Column

Home Column

Sexual Harassment Has No Place in My Career

About Feminism Feminism Feminist Equality Women

About Feminism, No. 3

It has become evident to me that the world I’m entering is not the one I expected it to be. Or maybe it’s just that one asshole has ruined everything and now I’m entering the entertainment industry with a hand over my eyes, expecting the worst.

From a young age, I have wanted to be a writer. A novelist, a comic book writer, and now a television writer. I have bounced around between the ideas of them all, just trying to find a place where I settle perfectly. And recently, I have found that place. Or, at least, the place where my talents, skills, and self fit best right now. The trouble is that in that place I wish most to be and am working my ass off to get to, there are a few scumbags. Before even truly entering the world of entertainment writing, while still acquiring new knowledge and preparing to escape into that world, there has been one particular scumbag that has tainted this new adventure for me. He has started my path out on something bitter and terrible rather than what it should be:  new, hopeful, and exciting.

It is because of this one person that I have been doubting myself. I have been told things like, “Oh, that’s just the entertainment industry,” and “If you want to go into television, you have to thicken your skin.” And to the people saying these things I would just like to say that all of that is complete and utter bullshit.

Sure, the entertainment industry has been known for its terrible past— one that has historically reduced women, queer people, and people of color to nothing more than stereotypes, extras, and people to take advantage of sexually. More so now than ever before in the past, we’re seeing the entertainment industry begin to do at least something about this issue. But it isn’t just applicable to the entertainment industry, nor should this issue be treated as though that’s all it’s applicable to, because there are bad people everywhere. There is sexual harassment in every field, in every state, in every nation all across the entire world; and for someone to sit down and tell me that just because I want to go into this particular field that I want to work in to create entertaining content for the masses and to discuss issues that often get swept under the rug, I have to what? Get used to it? I have to smile and nod when a man suggests inappropriate things?

Fuck. That.

I would also like to say that I am not someone that can be easily silenced. I will not go into this industry with a small voice that could easily be shut down by the people above me, nor will I acquiesce to the perversions of men who refuse to control themselves around women. I will not be stepped on or closed off by anyone because I make the choice to say ‘no’ to something that has nothing to do with my career and that makes me feel unsafe. And maybe I’m just saying this because I need to hear it be said. I need to hear myself think of myself as someone who is strong, if that makes any sense. Because, when you go through something like this, all the people around you, all the people who care about you, they all come in and tell you that you’re amazing. They tell you that you’re strong. They tell you that everything you’re doing is great and wonderful. And I appreciate that. I really do. But it’s time that I have to learn for myself.

In fact, it’s time that we all, as a society, learn that for ourselves. We need to start thinking of ourselves as tough, as women who won’t take any shit, as human beings who deserve to be treated like human beings and not sex objects. Because, honestly, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of letting men in powerful positions walk all over me. And while this has been the worst instance of a situation like this, it hasn’t been the first. And while it’s awful to say, I’m sure it won’t be the last. Because, friends, this is the universe we live in; and, I say that as a fact, but I do not say that as an excuse. Just because this world is terrible and corrupt and full of deplorable men who abuse their power does not mean that it’s okay.

To brief you just a bit on the situation, I was offered an opportunity. A good one. A really, really fucking good one. It was offered to me by someone who is well-known in the entertainment industry, someone who has clout and connections; and it was an opportunity that realistically could have done a great deal for me as a television writer. But here’s where the problems began:  this man hadn’t ever read my writing. He didn’t know if I was even good at writing, or if I was just another kid with a pipe dream I wasn’t working toward. But you know what he did think? He thought I was hot — and he told me that part, that he was attracted to me — so why not give me a chance?

I’ve had teachers tell me, Use what you’ve got to your advantage”; but that was more specifically devoted toward filling a diversity quota. Production companies, especially writers rooms, are looking for diverse people. At a 2016 talk-back and book signing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, The Mindy Project creator and star (as well as former The Office producer), Mindy Kaling, offered advice to a young woman who asked what she could do to break into television writing, and Kaling told her just that. She let her know very clearly that writers rooms were looking for young people who were different — especially women, as statistically writers rooms have a large gap in the margin of male-to-female writers. But, with that being said, I will not sacrifice any part of myself, nor should you sacrifice any part of yourself just to fit into a box previously checked by someone else.

