Happiness

Someday, Simba, All of This Will Be Yours

I’ve done it! I’VE DONE IT! I finally tricked my therapist into talking about Scandal with me! It has taken months of “emotional honesty” and “working on myself” and whatever to get to this point. Every week I pay her to talk about television for 45 minutes and every week she side-steps all of my clever observations about The Good Wife and thoughts on Modern Family (“I mean, do those people even like each other?”) and forces me to focus on “the issues.” As if anything is more important than Juliana Marguiles’ power suits and Christine Baranski’s reaction shots.

Diane Lockhart gives the Cliff Notes on 85% of my behavior.

Diane Lockhart gives the Cliff Notes on 85% of my behavior.

But now I am triumphant! I was talking to her about a Scandal-watching party I had with a couple of friends and her eyes lit up. “Ooh, I love Scandal!” she cried. She immediately sat back in her chair and tried to wave it away with a return to professionalism (“But why do you keep buying yoga classes on Groupon if you’re never going to use them?”). I was like “Oh, no you don’t. I got you, Myrtle! Now, true or false: everyone’s hair on that show should receive billing as a Special Guest Star?”

Her name is not actually Myrtle but I can’t tell you what it really is. Doctor-patient confidentiality, y’know. I’m actually really serious about my relationship with my therapist. WestWingI respect it so much that she is literally the only person I’ve ever met who I have not stalked on Facebook. That’s respect, y’all. If I’ve met you even once, if you’re dating a friend of mine, if I overheard your name in line at Starbucks, I have looked at every photo of you on Facebook and felt envious of all the fun you had before we met. God, I waste a lot of time.

I’m a little sad that my breakthrough at therapy comes as our time together is coming to an end. We had our last session together yesterday morning. Because I’m cured!

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Just kidding. She’s graduating. My therapist is actually a student. She’s in 5th grade. I help her with her algebra and she coaches me on managing my expectations and reasonable responses to normal situations (“The counter person at the bagel shop is probably not in love with you. But you could always ask him.” “I COULD NEVER DO THAT! YOU’RE CRAZY! Now what are your feelings about Mama Pope? Why is she always lying down? Does she have a bone density problem?!”). True story, two weeks ago she spent the whole session coaching me through writing a two-line text to a guy I have a crush on. When he responded I freaked out and called her emergency number. “WHAT DO I SAY? WHY WON’T YOU ANSWER ME?! I KNOW YOU’RE HOME; IT’S AFTER CURFEW!” Eventually I gave up and dialed 911. Those operators are really good at composing playful banter.

Anyway, I was telling my therapist about the Scandal party in service of a larger story that I thought she might find entertaining. I really see every session as a workshop for a new solo show. I spent our first month together trying to trick her into laughing with deadpan observations about my family and subtly racist humor. From 9 to 9:50 every Thursday I am Kevin Hart in a small, windowless room on JFK Boulevard. I pretend the noise-cancelling machine is applause. Killin’ it.KevinHart

But it’s over now and I’m feeling a little bit sad about it, to be honest. She asked me to make a list of what I felt the important moments in our time together were and she did the same. This, of course, thrilled me because there’s NOTHING I love more than a flashback episode. And this was a flashback episode and a season finale! What’s that you say? This is therapy and not a television series? Oh yeah? Then why did Special Guest Star Chris Meloni show up? And why was “Feels Like I’m 17 Again” playing? (Well, that’s because I accidentally turned my iPhone on in my tote bag. But still!)

Anyway, it was all very emotional and I gave a speech at the end that I’m sure is a lock for an Emmy Award nomination. Watch your back, Tony Shaloub as “Monk”, I’m gunning for you! (I know that Monk is no longer on the air, but I’m pretty sure that Tony Shaloub wins Best Actor every year anyway because the world is a good and just place where order and good sense prevail.)

As if the end of my therapy sessions wasn’t traumatic enough, when I left home this morning I found a letter in the mail that I’d written to myself in January of 2013. I’d written it as part of my training with Artist’s U, a development program for emerging independent artists, and forgotten all of about it, as I do with literally everything I do at every moment of every day. I don’t even remember what the last sentence said. Anyway, sandwiches. What? Oh, the letter. Yes. I was terrified! There is nothing more cruel than to catch your reflection in the eyes of your past self. No matter how good things are going, how different things turned out to be, there’s always a bit of hope dashed, isn’t there? No? Just me. Whatever. Anyway, here’s actual footage of me opening my mailbox.michael-scott-no

I still haven’t read it. I just can’t handle it. WHAT MIGHT IT SAY?! I’m like Brad Pitt at the end of Se7en, except instead of Gwyneth’s head I’m worried I might come face to face with my own hopes and dreams. And let me tell you, my ambitions are every bit as terrifying as the decapitated author of GOOP newsletters.

