Essay, Humor

VENTI CARAMEL ICED COFFEE

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.45.25 PM“Can I get a venti caramel iced coffee?” I tell the Starbucks cashier. She nods and scribbles my name across a plastic cup the size of a baby crib.

“I’ll pay for it,” he says, pushing his card across the counter. I smile at him.

“Thanks!” Fucker.

We sit down at a small circular table, him fiddling with his car keys and me leaning forward, perched on my elbows.

*****

I’m sitting in the library, books strewn across the table obnoxiously, forcing my tablemates to cramp into the corner of the space. They shoot glares at me, which to me are like Nerf pellets but to them are probably daggers. My phone gives a small, discrete bzzz.

I slide it open and click on the yellow Grindr app, the black mask of the icon like a gay Phantom of the Opera except even less faces and more torsos. A message has popped up from a cute Latino guy with curly hair and a mild-mannered smirk.

“Hey. At first I thought you were looking for a centurion, but then I read it again and I’m mistaken,” he texts. Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.44.16 PMI laugh out loud. My profile, a 10/10 picture of me, has the caption, “Looking for centenarians. Anyone born after 1914 need not apply.” The fact that someone A) knew what a centenarian was and B) knew what a centurion was, is enough to make me text back an answer.

His name is Corey, and he goes to a college near mine. He wants to hang out—no sex, just mac n’ cheese—but I’m swamped in finals and migrating back to New York directly after. After a few more minutes, I find out that he’s actually from the adjacent town to mine in New York, so I give him my number.

Eventually, I delete Grindr because having it on my phone always make me feel like I need to shower incessantly. But we begin texting back and forth, at first gingerly, and then more frequently.

Corey is dorky but funny, and works for an engineering company back in our college town but travels back to New York occasionally. He’s two years older than me, a junior to my then freshman. I find out his last name, immediately stalk him on Facebook and find that we have three mutual friends and he’s not Hispanic, but Mayflower white.

Corey keeps asking me out, so after the fourth or so attempt, I accept his offer and we make a plan to meet up when he’s back in New York.

Weeks pass, and I kind of create a boyfriendish allure around him. He’s at the top of my messages, and has sent me enough pictures for me to be relatively sure that he’s not a forty-five year old serial killer looking to make me into a sports coat.

“Do you want to see Maleficent with me?” I ask. Looking back, I don’t know why I keep insisting on bringing dates to children’s movies. I’ve brought a date to see Frozen—pre hype—and that ended about as well as the Hindenburg. Additionally, Maleficent was so subpar and I really would’ve liked to see Angelina Jolie portray a more fleshed-out “villain.”

“Yeah!” he answers, and we make a plan to meet up that night at a public mall.

Hours later, after I’ve planned my outfit but before I’ve prayed to the gods and made my ritual sacrifice, Corey Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.46.27 PMsuggests that we buy tickets ahead of time, online. When I point out that it’s unlikely that the movie will be sold out, since it’s been out for two weeks, he insists that we “don’t want to miss out.” Also, he can’t order the tickets because his laptop is broken so can I please order them and he’ll “pay me back with coffee or…other things ;).”

“Coffee is fine,” I text back and order the—per his request—IMAX tickets, knocking me back about forty dollars. I don’t think I would pay this much for a prostitute, much less a date, but the metaphysical check has been cashed and I’ve selected two seats—so basically we’re married—so I can’t back out now.

*****

“You’re tall,” is the first thing out of his mouth when I walk up to him. He’s been leaning against the metal railing.

I have no idea how to respond to this fact. For some reason, because I’m over six feet, people feel the need to point out that I am tall, as if that’s a secret my parents have been hiding from me for 18 years and they’re springing it on me in an Italian restaurant. Being tall is one of those things that people assume is socially acceptable to have an opinion on. No one walks up to someone else and says, “Hmm, I didn’t think you be as ugly as you are,” or “Oh, you’re Jewish? You don’t look Jewish in your pictures.”

