25. Selfie #6

The worst thing about summer is that everybody wants to do “outside things.” Seriously. Summertime is all about entertaining Caucasian nonsense like requests to spend the day “at the Dunes” ( 😦 ) and having dinner with people who think it’s fun to dine al fresco. It’s not. Whenever I eat outside I’m too distracted by protecting my meal from the requisite Old Testament-style swarm of flies/wishing I’d brought my sunglasses with me/hoping I put on enough deodorant to enjoy myself, and I can’t think of a worse way to spend a ninety-five-degree afternoon than scalding my feet on a hot beach and trudging up some giant mountain of sand. Just the other day, a friend included me in a group text attempting to set up a date to go rafting on the river here. Her heart was in the right place–I’d have bitched for weeks if I’d discovered they’d all gone river-rafting without me, even though it’s not something I would ever actually do–but seriously, rafting? On a river? Like who am I, fucking Meryl Streep? No thank you. Please delete my number. I’m perfectly happy sitting inside where there is air conditioning and all the marijuana and HGTV a depressive, antisocial, habitually non-joining single gal could want.

SOME OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES I FIND ACCEPTABLE:

  • Walking six blocks to the library
  • Walking three and a half blocks to the nearest liquor store that also has my brand of smokes (Parliament Lights)
  • Smoking a cigarette anywhere smoking indoors is not allowed (everywhere)
  • Browsing clearance racks at Shoe Carnival when they put them outside
  • Garage sales

Is seasonal affective disorder even a thing in summer? Somebody help because I’m too lazy to Google it and also I have to avoid at all costs any situation that might result in me going down a WebMD rabbit hole and inevitably diagnosing myself with at least fourteen fatal diseases. (It’s a thing.) I’ve been more depressed than usual these past few months and really wishing hard that I had some fucking health insurance so I could get back into therapy but also so I could do perfectly normal-people things like go to the dentist or have my fucking eyes checked–but thinking like that only makes me more depressed because here I am wishing for the regular things in life. It’s depressimg to sit around thinking grown up things like, Wow, I really wish I had health insurance so I could go to a doctor, which I haven’t done in about a decade, or, Damn, if I could make even 40k a year I would be SET. I used to have big dreams. Now all I dream about is dreaming on an actual mattress and not this foam pad bullshit I got from IKEA eight years ago, futilely topped with three mattress pads.

Last night, for example: I was reading in that bed/watching Chelsea and I paused to take an inventory of the furniture in my budoir: a small white bookshelf I got from Salvation Army a few years ago which houses my oddly-robust VHS collection; a weirdly-designed end table I can barely describe that a former roommate “gave” to me when she moved that has actually has part of it broken off because I dropped a mirror on it not too long ago (don’t ask); on that desk, my TV/VCR combo thing from probably 1992; an end-table with a magazine rack on the bottom that I got from Goodwill; and my bed, which is full-size and depressing. Suddenly, I hated all if it.  It’s all junk, I thought. I said it out loud: “Junk. Just a bunch of junk.” It’s not the bedroom of a thirty-two year old man with a college degree; it’s the bedroom of some transient hipster who is prepared to leave it at any second.

Anyway, that got me thinking about this guy I dated for a hot second last year. He was about my age but he lived in a house that  he owned, where he had all sorts of grown-up things like a home-security system, a sectional sofa, and basset hound named after an early-season Project Runway contestant. In his bedroom, he had what I call “an actual bed”–the kind that require, for instance, a box spring and not the sad slats of wood spanning the width of my bed own bed frame. He had dozens of pillows and sheets that felt like caramel on my skin. He had real furniture that nobody else had ever owned but him and a hot tea selection that rivaled those of many restaurants I’ve worked in. The first time I ever went over to his place, he showed off by giving me a full tour, and I didn’t blame him, considering his tour included two “guest baths” and one guest-bedroom, a study with an antique executive-style desk and one of those kitschy green and gold lamps, and something he referred to as an “eat-in kitchen” where French doors led out onto a fabulous patio with a hot tub. I couldn’t help but imagine giving him a tour of my tiny one-bedroom apartment: here’s the living room/my office/place where I keep my books/room where the window-unit air conditioner is; here’s the bedroom/place where my clothes are strewn everywhere because I don’t even have a fucking dresser, I’m that much of a child (actually, that’s unfair to children, because when I was a child, guess what? I had a fucking dresser); through this door here that everybody thinks is a closet because it’s in the God damn living room is the master bath, which doubles as the guest bathroom, isn’t that fun?! I wouldn’t even bother to show him the kitchen, it’s so pitiful. It was clear right away, standing on his gleaming, “original, but I had it restored” hardwood floors in his actual dining room where the table was set in a way that suggested six other people would be joining us even though no one was, he just always keeps it set like that, that I would have shut this shit down, and pronto. I mean, my God: I got my couch for free after the old woman who owned it died, which she probably did on the couch itself, the disgusting the stains I can’t even bear to think about only confirming that when you die, you soil yourself.

