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I was laid off last week. I’ve written several posts about it and once again nothing was posted. I’m still struggling with, well, god, to be honest, a lot right now. But I’m still struggling to find my way back to this space. So, instead of a dramatic play-by-play of how my last day went down, which is a good story and what I am used to writing and what you are used to getting, I’m going to try a different route, the insider’s scoop, i.e. what’s really going on with me rather than the story I could tell to distract us both from, well, me.

So, I lost my job last week. In some respect this is a huge relief for several reasons. In the other direction it seems to be heading up what some could define as a bit of an existential crisis… or really, I guess this is what’s tipping me over the edge onto one that has been lurking and looming for a while now. I know I can find another job – that’s not it at all, that’s the easy part. It’s the painfully exhausting question of what it is that I should be doing… really doing… with my life. And lately, just choosing whether or not to even consider this question tosses me down the rabbit hole so hard and fast that all of a sudden trying to consider a new career move puts everything about my entire existence on earth under question, under fire, under the spotlight and it takes just seconds in this mind space to expand bigger and bigger and bigger until I feel like my brain pops and everything freezes. Well, I freeze and the world keeps going.

I am being reminded by friends and loved ones regularly that I am really sensitive, highly sensitive, emotionally guided, whatever you want to call it. My dad just had me take the Myers Briggs test the other night and surprise! The world breaks my heart regularly and I care so intensely about everything that it wouldn’t be beyond me to name and care for wild animals with the same love and regard as a family member.

And if you’re laughing, so am I. I mean, I’ve written more stories here about a raccoon than my best friend.  I cried for a week when Fraidy Phat the Fish died and it still makes my heart hurt. So, I’m not worried about or trying to downsize my being a bit more concerned with/ emotionally invested in/ sensitive about things that might slide a bit easier by another person. That is just who I am. That part, as exhausting as it can be (for everyone), I’m ok with. But I have been concerned with the extent in which this has me flat out frozen. Having no clue what to do, what it all means, as a result, I’m not getting any closer to doing anything at all. Or at least, right now it feels that way.

(As a semi-relevant side note: I’m reading a physics theory book that is only compounding my unrest by confirming the importance of my questions alongside the impossibility of every knowing the answers to any of them. Basically, this book is confirming that the foundation of my existential crisis is backed up by hard science. Awesome. Now try to sleep.)

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?”

…is one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite poems by my very favorite poet, Mary Oliver.  I think this line frequently. I get to an impasse, whether to turn left or right or which college to attend and I think this line. And usually, when I think it, sing it, chant it, it makes me smile, my body flutters with the potential of it. But lately, it has been haunting me. It’s as if her tone has sharpened and there is a clock ticking in the background. This all sounds so dooms day and I don’t mean it to sound this way. I know this isn’t my usual style.

Except that I want all of my questions about life, purpose and meaning answered in full, I really don’t know what my problem is right now. My optimistic guess is that it’s a culmination of things and that at some point all of this angst will have worked in my favor, offering insight and information that I wouldn’t normally tune in to. You know, where in hindsight you just briefly mention to your friend, “Ya, that was a bit of a rough patch but look where it got me.” I’m holding tight for that version.

I’m turning 35 next week  (and now you say, “ah ha!”). I know. But birthdays usually don’t hold much power over me. I mean, I like cake and Violet always gets me something really sweet, but this one is bugging me, tugging at me in a way I’ve never dealt with before. It feels like this number is creating time lines on certain things that just undeniably need to be flushed out in a way that I could always answer “someday” to before. I know that along with a series of things, this is making me review and scrutinize my life under a slightly brighter bulb with a series of questions I’ve thus far dismissed with, “no comment.”  But now I want answers. And for certain things, I think I need them.

What I also want to do is just get over myself. I’ve learned this to be a key component to living with myself without driving myself totally bat shit crazy. I come close to nutso but then, just in time, I get over myself just enough to continue putting up with me. But now that’s beginning to feel more like complacency or fear. Or maybe it’s a part of survival? Hell if I know… if I haven’t made that obvious enough.

–     –     –

The sun is out today and has been for a few days and that is a really good thing for me right now.  Even though it’s still cold out, that bright cobalt blue sky is reminding me that it really will be warm again. Flower seeds are making roots and incredible plans of escape. The light really is returning. I tend to forget that right around now. Or maybe you noticed?

So, this is what happened. I never talk about it really. I wonder if Violet even knows the story. I would say that it’s because the story annoys me, but the truth, as annoying as it is to admit, is because it still stings.

So, here’s what happened.

I was in high school. I was lucky and had a pretty tight knit group of friends and quite a few really. I also had a girlfriend. This is the part no one knew about. She was more popular than me and was the best lesbo-cover-up a dyke in Smallmindednowhereville could ask for. She was smart and pretty and sweet and everyone loved her. Including me, obviously.

We started secretly dating each other our sophomore year. It was a funny and awkward progression into realizing that we were a couple. We didn’t actually talk about it for the first year of being together. The first time I tried to tell Marie that I was gay I decided to downgrade it a notch (in my mind) and say I was bisexual. But when I looked into her big beautiful blue eyes I knew. Every time. I knew that I was gay and she wasn’t. We were in love, don’t get me wrong. We were very, very in love but that didn’t change who we were. So, I looked her right in her big blue eyes and said, “Marie, I’m, I mean, well… I’m a bi…” when she jumped in and said, “What, jesse?!”

“I think I’m… well, um… a bicycle.” And then I said I had to pee, which I did, and that I would be right back ,which I was. When I got back to her room she said nothing and I said nothing. We said nothing about that again, until we did.

A few months later I tried again. At this point we had been a couple for a little more than a year. This time we were taking a walk around her neighborhood in the middle of the night. We use to sneak out of her parents’ house and go on walks together in the middle of the night so that we could hold hands. It was a big deal. Holding her hand filled me with more butterflies than kissing did. It was harder to do and because it was so difficult and risky, for some reason, it felt more intimate.

As we were walking, stepping around street lights I asked, “Remember when I was a total weirdo and told you I was a bicycle?” Marie said, “Ya, I didn’t know you were stoned until you said that. Whatever.” I put my head down and said, “I wasn’t high.” And in the same breath I said, “I’m gay.”

 Marie stopped so I stopped and we both sat on the curb together. Something about the stillness of sitting there in the dark with Marie’s hands all wrapped in mine made everything boiling inside of me  fall out and I started crying in a way that I never allowed myself to. I tucked my head into my hands and felt like I might have to sit like that forever. I felt so embarrassed and exposed and wrong and sitting next to the only person who really knew me, who loved me deeper than my whole being, I still felt alone. It took me years to realize how strange it was that the first person I ever came out to was my girlfriend.

So we were sitting on this curb a few blocks from Marie’s house at 2 am and as she wove my hands back into hers, she leaned in and put her head in my neck and whispered, “I know, jesse. You’re beautiful.” And I just sat there sobbing until I nearly fell asleep on the street as she rubbed my head.  There were a million more things I wanted to say and ask and it was the first time in my life that I felt like I couldn’t say any of it to her. Any of it. And some of it I never did. And when the night sky began to lighten we knew we had to go.

