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Slipping and Shining

We’ve all had those moments of self doubt.

When we’ve asked ourselves the really important questions in life.

“Am I happy?”

“Can I succeed?”

“Will I make it through to the end?”

“Too much teeth?”

You know, the basics.

***

Some of these incisive questions can leave you wanting, wondering what’s going to happen next.

Not unlike passing a note in sixth grade, wringing your hands because you’re worried that you should’ve darkened the circle around “Maybe,” and more thoroughly erased the one around “No Way.”

(Oh, who am I kidding? That note was being returned to me. Bitch.)

But knowing a little snippet of paper is being printed off for me in the bowels of The Pink Slip Factory of Death packs more of a punch.

More so than I expected.

***

Now, I’m not saying that my job is fulfilling.

Or appreciated.

Or enjoyable.

I’m not saying that it hasn’t killed my work ethic.

Hasn’t driven me to drink on occasion.

I love my job! When I drink. (And Katie, thanks for the pic!)

Hasn’t made me question why I got an MA in a dying discipline.

But hey, let’s flip that coin.

After all, had it not been for this job, I would’ve never had the joyful motivation to pen this or that, or start this blog.

I would’ve never experienced the catharsis of email-slapping a sad sack of human flesh masquerading as a professional.

***

Now, back to that coin. Let’s give’er another flip.

Had it not been for this job, I wouldn’t have had to go into debt when this happened on the drive home from work:

Bye, Camry!

So that I could buy this to get back to work:

Trixxy!

Only to have this happen to it two months later on the way to work:

Trixxy needs a nose job.

But, I also wouldn’t have moved to a small town closer to The Job, where I made amazing friends.

And I also wouldn’t have gotten so depressed by that small town’s lack of LGBT life that I’d decide to make a move for myself–to Raleigh.

Goodbye, Sanford. Hello, Raleigh.

So that I could ignite a long-held passion for LGBT activism.

Speaking Against NC's Amendment One

So that I could do something for the community.

Chosen family.

Nor would I have then gotten so overly involved with volunteer activities that I’d given up hope of meeting that guy, and was my most basest and stressed out self…

Eeeek. Hot mess. (Mona, thanks for capturing.)

…on the day I met him.

Captain Amazing

And my life changed forever.

My knight in shabby-chic armor

***

So. There you have it. The most flipped coin ever.

And as I snuffled and cried and stress ate a box of Thin Mints last night, Andy’s reassuring voice over the phone line reminded me that we’ll be fine.

Because we’ve already overcome so much. And we’ll get through much more.

And have plenty of time to realize just how much light this silver lining can reflect.

How we, too, can still shine.

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An Adonis I Am Not. Please Pass the Cake.

Okay.

I’ll just go ahead and throw out a few caveats beforehand.

One, it’s 2:40 AM on a Monday that’s promising freezing rain during my hour-and-a-half work commute. Two, I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in days. Three, my normal weekday alarm will be going off in less than an hour.

So, kittens, there you have it. Because you know what’s coming. A bitch sprinkle-topped sundae to start your Monday off right.

***

Now, in my quest to reclaim some much needed sleep, I drink water, pee, check to see if there’s the slightest chance that work will be cancelled and I can take an anti-anxiety pill to calm my nerves and smack me into a deep sleep.

Alas, now I have to pee more, and get to look forward to a fun-filled drive to work at 4 AM.

But just for shits and giggles, I figure I may as well catch up on the world and read something.

So, as I scroll through the emotion-filled Facebook posts about Downtown Abbey, I happen upon this article about gay men and body image, specifically how seemingly pervasive body dysmorphic disorder is among gay men.

I figure, “Great, this’ll be interesting.”

Instead, I’m angry and more than a smidge disappointed.

***

Like most subcultures nested within any identity group, gay men have plenty of stereotypes mapped onto them. Some are slightly accurate. Some are fun to re-appropriate and deploy among gay friends. Most are just plain annoying.

And this article played right into those stereotypes, with its first ab-clad image.

Sure, who hasn’t been discontent with their body?

Whether you’re straight or LGBT, it’s hard to find a single person who’s never had some form of body dysmorphic disorder–who’s looked into the mirror every single day of their life and said, “Oh hey, hot stuff. Lookin’ good as always! *Wink*”

But the two main justifications for why it seems that gay men are disproportionately affected are what floored me: (1) Childhood trauma, including parental rejection; (2) Heteronormative social morays.

Alakazam!

So, because my parents hated me, because the Catholic church preached that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of an omnipotent God, because society’s default is heteronormative behavior, I’m doomed to do extra crunches for the rest of my life?

Um, no.

For one, my parents didn’t hate me; they just didn’t know part of me. Because, being gay isn’t who I am, it’s only one part. And now they’re unbelievably supportive.

Family support.

Did they reify certain heteronormative behaviors and map them onto me as a kid? Sure. But what parents don’t screw up their kids in some way? Did that irrevocably damage me? No. Did it make my coming out process that much more difficult and seemingly stunt me sociosexually? A bit.

Secondly, whether it was juvenile angst, disinterest, or a combination of the two, I never really paid attention in church. Because, well, I thought all of those things being preached about were a bit restrictive. Not so unlike the polyester-blend pants I wore to CCD.

