Merry Christmas Husband


Missy wants us to know that she is going to say Merry Christmas. Damn the torpedoes.  She offers this up like an extra dollop of whip cream snuck from the kitchen for our tutti-frutti breakfast meal. When I pick up the check it is sticky from maple syrup and scribbled across the top is Happy Holidays ya’ll!  a smiley face dots the “i”.

“Corporate’ll see that,” She says by way of explanation and grants us an upside down smile. She wipes the sweat off of her brow with the back of her hand to reveal a plump forearm riddled with blue shaded tattoos of roses, snakes and skulls.   I wonder if corporate has seen that.

I look across the table at Paul and he can see by the slight shift in my expression that I am about to challenge her, so he cuts me off.

“Good for you, Merry Christmas!” He says enthusiastically and hands her his credit card.

We leave the restaurant and begin the continuation of our drive through rural Virginia to my mother’s house in North Carolina.  There are billboards screaming “Choose life!” church signs stating that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and crudely constructed crosses perched atop red clay hills. Mixed among the messages is a sign for a gentleman’s club featuring topless ladies and a bright red hand advertising Miss Gina the palm reader.

“I hope Miss Gina’s first name is Va,” I say to Paul.

There is a long pause before he gets it.

“I don’t mind if someone says Merry Christmas, but why do they have to say it like “fuck you, I’m going to say Merry Christmas? What if we were Jewish?” I ask Paul.

“But we’re not,” he says staring straight ahead.

“She didn’t know that. She didn’t know that we were gay either,” I say and hope that Paul does not try to challenge my fuzzy logic.

“Would you like to go back and tell her this?” Paul asks and then continues “I could lay a big sloppy wet kiss on you in front of her.”

I put a check mark in the naughty list column in front of Paul’s name.

We cross the border from Virginia to North Carolina and my lungs constrict.  A list of all of the sanitized terms that will be used to describe the man sitting next to me flicker through my mind like giant black lettered billboards:  Partner, boyfriend or simply Paul, like some man who has showed up for a day in my life.  

Let Missy pour out her sticky sweet Merry Christmas greetings.  The power is not in the reception of the message but in the ability to define and convey your love through a phrase or a word.  Turning to the man sitting next to me I place a hand on his knee and say “Merry Christmas Husband.”
 



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Riding in Cars


I am marking a line in the middle of the car seat, karate chopping it saying “Here. Here. Here,” down the blue naugahyde. This is my side and that is yours. When my younger brother John’s toe illegally crosses the border I karate chop again and alert the National Guard.

 “Mom! John’s on my side!” 

My mother turns her head to regard my father’s profile without removing her sunglasses. She grabs a loose strand of hair twisting in the breeze from the open window and guides it behind her ear. Her shoulders slump. My father flicks the butt of a burnt out cigarette through the open window and performs a karate chop to the blinker.  For the rest of our annual drive to the outer banks of North Carolina, I sit alone facing backwards with the brown paper grocery bags crowding me on both sides in the way back seat of the wood paneled station wagon. I watch the world recede, rows of tobacco plants flickering by.

He WAS on my side.

The week after that vacation my parents marked an imaginary line down the middle of our lives.  “Here. Here. Here.” This is my side and that is yours. My father claimed the pretty young blonde and my haggard mother got four rambunctious boys. 

We all shifted positions.  My older brother Chuck moved to the front seat with a red haired boy’s determination, occasionally firing warning shots in the form of a stuck out tongue or middle finger. The battle would escalate until my mother would glance in the rear view mirror and catch me retaliating by attempting to flip my brother the bird, holding all of the fingers on my right hand down, except the middle one with my other hand. I learned to watch the road pass behind me without ever knowing what was coming up ahead of me.

On the rare occasion when I am in the driver’s seat now I am filled with anxiety about what COULD be down the road.  What if there is no parking?  What if the traffic is bad?  Oh, I hate turning left on the Harvard bridge. 