—–  —–  —–

This whole post is supposed to be about the shit I went through in high school, so, let’s jump a year. Junior year sucked the most. The more my relationship with Marie grew the more isolated I felt from the world around me. I was crazy in love and no one knew, except for Marie. I also hated that I was gay. It was a safe secret so it mostly seemed like another stupid problem that I really didn’t have time for. It felt scary, the potential of it. I saw what happened to the kids accused of being gay. It was not pretty and usually it was terrible and sometimes it was bloody and sometimes the accused just disappeared to another school in a different district, never to be seen or heard from again, ever.

So, here it is – the moment that started super-suckdom-of-all-suckyness-in-all-the-land:

Marie, most of my friends and I were at a slumber party at Sarah’s house. Marie and I went into the bathroom together to change into our pj’s. We started kissing. The part of this story that I didn’t know about for several months was that Sarah’s little brother had put a ladder up outside the bathroom window to be a perv and watch us change. Well, little brother got a whole lot more than a couple of training bras putting on pj’s, that is for sure. And so, the next day he told his sister. His sister, Sarah, and I were friends but as it should turn out our friendship was not as valuable as this new information and she began to tell our friends what her brother had seen.

I still don’t know how quickly this spread or exactly how, but it did and here’s how I found out:

I got to school about a half hour before classes started, like we all did every day to have our teenage social needs met first thing. I walked down the hallway, found my group of friends sitting where they always did and just as soon as I sat down three of them stood up and walked away. The one closest to me said this as she walked away, “Gross, I think she just touched my arm.”

[Writing this out is making me take some really uncomfortable breaths. Like I said earlier, I don’t talk about this because it sounds so trivial and teenaged and that compared to the way it can still sock me a good one in the gut 18 years later, that imbalance makes me feel silly and unadjusted with the world.]

So, they all got up and walked away, leaving me sitting there alone with a bright red face and empty lungs. My mind raced to come up with, invent, another reason for what was happening but I knew what was happening and if there was any way to wish yourself dead I wouldn’t be writing right now.

So, fast forward past all of the obvious repercussions of being me and outted against my will or want in Smallmindednowhereville, past the feeling of being totally isolated turned total reality and past all of my hatred for myself being promoted and validated by everyone that mattered all around me. Past starting to flunk out of school, drinking too much, too often, past the eating disorders, past the late night drunken plans to get out of this tiny awful world somehow: running away, killing myself or just hiding in every way possible, for as long as I possibly could until I turned 18 and then leave immediately (I went with the third option), past all of the bold face lies I told to the few friends that tried to stay true, that confronted me and said, “Just tell me. I don’t care, I just want to know.” Fast forward to now. To tonight.

I hadn’t figured out how to contribute to the It Gets Better Project and at this point had decided I wouldn’t, not in the forum it was happening anyway. I am an activist by nature and I have and do and will contribute, of course, I just didn’t think I would be writing this post.

But then, tonight, I got home and checked my personal email, like I do, and found an email with a name on it that I could say I vaguely recognized, but I would say that to save face and I would be lying. The name on this email is someone I haven’t spoken to in 18 years. Tonight, just now, I got an email from the girl in high school, my friend until that early Tuesday morning when we were all 15 years old and sleepy and needed each other so much that we made it a point to get to the one building we all wanted out of more than anything, even before we had to be there, so very early in the morning, just so we could see each other, because that was enough to make it until lunch, at the very least. This woman now, my friend until that morning, that got up as I sat down next to her, who looked me in the eyes and was suddenly disgusted that I may have touched her arm emailed me tonight. Just now. And here it is:

Date: Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Subject: Hi…

Hi Jesse,

I hope this note finds you well. It has been a long time since I have seen you. I was looking through some old pics the other weekend and ran across some from our sophomore trip together. It reminded me of what great times we had together. I am pretty sure the first time I skipped school it was with you. Anyway, I really turned out to be a super shitty person the last couple years of high school.

I wanted to take a moment to apologize for my behavior and ignorance. Most of all for being so judgmental and saying hateful things. I hope you are happy, I get updates from xxxxxx now and again, and she says you are doing well. I am sorry it has taken me this long to write you. I assure you I have thought many times about reaching out to you, but worried that it was unwelcome. It may still be unwelcome, but I did want to thank you for being a great friend, and tell you I am sorry I didn’t turn out to be one for you.

Take care,

Joanne

So, in conclusion, I am a true believer, and very happy to quote Cher when I add that I am Living Proof, that this is no joke, folks:

It Gets Better. I promise.  

Thank you, Joanne, for your apology and for your kindness. These things can never come too late. And for the needed nudge to write this post.

The other day I was at a huge home improvement and repair store that I will leave nameless (unless they want to pay me.) I went to pick up a few things for the yard. I was also packing, which I do now and then, not often, just when the mood strikes. And just to be clear for one and all, not the moving kind, the soft pack packing kind, the one with a bulge.

So, as I wandered the isles, eventually finding everything I needed, I started for the checkout line when all of a sudden I felt the bump in my pants start to hang a tad lower than he should be. I continued walking, a bit slower though, in an attempt to assess this situation. By the time I had decided that this could become a potential issue I realized that my detachable disco stick had completely jumped the tighty whities ship and was now slowly crawling down my left leg a little bit more with every step.

I stopped walking, obviously, right in the middle of the isle. My face clearly expressed concern as I can never find anyone in that store to help me but now, of course, with my leg bent up to stop the AWAL lovelance at my knee, threatening to flop onto the ground and roll away into the gardening section, I had two guys asking me if they can help me find anything. Without actually making eye contact I mumbled “Uh…no, that’s cool, thanks though. I’m just… uh, thinking… um, about some stuff.”

I have a college education. I am well read. I pride myself on my ability to hold a decent conversation with just about anyone and yet, with my dangling dong at my knee cap, I told these men that I had gone to a crowded warehouse filled with endless home improvement supplies so that I could do my best impression of a flamingo while I, uh think… um, about some stuff.

How very eloquent.

Eventually I decided I had two choices and two choices only – unless I was willing to consider the third option I came up with which entailed running out of the store screaming, “It’s not my fault! The elastic on my tighties are going slack! I neeeed neeew underweeear!!!

So, the two most tasteful solutions (although ‘tasteful’ might not be the perfect descriptor, please keep in mind that the situation at hand did not really make room for classy action) were these: I could either reach down my pants and grab the lost longhorn, hike him back up into his escaped bulge-bed –OR- I could attempt to walk with a bit of a limp, as my left knee had to remain at a 45 degree angle in order to keep the manly junk from leaving me.

I stood there for a while. Quite a while really. Eventually, I went with door number two. The store was crowded and reaching way, way down my pants just seemed even more ridiculous than hobbling a little.

And I tried to play it off a little, like, “Oh boy is my knee sore.” while I shook my head back and forth and huffed like, “Woo wee! Yowzer. I’ll tell ya, knees can really hurt sometimes, can’t they!” But from the looks I was getting, clearly I wasn’t pulling it off. Clearly I didn’t look like I had some convincing, excusable injury or disability; I think I mostly looked like a crazy person who was probably not totally sober. And yes, quite a few people stared. But you know what? As much as they stared, they didn’t know what they were staring at or why, and that was good enough for me. If I made it out of that store without a sudden wee-wee-show-and-tell then I won, damn it.

