Friday, November 6, 2009

Her Song

I wish in advance for a certain someone to forgive me for telling this story.

I don't like to tell this story, because every time I do, it's all I can think about for a good twenty minutes. It's the story of one of the happiest nights of my life. The story of a love that remains these five years later. The memory of a night I will never forget, a night I encapsulated into a song that will forever transport me to that night, no matter where I am or what I'm doing or who I'm with, that song will never, could never, belong to anyone else.

Once upon a time, in the winter of 2003, I met a beautiful and brilliant English teacher. Over the course of about two weeks, we spoke every night, exchanged daily e-mails, and finally, one night, she came to visit me.

We went to karaoke with my friends that night, our first date shared with thirty people, almost none of whom knew what was going on. They didn't know I was bisexual, let alone the fact that the beautiful woman I had invited to join us that night was my girlfriend. Now, usually when I do karaoke, I sing the same five or six songs in heavy rotation. I sing a couple Billy Joel songs, maybe some Norah Jones, and some lady always asks me to sing something awful, usually by Celine Dion. I don't know what possessed me to choose THAT song that night. I'd never sung it karaoke before, but it had always been one of my all-time favorites. It was a big decision. After all, the girl of my dreams was going to hear me. Whatever I chose had to be a good one. It had to be hers. This would normally be something I'd think about weeks in advance, but I didn't have that kind of time. I didn't know she was going to be there until about two hours before she arrived.

Our friends were seated in the back of the bar, I was on stage, and there was just a dance floor between me and this beautiful woman. I had been singing all week and my voice was cracking in places it never should have. But I sang anyway. I sang for her. And as I sung, I looked into those eyes, those beautiful slate blue eyes, beaming at me, the world faded away. I didn't care who noticed that I was singing to a girl. All I cared about was that this woman, this beautiful woman I cared so much about, she was looking at me-me!-the way she was. As far as I was concerned, no one else existed and nothing else mattered.

We danced for a while, not caring we were two girls in a redneck bar, subtly affectionate with one another. Not caring most of my friends were completely in the dark about our relationship. I whispered that I wanted to kiss her, and so I took her hand and we walked to the beach.

We walked for a while, just holding hands and talking about nothing. To this day, if I hear that song, I can close my eyes and see the reflection of the moonlight shining in her eyes, in her hair, on her skin. I can feel her body, soft and lithe, beneath my hands as I encircled her waist, holding her, dancing in the moonlight. I can smell the ocean. I can smell her hair, her perfume, her breath as I smiled and I kissed her. She was my first real kiss. The first person I ever kissed that I genuinely cared about. The first person I ever kissed that I loved in some fashion. I still love her. I always will.

Several weeks later, I went to visit her. We popped in Moulin Rouge (which I had brought for the express purpose that the song, her song, was in it) and proceeded to make out for approximately seven hours. I stopped for about three minutes, so I could hold her in my arms, stroking her beautiful face, kissing her neck, looking into those eyes, and sang to her.

Okay, so I'm a giant cheeseball, but that's just how it was.

Our relationship ended shortly thereafter, due to distance and many other factors, but we remain good friends. We turn to each other for advice, we've even seen each other once in a while, and when I get married, she's going to be one of my bridesmaids.

I told you that story to tell you this story.

There have always been three artists for whom I would do anything to see in concert. Those three artists are Billy Joel, Elton John, and Paul McCartney. In the summer of 2005, my mother, her husband, my brother, and I went to Las Vegas. I spent four days and three nights sitting at the nickel slots, having three or four drinks, and wandering around the city in what I would later term my Happy Place. (The Happy Place has been defined as the stage between tipsy and drunk when you're just happy to be there.)

Unbeknown to me, my mother's husband had purchased tickets for she and I to see Elton John's show at Caesar's Palace, The Red Piano.

He was incredible.

He played Daniel, which had my mother beaming. He played The Bitch is Back, during which I tried to sing along and make sure she didn't hear me cursing, because I don't curse in front of my mother. He played I'm Still Standing, and I tried in vain to control myself as all kinds of phallic objects popping up around the stage. When he announced he was going to play his last song, and I couldn't help but be disappointed, if only because he didn't play The Song. Her Song. He talks about how he's been coming to the states for thirty-five years, that his career really began here. He says how much the love and loyalty we the fans have shown through those thirty-five years has meant to him, and he's never forgotten it.

And then he said it. "The word LOVE is spelled out on stage and I want to wish all of you lots of love in all your lives, and this song is for you."

I tried to contain myself. I tried to sing. I couldn't even mouth the lyrics beyond the second line, I was rendered speechless as he played that song, her song, with such passion, I just wept tears of joy as I relived that night over and over again. There are countless layers to why this was so meaningful to me.

First of all, it's fucking Elton John. He could sing me the phonebook as long as the tune is pretty.

It's one of my all-time favorite songs, and now one of my most meaningful songs.

And now that song, our song, her song, belongs to her. It belongs to us.

But Elton John, the musician, the man, the gay man, understood. He had had first, forbidden love he kept hidden from almost everyone he cared about until much later. He got it. And that's what I took from the song. And I think, on a subconscious level, that's why I knew it was the right song to give to her.

I often wonder if she remembers that night, if she thinks of me, when she hears it.

I hope so.

If she should read this, she has my profound apology for more than likely embarrassing her in front of the whole interwebs. She should know that she is so much of the woman I have always aspired to be. She should also know that I treasure her friendship, and she has the best taste in music of anyone I've ever met. She should always, always remember she's beautiful, and she's still the best kisser I've ever had. :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Out and Running

The more I think about it, the more I realize that in addition to the all out war someone's little nasties have waged upon my immune system in the last few days (one of those buggers in which one wishes to drill a hole in the side of their head as to allow the fluid to drain out), I've been hit by a heavy wave of nostalgia. You know how it goes. You hear the song that reminds you of your first real love and dig out old photographs and play the song over again and smile fondly, maybe shed a few tears. You're making out with your new lover, and you're suddenly transported back to a place and time where you're anticipating your First Real Kiss. You're driving around town and you see the movie theatere you went on your very first date, and smile, anticipating his return, because you know when he does he will take you, as he always does, to that same movie theatere. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks of her first real love in this way. Whenever you pass your alma mater, those memories come back in one bittersweet moment, and you remember homecoming dances, the prom, and those first, scary kisses. I've been thinking about my high school years a lot lately, even before I caught wind of this questioning of the definition of marriage thing going on in Massachusetts and the weddings in San Francisco. A dear friend e-mailed me a link to pictures from those three days that made me cry. They made me feel proud. Most of all, they made me think about high school, and the kids I knew.

I attended high school in a small town in which I've become convinced virtually everyone knows each other through no more than five people. Before the classes under me came along no one was out, but I did kept hearing rumors about a girl in choir. I didn't know what she was, and no one said the word that I recall, but I knew Julie was different. I remember being intrigued by this difference, wondering exactly what set her apart from the rest of us. Looking back, she always seemed to be in her own little world, but there had to be something else. It wasn't until the day she and another girl publicly announced they were much more than friends, I began to wonder who else among my friends could possibly be one of them.

Years later, this list of suspected queers would come in handy, as one by one nearly all of them came out, including a few I never suspected. Of course, not everyone will publicly announce themselves. Some people never come out. My friend Steve is one of these people. While everyone knows he dates boys, he never made a public service announcement to the rest of us. Didn't get an e-mail, didn't get a fax, no press release was issued on the 5 o'clock news. No one really seemed to care. Then there are the people who never come out.

My memories of high school are infused with my memories of sophomore year, the year during which I learned very difficult lessons about myself and other people. Sophomore year completely and utterly changed me forever. It was the year I would learn what friendship isn't, and would prepare me for my junior year, which taught me what it was. It was the year I got my first kiss, though I wouldn't get my first real kiss until literally the last hours of my third semester of college. Without enduring the trials of sophomore year, I would simply not be the person I've become. It was the year the arguably most notorious boy in our school became my friend. It was the year he asked me to save him a dance at homecoming, and because of that boy, my world has never been the same. When I remember high school, I most vividly and painfully remember sophomore year, which makes me think of Rich, and that's when waves of nostalgia really hit me the hardest, and the tears begin to fall.

Rich was one of those people everyone knew, but no one really did. One of those guys you either wanted to be him or do him, and usually it was both. Rich was the perfect balance-he was tall with rugged good looks and a million dollar smile, slightly built with big, beautiful hands which looked as if their sole purpose was coaxing music from a piano or giving back massages to girls in our biology class. At the same time, he was charming beyond belief, understanding, and enjoyed intellectual pursuits. Rich gave the best advice, told the best stories, and you always wanted him in your group for a project, if only for those reasons. At the same time, he had an air of mystery that had a lot of us asking questions that no one seemed to be able to answer. I was curious about him. I had never known anyone like him, and all I wanted was a chance to get to know him, if only to see if he lived up to his reputation.

I was overjoyed when I learned he would be joining us in not one but three of my classes sophomore year of high school. For three periods a day, English, Biology, and History, I took that chance to get to know Rich for myself, though not nearly as well as I would have liked. He made you feel as though you were the only person alive when he smiled at you, but you could still walk away and feel like you don't know him at all.