We are driving down Mile Road, the marsh sparkling on either side of us.  I am in the front passenger seat, Paul as always is in the driver’s seat and a fresh set of troops are in the back.

“Dad, let’s go to the beach closest to the restrooms.  I’m on my period,” a command comes from the back seat.

“Your father is on his exclamation point,” Paul shouts back, referring to my constant issue of warnings.  Watch out for this car! That person isn’t looking! There’s a parking spot!  Everything around us a clear and present danger.

When I issue one more piece of advice Paul turns to look at me without removing his sunglasses.

“What’s your job?”

“To sit here and look pretty,” I say staring ahead.

Isak Dinesen said “God made the world round, so we would never see too far down the road.”  It’s a quote that appeals to me, even if I cannot seem to embrace its full meaning. Paul angles the car into an impossibly narrow parking spot.

“Have I crunched you yet?” He says.

“Not yet,” I say and I know he never will.

But that doesn't stop me from worrying about it.




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Word Vomit


After the third (or fourth?) glass of wine I tell Sam that I write because I believe in life after death.  Both of these statements are true.  I write.  I believe in life after death.  But, I can’t connect the two in any logical sense and he can see that I am struggling with the word vomit that I have just chucked up onto our high top bar table.
 
“Because you’re going to come back and find what you wrote?” he asks me.

“P-Possibly,” I stutter and take another sip as his eyes narrow.

I am waiting for him to say this is the stupidest shit he has ever heard.  But he doesn’t, which surprises me.  He reaches into his drink with his index finger and thumb, plucks out an ice cube and pops it into his mouth. He pushes his eyeglasses up on his nose and shrugs.  I think he has finally decided to find my pointless statements charming. 

“Dameron, check out that dude,” he says while crunching the ice cube and motioning behind me with a nod of his head. 

Correction: He has decided to ignore my pointless statements and cruise the bar. When my head spins around, he admonishes me “Don’t do a Linda Blair!” But, he drops the “R” so that it sounds like Blai-uh. 

My face contorts reflexively into a disgusted look.  He laughs and says “C’mon’, he’s adorable.”

I’m sure his mother thinks so I think, but I do not say this aloud.  He has forgiven my word vomit. I’ll give him this face vomit.

We’ve been friends for six years now and this is our equivalent of the monthly sleep over; brushing each other’s hair, playing records and talking about boys.  We plan significant events together; fiftieth birthday parties, trips to Florida. Our exploits from the past have already taken on the sepia tinged quality of urban legends, referenced in some way each time we get together. 

“OK, let’s do our ‘Where’s Waldo?’,” he says to me and we rotate our heads like Linda Blai-uh minus the projectile split pea soup.  There is is no sighting of “Monkey Boy” or “Y” who we always reference by placing our hand in the middle of our scalp to signify how advanced "Y's" receding hairline has become.

We don our coats and amble on the brick paved sidewalk to Fritz, where the ceiling is painted black, surly bartenders hurl drinks, Donna Summer is moaning on the stereo and men pretend to watch sports on the wall mounted TV’s while they check each other out.

“This place is a fuckin’ dump.  It needs to be gutted,” Sam says.

He is referring to its imminent closure and reopening as a fancy new restaurant.  But still, we find ourselves here once a month.

When it’s time to go we walk to the corner together.

“See ya’ buddy,” Sam says and gives me a hug. My throat catches.

He walks towards the South End and I walk to the Green Line, the new Liberty Mutual building towering over us.  Hard to believe how much has changed in just six years.  I met Sam at the lowest point in my life when I felt like I had no friends.

When I step off of the T, I take a wider arc than is necessary, my spatial judgment impaired. “Damn Sam,” I laugh and think I must remember to write down this scene. In the morning, head throbbing, I find a note that I had taken on my iPhone: I write because there is life after death.

        

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Take Me Home, Country Roads



There is a road that runs from our cottage in Maine down through the Webhannet Marsh and to the ocean.  It is exactly one mile and the fine, sensible residents of this small town gave it the fine, sensible name of “Mile Road.” Often I will run on the shoulder of this road, past the marsh grass and laughing sea gulls, the tasty smell of fried haddock wafting from Billy’s Chowder House, onto the wide sandy beach and each time, it is like coming home.