I wanted to laugh. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t understand how ridiculous this all was. But laughing by myself for no apparent reason while limping with a rather large squashy knee goiter was no way to be if I could help it. So, I bit my tongue and just did what I had to do to get the hell out of there.

I hobbled to the check out line, a bit sweaty and red in the face. But I had made it. And just as I finished checking out some older woman asked if she could have my cart. But my cart was the only thing allowing me to hobble properly. I certainly didn’t have enough items to constitute needing the cart but I did need it in order to not drop my jiggling johnson out of my pants. Again, I had two choices: Give up my cart and let the junk free –OR- Say, without even making eye contact, “I need it. I just need my cart. I’m sorry.” and rush by the poor woman with a speedy hobble.

So, strike two on the not sounding very stable or reasonable to totally decent people front. That response was a very basic social interaction gone major fail. I realized immediately, as I was hobbling away, that I could have easily said something like, “Sure, of course you can have my cart. Let me put my stuff (i.e. my feral free willy) away in the car and I will bring this right back to you.” But that is not what happened. Instead I went with crazy-limpy-hobbly-freaky-stressed out-sweaty-dyke-with-a-weird-lump-in-my-knee-and-zero-social-skills response instead. Not my day.

I finally got to the car, grabbed the escaped willy wonka and put it in the glove box. I got half way through a deep breath when I realized I had forgotten to buy the main item I had come for. Of course. I thought for sure I would start laughing or crying but instead I just stared at the steering wheel for a bit, exhausted and you know, thinking… um, about some stuff.

Again I had two choices: I could go back in, sans boy beef and quickly grab the tomato stakes –OR- I could drive more than 30 minutes further and hit up a similar store that never saw me desperately trying to keep my silicone salami under wraps.

As I was driving to the other store I did make a second stop to buy myself some brand new tighty whities, just incase I ever get the urge again to strut around with that squirrelly little packer.

Here we go again folks. And I apologize in advance to all of you who miss the simpler jljj blog days when I wasn’t so angry and ranty all of the time (they are bound to return, just not today.) Sorry to all of you who would rather hear funny stories about how the Seal ate a whole bag of glow in the dark stars a few days ago and has since been pooping constellations. Or how I got in one of the biggest twitter battles of my life this weekend because lesbians cannot handle reasonable fashion policing, even from their own kind (oh no she did not just say that! Only I just did.) If you are thinking “Enough with the newsworthy queer-rights-gone-wrong political ranting!” I suggest you click away now.

Because once again, I AM FURIOUS about the latest happenings in regards to Constance McMillen and the unbelievable, undeniable, blatant, in-all-y’alls-queer-faggot-dyke-faces hate that has gone on and ceases to astound the safer, well-armored pieces of my being.

Now, here’s what happened:

Constance McMillen was invited to a fake prom. Constance, her girlfriend and 5 other kids, two of whom are being recognized as having “learning difficulties,” were invited to a, since realized, ‘fake’ prom, in which Principal Fuckall Wiygul and a few teachers chaperoned, but who I’m sure were all more than happy to stand there proudly while watching the homos, the freaks and the slow kids dancing alone, knowing full well that the rest of the entire senior class, with the good, normal, god-fearing children and parents, were at a secret, different prom: the ‘real’ prom.

That is what happened.

That was their response as a community. That is how the school district, the town citizens, neighbors, friends, students and parents decided to deal with this one lesbian girl who wanted to bring her girlfriend to a school dance. Yes sir, they duped a teenaged girl and a few of the slower kids into attending a fake event while everyone else knowingly attended the real one. That is what they did.

And I know after I take a few deep breaths, after a few days I’ll find myself once again capable of having a reasonable conversation about my philosophies for possible systemic change and positive ways to influence community at a grassroots level. Maybe. But right now? Right now I am so beyond trying to swallow this one.

Every day I get up and for some reason or another, in some moment or a few, I have to fight a little, stand up a bit at least, JUST TO BE ME. I’ll call Violet sweetie in the grocery store and when that guy stares at me, well, I’ve spent years now practicing how to be brave enough to stare back and not to let myself look away until after he does. And just peeing in a public place, anywhere, for me is a sort of non-consensual act of activism: me with a full bladder versus your idea of ‘female’. And I am not whining here, most of us do this in some form or another, for a million different reasons, everywhere, every day. Every single day. We wake up, we brush our teeth and then we put on some combination and specific variety of armor that let’s us walk out the front door without dying, so that we can take the blows if and when they come. Fine. That’s life and that isn’t the point here.

But sometimes I feel like my anger just falls over a breaking point and it shatters and I don’t even feel it, like right now. I’m just so profoundly sad that I feel like I can’t get enough air into my own chest. Like right now.

Right now I just want to put my hands up in the air and trade in my rainbow flag for a white one so that I can wave it back and forth and say, “You know what? Fuck it. I am so exhausted and I am not willing to fight half as dirty as you just did SO YOU WIN. Now please… please leave me alone.

And the worst part? I know that all of this anger I feel towards all of you who pulled this fake prom shit on Constance, that let Matthew Shepard get beaten up and murdered over and over, again and again and again, that have little kids killing themselves because no one is stopping the homophobic bullying, that protest and vote and preach against queer rights, my rights, this blind rage that I feel, and I do mean rage, that I have and hold and carry and wear all of the time, all towards all of you who do this, aimed right at you specifically, without giving a shit about who you are or your story or what your name is even…

I know that’s how you feel about me too.

That’s how you feel about Constance. And so when you hurt me, when you kick us down, scare us, scar us, piss us off, taunt us, harass us, warn us, threaten us, intimidate us, and bully us, when you get us so upset that we can’t sleep, like tonight (this morning)- you won and I lost.

And then, when some gay-marriage rights pass in some state we won, you lost

And then you’ll fire my friend from his job because he’s trans and you’ll get away with it and you’ll get excited and go after the next one. And I’ll turn red in the face all over again, unable to do anything about it except put my hands up in the air and shake my head, back and forth, back and forth. Like right now.

And round and round we’ll go… where we’ll stop?…

Right now, today, my hands are up. You got me. Holy shit, you got me. Eventually my hands will find their way back to my hips, and when they do, watch the fuck out. But today, my hands are up.

Ok, I’m going to try something new here. I would like to take this opportunity (the opportunity being that this is my blog) to clear something up, explain myself a little.

I have received quite a bit of feedback since posting about the Mississippi school authorities that decided to cancel an entire prom so to avoid Constance McMillen and her girlfriend from attending. Some of you have written in support while some of you have expressed serious disagreement, from poo-on-you sentiments, all the way to bat-shit-pissed!

The eye opener for me was the sincere surprise from some of you, who thought I would feel differently about a girl not being aloud to go to prom because she’s a lesbian? One comment calling me “a left wing(ed) bigot.” One email said, “I’m disappointed in you!… I thought you were honest and balanced.” Another email read, “…your perspective is warped and insanely one sided…” some followed by a few choice nouns, none of which I claim for myself. (Left winged bigot, however? I am already planning a Halloween costume.)