OKAYAnyway, this blog post isn’t about my anxiety (Oh, OKAY.) I’m not even that concerned about ending my therapy sessions. I mean,  I have plenty of people to talk about Scandal with (and good coping mechanisms or access to pie or whatever). Like my friend Sean; he and I text about Scandal literally all day every day.

Sean is hilarious. I am constantly haranguing him to start a blog. Of course, then I would have to battle him like Highlander because I see every other funny person as a threat to my existence. One night we were live-texting during an episode of Scandal and I marveled at the pregnant Kerri Washington’s intensity during a particular scene; Sean fired back “She’s acting for two.”

I can’t really tell how it lands at a time when I’m not neck deep in madelines and caramel popcorn. But trust me, it was funny then. Ugh now I have all this anxiety that that example doesn’t adequately convey Sean’s hilarity. I mean, in context that joke made me spit out the piece of cupcake I keep lodged in my jaw (like tobacco chew but for people who are more health conscious). Out of context though… Man I don’t know. I mean, what IS comedy, anyway? I am seriously stressing about this. I simply don’t have time to page through a year’s worth of witty text banter to find a perfect example. I don’t have time! I have a day job! I am not caught up on Orphan Black! I have a meatloaf in the oven! I have a wedding to plan! And, no, I am not engaged but I have a plethora of good ideas and a Pinterest login. What else, really, does one need? Honestly, at this point I could get married with a month’s notice and someone else’s credit card. And it would be a ceremony that would blow your weave back. (Natural hair only at my wedding, please. Because Africa.)

photo-2

The shade. (Click to enlarge. I don’t have time to bigify this.)

Sean and I have known each other since March of last year and I am consistently amazed by how well we get along because there’s a 14 year age gap between us. Most of the time I forget that and talk to him like he’s one of my hundreds and hundreds of late 20s gay friends. But, bless his heart, he is always kind enough to remind me. The other day we were talking about the OJ Simpson verdict (because we like to keep abreast of current events) and he said “the verdict came out on the day before my birthday. Like my birth canal birthday.”

We went to the same high school, separately of course. The Paleozoic era occurred in the interim. (Boom. Roasted.) It’s a phenomenal private school (pinkies up!) called The Park School outside Baltimore. I always say that when I have kids I’m moving back there just so my kids can go to Park too. That’s high praise considering I have a rather complicated relationship with Baltimore. Which is a ridiculous thing to say. I have a complicated relationship with a whole metropolis? That’s like those women who say they don’t get along with other women. “Really, Paula? You have a beef with over half the world’s population? What’s the common denominator there?”

Oh. The past. What is it and why does it happen all the time?

Speaking of: I got an invitation to my 15 year high school reunion the other day. That was a thing that happened. It had a picture of all of us on graduation day and I just stared at it forever. Look at these children! Look at these skinny shoulders! Look at these high-heeled sandals!!SANDALS

I would show you the full picture but I don’t have permission to broadcast other people’s youthful visages across the Internet. Like I have permission to talk about all the jamooks I go on dates with. Whatever. Price of doing business.Orphan Black

I searched the crowd to find myself. I could remember taking the picture but I didn’t remember where I stood. What a weird feeling. As I passed over faces, I realized that I see a large majority of these people on Facebook all the time and yet this is how I remember them. And most of these embryos have babies now ! Look at that goofy face with the Nick Carter haircut! He’s got a baby! Look at the virgin who can’t drive: two babies!

Suddenly, there I was. Right in the center (R. Eric Thomas: Stealing focus since the late 90s).  Stealingfocus_GinaTorresI didn’t even recognize that guy. I don’t who that is. I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know why he did the things he did. But there he was, me, smiling brightly. It was like some shit out of The Shining. I exist in the past! But howwwww?

Not at all creepy.

Not at all creepy.

15 years! It doesn’t feel long, it doesn’t feel short. I guess that’s why I’m sometimes surprised to remember that Sean and I are not the same age. I don’t feel like I think or act particularly young, but I’m in a state of extended exuberance.

