

I was told there would be cakeThen I started buying books. The Buddha in the Attic, because a woman in my class suggested it. I Was Told There Would Be Cake, because it’s exactly what I want to title my book and I’m hoping if I just buy all the copies in the world, I can just usurp it. The Velvet Rage, because gays be crazy. And I felt better and I got out of bed.

Then I decided that the reason it was so hard to get out of bed sometimes was because my bed was old and saggy and sad. So I went to brunch one day and on my way back popped into a mattress store. I rolled around on beds in an empty warehouse while a teenaged sales associate looked on dispassionately. I flipped on to my side on a Tempurpedic and muttered, “But what will really make me happy?” Then I bought a double sided pillow top, paid for delivery, and got out of bed.

Finally, I decided to revisit the comforters, the impetus behind this spending spree. I weighed the attributes of a couple different brands; I read every insane online review; I phoned a friend. And then I hit “Buy”. And that was that. It came in a couple of days; I spread it across my new bed on a fall morning just before the temperature began to dip.

I go on a date or two a week nowadays. I always come home by myself. To my apartment full of stuff: Brene Brown books, cardigans, IKEA tables, cleaning tchotchkes, expensive pots, cheap wall art. My apartment that we picked out together. My apartment that felt half empty and echoed after he left. My apartment that I slowly filled back up, with new stuff: a painting over the spot where a picture once hung of me throwing my head back, guffawing at something he’d said; a set of colorful bowls in the bare cupboard shelf; boots on the unbalanced shoe rack; a new comforter on the empty bed.

You know, I don’t even think I like this comforter. It’s lumpy where it should be fluffy; it doesn’t look as pristine in this light. But I’ll keep it and pretend I do like it. Because it cost me $150 and I’m mysteriously out of money. And because, for now, it’s keeping me warm.

rericthomas.com

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Art

You Can Like the Life You’re Livin’, You Can Live the Life You Like

I WENT TO A FANCY AWARDS SHOW!

THEY GAVE OUT AWARDS! AND CASH PRIZES! IT WAS THE MOST AMAZING NIGHT OF MY LIFE! THERE WAS A PODIUM! AND PRESENTERS! AND MONTAGES! I FUCKING LOVE MONTAGES! (I’m so serious here, I love montages. They are my 7th favorite thing in the whole world. I LOVE MONTAGES!)

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME WATCHING A MONTAGE

slow-clap

Okay, I promise this whole post won’t be in caps lock.

JUST KIDDING, I LIED. AN AWARDS SHOW! I WAS THERE!

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME BEING THERE

patti-labelle-antics-o

My company, 1812 Productions, was nominated for a big award at this year’s Theatre Philadelphia Celebration. It’s like the Tonys. Which is the Oscars for Broadway. But you knew that already. And if you didn’t already know what the Tonys are, I’m not sure we can continue this relationship.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF YOU AND ME JUST NOW

disappointed

Anyway, we were nominated for a phenomenal show we did last spring called It’s My Party: The Women and Comedy Project. This was a pretty big deal for two reasons 1) there was a $25,000 cash prize associated with the award and 2) Philadelphia theatre is no joke. We often get overlooked because of our proximity to New York, but there are artists working here at the top of their games with impeccable training and far more freedom than a lot of Broadway productions.

There are over 100 professional productions that go up each year in Philadelphia and surely as many semi-professional productions. There is a level of craft here that rivals every other city in the country. I’ve seen some of the most incredible sets and lighting and costume design and performance I’ve ever encountered in this city. This is a legitimate theatre town and there are people who work year-round at the highest level. And they’re famous for it.

AND THEY WERE ALL GOING TO DRESS UP AND GO TO THIS AWARDS SHOW.

Caps lock. Yo. I’m sorry. I’m just, you know…

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF MY INTERNAL MONOLOGUE

Not_even_sorry

My first order of business on the day of the awards was to buy a sports coat. Because my 6th favorite thing in the world is running around Center City’s upscale stores at the very last minute and my 5th favorite thing is spending money even though I have a perfectly good clothes at home.

