Sunday, November 29, 2015

“As the parent of a gay person…”

I told my parents I was gay on St. Patrick’s Day in 2005, effectively ruining a pleasant corned beef dinner. I was three months away from graduating college, and I wanted to integrate the worlds I lived in. My college friends knew, but essentially no one from home did. I blame the closure of the bowling alley in my hometown; with no alternatives, the favored pastime there had become discussion of unplanned pregnancies, divorces and the various other ways young people had disgraced their good family names. In any case, I knew I had to tell my parents before someone else did.

More than ten years later, those worlds still aren’t integrated. Here in Los Angeles, I’ve constructed this Neverland of gay nerds with whom I can talk to about Chun Li and Barbara Gordon and Princess Zelda in the same sentence and not get looked at like I’m some kind of space alien. When I go home, I revert. I don’t pack the cutoffs. I leave behind the purple V-neck T-shirt and take the blue one. My life as I live it in Los Angeles does not get discussed unless I force it.

I went home earlier this year, and my mom asked how I was doing. “This guy I used to know in Santa Barbara passed away, and also I got dumped,” I said. Mom: “Oh, I’m sorry your friend passed away.” That bait dangled, untouched. I chose not to force it. Because the divide has remained over the past decade, it is hard for me to make that drive up Highway 5, knowing that I’m going to sit through days and days of questions about what’s growing in my garden, the activities of college friends I haven’t kept in touch with and the name of my apparently singular female friend — “Megan? Stephanie? Which is it? Wait, there are two?” — at the exclusion of anything more personal.

The single best example of this refusal to talk about the gay son’s stubborn gayness occurred while I was helping my mom clean out the liquor cabinet, which had been chiefly stocked over the years by visiting New Zealanders landing at SFO with duty-free offerings and the belief that my family drinks the hard stuff. I stood on a step ladder and handed bottles down one by one, and my mother, who often narrates what she’s doing, read the labels out loud as I passed them to her. “Smirnoff Vodka. Bombay Sapphire Gin. Beefeater Gin.” Then I passed her a bottle of Mount Gay rum. Mom: “Oh, it’s…. it’s rum.” The bottle later vanished.

As I do on most holidays at home, I spent this past Thanksgiving dutifully working — the big turkey dinner, raking leaves, getting ahead of freelance assignments — with the closest connection I have to any other world being Scruff, usually sitting unattended on the dresser in my childhood bedroom. Having come off from being the only gay at a wedding the previous weekend, I desperately felt like I needed something, even if that something wasn’t much of anything. At home, Scruff is mostly glimpses into the sad life I’d have led if I’d stayed in town: torsos that can’t host. I don’t really engage. It’s just a window on a world that reminds me that I’ve made good choices for myself. Well, that and an occasional invite to go up to San Francisco, unsolicited and politely declined. (Me: “I live in L.A. and I’m really only interested in dating,” and every time I say that I feel like I might as well be saying “I live in Chicago and I hate wind” or “I live in Maui and I’m allergic to sunsets.”)

With all that said, you can appreciate my surprise at what my mother said when she and I got into an argument about politics — why I can’t vote for a candidate running on a conservative social platform and why liberal politicians are apparently ruining the country with wasteful economic policy. I countered with all the examples of the good that liberal politicians have done in the face of conservative opposition, and the conversation eventually turned to the point that it was liberals, not conservatives, would made it possible for me to get married one day.

Mom: “Well, as the parent of a gay person, I understand that.”

It was followed by a “but” about taxes, of course. I was stunned that it happened at all. In the ten years since I told my parents I was gay, I’d never heard either of them ever refer to me as a gay person. (My grandmother referred to gays as “people who are that way,” and that euphemism has endured in the family long since.) I got hung up on that one sentence to the point that I think I lost the argument, just because my brain wouldn’t process anything aside from the fact that my mother acknowledged something that’s fairly important to how I live my life but which had gone unspoken, at least when I’m in the room.

I hugged my mom and told her it was good talking to her. It was the least acrimonious ending to a political argument in the history of my family.

It may not seem like much, especially to those weirdos with enthusiastically supportive families, but it was the single marker of progress I’ve had in a struggle that’s been going on for ten years. There’s still a lot to do yet — I recently mentioned that I was hoping to adopt a dog soon and was quickly cautioned against getting one that is too small — but it’s my single greatest takeaway from this Thanksgiving trip home.

