friends

Something about Boystown. (Dammit.)

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Oh, dammit, Doug. DSC_0067I don't make it to Boystown often, but every time I'm there, I think of you.

I had the best dinner tonight; I actually won it. Just for tweeting. I was only beginning to use Twitter when you knew me. Tonight it won me fried chicken.

I went for a run this afternoon — I'm back to running again, signed up for a 10K that's this fall — then came home, showered and took the train to Sheridan. It felt like fall today, on June 6. Even the setting sun seemed like an autumn sunset, with the kind of chilled warmth that only an October sun can give.

Except today.

Just shy of 7 p.m., everyone was already inside waiting for the Blackhawks game to start. It was just me and the sidewalks and my lengthening shadow.

I took myself on a date.

Dinner was at Hearty and started with a cocktail, an elderflower gimlet made with Small's Gin and St. Germain. I ordered fried mac and cheese for an appetizer and a fried chicken basket for dinner. Sinful.

I sat alone in the corner of the room, facing the sidewalk, and watched Halsted dim, fade to pink then black. I had Malbec with my chicken and a glass of sparkling wine with dessert. I chatted with the gay men at the table next to me; I walked my bubbles to the opposite corner of the room for a toast with another solo female diner. She'd just gotten divorced and only recently moved to the neighborhood.

You could always talk to anyone, too. Actually, to the point where it almost embarrassed me.

Anyway, I went all out. You'd have been proud.

I took the long way home.

I decided, after paying the check, to take the long way home, down Halsted through Boystown. And the second I hit Addison, your 6'3" presence loomed in my path.

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You never seemed so tall; you were more like a carnival-game stuffed animal with a penchant for repeating salacious stories and the best Barcelona accent I'd ever heard. But tonight, you were a hulk on the street.

I walked past Tapas Gitana, where a wooden sign hung down from the awning beckoning people to the patio where we drank sangria till we were sick. Across the street, the sex shop where we staged our dildo sword fight was all aglow, with pleather underwear in the windows in a riot of colors all set for Pride Fest.

And then, the parking lot of the 7-Eleven. Why it was at that moment the lump of uncried tears chose to attack my throat, I can't be sure. I was so drunk on cheap rosé when we got that pedicab from my first-ever Pride Parade that I barely remember our first afternoon there. I remember the streets littered with strings of plastic beads and our clothes stuck to our bodies from the torrential downpour. And I remember that eternal ride home in the rain was one of the best times I've ever had.

Dammit.

 I guess you're still here.

Just after the 7-Eleven parking lot, I walked past a group of kids holding a sign that said, "BAD JOKES. ANYTHING WILL HELP!" I asked if they were hungry and handed over my leftovers, all for this:

"Have you heard the one about the broken pencil?" "… No?" "… Ah, never mind. It has no point."

It was so worth surrendering my chicken and the last fried mac and cheese square. We would have been all the way to Belmont before we stopped cackling.

I'd rather be drinking with you.

I can't believe you'll have been gone three years this fall. Lisa and I talk about you like it's been a week since we saw you, even if I do refer to you as my dead friend Doug. I mean it with love, like the time you made a Parkinson's joke and didn't realize my mom had it. I know you'd understand.

I can't believe I was with him the night you collapsed, and I can't believe you left never knowing the real me. Or maybe you did. But I've changed so much, Doug.

I’m still irresponsible and silly, and I know we could cause so much trouble together. But I wish you could meet Mark, and the cats — hell, I'd say I wish you could have met Emaline, but I know you two are causing trouble somewhere right now — and I wish we could sit on my deck and drink more cheap rosé together.

I'd rather be drinking with you than writing this post. I'd rather be drinking with you than doing a lot of things.

I think you'd be proud of the woman I've become. You loved me as a hot mess, too, I know.

You know, you never did read my blog, and that never…really bothered me. I told you everything you needed to know.

 

Dammit.

Never mind the why and wherefore.*

https://thirdparty.fmpub.net/placement/401616?fleur_de_sel=timestamp Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

 

It's a debate I often have with myself: Is it possible for someone you've never met to be one of your best friends? Today is a "yes" day.

Apparently, October 26 of last year was a "yes" day, too. So was November 24. Okay. Never mind — it's not a debate. It's totally possible.

I'm going through e-mails this morning that I've sent to this best friend I've never met, to write about him for his birthday. Because it's beyond the feeble capabilities of my near-exploding brain to have actually sent him a card. Never mind the tiny text up there; I'd have done this even if it hadn't been my task for the day to write about e-mail. No, really.

His name is Apron. My Masonic Apron. Dear, dear Apron.

