I Was A Teenage Beauty Queen
January 21, 2009, 4:13 PM
Filed under: Adolescence, Self-Expression, Work Bitch! | Tags:

Parents are annoyingly perceptive, it seems.  Maybe perceptive is the wrong word.  All-knowing, maybe?  Or intuitive?  Certainly observant, if nothing else.   They claim that they have “eyes in the back of their head,” when I actually think they just having homing devices planted deep within the walls of our small intestines.  It’s really the only logical explanation I can think of.

I say this because my parents knew the most intimate secret of mine before I ever decided to expose it to the world.  I guess you could argue that the play dates with Barbies and the constant testing of my mother’s foundation was a dead giveaway, that there was hardly a secret to begin with, but I wish my parents could just be like the rest of the world when they see these things and just deny them until they become invisible.

When I came out to my parents, there was no battle to fight.  There was no struggle, no argument, no fires to put out.  At best, there was a wry smile, a shrug, and a subtle cough coming from my mother from this tickle in her throat she’s been having for a while.  I couldn’t believe it.  The most life-changing and pivotal moment in my young life and my parents reacted as if they were watching a re-run of According To Jim: “Eh…well…yes, we did see that coming…”

It wasn’t like I was actually offended, I was more so relieved.  The only disappointment came from the fact that I didn’t get to do something dramatic like flourish out of the room and say, “If you can’t accept me for who I am, then you can’t have me as a son!”  I’d pack my bags, take a bus to Montreal, get completely wasted and go home with the bouncer.  He’d tell me that I was beautiful, fuck me ruthlessly, and we’d live happily ever after.  My parents would call me every once in a while to check up, but I wouldn’t answer.  I was too busy learning how to make papier mache.

Again, not that I actually wanted to do any of that, but it was more exciting then what actually happened.

Coming out to my friends was just as easy, which was tolerable.  They were mostly happy and, once again, hardly surprised.  “Well, of course I knew, I was just waiting for you to say something!”  It’s really unfair if you think about it.  What if you walked into a room full of people who were all chatting and you just came back from the bathroom with your genitals still hanging out.  Instead of someone coming up and saying, “Dude, put that away,” everyone just stops talking and stares until you notice.  Embarrased, you zip up and ask the person next to you why they didn’t tell you your penis decided to join the party, they just smile and say, “I was just waiting for you to say something!”  How rude.

When I came out, my entire countenance changed.  I rejected my old wardrobe of cargo shorts and hawaiian-print button downs and started shopping around in my sister’s closet.  I began to walk with a swagger, and not the kind that Johnny Cash had (think J-Lo).  I wore Calgon and flipped my hair.  I constantly checked my nails for any sort of imperfection and peppered the word “girl” into almost every sentence.  I went from being a dorky gamer to a transexual beauty queen.  Hyperbole applied, of course.

One of my favorite changes was going from sweet to sassy in about a week.  Fortunately, I had the perfect punching bag in mind for my newly found inner bitchiness.  Mrs. Jacobs, a registered Nazi and flowered frock enthusiast, was my English teacher for half the year that I came out.  She ate psalms for breakfast and always walked a little faster when she passed a black student in the hallway.  She claimed, quite adamantly, that gay squirrels were a figment of our imaginations, much like evolution and 100-calorie snack packs.  And worst of all, she heartily supported a “vaccination” for the homosexual disease.  I didn’t learn much about English that year, but I sure learned a lot about hate, as the incarnate of it was writing assignments on the chalkboard.

During class, Mrs. Jacobs and I would terrorize each other, her more so than me, but her way was always much more, for lack of a better word, dainty.  Mine was much more renegade and clever, but yet she always appeared to be unphased by it.  Regardless, the argument that I never got to have with my parents, I got to have with her every day at 10:14 AM.

One day, I brought a bright red beaded choker to her class, so that I could wear it, simply to piss her off.  My friend Jessie was sitting behind me, so as Mrs. Jacobs was talking, I nodded towards her so that she could put it on for me.  As Jessie was hooking said choker to my neck, Mrs. Jacobs stopped in mid-sentence.  “Chris…take that ridiculous thing off right this instant.”

This was one of my favorite games.  “But…don’t you like it?”  The class snickered.

She rolled her eyes. “Please, just take it off, it’s distracting.”

“I think it’s quite exquisite.  Don’t you?”

