The Search for Love in Manhattan A gay odyssey of neurosis
Monday, January 31, 2005
One of the many jobs with which I keep body and soul together (or at least within spitting distance of each other) is a gig for a company that helps students prepare for standardized tests. I work with the programs for elementary and middle school New York State math and English tests; this means I go into schools populated by poor kids of color and subvert the racist and classist educational system by teaching them test-taking tricks that rich white kids get for free with the hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of education their parents buy them.
The main thing that worried me when I first started working for this company was that I would have to come into contact with actual children, a population I both fear and despise with the white-hot fire of a thousand suns. Luckily, however, I ended up in the "professional development" branch; this meant that I simply went around New York City training teachers in using the company's materials. This has been a fairly satisfactory: though the commute is often unpleasant (once I had to go to Canarsie, for God's sake), the money is good, and the sessions rarely last more than two hours, so if I get stuck with a particularly obnoxious teacher, I know that in less than 120 minutes I'll never see him or her again.
Then, three weeks ago, I made the terrible mistake of accepting a different kind of assignment: I would go to one school for seven Wednesdays in a row and work with teachers in the classrooms, making sure they were using the program correctly and generally being a cheerleader (a function I can still perform even after being kicked off the gay cheerleading squad). I would also do some teaching myself.
I never used to have a strong opinion on corporal punishment in schools. Well, I thought, I don't see the harm in smacking the hand of a kid who misbehaves. On the other hand, I also understand that that's probably not the most effective way to win kids' trust and respect. In other words, I really could have gone either way.
I have been to this school for two Wednesdays in a row, and now I think that children who misbehave should be put to death instantaneously, in as painful a way as the imagination can compass.
I can't even begin to tell you how horrible it is. I'm dealing with four classes of sixth-graders. One of them is almost bearable; they sit quietly and listen to me as I talk to them about math, and they answer my questions. To be sure, there are occasional outbursts of youthful vigor, but my heart is not made of stone; I smile indulgently and continue with the lesson. Two of the classes are made up of heartless recidivists; half the time they listen, and the other half they shriek wildly amongst themselves, gibbering in their utterly incomprehensible adolescent language, impervious to any pleas on my part for silence and attention.
They pale, however, in comparison to the fourth class, which is populated solely by monsters in human form. They laugh and scream and run around no matter who is in the room. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see them rise up as one and eat whoever they decide is the runt of the bunch. Or me, for that matter. Even their regular teacher, a lovely woman who clearly adores children and has the patience of a saint, can't control them; how then can I possibly dream of doing so except by judicious application of a machete? I wake up in the morning thinking about them and fearing the day I next have to see them. I loathe them. I abhor them. I would give my immortal soul not to have to see them ever again.
On the other hand, the school principal is a totally hot latin daddy type, so maybe I can stand another Wednesday or two.
For those of you who haven't seen Judy Bachrach's delectable savaging of Brigitte Quinn on the subject of President Bush's second inauguration, go here. I promise it'll be worth it. It's safe for work, unless of course you happen to work in, you know, America.
And regarding another matter: two more people have done this. I now have a wonderful DVD of The Royal Tenenbaums, which I have already watched, and a wonderful vegetable peeler, with which I have already peeled three cucumbers (for entirely innocuous purposes, I promise you). But, again, there were no names or return addresses. While I love receiving gifts, I love being able to thank people for them even more. So if you sent me a pie protector, a vegetable peeler, or a DVD, would you mind too terribly emailing me your name and address so I can write you a proper thank-you note?
At the beginning of the autumn right before his freshman year of college, my brother (who is four years younger than I) and a few of his friends decided they would play a prank on the high school we'd both gone to. They would buy an inflatable sex doll, inflate it, and attach it to a tree in the student parking lot so that kids would see it as they came to school. They planned to put the doll high up in the tree so that only attentive students would see it; this would also mean, more importantly, that school administrators wouldn't find out about it right away and take it down.
The day appointed for their doings arrived. They went to the local dirty bookstore in the dark of night to make their purchase. (The local bookstore was called, if memory serves, C&C Video; one hesitates to ask what the two Cs stand for.) When they got there, they found a curious gap in the prices of inflatable sex dolls. The cheapest white inflatable sex doll was $100; prices went up from there. The cheapest black inflatable sex doll was $20. (This was South Carolina, after all.) They being unemployed kids about to leave for college, they naturally went for the cheaper option.
