2018, college, Humor, Life, Millennials

One year on from graduation: EAT, GAY, LOVE

It’s officially been one year since I graduated from college, and I weirdly felt fine about it. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I was working that day – nothing distracts you like an endless array of customers screaming about groceries – but it also could probably be attributed to the fact that I spent literal months stressing and freaking out about the fact that I was graduated that I think I exhausted it out of my body.

But the official end of the first year, even without the heart palpitations, made me take stock of what I’ve accomplished since then. Lol! !!

🙂 EAT 🙂

Part of the unspoken (but passive-aggressive) rule of moving back home was that I was going to responsible for cooking dinner. This wouldn’t be a problem (I’d been cooking for myself for over two years !) except for the fact that my family is both rude and not shy about criticizing my cooking.

So I really tried to be better about cooking (i.e. not burning things and calling it “intentional” or “crispy”), and I’m excited to bring that with me in my next iteration: as a gay monster and University of Southern California Annenberg graduate student. My mom keeps saying, “Your roommate will be so impressed!” which for some reason, like, does not inspire confidence. “My mom thinks I’m a good cook!!” doesn’t roll off the mature tongue.

Before this year, I don’t think I knew what “dredging” was, and now it’s literally my favorite thing to do to chicken and white fish. Also, I never cooked white fish before!! Now I love a good sole!! A year ago, I was microwaving potatoes, and now I’m literally so obsessed with finding the perfect method for making sweet potato fries that I’m going to write a blog post about it.

😉 GAY 😉

The second, and skinniest, thing I accomplished is mah body. I feel weird talking about my body for like 8000 reasons, but one is that I’m thin. I’ve generally always been thin, and – thanks to future medicine and the plastic surgery I plan on getting – I’ll probably stay thin. But to combat depression and a freelance lifestyle, I recommitted myself to the gym and lost 20-ish pounds this year.

I knew going into this body journey that it could be a dangerous path: when I was at my most depressed, the gym was a salve that gradually became a crutch. I was obsessed with going, because when I was there I could zone out and forget everything else.

I think I went into this year of fitness a different way, and I set weight goals, yes, but I also set goals outside of weight loss. I’ve written about this before, but I became obsessed with doing unassisted pull-ups. Upper body strength was never a huge part of my workout-life; in high school, I was a long- and mid-distance runner, where the emphasis was put on stamina and pacing (shorter distances place a higher premium on upper body strength). So I never really thought about pull-ups, and kind of dreaded them.

But as I started working out more – and probably aided by losing a few pounds – I began feeling the unassisted pull-up coming into my grasp. Currently, I can do 4×4 unassisted pull-ups (with 12 lbs dumbbells clamped between my thighs) and 4×4 unassisted chin-ups. My new goal is to do 3×8 pull-ups (I’m currently able to do one set of eight, and can maybe do two sets on a good day).

Setting these goals that existed outside of any weight loss put the emphasis not on cutting calories or excessive cardio, but building up my strength. I began feeling like I was training to be some sort of gay, chic spy. I’ve leaned out more, and I can see the whisper of those 11 abs that lady yoga instructors have sometimes. Goals. Also I’d like to hit (however briefly) 169 pounds for the hilarious joke. It will not be funny to anybody but me.

😀 LOVE 😀

Despite the fact that I’ve gone back – officially – on dating apps, this section is not about my quest for a man. I know that my future husband, wherever he is, is probably in his last year of medical school, and has to gather a net worth of a couple mill before we even meet. And I love that for me, and he loves that for me.

I’m talking about self love. I went back into therapy this year, after a tumultuous few months away from it. and while it has not been easy – it’s actively been very hard – and I don’t think I’m nearly there yet, I feel like the work I’ve done, and the realizations I’ve made, have been very positive and very important for me. A lot of therapy is recognizing patterns you’ve engaged in, how they relate to larger behaviors, and what those behaviors mean in the grand scheme of your psyche. It sounds kinda simple, but lol it is tiring y’all.