I mean, even when we glossed over the sinful topic of “self-love” in confirmation class, and I saw all the boys shift nervously and uncomfortably, I knew they each had their own little secrets that only they, their hands, and whomever washed their bed sheets knew.

Third, were gay porn stars and the gays-for-pay on Queer as Folk the closest figures to role models this oppressive heteronormative society left me? (And, yes, I know some of the QaF actors are LGBT.) No. Were they the ones I saw the most as a 21 year-old trying to reconcile all of this in my noggin? Sure.

And after I announced my gayness to my empty faux wood-paneled apartment in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, did I say to myself, “Okay, I’m gay. Now what?” And from there, did I revamp my diet, go to the gym every single day, and begin cycling into anorexia? Yes, yes, and yes. In the process, did I find that elusive six pack, Orlando Bloom’s chiseled jaw? No. But did I want that? I thought I did.

Ribs mean I'm beautiful and skinny. Meh.

But after I destroyed my legs from improper weight-lifting, followed by excessive cardio; after I lost fifteen pounds and could fit into XS shirts, but still felt awful; after I told myself I was in control, but knew better after waking up in a series of beds, did I blame my parents, my former faith, American society?

The shirt says it all. And while I didn't get this until after a particular phase, it sums it up.

Hell no. I blamed myself.

Because regardless of your background, only you can become comfortable with yourself. That’s the most basic truth anyone can ever fully realize about themselves.

Nothing’s going to happen magically, or through prayer, or because you saved that puppy from getting plowed over in the interstate. You’re not going to wake up and have a six pack, have defined biceps, have amazing quads if you don’t get off your ass and do something about it.

And you’re not going to find a counterpart if you align your mental cogs with a defeatist mentality that’s constantly whispering, “Nobody will love you and your love handles. Life’s so unfair for you.”

Maybe I’m just annoyed because I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m comfortable with myself. And sure, that took going through anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation, and nearly entertaining suicidal thoughts.

But now I’m content enough with my body that I don’t have to run to the gym whenever I go on a carb bender. Nor do I shove my finger down my throat.

I exercise when I can, strengthening my mind and body as I go. Because when you’re finally at a point when you can look in the mirror and not cringe–when you’re not exactly where you want to be, but, hey, you’re fine with that–you begin to exude this sense of self worth that’s more potent than any pheromone. And people pick up on that.

More importantly, gay guys, the worthwhile gays recognize it. And those who don’t, or think you’re delusional, are too preoccupied with finding their Castro clone amidst a sea of rippling thighs and bulging biceps. But we’re not all Brian Kinney’s in search of a Justin; some of us are Ted’s, or Emmett’s, or Michael’s, or Justin’s, or Ben’s.

Or ourselves.

A quirky mess. But I own it, y'all.

And there’re plenty of allies, faith groups, friends, and LGBTs who recognize that, too. My family, friends, and boyfriend all do.

But he loves this quirky mess. And I love him.

Life’s not a flowerbed that’s suddenly glutted by roses. And there’s not always going to be firm grounding to root into. It takes weeding, tilling, cultivation, and maintenance.

And while you’ll get pricked by life’s thorns, and meet plenty of pricks in the process, those experiences and people won’t define who you are or who you want to be. Only you can do that.

***

Now, many of y’all (the three people who read this blog) are probably rolling your eyes or saying that I’m contradicting myself and reaffirming everything this article’s author has discussed.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a saint. That I’ve entertained some pretty dangerous behavior. That I’ve been untrue to myself. That I’ve told myself who I want and what I’ll be and that nothing will change that.

But experience changes you. Every single one. And it’s up to you to learn from them, dovetail them with your personal history, and make something worthwhile out of it all. Not tell yourself you’re a gay victim in the straight world.

For me as a gay man, I started out writing my life’s memoir as a ghost writer–some other shade of the person I thought I’d be.

But for a while now, I’ve been happy to take that pen back and take credit where it’s due.

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Naut-A-Chance

Driving through New Mexico’s blistering hot, beautifully austere desert landscape, I feel it’s the right time to divulge a secret to my father.

Something I’ve never mentioned to anyone.

Something that’s eaten away at me for years.

And this fairly alien landscape seems an appropriate place to do it.

Only I knew the truth: In 1997, two weeks after my thirteenth birthday, I shattered my parents’ hopes and dreams.

Well.

At least the crystal-faced Nautica watch I’d badgered them about for almost a year.

***

And, it’s orange!” I say, weeks in advance, trying to milk every bit of its appeal for my benefit.

But my orange-tinged entreaties don’t convince my frugal parents.

“Eighty dollars for a watch is ridiculous. If you really want it, start saving your allowance.”

“But that’ll take me forevahhhhhhhh!”

(Eight months to be exact.)

They win.

I sulk, cursing the world in all its unfairness.

By the time my birthday comes around, I’ve prepared myself for the usual suspects: turtle-necks, socks, generic shoes.

Le sigh.

But then, revealed beneath tacky wrapping paper: a hard, circular case inscribed with “Nautica.”

***

I must’ve fainted, because I don’t remember my response.

But thereafter, the watch and I are inseparable. After all, it does everything the advertisements say.

Makes me feel in control.

Makes me feel uber posh.

Makes me feel so 1997.

Ultimately, though, its centrality to my life becomes its downfall. I keep it too close.

