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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Race Or Whatever

Oprah Winifred Sanderson

I left two costume mashups off of my post 14 Halloween Costumes That Prove You’re the Smartest Person At the Party.  One of them was Oprah Winifred Sanderson, a combo of the true Queen of All Media and Bette Midler’s character from Hocus Pocus. Believe me, I tried to make this work. I adore Oprah; I adore Bette but… I’ve never seen Hocus Pocus.

oprah

Stop judging me!

I’ve never seen it. Sorry. I’ve never seen The Goonies either. Or Labyrinth. I’ve seen All Dogs Go to Heaven like 20 times and I hate that movie, but Hocus Pocus, no. I grew up in a God-fearing home and we didn’t like witches and we didn’t like Halloween. We loved Beaches though. Sweet Jesus, we did.

I’m still not really into Halloween. The only reason I celebrate it is because it’s also known as Gay Christmas and so I get a loophole. I didn’t know about this loophole until adulthood. I hated Halloween as a kid; I guess because I didn’t know there was an opportunity to be witty/slutty. It’s just as well. Kids are generally bad at wit. And sluttiness, actually.

These days, I participate in Halloween/Gay Christmas but I don’t get into scares or ghosts or anything like that. I just invest a lot of creative energy into coming up with totally revealing costumes based on plays on words and pop culture puns in an increasingly futile attempt to get people to have sex with my personality.

Last year, I was Phyllis Thriller: white fright wig, long cigarette holder, red leather jacket. Yup, Phyllis Diller/Michael Jackson. Hello boys. Welcome to the yard!

Anyway, Oprah Winifred Sanderson was out. That left only one choice:

Large framed glassesurkel1a

Headband

High waisted pants

Suspenders

Ninja swords

Costume: Teenage Mutant Ninja Urkel.

::hold for applause::

I went to a party last night thrown by gay couple I adore. One of the two works in theatre like I do, so it was full of queers and theatre people and theatre queers, at least six performances of “The Hot Honey Rag” and a prolonged debate about who would play whom when we all dress as the mid-nineties Queen Latifah sitcom Living Single. It was also a Comic-Con-themed party, so everyone was dressed a superhero. That means, of course, a sea of flaccid penises barely concealed behind low-hanging spandex. gleeAnd if free-balling in a Sonic the Hedgehog bodysuit isn’t what the founding fathers meant by “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, I’ll eat that A I got in AP History. Actually, I think I dropped AP History after a couple of weeks. I did take AP Statistics, though, so I’m still qualified here. Just calm down. Calm down. Sir, please lower your voice.

It was also a Housewarming party because gays are lost if there aren’t at least 3 themes to every event. How can we ironically engage while also judging and rejecting if the party planners don’t take the Lido deck approach to programming? I was once at a brunch that was also an engagement party, a board meeting, an intervention and a gospel drag show.

Anyway, it was a fantastic time, dicks abounded, and nobody but nobody felt the need to paint their face black.

And I’m sorry. This is a dramedy blog; I’m not here to talk about, you know, whatever. Plus, everyone has some really interesting opinions, including the fantastic and very popular Katherine Fritz of I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog. So read them. I got nothing to say…

Except…

Okay, so I put the following up on Facebook when I first read about Julianne Hough’s Crazy Eyes costume:

My actual face.

My actual face.

Nope.
Nope.
Sorry, but no.
Bantu knots, sure. Face paint, absolutely not.

Really? Are you new? Are you an alien visitor from a far away land? Bienvenue! Welcome! Wash your face!

I Just! Don’t! Have! Time to explain how it’s totally fine to dress as someone of a different race and yet it’s totally not okay to paint your skin like them (exceptions are as follows: The Joker. Pennywise. Elphaba.). I just don’t have time. Should there be a mass e-mail? Would that be helpful? What if I wrote it on a cake? I will write it on a cake. That’s what I will do. A cake. I’ll write it on a cake.

And I started baking cakes. But then I got like real hungry and I ate all the cakes. And then I forgot all about it because, you know, this shit happens. It keeps happening. Some people get it, some people don’t. Except…

People in the comments section (I feel like that should be capitalized. For as many times as I’ve been incited to rage by people in the comments section, I feel they deserve their own defined category.) Anyway, People in the Comments Section keeps writing “I don’t see what the big deal is. She wasn’t trying to make fun.” or “Oh, here come the PC police.” Which, first of all, shut it down. All the way down. I’m going to need you to log off the computer, go to your living room and take any seat available. Second of all, you not seeing what the big deal is doesn’t actually change anything. (I’m sorry to be kicking you in your privilege so early this morning.)

I’m sure it would be nice if one could just declare, “Guys! I don’t get why this is a thing!” and everyone else could suddenly carry on about their lives having been given the NBD decree from high above, but alas! You not understanding the complexity of a situation doesn’t make the situation not complex.

gravity

If you think that it does, that line of thought is probably not your fault, but it doesn’t make it true. I’m not trying to black-splain anything to you. I’m just saying, I don’t get astrophysics but that doesn’t make space travel not a thing. Have you seen Gravity? That shit is real!

When you put on a costume, you are highlighting the most easily identifiable aspects of a character or persona. The essence. If you feel the need to darken your skin to portray another person then you are showing the limitations of your thinking. You are saying, “I only see, or primarily see, this person’s skin color” not their distinctive style of dress, their signature props, their robot hands, their talking car, whatever. That is what you are saying every time you paint your skin.

This man is a Ninja Turtle, also, even though he is white. Shocking.

This man is a Ninja Turtle, also, even though he is white. Shocking.

When the “PC Police” show up people start talking like their freedoms are being infringed upon. Like they’re losing the right to dress up however they want or to yell epithets in public or to fire someone for who they love. Just like when the real police show up, I’m pretty sure that you never lost that freedom; you just might have to face a consequence for exercising it. I mean, I did get a B in AP Statistics; I know what I’m talking about.

Look, this is why I love Gay Christmas: you get to step outside yourself for a night. You get to engage in the fantasy that the boxes that hem us in–race and gender and body type and what not–don’t have control. And if you’re a big black boy and you want to be Miley Cyrus, go with God, my friend. And if you’re a petite white woman and you want to be Crazy Eyes from Orange Is the New Black, tie your hair up in knots, toss on a jumpsuit, grab a throwing pie, crazy up them eyes and go. For a night you’re free from the constraints of believability and the exigencies of identity. And you don’t have to touch your skin. You’re free, baby. You’re free.

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