An Ideal Marriage: Psalms 141 – 150

Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
     no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
     no one cares for my life.
I cry to you, Lord;
     I say, “You are my refuge,
     my portion in the land of the living.”

Psalms 142:4-5 (NIV)

My greatest fear growing up was that my parents would get divorced. I had neighborhood friends all around my block, and every one of their parents seemed on the brink of splitting. They would argue right in front of me, something totally foreign to me. I had a habit of running up to my friend David’s house right after school in order to play his Playstation. Metal Gear Solid had just come out, and since I had a Nintendo 64, the only way I could play would be at his house. I loved his house, because his mom stocked Snickers bars in the pantry – my mother would never do that. Anyway, one day I was beating Psycho Mantis with a Snickers hanging half out of my mouth when David’s mom walked in and just shut the game off. She told me to go home immediately. Then, David’s dad walked in and called her a bitch. Then she yelled something about his job – maybe he had lost it. Then his dad looked at me and said, I think she told you to go home. I grabbed my bag, shoved the latter half of the candy bar in my pocket, and shuffled quickly home.

My parents never acted this way – never argued at each other in public, or even in front of us. You know that whole strategy of asking the one parent for something when the other had already said “no?” Yeah, that never worked on them, because they were annoyingly always on the same page. Even if they disagreed on how to proceed, they discussed it in private and then presented the plan to us. The process was completely hidden from us.

Even so, I worried about the state of their relationship. I had an image in my head of marriage, which was “perfect unity” from God. At a young age, I assumed that the best married couples were those that never fought or disagreed, because those marriages were from God. So even though my parents disagreed so rarely, they still disagreed sometimes, and to me, that made them a candidate for divorce. This was my misconception to have as an anxious little boy.

And obviously, my ideas of marriage were wrong. The happiest and most hard-working couples fight – some say that the fighting is a sign of health in a marriage. Disagreement and compromise build character and strength. With all this talk about “marriage equality” for LGBT couples in the public, it has been fascinating for me to read about how the Bible characterizes marriage. So far, it has been a loveless affair (and if couples did love each other, like Abraham and Sarah, it was incidental). Marriage was a command for all young men and women and often involved an agreement between fathers or the trade of land.

This is obviously not the case with modern marriage. We get married when we love someone else and decide of our own free will to partner with that person. And the overwhelming thought I had while reading the 150 chapters of Psalms was, wow, this is all about marriage. No, not man-to-woman marriage, but rather, our marriage to God.

The emotions run the gamut in this book, but the subject remains constant. Every writer of Psalms discusses – whether though praise or questioning – their relationship with God. Some question their commitment to Him. Others thank Him for His love. The same people will then worry about their safety in times of need, because to them, God is the independent partner in the relationship, one who could do just fine without their presence. But they are in deep need, asking for the marriage in order to survive in a chaotic world. They need God much more than He needs them.

And this is why there are so many contradictions within the book. Some chapters claim that God will give spoils to those for following Him while others say that He challenges the faithful without regard to their behavior. Some tell us to love everyone while others commend those who hate their enemies. There is no consensus.

And I think that is because there is not one kind of marriage. It is like me as a child, thinking that my parents would divorce because they argued sometimes. I was convinced that the only kind of marriage was the one with full love where no disagreements ever took place.

Psalms has convinced me of the goodness of faith. When success or despair happen upon us, it is most healthy to look to the heavens and say, “I have little control, so this is not of me.” This is healthy because of the humility that must be present to have such a thought. The truth is that none of us have much control over our lives, and the thought that we do often leads to anxiety and hopelessness.

Psalms is schizophrenic in its description of God – because our emotions and circumstances force us to have different views of Him.

And I think that is A-OK. Your ideal is not my ideal, and neither is God’s ideal. So just live and look to the heavens and remember – we don’t have much control.

Continuing Doubts: Psalms 128, 131 – 140

Lord, remember David
     and all his self-denial.

