Spinning Bottles


The first time I kissed a girl, I was twelve years old, which was also the first time I sampled my first taste of alcohol.  The two were, rather surprisingly, unrelated.  The former involved a gaggle of eighth graders in Carolyn Clancy’s backyard, spinning an empty green bottle and the latter a bubbling champagne fountain at my step-grandmother’s second or third wedding in Danville, Virginia.  Both of them left me feeling slightly nauseated.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why my father thought it was A-OK to let his twelve year old son drink four glasses of champagne.  Perhaps, he thought it might put some hair on my chest or maybe he found it charming the way, when loosened up, I performed my Cary Grant impersonation for the crowd.

“Judy, Judy, Judy.”

My step-grandmother wore a smart, ivory, lace jacket and skirt suit, smiled widely and her lilting southern accent curled up at the ends like her Mary Tyler Moore hair-doo. She wore bright red lipstick and from a distance she could have been a beauty queen, but when you got up close you could see how the lipstick bled into the tiny cracks around her mouth from years of smoking Virginia Slim cigarettes. The effect was slightly horrifying.

I suppose that’s the way I felt about Karen Enright too.  From an emotional distance, she looked appealing, but when the mouth of the bottle stopped spinning and pointed at her like a gulping fish I scanned the expectant crowd and wondered if they might settle for my Cary Grant impersonation instead.

“Kiss her!” The boys shouted at me.

“Judy”—I muttered.

“Just do it Dameron!”

The crowd wanted a lurid display of sex.  Sister Mary Claire had just that year, attempted to teach a classroom of hormonal boys the facts of life.  The girls were sent to another room to learn about their monthly gift. But, when Alex Brethette asked Sister Mary Claire if a blowjob was considered pre-marital sex, she became red-faced and was replaced by our hunky physical education teacher with the porno-mustache.  I was thrilled, however sorely disappointed that Alex never broached the blowjob question with him.

I finally mustered up the courage, stepped across the divide of the circle, closed my eyes, and planted a kiss squarely on Karen’s nose. My aim was a little off.  She jumped up, holding her hand to her nose and inexplicably, started crying.

“I’ll hate you for the rest of my life!” She bawled.

Her hatred lasted for one week, maybe two. My embarrassment lasted a little longer.

The first time I kissed a boy, I was nineteen years old and unsurprisingly, it involved alcohol, gobs of it. There was no spinning bottle, but the stars above us were twirling and they all seemed to point at a guy I met in a bar on the edge of town, beneath the moonlit shadows of the Colorado Rockies. My aim was much better this time and despite being a little more than tipsy, I don’t remember feeling nauseated in the least, quite the opposite.

I first kissed my husband in the cold Burlington Mall parking lot. There wasn't any alcohol involved, but the effect was no less intoxicating.   If I could go back, I’d tell my twelve year old self a few things. Ignore most of what nuns teach you about sex, alternate glasses of water with the champagne and have faith, it will take forty-four spins of the Earth around the sun to find your own charming Cary Grant. It’s worth the wait.



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Memoir of a Gay Date


Kyle reaches across the table, gingerly plucks one French fry from my plate and coos “Oh, I really shouldn't eat this; a girl has to watch her figure.” He bats his eyelashes, which I suppose he thinks is adorable and then asks “Am I just horrible?” A mudslide that destroys an entire neighborhood is horrible.  A plane that crashes in a terrific fireball is horrible.  Stealing a single French fry from your date’s plate is not horrible. Unless you are a forty something year old man who calls himself a girl, while attempting to feign an adorable devil-may-care face. Then yes, this is horrible.

“Why don’t you take the rest?” I offer. My appetite has vanished.

“I couldn’t,” he smiles and then glances sideways at me, “Well, maybe just a few.”

In his profile picture he looked blonde, complex and devilishly impish.  On the phone, his personality was a mixture of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Katharine Hepburn.  There was a certain “je-ne-sais-quois” quality about him. 

“I just arranged a birthday brunch for my friend,” he says rolling his eyes at the word brunch, as if to say it has come to this, then continues “I simply cannot stay out all night like I used to. My friends tell me I’m a bitch. I am!”

In person, he is not a mixture of anything, he IS Katharine Hepburn. In short, he is simply not my type. He is Spencer Tracy’s type. I wish that I could just go ahead and tell him this.  But, I am new to the dating scene and have not learned how to be ruthless.

“You know, you should change your profile picture,” he says.  Kyle has learned how to be ruthless.

“Oh, what’s wrong with my picture?” I ask

“Well, there is nothing wrong with it per se. It’s just that you’re not smiling.  You look so serious in it, well like now,” he says.

