Humor, Love & Romance, Millennials

THE ONE WHERE I GO ON HINGE AND TRY TO FIND LOVE

“Do you want to date?” my psychiatrist asks.
“Ugh, no,” I scoff.
Ten minutes later. “I just really want to date!” I whine.
“You said you didn’t want to,” she points out, rightfully.
“I know I said that, but I lied,” I answer. I’m petulant, and she’s beginning to learn that.
“It’s kind of hard for you to be open to dating when you say, explicitly, that you don’t want to date.”

# # #

She also points out that dating is work, and requires effort. These are two things that I am unaccustomed to, but I begrudgingly admit that she’s right. Almost to spite her (healthy?), and prove to her that I can date if I want to, I download Hinge, a dating app that purports to set you up with people within your Facebook friends-of-friends network.

Of course, I do this the week that Facebook is in the news for allowing Cambridge Analytica to siphon off private user information. With my luck, Facebook will shut down and I’ll die alone.

I picked Hinge for a few reasons – Tinder is essentially the new Grindr and Bumble won’t let me use a photo of me giving the camera the middle finger. If I can’t show my personality, then I won’t find love.

I also picked Hinge because that’s how Phillip Picardi, the digital editorial director of Teen Vogue and Allure, met his totally-crazy-hot boyfriend. And if there’s one thing you can say about me, it’s that I can operate with a near-lethal amount of optimism.

So I made my profile. I put in a few funny quips, but I tried not to overwhelm it with humor. Surprise, I use humor as a defense mechanism. I tried to be honest (and cute) and earnest (and cute) and actually give myself a fighting chance.

Yes, the photos I chose showcase me doing essentially the same pose over and over (I know my angles) and I will almost never do a smile that shows my teeth (I have good teeth, I just don’t feel like showing them off) but the photos are all recent, and g-damn I look good in all of them! I’m in a very – well, not right now because I made the decision early on today to wear a hat and, honey, it’s one I’m regretting – good place about my body and my face.

So I made the profile, and I’ve been trying to – without sounding like American Pyscho – lower my standards. Okay, yeah that sounds awful.

But here’s what I mean. I love quitting while I’m behind. Frankly, I love quitting. I love a good self-sabotage. I set impossible standards for the men I look to date – they must be funny, but not funnier than me; they must be tall; they must be mean, but not nasty; cute, but not hot; smart, but not intimidating; not annoying, not rude; not clingy, not antisocial – usually this pares the group of eligible men available to a party of one, and I can’t date myself. Not again.

I also fall into the dangerous pattern of finding men whose flaws I forgive, because they’re so unattainable – straight, or in a relationship, or dead – that I’ll never have to worry about coming into contact with those flaws. I can safely yearn from 500 yards away (not a restraining order thing, I just wear glasses now and I don’t need to be that close) and never get hurt.

I’m trying to quell the inner saboteur, that messy, clumsy-fingered little goblin, and try to find one thing to “like” about each profile I see. Surprisingly, it’s easy. The questions are designed to yield answers, and damn some of y’all are cute! I’ve been liking more than I’ve been disliking, and it’s led to some interesting conversations. Not amazing conversations, and certainly not any love connections yet, but still: progress.

However, since I’m admitting to be a greedy little goblin, let’s be hateful for one paragraph. Loving brunch is not original. Loving SoulCycle is not original. Be the hottest one in a group photo, or just do a solo. Stop posting photos from vineyards; frankly, stop going to vineyards. Stop talking about Antoni from Queer Eye (I am a “he cannot cook” truther to the grave).

There are certain things I am willing to forgive, but hawking avocado/being 20/loving Antoni are things that I simply, for my own health, cannot abide.

Okay, done being hateful.

My most recent foray into “getting out there” is coming to the realization that I’d like to date somebody. I denied this for a long time because I hate being vulnerable, and damn that’s lame to say that you wanna date. But I do, and so I’m gonna say so. I dated a decent bit in college, but that was easier because I was surrounded by people constantly. This is harder, and we all know I love things that require little-to-no effort.

Snow White found love, and all she had to do was sleep. Lucky.

While I am pale (and tall enough that I’m constantly surrounded by aggro little short men), I’m no Snow White. Me sleeping just leads to morning breath and unfortunate hair situations.

So I, awake, am going to put myself out there. If you know someone in his twenties, with a job, who is good-looking enough that people wouldn’t describe him as “having a great personality” but does have a great personality, send him my way. He can have a weird face; that’s fine by me, but then he has to have good hair. I will not bend on this.