My thoughts are free to run as well and this time they take a jog through my thirteenth year, when I was a skinny, pizza faced, metal mouthed adolescent who preferred sitting in front of a piano to the football games on the TV that my brothers were constantly screaming at.
 
“Can you stop playing that stupid piano, doofus?”  my brother Chuck would shout.

“Can you stop playing with your organ?” I’d shout back and fist-a-cuffs would ensue.

My mother grew concerned that I spent too much time at the piano and not enough time in front of girls. So she enrolled me in the local youth football league where she hoped that some quality time spent sweating, grunting and tackling other boys might somehow shift my perspective. 

It did not.

I was not aggressive enough and soon became the laughing stock of the team.  I would ride my bicycle out a half hour before practice and hide in the trees across the street listening to my mother shouting out the back door “Bee-uhl!” she gave my name two syllables “It’s time for practice!”

As my mother wizened up, my avoidance tactics became more creative. 

“Mom, the John Denver concert is tonight and you know how much I love him,” I lied.

My mother’s eyes narrowed as I weaved the story and advised me that I could go to the concert on one condition, if I brought a friend along.  My heart skipped a beat.  I had no friends.

I called up all of the neighborhood boys that used to be my friends and one by one they declined.  I would pay for this at school the next day.  My brother Chuck displayed a surprising sense of fraternal affection and agreed to go with me.

“Man, that Starland Vocal Band can sing!” He boasted when we got home referring to the warm up group, “They’re going to be around a long time,” he prophesized and then sat down and began to strangle his guitar attempting to master “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.

Eventually I moved far away and married the high school quarterback who likes to shout at the TV during football games and we bought a home in this small corner of Maine where the fine, sensible folks said “Why not?” when asked if same sex marriage should be made legal.

My mother came for a visit recently, joined us and some friends at a local piano bar for drinks and songs one beautiful summer night. “Are you two brother and sister?” a slightly inebriated young nearsighted gay man asked my mother, much to her delight and to my chagrin.

“Bee-uhl, tell them to play Country Roads,” my mother asked me and I complied.  I regarded her face, flush from a pink cosmo and the tasty compliment as she sang two octaves higher at the top of her lungs with about thirty other bellowing gay men. I kissed my husband Paul, gave my mother a hug and for all the world,  it was very much like coming home.


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Reality TV



Long before electronic remotes existed my family employed the use of a biological one, my younger brother John.  Our Zenith TV, the first color one in our neighborhood earned my father  the title of American royalty. The neighbors gathered in our den one Saturday; bowls of chips were passed and my mother tittered around making certain that the adults were sitting in the optimal viewing zone. Children were thrown about the floor like scatter rugs, elbows to the floor and chins resting in their palms. When the colors of the NBC peacock appeared, you could hear a pin drop.

My father left.  The TV stayed, for years.  The wooden corners were gnawed by one dog or another. When the power button fell out a wrench found permanent residence in the hole to twist the button on or off and the color slowly began to fade to a sickly green which could be temporarily adjusted by a swift whack with the heel of the hand to the side.  Even the remote began to get finicky.

“John, get up and change the channel,” my older brother Chuck would yell from his perch on the sofa and I would echo “Yeah, get up and change the channel dufus.”

John would lay there on the orange shag carpeting as if nerve gas had crept into the house and rendered him unconscious.

There would be one more command before Chuck would begrudgingly get up and nudge John with his foot, arms-length away from the TV himself.
 
We would hear the sound of my mother’s brown pinto on the gravel driveway and spring into action. My comatose brother John would miraculously arise and run to the kitchen to grab a wash towel, wet it with cold water and wipe the top of the TV to cool it down.  Chuck would grab a book and sit up, suddenly enthralled by its content. Our mangy dog Tiger would wake up with wide eyes and spring off the sofa, aware that if he was found on the furniture by my mother he would suffer the same fate as the banished cat.
 
