Friday, July 23, 2010

8:44 AM

The Thing About Closets is You Can Always End Up Inside One Again

Holla Amigas,

I want to start off this post with an apology. I realize that I have drastically slowed down my rate of posting on The Point. Friends, I am sorry! I'll make it up to you, I promise. From here on out I'll aim at posting one new entry per week on Thursdays (because I know you need that kick to get you to Friday). I know you'll accept my apology, so let's get started on a new tale from my life of awesomeness.

Today's story is about closets. In case you've never considered this, gays aren't the only kids hiding in them. Lots of people hang out in closets. Obviously, they house a number of lesbians, gay boys and transgendered friends, but they also provide a haven for republicans at liberal arts colleges, mixed race or light skinned ethnic kids who pass as white, feminists who want to grow up and be housewives, and respected public figures who love marijuana.

Lots of people hide who they are or what they love in order to fit in and be accepted by society. Maybe you've even hid in a closet at some point. If you have, you are well aware that you can't come out of the closet one time and be done with it. It's a repetative process. You also know that coming out or staying in the closet is a daily decision. It's like this: your roommate brings over some friends for a dinner party. After a few glasses of wine and friendly conversation, you all begin discussing politics. The controversial issue of same-sex marriage or legalizing marijuana (or whatever makes you part of the closet brigade) comes up. Now, what do you do? Do you share your truth and endure ignorant questions--at best--or hostility--at worst--about who you are and what you feel or do you keep it to yourself?

Guys, it's a daily mindfuck.

The Thing About Closets is You Can Always End Up Inside One Again

I came out to my parents long after I'd come out to my friends, but before coming out to my siblings. It was the summer after graduation and I'd just taken a temporary postion at my alma mater. My car was all packed up and I was preparing to take off for my new home, four hours from my parents. It was a Friday and my siblings were all at school. My dad was at work. It was just my mom and I.

Before I go any futher, I should warn you: this is not the story of coming out to my parents, but you need to know some basics to get to today's story.

Two hours before hopping on the road, I told my mom I was gay. Although she thinks it's a phase, she agreed to tell my dad and let me tell my sisters myself. As I was arriving in my new hometown, my mom called and promptly handed the phone to my father. He was more accepting than she was, but I got the vibe he thought this might be temporary as well.

That weekend I moved into my new house.  My mom called all effing weekend to ask me what being gay meant for me and for her future as a grandmother. Also, she kept saying she didn't know "how this could have happened." 

On Monday I began my job. I never hid anything during my life as a student, so I didn't figure I'd encounter any sexuality-centered problems at work. I was excited and totally nevervous as I entered my new office. On the one hand, my mom didn't have my work number so I was saved from dealing with questions on gay life for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. On the other hand, the job was temporary. I would only work there for three months and then I'd be off on another adventure or forced to move back home and deal with being an out lesbian living in my southern, conservative, Catholic, African-American household.

The workday went by realitvely smoothly. Around 3 o'clock that afternoon, all of the women in my office gathered in our lobby for their daily chit-chat. You should know that every woman in my office has been married to a man at least once and they are all well over 35. Therefore, the conversation quickly turned to men.

Before I knew it, I was fielding advice about how to choose my future husband and being bombarded with questions concerning what kind of man I liked. I was trapped. I had just come out to my parents and had been fielding my mother's ridiculous questions for the last three days straight. I didn't think I could handle dealing with the same thing at work. I choose to wiggle out of answering the questions at work by smiling a lot and acting super shy.

Once the chit-chat subsided, I went back to my desk and replayed the situation in my mind. Should I have come out? I decided that I'd done the right thing. This job was only for three months, I reasoned. It wouldn't hurt anyone if I kept my sexuality out of the workplace for three months. And at my next job, I promised myself, I wouldn't hide. Being out and visible is the best thing the queer community can do in terms of teaching America to accept us. If your mom or sister, dad or brother, son or daughter, neice, mentor, employee, crush, or friend is gay and open about it, you are forced to consider your stance on gay issues because you realize that they affect someone you care about. It is imperitive for the queer community that we be seen.