“Just…please…take it off…”

Suddenly, I had a better idea.  I took it off and got up, “Here…why don’t you try it on?  It’d look great on you!”  I took one step and she staggered like a wounded elk.  “Enough!  Sit down and stop interrupting my class room with your shennanigans!”  The fear in her eyes was like sweet nectar, and I drank it all in before I finally took my seat.  I crossed my legs, set the choker down, and gestured for her to continue.  It was, in my opinion, one of my finest hours in high school.

However, Mrs. Jacobs wasn’t the only one that had something to say about my openess.  Kids I barely knew in the hallway began to talk about me, and it usually whatever they were saying wasn’t very good.  I was called a faggot usually around once a week, and people would even start throwing things at me in the lunch room.  For whatever reason, it wasn’t as easy to confront them as it was to confront Mrs. Jacobs.  My peers were different; I wanted them to like me, no matter how many milk cartons they beamed at my head.

It was second hour my sophomore year, that I realized I couldn’t have both, as is typical of high school.  You have two choices.  You either be yourself and have everyone hate you for it, or be someone else and be popular.  Second hour was jazz band, which I played clarinet in.  Besides the other clarinetist in the band Ali, everyone else was a guy, and the guyiest guys were the trumpet section, and they sat right behind me.  I was putting my clarinet together when one of the guys made a wretching noise, as if he had just swallowed hot oil.  “Sick!  Look at his fingers!”

I looked down at my fingers pressed against the clarinet keys.  I had painted them a bright blue yesterday so they would match my shirt for today.  I could feel the heat rising in my face, and I knew that he wasn’t going to let this go.  “Why the hell would you do something like that?”

I remember opening my mouth to say that I was gay, but then for some reason, I thought better of it.  I didn’t say anything at all.  I turned back, my face swollen with embarrasment.  I went home that day and took the nail polish off.

So began my second transformation, into a person I never was.  Into someone that the trumpet player may have found socially acceptable, but not me.  I chose being liked over being happy, and for a while, I may have been happy being liked, but I wasn’t me.

Regardless of the outcome, there’s really nothing like the freedom of expression.  While the phrase “coming out of the closet” may be a bit cliche, it’s exactly how I felt.  Like I was sheltered and alone, locked in a room, being kept from my true self.  When I told everyone I was gay, the enormous burden was lifted, and suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.  I felt like I had to explore my sexuality, discover what it was to be a gay man.  I would never take it back.  But I can honestly say that you will never find me wearing nail polish ever again.

Well, I can say it…but maybe not honestly.


The Resolution To End All Resolutions
January 9, 2009, 7:42 AM
Filed under: New Beginnings, Sex, Soul-Searching

R.I.P. 2008, we barely knew ye.  I say that with complete conviction too: I don’t understand how a year can manage to fly by almost entirely unnoticed, but I suppose with someone like me who can search for their keys for twenty minutes only to realize they’re in your pocket, I shouldn’t be that surprised either.  

A new year may have begun, but I guess you could say I’m less than overjoyed.  There’s a lot I’d do differently about last year, of course, but the hurdles of this new year are daunting to say the least.  Good thing I bought my Studs and Spurs calendar to help me through it, the August man is so naughty!

The worst part about the new year is a question.  It’s a question everyone asks, because everyone wants to know the answer.  Well, actually, they don’t, they just ask in hopes of the same rebuttal question so they can show off their self-absorbed and high society demeanor they learned from watching The Clique (side note, Tyra Banks must be dismantled somehow, someway).  It’s the question I fear every year, because even if I have an answer, both me and the person I relay it to know that I have no intention on following through with it.  It’s that one small shred of hope that people desperately cling to as they make feeble and shallow attempts to reinvent themselves.  It’s the new year’s resolution.

Forgive me for being pessimistic, and perhaps even overly judgemental, but I can tell you that from experience, claiming that you will “loose 30 pounds by summer so you can fit into that new bikini” is, to me at least, naive.  And to say that you’ll quit smoking or stop drinking on January 1st is almost a sell-out.  Why pick the new year?  Since when did a day have to have symbolism to be able to accomplish something on it?

It’s also possible that I’m just incredibly bitter about the fact that most, if not all, of my new years resolutions have all come to a screeching halt.  If I said I wouldn’t eat any more McDonalds, I was scarfing down a Big Mac a week later.  If I said no more casual sex, I was hailing a cab on Wisconsin avenue with my underwear in my back pocket in less than a month.  Sooner or later, I succumb to the temptations that I despise, maybe because they’re familiar, or maybe because I really don’t despise them as much as I think.