There are times, though, when the chasm between us is enormous. For instance, he texted me that his college was doing a production of Steel Magnolias and I immediately texted back “YOU HAVE TO AUDITION! I DON’T CARE THAT THERE AREN’T ANY MALE PARTS! DO IT!” He replied, “I actually haven’t seen it but I felt like you’d think it was important because you’re always talking about it.” And it’s true, I am always talking about. Aren’t you? God, I have so much to teach him! There are young gay men roaming this Earth who haven’t seen Steel Magnolias! I don’t even know how they find the strength to get out of bed in the morning and pull on their skinny jorts.

It’s a funny thing, moving into the middle of the gay cultural inheritance: I get Judy Garland and Britney Spears, but neither of them had as profound an effect on me as they did on men 10 years older or 10 years younger than me, respectively. More importantly, as I get older, my perspective on the long history of LGBT men and women changes and I start to see the experiences of those who came before me as strikingly important to my own understanding of myself. I think sometimes of what it must have been like to be my age in 1981, the year I was born. I know men who recall with heart-breaking vividness what it felt like to watch all of their friends die. The thought of it is sometimes unbearable to me.

And so there are times, when I’m riffing with Sean, that the great book of the past opens up. And it’s not a bad thing; it feels a bit like being welcomed into a huge, bustling community.

Anyway, the way we came to meet was this: Park reached out to me about 18 months ago and asked me to write a play for a festival of new work by alumni.Ben-Wyatt-gifs-parks-and-recreation-28255952-500-273

It, legit, never occurred to me to write something that was appropriate for high school audiences. Instead, I wrote a farce about mistaken identity, rumors and scandal amidst a group of crazy people meeting on a street corner. All of the characters were me avatars, basically. There was one character who declared, apropos of very little, that she needed to eat every 15 minutes or she got demented. THAT IS A MEDICAL FACT ABOUT MY OWN LIFE.

Sean directed the play, a feat that still astounds me because 1) I am a crazy person who just types stuff that makes me giggle (see above) and 2) this 7-character circus was phenomenal! I was blown away. It was actually funny to other people. Plus, he and the cast (Matt, Jessie, Tony, Lizzie, Kelsey, Christopher and Katelyn–whom I think the world of and cannot praise highly enough) had added sight gags and details that I never would have thought of.

I went down to Baltimore for the festival last March. The school looks so much different than it did when I was there. The bones were the same but everything else had been built up and out, technologized and glassified (architecture!). I was to stay the night in the city because the next day I was doing a workshop called  “Finding Comedy in Life: Performance and Panel”. If it were held today I’d ask them to change the name to “Living Your Life Like Lupita” followed by a breakout work session called “May Your Days Be Meryl and Bright”.

ItsSoWeirdBeingMyOwnRoleModelBetween the matinee performance of the play and the evening show, the cast, directors and writers of all the festival plays gathered for dinner and a Q&A. I LOVE a Q&A because I have SO MANY opinions. “Well,” I said, “The first thing you want to do is date somebody older so they can take you to parties at their rich friends’ houses and you can get a feel for good interior design and a well-appointed mezze platter. But don’t fall in love with them. And don’t let them fall in love with you. You’re young. You have to sleep around.”

I’m available for Career Day if you need me.TIP_OITNB

We went through some great questions about what it was like to be a professional writer (all of which I answered “IDKLOL!”) and then they started asking about what Park was like when we, the alumni, had attended. At one point, a lovely young woman named Grace asked me what it was to be gay at Park in the 90s.

I was like, “The who-what? The when-where? The why-with-which? Oh no, honey. This is the most open place I’ve ever been but nobody was gay here then. The guy who played Jack on Will & Grace wasn’t even gay in the 90s.”

Es-ka-weeze?

Es-ka-weeze?

I then went on to commend the gathered group of high schoolers, many of whom were miraculously out and happy and talking about exes (EXES?! PLURAL!) and starting Gay-Straight Alliances with pictures of Chris Colfer on the walls. I was amazed by them. I was inspired by them. I told them I wish that my 17-year-old self could’ve been so brave, so honest. I wished he could’ve seen it.

During dark times I used to wish that I had the power to time travel, just so I could go to the future and see how everything turned out. I just wanted to know that everything turned out okay. I like that inside the wish for time travel there is the belief that everything does, indeed, have a happy ending. I just couldn’t see it yet.

