"There's this old joke", A Brief History of Time, Albert Camus, Alvy Singer, Annie Hall, comedy, death, Diane Keaton, existentialism, Film, film review, Happy Birthday, Humor, If a woman is upset it's not because she's on her period it's because you're being a dick, Imaginary Time, Joshua Jammer Smith, Literature, Lobsters, Marshal McLuhan, Philosophy, Prime Numbers, reflection, romance, Romantic relationships, Science, Stephen Hawking, The Myth of Sisyphus, White Tower Musings, women wearing men's suits, Woody Allen, Writing
I’m told it’s best to start things off with a joke. But keep your eyes open for the one at the very end.
There’s this joke. A man works for five years writing for a blog, and after five years he remarks to himself, boy, this is really terrible. I spend hours and hours of my time and energy worrying and thinking about a bunch of writing that really hasn’t made any impact. I’ve also spent hundreds of hours that could have been spent on exercise, cooking, spending time with my wife, taking my pets for walks, masturbating,volunteering in my community, or learning a musical instrument to help me seem interesting. All in all there’s been a lot of time spent producing a handful of essays that, really, nobody seems to care about and haven’t brought me one real iota of long term happiness. To which the writer responded to this thought, “Yeah, and the worst part is there’s still so many damn essays I need to write.”
Well, that seems to be my lesson. Writing for five years, and publishing my work to little or no praise is miserable work, filled with nothing but suffering, misery, and agony, and it’s passed by far, far too quickly.
This is also, for the record, a cheap rip off of one of my favorite films Annie Hall, which also happens to have a character who happens to be a writer. His opening monologue is one which I have never forgotten, because it was one of those moments in life when one recognizes the voice that perfectly sums up what you believe and think perfectly:
Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. The… the other important joke, for me, is one that’s usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud’s “Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious,” and it goes like this – I’m paraphrasing – um, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” That’s the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.
I’m not being cute or coy or hipster when I say this opening left me forever altered. Much like when I first listened to Slipknot’s first album, watching Annie Hall and listening to Woody Allen’s monologue was like discovering a voice I had always been looking for. Although Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese were gods to me, Woody Allen came in and gave me an actual working model to move forward. Alvy Singer was the character I more or less was, not so much what I wanted to be, or at the very least he was a voice that I thought I could be in terms of my writing.
I’m a rather gloomy, depressive, self-depreciating, neurotic asshole, and here was a gloomy, depressive, self-depreciating neurotic asshole.
It may seem pathetic, but the earliest truth of writing was write what you know. I wasn’t a gangster like Joe Pesci or a nameless Samurai-blade wielding warrior named Beatrix Kiddo, I was a nervous and depressed moody teenager dealing with a lot of self-deprecation that would eventually become a staple character trait.
My writing really started to mimic Alvy Singer, and Woody Allen in general, and so the character and voice began to form. That was about 12 years ago, and after about a decade of writing, five of which took place on this blog here, I’m still amazed by that opening and in many ways still paying tribute to Woody Allen who started it off with a joke.
But five years is half a decade to get over this self-depreciation crap and so I’ve been forced to reconcile the fact that dumping on myself and my contributions to humanity are simply going to be part of my aesthetic. It drives my mother crazy, it makes my wife mad, and at least three of my friends are planning on ways to kick my ass if I continue to annoy them with my bemoaning. I’m working on improving this condition, but habit dies hard damn it, and the case for mental instability.
All this lead in has actually been for a purpose however, so I’m going to attempt something novel: I think I might have actually done something. Or, to put it another way, I don’t think I’ve done nothing with these essays. I’ve just done a little. I haven’t wasted my time, or my reader, with my work, and while it’s not a grand demonstration of self-worth, life has taught me in recent months that it is the small, little, everyday gestures that build up into the larger narratives.
And unlike Alvy, I’m going to try and join, and stay, in the happy club, because life is far far too short.