This year, my resolution was to not have a resolution, but soon after I decided that the decision was both cliche and, at the same time, too rebellious.  When I was talking to Vynnie about the new year, it had already passed.  It was last Thursday, around four in the morning, and we were having a party the very next day.  So, naturally, we got on to the topic of who would be attending, who would being wearing who, etcetera.  Somehow the conversation shifted from regular chit chat, to heavy and depressing content, the kind that’s perfect for that time of day.  

“You know C.J., I think maybe we should just think about ourselves this year.  But not in a bad way.”

The smoke from my cigarette was in my eye, so I rubbed them and let her finish the statement, since I didn’t really understand the first half.

“I mean…I’ve always let things just…happen to me, you know?  Sometimes I feel like I’m just not in the drivers seat and…I don’t really know how we put this into a resolution but…what’s the best way to say you don’t want to feel like you’re not being yourself anymore?  And that you’re fed up with the way people treat you?  And fed up with…”

“Okay, hang on,” I stopped her, looked away for a second, only to see Jackie’s amber eyes glowing back at me through the smoke.  “Respect.  That’s all.  We’ll just demand respect.  Respect for ourselves.  After all, we deserve it, right?”

I half expected her to laugh and say it was a lame idea and half expected her to cheer.  What I got was a nice combination.  She nodded, smirked, and said, “I think that’s a great idea.”

So we wrote it on our bulletin board, for all to see: “Respect 2009: You’re Worth It.”  I sighed off my tensions and smiled.  This was going to be a good thing.

Except for that whole thing about me not being able to follow through with resolutions.

The next day was the party, and Vynnie had spent most of the morning cleaning and tidying up for the guests, while I proceeded to pass out on the couch, which was probably better anyway, because I would have just gotten in the way.  I woke up around 4 to find the place freakishly spotless, complete with spit-shiny floors and a pile of clean dishes that looked like it’d fall over with even the slightest disturbance.  I grinned, “Hey!  Can’t wait for tonight!  And don’t forget…”  “Respect!  Got it.” She laughed.

The worrisome thing about this party was that we just had one on Wednesday for the new year, so we, Vynnie especially, assumed there would probably be a smaller turnout.  Before the party started, I brought over my boyfriend to talk to him, and I all I kept thinking about was that damn word: respect.  Did he respect me?  Yes, he did, excluding the snide comment about the Mountain Dew.  But did he respect himself?  For the most part, no.  So there I was, faced with another question: am I keeping this respect to myself, or is it my duty to convert others?

After he left, my decision was clear, mostly because the talk didn’t ease any of my thoughts.  I called him and told him that I liked him very much, but that I needed to sort things out and work on myself before I could be in a relationship.  He agreed, and the problem was solved.  That’s one way to say it, but another way…well, I guess you could say it was just beginning.

At 9, Gloria, Vynnie, and I were sitting around the old dining room table smoking cigarettes, sipping wine, and telling stories.  At 10, two more people showed up.  At 12, a few more.  If I remember correctly, the attendance was a whopping nine, an enormous blow to the ego for both Vynnie and myself, but that didn’t stop me from getting completely hammered.  Nothing ever does.

At around 2, I was feeling conflicted about the break-up, and I was really craving mashed potatoes.  I didn’t know what would help me feel better, or even if there was a cure-all, with the exclusion of time, of course.  I decided that hipocrisy is always the best policy, and with a few keystrokes, I was the old C.J. for one horrible and oddly lonely evening.

His name was Zac.  He was cute, more than cute actually, but not what I would consider hot.  He was an actor from New York who was in town to do a show.  He had a fantastic smile and during the very short conversation that we had, I also realized he wasn’t as boring as poured concrete.  All of these elements mixed with alcohol and a dash of confusion, and before I knew it I was calling myself a cab to pay this Zac a visit.

Vynnie’s severity about the situation caught me off guard.  “I don’t approve, C.J.  What if you get murdered?”  I laughed, “People don’t get murdered at the Hyatt, sweetie.  Maybe abused or raped, but never murdered.”  She scoffed, “I really don’t think you should go.”  My eyes met with hers, and they were full of both anger and genuine worry.  I scratched my head, “Here…this is his number,” I wrote it on the back of a receipt, “I’ll call you as soon as I get there, alright?”  This seemed to soothe her slightly, but I could still tell she wasn’t sure of the situation even when the cab arrived.