We are stronger than this. We know better than this. And if we keep sitting down, if we keep crying behind closed doors and letting things happen, then we are never going to make any progress in this industry. Because sure, the entertainment industry — while slowly but surely making small improvements — sucks. It’s all about power. The power our superiors hold over us, the power that we want to have, the power to make decisions to bring content that will exist forever thanks to the Internet and that will live in the hearts of millions for years to come. Look at the television shows that aired years — some decades ago that are still in syndication: Friends, Cheers, Bewitched. Look at the ones that aired all that time ago that are being remade or rebooted: Charmed, Will & Grace, and even the Roseanne reboot-turned-spin-off The Conners. And this world is on the cusp of major change, but the change we want to see in ourselves is reflected our own actions. We can’t move forward as a society if we’re not personally making our own changes in ourselves

This has been something that has been going on for a long time, and that will likely continue for a long time, as well, while Hollywood slowly weeds out and turns away the bad people. The entertainment industry has always been a problem since even the time that it began. In the recent years — months even — people have been standing up and saying what has happened to them, which has inspired others to do the same which is exactly why men like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein and Jeremy Piven are beginning to be held accountable. People who have been abused have stood up, spoken their truth, and paved the way for those ahead of them to not have to suffer the same trials and tribulations, even if that isn’t quite the case just yet.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t let people walk all over you. Be the strong human being you’re capable of being; and when shit gets hard, don’t let people tell you to remain calm. Get angry. Speak up. Don’t accept this as normal, no matter how many people tell you it is.

Welcome to Dumb Bitchery, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez See Ya’ Later Masturbator Masturbate Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 26

Though the evening — at least for Bertha and me — only lasted a few hours, the three of us became quick friends and managed to cover an array of topics that would have given the women of The View a run for their shitty, daytime television money. As if we were college (dropout) roommates catching up after having settled down with Plain Janes and having three kids we couldn’t afford a good Christmas for due to our drinking problems, we covered every topic imaginable. We discussed important topics like the issues of the infighting that plagued our community, and even more important topics like the comfortability of a beard when having your ass eaten. In this beautiful reprieve from my own previously-unquelled anxieties (which were some kind of cocktail made up of not being loved by the man I loved and missing my best friend and whether or not I’d ever get caught up on all the work I was so frighteningly behind on), I was for the first time in weeks able to just … exhale.

With Matt eventually switching to water and Bertha claiming time-after-time that she was on her last drink, we schlepped our way from the Eagle back to JR’s where the flighty, overly-Adderall-ed, sort-of-still-new-to-town bartender bought our first round of drinks. Between the three of us, we each ran into a handful of people we knew — some in common, others not — and still managed to find something to discuss at every turn. More than once the topic of Peter was brought up; although I quickly changed the subject each time. I wasn’t going to bog my newfound friends down with my drunken emotions, nor was I going to divulge a personal situation that was still fresh. And for the time being, the only persons it involved were Peter and I and that’s how it needed to remain. I’d even begun purposely neglecting to share details about our bad and good times with Gwen simply because — in a rather rare moment of maturity on my part — I’d come to realize that putting any of our close friends in the middle of our chaotic friendship hiccup wasn’t fair. If I needed to bitch about something Peter had said or done, what good would it have done me to tell the people we were both close to? They’d been his friends first. And, sure, I had the luxury of spending more time with them than he; but it would be childish to try to momentarily encourage anyone to my side of an argument when we were both in the wrong on nearly each and every account — both too stubborn and emotional to acquiesce to the other’s needs, no matter how similar they may have been.

As it got closer to nine o’clock (mind you, I’d only started drinking just after six), I had already had upwards of half a dozen vodka cranberries, two Fireball concoction shots at the Eagle, and a Rumplemintz shot that some man who was “courting” — and I do use that word in a sense just as loose as the hungry butthole seeking penetration — had bought rounds of for us. Bertha had Ubered herself home because, as she put it, “Talk to me once you’re over thirty-years-old”; and I was well on my way to needing some cocaine to be able to drive later that night. The stranger who had bought the shots of Rumple asked me questions a bit aggressively about the magazine, my column, and my relationship to Matthew. I wasn’t sure whether or not he was under the impression that I was trying to sleep with the pocket gay — which, to be clear, I was not. However, I took note of the change in the intonation of his voice once I’d made that clear, after which he immediately began to share with me some oddities I wasn’t completely clear as to why he felt he needed to share with a complete stranger.

“You know,” he said as we stood next to the bar while Matt was in the restroom for what began to feel like an eternity the longer this man spoke to me. “I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Matt,” he explained.

Uh-huh?” I said with a cluck of my tongue.

“Like … it’s weird. I love him to death … but I also really want to hate-fuck him.”