I answer with a “Ha, yeah,” mingled with a fake laugh. He is still looking jarred, but manages to pull it together enough to walk with me towards the escalator. We still have a little bit of time before the movie, so we’re going into a Toys “R” Us because apparently going on dates regresses us into middle school.

“I actually turned down a threesome to be here,” Corey says, in what I can only assume is an attempt to break the ice and not an attempt to get me to break his neck.

“Oh,” I say, laughing. Note to reader, I will be uncomfortably laughing throughout this entire date. Brace yourself.

On the list of things that have been said to me that hover in between Flattery and Fuckery, this is right up there next to someone saying that it “wasn’t your looks” that made me single.

I’ve texted out three SOS’s, so this date isn’t going categorically great, so I breathe a sigh of relief when he suggests we go get coffee, which means A) I get coffee B) the movie is nigh and C) I get coffee.

I decide to forgo my usual grande and get a venti, because I’m going to eke everything I can out of this $40 dollar date. The barista gives me the venti iced coffee, which is large but barely even a movie theater small.

*****

We sit down at a small circular table, him fiddling with his car keys and me leaning forward, perched on my elbows.

I’m rambling on. He’s quiet. When people get quiet, I tend to talk more. So I’m all chattering mouth in the silence, chattering teeth from the iced coffee, and gesticulating arms. At this point, the date is basically a dead horse. Not even one you want to beat, just one that was formerly stumbling on weak legs and now has completely given up.

We chat, and he’s perfectly nice, but it’s obvious that I’m carrying the date. And my arms are not that strong.*

*This statement has now become false, as I have been working out and my arms are pretty toned.

“Should we go over to the movie?” I asked brightly, rattling the melting ice around.

*****

The movie is good but not great. Much like myself, Angelina Jolie is visually stunning but seems too skilled for the meager sliver the writers carved out for her. I wanted her to be violently cruel, tantalizing evil, all scorned and scorching.

Times I get up to go to the bathroom: 3

Times our knees knock together: 5

Times I awkwardly crane my head to talk to him: 2

Times he seems about to put his arm around my shoulders: 1

By the end of the movie, I am exhausted from getting up to relieve my bursting bladder, which has been going full steam ahead from the massive amount of coffee I just drank.

We parked in different levels of the same lot, so we walk over together. His car is closer, so I mosey over with him. “I can drive you to your car,” he offers, standing next to his car.

“No that’s fine,” I laugh. He offers again, and I survey him and realize—for the first time—that I would be nervous to be in the car with him, with anyone that I didn’t know, and that makes me squirm.

He leans in and I lean in for a hug. Out of the corner of my eye I see his head swivel and feel a kiss placed awkwardly close to my ear. I pull back from the hug and see him looking expectantly at me.

Oh, fuck.

Our heads careen towards each other as we kiss. It’s all scrape and stubble and the lingering acrid embers of the coffee. What do I do with my hands? I think. I unclench them and swing them halfway towards Corey before swinging them back and keeping them firmly at my sides.

The kiss ends and I smile and say goodbye. I can feel his eyes rolling over my neck as I walk away and I don’t look back until I can hear his engine breathe to life. I wave then, and I can see him waving back through the slant of the windshield.

*****

It’s only later—when I’m recounting the date to my friend—that I realize that I’ve just had my first kiss, my first boy-to-boy kiss.

*****

Corey and I exchange a few texts after our date, but the connection we had via digital communication has fizzled with the reality of our selves. I don’t think about him until eight months later when I accidentally swipe right for him on Tinder while trying to find subjects for a photo essay.

I blindly send him a message detailing my photo essay without looking at who the profile belongs to. A few days later, I’m at dinner with my friends and am alerted to a new Tinder message. My phone gives a small, discrete bzzz.

I slide it open and click on the app’s red flame. It’s one of my potential subjects. I look at the message:

“Um, hi to you too?”

My eyes flash to the name at the top of the page: Corey. I let out a half-shriek-half-laugh. Okay, it was more like three quarters shriek and one quarter laugh.

My friends ask me why I’m gasping. This time, it’s a full laugh, and I tell them all about Corey and the threesome and the hands-clenched kiss and the coffee peeing.