Rich had a profound effect on my life. He was the first person in my life who really understood me. When a mutual friend of ours died at the end of the year, Rich was the one who understood why I came to history class in tears the next day after choir, and gave me extra hugs when I was ready for them. I remember the day I gave him a big white notebook, filled with at best mediocre but earnest 10th grade poetry. Rich was the first person to really read my writing, understood what I was trying to say, and urged me to keep at it. After much finagling, Rich gave me my notebook intact, he told me I shouldn't ever stop. I haven't shut up since. While I'm the first person to volunteer to read at the circle I attend religiously every month, I would never, have ever done that before or since. Rich was the first person I could really trust with that side of me I didn't like others seeing. Handing your soul in the pages of a notebook (and in the form of very bad poetry) to another human being is scary business, but I knew I could trust him with my little secrets. I would learn in the years to come that Rich had a number of secrets of his own.

I attended the homecoming dance alone, but found friends with whom I could ogle the cute boys. I'm something of a wallflower, but I was delighted to turn around at one point and find Rich standing there. We made our usual small talk before he said he had to go back to a woman friend he was escorting. Before giving me his customary goodbye hug, Rich asked me to save him a dance. Five years later, I'm still saving him one.

In addition to the goings on with Rich, sophomore year also reminds me of two other souls who each had very different effects on me. I spent a lot of that year completely within the vise of a girl who was once my closest friend, became one of my greatest teachers without knowing it, and reminds me to this day of everything I don't want to be. I became inexplicably depressed that year, and writing with Rich's encouragement was the only way I got out of the year at least somewhat sane. I didn't even know I was depressed until one day in May, five days after my sixteenth birthday, I got what I call The Big Wakeup Call, which occurred on the day a friend of mine died suddenly of Reyes Syndrome. I remember the moment clearly: when a very close friend hugged me when her memorial service was over, something inside me snapped. For the first time in my life I was consciously aware of what I was doing. I was able to see the former friend for who she really was, and the person to which she had changed me, and I didn't like any of what I saw. I knew at that moment that something had to change. And change I did. I vowed to rid my life of her and everything that reminded me of her. I vowed to join activities in which she was not involved, namely the drama club, something I had always wanted to do because I had always loved theatere, particularly musical theatere. I did. And through another friend I would meet three months later, I would rediscover parts of myself I had never known existed.

In the next year or so, I saw Rich rather sparingly, much less often than I wished. I had heard all the rumors that one by one, he was having fallings out with his closer circles. I saw him at our junior prom and he told me once again how much my writing had meant to him, that I should never stop. (I had considered stopping, because the girl from whom I had successfully distanced myself was the one who started me going, and my mission had been to eradicate everything in my life that reminded me of her, and that included writing. I didn't stop. And its all Rich's fault.) I playfully reminded him he still owed me a dance, he said he would collect later that night. I'm still waiting for him.

The last time I saw Rich, it was late in my senior year. I was having dinner with a group of friends from choir, when I noticed a very familiar male human having dinner with one of his girl friends. We talked for a while over Sex on the Beach (his) and cherry cokes (mine), when the night was winding down and I was preparing to go home, he again brought up my writing, telling me that I should go into journalism. When it came time to say goodbye, I thought little of it, naively thinking that since the area we live is such that we were bound to run into each other again. He gave me a funny look and asked me how I wasn't just as sure our paths would never cross again. At that suggestion, I could only hold him, kiss his cheek, and send him off into the night.

Something curious happened between the last time I saw Rich and my first semester of college. Seemingly overnight, our school went from having exactly two people who were out (both of whom had graduated by this time) to where everyone I had ever suspected (and more than a few surprises) who had gone to college was out (with the exception of two), and everyone I knew who had told me he or she wasn't entirely straight, it was more or less common knowledge. One of my close friends still trapped in high school purgatory (who isn't completely out to everyone quite yet) told me that even though more people are open about it now, high school is still a very scary place for people who are different, regardless of their sexual proclivities, and it made me realize why so many people with whom I went to school waited to come out in college. Which brings me back to Rich.

Over the next year or so, I heard rumors from old mutual friends how he had moved to Miami, briefly came back, and promptly left again. I also heard numerous speculations as to why he had left, but I didn't want to believe any of them. Why would Rich, arguably the most notorious kids in our school, with friends coming out of his ass, just pack up and leave for good because of a falling out with his roommate. Something about this smelled rather fish-like, and it wasn't until my first semester of college when I reconnected with an old mutual friend of ours. The same day she announced she was a lesbian (Which threw me for a loop, let me tell you, I must have the World's Worst Gaydar.) she told me the reason Rich left town was that he announced he was gay and didn't want to deal with the repercussions. It struck me as both absurd that he would think his friends, which he had many, would simultaneously abandon him because he was who he was, and understandable, because although I haven't lost friends because of my sexuality, I know the reality of loosing friends for stupid reasons and being afraid of it.

Rich was right. I haven't seen him since that night we last said goodbye, and I'm not likely to see him again. By chance I ever do, I will tell him I love him, I've always admired him, and with a deep breath, I will tell him that he wasn't the only queer in our history class. I will tell him he's the reason I'm still writing, and that my first collection of writing is his. I will tell him just how knowing him changed my life. I will tell him the truth about myself. And I will remind him that over five years later, I haven't forgotten he still owes me that dance.

When Mary Kissed Me

"How did you know?"

"When did you know?"

"Who was your first crush?"

"Who was your first same-sex kiss?"

"Who was the first person you told (on purpose)?"

We've all heard some or all of these questions before, and I confess to thoroughly enjoy discussing them with others who have gone through the process of coming out. For me, it went something like this. I never knew, and at the same time I had always known. It was never an issue. It never scared me. It was an understanding I had made with myself when I came home one day in the fifth grade and without any real knowledge of what constituted a crush, I was pretty sure I had one. We were in every class together for two years, spent time together after school, the best of pals. But there was more to it than that, I knew. The fact that this particular crush was on a girl didn't even enter my mind, and why should it? I didn't know what it meant to have crushes on girls, I had no idea this could possibly mean. Despite attending parochial school, the idea that "Little girls weren't supposed to h! ave crushes on other little girls" somehow never got drilled into my head.

The only thing I knew was that another human being made me smile awkwardly (at the top bunk of my bunk beds, with the lights off, of course.) and my eyes light up, tucking a little piece of hair behind my ears at the mere thought of her name. I was head-over-ass in elementary school love. I had fantasies about this girl for years. In the grand tradition of having a crush on someone in elementary school, I would hold my tongue until I would tell the world. I never told anyone about her, it has taken me a long time to admit even to myself I had a crush on her in the first place. And now, twelve years later, I'm ready to tell the world about Lucy and in the process, about myself.

Back in those days, her parents owned a house in Georgia, and one weekend she invited me to go with them, to Georgia, ride the ATVs, and have a grand ol' time in the woods with her and her parents, both of whom I loved. Then there was spending the weekend with the girl of my eight year old dreams. I went to Georgia, rode on the ATVs clutching her middle, singing songs from choir, and looking at beautiful scenery. It was like a really bad Lifetime movie. I was the happiest little girl alive that weekend.

It was all over for me, after that weekend in Georgia with Lucy. I knew for sure I had a crush on someone, I understood that someone was a girl, and I found it was no different in liking boys. It was no great surprise for me. There was no great revelation, I didn't fast for a week in hopes of unveiling some great mystery about myself. I wasn't afraid of what I was. I didn't even know what I was. The word queer wouldn't enter my vocabulary until years later. I barely acknowledged it. It was just another thread in the tapestry of the girl I was, and the woman I would eventually become. It wasn't special, just another quality I possessed. Some people could play sports, some people could draw, and some little girls liked other little girls.

I was different. I was a mute, in elementary school and much throughout middle school. I was the girl who dared to smile when our music teacher put on the old symphony records. I wanted to sing, even though my closest friend didn't make the choir (she was there, which made it all the better for me). I wanted to be a concert pianist and refused to take lessons (Which I now regret, just like my grandmother said I would.). I was the bookworm. (I'll never forget the day a boy in our class was making fun of me for carrying the Great Illustrated Classics edition of The Prince and the Pauper with me to lunch) I just understood things, things I knew my classmates didn't, especially those who were prone to torment anyone who was different, and I was most definitely the oddball.

I wanted to go to France and see what Charles Dickens did when he wrote A Tale of Two Cities. (This was long before I read Les Miserablés.) I wanted to write like Laura Ingalls Wilder. I wanted to play the piano like Beethoven. wanted to sing like our choir director's daughter, upon whom I also harbored a crush. I understood things like truth and inner beauty and justice. I was different. I was, admittedly, weird. This being said, I was the kid who was picked on. A lot. My attitude towards sex was total non-issue, and ran something to the effect of, "So what, maybe I swing both ways. I know this, I understand this, I'm bound to figure out what this means, now pass me the macaroni and cheese." I was very honest with myself in those days, but at the same time, I never told a soul about Lucy, the choir director's daughter, or any of the other girls I was crushing on in those days, although I was quick to tell anyone who would listen about the boys. I wish I had kept a diary.

