Category Archives: Gay

The white guy.

I’m a white guy. More specifically, I’m of Scotch Irish descent, with just a scoop of German and Dutch. But, basically I’m a white guy. I know that even using the term ‘white guy’ will conjure up images of bad dancing and poor social skills–perhaps pocket protectors and thick eyeglasses. The term ‘vanilla’ may come to mind, too. Several dictionaries have described ‘vanilla’ as meaning regular, ordinary, with no special features. But, no matter what stereotype you throw at me, one fact remains: I am a white guy. My skin is so white, in fact, that I have occasionally been labeled ‘albino,’ or even called ‘powder’ (from the movie Powder; about an albino, of course). I’m not sure why people have found it necessary to point out my whiteness to me, as if I’ve never owned a mirror. But, today I am here to clear the air. I’m white, and I know it.

I burn really fast, too. It’s a problem, always having to avoid the sun. But, I’ve been this way all my life. As a child, I had white blond hair to go with my abnormally pale hue. My best friend growing up was a dark-haired Italian kid named Danny. He was as dark as I was light. More than one person made note of our ebony and ivory-like pairing. Many summer days we would spend an afternoon at the pool, only to come out darker (Danny) and redder (Moi), sort of like a strawberry and chocolate concoction.

In high school, I decided to take the universal advice I had received (and still do) from so many people: you just need more sun. Right, as if spending hours and hours in the sun without sunscreen would make me look like Danny–never mind the risk of skin cancer. But, nonetheless, I decided that’s exactly what I needed. So one very hot and very sunny day, Danny and I, with no sunscreen, went to a water park. This is when I discovered a very hard and necessary truth…

Sun + Tyler = >:-(

I had second-degree burns all over my back, shoulders, and chest. Despite having to sleep sitting up for a week, and blistering several times, when all was said and done, I was just as white as before. And, that was almost the last time I would try to tan.

I did have several other minor run-ins with a tanning bed and self-tanning lotion. But, for the most part, I realized I was going to have to be happy with the way I was. This didn’t mean, however, that people would leave me alone about my skin color. Just recently, I was sitting on the jump-seat with a co-worker who happened to be Mexican and very tan. He looked at me and then at himself and started laughing. Then he said, “Dude, you are so white.” Followed by, “Seriously, you need to get some sun.” Then, “Are you an albino?” He used just about every line I had ever heard in my life in the space of about two minutes.

Now, I’ve learned that the best way for me to deal this was just to ignore it and redirect the conversation. But, it wasn’t working. For two days he picked apart every part of my whiteness. And when he was done with my skin color, he decided to start dissecting why white people have no personality, no flavor… It was all way too much. This type of joking would have torn me apart in high school. I would have ended up in a corner rocking myself back and forth.* Luckily, it was just a two day trip. It would all end soon enough.

Later, I was talking to my friend Donna, who I was also working with, and decided to pull up my pant leg to show her just how white I was. And here is how Donna made my day: “Oh my God, boy, you have some serious calves. Can I touch them? I’ve wanted calves like that my whole life!” Of course, I immediately forgot how white my calves were and focused on their nice muscular shape. Then, I just simply hiked my pant leg up further to give her a better view. I replied, “…you like?”

——-
*On a side note, there was one topic that did distract him for a short while–gay sex–I’m not sure why, since he is a straight man, but that seemed to captivate his attention. Actually, I have found that many ‘straight’ guys are rather interested in various matters of gay life.
——-

Oh yeah, and here’s a little treat (or proof) for of all you who think white guys can’t dance…

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Free Hugs!

I was just walking through the Castro and came across “The Sisters.” Their full title is The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I’m sure if you check out their website you could find a much better explanation of who they are. But, here is my quick attempt at explaining them. They are a local group of gay men (there are other orders elsewhere, too) who dress up like flamboyant nuns and perform charitable acts of kindness.

Anyway, I was walking through the Castro and came across “The Sisters.” They were standing on a corner giving away free hugs. At first, I tried to avoid it. I tried, I really tried. But, the situation was hopeless. I got sucked into a hug-fest. Well, let me just say that nothing brightens your day like being hugged by a group of men dressed up like nuns, in full make-up, and wearing ear brassieres. If I haven’t painted a good enough picture, click on “The Sisters” in the first paragraph to visit their web page. You really should see their names and pictures in order to get what I’m talking about.