(Yes, picture is unrelated. I needed a picture. It was this or a display shelf of Mount Gay rum.)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thirty Thanksgiving Questions for Which I Have No Answer

Excluded from the list: the traditional and constant “Why are you making that face?”

1. “Why aren’t you using a placemat?”

2. “But if you’re eating at the table, why aren’t you sliding the placemat over so your plate is on top of a placemat?”

3. “Well, what is a placemat for, then?”

4. “Why are you wearing a jacket and a sweater inside?”

5. “Also, why does everyone keep saying it’s cold in here when it’s clearly so hot?”

6. “Doesn’t it feel better to be eating dinner at a reasonable hour?”

7. “What made you decide to grow a mustache?”

8. “Did you have that at the wedding?”

9. “Did the groom say anything to you about it?”

10. “Did the bride say anything to you about it?”

11. “Did the bride’s parents say anything to you about it?”

12. “Well then how long are you keeping it for then?”

13. “Is this something all of your friends are doing?”

14. “Why are you using two kinds of mustard on your sandwich?”

15. “Why isn’t anybody eating the lemon pie that I bothered to go out and buy at the grocery store?”

16. “Why doesn’t your phone make the typing noise when you’re writing a text?”

17. “Why are you sitting in your bedroom watching your iPad rather than talking to your family?”

18. “Who is this Jessica Jones and is she your friend from L.A.?”

19. “Is she related to John Ritter?”

20. “Are you sure?”

21. “Didn’t they try that with Wonder Woman in the ’70s and no one watched it?”

22. “Why was that new James Bond so violent and also why were the women in it so unattractive?”

23. “Why don’t you see if any of your friends from high school are in town?”

24. “Do you use the placemats I sent you?”

25. “Do all your T-shirts have V-shaped necks now?”

26. “Isn’t that shirt too small for you?”

27. “If you get a dog, where is it going to sleep when you come home to visit?”

28. “Won’t that make the outside dogs jealous?”

29. “Who took the toaster out again after I put it away?”

30. “When are you coming home for Christmas?”

BTW, unsure but willing to guess that this is the “Why are you making that face?” face. It is actually just my face.

Friday, November 13, 2015

How to Buy Your First Suit When You’re an Idiot

You are thirty-three years old and don’t own a suit, not because you’ve been attending weddings and funerals in cutoffs and flip-flops but because you live in California, where rules about formal dress are bendy like yoga and palm trees. Should the need for formal dress arise, you have been cobbling together Frankenstein suits from old slacks and blazers you’ve accumulated over the years, from your dead grandfather and from the dead grandfathers of others, and so far this has been enough.

This, however, will not be enough for your college roommate’s wedding. Despite the fact that he wore cutoffs and flip-flops when you first met in the dorms, he has made the improbable decision to marry a woman of fashion, who actually even works in fashion and who has big ideas about clothes and the way we should wear them. As such, you have been told that you must acquire a suit — like, an actual suit, one that is comprised of especially garment-pieces that, when united, add up to more than the sum of their parts, and yes that’s a fantastic wedding metaphor.

In short, your college roommate’s bride will drag you kicking and screaming into a new phase of adulthood, the color scheme for which is apparently tonal gray — and yes, that’s another great metaphor.

This is how you get your first suit (by which I mean how I got my first suit, but I assume the process works identically for everyone).

One: Pout. The suit will cost money that you could spend on other things that would be more fun — for example, several T-shirt cannons with which you could enliven your college roommate’s wedding ceremony. “What, Nathan? You said she likes fashion,” is what you’d tell him after he wrestles you to the ground and while his family attempts to restore some semblance of order.

Two: Throw up your hands in despair. You are gay but not, like, suit gay, and the process of just going out and buying an appropriate suit is a task on the level of, say, building a working automobile out of sticks and tape. This is a subject to which you have literally given no thought over the course of your life, and your friends (who are also not suit guys but are closer to that than you are, perhaps) ask, “Well, what kind of suit do you want?” you can only say, “I don’t know. A wedding suit? A nice one that doesn’t cost that much money.”

Three: Get lost in all eleven pages of the bride’s PDFed suiting guide. (Yes, eleven. Yes PDFed.) This document lays out all suit-related possibilities. You are overwhelmed and cannot imagine how you could make tonal gray work for you without looking like a lower-tier member of the Power Rangers who specializes in legal affairs.

Four: Recall that you have friends who actually own a tailor shop specializing in bespoke suits. Recall that they live in New York. Recall that New York is not in California. Contemplate writing them a note in crayon that reads “U MAKE SUIT?” with a recent picture of yourself stapled to it. Decide against it.