When my mother entered through the back door there we’d be, a placid scene of family harmony who had by no means been watching TV all night; John diligently scribbling in his notebook, Chuck reading an upside down book, Tiger panting in his flat doggie bed and me at the piano, entertaining them all with a rousing rendition of “Hot Cross Buns.”

My mother would regard this scene warily, walk to the TV and place her hand on top, moving it around like a doctor with a stethoscope searching for a pulse.  When she was satisfied with its dead coolness, she’d pick up the kitchen phone, stick the end of a pencil in the rotary to dial a number and begin to talk for hours on end.  We’d breathe a sigh of relief.
    
The TV was eventually replaced.  The biological remote matriculated to college and all of us brothers moved out and bought TV’s of our own for every room in our homes.

My mother will often call me and bemoan the sorry state of our brotherly affair, each of ya'll too busy to give a rat’s-ass what the other one is up to. There was a beautiful zenith of synergy that peaked around the flickering green light and then like the TV faded to black. Occasionally, we’ll gather at the holidays, our own re-runs scattered on the floor, watch the old shows and briefly marvel at how funny and heartwarming that original content truly was.


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Saint Peggy and The Ugly Sinner

By all accounts, my mother was a saint and we were her little angels; four cherubic boys who went to church every Sunday. As we grew older, it was uttered more than once by admiring neighbor ladies “Oh, how lucky any girl would be to marry one of them Dameron boys.” 

The Trifecta: Bowl cut, acne and braces
We rarely needed to be separated during church service by my mother for punching each other in the leg or making fun of the way the Irish lay reader, Mr. Kilmartin said “fil-um”, a.k.a. film.

“Are you going to the fil-um?” I’d whisper to my comatose brother John who would start laughing uncontrollably.  

This would start a chain reaction of punches; from my older brother Chuck to John’s arm. John would complete the circle by passing it right along to my leg. I’d jerk which would wake up my youngest brother Matt, dozing on my mother’s lap.  My mother would do her part by pinching us hard through our itchy Sunday jackets and stand up to separate the offenders.

It was this type of behavior that prevented us from ever having a repeat babysitter.  When bedtime came we would dutifully march upstairs. I’d immediately slip through the second story window, walk on the flat roof to the edge, hop down onto the window air conditioning unit, jump to the ground, sashay to the front door, ring the doorbell and run. My brothers would sneak down the steps and so would begin a human game of “Wack-a-mole.”

When my mother came home we’d sit at the top of the steps and listen in.

“How were they?” my mother would ask.

“Perfect angels,” the harried babysitter would reply, but we’d never see her again.

Then my mother hired Peggy.  Peggy was eighteen, overweight, with short black hair, always wore jean overalls and a flannel shirt.  She had a deep monotone voice and we understood in a child’s way, that there was something different about her. Certainly, she didn’t take any shit, but there was something more, though we never over analyzed it. 

First came fear and then came love.

Peggy had no desire to talk to boyfriends on the phone or mindlessly watch TV.  She took us to the Seven-Eleven and bought us Slurpies.  She would come to our house and for no reason at all drive us to Lake Brandt and teach us how to fly fish.  We’d sit in a row boat near the lake's edge under low hanging branches where kamikaze bugs dove into the water. She’d patiently show us how to cast our line into that spot and keep the fly moving, imitating a drowning bug.

Once, I noticed her sleeves were rolled up and there was a bouquet of raised red splotches on her forearm.

“What are those?” I asked.

“Cigarette burns,” She replied.

“Who did that to you?”

“I did it to myself, because I needed to feel something.”

It was that straight forward and I never questioned it.

Peggy stuck with us until we became teenagers.  She dropped by one last time when I was a sensitive and gangly fifteen year old with braces on my teeth, a nose that grew faster than my face and pock marked skin.

“You have a handsome face that one day you’ll grow into,” She told me.