Actually, I think one of the nuns copped a feel. I could be wrong, but I swear her hands went below my waist. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering they also host an event every Easter involving nearly naked men. Oh, “The Sisters” do like their men.

My point is, it totally made my day. I couldn’t stop smiling for at least a whole block. It’s just impossible to stay in a bad mood when someone gives you a hug. So, I’m gonna give you a hug the best way I can. Just put yourself in this picture with me and consider yourself hugged…

Dance Fighting!

Ok, so I am about to acknowledge another lapse in my education as a proper gay man. I am 34 years old and just saw, for the first time, West Side Story. Jeff and I were on a nice Sunday afternoon walk when we noticed that it was playing at the Castro Theater. So, we decided to crawl in, as it was just starting, and catch the film on the big screen of a historic theater (if you’re going to see it, you might as well see it like that, huh?).

Well, of course, Jeff had seen the movie version numerous times and as he proudly puts it, “I am one of the few that can say, ‘I was both a Shark and a Jet.'” Oh yes, that’s right, for one very special summer stock type of performance they painted my dear Jeff’s face to look Puerto Rican. Although, they did that in the movie, too. Baaaaaad make-up. But, gooooooood dance fighting!

I am going to go out on a limb here and just make a sweeping statement that could possibly affect the lives of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Prepare ye for this great revelation…it’s coming…it’s coming. If we would arm ourselves with dance belts, a good solid pair of dance shoes, a tube of ChapStick®, and the choreography of Jerome Robbins, and fight like real men, this world might have a good chance. I mean seriously, have you ever seen dance fighting? It is one of the best things I have ever seen. The only thing that kept me from having a full-out giggle fit was the appreciatively nodding, serious movie patrons surrounding me. To them it was some of the best choreography ever created. To me it was the answer to the question, how do we achieve world peace. Answer: one dance fight at a time.

The single best thing about dance fighting is that you never really even touch the other person. It’s very physical, but it’s all interpretive. Lots of high kicks and theatrical rolls. All this said, actually my favorite scene was after the rumble, where they are trying to “cool” down. It contains some of the “coolest” choreography. Here are the lyrics to the song…

——
Boy, boy, crazy boy,
Get cool, boy!
Got a rocket in your pocket,
Keep coolly cool, boy!
Don’t get hot,
‘Cause man, you got
Some high times ahead.
Take it slow and Daddy-O,
You can live it up and die in bed!

Boy, boy, crazy boy!
Stay loose, boy!
Breeze it, buzz it, easy does it.
Turn off the juice, boy!
Go man, go,
But not like a yo-yo schoolboy.
Just play it cool, boy,
Real cool!

Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
——

Right. So, slightly homo-erotic, huh? Rocket in your pocket? Seriously. I about busted my gut. Which, reminds me. The only part of the movie that my fellow serious movie-going gays laughed at “inappropriately” was during one scene when Maria says to Tony, “Oh, and Tony, when you come, be sure and come in the rear.” There was a whole lot of snickering going on. You have to love old movies that cannot be watched seriously because almost every term or word has new meaning in our present society. Words and terms like “gay” and “come in the rear.”

I know that this makes me a bad gay. Making fun of West Side Story puts me on seriously dangerous ground. And, I hope that I don’t create a division in the gay community. But, if I do, we’ll just have a dance-off. You heard it here first, folks. I challenge all ye who think my joking isn’t funny to a dance-off. Castro Street, Midnight, bring your gear (don’t forget your tube of ChapStick®) and leave your chains, knives, and rocks at home.

Oh, what the hell, here’s the “Cool” video:

"Butcha are, Blanche….ya are in that wheelchair!"

