I spent a lot of time at the library as a child because I didn’t have any friends.
Just kidding! I had lots of friends and was totes popular, but I was basically an only child since my older sister was off to college before I was even forming memories. She taught me how to read, my parents encouraged it, and since they both worked, books were an easy way for me to entertain myself.
Parenting Life Hack: If your kids have a quiet hobby, you spend less money on Excedrin for migraines.
My hometown had about 400 people and only 17 of them could read, so we didn’t have a library, but just across the river in the bustling metropolis next door where 9,000 people lived, there was a library staffed with nice ladies and one old gay man who basically raised me while my mom did errands. A librarian is not a babysitter and they don’t get paid to watch your kids, so please don’t just drop your kids off in front of the bookdrop and hightail it outta there. However, my parents were really relaxed about leaving me places, because they were very old and the Scary News Stories didn’t phase them. There was a higher chance of your child being abducted in the 1940s than the 1990s, yet our parents and grandparents were out all day by themselves from sunup to sundown while we were expected to be tied to our parents at all times. My folks pretty much functioned under the premise that nobody was going to take me out of a library — I would have to actually follow them, and I wasn’t stupid (and I didn’t/don’t like people).
So I spent many a Sunday afternoon in the library while my mom was running errands and my favorite librarian, Ms. Greer, would actually entertain me….by putting me to work. Had I known I was doing her job for her, I would’ve asked for a cut of her paycheck, but 3rd Grade Me was very excited to ink the inside back cover of all the new books with the fancy library stamp. I felt super important being trusted with the task of taking the returns and putting them in their proper spot on the shelf (thanks, Dewey Decimal training!). She had me take Lemon Pledge and wipe down the study corrals and I did it with gusto.
When my mom asked me to pick my socks up off the floor, it felt like the end of my life, so I guess she wasn’t asking me nicely the way Ms. Greer did.
I spent more time in the library growing up than any other building that wasn’t home or school, so when I saw this story about some Australian librarians checking on their senior citizens during COVID, I wanted to tell y’all about it because librarians are truly underappreciated.
When Melbourne’s Yarra Plenty regional libraries first went into lockdown in March, shut the doors and left the remaining unborrowed books on their shelves, staff were sent home with a phone.
“One of the hardest things about lockdown was people being separated from their community,” said Lisa Dempster, Yarra Plenty’s executive manager of public participation.
“The library is often a hub for the community, and we identified the most vulnerable cohort of our community would be the elderly.”
So the library staff pulled from their database the phone number of every library member over the age of 70 – a total of 8,000 records.
Then the librarians started calling those members. All of them.
(cont. The Guardian)
I lived next door to a little old lady 6 or 7 years ago and I would do errands for her and do her grocery shopping and sit with her a couple of times a week. After I moved, I used to take her to church once a month up until last year. Her daughter moved in with her and thought it was “weird” that a former neighbor would still check up on her, but I like her. She’s like a Bonus Grandma and her kids weren’t checking on her. She spent most of her days alone in her apartment, and since she was right next door, I could go over there and sit on her couch and do what I would normally do on my own couch — watch TV and play on the internet or crochet. Her daughter is/was convinced I was just spending time with her because I wanted to get into her will. It just didn’t occur to her that I would want to look after my neighbor or look after a lonely old lady.
Not to generalize, but Western cultures don’t care for our elders the way other cultures do and we don’t look out for our neighbors the way other cultures do. We don’t build community the way other cultures do. Librarians do that! Libraries are community centers and librarians keep them going! Librarians get to know the people in their community, like the nerdy little kid who sits and reads quietly on Sundays while mom is at the beauty supply store. Librarians care about that community, like these senior citizens getting calls from their local library to make sure their faring well during a pandemic. Think about adding libraries to the list of causes you look for when choosing a politician to champion. They’re always under attack and they need our help to keep serving communities quietly and constantly without any gratitude.
I did thank Ms. Greer though. Before I went off to boarding school I bought her a nice card and sent it to the library.
No new friends.
This is the preamble to my near brush with the NYPD on Christmas.
I am still shocked that I landed myself in this kind of gay drama because I don’t participate in mess and we even had a pandemic going on! How did I get in the middle of messy white gay circuit queens with a whole entire viral situation keeping everything closed?
Maybe that’s the explanation. Bored and shut up in the house and creating drama.
If you just want to read (the much shorter blog) about what happened between me and my friend’s roommate on Christmas, you can click here instead. If you want the backstory because you love mess, you’re bored, or a combination, you can read all of this.