Two weeks after my probable fainting spell, when my life changed forevahhhhhh, I’m putting in my contacts.

But since (1) Laura has stopped putting in my contacts for me (I was a bit squeamish about the whole contact-in-eye thing for a little while.) and (2) I’ve been Velma-like without glasses or contacts since third grade, I’m not paying attention.

And The Watch pays the price.

It all happens in slow, blurry motion.

My hand grazes an orange blob on the vanity.

The blob disappears from view.

Then, crink.

It’s not even crunch or clink.

Because its crystal face even makes its demise sound expensive.

***

With one contact in, I squint, feeling along the bathroom floor like a blind pirate.

Then I find it.

Turn it over.

And gasp.

Argh.

Naut-a-chance

A massive chunk is depressed into the face, with shards sprinkled inside.

Maybe it’s just cracked. It’ll probably still work!

(I’m great at channeling optimism at the moment of impact.)

So I push the second knob back in.

But instead of the comforting, mouse-fart quiet tick, tick, tick, I get a tickkshhhtck…shttkkckshikkkct as the second hand grinds a piece of crystal into the orange paint and stops.

My heart.

But there’s no time to mourn.

Only time to switch into survival mode.

How can I hide something I’ve paraded around every morning, intentionally reaching for my Toaster Strudel across Laura’s plate, for no other reason than to literally rub her nose in it and incite jealousy?

The answer is obvious.

Throw myself down the stairs.

***

I have to be quick about it.

Thankfully for me, I’ve been making it a habit for the past few months to spend my weekends weeding out the English ivy choking the life from the azaleas in the overgrown flower beds.

(Flame on!)

So I sneak back to my room, cradling the destroyed watch, no doubt resembling Gollum with his precious.

After changing into my usual gardening garb, I carefully put on the watch. Then tiptoe to the top of the stairs to make an announcement to no one in particular.

“I’m going out front to weed!”

No response.

So I wait for the parentals and planets to align to provide me with the best possible moment.

And then it happens.

I hear Mom humming down the hallway to the study, past Dad in the living room. Laura is being a typical reclusive teen, sitting misunderstood in her bedroom down the hall.

It’s perfect.

So I position myself above the top stair, give a quick glance over my shoulder.

Then throw myself forward, toppling head-over-ass, landing in a crumpled heap on the landing.

I wait.

Moan lowly.

And wait some more.

Silence.

Really?

Then, splayed across the landing with my arm hurting slightly, I remember something Mom had confided to me. Years prior, when Laura accidentally broke my ulna, the only thing that’d clued Mom and Dad into the severity of the situation was the octave my screams had reached–“They were different than the usual ones you let loose when you played with Laura.”

So I drag myself a little, crane my neck around a railing post, and moan deeper, louder as I re-position my wrist so that the watch is face-down on the wood floor.

I hear Laura step out of her room and start walking to the landing.

“Did you really just fall down the stairs? Again?”

Thank goodness for precedence. Then I hear footsteps start echoing across the wood floors below.

Bingo!” I murmur face-down into the stairs’ runner.

“What’s going on up there?! Are you okay?” Mom shouts.

“Yeah, well, I’m okay,” I sigh convincingly, still out of immediate view. “I just fell down the stairs.”

What?!” Mom starts up.

“I think I’m fine,” I say, slowly standing up, scanning my body methodically for compound fractures.

“Yup, I’m oka–OhNoooooo!”

“What?!”

“My watch is cracked!”

WHAT?!”

I point down to the shattered device.

Color drains from Mom’s face, and she suddenly looks tired.

“Why in the world were you wearing that to weed?”

“Well, I need to know what time it is while I’m weeding. So I can, you know, know when it’s time to come in.”

Infallible logic.

Bullet dodged.

***

“Isn’t that funny?!” I laugh, watching the desert landscape whiz by, thinking back to my ridiculous antics.

Silence.

I turn back and look at Dad, whose gaze is fixed on something far ahead.

“You know, throwing myself down the stairs?”

More silence.

But we’re in the desert sharing things!

I mean, I’m pretty sure his reminisces about bar brawls and such in his youth trump the one time I staged an accident.

(Okay, third time. But still.)

But perhaps he’s not upset about the watch.

Maybe he’s just realizing that, like the watch, I’m a little cracked too.

Or wondering what other situations I thought could be answered with such obvious answers.

Answers I believed were clear.

Crystal clear.

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Why Seconds Matter

Did you ever see the movie 8 Seconds?

Neither did I.

But I really wanted to. Not just because it starred Luke Perry, and had so much talk of riding and bucking.

(Clearly, I was trying to figure something out in 1994.)

Mostly, though, it was because I was fascinated by time.

How quickly it changes, and how so much history and experience can be compressed into mere seconds and still pack a punch.

Like how much of a wallop President Obama packed into 13 seconds.

***

Even though I’d read a few quotes from his inauguration speech on Facebook, my heart still jumped when I listened to his speech tonight. When he mentioned Stonewall, and Dr. King and so many great leaders in the same breath.

And, yes, there were tears too.

(I’m an emotional Italian. Yes, I know that’s redundant.)

But then he just kept going.

And that’s what struck me. The fact that he didn’t stop with Stonewall.

The fact that his tone has evolved from its more subdued debate volume into a booming declaration.

