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.

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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Essay, Humor


Alternately titled “Gland to Meet You” and “Sweaty Pie”

I don’t sweat like a whore in church, I sweat like a brothel in a clown car on the sun.

Over the Easter break, my mother stuffed an Old Navy gift card in my Easter basket. I don’t eat chocolate bars (or bunnies) and I don’t eat jelly beans, so besides Peeps, gift cards are the safest bet. You could argue that I’m too old for Easter baskets, but my response is *plugs ears* “LALACAN’THEARYOU!”

Old Navy holds a special place in my family’s collective heart (we share one, like the Three Fates in Hercules, and pass it around—my turn is next Saturday). Apparently a few years ago they switched designers and that, coupled with the cheap prices and frequent sales, means that in our thrifty household, an Old Navy gift card is Gospel. My mother’s favorite activity is to pick at something you’re wearing and say, “What is this? Where is this from?”

So from Old Navy, I got three shirts. One was simple striped—boring—one was a Golden Girls homage—I’m wearing it right now and I look like the gay Mount Rushmore—and one was a black t-shirt with a Reptar patch stitched above the meat cavity where a heart usually is.

I wore the black shirt twice in one week—I washed it in between, you Judgy Judies—once to a magazine launch party and then to a bar, and once party-hopping in Allston. It’s beyond cute and tres simplistic, but with a touch of early 2000s whimsy (very much my brand right now).

Paired with nondescript chino shorts (Old Navy and J.Crew respectively on the two different nights—yes, I own J.Crew. Intimidated?), Adidas Superstars (now perfectly beaten up, but not too beaten up) and a denim jacket (Amazon), the shirt was great for going out. Simple enough to work, dark enough to be appropriate for nighttime, and an injection of fun to keep it from being monotonous. I put as much thought into my outfits as I do my political coverage—scary.

I figured the black would be perfect because dark colors are generally more forgiving of excessive sweating. This is no secret, I’ve talked about it before, but I sweat more than the average human. I don’t know what dire climate and situation my body thinks I’m in, but there really is no physiological stimulus that requires such a response. I have a theory that because I work out (is it drafty in here from the door I opened to do that backdoor brag?) a lot, my body has assumed that any situation I’m in requires a waterfall to keep me cool. I appreciate that my body is looking out for me, but it’s also kind of ruining my life.


Source: Giphy

My sweating itself doesn’t bother me that much—it’s like, babe, we all do it—but anticipating the reaction from others about my sweating sends me into…a cold sweat. Then it becomes a vicious cycle until I pass out from dehydration. It began one day in church, when I shook hands to pass along “peace” to my sister, when she recoiled and hissed “Sweaty” in an accusation.

Whether it was the thinness (and breathability) of the cotton, or the particular shade of the black (a subtle charcoal), whether it was just a particular sweaty day for me, the individual reasons don’t matter. What matters was, on both occasions of me wearing the shirt, my body sweat began darkening the fabric, turning that charcoal-black into the black of the unforgivable void, of blackholes. Really sweaty people know that it’s not just the armpits you have to worry about, or the small of your back—that’s amateur hour. Real sweaters have the conspicuous dotting over your chest and stomach, where sweat rolls down slick skin and catches against your skin despite your best efforts to hunch your back and add negative space between your front and the shirt. To no avail.

Even after the sweatiness of Thursday, I wore the shirt Saturday because I’m optimistic and just a little bit stupid. I thought that I could scooch past my destiny, even when the omens had already appeared in my lap. And my back. And my chest. But, I’m being unfair to my own body. Sweating isn’t all bad.

But like I said, I actually don’t care about my sweating that much, besides the mild discomfort of it all. And after a few drinks and some vigorous jumping jacks, I can play it off quite nicely. Sweating? Who me? Oh I guess it’s because I just did some push-ups. You can always pass off sweat as a funky tie-dye pattern. It won’t work, but if sweating has taught me anything, it’s that you don’t quit.

 Sweating is also great for breaking the ice, and that’s not just because salt is corrosive to frozen water.

I’d like to think it’s my good looks, or my height, or my wit, but I’m intimidating to people. So being a sweaty betty is my version of a mole (a la Cindy Crawford) or eyebrows (a la Cara Delevingne) or gap tooth (a la idk various British models)—the slight imperfection that humanizes someone otherwise inhuman. When I crack jokes about being too sweaty, other (less attractive) people find that we have something in common and that I’m relatable. Sweating also keeps me humble, and if you pause at this point and say, “Hey, you’re actually not humble,” then imagine how bad I would be if I had inactive sweat glands. I would be a monster.

So that stupid Reptar shirt actually taught me a lot. It taught me that appearances don’t always matter, that illustrated depictions of prehistoric giant lizards are fraught with misrepresentations, and that charcoal black is not as forgiving as one might assume. It also saved me from embarrassing myself when the party I went to was revealed to have a (previously unknown) theme of “early 2000s”. Luckily I dress in early 2000s wherever I go. Thanks, Reptar!

Side bar: This post is going to be over 1000 words, which I was easily able to crank out about the topic of sweating, but took me several hours to reach when I was profiling a comedy website. Why am I like this?

