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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The Treasure We Seek


I suppose it happens to all couples after a certain amount of time.  You get to a point in your relationship where everything big has been discussed and what remains are the bits of conversation that you might have with a parrot.
 
“How was your day?”

“Fine.”

“How did you sleep?”

“Good."

“What do you want for dinner?

“I don’t know.”

Paul and I are no different, except that we added the following to our repertoire somewhere along the lines:

“How’d you get to be so cute?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s your job?”

“To sit here and look pretty.”

“Who are you?”

“The big dog.”

The questions are always posed by Paul and if you were to eavesdrop on our conversations, aside from feeling terribly bored, you would perceive the passion in my replies to be comparable to your average fast-food worker and at times filled with the same contempt.  He likes to ask these questions when I am busy writing or when I have one eye open and a hand outstretched for the snooze button.

At some point he actually began to sing refrains to my replies.  For instance, he might have asked me if I was hungry and if I said “Yes,” he would sing something like “Willy is so hungrrryyy,”  in a falsetto rock star voice, no less.

He is in an interminably good mood juxtaposed to my often pensive one.

One morning recently the questions and singing reached a fevered pitch.  As I struggled to wake up and iron my clothes, I could take no more and asked Paul, for the love of God, to please stop singing.

And then there was a stunned silence. 

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

It was the sound that made me open my eyes, like an insect buzzing but more digital.  With one eye squinting in the brilliant September sunlight I turned my head to see an old man in his seventies sweeping a metal detector in a two foot swath of beach, left and right, left and right.  He wore white ankle socks with sneakers and his head was covered with a beige brimmed cap.  He did not raise his capped head, keeping it always focused on that two foot wide path waiting for a signal.

I put on my sunglasses and looked around me.  The coastal autumn light in Maine paints the colors so vividly that you feel as if you have been lifted up close to the sky among the listless clouds. A woman stood facing the sea, her hands in her pockets and her head tilted slightly upward.  The dark sunglasses covered her eyes, but her immovable stance implied deep contemplation.  She stared out at the horizon where the water met the sky at some reflection of a memory.

She waited twenty paces ahead of her husband wrapped in her own thoughts.  They never spoke. He never looked up but would occasionally stoop down and dig a hole with his hands looking for a long lost treasure.

I thought how odd it was that he mined for someone else’s lost articles; a ring, a necklace or some coins, hopelessly searching that narrow band. I wanted so desperately for his wife to drop her ring in the sand and wait for him to find it.     

“What are you thinking about over there Willy?” Paul asked interrupting my reflection.

I thought about that question, about all of the Marco-Polo queries that he peppers me with throughout the day pinging through the emotional distance.  More than questions, they’re affirmations.

“Just thinking about how lucky I am,” I finally replied.

One more added to the repertoire; many more to be discovered.



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