something worse than socks and sandals
something worse than socks and sandals
Valentine’s Day always makes me think about the first time I fell in love — because it was kinda gay.
I fell in love with my soul mate at 14 years old. Yes, I’ve had multiple loves, but there will be no reliving the pure intensity and innocence of teenage infatuation.
Our world was exclusive, with 2 a.m. speeding down Laurel Canyon, surging serotonin-fueled singing and nightly phone calls on the landlines till dawn. There was mac n’ cheese at Jerry’s Deli, laughing laughing laughing, nighttime games of tag on the beach, playing dress up, making art and riding elevators up and down classic haunted hotels. Los Angeles was ours, we were just kids playing, but the happiness highs were so constant and intoxicating, we could barely breathe.
It was magic, I was the best version of myself around him, and it was gay. Gay as in happy, joyful, blissful and good. The Best. Yeah, it was super gay.
But did he like “like” me? He slept over most weekends, and spooned me while we watched a movie. Okay fine, so the movie was A Chorus Line, and he knew the words to every song. One singular sensation, every little step she takes…
Trust me, he was a tall drink-a-wata’ with a magnetic personality that could’ve convinced any girl she was the “most” special. But duh, I was suspicious. We bonded over S Club 7, the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack and the DVD release of The Little Princess and The Secret Garden double feature. But I could never be sure. I never wanted to be sure. I wanted him to love me.
He said people didn’t “get him” in high school, but I called bullshit because he was handsome and every single one of his friends was a girl.Every single one. I was too tall, too awkward, too weird, and felt like Iactually didn’t fit in. Either way, we got each other — and Esquivel got us, and Brigitte Bardot, and Fellini, and Harry Nilsson, John Waters, Serge Gainsbourg, and Woody Allen understood us too.
When he finally kissed me, it was like BAM. Okay fine, so I might have kissed him, and he might have been asleep while I did it. I was 16 then, vulnerable and confused as to why my feelings weren’t reciprocated. Was this just how relationships worked?
His name circled in my adolescent mind like a weird inescapable vortex of worship that made me consider making shrines. But even though we were inseparable, he wasn’t thinking about making shrines for me. I spent sleepless nights wondering why, nuzzled into my pillow because the scent of his hair gel was still on it.
When we were 18, he came out. It was gay. He was gay, and that’s why it was all so gay.
It was one of the most powerful moments we shared when he revealed his personal struggles with love, relationships, and fears of being “found out.” Now, I understood the great lengths he had gone to fool friends and family. But at the time, he couldn’t have understood how much he had fooled me.
Mixed with feelings of happiness and support, was my own private suffering for the loss of a relationship that never was. He was my first ever love, and this was my first ever “breakup.” I had been trapped in my yearnings for him for years, and when it was finally over, I didn’t feel justified to talk about my pain to anyone. Though it wasn’t a real breakup, my emotions were as intense, and I went through them alone knowing my romantic fantasy had always been one-sided, and that now it was dead.
This was his moment, his coming out story, and nothing could take away from that.
But it was my coming out story too. Coming out of my adolescence — for we had grown up together and taught each other about love. I could now come out of our magical bubble, and feel free (allowed even) to find romance elsewhere.
Not once did I wish my best friend had been straight — that would have made him a different person, and I loved him for who he was — because he loved The Music Man, and because he would blast “I Can Show You The World” in the car on the way to Disneyland with me. But in retrospect, I see that my first experience of love and heartbreak was an untold coming out story, deserving of attention too. My feelings were not meant to add to or subtract from his story because they were separate from his story.
We had to come out.
We had to come out of a relationship that was innocent and experimental, and we had to take our connection to a different place that was ultimately more mature, meaningful and long-lasting. We had to come out of teenage-hood and become adults together.
At 14, I could have died completely contented for having been so lucky, that I (me!) got to experience this kind of a connection just once in my life. Because once can be enough when some don’t get it at all.
I am 26 now, he is still my best friend, and I still feel like I could die happy just for having the relationship and growing experiences we shared.
Which is, like, really gay — as in happy, joyous blissful and good. The Best.
You had me at, “I’m not a ginger.” When you open that blue door, my heart beats louder than the two of yours combined, because I have a problem that only a doctor can solve. Do you have a helping hand to spare?
My problem is that I’m in love with a ten.
You talk about time and space collapsing on each other, but that worried look on your face only says, “Darling, Rose was nothing. It’s you I want to save the world for.”
Don’t get me wrong; your eleventh incarnation had great hair, and charm that could silence the Silence. That twinkle in his eye reflects angels, and it makes me weep, it’s so beautiful. Sure, Eleven plays football and is great with kids, but only a very rare woman could love a god who insists on the face of a 12-year-old.
Consider me pinned by your stripes because, sweetie, you’re a dime. I choose a long coat over bow ties, because it’s chilly in space. In fact, it’scold as hell, but your sideburns burn right through my soul. Not to mention, I have a thing for no guns because skinny guys are my type.
You think you are so powerful, but I am the omnipotent being able to warp reality, time and space, because I have something even Bad Wolf doesn’t:
A Netflix account.
I looked into my screen, and my screen looked into me. I can see the whole of Series 2-4, and the episodes are tiny. Every single second of your existence, and I rewind them. And watch them over and over.
I’m not needy or a girl who waits. I’m not impossible and I know where I am. I exist in the interwebs, and I find you when I want. I can see everything. All that is, and all that was. All that ever could be. So maybe you should start calling me “The Master,” because I open episodes in many tabs, and duplicate you.
It’s time to step into my time stream, sweetie, and change the fabric of time and space. Just this once, it will feel so right. And no, I don’t just want a screw… driver (though, let’s get real, I’d settle for that too). I want all of your wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey… stuff.
