Sunday, November 12, 2006

Please, No Gifts

So I'm coming up on the anniversary of my coming out. I wish I'd been thinking about it last year at this time, because that would have been exactly twenty years. Coming out is of course a long, often protracted experience, but the first time I actually allowed the words "I am gay" to pass my lips with another person in the room occured a week or two before Thanksgiving (can't recall the actual date, unfortunately), in the dorm room of David K. who ended up becoming a good friend, though I barely knew him at the time. He was a flirty guy, and had been definitely sending me signals that confused the hell out of me, but were probably as much wishful thinking as anything else; he was hot, but at the time was just coming to the end of his 'questioning' period and his answer was different from mine. Still, he ended up being a good person to come out to, very emotionally supportive. The next night I sat four of my closest friends down to tell them, then about a month later, on the day after Christmas I came out to my family. Well, Mom had actually asked me herself on Christmas Day, undoubtedly tapping into her special Mom magic for picking up on such things, but I told the rest of my family the next day, and felt like all the hardest hurdles were now behind me.

There were a few more friends I felt warranted being told face to face, but after that I just expected the rumor mill at my tiny (1100 students) college to take care of the rest. That didn't happen so much, and I don't know why. I was almost offended at the time that no one seemed interested enough in my life to speculate, but maybe I just had good friends, who didn't see any need to turn it into juicy scuttlebut.

This did not usher in a wonderful new world of dating, however. There were hardly any out gay men at my school, and most of them were annoying as hell. The one gay adonis on campus (also a nice guy) never took any interest in me, unfortunately. It was another full year before I had any gay male friends, and it was well after college before I had much of a social group in that sense. (New York has seen a reverting back to college for some reason.) But that time of my life involved a blossoming in all sorts of ways. I first learned how to make and perform in masks that fall (and it is NO coincidence that I came out later that same term), I declared myself a theatre major that Spring, and went off to Ireland (my first overseas trip alone) that Fall, to have a whole lot more life-changing experiences. So I've been thinking about my nineteeth and twentieth year a lot of late. Seems like I should have some sort of celebration, doesn't it? Come to think of it, 95-96 was a pretty eventful time as well. Hmmm.

Anyway. Any thoughts on how this auspicious occasion should be observed? I'm pretty sure there ought to be cake. There should always be cake. Other than that though, I'm at a loss. As always, I welcome suggestions from my gentle readers.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brand New Day?

I want to be excited about the elections. I am certainly more heartened by these results than I would have been by the opposite outcome. I was flabbergasted (and cheered spontaneously) when I learned about Rumsfeld's 'resignation'. I am glad the Democrats gained a majority in both houses.

But I'm wary, I have to admit. Things have been deteriorating BADLY for a while now, and it's as if the Democrats only just woke up in the last few months. Sure they've been starting to speak up about some of the problems in recent months, but it's felt very small, and very late. Maybe this sea change will give them heart again. Maybe they will actually hold some people accountable for their actions. Maybe Bush won't be able to ignore dissent with that shit-eating smirk of his any longer. But I don't think that will happen by itself. We're going to have to hold people's feet to the fire, and I'm just not sure I know how to do that. Keep squawking, I guess that's really my only tool at present. I'm not a multimillionaire who can make my pleasure and displeasure known with gargantuan contributions. Part of the problem for me and the Democrats of course is that we all can agree things are bad right now, but alternate solutions haven't really been proffered. I know that my radical Quaker policy of no war at any time isn't one that will garner much support from this or any Congress (at least not any time soon). I find myself toying with a 'you break it you buy it' feeling about Iraq, yet also taking note of how many Iraqis don't want us there. Not sure what kind of percentage we're talking about (does anyone know?), but when they don't want us, and we don't have a good plan for being there, it's pretty hard watching the death count rise.
Is this just a whole lot of cynical whinging? Maybe. I know that change never comes as quickly or dramatically as we want it to. I also know the slow, imperceptible changes that do make a difference come from diligent efforts of people who often never see any progress. It too over 300 years for slavery to end in this country, and there were brave, principled people working to end it from the very beginning. Their work made a difference, even if they never knew it. So, I'm taking some pleasure in these election results, including (I freely admit) some gloating over the uncharacteristically furrowed brow on Bush. Santorum is out. Rumsfeld is out. Those two facts alone are cause for celebration. But I'd like to be a lot more enthusiastic about the whole affair. What am I missing here? Anyone have thoughts they want to share, ideas I should examine more closely? I'd love to hear them. Who is rejoicing out there right now? And what are you rejoicing about?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Back Off, Honey

I've noticed that part of my evolution in dealing with New York has a lot to do with my relationship with space. That is to say, getting used to having a lot less of it. I'm not just talking about living in shoe-boxes (though I readily admit I'm better off than a lot in NYC), but just dealing with the way people take up space out and about. On the train. Walking on the street. Standing in elevators. Standing in line. I realized recently that I had begun slouching in a way I never had before (causing myself all kinds of spinal trouble, or at least exaserbating previous problems), largely in response to sitting on the subway, trying to make myself as small and unassuming as possible. I've begun responding to that, figuring out how to sit up properly, while still not taking up two/three seats as so many people in this city are fond of doing.

But I'm just coming to accept that there are different expectations when it comes to personal space. I think it's culturally based to some extent as well. It took me several months of riding on the subway before I realized that other people (even guys) wouldn't get violent if my leg happened to brush against theirs. Growing up in the Midwest, there was never any need to touch a stranger, so if you did, it was noteworthy, and risky.

