Plaisir


Food For Thought
February 18, 2009, 4:04 PM
Filed under: Adolescence, Food and Beverages, Indulgence

I was lying in bed earlier this week reading, as I usually do before I lay my head to rest, when I realized something.  I took my hand out of the popcorn that I had been scarfing down while perusing David Sedaris’ new book and thought to earlier times this week when I had readied myself for bed.  Today it was popcorn I had been munching on, but the night before it was cheese.  A block of cheese, cheddar actually, sharp and creamy.  The night before that it was peanut butter and jelly.  I even recall laying down with a small tin of lasagna, all of which I had devoured before I got through one chapter.

Eating is fun for most, and with me it’s no different.  It’s a hobby almost.  I enjoy trying new things.  New tastes,
new flavors, new textures.  However lame this may sound, it’s kind of thrilling.  Show me a menu with dishes
I can’t pronounce, and I’ll show you one massive credit card charge.

I had always been this way, ever since I can remember.  But there was a point where it was difficult to control, almost impossible.  Whenever I would play video games, I would eat.  Before or after practicing clarinet, eat. T.V.?  You bet there were chips in my lap.  Movie?  Not without the Jiffy Pop.  Outings, sporting events, family gatherings…you could always find me, as long as you followed the smell of freshly baked cookies.

It had gotten so bad that my parents actually restricted what I was allowed to eat and when.  This of course, never stopped me, as I was a crafty child, but not a very subtle one, unfortunately.  Yes, I could certainly hunt and retrieve my prey and return to my lair in the basement, but the evidence I left behind was mounting.  It’s hard to lie
when an entire unopened box of Fruit Roll Ups are suddenly gone and your mom finds six wrappers in your favorite pair of blue jeans on laundry day.  Everyone knows how they got there.

One night, after these food restrictions had been made, my mom had, per usual, passed out during a marathon of Crocodile Hunter on Animal Planet.  I could always count on Sundays for pillaging.  My mother would be conked out by seven and my father upstairs on the computer or reading shortly after.  It was always then that I made my move.  I specifically remember seeing a new pack of  Ho-Ho’s in the cabinet when my mom asked me to grab the chili pepper while making dinner.  I had to be smart about this though: since the package was unopened, I had to immediately make my lunch after and slip on in so that everyone in the house would assume that they were used for lunches, which was indeed their purpose.

I crept into the kitchen, sensing only argument from my Collie-Lab mix, Sheba.  Not so much argument as genuine wonder.  And with a  beautifully stupid look in her eye, she followed me with her head cocked to the other half of the kitchen, hoping that if she was my partner in crime, she would somehow get a cut of the spoils.  But because she was a dog, she had no clue how I operated.  With me, it’s every man, woman, and canine for themselves.

I silently climbed the first step of the stairs to see if I could clicking from the computer room.  After a few seconds, I had decided that my father was probably in his room with the fan on, and couldn’t hear the debauchery taking place below him.  The worst thing about our snack cabinet was that it squeaked.  Not creaked or even slammed, but squeaked.  And this was no gentle rubber ducky squeak.  It was the squeak from Hell; The noise of a thousand chipmunks begin hung by their necks.  Open the cabinet in the middle of the night, and there was on off chance
that you’d wake the neighbors.  This was always my biggest problem.  When my family was preoccupied with other things, there would be bustling about the house, and the noise would be swallowed by the drone of casual everyday life.  But on a Sunday, it was the emphasis.  A loud, crackling fanfare, alerting the house that there was an intruder preparing to scarf down some snack cakes.

I had one of two options: open the door as fast as I could, or open the door as slow as I could.  Both had their own unique appeal,  but in the end, the same noise would be made.  If it was a fast swing, it was usually amplified, and dogs around the neighborhood would burst into song.  If it was slow, the noise would be drawn out, giving too much time for other ears in the house to figure out what the hell was making the racket.  I opted for slow because it seemed more stealthy and spy-esque.