After dinner we all headed back to the theatre. As we walked along a corridor, we passed a huge wall of photographs from the 100 years of the school’s existence. And suddenly there I was. Right in the middle. I came face to face with a picture of me and Kim, Orlando, Aisha and Ama, sitting outside with the then-headmaster. We’re all no older than 15. We’re all grinning in puffy winter coats that I’m sure were neon, though the photo is black and white. There I was. On the wall of this new building in a place that used to know. Or at least there was a person who looked just like the person I see in old pictures of me.

I pointed it out to the kids from the play and kept walking.

I’m so glad that Grace asked the question she did because it pulled my experience now and my experience then into perspective. I’m the person that the kid in the picture would discover if he were to stumble on a time machine. I’m the man who would tell him how things turned out. And there have been times, more recently, when I thought about time travel and wished that I could go back and rescue that kid. I’d tell him he was loved, and he was whole and complete and he had the gift of honesty just waiting to free him.

But that smiling kid hanging on the walls of my high school is unchanging and he’s unreachable. I can’t rescue him; going back wouldn’t do either of us any good. The stranger in the picture needs me to keep moving forward, to keep evolving and expanding so that one day we might become the person we’re going to be. And so that’s what I’m going to do. For all of us.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a letter from myself that I need to read.

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Happiness

Nuvo Homo

Oh, I’ve been away too long! I haven’t posted a blog since Skippy was a pup, I know. I feel bad about it, I do, but what had happened was I got completely overwhelmed by the excitement surrounding the new Beyonce album and I just fell the fuck out. I’ve been in a Diva Coma! That is an actual thing! It is a medical condition! I had to get Obamacare for it. For the last two weeks I’ve been in an assisted living facility where nurses had to play Celine Dion ballads at my bedside around the clock. This is SERIOUS, y’all. My status was wavering between Trife and Ratchet. IN THE GLOAMING, y’all.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME UP UNTIL LIKE FIVE MINUTES AGOfainting

Anyway, Celine loved me back to life (in stores now!) and I’m all healed up!

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME NOWjackiesback

I’ve got all manner of blog tomfoolery planned for this week, including a Year in Pictures coming out tomorrow that will probably just consist of photos of brunch and praise GIFS.

I wrote the following for the William Way Center’s Latin Carol Extravaganza, a fabulous evening of holiday songs sun in Latin (Frosty the Snowman became Frigus Vir Nivis, but of course you already know that.) The Center’s extraordinary director, Chris Bartlett, asked me to deliver a monologue in Latin, and I—like most people in Philadelphia—will do anything for Chris Bartlett, so I obliged (hence the title of this entry, which translates into “New Human”).

I only took a half a semester of Latin at Columbia wherein we translated St. Augustine and listened to our professor rant about how her husband had made her quit dancing ballet and get a teaching job, so my skills were a bit rusty. Fortunately, Chris is a Latin scholar and translated the full piece.  I’ve added a few things, including a post-Christmas epilogue and taken out a part that I cribbed verbatim from this blog. It’s not self-plagarism. It’s called LaBeoufing. All the kids are doing it. Anyway, a little bit about Christmas presents…

oopsWe are serious about gifts in my family. There’s a rigid set of rules for gift-giving. We’re required to send our wish lists via e-mail at some point between Family Dinner, which is the second Sunday in October, and Black Friday. Excuse me, African-American Friday. (Not trying to get suspended by the PC Police.) If you fail to do it by the halfway mark, the Grace Period kicks in and you start receiving daily e-mails from my mother which read “You get what you get and don’t pitch a fit.” If you fail to send your list by African-American Friday, all bets are off and may the odds be ever in your favor.

This is the sole source of drama in my family. And, if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m not actually talking about my family because that would GET ME IN TROUBLE. I’m talking about the Huxtables from The Cosby Show. So when I say my brother, I mean Theo. And when I say my other brother, I also mean Theo. And when I say Cousin Pam I mean Cousin Pam because I don’t have a Cousin Pam. This is getting complicated.