That is when it strikes me how deceptive the thumbnail profile photographs are.  From a distance many men look really attractive, but when you expand them, you see all of their flaws.  The eyes are too close, or the teeth require work, or there is something just not quite right about the way all of the parts are put together. And then there are the photographs that look too good.  The lighting is soft and reminiscent of a Parisian sunset in autumn, the skin flawless and the features chiseled like Roman Gods.  These men are too beautiful to be in love with anyone other than themselves, or else they have become extremely proficient in Photoshop, in which case they are still in love with the image of themselves.  

I chose a photograph of myself that was truthful, yet flattering.  It was one that my daughter had taken of me.  In it, I am standing in a church parking lot, wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pensive look on my face. In the background, you could see the steeple surrounded by blue skies and billowing clouds. But, the photograph was less about what was behind me and more about what was in front of me. From her angle, my daughter captured someone who appeared solid, tall and ready to move forward.

We finish dinner and Kyle insists on walking me to my car. He pops a breath-mint in his mouth, puts his hand on my waist and offers “Mint?” I am in danger of becoming a human French fry. I do not mask my horror.

“You know Kyle, I just want you to know that I think I'm becoming serious with another guy,” I ruthlessly lie. Time to move forward.

Am I just horrible?


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How to Become a Blogger For The Huffington Post


As a Huffington Post blogger, I get paid in exposure, which is to say I am about one more post away from being over-exposed on the Internet. While exposure does not pay the bills, it does build an audience, and anyone who is familiar with Kim Kardashian's rise to fame will tell you, there is no such thing as bad publicity. I'd like to share my insights on how to become a Huffington Post blogger. No sex tape is needed.

Read the Huffington Post:
 This sounds so basic and simple but many people who have asked me how to become a Huffpo blogger have never done this. You need to understand the style of writing that works on the website and get to know what type of subject garners the most attention. Look for posts that have many comments, shares and likes in your specific area of interest.

Get to know the verticals:
 The Huffington Post is comprised of a multitude of special interest sections called verticals. Each of these verticals publishes content that is targeted to a specific demographic or interest. You'll find these verticals listed under the masthead. Examples include Religion, Gay Voices, Post50, Politics, Comedy and Sports. The list goes on and on. On one occasion I had a blog post published in Gay Voices, Religion, Comedy and Politics all at the same time. This may be more of a statement about our current state of affairs than it is about how The Huffington Post is organized. The key here is that you have a voice that will resonate in a specific vertical. Find it.

Get to know the editor of the vertical:
 Once you find the vertical that you would like to write for (You can write for any vertical, once the first post has been published), find out who the editor is. You can do this several ways. Many times the editor will have a blog post published on the vertical, or you can search for the vertical name and the word "editor" in the search the bar. Or you can click on this link: Editors

Write your post
: Once you have the previous steps complete, craft a post that falls somewhere between 500-700 words. Make it current, crisp and unique. While the Huffington Post employs editors, they do not have much time to perform significant editing on a piece. It should be free of spelling errors and grammatically correct. My first piece published was a post about my father, and it was submitted three days before Father's Day. Tie your piece to current events.

Email a link to the editor
: Remember the step "Get to know the editor?" You are going to submit a link to him/her and not to the general submission box. I'm pretty sure that is just a waste basket. The email address for the editor will not be listed in plain sight. This is where you will need to perform some sleuthing. Maybe it is in a post the editor wrote, or on another site, maybe on Twitter. You have the name; you can find the email address. If you have a personal blog, post your piece there and then email a link of your post to the editor with a quick message, something like:
"I am a big fan of Huffpost vertical name and have been enjoying the articles and posts. The following link is a post I wrote on my personal website that I think might be a good fit for vertical name. Thank you for any consideration. I hope you enjoy reading it."
If you don't have a personal blog, just include the post in plain text in the email. Make sure the first sentence grabs your audience.
Once your post is accepted, be ready with a quick two to three sentence bio and a headshot. When your post is published, make certain that your personal website, blog, Twitter handle, etc. are included at the bottom of the post. The whole reason for publishing here is to build your brand.

You may have noticed that I did not tell you how to write your piece. That is because there is no formula for this. You have a unique and authentic voice that no one else can match. Find a subject matter that you are passionate about. One of my proudest accomplishments was receiving a personal email from a reader of one of my posts. The writer told me I had helped him evolve on a subject matter that is very important to me. Write clearly, concisely and draw a conclusion. This worked for me and has generated a great amount of exposure -- and I never had to take off my shirt.

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Sheila's Secret Sauce


I was an unseasoned nineteen year old, when my Aunt Sheila and her psychic girlfriend deposited me like a sack of flour on her friends’ front porch in Central City, Colorado.  They were a couple of “old gay rednecks from the hill country,” Barrel chested Harry would say while running Texas-sized fingers through his mop of brown hair.

“Speak for yourself, you old queen,” his partner Bob would reply, tittering about, while Harry swatted at him like a June bug.

