Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Dead Gay Best Friend

I'm stretching you here, don't be put off by the title, hear me out.  Go back to 1988, the movie Heathers came out, starring Christian Slater as the sexy, sultry, misguided, dark teen J.D. who came to Anytown, USA and wreaked havoc amongst the hierarchical social structure in the local high school.  He killed the social elite, the bullies of the school, and made it look like suicides.  In one scene, after JD lured and subsequently shot the two most popular jocks and scattered stereotypical gay paraphernalia (Joan Crawford pictures, sparkling water), one of the dads leaned over the casket and sobbed, "I love my dead gay son."  I love this line, it means that he accepted his son's homosexuality (or in this case, the implication only).  That instead of shirking from it, he embraced it in his son's memory. 

So, stay with me here.  I am attempting to guide you into the deep recesses of my mind and how the dysfunctional synapses fire to make me - me.  My husband, lovingly, often accuses me of making unrealistic connections to things out of seemingly nothing.  I say nay-nay (credit:  John Pinette).  The connections are perfectly logical to me.  Here's how I had the Heathers thought today.  I'm in a training program in Boston, not that location matters, but it's lecture, it's boring, people are boring me with their "you'll never believe what happened to me" crappy stories (which by the way, yes, I will believe it, we're all in HR and you'll eventually come to the point where nothing surprises you, so shut up and listen to the expert for a few days and stop being so narcissistic, which many HR people are, but - anyway, I digress).  The facilitator talked about women's choices for profession when she was growing up, mainly teachers and nurses.  So we're a society that counted on having ample supply of nurses in women, and now we have women attorneys, doctors, engineers, etc., and a short supply of nurses, what do we do.  I immediately think of one of my friends who is a fabulous nurse, and he happens to be gay (as I write this, I chuckle, because the Seinfeld episode that coined the phrase "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" is on!).  And so I think that gay men would be a great target for nursing campaigns because many I am fortunate enough to know are nurturing and kind and compassionate, people I'd want taking care of me if I'm laying in a hospital bed.  Well, this leads me to think of the, "I love my dead gay son comment" and then brings me back to my best friend in high school.

Brian was great.  He was my confidant, we lived across the street from each other, and spent every waking moment together, even when I had boyfriends, he just *got* me.  He helped me clean and decorate my room, he shopped with me, he gossiped with me, he did speech and debate with me.  I loved him dearly, even though I was bossier to him than you could even imagine.  Our classmates called him a fag.  It was the early 90's, I didn't know what a fag was, no one did.  (Other than a cigarette, which was our gym teacher's response when he heard the word "fag.")  We didn't have Glee, we didn't have these great role models to show us that it's okay to be different, it's okay to have feelings toward the same sex, it's okay to have interracial relationships, it's okay to accept and love.  But, I didn't care anyway back then.  I was too busy having fun with him.  He didn't date much, which was fine, because he had more time to cater to my needs and listen to my teenage girl whiny-ness.  We kept in touch for a year or so after high school.  I got knocked up and married the wrong man, he left to reinvent himself, and get away from the ignorant boorish small town folk - I tried, didn't get too far, but I guess far enough.  Fast forward maybe 5, 6, years after our high school graduation, where we walked down the aisle together.  AOL was catching on, and even though I was pretty poor, with two small kids, I caught the online bug, and was able to connect with Brian over e-mail.  We chatted back and forth for a few months, he was pursuing a modeling career back east, so very Brian.  He sounded great.  He avoided my questions about his love life, but I was happy to have him back in my life.