Anyway, we’re not a dramatic family. There’s never any blowups or shouting matches or really much disagreement at all. There are the occasional nibblets of gossip that get whispered down the lane, but even those usually just boil up into some evening shade at Family Dinner that then dissipates into nothing with the next sporkful of macaroni and cheese (yes I use a spork. Because I’m CIVILIZED but I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WASTE.)Nikki Shade

The last time I remember any drama of note was 20 years ago around the time of my grandfather’s death. My mother (Clair Huxtable) had inherited a ceramic figurine from her father (Clair Huxtable’s father). The figurine was of a woman with a giant mushroom hat on her head. Yup. I don’t know either. Apparently it was a hotly contested item because relatives kept popping out of the woodwork looking for the Mushroom Lady. From what I recall (and take this with a grain of salt because I am a lunatic and I sometimes don’t remember what’s my life and what’s an episode of Scandal), the drama culminated at my grandfather’s wake when my mother found my great-aunt poking around in the master bedroom of our house trying to steal the figurine. Let me just clarify: this is a family crisis about a 10″ tall lady with a mushroom on her head. 

When it comes to drama, we’re not exactly Maya and Eli Pope. Unfortch.scandal mama pope

In the beginning we really resisted the gift system, especially my father. He would always send in lists that read “I want gold-toed socks and more time.” He’s so zen; he is always asking for socks and “more time.” And we’re always like, “Man, we ain’t giving you socks, man. Here’s a James Bond DVD set. You get what you get and don’t pitch a fit.”

Over the last 10 years we have fallen into line with the system through sheer force of will. I won’t say whose. But I’ll give you a hint:clair-huxtable-16x9

Last year was the gold standard for the system. There were in-laws and significant others who were introduced to the way we do things: my one brother is married, my other brother had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend. And we all, separately, explained to them how things worked and of course, they all responded with shock and awe. “What is this terrible thing and why do you do it?” And we, like rational human beings, responded with rage and panic. “You have to give me a list of five things! It’s almost midnight on Thanksgiving! Do you feel that? It’s Mommy, she’s clicking refresh on her e-mail! It’s like when the Deatheaters come in Harry Potter and you don’t have a Patronus! You get what you get and don’t pitch a fit! Just write down five things!”

The holidays are a magical time.

For me, the panic of the lists is nothing compared with the ordeal of actually buying gifts. I never buy anything on the lists because I’m a big ridiculous homosexual and gifts have two purposes in my mind: 1) to demonstrate how much better at gift-giving and empathy I am because I’m a gay man and 2) to find a way to buy your love, because I am a gay man.

This usually results in me wandering the streets on Christmas Eve, haggard and tired, looking like Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables: shaved head, dressed in rags, singing, prostituting myself. You know, the usual. Because no gift is ever good enough.anne-hathaway tongue

But last year, like I said, was the gold standard. Last year I discovered The Internet. Have you heard of it? You can just sit, at your desk, and buy things while watching Scandal. And so that’s what I did. I was just like “Oh, girl! No she didn’t! Click, click, click, purchase.” And everything arrived at my house courtesy of my very attractive UPS man and Christmas went off without a hitch.

This year, everything is different. The significant others weren’t around anymore, I’d spent all my money on Burt’s Bees and bed linens in an attempt to get over a breakup and my brother and sister-in-law had a brand new baby who was suddenly all anyone could talk about.

The system finally fell apart when my middle brother, the new father, sent his list out with a newfound paternal gruffness. He wrote, “We have hospital bills and this baby needs diapers so we’re not doing presents. All I want is more time.” And like that weird death dome that they fight in in The Hunger Games, the lists came crashing down. Alarms started beeping in the distance, a voice came over a loud speaker declaring “The system has failed! The system has failed! You get what you get! You get what you geeeeeeeeet!”going on my list

So, I’m went home on Monday alone and empty-handed.

moriartyActually, I didn’t even go home. I went to my brother’s house in South Carolina and I was all out of sorts. When you go to your parents’ home, you’re on familiar turf; you know the rules and everyone kind of reverts back to a slightly more mature version of the person they were at 14. But at my brother’s house there was a whole different set of rules. He was in charge! To quote a current events reference, Homey don’t play that.

My brother had sent a message through the grapevine that he didn’t want anybody doing anything crazy like proposing or whatever at Christmas because he wanted the holiday to be all about his new child. I was like, “Um, are you aware that Christmas is actually about a different baby? Just an FYI.”

I immediately loved this kid, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a bit salty. He had instantly usurped my position as the most needy member of the family. Christmas can’t be about you, lil one, because Christmas this year and every year needs to be about whatever emotional land mines me and my therapist decide to detonate. Obvi.

