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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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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Race Or Whatever

Om Nom Nom Nom Nom

So, The Hunger Games, talk about a bait and switch. I didn’t read the books but I made sure to see the movie because I thought it was about a sassy independent woman named Katniss who is trying to diet down to her birth weight to win the love of Gale, a blood diamond magnate, all while being plied with carbs by a sinister doll-faced baker who harbors a slightly creepy love. Apparently, I was wrong. I am using italics to telegraph my disapproval.

Despite the italics, I did enjoy The Hunger Games. I love any movie about food. And I know that The Hunger Games is not technically about food so much as it’s about a totalitarian state that has lost its humanity to an obsession with status, leisure and possessions. Or whatever. But I try not to pay attention to that and focus on the food. Trust me, if you take away the carnage, The Hunger Games is basically an episode of Chopped.

Anyway, to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday, I went to see the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire. I felt it was an appropriate choice given that Thanksgiving is the greatest eating holiday of the year. I enjoyed it too, even though there was much less food in it. It was like my favorite episode of Lost plus my favorite episode of Project: Runway plus Stanley Tucci’s cackle times two hours of unrelenting human cruelty. So, a great time  for the whole family.

Caesar

Best part, that bit where the island starts spinning. Thrilling! I was like, “Oh, I know what’s happening, Desmond forgot to put the numbers into the computer on time. Katniss needs to go to the Swan station and punch in 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 and then Capote will stop spinning the island. That crazy Capote.”

When they make a Hunger Games amusement park I hope that’s one of the rides. But, now that I think about it (I try not to put any thought whatsoever into what I write before I write it. That’s my process.) a Hunger Games amusement park is the absolute last place on Earth I’d like to go. 1) Everything will probably kill you; 2) The concession stands will likely be empty.

Unless, of course, it’s an amusement park modeled after the Capitol. That would be fun, if morally awkward. (BTW, “Fun, if morally awkward” is what it reads on my tramp stamp. The more you know.)smileson

Speaking of the Capitol, can we talk about Capote some more? When Plutarch Heavensbee (Lord,  these names. So ethnic!) showed up I was like, “Is Phillip Seymour Hoffman confused? Why is he not wearing a costume? Did he just wander on to the set after teaching a class at Fordham called ‘Symposium on Rumples and Sighs’? Is he cameoing as himself? ” Elizabeth Banks spent 6 hours in the makeup chair (those eyelashes! I die!) and he’s picking a blazer from his personal collection, running a comb through his hair and showing up looking non-plussed. There are no plusses in that scene. He’s like “Hi, I’m Oscar-winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Pleased to meet me. Where do I stand? Never mind; doesn’t matter. I’ll stand wherever I want.” Meanwhile, Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence is dressed like a character from Zoobilee Zoo and going through the nine stages of struggleface and Elizabeth Banks is in the background lip-synching for her life. She is giving you everything! Hair! Glitter! Curtains! Sashay, you stay, Banks.

effie_mahoganyI do find it confusing that her character’s name is Effie Trinket because I always think of Effie White from Dreamgirls and then I think Is JHud here? IS JHUD GOING TO SING?! Which is, I guess, my one criticism of the Hunger Games movies: they don’t have enough moments where JHud enters, the screen goes dark, she looks directly into the camera and sings the hell out of a ballad. Maybe in Mockingjay.

Despite my love for Effie, I think my favorite character is Peeta because in every scene his primary motivation is to get back to baking bread. This is a man who has priorities (And a pretty, pretty face. And absolutely no survival skills. But such a pretty face.) His life is on the line and he’s like “Challah anyone? Freshly baked challah.”peeta

My second favorite character is Finnick, a man who just fucking eats sugar cubes because he can. This guy knows how to live. Plus, he’s like a strangely appealing tornado of sex appeal, cuddly grandma love, and probably diabetes. That’s exactly what I search for on OkCupid ever damn day. As God as my witness, one day I will be Mrs. Finnick O’Dair-Thomas and we will feast on sugar cubes and wear rock candy necklaces forever!Finnick

My least favorite characters are Rue and Beede because I imagined them as blacker.

I’m kidding, INTERNET.

Anyway, what am I talking about? This post isn’t even about the Hunger Games; it’s about food. TWIST! ::cue Lost sound effect and tinkling bells::

Actually, can I be serious for a minute? I know this blog isn’t really the place for seriousness, but I do have a rather sober thought.

Wait, before I get serious, I just want to say that my favorite scene in Catching Fire is the one where Peeta gets electrified and Finnick has to give him CPR because obviously. I love how they edited it so craftily; one gets the impression that Finnick is giving Peeta mouth-to-mouth but there isn’t ever a clear shot of it. Probably because the GIF of their lips touching would break the internet. When I become an overnight singing sensation I’m going to perform at the VMAs in front of a video where Finnick breathes life into Peeta’s obviously Burt’s Bees’ smothered lips on loop.

Okay, now seriousness.

Just kidding! Here’s a GIF of a cat who was shocked by my sudden change of topic!

shockedcat

But seriously. Catching Fire was surprisingly heavy. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how heavy it was; it’s a movie about kids locked in a stadium and told to kill each other. I’m just saying, it’s not exactly Best Man Holiday. It’s weird to claim that I enjoyed a movie that I grimaced through the whole time. And I kind of wonder what it says about our culture that this mentally taxing, dystopian film is such a massive blockbuster.

I found the scene where Gale was whipped to be especially disturbing. It took me by surprise, too. This was the first time I’d seen on-screen whipping since seeing 12 Years A Slave and the combined effect of those two paeans to human darkness really threw me for a loop.