I peeled back the wood, praying to God that someone had the decency to treat the hinges with WD-40 earlier in the afternoon.   The noise was both strained and somewhat gentle, like a soft fart on a leather couch cushion.  It was just enough to make me pause before I searched the cabinet.  It was also just enough for my father to leave the computer room and come storming down the stairs.

Of course, the spanking I received for being a deviant wasn’t enough humiliation for me.  Sheba, even though she had essentially been an accessory to the crime, got to watch jauntily, as if it were a new game she had never played.  I could tell what her inner monologue was saying though: “See, if you would have promised me a snack cake, we could have gone through this together.”  I suppose I’m just a lone wolf when it comes to boxed desserts.

By my senior year in high school, I had lost a considerable amount of weight.  I was much taller, yes, but the most noticeable thing to me was my clavicles.  They were strong, protruding, almost desperate to escape my body, believing there was something better for them out there in the real world, outside all of the tissue and blood.  They were proud, poised, and slightly gallant.  Even with the body image issues I was trying so hard to work on, I could take one look at my clavicles and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

After my break up with Dave, I began a downward slump in food consumption.  That is, when you live in an attic in Riverwest, it’s safe to say you probably can’t afford Ahi tuna every night.  My grocery cart consisted purely of bread, cans of tuna, and Ramen noodles.  I would usually only eat once a day, after work, mostly to conserve the food, and spend the rest of my night reading, wishing that I had a tin of lasagna to keep me company.

Because I literally couldn’t afford food, my weight dropped from a stable one-thirty-five to a Mary-Kate one-twenty.  My ribs resembles marimba blocks and my pants would sigh and sag if I walked anywhere.  I felt healthy, of course, but I could tell that I wasn’t.  There was, fortunately, a cure, but I wouldn’t discover it until I moved into 1811.

For whatever reason, I was completely against marijuana in high school.  I had only been offered once, my freshman year, and I immediately turned it down.  I was positive that even one puff would make me sink into a depressive haze.  I would become lazy overnight, eating mayo on my Doritos and growing dreads.  To me, weed turned decent, civilized people into zombies that laughed at window shutters and slept until four in the afternoon.

When I moved into 1811, I felt no different.  When my current roommate Brittney asked me if I smoked weed, I kindly told her no, and that was the end of it.  But all it took was one bad day for me to change my mind.  I came home from work, angry and agitated, most likely from something Marie or Christine said.  Brittney, Jessie, Alex, and Ju Muthafuckin’ Bizzle were all smoking out of a bong in the living room when I came home.  When I told Brittney about my day, a strange grin covered her face: “Well, you could just smoke, it will definitely make you feel better.”

For whatever reason, I didn’t have to think twice.  Once all of the finer points of using a bong were explained to me, I lit it and took a rip.  It left a heavy, sinking feeling in my lungs and tasted like burnt graham crackers.  I didn’t feel very different, even as I began to discuss the way I liked to get fucked to Alex and as I devoured hot wing after hot wing.  Later in the evening, I raided my panty for anything I could possibly find, just wanting to taste something new and different in my mouth.  I ate and ate until I couldn’t eat anymore.  I went to bed that night and got the best sleep of my entire life.

Weed made a considerable dent in my bank account during the months to come.  I never bought it; I had no need to, since Jessie and Brittney were always well-stocked.  What actually made the dent was the munchies I got after smoking.  I checked my Pizza Shuttle account at the end February and learned that, even though I had no job and couldn’t afford rent, I had somehow managed to spend almost one hundred and fifty dollars in pizza, calzones, salads, and those little cheese curd things they serve with honey.  And that was just Pizza Shuttle.  There was still McDonalds, Chopstix, Jimmy John’s, Domino’s, and Zayna’s to consider.  Marijuana hadn’t turned me into a zombie, but it sure came close to turning me into a fat ass.

When I got my job at ASQ, I was making double then what I was at the Rep, so not only was take-out much more accessible, I felt less guilty ordering it.  By September, I stopped grocery shopping all together, living mostly off of the vending machine at work, the food court in the mall, and Pizza Shuttle for dinner.  Finally I could afford food, but I was still eating like it was going out of style, as if my five dollar and thirty two cent sub was the last five dollar and thirty two cent sub in the world, or at least the tri-city area.