Two pivotal events occurred in eighth grade, my last year (thank god) of middle school hell. The first was a girl who was, I learned, the most popular girl in our grade. I've never had a desire to be popular (Because lets face it, I'm a big dork, I've always been a big dork, and I gave up wanting to be popular before I even started school.), I most definitely never had a desire to be friends with her OR her posse of females, and I never crushed on her. And nevertheless, one weekend she decided she was going to have a "Lets make-over Jen" slumber party. Me, I was quite happy the way I was. I was a bookworm, I considered myself to be intelligent, and I knew who I was. Why I agreed to attend, I still have no idea. It most assuredly wasn't for the eye-candy. (As not one of those women appealed to me, although her boyfriend was rather attractive)

I knew there had to be a reason for her desire to do this to me. Maybe I wasn't "a-typical female" enough for her. Maybe she thought something had happened to me, I had had some sort of freak accident (which probably stemmed from a combination of watching The History Channel, going to parochial school, reading too many books, and over dosing on macaroni and cheese). I didn't wear dresses, I refused to shave my legs (Save for swimming outings, which only happened in the summer), and my hair was too long. I hung out with boys , who I believed to be much more sensible than the girls, who I was convinced spent all their time primping themselves for some sort of high-glossed high-healed mini-skirt parade for Cosmo that I wanted ! no part of. That wasn't me, I had no desire to be the Ultra-Femme. All I wanted to do was to talk about TV and football and World War II with my boys. This, to me was sensible. And this, according to her, had to be fixed.

I was supposed to be a girl, after all, and therefore I had to behave like a girl. I was supposed to wear pounds of makeup, actually shave my legs, only read Cosmo, wear thirty dollar jeans I couldn't afford and wear shirts that constricted my breathing and showed off my lack of cleavage. Yeah. Like girls aren't supposed to know about football (Ironically it turned out that she was an obsessive fan), question why we should shave our legs, read 19th century literature, or know anything that wasn't in Cosmo.

I've never been a girly-girl, and I never want to be a girly-girl. I hate wearing makeup. I love football season. I used to play soccer. I wanted to read my books and go talk to the boys. Makeovers, in my mind, meant you weren't good enough the way you were, other people had to "fix" you. One of the most vivid memories is of the horror as I paid thirty bucks for a pair of jeans. I'm a Wal-Mart shopper, and I'm not afraid to admit this. There are two things I'm willing to pay top-dollar for, one is underwear, the other is shoes. Clothing is most definitely not on that list. When they had put me in my thirty dollar jeans, a shirt so tight it was constricting my breathing, and about a pound of makeup (Which I had never worn before an! d have rarely worn since) I was twirled in the mirror and I looked long and hard at myself. This wasn't me. I wasn't a high maintenance girly-girl. I soon got the idea they saw I was unworthy of their company and of their friendship unless I was another lemming, and I wasn't having that. I returned the clothes, I threw away the makeup, I was me again and this time I wasn't afraid of who I was. I was a frumpy-dumpy Wal-Mart shopping bare-faced hairy-legged book worm with big dreams. I liked me and no one was changing that. Monica, incidentally, dropped me when she found out I wasn't going to be her puppet. Her loss, I suppose.

There was one other major "thing" that happened in eighth grade, and this was that I had, in fact, met a girl. Brenda was different, in the way I knew I was different, but I hadn't quite placed what it was yet. She was beautiful, she was tall, she had these big brown eyes, and I just adored her. I had maybe three real friends in middle school. Brenda was one of them. Brenda was highly opinionated (Like myself, although she was a thousand times more assertive than I was in those days.), intelligent, preferred the company of boys, and beautiful. My god was she beautiful. I had it bad for her. Other than the obvious, I felt as though we bonded on a level I never quite placed. Then one day sometime in high school we reconnected in the auditorium when we were watching a movie with three or four other classes. A mutual friend had said something about National Coming Out Day, and Brenda had just thrown up her hands and said, "I'm out!" That was our connection. She liked girls, I liked girls. We were both...queers. Well, half-queers.

The first time I remember hearing my mother mention homosexuality was sometime in my freshman or sophomore year of high school. She had a friend over and she had asked me if there was anyone in school who was gay. I instantly thought of Jessica, the cute hippie who wore combat boots, who's smile made my universe shine a thousand times brighter, but I said nothing. Much like the twisted love triangles going on between a few of my Barbies (Yes, I still played with Barbies when I was fourteen, quite an embarrassing emission, I might add.), Jessica was my secret and I wasn't saying a word. I don't remember if what my mother said was positive or negative about it, but a few years later she and I were talking about it and looked at me in the e! ye and said she wouldn't love me any less if either me or my brother were into the same sex. I love my mother for that, because I know others who aren't so lucky. Just tonight driving in the car, mother asked me, "Where does Bryan's boyfriend go to school?" Hearing those words out of her mouth was music to my ears.

Something happened to me, freshman and sophomore year that changed me, internally. Mother had had me seeing a therapist on and off since about sixth grade because she thought I was depressed. This time I was going because I became sorely depressed to the point my mother thought I was suicidal. And I probably would have been suicidal, if not for choir. Music has saved my life a thousand times over. The worst of it all, I didn't know I was depressed until it happened. It was through the death of a friend that I gathered the strength to get out of a destructive friendship that was the source of a great majority of my fifteen year-old angst. I joined drama club. I found myself again, thread by thread. I decided that day that no matter what happened, for better or for worse, I would never again deny who I was. Which, I would rediscover a part of who I was the next year, a part of me that I knew had always been there, but I had almost forgotten.

In a lot of ways, "the Bitch was back". In other ways, she was just peeping through to see if it was okay to leave the crawl space beneath the stairs. Part of this breaking through process of discovering and in some ways, re-discovering who I was, is through the influence of Bryan. Through our conversations, I found God (Or rather, I came to the conclusion God was a myth), and more importantly, I found a label by which to define my feelings, however much I loathed labels, and still do. For me, I had always known, being attracted to a man is no different than being attracted to a woman. Through Bryan, I learned what 'gay' was. Yes, I had watched Ellen's coming out, I knew about Liberace, and had seen snippets of Gay Days on TV, but Bryan was the first person I knew who was close to me, that was gay. At least I thought he was the first. I would learn, in the years to come, about others I had known long before who had never told me.

I knew I wasn't gay. I had boyfriends (though mostly pitiful examples with one beautiful exception) but I knew I was attracted to women. I had always known I was attracted to women, I just never knew what it meant. I had never lost this mentality, over time it had just become more subconscious than overt. I knew, I accepted, I didn't care. But at the same time, I was discovering it all over again. I wasn't really in denial, I just forgot it was there. I had felt something was missing, and maybe it was that total honesty with myself, acknowledging who I was attracted to, and moving on with things. When Bryan came out my senior year, I decided I would stop arguing with myself, telling myself it was okay to look at the adorable guy's cute girlfriend. I was bisexual, I knew I was bisexual, and I moved on and then I started telling people.

So I got to college. A few weeks into the semester, I ran into an old friend, who I had gone to high school with. One minute we're talking about old times, the next she's telling me she's a lesbian. The only reason I was shocked was because looking at her, she's the totally un-stereotypical dyke. She rattled off a list of people we both had known. Half the people I liked in high school were on that list, and I had no idea.

By September of my freshman year of college, I was the secretary of the gay group on campus. In October, my friend Mary spent the night. We were watching the beautiful Drew Barrymore in Riding in Cars With Boys when she started getting real friendly, and when we moved the party to my bedroom, she kissed me and I felt like everything I had ever felt, for Lucy, for the choir director's daughter, for Brenda, and every other woman I had ever liked, it all finally made sense. It was like getting my first kiss all over again, and in a way, it was. By December all of my close friends knew (I never actually told them, they just knew.) and made a pact with myself I would tell one new person a week. It was a semester of discovery for me, piecing together everything I had missed. I found myself with these people, a self that wasn't going away. I was honest with myself, I was honest with the way I felt about other people, I knew who I was, and I wasn't hiding anymore. I was free.

So far, its been easy for me, way too easy. (Other than the bible-humping Southern Baptist I was dating for a while) My friends, none of them, thought twice about it. A good third of the people I hang out with on a quasi-regular basis have some degree of queer-ness. I haven't told any of my immediate or extended family, at least not on purpose. My brother is the only one with any sort of a clue, because he read my journal and has seen the "Always Forward, Never Straight' sticker on my desk. When I visit my family in the spring, and my father's girlfriend takes me to New York, I'll probably tell her. I worry my mother would think its just a phase, and my father wouldn't understand. I imagine we all have those worries, but I'm not quite ready to take the plunge just yet.

In June, my mother, her fiancé, and my brother went to New Jersey to visit my family, attend graduations, and all that rot for a week or so whilst I was in summer session. When she returned, my mother told me at the joint graduation party for everyone graduating (One from high school, two from middle school, one from pre-kindergarten) that another cousin, my age, had pulled her, my grandmother, and my uncle aside in turn and told them each that he was bisexual. Big deal, I thought, when my mother told me. He likes boys, he likes girls, tell him to join the club. I wanted to tell my mother, Big deal, virtually everyone is bisexual in college. But it was a big deal, because now I understand what it was to tell those first few people that I too swing both ways.

Getting down and dirty and honest with my sexuality has liberated me. I take it personally someone says the word faggot as an insult or without permission, and I literally jumped for joy when the supreme court struck down the archaic sodomy laws. And at the same time, its because of my sexuality that I've died a thousand deaths emotionally and spiritually. But like the phoenix, from the ashes of my former selves, I too have been reborn.

On God, Music, and Sex

DISCLAIMER: Any and all statements against German music and organized religion, all deserved pokes, jabs, or violent kicks in the crotch thereof is purely non-coincidental, so deal with it.