I saw 12 Years the week before. For a month everyone my Facebook had been saying “Oh, you must see this movie! It will destroy you.” But I couldn’t really find a clear spot in my schedule for utter psychological collapse until mid-way through November.

I’ve been trying for weeks to find words to write about the movie but I think I’m just going to give up. It destroyed me. And there’s absolutely no way I can write about it on my ridiculous whimsical blog. I sat, hunched forward, arms crossed through the entire movie. I held my breath. It was oppressive. And the minute the screen went blank and the credits started, I burst into tears. Like sobbing. It would’ve been embarrassing except the theater was full of crying people. The place was a disaster. Even as I fell forward, keening, I started thinking about the kids at the concessions stand. What must it be like to work at a place where every 2 and a half hours, 100 people have complete breakdowns? It was like a psych ward.

I could not stop crying. My friend Daniel sat next to me and rubbed my arm. I’m glad he was there because what I really wanted to do was lie down on the floor and ugly cry. Like I desperately wanted to melt out of my chair and just lay my face in the puddle of tears and popcorn butter and mourn.

This is me after the movie ended:crying

This is me 10 minutes after the movie ended:Crying3

This is me 20 minutes after the movie ended:crying2

This is me the next day:Oprahcry4

I want so much to write about that movie but I just… I have no words. So, I’ll tell you this Thanksgiving story instead:

As every year, I had Thanksgiving at my parents house. In the past, I’ve gotten in trouble for “talking to my friends on the Internet” about the people who gave birth to me, so let’s say I’m not talking about my parents. Let’s say I’m talking about Cliff and Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show. Anyway, it was a nice intimate dinner, just Cliff and Clair, my brother Theo and me, Lisa Bonet.

This is what happens when we discuss my 401k.

This is what happens when we discuss my 401k.

My mother cooks every year, using recipes from a huge binder that she’s been compiling since before I was born. Every year she makes the same thing, so the binder isn’t full of new recipes but rather the same recipes copied over. My grandmother’s rolls recipe in her handwriting, then in my mother’s handwriting, then typed. My aunt’s orange jello recipe photocopied, revised. The stuffing recipe in my mother’s perfect penmanship, then in my teenage scrawl from the year I was entrusted with making it and decided to revise it, then the same recipe typed up from the year we got a computer and a printer.

SECRET FAMILY RECIPE

SECRET FAMILY RECIPE

My mother makes and revises a schedule for Thanksgiving dinner preparation every year, mapping out her plan up to a week in advance. And she saves each year’s schedule, and each year the binder grows. In the back of the binder she keeps the Christmas recipes, the Christmas schedules and every person’s Christmas wish list from every year. And so the binder has become a sort of family history through food, a beautiful scrapbook of our traditions. Nowadays, when we don’t see each other but a few times a year, the binder represents the thread that ties us together even when we’re physically apart.

After dinner this year, Theo went to work (he’s a detective, like a real one, not just a nosey person who watches too much of The Closer like I am) and Cliff and Clair and I retired to the living room to watch TV. Clair had DVR’d an episode of The Big Bang Theory that she really wanted me to watch. Like, she was serious about it. She’d texted me twice to let me know we’d be watching it. After that episode, we switched to TVOne where they were playing old Thanksgiving episodes from The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Living Single. 

rollsI was immediately taken back to a time when my conception of the world, of my place in the world as a black person, was shaped by the people I saw on TV. Inasmuch as 12 Years A Slave destroyed me, The Cosby Show made me by portraying a black family that loved each other, laughed with each other, and wasn’t weighed by oppression. It was liberating and it created a place for me that didn’t exist in the world I knew outside of our happy, literate, talkative home.

macandcheese Similarly, A Different World created a cultural reference point that, with every episode, made me feel more and more in touch with–for lack of a better term–my people. On the night that Whitley was supposed to get married and Dwayne Wayne burst into the ceremony and objected, Clair and I were at Security Square Mall (the black mall), and we stood at the window of a Montgomery Ward store with a crowd of maybe 15, 20 other people watching the now-iconic scene take place, watching Diahann Carroll scream “Die, just die” as Dwayne came running down the aisle. The store manager turned off the TVs just before the end of the episode because they were closing so, of course, we rioted.

At my parents’ house, we eat Thanksgiving dinner at a big wooden table. Just before we sat down, my mother came in and surveyed the room. “Oh no! I didn’t even put on the nice tablecloth,” she said. I replied. “It’s fine. No need to put on airs.” She said to me, “At my age, airs means gas.” We sometimes speak in punchlines.

My mother would like you to know that this is not the fancy tablecloth.

My mother would like you to know that this is not the fancy tablecloth.

We all sat down to eat, my father said grace, and we dug in. We talked about work, we talked about my other brother’s newborn baby, we told old stories we’ve all heard before. We re-wove the fabric of our history, our present and our future, over food.

On the wall behind the big wooden table, my mother has mounted two photographs of a dilapidated gray shack. This is the slave cabin that my great-grandfather was born in. It still stands today in Virginia. My mother and father visited about 10 years ago. It’s no bigger than a common half-bathroom. It’s slats don’t look like they kept out the wind or the rain or the heat. I sat at my parents table, beneath this picture, eating the food that symbolizes our shared heritage, and as with every year I felt the loving embrace of my childhood home, the familiarity of old patterns, the excitement of new ideas. But more than anything I felt grateful. I felt grateful to be free.

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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!

rericthomas.com

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Love

Another Mostly Unwise Decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actual footage

Actual footage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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