The fact that, during the next four years, LGBTs stand the greatest chance of having our rights realized than ever before.

The fact that he appealed to everyone.

Not just white people.

Not just rich people.

Not just straight people.

His thematic thread was spun directly from the Constitution–that revered piece of paper that governs so many, and holds within it so much potential.

And I can only hope that, through the efforts of us all, We the People will weave a more perfect and colorful union.

Where the air that we breathe is a little cleaner, the forests a bit thicker.

Where healthcare isn’t a luxury, a preexisting condition a denial of service.

Where the bodies of all aren’t the purview of a phallic few.

Where we are all, first and foremost, people with certain inalienable rights.

And that those rights are conferred upon us all.

Happy Inauguration and MLK Jr. Day, 2013!

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A Branch Above: Beyond the Social Climber’s Reach

We think we leave it in high school.

Hell, middle school.

That hierarchical distribution of everyone and everything good, bad, and ugly.

But, as most of us know, we don’t.

***

Naysayers and opportunists and generally unpleasant people exude bile, and attempt to spew it at us throughout our lives. And we just have to put on our adult pants and give them the middle finger.

Alright, “adult pants” doesn’t reference something crotchless you’d get at Adam & Eve. (And why not an Adam & Steve line? Has no gay entrepreneur explored this as a counter, tongue-and-cheek–so to speak–chain? Anywho.)

Still.

Every now and then we each realize what exactly it is that makes us of sterner stuff than those who pine for greatness–who cling to, and attempt to ride, the coattails of those they envision as, one day, being at the top.

But it’s not that we realize it, per say. Because we already know.

You know, that thing that keeps you from tripping someone at band practice.

Or setting some terribly unpleasant, fairly rotten human being’s car ablaze and watching–smiling–as the glowing embers dance in your hollow, cold eyes.

What?

You know.

Maturity.

That thing that keeps you from being mean-catty rather than funny-catty. That thing that separates you from being bitter and jealous to kind and congratulatory. That thing that, when misused and abused, ruins friendships.

And yet. Some people still don’t see that they’re being dicks. Or vaginas. Or any other stupid genitalia-like moron.

(Okay, sometimes maturity takes a brief hiatus.)

Or, even worse, they’ve deluded themselves into thinking that everyone else is jealous. Which, really, is sad and pathetic.

So, really. What is it that I’m getting to?

Well.

We all have people in our lives that just thrive on dancing from one drama bomb explosion to the next, absorbing every little bit they can before contorting their interpretation of a situation or statement into something it’s not, then releasing the untamed beast into the mainstream. Almost like rapping on a dingo farm fence, then nudging that hinge ever so slightly right as that clique of Lady Gaga meat dress-wearing tweens sashays by on their iPhone 10’s.

Too far?

Well, you get it.

Immaturity + Telephone Game + Big Yap = Unnecessary Drama.

And really, aren’t we all just too goddamned tired of it? I mean, really. If my shit is so blasted interesting, why am I not up my own ass taking a whiff?

(Again, too far? Probably.)

***

Maybe it’s just that Andy and I have been purging a lot of unnecessary material stuff from our lives, and that same mentality is oiling the cogs in our noggins. Or maybe it’s just a reminder that people sometimes morph into the Hyde of their former Jekyll self, and get stuck in the former’s skin.

It’s probably a little of both, with exhaustion mixed in. But ridiculous juvenile drama should really be reserved for the stage. Or Showtime. Spotlights should really be taken off peoples’ personal lives and directed elsewhere.

Hell, if the drama queens of the world want their spotlights, give’em to them. Throw in some glitter bombs and bitch sprinkles and you’ve got one annoying sundae for plenty of others to consume away from me and mine.

So, kittens, eat it up.

But don’t be surprised when the scales tip and you find yourself bloated like a tick–full of other peoples’ drama.

With an empty life.

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Shooting Off At the Mouth: My Two Cents On Gun Control

Andy and I hadn’t even crossed the North Carolina state line en route to California when Andy read about the horrors unfolding at Sandy Hook. A pall fell over the car.

My mind ping-ponged from thought to thought.

A lot of kids will never be able to do anything like what we’re doing.

A lot of them will be so scarred from this ordeal that they’ll be in therapy for the rest of their lives.

A lot of friendships and relationships will never be formed.

So many families will be completely and irreparably fractured.

***

Still, there’s jabber from Duh Right regarding President Obama’s measures to regulate gun control.

Pandemonium because loons who should never have been granted licenses are stocking up on ammunition.

Because: A stockpile of ammunition + Being generally disgruntled with the government and life = Peace and puppies.

***

It seems that a lot of people think being a gun owner translates to being an NRA supporter with a “Charlton Heston Is My Copilot” bumper sticker. (Which is most likely situated beneath a ball sack trailer hitch, or a Confederate flag windshield tattoo.)

Now, my family owns guns. Lots of them. But not because we love to blast them off or kill animals for sport. In fact, only my dad uses them. And does so for deer, turkey, and squirrel hunting—for food. Hell, my flaming self has even shot a deer. But not before I was taught the responsibilities that come with firing a weapon.

And that respect isn’t garnered from the gun itself, but from the moral compass one uses when handling it.  