We had talked about it the night before for what seemed like the thousandth time, laying in each other's arms in a hotel room in Jacksonville, but this time it seemed different. Here was this guy, a man I had come to love, a man who had treated me unlike anyone, male or female, I had ever dated, and he was telling me we couldn't be together, the only reason we couldn't be together, was because of religious differences. I was too liberal, not feminine enough, pro-choice, aspiring career woman, I was too intellectual, and in his words, "Too much philosophy and not enough God." I comprehended his words, but I heard something different-"You aren't good enough because you're not a straight conservative who's only aspiration in life is to be a stay at home housewife." He had told me repeatedly throughout our relationship that I was enough for him, hell he even wrote a song about it, but I didn't feel it. Don't get me wrong, I knew he was genuine, but there were days I did, and days I didn't. I don't need to tell you, which of the two that moment was.

So lets set the stage, shall we? It's a typical weekend in Jacksonville Florida, where I had never been before. It's the morning after I first shared a bed with a boyfriend, even though we weren't you know, sleeping together. I'm awake at nine in the morning (when I usually consider myself lucky if I'm out of bed before eleven). Oh yeah, and I'm in a choir rehearsal. Now that's normal. I've been singing for thirteen years and if I wasn't, I don't think I could have gotten through middle school, let alone high school. Everyone has stuff they do. Some people are artists, teachers, writers, and all sorts of other things. For me, music is what I do.

So I'm up there on the top row singing first soprano (For those of you not yet into the musical lingo, those are the insane women who go freakishly high and have a tendency to shatter glass. Some of us even like to have contests to see if we can shatter glass.) and trying to concentrate on my music. As much as I love to sing, and believe me I do, its kinda hard to love German (which I believe is a vile language anyway) at 9am on a Saturday when you haven't had your coffee yet, you went to bed at 2am after making out with your boyfriend, and not to mention, all the alcohol you drank the night before. But I digress. However, the social drama du jour and the conversation I had had with my boyfriend the night before, insisted on replaying themselves in my head. A pleasant distraction from the German, yes, but still no coffee, a slight hangover, and you're stuck in a four hour choir rehearsal with a man who I decided was trying to make a sacrilege out of Robert Burns.

Which is what we were singing at the moment, by the way. A gorgeous piece set to Robert Burns' poem "O My Luve's Like a Red, Red Rose." Its one of my favorite love poems ever, set to a beautiful piece of music. How fitting for a column relating to Valentine's Day, eh? Oh, and the song is in English. Maybe I can handle English at 9am on a Saturday when I have a slight hangover and haven't had coffee yet. But I digress. So I'm trying not to make eyes with a cute girl in our choir (And it didn't help she was standing in close proximity to my boyfriend) and thinking about the night before, while singing this song set to this beautiful poem, doing what I love most in the world…and all I can think of is him and what he had said, or what I had heard when he said what he said. "You aren't good enough because you aren't a straight, conservative, Christian with ambitions and opinions of your own."

I really couldn't help the way I turned out- a free thinking bisexual, pro-choice, liberal, agnostic who is going to school for Music Education and English Literature. I want to have a career, and the choice not to play housekeeper to a husband and five children. My grandmother raised my mother that way (even though my grandmother did have five children, and played housewife until her first marriage ended and she learned the value of independence) and my mother, thank the big friendly smile in the sky, my mother raised me that way. That it was okay to question the person I was, to know that girl inside out and once I figured out what my convictions were, hold fast to them and never let them go for anything or anyone, boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, friend, husband, or wife. Both my mother and my grandmother taught me the value of choice- to marry or not to marry, to have five children, two children, or none at all.

When I picture the future, I don't see myself living in a three bedroom house in the suburbs, trouncing my five children off to soccer practice, piano lessons, karate, and whatever else, in addition to keeping up with the house hold and my husband. Oh, and how could I forget the icing on the cake, which is of course dressing up my pride and joy, my reason for living, my darling Joshua, Jonathan, Tobias, Julianne, and wee little Mary-Katherine (We're Irish Catholics I imagine, so I have to have at least one child named Mary) in their adorable little dresses, suits and ties, and herding everyone into the mini-van, scurrying all seven of us off to Mass. You get the idea.

In actuality, I see myself living in more a place like I don't know, San Francisco, doing my "day job"- making a respectable (though highly under-appreciated, believe me, I know.) living teaching the youth of America to love music during the week, writing my novel and doing activism work on weekends, and tending to my numerous cats, dogs, and goldfish in a modest two bedroom home as close to San Francisco Bay as possible without breaking the bank. I see myself with an occasional lover-male, female, it matters not. But that's it, really. No wife, no husband, no children are seen in the above picture, at least not at this present moment. Maybe I'll get back to you on that if my biological clock gives its two-minute warning. In short, we have starkly different ideas of the future, Johnny and I. And mind you, we weren't even talking about our future per say, just what we wanted out of life. I was okay with that, he wasn't. That's why we had our little talk the night before, after drinking not nearly enough alcohol and making out all night. Which brings us back to the rehearsal.

So the director, remember he's the same man who is making us learn that vile German (To which one kid said, and I quote, "I'm not learning German. I already know another language in addition to English." I was amused.), and making a sacrilege out of Robert Burns' poem "O My Luve's Like a Red, Red Rose". Are we all on the same page? Good! So this director, who is just more than slightly exasperated because he had lost the battle with that vile German song this particular morning (he won the war in the end, but we won't talk about that) turns to the women and says, "All right ladies, one more time and you can have a break. Start from the top of page eight, measure 50 where the sopranos come in with 'I will love…' "

I catch a quick glance at my boyfriend, talking to the cute brunette I had been eying, and I sigh. He isn't flirting with her, I know that much. After all, he considers himself "single but spoken for" (by me) and I had heard on the grapevine this morning my cute brunette was soon to be someone else's cute brunette, someone who wasn't my boyfriend. I didn't have to look at my music to know where he was starting. It was the climax of the entire piece, and my favorite line of the poem. And, so it seemed, exactly what Johnny and I had been talking about the night before. Ironic, isn't it.

For the longest time, I have had this theory we have an ability to catch the eye of someone across a room and with a smile, you can have an infinite conversation without saying a word. Its been proven true, because its happened to me several times. And it happened again that day, that moment, at that rehearsal, while singing those lines.

He told us to think about those lines, to sing them as if we meant it, as if we've been in that sort of pain before. I'll cry for you if you'd like, Mr. Insists-on-Making-a-Sacrilege-of-Robert-Burns-Who-Is-Making-Us-Learn-Evil-German. Hell, I'll probably cry anyway. And I did. I sang those lines, looking directly into the eyes of my boyfriend:

I will love thee still my dear
While the sands of life shall run
Though it were ten thousand mile…

Even though we were so apart by differences he felt we couldn't overcome, and I had to realize we couldn't overcome them if one believed we could and one believed we couldn't, we still loved each other. And at that moment, when I sang those words, gazing into the eyes of the man I loved, I knew those ten thousand miles wouldn't be crossed. And profusely so I cried, I had to leave the room for a good ten minutes.

In the end, I wish I could tell you Johnny and I made up, reconciled the religious issue, and we got back together. But we decided to be friends, I'm still a very contented agnostic, and we're not together anymore. I decided in the end it was better to be with a man (or a woman for that matter) who appreciated me for who I was, than someone who said he or she accepted me and then tried to change me. I don't call that acceptance.

This little tale of mine can be seen as a parable for a lot of different things. Be it race, religion, gender, sexual preference, or any other such silly bullshit that drives people apart. The moral of the story is simple. When you find your convictions, stick to them and don't let them go for anyone. I shall leave you all with a quote, because it seems rather fitting:

"I only decide about my own universe. My universe is my eyes and ears. All else is hearsay."
~ Douglas Adams

Belle Biju

Note: I almost didn't post this one because it's not an essay and because, well, poetry wasn't exactly my strong suit when I wrote it. It's the first poem I ever wrote about a woman, which is the entire reason why I'm posting it.
To hear your sweet melodious voice
Calling out my name from across the room
Would be to know of the violent screams
Vibrating within the walls of your heart
I would make the offender cry for bloody murder
If I never knew of her existence
I would be tearing my hair out in frustration
I would make each of them pay for their tarnishes
If only to hear your voice respond to mine.

To hold your hand proudly in mine
And claim you as the one I am unashamed to love
Would be to have a connection to your past
And to the possibility of our future.
I would risk the guilt, the sorrow,
The unspeakable pain
To know of the secret joys
Such a simply act can conjure
If only it were your hand I were holding.

To smell the sweet scent of you hair
And run my fingers through the soft tendrils
Would be to know of the foul odors
Of each who had ever occupied your heart
Regardless of how long she stayed.
I wish I could have a single opportunity
To mingle my bittersweetness with the rest
I would hope to erase the scars they
Knowingly or unknowingly left behind
If only I could comb my fingers through your hair.

To gaze longingly into your eyes
And see the true beauty of your being
Would be to know of the anguishes you have suffered
I can only guess, based on my own ill experiences
Of the true extent of your emotional scars.
I would take them unto myself
Counting them among my own
The windows to my soul are yours to open
If only they were your eyes.

To kiss your wide mouth
And taste your sweetness for the first time
Would be to know of each and every being
Who has had their own share of your exquisite beauty
Weather by choice or by force.
I wish I never knew of how she hurt you and I both
For I know it is she who has you so resistant.
I would forswear the shame and never look back
If only for a single kiss upon your lips.

To hear your voice calling my name
And hold your hand in mine
To run my fingers through your soft hair
And gaze longingly into your eyes
To kiss your mouth tasting your sweetness…

To have you here beside me tonight
And fall asleep in your comforting arms
Would be to dream of my ever elusive love
And to wake up to cold sheets beside me
I wish I had only moved sooner
To claim you as my own
Before another stole you from me
I would hold you forever as mine and forgive myself
If only I could allow you to know the truth about me.