I’m sure my 900-word diatribe about Hinge will not frighten him off in the least.

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music, Rambles, Things Happening RN, Things I Like

WHO’S GOT THE BEAT: I TRY TO FIND NEW MUSIC

Historically, I have bad taste in music. I don’t think so, but I’ve been told so. I have the kind of musical taste that people will unceremoniously aim for a new vibe whenever I have control of the aux cord. In conjunction with that, I’m also picky. I’ll listen to the same song over and over until I’m sick of it, then I listen to it even more until I hate it, and then I’ll move onto something else. If something doesn’t immediately jive with me, I don’t give it any chance. This combines to making it extremely difficult for me to find new stuff. I’m writing this is the hopes that I can The Secret new music.

Over the past few days, with an unusual ferocity, I am deleting songs that I don’t listen to on my Spotify. I’m a hoarder by nature (thanks Dad!) so I hardly ever delete music – what if it’s the exact song I need to through that tough set at the gym?? What will I do then? – and I’ll just skip through until I find one I like.

Eventually, I realized that I was spending more time skipping through songs than I was actually working out/modeling in front of the mirror-wall. Beyond that, I basically only listen to Cupcakke’s new album, Ephorize, at the gym anyway, so I don’t know why I haven’t just caught on and put that on shuffle yet. Too old to learn but too dumb to realize, I guess.

Suddenly, everything in my library annoys me, and it’s kind of no wonder. Currently, it’s an emotionally disturbing cross-section that includes The Greatest Showman soundtrack, music by drag queens, piecemeal rap, and Kelly Clarkson. I mostly listen to music when I’m at the gym. When I’m driving, cooking, walking, doing laundry, sitting quietly in the corner, I listen to podcasts. But I find podcasts hard to listen to at the gym – either they’re too funny, and I laugh at an inopportune time, or I find that it doesn’t propel me forward in my workout. So the music I tend to gravitate to at the gym typically is super-emotive and thinspiring.

But I’d like to get into more music, and the road I’ve been traveling down is just not cutting it. Roughly every six months, I pick a new vibe and cultivate music around that. In the autumn and winter, I’m moodier and rocky-er. I pick songs that are similar to my youth (I was formulated – Powerpuff Girl-style – on the Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine, and Rilo Kiley). In the summer, I live for a good bop (Carly Rae Jepsen – more like Carly Slay Jepsen! I’m gay and I hate myself). Two autumns ago, it was a Bastille-Halsey moment. Last summer was all about Grace Potter. This summer was dedicated to Kesha, and in the autumn, I fell back in love with Joanne and Miley Cyrus’s Younger Now.

But lately, I’ve been going further and further down a country/folk/rock/indie avenue, and I need help. The vibe I’m going for this spring and summer is “chill” meets Call Me By Your Name meets “indie rock” meets “country pop” meets “long, winding summer road” meets “pine tree” meets “winsome romance.” Unsurprisingly, that is not a “Mood” that you can click on Spotify’s Browse.

I created a SS18 (spring-summer 2018) playlist expressly for the purpose of encouraging the new sound, and it’s definitely threadbare. Their “Recommended” and “Discover Weekly” features are also a total let-down, because it pulls from the songs that are in your library. For me, that produces a heavily-skewed coterie that’s more suited for poppers and raving than it is for me living my actual, human experience.

Music, for me to get into it, has to invoke a strong emotional response. You know how there are some people who can listen to an album and “appreciate” it? Or sit through a terrible art film and “examine” it? That’s not me. Ephorize makes me want to be a total slut; Vince Staples’ Prima Donna gives me swag; Kelly Clarkson’s Meaning of Life fulfills every karaoke fantasy I’ve ever had. I’m in a period of flux at the moment, and I’m kinda teetering on Big Adult™ decisions, so I want something that reflects that and inspires me.

I’ve started listening to a little more country – definitely country lite, like Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Russell Dickerson. I’ve been in a more softly contemplative mood lately, and I find that mindless pop – that includes you, Katy Perry, with your “activist” pop – isn’t really cutting it for me. I used to hate country music – it was too square and too heteronormative and square – but I like what it feels like for me. It feels a little evolving, and a little slow, and a little contemplative. And that’s, overall, the vibe that I’m aiming for in the next few months.