It wasn’t fun watching Annie Hall the first time. In fact it was physically painful. I was moaning through most of the film, wondering how much longer I actually would have in it. I remember my mother and little sister in the kitchen talking, possibly working on homework, while I labored through the film.
Every few seconds I would lift the remote and hit the “info” button which would spring the title, time, channel information, and various other options like setting up closed captions and recording it to a DVR we didn’t actually own at the time. It seemed like the seconds were literally infinite as Alvy whined about death or accused Annie’s emotional state to her menstrual cycle.
One such moment was an actual animated scene and provides such an brief snippet of Alvy’s sentiment:
[Alvy fantasizes being in love with the Wicked Queen from Snow White]
Wicked Queen: We never have any fun any more.
Alvy Singer: How can you say that?
Wicked Queen: Why not? You’re always leaning on me to improve myself.
Alvy Singer: You’re just upset. You must be getting your period.
Wicked Queen: I don’t get a period. I’m a cartoon character.
At some point my whining got rather loud and I said in my pathetic and obnoxious adolescent voice, “When is this movie going to be over.”
My mother to her credit suggested, “If you’re not enjoying it, just change the channel.”
Common sense is an easy trait to recognize unless it’s coming from someone else. I can’t remember if I offered a rebuttal, but whatever the case I shut up, muttering under my breath about the intolerable quality of the film until the final ending sequences when I really paid attention and ALvy offered up a beautiful quote:
Alvy Singer: You know you try to make things come out perfect in art, because they rarely do so in real life.
The sensation of being young is discovery, because as you age you encounter people and ideas that, in truth, have been expressed over and over again throughout the entirety of human history. There’s nothing really novel in Alvy’s quote here, but when I wasthirteen that statement might as well have been made by Shakespeare or Socrates. They hit me in such a way that I was stimulated and I began to think about what art was, what it could be.
Of course my response to begin writing a novel about a group of angsty artists living in a nameless city who did nothing but talk about art. It was absolute shit, but it was the first push man. After that I was determined. Life was going to be made perfect in my art, because my life wasn’t anywhere near that term.
Writer’s never seem to be happy people and I’m not sure why that is. We tend to spend all of our time thinking about writing, and occasionally more time talking about writing. There’s much time and energy spent worried about words and their meaning andwhether or not we’ve really done something with them. And occasionally, after the third cup of coffee, in mid-afternoon, when our spouses and children are out shopping or playing, or just generally enjoying life while we’re worrying about similes and articles, a thought appears that just feels perfect.
And even after that perfectly expressed thought is made there is a deeper dissatisfaction because I know I’m never going to get another sentence that perfect ever again.
Alvy seemed to offer me something of a reconsideration of this fact however, as he was taking Annie to a bookstore.
Alvy Singer: I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’remiserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.
A friend of mine recently committed suicide and I’ve spent much of the last month or so just recovering from that miserable bullshit. Learning more and more about Savannah’s personal life, and dealing with my own reaction to her suicide is something of a revelation, a word that I worry grows more and more meaningless with each new essay I write. But it’s fair in this case to use that word, because suicide is something I have spent a significant amount of time worrying about.
Though I should be honest, I also spent a serious amount of time joking about it. Suicide was a real compulsion, and often I would think about taking my own life. After a while it just got to be normal. I would picture my friends and family reacting to my death, wondering who would and wouldn’t care about my sudden absence. And this confession itself is it’s own sort of exercise because it demonstrates a real truth about depression which is namely that it is a form of narcissism.
I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted people to care about me. I wasn’t considering suicide to really think about the implications and the real world affect.
Albert Camus to my mind provided the most realistic explanation of suicide in his great work The Myth of Sisyphus:
There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest—whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that the philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect. (3).
Camus came to the conclusion that life is worth living, and my friend did not. She was a frequently miserable person, and I’m not sure I could, I know I could not have done anything to stop her. And it’s a shame to me, because I never got to watch Annie Hall with her and see what she would have thought about the film.