Psalms 132:1 (NIV)

I always had trouble relating to Jesus. Churches sell that detail particularly hard when communicating the truth of God – that Jesus is the “human” part of the Holy Trinity, and thus, we can easily relate to Him and vice versa. His struggles and temptations reflect ours; who better to place our trust in than someone who is just like us? But I never saw any of myself in Jesus – He was too mythical, my view of Him was too esoteric.

But He was tempted just like us! But He never sinned.
But He feels all of our emotions! But He was never ruled by them.
But He was mortal! Eh… sort of.

This is not to say I didn’t believe in Him; I just did not really get the overwhelming opinion that Jesus was so much more relatable than God the Father or the Holy Spirit.

Most Christians spend Good Friday considering the sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross for our collective sins – some likely just consider it an ideal day to take off of work early. But for the spiritually guided, this day is meant to be a good reminder of the humanity of Christ. He died. He experience that penultimate moment of life before blackness – that place we all will one day face.

Most Christians spend this day considering the love that must be present in order for Jesus to make such a sacrifice, to die in such a horrific fashion, to be tortured and brutalized. Queer people often turn to the love that Jesus displayed for those on the fringe of society. And when we feel attacked by Christians, we point to it as a symbol of hypocrisy.

I say all this to preface an odd chapter of Psalms. I recently went on a date with a gay Christian, who midway through our conversation, admitted that he believed that homosexuality was a sin. Blown away, I asked why he thought that (and then proceeded to ask why the hell he would agree to a date with me if he thought that)? He said because the Bible was infallible. Every word stuck.

God doesn’t change, after all.

Psalms 128:1 – 3 says:

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.

No.

I just read an entire book called “Job” which states over and over how this is not true. Just because you walk in obedience with God, that does not mean you will be prosperous. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, after all. I know of God-fearing women who cannot have children. There are tons of right-with-God Christian families who are not prosperous.

I never knew how to resolve these issues, but I know many Christians do not struggle with questions like these. I can get on board with so much of the Bible – but Psalms is a perfect example of a book with inherent logical problems. It features a variety of writers making claims about God in the heat of exaggerated circumstances. Fallible people writing about the nature of God through the lens of emotion. So, yes, I have logical problems with believing that every single word of the Bible is infallible and not meant to be read in context. Even on Good Friday.

West Hollywood (Part 2): Psalms 121 – 127, 129 – 130

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.

Psalms 130:5 (NIV)

I learned a rule of attending college parties during the first weekend of freshman year – pretend like you drink, even if you don’t. My roommate convinced me to go to a frat party; he said it would be a good place to make friends and get “chicks” (he didn’t say “chicks”). I didn’t want to go but said yes and pretended to be excited. When we walked into the frat house – sticky floor, red cups, standard frat atmosphere – he told one of the brothers to get two beers. I told him I didn’t drink. He said he didn’t care and put it in my hand. Just hold it, he said. I walked around with an unopened beer the whole night, feeling uncomfortable. Some noticed it in my hand. You going to open that, they asked. No, I replied without further explanation.

The way I understood it… he was trying to tell me “Act like you belong, even if you don’t.” The suggestion wasn’t nefarious – only misguided. Adapting to a culture was always easier than standing out. It was always a low risk choice, an easy way to start.

Queer people often feel this way in straight culture. I certainly did. The longest-lasting closet cases tend to be the ones who are most capable of staying in the closet – meaning that their mannerisms and interests do not “out” them inherently. Why go against the grain when there is nothing tangible to gain from it? That is an impossibly inane rhetorical question in retrospect – freedom and autonomy are the prizes, but that was not a priority at my young age. Us queer kids learn to adapt quickly to our given scenarios – to point at breasts and agree, to date like our friends date, to find commonality.