I don't know when I started reading his blog, and for the life of me, I can't find the first hopelessly awkward e-mail I sent him to the anonymous junk-mail-and-spam-from-blog-readers address when I decided he and I needed to be friends and told him so. (It wasn't even an option for him, except, I guess, that he could have ignored it and never responded. But that's not his way. Any opportunity to put more words out there is one Mr. Apron seizes. [New York Times–style courtesy titles today? Sure.]) It's stressing me out that I can't find those first few e-mails, because I knew from the start that we actually would be friends. That I would ultimately find out his real name, start corresponding with him at the non-spam address, make things Facebook official, stalk the online White Pages for his home address and send him…snail mail. It's reciprocal, of course: He sent me a calculator watch for my birthday. In October. My birthday is in April, and he knows that.

The first message I have from that real e-mail account dates to almost exactly a year ago. I guess the dates don't matter, really. As with any good friend, it's hard to imagine my life without him in it in some form. What matters is that in the past year — or however long it's been — Mr. Apron has become the first person I reach out to in crisis and triumph, and often the only person I write when I have something grossly inappropriate to share. Breakups. Makeups. Sex-you-ups. Family squabbles. Fat-kid revelry and fat-girl self-loathing. He's definitely the first person who knew I was…QUITTING MY JOB:

(Oh lord, I'm just dying over here. What a whore. But for the record, I absolutely would have Asian Supermanned out the window of my office onto a blimp if I had a flair for that sort of physical drama.)

 

 

Anyway, he gets me. He's 750 miles away and I've never met him in the flesh (I imagine we'll laugh about that later), but he gets me. I often don't get him — he writes in bizarre metaphors, makes disgusting bodily references and peppers his missives with Yiddish phrases (or maybe that's me) and Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics — but I'm content to be deliriously mystified. His words have this awkward poetry about them that put me at ease before I've even opened a message from him. I know I'll be smiling soon, if I'm not already. I don't write him as much as I'd like to anymore. (Since I started this job, I don't do anything as much as I'd like to, including breathing.) But he's always told me not to apologize for it, so…I won't. Mr. Apron is living proof, again and again, that a person's blog scratches only the surface of who someone really is. And I can only guess that e-mails go only a little deeper than that. He called me on the phone once for advice, and that freaked us both out. (I don't do phones.) But until he decides I'm allowed to see him eat and I have enough money to travel those 750 miles to ambush him and his wife, we will have our e-mails. On Wednesday afternoon, shortly before my date — which I now feel immensely awkward even referring to because, of course, the Flightless Bipedal managed to find my post about it before we went out — he wrote me an e-mail that was mostly very sweet but ended with this: I don't know if tonight is the start of something awesomeballs for you, or if it'll just be... balls, for you, but, at the very least, may it be an evening filled with wit and wisdom, the required awkward silences, visions of giraffes and tigers, titties and beer.

It's not so much e-mail that's changed my life but the people I've come to know because of it. So happy birthday, Mr. Apron, and thanks for all the e-mails. This oink's for you.

 

 

 

* The title of my post is the title of a Gilbert & Sullivan song. I hope he knew that before he read the footnote. I'm sure he did. And now you do, too.

Purple.

I'm wearing purple today.Just following 140-character orders. "Turn your Twitter avatar purple to support the fight against gay and lesbian bullying!" "Wear purple on October 20!"

I do as I'm told. Purple's not the worst color on me, after all.

But a lot of people didn't get the memo. Maybe they hadn't heard about it; maybe it's not their fashion statement of choice. I'm lucky to be connected almost constantly with a diverse group of people through Facebook and Twitter, so I take days like this for granted.

October 20, for the uninitiated, has been declared Spirit Day, named for the purple stripe on the LGBTQ flag, which represents spirit. (As for the other stripes, red represents light; orange, healing; yellow, the sun; green, calm; and blue is art.) This day isn't I can't remember now which came first, Tyler Clementi jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate at Rutgers outed him on the Internet just for fun, or a group of insanely young black men torturing another man, a member of their gang, in the Bronx after finding out he was gay.

It…numbs me. I don't handle bad news well. I watched a video a couple of months ago of a girl throwing a bucket full of tiny puppies, one by one, into a river. Laughing. And I was just…cold. For the rest of the afternoon. A young girl killing helpless dogs that did nothing wrong but being born near where she lived. Ordinary people tormenting fellow human beings who happen to have a different sexual preference. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketing a funeral, rubbing salt in the wounds of people who are already mourning. When did we become such monsters? Or has there always been this part of our population that was just evil, and the pace of Internet news has just made it easier for word of them to spread?

It's a bit heartening to hear that the Pentagon has ordered recruiters to start enlisting openly gay men and women into the military. It's a small victory (hooray, now gay people can sign up to die just like straight people!) but one that took centuries to come to: Sodomy was grounds for military discharge as early as the Revolutionary War, and gay servicemen found engaged in sexual acts in the 1940s were given dishonorable discharge. Really. REALLY. Because having sex with men somehow makes you less qualified to kill or otherwise follow orders blindly.

