Brown Queer 2018

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Monica Lewinsky.

Not Monica herself, exactly, but a simpler times when I liked to lie on the floor in front of the wood paneled, vintage-seeming TV that dominated my family living room growing up. I remembered her name because it sounded interesting, and because my parents changed the channel when news of the scandal came on. Changing the channel and lighting a joint, they’d eventually have myself or my siblings take lit incense around the house before kicking us to our bedrooms, cells off the tiled, yellow kitchen.

Looking back, I don’t blame them; who wants three kids around killing your buzz?

If other 5th graders were talking blowjobs and stained dresses at school I was defiantly not around, so I maintained a blissful ignorance punctuated with pop culture jokes and late night TV. This is not too hard to entertain since no one talked to me much in school. I find myself relating to Carrie White in Steven King’s Carrie, all youthful, gullible wholesomeness by way of an awkward nature and religious, softly hypocritical parents. Unlike Carrie, most of us learn to roll our eyes internally being told not to drink, smoke, breed or engage in homosexual acts by parents who do precisely these things, be it in prison or pre-vasectomy. Given the option as teens, who can say for sure they wouldn’t broil their peers just a little and take down a house.

I got facts sometime in high school, when I could Google with relative confidence and read the whole thing on Wikipedia. I think like most Americans, I hadn’t much refreshed my info on Monica since, but for a vague awareness of a reality show and a line of handbags.

In the years before my half-assed Lewinsky Enlightenment, bits of information had slowly come in unbalancing jabs. A job in the white house! That’s impressive, you know, for the most part. Ideally, a person has done a few things right in their life in order to work in building where important decisions of huge scale are determined, to say nothing of history and, like, democracy. Yet, shit, here were are.

Meeting someone with such a job provokes an outward “Oh! The White House, wow… can you even talk about it?” while generally feeling the kind of self-doubt usually reserved for an unplanned shoeless situation on the desperate last day of needing to do laundry, socks toeless and graying on a friend’s grandma’s creamy, clotted carpet. I’m trying to think that at the end of the day, we’ve all procrastinated a little, right?

I can imagine how the greeting oh’s Monica has received over the years have changed, the pitch of recognition high and false these days and for a while now. Everyone already knew about Carrie’s mom, her pious, grandiose personal relationship with Jesus, the ghost, Ghoul and whatever else.

Monica by now must be some assassin level ninja at navigating, and probably largely dodging, these loaded hellos. More than likely meeting an ill-informed kid with a cold tummy from Nebraska would have been a relief back in those trial days and since.

Having now left my small, rural hometown in Nebraska, where about half of the 15K population are also blessed with cocoa colored skin, dark hair and eyes and the general brand “Mexican,” I’ve been learning these sorts of landmines are everywhere.

I’m not saying this slice of America is any less salty and racist than the rest, just that walking down the street, shopping and being in public in general feels somewhat, slightly less conspicuous when the sherif is also Mexican and a loose relation, when there’s Mexican-owned business and teachers growing up. I remember when I first found myself traveled anywhere else at about 16, in Minneapolis, MN, turning to a friend and saying “I’m the only Mexican…”

It’s a feeling built slowly: being served last or not at all at the bar; followed in the store; polite hellos and foiled plans with nervous, probably friendly allies; the waitress saying hola; the dude on Grindr calling me papi and the homeless man ranting about “illegals” when I  walk by. To say nothing of politics, the 2016 election and President Trump’s famous “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” pretty much sums up and confirms the ambivalent patience and attitude required needed to survive while being brown these days. This while trying hard to ignore The Wall, deteriorating immigration policy, DACA; the fresh price tag of GLBTQ rights already peeling and frayed at the edges.

Ideally, we are defined by our actions and not judged on identity. All respect to Monica, but at least she is largely known for a factual dick sucking than for being a race accused of being hypothetical rapist drug dealers. These are the lines that stick. I have to hope that no one really believes in entrepreneurial Mexican babies, slinging rock and taking advantage from birth, a tortilla in one hand in a gun in the other, but really who knows what people will believe? More Mexican stereotypes hiding as associations, like foreskin, Catholicism and an army of cousins.