I’m pretty sure she would have thought it was shit, but still, I would have liked to have been disappointed with her response.
Stephen Hawking died shortly before I started writing this year’s “Happy Birthday essay,” and before I get to that I want to address the fact that there are “birthday” essays. It seems like I’m trying to create a new genre of essays, which is ridiculous I’m really only inventing new titles. Anyone who think that they’re creating anything really new is so full of shit. I mean there’s only so many letters, so many words, and unless you’re J.R.R. Tolkien or the dude who made Cling-On you really haven’t made anything new in terms of language. An essay is a fucking essay end of story, I’m just reflecting year after year and trying not to bore people.
But anyway, Stephen Hawking is dead now, and at the Tyler Public Library we had a small display set up to remember him and his work, and while I was walking back and forth helping patrons I kept spotting a documentary titled A Brief History of Time. It was based on his book of the same title and I took it home having a moment of sublime inspiration.
There is this idea of Imaginary Time and it has revolutionized the very way I see the universe, time, history, reality, and everything in between. In essence the notion of time being something that just moves forward constantly until it ends has been, not rejected, just reevaluated.
Looking to the actual book then, Hawking explores this concept and, as always, manages to make what is quite possibly the most difficult concept for a layman to feel approachable, and, far more importantly, understandable:
However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started—it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. (146).
Though of course this brings me back to Annie Hall, for the film starts with Alvy’s childhood, and one scene in particular feels terribly relevant.
Doctor in Brooklyn: Why are you depressed, Alvy?
Alvy’s Mom: Tell Dr. Flicker.
[Young Alvy sits, his head down – his mother answers for him]
Alvy’s Mom: It’s something he read.
Doctor in Brooklyn: Something he read, huh?
Alvy at 9: [his head still down] The universe is expanding.
Doctor in Brooklyn: The universe is expanding?
Alvy at 9: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!
Alvy’s Mom: What is that your business?
[she turns back to the doctor]
Alvy’s Mom: He stopped doing his homework!
Alvy at 9: What’s the point?
Alvy’s Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!
Doctor in Brooklyn: It won’t be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here!
It’s far more likely that this latter argument will have more relevance to the reader. Beginnings and endings are what life are all about. Life begins, life ends. Relationships begin, relationships end. The concept that reality just is, and that it always will be regardless of our place in the universe is a concept that doesn’t sit well with people because stories are the foundation of everything. It’s how we reconcile the beginnings and ends of our own lives. One day my life will end, but at least so will everything else.
Alvy’s doctor almost assuredly never read the writings of Stephen Hawking, but he did at least give me a concept to work with as I wondered about whether or not it was worth it to write these essays down in the first place.
Five years. Five years writing and worrying and fretting and laboring over a series ofwritings, musings, philosophies, etc.. And to add to all of that it seems like more and more these essays seem less and less about myself. I can’t see myself in these writings as much as I used to. They seem more to be about my ideas and thoughts about great books and films that I appreciate.
Annie Hall is a film that has changed for me as the years go by however. It’s a film that I still love and appreciate, but five years on I no longer see it as this great, impressive font of wisdom. Woody Allen has, in recent years, become a bit of a creep and every time I discuss the film I have to acknowledge that the man is a real creep and the conversation usually stops there, which is unfortunate because the movie is beautiful on its own. What’s changed is that I’ve stopped looking to Alvy’s voice as a source of inspiration, or at least not as much as I used to.
Life is worth living. Not just because I’ve lost a friend. Not just because I’ve recognized my depression for what it is. Not just because I could be a father within the next year or more. Not just because life has begun to assume real shape for me. Life is worth living because it’s worth living.
I’ve assumed the mantle of the man who wants to experience the world and the life he’s living because I enjoy being alive. There’s books to read, coffee to drink, orgasms to experience, and of course there’s even more essays to write.