Chapter 1: The Players
I can’t remember exactly when I met Bobby because everything pre-COVID is kind of a blur. Either late last year or early this year Nolis introduced me to him at Paradisco and said he was moving here from San Francisco in March; the two of them had agreed to be roommates. I was feeling nice that day, so I made small talk and light banter with this guy because he was going to be living with one of my good friends, I would be seeing more of him, and I liked him. It wasn’t a struggle to have conversation.
Fast forward to March and the two of them moved to an apartment in Harlem a subway stop away from me, which is a distance I typically walk in 20 minutes or bike in 6. In New York, friendships can flourish or shrivel based on the time it takes to get there by MTA, so they were essentially my new neighbors. Fast forward to mid-March, and the city shut down, so there would be no flourishing of friendships of any sort while we were all stuck in the house. In April, Bobby followed me on Instagram and we made light conversation responding to each other’s Instastories, and by the end of May, he’d given me the green light to come over and hang out with Nolis because cases had gone down, testing was available, I was living alone, and Nolis had been coming over to hang out with me anyway.
(Lockdown didn’t go smoothly for me in the beginning. My roommate/best friend Travis had a boyfriend that I didn’t much care for in isolation with us, so I left my apartment. A friend gave me the keys to his one bedroom apartment a few blocks away while he was in New Jersey in lockdown with his boyfriend, so that’s where I was. In short, I was in isolation alone and Nolis was the only person coming to visit, so there was zero threat having me over to their apartment as well.)
So I got to know Bobby a little. We had similar struggles with anxiety and depression, we were both very into music, and we both liked Nolis. He had just moved here a couple of weeks before the city shut down and didn’t have any friends. I saw him a few times when I would visit Nolis, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to really get to know him one on one. Tenuous movie nights never came to fruition. Meetups in the park never got confirmed. However, I know what it’s like when my anxiety has a hold of me and I don’t follow through with things, so I didn’t really hold it against him. Plus, he was trying to figure out his job situation and he was always a little bit on edge about interviews. One night he was particularly amped up about an interview the following day, so I tried to lighten the mood after it was over and told Nolis I wanted to surprise him with a little present. I was checking in with Nolis because he works from home and if I was bringing Bobby a present, I’d want to hang out with Nolis for awhile too.
This was June 17th.
Adam moved here from San Francisco just before the pandemic and the two of them had met at the end of last year. They’d been hooking up at the beginning of quarantine before one or both of them caught feelings and decided to end that, but it was generally understood that if Bobby wasn’t at home, he was at Adam’s. I had to run errands so I left a little present on his bed — the biggest box we had in the house (a barstool had come in it) wrapped perfectly (I used to wrap the wedding registry gifts when I worked at Bed Bath & Beyond) with a tiny mini-bottle of wine in it (someone had brought it for a party last year and nobody was planning to drink it).
At the time, I figured moving to a brand new city and then being stuck in the house with a roommate you barely know would be stressful, and knowing more people or having more friends would alleviate some of his anxiety a bit.
Chapter 2: The Set Up
Up to this point, Bobby didn’t seem to be interested in hanging out with me one on one, but I didn’t think too much into it, because I don’t expect to be loved and adored by everyone. If you don’t gel with me like that, it doesn’t make you a bad person. I still thought it would be good for him to meet new people, and I could facilitate that because I have a lot of friends in the neighborhood, so I invited him to game night.
I moved back to my apartment in June, and Travis and I were brainstorming ways to be social while still being safe. Cases were low, testing was available, and our friends were still responsibly social distancing, so we figured we could have a few people get tested and isolate after the test to make sure they didn’t pick up anything in the interim. I set up a game night (day, really) in my apartment for June 27th and it would be the first time most of us had seen each other since March.
You don’t want to be best buddies with me? Totally fine. We can be friendly acquaintances and social pals. If I think you’re a decent person, I still want you to win and succeed at life, and I thought I could help him win and succeed by increasing his circle of friends in a new city where it was hard to meet people safely because of a pandemic. Maybe he would click with one of my friends better than he clicks with me and he would have a new buddy to hang out with. A couple of hours before the party he let me know he might not come, but if he does come, could he bring Adam with him?
I don’t take well to new people, and I especially don’t take well to having new people in my home that I have never met before. However. I thought through it and I figured Bobby wouldn’t come if I said Adam couldn’t come, and I wanted Bobby to come so he could meet people to lean on other than this one person from San Francisco that he had been fucking at the beginning of lockdown. It seemed like a messy dynamic and not mentally healthy for him to go running over to Adam’s anytime he felt a little down, when the two of them were trying to navigate a friendship where sex wasn’t part of the equation and one or both of them was incapable of being honest about their feelings toward the other. I said he could come and that was the moment that led to the threat of police on Christmas.