I decided that the first thing I would do upon arrival would be to sit this baby down and have a conversation about not pulling focus. I am fine if he’s in the same room as me, but he needs to stand behind me and to the right. Genuflection whenever possible. Mariah Divaish

And this is a two-way street, of course. He defers to my fabulousness and I’ll do my best to get famous before he hits puberty so that all his friends can be envious and he can be like “LOLwhatever”. And I’ll keep using face moisturizer so that in 10 years all of his friends’ moms will comment about how youthful and attractive his uncle is and he’ll be like “OMG gross!”

Reciprocity, baby.Raven Pat Your Weave Girl

Anyway, I went home empty-handed and alone, but somehow it still felt like Christmas. The system is down but there’s something bigger that’s twinkling the tinsel and jollying the holly. There’s fewer of us than there were last year, there were no over-sized boxes (aside from diapers. Y’all we talked about poop SO MUCH. SO MUCH TALKING ABOUT BABY SHIT). But that attention-hog baby, this new human, made all the difference. And to me, it gives the holiday a different meaning, it gives bringing joy to my family a whole new bent.

Before the trip, I told myself, “I’m going home with no packages and no partner and I’m going to walk right in and introduce myself to that little baby human. ‘Hello. Congratulations, I am your gay uncle. I don’t have a present for you but you wouldn’t remember it anyway. I just want you to know that as your gay uncle it’s my responsibility to make life fabulous for you. And so I’m going to do that. I’m going to buy you noisy birthday presents and Skype you from exotic locales, like San Francisco or Michael Liang’s apartment. I’m going to introduce you to the concept of brunch and slip you money when your dad isn’t looking. I’m going to talk to you about dating and relationships like you’re a real person even though that will be mortifyingly embarrassing for you. And, most of all, I’m going keep working to make the world a just, welcoming, beautiful place for you. And for myself. Because I love you already. And I love myself today. My gift to you is my presence. And it’s a good present because it means that from this moment on you know at least one queer person. And that will make you a better person, it will expand your conception of what love is, of what humanity can be. It will save you from close-mindedness and hate and put compassion and justice in their places. And the relationship that we build will open you up to so many other wonderful people that live in this huge, beautiful world. I want you to meet them. That’s my present to you. And you should know: we’re serious about gifts in this family.'”

Epilogue:

At least, that’s what I intended to say to him. But, y’all, I was just thunderstruck by this little baby. I fell back into my Diva Coma. I gathered him up in my arms and trotted around my brother’s living room, just murmuring with joy until the baby fell asleep. I abandoned all pretenses of monologuing, I ceded all focus, I genuflected to this little person who isn’t even caught up the latest episodes of Orphan Black and, therefore, is completely incapable of holding intelligent discourse. I’ve become that person. That uncle who is obsessed with his nephew, that guy who floods his Instagram with pictures of someone else’s progeny. Is it possible that I am the nuvo homo? Could such a thing occur?

1525723_10153643807665252_1094684324_nOn Christmas morning, I held the baby as he slept, a tiny little snoring present. I whispered in his ear, “Hi. Congratulations. I am your gay uncle. Could you, maybe, call up to the baby Heaven, if you still remember the number? Could you ask them to maybe send a miracle just like you to my house? No time soon, but one day. Please?”

GUYS! I’m going to have a baby!

rericthomas.com

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Happiness

Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

Over the holiday my parents asked me what my five-year-plan was. In previous years when confronted with that question I’ve responded by bursting into tears and re-enacting August: Osage County by myself until someone stuffed my face full of mac and cheese. “Life is very long. TS Elli–horff norff num num num.” But this year was different! I have a plan!

1) Win a People’s Choice Award. Or at least a perfect attendance award at work.

2) Appear on Oprah’s Next Chapter. Or, the sequel Oprah’s Choose Your Own Adventure Where You Know You’re Just Going to Skip Ahead to See What the Good Option Is

3) Be listed on the New York Times Weddings & Celebrations page

I’m obsessed with the Weddings & Celebrations page. I read it online every Sunday night. And I am so serious about it. It’s probably my main life goal. I love how they subtly write the class into the blurbs without ever having to say “these bitches are rich. Their centerpieces are worth more than your life.” I love how they use “the” to connote importance that’s beyond your comprehension. “The groom’s father is the composer, Danny Elfman.” I love that they occasionally just name-drop celebrities like it’s no big thing. “Among attendees was the bride’s cousin, the rapper Jay-Z, and his wife, Beyonce.” I especially love when they do a longer feature on a couple and upon further examination their lives seem strangely blemish-free and yet slightly creepy. In the most wonderful way ever!bovy_portlandia

I’m obsessed! And I need to be on there. There’s this site called FutureMe.org where you can write e-mails to yourself to be delivered at any time in the future, from tomorrow to 100 years from now or more. One of those options might be over-reaching a bit and the other is kinda missing the point, but I’m not here to judge. (Yes, I am. Never forget that. NEVER FORGET IT.) Anyway, I write my future self e-mails all the time and I always end each one the same way.