I’m quite an easy target when it comes to my lack of knowledge concerning gay history. I’ve really had to work hard to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. To be more specific, I’m especially lacking in the Bette Davis era of gay pop culture icons. (If you didn’t already know, the title of this post is from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Bette Davis)

Early on in Jeff and I’s relationship we were at our friends’ apartment enjoying a game night. It was a fun game night, really. We each were given a picture of a gay celebrity or icon to place on our forehead. Then we were to walk around the room and give each other clues as to whom was taped to each other’s forehead. It wasn’t long until I was the only one in the room still wearing his iconic crown of shame.

“She’s a brunette.”

“She played Rachel’s mom on ‘Friends.'”

“She starred in ‘That Girl.'”

“She’s on those St. Jude’s commercials.”

And it continued…

Finally, after much prodding they just “came out” and told me. Clearly expecting the light bulb to final light up, they exclaim, “It’s Marlo Thomas!!!!” I have no clue who Marlo Thomas is. And, I can only vaguely remember the pretty brunette that played Rachel’s mom. I say, “Seriously. I don’t know who Marlo Thomas is.” The next sound heard in the room was that of about 6 chins hitting the floor, followed by silence and disbelief. I think that Jeff was over in the corner crying with embarrassment.

Clearly, something was wrong with me. And, that’s when it happened. The first time, anyway. My gay card was taken away. To a room full of gay men and my straight friends Shahla and Rich, who both have “gay cards” in their own way, it was like finding a gold mine. Several years later they still joke about it.

Several weeks following the horrifying event, Jeff and I went back over for dinner. Immediately after we finished dinner, our friends Kirk and Jaime held a gay intervention for me. They made me sit and look at a stack full of pictures of gay icons. Actually, it was another game. Name the icon. And, I guessed about 75% of them correctly. Not surprisingly, I had trouble with the older ones. Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Charles Pierce, etc. etc. The important thing is that, technically speaking, I passed. So, I received my card back. For the time being, anyway.

Honestly, I never knew what I was missing. Growing up in rural Iowa and then going to Bible college–I just wasn’t really ever exposed to these fabulous people. And, what’s worse is that I didn’t know anything about Harvey Milk or the Stonewall Riots. Fortunately, I have educated myself on these and other important moments/people in gay history. But, up until about ten years ago I had a gay IQ of about 2.

I knew 2 things in high school:

1) Guys gave me a funny feeling in my stomach.

2) I loved the Pleasantville High School Drill Team.

Those heavenly girls on the drill team squad rocked my world with their flashy sequined outfits and glitter-filled make-up. Of course, in 1988, boys weren’t allowed to be part of such squads. So, I sat on the sidelines in a bedazzled trance. I may not have had all the greats to look up to and imitate as a child. But, at least I had my drill team girls to give me the inspiration that was needed to create world-class flag and pom routines in the basement and front yard of my childhood home. And, if that didn’t earn me my “gay card,” then no amount of Bette Davis one-liners ever will!

***UPDATE***
Almost immediately after this post went up, I received an interesting comment that can be read below. Evidently, you can’t just say you have a gay card. You need to pay the “Fairy Gay Mother” a hefty price and she’ll be happy to send you one. Fun website. Not so fun prices. Clearly it is expensive to be gay.

Here’s me and “That Girl.”

Here she is now, my claim to shame, Miss Marlo Thomas!
Marlo Thomas

Miss America…LIVE!

Yesterday, Jeff and I made ourselves sick with the amount of TV we watched. I hate when that happens. I just didn’t know when to quit. I think this is how Jeff put it: “I feel gross.” And frankly, I did too. I think what really pushed it over the edge was watching Miss America…Live!, the culmination of a 4-week Miss America reality show and 2-hour re-creation of the Miss America Pageant.

Let me start by saying that I love beauty pageants. I grew up watching the Miss America pageant. And, I loved every minute of it’s plastic glory. I dreamed of saying:

“I’m Tyler Lee, a 5th grader majoring in music, and proud to be from Pleasantville, IOWA, the town where the name says it all and the state where the corn is tall! And, I want to be your next Miss America!”

I would sit in overly-eager anticipation waiting for the real Miss Iowa to take her turn at the microphone. I would sit and think, “Now she has a chance!” And, every year the title would go to some bimbo from Oklahoma or Texas or California. Oh, Miss Iowa often made it to the final 10, but the crown would inevitably go to someone who could sing “opera” or play the “violin,” never to Miss Iowa, who could only juggle flaming ears of corn. Have you ever juggled flaming ears of corn?