Mr. Faggot Isn't Finished: A Review of Michael Thomas Ford's My Queer Life Series

Hey! I got one I bet you haven't heard yet- What do you get when you have a queer man in his early 30s who admittedly can't dress, runs screaming when Barbra is singing, does not enjoy musical theatere in large doses, went to Martha Stewart Anonymous (Yes, there is such a thing!), and has an unhealthy obsession with Alec Baldwin's chest?

I can already hear some of you muttering something to the effect of 'not much of a queer at all.' But I read the book, and I'm taking my responsibility of introducing him and his books. In case you're still confused, the queer is Michael Thomas Ford, and the series is called "My Queer Life".

Ford is a cranky, opinionated writer-who-hates-writing who is usually funny, sometimes insightful, and always has a snide comment or three about everything ranging from serious subjects (the marriage thing, human cloning, porn on the internet, etc.) to the frivolous (adult education, Martha Stewart, shopping, etc.) and everything in between.

There are four books (thus far, I hope) in the series "My Queer Life" ("Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me", "That's Mr. Faggot to You", "Its Not Mean if its True" and "The Little Book of Neuroses."). They are equally funny, and it is not essential to read them in order, but it would be my suggestion to do so, as in the later books, there are references to occurrences in first book. Besides... I can almost promise on Victor Hugo's grave that once you read one of the books, you'll have to rush out and buy the rest of the series. (Or, if you're a poor college student like myself, spend the precious few hours of free time you allotted for studying Statistics, sitting in one of those big comfortable chairs in Barnes & Nobles sipping tea and reading Ford's books.

You'll quickly be drawn into Ford's world, get to know his circle of friends, and I can guarantee you'll want to play with his much written about Black Lab, Roger. The real appeal of Ford's series, at least in my opinion, is that he's a regular guy, with neurotic fixations like the rest of us. His friends and their adventures seem oddly similar to an experience we might have. There was more than one occasion when I found myself thinking, "Holy shit, that is so something me and MY crack-head group of friends would do." Anyone who has ever been owned by an animal will see Roger's characteristics in not only your animals, but in yourself.

Ford also discloses the ugly truth about writers. You know, that when it comes down to it, a lot of us are lazy bitches who have no idea how books or columns get finished. I know my column is almost always late getting in. (I would like to pause in gratitude to Dena for this one;)

My friend Josh was the one who insisted I read the series. After weeks of procrastinating, and playing the "But Joshy, I'm a broke college student!" line quite well, I finally relented and I couldn't thank him enough. And now I'm spreading the word. So go forth, readers young and old, queer or straight or somewhere in between, and go to Barnes & Nobles, have some tea, and read Ford's books.

I shall conclude with a quote, something which I think sums up Ford's work quite nicely:

Theres no deep cosmic secret about being gay. Theres no arcane experience embedded deep within the hearts of our gay souls just waiting to be revealed to the rest of the world. What being gay means is that we have a way of looking at life that is different from the way other people who do not go through life as gay people look at life. And for many of us, that means recognizing that the most positive way to deal with everything the world throws at you is to laugh at it. Have you learned nothing from Harvey Fierstein?
~ Michael Thomas Ford, in "That's Mr. Faggot to You"

Thank you, and goodnight. I now have much neglected homework to attend to.

Here Come the Queers or The Actual Reality of Reality Television

Its a Sunday morning. I've been sleeping in on Sundays for as long as I can remember, but for some reason, despite the fact I was writing till 2am (burning Sandalwood incense that was making me a little high) and listening to Pink Floyd, I'm still awake at 9:30. Shit. My Sundays usually involve a trip to Wal-Mart, maybe later I'll catch a movie with a few of my good friends who also doesn't ascribe to Sundays, and once in a while, I'll go over to the flea market and pick up some more CDs and Sandalwood incense. I haven't gone to church regularly since elementary school. However, somewhere in the dark recesses of my psyche, is a layer of Catholic Guilt, and I feel guilty if I don't confess some sins once in a while. I've got a big one to confess this week and as I don't really have a priest to confess to, I'll confess to you guys, through this column.

Its something I've been horrified of ever since Who Wants to Be A Millionaire came on TV. Sure, I watched Millionaire, right along with everyone else in America for the first few months. But that was different. That was a game show. I love watching Game Show Network. It doesn't count, however sad it may be. It boosted my already vast stores of trivial knowledge. (And yet I still suck at Trivial Pursuit. Go figure.) I found I could answer a lot of the questions faster and more accurately than the contestants. And I did scream at my TV. Once. When the man who went for the million dollar question was asked "What Ship Rescued the Survivors of the Titanic?" Yes kids, this was after everyone in America had heard Leonardo DiCaprio declare he was the "King of the World". When the man got the question wrong (The answer is The Carpathia, you idiot! The Carpathia!) I yelled. I screamed. I would have cussed him out but my mother was sitting next to me and I don't curse in front of my mother. Maybe its because I loved learning about the Titanic way before the movie came out and could probably tell you anything you wanted to know about that night in April. Maybe its because if it were me up there *I* would have been walking with a million dollars.

Then, the real sinning began when an enterprising network saved its soul in the form of a little something called Survivor. While I'm sure this show made a fascinating study for the Sociologists among us, I thought it was much more exciting to watch my slightly tipsy family members interacting with other slightly tipsy family members at Christmas dinner than a bunch of random people eating bugs in the middle of nowhere and complaining about the heat. Besides. Air Conditioning is a beautiful thing. Sunburns in weird places, are not.

I balked at the atrocity of Survivor (Yes, I did watch the last episode of that first season), and wanted to vomit during multiple episodes of Fear Factor. I never quite understood the point of either Big Brother or The Mole. The Bachelorette was interesting, as was its predecessor, The Bachelor . However, I didn't see how difficult it could be for someone as good looking as Alex or Trista to meet someone other than through the murky channels of Reality Television.

And then it happened, that thing I don't like to talk about, that I need to confess. You see, despite all of these previous attempts to lure me into the evil web of Reality TV Addiction, one of them caught me. Sometime in either June or July, I got hooked on a Reality TV Show. It came in the form of a makeover show, called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I swear on my Les Miserablés novel I only watched it because after weeks of "Is that really him???" I realized that yes indeed, Jai ("The Culture Guy") was in fact the same actor I saw on Broadway a few summers ago. He's a fantastic dancer and is just adorable, either as "The Culture Guy" on Queer Eye or as Angel in RENT. That, and it was pretty fun to get to see the straight guy outnumbered by a bunch of gay men for once.

I was particularly intrigued to know what these straight, mostly attached men ("I missed too many wedding anniversaries", "I want to propose to the girlfriend", " I want the girlfriend to move in", etc.) felt whenever one of the guys made an overtly sexual joke in his direction (And virtually every scene involves at least one) or at the end of the episode, when one of the queers would kiss the straight guy on the neck or on the cheek. I wonder if they thought it was a gesture out of friendship or the thought of another boy kissing him on the cheek was a threat to his own masculinity.

And then something very intriguing happened. A very enterprising soul at BRAVO came up with the concept of what is now commonly referred to as "Queer-o-Vision". Playing episodes of Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, following episodes of another new show for all the homos out there in Reality TV land. Yes kids, I'm talking about Boy Meets Boy.

In case you haven't been watching Queer-o-Vision on BRAVO Tuesday nights because you, like myself, are horrified at the idea of Reality TV and are protesting by not viewing, (Or protesting because watching a show "because its gay" is stupid. Agreed.) this is the premise. A ridiculously good looking queer bachelor named James is given fifteen men to get to know, and possibly have a relationship with. Every week, James and his potential mates (Oh, and his best woman friend, Andra) go on group dates and hang out around the pool, and every week three guys are eliminated. The rest are asked to stay when offered a glass of champagne. If you watched Alex and Trista on their shows, this is quite reminiscent of the rose ceremony. Here's the catch: Some of the men are actually straight and neither James, Andra, or the gay mates know this. (You'd think you'd be able to click into your gaydar and just know, but trust me, it wasn't that easy with all of them.)

In order to win the game the straight mates must pretend to be someone they aren't. He has twenty five thousand dollars as incentive to beat the gay guys and win the money. If one of the gay mates are chosen, he and James go on a fabulous trip to New Zealand, I believe it was. Plus, James gets the twenty-five thousand. Say what you want about the fairness to James about the stipulation and getting emotionally involved with a guy who turns out to be straight. (And who among us hasn't had a crush on a close friend who was straight?) You have to admit, its a very intriguing concept.

Let me put this into perspective. A straight guy gets a taste of life on the other side. Where Queers outnumber Breeders and its the Norm to be gay. Where you hear the term "breeder" and know its you they're talking about and you can't let anyone in on the fact its you they're talking about. Where you are expected to be who you aren't and to hide who you truly are in order to fit in with the greater society, even if that society is a house. Where you are expected to live a lie or else be "found out". Where you're constantly questioning your motives, the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you sway your hips, the pronouns you use to talk about your lovers. Where you are constantly questioning yourself if you're hiding who you are to prove a point (rather, to prove to the homos you're not straight.) or to win the prize for the best actor. Where every minute of every day there is the chance that the nagging thoughts in the back of your mind of, "Why am I afraid of showing them who I really am" will slip and you will come to a point where one more man tries to kiss you thinking you're "one of them" and when you don't respond he questions whats wrong with you, and you have to throw up your hands and say, "I can't take this anymore. I'm straight." On that day, you realize the only person you're really fooling is yourself. You can't be afraid of being who you are because if you're living for someone else and not yourself, you're living a lie. To these men (and presumably women who watch the show), I say, welcome to our world.

