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.)

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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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Art

And Don’t Forget the Importance of Body Language

I’m in a fight!

I don’t want to talk about it.

Okay, FINE, if you insist. (You’re the worst. So nosey. God!)

I’m in a fight with a boy. Actually, a lot of boys. Every boy. I’m in a fight with every boy.

You know how on The Mindy Project every week there’s a guy that she’s pining over or that she’s making a terrible mistake with and you think to yourself, That special guest star is quite attractive; I really hope that this time it sticks and then you think Is she just going to live happily ever after with him? He has a sitcom in the works at NBC. They can’t make him a series regular. And then you think, Maybe he’ll break his contract. This is love we’re talking about, people! And then you think Well, it’s like Meatloaf says, “I would do anything for love but I won’t break a multi-platform development deal.” But maybe… And then you think And then what? No more romantic hijinks. Just brunch on the weekends and summers in Vermont? and then you think Why Vermont? and you respond Scandal-Olivia-Fitz-840x550Because if Fitz and Olivia can’t end up there, by golly, somebody ought to and why not me? I mean Mindy. Mindy Lahiri. On The Mindy Project. Not me. But also me. God, I miss Scandal. And by that time the episode is winding down and, of course, the romance has fizzled out and Mindy is alone again with her life and her co-workers and her pratfalls. My life is just like that of late. Except whereas Mindy does it while traipsing around “New York” (a soundstage in Burbank), wearing fabulous clothes (the costume department is doing the damn thing, child), I do it all from from my bed over text messages while watching The Good Wife on Hulu.

A sensible pact from the Mindy ProjectI hate it. I hate dating! I hate it! I keep having these interactions where I go on a couple of dates with someone and then after a minute they come back at me angry because they say they’ve been throwing themselves at me and I haven’t responded.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF MY REACTION

Exsqueeze?

Exsqueeze?

I gotta say, this trend has me totally flabbergoggled. You’re coming on to me and I’m not getting it? Objection, your honor. We’re not even Facebook friends. If you’re not even going to make the effort to stalk me, I don’t know what to tell you.

I mean, have you met me? I come on strong and I come on crazy. Always. I wrote a blog about a boy I had a crush on and then I sent it to him! MORE THAN ONCE. I proposed marriage to dreamboat Michael Liang at 20 til midnight in NYE. (Still no answer, but cross your fingers folks.) There’s no way you’re sending me messages that I’m not understanding, homes. You don’t need to throw yourself at me. All you need to do to express interest is pull a Sheryl Sandberg: lean in. I’m someone who takes even the slightest shift in posture as a declaration of eternal love. Clear your throat and adjust your tie and I’ll yelp “Yes I’ll marry you!”. Every time.

Look, I get it. Dating is hard. Being vulnerable is hard. Reading body language is hard. (THAT ‘S WHAT SHE SAID.) We’re both strangers sitting across from each other trying not to be strangers. But you know what? I’m one of those strangers too. It’s not the passiveness that gets me, it’s that these interactions make me feel inscrutable. I don’t think I can be with someone who doesn’t get me. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Anyway, to distract myself I’ve been throwing myself into work and into new projects and into supposedly fun things that I would never normally do.

And that’s how I ended up barefoot in a Northern Liberties warehouse with my hands clenched around a high schooler’s neck.bill cosby

Hm. I should back up.

I’ve been thinking about joining the gay rugby team. Well, I’m not really sure if they’re gay. I mean, I know some of them are gay. But I don’t know if they’re officially gay or if it’s just like one of those casual gaynesses. You know, like Aaron Schock has. (POLITICS!) I’ve been interested in joining the rugby team for a while for two reasons:

1) I once watched about 10 minutes of rugby on television and I was really into it. I was totally following the rules and invested in the actual game (as opposed to literally anything else going on in the stadium up to and including the movement of the hot dog vendors up and down the stairs in the stands. Sometimes when I go to Phillies games I try to track one guy throughout the whole stadium. It’s like Where’s Waldo, but with weiners. Also, of course, how I describe most of my third dates.) Anyway, I was really taken by rugby. Until I remembered that I had no interest in sports and abruptly left the room.