But obviously I need to clarify something here, so here we go:

Dear people of the world:

PLEASE DO NOT MISTAKE ME FOR FAIR, BALANCED OR IMPARTIAL. IF YOU ARE NOT FOR TOTAL EQUALITY FOR QUEERS IN EVERY SINGLE WAY POSSIBLE THEN YOU ARE AGAINST ME.

(And if you do not understand that Cher is fabulous our relationship could be tricky. Not impossible, but potentially a bit rocky.)

Now, let me clear up another misunderstanding: I am not trying to, nor do I have any interest in changing anyone’s mind about anything. That is not my battle and that is never my intention with or for anyone. I think everyone can and should go ahead and think and feel and believe whatever they want, however they want, whenever they want, about anything and everything. Feel free to look me right in the eye and think, “God I hate this faggot-lesbian and her awful hair (jealous much?) and I just wish Cher would stop already.” Seriously, go for it, feel it, think it, believe it, wish for it at night.

But when your feelings about me turn outward in such a way that you are attempting to compromise my ability to live my life the way I so choose (we all know being a faggot-lesbian was my choice), then… now, we have a problem. In these sorts of situations, some fight, some choose flight. You cross that line with me and I will step on your toes. And if you are a lot bigger than me I will step on them quickly and then run like hell because I am not dumb and bruise easily. See what I’m getting at, here? Hate, feel, think, and believe about queers whatever you want- great, fine, whatever. But do not try and impose that shit on us.

How this all relates to my girl, Constance: I don’t care if the entire state of Mississippi, the entire country, the entire universe, including extremely far away planets with life on them that we just haven’t discovered yet, totally all hate lesbians, just fucking hate them. Fine. Hate us.

But when Constance McMillen comes knocking on the public door of a public school and asks a public school employee if she can bring her girlfriend to the prom and wear a tuxedo (hot!), here’s what you do: YOU STUFF ALL OF YOUR PERSONAL BELIEFS DOWN YOUR THROAT OR UP YOUR ASS AND YOU SAY, “SURE. FINE. OF COURSE.” And then, after she leaves the office, you can close the door and quiver in disgust at her most immoral, putrid request. You can call your wife even, and say, “Honey! You will never believe this! The most atrocious, despicable, disgusting, unholy thing just happened!” And then you can bitch about how gays and lesbians are genetic fuck-ups and it just makes you want to vomit and repent every time you think about it and then you hang up with your wife AND YOU PUT YOUR GAME FACE BACK ON. Because you have a job to do. And your job, in this situation, is to oversee an entire PUBLIC school, staff and students alike, and make sure that every single individual, regardless of race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, gender, age, blah blah, etc, etc, in this particular PUBLIC building is safe, accounted for, being treated fairly and is getting the most out of this PUBLIC education as possible. THAT IS WHAT YOU DO. THAT IS WHAT YOU GOT HIRED TO DO. That, Principal Trae Poophead Wiygul, IS. YOUR. JOB.

Side note/ here’s a thought: The best part for all of us here is this: We live in a (mostly) free country (it helps if you are white, straight and male, but the rest of us do have a lot of liberties still, you just might have to dig a little deeper or call the ACLU every now and then to help find them.)

And so, if you, Principal Trae Wiygul, or any of the board members, or you, Superintendent, Teresa McNeece, do not like your jobs or what is expected AND LEGALLY REQUIRED of you when doing your jobs, you have the right to quit that job and find something better suited for you(r homophobic asses.) If you don’t want a lesbian student going to public school dances, you have two choices: Either bite your dyke-detesting tongues and sell the girl a ticket for two to the prom –OR- quit your job and find something that doesn’t require that you be indiscriminately caring, responsible and reasonable of/for/towards children. There is just no third option for this one, folks. And this, to my joy and delight, you all are in the process of learning the hard way.

Rant over.

Back to my angry emailers: In all sincerity, I appreciate every email and comment and perspective I have received (and assume more are now on the way.) And for all of you that I have offended, I offer absolutely no apology. And for all of you that offend the shit out of me, no apologies necessary. Good for you for believing what you do and standing behind it. In this case, it might mean that you’re a homophobic bigot, but hey, to each her own.

I read everything you had to say and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. And although I disagree with some of you, that is totally a-ok. The spice to life, right? And even though I might not want to live my life the way some of you do, so what? So I won’t then. And clearly some of you really, really, really don’t want to live your life the way I do. Cool. Don’t.

And also, just to be clear, I have no intention of ever shutting up about what I think is right and good and true but I will never attempt to impose my beliefs and values on you in ways that would compromise your ability to live your life exactly the way you choose, that fits you best. And for all of you that have already started drafting another angry email saying that this post is telling you that you can’t be mean to lesbians and that is, in a way, me telling you what you can and can’t do, OH MY GOD.

A few weeks ago a woman found me on facebook, like folks do. We went to elementary school together and were friends. Not close friends, but friends. The last time I saw her I was probably ten. She looks great, is now married and has 3 kids. We have emailed back and forth a few times and the last email she sent me made my eyes pop out of my head. The line that did it was this:

“…I can’t think about you without remembering us putting on your brothers underoos and stuffing the crotches lol..”

 

This email has totally rocked me and here’s why: I have been packing since I could pee by myself! AND clearly I wasn’t hiding it and I just don’t have any recollection of this. I do remember wearing my brother’s underoos now and then when I was little and refusing to wear my superwoman ones until finally my mom gave in and let me get the boy kind (Batman and Luke Skywalker.) But before this email, my own narrative for being a young little genderqueer, which at the time was dubbed “androgynous” and “tomboy” by others, was that I hid that part of me, at least a little bit… or at least I thought I did.

I certainly don’t remember being so intentional or obvious about it, that is for sure. I use to wear my brother’s clothes now and then but he use to wear makeup and my mom’s dresses. And when my brother and I played make-believe I was always a boy. I remember that I use to wish that I was a boy but I think that was mostly because I started having feelings for girls and didn’t have the language for things like ‘lesbian.’ (And when I did discover that language it was NOT a good thing to be.) Also, I was taught that female equaled feminine with no variations: Ken = boy, Barbie = girl and that certainly didn’t fit who I was at all. And I’m not sure if I was just protecting my mom or if I truly didn’t mind, but up until around the 4th grade I let my mom dress me up, never in dresses, but she would put pink ribbons to match my pink LL Bean turtle neck in my hair that I would then “misplace” every single day at recess only to do this over again the next day without resistance.

My narrative, before this email from my old friend, was that when I started to understand the social lines between boy and girl I hid my ‘boy-ness’ intentionally. I think a lot of it was in attempt to protect my mom, she really, really wanted a ‘girl.’  But also because I wasn’t a boy, I was a girl. I embraced “tomboy” and “it’s just a phase.” I believed that. I believed that one day I would magically want to wear make up and play with dolls and have a husband but that I just didn’t right then.

