Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What's The Matter With Misty?

This essay was originally published on ProfessionGal.com, a website aimed at career-oriented women who are looking to manifest their talents and personal styles into occupations. So read more essays like this, visit ProfessionGal.com.

When I was 18, I closed out my second semester of college and went back home to New Orleans to live with my mom and dad for the summer. Within the first six days of being home, I’d fallen asleep in the bathtub at 1:30 in the afternoon twice, eaten four bags of Sweet & Spicy Chili Doritos, and snapped a plank of wood inside the loveseat from habitually throwing my body onto it.

My parents were equal parts pissed and confused. To them, I'd shown so much growth and maturity while I was away at college and then seamlessly reverted to a human slug under their roof. And when my dad told me to get a summer job, I let my shoulders and knees go limp, and I collapsed onto the floor. This was my childhood reflex to being told to do something I didn’t want to do; a reflex perfected over years of being woken up and ordered to cut the grass. Every Saturday morning, my dad would call up the stairs for me to “Come see,” and when I’d arrive on the landing, he’d remind me what day it was. Then, overwhelmed by the idea of having to put on dirty old sneakers and push a lawnmower around in the South Louisiana heat, I would release a feminine moan and implode from the inside — causing my body to flop like one of those push puppets that’s kept under tension until a button is pressed. Everyone in my family picked on me for doing this, but they still found it kind of cute in a frustrated-gay-adolescent-quirk kind of way. But at 18, with a year of dorm living under my belt, that shit was not cute anymore, and it caused my dad to come unglued. Between whining, “Finals were really hard! I need to rest,” and “But I just started reading He’s Just Not That Into You!” he swatted at me and called ma “lazy bitch.” So I got up, snatched the keys to my 1996 Ford Explorer off of the bar, and ran out the door.

Halfway down the street, I realized I was still wearing the same clothes I’d been lounging on the couch in: drawstring cut-off shorts, flip-flops, a ball cap with a flaming cayenne pepper embroidered on it, and an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt that read “Life Of The Party.” This wasn’t exactly job interview attire, but I certainly wasn’t going back home where my father would definitely slap me with my gently used copy of He’s Just Not That Into You, so I kept driving.

I stopped at a tanning salon half a mile from my subdivision and asked the tall blond behind the counter for an application. She eyed me from cap to flip-flop and handed over a piece of paper and a pen. Once finished, I asked if I could speak to the manager. The blond wordlessly retreated to a back room and shortly returned with a woman who looked like she’d be about as tall as a barstool if it weren’t for her black denim 6-inch strappy platforms and the haphazardly yanked-together bun on top of her head. Her mascara was clumped together like black birds on a wire and her jaw dropped and rose with every smack of gum. “Hey, I’m Misty,” she said, her voice sounding like a shrill kazoo that was manufactured in some swamp town trailer park on the outskirts of New Orleans. The tall blond slinked away to the back room and Misty gestured for me to take a seat. She kept my job application facedown in her lap and asked me questions about sunless tanning. “Oh, I’ve never used a tanning bed before,” I said. “Gingers tend to burn real easy. I can’t even get too close to the TV.” She snort-laughed and used her long, French-manicured nails to fan her eyes to keep from crying — which is a weird reaction I will never understand.

I could tell she liked me already, and I liked her too. Mostly because she looked like a pocket-sized drag queen. I imaged her on stage in a miniature tutu, next to an Amazonian version of herself, voguing in-sync to “When I Grow Up” by The Pussycat Dolls, which distracted me for the duration of the interview until she put her hand on my knee and said, “Do you have a problem acting a little, well, gayer?” I took a moment to collect my response. Finally, I nodded and said, “What now?” She straightened up. “We’ve never hired a boy before, and I just want to make sure our clients feel comfortable with you,” she said. “Women get naked behind those doors, and if they need something, they might feel super awkward around a masculine guy.” I was stunned. “I’m pretty gay as it is,” I said. “You want me to like bat my eyes a lot or something? Or, I don’t know, act like a black lady?” She looked confused. “Act like a black lady?” I shrugged. “I’ve noticed that really flaming gay guys are just imitating black ladies.” She looked astonished. “You’re so right!” she yelped. “Ugh, all the neck-rolling and finger-waving. It all makes sense now! Yeah, do that. Can you start Monday?”