2) Every picture I see of the rugby team looks like cuddling.paul-rudd-hugging copy

So I decided to join. I waited until I had insurance again before I gave the thought serious consideration because I know that there is a slight to definite possibility that I will break one or all of my limbs playing rugby. But I don’t like to dwell on that. I choose to focus, instead, on how much fun it’ll be to wear those little shorts and tussle with other chaps in the scrum (that’s what they call the cuddle huddle). It’s going to be fabulous.

Tryouts are in February. I’m thinking of singing a number from Once on This Island and doing a Tilda Swinton monologue  from Michael Clayton. I’m a shoo-in.

In the interim, I was asked to participate in a workshop for Team Sunshine Performance Corporation’s production of Henry IV. It was pitched of four days of stage combat, sword fighting and grappling with strangers. I thought, Oh, that sounds awful. I’m in.No Thank You Please

I’m trying to find more interesting ways to get physically active. I can’t seem to get myself to go to the gym regularly. This is not my fault. I mean, I keep suggesting that the place would be full if they provided a continental breakfast and played romcoms on the TVs instead of all that basketball and news. I’ll get out of bed at 6 am for a bagel, schmear and a hilarious tale of mistaken identity and romance in a modern metropolis. But plodding along on an elliptical while striking the woman next to me with my expressive hand choreography to Beyonce’s new album? Not today, bitch.esq-oitnb-chicken

I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this workshop. I have no stage combat experience whatsoever. I did, however, play  Prince Hal in 11th grade (Yes, that’s where you remember me from. Please, no autographs.)

On my way over, I tried to imagine what lie in wait in this fake combat workshop.  I figured I should get into character. Like most people, when I think of a character that fights I think of Oprah from The Color Purple. So, when I arrived, I stood in the center of the room, squared my shoulders and recited her speech to Miss Celie in the middle of the field.

all my life i had to fight “You told Harpo to beat me!” I bellowed to the crowd. “All my life I had to fight. Had to fight my daddy and my brothers, too. I loves Harpo, God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let beat me!” I stood back, triumphant, knowing that I’d successfully set the correct tone for this band of warriors. Everyone looked at me perplexed. White people.

So, I proceeded to explain the plot of The Color Purple to them. “Before Whoopi Goldberg was a singing nun, she was an unhappy woman married to the guy from Lethal Weapon. Not Mel Gibson. And Oprah was there. This is also before she turned psychic and met Patrick Swayze. This was in the dark ages. I’m talking the mid-80s.” I took the room through the whole movie and then decided that it’d be a nice exercise for the group to reenact the dinner scene where Ms. Sofia comes out of her catatonic state after being falsely imprisoned. Let me tell you, it took about 6 hours to prepare a full Sunday meal and fully commit to Oprah at her Orange is the New Blackest, but I think it was worth it. For art!

Oh! Brilliance alert! I think the plot of Sister Act 3 should involve Sister Mary Clarence’s long lost friend, Shug, who is on the run from her ne’er-do-well musician husband and just wants to settle down in a nice speakeasy on the San Francisco Bay. I volunteer to play Squeek. Guys! This is a legitimately ingenious idea. Can someone call Hollywood, please? I seem to have lost the number.photo.PNG

Anyway, once I ceded the floor to the leaders from Team Sunshine, the actual work began. It was, legit, beyond my wildest dreams. They worked us through a simple weight shifting exercise with a partner, showing us how to simulate grappling without actually hurting anyone. I was amazed at how quickly I broke a sweat simply pushing gently on a stranger. This sounds dirty. I’m uncomfortable. Next paragraph.

We did all manner of things in the interest of finding ways to compellingly and artistically represent the centerpiece battle in the play. We were organized into a modified rugby scrum (cuddle huddle) that moved in a slow spiral as we all tussled with each other (tickle fight). We we split into two sides and taught 16 poses to hold at various points during Hal and Hotspur’s epic showdown. It was like yoga with violence!

