Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Garbage

I’m having one of those days where I take a walk at lunch and pass by your standard assortment of passersby but find them all beautiful in a way that chokes me up. There’s no way to say this without sounding like the voice over in some movie about redemption, or maybe rehab, or even (god help me) body image and acceptance, but it’s true. I feel cheap and vague in even employing the word beautiful because it doesn’t mean much. I’ve applied it to a sandwich, my performance at a meeting at work, a greyhound, the weather, and the unexpectedly early arrival of an L train in the last week alone. But here it applies in the actual dictionary sense of the word; everyone is beautiful, everything is lovely, and it’s like someone punched me in the stomach.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Five Minutes in the Closet With You

So, back when I was in eighth grade, a bunch of my friends formed this Fight Club-esque Spin the Bottle society that met after school in the den/basement/garage of a rotating set of homes whose owners worked full time and trusted their children not to whore it up in their absence. Adolescent tongues, however, will always find a way.

I can't be sure how much of what I remember was hearsay or exaggeration or grandiose plans for making out that never actually came to fruition, or, most likely, the product of my own sordid imagination. Regardless, I was lead to believe by at least two members of the church choir that there were kissing games occurring on a semi-weekly basis, and that these were organized and refereed like a championship heavyweight tournament.

Needless to say, I was never invited. This contributed heavily to a lifetime of sexual anxiety wherein the merest whiff of Binaca will reduce me to a blubbering lump of insecurity. (Joking.) (Mostly.) Actually, the Spin the Bottlympics took place on the other side of town, and my hometown was so large as to require a nearly six minute drive to get from my neighborhood to theirs. Even if I had been invited, it was impossible at 13 to find a ride or solicit a parental note to take a different bus home and convince them to come pick you up before your friend's parents were obligated to feed you dinner. Being 13 in the suburbs was an experience that felt driven by intense emotion, but in actuality I was driven by my mom and dad. Everywhere. In the red Dodge Neon.

Sans transportation the world was sectioned off into neighborhoods just far enough apart render them discrete. It was not surprising that the phenomenon of make out games developed outside mine, since I lived in a Sahara near the mall populated with literally zero inhabitants willing to make out with me. The collection of back streets over by "town" was the slobbery mirage on the horizon.

I seem to remember Spin the Bottle club starting sometime in the spring, perhaps lasting a month at the most, and receiving note after purple-inked note in life science from a friend who desperately wanted to make out (on the regular and unconstrained by the bottle's cold impartiality) with some seventh grader. I definitely remember her asking me to sample lip gloss flavors from three tubes and imagine which I'd like better if I were a guy. I picked peppermint. She rolled her eyes.

I would like to point out here that I would still opt for peppermint and still have never seriously dated anyone, so maybe the lip gloss oracle of Mr. Schwartz's class has some respect owed to her.

So while she left school tasting like watermelon and bound for love like a guided missile set on “uvula,” I left school and went home and watched Sally Jesse Raphael. I've written about this approximately six hundred times now, that my teenage years were chaste and dorky and stupidly dressed and seriously, tragically fat and how this makes me a strange adult, but the biggest vestige of an adolescence spent fantasizing about kissing guys instead of kissing guys is an fascination with kissing guys that has endured with a vengeance.

Truth be told, I’m not 100% comfortable with saying the word “kiss” out loud. Fuck, smash, bone: these are verbs I can use without batting an eye. I find occasion to utter the phrase “trolling for dick” on a weekly basis. But “kiss” makes me uncomfortable in the same way as singing Happy Birthday in a restaurant, or proposing at a baseball game, or other similar displays of public mushery. “Kiss” is crammed full of chocolates and Babyface jams. I am mostly crammed full of pizza and beer.

Despite this, kissing makes up an embarrassing proportion of the shit going on in my brain. I was explaining to someone a few days ago that I often find myself thinking something along the lines of, "God, it would be really gross to make out with that old guy rollerblading shirtless through Tompkins in cutoff sweatpants." And it would. But that doesn't change the fact before passing a verdict, my knee-jerk reaction was to imagine making out with him. Perhaps he is still sweaty from his daily rollertour of the park. Perhaps my fingers accidentally uncover a gold Virgin Mary medallion buried in his chest hair like the proverbial needle in the haystack. It's disgusting. And yet I can't stop myself.

It's even worse with cute guys, and anyone who has ever met me knows my definition of cute ranges from Ryan Gosling to "Aw, I like his socks." Charming cashiers, good-looking bartenders, attractive dog-walkers; all of them get the imagined make-out and, because I already decided I loved them a little, an accompanying imagined heartbreak. Most of my subway rides are spent envisioning bouncing like an amorous ping pong ball between handsome commuters. On occasion, I lose track of conversations even with dude friends because I’m maddeningly curious what it’s like to kiss them.

I blame it entirely on not playing Spin the Bottle when Spin the Bottle would’ve been something to write about furiously in my diary. It’s totally fair. Everyone gets a turn, everyone’s an option. It’s kissing without the risk, this weird, exciting, entirely stupid thing humans do stripped of context and value beyond its inherent pleasure.

I’m more than a little taken with the idea of a bottle making the hard choices, of giving everything a spin and seeing if you can love what you land on even just for a couple of minutes.
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