Months later, here I am, eating just to fill time.  People tell me not to worry: “Have you seen yourself lately?  If anything, you need to eat a sandwich!”  I’m constantly asked by friends if I’ve begun any “unhealthy lifestyle choices.”  I shrug to this, since I feel like I’m starting a new one everyday, but if they mean laxatives or running eight miles a day, I have no interest in doing either.  Genetically, my family is prone to weight issues, and while all of the children in my family are stick thin, I can’t imagine this is going to last forever.

I decided to sit down and figure out why I associate sleep with eating, or why I associate reading with eating, or whatever it is.  What I found was strange and actually kind of unnerving.  Every night so far this week, I have eaten nothing before I went to sleep.  In fact, I’ve barely eaten anything at all.  It might have something to do with stress, but I, and doctors around the world, were probably under the impression that when you were stressed, you tended to eat more.  I, however, found out that I ate when I was content, happy, and reassured about things.  Once again, I get to be the exception to the rule.  Too bad I’m getting tired of it.

I think back to a simpler time when food was mostly used for enjoyment.  I ate Ring Pops because they were fun.  Mashed potatoes satisfied me.  And even Ramen noodles seemed like an adventure.  Now, food has become something I have to worry about.  I have to worry about having it, preserving it, not eating too much of it, not eating enough of it, eating the right kinds, realizing the wrong kinds…with all of this stress, I feel like I want to throw up my hands and start munching on grass.

I still love food.  Food is, and will probably always be, my one and only true love.  As they say, “There is no love that is more pure than the love of food.”  But food is a fickle lover.  The secret?  Coddle it before you go to bed, and chances are you’ll be able to make it through the night.

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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 Ol’ Switcharoo
November 6, 2008, 5:51 PM
Filed under: Adolescence, Soul-Searching, Word Origins

I remember learning about etymology my senior year of high school.  It was one of the main focuses of a short but hellish regimen during my AP English course, complete with a little red book called “Word Power.”  Every week we’d have a test on new set of words, what they meant, and whether they were Greek or Latin or any other demographic that was bold enough to create language.  I’ve retained almost none of the information, with the exception of “misogynist,” which is, ultimately, a woman hater.  “Word Power” gave me no power like the title suggests, just a mounting feeling of anxiety, trying to remember what the difference between the suffixes “phone” and “phony” was.

There’s a lot in a word, yes, but in a name?  In a name there is life, lives even.  A name is like your definition.  I’ve often thought of the first date where the guy leans over the terrycloth table and says to me, “So…tell me all about yourself.”  I simply respond, “C.J.”, and he nods knowingly, having me all figured out.  Think about it: when you’re discussing a friend and you say their name, it isn’t just a noun.  It’s a verb, a preposition, and, most importantly, an adjective.

It’s borderline creepy to think that about a year ago this time my own definition was completely different.  In September 2007, I was lying on my futon eating bread and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, distraught over my recent break up with Dave, my ex-boyfriend who I dated for a year and lived with.  I had become lackadaisical and sloth-like because of my depression, and needed to do something severe to put my life back on track.  Post break-up, I moved into an attic in the Riverwest area for $300 a month.  It was all I could afford, and the only option I had with the increased pressure to leave my current living situation.  I remember discussing it with my mom, two weeks after I had moved in.

“Your place is on Meinecke, right?  Meinecke and what?”

Having only lived there for two weeks myself, I wasn’t too sure.  So I told her I couldn’t remember.

“Well, did you know that a Jimmy John’s driver was shot and killed in that area?  On Fratney?”  I looked up to see that I was walking down Meinecke and Fratney.  I picked up my pace.  “The guys had nothing against him, they just wanted his money…$25 dollars, they shot that man for gas money.  Can you believe it?  Of course, this was a few months ago, I think, but still, you ought to be careful.”