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME DOING BATTLEgandalf

We learned how to simulate being knocked out of the way by a mace-weilding giant! We learned how to run in slow motion! Each day I left glowing with sweat, totally physically engaged and kind of amazed at what my body could do. Each morning after I woke up with that good muscular soreness that means you’re doing something right.

And so it was, on the third day, that I ended up in a grappling exercise, with my hands around the neck of a frail looking high schooler, thinking how glad I was to be out in the real world making human connections and sword fighting invisible people rather than doing battle with boys over text message.Pillow Fight

Unbeknownst to me, my experience playing a small part in the creation of Team Sunshine’s new show would be the perfect preparation for my own new work. I’m putting together a new solo show. I don’t really want to talk too much about it yet, though.

FINE! I’ll tell you. (SO NOSEY!)

It’s called Vocab. It’s an instruction manual for the son I don’t yet have. It’s a series of questions about the nature of black masculinity posed by one who, by virtue of his status as a queer person, stands outside of it but is inextricably linked to it through his physicality. It’s about the many ways one can be seen as a black man and how those complicated perceptions relate to actual personhood.

Because I wanted to investigate something I feel outside of, I decided to use a vocabulary that is also outside of my home base, which is storytelling. Whereas previous solo shows have been based in a narrative, this one is based in physical action, in dance. There is still a narrative, but its arc is smaller and secondary to what will be done with the body. So I asked my friend George to choreograph for me. Specifically, to choreograph hip hop. GUYS I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK I’M DOING.

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME TRYING TO GET BACK INTO MY COMFORT ZONEbaby The Help

We met for our first rehearsal yesterday. It was… an experience. George is such a fantastic dancer. And he seems to believe that I can actually learn these hard moves (Hard as in difficult and also as in Ghostface Killah.) We stood in front of a mirror in a dance studio while he just tossed off dance moves, demonstrated them and then commanded “Now you!”

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF GEORGE KRUMPINGbeyoncesweetdreams

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF MY REACTIONwhitney child please

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME KRUMPINGcommunity-krumping1

Standing next to George, looking at his body effortlessly jump into the moves and watching my body react like I had asked it to suddenly grow feathers I got discouraged. I look like a big lumbering idiot. I reminded myself that this was just day one. Surely Catherine Zeta-Jones felt the same way the first time she got in the studio to practice the Hot Honey Rag, I thought. Yes, that’s right, when I’m feeling down I compare myself to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Don’t you?

I’m not a natural dancer. Part of this show is also an exploration of that disconnect–do I have soul? Where is it? Why won’t it teach me to dougie?

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF HOW I THINK I DANCEcliff and clair dancing

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF ME DANCINGRebel Wilson

It was tough. But I left rehearsal and I was glowing and sweating again. And while I was a bit less impressed by what my body could do than I was after the Team Sunshine rehearsal, I still felt more in touch with the physical, more capable, better versed in body language. I was on such a high that I actually went right to the gym afterwards and climbed on the treadmill. Full disclosure: part of this was self-preservation. The show also involves me sprinting in place while delivering a monologue and this bitch ain’t trying to die on stage.

So that was Day 1.

And it seems to me, day 1 is more than just the hardest day, it’s also the day that begins the journey. I like to believe that journey’s destination is freedom from perceptions of inadequacy and a full embrace of the process–whether that process is dating or performing or just living. And I’m in it to win it.

Fight on!Ursula The Little Mermaid Body Language

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2013

The Shizznittle-Bam-Snip-Snap-Snap: A Year in Pictures

Oh, if life were made of moments, even now and then a bad one…

I have no idea what happened this year. I really don’t. I re-read all the entries in this blog earlier tonight and I thought, What? When did I do all this stuff? I went to an awards show? I got engaged to a doctor? Really! Also, I’m a complete lunatic. Why do I put this stuff on the internet?Jennifer Lawrence shrug

Eh, whatever. I’m never going to be president. 