When my brother took me to West Hollywood – through the traffic I heard would be there, where a lesbian insulted my clothes, where vanity appeared to reign supreme – I did not feel superior or judgmental to this apparent “gay culture.” No, I wanted to adapt to it – to assimilate. That was part of the reason for my trip, after all – to give this whole gay thing a try, to see if I could where the sequin laden hat without cringing too much.

My brother took me to one of his favorite dives – a hole-in-the-wall looking place which combined cocktail lounge with dance club. Fog filled the interior, and all the guys inside – not a shocker to find no gay women at a gay bar – were looking around at one another. I felt the pressure, to be one of the guys. The place was relatively tame – no strippers on poles like I imagined, no backrooms with “shenanigans” (I think my image of Los Angeles gay bars came primarily from biblical descriptions of Sodom and Gomorrah) – just fog and fags as far as the eye could see. A bearded guy, slightly shorter than me, slighter wider than me, threw a glance at me. Emboldened by the idea of “trying” the gay culture just for a weekend, I felt no shame in returning his stare with an approach. His name was Martin.

He asked if I lived in Los Angeles.
I said yes.
He asked if I was out of the closet.
I said yes.
Even to my parents?
Yes.
What did I do for a living?
I was in entertainment in Hollywood.
Him too. Did I like clubs?
Yes, I loved the music.

I stopped, shook my head visibly, and he backed off, concerned.
What was wrong, he asked.

I told him that I felt pressure, I was actually just visiting, not out, not to my parents, I worked in the South, sort of entertainment, I was a writer, I hated the music, I liked to swing dance, to ballroom dance, and write, and read, oh and I liked football.

He smiled and said that all sounded great.

West Hollywood (Part 1): Psalms 119 – 120

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.

Psalms 119:9 (NIV)

I never liked California. Now granted, I had never been there, but still, all of the stereotypes and details that floated their way to the East Coast just sounded awful. I look my best when most clothed – from argyle sweater to argyle socks and thick corduroys between. Of course I would be afraid of a state known for its perma-summer weather, where shorts and t-shirts were required. Additionally, I had heard:

  1. Everyone is super vapid.
  2. It’s all about the “industry,” meaning the entertainment industry.
  3. The traffic is just the worst.
  4. Everyone looks “pretty,” and no one is real.
  5. Behind Las Vegas, it is the most appropriate modern equivalent to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Oh, and more than anything, California – particularly Los Angeles and San Francisco – was “super gay.” Now, recall that my first venture into a gay bar left little to write home about; that is a good thing for a person expecting the most debauchery-filled worst. So, yes, I was looking forward to seeing what a truly gay-friendly culture looked like, and no, I never publicly admitted that minor excitement to a single person. It was fear. I was far more comfortable looking on from afar in judgment, on my manly, handcrafted pedestal.

I arrived just as the sun dipped below the horizon, and my brother suggested a quick turn around his apartment and heading out and about.

And the fearful stereotypes were certainly out and about that night…

  1. A drunk lesbian offered to buy me a new “actually good” shirt.
  2. Most everyone I met was an actor, apparently trying to corner the “gay best friend” market.
  3. Ugh. The traffic was just the worst.
  4. Many of the guys wore make up – not theatrical “drag” make up, but actual “cover my flaws” make up.
  5. While I didn’t get the whole “Sodom and Gomorrah” vibe, a few chanting Christians with awful signs sure as hell seemed convinced of it.

Yep so it turned out, California was super gay. And I started to worry that I had been birthed into the wrong culture.

Some alternative observations tomorrow…

Can I Fit In?: Psalms 110 – 118

I trusted in the Lord when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said,
    “Everyone is a liar.”