If the blowback of my head wasn’t enough to give me whiplash, the speed at which I craned down to the bar to slurp up the rest of my drink might have.

Well …” I muttered when I came back up for air. “That is … that is an interesting little fact to share with a complete and total stranger.” The man then laughed, proceeded to apologize and explain that he was drunk, and then gave me an all-too-comfortable hug for someone I’d just met.

Soon enough, my recently-lovelorn friend Chance texted me to let me know he’d be hosting a show at another bar that night with our other BFF and drag queen royal, Ava. Drunk and not quite ready to go home yet, I coerced my last-standing companion and his new boy-toy to Lyft to the other bar with me for a bit. They insisted on driving — likely so one could blow the other in the car before arriving — but I opted to make the best of all the free Lyft rides I’d been collecting for no apparent reason. I wasn’t really in a place in my life where I was ready to mark off the DWI box on my Gay Bingo card; plus the time to the next bar, the time spent there, and the time Lyfting back would hopefully prove long enough to sober myself so that I could drive home later.

I did not sober, in fact.

Who could’ve predicted that?

At the next bar I drank three cosmos and someone bought me a shot of tequila after I gave him a cigarette on the patio and let him put his hand down the back of my pants for what I’m sure could have only been research. Or … I don’t know … reach-around-search. [shrugging emoji]. I’d lost Matt somewhere along the way, although he finally found me (likely by standing on someone else’s shoulders) and alerted me to the fact that he and the JR’s stranger we’re going home to fuck. I applauded this as I drank more and finally found Chance and Ava in the DJ booth. I chatted drunkenly with Ava for a moment, but soon I couldn’t contain my sentiment anymore.

Between Gwen, Peter, Ava, Chance, and myself, we had over the last year become our very own version of the Plastics from Mean Girls. Each of us was — to varying degrees, and myself being the least of which — relatively known in our community and had jobs that weren’t the type just anyone has, as we all worked in some sort of intersection of media and entertainment. We had affectionately dubbed ourselves The Tap-Taps, an inside, Molly joke that sort of just stuck when we’d changed our group chat name to it in our iMessage thread. Rarely were all five of us ever in the same room — and luckily so, as I’ve heard that to be the Seventh Seal of the Apocalypse. Still, this Fucked-Up Fab Five was sort of the perfect bunch. Chance and Peter had been inseparable friends for years only to be torn apart over a boy, and finally to come back together; Chance and Ava worked together several times a week; Ava and Peter had known each other for a while, but had really only gotten close after hosting a show together a little over a year ago; Ava and Gwen had been good pals for years that also worked together semi-regularly; and Gwen and Peter had run in the same circles for years, but were only just now approaching the one year anniversary of their first real hang-out.

And me?

I’d admired Gwen from afar for a while, only for her to sort of demand we become best friends; Gwen introduced me to Peter one night while he was fucked up at Guava, where we began to establish a professional relationship that later turned into friendship; I’d gotten to know Ava through mutual encounters with her alongside both Peter and Gwen, truly only hanging out for the first time the night that I’d met Chance, the same night I’d learned of his then-defunct friendship with Peter. I was the baby of the family — and I mean that near literally. All of these people were upwards of 28; I, however, rung in at a mere 24. They had histories with one another, no matter how sparse or convoluted, that I probably would never have with them. Yet, for the first time in my life, I felt as though I’d found my people. I loved them. Regardless of the task, in that year they’d all proven to be the people who showed up and showed out and helped to make dreams come true, which is the very thing I wanted to do for them, too. And by my third cosmo, I was missing Peter, again. But I was also missing Gwen — who I knew I’d see the next morning. And even with them standing right there, I missed Ava and Chance, too.

It was such a strange feeling. The idea that my friendship with Peter was only being held together by a thread that could at any moment be pulled away frightened me, because it might have meant that I would lose the rest of my family, too.

But with that fear, with that potential for a heartbreak even greater than the sort a man could ever do to me, I was also elated. I mean, for fuck’s sake … how lucky of a fag was I? Not only did I belong to a grown-up clique of cool kids, but on the very night when I stood upon a precipice that could catapult me into losing these deep, magical, meaningful friendships, two people who were nearly strangers to me had been kind and thoughtful enough to sweep down from the sky, scoop me up, and give me the one thing I’d been needing most — and not just since Peter and I had taken a break. It had been the thing I needed since the moment I realized I was in love with him months ago:

A reminder that no matter what happened, there were always going to be people in my life that cared about me.