I wrote a section here yesterday, about their relationship and their dynamic and the conflicting stories I got from the two of them about it, but I just took it out because it feels disloyal. This is how I feel about confidentiality: If you tell me something in confidence, I’m not going to put all of that on blast just because we no longer have any sort of relationship. Everybody knows Adam and Bobby had a relationship. Nobody needs to know the details and it’s not my place to spread them around. Suffice to say, they had a complicated dynamic that I was privy to through Bobby at the time and part of the reason I was averse to meeting Adam was because of the picture Bobby had painted for me.
Adam was lovely. Once we started talking, we hit it off immediately, and he was in the same boat as Bobby: new to a city with no friends just before a pandemic. I told Adam he was welcome in my circle and we exchanged socials before he left. The next weekend, I took another friend from game night over to Bobby’s to hang out with him and Adam on July 4th, have drinks, watch movies, just be social with a few people we knew were safe to hang out with. Again, Adam was lovely and I felt silly about not wanting him in my home based on an image painted by a jilted lover, so we made plans to have dinner at my house the following week and watch a movie.
Chapter 3: The Conflict
Bobby didn’t like being excluded from plans Adam and I had made. Remember, this is the same person I had being trying to befriend since April. It was now July and the only time he would agree to hang out with me was when it was a group of people he knew or a group of people where he could potentially meet someone new. I didn’t think it was a big deal to make plans with Bobby’s friend without Bobby because Bobby didn’t seem to like me all that much, but Adam brought it up to me a couple of days before our planned movie night. It was fine with me. I could get to know the both of them in a smaller setting. Sure, bring Bobby. The three of us should be able to have fun.
The next day, Bobby told me he wasn’t feeling well.
I thought oh no he has COVID!!! so I asked Adam if he was sick as well and if he needed to cancel. Adam said he was fine and he was excited about coming to hang out, but I was still wary. By this time, I’d been tested for antibodies and I felt fairly safe that I wouldn’t catch anything, but Travis and Aaron (my roommates) hadn’t been exposed to COVID yet and I didn’t want Adam bringing something into my home that he got from Bobby. I realized from Bobby’s IG updates the rest of the day that he wasn’t physically sick; he was having an anxiety and depression flare up and didn’t want to be around people.
Thursday I went grocery shopping for the meal I was about to cook for Adam when I got this text.
Bobby showed up at Adam’s apartment a couple of hours before Adam would need to leave to come have dinner with me. The Devil on my shoulder said he did it on purpose so Adam and I wouldn’t hang out. The Angel on the other shoulder remembered the IG updates from the day before and figured he was genuinely in distress and went down to Adam’s for comfort. I put it out of my mind and Adam promised we would reschedule.
Meanwhile, Bobby’s roommate relationship with Nolis was breaking down. Nolis was in the process of making plans to fly down to Miami to get his dog from an old ex because he wasn’t doing so well in lockdown and he thought his dog would allay some of the loneliness. Bobby let me know in no uncertain terms that he didn’t approve of that plan after I reached out to him to hang out with me after he canceled dinner & a movie and then forced Adam to cancel too.
We have two problems here. One, reaching out to your roommate’s friend who you do not have a friendship with to air your grievances about that person is so strange to me. Two, Bobby was fucking around during lockdown anyway. All of his dramatic concern about Nolis bringing COVID back from Miami was falling on deaf ears because I had already learned from Nolis that Bobby had been hooking up with guys since April. At one point Bobby lied about changing his sleeping habits to wake up earlier and be more productive — Nolis caught him around the corner having a coffeedate with some dude when he said he was just going out for an early morning walk. I wasn’t interested in injecting more mess into their roommate dynamic so I didn’t come out and say “Nolis already told me you’re hooking up and trying to keep it a secret.”
Adam rescheduled dinner & a movie for the following Tuesday and he showed up on time with wine. I made a chicken pot pie, which wasn’t my best effort, but he pretended it was amazing, and we chatted for a few hours on the couch getting to know each other. I got in bed, ready to go to sleep, when my phone buzzed after midnight. Adam hadn’t told Bobby we were hanging out, probably because he knew on some level that Bobby would invite himself or otherwise make sure we didn’t get to meet up. He saw that I had tagged Adam in my chicken pot pie on Instagram and he felt a way about it.
I took the mature route and didn’t say what I was really thinking, that he was possessive and controlling, and then I gave Adam a heads up and apologized for any additional friction I caused in their already complicated dynamic.
Adam went away on vacation and in the meantime, I invited Bobby over to hang out with me and my best friend Miss Judi.
He didn’t feel up to it.
I invited him to hang out with me at the park.
He was busy.
He invited me to hang out with him at the park…as he was on his way to the park, so I was tutoring on Zoom and couldn’t. So I told him I would hang out with him the next day at the park.
He didn’t text me the next day to hang out.