They operated Saddle Bag Bakery, in the center of the old mining town on Eureka Road nestled in a crevice along the ridge of the Rockies. The only remaining gold came from the pockets of super-sized tourists gasping in the rarified air, who would shell out a few bucks for a cream cheese and strawberry jelly pastry and tromp through a tour of The Lost Gold Mine, following a skinny teenager with a battery powered lamp (yours truly).

Sheila and I had been turned out of her tidy Denver home by my aunt’s partner, who in a fit of jealous rage lobbed a pot over the fence at Sheila, barely missing my head. “Cook your fucking fetuccine alfredo for your new truck driver girlfriend,” she shouted, insulting both my aunt’s signature dish and her saucy new girlfriend.

Sheila cupped her hands around a lighter, picked up the pot and then calmly said with cigarette perched in the corner of her mouth, “I paid a lot of money for this.” You could talk smack about any number of things, but when it came to her cooking, the buck stopped here.

“I suppose I should have seen that coming,” Sheila said.

Or maybe? Her psychic, truck driver girlfriend, Stella, should have.

And so I found myself living with two gay bakers while my aunt searched for a new place to live, until 
one night I was awakened by the rustling of sheets and the scrape of a toenail desperately in need of a pedicure against my leg.

“Bob?” I stuttered, “You’re in the wrong bedroom. Where’s Harry?”  I was woefully innocent. 

“He’s down at the shop baking,” he said, snaking an arm around my waist.

And then it dawned on me that Bob had not made a logistical mistake.  I was like a Hostess Twinkie that he could not resist.

“You should join him,” I said and watched him sulk out of the bedroom like an old dog denied a table scrap.

After wedging a chair beneath the doorknob for the rest of the night, I placed a call to my aunt the next morning and that afternoon we moved into an unfurnished apartment with a couple of mattresses on the floor and a brand new set of expensive baking dishes in the kitchen.

“Where’s Stella?” I inquired.

“Didn’t last,” Sheila said while pulling out a pot. “Besides, now I’ll get to spend more time with you.”

“Honey, why don’t you make us a couple of vodka tonics, while I prepare my secret sauce,” she motioned towards the freezer door.  When I turned around with glasses in hand, Sheila was unscrewing the top of store bought alfredo.

“This’ll be our little secret,” she said.

That evening we dined on paper plates under the shadows of the Rockies, sharing stories and getting sauced.  If food truly is a metaphor for love, that summer, I got my fill.

         
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Driving Instructions


We are driving in circles.  From my reclined position in the back seat of the car, I watch the glass square of sunroof above us become blue, cloudy, blue then cloudy again, the mirror image of a hawk turning lazy circles in the sky.

“Keep going, keep going, keep going!” Paul is offering directions and then adds “Sometimes the safest pedal is the one on the right.”

With this bit of advice the car lurches forward.

“That’s it!” he says.

Beanie’s posture behind the wheel is as stiff as a pose from a nineteenth century daguerreotype portrait, her face as stoic and her complexion just as pale. 

“You act like you’re driving a piece of glass,” Paul says.

I want to add that we are surrounded by multiple pieces of glass, which can shatter into a million razor sharp shards upon impact, but I withhold this information. My job, as I have been told many times before, is to sit here or in this case, to lie down and look pretty. I am keeping my head, indeed my entire body out of Beanie’s field of vision.

“See how I’m turning my head? I’m always looking left and right, left and right, left and right,” Paul says as he demonstrates, his head bouncing like a bobble head doll and then adds “Ow,” when his neck cracks.  

We continue our Sunday afternoon tour of the Lowe’s parking lot in Sanford, Maine. I lie still as a corpse, biting my tongue, while Paul tosses out dubious bits of wisdom, “Don’t think, just drive!”

I don’t remember my father giving me driving lessons, although he did throw out doubtful snippets of word vomit.  It was the type of thing parents said when they were navigating their own treacherous intersections and didn’t have time to think about the word pairings.

“The army would make a man out of you,”

“Just join us for one date with my girlfriend’s daughter,”

“Do you really think you can support yourself with a degree in music?”

The words seemed benign enough, but when combined with my own heightened sense of insecurity they sent me in a direction in life that required some back tracking.

I remember when I was eighteen, on a hot summer day when even the breeze seemed to be heated up by the sun, sitting in a diner with my father on a stretch of road somewhere in the middle of North Carolina, a dot on the map.  We had come to Asheville to rescue my grandmother’s old blue Chevy Nova from her failing eyesight and trembling hand that was more accustomed to holding a highball than a steering wheel.

“Son,” he said, the same name he used to address all five of his boys, “You finish your lunch up here, I’ve got to go.”

“Honey!” he shouted out to the waitress, the same name he used to address every woman and gave her a twenty.  He left to the tinkling of a bell over the door before I could swallow my chew.