I spent hours looking for a sports jacket that would convey effortless Diane Keaton-meets-Diahann Carroll glamour and would simultaneously cover my ridiculously long monkey arms (is it racist if I call myself a monkey? Whatever. SORRY INTERNET.) Along the way, I bought a shimmering copper tie. Even though I have a hundred ties. This tie is the color of a Tony, I thought. This tie is my vision board!  

we have a tie

I also bought a shimmery blue tie and a blue and red checkered tie because I just have to accept that I’m a fancy pants crazy person and I like dressing up. At that moment I realized, this is my life calling: dressing up and going to awards shows. This is what I was put on Earth to do. I want to do it all year round, just put on a suit and show up at places where they are giving out awards. Does this make me Jack Nicholson? Actually, to be fair, everyone at any awards show knows who Jack Nicholson is whereas though I knew who most people at the Theatre Philadelphia Celebration were, precious few knew me. So, I guess that makes me Ryan Seacrest.  I’ll take it!

jennifer-lawrence-oscars-golden-globes-critics-choice-best-funniest-gifs-hilarious-13

I had originally planned to wear a bow tie and suspenders. BECAUSE THAT IS THE DEFINITION OF FANCY. But one of the things I’m working on in therapy is accepting the fact that I just don’t look that good in bow ties. And I had to wear a belt instead of suspenders because I bought my pants at the beginning of the summer right before I lost 17 pounds in a tragic not eating for two months accident. And yes, that is totally a thing. Thank you for your condolences. I’ve gained some of it back since then, but it seems to have only gone to my face, so no pictures please. I said no pictures!

I eventually found the one sports coat in the whole city that would fit me without tailoring, fixed my face, did a twirl, hopped into a cab and off I went. If I weren’t so modest, I’d tell you I looked amazing.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME YELLING OUT THE CAB WINDOW

hey-everyone-come-see-how-good-i-look-gif

When the ceremony finally began I found myself legit emotional. I was just so happy to be there and so proud of the show we were nominated for and so grateful. It’s My Party was the last show of my first season at 1812. It was an exhilarating year but also one that, like the most productive experiences, was totally disorienting. With our final show I began to get my legs. But the show itself was hard. It was a new work, it was a massive 3-hour, 3-act piece and it was a labor of love for our brilliant, fearless director, Jen Childs. I can’t really explain what made it so difficult without talking about experiences that aren’t mine to talk about. But suffice to say, we were all so heavily invested in it that it became personal. I guess if you love and believe in something so much and work on it for so long, when you release it into the world even the most rapturous embrace can feel brusque.

When It’s My Party opened, there were rapturous embraces. But there were also some bruising comments that incited angry tears. It had a healthy run, it was a show to be proud of, but at the end of it we were all exhausted. It had been an exhausting year.

And, sitting in the audience at the awards, I thought back on that exhausting year and was overwhelmed by how proud I am to have been a part of it. This is the first year that I really worked full time in my field and I looked around the room and realized that I felt at home. For the first time. And I started to cry. IN PUBLIC.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE (TIE NOT PICTURED)

beyoncecry

The ceremony was, of course, everything. Montages! Presenters! Musical numbers! A confetti cannon! Even though I was expecting to see all of my friends and idols and co-workers from the theatre community, I still felt a giddy rush each time someone I knew waved or sidled on stage in a fancy dress or sat next to me telling me to stop crying so loudly please.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME WHEN THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF OUR COMPANY WALKED ON STAGE

whitney and natalie

After the awards came an after-party that defied all of my expectations. It was two floors of activity–a cabaret with rotating live performances, a speakeasy (which was basically just a dark room to get pregnant in), a dance floor (with laser lights!), a photo booth, and the most amazing buffet I’ve ever seen. This is what I love about theatre people: we don’t just have one idea, we have all of them. The same goes for feelings. If someone tries to encourage moderation, we just burst into the chorus of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” until they relent. I thought, This is like the best bar mitzvah I’ve ever been to. And then it hit me, this wasn’t like a bar mitzvah, this was my wedding reception! Talented crazy people running around in fancy clothes, food that never runs out, live musical performances in every corner, a make out room, me in a suit! (Are you taking notes, Dr. Boyfriend?) All I needed was an elaborate proposal that goes viral and all my dreams would be complete. Still, even without a dude standing outside my job blasting “My Love Is Your Love” on a juke box while my entire family looks on uncomfortably, the party was a dream. It was everything. EVERYTHING. I couldn’t decide what to do first.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME WALKING INTO THE AFTER PARTY

this is too much

My friend, Amelia, and I were torn between our desire to find a cute actor to make out with and our desire to make out with the entire make your own macaroni and cheese bar. We chose the mac; the actors would just have to come to us. People I knew were walking around, talking, rubbing elbows and I found myself completely unable to make any small talk because I was totally overwhelmed by the process of eating until I exploded.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF EVERY CONVERSATION I HAD