Five: After much procrastination, go to Macy’s and find the men’s suit department to be a windblown shanty town without hope or light.

Six: During a visit home, you begrudgingly go to the Men’s Wearhouse, the place your parents recommended as having given your brother great deals on several suits that you imagine coming stuffed in some sort of KFC-style suit bucket. You regret being so judgmental when the salesclerk turns out to be well-versed in suitology and able to explain it to a dolt such as yourself. He measures you. He tells you that your shoulders are wider apart than they would normally be on a man of your height, and that your hips are unusually narrow. Even though this would be a compliment in a different context, it comes across as something you apologize for. You stand in front of the triple-mirror and compare your shoulders to your hips. “No, I think this is normal. This is okay, right?” you think. You decide to purchase a formal suit from a mall chain whose name is a pun.

Seven: You take the suit back to L.A. and find a tailor. He takes your measurements, checks your crannies. He gets all up in there like a T.S.A. agent trying to get a promotion. You wonder if the pants are being restitched based on a relief map of your balls. He asks what you want, and you say “It feels baggy. I’d like it a little more fitted.” He assures you this can be done, regardless of the spacious nature of Men’s Wearhouse garments. “We can do whatever you want,” he tells you. “I want T-shirt cannons,” you think but do not say aloud.

Eight: Days later, you try on the altered suit. “How do you like it?” the tailor asks eagerly. You can’t tell. It’s different, yes, but it’s nowhere near the fit to which you’re accustomed with jeans and T-shirts that have been tumbled and re-tumbled in the dryer over the span of years and maybe a decade. “Yeah, I’m not sure,” you say, remembering the comparison to the automobile made out of sticks and tape. You realize you have no idea what a properly fitted suit feels like. “It’s supposed to do this where my butt is?” you ask. The tailor seems annoyed. “It’s a suit. It’s not going to fit like jeans,” he explains. You can’t actually protest. You really couldn’t be any less out of your league here, and though you remember him saying that “whatever you want” part, you can’t think of a way to voice your concerns without implying that you understand suits — which, again, you do not.

Nine: You see the suit hanging in your closet every time you open it to retrieve one of the garments you do understand. You fear the suit. You may hate the suit. You think back to your brother’s wedding, when a tailor took your measurements for a rented suit and then delivered you a formless, baggy thing that you hated silently and then, after drinks, not so silently. It was chocolate brown. You looked like a zoot suiter in a Hershey’s commercial.

Ten: Finally, you try the suit on again. Your roommate is unable to advise if it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. You suppose that you just own this thing now. Maybe you should wear it to the grocery store and see what happens?

And this is how you’ve come to acquire your first suit.

Am I doing it right? Is this how tonal gray works? Am I an adult now? Is this what adulthood looks like?

Another take:

(And yes, by the way, this is in fact the same college roommate who declined my awesome suggestion for a song to walk down the aisle to.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

With “It” Being Dated Businesswear

Sometimes you wake up in the morning with an epiphany that you must share with the world. Other times, you wake up realizing that Jill, the businesslady frog from The Muppets Take Manhattan, looks like Nasim Pedrad.

No, there’s nowhere to take this realization, really, aside from just leaving it here. But you must admit: Now we know what it would look like if an evil wizard transformed Nasim Pedrad into a Muppet frog, and for that we should be thankful.

Who Wore It Better? — previously:

Friday, November 6, 2015

All About Octopussy

Yes, this is another post about Bond girls. I had to write about them for work, and the research yielded a few surprises, and the best of these by far is an explanation for why the hell anyone ever thought “Octopussy” would be an appropriate name for any human character, to say nothing of Bond’s love interest.

In Octopussy, Maud Adams plays the character whose nickname is “Octopussy,” thereby making this one film the only in the entire series to be named for female lead. Even separate from that name, she’s a standout character: She’s a moderately villainous businesswoman and jewel-smuggler who also happens to own a circus and live on a floating palace in India. Hey, get stuck with a name like “Octopussy” and you have to compensate somehow.

The film is loosely inspired by an Ian Fleming short story titled “Octopussy,” in which the name refers not to a human character but to someone’s pet octopus. And doesn’t the name make a lot more sense in that context? The story actually begins with its antagonist addressing the octopus directly: “‘You know what?’ said Major Dexter Smythe to the octopus. ‘You’re going to have a real treat today if I can manage it.’” Smythe later goes on to call the octopus both “Pussy” and “Octopussy.”