“Is it worth it? Let me work it. Put your thing down, flip it and reverse it.
Love, Eric
PS: ARE YOU MARRIED YET? WERE YOU ON THE PAGE?”

Listen, I fully intend to be married within 5 years. That’s why it’s on my five-year-plan. If I didn’t think it was going to happen, it would be pretty ridiculous to put it on my plan, now wouldn’t it? God.

So it’s Sunday and I’m reading the Weddings & Celebrations page. Well, it’s Sunday where I am. Not for you, though,  because you’re in the future. PS, am I married yet? Was Beyonce there?

Me reading the Weddings & Celebrations page

Me reading the Weddings & Celebrations page

The thing I love most about the Weddings & Celebrations page is, I think, the thing I also hate most about it. It shows a kind of life that looks fanciful and romantic and just out of reach. It’s the movie version of life. But, just like all romantic comedies, it’s totally attainable and rooted in reality.

Weddings aside, there are moments where my life does seem exactly like the life of the version of myself who stars in the movie that plays in my head (That’s the one who is going to win the People’s Choice, just so you know.) This weekend I had one of those moments.

I went to a dinner party thrown by my perfect friend Michael. He probably hates it when people call him perfect. It’s probably annoying because it happens all the time. Or maybe he doesn’t hate it. Maybe he’s like “that’s right, bitch. I get up at five, do some yoga, paint a watercolor of a mountain I hiked, bake some fresh bread and then I’m off to work. On time. Cuz I’m fucking perfect.” Meanwhile I’ve been known to make the “I’m going to be a couple minutes late” call a full 15 minutes after I was due in to work. Like, I know I’m late. I just want to make sure you know that I know.

Michael is amazing. He’s one of those gays that makes gays look good. He’s stylish (his clothes always fit! How does that happen?), he has an interesting career (he’s a park ranger! Delightful!), he writes a food column called “Spooning” (I write a weekly recap of his column called “Swooning” but don’t tell him that because it might make it weird). And he seems to be effortlessly creative, from his homemade recipes, to his watercolors, to his print making.

This is a thing that was at his house! A pinecone!

This is a thing that was at his house!

He’s a Martha Stewart gay. He was able to to have a full spread–hummus, pesto, meatballs, pies, bread, candles in mason jars, random pine cones–all ready and waiting for us when we showed up. And I showed up on time because I wanted to catch him in the act. The last time I threw a party I didn’t finish cooking until 10 the next morning. People were gone, the living room had been vacuumed and I was still sweating my balls off in the kitchen, yelling “Give me five more minutes; these brussels sprouts are almost done.”

Michael, however, was all ready, hadn’t broken a sweat, and, when I arrived, was casually engaging the other guests in high-minded conversation while making a second set of meatballs to be served in an hour, just in time for fashionably late guests. Brilliant!

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME ARRIVING AND FINDING NARY A NAPKIN OUT OF PLACEGoldie shocked

He’s Weddings & Celebrations page material. I am not that kind of gay. I’m a Florence from The Jeffersons gay. Here’s what kind of gay I am: I cook well; I like to do it but when it’s all said and done there’s going to be a sink full of dishes and the food is going to taste good but it’s going to look like it was thrown together by Florida Evans who, Lord knows, ain’t got time to be bruleeing figs. Michael gets his recipes from his own brain; I get mine by Googling “easiest pasta sauce recipe never mind I’m just going to buy Prego thanks”. You’re not going to be Instagramming my culinary creations.

Michael makes it look so easy. I won’t ever go kayaking at 5 in the morning; it’s hard enough for me to wake up on time, make a half-assed protein shake (read: Frosty), and get out the door wearing matching socks. I don’t have any kids (that I acknowledge) but I am already a wild-eyed, harried Desperate Housewives character.

Me. Most days.

Me. Most days.

So, going to this party was like a visit to another world. And I loved every minute of it.