This blog, as I said at the start, does not always give me what I want, which, to be honest, I’m sure what that actually is. There’s satisfaction in finishing an essay, and having one more work up on the site. There’s a satisfaction in knowing that writing these every week I’m getting something of myself on the page. That knowing, that satisfaction is its own rewards. It’s an irrational feeling, but Alvy offers me one more anecdote for that:
Alvy Singer: [narrating] After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I… I realized what a terrific person she was, and… and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I… I, I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs.
I myself haven’t been eating eggs in the morning anymore, but I am now calling Sunday my writing day. It involves sitting at my laptop typing away for most of the afternoon drinking my own weight in coffee and at the end of the day thinking about next week’s work.
Thank you for five years dear reader, and thank you as always for reading.
AND NOW THE PUNCHLINE…
I’m told it’s best to end on a joke. My wife pointed out to me that I started this blog the year we were married and so White Tower Musings is in fact only four years old.
If that isn’t a testament both to the sort of woman I married and my piss-poor inability to do basic math I don’t know what is.
Happy Fourth Birthday White Tower Musings.
All quotes cited from Annie Hall were provided by IMDb.com.
All quotes cited from The Myth of Sisyphus were quoted from the paperback Vintage edition.
"Butt-Piracy", "Elder Gay", A House Divided, A Modest Proposal, Anthony Bourdain, Calypso, Chester Benington, David Sedaris, Deadlands, Elder, Essay, Essay Collection, Get your credit score and work on gathering reliable assets, Happiness, Homosexuality, Humor, Joshua Jammer Smith, Kate Spade, Literature, Longview Pride 2018, Masculinity Studies, Philosophy, Pride, Satire, Self-Effacement, Sexual identity, Sexual Rhetoric, Sexuality, suicide, Surviving, The Myth of Sisyphus, The One(s) Who Got Away, Writing
I mean the dude was just killing it. He didn’t have spectacular abs, I thank whatever fortune I possess in this life for that, but his body was clearly one that he worked on. He had short blond hair and a great ass and he just twerked it wearing by now just a pair of khaki shorts, knee high socks and some kind of sport-tennis shoes. I was wearing my Mad Hatter socks, my fingerless lace gloves, glitter nail polish, my little red “pimp-hat,”and of course my ultikilt. Some artist came on, someone who’s five years younger than me probably could have identified, and I watched this young guy twerk and just kill it on the dance floor while the rest of the young people around him cheered him on. I was sitting with some friends on the edge of the venue just watching him wondering if I had any real desire for him, or if I was just impressed by his dance moves. He was just so free and gay in the ways that I wasn’t and I realized, at that moment, that I was something the kids are referring to as an “elder-gay.”
An “elder gay” as far as I can tell, is a someone from previous generations who identifies as some variety of Queer. The way my friend Alia uses the term one would suspect that an Elder Gay is something out of Dungeons and Dragons, some mystical being who possess knowledge of the organisms and energies that exist in the spaces between dimensions. Likewise the sage would almost certainly possess the knowledge of what is the best way to score a bank loan for that B&B you’re dreaming of starting up in Dallas.
An “Elder Gay” is someone who has survived and managed to stay “cute” and queer and not let the straight superstructure complex of heterosexuality break you down and force you back into the closet. The term implies a level of strength, wisdom, and integrity and so I’m a little fretful to use that term on myself because, looking at the path my sexuality has taken, I’m not really sure I can use that term for myself.
Then again I looked up the word “Elder” on Urban Dictionary and aside from the smutty implications it has for Mormons there was a definition that read: “Gay men who prefere[sic] to take cock from behind.” This definition was followed by the various refining elements that read: #fudge packer, #rump roaster, #fag, #gay, #butt pirate. I’ve never honestly considered “butt piracy” because I’ve no idea whether that job comes with any sort of real benefits, and at this stage of my life and career working without health insurance just isn’t an option. I do like the idea of taking cock from behind though so perhaps I will allow myself the title of “Elder Gay.” It sounds like something I could put on my resume.