Faced with the challenge of finding my own way home, before the advent of gps or smart phones and in a strange car with no air conditioning, I tentatively pulled onto the highway. Within minutes, I peeled off my sweat soaked shirt, rolled down the windows and cranked up the radio. Like it or not, I was driving down this road on my own, searching for signs.

If you were a hawk and could see a great distance, you’d laugh at all of the circles and mistaken exits I have taken. But no one can deny, lying in this backseat, listening to my husband teach our own daughter how to drive, I finally found my way home.



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A Quick Load


I met George at a support group for gay fathers.  He was not a father, had never been married, but he had been engaged to a woman once, and I suppose that made him feel like he had been close enough to the blade. The rest of us opened up our wrists every Wednesday night in a semi-circle in the basement of a Unitarian Universalist Church in a Boston suburb, airing dirty laundry with our “God knows I tried,” stories. 

We would pass the talking stick around and one by one, a nervous guy would fidget, tug at his collar and stammer through this week’s trials and tribulations on the road to, I don’t know where, but it sure as hell wasn’t here.

When the talking stick landed in George’s lap, he stood up and the room took notice.  He was broad shouldered, cocky and wore a blonde crew cut.  He was shaped like a refrigerator, all hard angles and cool.

“I’m not a father,” he said and the room of enraptured men replied “That’s OK!”

“I can’t say I’ve ever been married,” he continued and the room shouted “Good for you!”

“When I told my mother I was gay, she said you must get it from your father’s side,” he said and the applause was so thunderous that you would have thought that God had just farted.

When the meeting was over, word went around that perhaps we should all just walk over to the local bar and continue the support over a libation of our choosing, give us a chance to talk in a less formal setting, which was code for “hook-up.”  The apple-tinis, cosmos and chardonnays were cast aside for something more manly seeming, like beer, in the presence of “box boy.” The appellation was justified, as later we would learn that in addition to being shaped like a box, he also sold them for a living.

I was the lucky one who nabbed his number, or he nabbed mine.  In any case I ended up speaking with him on the phone for an hour or two that night replying “uh-huh” and “you don’t say,” while he told me what a catch he was.

“I’m looking for something long term,” he said.

“So am I,” I replied.

When I met him the following Sunday at his home he wanted to show me his hobby, which was a collection of vintage washing machines in his basement.  Now, most people would begin to second guess a relative stranger’s invitation to voluntarily venture into their basement to take a gander at their “hobby,” but I decided to find it cute and quirky.  It wasn’t like he held up a rag and asked me if it smelled like chloroform.    

We never made it to the basement. We hardly made it from the sofa and we never made it to a second date. I was foolish.  He just wanted to wash a quick load. Maybe we were both looking for something long-term.  It just wasn’t with each other
       


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Kelli With An i


Kelli is not having a good morning.

Perhaps it is because her parents gave her a name that is too frilly and simple, ending it with an “i” and now that she is a middle aged woman, it is a reminder of her misspent youth.   Maybe she used to draw a little heart or smiley face on top of the letter and now it has shrunk, like her ovaries into a little shriveled up dot.  Or perhaps she is upset with the color of her latest rinse.  It is simply too red and the ends are fried. Something about it is just not quite right.  Or maybe she detests working at the Rite Aid in Wells, Maine on a Sunday morning, where the average customer might walk in to purchase a newspaper and loaf of bread, but they will not have their Wellness card and this is a crime in the magnitude of the first order.

Whatever the reason, she is simply not having it.  She rolls her eyes so wide that she is in danger of losing a contact and then she throws her hands up into the air.

“Why don’t you people keep your Wellness card on your key chain?” She reprimands me.

You people? What people does she think I am?  Does she mean you people, the customer?

“I’m sorry,” I reply and then ask “Is it difficult to look up?”

I know that it is not.  I have done this more than a hundred times.  We “people” in this small town typically do not lock our doors when we leave the house and walk to the store for a loaf of bread. Besides, I have tired of threading all of the “You People” cards onto my key chain.

She stares at me with contempt.

“I don’t have a key chain,” I add.  I say this in the hopes that she will think that I don’t own a car or a home and then by God, she’ll be sorry.  She has just reprimanded a homeless person for not carrying a key chain, a homeless person who has just spent his last five dollars on a loaf of bread and the Sunday newspaper.

But, she is not sorry.  She takes the bread and the newspaper and crams it into a bag so small that it would not be big enough to contain her tiny Grinch heart, if someone were to rip it from her chest. 

“Have a nice day,” she says, emotionless, as I walk to the door.   

I let her know that the service she has provided is number one in my book, by showing her my number one finger.  There is an audible, satisfying gasp. 

No I don't. I send a curtly worded e-mail to the store.  The pen is mightier than the sword.

Kelli is not having a good morning.


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