Friday, July 12, 2013

Just A Plain Old Marriage

This weekend I went to a gay wedding. 

And I don’t mean it was excessively happy – although it was, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court decision.

I mean it was between two dudes.

If my grandfather were alive he would have just rolled his eyes, taken a sip of his Folgers coffee and said, "Sometimes I just don't understand you young people."  

And I would have taken a sip of my twelve dollar soy latte and said, "That's okay, Grandpa. Sometimes I don't understand you old people either." 

Then I would have told him this story anyway.

My college friend Jeremy and his partner Darren were getting married in Oakland.

In the weeks leading up to the big event, people would ask me if I had any Fourth of July plans and I would shout at them “GAY WEDDING” so loudly they’d duck and cover like I was warning them one was flying at their head.

It was my first so I was excited.

Being a woman who attended a liberal arts college and majored in Theatre, I have a lot of gay friends.  But until now, none of these friends had ever gotten married. 

So it was with great anticipation that I packed my bags and headed up the coast.

I had planned my trip so I could attend the double bachelor party being held a few days before the wedding, partly because I wanted to support my friend but mostly because it was being held at a “gender illusionist” bar. 

Over the loud music and the multiple cocktails, my friends and I agreed, even though this was, for all of us, our first gay bachelor party, it was the best gay bachelor party we’d ever been to.

The day of the wedding dawned and after a few ibuprofen and a lot of coffee, I was ready.

It was a gorgeous California day and the ceremony was held at a rooftop garden in Downtown Oakland. Armed with sunglasses and fresh squeezed lemonade that was provided for the guests, I found my seat.

Surrounded by trees and flowers, the wedding began like any other wedding I’ve been to. But when the pastors made a special note to welcome us to the legal MARRIAGE of Jeremy and Darren, someone started to clap. 

And then someone else. 

And soon everyone was cheering and shouting

I felt shivers run up my arm as I clapped louder. “I am a part of something here,” I thought.  “I am witnessing history.” 
I thanked god for my sunglasses because the tears in my eyes did not go well with my eyeliner.

Someday, it won’t matter whether it’s a marriage between two men, two women, or a man and a woman.

But for me, for all of us sitting there on that rooftop, this felt monumental.

I felt so privileged to be there.  So proud of my adopted state - a state that would allow my friends to have something I’ve taken for granted my whole life.

I took a sip of my lemonade and tried to compose myself.

As the ceremony continued and I watched my friends promise to love each other for eternity, I started to think about their future.  And I realized, when Jeremy and Darren tell their children about this day, it won’t be a story about a ‘gay’ wedding.

It will just be a story about a wedding.

Just a wedding with love, and friends, and some damn good lemonade.

And that is something to celebrate.

This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here.


Everyone is pregnant but me.

At least that’s what it feels like.

One cousin, four friends, about twenty-two Facebook friends, and my old roommate’s dog have all given birth in the last month. 

I’ve gotten used to the phone calls that begins with my friends asking, “How are you…” in a tone that says ‘Hurry up and tell me because when you find out how I am you are going to freak out.’

After the excitement of the pregnancy announcement dies down I never quite know how to segue back to normal conversation.

Congrats on creating a new life.  Speaking of exciting news, I bought a new brand of milk yesterday.

A few weeks ago my friend, Michelle had her baby shower.  I had known the date months in advance yet there I was on the day of the shower, clutching her registry and staring at rows and rows of bottles, burp rags, and diaper-genie-warming-sterilized-magic-something-wipes. 

My eyes zeroed in on an item called a “nipple brush” and I laughed to myself, grabbed it, and went to find a pastel bag in which to put it.

The shower was lovely, with the perfect amount of sweet (candy bar) and adult (free alcohol).  When we reached the gift opening, Michelle pulled out my gift and thanked me. I smiled and, wanting to detract from the fact I had obviously purchased it an hour before, made a joke.

Now every time you wash your nipples, you can think of me.

I waited for the laughter to follow but all I heard was the confused and shocked intake of breath from the future grandmother.

After much confusion, Michelle explained that by ‘nipple’ they meant the nipple on the bottle.  Not the nipple on the mother.

These moments have become a normal part of my life. I have moved seamlessly from the years of bridesmaid’s dresses and bad floral arrangements to baby bottles and giving gifts I don’t really understand.

Most of the time I don’t mind.  I can laugh along with the mothers and then go meet my friends for a martini because I don’t have a diaper to change.
But then, last week, I got a call from my youngest cousin with some news about his wife.

Hi, Dane!  What’s up?