mac and cheese

When I looked up from my plate and saw a table piled high with brisket sliders and bamboo boxes filled with potstickers I literally let out a yelp and broke into a full on sprint, like I was Celie in The Color Purple seeing Nettie for the first time in decades. Finger foods are my long lost sister and nothing but death will keep me from them.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME AND BRISKET FOREVER

celie nettie

I stayed for hours, running the halls, sharing beautiful moments with dozens of people–people I’d worked with, people I’d admired, people I’d always wanted to talk to, people I really want to make out with (I’m looking at you, cast of Theatre Exile’s Cock). I ended the evening dancing up a sweat in my fancy clothes and then escaping into the cold night, shimmering and vibrating with life.

So often, my feeling that I’m getting closer and closer to being the person that I want to be is dampened by the self-doubt that tells me I’m not doing it well enough, I’m not educated enough, I don’t have a strong enough vision, I’m not as successful as the Tony-nominated actor I went to college with or the friend from school who wrote the most produced play in America two years running or the composer friend who has an opera playing at the Met. Ironically, all that doubt disappeared at an awards show, an event designed to say (in part) some of you are doing it better than the rest of you. I felt, for the first time, I’m doing it. Without qualification, good or bad; I’m just doing it. The work, the hard work, is showing up every day for your own life. I’m going to keep doing it. I belong here–Philly, the theatre community, in this seat, in this inexplicably perfectly-fitting jacket, gripping this potsticker like it owes me money.

I wasn’t nominated for anything. I never set foot on stage. But, I’ll be damned if I didn’t win.

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Love

This is Just a Test…

Guys, I might have accidentally fallen in love with the guy who gave me my HIV test. What’s the proper term? HIV tester? Test administrator? Precept? Docent? Whatever. Whomever. I love him.

It really must be love because I’m not usually one to talk about my, um, sex life. And, okay, testing is actually just responsible behavior and self-care, but baby with the bathwater, I say. easyaWhile in theory I believe in normalizing regular testing for sexually active adults of all stripes, I am also a prude. Philadelphia, where I live, has a great number of sex-positive organizations, which is all well and good, but I have a long history of sex-negativity. I’m all for sex, but don’t like to talk about it, think about it, or acknowledge that it happens. I’m kind of a Puritan at heart; I’m still not convinced that The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter weren’t black comedies about appropriate responses to rips in the moral fabric of a level-headed community. My parents used to tell me that they tried for so long to have me and I honestly thought that that meant that they prayed really hard.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, my impending nuptials!

The other night, I popped into a local testing center run by a wonderful organization called GALAEI because it was time. I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for two years. It ended in July and I figured it behooved me to restart my regular practice of getting tested every six months. Climb back on the horse, as it were. Okrrr?!

falling-off-the-horse

I wasn’t looking for love, but they say that’s when it strikes. Like a serial killer in a movie. The super cute scrub-clad doctor led me to the private room, pricked my finger (like Cupid!) and started the clock. All doctors are hot, aren’t they? Like physically attractive. Their faces are symmetrical or whatever it is that makes people hot. They have small pores. I don’t know what it is. But they have it. Even the ones with slightly less than symmetrical faces are hot. And it’s not just the money; it’s the confidence, I think. They’ve got that Fitzgerald Grant Alpha-personality going on. And I’m a firm believer in making all my life decisions as if I’m Olivia Pope. Live every week like you’re wearing sharkskin gloves.

I twiddled my thumbs. In previous HIV tests, I’d been ushered out to the lobby (is it really a lobby if there isn’t a concierge desk?) and browsed through old issues of Entertainment Weekly while the test developed. Clearly he wanted to keep me around.

“What do you do for fun?” the doctor asked. I immediately got confused. What was he looking for?

“What do you mean, fun?” He cast me a look askance. I was like, Gurl, don’t come for me, gurl. It’s unclear whether you’re asking me about possible risky behavior or just shooting the shit. I’m not sure whether I should answer “Well, for fun I like take home intravenous drug users I just met on the street” or if I should say, “You know, brunch.” Is this a first date or an interrogation?!

He’s like, “I was just making conversation.”  Okay, okay. Okay. No need to get snappy. Okay.

He took off his glasses, leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the desk. “I hope you don’t mind; this is my 14-hour day.”

I said, “Make yourself comfortable!” But in the back of my mind, I thought “Honey, if this test comes back sideways, you’re going to need to adjust your bedside manner right quick.”