Most of the straight guys came off the show saying how that experience had changed their perspective of the way queer folk (that would be us) viewed the world-as outcasts. And how it would be impossible to come out of living in that house with those guys and not learn something about themselves.

Most notable of all these in my mind, was Dan. Dan was a jock-type, short, stocky, good looking, and whenever questioned about his past relationships, he muttered something murky about a man in New York he was currently seeing but they were "open" to dating other people. Two episodes ago, when he got kicked off, Dan came out as a straight guy and said something about how he admired the gay men (and presumably women as well) who had gone through what he had merely tasted for a few weeks, trying to fit into a culture to which they knew they didn't belong-straight culture. He said how he admired them for having the courage to throw up their hands and say, "I can't take this anymore" and stop denying who they were. Dan, I applaud you, wherever you are.

This is what Reality TV should be about. Not lies or deception to win twenty five thousand dollars, but people having genuine learning experiences about themselves and other people. After a dozen or more test trials, the people finally got it right. So hats off to you, BRAVO for finally making Reality TV somewhat bearable, and a special thanks to Dan, wherever you are, for showing you true colors are beautiful, even if they are aren't necessarily a rainbow.

The Letter I'll Never Send

Note to readers: This piece is meant to be a monologue of sorts from myself to my mother about the things I wish she knew about me, and in how many ways my life changed during the period described.

Mother, can I talk to you for a minute? There's something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about lately...well, about the last fifty-three days actually. There's a whole part of my life that you've been purposely kept in the dark about, and I don’t know how much longer I can stand it. Things have happened in the last fifty-three days that you don’t know about, that have made me question some things about myself and who I am. I was born with the innate knowledge that I know if not who I am, I know who I love. That knowledge is quite possibly the only thing (other than a very dear friend who’s existence you know nothing of, nonetheless how much he means to me) that has gotten me through the last fifty-three days...I know who I love. Or do I? Or does anyone, truly know who they love? I’m not even sure anymore. You’re asking me what love has to do with all of this. You’re asking me, with the insatiable romantic spirit, what love has to do with anything. Love has everything to do with this, mother.

Don’t get me wrong. Believe me, I’m not talking about …him. Please, don’t make me think of him right now, the man to whom I gave two years of my life. We are close friends now, nothing more, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want him back in my life. I don’t really think its him I miss, exactly, I miss the way he used to make me feel. The way he still does. You know, I thought I’d never feel that way about anyone. Ever. But you know what? I think I may have found that person.

I know you’re worried about me, mother. I think I know at least one reason as to your fears. You think I’m gay, that I love girls, don’t you? Its all right, I don’t mind being upright and honest with you about this, one of us has to start the conversation. You’re half right-I do love girls. But not even I am qualified to tell you weather or not I’m gay. To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure, I’ve never really been sure, and I don’t care. Yes, its true most of my friends are gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, but you should also know how little an effect my friends, gay, straight, or elsewise have on me, have ever had on me.

When did this start? I guess it all started with that damn rainbow armband I display on my purse, ever since the Amnesty protest that wasn’t a protest. Your words have stuck with me: “You know Jen, if you wear that, people may think that you’re…” Why couldn’t you say the word? Lesbian. It’s not so difficult, you know. I remember what I said to you…I looked directly into your eyes and said, “Mother, I’m not gay. If I were, you know I’d tell you." Like the day grandma was over and the subject came up, yet again, and you looked into my eyes again and told me, "I would never love you any differently if either you or your brother came out to me." I hugged you that day, not only for my own reassurance, but for all the kids, too many of them I knew, who’s parents and friends and family had nothing but horrible, vile things to say about homosexuals. Like my best friend’s mother, who believed I was a “lesbian out to seduce her daughter.” As much as I love my best friend, and I love her dearly, we’re closer than sisters (Just not in that way…but truth be told, I wouldn’t mind if we were.) but the woman is straight. She has a straight boyfriend who she loves and who loves her more than anything in the universe. He’s a good man for her and I wouldn’t dare. You stood up for me to her mother, even though I knew I could see the question marks circling your head about your own daughter’s sexuality. The refrain was the same: “I’m not gay. I’d tell you if I was.”

I thank God you are someone not only I can talk to about just about everything, but for those who maybe couldn’t tell their parents just yet, you knew, and loved them just the same because of the person they were, and not because of their sexuality.

I thank you mother, for allowing me to join the gay organization on campus. I’m proud of the work I do for the club. They make me feel at home. I belong with these people, even though I’m not one of them, not sexually anyway. I haven’t been through the process of coming out to everyone, and I don’t know what its like for your boyfriend to leave you for another man. I have come to realize these people are just normal human beings(Well, as normal as a group of college students can get), who have the same problems I do, only they’re just gay. I’m still getting used to a club where the men wear makeup and have more piercings in more orifices as opposed to the women who don’t and have virtually nothing in comparison. I think the thing that attracts me to them most, is their openness about expressing who they are without caring what everyone else in The Olive Garden may think of them. I’ve always been that way and it’s like coming home to a place where I actually belong. I don’t need to come out of the closet to do that, let alone a closet that may or may not exist.

These last fifty-three days I’ve been more than a little emotionally out of whack. In these last fifty-three days I haven’t coyly slid into your bed beside you and gossiped about my life. These last fifty-three days I’ve gone to my own room crying my eyes out in the name of unrequited love or jumping for silent joy in the back yard in the middle of the night thanking whoever is up there beyond the stars that I have something to live for. I’ve been so happy and so sad and pissed off and jubilant and depressed all because of one person who was once just a mystery to me, someone who has just bounced into my life, and I don’t know if I’m ready for that. You know nothing of how I’ve felt these last fifty-three days, at least not about this. I’ve wanted to tell you so many times, but the words just weren’t there. Just think mother, I haven’t even written a poem about this yet, and you know as well as I do what the subject of most of my poetry is about. Yes, love, and so much more…I guess this is my attempt to catch you up on the last fifty-three days.

You see mom, there’s this girl. No, no one you’ve met. I have not had the courage to introduce you to her. All right, if you must know, her name is Charlotte. Mother, she’s beautiful…There are no other words to describe her. She is beautiful in every possible way a person can be beautiful…in heart, mind, body, spirit, soul, she’s just so beautiful. She takes my breath away. Everything that attracted me to him is now attracting me to Charlotte and that is something I thought I’d never feel again.

I have found every quality I have ever sought for in a man, in the beautiful body of this amazing woman I have come to adore in these last fifty-three days. Sure, I’ve talked to numerous friends, straight, gay, and in between, and they all believe I’m bisexual. Both of my best friends are convinced of this. The club members all think I’m confused. I, quite frankly, don’t like the idea of labeling myself, mother. If I fall in love with a woman, I want to just be with her without having to tell the world I’m bisexual. I’ve always believed, you know this, and I’ve written articles in the news paper about this, that I don’t believe in labeling people, because labeling leads to stereotypes and stereotyping leads to unnecessary problems.

I guess the reason I never told you was because I wasn’t sure how you’d react. Sure, you’d love me just the same, you’ve told me before, and it would go without saying. But with my preference pendulum swinging as it has lately, I didn’t want to tell you about her and then be with men for the rest of my life. You know? If I told you, I wanted to be sure, and I’m just…not.

It made me feel a little uncomfortable, that I could say something about how cute my best friend and her boyfriend are together (But I could never talk to you of how I liked both of them last year. No, that was kept to myself, especially after her mother believed I was out to make her a lesbian. The truth is, the girl just is not interested, and she’s with a wonderful man. They are happy together, and they more than deserve each other, which is something I can’t say about every couple I know.) but you said yourself when I said something about another friend and her girlfriend, you said it would take you getting used to. I figured if I couldn’t tell you how happy I am that he found someone to love as deeply as he does, I couldn’t tell you about Charlotte. And that’s a shame, because you know how hard it is for me to keep something like this from you.

I guess I should just stop beating the bush and just say it. Mom, I like girls. Don’t get me wrong, mother. I love checking out the beautiful men when I walk down the beach with my friends. But what you may not know, that I haven’t told you in the last fifty-three days since Charlotte walked into my life, that every time I walk down the beach, I’ve kept watching the girls Michael may think are beautiful. (And between you an I, he has horrible taste in women, for a straight man. Far too skinny and nothing in their heads.)

I know you’ll understand this, unlike many other parents I know. I always think of Allison's mother, who is afraid I’m the scary “Lesbian out to seduce her daughter.” When I think of how lucky I am to have you as a mother. I just wanted to say thank you, mother, for letting me talk about these last fifty-three days.


your daughter

What John Lennon Said About Love

I cried the day he told me he was gay.

It wasn’t that the thought of Bryan being gay surprised me. To be perfectly honest with you, I had always known. I must admit this though-there did come a point in our friendship when I had begun praying for all straight woman-kind that their knight in shining armor they waited for day and night, the man they had hoped would come save them from their dragons, would do so and not seek a knight of his own.

I knew that day what I had known all along. The man I had loved for as long as I can remember was gay. Bryan was gay. I had always regarded sexual identity as just one of many traits, acquired over time or something he was born with, the things I had always loved about him: the actor, human rights activist, poet, philosopher, and so many other things that made him…Bryan. I especially loved the way he treated his friends as family and loved them as such. I could say or do nothing to change him, nor did I wish to alter such an intrinsic part of one of my dearest friends. There was something special about him from the moment I met him that I couldn't quite place, but I knew it was there. As time progressed and I became better acquainted with this utterly fabulous man, I found it more and more difficult to grasp exactly how lucky I truly was to have met such a wonderful person.