That’s always my thought process when I have doubts about putting potentially embarrassing things on the Internet. Like, the litmus test for “Is this appropriate” is not “do you have any dignity whatsoever?” but rather “you planning on running a national campaign for the highest office in the land? No? Great, do whatever the hell you want! Talk about your therapist some more! Take a picture of your brunch! Work out your complicated feelings! Everything is correct! The NSA already knows about it anyway! Who’s hungry?”

So, anyway, here’s to more of that, I guess!

I’m bad at New Year’s Eve, I think. Ever since I was in the restaurant industry I’ve derisively referred to it as Amateur Night. It’s amazing the number of drunk girls I see stumbling about at 12:15 wearing no shoes and crying. We’re only 15 minutes into the new year, what could have possibly gone wrong?

Center City Philadelphia looks like a zombie apocalypse from around 11pm on New Year’s Eve until around 2 a.m. on January 2nd. Hide your kids, hide your wife, bring out your sparkly headdresses, find your vuvuzela, move your car from the spot in occupies in the middle of Broad Street all year round, disregard literally every law, kiss a stranger, litter with wild abandon! It’s a madhouse. And I tend to try to avoid it.Theresa or whoever

It’s not just the total collapse of society that I try to avoid, though. I’m not really a “New Year, New You” person. I don’t do resolutions. I don’t make myself promises for the next year. And I try not to take stock of the past year on New Year’s Eve. I like to look at life as moments–some closer, some farther–not controlled by time but rather the proximity of memory, the immediacy of emotion. I often find myself telling my therapist (oh look! He’s talking about his therapist again!) about something that happened in the past week and then switching seamlessly into a tale from years ago. Because in my mind there’s a connection, they’re all part of the same unfinished story. She seems to take this in stride. She takes everything in stride, which is impressive considering I usually just roll in there like Julia Roberts in the shopping montage from Pretty Woman, all weighed down with baggage and wearing a jaunty hat. “You agreed to help me parse my emotions? Big mistake. Huge.”

On my way to therapy! Thanks Obama!

On my way to therapy! Thanks Obama!

Anyway, I decided that instead of retracing my steps or promising things I may or may not do in the following twelve months (show up on time, contribute to my 401k, go to the gym, somehow get a baby/boyfriend/tattoo), I would revisit 10 of my favorite moments from the 2013 in pictures. Continue reading

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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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Beyoncé

Oh, YES SHE DID

Oh.

My.

God.

::praise break::catching-the-holy-ghost-o

Y’all.

Oh.

Y’aaaaaaaaaaall.

::praise break::

::pass the offering basket::

I can’t. I can’t even. Like, first can we talk about how last night’s Scandal basically doused itself in kerosene and lit itself on fire while tap-dancing to “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and I don’t have time to talk about it. It doesn’t even rank. Mama Pope is in the wind! Papa Pope read Fitz for toilet crust like the President was a contestant on America’s Next Top DILF! Jake is Command! Cyrus is the Devil! James is CJ Cregg! Harrison is still a cutout from an upscale men’s magazine called Black Men with Limited Plot Function and Nice Taste in Socks! AND I CAN’T EVEN TALK TO YOU ABOUT IT!

I don’t have time!

In the future, we will gather around computer generated simulations of campfires and tell each other when we found out the greatest news of the 20th century. What’s that? It’s the 21st century? Since when? Oh, okay Marty McFly. Anyway.

It was the mic drop heard round the world.Beyonce "The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour" - Los Angeles

I was convalescing at home, wrapped in a blanket and binge-watching Orphan Black. (I want to talk to you about that, too, and I JUST DON’T HAVE TIME!) My roommate came home and said, “Hey, my friend in the music industry said that he heard Beyoncé’s about to release a secret album on iTunes.”