Even by New York standards though, I think my neighborhood may be exceptionally cozy. It's mostly Dominican, but generally Hispanic, and I've just come to accept that when people stand close to me, they're not being disrespectful or pushy. I noticed it first with children, how they would walk past me intruding on what I considered my personal sphere far too much, but I've come to see it happening with people of all ages, and both genders. Today I was standing in line at my local grocery and I kept getting whiffs of cilantro (mmm) because the woman behind me in line kept brushing a bunch of it against my ass. I don't think anything hostile was involved. That's just where she was standing.

There are still adjustments to be made on my part; I realize I'm often breathing rather shallowing (thus raising my stress levels) when I'm in close proximity to strangers. I still don't LIKE it very much, truth be told. I haven't been rehearsing or taking dance classes which used to be good ways for me to be in open spaces on a regular basis. But I've also crossed over to the NYC mode enough to get really annoyed, I mean REALLY, when I'm in the Times Square region, dealing with groups of tourists standing around in large bovine clumps, NOT GETTING OUT OF MY WAY. It's really quite striking, they just don't seem to realize they're blocking traffic as effectively as if they had parked an SUV in the middle of the sidewalk. There they are gawking at the sights, or their map, or whatever, and I just can't get around them. When they make me miss a light, whoo boy, do I get grumpy. I usually snap out of it (it was a WALK sign for god's sake, I can wait for 60 seconds for it to change again), but sometimes it can get close. I don't really see this as progress necessarily. I'd rather not turn into a cranky local bitching about all them furriners and the bridge and tunnel crowd gumming up the place. But it seems like something is shifting in my world.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Slippery (Yet Shiny and Manageable) Slope

I spent twelve dollars yesterday. On shampoo. This is not typical behavior for me. I think this is an example of the insidious "expenses expanding with income" phenomenon, where one is living from paycheck to paycheck regardless of their amounts. But you see, this stuff is specifically for brunettes! Generally blondes and redheads get all the fun hair products: brunettes, particularly those of us with lighter shades (I'm not sure if I'm 'amber' or 'maple') generally don't get much in the way of shine enhancement, or what have you. Until now. And see, this stuff was on sale! With my Duane Reade card it was just under six dollars each for shampoo and conditioner, as opposed to nearly seven. Fourteen dollars for shampoo, now that would be outrageous. Who does that?

Okay, so I was still feeling fairly silly about it all. Even calling myself a 'brunette' feels silly. Can boys be brunettes? Why does that word seem more sissified than blonde or redhead? The word brunette makes me think of Jacklyn Smith for some reason (who?), I don't find myself picturing George Clooney. So even buying the stuff was a bit awkward. I know the cashier couldn't care less about my purchases, I'd buy condoms with nary a shudder from the same person, but hair products? FUSSY hair products? Fussy EXPENSIVE hair products? "Yes dear, I'm not even a metrosexual, I'm a big ole flaming homo."

I've been openly gay for twenty years, was never what you'd call 'macho' and this sort of thing still slows me down. I have an easier time buying eye-liner, frankly. Though I pick my neighborhood carefully for that too, I suppose.

Once the gauntlet of the cashier was passed, I was still feeling silly about the price. I've tried various shampoos over the years and I have to say I've rarely noticed much difference. Okay, the volumizing stuff (which I always have bought by mistake, needing more volume like I need another hole in my head) does seem to frizz my hair out like nobody's business. But for the most part I want my hair to feel clean and the 99 cent Suave seems to do that just fine. What could be so much better about this stuff. Then I read the label; "low-ph formula with tea leaf infusion and crushed pearls."

Goodness. Suddenly twelve dollars seemed cheap. Crushed pearls? Seriously? Like the real deal? Not the plastic ones you can buy for a dollar? Farmed no doubt, but still, real? Wow. Okay, tea leaf infusion, that starts to bug me again; I mean, I know what the word 'infusion' means, so they brewed some tea and threw some pearl powder into it. I could do that myself, if I knew where to get pearl powder. I wonder if mica flakes would work just as well?

But wait a minute, I can see how pearl powder MIGHT make my hair shiny and glossy looking, if it got left in my hair. But I rinse this stuff out after just a few minutes. Even the conditioner. Does pearl powder magically bond with one's hair so it doesn't rinse away in the shower? Is that what the 'tea infusion' is for? It claims not to add color, which is what I would expect the tea to do. It stains teeth, why wouldn't it color hair? Oh, and the label on this stuff says it's safe for 'color treated' hair. People DYE their hair brown? Really? Who does that? Blondes who are tired of being called 'dumb'? Redheads who just want to fade into the woodwork? I don't get it.

Oh yeah, grey. I forgot about that. Gotta say one thing for us 'amber to maple' types, grey doesn't show up intil there is a LOT of it. I've got more grey in my eyebrows and chest hairs than on my head.

Too much information? Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, throwing money at my hair. Okay, so nowadays I'm spending about 40 dollars on haircuts, as opposed to the 15 dollar (plus tip) I used t spend, I'm using products, most days TWO of them (one for shine, one for 'manageability, since I'm sporting a longer style and my hair is curly), which also opens up a whole new category of expense. Is the fifteen dollar 'pomade' really going to be that much better than the four dollar stuff? How can one tell? Is it all in the level of alcohol involved? Am I throwing good money after bad by using expensive 'moisturizing' shampoo and glossy stuff that fries my hair like a potato chip?

My head hurts. But for now, I'm using tea and pearls on my hair. I'll let you know how it's going. I'm sure this is all rivetting.