So it should come as no surprise that our family isn’t hemming and hawing and griping about the government taking our guns away. Because (1) That’s not going to happen anyway (people, read the reforms, or at least Google them); and (2) We have never, and will never, own automatic weapons. Why? Because we’re not in the military and civilians don’t need automatic weapons for hunting or defense. Automatic weapons were created for trained military personnel in combat theaters–to incur maximum damage in minimal space.  

A single shot to a burglar’s chest is just as effective as fifty.  

Which brings me to my main point: Automatic weapons should not be in the hands of civilians. Because, as we’ve seen time and time again, even if owners are responsible—have their guns locked up, hidden, or buried in a hole in the middle of nowhere—a nutbag will find them and we’ll have another massacre splashed across the headlines.

***

What I find most disturbing about all of this uninformed gun control talk are the rates at which gun sales and licenses are rising. Because, as we all know, if everyone is armed, then we can all prevent another tragedy. I mean, if one of those teachers had a handgun next to their apple, they could’ve taken down that disturbed man, right?

Wrong.

Militarization of the public won’t solve anything. It’ll only facilitate more “standing my ground” defenses for bigots to get off, and innocent people walking their dogs, selling lemonade, or riding a bike to be gunned down because someone didn’t like the color of their skin or the way they carried themselves.

Am I a proponent of constitutional rights? Of course I am. Even though they’re not all extended to me.

And will I ever own a gun? Probably not anytime soon, but I may at some point. Will I default to that as a means of defense before words or nonviolent means or a baseball bat should the situation afford it? Of course not.

Here’s the only reason I’d ever purchase a gun: Because more ignorant, trigger-happy people are arming themselves because of their heightened conspiracy theory-informed paranoia. You see how this works? The vicious, endless cycle? Paranoia informs armament informs paranoia informs violence informs plea bargains informs armament.

***

Perhaps the thing that upset me the most about the Sandy Hook massacre—other than the loss of such early life—was that it took such a startlingly horrific event to instigate change.

Not the shootings in the theaters.

Not the murders at the colleges.

It took the lives of those learning about colors and shapes and not eating glue.

Reforms should be driven by a desire to create a safer, more secure society for us all. 

Not by smaller body bags.

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On Tattoos and Purging

Okay, I’ll admit the title is a tad misleading.

Because this post isn’t about tattooed bulimics.

I mean, I have tattoos.

And used to be bulimic.

But this isn’t about rehashing the past. Nor is it about glorifying tattoos.

So. Just to be clear, kittens: go get inked if you want, and eat a sandwich if you’re hungry.

PSA over.

***

Now, y’all might remember a certain post a little while back about purging stuff. You know, all that crap you amass in a ridiculously short amount of time. Those things that, individually, are a lot of fun finding and making your own, but together can become a little overwhelming.

Especially when two households combine.

Because there’s no superhero that bursts out of the ground booming, “By your powers combined!” with a handbook about making everything fit into your design aesthetic. And there’s definitely no pointy-eared brother turning into water. (I mean, if I was Jayna, I’d have dumped that mop water of a brother into some kitty litter a while ago. And wash my hands of him completely.)

Fire! My Wheeler Planeteer ring...found during The Great Purge.

Now, it’s not like our apartment was an homage to Hoarders. In fact, it was all sparkly and clean and pretty. (Well, I might be a little biased because of a lil Apartment Therapy tour…even though it predated Andy, and our place looks nothing like this now.)

But lurking in the closets were little reminders that all décor is not created equal. Past decorative trends and accents were suffocating in trunks and boxes, left unused and unseen for years.

And then there’s stuff that’s good and all, but just doesn’t have its former pizzazz.

The solution?

A cross country road trip!

Okay. So that wasn’t the main reason we packed up the Prius and drove to CA. But once we were there, and on the way back, we knew we’d have a clean sweep of such epic proportions it’d make Niecy Nash blush and scream, “GUUuuurl!” right before she passed her fabulous self out onto one of her trademark hair flowers.

We’d barely unpacked everything before we both disappeared into different rooms and started grabbing things off table tops and ripping jackets, boxes, and files out of closets. 

***

With a very strong cocktail in hand, I sifted through my three distilled-down boxes of graduate school notes, papers, and drafted theses before emptying the entire lot into the garbage, and tossing most of my seminar books into the Sell pile.

Bubye to some grad school reads...

Clothes came next. And seven massive garbage bags’ worth later, our respective wardrobes breathed sighs of relief. (Mine mostly because an amazing influx of cashmere and cardigans phased out polyester-blends and overwashed cotton. Bam!) 

Next, each piece of furniture and decorative bit underwent a critical assessment, determining its functional worth versus its decorative appeal. So the pile grew with beautiful, lovely things that function pretty ineffectively. At least for us.

Cut glass punch bowl fabulousness...for someone else.

And then there was the kitchen.

And, guuurl. Did I clean it out.

Out came roughly a bazillion tumblers, and juice, wine, and martini glasses. (And even though I loathe tequila, we still had margarita glasses.) And dishes? If it wasn’t Fiestaware or locally-made pottery, it got tossed atop the Pile o’ Stuff.

But it’s not like we were going willy-nilly. I mean, we did set some parameters before we started–like, if we haven’t used it in a year, we clearly don’t need it. Or there are two of us, so we don’t need 70 wine glasses.