Watching that kid dance, and sitting next to my friend Alia Q and her boyfriend however, I felt a wonderful sense of place. Even if I didn’t want to dance, and I found myself fine and dandy just sitting on the bench blowing bubbles and watching the younger queerkids have fun, the moment had a real sense of purpose and joy. It was my first official Pride Event. There had been one or two such events in my hometown of Tyler, but they were small affairs that didn’t have the same level of teeth to them. Attending this event, even if it was during the last two hours of the official day, was a chance to be out, to really be out, and be happy. And if nothing else, realize that I really was an “elder gay.”
Suicide has been haunting me more and more lately. Not that I’m seriously considering taking my own life, I’ve promised three of my friends that I wouldn’t, and while I know that sounds like a soft promise these three women are the sort of people who would hold a severe grudge against me and I’m almost positive all of them would immediately consult necromancy just to bring me back and kick my ass. Though I’m sure in fact my punishment would be something far more benign like being forced to watch insurance seminar power-point presentations and therefore all the more cruel.
But as my regular reader might remember, just a few months ago I lost my friend Savannah Blair to suicide. Not long before this Chester Bennington had decided to take his own life by hanging himself. Having recently begun reading all of William Shakespeare’s plays I began a book entitled The Medical Mind of Shakespeare and discovered there was an entire chapter dedicated to Suicide. And just in the last week of writing this essay Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have both killed themselves. This series of losses all seemed to be one long endless reminder of the disease of depression, and so on the morning before the actual Longview Pride festival I decided to sit down and finish reading David Sedaris’s latest book Calypso. Sedaris is one of my favorite authors and is consistently funny and so I thought it might be a great way to have a laugh and prepare myself for the days festivities. I opened the book, started reading, and discovered several passages of the book dealt with the recent suicide of his sister Tiffany.
I heaved a heavy sigh, muttered the sentiment “fucking really?” and read the book in one long burst. I can’t say that by the end I’d come to a better place, but I had become sadder because I realized that I would probably never have the gumption to feed one of my eventual tumors to a snapping turtle.
Calypso is a book that, like the rest of Sedaris’s oeuvre, is about observing the absurdity of everyday existence, while also managing to find some human statement in our faults. Sedaris doesn’t just acknowledge that he has selfish or cruel thoughts about other people, he simply writes them down turning them into the narrative of everyday life. And this honesty over time just becomes part of the sarcasm, satire, and the general method. His prose is always self-effacing while also managing to be self-promoting, and by the end of just one of his essays the reader has almost always come to some kind of conclusion that Sedaris is doing his best to stay one step ahead of the joke he’s turning himself into.
But Calypso felt different from his other books because it possessed a sharper bite that I suspect comes with growing older, and also perhaps from losing a sibling to suicide.
In one of the essays, A House Divided, Sedaris describes walking down a beach near a house his family was renting out, and talking about their sister when others sister Lisa mentions the mode of death. She’s interrupted briefly by a woman walking a dog and then casually mention that Tiffany took her own life with a plastic bag. Asphixiation is supposed to be one of the miserable ways to go, I know this because my wife tells me things like that all the time. She reads essays and Reddit posts by doctors and scientists and supposedly strangling is unbearably painful. Sedaris doesn’t mention this but he notes something about the tool used to take hissister’s life:
It’s hard to find a bag without writing on it—the name of a store, most often. Lowe’s it might read. SAFEWAY. TRUE VALUE. Does a person go through a number of them before making a selection, or, as I suspect, will any bag do, regardless of the Ironic statement it might make? This is what was going through my mind when Lisa stopped walking and turned to me asking, “Will you do me a favor?”
“Anything,” I said, so grateful to have her alive and beside me.
She held out her foot, “Will you tie my shoe?”
“Well…sure,” I said, “But can you tell me why?”
She sighed, “My pants are tight and I don’t feel like bending over.” (62-3).