Well friends, three months came and went. At the end of month three, I was presented with the opportunity of turning my temporary job into a permanent position. With calls still coming in daily from my mother, asking "why [I] choose this lifestyle" I decided to take the offer rather than move back home.

I'm sure you can guess where this is going: I've now been working this job for ten months. Chit-chat still occurs every day at three and I'm still fielding advice on how to date men and choose a husband. Despite the poster of an equality sign on my office door and the fact that I took time off to get to Capitol Pride early, no one's picked up on my homoawesomness.

Last week I went out of town with my boss for three days. For her, it was an opportunity to get to know me better as a person as opposed to as an employee. For me, it was three days of listening to relationship advice and wondering why I was continuing this charade of being straight. I could tell the women in my office about my sexuality now, but then it looks as though I've been lying and hiding who I am for months. However, with my beliefs on the importance of queer visibility, is it ethical for me to keep hiding who I am? Friends, it's a mindfuck.

Fin

Todays Point: It is a struggle to be authentic. To be transparent and true to who you are as a person, you've got to push to be the most sincere and honest you that you can be every effing day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

3:15 PM

Beware of Plastics

Dear Friends,

Remember when I said that one day we'd start Tarantino-ing my life stories? Well today we're only moving forward by a few months. Welcome to my eighth grade year. This story disturbs me because it makes me remember myself at my worst, but at the same time it's a story that I LOVE to tell people. 

So now I'll tell it to you.

Beware of Plastics

My final year of middle school I belonged to a clique that ran itself like it's own mini country of baddassery.  We had an army of boys, a nation of hanger-ons and groupies who followed our orders, and a number of alliances with our fellow cliques. At the time of this tale, I was part of our clique's government.  It was a government constantly in flux due to constant revolution and metaphorical assassination.  At the time, there were three of us heading the clique: Nikki, Pandora, and myself.

I can't tell you why we thought we were so cool because I really don't know.  Maybe it's because we snuck out a lot, but at 13 we were only walking around town in the dark.  Maybe it's because we went roller skating every single Friday night and hung out with high school kids who provided us with CDs sporting parental advisory stickers. Or maybe it's because wore embellished flare jeans and put on makeup every morning as soon as we got to school (we had no choice: our parents didn't permit us to wear anything other than Lip Smackers). Maybe it was all of these reasons. Whatever it was, it obviously isn't a standard for measuring "cool" nine years later. 

Anyways, Nikki, Pandora and I had English class together. The three of us were the only students in the class with assigned seats. Our teacher, Ms. McMillian swore that if we sat together, we would pass notes constantly. On a balmy day in April, Ms. McMillan stood in front of the class and introduced a new girl.  Her name was Jody and she was--in a word--a mess. Jody was taller than anyone else in the class by at least five inches, but her eyes surveyed the room with genuine fear. Her hair was brittle yellow and fashioned into an uneven bowl cut that looked as though she'd used safety scissors to cut it herself. Jody wore a pink plaid shirt that was at least two sizes too large and she had braces.

When Ms. McMillan finished introducing Jody to the class, she told Jody to pick a seat.  Jody's murky brown eyes whirled around the room cautiously. Eventually they landed on the seat next to me.  I smiled, said hi, and scooted my book to the corner of the desk to share it with Jody.  Rule number one of being an "it girl" is to make those below you effing love you. You've got to be kind before you can be cruel, otherwise they'll never stand for your ridiculous behavior.

Class went on without a hitch and afterwards Pandora, Nikki, and I walked to lunch. We had a table outside which everyone understood was our table. As we sat down to eat we saw Jody standing in the pizza line, crying. Because of the laws of  It Girl World, Nikki approached Jody to ask her what was wrong.  Of course, Jody didn't have any friends yet and therefore had no one to eat with. Nikki invited Jody to join our table: since it was her first day we could afford to be nice.