I invited him to have drinks outside with me at a bar a few blocks up the street and he said okay. We set a date for Thursday, July 23rd.
Adam and I had been texting back and forth while he was away and we decided we should have fake international vacations. We couldn’t travel anywhere so we would pick a country where we would like to go, and cook from there. Listen to music from there. Watch movies from there. France was first and Tuesday, July 21st at 7:00pm would be our Fake French Vacation. I went grocery shopping for the two of us Monday night, made a marinade for the chicken, and set about making a French playlist for us to listen to while we cooked dinner together at my apartment.
The first time Adam and I were going to hang out, Bobby canceled it and prevented Adam from coming. The second time Adam I were going to hang out, he didn’t tell Bobby and Bobby threw a tantrum. This third time, Adam went the route of casually letting Bobby know we had plans…so Bobby invited himself.
I had just woken up. I did not have the capacity to deal with this possessive baby before coffee. I didn’t mind if he came, but I was annoyed, because I had just tried to make plans with him three times and he couldn’t be bothered, but as soon as I make plans with Adam, he’s suddenly all for it. In theory, I was fine having dinner with both of them because I didn’t know either of them that well, but I hate acquiescing to emotional terrorists. I hate when people behave badly and get what they want. I text Adam while I figured out how to respond.
No help. I was clearly on my own dealing with this child, but you know what? I’ve worked with children for ten years. I can handle a hairy toddler. It took me too long to answer him so he had time to make up a reason to come over Tuesday instead of having drinks with me Thursday at Boxers up the street, but I was prepared.
In my mind, I had it all covered! If you want to hang out with the two of us, fine. Adam and I can cook the meal and you can come by later to eat and watch a movie with us. If your concern is spending time with me, cool! We can still hang out Thursday and it doesn’t have to be at a bar.
I was doing some pre-prep for dinner when Adam text me to let me know Bobby was at his apartment.
Bobby went all the way to Adam’s apartment to make sure we wouldn’t spend 90 minutes together without him cooking a meal that he had been invited to eat.
So I washed my hands of the both of them. Bobby was not the kind of person I wanted to be friends with and he had made it pretty clear he had no interest in being my friend independent of others, most specifically Adam. I had only been around Adam three times at that point, twice with friends and once on my couch, so that was no huge loss. I was being friendly to two lonely people and creating a toxic dynamic that I didn’t need, so they could both go.
Chapter 4: The Crisis
While Adam was gone (he couldn’t stay put in NYC for more than two weeks all summer), he continued to text me. He was aiming to get his dynamic with Bobby into a better place and said that it would no longer affect any friendship we were trying to have. We got deep quickly and realized we had a lot more in common than we thought. I was excited! I actually hadn’t made a new friend in a few years and this one was so good at understanding my insecurities. I don’t like to talk about my self esteem or body image issues with my friends because they can’t relate to them the same way. Adam could because he was wrestling with the same things. I was like you know what? Why should I avoid a friendship with someone just because he used to fuck my friend’s toxic immature roommate? I’m not in the business of letting other people’s problems affect how I go about my life, so we continued getting to know each other through a smartphone screen.
I kept it cordial with Bobby because he lived with Nolis, but I was no longer reaching out to him. A beach trip with Nolis and Adam was falling into place, but Adam wanted to invite Bobby, and I was unsure what that dynamic would be. I said they could meet us there, because I didn’t want to drive in a car with Bobby anywhere. Bobby reached out to me to smooth things over, but nothing got resolved, because he doesn’t have the emotional capacity to face a problem.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think it makes sense to talk on the phone with someone who lives in walking distance, and I wasn’t interested in having a phone conversation with someone while I was hanging out with my friend downtown. And he did not take a sleeping pill at 6 in the afternoon. He just didn’t want to meet up with me to address this situation he had created, so when he didn’t reach back out to me, I wrote him off.
Two days later, I went to brunch with Adam and when we back to his apartment, he put his hand up my shorts. I shied away because that was crossing a line for me. No, Bobby wasn’t my friend, but I had tried to be his friend and he was living with my friend. I thought a sexual relationship with a guy he used to hook up with in March would make a bad dynamic worse. Even though I owed him nothing, I still wasn’t trying to sleep with a guy he thought he owned (even though he was sleeping with multiple people and excluding Nolis from trips to the beach because he didn’t want Nolis befriending one of the guys he was hooking up with). Later that week, Adam and I were having drinks and he showed me nudes of himself on his phone. That same night, we were hanging out with my friend Damon on my rooftop and Adam kissed me. I went to bed feeling like I’d definitely crossed a line with Bobby but I couldn’t figure out why I cared about his feelings when he clearly didn’t want a friendship with me anyway.