Psalms 116:10-11 (NIV)

50,000 students attended my college, and bars covered approximately half the buildings in our downtown area. I often heard the statistic that our noble little college town had the most bars per capita out of any town in America. This wasn’t true – a simple Google searched proved that to me – but it might as well have been. We were a party school – why wouldn’t we have a ton of bars? And out of all of them, there was one tiny gay joint – scrunched between a bottle shop and dance club, and underneath one of the few classy restaurants in the sprawl. Outside, the standard rainbow flag flapped proudly in the wind, while inside, a single long bar extended twenty feet to the back until it dead-ended into a pair of gender-neutral bathrooms. A mirror made up the back wall to give the illusion that it continued on twice as far. For the gay students at the school (and for the residents of the nearby town), this was what they had to offer, and it was more than enough. It was almost always half empty (or half full, for the optimists).

I turned 21 over the Christmas holiday while abroad, so I missed out on the typical college fanfare when a youngen finally reached drinking age. No shots, no brazenly staring down suspicious cops, no party hats with the phrase “Happy Twenty-Oneth.” When we came back from break, I just casually joined the bar hopping crowd. One friend noticed my sudden arrival and ordered me a “Four Horseman” to celebrate – which is Irish Whiskey, Tennessee Whiskey, Bourbon, and Scotch mixed together. I drank it and regretted it – now I was an adult.

My first weekend back, though, I decided to check out the gay bar. My curiosity could not be contained – did all gay bars have strippers? Would some old guys hit on me immediately, the new fresh blood?

I was shocked by how calm it was inside, and then I realized. We were not in New York or some other equally diverse city. At the end of the day, we were a college town surrounded by 100 miles of cornfields and mountains. Small town gay bar = calm gay bar. We needed to remember our place.

When I entered, I took a survey of the group.

A butch lesbian with a pixie cut and an oversized jersey served everyone. She didn’t act special to me, even though I was new. I was just another patron.
Most of the customers were older, not from the college. One who was in his 30s looked me up and down and then returned to his drink.
A few loudly chatting queens sat at the sole table in the back. They were two seniors and a grad student – clearly, they had found each other randomly and glommed on to one another. I joined them for a few moments before moving on – they smiled and said, “nice to meet you.”
A guy in his 50s – grizzled, gutty, gray – offered me a drink back at his place. I declined and ducked out.

If this was gay culture, then I was completely on board. There were sweeties and sluts, an unmotivated bartender and unapologetic slobs, well-dressed denizens and barely-dressed attention-seekers.

Just like any other bar. And I liked it.

Some Gay Stories: Psalms 101 – 109

Psalms is for everyone.

We have wailing and praising. Contemplation. Even good old fashioned retellings of historical biblical events. Perhaps this is why any good pastor can toss a Psalms verse out there no matter your ill.

This is very general – and I will do a more comprehensive wrap up post Chapter 150 – but I don’t think Psalms really tries to assert any actual truth about God. Instead, it seems like it is many Godly men trying to figure out the truth about God. Maybe that is my projection. I like the second option better.

Last week in my lead post, I promised a “very gay week,” and I got sidetracked. My story about Ansley and her blatant question (“Are you gay or what?”) and my wishy-washy response (“Sort of”) was meant to be a precursor towards my first experiences in the gay culture. I changed courses when I realized what a profound effect my relationship with her had on the development of my sexual identity. So I told that story instead.

But now I want to tell some other ones – about how I never felt comfortable (and to some degrees, still don’t) in the gay community at large. This is not meant to be a criticism of the culture, but rather a commentary on my experience in it. Gay people express themselves in all types of ways – why do you think the rainbow is our symbol? But for a while, I felt pressure to be a certain type of queer person – meaning the flaming, tank-wearing, Madonna-loving stereotype. But it never fit, and it won’t fit. And I’ve come to realize that no queer man wants to be that stereotype, however close he might come to it naturally. So let’s talk about that.

All of this is filtered through the Psalms, of course, which we all know was written to be applied to queers.

Casualty: Psalms 91 – 100

(This is the final part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first, second, third, and fourth entries)

When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.