I have never understood this. I have never understood any of this.

Gays, lesbians, are no different from us. ("If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?" Christians, Jews, gays, straights…we're. all. HUMAN.) Same-sex relationships and sex may not be your choice. Hey! Turns out? It isn't theirs either. It's a biological preference they were born with. And they should be allowed to embrace it. With no fear of repercussions, emotional or physical. Screw the Bible. It was written hundreds and hundreds of years ago. And it’s a work of fiction. Screw your prejudices. They have no basis in reality.

Homosexuality is not a choice. Hate is.

It honestly hurts me sometimes to know I'm part of a group of people — white, American, straight, affluent — responsible for such a huge portion of the oppression in the world. I'm being dramatic, but really. I could have been anyone. It is by sheer happenstance that I was born into the life I have now, and I guess that makes me lucky. I guess. What I guess also makes me lucky is that I grew up in a home where these things just weren't discussed. I don't remember going to church, and the times I do remember, there was no fire and brimstone. Just shiny offertory platters and the sound of a million-dollar organ filling the sanctuary.

I fell hard for one of my best friends in high school and asked him to be my date to the Sadie Hawkins dance. He turned me down and came out. I was one of the first people he told; it was his senior year of high school. He was surrounded by an accepting group of friends; his mother's support for him never wavered. And 10 years later, he's married. We aren't in touch anymore, but I'm pretty sure he's still the same guy he was, with his flannel-lined jeans; boisterous, nerdy laugh; and obsession with video games.

I was raised with the understanding that humans are humans. People are people. And I feel sorry for those who weren't.

If all this bullying and cruelty in the world makes me sad, numbs me, I can't…even begin to imagine how isolated and hopeless the kids living it every day must feel.

And that's why I'm wearing purple today.

As meaningless a gesture as it might seem from the outside — one person commented on my Facebook today that purple seemed a bit contrived, and asked why people weren't just wearing rainbows today, because that's "what LGBT people tend to identify with" — it's an opportunity for all people, including those of us who were born without much of a reason to be oppressed at all, to show support for these teens (and anyone, really) living in this world that is far more cruel than it should be in 2010.

It's not going to change the minds and hearts of people who hate gays for no reason. Haters gonna hate.

But if one person sees me today in my purple sweater and ridiculous purple stocking cap, sees me and understands that I'm one spirited grape of a girl, supportive and loving in a sea of blood-red rage — especially if I'm one of five, fifty or a hundred they see in their travels — then I'll consider this day a success. Even if I never find out who it was I helped.

Click here for videos from Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project.

Set to stun.

I don't deal well with stress. At all.
Probably because in my almost 26 years, I've not been in many situations that involved a lot of pressure.
My childhood was idyllic — even in divorce, my parents made things pretty easy on me — and school was largely a breeze. I skated through auditions for Chamber Singers and still scored amazingly high on the Chemistry AP test I studied, oh, not at all for.
Deadlines in the journalism school never fazed me; I could fall back on my finesse as a writer to make up for gaps in my research or paraphrase shoddy interviews. The jobs I've gotten since I graduated from college have practically been presented with a flourish and a doily on a shiny silver platter. And while my love life has been bizarre, often strained and recently rife with heartbreak? Easy come, easy go. Like recovering from a common cold, so a friend said.
I have led a charmed life.

So when I feel the least bit of pinch now, I snap.
I forget how to deal with people. I eat like it's my job. I cry. I want to sleep forever.
And my work ethic can go either way: fight or flight. I buckle down and work harder than I've ever known myself to, or I seize up and become totally immobilized. And write constantly in my blog or send inane IMs to people I haven't talked to in months.
I have a massive project at work that I present to everyone who's anyone in the company next week. My boss tossed it at me unexpectedly about a month ago — normally he presents the editorial audit for both our major publications — and paralysis set in until the beginning of last week. And now I'm in full-on panic mode.
Twenty pages into my write-up, I assume I still have about 10 more pages to write by next Friday, as well as some math, six or seven complicated Excel charts, collecting my verbal thoughts to convey to the powers that be, and collating and compiling my printed presentation.
Apparently we publish magazines, too. One of which is due on Monday. There's a stack of articles about eight inches high that I need to edit before the end of today.
But the weekend will pass and next week will happen whether I fight or flee. In seven days, I will be the light at the end of my tunnel; the magazines will be put to bed, and I'll be up in front of management in my suit, doing what they assume I do best. (Whether that's true remains to be seen.)

In the meantime, thank goodness for: Netflix, therapy, friends with massage tables, tanning beds, actual beds, take-out Thai, departed threats, the promise of spring and glimmers of self-confidence that take me completely by surprise.