In the wee hours of the morning, Bobby saw a picture of Adam, Damon, and me that we’d posted on Instagram at dinner and he let me have it at 3am. I saw it when I woke up.
He never did explain it to me. He blocked me and that was the last interaction I had with Bobby until Christmas.
After that, I honestly didn’t care about Bobby’s feelings anymore. He was mischaracterizing his friendship with Adam and he was trying to paint a picture where I would be a villain in a fantasy of his own making. Adam wasn’t his only friend. He was out and about going to the park and going to the beach with guys he was meeting online. Adam wasn’t even that important to him, or if he was, he had a funny way of showing it, because he would leave plans open with Adam while he waited to see if his current fuck-of-the-moment would confirm or not. I would hear from Adam that he couldn’t make plans right away because he had tentative plans with Bobby, and Nolis would hear Bobby talking about some other guy he had plans with the same day. That guy would confirm, and suddenly Adam was free to hang out. Bobby doesn’t have any friends that he’s not trying to fuck, and that explains why he never had time to hang out with me — I never came on to him.
I spend a lot of time tiptoeing around other people because if I wouldn’t want you to do it to me, I won’t do it to you. That’s how I behave in any situation. But y’all. I was just lonely. I hadn’t kissed anybody since March. I was watching my best friend cuddling with his boyfriend on my couch every other weekend. In the very best of times, I’ve beat myself up about never having a boyfriend or never having been pursued by a guy, and this was the worst of times. I was depressed and lonely and it felt good that somebody wanted me. And not just somebody, but this kind of guy who usually ignores me in favor of my hotter friends or is downright rude to me because I don’t have an Equinox membership. Adam was handsome, buff, and on Folsom posters. I felt flattered and I felt pretty and my ego did a cartwheel I didn’t think possible.
Bobby no longer existed to me and Adam and I had a blissful late summer romance, brunching with couples, drinking with friends, and, on my end, falling in love with an unavailable man who told me at the end of October that we should just go back to being friends because he still wasn’t ready to be in a relationship with anyone and he was uncomfortable with people asking us about it. He wasn’t interested in hooking up or dating or being in a romantic situation with anyone — he just wanted to work on himself.
Then my friend Damon fucked Adam the next week, Adam cooked dinner for me less than a week after that, and I was none the wiser until Damon let me know a few weeks later that they’d been hooking up. Yes, Damon, who was there with us the first time Adam kissed me. I had invited Damon to dinner with Adam and I that night because he was also relatively new to the city and I figured he could stand to expand his social circle as well. Over the next month I threw them together at brunch and house parties, and they threw themselves together in bed. So, Bobby won after all. My friend circle is fractured, I’m no longer speaking to Adam, and Bobby has used the NYPD to bar me from his home.
How’s that for making new friends during a pandemic?
Happy Birthday Mommy!
I baked a little something for you!
It’s been a YEAR and, to be honest, I’m not doing that well, so I just wanted to check in real quick and get some things off my spirit.
First of all, let’s get the most important stuff out of the way immediately:
Jackée is gonna be on Days of Our Lives!
Look out, Salem.. here I come. 😉 https://t.co/xMp0qGPG9C— Jackée Harry (@JackeeHarry) December 8, 2020
I don’t know who she’s gonna play or what the character will be like, but clearly I will be tuning in…because I’ve been watching that doggone show since birth because of you.
Also: Don’t actually go to her Twitter. You too High Holy Christian for all the mess she puts on the internet.
Anyway, yeah…this year has been rough. I got my dream job in March (yay!) but then I lost it a week later because the office closed due to the pandemic and I got let go — last hired, first fired. The first day on the job I actually cried on the way home because I’d been searching for that perfect career move for years and I thought I finally found it. So, that was a huge disappointment that knocked me on my butt for awhile.
Then Travis and I stopped speaking. I had been building up this resentment toward him and his boyfriend because all of the things we used to do, he was doing with his new boyfriend instead, and I didn’t have anybody to hang out with anymore. We were on lockdown so I couldn’t go anywhere. We’re best friends who live together, which was great until the boyfriend moved in and I didn’t have my best friend to spend quarantine with anymore. They’ve since broken up, but the cracks in our friendship are still there — I resent him for ignoring me and he resents me for not trying harder to accept his boyfriend. We’re fine now (great, actually) but it’s right under the surface if we get upset about something unrelated.
And our third roommate is…difficult. In the best of times he’s not the ideal roommate because he’s LOUD and oblivious to other people’s needs. He’s absolutely the type of person who should be living alone, but since the pandemic, it’s ten times worse because he’s an actor and a comedian who no longer has a stage to perform on, so his computer is his stage. All day every day is just the sound of his voice, from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, hanging out with his friends videochatting, yelling and doing voices.