I didn’t think so.

And, I wasn’t disappointed last night to see that Miss Iowa was just as plastic as always–even after the 4-week reality series that was aimed at teaching the contestants how to be more real. I knew it would never work. Miss Iowa wouldn’t crack. She was totally a Stepford Wife. Minus the husband, of course. And, she was a finalist. But, alas, she didn’t win. But, she could have, if they hadn’t made this ridiculous push to make the contestants “real.”

I guess “real” to whomever runs the pageant means that girls wear jeans and tank tops, and that they are allowed to do their best stripper walk during the swimsuit competition. I kept on waiting for someone to drop it like it’s hot. Oh yeah, we also got to hear why they chose their evening gowns. Which, just made them seem more annoying and less worthy of the title Miss America.

I think what I always loved about the pageant as a kid was the fact that they didn’t quite seem real. I think that they called it “poised.” I would sit and wait for someone to mess up or trip or stutter. Then, I would think…Amateur. But, those days are gone. They’re all amateur. Except for good ol’ Miss Iowa. Tough as nails, nothing could wipe that smile off her face.

Here’s a great clip from the 80s. Do you remember when they would actually sing the opening song? This has everything that was great about the pageant…

The Real Wedding Singer

Jeff and I were watching TV this weekend and happened to surf past The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler (Robbie Hart) and Drew Barrymore (Julia Sullivan). Oh, that takes me back. You remember the movie, right? You know…Adam Sandler plays a washed up wedding singer whose fiancé walks out on him at the altar. Drew Barrymore plays a catering server who ends up falling for Adam’s character, and dumps her fiancé (whose last name is Gulia, which would have made her name Julia Gulia).

Needless to say, unless you like hearing Adam Sandler doing 80’s covers, this movie itself is washed up. So, we kept on surfing. But, of course, that movie always reminds me of my college days. Not because it was set in the 80’s, but because I was a real wedding singer back in the 90s.

I never did it for a living, though. I was kind of like the girl who is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. I have sang in more weddings than I care to remember. And, I have to admit it straight away…I hate weddings! Here’s why…

I think they are ridiculous. Not in a “oh, bless her heart…can you believe she wants that in her wedding…” type of way, but in a “these people ain’t right” type of way. Seriously, I know what I’m talking about here–these people ain’t right. One of the bonuses of being the wedding singer/musician (sometimes I just had to play the piano) was that I got an up close view of how horrible everything really was, but I didn’t have to actually stand up with the wedding party and pretend to like it. You have to know what I am talking about here–think bridesmaid dresses, gaudy flowers, etc. etc. I got to sit over in the corner and crack jokes or just shake my head in disbelief.

The number one reason that I hate weddings is clear. I can’t deal with the entitlement that goes along with it. It’s this attitude that says, “This is my day! I deserve to get whatever I want!” Ugh. I totally grossed myself out just typing it. I’ve actually seen brides throw temper-tantrums.

The second reason is that because they are entitled, they will put anything that they want in their wedding. And this is where I was always personally affected. If I ever sing at another wedding, there are several things that I swear on my severely sprained ankle that I won’t sing…The Wedding Song (There is Love). No way. No more Peter, Paul and Mary songs! Also, no more Everything I Do (I Do It for You). And, definitely, positively no more Chicago songs. You know…You’re the Inspiration. I just have to put my foot down. Ouch!

Most of the people’s weddings that I sang in were friends, so, I have probably just offended them all. Oh well, they need to know these things for their second or third weddings. Which brings me to the third reason I hate weddings. Freebies. Now, keep in mind, most of these weddings happened prior to my career as a flight attendant. I had to pay to fly everywhere. And, people just love to have their special day at locations that could not be possibly more inconvenient. I actually “opted” out of going to my sister’s and my brother’s weddings because they were too far removed–i.e. waaaaay too expensive to fly to.