🙂  😉  😀

I’ll be honest, I’m sure I would feel very differently about this year being up if I didn’t have my next step planned out. I’m excited to go onto my next step, and I can breathe a little easier on this anniversary knowing that I’ve got at least one thing in the future planned.

It also matters very much to other people. It’s socially acceptable, in what I’ve witnessed, to have something coming down the pike. People like knowing that you’ve got some sort of plan that fits into what they think you should be doing.

I had a customer the other day lean over and say, eyes kind and completely unaware of how condescending her question was, “Do you know what you want to do with your life?” In her eyes, working at Trader Joe’s was not good enough; it had to be a transitional station and not a destination. So I can’t pretend that part of my chillness about being a year out from graduation is the fact that my plan lines up with societal expectations on me.

This took a turn, but it’s all connected in my mind. This year out of school has been emotionally trying; facing professional uncertainty, rejection and trials have really made me think about what I want to pursue. And while I’m currently so excited and happy about where I’m going, it’s important for me to acknowledge that this year was not just about passing time or waiting for the next thing to come along. This year, in its entirety, was meant for me – it was meant for me to grow and to challenge myself and to experience new, sometimes uncomfortable, things.

I’ve included this because it’s a bop and it’s what i’m listening to as i’m editing this. 

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2018, Life, Rambles

GOLDEN HOUR

Written while sitting outside Starbucks in the sun, surrounded by wealthy mothers with Goyard totes, sipping on a tall cold brew (in a grande cup, for maximum product!) and streaming Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” off the titular album.

I just got back from a weekend trip to Boston (Chic! Tea!), and it’s the first time that, despite having gone back for weekend trips before) that I stepped actual feet back on my college campus since I graduated almost exactly eleven months ago.

When I went back up in October, I was fresh and wounded from the school year having started (the first one that I was not there for) and so I avoided it on purpose. I was starting a new job, but I was definitely far from settled, and didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my year, let alone my whole life. I still don’t, but things are slightly more settled.

This year has been an unintended sabbatical and break for me. After graduating, I had these unformed plans of “Graduate. Move home. Find job. Rinse. Repeat.” I graduated; I moved home; I started applying for jobs. I rinsed, I repeated.

I emailed a local magazine on a whim to do an informational, and ended up with some freelance writing. I got a job doing freelance copy-editing and dipped my toe into a full-adult-human workday. To make up the in-between, I applied for a job at a local Trader Joe’s. I started studying for the GRE and began researching graduate programs. Slowly slowly, I began to fill up my days and the months began to pass. The panicked, failure feeling began to dissipate (not completely, but in small bits).

With the extra time, I dove (well, tepidly stuck my toe in and then dove) back into therapy. There were serious things that I wanted to tackle, things that I had not had the time, mental capacity or vocabulary to tackle before. Before, addressing certain topics would make them real, which would make them impossible to ignore, and would therefore open me up to vulnerabilities. This year was an entire twelve months of vulnerabilities, so I figured there was no time like the present. Why not knock out all of my anxieties and issues in one fell swoop? (It’s not that simple or that clean, but honey let me have this!)

I have not successfully come out on top of any of the issues that I wanted to tackle (if anything, they’ve proved to be more complex and multifaceted than I originally believed) but they no longer feel insurmountable. They no longer feel like cracks in my pavement or deal-breakers. In short, I no longer feel unfixable.

I’ve also incorporated more color into my wardrobe. If you’re thinking, “Whoa! This is a shift from talking about psychiatry!” then you’d be right but you’d also be not in my brain. A lot of how I dressed, dark colors and baggy cuts, was to detract attention away from my body. I wanted to have attention, but I didn’t want my body – or what I considered to be a coterie of problems – to be at the nexus. But over the last few months, as I’ve been opening up about the sources of those issues, I’ve felt myself craving color on a level that I never have before.

I wore a glorious gold hoodie over the weekend, and endured some teasing from my friends about its vivacity. But I didn’t care because it was so sunny and beautiful and eye-catching. I picked up two t-shirts – one pale pink and one pale yellow – from a local thrift store, colors I would never usually gravitate towards. But I’ve felt more confident, and with wearing color, I feel like I’m saying, “You can see me. I’m okay with it.”