If you’ve got any suggestions, or any advice on how to find new music, plz send me a postcard. I need your help. America needs your help.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/1237130065/playlist/0JQlpZOW32PIBaUQTJ6sxo

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Body Health, Humor

CAREFUL: HOT OBJECT

Over the last week, I’ve made the same (probably unfunny by this point, but if there’s one thing I admire about myself, it’s my ability to commit) joke. “I’m too hot not to go to that!” “It’s hard being the hottest person at work.” (It is, by the way). “I’m hot and funny.” (this was to a Hinge match who has since not messaged me back, so maybe not ideal).

This is a common caricature I cloak myself in, the overconfident and underwhelming deluded. I do it because I think it’s funny, but I also do it as a way of jumping the shark.

If I’m making a joke or having a laugh about being hot, then if you don’t think I’m hot – well, I already made fun of myself. And at the same time, it operates as a tacit desire for approval: if you didn’t think I was hot, then you would say something or make a face or vomit. It’s also socially unacceptable to actively believe and proclaim that you’re good-looking. You get painted as vain, self-centered or out of touch.

But something has been happening: for some reason, making the joke this past week, instead of betraying my lack of confidence or my paranoia, has actually, weirdly, made me feel hotter. It’s having the opposite effect it usually does. Usually, when I say something like that, it like twists inside me, making me feel slightly more insecure as I gauge the reaction on the other person’s face.

It has a lot to do with context.

In the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about high school, and the person I was in high school. In high school, I was a skinny, gawky kid with bad skin and no eyebrows. I dressed like a Day-Glo clown hooker, and I thought I looked amazing.

I’ve got a five-year reunion coming up in a few weeks, and I really seesawed between wanting to go and wanting to skip it. But one of the primary motivators for me wanting to go is, simply, that I look way better now than I did then. My skin’s in a Good Place™ and I like what my hair’s been doing. I’ve been exercising in new and different ways, and I’ve finally managed to find a style that doesn’t make me look like Raggedy Andy’s loose cousin. I’ve been looking better, and suddenly calling myself “hot” doesn’t ring in my ears like a joke.

If vanity seems like a thin reason to see old high school classmates, then I’m really doing a bad job of explaining how good-looking I am now. It’s imperative I get myself to the people.

I’ve also found a good psychiatrist, and she’s forcing me to confront how my jokes are thin (thin, honey I’ll show you thin!) attempts at masking my own cracked insecurities. I’m also realizing how bad making those jokes about myself, like calling myself a Day-Glo clown hooker or Raggedy Andy in this post, could (and do) end up making me feel worse instead of better.

I’ve realized (something probably everyone else has realized) that me making jokes do nothing for protecting my vulnerabilities. And instead of jumping the shark, I’m flinging myself to the wolves.

Confidence is, honestly, the most attractive quality someone can have. Everyone I’ve been involved with has had this raw confident energy and that (mixed with the large inheritances) was a huge pull for me. My making these jokes might feel good in the short-term, but they seriously chip away at my confidence when I’m reinforcing to myself that I’m not good-looking.

I always make the joke that if I were confident, then I would be a true monster. But honey, this must be where the Wild Things are, because I wanna be a monster!

Of course, this post has sat on my dashboard for a week, so when I started this I felt amazing, and now I feel not-so-confident. But I’m gonna put it up anyway, despite the messiness of this writing and despite me feeling like I could crack a mirror.

I’m going to be better about accepting compliments, and making active attempts to dole out compliments of my own.

And let it be known, that one time a hot, drunk straight™ told me that it “wasn’t my looks that were keeping me single.” Hurtful, but maybe I’m too hot to care!

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Life, Rambles

SEEING HIM

written months ago. i’m more chill now (that’s a lie! but i am doing better). 

It’s weird to feel like you’re not owed your feelings. Like they’re bubbling up into the wrong well, the wrong place, the wrong time.

Today, I saw my high school crush while at work. I work in retail, and he was checking out at a cash register where I was headed. I don’t wear glasses at work, so I only saw the shape of him – the quilted, corduroy-collar jacket and washed blue jeans – and felt something inside me sicken. I’ve had this fear ever since I started working, that I would run into people that I know. It’s not him – it’s not him – it is him – I realize as I come closer.

I keep my head turned away as I take the register next to his and start making bags. When I say something, to someone else, his head pivots and I’m filled with cold-quick-dread. He calls my name, and I look at him. The entire reaction lasts maybe a minute, him asking a question as a customer comes to my register and my attention is split neatly like an atom.