Working at the salon was a breeze, and I liked hanging out with Misty. She was my boss, but she never really asserted herself like a boss. Then one day, she burst through the door, threw herself onto the carpet, and began sobbing. It was the mid-morning and at least three patrons in the shop were within listening distance, and also nude behind closed doors. I ran over and picked her up by the wrists, before dragging her to the back room. “Miss girl, are you okay?!” I said, forgetting that I didn’t have to keep up the gay-gay act around Misty. She’d gotten into a fight with her boyfriend and he’d threatened to throw her out of the house; a hovel in Westwego I imaged to be sloppy with cast-off bras and stinking of Hamburger Helper. She recovered fairly quickly, but a few hours later, I discovered her facedown and bottomless on a tanning bed, crying into her balled-up booty shorts.

At the time, I was involved in my first real same sex relationship with a boy I met on Bourbon Street named Chadwick. Being that we were both 18 and equally lacking the emotional wherewithal to be in a gay, committed, long-distance relationship, we fought all the time. So I’d come to work frustrated and then Misty would roll in like a goddamn hurricane of weave and runny eyeliner, and we’d both listen to “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and sulk like two miserable old bitches; Misty being the oldest and most miserable. Over time, I began to notice that Misty really didn’t have any boundaries or filter. She would smoke cigarettes inside and provoke screaming matches on the phone right in front of the store. She would often overshare about her rocky sex life or her boyfriend’s personal shortcomings, which made me whatever the opposite of horny is. And then one time, when I was wiping down beds, I overheard her fighting on the phone with her boyfriend and she called him a “stupid faggot.” I stopped what I was doing and walked out into the waiting area where Misty had her phone wedged between her shoulder and cheek while her free hands tied her flannel shirt into a knot just under her boobs. “I need to go home,” I said in a stage whisper. She waved me away with her long French tips and I never came back.

I didn’t leave because she said “stupid faggot.” I didn’t leave because I’d had it with her outbursts. I left because I was scared. Misty was a grown woman in a managerial position who routinely behaved like she was unhinged. And it frightened me that someone like her could be given the keys to the building and the autonomy to hire and oversee other employees. Later in life, I would understand that this happens quite often, but at the time, I was mortified by her rampant unprofessionalism and the idea that there might be other bosses like Misty.

On the way home, I stopped at the Applebee’s near my neighborhood and filled out an application because I didn’t want a lapse in my resume or a sidekick to the dick from my father. Misty called me again and again and left a bunch of angry voicemails; none of which I returned. Then, on a Tuesday, I started work at Applebee’s, where the chicken finger baskets are consistent and no one ever asks you to act gayer than you already are.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ewok Boner

"Ewok Boner" is a dialogue that requires two alternating readers or one crazy person with alternating voices in his or her head.

On Grindr, I thought his picture was attractive, even though he was wearing shades and making a duck face.

On Grindr, he opened with ‘Hey Hey Hey,’ which — to me — seemed overly eager and reminded me of Fat Albert.

On Grindr, he introduced himself as ‘Chuck,’ which is one of the names I hate; along with Carl, Hank, and Lester.

On Grindr, he said his name was Ryan and that he worked in advertising. I guess he thought I’d be impressed?

On Grindr, we made small talk and traded pics, one of which was a full-length selfie of him wearing the smallest jock strap I’ve ever seen.

On Grindr, I sent him some pics and he immediately asked if I wanted to hang out. It must’ve been the jock strap.

On Grindr, it looked like he was squeezing a hot pink Tamagotchi through his crotch.

On the way over, I smoked a bowl and listened to Kennedy. The drive to Lafayette usually takes about thirty minutes.

In the bathroom, I smoked cigarettes and listened to the new Cults album. I had about thirty minutes, I guessed.

Through the window, I saw him fidgeting. He looked nervous.

From the sofa, I watched him climb the porch steps, so I positioned myself so that I appeared both casual and masculine — although I am never either.

At the front door, I knocked.

At the front door, I side-hugged him and made a mental note to tell him his Grindr photos didn’t do him any justice. Even though he was two inches shorter than I am.

In the living room, I finally got a good look at him. Definitely bangable. But tense.

On the sofa, I said he looked like Edward Norton, but nugget-sized.

On the sofa, I told him I get the Edward Norton thing a lot. But it has more to do with the way I speak than the way I look. The exchange felt conventional and recycled.

On NBC, Edward Norton was hosting SNL, which we both felt was too bizarre to pass up. So we watched it, until he needed a smoke break.

On the porch, I told him I’d just moved back from Manhattan and that I was practicing interior design here. The story I told sounded a lot more glamorous than the whole truth.