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P.S. Thanks to my dear friend Nina who helped me brainstorm what I should write about for this essay and who accepted the fact that I had texted her solely to shoot down her ideas until I could think of one better with grace and aplomb. Thanks, N. ❤

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Inspirational, Life

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: HISTORIC & RADIANT & IN ALL 50 STATES

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June 26, 2015

I was lying in bed, probably looking at pictures of Khloe Kardashian, when my mom came into my room.

“Did you see it?” she asked, handing me her phone. I sat up, and read the headline of the article she had on the screen. I looked down at it and read the words, not sinking in.

Marriage equality passed in all fifty states. MARRIAGE EQUALITY PASSED IN ALL FIFTY STATES.

It still doesn’t entirely feel real, but it is, and I don’t think I will fully ever be able to express what this emotion is.

It is part blinding happiness. It is the happiness that all across the country, people are celebrating and dancing and loving and living.

It is part gratefulness that my personhood has been fully recognized in every state across the country.

It is part glee that we finally triumphed, and it feels like the end of a Disney movie where the good guys are cheering and the bad guys are grinding their teeth.

It is part sadness that generations of LGBTQIA+ before me did not live to see this day, and sadness that they didn’t see with their own eyes the brilliance and equality that they worked so hard for.

It is part peace that we, and by “we” I don’t mean just LGBTQIA+ people, but “we” as in everyone in the goddamn United States, can marry whomever we choose. By granting marriage equality, the institution has been restored. No longer will it be an elite club. Now it is something for everyone to hold faith in, to respect, to honor, to cherish.

When I came out at fifteen, more than four years ago, I didn’t think this day would come. The day that my mother would show me the news that marriage equality was passed nationwide. When marriage equality was passed in New York, I celebrated in silence by myself. But now, at nearly twenty years old, I can celebrate outwardly and proudly and I can feel the love and happiness pouring in over social media as all of my friends celebrate with me.

We are not only living history. We are also giving the next generation of LGBTQIA+ something that we were not given. We will be raising them in a world where they are recognized at this fundamental level with their heterosexual counterparts. I know that we are a long way from reaching total equality, and the fight isn’t over, but this is a huge thing. Marriage equality validates us in a way that has not been done before, and we will be giving our following generations a softer, hopefully better world to live in.

We are teaching the next generations that there isn’t anything wrong with being a boy who likes boys, a girl who likes girls, a girl who likes boys and girls, a boy who doesn’t like anyone, a girl whom everyone else sees as a boy. This isn’t just about marriage equality. This is about nudging our country towards acceptance and preaching self-acceptance.

I hope everyone relishes this day and basks in the sweet, hard-won victory for marriage equality. We did it, we’ve earned it, we’re here.

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Humor, Rambles

MAD RAMBLINGS, OCEAN WEST, & SELF-TANNING STRIPPERS

This is literally my fourth attempt at writing this post. And when you’ve got writer’s block for a blog that is essentially the ramblings of a crazy person, you know it’s bad. So instead of trying to force out a compelling essay or analysis of pop culture, I’m going to instead write stream-of-consciously. How original.

Self-tanning lotion makes me smell like what I imagine a Las Vegas suburbs stripper to smell like. Notice that I specified “suburbs.” Like, a stripper who lives in the zip code of Las Vegas, but that’s the closest similarity.

I’m self-tanning, and that was going to be the original idea for this essay. But then I couldn’t really get the words to flow. Essentially, I’ve decided to take up fake-tanning again, which is probably not a good idea because my sunburn is finally peeling off, making it look like I’m covered in dried flakes of pizza grease. If I wasn’t so in love with pizza, I would be embarrassed.

I bleached my teeth last night, and now they feel sore, like I danced on them or something. I love how when I put in the bleaching trays, all of a sudden my salivary glands start pumping out that good shit like it’s cocaine and my mouth is a Hollywood nightclub and it’s the early 2000s. I don’t understand that simile anymore than you understand that simile.