But, as for my “friends,” I cannot tell you all of the outrageous things that were expected of me pro bono. I actually had one “friend” in college get mad at me because I told him I couldn’t afford to pay the $600 for the airfare to come and sing at his wedding (for free). The most common thing that people would ask me to do for free is what I call “filler.” Basically it went like this: they would discover at the last minute that their poorly planned wedding had gaps in it. Oh yeah, why don’t we just have the pianist play something there. “Oh, pianist, can you just play a little something while we wait for the bride to get ready?” That’s why I always came to weddings with loads of piano books. Better to be prepared.

Weddings bring out people’s true character. In mothers who may normally appear to be sweet and harmless you see the inner control freak. In fathers who may normally appear to be dominant and controlling you see that they really just don’t give a shit. And, in brides who may normally appear to be totally in love with the groom, you see that they are much more in love with the wedding than with him.

Wow, I just let out some seriously pent-up feelings about this subject. I feel much better now.

I can’t end a blog post about weddings without at least telling my funniest wedding experience. First, I fully support gay marriage. I fully believe that we should have the right to marry whomever and however we want. That doesn’t mean that I actually want to have a wedding ceremony. Especially, after I went to my first gay wedding.

It was several years ago. The grooms decided to incorporate a plethora of cultural practices into their ceremony, in order to honor the diversity of their beliefs, I guess. So, it started with both of the grooms being carried in by the wedding party while the entire congregation repeatedly sang a song entitled He Carried Me. Subtle, I know. At another point the grooms sprinkled rose petals over the entire congregation. This was followed by one of the grooms playing You Are My Sunshine on his violin. And, the highlight was when the grooms got dressed up as pink bunny rabbits for the congregation. I shit you not.

Some people just ain’t right.

I’m a victim.

I’m a victim. Yeah, yeah…I know everyone thinks that they are a victim. But, seriously, I am a victim. Jesus. There, I said it. I feel soooo much better. Wait…actually, now that I said it, it doesn’t sound quite right–I am a survivor. There. I like that much better.

I am a youth choir survivor. This may not initially sound like a big deal, but, it is. You know, youth choirs…think cheesy music and choreography. Sort of like Up With People, just not as “polished.” My first (that’s right, there was more than one!) choir was called Harmony, Inc. It was a youth choir that got together for a month every summer to rehearse and tour and evangelize the vastly pagan area of our country called the Midwest. Of course, we had thousands of converts. 😉

It was during one of these tours that I met a brassy soprano named Laura. Laura was everything a young gay boy could hope for in a “girlfriend.” She was big, both in size and personality. She styled her overly-curled blonde hair so that the back of her hair was hanging over her forehead. She was sort of like an early 80s version of Madonna, only on steroids. Clearly from the moment we met, we were destined to be together. In many ways, she was one of the most bizarre looking people I had ever seen. Laura was a misfit–truly, one of my peeps. So, of course, we instantly hit it off. Most important to this story, however, Laura was a drama queen. Literally. She was the president of her Thespian troupe. So, it is no surprise that our whirlwind relationship had all the workings of a Shakespearean tragedy. Our love was not to be…

Following a particularly emotional choir rehearsal, she approached me and said, “We’ve lost our spark.”

“Huh?” (I was like totally articulate in high school)

“You know, when we first met, there was a spark between the two of us…well, it’s gone.”

“Are we breaking up?”

“Let’s just be friends.”

It was at this point that I first mastered the fine art of holding a grudge. I also learned how to so completely ignore someone that it caused them acute pain. At least, in my head, that was the case. I continue, to this day, to excel at both of these skills.

If Laura wanted to “just be friends,” I would kill her with my glares or lack thereof. I’d teach her a real life lesson: Don’t mess with a confused gay teenage boy. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one to teach her that lesson. Somehow, I managed to survive the following weeks by pouring my angst into the music. I could force the tears out at the height of a song. Unfortunately, so could my ex-girlfriend. It became a weeping contest. All would see that I was truly a spiritual person who had been through a lot–more than Laura. It all was really great drama. At least, until the director approached us after one of our concerts and asked if we could “control our emotions” just a little bit. How embarrassing for him–trying to stifle our pain. I’d direct my venom at him.

That would free me from being mad at Laura. We bonded over our hatred of the choir director. Of course, we became best friends.