My narrative, before this email, was that I kept what I considered the ‘boy-like’ pieces of me mostly hidden until this one very particular defining moment in my life. I’ve told this moment to folks all of my life, any time it comes up. This was what I had been telling myself. Before getting this email from my old friend my gender-bending revolutionary moment was this:

For all of my life, up until this particular moment, I hid my boy-ness and put up with and gave into the fact that I was a girl. A tomboy, but a girl. I did this until the week before the 6th grade started when, for a reason I still can’t explain, I had this sudden and uncontrollable outburst. My brother and mom and I were school clothes shopping and I remember watching my brother go off into ‘his’ section, where all of the cool clothes were, while I was stuck in ‘my’ section attempting to find sexless, genderless t-shirts and jeans and shoes (oh unisex Converse Hightops, how you saved me from so much gendered-footwear-angst.) I remember my mom’s face as I refused to shop unless she would let me go to the boys section. I saw something in her break, which still makes me break to think about. She looked so worried for me and so sad. I know it really hurt her to agree to this, I saw it, but she did anyway. For whatever reason, all of a sudden, right then, shopping in the boy’s section felt desperate and both my mom and I could feel it.

I have always thought of that moment as a coming out of sorts. But now, I’m not so sure.

So, this email from an old friend has me shifting and questioning my own story of how I feel I came into being authentic and comfortable and right in this gender-place that makes me feel like me. It is making me wonder if I thought I was hiding it when really the boy in me was just totally obvious to everyone and always there the whole go? Or maybe I just didn’t hide it like I thought I did? Maybe I didn’t even know to hide it then because it was just who I was and I thought it was normal until I was told differently?

I remember my 2nd grade teacher telling me I couldn’t sit with my chair backwards because, “that is not how a lady sits” and thinking, ‘well, now I know.’ I didn’t like that rule, but now I knew. I remember running around outside in a pair of my brother’s shorts and no shirt and my dad watering the lawn and asking, “jesse! Are you wearing your brother’s shorts?” and feeling really embarrassed but not sure why. I remember my mom’s friend telling me that I couldn’t marry Valley because she was a girl, and I didn’t like that either, but now I knew, so I stopped telling folks I wanted to marry her. I always hated dresses but I just knew that sometimes I would have to wear them, until I became an adult and realized I didn’t. Ever.

My mom has very seriously asked me, as an adult, more than a few times, if I wished I was a boy, to which I very honestly answer, “No, not at all.” And I use to think the question was a bit out of left field or maybe just because I get mistaken for a guy sometimes? But I guess if, ever since I was 5 years old (or maybe younger, I don’t know anymore), I’ve been prancing around in boys clothes with a fruit-of-the-loom-sock-bulge in my pants (which, as an adult I never ever do in front of family) well, I can just see a bit clearer where her question is coming from.

I have been sitting on this for a few weeks now and wish I felt more of a solid reason for why I am so fascinated by hearing this from my old friend, but I’m still not sure exactly. I do know I am going to ask other friends of mine, that I have known since our underoos days, what they remember.

Several years ago now, I was in France visiting Violet. In France a lot of bathrooms have this strange set up where both men and women walk through the same door only to land in this tiny area that serves as a sort of bathroom-purgatory, if you will. This is the place where the sinks, mirrors and towels are. So, both men and women stand there together while waiting to pee or what-have-you. I found that generally to the left is the womens stall and to the right is the mens. So as it goes, we all stand there, men and women together, waiting for our binary gender appropriate door to open and to then be freed to let us in and be relieved.

So I am in France visiting Violet, looking more masculine than feminine (which is not to say that I think I looked more boy than just me but more than not the French thought I was a guy.) She and I are getting lunch at a cute little bistro and I have to pee. I walk into the French bathroom purgatory area and I wait. Both stalls are busy. I am in this bathroom purgatory with one man. As we wait, in walks a woman.

And then there were three.

A thing I noticed about France (this I learned the hard way again and again): Out in public, women don’t tend to smile at folks they don’t know really. And if a man smiles at a women or vice versa it isn’t unfair to assume they might be flirting a little.

So, I’m in France waiting to pee in the bathroom purgatory with both a man and a women. What I have yet to mention is that when the woman walked in I smiled at her which led her to give me a very awkward and blatant scoff as she turned her whole body away from me. So, either she caught that I am just a stoopeed american girl OR I am crammed in a little room and just accidentally said to some random woman, “Oh, oui!? You like my smile, no?! Well zen… hough hough hough! (that is my impression of a french laugh, it offends Violet to no end.) A second later she mumbled something casual sounding to me in french which led me to respond according to her tone, ” Ah, oui.” And I did what I could to not smile.

At this point, speaking almost no french, I had taught myself  how to answer a french question or statement with “oui” or “non” simply by interpreting the inflection of the sentence. I was usually pretty good at guessing correctly.

Maybe it was the bathroom purgatory pressure or maybe I was just doomed to do nothing right, but as that woman looked me right in the eyes and said, “vous la pue de la la de dee da fou le gwagh pa nui hough de le sweegh doo!?!” I had NO idea if I should go with “Oui!” or “Aaaaah, non, non, non!” I went with “oui” again, which was clearly the. wrong. answer.

Next thing I knew a man came out of the mens stall, washed his hands and left. Now there was an empty stall for a man with the three of us staring at the door. And then both the man and woman in purgatory with me looked at me wondering what I was going to do… and so did I!

The purgatory man looked at me, opened the stall door, like a man might do when he’s holding a door for a lady and probably wouldn’t do for another dude that needs to pee, and used his other hand to make the motion of “after you.”

At this point I realized how utterly confused our situation was:

The man that was holding the door for me was there first, so even if I was a guy it was his turn. And clearly he knew this and he knew that I knew this and now I had realized that he knew that I was a girl BUT when this other woman entered our bathroom purgatory both the man and I silently agreed that she clearly thought I was a man and totally mistook my smile for a french, “Hey, how yOu doin? Eh?‘” On top of that, the man that was in the purgatory bathroom before me not only got that I was female and that I was being mistaken for male by an uptight french woman who I had unintentionally flirted with and then answered two of her questions incorrectly BUT he knew I needed some help. SO his reaction was to attempt to save me by giving up his spot in line and escort me into the mens room.

Totally confusing, no?

I gave him an “I don’t know about this” look and he smiled at me and I smiled back while reluctantly walking into the stall. And really, that might have been the record holder for “most innocent smile exchange between the sexes in all of French history.” I walked through his held open door, to which the woman thought nothing of and I peed. Finally.

I walked out of the stall and saw the man that had held the door still waiting, the woman that kind of hated me was now in the womens stall. I stopped, smiled, and held open the door to the mens room for him. We both laughed and as he walked through I said quietly, “Mercy” and through a very thick french accent he said, “You are very welcome, madam.”

With all of us sitting in a circle, in little plastic desks, in my old high school, there was a room full of young, springy attentive eyes, like all of the questions had all already been asked years ago and everyone was still waiting, with bated breath, for answers.

One of the two teachers that have (bravely and not without backlash) volunteered to watch over this club said, “Well, why don’t we start out by introducing ourselves.” I told them who I was and that I went to this school 40,000 years ago. They giggled. Marie introduced herself. And as the students went around saying their names and what grade they were in it was remarkable how easy it was to remember myself then- so unpolished and so young.

