Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pride: Give me Glittery or Give me Death

Well, another Gay Pride weekend is in the books (my 6th now). It would seem that I'm finally getting the hang of how to do Pride without overdoing it, or it's possible that I'm actually growing up without even realizing it. I drank responsibly (and by responsibly I mean I got "Classy" drunk, not "Klassy," or heaven forbid "Quassy"), I went back to the hotel at a reasonable time, I stayed hydrated, I wore sunscreen (it was only 15 SPF, but still), and I didn't get drunk and throw a single shit fit (honestly, a big step for me).

That's not to say that the weekend was a boring one. Quite the opposite. I had one of the funniest (and most embarrassing) reality checks ever. I set personal goals for my nights (and completed them), and I experienced the most terrifying three seconds of my adult life.

Do you remember the photo of all of my Pride outfits all picked out and lined up on my couch? The crown jewel of these outfits was my new favorite pink shorts. Not only did they go beautifully with my favorite purple shirt, but they were two sizes smaller than I normally wear. I spotted them at JC Penney a few weeks ago, and I was so downtrodden when they did not have my size. I decided to try out the smaller ones just in case and was thrilled when they fit.

I feel like I really need to stress that point. These shorts did fit. I tried them on multiple times. I mean, they were a bit snug, but they weren't uncomfortable. So when the night arrived that I was going to be wearing them I was feeling a little bit smug and full of myself. A few of us were getting ready in the bedroom of our hotel suite, and I may have danced around the room singing about how skinny I felt. The singing and dancing stopped abruptly when the button flew off my shorts and across the room so hard that I wouldn't be surprised if it left a dent on the wall.

My first reaction was to pretend I'd changed my mind and decided to wear jeans instead. But I had been singing and dancing about these shorts, you guys! My friends aren't idiots. I quickly weighed my options. Stay in the hotel room crying and eating ice cream the rest of the night? Class action lawsuit against the JC Penney corporation (I can't be alone)? MacGyver them closed with safety pins, tape, and prayer (it worked with my sandals!)? I ended up just owning the shame of the situation and we all had a good my expense.

I'm pretty positive it was a faulty button though.

The jeans I had as a backup ended up working out perfectly, and I was feeling pretty damn adorable when we went out to Lollipop (the official Pride party) on Saturday night. The party was way more fun than I'd expected it to be. We saw RuPaul's Drag Race Season 3 runner up, Manila Luzon, perform, the music was fantastic, and we stole approximately 50 plastic wrist bands from the floor (I still don't really understand why).

Before going out I told myself that I needed to make myself appear more approachable. When I go out I tend to stick with the group pretty exclusively, and anytime I'm standing by myself, I've got my eyes glued to the phone. That night I took my time getting drinks to give myself time away from the pack. I made sure to leave my phone in my pocket (except when taking 4,000 blurry photos of Manila), and I tried to remember back to my Non-Verbal Communications class and not send out any cues that made me seem unapproachable or rude (not an easy task due to my bitchy resting face).

I also made it my goal to introduce myself to at least one guy that I thought was cute. I spotted my target pretty much immediately. He was adorable, tall, and kinda beefy (just how I like 'em). After some light stalking (just like an hour of discretely tailing him), I worked up the nerve to talk to him. I walked up and said, "I promised myself tonight that if I saw a guy I thought was cute, I would grow some balls and introduce myself. So hi, I'm Chris." He laughed and said his name was Nick...or Nate...or maybe Neil. I'm really not sure.

The music was pretty loud, and I hadn't really planned for what to do after I introduced myself. We had what little conversation we could manage between songs and did a little awkward dancing before he said he would be right back and I didn't see him again (I wasn't really offended as the conversation clearly wasn't going anywhere). He spotted me later in the night and waved across the dance floor, but at that point we were all getting ready to go.

I felt great about how the night went, which was good, because after the festival earlier in the day I really needed a win...

I have a love hate relationship with the festival. I love the used book tent. I hate everything else. It mostly just stems from my loathing for walking behind people who aren't walking as quickly as I am. I'm usually only good for about an hour before I start to get grouchy and heat stroke-y. It was this need to get out of the crowd that made me most want to take advantage of the free HIV testing provided (and the waiting area set aside from the meandering masses).

It's not the only reason I did it. I think every responsible adult should be tested regularly and know their status. I hadn't engaged in any high risk behaviors, so I didn't really have anything to worry about, but when it's offered for free (and in the shade), why not take advantage? So a friend and I went in, got our fingers pricked, and were sent to wait for 15 minutes for our results.

There is a small amount of nerves that are inescapable while waiting for these kind of results. I knew that I wasn't truly at risk, but I started inventing an insane scenario in my mind in which me and another person have papercuts in exact corresponding places on our hands. I mean I've shaken tons of hands in the last year, and papercuts are insanely common. It's crazy to think that I haven't come into contact with someone else's blood.

I talked myself down by the time I got pulled back to get my results. I clocked the Kleenex box on the table and thought about how horrible it would be to find out you have HIV at a Pride festival. The results guy opened the folder, looked it over, closed it, looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm so sorry..."

My heart immediately started pounding, my hands were shaking, and my eyes opened wide in terror. There was a full three seconds of me in a complete and total panic while I tried to wrap my head around what was happening before he looked back up, saw my face, and said, "Oh...OH! I'm sorry, I grabbed the wrong folder!" I let out the breath I had been holding and said, "! SERIOUSLY?!" as he got up and rushed to get the correct folder.

He came back and was super apologetic about how unprofessionally he'd behaved, and I could see that he was shaken by the incident as well. He told me I was negative and apologized again. I told him it was no problem, but assured him I'd be sharing this anecdote with everyone I knew.

As we got up to leave, we shook hands, and he walked behind me to go get the next person. Just as I made it through the door of the tent, he stepped on the back of my sandal and my foot ripped through it. I looked back at him, and I honestly thought he was going to cry. I assured him it was no big deal and got my ass out of that tent before he tried to ruin my life any further.

As we left, I spotted the only reason I wanted to be there to begin with. I turned to my friend and said, "I'm gonna go spend some time with the books." and walked ahead with my head held high and my sandal dangling behind.

Foam Party!

The only festival picture before my phone died
I'm literally the worst person to share a hotel room with.


Emptying our pockets at the end of the night

The Dykes on Bikes for some reason bring me to tears every year.

Grand Marshall Chris Kluwe

Gay Men's dream.

Hell's Kitchen had my favorite entry.

I planned to keep this entry brief, and it's turned into one of my longest yet. I also know the rule for internet writing is to keep it short and sweet when possible or people aren't going to read, but I would feel remiss if I didn't take a moment to get a little serious and talk about how moving and important these Pride festivals are.

Growing up gay in a small town for me was a very lonely experience. I've always known exactly who I was. I never felt like there was something wrong with me or like I wanted to change, and I knew that there were people who would take issue with it, but that was their problem and not mine. I feel so blessed to have grown up with family and friends who didn't teach me to hate anyone, especially myself. But with that confidence came a longing for community, other people who really knew what I was dealing with.

Pride is a reminder every year that we're not alone in our struggles. It's a celebration of our ability to be whoever the f#%! it is that we want to be. It's an expression of gratitude to those who fought oppression, inequality, and hatred, sometimes even giving their lives, so that I can put on glittery pink nail polish and be fabulous, fierce, and absolutely fearless. Pride is proof that the times are changing, and everyone needs to get on the right side of history, because we won't sit quietly in our closets any longer.

And it's one helluva party.

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