Psalms 94:19 (NIV)

A little less than a year later, Ansley agreed to meet with me in order to go over the “whole situation.” After that passionate evening – the kissing, tree climbing, the frigid wish-wash – was a month of dating, two of confusion, and then a half dozen in anger. It had become clear to her after some time that I was using my relationship with her in order to figure out my own sexual identity. She felt betrayed – rightfully so. I had taken her side against me shortly after we had given up talking and separated. She was the first woman to ever call me out on this behavior – on the knowing deceit I participated in. Confusion on my part was allowed – there isn’t a clear-minded soul out there – but I could not manipulative the feelings of others in the process of figuring out myself. I regretted all of it.

So we met on the porch of a Fellini’s Pizza but didn’t order anything except a pint of beer each. The conversation began with a prolonged silence. We slouched in our chairs.

She spoke first. She wanted to say her piece. That was fair. I let her.

She did not ask for an explanation – I think she had prepped herself not to expect one, or perhaps, to not expect a satisfying one.

I said I was sorry.
She said okay.
I explained my thought process, my headspace, where I was coming from, my confusion.
She said okay.

I had not prepared anything to say, so I started to improvise. No, I did not lie, but I had taught myself for so long not to analyze that I had not yet thought the whole situation through. I knew my fault, yes, and I knew why, yes – but I had not yet figured out the next step – how I would take this experience and… move forward.

I told her I would not do this again.
She looked dissatisfied.
I guaranteed her that I would not do this again.
She said okay.

Was that a promise I could keep? I didn’t know.

So where did that leave us now, we thought, or maybe we said out loud.

I realized then that I had won this situation, if a winner could have been chosen. I was the arbiter, the one who had inflicted the damage, and then, a year later, she absolved me of my sin. I witnessed the potential damage I could do by using others as taste tests for my sexuality. And what had she gotten from it? What lesson did she learn?

So I told her.

You don’t get anything from this situation.
You are a casualty of my growth.

The Parts: Psalms 81 – 90

(This is the fourth part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first, second, and third entries)

[God said:]
“I will not violate my covenant
    or alter what my lips have uttered…”
But you have rejected, you have spurned…
You have renounced the covenant with your servant…

Psalms 89:34, 38-39 (NIV)

We kissed immediately. It was expected – Ansley and I had just announced a mutual affection for one another, and some next step was required. The first thing I had noticed about her (the third time I had met her) was how she dressed. Southern patterns – floral, block – with a smooth feminine silhouette; boots that came up mid-calf with a small heel that boosted her an extra inch-and-a-half; muted leggings that covered the rest of her legs. This day, as we moved in on one another in the frigid interior of my handed-down golden Camry, she was covered head to toe, knitted cap on top, fluffed mittens, with a sleek pea-coat that landed somewhere around her knees. Her cheeks shown through, rosy with stilled blood underneath, accented by a fleece scarf she had just bought from Rag-a-Rama up the street.

We kissed.

In terms of her personality, she was opinionated and bold. When she spoke, she had something to say – about the rights of gay individuals, the need to educate our children properly. When she listened, she made eye contact that never broke, even as she started to speak. And when she spoke, it was always relevant. She was not one of those people who just stared, waiting for her turn to speak her slightly related nonsense. She touched when listening, her hand on top of mine. She hugged and said “I love you” – no, not too soon, not an “I’m in love with you” “I love you” – no, she just loved others and wanted to let them know. She encouraged.

We moved outside and shuddered underneath a twisted oak tree. Our warmth came from our close proximity; it came from dependence.

We kissed.

More than anything, she wanted kids and to be a mom. When I asked her about her career goals and plans, she mentioned singing and acting, perhaps teaching and nannying, but none of that mattered without a family to go home to and kids to raise, a place to call her own. She still lived at home – yes out of comfort, yes out of a slight fear of the unknown, yes out of fiscal sense – but no, it was her parents, handicapped with Parkinson’s and RA respectively, and so she worried, she worried that if she left, no one would be there, and they would wither as a result. She cared about and cared for. It was just her nature to nurture.