This gave me something to think about because my pants are often tight at work and I own almost no laceless shoes, yet I always stoop down to tie them if they become unlaced. This terrifies me as there is a set of stairs at the library that I’m sure is going to kill me. But after this I think about what kind of plastic bag I would use if I decided to asphyxiate myself and this becomes a problem. Almost all of the plastic bags in my possession are ones my wife has brought home after one of her endless shopping trips and these tend to usually be from Hobby Lobby. Its may sound vain on my part but there would be nothing so gosche as to kill myself and then be found with a Hobby Lobby bag wrapped around my head. The people who find me may suspect I support the corporation’s philosophy of denying birth control coverage in employee health insurance, or else that my sex-life was so awful and/or nonexistent that I had to take up a hobby to fill the time. I think if I had to use any sort of bag I would want it to be from someplace like Half Price Books or Barnes & Noble, that way the medical examiner would think I was cultured, or at least a reader, or at least someone who spent their time around books which is something I suspect at least most people would like to appear to be.
I know it’s morbid, but suicide is still to me one last means of controlling my fate in this universe. Since I have no use for religion, and because my wife refuses to take up ballroom dancing with me, the only real means I have of staving off the inevitable realization that my life has no meaning is to dwell on death, and this in part tends to push me to thoughts, or considerations of suicide. Before Louis C.K. was rightfully skewered by the #MeToo movement I did watch him pretty regularly and he had a sentiment that was best expressed, “You don’t have to do anything, because you can always kill yourself.” This sentiment was one that made me laugh, but I realized that it was one that had alsoappeared before in Albert Camus’s book The Myth of Sisyphus.
He begins his book by noting:
There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest—whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that the philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. These are facts thee heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect. (3).
Suicide is, ultimately, about survival. The people that one sees moving about, shopping for groceries, urinating on public busses, picking their nose when they think no one is looking, and giving their boyfriends hand jobs in the far back corners of a public library, are ultimately people who survived past the impulse to kill themselves. It’s absurd, and ridiculous, but each person has found some conclusion that amounted to, “No, I need to keep living today.”
My reason tends to be coffee, books, movies, Deadlands, and orgasms. Each of these brings me a tremendous amount of pleasure, and if I’m being honest I’d like to have more experiences with them before I finally shuffle off this mortal coil.
Calypso is a book that, while reading it, I kept thinking about because, ultimately, it seems to be defined by a recurring theme of being a survivor. Sedaris writes about the frailties of his body, the problematic dynamic he has with his father, suffering a gastro-intestinal virus during a book tour, having a tumor removed, losing his sister to suicide, and finally just surviving to the age he has lived to.
Looking at a later passage in The One(s) Who Got Away Sedaris asks his partner Hugh how many men he slept with before they settled down together. As Hugh counts men up well past the number fifty Sedaris observes his jealousy, the difference in their physical attractiveness, but then also the fact that both of them are still there. He writes,
By what miracle had neither of us attracted AIDS? How had we gotten away? I don’t just mean later, when people knew to be safe, but back in the days when it didn’t have a name and no one understood how it spread. One of the men Hugh had lived with—a professor he had his first year of college—had died of it in the late eighties, and surely there were others, on both my side and his. Yet for some reason we’d escaped, had prospered, even. Now here we were, the shadows lengthened, our spaghetti growing old, as he hit the half-hundred mark, then blithely sailed beyond it.
It is nothing compared to living with a man for several decades and scoring up an impressively sluttish roster of former lovers, but as I sat at the Pride Event next to my friend Q who was clapping and regularly saying, “Yes queers you DO IT!” I was struck by the fact that we were both survivors, Q more so than I. She had been far closer to Savannah that I was. I couldn’t tell you her favorite film while she was alive, nor her favorite book, nor could I even tell you her fucking birthday, and yet over the last few months I’ve had the audacity to label her as a friend. What I suppose connected us wasour mutual associations and our working together, and I suppose Gay Movie Night. But what I find, what I return to over and over again is that both Sav and I were, until her end, mutually suicidal. The only difference is Sav stopped finding a reason to go on, whereas Q and I had.