I tried to put a noble spin on it, of course. Here was a man who had his shit together, who actually owned things of value, who went on actual vacations, whereas the most valuable thing I own had been my Macbook Pro until I decided to spill an entire cup of coffee on it last December, and the last vacation I took was three years ago and I just went and stayed at my friend’s place in Chicago for a week, smoking weed out of her Pax and spending too many problematic dollars at H&M (I know, I know). He deserved someone on his level, I said, by which I meant, someone in his tax bracket. I could only bring him down. I think I was convincing, and we quickly stopped seeing each other.

 A FEW WAYS IN WHICH I AM NOT A GROWN-UP:

  • Three of my favorite TV shows of the past few years are Scream on MTV, Supergirl on the WB, and Wilderness Vet on NBC
  • I don’t have a dresser
  • My refrigerator is completely empty except for: a bottle of mustard; a probably-expired jar of mayonnaise; a probably-rotten bottle of something called The Skinny Wine Thin Zin, Flavor That Flatters that somebody left here whenever I was last in the grips of a manic episode and invited someone over that I would never drink yet haven’t thrown out; a container of Parmesan cheese
  • The freezer is even worse: a bag of ice that’s been in there since last summer; four empty outshine Popsicle boxes; an unopened tub of cool whip I’ll probably remember is in there randomly one night in the near future while I’m watching The Net on VHS and eat all of it; an empty ice tray; a frozen pizza I bought several months ago before I realized that my oven had stopped working, a situation I haven’t yet resolved with my landlord because my kitchen has been FILTHY and I’m too embarrassed to let anyone see it but too much of a mess to clean it; a plastic grocery bag, contents unknown
  • I will never have what is called “an organized closet”
  • My bank account is regularly over-drawn
  • I am secretly 100% okay with eating fast-food multiple times a week
  • I smoke in bed
SOME RECEIPTS:

 

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24. Incidentals–7/10/17

Often I find myself pining for the good, old, carefree days of my 1990s childhood, when Will Smith seemed a trifle more down to earth and you could smoke in restaurants. I miss those days, both as an erstwhile fan of the Fresh Prince and as someone who works in a restaurant and hates himself just enough to enjoy a nice Parliament every ten minutes or so now and again. I’m old enough that I can remember when going out to eat meant deciding whether you wanted to wait forty minutes for a table in the non-smoking section, where families dined peaceably and breathed clean, invisible air, or be seated immediately in the smoking section, where the patrons hacked bits of lung and trachea goo into their chicken Parmesans and dates were obscured across tabletops by the gray skrim of expunged smoke hanging between them. Even when I was too young to be a smoker myself, I thrilled whenever I dined out with a relative who smoked, or whenever my parents were willing to risk shortening their children’s lives in exchange for shortening their wait time. I loved the smoking section. The second-hand smoke bothered my eyes and dried out my nasal passages and left me blowing slime-yellow snot into tissues for hours after leaving, but I’m sucker: I totally bought into all those ads glamorizing cigarettes (back when there was such a thing as cigarette ads), showing impossibly cool camels shooting pool in Ray-Bans and backward baseball caps, too dapper for words in a tuxedo and black tie. I’d look at those ads, glossy in the pages of my mother’s fashion magazines, enraptured by the glamour they promised, and I guess I’d think to myself something along the lines of I wanna be that camel? Who knows. I also had phase in high school where I collected pictures of writers I admired smoking cigarettes (by “collected” I mean that I searched for these images online and printed them out behind my boss’s back at my after-school job at the local library), which probably didn’t help matters–or did help, I guess, depending on your feelings about things like heart disease and lung cancer.