I instantly started speaking in tongues. “King B! H-town! Oh, girl, the stans been waiting! How you gonna tour on no album? But didn’t she do it? Yes, indeedy! Ring the alarm! Can’t no one touch, Mrs. Carter! “Grown Woman” leaked months ago. Still my jam! ::praise break:: This is the place where her sweat hit me at the B-Day concert! Fuck Keri Hilson! Buzz buzz buzz.”

He was like, “Uh. Okay. Whatever. Um, anyway. Apparently, it’s out. Check iTunes.”

ACTUAL FOOTAGE OF MY REACTIONwoke up like dis

OH YES SHE DID!

surprise bitchNow, I love organizational systems. I’m a process whore. A color-coded spreadsheet is as attractive to me as a Details magazine with Channing Tatum on the cover. And my mind immediately started spinning at the sheer magnitude of this achievement. She managed to construct 14-track album, coordinate a multi-continent, 17-video shoot, with footage in very public places, and get it uploaded on to iTunes (this is the hardest part; I can’t even figure out how to get my 2012 tax return off of H&R Block’s website. Like, what button do I press? No, I don’t remember my password or PIN or if I actually used Turbo Tax. I made 7 and a half dollars last year; can you just print it out and send it to me?). And she did it all in secret! Not a rumor! Not a whiff! And trust me, these Beyoncé fans all think they’re Olivia Pope, marching around in bedazzled white trench coats, wild-eyed because they’ve been locked in the hole of musical deprivation for years, posting crazy messages on B’s Instagram using burner phones. How’d she sneak it by us?

Lemme say this to the haters. If she could pull this off–a project that involved hundreds, if not thousands, of people of varying levels of importance and pay scale, with nary a weave-tamer or wind-machine operator speaking to TMZ or getting a little loose on Goose at Chateau Marmont–don’t you think if she had faked her pregnancy, she would’ve been able to cover it up? The woman could’ve given birth to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, 6-foot tall, 40-year-old Scandinavian man and made us believe it. This conversation is above your pay grade. So I need you to buy a one-way ticket to Australia, take the T2 Aiport Line to Museum Station, transfer to the L94, get off at the Sydney Opera House, go inside, look at the 5,738 seats therein and TAKE ANY ONE.hi haters

I’m feeling light-headed. Someone bring me my smelling scarves.

For weeks my family has been pestering me about sending them a Christmas list. After this I was like “Psssh, y’all couldn’t even if you tried. Oprah could hand-deliver all of her favorite things to my door and I’d be like ‘Gurl, just leave it in the vestibule. Armelia at the dentist’s office downstairs will sign for it.’ Look, I’m sorry. This Christmas is the Superdome during the second half of last year’s Super Bowl. Lights out.”

Here’s my list:

1) Oh. Yes. She. Did!

2) Socks

If you can’t handle that, then why did you give birth to all of this gay?!

Anyway, y’all, I’m nearing my word limit and my editor’s going to kill me (LOL word limit. LOL editor) so here’s some totally sane, composed thoughts on every track. Continue reading

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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?

rericthomas.com

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Clothing

14 Halloween Costumes That Will Prove You’re The Smartest Person At the Party

Sometimes it’s not enough to just be the sluttiest bumblebee or the tongueist Miley Cyrus at a Halloween party. Sometimes you hunger for a little je ne sais quois in your masquerade apparel. Sometimes you like to use je ne sais quois in casual conversation. Maybe you’re an asshat, or maybe you’re just too cool for school. Regardless, here’s 14 costumes that will ensure that everyone you encounter on Halloween will know that you have a liberal arts degree and you’re not afraid to use it.

1.oliveknope

Sickening white trench coat
Elbow-length sharkskin gloves
“I Love Pawnee” button
Weave laid like gold and silver.

Costume: Olivia Knope

My friend Thomas wrote on Facebook that this costume should also come with a stack of waffles and anyone wearing it should constantly shout “These waffles are handled!”

2.

Red polka dot dressAndy is SHOCKED!
Guitar
“I Love Pawnee” button
Shoeshine kit
White puffy gloves

Costume: Minnie Mouserat

3.
dowager
Maggie Smith wig
Edwardian gown
Surly expression
Bottle of Rid

Costume: Downton Crabby

Too far?