Jody ate with us for the next two weeks. And soon she began following us around all of the time. From English class to our lockers to secret meetings after school, Jody was with us. Her fashion didn't change at all in those two weeks, which was a problem. But even worse, she didn't take advantage of the gift we were offering in letting her hang out with us: Jody never contributed to the conversation. By week three we still didn't know what kinds of boys she liked or what her hobbies were, we didn't know how she got along with her siblings or what kind of music she listened to, she didn't even talk to us about whether or not she got along with her parents. We didn't know much more about her than we did on her first day on campus.

So, we decided to break up with her. All of the eighth graders had PE at the same time; first thing in thing in the morning. We decided that would be the perfect time to let her go.

It went down like this: Pandora, Nikki, and I rolled into PE fifteen minutes late. After getting thoroughly reamed out in front of the whole class for showing up late, we picked a corner spot in the gym and waited for Jody. No less then thirty seconds later, Jody scooted across the room to sit with us. She smiled as she approached. "Hi," she said.

Nikki, Pandora, and I all met eyes. Nikki nodded towards me, "Do it." 

I placed my hand on Jody's calf, in an effort to seem compassionate. Her legs were unshaven and I swallowed to keep from recoiling. "Jody, this really isn't working for us anymore." 

"What isn't working?" Jody's smile started to fall.

"You and us," I said, motioning towards Nikki, Pandora, and myself. "I don't think it's a good idea for you to be our friend anymore."

"What?" Now Jody's eyes were panicked and I thought back to her on her first day of school in Ms. McMillian's class. "Why not?" Jody asked.

Pandora twirled her hair around her finger as she took over the conversation, "Look Jody, it's not that we don't like you, but we don't know anything about you. You never tell us anything. You never talk with us about boys or music or class or anything."

Nikki pretended to look bothered, "I think other friends would suit you better."

By this point, tears rolled down Jody's cheeks. Pandora, Nikki, and I looked at each other, trying to decide what to do next.  Finally Jody spoke up, "I can talk more.  I'll start to tell you things.  I like listening to Britney Spears and my parents are in the military." She took a deep breath, "I know you all. I know that Abernathy doesn't even like the boys you eat lunch with-"

"Yes she does," Pandora interrupted. 

"No," Nikki said, agreeing with Jody, "she doesn't. But that's okay; Abernathy speaks up, she dresses like the rest of us..." Nikki's eyes roamed over Jody's mismatched gym uniform as her words trailed off.

Jody sobbed even harder, "I'll let you give me a makeover. It's okay, we can fix this."

Nikki shook her head, "No Jody, we can't.  It's too late."

Jody looked at all of us pleadingly, "I don't have any other friends."

Pandora shrugged and Nikki and I rose to head to the locker room. "Make some."

***
The next day in English class I did my best not to say anything to Jody. She looked over sadly through most of the class, but I did my best not to return her gaze.

At lunch that day, I was the first to reach our table and was surprised when Jody approached me.  I looked up from my meal to see Jody wearing a green plaid dress. It would never fly with my group of friends, but I could see she was making an effort. "Can I eat with you today?" She asked, "I mean, until I find new friends."

This seemed fair enough to me, but I knew better than to make a decision without first running it by Nikki and Pandora. Rule number two of It Girl World: you cannot make your own decisions.  I told Jody to hold on, then I went and found my friends in the lunch line and explained the situation.  Nikki shook her head, "Absolutely not. We said she's out and I mean that; she's out."

Slowly, I walked back to Jody. I shook my head, "I'm sorry." Jody walked across the courtyard, sat down against a wall and spent the rest of the lunch period sobbing.

***
I never talked to Jody again. She ended up becoming good friends with two girls who didn't care what she wore and didn't judge her for not talking about boys all the time. I always thought she looked genuinely happy with them and I hope that she's just as happy wherever she is today.

That summer (about six months after this story takes place) I received the Jody treatment and was dumped from the clique as well...but I'll save that story for another day. 

Fin

The Points of Today's Story: 
(1) Karma will get your ass. 
(2) Being cool is not necessarily the same as being happy. 
(3) When you do horrible things to nice people, it haunts you and you'll still feel horrible about it nine years later. So just be a nice girl.