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Current background

I was looking through Kim Kardashian’s Instagram today, and discovered that I really miss her blonde hair. She looked so galactic and high-glamour. Going through her photos is also how I found out that she is pregnant with a boy! And I’ve already picked out the perfect name for him: Galaxy West. Or Ocean West. Something as large and amorphous as a direction, without being a direction. Hey, if she doesn’t want to do a direction for her next baby, maybe she’ll name him Zayn. TOO SOON FOR ONE DIRECTION JOKES. Still too soon.

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Previous background #RonSwanson

Since I only have one phone case, I frequently change my background to jazz up my phone. It’s currently Khloe Kardashian, after a long stint of drag queens.

I’m halfway through Orange Is The New Black and I’m proud to say that I haven’t been emotionally scarred once! This season is funny, heartwarming, and not as depressing since Vee isn’t around to order shankings and beatdowns in the bathroom. Oh, what a wonderful world!

I finished Game of Thrones and—earlier in the summer—three seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and I find myself in need of a good show to binge after I finish OITNB. I’m thinking Friday Night Lights because I’ve been in a very “blonde Sandra Bullock The Blind Side” meets “small town glory Finn during his football scenes in Glee” kind of mood and I imagine that that is what Friday Night Lights is.

I still haven’t seen Jurassic World, and can I just say that it really grinds my gears how everyone is so obsessed with Chris Pratt all of a sudden? Like, I was appreciating his comedic genius and his butt since the beginning of Parks and Rec but ever since he got “conventionally attractive,” everyone wants a piece? That’s unfair. Leave him to those who loved him through—literally—thick and thin.

I’m listening to a lot of podcasts at the moment, jumping between Shane Dawson’s, Tyler Oakley’s, and Ross Mathews’, and it’s so soothing while I’m doing laundry, or going to the gym, or assassinating someone, or emptying the dishwashers. Yes, I have boring chores.

Well, I think I’ll leave it at that, and hopefully I’ll have a stronger essay for Friday. Oh my god. I just realized that today isn’t Tuesday. It’s Monday. I wanted to have a post up every Tuesday and Friday, and I’ve been busting my ass for the last two hours trying to write something for tonight, i.e. Tuesday, when this motherfucker has been Monday all along. I literally haven’t known the day all day. I can’t even.

I literally cannot. Bye. Maybe I’ll write something also for tomorrow, but this post is like almost-expired milk: I gotta put it up now or never. Also like almost-expired milk, this post will leave you with a stomachache and a distrust of dairy.

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Inspirational, Life

RACHEL DOLEZAL, CAITLYN JENNER, AND ANGER

I’m always a little afraid to start a new season of Orange Is The New Black because it’s very emotionally-draining and I always get sucked into it faster than a bug down a flushed toilet. What a metaphor.

I went to Six Flags the other day and made the bad mistake of wearing a tank top with no sunscreen. That decision, paired with my vampire skin, had added up to some interesting tan lines, and by “interesting tan lines” I mean that I look like a nightmare and am trying to get my skin back to normal and I have to start working at my summer camp job where I get shirtless. And there are already hot people at camp, so when this human potato rolls up shirtless, with tank top tan lines no less, it become a big pota-no.

I’ve been following the whole Rachel Dolezal story and have been finding it so interesting, especially with the multiple connections people are drawing between her and Caitlyn Jenner. At first, I was like, “Um, what?” and then I was like “Oh, maybe,” just because people were saying that on one hand, people are largely accepting of Caitlyn Jenner, but we are condemning another woman for trying to cross some large divide. But then, after thinking and researching it more, I felt like we were wrong in comparing Caitlyn to Rachel.

Janet Mock summed it up excellently in a series of tweets. She wanted to completely stop the connection between trans-womanhood and Rachel Dolezal. She said that trans women of color are attacked daily because of “this pervasive myth that we are pretending to be someone we are not, and therefore should be extinguished.”