The day I knew Bryan was gay was just an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, three days after I graduated from high school. It wasn’t a big secret he had been keeping from us all, for fear we would hate him forever, that we would excommunicate him from our close-knit family of friends. He never turned to me and said, "I'm gay." or bounced into the chorus room one day during lunch and said, "Hey guys, I have an announcement to make." It was a much more subtle understanding that day among us all, and I will never forget the look in his eyes. It was as if the sparkles that had fled from them the year or so ago was back again, and this time it was permanent.

But what an injustice to straight woman-kind! Surely this is an injustice of a higher sort, a cruel joke the Gods are playing on us silly mortals. (As of course you know, they like to do things like that, they’re Gods, what else are they going to do with their unlimited amount of time? Surely they aren’t trying to convince the muses to help us poor starving writers out there with our Writer’s Block, or even carousing with scores of Goddesses, but no! Do you know what their entertainment is up there? That’s right, making fun of us silly mortals and the stupid things we do, like fall in love, regardless of which gender we fall in love with.) Is Loki up to his old tricks again? Well if you know Loki as well as I do, you know he is probably the one responsible for this terrible fact every straight woman has faced, or will face, sometime in her life: being attracted to a gay man. If you haven’t, let me tell you now, its not one of the most pleasant situations of your life. I should know. Its happened to me, silly little mortal me, at least twice. But enough about me. I’m going to tell you the rest of my story now.

I gained such an insight to the tenacity of the human spirit that day that I had never experienced before. I will never know what it was like for him, to stand before the people he had loved throughout school, not to mention dealing with his family, and coming out of the closet, for better or for worse. I knew as well as he did who he had to worry about the most, but I admired him for his courage to put himself out there like that. To stand boldly before the people you love, the family you were born to and the family composed of friends you have chosen, to tell them something some of them will never accept, understand, or believe, who you are and what you stand for, that has to take some guts. I guess I never told him how I admired him for his ability to do so.

I feared for him when he finally did make it known this was who he was, for better or worse, we would either accept him or we weren’t his friends in the first place, and I knew the latter was never an option. I had learned first hand early on in my school career how malicious the high school grape vine could be. I wanted so much for him then, as I still do now, and always will. I wanted him to be able to be himself- the same kid I could talk to for hours over coffee, if our schedules were not in constant conflict. He was still the same person I could confide in when I knew I had no one else. But living in Podink Nowhere, how could a man proclaiming himself gay possibly have a nice, normal dating life (well, as normal as teenage dating can get) as any straight man can boast of?

I soon learned, after talking to Bryan and many others, that my fears were my own. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but he knew something I didn’t. Bryan knew exactly who he was, what he stood for, and who he loved. I cheered him on as I always had, dismissing my tears resulting from tumultuous relationship difficulties of my own, deciding your problems were more important than mine. And thanks to my dear friend and our decreed Gods of Coffee and Pasta Alfredo, we helped each other through our problems. We were a team, as I had always hoped we would be. Maybe batting for different teams as it were, but I cared not, because we were friends and in little leauge softball, it doesn’t matter which team you play for; you all come out victorious in the end. I knew that Bryan was still the same man I loved ten minutes before I knew he was gay, and you know what? I loved him even more for telling me. Coming out to our friends was the core of what I believe he is: The man who fights for what he believes in, is true to himself, and to those who he holds dear to his heart.

I guess I should explain now that I am one of…those poets. You know the type. Keeps a little sketch diary of the things and people she sees, recording little details and fragments of verse that skip through her imagination from time to time. One of those poets who can write ten poems about every situation, every love interest, however fleeting, she has ever had in her life, and has done so. Saying this, I wrote a poem depicting my feelings not about his coming out day, but that of my dear friend Joshua who had come out to me the year before. When I stood at that podium at an open-mic poetry night I faithfully attend once a month and introduced the piece, I suffered my usual case of momentary panic, but this time I knew I was somewhat justified. What would they say if I read a poem that was so blatantly about a drag queen who also happened to be one of my dearest friends?

Once more I gazed intently into Bryan’s eyes at the back of the room. I knew then the poem I was about to read was what I had been waiting to tell him, the things he needed to hear, and things I needed to tell the friend who was there that night and not so far out of his closet yet. I was going to speak for all those who I knew have never been able to speak about such things. I was the voice in the silence and I would read these words, mine, Joshua’s, Bryan’s, and all the others who must never speak a word of the one they love because according to some relative or priest it wasn’t right. Joshua was not able to be there that night I transformed his story and that of so many others into poetic expression. But Bryan was there. This was the opportunity I had been waiting for months.

I will never forget the moment I read that piece, titled “Beautiful Boy” (Rightfully so, after the incredible song by John Lennon) to that hushed audience. I wasn’t even sure was ready to hear such a thing, but I was more than ready to read it. I felt like I had to read it. About halfway through the poem, I could feel his eyes upon me as I spoke the words that were if I was speaking the words upon his heart:

Maybe at one point
You felt like a freak of nature
Why me?
Why couldn’t it be someone else…

I was in tears at this point, but I knew it wasn’t over yet, as I could feel his eyes burning into mine as I continued to read:

You knew it wasn’t right, at least not for you
You knew who you were
Your true friends understand
You only lost those
Who should have been there in the first place.
You had the courage to chase after your dreams
And became an actor
An unruly, unfit profession
So your father told you
But you knew it was who you were
This was the life you were born to live

I don’t recall ever feeling such a current of love as that night he held me beneath the full moon of that humid Floridian August night. I never loved you more than that night.

Something I learned that year, something that Bryan taught me, was that no part of growing up and finding yourself is easy. To realize you are different, that you somehow do not fit into the puzzle of society can not be easy, and to accept those differences, to go beyond the barriers and celebrate who you are, that’s bravery at its finest. I cried the day he told me he was gay, as I am crying as I write this, because I know the magnitude of fear I felt then, and not even that can surpass the joy I feel for him now.

You see, that same knight in shining armor that has a thousand well-qualified women both known and unknown to him pining for the day the would meet, found a knight of his own not long after that humid Wednesday in June. I’d like to think of him as a long-awaited award for conquering the most challenging and treacherous dragon of them all-accepting one’s own self.

It took all my strength to finish the piece at open-mic poetry night, but by some miracle or the grace of the Gods, I did it. I will never forget that moment I finished when my eyes met yours, nor the look in your eyes as I spoke the final two lines of the poem. Those two lines will ring true for Bryan, for Joshua, and all the rest who have ever and will ever say to me, "Jen, I have something to tell you.":

I couldn’t love you more
But you know I love you just the same.

The Kafka Paper

Once in a while, usually when it's relevant, I like to tell the story about how I squeaked out of gym in college because I could elect to take a health credit instead, which is exactly what I did. This class, Psychology of Adjustment, was perfect for me. The teacher was an older hippie woman and we wrote a lot of papers. These papers had to be at least four pages, but we were encouraged to stop writing whenever we felt like we'd said everything we had to say. Incidentally, my papers generally ran into eight to ten pages each. This particular teacher absolutely loved me, and endlessly praised my writing, calling it both humorous and provocative-weather that is true or not, I'll let you decide. I think it's very indicative of who I was two years ago when I wrote it.

I still talk about one particular paper I wrote for this class, feeling it was among the strongest writing I'd ever done. In eight pages, I got to expound on nearly every subject that makes my inner geek happy-musical theater, literature, homosexuality, bisexuality, politics, and religion. I also painted the briefest, most accurate portrait of one of my dearest friends and got to make very light fun of a man I no longer speak to. The task was to tell our dear Dr. Jae who we thought we were, and what would happen if we woke up one morning completely changed into something different, ala Kafka's Metamorphosis. We had to talk about how our friends and family would react to our change, how we lived with it. For this particular paper, I conducted an experiment to see what that reaction would be like, on a much smaller scale.

I had been talking about this particular paper several times recently, and went on a quest through the bowels of my hard drive, with no luck. I thought it was lost forever. And then, after a moderate stroke of genius, I looked through the archives of the online journal I've kept since high school, and I Found It.

So, without further ramblings, I bring to you, "The Kafka Paper".


In Jerry Herman’s brilliantly funny musical La Cage aux Folles, the character Albin, tired of hiding who he is, sings the moving anthem, “I Am What I Am.” A verse of the poignant lyrics are as follows:

I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity

I bang my own drum
Some think its noise, I think its pretty
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle?
Why not try things from a different angle?
Your life is a sham till you can shout,

The song has since become something of a coming out anthem for homosexuals, bisexuals, and everyone in between, and was also on one of the season soundtracks for Showtime’s gay drama “Queer as Folk”. The reason I cite this particular song is because everyone does (or should) go through periods in their lives where they question who they are and what they believe in. I’ve gone through this soul searching process thrice in the last ten years, twice for religious reasons, once for questioning my sexuality.

In a much more recent musical, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s Avenue Q, the cast sings a beautiful ensemble piece called “I Wish I Could Go Back to College”, in which the character Princeton, a young man fresh out of school and looking for his place in the world, sings the following line: “In college you know who you are.” In Princeton’s spirit, I am in college, and not only do I know who I am, I have a pretty good idea of what I want and need to do with my life. I know what I believe in, I know where my sexual attractions are, and unlike other times in my life, I’ve finally stopped running from the truth-I embrace and celebrate it. I am who I am, I love who I love, and though I recognize that I am ever evolving, and will until I die, this is where I stand at this particular moment in my life.