“How are you? What are you doing?” he asks. He’s lost weight, and the bags under his eyes have carved crescents into his cheeks. In a second I see his everything and nothing – the hair, cut carelessly, that hovered between gold and brown.

“Um, I’m here,” I answer. “And I’m freelancing.” I say this as the female customer chatters and puts her items on the register. “I’ll – I’ll let you get back to it,” he says and I nod helplessly, something that is severe and sad and wanting and needing to be closed.

My hands shake as I start bagging her items, answering numbly to her questions. I spend two hours at the register, the shakes subsiding slowly. I pull apart everything I said, and can hardly even remember what he said, or his face. The numbness heats to a thousand-thousand emotions. Embarrassment that this is where he found me. Guilt that I’m embarrassed. Sadness that I can still be affected like this. Anger that I could be affected. Vanity that our first meeting after five years is when I’m sullen, unshaven and unshowered. Vanity that I wasn’t glamorous, or wearing something cute, or that I didn’t tell him I’m a writer. And the deepest, most unmovable anger at myself for being upset, when I know that our seeing each other did nothing for him.

We haven’t spoken in five years, our last interaction being me telling him that I was in love with him, and him telling me I was “brave.” That is a type of shame that still prickles, that even though I offered it willingly and (I told myself) expecting nothing else, that his response was not effusive love, or hate or indifference. It was admiration. There is nothing more sexless than admiration.

I didn’t think of that when I saw him – I was that when I saw him. Suddenly I was seventeen and boiling with angst and hurt and willful ignorance. I would not trade going back to high school for anything after this – I’ve romanticized the forcefulness of teenage emotions now that I’m on medication, feeling that it was a closed chapter. Apparently it just takes a lit match to torch my sense of even-keeledness and reignite every teenaged tumult.

And above all was this sense that I was not entitled to this reaction. I did not date him; he did not love me; I don’t even know if he was gay. We were not star-crossed lovers; we were hardly even friends. I am not deserved these emotions; I have not earned this reaction.

I am, I know and I hope, over him. But my crush on him was so wrapped up in a thousand other things; family issues and body issues and high school and the future and my sexuality and my depression. He is so charged for me, the light switch for every maelstrom I had in high school and thought that I left behind.

I’ve begun to slowly parse my high school experience, understanding how those early years affected me and affect me and will affect me. So I know that my reaction was the culmination and nexus of a hundred small cuts – I’m struggling to find a psychiatrist, I’m tackling grad school education, I’m redefining friendships, I’m not excelling in my field. I’m trying to figure out what post-grad looks like for me.

And that this, the navel of my high school experience, could turn up in a shock and affect me so is unsettling and sad and mean. That I wasn’t over it and that I was in it still without even realizing. That I felt this desperate need to prove to him that I was worth something. That I could be so obsessive in that same way I was when I would Google his name so often that clicking the search bar summoned it without even typing a single letter.

There’s this doubleness – of feeling the emotions as if they are both mine and someone else’s. They are and they aren’t, because I’m not that kid anymore. But in a way, graduating feels like it’s stripped me of that confidence I built in clusters. I’m wayward now; I’m figuring it out. In college, I had classes and friends and a schedule and parties. Now, I have the wide expanse of almost limitless options that do nothing but overwhelm me.

I’m sad, I guess, for a lot of things. “Sad” feels like the smallest and sparest of terms to use, but it also feels the truest. When you boil down all these conflicting emotions, I imagine that there is a small bone of sad clunking to the bottom of the pot.

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Rambles, Thinkpiece

WHAT IS MY VOICE?

In a lot of ways, I’m so similar to Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Like her, I have red hair, blue eyes and a tail. My first crush was Prince Eric (hasn’t changed), and I love lounging on rocks. And like Ariel, sis, I don’t really have a voice right now!

Not literally: I’ve got a voice that has been described as “melodious” and/or “gay,” and it’s served me well. I’m talking about my writing voice. It’s a large part of why I’ve been so lax about posting. Ever since graduating, I’ve feel well and truly lost as to what my post-grad voice sounds like.

In college, I operated under a near-blind and almost entirely undue amount of confidence. Really, looking back, it’s astounding that I didn’t get hit by a car or fall into a river. I was so cocky, you guys. So cocky.

I wrote with the vigor of someone who had not yet felt the sting of a thousand-thousand job rejections and who has not had to answer the question, “So…what are you doing?” with pained laughter until eyes are averted and the question is glossed over.