I’m hitting a golden hour of sorts. I’ve endured gray moments over the past year, some downright turbulent and stormy, but I can feel myself hitting my stride. Large parts of that are due to being more settled – in life, grad school, and myself. But I think it’s also that I’m, for the first time, allowing myself to be seen – to be opened up in different ways.

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2018, Life, Things Happening RN

TRYING TO BE HOT AT MY FIVE-YEAR REUNION

On Saturday, I had my five-year high school reunion.

I went in with low expectations, and by that I mean that I went in with the highest expectations and fully expected to be disappointed.

I regularly make jokes about the kind of person I was in high school; “I looked like a thumb with eyes” is a common one, given the fact that I had red, horrible skin, didn’t figure out a haircut that worked for me and I plucked my light eyebrows into impossibly high, thin arches that rendered them completely invisible in photos.

Embarrassingly (although everyone is guilty of this) I was obsessed with maintaining a façade even more than I was obsessed with maintaining a severe eyebrow arch. I probably even loved saying the word “façade” in high school. Difficult pronunciation and a squiggly accent mark? Chic! Essentially, I was kind of geeky and not-chic, except that I thought I was the most chic. Animal-print? Yes please. Neon? Why not! I was also perhaps most famous in high school for having a blog, and by that I mean, I was gay and literate and wrote about it.

Going into this reunion, I had one main goal: make everyone want to kill themselves with jealousy.


I assumed that this goal was very much attainable and also very much in the bag. However, things started to unravel very quickly. A tussle with a sheet mask ended up with me having a slight allergic reaction. A haircut ended up looking a little too egghead. My skin, which has been on a journey not dissimilar to Arya Stark trying to find her way back to Winterfell, decided to have a flare-up! Everything was coming up rosacea!

For reasons that I discuss extensively in therapy but will not disclose here, I feel a powerful need to prove myself to everyone, but particularly people who dislike me. Given the fact that I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school and was gay/wore leopard-print, I was not wanting for enemies or bullies!

I showed up to cocktail hour an hour late and dressed fucking cute, and immediately realized that I would not get through this night without alcohol. I was sucked into a conversation with a former classmate about his career track. He does something client-facing, and wears ties, and honestly that’s all I could remember because I was too busy scanning the faces of other classmates and making mental notes of everyone who got hot.

As I mentioned, I went to a prep school, whose main exports are insecurity complexes and people who work in square professions – finance, real estate, anything that has you start as an “analyst.” I was one of maybe four people who was in a creative industry, and reminder, I barely have a job! I was back in an environment that both fostered trust-fund fist bumps and discouraged me making any sort of “anal-yst” jokes! It was tough!

To overcompensate, when people asked me what I did, I formulated a square and safe response. “I’m a writer, and I’m going to grad school in July.”

Over the course of the evening, I got progressively looser and more annoying. “I’m a writer” became “I’m a freelancer writer,” which became “I’m a freelancer writer and I work at Trader Joe’s,” which somehow devolved into “I write about gay stuff!” and then completely deteriorated into just “Gay!”

To be fair, it always ends up that way.

But sometimes I realized, as my answers about “What I’m Doing” became sillier and more honest, is that people responded in kind. I got an accountant to admit that if I don’t pay taxes, there’s a possibility that nothing will happen (don’t do this though, pay your taxes). I asked a civil engineer if he got inspiration from that underground cavern in Marvel’s The Defenders. He did not laugh!


When I was saying hi to somebody, the person next to him saw me and made to do the “How are you doing!” facial shift.

The problem with this was that we never had a conversation in high school. I knew who he was because he’s hot, and he knew who I was because I’m gay, but no words passed betwixt us. So when he said, “How’ve you been?” I responded with “I’m good – I’m excited to have our first conversation ever!” And all he could do was laugh because literally it’s true.

And once we got over the truth, we actually had a conversation. We talked about high school, his work, my work, marijuana dispensaries and being hot.