However, in reworking the story for the thirteenth James Bond film, the writers apparently thought, “No, this is a name that a human female should have. I see nothing wrong with that.” Dexter Smythe is already deceased at the outset of the film and seen only in photograph form. He’s mentioned as having been an octopus aficionado. Octopussy explains her name, kinda-sorta, with a single line that ties the film back to its source material: “My father became a leading authority on octopi. He loved them. His pet name for me was ‘Octopussy.’” Her actual name is never actually spoken within the film. (This Bond wiki page alleges that it’s Octavia Charlotte Smythe, but it’s apparently not her official real name.)

Awkward though it might be, that’s how Maud Adams ended up playing a character named “Octopussy.” The fact that she owns a circus might also be notable just in that the other Bond girl to have the word “pussy” in her name — Pussy Galore in Goldfinger — also leads a circus of sorts: Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, a group of female aviators who may or may not all be lesbians.

Adams had already appeared as a secondary Bond girl in The Man With The Golden Gun: Andrea Anders, a character with a name so non-ridiculous that it’s shared by a sitcom actress. (She’s half of the trashy neighbor couple living next to Phil and Claire on Modern Family.) Adams also makes an uncredited appearance in A View to a Kill, which probably set s a record for any non-Moneypenny, non-Judi Dench Bond actress.

And that end note as as good as any to point out that Duran Duran’s theme song for A View to a Kill might just be the best Bond theme song of all — yes, even better than Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I Am an Expert in Matilda

Hi. This is Matilda. She is a dog who has spent more time at my house than most of my human acquaintances have.

You may remember her as the dog who is an affront to my masculinity and who also was once the victim of a skunk attack. I am watching her for a week because her owner had to go to Venezuela for some weird operation, and I feel I am now an expert in all the facets of this dog’s personality.

You can be one too! Here are all the sides to Matilda.



Winking One Eye and Then the Other

Dozing in High-Foot-Traffic Areas of My Home

Sniffy Curiosity

Licky Curiosity

Rolling in Dirt

Having a Butterfly Land on Her Head and Completely Shutting Down Emotionally as a Result

Checking Hourly on the One Spot She Once Saw a Cat to See If the Cat Is in That Exact Spot Again

Making Concerned Whimpering Noises That Kind of Sound Like She’s Trying to Say Either Her Name or “Macaroni”

Arbitrarily Refusing to Walk Down Certain Blocks in My Neighborhood

Peeing on the Lawns of People Who Are Currently in Their Front Yards or Otherwise Able to Watch Her Pee on Their Property

“Wait, Is This Food or Not?”


Farts (or, If You Will, Butt-Sighs)

Thrusting Her Head Beneath Your Hands (or Sometimes Feet) in an Effort to Get Pets When You Are Not Actively Petting Her

Running Into the Room Seeming Alarmed, Then Looking Around and Returning From Whence She Came in a Vaguely Disappointed Fashion

Begrudgingly Consenting to Being Held Like a Baby

Leaving Blond Hairs on Black Floors

And that is everything Matilda is. You’re an expert too now.

In closing, a moment of classic Matilda:

Literally the first ten minutes of dog-sitting: Matilda finds an arch-nemesis. ATTN: @katherine_spiers

A video posted by Drew (@kidicarus222) on

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lesser Bond Girls

No one can hold a candle to Pussy Galore, of course. That seems dangerous, first of all, but in the history of James Bond women, no one has a name that is quite so on-the-nose perfect-awful.

However, I have learned that there exists a whole harem of Bond girls who only appear in the books written after the Ian Fleming era and who have ridiculous-amazing-exceedingly awkward that the world needs to know about.

Here is a list of them. No elaboration is needed, I feel, just the news that these characters exist.

Lavender Peacock

Persephone “Percy” Proud

Sukie Tempesta

Ebbie Heritage

Clover Pennington

Elizabeth “Easy” St. John

Hera Volopoulos

Heidi Taunt and her sister, Hedi Taunt

Felicity Willing

Ophelia “Philly” Maidenstone

Edua Blessing Ogilvy-Grant

Jeopardy Lane

Rosebud Spreadeagle

Okay, one of those I made up. But is it really that implausible? All these seem on par with the sex pun-laden Bond girl names from the actual movies. Also, once tried to Weird Al all the James Bond movie titles with limited success. I have no idea what work I was avoiding in doing this, but it must have been really heinous. I cannot think of a way to make a food pun for Spectre and feel like a failure.