We chatted for a bit. I told him I work in theater; he said he recognized me from advertisements for a show I’d done. I flipped my hurr.

pw

The conversation turned to dating. I told him I was recently out of a long-term relationship and I was surprised by how soul-sucking dates can be. We take each other apart and judge the pieces. It’s a consumer activity or, worse, a clinical one. We forget that these boys we’re assessing at an arms length are people. And then, in turn, we forget that we’re people, too. He agreed with me. “I dated someone for a 6 weeks and then he just stopped calling,” he said. Out loud, I said, “Aww, that’s terrible!” but inside I was screaming “HE’S LETTING ME KNOW HE’S SINGLE! Ooh! Look at his pretty hair.”

I asked him whether testing was his full time job. He said it wasn’t and his eye lit up as he told me about his day job working with teens at a non-profit. It sounded wonderful and good for society and totally not medical. I was shocked.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “You’re not a doctor? Why am I being honest with you?”

“Why would you think I was a doctor?”

“Um, maybe because you’re wearing scrub bottoms and an expensive plaid shirt, and you’re handsome and I want to marry you.” I mean, is it even legal to wear scrubs bottoms if you don’t have a medical degree? Can I just wear scrubs? This changes everything. Most of my dating criteria are contingent upon the question “Is he wearing scrubs?” I’m not TLC; I want some scrubs. I want all the scrubs. A scrub is a guy who can pay my student loans. He can get some love from me.

Still reeling, I asked him about how he got into testing and what the training was like. “The training was a breezy two weeks,” he said. “There’s not a lot of support.” He told me that’s why he found it so important to make a personal connection with the people he was testing. A lot of the community’s needs extend far beyond a diagnosis and it’s hard to talk about serious issues with a stranger who had only been through nominal training. It was important that when a person got tested, they felt like they were still a person for those 20 long minutes. I swooned, even as a small voice whispered in my ear, Fool, he’s just doing his job. He’s not flirting with you! BTW, do you think maybe you should maybe get a Frosty after this?

Let me just say, that voice is an asshole. And, of course, I’m getting a Frosty. What are you, new?

I have a long history of falling for anyone who is nice to me. Salesmen at J. Crew, convivial ticket-takers at the movies, bright-eyed busboys–they all made my heart go pitter patter with tiny acts of kindness. It really doesn’t take much.

Beyonce_hemyhusband

Tell me that this expensive sweater you want me to buy looks great on me and I will start a wedding registry for us at Target with a quickness.

Whether or not he was in love with me (he was) and whether or not he was actually a doctor (I’m still not convinced. There were scrubs!), his friendliness was a welcome tonic to most medical experiences I’ve had. Getting tested, even if it’s just out of practice, can be a nerve-wracking 20 minutes. And one that’s shrouded in shame. As much as we talk about sex in America, there’s not actually a lot of sex-positivity going around. I got into an argument on a first date a couple weeks ago with a guy who said he could never date someone who was HIV-positive. He said, “It would freak me out. And it’s not fair. They’ve had their fun; that’s how they got it.”

That’s the kind of attitude that keeps people out of their friendly neighborhood testing places (that and the fact that they don’t clearly advertise that there are hot “doctors” inside). The logic goes: good people do good things and that’s what keeps them “clean”. They don’t have risky behaviors. That’s not true. All sex is a risk. Morality exists in the ether; bodies exist in reality.

Dino was the first documented gay dinosaur

During the Jurassic Period, we wear pink.

At the end of my 20-minute dream date with the doctor, I told him “This was the best testing experience I’ve had in all my 9,000 years of being gay.” He laughed. “I like that, 9,000 years of being gay.”

“I’m serious,” I said. “I’ve been gay since before the dinosaurs. I used to kiki with this triceratops who would do drag at Bob & Barbara’s under the name TriSara Vaughn. Fierce bitch. She’s dead now. Ice age. When will they find a cure?”

He wrote me a reminder for my next test. 1/24/14: Our second date.

“Normally, every 6 months is a good frequency for getting tested,” he said. “But with the breakup and the likelihood of increased sexual activity, I’m going to recommend you come back in 3 months.” I was like, “Well, thank you, but you highly over-estimate my game. But okay. I’m picking up what you’re putting down, you sexy sumbitch.”

He smiled at me, “Have a good night. See you in 3 months.”

Clearly just a ruse to see me again. Guys, this means we’re engaged, right?

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