On the cab ride there, I was still pretty inebriated, so I sort of laughed when I first heard my cab driver speak since his accent was so thick.  I learned that his name was Bo, and that he was originally from Poland.  It was dark, but I think he was missing three teeth, and his newsboy hat on his head had certainly seen better days.  But he spoke with such gusto, with such ardor, that I quickly forgot about all of these minor imperfections.  We talked about weather, about relationships, about money, about families…all in the span of 15 minutes.  And when I got out of the car, he said something so profound and yet so simple to me: “C.J., you, I think, you will be alright.”  I smiled and, even though I couldn’t afford it, tipped him 50% for the insightful comment.

When I got inside, I immediately felt regret for even coming, and thought it better to just get back in the cab and cry on Bo’s shoulder.  The concierge was eyeing me as if I was a convicted felon, as I paced up and down in zig-zaggy lines, trying to decide what I really wanted to do.  I thought back to all of those times in 2008 and how they made me feel.  The pleasure.  The sadness.  The pain.  The sensation.  In the end, as it always is with me, sin triumphed over virtue, and I found my way to the elevator, wondering why I was still doing this when all I wanted to do was sit on the floor and cry.

Zac was a gracious one-night stand host.  He didn’t offer out too much information and spoke almost completely in circles, which only made sense because he didn’t want me to know anything about him.  His charisma could induce vomit and his laugh was that of a baby meerkat, but above all else, he was attractive, and in any case, I was here to get something done, so I figured I should stop picking him apart and just get it over with.

After we had finished, I hoped that I would achieve some clarity.  I imagined myself going, “Glad I got that out of my system, time to go!” or “Never doing that again, guess I learned my lesson.”  But instead, I felt even more conflicted.  I searched my coat pocket for a cigarette and huffed.  He rose from the tangled sheets, “What’s up?”  I rolled my eyes, “Stupid me forgot a lighter at home.  I’m a terrible smoker.”  He chuckled, “Looks like they’re gonna revoke your license!”

See what I mean?

I went down at 4:30 to ask the concierge for a lighter or matches or something, but mostly I just wanted to get out of that room and away from Zac.  I approached the counter, reeking of booze and lubricant.  “Excuse me, do you happen to have, you know, matches or a lighter?”

He shook his head, “This is a non-smoking facility, sir.”

I paused. “Right, well, I’m not going to light up in the bathroom, honest, I just want to go outside for a cigarette.”

He asserted his so-called entry-level authority and swelled up like a robin. “I apologize, but we don’t even have matches in the hotel anymore.  I can’t help you.”

I glared at him suspiciously, “Then…how do you light those candles?”  I pointed to a row of candles to the right of me.

He looked back at me, stoned-faced, yet in his eyes he was dumbfounded.  Incredulously, I laughed at him and went back up to the room.

The next morning, I got a rude awakening.  A dry mouth, a headache, and a man next to me who literally said the phrase, “Ready for Round 2?”  The stupidity of my decision the previous night was finally sinking in, so I told him I was late for a rehearsal, packed my things, called a cab, and walked out of the hotel with whatever small pieces of dignity I could carry in one hand.

On the ride home, I kept thinking of my talk with Vynnie.  “Respect, you’re worth it…” ‘Am I?’ I wondered, ‘Or do I have yet to earn that?  Is it possible that I’ve made so many mistakes that I can’t demand respect from other people if I’m having trouble respecting myself?’  I still don’t have the answer to this question, but it’s another one of those new years questions that’s bugging me, mostly because it’s so specific.

When I got back, I told Vynnie about the experience.  She appeared indifferent, but I could tell she was somewhat disappointed.  “How was it?” she asked.  I pursed my lips, “Well, the sex was good, but, uh, that’s about all.” She frowned, “So, how…how do you feel?”  I shrugged.  It was the only honest answer I could give her.

While yet another resolution goes down the toilet, I am somewhat confident that my new one will not only be easy, but therapeutic as well.  I consider it the resolution to end all resolutions.  I’ve decided that the only way to be able to respect myself is to read myself, candidly, openly, and without shame.  To make no apologies for my actions and to view all of them as an experience, maybe not a good one, but an experience.  That is, after all, the entire point of this blog.  And this way, I hope that I can see myself for what I truly am, with no bias and no slant, so I can truly begin to find answer to that question: am I worth the respect I wish to achieve?

I really hope Bo was right.