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!).

 

I’m taking a vow of celibacy

I’m taking a vow of celibacy. I’ve had it. I’m not fucking anymore guys. I don’t want any more dicks in my mouth. I’m no longer interested in the intimacy of someone else’s body, its scents and noises, its imprudence, its imposition. I just now decided.

I just now decided because about ten minutes ago, apropos of nothing, and sans any sort of alternate greeting, a guy sent me a picture of his cock on Grindr. That’s not why I’ve decided on celibacy–Grindr is the Land of Unsolicited Dick Pics, and I’ve been around long enough at this point to know that a seemingly out-of-the-blue snapshot of a guy’s cock via one electronic medium or another is basically gay-speak for the once-popular “hey man how’s it goin.” In school we used to send tightly-folded notes to our crushes, confessing our emotions and asking if they felt the same. These days, we sends close-ups of our freshly bleached assholes. As Carrie Bradshaw says in the pilot episode of Sex & The City: “Welcome to the age of un-innocence.”

The point is, I wasn’t offended that he sent me the picture. I was offended, however–not to mention mildly repulsed–by the shoestring he’d fashioned into a home-made cock ring. Listen, we all have our kinks and fetishes, and I SUPPORT YOU, but if there’s one thing I can’t get it up for, it’s a cock ring, store-bought or otherwise. Upon seeing the picture, I immediately removed Grindr from my phone, typed up a celibacy contract, printed it off, and signed it. Later today, I’m going to have it notarized. I’m telling you, I’m done.

If you think I’m overreacting, please consider that only a few days ago, I was chatting with a different guy–it was going well, actually, as far as chatting with guys on Grindr is concerned (translation: we managed about ten blocks of text before the photo-sharing commenced, which is significant; I felt like I was being courted, like a straight girl). His face was visible and I didn’t hate it, he was conversant and friendly, and even though I’m prone to interpret any interest at all from a man as a sign that he’s thinking about wifeing me, we objectively seemed to be hitting it off. Once we got to the pic-exchange portion of the evening, though, things took a turn for the worse, when a full-body shot he’d unfortunately failed to crop his feet out of revealed an accessory far different from the other guy’s homemade cock ring, but equally distressing: a county-issued house arrest anklet, black and boxy and unmistakable.

I wasn’t sure how to proceed. It seemed perfectly reasonable to be like, “Are you on house arrest?” The evidence was there, but who knows how recently that photo had been taken. Perhaps he’d been but was no longer legally confined to the perimeter of his parents’ property (yes, he lives with his parents, a common phenomenon among twenty and thirty-something gay men here, which warrants a post of its own). Still, I didn’t want to be rude. By then, I’d already seen homeboy’s dick (moderately sized) and ass (maybe too hairy) and had felt zero compunction about asking him his preferred sexual activities, but somehow, inquiring after his criminal background seemed forward adn gauche. Instead, after suggesting that we get together sometime, I asked (innocuously) if he would be able to travel. (In gay dating, where, in my personal experience, the word “date” has come to encompass anything from a formal excursion involving drinks, dinner, and maybe a movie, to a date-like hang-out session consisting of awkward small talk and obligatorily viewing about thirteen minutes of something on Netflix pre-sex so that it’s definitely not a hook-up, to one guy Google mapping the other’s address and showing up for approximately twenty-eight minutes of definitely hooking-up, “can you travel” means do you have a car, at least in cities without adequate public transportation. Its opposite question is, “can you host?”)  He revealed (quite casually, I thought) that no, he couldn’t travel because, yes, he was on house arrest. Since he’d already admitted to living with his parents, it didn’t feel necessary to ask him if he could host, because fucking guys in bedrooms they’ve occupied since they were prepubescent, amongst tarnished soccer trophies and race car curtains, is something I gave up when I turned thirty, thank you very much.