And I was thinking about how Rachel said that she felt black and identified as black and I realized that I didn’t know what that meant. I have never really felt “white” because I don’t think that’s a feeling. I think the only way to really feel a certain race or way or identity is to feel the pressing of society’s expectations on you. I was on Tumblr and saw this amazing post that said that young black women are subjected to so much fetishization and discrimination and expectations. Rachel didn’t go through that because she is white, and never had to be subjected to the unique experience of growing up as a black person in America. She chose to opt into that, and I think that’s where I become angry.

I am not black, so I will never understand what it feels like to be discriminated against because of the color of my skin. Being born a white person offers me some privilege, a privilege that is so pervasive and invisible to my eyes that it almost doesn’t seem there, but I guess that’s kind of the point of being privileged. You don’t have to think about it, you have the luxury of not thinking about skin color.

But I am a self-identified gay man. And I do understand that unique branch of discrimination, of unsubtle looks in the school hallways as people analyzed my clothes and my gait, of the terror of answering phone calls because I worried it would be pranks or loud chants of “faggot,” of trying to come to terms with a sexuality that was not embraced by my community, of being completely alone in dealing with everything. And so I put it into terms of that. If I discovered that a leader of the GLAAD organization was a heterosexual person pretending to be a member of the LGBTQIA, I would firstly be like, “Why?” and secondly I would want to scream.

Because that person has no right to pretend to understand the struggles I went through. They have no right to stand next to me and claim my childhood terrors, my psyche’s scars, my shattering, as their own. And so while I am not and will not ever be a black person or understand that unique struggle, I can sympathize, and I can understand why Rachel’s actions were so perverse. She did not have any right to claim those struggles as her own. Allies of minorities like gay or black are valued and crucial parts to the fight for equality, but she overstepped her boundaries and tried to claim those plights as her own. A white person does not understand the discriminatory experiences of a black person in the same way that a straight person does not understand the experiences of a gay person. You can sympathize, you can become angry, you can respect, but you will never know exactly what that felt like, what that struggle was. And that’s why I’m mad. Because she took something that didn’t belong to her and wore it as her own.

I usually don’t write about more political issues or discussions like the Rachel Dolezal situation because I am always so afraid of making people upset or being disrespectful or insensitive, so I welcome other opinions and thoughts. But I think it is important to open dialogues about issues like these, because they matter. I considered writing about the Charleston church shootings as well, but I haven’t fully verbalized my words, so the only thing I can really express is deep sorrow for the lives lost and anger that our government officials are dancing around the notion of racism as a motivation.

I think we, as a country, need to be angrier about things. We need to stand up and yell and get emotional and express our thoughts. Because anger is a powerful motivator. Anger, not blind rage, can be molded into something powerful and unbreakable and raw.

We need to be angry about the way black people are treated in this country and in the world. We need to be angry about how TV networks deal with uncovering child-molesters like Josh Duggar. We need to be angry about the violence and vitriol aimed against transgendered people. We need to be angry that it is 2015 and we are living in a society that does not value equality. We need to be angry.

I was about to apologize for not posting a funny, witty little blog today, but I won’t. This blog is a reflection of me, and I don’t want it to come across that I remain cheerful and untouched by the atrocities and unfairness of the world. I don’t want that to be something people think about me, but I also think that we, everyone, has a duty to start dialogues about contemporary issues. We need to start dialogues. We need to start action. We need to be angry. We need to care.

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Essay, Humor

“PARIS HILTON,” SAFE SEARCH OFF

Fourth grade. Miller’s basement.

“Look,” Miller says. We’re sitting at his desktop computer. He logs into the server and pulls up Google. What he typed in next changed my life.

“B-U-T-T-S.”

The screen was suddenly full of butts. Rotund, marble buttocks of Grecian statues. Pale plumber’s cracks peeping out from the tops of jeans. Butts in bathing suits. Butts in khaki pants.

And a lingering image of a politician. Not a naked one. Just a headshot.

Miller looked at my hanging mouth. “Isn’t that crazy?”

Miller was my friend who lived down the street. At nine, he was already like 5’10”, skate-boarded, and had had a “girlfriend.” We were in Boy Scouts together and had the same group of friends. He was too loud and too crass for me—nine-year-old Danny was a total prude—but he had video games, and I loved being Princess Peach in Mario Kart (? Maybe? I don’t know. Some game like that), and this was just the next level in our friendship.