I didn’t sleep too well that night.  I hated how everything had went from Cinderella post-Royal Ball to Cinderalla pre-Royal Ball, all in a week or so.  Last Wednesday,  I was living with my prince in a freshly painted apartment with a cute, yet terribly smelly rabbit named Izzy.  Now?  I was surviving in a storage room that had no heat but approximately five thousand unnamed spiders.  At least I could pass the time by naming them, but since I took to killing bugs rather than christening them, that was starting to look more like a miniature bloodbath as opposed to an afternoon activity.

As I was lying there, attempting to make sense of the static on the T.V., I began to think about my own etymology.  What did I mean to others?  What did I mean to myself?  And if I didn’t like the answers, what would I do to change it?  I turned the volume on the T.V. to find out that the hazy static was actually Dr. Phil discussing a “large” age gap in a relationship, saying in his matter-of-fact Southern drawl, “It’s just fundamentally wrong!”  The crowd affirmed that it was with an uproar of applause, but I, the viewer, snorted.  Dr. Phil, to me at least, is fundamentally boring, so I opted for brief daydreaming rather than listening.

During elementary school, I never had a nickname, but that was due partially to the fact that I was invisible.  I was invisible, of course, until I did something that drew unwanted attention to myself, such as using a pink gel pen or mugging a kid on the playground for a holographic Charizard card.  When these outrageous events happened, I was briefly acknowledged, scorned, and hung out to dry, leaving the other children to wait for the time I would strike again.  Middle school I was finally noticed, but not as me, as someone else, which for all intensive purposes is an improvement.  A random student had called out to me, but it wasn’t my name; it wasn’t even close.  “Hey…Emerson!”  She had confused me with another of my peers who I shared a science class with.  I wasn’t upset or confused at the mix-up.  If anything, I was relieved that, even though people still didn’t see ME, I wasn’t completely transparent.

I began to collect a small group of friends, most of who probably felt like outcasts themselves.  After my Emerson nickname lost it’s luster, my friends were elated to find that when I’m embarrassed or shy (which was a good 95% of the time those days), my ears turn red.  The more I’m embarrased, the more red they become: colors range from a hushed rose to crimson.  The clever nickname I received because of this was Elmo, which, looking back, doesn’t make much sense.  I mean, I hadn’t watched Sesame Street since I could count to ten all by myself, but I don’t remember Elmo’s ears getting red when he was nervous or embarrassed.  I don’t even remember Elmo having ears.

Regardless, the name stuck for a good two years, but was sometimes replaced by a cleverly synthesized “Elmoson,” the juggernaut that haunted me for my entire 8th grade life.  The worst part was that I responded to it.  If you shouted the name down the hall, I’d come running like a whipped lap dog, and I hated myself for it, for Elmoson was not me.  It was just a compilation of another student and a shaggy red Muppet. 

By the time I became a high-school student, the once tight group that called me Elmoson had somewhat evaporated, and I was back at square one.  The invisibility in elementary school was tolerable, but high school was all about being seen, and on a good day I was almost as opaque as a Martha Stewart Living sheer window curtain.  To add insult to injury, the teachers barely knew my name, and made only a slight effort to learn it, leaving me, once again, alone and undefined.

When I came out my sophomore year, I had a new nickname that, while fitting, was a little unsettling.  I was now “The Gay Kid.”  The only out student at my high school, I was either ridiculed or put under a microscope like some sort of extraterrestrial organism:

“So…like, how do you decide which one’s the man?”

Easy, he’s the one who pays for things.  Next?

“How did your parents take it?”

Well, seeing as my mother used to get up at 6 AM with me to watch My Little Pony, I can’t imagine this shook her to her core.

On and on the questions went, and I’d answer them, excited to share my “new personality” with anyone who was interested.  But I can’t help but wonder how they’d feel if I asked them the same questions.  I suppose that’s the unexposed perk of normalcy: none of the really important questions pertain to you, because we already know exactly what you are.