To be clear, I don’t have a whole lot of qualms about hooking up with or even casually dating a man with a criminal record. In fact, there’s like a 90% chance I already have. Frankly, I’m not that choosy, and also, I find felons to be kind of hot. One has to be realistic about these things, especially if the goal is not so much a steady and/or long-term life partner (I don’t think it’s realistic, in my situation) as an occasional companion for casual sex. His home-bound status was hardly reason for disqualification, especially considering that I hardly ever leave my own house. The only difference between our situations is that his is court-ordered and I don’t live with my parents. Nevertheless, the thing about house-arrest anklets is that they don’t come off until you’ve done your time, and something about the thought of having sex with a guy who was wearing one didn’t do it for me. I guess I thought it would be a distraction, that I’d feel it clanking against my own ankles as we rolled in the proverbial hay (or maybe actual hay: he’s a white guy who lives on the outskirts of South Bend, so who the fuck knows what kind of delinquent country bumpkin life he’s leading), alleviating any ability I might have had not to wonder the whole time about what he’d done to land himself in hot-water in the first place (I couldn’t bring myself to ask him outright). Call me old fashioned, but if I’m fucking a guy with a rap sheet, I want the proof to be tear-drop tattoos under his eyes or an proven talent for carving shanks out of bars of soap–not some unfortunate accessory ruining the line of every outfit he owns. As such, I decided that if you’re on house arrest and you want to get up in this? You need to be Shia Labeouf in Disturbia.

So anyway. Celibacy. Really, it shouldn’t be difficult. Abstaining won’t take as much effort as finding someone who doesn’t offend all of my terribly refined sensibilities or who measures up to my really not very high standards. I really cannot express for you what it’s like to be a gay man trying to date (or even fuck) in South Bend, Indiana. There’s the guy who suggested we fuck in his Jeep in the Kohl’s parking lot, or the guy who wanted to fuck me on an un-sheeted mattress on the floor of his unbelievably filthy bedroom, mere feet from a dried but still reeking pile of dog shit, or the guy who invited me over to smoke but failed to warn me that his grandmother was dying on a rented hospital bed in the living room, her oxygen tank hissing rhythmically the entire time he was inside me. There’s the guy I dated for a few months a while back who was such a talented kisser that I didn’t mind that he “wasn’t mobile” (gay-speak for “doesn’t have a car”) and regularly unemployed, until I did. There’s the guy I dated for a shameful nine months (off-and-on), even though he was, I realized about two and a half months in, virtually homeless, or the guy I was seeing last year who used to come over and we’d fuck, yeah, but we’d also have actual conversations and watch Law & Order: SVU and he’d stay the night and we’d wake up together in the morning who I eventually discovered, when I finally got around to looking him up on Facebook after he suddenly stopped replying to my text messages, was married to a bubbly-looking woman with whom he had not one, not two, not three, but four bubbly babies. And I have way worse stories I could tell you, but I’m hanging on to them for now, because something’s gotta go in the memoir.

The thing is, I’ve flirted with celibacy before. Seven years ago when I moved to South Bend from Chicago, I was so depressed at having left he Windy City and so wrecked by an unfortunate relationship with a guy that I had zero interest in sex. I would look at men and feel nothing. I’d jack off a couple of times a month but mostly I got high and read biographies of famous writers and artists and smoked as many cigarettes as I could fit into a day without throwing up. This went on for just over two years, and you know what I learned? A person doesn’t really need to have sex. We think we do, because our culture is permeated with sex. We go around telling our friends, “I haven’t gotten laid in a week,” as if we’re telling them we’ve just been diagnosed with some incurable cancer. In another episode of Sex & The City (yeah, I have a problem), Carrie is horrified when Miranda confesses that she hasn’t had sex in three months, and recently, a straight male friend of mine wondered if he shouldn’t break up with his girlfriend of almost a year because she was going to Europe for two weeks and he wasn’t sure he could “go that long without getting any.” A complete gentleman, he reasoned it was better to break-up with her before she left than cheat on her while she was gone.