Until the phone call that shattered my psyche.  My mom called with the news.  I had to have been 23, or 24 at the time, I'm horrible with dates and ages, but early 20's, with a family and no experience whatsoever with death.  Brian was dead.  No one knew what happened.  She gave my phone number to his parents, who called me, and it was surreal.  He was in a car accident, walked away, then next morning was found dead in a river.  No investigation was being done.  As the son of a burly, manly highway patrol, I suspected that his parents didn't really want to know if he was the target of a hate-crime, didn't want to acknowledge what I'd suspected, that Brian had come out.  The only way I knew would come soon enough.  Once I heard of his death, I cried, and cried, and cried.  I didn't drink at this time, I was probably a year away from learning the pleasures of alcohol.  I went to his funeral, by myself.  I didn't want my immature, unhelpful husband to even be a part of this grief, which should have been one of the thousand clues that he was never right for me.  (I might mention that my husband now wouldn't think twice, he'd be there, he'd do whatever it takes to comfort me, which is why I'm married to him, and not the first one).  I sat in the back of the church, and felt Brian's presence near me, I thought of things I hadn't thought of in years.  I recalled events that I thought I'd forgotten.  I went to the cemetery and cried some more.  I went to the reception, crying, hugging his parents, his sister whom I'd baby-sat on many occasions.  I don't remember a time I have cried harder than I did then, I don't think I've had a loss so impactful as his was in my life.  I didn't understand death.  Hell, I didn't understand life.  When I got home, I sent a very long, very sentimental note to his e-mail - remember, this was turn of the century, 1999-ish, before Yahoo and Google, before AOL had real policies governing e-mail.  I wanted to cleanse myself and say all the things that I should have said to him while he was alive.  To my surprise, the e-mail was intercepted by Brian's partner, a very gentle and kind soul whose first e-mail to me simply said, "Thank you."  We talked for a couple of years, and I learned how much fun was my friend was having, how successful he was becoming, and how happy he was.  But, as many long-distance relationships, this one, too, dropped off.  But it meant the world to me to get a perspective of his final years through the eyes of his lover, someone who undoubtedly loved him as much as I did. 

I returned to my dysfunctional young-mom raising two kids and a deadbeat husband life, and pushed the emotions far down.  They don't come up often, but when they do, I get melancholy.  I wonder what would have happened if we could still be best friends today.  I know that even in the perfect world, we probably wouldn't have stayed best friends, in my previous post, I referenced Robert Frost's Nothing Gold Can Stay,  and I think my relationship with Brian was just this, it was golden.  We could never go back to high school days.  But occasionally I'll find myself wondering how much fun we'd have in the city together, or how great it would be to talk to him about my crazy life dreams, as I did back then, when I was going to be like Michael J. Fox and take Manhattan and become a famous CEO.  But he isn't here, hasn't been here for some 12 years.  I know this is a long post, and I know no one reads it anyway, but it's here.  It makes me feel better to publicly say some of these nuggets, audience or not.

Brian was a great friend.  He was a great man.  Over a decade later, I still miss him.  The wounds are still pretty raw.  But he had a hand in making me who I am, quirky, bossy, intelligent, sassy, and all.  Thanks, Brian, wherever you are, I'll always consider you one of my best friends.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
~ Robert Frost

I know this poem from The Outsiders, one of my great 80's movies. It's always stuck with me.  I've had a lot of gold in my life, more so as the years pass, but Frost eloquently states that nothing gold can stay - things have to change, for reasons we may never know, but they have to change anyway. 

Last week I made a bold move, one that likely will lead nowhere, but I threw my horse into another race.  I am waiting to see where she will post, she may scratch, she may not even run, but she's in there.  I don't know what I want most days.  I want a change.  But it has to be the right one. 

This week brings Boston, a new city.  I arrived later, due to air delays, which I've avoided for months now, it was bound to catch up to me.  The city seemed different, beautiful, no doubt, as we passed the bay with big, beautiful boats, but as the sun started to dip below the clouds, I didn't feel safe going out.  My meal at the hotel restaurant was actually sublime.  From the New England Clam Chowder, to the Crabcakes, to the Petite Filet of Beef perfectly cooked and seasoned, treading in a delicious red wine demi-glace with perfectly crisped potatoes and sauteed spinach.  I should have done without dessert, desserts rarely make the meal better, but the savory dishes were by far the best I've had in a while.  Tomorrow I will negotiate this strange city, in the light of day as I grow more comfortable.  The training will be intense, but there will be time. 

I can't help but wonder how long I will stay gold in this place I'm in now.  I'm comforted by the fact that nothing gold can stay - because every time it's gone, something even more fabulous comes my way. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Jackpot.  Footloose was on HBO as I was re-organizing my closet this morning.  Footloose is a classic, when it came out in 1984, I was 9 years old.  My aunt recorded it on her Betamax recorder, and every time we visited (quite often), my sister and I watched it, rapt every time, as if this time they just might give up and not have the dance.  But Kevin Bacon always pulled through, and SJP pre-Sex & the City, still fabulous in her teens.  And John Lithgow was the consummate minister, ever pious, but growing his heart three sizes by the end. 