The point is: I loved the smoking section. I loved the grim faces everyone had on (smokers always look grim; it’s not because they’re cranky, it’s because smoking is repulsive and you can’t help but make a repulsed face when you do it, that’s just facts). I loved the people who didn’t bother to put out their cigarettes if their food happened to arrived at an inopportune time, who were talented enough to smoke and eat simultaneously. I loved the old women with their mile-long 120’s who were still enough (because they were dying, I know realize) to keep the caterpillar of ash growing at the end of it from falling to dust on the table top. I loved the atmosphere: dirty, stinky, and with just a hint of macular degeneration. And even though it’s *heavy sigh* probably for the best that the prohibition against cigarettes is in full swing pretty much any where a queer boy of color could go without getting lynched or gang raped by six guys in an ’97 Ford-150, four of whom are named Jeremy, there comes a moment (or nine) during every shift I work where I find myself wishing there were clouds of smoke for me to walk through just so I don’t kill the woman at table twenty-one who is apparently going to die anyway if I don’t get there quickly with her fourth iced tea (with extra lemon!).

 

Selfie #5

Recently, I bought a wig. I’ve been threatening for years that I’m going to star wearing wigs–not all the time, just when I’m in a very particular mood I’ve come to identify as my wig-wearing mood–and just lately I’ve decided to prove that those threats, unlike my vows to quit smoking or stop blowing straight guys, weren’t empty.

Actually, I had a wig once before, a couple of years ago. I purchased it for Halloween; my costume was Andy Warhol. It had occurred to me then that any wig that resembled the self-altered ones Warhol sported during his lifetime would very likely be one I wouldn’t mind wearing in public as myself, but the one I got was cheap, purchased for twenty dollars at one of those costume stores that pop-up for a few weeks around Halloween and then shutter their business until next year, plus, it was advertised as an Andy Warhol wig and though it suited that purpose, I couldn’t really bring myself to wear it out of the house after the holiday had passed. I did enjoy wearing it at home several times, experimenting with style and pairing it with different outfits and taking selfies. Eventually, though, I attempted to give it purple highlights, effectively ruining it. I threw it away recently.

In any case, I call the new wig The Cobain:

As you can probably tell from those selfies, I’m really feeling it. Wearing it has been interesting. I live in South Bend, Indiana, and though within the city limits the populace is rather progressive, this is no San Francisco. Indiana is so specific and one-note that it’s nearly impossible to evoke it adequately in any neat turn of phrase or succinct comment, so suffice to say that South Bend is the sort of place where the residents are perfectly happy to elect a gay mayor, but where there’s actually only two gay bars. Go figure. In any case, I’ve not so far had any bad encounters whilest wearing The Cobain. I’ve received a few double-takes and discriminating glances, but all the verbal feed back has been positive–which is to say, no one has shouted slurs at me from across the street. I guess that says something, considering this is a town where I was once informed by a sales associate at the mall that I couldn’t buy a certain pair of shoes because they were “for women.” That’s progress, right?

On Holding Grudges

A little grudge-holding is good for one’s health, in fact. This flies in the face of common knowledge. We’re told that stewing on past offenses is the purview of the small person, that an unwillingness to forgive or at least forget old transgressions is its own defeat. If someone wrongs you–say, if they cut you off in traffic, or appear in front of you in the express lane at the grocery store with a haul far exceeding the twelve-item limit–and two or three weeks later you’re still harping about it to your friends, for instance, you’re not righteously indignant; you’re obsessed. If a relationship goes south and results in hurt feelings, however deeply, and you’re still trying to make your ex’s life hell two years after the fact, you’re no longer heartbroken; you’re wallowing. If you’ve got time to hold grudges, you likely don’t have a whole lot going on in your pathetic, miserable, emotionally stunted life–at least according to the cultural wisdom.

The common wisdom is wrong. In fact, one ought to be ardently cultivating at least two but never more than four grudges at any given time. Just as with children, it is unwise to hold only one grudge, because devoting too much time and attention to just one thing exclusively is never wise. Conversely, more than four grudges (or children), and each grudge is not likely to receive the proper amount of attention it requires–nay, deserves. I personally find three grudges to be perfectly manageable; however, one should proceed according to one’s own skill set.