I detest small talk because it kind of defeats the purpose – it’s meant to facilitate conversation, but it actually becomes a barrier against having real conversation. It becomes “Where did you go to college again?” and “What have you been doing?” instead of “Did you love college?” and “What do you think of Cardi B?”

By the way, people have high praise for Cardi!

I understand the impulse to put your best foot forward – I’m the fucking mayor of Putting Your Best Foot Forward – so I’m not sure exactly what snapped in me, but I’m glad it did. Because instead of exchanging meaningless pleasantries, I actually dug into real conversation with both old friends and people that I had never connected with in high school.

High school was messy in roughly eight thousand ways, and these all made going back into the Vineyard Vines viper’s pit quite stressful, which is probably why I became acutely obsessed with my appearance. A classic redirect to avoid confronting past trauma, sis!

But despite it all, I’m glad I went. I got a chance to look hot in suede boots, call everybody “hon” and “handsome” and snag an alumni baseball cap. And at the end of the day, that’s really all I could ask for.

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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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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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Humor, Life, Mental Health, Things Happening RN

Lol – I’m Depressed

It was probably the eighth time that I went to open a Word document to write a blog post, hovered over that blue W and then flicked my finger away that I realized something was probably wrong.

It was probably when waking up left me feeling more tired, the kind of deep, head-wrapped tired that dips your bones in wax.

It was probably when the thought of sending an email filled me with enough anxiety to justify binge-watching the latter half of Real Housewives of New Jersey. (I also just, like, had to do this. Siggy is crazy, y’all).

It was probably when depression curled itself around me like an angora sweater-shawl that I realized something was up. A blend of cashmere and sadness.

Depression is weird because even when you have a “handle” on it, it can still surprise you. I’ve been in therapy on-and-off since I was fifteen; I’ve had ups and downs and I thought that I was pretty solid on my mental health. Even so, I would be surprised to realize that the few “bad days” I was having, where nothing seemed to go right and my thoughts couldn’t be quelled, were small depressive blips.

In lay terms, I often describe those blips as a common cold. It knocks you out of commission for a few days; it makes you a little fuzzier and a little slower; you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s almost over. But, in the same way that a healthy person always seems a little in denial that their body is fallible, I’m always a little naïve that I can fall prey to these blips.

This last time has been more than a blip: a blap, perhaps, or even potentially a bloop. Depression is wild because it completely changes your way of thinking and distracts you from itself. It’s the Cheshire cat of mental health: me not being able to write a coherent blog post, or answer an email suddenly gets attributed to other things – I’m not funny or talented, or I still can’t figure out if “Best, Danny McCarthy” is going to be my email signature. It took a few days/weeks to realize, “Oh, it’s been you beside me all along.”

I live for a romantic comedy, but not one that ends with me and Depression kissing in a gazebo.

This bloop was brought on by a myriad of things, none of which were particularly noteworthy or memorable in and of themselves. I’m applying to grad school and wading through applications. I’m working. I’m trying to find a psychiatrist. I ran into my major high school crush whilst at my day job when I was underslept and overshaven. I’m living in my childhood bedroom. I graduated from college and I’m spiraling.

There’s no real button to this blog post that’s neat or clean. I’m still having a bloop; and I’m doing self-care in the ways that I know how: forcing myself to write, doing pull-ups and listening to a lot of Kelly Clarkson. I think it’s important to write this because I often feel that whilst I’m in the moment of a bloop that I can’t talk about it: better to wait until it’s over and then I can be triumphant and saintly and tough. But that’s not realistic, and that’s not relatable. And as much as I worry that these seem like “Cry for Help” posts or pity parties, I know that they’re not. I’m fine now, and I’ll be fine later. I don’t want to wax poetically about how I “made it through, and you will do.” I know I’ll make it through, and I know you will too, but hon, we’re here for the moment. Might as well lean into that angora and be honest.

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Essay, Life

GREATEST HITS

“That’s where I made out with a girl watching Julie & Julia!”

“That’s where my grammar school best friend lives. He’s hot now.”