They drove over to school--it was about 2:00 a.m. by now--and got to work. Everything was fine until they'd finished inflating the inflatable sex doll and realized they didn't have anything with which to attach it to the tree. (I believe they'd planned to use Crazy Glue, but whoever was assigned to bring it had failed to do so.) Unwilling to abandon their plan, however, they cast about for a substitute; somebody found a sufficient length of rope in his car trunk, and they were good to go. They finished the task they had set themselves and went to their respective homes, looking forward to the sleep granted those who have done their jobs well.
The observant among you will have noticed that what they did was tie a naked black woman up in a tree with a rope.
My brother realized this on his way home and started to freak out. He woke me and our father up--it was about 3:30 by this time--and asked us, with a tinge of panic in his voice, to tell him what to do about the fact that he'd just lynched a black woman in effigy. I am not at my sharpest at such an hour, and so I suggested, voice blurry with sleep, that it would be a shame to destroy such hard and ingenious work, but that he should go back and leave an anonymous note explaining that there was no racist intent behind the prank. Our father vetoed this plan, pointing out that South Carolinians sensitive to matters of race were few and far between and that anybody who read such a note would know instantly that it was from someone in our family. In the end, I think we all decided--I could be wrong about this--that most of the people who went to our school would be neither culturally aware enough nor bright enough to make the association, and that he should just leave well enough alone.
In any event, school administrators found out about it right away and took it down.
Some of you may remember the blogathon I did two summers ago. During the blogathon, I posted, over a period of 24 hours, 49 haiku about gay dating, in return for readers' pledges to support a theater company some friends and I were starting. Since the blogathon seems to be hibernating, at least for the moment, I decided to do it again on my own. But this time, instead of posting haiku, I would write and post 49 double dactyls about famous and/or influential gay people from the past and present.
This became a nightmare more quickly than you can imagine. First of all, finding 49 gay people with double-dactylic names (or names that could somehow be made into double dactyls) proved to be well nigh impossible, as there are only so many historically interesting Christophers. Second, and worse, where the haiku practically wrote themselves, a good double dactyl can take (for me at least) days of continual work. I got two done and was halfway through a third before I realized that if I ever wanted to accomplish anything else in my life I had to abandon this project.
And so, in lieu of 49 double dactyls, here's one:
Hickory Dickory David's beau Jonathan Told his dad Saul, "Dave's got Vigor and vim; Further, in matters of Priapicality, Trust me--Goliath's got Nothing on him."
If this inspires one of you to give a dollar to a gay person with an unfortunate haircut, then I'll consider my time to have been well spent.
A little over a year ago, I decided to get my own domain name. "Most of the blogs I love and respect have their own domains," I thought to myself, "and I'm just marking time in boring-layout land here at blogspot. I should spruce things up a bit."
Of course, along with my own domain name, I had to come up with a new title for a relaunch. After sifting through several promising possibilities, I finally settled on "Accursèd Faustus, Wretch, What Hast Thou Done?". This is, of course, a quote from the Christopher Marlowe play The Tragedie of Doctor Faustus; our anti-hero asks himself this question after having been told that it's just too fucking late for him and he's going to go to hell no matter what. I much preferred this line, from the B text (1616), to the corresponding line from the A text (1604), which is a more self-pitying, less self-excoriating "Accursèd Faustus, where is mercy now?".
So I had the title, I'd registered the domain name with a host, and I was working on a redesign. I got Movable Type and commissioned a friend of a friend to draw an illustration; with the design help of this man, I eventually had the centerpiece:
And then I somehow lost steam. I got caught up in other things (like deciding to start speaking to my ex N.T. again, gaining and losing the same five pounds over and over again, trying not to kill myself--you know, the usual) and never got around to setting the damn thing up.
And while I was chatting with him the other day, I realized that "Accursèd Faustus, Wretch, What Hast Thou Done?" no longer accurately describes the endeavor in which I am engaged here. Though the crippling anxiety and implacable self-loathing that have been the mainstays of this blog since its inception are still my constant companions, the combination of a good boyfriend and decent medication has meant that they are joined every once in a while by something approaching, if not happiness, at least glimpses of it.
One could argue, of course, that "The Search for Love in Manhattan" doesn't accurately describe this blog anymore either, what with the advent of E.S. v. 2.0, but I for one have always thought of the eponymous love as encompassing not just eros but also agape and philia--of which there is little enough in the world to make a search worthwhile.
In less than a week, I will enter my 33rd year upon this sphere.