I wear headphones all day now and just count down the days until the lease is up because I can’t wait to get out of this apartment and away from him.
Speaking of away from him, I thought I found an outlet this summer. I met guy (we’ll call him John since other people can read this)…and we had chemistry! I don’t trust my feelings around men anymore. I’ve never developed deep feelings for a man who returned those feelings. It’s just a string of unrequited love, so if I feel a spark, I try to stamp it out to save myself another disappointment. But this was different because he pursued me. I let John make all the first moves to be sure I wasn’t building a fake relationship in my head like I usually do. He told me I was beautiful every day, he kissed me first, he came on to me first, he suggested we take a trip together, he suggested we move in together. I heard all the right things, so I let myself fall for this man. I was almost looking forward to the inevitable Winter COVID Lockdown because I could go hang out at his apartment and get away from mine. We were gonna cook and watch the snow. I was gonna spend a week or so at his apartment here and there to make sure we could live together in preparation for a move next year. He wanted to get two dogs.
Just before Halloween, John’s energy was off. I’d had a pumpkin carving party and our dynamic was different. He wasn’t paying much attention to me — which is fine because all of my friends are great and they all liked him — but the lack of affection was odd. So I brought it up a few days later and he said we should go back to being “just friends” because it bothered him that people thought we were, and asked him about whether we were, in a serious relationship. John had said from the beginning he didn’t want to be in a serious relationship, and I was totally fine with that. I told him he could date whoever he wanted, but he said he didn’t want to date anyone. I told him he could have sex with whoever he wanted, but he said he wasn’t interested in sex. He just wanted to make new friends and work on himself, but we had this great connection that he was really into. I was like, “okay…if that’s what you want…”, but I told him people would assume we were in a serious relationship if we kept acting like we were in front of everyone. He said he was fine with that — let them think what they want.
He wasn’t actually fine with that, so he decided we should pump the breaks.
And the next week John fucked my friend that I had introduced him to, the friend that he’d been sitting next to at my party instead of talking to me.
Here’s the thing Mommy…my self-esteem is shot and my abandonment issues are through the roof, and it goes back to that moment when you found out I liked other boys and our relationship changed forever. You were my best friend growing up. I felt awkward around the other kids, I felt awkward around my dad, I felt awkward around my cousins, but you made me feel normal. If I wanted to watch Days Our Lives and talk about the war in Kuwait, you let me. You took me everywhere and taught me so much about life. You told me I was the most important thing in the world to you. And then my teacher told you I was gay and you told me I was going to Hell. And you told me that regularly for the next ten years. I told you I was going to marry a man and have a happy family and you told me I was gonna get AIDS and die alone.
I let you make me feel bad about myself for years. Even after I moved all the way up the East Coast to NYC, I still felt like I had to respect you, even while you were tearing me down. When you would end every conversation wanting to pray with me for God to take away my homosexual demons, I let you, because you’re Mommy and I didn’t want to lose Mommy. When I finally got fed up and decided “this is the last time, this is the last conversation,” it was your birthday 9 years ago. I never told you why, but I picked that day because we had a fun conversation. I called you to wish you Happy Birthday and you gave me all the latest gossip on the family like you always did. We talked about random stuff, laughed a lot (your laugh is so ridiculous and I miss it more than anything), and then I jokingly asked you what I should buy you for your birthday — jokingly, because we both knew I had no money and I wouldn’t be getting you anything at all. You replied that you didn’t want anything; all you wanted was for me to give up my homosexual demons and come back to the Lord.
Mommy we had talked for an hour, a delightful conversation about everything, and in that last sentence, you threw me in the trash again. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had taken it since I was 12 years old and I just reached my limit. I kept the conversation light and made some kind of joke to get us back on track, but in my heart I knew I would never speak to you again until you made a turnaround. I wanted that to be the last conversation we had in case it was the last conversation we had, so that our last conversation would be full of good memories for you. I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth, but I wanted you to be left with lightness and joy. I swallowed my feelings, told you I loved you, and hung up for the last time, because you died later that year.
And now I’m stuck. I still feel so much guilt for being fed up. I missed you then and I miss you now and I feel like if I hadn’t stopped speaking to you, you wouldn’t have died, and we could’ve eventually found our way back to each other. I keep letting people treat me badly because if I stand up for myself, they’ll go away and I’ll never see them again. If I stand up for myself, I’ll be alone, and I would rather be with someone and feel bad some of the time than be alone and feel bad all of the time because I don’t have that someone anymore.
I realized that about myself a few months ago, so that’s the first step. And I’ve tried to stand up for myself more as of late.
