Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Real Men

My sister, arbiter of all things cool, her 18, me 11, informed me that the lyrics to "Little Red Corvette" were "dirty." I was singing along in the car, probably getting most of the words wrong.

"Underneath, where you can't hear it, they're singing, 'Real men call back.' It's about gays." She was, as always, absolutely unassailable in her rightness. She declined to educate me as to what the "Trojans" were about, but seemed to believe that the line about "horses" was so obviously filthy that no explanation was needed.

Now I was intrigued. I found myself listening even more carefully with nervous excitement, straining my ears to hear the subconscious assault on my burgeoning sexuality. Once she'd said it, of course, it was obvious. I mean, just look at him! Thigh-high boots and hair piled to heaven, purple lamé and eyeliner. He was terrifying and thrilling. That high pitched voice sang a siren's song of debauchery.

The graffiti at my elementary school already read what they'd say for years afterwards: "Scott Williams is gay." The slurs could not be have been more laughably far from the truth. I wished I was gay, just so this aching longing I seemed to have almost constantly carried around in my chest for the Jennifers and Christinas of my class would go away. I loved women in a way that crippled me and left me entirely unable to speak to them. I dreamed of becoming a girl, just so I could sit comfortably with them, talk to them, listen to their secrets, brush their long, shining hair. Just like the rest of the girls.

And didn't the kids have a point? I knew I wasn't like the other boys, obviously. I sang to myself. I cried too easily. I was "sensitive." I moved around like I wished I was an elf (the gayest of all the mythical creatures), and my hips swished, just a little, when I walked, no matter how still I tried to hold them. I wanted to write stories and poetry, for God's sake! When I turned thirteen, in lieu of the sex talk, my parents straight out asked me if I were gay, presumably to avoid having me lie to them more than I did already. I may not have been gay, but I was clearly something.

I went through a lot of confusion, for years. Maybe I was gay, and just didn't know it. The girls I liked clearly caught a whiff of whatever it was that made me strange - desperation, loneliness, a little bit of fey weirdness - and steered clear. So I went looking for sex and affection wherever I could find it. It didn't help that there were plenty of older men who didn't hesitate to take advantage of a horny, confused teenager with a penchant for self-destructiveness. It took years, and a move across the country, to figure even some of my issues out. But through it all, almost without even knowing, I had somebody showing me the way.

Prince showed me you could wear eyeliner. You could swish a little, or a lot. You could be soft spoken and scream and then destroy a motherfucker with your guitar. The girls could love you. The boys could respect you. And vice versa. You could sing about purple bananas and God and sex and nobody could say shit to you if you believed in yourself. You didn't have to explain yourself to anyone.

I never heard the voices singing "Real men call back." But Prince showed me real men - real people - do whatever the hell they want. I'll miss him more than I can say.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Morning Routine

My morning routine:

  • Wake up to my phone (current alarm: "And You And I" by Yes, mostly because it starts off nice and mellow and I like to wake up gradually)...
  • ...except that really it's the cat waking me up by sitting on my head about five to ten minutes before the alarm actually goes off. She would like to be fed.
  • Kick the cat off my head. Dog tries to eat the cat as she jumps down. Scuffle ensues.
  • Calm the dog. Kiss Katie good morning before she drifts back off to sleep.
  • Feed the cat while holding in an almost crippling morning pee (work those kegels, kids!).
  • Finally pee.
  • Fumble through the dark hallway down to the front room, draw the curtains, lay down my yoga mat on the floor, and proceed to read a bunch of articles on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr. 
  • Give up on my timelines after I realize it's only been six hours since I last looked at them and everybody in America's still asleep, while my international crew are still just getting up. Set my timer for yoga (I use Insight Timer. It's got good sounding bells, the timer allows me a lot of flexibility in setting extra bells so I know when to switch positions, and it does this totally non-spiritual badge system that gives me gold stars when I use it everyday, which tickles the part of my brain that needs a "good boy" from some kind of authority to stay motivated).
  • Do yoga. I practice Sivananda style yoga and have on-and-off for the past 24 years. The cat usually obstructs me as best she can by draping herself fetchingly across the mat until my excessive movement disgusts her and she leaves to stare moodily out the window while I finish.
  • Meditate. I do a simple Zen exercise of counting my breaths which is about as complicated as I can handle. 
  • Shower, weigh myself, shave, and listen to music or a podcast.
  • Get dressed. By this time, Katie's up and watching the morning news. We don't have cable, so we're stuck with the major network news shows, all of which seem to be staffed and written by cretins (in the case of the Today Show), out-of-touch squares (in the case of CBS This Morning), or bores (Good Morning America). We've settled on the squares, for now. I could do with quiet or music, but Katie seems to need the structure of the same thing happening at the same time each morning to let her know what time it is. Periodically I yell at the TV when the squares say something particularly out-of-touch or banal.
  • Eat breakfast: yogurt, blueberries, and honey.
  • Kiss Katie goodbye, all the while lamenting the need to leave the house instead of staying home and hanging out, because work is for chumps. 
  • Head downstairs and out into the world.