So much drinking to be done. By someone else.

So, so much stuff.

And why do we have it?

Because, like getting tattoos, buying shit is addictive. More than that, though, that chair or DVD or stand-mixer quenches your thirst for excitement, and leaves a material aftertaste.

But then, you’re surrounded. And you realize that you’ve just created a den of unhappiness. Because even if you have killer design sense, the common thematic element with every little thing around you isn’t paisley or purple.

It’s depression. Or anxiety. Or bitterness. Or other nasty emotions made tangible.   

And that’s why it’s hard not to respond cattily to certain comments. Comments that, especially during this whole downsizing-purging process, keep evoking expressions that make me resemble Two Face, or Tommy Lee Jones, or Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face. (Bless his heart.)

Like, “Why would you part with something so great?!”

Here’s the thing: it’s not easy. In fact, we’ve both lost sleep over it. Had tiffs here and there. Not just because our apartment is in disarray, but because trimming the fat is hard and exhausting and symbolic.

Vanity got the best of me. Ba da bah!Yay, Deco cabinet! But, bubye!

***

Change is never easy. But it’s necessary. And we need it more than a great Deco vanity.

We need a sense of permanence and purpose.

It’s like when I look at my tattoos. There’s no regret, only good memories about the people I’ve been, the friendships I have, and the experiences that’ve made me who I am.

And we both need to be able to look around us–wherever we may land–and feel that same sense of satisfaction.

And the two of us will. Whether that’s in a month, six months, or a year. We’ll get there. 

Whether it’s casting aside a throw pillow, or shipping off the first piece of Deco furniture I ever bought, it’s all about moving forward. And if I learned anything from Susan Sarandon’s character in Elizabethtown, it’s that “All forward motion counts.”

And we’re keeping that momentum going. Because that’s all we can do, especially when we have goals to achieve.  

Dreams to realize. 

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A Gay, Man-infested Destiny: The Third Leg, AR to OK

Midway through our third leg, we realize the rumors are true.

The stretch from Arkansas to Oklahoma should be known as The Land Starbucks Forgot.

So.

We suffer in silence.

I've been dreaming of a venti soy no-whip mocha...

Kidding!

I never suffer in silence.

Still, we persevere.

But are reduced to taking photos of billboards instead of scenic vistas.

Oh hey, billboard...

Before long, we get there. And have a critical decision to make. 

“So, we’re going to make it to the antique shops today, right?” Andy asks, clenching the wheel so hard his knuckles go white.

“Right.”

His knuckles regain color.

(Reason #547 I love him.)

***

Cutting through Norman’s outer suburban hell, we pass into a safe haven: the historic district. We pull up to Amanda’s cute cottage, and get out to a deafening cacophony of wiener dog barking.

Amanda gives us the grand tour, and I get to remember antique-centric moments from years’ past while she recounts stories of her acquisitions. Or, in some cases, stories of when I pulled something out of the garbage and gave it to her.

Like a pristine 1950s kitchen table some dolt threw away.

Not that I’m keeping tabs.

Anywho.

Our feline docent Hernando, the dumbest (thus, skinniest) of Amanda’s two cats, accompanies us, while Tristan, whose blobby form could buckle a chair, casts disdainful glances from his surveillance position and awaits offerings of The Food.

Hernando!

Sensing valuable antiquing time slipping away, we decide to head downtown.

But not before we stop for lunch. And for waiter ogling.

Delicious tofu spring rolls, with a side of cute hipster...

We hit downtown Oklahoma City’s antiquing haunts hard, whisking away Fiestaware and Blenko in crazed swoops. And after each jaunt, we quietly revel in our finds, listening to the occasional tink from the plates, decanters, and teapots we’re balancing while motoring through the city’s labyrinthine highway system.

The sounds of another successful antiquing excursion.

Pretty, pretty

We’re set.

***

We stop back at Amanda’s place long enough to drop our finds and unpack the Prius. Meanwhile, Amanda makes us some bourbony-delicious drinks to help rally us for our little hike to a nearby restaurant.

(Like I’d ever tire of the eating-antiquing-drinking-eating process. It’s so, er, holistic.)

Whether it’s The Drink or reality, I decide to declare that I’m no longer allergic to cats as Hernando investigates our tall tumblers. (Hey, it’s the little revelations, really.)

Regardless, there’s food to be eaten. So the vintage glasses are emptied, coats are layered, and we walk a whole five blocks to a cool little hangout, the Cool Factor for which is amplified by the warmth oozing out of its doorways into the chilly evening air.

Well, that and the drinks.

Yay, more drinkies!

And the bruschetta.

Nom nom nom

The mac n’ cheese doesn’t exactly go to waste. 

Nothing screams "Escape from the cold!" like bubbly mac n' cheese...

Neither do the spinach and artichoke potstickers.

Plumpo potstickers

Nor do the cheese-coated chips.

Cheese-coated chips...

 Quadruple wee! And where’s my Lactaid? 

Meh.

*** 

By the time we come to a consensus that our waiter is a missing, but high, Harry Potter character, and owl calling “Whooooowhowhowhoooooo!” as he disappears with the check, we’re a little tipsey.

Which means it’s time for a walk around the University of Oklahoma.

Ghoulish campus buildings...