Two of the girls were blushing madly and couldn’t actually make eye contact with me while telling me their names. I remember that feeling too- how anything lesbian-ish at all would just set my chest on fire and make my already awkward existence even more awkward. Like the first time I heard that song, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” on the radio. I remember the moment exactly:

I was getting ready for school, adding mad amounts of Aqua Net hairspray to my long, long blond hair when this new song started playing on the radio. The song was good, I like it. And then, all of a sudden, Sophie B. Hawkins ever so stealthily slipped in this line, “I lay by the ocean making love to her with visions clear…” And I froze. I think my heart might have stopped and I know I stopped breathing. I absolutely could not believe what she just said! I was frozen like a statue of myself. I looked in the mirror, unable to move- I looked like the statue of liberty, holding a hairspray bottle over my head like a torch. And as accidental as that last reference was, hearing that line in that song woke up a deep, dark place in me that I didn’t even know about, and set something inside of me free. Something in me, in who I was, started to move, and I felt really, really alive… and terrified, in a good way. And now that I think about it, it might have been the first time I felt totally out of control of my body’s reaction to feeling sexual. I couldn’t not feel, let alone stop, that sharp electric ripple that whipped down through my spine and physically forced me to curl forward and wrap my arms around that weirdly-good nausea feeling that had gone off like a bomb in my tummy (that I would feel for the second time ever, kissing Marie for the first time later that same year.)

Ok, back to the meeting: There are ten or eleven students, a teacher, a guidance counselor, Marie and me (sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.) After we all introduced ourselves, one boy, who I instantly adored, immediately raised his hand with a subtle swoosh while simultaneously asking me, “Ok, seriously, I need to know. Do you think your life has changed much since high school or not really so much?”

Marie and I both laughed a little. I responded, “Um, yes. I would say my life has changed very, very much since I went to this school.

A girl raised her hand and asked Marie how she knew me. We both knew this girl was really asking, “Why is this straight woman here?” Marie said, well, like I said, I am married to a man and have two kids now, right? But in high school I was dating jesse. She was my girlfriend for a long time actually, 4 or 5 years and the first person I was in love with.” And womp. Every. Single. Jaw. Fell. It was great. This was exactly why I wanted Marie to come with me.

“You mean, you were both gay in high school?!? Together!?!” A different girl asked, still unable to make eye contact. Marie nodded and explained that no one knew of course. “No one!” She said, “It was too dangerous. Can you imagine falling in love for the first time, or even having a really big crush on someone and not being able to tell anyone! Not your mom, your friends, no one.” Most heads shook side to side while a few kids made it obvious that, yes, indeed they do know how that feels.

The same boy that I totally adore raised his hand and said, “Here’s the deal. I’m Mexican, duh! And my mom knows I’m gay but I haven’t told my dad yet. And my mom always says that it makes her sad that I’m, you know, gay or whatever, cause she doesn’t want people to make my life hard. She says if I tell people I’m gay I’ll lose friends or not get jobs or get to live where I want to or whatever. She says that being gay or whatever is just going to be way hard. What do you think, jesse? Is it totally way hard? Does that stuff really happen?”

I had already decided, before this meeting, that I was only here to support these awesome kids, not to teach them really. They can teach each other but maybe I can help guide things a little. They already know a lot, they are very self aware and this is their club, their experience. But most likely they don’t have the language for a lot of things yet, that they might be thinking or trying to say, that I could help with. Like the question my sweet, fabulous boy just asked- there’s some internalized homophobia in there, right? And I don’t need to teach them vocabulary (yet!) or how to spell it, but just help them see what they already know a bit clearer. And, I had also decided that although I didn’t want to scare them, I was most certainly not going to lie – about anything.

So, I looked my fabulous favorite boy right in the eyes and said, “Well, let’s just be honest here, you worry about all of that too, right? I mean, your mom didn’t invent that worry – you think about that too and it’s freakin’ stressful, right?!” He and a few others nodded dramatically. And instantly his entire body language changed. I hadn’t said much of anything yet but all of a sudden his eyes softened and he just looked relaxed. And I realized right then, more than anything, that just by being there, just by sitting in this room with these kids, I was validating them. All of them. All of it. Not just their experiences or their confusion or fears or sexual identities – but all of it. I was proof that what they were going through was really, really hard and most importantly, that it was all very real.

I smiled at all of their sweet, attentive faces and took a deep breath. “So, here’s the deal. Here’s the truth. I have no idea how your life is going to go. But for me, in my life, I have lost friends after they found out I was gay. I have lost a job after I came out. And I know there are a few apartments I tried to rent and didn’t get because my roommate for a one bedroom was another girl. I know all of this for a fact.” And now I really had their attention. I was the adult that was telling them the truth and they were ready for whatever I had to say.

I took another deep breath and saw that even the two teachers were frozen, paying a sort of attention that I am not use to and I continued, “But here is what else I know for sure: I don’t have any place in my life for people that don’t want me. Yes, I have been surprised by a friend’s reaction and it totally hurt my feelings, a lot. But if someone doesn’t want to spend their time with me, for whatever reason – that is a big loss for them and what can I do about it anyway? I’m certainly not going to try and talk someone into liking me. And I will definitely meet other new people, the world is HUGE, let me tell you – it’s freaking HUGE- and I’ll make new friends, all of my life, and they’ll like all of me. My real friends celebrate and cherish who I am, all of me, because that is what friends do and I deserve that!.. And why would I want to rent a home that doesn’t want me in it? You know how many places there are to live?! I will find one that wants me. I always have. And I would NEVER EVER want to work for a job that doesn’t get how fabulous I am. I am totally fabulous and I deserve to work for a place that totally gets that”… at which point my sweet boy interrupts with a snap, “You are fierce, girl. So fierce!”

I laughed and continued, “So, here’s the deal, your mom might be totally right, about all of it or maybe none of it, we can’t know. She doesn’t know, she just obviously loves you a lot and wants the world to be good to you. But we also can’t live in this constant state of fear of rejection either or we’ll never get anywhere, right? I mean, you might not get a job because you’re Mexican or I might not get it because I’m a girl, or maybe they won’t like something else about us. There are a million different reasons that the world will come up with to come down on us and make things hard and being gay is totally up for grabs that way. So? What do you do about that?”

It took them a second to realize I was asking them a question. “Seriously, what do YOU do about that? What have you done? What can you do? You certainly wouldn’t be in this club if you weren’t trying to do something about that.”

The other blushed-girl started to mumble, “I think it’s just about exposure. Like, if you’ve never met a gay person then maybe you’re afraid of them or something- but I don’t know why. They’re just people too. It’s totally weird that people say such stupid stuff about people when they don’t even know.”

My brain was screaming, “AAAAAAH! You totally get it! You are right on top of the entire philosophy and structure of the perpetuation of discrimination!” My mouth smiled big, which made her blush ever harder, and I said, “I think it’s about exposure too, like getting information before you decide on something. I think you are totally right.”

And we talked about that for a while. We talked about a lot of things. These kids are on it, they are so so ready to do good work. They decided they want to start a “That’s so gay” campaign, where they would do something about stopping that expression from being used so often in a discriminatory way at school. We also talked about t-shirts for the club, that one girl suggested should all be different colors of the rainbow. They told me what it was like to go to this school now and how there was a lesbian couple who had applesauce flung on them while holding hands in the hallway. They didn’t know who Mathew Sheppard was, so Marie told them that story. They also didn’t know Ellen was ever not out. So, then we talked about coming out and what that had been like for different folks. We talked about a lot and my heart was swooning the whole way through.

