Life, Rambles


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.

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


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.

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.

Essay, Life


“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.

Books, Essay, Life


The other day, I asked my friend, “Did you even read Harry Potter?” We’re best friends, so I know a decent amount about her, but this was something I don’t remember us ever talking about.

Watch, she’s gonna text me after reading this and go, “Actually we did talk about it on xyz.”

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan – I think the world divides pretty cleanly into fans and non-fans, and usually it comes down to your level of physical fitness in middle school. Despite doing essentially every sport imaginable as some sort last-ditch effort to butch me up, I was not a ~jock~. My parents also severely limited my screen time (a wise decision, because I think my eyeballs would’ve been fried out of my head by now).

So I spent my time in one of a few ways: creating dresses for Polly Pockets (this is a real thing, I really did this), practicing piano, and reading. Reading like “reading under my desk after tests” reading and “bringing three books on vacation” reading. It’s the reason why I am so good at writing (I think) and also the reason why I say things like “I AM THE PROTAGONIST” (see above).

Harry Potter was one of my ultimate favorite series. I’ve probably read the entire thing more than twenty times, and own two sets (one weather-beaten and held together by tape and a prayer; one that came in a “trunk” set for Christmas).

Obviously the follow-up question was, “What house are you?” She’s Gryffindor (because she’s basically Hermione Granger), but that’s not actually important because she’s not the protagonist in this story – I am.

I told her that when Pottermore originally came out (after I did…copycat) I took the Sorting Hat quiz and was placed in Ravenclaw. This fits – I’m smart, clever and more than a little socially insensitive. Also I look amazing in blue. I was happy to be in Ravenclaw, even though everyone secretly wants to be in Gryffindor because Harry Potter was in Gryffindor.

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feminism, LGBTQ, Life, Politics

THEN & NOW — the 1970s (ish)

This morning, I was walking my dog when I found a Polaroid on the edge on my lawn. A few months ago, my neighbor passed away. She was amazing, super fiery and funny; we were actually quite close. We would go to Home Depot together and pick out plants for me to plant in pots around her house, and I would help her if she needed it. She was in her mid-eighties, and a total badass, and I was sadly at school in Boston when she passed away. But in the following months, and the last few weeks especially, her children have been cleaning out her house.

This morning, the last remaining furniture and garbage (which had been piled at the end of her driveway) was cleared away, leaving behind a few scraps and this grimy, grubby Polaroid, picture-down on my lawn. I flipped it around and it was a picture, taken from the stoop of my neighbor’s house of our street—A silver-blue Volkswagen Beetle parked on the curb, framed by lush green leaves. I took it inside, cleaned the grime off the back and the edges, and really looked at it. There’s no date on the Polaroid, but judging from the make of the car, and the amount of time my neighbor lived in her house, I would guess it was taken in the ‘60s or ‘70s.


Source: Danny McCarthy

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Essay, LGBTQ, Life, pop culture, Pride 2017


My first laptop was a thick black Dell that required a near-constant source of power and hummed louder than a barbershop quartet.

It took minutes to load up and froze frequently, which I’m sure is entirely unrelated to the buckets of shady porn websites I was searching. Also unrelated to my search history was the Dell’s untimely and unseemly demise at the hands of a Trojan virus.

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