But it’s too cold, and Andy and I doth protest too much. Fine. It’s all me.

Soooo colllllllld.

So, it’s time to scamper back to the digs. And talk about the past, and muse about the future, and just get lost in those booze-soaked, reflective moments.

And then sleep.

***

Mornings after a night of drinking are always interesting. Mostly because I don’t know how (1) I’ll ever dress myself; (2) I’ll tame my ratnest head of hair; and (3) I’ll make any sense before coffee.

Enter: local coffee shop. 

Gray Owl goodness...

With an amazingly cool retro vibe. 

Oh hey, MCM furnishings...

Quiet sitting areas. 

Yay, MCM!

And welcoming atmosphere.  

Yay, OK hospitality!

Oh, and the coffee and peach-mango muffin ain’t half bad.

And it’s around that time that I realize that I’ve long misjudged Oklahoma. Sure, there’re unsavory parts like anywhere. But, on the flipside, it has revealed its little secrets, each of which has made me appreciate its charm all the more.

So as we putter back with coffee in hand to say our goodbyes, I have a warm and tingly feeling about this little visit.

Amanda and Andy!

Not just because Amanda is always fun and awesome and antique-obsessed and quirky in all the right ways, but because I’ve decided there’s quite a bit of stock in that adage about judging a place before you visit it.

Amanda and me!

Or is that about judging people?

Whatevs.

Onward...to the fourth leg!

Either way, there’s plenty more to be learned as we hit the road, our eyes toward the horizon and Sin City. 

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A Break in Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

So, I know you’re just dying to read about another leg of our gay, man-infested destiny road trip–you, the one trying to research a bail bond business whilst nursing a weekend hangover. But a more pressing matter deserves the dim limelight this lil blog affords.

Now, y’all know me. Or, at the very least, have read a post or two. So you know LGBT rights are important to me. For obvious reasons.

And you might also know that Andy and I have had our share of unpleasant encounters of the bigoted bubba kind.

Fratastic fools dishing out hate speech...until the camera came out

But when I hear about friends who’ve experienced not just bigotry, but assault, I tend to lose my shit.

Especially when I haven’t had coffee.

So when I perused my Sunday Facebook feed and read about an incident involving two friends, not even the impending knowledge of coffee and French toast could keep me calm.

After being responsible adults and opting to have a cab service bring their evening to a close, my friends were called “faggots” by the driver. More disturbingly, after they’d exited, and as one of them snapped an iPhone photo of the bigoted driver, the driver attempted to hit the photographer with his cab.

Bigoted nonservice provider...

Now. To write that that’s unacceptable, unprofessional, unbelievable, and dangerous would be ridiculous. Because it’s so much beyond that.

When a person’s hatred for complete strangers—clients, even—is so severe that it propels them to channel and exercise violence against those people, it’s time for legal action.

But then “crime” and, more specifically, “hate crime” definitions come into play, and bigots often skate through the massive loopholes specific to LGBT rights protections. And they feel their behavior is justified. And they feel it more so when their local government supports alienating and “othering” a segment of the population that’s a little different from them.

Because nothing brings bigots together more than the smell of disenfranchisement in the morning, afternoon, or night.

Still, knowing that their behavior hasn’t gone unnoticed does give some bigots pause. Because, as I’ve written before, when bigots believe their victims are two-dimensional, harmless, defenseless bodies and are suddenly faced with strong-willed, outspoken individuals well-equipped to defend themselves, they shut down. They don’t get it. They can’t quite comprehend that there’s some sort of recourse, even if it’s simply expletives exchanged between counter-positioned parties.

Words do resonate. Especially when received in concert by friends, family members, and allies of LGBT people. So as Andy and I fired off strongly-worded emails to the taxi service, as did many other friends, we felt that, if nothing else, the cab service knows that our eyes are on them.

That LGBTs have friends everywhere.

That we’re not alone.

That we’re not silent.

That we’re not victims.

That the national tides are changing with the ebbing of more conservative generations’ old guards, and the inflow of their younger, more enlightened replacements.

Speaking AGAINST Amendment One at the Wake County Board of Commissioners Meeting, 2012

***

Later that day, Andy and I bumped into our friends at the grocery store, and heard a little bit more about their ordeal. And after they left and we got our groceries, we went next door to grab some coffee.

And there, in a long line, a woman met my gaze, held it, gave Andy and I the proverbial once-over, and grimaced.

I grimaced back.

Mostly because: (1) Bigots disgust me; and (2) Her faded jean short camel toe complemented both her oversized, stained tee shirt advertising her dog walking business and the pilled, circa 1993 scrunchie binding her badly highlighted, frizzed hair.

So after she and her muffin top collected a venti frappucino—with whip, of course—and flubbered along, I went out to our car, didn’t have to squeeze myself between the closely parked cars, and smiled to myself.

***

Love is like a battlefield.

But not quite in the way Jordin Sparks makes it out to be.

To love is to fight—to battle, even. Because when your life is up for public debate, when your rights can be stripped away by the majority, you’re always on alert. You’re always ready to wage war to defend those whom you love.

My Life, My Rights poster from a rally AGAINST Amendment One

So you give it your best—do what you can to prove to yourself that your voice matters. That, no matter what, you don’t stand by and watch as things crumble, backsliding into the dregs of a problematic past.