Last week, a friend (we’ll call him Brian) asked me out to dinner. I met Brian just before the pandemic and he’s such a sweetheart. We had an instant bond and I was looking forward to getting to know him, but COVID kinda put a halt to that. NYC bounced back this summer, and Brian lives in the neighborhood, so I invited him into our little bubble for a couple of parties and brunches. We already had some mutual friends, but he also took quickly to John and to Travis, so he was a good addition to my social circle.
At dinner, Brian told me that he had fucked John. I introduced the two of them. I invited them both to brunch and to parties. The week after John said we should just be friends, he was out to dinner with Brian and fucking afterward.
All of John’s flings are hot and all of the guys he would show me on social media that he liked, fucked, or planned to meet up with looked more like Brian than me. I was insecure about being involved with a guy who looks like John because gay NYC is vicious and I could imagine the whispers of “wow John is way too hot for that guy” because I’ve heard people I know say it about other couples. John knew this. John knew about all of the guys I was into who liked Travis — the taller, hotter best friend — instead of me. John knew about all the times I’d been out with my Friends Who Lift and how some random guy would make me feel like trash because I don’t look like them. He knew all of that and still fucked my hot friend the week after he broke up with me. All of the men in the city, all of the men right there in Hell’s Kitchen where he lives, all of the men who hit him up on Grindr, and he fucked the one that would obviously hurt me the most.
But I cut them both off! Obviously I’ll never speak to John again because that kind of betrayal — when someone knows your insecurities and disregards them anyway– is like a knife to the heart, but my first reaction when Brian told me what he did was to let it go, because this is gay NYC and most of them do have fewer boundaries and hangups around sex than I do. My boundaries aren’t invalid just because other people don’t share them and I did what I needed to do for my mental health. I don’t have to prioritize a relationship that’s damaging to my mental health. I don’t have to swallow my feelings to make someone else feel more comfortable with their personal failures or mistreatment of me.
So I’m proud of myself for standing my ground, but it’s still the holidays, and I’m still lonely. I miss John every day. I miss what we could have been doing this holiday season, all the winter plans we made. When I was younger, I’d assumed I’d have a family by now to make Christmas traditions with. Instead, I just watch the little family I’ve built in NYC — my circle of friends — latching on to their own families, and I just feel rudderless and a little rejected. Abandonment issues are complex.
This is a lot longer than I meant it be. I hadn’t planned to tell you about the “gay stuff” because I know it makes you uncomfortable. I still haven’t finished reading the email you wrote me, but I read a little more of it each year until I start crying again. I’ve gotten to the part where you’ve come to terms with my attraction to men, so I think you would be okay hearing about my relationship/friendship problems at this point.**
And if not, well here’s a cake to sweeten it up a little!
I do love to bake — thanks for passing that on to me — but I don’t decorate anything….thanks for passing that on to me too. I decided to bake a cake and actually try to decorate it for once, and the end result isn’t half bad! True, I did try to make a Red & Hunter Green Christmas themed cake and I guess my dye was the wrong kind so it’s a Pink & Pale Green Easter themed cake instead, but it tastes good. You would especially like it because it’s not super sweet and I used buttermilk instead of regular milk.
So Happy Birthday! I feel a little lighter after getting some of that off my chest. Maybe this will be a thing and I’ll bake you a little something every year and give you an update about how I’m doing. Next year’s update will be much better than this year’s, I’m sure of it.
If nothing else, I’ll be much better at cake decorating anyway.
Love you Mommy!
(**a note for y’all who don’t know: When my mom died, I went through her emails to compile some information for my dad and I found an email that she had written to me a few weeks before she died. She sent it to an address I no longer use so I didn’t get to read it before she died. The first line says “I’m sorry…” and it took me about 7 years to get farther than that. I still haven’t finished reading it because I know she died thinking I ignored her email and I’m not strong enough to handle it yet.)
It sucks out here.
I’m unemployed and so are a lot of people I know here in NYC. These are some of our stories, which I’m gonna write in first person because I think it reads a bit smoother that way.
(Mine is at the end because it’s mostly about my mental health.)
James, 27, Actor
I don’t work on Broadway, I’ve never been on a series, and I’m frequently out of work for short stretches, but I do okay. There’s always a way to make money in NYC, so I hope for a big break and work temp jobs or little gigs between acting jobs. I’m a bike messenger, a handyman, a dog walker, a house sitter, a mover — if it’s legal cash at the end of the day, I’ve probably done it.
It took a couple of months to finally qualify for unemployment, and even with the federal bump, it was barely enough to cover all my bills. Without that extra $600 though? Forget about it. My two roommates don’t make enough to cover my quarter of the rent, so I’m subletting to someone who can. I moved in with a friend of mine in Jersey City who also can’t make his rent and we’re splitting a one-bedroom until work picks up again. The lease at my apartment in Brooklyn runs out in December and they don’t want to re-sign (two of them are leaving the city) so I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do with all of my stuff.