Sometimes I’ll see a bug scrambling on the pool surface and think of Peggy.  I’ll gently scoop it out and wonder what became of her, though I fear I know.  She was able to see an angel in my ugly ways and burned a mark there for me to always remember.





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A Fryeburg Fair Fable


Pigs can see in a 300 degree radius, which increases their panoramic vision but decreases their bifocal vision.  In short, they can see the world around them, but not too far down the road. 

We have come to the Fryeburg agricultural fair, driving through a string of small Maine towns with names plucked from other places; Cornish, Limerick and Hiram.  The towns sprung up at the confluence of the Ossippee and Saco rivers hundreds of years ago and to my eyes appear relatively unchanged. Grassy green hills with white clapboard churches, their crumbling cemeteries filled with original settlers, rest beneath blue skies heavy with the scent of pine and pitch. I can’t help but wonder how they got here or for that matter, how I did. 

By artificially increasing the light--for instance using electric lights in the stable it is possible to begin the breeding season in a mare.  Given the right amount of light, mares become irresistible.

The descendants of those original settlers join us on this bright October day, ambling through dusty hay barns and gravel paths.  Teenage boys, full of swagger, wearing bright green John Deere baseball caps and camo jackets pretend not to notice girls in skinny blue jeans and tank tops running their fingers through long gossamer strands of hair while glancing over their shoulders. I look sideways at Paul and think about that cold November night; our first kiss among the banks of snow under the parking lot light.

The best cows give over twenty five gallons of milk each day.  One gallon of milk weighs over eight pounds.  It takes twelve pounds of milk to make one gallon of ice cream.

The crispy scent of fried dough and the sweet smell of boiled down maple sap from the sugar house mingle in the air.   Paul buys me a sticky, crumbly apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream and offers my stepson Nick a box of fudge.  Beanie opts to eat nothing and I worry.  I still remember the time late at night when her insulin pod malfunctioned.  Paul drove the 180 mile round trip to Boston to retrieve another pod at two AM when the other one malfunctioned, no complaints and nothing but smiles.

A champion racing pigeon can be released 400-600 miles away from its home and still return within the day.  Feral pigeons mate for life

I slow down my pace and drift behind Paul and the kids, watching the dust rise up from their shuffling feet. They move slowly as a group, each one seeming to have the innate sense of where the other one is.  And then like the dust, I find myself floating among the crowd.  If I were to rise up high enough I might look down and see the road we took today and floating higher still I’d see the highway connecting Maine to Boston and beyond that the highways south. 

Nick tugs my shirt, pulling me back to Earth.

“You scared me Billy, I thought we lost you,” he says.

“Not a chance," I say.  

I may not know what lies down the road, but I know which one will bring me home.



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Saranac Review


"We opened the bar door and stepped out into the night.  There is a truth in the piercing silence that washes over a person at two in the morning under the starry Colorado sky. The beat and hum still pulsing through our veins, we walked to his car, Don’s arm around my shoulder, mine around his waist and then his lips on mine; thirst and hunger. The air molecules melted into a heated mixture of our mingled scents; orange, cloves and salty skin. Suddenly, I was at the basin of Phantom Canyon as a cold wind blows in and a June snowfall glitters the red canyon walls;  and then at the top of Royal Gorge on a suspension bridge staring dizzily a thousand feet below at the Arkansas River cutting through time. When the camera zoomed back in, it was just above us, our foreheads touching and my arms resting on his shoulders as we breathed deeply, the distant hum of the bar behind us and the moonlit sky stretched over the silent Rockies. And then I heard the hum become Sheila’s words, like the recognition of an alarm in a dream. She was walking quickly towards us. “He’s not sure if he’s gay yet Don!”   

But there was no more confusion.  I knew."

*****************************************************************

I am thrilled to announce the inclusion of my short coming of age/coming out memoir "Splintered Light on Clear Creek" in this year's edition of the fine literary journal, the Saranac Review.  This edition includes works by many award winning poets and authors.  I hope you will give them a visit.