Why? Because you inspire me to be a better person, and you taught me to never give up. To not just let things happen, and to make a stand. To say no! To have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.
Have the guts to not run away… from me, no matter how scared you are (of how creepy I am). Say “no!” to Elizabeth, River and Rose, and yes to me. It’s now or never, because no second chances. I’m that kind of woman.
I could bring down your hearts with a single word. No, you’re right. Not a single word; just six words. Six.
Will you marry me David Tennant?
I don’t even need a ring, just a machine that goes “ding.”
You”ve been married before, but our union would be an upgrade. The Ood would sing our praises as The Face of Boe pronounced us Time Lord and wife. We’d honeymoon on the planet Midnight, and tour the cosmos in search of the best anti-gravity restaurant around.
Number ten, be my number one.
You’re never too far from a phone, so when you are ready to accept your inevitable fate (because our meeting is a fixed point in time), give me a call and I’ll be there faster than you can say Allons-y.
Anonymous because spoilers
p.s. Resistance is futile.
Some girls think they look better with makeup, despite someone telling them “You look sooo much better bare.” For some, this might be true, but what if you are a swarthy-ish, middle eastern-ish, Jew-ish looking person (like yours truly) that grows hair in places ladies aren’t supposed to, has bad skin, and actually needs cover-up to not resemble someone going through puberty? And say you are on a month-long camping road trip/vision quest/spirit journey/YOLO adventure from Washington DC to Californ-IA? If that is the case, then a little bit of face maintenance is required.
Because I have appearance anxiety, my cross-country journey would be different from my male beat poet heroes. I would be on the road like Jack Kerouac riding in a magic bus like Ken Kesey, experiencing the harvest moon like Neil Young, but unlike these men I would carry more than just a wailin’ song and a good guitar. I would also carry makeup.
Why? Because I have internalized subliminal and explicit messages that tell me natural girls who don’t need makeup are pretty, but those pretty girls naturally don’t have unibrows and acne. Well, naturally, I don’t fit that image, and so naturally the resulting insecurities bind me to products that create a mask of natural beauty, naturally, naturally, naturally. “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline.”
For this reason, my version of the American female road trip is told through the lens of a makeup mask:
We go on a four-mile hike and it’s beautiful. We come upon a babbling brook, and I see my reflection ripple in the mirror, I mean water. Putting on my face has been a part of my daily routine (give or take a few hours) since the day I discovered mirrors. Does the guy I’m traveling with also define himself as being “in a relationship” with a mirror?
We gaze in awe at a breathtaking waterfall and feel existential; pondering our place on Earth, and how we are connected to the water, to the trees, to each other. We are all made of the same star stuff. My cover-up is made up of the same star stuff — is it flaky?
Damn, this waterfall is magnificent. Is my leg hair coming back in? I swear I shaved it this morning. I point in excitement at a mama bear and cub I see in the distance. Nature is wondrous. It’s a wonder nature gave me a unibrow. My friend asks why I tweeze it. I ask why he’s never dated a girl with facial hair.
Night falls, and the cosmos is in full view. The moon and the campfire make our faces glow, and he explains the physics of a black hole. What about the physics of a blackhead? I sneak away to apply foundation, and he wonders why I’m not self-secure enough to go without it.
I tell him it’s because I experience a world different than his. In my world, the idea that a woman’s self-worth is tied to her physical appearance has been reinforced since birth. Images of feminine ‘naturalness’ have been co-opted and imposed on me by society, and I feel an inescapable pressure to alter myself (through makeup, tweezing or shaving) to match a picture I don’t fit genetically. Now my beauty and confidence are so entwined, that it makes it challenging to let go of a crutch that I think helps my exterior, and consequently affects the way I relate to others and myself.
Every day I work toward moving beyond this damage, but that is a longer journey than this road trip.
We arrive in Mount Rushmore, and the presidents look great because rock does wonders for blemishes. We camp. We leave. We find a lake. We swim. My concealer is two shades too light for my new tan, and now I look like a geisha. Shit.
My friend challenges me to go just one day without makeup because I am delusional, and look better natural anyway.
His intentions are good, but the challenge comes off as a condescending dismissal of a lifelong struggle that bothers me in a way he doesn’t understand. No woman has asked me to go a day without makeup because they oftentimes relate to the emotional implications of that. Yet, he is not the first man to mistakenly assume he has so much power over me that his opinion will be my cure. I am delusional because society made me that way, and no external voice telling me I look better bare can erase those deep psychological (and acne) scars. Rather, it takes inner work to feel secure, and I am comforted, and alarmed, to know that many women share this struggle.
The Pacific Ocean finally emerges when we leave Portland, and it means we have officially reached the West Coast. “I’m going to find a spicket to fill the water” I say. I wander off behind some spectacular Redwood beast of a tree with my pocket mirror and makeup essentials. I come back waterless, but my face is one color again. The forest really is magical.
Over 3,000 miles behind us, and now the small stretch ahead will get us home in just a few hours. Before we know it, we are crossing the Bay Bridge into Berkeley, California.
As I look back on this narrow account of my trip, I can laugh about my dependence on makeup, but also know that it has a dark side that deserves examination, not condemnation. It’s not about vanity, but about personal insecurities that stem from being immersed in patriarchal beauty standards that shame me, as a woman, for not naturally having clear and hairless skin.
Truth be told, I would have loved to write about a journey across America that ended in my overcoming a reliance on the makeup mask, but that would have been a “made up” camping trip. Maybe one day I can learn to be more accepting of myself, and our society can learn to be more accepting of female “imperfections.”
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