Apparently aside from allowing me to engage in digital drag, Miller was also going to be the one to introduce me to porn.

After looking through the images of naked butts, I had to go home, probably for dinner or to color or do math homework or something.

In the next few days, my curiosity about this new, sparkling world grew. So one day after school, when no one was home, I sat down on the cracked-leather green cushion of the rolling desk chair and steered myself in front of our massive desktop computer in the TV room.

I pulled up Google and stared at the blank white space in front of me, with the pulsing black bar at the beginning of the empty search engine. Finally, I gathered up the courage to type out three simple, life-altering words.

“Paris. Hilton. Topless.”

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I don’t really know why Paris was the first person that came to my mind. This was 2004, which is what I like to think of as probably the peak of Paris Hilton’s relevancy. Over ten years later, I know more about her aunt Kyle Richards—of RHOBH fame—than I do about her. Although I know that her dog Tinkerbell just died. So RIP to Tink, I suppose.

But it was Paris whose name and boobies I witnessed on that fateful afternoon. It would be years before I watched her sex tape(s), so for the moment it was just a handful of pictures of Paris topless at a pool and the very scandalous pictures of her topless and kissing another girl.

At nine, seeing anyone’s naked body was revolutionary, so don’t worry if you think this means that I’m secretly straight and playing gay for the attention. That’s not why I’m playing gay. I’m doing it for the book deals. And the boys’ booties.

I did several different variations to look up nudes. “Paris Hilton topless.” “Paris Hilton boobs.” “Nicole Richie boobs.” I had little-to-no pop culture knowledge—an embarrassing secret that I have more than made up for in the years since—so I only really knew of Paris and Nicole from their show “The Simple Life.”

Side bar: that’s a great show.

This went on for two days.

My parents went out to dinner, and my sister Margot came into my room, where I was cutting out paper dolls and coloring in their skirts. I am only slightly embarrassed of this.

“Why were you looking at naked pictures on the computer?” Margot inquired. I jolted, and looked into her hazelly-green eyes, which were searing back into mine from behind—frankly—unflattering glasses.

I briefly contemplated playing it cool before cracking. “How do you know that?”

“It’s on the search history,” Margot rolled her eyes, overcome with disgust at my ignorance. A decade later, not much has changed.

“What is the search history?”

Margot dragged me down to the TV room and clicked open a tab on the computer. In that tab was the evidence of my softcore Internet meanderings. “It all stays on the computer?” I whimpered.

The Internet had betrayed me. Up until this point, the Internet had been my friend. It had allowed me to play car chase games and visit Club Penguin. Now it was the humming reminder that I was—in my mind—a grade A pervert.

“How do I get rid of it?” I asked frantically.

“I know how to do it,” Margot answered. At twelve years old, she was full of superior computer skills.

“Can you do it for me? Please?!” I begged her.

Margot considered this for a second. I waited.

She looked at me. I looked at her.

“Give me your sour Skittles,” she said finally.

“Deal.”

One bag of sour Skittles later, Margot was erasing the evidence of my curiosity from the computer.

Margot held our shared secret over my head for the next few years. She blackmailed me into giving her the remote, the better seat in the car. Until I got my own computer and discovered how to mass delete Google searches, I remained firmly under her pink-glitter Claire’s Boutique thumb.

Miller and I drifted apart, as he went—presumably—into hard drugs and I dealt with being gay. Margot remained kind of a bitch. And I kept Paris Hilton close to my heart.

Eventually I branched out into actual porn, and began to prod at my burgeoning homosexuality with the timid eagerness of a foal learning to walk on awkward, stilting legs. By the time that I was thirteen, I was a master at both finding and deleting gay porn, so much so that I felt like I was on par with the world’s greatest computer hackers.

This was entirely a delusion, as I then downloaded a virus onto my laptop from a nefarious gay porn site. But all in the name of self-discovery, right?

Side bar: I really want those fucking sour Skittles back.

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