I looked above us at the gnarled branches of the tree above and wanted to climb. Slowly, I disengaged from her and reached for the first branch. She hopped up, discouraging it – yes we had drank alcohol, yes the passion had deadened my senses along with the cold, yes it was rash – but no, I wanted to climb, and fuck if I want to climb then let me climb damn it. I wondered how high I could get before the tree limbs gave way and dropped me.

My throat clenched shut with anxiety. Look at Ansley. Look at the parts, I thought, she has it allthe empathy, the sense, the honesty, the future. Fall in love with those parts. Ansley did not want me to climb the tree and begged me to stop. She said I would hurt myself – it was such a stupid idea. The concern, the hospitality. Fall in love with those parts. She shouted for me to come down, but I told her I wanted to climb. She’s shouting for you, she cares that much. Fall in love with those parts.

I felt more nauseous with each step – yes the height, yes the dizziness of whiskey mixed with movement, yes the shattering cold that crept in – but no, it was the parts. The parts that Ansley did not have that I desired. Why did I desire a man, when a woman was just as good? What was wrong with me that I would kiss Ansley, when I knew that all the parts she had would never equal the desire of the fleeting momentary attention from an unknown man?

Ansley shouted to me again. She noticed my heavy breathing. She sensed the panic and told me one final time to come down. I acquiesced. I took each step carefully as I made my way down the way I had come.

And with both feet back on the ground, I told her that I needed to go home.

The Self-Parable: Psalms 71 – 80

(This is the third part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first and second parts)

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things…

Psalms 78:1-2 (NIV)

Jesus is known for his use of parables to bestow lessons, but centuries before his arrival on Earth, Psalms drops us one right in the middle of its narrative. In the 78th chapter, a narrator tells the story of a group of Israelites brought out of Egypt by the use of miracles – pillars of fire, manna raining from the sky, and parted seas – only for them to reject God’s word for their own selfish desires. They put God to the test; they complained; they made idols and worshipped them with full and vengeful hearts. And so, God rejected them.

This sounds familiar…

I always thought parables were made up stories, not true reflections from the past – not by assumption, but rather, by design. It is probably most advantageous for the author to make up a story with all the correct elements in order to hammer home a point. I believe this because life does not usually fall within such parameters of clear right and wrong. True recollection can easily muffle a message, especially such a dramatically stringent one. But nonetheless, the author reminds us of the sin of the Israelites in order to emphasize a base value:

Learn from your mistakes!

This thought kept rolling through my head as I read vast sections of the Old Testaments history. How is it possible that generation after generation of God’s people could keep returning to sin, especially with the stakes so high?

Many wonder that about gay Christians who choose to live “in the lifestyle.” How can they defy God so knowingly?

When I moved to Georgia, I had my own self-parable bouncing between my ears. Once upon a time, a young man had conflicting feelings about his own sexuality. So he made a decision to defy his nature in order to maintain loyalty to God and proceeded to pursue women. But the decision caused anxiety and despair, as he knew that these relationships would not last. Then, once taking the pressure off of himself, he fell for a woman in spite of himself. But he would not make the same mistake twice; he would not lie or misrepresent himself. He had learned from his mistakes.

After joining the cast of The Laramie Project, I learned about a different Ansley, one worthy of a profound friendship. Sure, she was still the girl that scoffed at my sexuality, chastised me for drinking her wine, and then guilted me for not recognizing her. But my initial impressions (or lack of them rather) faded the more I got to know her. She was thoughtful and encouraging throughout the rehearsal process and a faithful sound board for the director. Beyond her professional abilities, she also took a staggering interest in the problems and concerns of others. We hit it off, against all odds. Once the show wrapped, we caught wind of a cast member’s comedy show, and decided to go together to show our support.