In college, I assumed – without any proof – that my voice was winsome and inviting, a tone that would remain immortal. And while I will remain immortal – I’ve been pretty much guaranteed that – I don’t think I took into account that people, and their ensuing tones and beliefs, change and adapt.

And even nearly a year later – gulp – I’m realizing that I didn’t allow myself the space to grow, or the gentleness that growing and changing, and being lost, is okay.

There are a lot of reasons why my tone has changed. First, it would be naïve and impossible to ignore the fact that I advertise this blog on my resume, and potential employers would stumble upon it regardless if they Google my name. Well, they’ll have to go through a few search pages (there’s other Danny McCarthy’s but none are as hot as me, thank god) but eventually they’ll get there. So with that is the pressure of Am I writing in the right way and Is this the right thing to say and What will people think. That didn’t factor into my writing in college because, you know, delusion.

Second, is that I’ve been living my life and that’s changed how I think about things. It’s impossible not to evolve (ask any Pokémon, sis!), and it’s been a challenge to channel everything that’s happening into a cohesive, passionate tone. Ambivalence doesn’t sell, and I’ve felt dangerously close to ambivalent about a lot of things lately.

And third, my tone has changed because I’ve been kinda going through it. Graduating and job-searching and graduate school applications have shaken my confidence in a major way. Before I graduated, I was a Boston 8 with the confidence of a telemarketer, and now I’m a New York 6 with the confidence of the first baker eliminated on Great British Bake Off.

In a lot of ways, I’m navigating the unknown, and the unknown makes it difficult to suss out what to share and what to keep private. Things have bigger stakes now; it’s just not wondering if I’ve pissed off someone by blowing up their spot or weirding someone out by waxing poetic about the way their voice leans. I’m selling the brand of me, and honey people are not buying it – not even the free trial!

But I’d like to get back to that place. Not the cosseted, unaware spot, but the place where I am so brimming with a desire to write that other people’s perceptions of it are a distinct second thought. I’d like to feel more steady in my writing, if just for the fact that writing is how I process everything that happens in my life. It’s quite literally my lifeline and my method for understanding everything.

And I lied – I’m a New York 7.

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2018, Politics

GIVE ME THE PHONE

“When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the fucking phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.”

A few weeks ago, I read a profile of David Hogg on The Outline. Hogg is seventeen and, along with Emma González, one of the loudest voices for gun control in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead.

I found the article after a lot of conservative outlets had been circulating a rumor that Hogg and González were “crisis actors,” people paid to pretend that they have been in the shooting. In the profile, Hogg comes across as brittle, scathing, running on anger and entirely exhausted. And as I was reading the profile and watching the attached video, I found myself wondering what happens when to Hogg, or González, or anyone who survived the Parkland shooting or any other gun shooting, when the cameras go off and the lights shut down and the anger diminishes for a moment.

They’re all subsisting on anger and rage – rightfully – and I thought about how desperately sad it is that after this trauma, they’re not allowed to just sit and cry and recover. Because of the situation they’re in, the situation we put them in, these kids are not, and cannot, be kids. They have to be advocates; they have to be warriors. In stripping them of their safety and their friends and their lives, we’ve also stripped them of their right to grieve.

When David said the above line, about the phone, it made sense to me. Gun massacres are becoming increasingly common in America, and the news cycle is always the same. It happens, we react, the news churns for a while and then, inevitably, everyone moves on. These kids are fighting so hard to stop that from happening, because as soon as we move on, we are signing the death warrants for someone else. The fact that it’s a month on, and we’re still seeing action from the students is not just impressive, it’s unprecedented.

They’ve witnessed the adults in their lives, the adults in government, refuse to protect them, choose guns and money over them. And so they have to protect themselves, advocate for themselves. It’s beautiful in its own way, but it’s disgusting that we’re asking children to take up the fight for gun control. And it’s disgusting how people have vilified them for asking for life; how people have gone after Hogg and claimed it’s fair game, how someone called Emma González a “skinhead.” How people derided the school walkouts today as an “excuse” to skip school. That people cannot have the empathy or the willingness to understand is astounding but not surprising.

These kids shouldn’t have to do all this, but they are because the adults refuse to do anything. Give them the fucking phone.

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Essay, LGBTQ, Life, Love & Romance, Millennials, Movies, Thinkpiece

CALL ME BY YOUR SAME

I watched Call Me By Your Name on a flight back from Amsterdam recently (brag!). And whether it was the combination of airplane red wine and altitude, or perhaps a human, beating heart, I was so deeply affected by the viewing that I’ve floated in a fog the last few days, one that I’ve characterized as a “gay funk.”