I have been trying and trying to figure out how the hell to celebrate. A couple months ago I had the most brilliant idea anyone's had since slicing bread: I would invite everybody I knew to join me at the Roxy, a local gay bar, for Roller Disco. It was perfect: roller disco night is on Wednesday, as is my birthday, and what better way to celebrate my imminent entry into senility and decrepitude than with a return to the birthday ritual of my youth, the gayest birthday ritual of them all, the roller skating party?
I got very, very excited; I spent hours combing the internet for photographs with which to construct my own fabulous evite. It would be divine: my nearest and dearest, as well as the not so near and perhaps even the not so dear (because a present is, regardless of the source, still a present) would all congregate in a tacky bar in Chelsea and roller skate in my honor to "We Will Rock You" and "Dancing Queen."
E.S. kept insisting that we go to Roller Disco at some point before I actually issued any invitations, just to make sure it was, if not everything I hoped it would be, at least close. Scoffing at the thought that it could be anything short of perfect, I nevertheless agreed to his suggestions just so he would stop nagging me. So a few weeks ago, we walked over to 10th Avenue, rented our skates--shades of 1982!--and went inside.
To be greeted by the sight of a huge room full of straight people roller skating.
Full of skanky straight people roller skating.
Honestly, it was as if the entire population of Hackensack had been magically teleported into the Roxy and given orders to skate as slowly as they possibly could. There were two people in clown outfits roller skating in slow motion.
And I thought, wasn't it enough that you stole pierced ears and freedom rings from us? You had to take roller skating, too?
I almost started to cry. Why does reality have to puncture all my dreams so cruelly? Can't she leave one or two untouched until they float, gently, to the ground, like helium balloons three days after the party is over?
At first I thought I might be able to make it work anyway, and that with enough of my friends in attendance, the place would be forced to acquire a sense of irony. But then the clowns skated past me, still in slow motion, and I realized that there are some things that just aren't meant to be.
We skated for about fifteen minutes more, but our hearts just weren't in it, so we left, defeated.
For what it's worth, if you're reading this, please know that you were almost invited to my birthday party.
From a conversation I had the other day with E.S.:
E.S.: Okay, I'm off the phone. Now we're going to watch this movie I Tivoed.
Faustus: No, we're not. We're going to sleep.
E.S.: But why?
Faustus: Because I'm tired.
E.S.: You're such a bitch.
Faustus: Why does that make me a bitch?
E.S.: Because you're asserting yourself and telling me what you want.
Faustus: But you've been saying to me for over a year that I have to assert myself and tell you what I want.
E.S.: Yes, but I've changed my mind.
You've heard of her, even if you don't know her name. She's the infamous McDonald's Coffee Lady, the one whom advocates of tort reform hold up as an example of how our legal system is rotten to the core. The facts that most people know are as follows: in the early 1990s, Ms. Liebeck sued McDonald's because a cup of hot coffee spilled in her lap and burned her. She won a judgment of $2.9 million, which was later reduced to $640,000.
And to this day, people are all like, "We're surrounded by whiners, people have to take responsibility for their own actions, it's ridiculous that somebody should get millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars because she spilled some coffee, look how bloated and out of control our legal system and our sense of personal responsibility have become."
Of course, none of these people bother to look at what actually happened, which is that McDonald's kept its coffee more than fifty degrees hotter than normal home coffee, that they had received over 700 complaints about their coffee's burning people in the ten years before the lawsuit, that Ms. Liebeck suffered third-degree burns for which she was in the hospital for eight days and had to get skin grafts, that the car wasn't moving when she opened the coffee, that she had tried to settle the case for $20,000 but McDonald's had refused, and that McDonald's own quality-assurance manager admitted on the stand that their coffee was unsafe to drink as served.
This case is not an example of how tort law in this country needs to be reformed. It's an example of how corporations are evil and can spin anything to their advantage and must all be destroyed.
Except, of course, that McDonald's chocolate-chip cookies are so damn good.
Before I went to Beverly Hills, I promised my aerobics students that I would come back with a new routine. This morning I made good on my promise. The new routine comprised several steps I had either altered or made up myself; I felt justified, therefore, in naming them.
And so today I took my students through a routine that consisted of the following moves:
Catwoman (Around the World)
And for a few moments during class, even I thought I was too gay.
When I was six, I picketed my house, hoping to be allowed to eat breakfast before getting dressed rather than after.
I marched back and forth in front of our front door, carrying a sign that said "BREKFAST FIRST DRESSED LATER."
My parents, being civil rights workers, didn't cross picket lines, and that was the only way into or out of our house,
so they were trapped there until they acceded to my demand.