As the meeting started to wrap up the students asked, in an adorable, desperate, whiny, puppy way, if I would, “Please, please, pleeeeease come to another meeting soooooon!.” And I was flattered and said that of course I would.

I also said, “Before you all leave, I just want you guys to be totally sure, in case you weren’t or were wondering at all, that you are totally incredible and you have changed the whole entire world by starting this club. I mean, the whole entire world is a different and better place, in a huge way, just because of you guys. You made my life better even before we met today, just by starting this club. And you will never know exactly how many people you make feel better, how many lives you help, but I promise you it is way more than even the highest number you could possibly come up with and it will only continue to get bigger. It is an absolute privilege to have met you all today and to have been invited to this meeting. You are all my personal heroes and I am so impressed with all of you, for who you all are. So, thank you, very much.” To which my favorite fabulous boy flippantly said, “You too girl.”

And as they all started to leave to catch the last school bus, my favorite, fabulous boy was leaving the room when he so perfectly put the gay icing on the gay cake, “And, jesse… girl, you got yourself some goooood hair, by the way. Seriously. Fierce.”

(Looking for the line? Go to 3:18)

greg

Aaah greg. Sweet, charming, beautiful, wonderful, greg.

I met greg. I talked with greg. I had dinner with greg and I hugged greg. Yes, there is more to the story than this, but I thought I’d put the highlights right out there for you. I mean, if any of the just mentioned does not totally fascinate you, you also probably don’t like chocolate or puppies or having fun and will most likely find this post a snoozer… keep in mind, that means something is wrong with you.

On Sunday, Kristen, Sin and I got back from Jess’ party with just enough time to get things a bit together before greg and her girlfriend, both of whom I had never met and was quite excited about meeting, came over. Sin had errands to run and so a runnin’ she went. Kristen had long planned the menu and as soon as we got back to Brooklyn she got in the kitchen and started Tearing. It. Up.

Violet is a fabulous cook and because of this I am not just well fed but also a well trained kitchen bottom with over 4 years of experience. Yes, I’ll stick my fingers in the pesto and the pudding when you’re not looking (you totally didn’t see me, did you! Stealth), but I can slice and dice and sauté all under particular orders like a pro. This worked to both Kristen’s and my favor quite nicely.

We had two hours and some serious prepping to do before greg and her girlfriend arrived so naturally, I created a ‘Lady Gaga’ station on Pandora, and we rocked the kitchen dance club style. Chopping sweet potatoes to “Po po po poker face po po poker face” is like a natural rhythm really. And like I told the lettuce, “Baby when its love if it’s not rough it isn’t fun” as I ripped it up into the bowl. Perfect, yes? Agreed.

And the menu Kristen came up with was no small task and as time began to thin she just kept her cool and kept cooking. Somehow by the time our company arrived all was prepared, including sliced lime wedges for drinks.

And then the buzzer buzzed which was my cue to double check that my hair was perfect and that my zipper was up. Check and check (insert snapping S shaped swoosh of hand here.)

Ten seconds later there they were. In walked greg first. And anyone can know she’s beautiful and smart with knock out fashion sense if you check out her blog… I knew this. But still, folks, somehow I was just not prepared.

In the two seconds she turned away from me to take off her coat I managed to down the rest of my glass of wine (you totally didn’t see me, did you? Double stealth.) As she turned back around, sans coat, in a dress that could kill a small village, with knee high boots that would at least make a small village unable to speak coherently, and mentioned that traffic was bad, my fag-brain was screaming, “Love. This. Get. Up. Something. Fierce! Dayamn, girl. Flawless. Perfect. Hot. Love it! Love it! Love it!” My mouth said, “Sorry the traffic was bad. Great dress. Can I get you a drink?”

(I heard later that she was wearing a fabulous necklace but I was too scared. After getting caught looking at my doctors cleavage about a month ago– yes, you heard me: super fail – I have been practicing being a mature adult that can get through an evening without my eyes dropping and I did and I am quite proud of myself, except it turns out I really missed out… on some fabulous jewelry, that is.)

And then, in walked greg’s girlfriend and I was doubly impressed with everything happening. I was very excited to spend the evening in this company.

(Note: Because greg’s girlfriend isn’t really in the blog world I consider her an innocent bystander more than anything else. This is just to say that I am intentionally being overly vague. I will mention however, that if we lived closer I would try, with relentless effort, to make her like me so that I could be her friend that she would want to hang out with regularly. Also, she has a killer smile, but you could find that out on greg’s blog.)

So, I fixed them a couple of drinks. And by ‘I fixed them a couple of drinks’, I mean I stood next to Greg and watched her fix a couple of drinks, as everything she did was deeply interesting and truly impressive.

Eventually we all settled around the table and started to chat while eating some very tasty food. I was permanently leaned in towards greg with my hands folded underneath my chin in awe. I tried to ask her about anything and everything so that she would keep talking and continue to be so freaking-out-of-this-world-fabulous. greg is so engaging, so charming, and so easy to talk with. My new long distance bff, aka greg’s girlfriend, was so very fun and easy-going and made me laugh a lot.

At some point, and who knows how really, Cher came up and I tried to teach Sinclair how to flip hair the way Cher does (WHY did I not ask greg to try?!? And the regrets begin…) There was also a point where greg’s gf and I bonded over constantly being verbally attacked for… dear gawd, do I bring this up again?… gulp… both agreeing that, without any information or details, but purely on looks and looks alone,we think Sarah Palin is attractive (aaand cue the angry emails. But folks, it’s just Tina Fey’s evil twin, really. Ok, moving on! This is about greg. Move. on.)

The evening flowed rather easily for me, as maybe I haven’t mentioned or made clear enough: I was totally infatuated with our company. Throughout the evening, I again went through the brain flips of trying to separate greg from her blog. And again, as the evening progressed it became easier to do.

I hadn’t realized how many blanks I had filled in about her that shifted, of course, once we met. More so than any other blogger I had met this weekend. Even her voice. I hadn’t really considered that I didn’t know what her voice sounded like, or maybe I had created an idea of one. And so, as soon as she said hello, that two dimensional bubble popped and a new, real and in person version of greg began to filter through.

To me, greg’s blog feels personal in a different way somehow, almost like reading a journal. It’s always in the moment and it’s brave and honest, like a letter from a friend that trusts you. I’m not totally sure what it is, but I feel like she keeps me up to date on her day to day, what’s on her mind (yes, I realize it is more actuate to say us, but this is about me now). I feel like she creates a real-life context for herself, including pictures of moments that just happened. Her blog feels like it’s in real-time, like a window.

I’m not sure what it is, but I think I almost forgot that we didn’t know each other until we met. And on top of realizing all of this, I then realized that my feeling this way was not necessarily mutual. My blog, more than not, tends to be in stories about other people, other things, my observations, my version of life, and in no particular order or time frame, and not usually about me in the now, really. She mentioned exactly that at one point, saying, “So, jesse, who I know very little about, tell me about yourself.”