The only fault I find with Michael is that for the entire time we’ve known each other he has resisted admitting that he is completely in love with me.

Maybe he’s shy.

I mean, there’s no evidence that he’s in love with me. But I would really prefer it.

hes just so wonderfulA few weeks ago, he said to me “Your Facebook posts are always so crazy. I want to illustrate your life!” True love.

I suggested that he draw illustrations for the book of essays I’m writing. He agreed. Guys, he wants to draw my life in pictures. That’s tantamount to a promise ring.

Anyway, back to the party. It was amazing. I kept loudly exclaiming “I’m having a fabulous time!!” because I have no social skills whatsoever. Here’s five reasons it was amazing.

LOOK AT THIS LIGHTING!!

LOOK AT THIS LIGHTING!! LOOK AT THESE PEOPLE!

1) The lighting. OMG the lighting in his apartment was so attractive. I love good lighting but I hate hanging things, nailing things, installing things or doing anything. So my apartment usually looks like the center spread in Better Homes and Gardens: Mordor Edition.

2) The people. Everyone was so interesting and funny and engaging and pretty. There was a mix of gays and straights from all different places. Michael’s sister was there and she was wearing the most fantastically-draped scarf I have EVER SEEN. And she works for InStyle Magazine and lives in Brooklyn and I could just die! Also, someone recognized me! Like, he’d coincidentally seen my TED talk the day before! I LOVE A PARTY WHERE PEOPLE RECOGNIZE ME!

3) The music. I have never heard a better mix at a party. It was primarily late Motown with an odd indie hit thrown in. Phenomenal. It was like an episode of Scandal where nothing bad happened and everyone was happy and they had to change the name of show to Just Living.

I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t even keep listing reasons. Just look at this fucking picture.

I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS IS BUT IT'S AMAZING AND I LOVE IT.

I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS IS BUT IT’S AMAZING AND I LOVE IT.

As if the party wasn’t perfect enough, I met one of those perfect gay couples. You know, when two perfect gays come together to form a more perfect union. That’s the majority of the couples on the Weddings & Celebrations page. This is not a relationship I will ever been in. I am not a perfect gay. I’m a David Burtka gay. But that’s neither here nor there.

My first interaction with the perfect gays was not very successful

My first interaction with the perfect gays was not very successful

I was sitting across from these two guys and I asked them what they did. One was an architect and one was a doctor. Of course. Then I asked them how long they’d been together. Five years. Oh, stability? How nice. I asked them how they met. They met at church.

They are a doctor and an architect that met at church and fell in love forever over the sound of jazz vespers.

The doctor was quick to quash my romantic musings. “Let me tell you what it’s really like dating a doctor,” he said. “I am up at 4 every day. We never see each other. The thing I look forward to most is going to sleep.”  I was like “Lah lah lah don’t care. You both have adorable sweaters and nice smiles and you seem vaguely put off by how desperately I want your life. That’s a hat trick in my book. I want it. Give it to me now.”

I continued, raising my voice to command the attention of the room, “Tell us an interesting story about the way you interacted with each other when you were first dating.” They looked at me askance. I said “DONT CROSS ME! I AM CHANNELING OPRAH! I AM WEARING LOUBOUTIN TAP SHOES RIGHT NOW! ANSWER MY QUESTIONS!” oprah squintEventually they acquiesced, telling me charming stories about their lives and how they met and then surrendering their phones so I could page through their Instagrams and giggle quietly.

I love origin stories. That’s really why I love the Weddings & Celebrations page. I love talking to people about how they met. I love how even the most matter-of-fact things become fairytale bread crumbs when you tell them in the middle of your happy ending. That’s what I want: not the whole story, but the good parts.

Sometime in the near future I’m going to start a web series that’s just that that: me talking to people about how they met. Friends, lovers, co-workers. I love how narrative arcs are built by distance and inevitability, how suspense is a natural by-product even though the conclusion is foregone. I love a good origin story. I love when it seems perfect.

Sometimes I’m sure of what I want out of life but I’m not always sure where to begin.

pie

P.S.: the morning after the party Michael sent me a Snapchat of a piece of pie with the caption “Pie for breakfast”. The Snapchat was sent at 8:13 a.m. on a Sunday. Bless his heart, Michael doesn’t seem to realize that on Sundays breakfast doesn’t even start until 11:30. But, more importantly, pie! No one has ever sent me a picture of pie before. That’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever seen. Life is perfect!

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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.

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