A gay funk is a peculiar and particular kind of funk for me – and trust, I’ve got plenty of funk genres. It comes from a place of mixed happiness and sadness – the font of queerdom, the well of homosexuality.

I’m not going to get into it here – for a multitude of reasons, including that you are not paying me, sis, and also I doubt my psychiatrist would recommend that I do it – but I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with the fact that a lot of my high school experience was fucked-up, and painful, and distinctly not okay. It’s hard in a lot of ways, to recharacterize something after the fact, but I’ve felt lighter for it.

So the idea of watching a movie that essentially splays out the past traumas I’ve been dealing with – youth and queerness and masculinity and love – sent red flares in my vision and, if I’m being honest, I actively avoided seeing the movie. But with the stretch of eight hours ahead of me and nothing to do but sit, I finally relented.

It also comes from a very legitimate place of cynicism. Queer men, particularly gay, white men, are luckier than others in our community in the fact that we have had more and varied representation in the media. But still, the idea of a movie that depicted my experience made me wary and scared. We get so few chances, and I didn’t want one to be squandered. I wanted to remain unseen.

But in a similar way to Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name truthfully and honestly depicted shades of my life in ways that felt like a tribute, rather than an exploitation.

It was painful to watch, Call Me By Your Name, but it was a curious pain because I felt it lancing me softly and beautifully. I felt parts of me uncoil, spirals of sadness that have been clamped up for so long. I was sad watching the movie, and jealous in ways, and unjealous in others.

Surprise, surprise, but I did not have a love story like Elio and Oliver’s in my high school experience. I had one, very intense and unrequited love – in the way that only seventeen-year-old closeted kids can love – but I related to the breathless, heartsick trill of their relationship. And honestly, I can’t ignore the fact that Armie Hammer is of the same mold as my high school crush: blonde and strappingly all-American.

So much of the romance in my life has been wrapped up with shame, longing, sadness and guilt, and that what I felt the movie portrayed so honestly. How love is propelled by a desire to satiate your own loneliness, quell the turmoil and the self-sabotaging desire to jump. Despite growing up in a world that was growing more and more tolerant of being gay, I don’t recall any positive representation of queer love in my childhood. I had no interactions with gay people, had no inkling that they could be thriving adults.

Watching Call Me By Your Name invoked a sadness similar to the first time I read Giovanni’s Room, sadness that our experience of love is so often colored by pain. I know that this can be a universal experience, but it feels particularly like the nexus of queerness. It’s sad, but it’s also comforting; that we’re a part of a lineage and history that extends beyond your singular, mortal self, despite that mantle being so wrought with pain.

Hence the gay funk: so many of the queer people I know didn’t get to have clean, cut-and-dry first experiences. They were tainted by who we were, and how the world treated us. So watching Call Me By Your Name made me viciously jealous of a tenet of teenhood that I missed out on. The movie made me sad for the kid that I was. The kid who was robbed of so many things, so many experiences. For all the love that I did have, there was so much love spilled on the ground, wastefully draining away. I’m sad for what he had to go through, for what he didn’t realize he was going through, and for what he would be going through.

But the movie made me happy in a lot of ways, because that pain was clarifying for me – it crystallized, for good and bad, the person that I am. It made me a fighter and empathetic and clumsy, complex and ruthless and fragile. It made me question who I was – it made me fight for myself. It grounded me in my own soil. It also reminded me that, in spite of it all, I loved being a teenager. I loved feeling all the nuances and complexity of emotions – first best friends, first break-up, first disappointment, first triumph. Like Mike Phelps was built for swimming, I was built for feeling things deeply. A lot of that (lol) was depression, but I think that even without being depressed, my body would be carved for intensity of feeling.

And it’s funny, because if I saw that kid – seventeen-year-old me – I would think that he was beautiful. I would admire his grit, his humor, his broken attempts at concealing how deeply and tumultuously he cared. I would’ve found him brave, and witty, and endearing, even as he attempted to be as spiky as possible. It’s the lasting echo I’ve carried with me since watching the movie: deep, bursting love for the kid that I was, despite everything, despite all the pain. And that’s what the end of the movie was about. Closing yourself off from grief is another kind of trauma. Feeling things deeply is not a curse, it’s part of the experience.

So much of life is love tempered with pain. One doesn’t exist without the other.

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