Well…I’m just calling to tell you that Alicia is pregnant.

I took a breath.

Before getting excited, before doing the obligatory squealing and congratulating, I noticed that my heart constricted a little bit.

Here is another baby I won’t get to see grow up – another family member that won’t consider me a part of the normal routine. 

Even though technology lets me video chat and get instant photos of first steps, the fact is, it’s just not the same.

It’s not the same as holding a squirming, crying child in your arms and maybe crying a little yourself at how amazing life is. It’s not the same as looking at your friend who once danced on a table in the middle of a bar and who is now in charge of a human life.

I love my home here in Los Angeles.  I am proud and happy I decided to follow this path – a path in which I know a lot about building a career and a lot less about raising a child.  But there are a few times every year, during an excited phone call with a friend, that I’m reminded just how much I gave up to follow my dreams.

It’s always in the white space that I feel it most – the space that comes before my reaction, before my happiness has a chance to sink in.  It’s always most clear, and most painful, what the decision to live far away from home really means in the breath I take before smiling.  

This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here.

But Who's Counting

Exactly four years, nine months, and thirteen days after moving to Los Angeles, I finally made it on TV. 

It was a small role, on the show Southland, but I was excited and so were my parents – especially after my father found out I would be ‘keeping my clothes on.’

On the day of the audition I hadn’t even been nervous.  I had walked through yet another studio, quietly reciting yet another set of lines, and the only feeling I’d had was that of exhaustion.

I was so tired.

After deciding to move to Hollywood to pursue a writing and acting career, I had packed up my car, grabbed one of my close friends, and driven cross country to the city of angels. I’d expected the road trip to be breezy and fun – like a Sweet Valley High novel. 

Instead, my little Grand Am had over-heated in the middle of the desert and I had experienced my first major panic attack in which I kept pointing out the window and repeating to my poor friend, “No one is ever going to come visit me if they have to cross THIS.”

I was off to a rocky start.

I had fostered high hopes for my first LA roommate but she turned out to be a non-functioning pot smoker who threw away her dog’s feces in our kitchen trashcan.  As a final disappointment, it took me only a month to burn through the money I’d earned doing a medical study and I’d realized that Steven Spielberg needed a little more time to discover me. I had to get a job.

To fund the pursuit of my dream, I worked every job possible – server, nanny, tutor, marketing assistant, personal assistant, sales person, background extra, theatre camp counselor, caterer, professional tweeter, and house-sitter.  Now, more than four-and-a-half years later, I was starting to feel that maybe I’d made a mistake. 

So when somebody finally wanted to pay me to act in their TV show, I was stunned.  I wasn’t used to success.  I was used to crying over a bottle of wine and reruns of Law& Order.

Instead of feeling proud of my accomplishment, I started to feel a bit silly.  After all the hard work and pain of moving away from home, having two lines on a TV show wasn’t big enough to celebrate, was it?

On the day of the shoot my friend Katey, who was working as the Second Assistant Director, greeted me with a hug.  She had pulled some strings and instead of the small waiting room usually assigned to actors with two lines, she led me to a giant trailer.

When she opened the door, I had to stifle a gasp.  It was nicer than my apartment.  There was even a shower – you know, in case I had forgotten to bathe that morning. I looked around my very own dressing room and I felt the embarrassment creep back in. For two lines, I didn’t deserve this.

After going through hair and make-up I walked back to my trailer and sat down to fill out my contract. But I couldn’t focus. I caught a glimpse of myself in the dressing room mirror and suddenly a voice from deep inside my heart roared into my ears.

You are sitting in a trailer waiting to shoot A TV SHOW!

And suddenly the wall of embarrassment I’d built up since I’d booked this role came crashing down in a mad, relieved tumble of joy.

What was I doing? I needed to grab hold of this moment and appreciate it for what it was. The same little girl who grew up on a farm in the middle of North Dakota and made her mom sit through a one-woman show about Wynona Judd was also sitting here, in this trailer with the giant shower and the TV contract. 

And then it didn’t matter that it was only two lines.  It didn’t matter at all.

It only mattered that I had promised myself I would do this and I had done it.  I was going to be on TV.  My family would be able to turn on the television and see me standing there and maybe understand, just for a moment, why I had decided to break their hearts and move so far away from home.  And all those struggles now seemed worth it – even if it was for just one day.

I signed the bottom of the contract with the signature I’d practiced in my junior high journal and stepped out into the LA sun.

I had two whole lines to film. 

And I knew some people back home who’d been waiting a long time to hear them.

This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here.