I’d prefer to be known equally for my oral proficiency as with the rest of my actions, but that isn’t too realistic when, below the surface, where you’re from, the sound of your voice, who you fuck or the color of your skin is a national talking point. I picture my equivalent, maybe someone only different enough from me to be white and sexually republican enough. What steaks in the fight do they they have to learn about my experience, much less join the fray? It’s easy privilege, another series of jokes and innuendo I’m not and won’t be in on.

So I find this longing to be that kid in front of the TV glow, before my parents flick their lighters and change the channel, before the incense swirls and tickles my nose. I’m longing for an innocent, earnest and pre-disenfranchised “hello.”

Hi, Monica.

Serenaded to Sup: A Flirting Retrospective

“You mean… he serenaded you?”

I guess he did, I was 18 on a basement sofa the first time I was serenaded. There are certainly worse things than anxiously enduring a musical mating call; not realizing what happened until later explained by a female friend better versed in the ways of Men is actually worse, defiantly more embarrassing.

Maybe romance isn’t dead, but a part of me was doing a good job at pretending.

I could take all the blame for being oblivious, but that wouldn’t be completely fair. This was Western Nebraska in the mid-2000’s, raised on the down-the-highway murder of Matthew Shepard; the echoes of very real-world and local insults from peers, family and the occasional stranger. Being oblivious was a defense mechanism I’d used all my life to very mixed results at school and beyond.

“Who’s a faggot? Where?”

It turns out, playing the guitar for one other person in a room is always queer as fuck. Respond in the negative or ungracefully change the subject and the room will fill with ice. A noncommittal “great, really good… strumming” enters the room flatter than any note. Somehow.

It may very well be that making out is exactly the happy medium needed to to equalize the awkward gasses in the room and in knotted tummies. For the sake of a complete analogy, The Facility went critical, gases built until kissing that guy in that room didn’t do a damn thing.

But, Brokeback Bluff  does has a certain ring to it.

Fast forward, flirting can qualify as a few “Hellos” and pleasantries exchanged over an App, a date to drink or eat. I’ve had more than a few friends who’ve turned these connections made against the maxims of judging books by covers and snap decisions into long relationships and marriage.

Who really know where a “Sup?” might go these days? ‘Sup’ being some mutant of “What is up?” that conveys a sexy, casual masculinity. One must be careful not to come off to give a shit. NM, HBU? An armor of compound words and a good profile picture, the height of desirability. The shorthand is just really a means to an end, easy advertising and a gauge of interest. It’s direct and saves time weeding out people self-important enough to require English sentences on the way to their blow job.

Looking back, I suppose in a way my array of band t-shirts had landed me on that dated couch and vetted me about punk bands. The lesson probably best delivered by the wise matriarch I keep ready in my imagination:

“You get back what you put into the world, sunshine.”

It’s hard to say what I prefer: serenade or sup. But whenever I’m feeling too self conscience or generally unworthy of saying “hey,” I have that worse-case to shock me into action. And at the very least, I have some good dinner conversation:

“Once, a guitarist played the very romantic comedy from me…”

Being Special & Friday the 13th

The weather is fucking fine and it’s Friday the 13th.

I have developed a decidedly positive outlook of this unlucky day for a number of reasons. The loudest reason being the added conversational fodder for myself and my brethren who struggle against awkward silences in line at the mini mart. Or worse, forced conversation with someone known but avoided at all costs.

These people manage to slip in an elevator or get assigned the same table at the company party, so it’s nice to have some faux topics. The weather is always there, but on Friday the 13th, everyone has a story.

We’ve all heard the stories: the 13th a coworker discovered the cheating; the lost or locked-in keys; the ticket; the string of a bad day retold with the expectation of pity and laughs.

Who doesn’t love some self deprecation?

Like most people, I have also have an affinity for black cats, split poles and stepped-on cracks. Bad luck omens of American urban legend. The answer why is clear: it’s easier to imagine that when random bad things happens, that it’s not only out of our control, but also preordained fate — the result of of mysterious and cruel forces.

Things that suck tend to suck less if they make you special. And being able to shirk some blame or even the added hue to partial, begrudging responsibility.

Or you just fall down the stairs and ponder a bit too much in bed.

But how was your day?