4.

White cape
White wig with an orchid in it
Sarong with X-Men logo
Mai Tai

Costume: Tropical Storm

I was going to put a picture of Halle Berry here but I can’t even. I just… I just can’t. I can’t. Even.

5.

Print out pictures of kidneys, livers, and hearts with green dots in the corner and orange borders that read “100ft away”.disapprove

Costume: Organ Grindr

Get it?! Organ Grindr!

6.

Duck lips darkwing
Black mask and cape
Wide brimmed black “Andie McDowell in 4 Wedding and a Funeral” hat
Insane white birther beard
Cammo pants

Costume: Darkwing Duck Dynasty

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!

7.

Colorful bear costume
Stethoscope
404 error
Zero Right-wing support
John Boehner’s balls in a vice

Costume: Obamacarebear

8.

Blonde ringlet curls
An ill-fitting half-shirt
A gay pig named Glitzy
Go-Go juice
Scout’s life in your hands
A quiet dignity
A mockingbird

Costume: Honey Boo Boo Radley

This is the saddest costume of all.

9.bbq

Orange prison jumpsuit
A rogue chicken
Vampire teeth
Afro
Barbecue sauce on your titties

Costume: Orange is the New Blacula

10.

Orange prison jumpsuitzack-morris
A rogue chicken
Gigantic cell phone
Barbecue sauce on Slater’s titties

Costume: Orange is the New Zack Morris

“I threw my pie for Kelly Kapowski”

11.

Fairy wings
Pixie dust
A copy of Feminism Theory
Zero time for the patriarchy

Costume: Tinker bell hooks

This costume also doubles as a Masters thesis

12.

Huge wigandy
Heels kicked off
Wind beneath your wings
A copy of Feminism Theory
A New Anti-racism Attitude

Costume: Patti Labelle hooks

13.hipster_belle

A stack of books, including Feminism Theory 
A dying rose
A French accent
A rich prince-turned-Beast who is very aware of his privilege

Costume: Belle hooks

14.

Starfleet ensign’s uniform with a collegiate W on it
Pajama pants
Phaser
An expensive Philosophy degree

Costume: Wesleyan Crusher

A couple years ago, on Halloween, I dressed as Elton John. But because I’m black everyone thought I was Prince. I decided to change it up the next day (Halloween that year fell on a Thursday, a Friday, a Saturday, a Sunday and the following Saturday. It was like Hanukkah). I added a black bob wig to the costume and went as Willy Wonka. Everyone thought I was Prince. It’s hard to be a black person on Halloween, a holiday devoted to pop culture references and inappropriate amounts of skin-baring. You have to be zeitgeist-y and of-the-moment, but if the particular cultural moment doesn’t have a lot of black newsmakers it can be tricky. Community has a great running gag about this: Shirley, a black woman, dresses as Harry Potter and everyone thinks she’s Urkel. The next year she dresses as Glinda, but everyone thinks she’s Miss Piggy (this may also be a size joke, but I’m not here for that).

Last year I saw a black woman dressed as Snow White and I’m sorry, but I just have to put my foot down. The defining characteristics of Snow White are: fairest of them all, unhealthy love of apples, cult of little people and… skin as white as snow. If you’re a black woman with a black bob hairdo, cap sleeves and you’re holding produce, you’re not Snow White. You might be Michelle Obama, but you’re not Snow White. That’s like me shaving my head and putting on a suit and saying I’m Lex Luther. Baby, you ain’t Lex Luther; you’re Kareem Adbul-Jabar.

But this post isn’t even about race; this post is about costumes. And these costumes, hallelujah, will fight the tools of oppression! Because even if people don’t know who you’re supposed to be, once you explain it to them, they’ll be sufficiently chastened by your superior wit to point out that your Leelo Dallas get-up actually looks more like Lisa Left-Eye Lopes.

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