There’s no shortage of philosophers and sociologists and other theorists who have written extensively about the correlation between (especially) American capitalism and our modern conceptions of sex/love–I’m thinking, for instance, of Beatrice Preciado, writing in her essay Pharmaco-pornographic Politics: Towards a New Gender Ecology, “The mutation of capitalism that we see in our time can be characterized by the conversion of ‘sex,’ ‘sexuality,’ ‘sexual identity,’ and ‘pleasure’ into objects used for the political management of life, and also by the fact that this ‘management’ itself takes place through the innovative dynamics of advance techno-capitalism.” We are bombarded with sex and sexualization at every pop-cultural turn, and even when we’re not, we’re thinking about it because suddenly it’s taboo. Look, I like to get off as much as anyone, but as someone who gave it up for a while, I’m telling you, there are other things. Sure, I was in the midst of a near-crippling depressive episode, but my depression typical manifests itself in poor sexual decisions, not zero sexual decisions. I’m not saying it’ll be the easiest thing in the world. I’ll get horny watching Game of Thrones or Flip or Flop (mmm TAREK) and wanna find someone to bang and I might even download Grindr or any of the other apps gay men are using to find each other these days, but when that happens, I’ll just remind myself of Preciado’s words and take a particularly obnoxious solace in the fact that my celibacy is a choice that exempts me, at least in a small way, from the horrors of late capitalism.

 

 

Round Up: June 2017

I’m about a week late, but nevertheless: here’s the run-down on what I’ve been reading/watching/listening to/etc. over the past month.

BOOKS:

MUSIC:

MOVIES:

  • ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)
  • WONDER WOMAN (2017)
  • CHRONICLE (2012)
  • THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (1987)
  • THE NET (1995)
  • GOSFORD PARK (2001)

TELEVISION:

  • ORPHAN BLACK, Season 4 (BBC America, via Amazon)
  • QUEEN SUGAR, Season 2  (OWN)
  • FIXER UPPER (HGTV, via Hulu)
  • SUPERGIRL, Season 2 (WB, via Netflix)
  • I LOVE DICK, Season 1 (Amazon)

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?

Happy Anniversary!!

According to a notification I received sometime last week and promptly forgot to open until just now, I recently celebrated–or, more accurately, failed to celebrate–the one-year anniversary of Full Ashtrays. Yes, hard as it may be to believe (or not; I probably lost your attention at “according”), it was a full year ago that I launched this blog, and once thing is certain: the intervening months have brought me no closer to any totally clear idea of “what kind of blog” I want this to be than I was when I started it last July. I took a few minutes just now to browse my archives, and the posts range from somewhat myopically personal missives concerning the mundanity of my day-to-day, to formal reviews of films and books, to cultural criticism that engages (or hopes to engage) with mainstream conversations, to lists and random ephemera. Basically, Full Ashtrays, conceived, like every idea I’ve ever had, mostly spontaneously, and probably during one of my manic phases, is something of a mixed bag.

And I’m okay with that. I don’t mind that it’s incoherent and wily and digressive, that it ambles from this to that to that other thing. Perhaps the only ambition I ever had for this thing (except, you know, that it lead and quickly to a robust readership and worldwide, Beyonce-level fame) was that it be something that represented me–as a writer mostly, but also as a person. On that count, Full Ashtrays has been a success, because guess what? I’m a fucking mixed bag, too. As a writer and as a person. The truth is, I never know which me is gonna show up. All I can do is go along with whichever one does–and hope to God it isn’t the one who likes to get drunk, wear caftans, and insult people’s children. My point is, I’m going to keep rolling with this little chronicle of my experience, as it were, this diary, this account. So look out for more thoughtful reviews and directionless ramblings and, of course, more selfies–because I really like the selfies.

Thanks for reading! As a token of my appreciation, please accept this gif of Mariah Carey getting out of the pool she just dove into from a second floor balcony because she’s a secret agent on a mission and that was absolutely the only way to escape her captors in the music video for her number one single Honey, which is actually symbolic of her still-fresh divorce from record industry bigwig Tommy Mottola, who tried his patriarchal best to squash home girl’s spirit, not to mention HER DREAMS, not to mention her RACIAL IDENTITY, and keep her in a cocoon-like stasis, but Mimi was like nah bitch I’m a motherfuckin’ butterfly. May we all have the same courage to fuck our haters and demand our freedom–and flesh-toned bikinis under our little black dresses, just in case.

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