“That’s where I played football and prayed for a broken finger.”

“That’s a Wendy’s.”


Over the weekend, some college friends drove down from Boston and stayed with me. To give them the biggest bang for their buck, I assessed my town and the surrounding area for the Greatest Hits of my life.

Theoretically it’s not difficult. I live in a historically-significant area, full of ancient churches, old big-money family castles and interesting architecture. It’s also thirty minutes from New York City, but I’m not outsourcing my hometown pride to Manhattan. Not chic. I planned out a weekend that catered specifically to my friends: food-centric, a little bit lazy, and nerdy. They’re so lucky to have me, I s2g.

But in planning that weekend, I rediscovered my hometown and my own emotions towards it. I moved to my town when I was eight, entering a new school halfway through the year. This is a fact that I have repressed and forgotten until writing this.

Being the new kid, coupled with the fact that I was un-athletic, annoying and gay, marked me instantly as different. I moved into the suburbs, where the boys balanced sports the way I do Kardashian gossip Instagrams (see, I’m so gay – just picture that in the third grade). Eventually, I made some friends and settled in, but I always felt like I smelled new, different. Kids sense difference intrinsically, like dogs and high notes, and it was made clear to me that I was never a native. Eventually, I grew up and stopped caring, and went to high school and college.

In the weeks before, and in the days during, showing my friends around forced me to take a critical look at where I lived. Whenever I was somewhere interesting, I made a mental note to show it to my friends.

Days before they arrived, I took my dog to a nature preserve. I’ve been going there forever, and it’s a special place for me. When I was a kid, I used it to project my fantasies (epic wooded battles, or tense discussions echoing over the frozen lake water).

Ten steps into it, my dog refused to walk. Rather than go back (I used gas, sweetie – you’re walking on this path) I scooped him up and put him in my coat. He’s small, but thick, and so as I walked (arms aching) around the lake, it triggered one of my earliest memories of the preserve.

When I was nine years old, my family took the same nature walk. We had just gotten the dog. It was snowier then, and he was smaller. I unbuttoned my jacket (denim, lined with Sherpa) and nuzzled him against my shirt, buttoning the jacket over both of us. He was probably not even six months old then, and here he was again, thirteen years later, pulling the same shit. It hit me, all at once, how long I had been walking this exact nature path.

I remembered that jean jacket. A classmate, whom I later found out had a massive crush on me, negged me by telling me her brother had the same jacket but found it to be too feminine (not that that stopped me, honey). I also remembered holding my dog in that same coat one winter and him vomiting wildly over it.

Later, driving around with my friends, I pointed out different places – where I ran track; the field where I, at eleven and weighing as much as a small bird, played football as a defensive lineman and spent the entire season praying for a broken finger. The movie theater where I made out with my first (and only) girlfriend. The houses of childhood friends. My grammar school and corresponding parish church. The Starbucks where my mother and I had our first honest conversation after I came out of the closet. We drove along the Hudson River, and I pointed out the park I went as a teenager, the houses I had campers at during the summer, the high school where I went to one, very awkward high school dance.

I had never let myself settle into my town in the same way I had with my summer camp: a constant regardless of where I lived. I measured my life in those summers, where I started at three and worked until I was 21. The friends, the enemies, the moments. When I think of my childhood and early adulthood, that’s where I go.

But, in spite of myself, I had formed a sentimentality around my town, the school, the fields, my house. Even carrying that New Kid scent, I had formed memories in this area. These places were honeycombed with memories: pediatrician’s offices, hay rides in chilly October, hikes throughout my life, kisses and tears and tantrums.

Showing someone else your town, trying to expose the beauty and the specialness beneath the mundanity, felt a lot like taking stock of your own self. I had grown up here; I had evolved here. It’s something I took for granted forever. Since moving back post-graduation, I’ve had a complex relationship with my hometown (it rings a little too close to Failure to Launch, and if anything, I’m the Sarah Jessica Parker of my universe). But taking other people through my childhood sentiments, I warmed to my places in a way that I hadn’t realized.

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