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The Queen and Me: Excuse Me But You're Standing on My Platform


My plan for the conference was simple.  I would casually bump into a literary agent who would immediately recognize me and sign me up on the spot. It would be exactly like those old black and white movies where the film director, innocently sipping his coffee, is suddenly struck by the beauty of the young waitress framed in soft-focus and shouts “Kid, where have you been all of my life?” but with less sexual tension and more color. I had business cards imprinted with my website address.  I was prepared.

The target market for the conference was women, which didn’t faze me because A) aside from lesbians, we tend to like the same things B) The gaggle of literary agents would all ask “Who’s that man?” and most importantly C) My shy bladder could escape to the quiet solitude of the men’s restroom alone.

Here is something you should know if you are one of the few men at a women’s conference.  You have the uneasy sense that there is something stuck between your teeth, but that thing is not in your teeth, it’s approximately two feet below.  I might have been more comfortable in drag, but Paul always told me that I would make an ugly woman. I wasn’t willing to take that risk.

You should also know that these women are serious about promoting their blogs. In fact they become their blogs.

“I’m Mommy needs Xanax. What’s your platform?” A disheveled woman in her late forties asked me. 

I searched my business card as if it might have the answer written on it.

“You must have a platform.  Without it you’re nothing,” she said impatiently.

“I was chosen as a ‘voice of the year’,” I replied, confident that this would trump the lack of a platform.

“Oh, you wrote that piece about the beige coat!” She perked up.

“No, someone else wrote that.  I wrote about the two lesbians.”

Doesn't ring a bell, but that one about the beige coat, yeah that one was really good.”

“Thank you,” I replied and considered asking her for a Xanax, just to smooth out the edges.

During the question and answer period women confidently stepped up to the microphone and asked the only question that seemed to matter.

“Hi, Mommy needs Vodka here,” a young perky woman introduced herself and took a quick curtsy while the other women whispered “That’s her!”

“How do I market my platform?”  she asked the speaker.

One by one, Martinis and Minivans, Mama Loves Moonshine, Margarita Mommies, Mommy is Moody and Mental Mama all probed the speaker for insight into their brands. If one thing was certain, they all had a platform, even if it was a rickety thing propped up with liquor and broken dreams.

I retreated to the men’s restroom and met Tyrone, a maintenance worker leaning against the sink and staring into his reflection.

“Tough day?” I asked

“Man, you have no idea.  All these women. They a mess!”  he replied

Just then, we heard a woman, I can only assume it was Mommy Needs to Pee, shout into the bathroom “Anybody in here?” Tyrone’s eyes grew big as an army of women stormed the men’s room.

“Sorry, line's too long in the ladies room,” Mommy’s Gonna’ Bust a Gut shouted as I quickly zipped up my fly.  Tyrone ran.

By the end of the day it was clear that without a platform I was never going to attract an agent. Somewhat dejected I joined thousands of women in a large hotel ballroom with a small illuminated stage on one end and endless rows of seats.  There was a buzz and excitement in the air.  Queen Latifah would soon appear to host the reception and recognize the “Voices of the Year.”

Time dragged on. The Queen was M.I.A. and the excitement was beginning to morph into disappointment and frustration.  Women were tweeting using the hash tag #WhereTheBitchAt?  I searched the room for exits, having witnessed firsthand the stampede effect of impatient women.  

Suddenly the lights grew dim and music filled the room.  Queen Latifah sauntered onto the stage, dabbing her mouth with a napkin and shouting something about Chicago’s best pizza.  The room exploded into applause and screams.  And that is when it struck me. If I were to dress in drag, this is exactly how I would do it; all big hair, flawless skin and swagger. I’d take my sweet ass time eating pizza while people waited for me. My stage name would be Billonc√©.

And then I was on my feet applauding.

There in the dark, women stood on the platform and weaved stories of despair, happiness, laughter, love and joy that joined together forming a chorus of life discovered through words. There in the dark we were all the same-no big hair, make up or any other trappings. There in the dark, I found my light, my platform “The only way out is in.”  Into that place where we all connect, singing of that thing that makes us human, authentic.