Coming up on junior year, I had ditched the “Grandfather’s Closet-chic” look and gone more mainstream.  I started to shop at all the stores that encouraged teen sex appeal and just made you want to surf: Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle, Hollister.  Oddly enough, I bought those clothes to feel like I belonged, but in the end, I didn’t even belong in the clothes.  I was, and I hate to say it, but I have to…it’s like ripping off a bandaid, a grade-A poseur.  It was a point where I still didn’t know my definition, and I was hoping that through the mirage of popularity, it would come to me one night in a dream.

Senior year, I figured, was my time to shine.  I wanted to finish my high school career with dignity, go out with a bang, and hopefully bring my grades up.  I’d argue that I achieved two of the goals with diligent mediocrity, the third goal, finishing with dignity, blew completely apart the minute I started my first long term relationship.  I met Dave because I was a terrible math student, and he had explained that he was an engineer at UWM, and was very good at math.  I knew he was gay, but in all honesty, I hadn’t expected much when we decided to meet at Starbucks for a tutoring session.  I spent the majority of the hour and half poo-pooing algebra and praising my acting skills to the point of revulsion.  Dave seemed to be slightly bothered by my unwillingness to learn, so half-way through, he gave up and talked instead.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

The reason this relationship caused such an enormous miscarriage on the dignity front was because Dave was older than me.  Much older.  At the time, I was a cheeky 17 year old, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, just waiting to create my own personal future.  Dave was 32 (to be fair, he told me he was 28 until about three months into our relationship), a college student and someone who was looking to for the finality of a monogomous relationship, something I found I could only provide for so long.

As it goes, high school kids are absolutely brutal and have almost no consideration for other people’s feelings.  This isn’t bitterness speaking, it’s scientific fact.  I was the same way, so I don’t know how I was surprised when I was given the cold shoulder by the leviathan that was the student body.  I had gone from hero to zero in four months flat.  I traded in my Abercrombie apparel for mismatched t-shirts and sweatpants, moving from “Fake Prep-chic” to “Overworked Babysitter-chic.”  I did still have friends, but it was nothing compared to the popularity I’d been given during my junior year.  I was losing my visibility, and I was losing it at an alarming rate.

After high school, I moved with Dave to the East Side.  It wasn’t really my choice, but I went with it, thinking the change would do me some good.  It strained our relationship, mostly because I wasn’t having any fun being stuck in the apartment all day with nothing to do but paint the walls or blow dust around the kitchen floor.  It wasn’t all bad though, and there were many days where we were very happy, sickeningly happy even.  Some nights, I would lie awake and think to myself, “This is where I belong.  This is who I am.”

About three months later, there I was…lying on the couch, ignoring Dr. Phil’s all-too-familiar view on my past relationship, and jamming my knife back into the tub of margarine.  I was Elmo, I was Elmoson, I was the Gay Kid, I was the Kid Who’s Dating An Old Guy.  And now I was Chris.  Chris in the attic with the split top wheat and the barely working T.V.  ‘This can’t be it for me,’ I thought, ‘I deserve another shot.’  But how to get there?  What to do first?  To re-invent myself would be a daunting task, to say the least, but it was, at this point, necessary.  I wanted to be seen, to be heard, to be bold and forward and intelligent and sexy and everything I imagined I was.  All of these things I would finally be.  But…how?

I thought back to Word Power.  I remembered the etymology, the origin of a word…misogynist, even.  And then it hit me.  I would change my meaning my definition by changing my name.  Not a drastic change, but a simple one.  Something that exuded confidence, youth, and happiness.  Something that embodied my hopes and gave me the strength to move forward as a new individual in a new life.  The answer was simple.  So the following week, I decided to test it.

As I walked down Oakland Avenue, I wasn’t nervous at all.  I was excited, not only to see what could be my new place, but also to begin again.  I walked up the cement stairs to the door and rang the doorbell.  When one of the girls answered the door, she introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Brittney.  You must be…?”

I smiled.  In one clarifying breath, I released my past into the autumn air, and declared myself, “C.J.  I’m C.J.”

And just like that, I walked through the door, and into my new life as the person that I was struggling so hard to be, all these years.