On the porch, he was dodgy about his past, but it felt like he was trying to protect me from it. Still, I found him adorable in the way Ewoks are adorable. Ewoks with boners. Also, I could see his boner.

On the sofa, I deliberately sat closer to him. He smelled like English Laundry cologne, isolation, wet skin, piña colada-scented moisturizer, and skepticism.

On the sofa, we discussed curtain fabric, the peplum silhouette, Terry Richardson’s hackneyed portfolio, and the appropriateness of certain kinds of art in kitchens.

On the sofa, we mostly talked about gay designer crap — the crap I live and breathe — but at one point, he said, 'In [his] opinion, people who eat pizza without toppings don't want to be happy.' And I couldn’t stop laughing.

On the sofa, I made him laugh.

On the sofa, he told me about the tranny who works at the Circle K around the corner who often lets him leave without paying for his beer or cereal bars.

On the sofa, he introduced me the late-80s New Orleans rapper, Bust Down. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t already familiar. “Nasty Bitch” is clearly a hometown classic.

On the sofa, I felt ashamed for sending him that jock strap picture.

In my stomach, I felt churning. I think I wanted him to like me.

Under his shirt, I felt gurgling. And then he farted. On me.

Behind my eyes, I fought back tears. I was mortified. But then he started laughing and pressing down my stomach — trying to make me fart again. Then I started laughing too and we wrestled around.

On the sofa, he pushed me away, but I wiggled on top of him and pinned his hands above his head.

On the sofa, he kissed me.

In my head, there were issues of hyphenated last names, and what I was going to eat later, and safe sex, and being single, using my tongue to its fullest potential.

Outside, the wind was blowing the lanterns that hung from our old crape myrtle around. 

In all honesty, I wanted to stay over, but it was already past midnight and I had to meet a client in Youngsville the following morning.

Under different circumstances, I would’ve asked him to stay over. But I didn’t want him to bail on me after we had sex. So I said, 'I’m going to need to crash soon.'

On the porch, he held my face with both hands when he kissed me goodbye.

Under the covers, I waited for him to text me when he made it home. He never did.

In the morning, I told him that I passed out as soon as I got home, and he said 'S’all good.'

Throughout the day, I thought of him often. But since he was few years older then I am, the reigns were in his hands. The senior should take the lead in my opinion. Right?

Around sundown, I asked him if he wanted to hang out. He said, 'Sounds good.' But I’m not stupid. His day-length silence and clipped, detached responses were meant to throw me off. This motherfucker was definitely into me. Right?

On the porch, we smoked cigarettes and listened to Yeezus. And when I told him he’d lost me on a rant about the predispositions of Capricorns, he said, “Ketchup, mustard!”

On Tuesday, he said he had to work late, so instead of going back over to his house; I poured over floorplans and jacked-off to a group scene on Rocket Tube.

On Wednesday, he came over and we watched Modern Family and American Horror Story. After, we had sex and my mind barely wandered.

On Thursday, I didn’t hear from him until twilight. Was he still playing hard-to-get? That seemed a little unnecessary. We already did sex.

On Friday, we went to dinner at Agave. I liked the way he looked in lighting that wasn’t native to my home. Actually, I couldn’t stop looking at him.

On Saturday morning, I woke up in his bed. I sat up and pressed the palms of my hands into my eyes and he reached around my waist and nestled his shoulder into my hip.

On Saturday morning, I woke up and he was in my bed. His skin smelled like Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I didn’t want him to go, but at some point I would need to take a dump.

At his friend Dustin’s apartment, we ate gumbo for dinner, and at one point, he asked me if I wanted to take a ride with him to the store for a bottle of Vitamin Water.

In the car, I told him I sometimes get social anxiety and I just need to get out and go for a drive.

In the car, he held my hand and I wondered why everyone thinks they have social anxiety. No one likes forced conversation or big crowds or heavy silences. But that’s part of human interaction.

In the car, I felt like I had overexposed myself.

In the car, I blamed his 'anxiety' on the YouTube generation. His generation.

In the car, it got quiet. And I began to feel anxious.

In the car, it got quiet. But I didn’t mind because there was talking ahead of us, just not at that moment.

In the car, I wanted to know what he was thinking.

In my head, I was screaming, ‘Jesus, if you want to know what I’m thinking, just ask!’

In my heart, I wanted to control his internal dialogue so that I didn’t have to wonder.

In his eyes, I could tell that he wanted to know if I liked him.

In the car, he smiled at me and said, “Catch up, mustard.” And I finally got it.