I’m a twenty-two year old Taurus, politically way left of Bill Clinton, liberal socialist, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, anti-death penalty, anti-discrimination, anti-racism, and anti-Bush. Religiously, I am a cultural Catholic who attends an Episcopalian church two hours every year (in addition to the rare wedding or funeral) on December 24th, but for the rest of the year, I subscribe to my own brand of Agnosticism that says, “I don’t know if God exists and I really don’t care.” Sexually, I am emotionally and physically bisexual and spiritually homosexual (Try figuring that one out, and then explain it to me.). I don’t believe in violence, war, guns, pantyhose, scare tactics, rape, politics, censorship, shaving your legs for reasons other than aesthetics, or political correctness. I sound like a cat who missed the bus to Woodstock by a few generations, don’t I? But that’s who I am. Who I am is what I believe in, and in this world, you have to believe in something. I believe in the healing power of music, choice, sunrises, sunsets, sexual freedom between consenting adults, literature, truth, beauty, freedom, and above all else I believe in Love. I believe everyone, especially AIDS patients, should be as free to light up a joint as they are to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, safely and responsibly. I strongly believe in the importance of education, and that every child who wants to go to college should be able to go. I read banned books, listen to uncensored music, and proudly quote Douglas Adams, Jon Stewart, and Allen Ginsberg’s poetry at great length. My great passion is music, my love is literature, and my intense fascination is social-history.

I was clearly born in the wrong era. Do 20-somethings nowadays really listen to National Public Radio, watch PBS, and care about the state of the union? Do they watch The History Channel with such religious zeal they’ve seen all those documentaries at least twice? Do they keep a visible list of the books they’ve read in the last year, and books they want to read? Do they get sick of the apathy in people our age when it comes to political issues that affect them? Do they find themselves having to seek out older folks who do care about those things, just to have someone to talk to? Do they really watch CNN and C-SPAN? I answer all those questions with a resounding YES. So maybe I’ll never win a popularity contest because I was too busy caring more about the election than Britney Spears, and I really am an incurable nerd. I will say, however, if I ever end up on Jeopardy, I have good odds at giving them all a run for their money. Ken Jennings, eat your heart out. Since I readily embrace my nerd status, I’ve often thought about what it would be like if, say, I were to wake up tomorrow as a flamboyantly gay Catholic male.
I wake alone. There are no girlfriends or boyfriends to speak of, but should I be spending the night at the apartment of the young man I’m sleeping with (who once told me he supports gay marriage as long as they’re both hot), I’m sure he’d be in for quite a shock. Long before he’s had his coffee, he’d be questioning how he felt about what he’d been doing the previous night with who he thought was a woman. I imagine myself looking down at that beautifully proportioned young man, and into the lovely brown eyes and at my newly acquired body parts that look an awful lot like his, and hear the following conversation in my head: “Sorry, Fletcher, I guess I’m a man”. “What happened to your vagina?” He’d ask, quickly pulling the covers over us, or jumping out of bed so quickly his poster of Miss November is almost compromised in the process. “I don’t know.” I shrug, and as I peer at Miss November, I realize that I am much less interested looking at her than I had been the previous night. Jennifer had enjoyed watching her as Fletcher was going about his business, but me? The newly transformed person inside this male body had no interest in her. I ponder this as I feel for my shorts and leave a very confused friend in a state of shock as I stumble into the bathroom and take a good look at myself in the mirror.

The change is astounding. The hair that has been long all my life is gone, replaced with a short cut that looks like it had been done only twenty minutes ago. The color is different as well, and has been replaced with Jennifer’s natural color-dark brown. The male body I see has been sculpted into one that is tall, lean, and flat. Oh my god, I’m one of those gay guys Jennifer used to go nuts about. I realize, as I flashed a smile and, borrowing some clothes from Jennifer’s very, very confused friend, find her car keys and jump into her purple Neon. I proceed to drive to Jennifer’s favorite coffee shop where I get bagels and coffee, drive to the beach, and contemplate what I am to do next.

I desperately try to remember those shows Jennifer had seen on TV about transsexuals and how one of the first steps they perform is to create a new identity. On the beach that morning, I christened myself Joshua and celebrated by going to the mall and finding something to wear until either I change back into a woman or I am able to go through Jennifer’s closet and find what still fits. I catch Joshua swishing his hips back and forth more than Jennifer ever did, and, knowing that its not entirely safe to do such things in Daytona, he carefully monitors his patterns of speech, gestures, and those hips.

When I’ve procured something wearable that will project my new image as metrosexual, rather than the fag-of-the-month, I pile into Jennifer’s car and drive home, wondering what has happened. Why, in all of God’s green earth, did He choose me to have this opportunity? He must have known Jennifer, though she’s not exactly the most religious woman on the planet, has been dying to know what it’s like to literally walk through life for a period of time in the shoes of a gay man. She must be ecstatic, of course, I can feel her screaming, “How lucky are you, Joshua, you get to sleep with all the gay boys I’ve ever liked!” but at the same time, I’m scared. Daytona isn’t exactly the safest place for me. But where can I go? New York, a city Rita Mae Brown once described as a city so full of queers that one more won’t rock the boat, is too far away. There is one place, I realize, much closer to home, where my newly acquired swish will be welcome with open arms. I hear myself calling Jennifer’s best friend Laura and inform her that I’ll be at her apartment before the end of the afternoon, and that everything will be explained as best I can.
After talking to Jennifer’s very confused friend, I find myself inexplicably driving into the church on the corner, where Jennifer is only seen on a rare occasion. Crossing myself, I quietly enter the dark wood doors and sinking into a pew, I inexplicably start to cry. I can hear Jennifer asking why we’re in a church, but I am crying so, I can barely understand her questions. I see the familiar face of the Father, an old friend of Jennifer’s, and cry harder. He places a hand on my shoulder and asks what was wrong, and I confessed to him that I was gay, and how on earth I was going to live my life as a devout Episcopalian and a homosexual. I hear Jennifer’s voice in my head, saying that God loves me just the way I am, but how would she know that? She doesn’t even believe in anything! Father Jeff turns to me and says that nothing is wrong with my thoughts or feelings towards men, that God does love me. Jeff and I pray together, which Jennifer is stunned to find was the first genuine prayer she’s said in years. I shake his hand in gratitude and piling into Jennifer’s purple Neon, begin the two hour drive to Gainesville, to see her best friend.

Laura takes a long look at me and asks me who I am and what happened. I explain the fantastic story-I had been sleeping over at Fletcher’s house (At which she shook her head and said, “Again?!”) and I woke up like this. She had more questions that I hadn’t even begun to ponder. How long will this last? Does this transformation mean that Jennifer is still bisexual, or something else? I told her that the transformation hadn’t been only physical. I explained to her about the church, and how I had broken down and cried. She expressed the same confusion that Jennifer had: “You don’t believe in anything!” I know, I tried to tell her, if anyone knows that it’s you. I explained, how, upon scrawling a note to Fletcher, I discovered I was now right handed. I also mentioned how I was pretty sure I was gay, a fact that was cemented when I realized I wasn’t slightly interested in her-something I knew Jennifer had been for the duration of their enduring friendship. Laura, bless her, took a long look at me and asked in a quiet voice I had never heard from her before, what I should be called. I asked her to call me Joshua, and she hugged me, declaring I could stay as long as I’d liked, and she could try to hook me up with a few of her gay friends. After living with Jennifer’s best friend (who quickly grew accustomed to living with another gay guy) for a while, I seemed content in never changing back, though I could tell that Jennifer wanted to come back. A week later, waking beside Laura after a night at her favorite gay bar, I found myself once again with parts that looked more like hers and less like those I had had the previous week.

The thing that most interested me about Kafka’s Metamorphosis (and there were many) was that Gregor never questioned why he was transformed into a hideous bug. He literally shrivels up and dies because he realizes his life is completely devoid of meaning. In my scenario, Joshua was still able to live a relatively normal existence, while still being with friends and participating in things that Jennifer once enjoyed. Joshua, unlike Gregor, had something to hold onto while he waited to see what happened next. Of course, the only way to know how someone will react to change is to experience change. In a seemingly unrelated event, I dyed my hair red last week. I had never done it before, and always wanted to do so. So, on Wednesday night after my Italian class, I went to have a few drinks at my favorite bar, talked to the bartender, and subjected myself to a baseball game on TV. I drove home thinking about change. More specifically, I thought about what you had said to the girl who could never imagine being gay-that maybe to explore that, she needed (but didn’t have to) write about it. I’d had this thing I was afraid of doing, and I found myself believing the only way to know how people (myself included) would react, was to just do it. The first question out of my mother’s mouth was “WHY?” I needed a change. I did it, and you know what? Every time I’ve passed a mirror in the last week, I can’t help but laugh-My hair is RED! And I absolutely love it. The consensus has been favorable, and unlike my imaginary penis, the reaction is genuine, and my hair is going to be this way for white a while, and I think even though I could definitely get used to the idea of being a redhead (just like I think I could get used to the idea of being a gay man), I’ll probably still laugh a bit whenever I look into the mirror.



I've changed very little since writing this paper. I'm 26 years old, and I no longer talk to Fletcher. Laura is still my best friend, and I have every confidence she would react exactly the same if such a thing were to actually happen.