We parked the car and wandered the streets of Atlanta with our hands in our pockets. The transition from acquaintance to friend always requires some intentional energy by making the decision that “yes, this will be awkward and a bit contrived at the start, but that will eventually wear off.” The conversation was stiff but loosened. Eventually, we abandoned the comfort of our pockets and let our hands dangle out – a sign of inner comfort.

Once back at the car, with the comedy show passed and the structure for the evening lost, we struggled to make natural conversation. We argued about sexuality – she thought men couldn’t truly be bisexual, that only women could do that. It was an interesting notion. More often than not, men used the term “bisexual” as a transitory term. It felt safer than saying “gay” – less final and damning. I argued against it. We never agreed, but we still laughed.

And then she said she made a confession. She had romantic feelings for me but knew it would never work.

But I looked her in the eye and said, “It could work. I like you too.”

And I smiled, knowing full well the mistake I was making.

The Boisterous Young Woman: Psalms 61 – 70

(This is the second part of a multi-part entry. Check out the first part)

One thing God has spoken,
    two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
    and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
    according to what they have done.”
Psalms 62:11-12 (NIV)

The boisterous young woman from my first Georgian party had a name: Ansley.
And she had a little not-so-secret surprise too: she was also bisexual.

I met Ansley for the first time three times, because after each of the first two instances, I immediately forgot who she was. I mentioned the first interaction previously, but for those of you in need of a refresher:

[I pour a glass of what I thought was “communal” wine at a party]
ANSLEY: Are you drinking my wine?
ME: I’m sorry… [blah blah etc]
ANSLEY: Are you gay or what?
ME: Um… [blah blah dodge whatever]
ANSLEY: Ugh.

Suffice to say, this aforementioned party (and odd interaction) did not satisfy my making-friends needs, but it did provide the catalyst towards some of my first friendships in the South. I didn’t learn Ansley’s name that night, and why should I have? In my mind, I had deemed her the boisterous, young woman, who – among other things – announced quite angrily at the end of the party “I’m leaving, it’s gross in here!” Memorable, sure, but not something I logged away for future interactions. I sincerely thought that our little story would begin and end there.

Then an outdoor Shakespeare event brought us back together. Through a series of handshakes and handoffs, I became friends with this devilish twosome – Wendy and Tyler. He was the confident, sassy petite gay guy, and she was his equally witty cohort – peas in a pod, looking for their new plaything. I liked her and liked him, so when they offered some drinking on the lawn of a park while watching community theater actors “try their best” at Taming of the Shrew, I replied, “of course I want to go.” We laid a blanket down on the thirsty weeds and cracked the wine. We all spooned under a comforter. Others joined us after a while. A woman who had joined the group said, “Hi,” to me. We all chatted a bit. I fell asleep, because apparently the actors’ “best” was not engaging enough. Sobered and sleepy, I drove home afterward.

Yeah, that woman who said “hi” to me? That was also Ansley. I still did not know her name, nor did I connect her to being the same wine protector from weeks prior.

The third instance brought the other two into a snapped focus. Eager to keep my energies moving in an unknown city, I decided to audition for a local theater’s production of The Laramie Project. It seemed completely benign – I had been in the play in college and knew the material – plus it would keep me busy and I would meet new people. Perfect. They called my name and I walked up to the audition table to meet the director and stage manager.

“Nice to meet you,” I cheerfully said, reaching out my hand for an equally cheerful handshake.

“Yeah… we’ve actually met before. Twice.The stage manager quipped back immediately.Don’t you remember me?”

Nope, not even a –
Wait… female stage manager… the woman… the young woman… boisterous young… shit.

“Oh yes!” I overcompensated. “Of course I remember you!”

I walked away convinced that my faux pas would mean certain failure, and that I would not be cast. Take it in stride and learn, I supposed.

But then I got a call. From the boisterous wine Shakespeare blanket stage manager woman named Ansley. They wanted me to join the cast.

And that last introduction ended up sticking.