That living your life is the best weapon against discrimination.

That just being out–being yourself–may help a kid who sees you, but whom you never meet, realize, Wow, I’m not the only one.

But fighting can leave you tired and weary. And resentful.

It’s then that you realize that it’s time to transfer the mantle to willing shoulders. Because, deep down, you know it’s time for you to leave.

Because there’s a time to fight.

And a time to live. 

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A Gay, Man-infested Destiny: The Second Leg, AL to AR

Musing about the probability of patrons contracting hookworms from a fish and chicken restaurant’s “special” combo meal, we try to identify the gas station on the outskirts of Birmingham that’ll be the least likely to steal our debit card information.

Searching for a sketch-free B'ham gas station

“Let’s go ahead and fill up so my feet don’t have to touch the ground in Mississippi.”

“Alright. I’ll pump. You go pee.”

Andy disappears into the restroom on the other side of the pumps. But before I fill the tank, he’s back. (And since it takes approximately two minutes to top off a Prius, that’s saying something.)

“That was quick. How is it?”

“The door’s broken, the toilet paper dispenser’s busted open, and there’s shit smeared on the walls.”

“Anything else?”

“There’s no soap.”

*Cue Psycho music*

“Well, I have to pee. Good thing we brought the industrial-sized Purell.”

Here’s the thing: I loathe public restrooms.

And while I completely appreciate their First World luxurious utility, I still can’t quite ever recover from the horrors that often wait inside, or on, the character-depressed concrete block walls. It’s like all social etiquette disappears, and it becomes completely acceptable for your child to channel their inner Pollock and use a very natural medium to express themselves.

So, as I stand on my tiptoes to avoid as much floor-caked muck as possible, push one leg back to hold the door closed with my foot, and squint my eyes closed enough to fuzz out the inadvertent Gerber ad covering the wall while I pee, I realize I might’ve been able to play Bjork’s stand-in for Dancer in the Dark.    

I pirouette to the door and nearly knock out another brave soul venturing into the abyss.

“Good luck.”

Andy already has the car started and is looking toward the bathroom. After I get in, he pumps a massive Purell blob into the palm of my outstretched hand.

 “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Agreed.”

I stare out the window at another billboard and contemplate my need for pro laser liposuction.

***

As we near the Mississippi state line, it starts misting, making the desolate landscape that much more enjoyable.

Foreshadowing

“It’s no wonder these people cling to Jesus. I doubt there’s a Starbucks around here.”

“But, lo! The Mississippi Welcome Center. Do you want to stop and pee?”

“Not really. But I’d rather here than another gas station.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure there’s shit on these walls, too.”

“And a strung up gay in the bathroom asking, ‘Is my Miata still in the parking lot?’”

We laugh at the problematically macabre mental imagery, park in the deserted lot, inhale, and jog up to the porch.

Welcome to Hades

An elderly woman sweeps three oppressive leaves off the Spartan sidewalk and sings hymns.

Andy and I exchange looks and open the double doors.

We walk in and three voices chime in sync, stopping us cold.

“Well, hello there. Would you both like some apple cider?”

We turn to face three elderly blue-haired women smiling thinly from behind the courtesy desk. Each is bedecked in a Christmas turtleneck sweater.

“Laced with Jesus?” Andy mumbles under his breath.

“No, but thanks.”

***

On the road again, we start a riveting game of I Spy.

“I spy destitution.”

“I spy filth.”

And repeat until Memphis.

***

We pull up to a dimly lit gas station, with bubbas clutching forties streaming out into elevated pickups.

“Let’s be sure to turn down Celine before opening the door.”

“Good idea.”

Andy goes in. I punch the uncooperative machine’s buttons, muttering expletives at the repeated “Transaction cancelled” message. Bubbas start looking over at my conversation.

Andy returns right as I explode at the machine.

“Come on, we’re leaving. If this fucking place can’t get their shit together, they’re not getting our money! Turn Celine back on.”

A Jesus-centric billboard with the website IsHeInYou.com provides egregious fodder for the rest of the evening. And the sign for Catfish Chicken Chinese Restaurant staves off our appetites until Little Rock.

Johnny Cash queues onto the playlist.

“Did he just say ‘draining my eye’? Like, peeing?”

“No. That reminds me, though, I have to pee. I couldn’t back there. But I think I’d rather go in my Starbucks cup.”

***

Before long, we pull up to our hotel, succumb to the requisite valet parking, and go up to our room where I promptly redistribute our wet laundry from Alabama across every piece of furniture. (It’s a funny thing, the whole off-grid life: it also means your highly environmentally-friendly, green dryer doesn’t dry quite as quickly as regular ones.)

And, we can sleep...

So as clothes dry in the room, and we curse Little Rock’s downtown establishments for not being open on Sunday, we compromise.

On a sports bar.

Tired and drained, we collapse into our seats and find ourselves actually watching football. But then we get melted cheese and bread and fried goodness and appletinis and everything is right with the world and we go back to judging the fifty-somethings next to us who can’t keep their hands off each other’s goods.

Rejuvenation in a glass

“Well, Jesus made the rounds tonight. I mean, really, He had to have been in a lot of people for this much to be closed.”

We laugh. Walk down the deserted street. Then settle down for the night.

With our sweet sacrilege to tuck us in.