Finally the Queen asked all of the “Voices of the Year” winners to join the stage with her.  Here was my chance to be noticed.  As I walked onto the stage Outlaw Mama grabbed my hand and whispered into my ear “You should be up front” and pushed me into the spotlight.  There amid all of the flashing camera lights and applause, Queen Latifah glanced over her shoulder in my direction. And it was exactly like one of those old black and white movies where the glamorous actress notices the young undiscovered writer, arches her beautiful eyebrow and mouths the words meant only for his eyes.

“What the fuck is that man doing all up on my platform?”   


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Comparing Yourself to Others: The Game Nobody Wins




I think I have become too competitive.

Paul pricks my finger, squeezes out a tiny drop of blood and places it on a measuring strip.  “Come on, come on,"  I whisper. The blood sugar monitor beeps as the digital screen displays my reading.

“104, boom! I win!” I shout.

“Plus, I just ate two pumpkin donuts,” I add.

Paul, Marisa and Beanie stare at me emotionless. Paul mutters “Congratulations.”  I have just claimed victory over my diabetic step-daughter by producing the lowest blood sugar number.

Something needs to change.

I grew up as the second child of four boys.  When you are one of four everything becomes a challenge.  It runs through your blood. In the summer we would race against each other to become the first one to develop skin cancer.

“Put your arms out,” I’d say and all four of us would throw our skinny forearms together like a pile of varying colored sticks.

My older red-haired brother never stood a chance.  The most he could hope for was that his freckles would merge together and my youngest brother, six years my junior, was too young to really throw his heart into “Laying out”.  But John naturally had a darker pigment and this is where the use of an impartial judge would be requested.

“Mom! Who’s the darkest?” I’d shout at my mother who would be broiling herself in baby oil during the peak tanning hours (“PTH”).

“John,” she’d say lying motionless behind her Jackie O sunglasses.

“You didn’t even look!” I’d whine.

“I didn't need to, he’s my little Mexican boy,” she’d smile while sitting up to untie the swimsuit straps behind her neck.  I secretly wondered if my mother had an affair with a Latin man just to produce a child who could beat me at tanning. The trip my parents took to South America always did strike me as suspicious.

Once we were old enough to sit in the front seat of the car, which was four years old, We’d all run for the front door, kicking and tripping each other along the way.  After several pairs of torn jeans, scabbed up knees and bloody knuckles, my mother changed the rules and told us we had to shout as soon as we were all outside. Even today, I still cannot leave a building without stifling the urge to scream “Shotgun!” in order to claim the front seat.

The race to ride shotgun paled in comparison to the competition for food. The last chocolate chip cookie, the lonely slice of cake and the remaining potato chips were never safe in a house full of boys.  Be the first to spread a little DNA by licking it and weren’t nobody going to claim it after that.

After all these years of competing, I’m not quite sure how to turn it off.

How many followers does this person have?

How many comments did so and so get?

Why aren't they promoting my article instead of that piece of crap?

It’s exhausting and in the race to achieve my personal best I have displayed my personal worst; 
Exhibit A the victory dance while eating a donut in front of a pancreas-challenged child.

It is time for a change and nothing brings it home more than the sting of an intense pulsed light on the blotchy skin of my sun damaged neck.  When the dermatologist asks me if the setting is too strong I ask her what most people can handle.

“A few clicks higher,” she says.

“Crank it up,” I reply.

This is going to be tough.





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8 Gay Tips That Will Save Yo' Straight-Ass Marriage


I've been watching you struggle.  You come into the office with a bewildered look on your face.  It’s day three and you’re still not speaking to each other  That’s not entirely true, you’re talking but through the children, using them like little ventriloquist puppets:  “Tell your mother to pass the salt,” or “Would you please remind your father, as I have told him TEN THOUSAND TIMES, that tomorrow is the parent teacher conference?” The kids are confused and I’m tired of that mopey look on your face. 