I kissed Ava on the cheek and hugged Chance goodbye, Lyfting to a Starbucks near the car where I could sit and sober for a while as I flipped through my mental Rolodex of alcohol-induced sentimentalities. Even in my own anxiety-fueled paranoia, I was grateful for Bertha and Matt for being so kind to someone they’d only really just met. And that gratitude served as a reminder that, yeah, sure, things may not have been great for Peter and I right at that moment … but that this too would come to pass. I may not ever fully get over the feelings I was having for him, but I knew — as history showed me with Ezra, and Parker, and every other man before them — that I’d learn to live with it. Was the situation with Peter different? Yeah. Vastly so. But the bottom line was that we were two friends who cared enough about each other and about ourselves to take a breather.

I knew after that moment at the bar — and after seeing that he’d peeped at my Snapchat and realizing he was sending messages in our Tap-Taps group thread — that we would eventually be okay; and my fear that I’d lose my other friends over this, too, finally began to subside. It would take time before we could ever be the people we were to one another, and likely it would never be quite the same. But that’s the great thing about having friends who are just as queer as you are:

They’re all we have.

And no matter how many there might be — a Bertha, an Ava, a Gwen, a Chance, a Matthew, a Peter, and all the others — each relationship is individualistic and unique. Each is — like all other things in life — energized and alive, capable of being damaged when its dropped, but mendable with the proper care. And if it had been anyone else — Parker, Ezra, Taylor, Adam, [insert every other ex or love interest here] — I probably would have something to fear. But the core of my relationship with Peter — as well as with the other three — is the kind of love that only comes from two friends who truly want to be in one another’s lives because of how good the friendship is.

These friends of mine, new and old, they’ve made me who I am today, even in such a short amount of time. They truly are all I have, because I wouldn’t be me if not for the handprints they’ve left on my heart.

🦋 🦋 🦋

Having made it home and in bed before midnight, I woke from a peaceful dream at five AM. It was a dream that had been recurring since September, and maybe one day I’ll share it, too. As of late, however, I’d not had it in several weeks; and I welcomed it back with a smile on my face as I woke.

That smile faded, however, the moment I realized it was still dark outside.

I reached for my phone and found a few messages from Bertha and Matt in a group chat. As it happened, everyone was craving Chicken Minis from Chick-Fil-Hate, Bertha wanted her hungry butthole hate-fucked like Matt, and Matt had been sourly disappointed with the stranger from JR’s, leaving him to go back out and then to the home of another man … and then another.

Welcome to Dumb Bitchery, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez See Ya’ Later Masturbator Masturbate Love

Less Than Butterflies, No. 26

Gay men understand what’s important: clothes, compliments, and cocks.”

— Samantha Jones

🦋 🦋 🦋

Ladies and … gaydies …?

I know I make a lot of statements in this column, many of which you may agree with, many of which you may not. My turn-ons are not necessarily the same as or even similar to your own, my bad sex experiences might be so humiliating that you could never imagine sharing them with someone else if they’d happened to you, and maybe you actually know one of my exes personally and think he’s a good guy. You’re … you know … wrong. But … whatever. It’s fine. Anyway! It’s fine to have differing opinions; it’s what makes the world colorful and beautiful and interesting. But I do think that if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this:

Men. Are fucking. Insane.

But there is some respite from the eternal woes of men — do they love you? Do they not? Are they going to text you? Should you text them? Will they compliment the outfit you spent hours picking out just because you knew you’d be seeing them later? Why didn’t he invite you out with him and his other friends? What does their last text mean? Is he just your friend? Or did that one night you almost slept together and all that other sexual awkwardness mean something else is going on?

Don’t fucking look at me like that.

The fact remains that men are insane and unpredictable and sometimes a little selfish and act without thinking about how their actions are going to affect other people. I should know, and not just because I’ve slept with most of the world’s population of men, but because I too — even if debatably so, at times — am one. And as much as I like to point it out in others, there is not a doubt in my mind that I am just as bad as (if not worse than) all the others.

Surprisingly enough — as it would seem that the majority of my friends that get mentioned in these stories are women — many of my friends are this way, too, as they as well are men. Mind you, 98% of them, like me, are flaming homosexuals. If you lined 9 of us during the winter, one could easily confuse us for a menorah lit for the last night of Hanukkah. But it’s that brazen disregard for what is culturally seen as what it means to be male — from the flapping of fans to the beat of some trashy, pop remix on the dance floor right on down to the ass-eating — that makes gay men special. Now, don’t take that to be a gloss over everyone else in our community; it’s not. People on every end of the LGBTQIA spectrum are just as special. It is our perceived aberrance — our sparkle that stands out to straight, cis-gender people that they’re too irritatingly blinded by to see its beauty — that attracts us all to one another.