We also talked about many of the finer things in life, such as the Real Housewives of New Jersey. (Did greg totally reenact the table flipping scene from the last episode? Yes. Was it perfect? Don’t ask dumb questions, of course it was. Did I eventually stop asking and then immediately answering my own questions in a ridiculous New Jersey accent? Ya, I did. Did I want to? No. But we needed to move on.)

We continued to have course after course of Kristen’s wonderful, homemade meal and eventually broke into the beautiful dessert that greg had brought.

And just as I decided to sneak off and call Violet to see if we could please keep them, almost as quickly as the evening began, it started to get late. It was Sunday night and some of us still work. They needed to get going.

We all hugged goodbye and like a kid who’s being left with the babysitter for the first time, I attempted to keep a strong face as I waved goodbye- just as greg turned back and said she wanted another hug. My brain was singing, in its best Louis Armstrong impression “…and I think to myself, what a wonderful worrrrrrrld” My mouth said, “It was so wonderful to finally meet you.”

And then, just like that, they were gone.

photo(4)

Saturday morning.

Sometime around 10 a.m. Sinclair came into the room where I was sleeping and began attempting to nurse me back to life with coffee. Unfortunately, before we went to bed the night before, not so many hours earlier, the three of us drunkenly polished off the last of the cinnamon rolls and were forced to eat sub-incredibly-fabulous breakfast foods that normal people, who had never had these cinnamon rolls, would find perfectly fine.

Eventually we all started feeling and acting like the living kind and started to get ourselves together enough to head out. Today we were off to JessHeIs’ Bye Bye Boobies party and fundraiser. We gathered up ties and shirts and dresses and shoe that were then all hung in the Outback with care. We grabbed several different vessels to fill with water in an attempt to un-pickle ourselves from the night before.

Although I was dragging a bit I was terribly excited to get there. Tonight I was going to meet a whole slew of bloggers that I follow daily and have been oh so excited to meet.

After some serious traffic issues along side apocalyptic rain showers (that never let up) we arrived. I got out of the car and saw some dude walking towards me with his hand out. JessHeIs shook my hand, threw his arm around my shoulder and within two seconds I felt like we were old friends.

I went inside and BOOM, there they all were (and the blogger name dropping bomb begins…) Leo MacCool, Freedomgirl, Tina-cious, JessHeIs, Sinclair, Kristen and I were all of a sudden just standing in a room together like normal real life human beings. My mind went from excited little sparklers to big huge explosions as I tried to connect this online world to these faces in front of me.

I read them everyday. I check in with them and comment and care about them. I wait for their next post like I wait for Violet to call me from work. It makes my day. And when Jess asked me how Fraidy and the little guys were doing I did a back flip in my brain. This collision was amazing to me. It was so weird and so wonderful.

For some folks, I think the ability to connect these worlds might be a little easier. But for me, I have never ever had a relationship with someone online and online only. And to make the previous statement a bit truer, until I met these folks I hadn’t formally realize that I had relationships online. Really important relationships. I still haven’t totally grasped that people even read this blog, and less than a hand full of people I know even know about this space. And yes, Violet and I were long distance for a long time, but I met her in person first. We had already kissed and taken walks together – and then came the distance. This was just totally different.

Before the party we all went to pizza together. (I ate a piece of clam pizza by the way. Supposedly Jess’ part of the world thinks this is normal? But if you are like me and think this is just a terrible and strange and most likely VERY BAD idea, fair enough. We understand each other. Ditto, friend. But I tried it anyway and it was actually really good! Jess laughed at me as my face went from, “Oh god, this is not going to be ok,” to “Damn clam! Way to taste delicious!”)

At dinner I sat next to the lovely Freedomgirl and as she and I started talking about life in general, we couldn’t help but to stumble upon a lot of information we already knew because of things we’ve written. She’d start talking about something and I’d say, “Oh ya, I’ve read about that.” And this kept happening. A few minutes into dinner Jess said, “Dudes, we already know everything. We’re gonna run out of stuff to talk about in 10 minutes.”

As the night continued, eventually, I started realizing how to separate the person from the blog. It started to feel obvious the more we talked. I started to realize that the differences are (and tend to be) in the subtleties: Things you can’t read through a typed font, things you can’t express or share with letters, things you can’t know without watching it happen or without watching it being told. There is an intimacy in hearing the voice, the inflection, watching the body language. In person, there is a back and forth, a give and take.

Jess has an easy-going, brotherly demeanor and one of my favorite smiles. Tina is just as easy-going and funny and so gracious, with eyes that are almost hypnotic and full of expression. Leo has a gentle and brilliant delivery and her humor is subtle and quick and witty. Freedomgirl’s timing in her speaking is absolutely mesmerizing, it rolls you in. Sinclair has a delicate kindness and intentional endless caring, that comes through in everything she does and says.

The details fill in differently in person. The same story now has sound, a personalized tone, a laugh, eyes, gestures, body language. And just the telling of the story now has a shared context. There’s an energy created simply by being present together. And we were all present and we were all together.

After pizza we all headed back to Jess and Tina’s house-turned-blogger-hostel to get cute and shmancy for the party. Ties were tied, lipsticks were applied and then blotted and then applied again and again, hair was brushed and sculpted, suit jackets were buttoned and off we were.

The torrential downpour of rain had not even slightly let up. It was some of the hardest rain I had ever seen. The driveway had turned into a small lake and had everyone’s feet totally soaked through. And if it weren’t for our instantly flawless coordination of our magical shield of umbrellas we would have been a really hot crowd gone quite soggy in seconds. But we had umbrellas, a lot of them, and each other. So, while the rain did what rain does, we did what we do- we covered each other until it was safe.

We got to the party around 9ish, all of us dry (minus our feet) and looking like a hot little group of fabulousness. The music was blasting, the crowd was mingling, the drinks were flowing, the jello shots were rainbow colored and the cheetos were unnaturally orange and tasted perfect.

As the night progressed, eventually everyone was dancing to loud, faggy-clubby queer music that the DJ kept seamlessly rolling (while in between songs she had some girl plastered up against the wall with her mouth – go DJ, go, yo.) At one point, the sexy, smooth Sinclair busted out a hot little drag show to Faith by George Michael. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of friends that Jess and Tina have collected along the way in their life and I was totally impressed with the entire situation.

The next morning I woke up at Casa de Jess n Tina to the smell of fresh coffee and quiche. We all sat around the kitchen table, some of us feeling a bit perkier than others, and I had my last meal… for now anyway, with some truly remarkable people who double as some of the most important people in my life.

The sun, the day after the party of course, was shining as bright as a summer’s day and the sky was as blue and clear as the ocean. So before we all went our separate ways, we went outside, for the first time without umbrellas, all together, and took a group photo.

We gathered our things, and I hugged each real person, and said goodbye… for now.

Cue in fabulously perfect theme song…

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(now that you are totally taken by Jess, like I am, if you happen to have an extra dollar or two or fifty or more and want to help a really amazing guy get where he’s going, your donation towards his top surgery is a really big deal and your donation is a really big help. CLICK HERE TO DONATE DIRECTLY TO JESS. Thank you!

My name is Jesse James and this website is just like me. read more about me

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