One should not devote too much time to deciding which transgressions to cling to. Say, for instance, that it’s Friday, and your best friend does something awful, like gets engaged, or cancels on you at the last minute, when you’ve already gotten dressed. Either of those things are perfectly reasonable violations over which to harbor ill will, if one is so inclined. But what if you still totally haven’t forgotten that on Monday your co-worker Steve, who you hate anyway (for no particular reason, something to do with this affability) “mistakenly” ate that individually sized Oikos you had stored in the staff refrigerator, and you’re also still working black magic against that ex who wronged you? And say you’ve decided that two grudges at a time is your personal limit. What to do? No worries! Merely trade out one grudge for another. As grudge holding is an essentially personal endeavor, one is free to change one’s mind about which specific hatreds to foster pretty much whenever the hell one feels like it. In this regard, there are no hard and fast rules. As in anything–for instance, acrobatics, or being one of those gross men who travel a lot for work and secretly have entire an secret family in Baltimore or some place–balance is key.

home movies

somewhere on a shelf in my mother’s basement, amongst the dozens and dozens of books, stuffed in with the dvds and vhs tapes my family amassed throughout my childhood, there is a home video my father recorded when i was very young. i’m not sure of my exact age, but i couldn’t have been more than three or four, as by the time i was five my parents had divorced and my father had moved out, and it is very distinctly his voice invisibly booming out directives from somewhere just out of frame.

who knows why or what he was filming. growing up my parents (first, my father, and later, my step-father) recorded birthday parties and easter egg hunts, christmas mornings and baseball games and piano recitals, but this video, shot in the basement of the house we lived in until the spring of the year i was in second grade, contains none of the festive attributes i would associate with the special occasions of my childhood—a birthday cake for instance, or balloons and brightly colored decorations—and if i was three or four, then the year would’ve been 1988 or 1989, and we had probably very recently acquired the video recorder, which i still remember, large and black and boxy, hulking on my father’s shoulder, his eye pressed to the soft rubber of the viewfinder. this video feels like a test video, as if my father has just gotten the thing home and out of the box, is taking it for an anxious first spin, a fresh tape snug in the deck, waiting to contain. essentially, he’s filming nothing, filming us, our family, in our at-home, mundane day-to-day. my siblings and I can be seen and heard chasing after my father as he pans around the basement, with its wood-paneled walls and the half-tiled floor upon which we used to roller-skate, begging for our chance to perform for his camera. over here! record me! we are shouting. my mother can be see trying to evade the camera’s view.

when it is my turn, the video shows my three or four-year-old self wearing a t-shirt sized for an adult male (it is my father’s; I remember wearing his t-shirts often, to bed mostly), which hangs over my tiny frame, falls down past my bony knees. and, I’ve belted one of my own belts around my waist, which lends the entire ensemble an overt dress-like effect. and, i’m twirling. when my father turns the camera on me i’m twirling and twirling so that the portion of the t-shirt below the belt flares up and out, rippling on the waves of my motion, billowing out like a woman’s gown. and i just keep twirling like that—proudly, smiling, pausing every few rotations to strike a pose of theatricality—until my father jerkily focuses his camera on something else, on my older brother executing some martial arts maneuver he’s been practicing: unable to bear the disequilibrium, the camera (gaze) (male) (specifically, the father’s) averts to something stabilizing (specifically, my older, appropriately inscribed brother, performing an appropriately inscribed act).

selfie #4

a very early memory, a fragment of a memory, from kindergarten: it is play time—not recess proper, but a small break between formal lessons in the afternoon, during which we are allowed to amuse ourselves with the toys and plastic kitchen set and books and board games in the little area at the back of the classroom. i am back there, on a rug with a perfectly ordered town printed on it, amongst a group of girls whose names and faces are not a part of this memory. i’m pretending to be a mermaid, writhing around on the floor with my legs twined together at the knees, imagining they are fins. we are all doing this, the girls and myself, but it’s very clear that I’m showing them how to do it properly. this is 1990, 1991: at home we’ve already added disney’s the little mermaid to our VHS collection—a particular favorite of mine, at that age. the girls follow my lead and we all sing part of your world at the top of our lungs until some boys come by to assert themselves by instructing us to shut the hell up. i learned something that day. i don’t know what.