I heard a disturbing rumor that Footloose was being remade.  Sadly, it's not a rumor.  The remake is in post-production.  I don't know about you, my fellow Gen X'er, but I am more than a little disenchanted with our successor generation.  It seems like all the big blockbusters are remakes of classics we watched growing up.  Sure, imitation is the finest form of flattery, but come on - can someone in their 20's not come up with something original?  Willy Wonka was remade, I refused to watch it, Gene Wilder IS Willy Wonka, you don't mess with that.  The Karate Kid without Mr. Miagyi?  Now I'm reading that other classics, like Red Dawn, Weird Science, Top Gun, are being considered for prime remakes.  These movies were relevant in our time, growing up in the 80's, and into the early 90's, we had different challenges, different successes, and you can't remake that.  I don't doubt that today's adolescents and young adults go through many hardships that I didn't have to, school violence, a young, scary life in a post-9/11 world, but they need to make their own relevant films to help us understand their times.

Growing up Gen X meant that we had very few role models.  The teens on the screen were it.  We lived in a time of scandal (not that we don't now), but few people were idolized in the media during that time.  We admired Molly Ringwald, the entire Brat Pack, for saying publicly what we all felt.  Watching old movies (yep, I'm old enough to watch "old" movies from my childhood - and proud of it!), I see the gritty reality in them.  Watch Footloose, are their teeth abnormally white?  Anyone, other than Lori Singer (who probably was anorexic) unreasonably thin, and with large breasts (again, other than Lori Singer)?  Anyone drive a BMW, a Mercedes, an Escalade at age 16?  Anyone wearing $200 pairs of jeans?  No, because it's real.  It represented the times.  The imperfections of the actors and the filming itself made it relevant.  I admit, I have given up on watching many new movies because they seem so fake, so insincere, so unlike the experiences you have growing up.  I don't get Harry Potter, I refuse to even try understanding this Twilight thing.  This is not teenager-hood, it's not the raw emotion of the 80's films I grew up with. 

I know, we're all pretty biased on the stuff we experienced during those formative years, all I'm asking for the next generation is that you show some originality - and some reality.  Hmmm, as I write this, I wonder how many of my favorites from my day were remade ... perhaps I'd better some more research!  ...

Thanks, Wikipedia, for confirming that my favorite movies of the 80's, Top Gun, Footloose, Road House, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo's Fire, the Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley Girl, and many others - all originals.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

After a breather from PhD work, except for one class that was not researched based, I'm refreshed and ready to get to work.  I was able to pick up a research class that I had dropped, thus leaving me not that far behind.  And I found a topic that will stick.  It's a topic that has grown near and dear to my heart over the last several months - promoting and supporting women in their quest to get an education and develop at work.  I can make a difference with this research, even though I'm starting small.  Women, sadly, have not made much ground in the past couple of decades.  We are still responsible for most of the housework and childcare, even though we also work full-time.  Add to these challenges other women who refuse to give their fellow peers a hand up, and you've got some serious ravines to hurdle to success.

So the past five weeks, I've applied for several stretch jobs at Fortune 100 companies in Northern California.  I got a rejection e-mail from just one.  No word from any of the others.  I think it's time to accept that, for now, I belong here.  I have work to do and it's important work.  I guess don't need to trot off to wine country (sad as that realization is) to have the good life. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Here we go again ...

Sunday night, packing my bag again.  Philadelphia this week.  Back in four days, not bad.  I don't know what to think most days.  I love to travel, I love the adventure, the break from routine, but it's sometimes unsettling to be away from home.  But maybe it's the unsettling feeling that turns me on. That keeps me from going crazy in routine-as-hell-Wyoming. 

I finished - okay, started AND finished - my final project today for the only class I kept for this PhD semester.  My husband golfed.  I was happy to have the time to focus - but of course, my wine collection called to me.  My kitchen called to me.  My husband, after being denied dessert last night (no ice cream for the blueberry compote), was so devastated, that I decided to make a killer batch of chocolate chip cookies, one of my best efforts, I might add.  Spaghetti & meatballs for a mid-day lunch/dinner for me, since no one in the world makes it as good as I do (probably because most chefs ruin it with cheese!).  Then a bacon-cheeseburger-macaroni-and-cheese for my husband after 18 holes of chilly spring southwest Wyo golf.  He said it was a definite hit, but my extreme hatred for cheese kept me from tasting it, I know flavor profiles, though, so I knew it was a hit - bacon, grass-fed beef, cheese he picked out - yeah, I rock.