You want to know why Paul and I seem so happy and why we never appear to fight.  I’m going to share some secrets of my marriage with you so that we can stop talking about how miserable you are and also? Because I love you.

But here’s the deal, we’re going to have fun by using song lyrics because ain’t nobody got time for boring advice.

If I were a boy, even just for a day

Drop the gender based roles: Paul and I are both men and therefore we don’t conform to gender roles.  We both take out the trash, we both clean and we both cook.  Problem solved.  False! Paul cooks and cleans almost all of the time, because that is what he is good at and because he works from home. I do things I’m good at, though I’m struggling to tell you what they are.  The point is, don’t ever let your gender define what your responsibilities are.  Are you both human?  Well then….

“You gotta’ have friends”

Keep the friends:   I’ve seen couples jettison their single friends when they get married.  Guess what, many of my friends could never get married.  Did that make them any less valuable?  Of course not.  My friends are every sexual orientation, men, and women, married and single.  We share our friends with each other and sometimes I need a night out with friends when Paul is not around.  Some of my best friends are gay men.  I do not, nor would I ever have sex with them.  Straight men can just be friends with straight women.  It really is that simple.

“'Cause after all, he's just a man”

Don’t blame everything on differences between the sexes: On the rare occasions when Paul and I fight, I need to talk it out and he wants to let bygones be bygones.  Does this sound familiar?  Am I a woman?  Not every difference between you is because you’re a man and she’s a woman.  The saying “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus” is crap.  You’re both Earthlings.

“Let’s talk about sex, bay-bee!”

Talk about sex!: I have access to the same equipment 24/7 therefore I must really know what turns Paul on.  Well, I do, but it’s not because it’s innate, it’s because we talk about it.  “I like the way you do that right thurr (right thurr).”  Bonus!  Two sets of lyrics.  Tell your partner what you want and sometimes, it’s OK if what you really want is quick sex because you’re bored.

“We are fam-i-ly”

One for all and all for one: Paul and I have a blended family with five children and damn if he doesn’t pick on me for not stepping up to the plate and having three like him so we could be the Gaydy bunch.  They are not his. They are not mine. They are ours.  No one’s mother or father was replaced in the process: remember that.

“You don’t send me flowers, anymore”

Don’t become a Hallmark-aholic:  Do you really need to send a bouquet of flowers and a frilly card to say I love you on every Hallmark holiday?  Paul and I are not bound by this tradition, thank goodness, because have you noticed the dearth of husband for husband cards?  Sometimes he’ll buy me flowers and sometimes I’ll do the same for him, just because.  Men like spontaneous tokens of affection just as much as women.  Not into flowers?  How about a pair of underwear?

“I wanna put on my, my, my, my, my boogie shoes”

I hope you dance-(sorry it’s a song lyric too):  We’re both gay men so you know we both like to shake our groove thing.  Wrong again!  I could dance all night while Paul would rather stick needles into his eyes.  But does he love to watch me dance and be happy? Sometimes it’s a precursor to the Best.Sex.Evah! Let her or him dance with others and once in a while get up there and make a fool of yourself.  Worried that people will think you look gay?  Accept it as a compliment, bud…

“The boy is mine”

Don’t compare yourself to previous partners: If you are straight, you probably never dated the same person as your partner. Paul and I dated two of the same men before we became a couple. I don’t compare myself to previous boyfriends, because I know; I truly know what they lacked. He or she chose you. Exorcise the ghosts of partners past.   

And here is a bonus tip, though you might have picked it up while you were reading this (God, I hope you did anyway) “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh.” We laugh at each other.  We laugh at ourselves.  Many times our children laugh at us and often we laugh at our children while pointing our fingers at them. You might have noticed that many gay men and women have a sharp sense of humor.  That’s because we developed it as a defense mechanism.  It works. It wards off anger and sadness and can bring you closer together. 

I want your marriage to succeed because there is something that I have learned.  When the marriages surrounding us are stronger and happier, then mine becomes more valuable and that makes me happy. And when I’m happy?  Paul’s up all night to get lucky.


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