Essay, Humor


A.k.a. I didn’t recognize somebody; Alternative titles included “I Don’t Know Her: The Danny McCarthy Story,” “Goodall for Nothing: Can’t Recognize Faces” and “Face It”.

I ran into a situation where I was greeted by someone whom I didn’t remember, and my level of unrecognition was so deep that I felt that not only had I never seen this face before, I had never seen any human face before.

Let me back up.

I was going into Allston—think Brooklyn with less gentrification and more rats—to meet up with a friend at Buffalo Exchange and get light-wash shorteralls (a decision that has garnered me much derision).

Buffalo Exchange is a slightly more-curated, one-tier-up version of Goodwill. Hipsters go there to get cheap clothing when they can’t hit the free shipping minimum for Urban Outfitters. So instead of buying some shorteralls online, and not knowing the fit or how much of a blue jean lima bean I would look like—

Side bar: If I ever make a country album, it’ll be called Blue Jean Lima Bean and I’ll have a wheat straw clenched in my teeth.

—I decided to be economically savvy. I would go to Buffalo Exchange and see if they had any shorteralls or overalls (or as I call them ‘pre-shorteralls’). I wanted a kind of folksy, “makes my own soap” Bushwick-Coachella-Rumspringa summer look. Essentially, I aspire to look as Amish as possible at all times.

And in Buffalo Exchange I had my Fifty First Dates-level of amnesia.

Buffalo was packed to the gills. A line of people looking to drop off clothing (for store credit or cash) snaked through the men’s section. After picking up several “Can’t Decide If They’re Ugly or Hip” button-downs, I shifted to the t-shirt rack. As I was figuring out if I hated myself to subject myself to this torture, someone tapped me on the shoulder, the one opposite to the line of people.

I turned towards an older man in a fedora and—I might be exaggerating but I don’t think so—a full three-piece suit. “Izeverthin here a dowla?” he asked.

I literally stared at him. “Um…”

“Izeverythin here a dowla?” he asked again, and I realized he was asking, “Is everything here a dollar?” in a thick Boston accent.

Being rude, I assumed that he didn’t get Buffalo Exchange like I got Buffalo Exchange, so with one hand—my other hand was holding several ugly button-downs—I thumbed the price tag out of the t-shirt he was looking at. “That’s the price–$9.40,” I smiled at him. But he was not satiated.

“No, the sign says a dowla,” he shook his head and pointed over his shoulder at a sign on the wall. I squinted at it: “Earth Day, Everything A Dollar.” But I still didn’t know what to say, so I made a silent “help me” plea to the line behind me of people waiting to drop off clothes.

“Everything in one section was a dollar before 3 p.m.,” a girl—dark hair, olive skin and startlingly light eyes lined in glittery eyeshadow—answered, pulling me out of my misery.

“And it’s,” I said, pulling out my phone, “3:40.”

“One dollar, that’s a good deal,” I remarked to her before turning back to the man. “Sorry.” He grumbled something about “a dowla” again before turning back into his own shopping. “Thanks,” I said to the girl.

“No problem,” she answered brightly before adding, “And by the way, nice to see you again!” and squeezing me genially on the shoulder.

aHhH!” I squeaked at her open, friendly eyes—eyes that I had never, in my entire life, ever seen before. She smiled as I managed to croak out, “You too!!”

Now, I’m very good at faces. It probably comes from being an unathletic gay kid in a Catholic grammar school, but because I didn’t have a lot of friends, I spent a lot of time observing people. And because of that, I’m generally pretty good at remembering faces, even if I’m not that good at remembering names. I’m great at remembering bizarre details—I won’t know your name, but I’ll remember that you hate avocadoes.

The reason I’m bad at names but good at faces is because whenever you’re introducing yourself to me, my mind is going rapid-fire, “I hope my palms aren’t sweaty; don’t squeeze too hard; say your name, you idiot” on and on. But the entire time, I’m staring at your face.

So as I was staring into this black hole of her face—a face I was sure I had never seen before—my mind was frantically pinballing around my recent memory to no avail. Afraid she would try to continue the conversation, I shyly shifted away to another side of the t-shirt rack and studiously avoided her glance.

The reason I was so shaken is because not only was this a face I had no memory of, but clearly she had a very strong memory of me. And since I pride myself on good facial recognition, I suddenly felt as if I wouldn’t be able to recognize any faces ever. I furtively looked around, hoping that I didn’t run into anyone else that I didn’t remember. How deep does this go? I wondered. Who do I recognize?

As I stumbled around the store looking for my friend—Would I even know her when I saw her?—I felt as if I were in a TV show where the protagonists realizes that they haven’t been remembering anything. It was Jason Bourne meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Jane Goodall to taste.

Eventually I found my friend—screaming someone’s name over and over in a small store with strangers is generally a good way of finding people—and told her what had happened. All the while I looked around to make sure that the girl wasn’t within earshot. Although, admittedly, there was no way for me to know if she was or not. And if I ever ran into that girl again, I probably wouldn’t remember her face because the last time I saw her face I was in a noiseless scream. The cycle is wont to happen again so I’ll probably never know this girl.

And at the end of the day, I guess the moral of the story is that I ended up buying a pair of ripped-up $20 Levis.