Candice, 23, Waitress
My restaurant closed for good and I put out a lot of applications because unemployment isn’t enough and I needed to work. Luckily, I got a job waiting tables at a place right by my apartment so I can walk to work. Unluckily, I literally got COVID after like one week. It wasn’t bad and I don’t think I have any lasting effects, but I’m still pissed. And now that I’ve recovered, I’m back at work.
Shannon, 28, Publishing
I got laid off at the end of March and immediately packed up and went back home to my parents’ in Pennsylvania. I qualified for full unemployment benefits pretty quickly, and then the pandemic unemployment on top of that, so I was getting $1100 a week for awhile there and it was really nice to be honest. I probably would’ve stuck it out in the city had I known from the start that I would’ve been able to afford it, found another job, maybe a cheaper apartment, who knows. Now I’m collecting unemployment while I look for a decent job (obviously not in publishing anymore) in rural Pennsylvania.
Thomas, 31, Sex Worker
I haven’t had a steady job in years because they don’t pay enough. Why would I work 40 hours a week to barely make ends meet when I can work a few hours here and there and pay rent, party, travel, whatever I want? I never wanted a job, but now I wish I’d had one so I could get an unemployment check. I qualified for PUA as a gig worker (as a “dancer”), but that’s already gone. I didn’t feel safe looking for “dates” at first, but everybody gotta eat so I do a little here and there. I stopped paying rent in May and I’m waiting to be evicted because I’m not working at McDonald’s. I’m moving back into my mom’s house in Alabama when that happens.
Marcella, 44, Cashier
A couple of years ago, I was making $14.50 because I had been there for awhile and I got a little raise and more responsibility every year. When minimum wage went to $15, I got a raise to $15. I told management I thought I deserved $16.50, because I was making $1.50 more than the $13 minimum before the boost, and other people got a $2 raise while I only got a 50 cent raise. They said they couldn’t afford it. Nobody really hires 40 year old cashiers, and I didn’t finish high school, so I just stayed.
I was out of work when everything shut down and the $600 a week was twice my paycheck, so I saved most of it. I’m back at work, but our hours still aren’t back to what they were, so I’m using that money I saved up to cover my bills. Hopefully we’ll get more before it’s all gone.
Jenna, 25, Admin
When offices shut down, I worked from home. Nothing else really changed until this summer. There’s not enough work to go around and I got laid off. I qualified for unemployment but honestly, I was already living paycheck to paycheck, and now I have about $75 left for the month after I pay rent and bills. It makes me wish I’d been unemployed at the beginning when everybody was getting a federal bonus because I could’ve saved up some money or something. I’m not sure how many more struggle meals I can take.
I started my (dream) job on March 5th, the office closed on March 15th, and I was officially let go on March 23rd. As much as I try not to, I still wallow in that disappointment every few weeks because I found the job I’d been looking for the past decade in NYC. It was the highest salary, most vacation days, best healthcare plan, and friendliest team of co-workers I’d been offered. I legitimately cried on the train after my first day because I was so relieved to have found a job that I could envision as a career indefinitely.
Anyway, not wallowing currently.
I saved up all my pandemic bonus money and that’s what I use to pay rent now because unemployment doesn’t cover my bills. The job market is competitive out there. So far I’ve gotten to a third interview four times and not gotten the job, which is honestly playing havoc with my mental health because every rejection feels like there must be something wrong with me (as opposed to something in particular that was right with another candidate). I feel unqualified and unlikeable and I hate hunting for jobs, especially since my biggest mental health issues are depression and anxiety.
It’s a 180 degree change from May when I felt mostly fine. I didn’t feel like a failure for not having a job, because nobody had a job. I didn’t feel anxious about not having a forward and upward Life Trajectory, because everyone was standing still. Now the world is moving on, I need a job to make sure I can still pay the bills, and every day a bit more panic sets in that I’ll never find another job I like or another job that can pay my bills. Each time I get a rejection email, it’s a paralyzing disappointment that knocks me on my ass for a couple of days. The only job offer I’ve gotten would pay me about $120 more per week than unemployment does.
I’m not taking it. I would spend 40 hours a week (50 if you count the commute each way, because it’s not a work from home position) being miserable at a job I hate, feeling like a failure anyway because I’m a grown man working for peanuts just to say I have a job. That shitty job, or other shitty jobs like it, will still be there months from now, and if I take it now, I don’t have the time to interview for a job I would potentially want…or at least a job that would actually pay the bills.
So I’m waiting and hoping and trying to stay sane.
It sucks out here.
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