Reading this short passage again I realized David Sedaris very much qualifies for my previous definition of “Elder Gay,” because along with the previous work another of his essays in Calypso titled A Modest Proposal he tackles the development of Gay Marriage in the United States. Sedaris is honest about the fact that he’d never considered marriage. He writes:
The Supreme Court ruling tells every gay fifteen-year-old living out in the middle of nowhere that he or she is as good as any other dope who wants to get married. To me it was a slightly mixed-message, like saying we’re all equally entitled to wear Dockers to the Olive Garden. Then I spoke to my accountant, who’s as straight asthey come, and he couldn’t have been more excited. “Fox tax purposes, you and Hugh really need to act on this,” he told me.
“But I don’t want to,” I said. “I don’t believe in marriage.”
He launched into a little speech, and here’s the thing about about legally defined couples: they save boatloads of money, especially when it comes to inherited property. My accountant told me how much we had to gain, and I was like, “Is there a waiting period? What documents do I need?” (125).
Words like equity, inheritance, benefits, insurance, and escrow are words that are steadily becoming more and more relevant to my day to day existence. They suggest, I suppose, a worldliness or at least that you have a head on your shoulders and that you know where you’re “going” in life. I need to know that I’m going to have at least few bucks in my bank account before I can apply for a loan, I need to have a credit score, and I need to have something for collateral. These realizations are not epiphanies, they’re just day to day realities that come with surviving.
Watching that young man while I adjusted my silk gloves and straightening the hem of my kilt, I saw someone who wasn’t wondering about whether or not his dad “accepted” his lifestyle, I didn’t see a young man who was wondering how he was going to “survive” a miserable biological assault on the homosexual community, and I didn’t see a young man struggling to make sense about whether his gender identity and sexuality meant there was something morally wrong with his very existence. I just saw a young man possessed by music and having a fucking blast. And while I blew my bubbles and watched his butt wiggle about I was happy for him. I wanted him to be happy, happy in the ways I hadn’t been but wanted to be when I was younger. Happy in the ways I wish my friend Sav could have been during her life. His body and mind hadn’t yet been afflicted with the realities of things like the development of tumors, low bank funds, or the suicide of a friend.
And so maybe as I think about it, perhaps I need to adjust the working definition of what an “elder gay” actually is. Getting older, surviving to become older, is in someways a mix of resentment and fondness for youth. It’s the desire for the ones that come after you to have fun without fear of personal or societal retribution, while at the same time hating them for having so much liberty. Being a queer man who stayed in the closet until he was 26 I envy this next generation of young queer people who hopefully, if I make my life something that matters, won’t be afraid to come out and live their sexuality as they so chose. I envy that their survival won’t be as afflicted with the struggle to justify or explain their desire to a warring camp of people who would rather they just didn’t exist in the first place. I hope for a generation of young queer people who treat marriage the same way straight people do, just something you do when you stop dancing at parties and instead sit off to the sides blowing bubbles wondering if you’re supposed to go to work on Monday and whether or not you should have really spent $50 on rainbow buttons and flags instead of a savings bond.
Surviving can be a drag, but at least there’s the chance to have a few more orgasms, and maybe feed one of your tumors to a snapping turtle.
All quotes cited from Calypso were taken from the First Edition Hardback edition published by Little, Brown & Company. All quotes cited from The Myth of Sisyphus were provided care of the paperback Vintage International edition.
I’ve provided a link to the definition of “Elder” provided to me care of Urban Dictionary. I had no idea that Mormons were such a kind bunch, I guess you learn something new everyday. Yet another reason to prolong my life if only to understand further the intricacies of mormon sexuality. Anyway, enjoy:
I really wanted to start this essay out with the following statement: “I attended my first “real” Pride Parade with a Llama, a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in my backpack, and wearing a kilt.” It was a lovely sentence that was completely true, but technically, like I said before, I had been to an actual parade in my home town already. Still, I at least got some great photographs.