Because — at least, in a sense — we’re all that we have. That’s not to say that our straight and cis allies aren’t good to us, that they aren’t advocating for us. But no matter how hard a person advocates for the rights of people who have been culturally and socially stigmatized all throughout history in a way they have not — that is to say, if they don’t share that history or if they haven’t suffered their own plight — being an ally is only nominal. This is not me detracting from the importance of our allies. We’d be nowhere as queer people if there hadn’t been straight and cis people listening to what we need, then going to battle for those things, swords wielded and shields tossed into our arms to protect ourselves. Still, the celebration and commiseration that can only be shared by people who have been through it as well can only be found in our community.

And that, friends, is why there isn’t anything more exciting — at least, not in my opinion — than the ardor that comes from befriending people like you.

🦋 🦋 🦋

Peter and I were on a break from our ever-complicating friendship because, as I mentioned before, men are insane. And as a surprise plot twist I may regret ever admitting, I must confess that the insanity I’m speaking of here is my own.

Yeah. I’m fucking crazy. If you’ve been reading along this far into the series, you’ve probably picked up on that by now. I can’t pin this one on the dude, but more on that another day.

Peter, for those of you who have been following along, was up until this point referred to as Pistachio at my friend Gwen’s insistence. I could only take myself seriously for so long by naming a man after a nut — although, as aforementioned, men are fucking nuts. So now, nineteen columns into this season of Less Than Butterflies, I’ve elected to change his name for the second time. And for those of you who have not been following along, Peter makes a great segue from my former point about friendships into the story to come. He was someone I’d grown incredibly close to over the course of only a short year, but someone whom I’d fallen in love with by accident after a series of intimacies and resultant misfortunes (not to mention tantrums on my part). Our friendship had been struggling in the small span of time since, and eventually I will get around to telling our full story from beginning to end. But not today; not while I’m still trying to understand it completely myself coupled with trying to not be a lunatic.

That said, as our once-wonderful (albeit delightfully hateful) friendship had hit a rocky road — feelings tight, tensions high — we’d found ourselves in a place where we were taking a bit of break from one another. It sucked, considering the holidays were quickly approaching and many of the plans we’d made not only with one another, but with all our other friends, were intersectional. But even just a few days apart had already done us some good. Or, maybe I should say that it had done me some good. I can’t speak for him, but I can only assume it had also served him some much-needed space to clear his head and to get a little freedom from my affections and psychotic reactions he’d never signed up for. But as much good as it was doing me, even just a few days in … I really missed my best friend.

When I felt that melancholy at first — maybe it came when I found a meme I’d wanted to share with him or when I saw his texts in our group chat that involved many of our closest friends — I noticed that the root of missing him didn’t stem from the romantic feelings that I had. Sure, those were still there; but what I was feeling was a seemingly-perennial void that came from not having my friend to annoy and talk to about stupid shit all throughout the day. I tried everything to shake it off. Over the course of three short days, I’d made myself zero in on my work — not a difficult thing to do when that’s all I ever do anyway — begin meditating first thing in the morning and before I went to bed, brushed-up on my long-since-used Italian, and even get back into the habit of exercising every day (kill me; JK — the exercise is going to do that for you). Still, as much as I was happy with the these little additions to my daily schedule, a chunk of the day didn’t pass that I had to remind myself as I was picking up my phone to text him a joke that we were on a break from one another.

So, in an effort to fill some of that empty space, I had resolved to embark upon the only proven method of treatment that had ever worked for me in these situations in the past:

I was going to spend time with some of my other friends. Even better, I was going to have a girls’ night with all of my queer friends that weekend before he and I would check in the following Monday to see where we were at and at which time I would likely apologize for being a psychopath in the hopes that we could at least cordially spend the holidays together with all our friends.

Immediately I put out the call for anyone who wanted to partake in a girls’ night with me, accompanied by my ever-handy “Find Our Sisters” American Horror Story GIF. It was going to be a day for any and everyone who equally needed a day of doing anything we could to relax, enjoy ourselves, and (most importantly) talk about anything that we wanted to so long as the conversation did not revolve around our most recent love interests — good or bad. I had no clear idea of what this would look like, mind you. Maybe we’d start with brunch at Baba Yega, move on to mani-pedis, spend a few hours in the living room of someone’s shitty, Montrose-adjacent apartment watching some mildly-misogynistic romantic comedy, go out drinking as the bars and clubs began to populate, flirt with people we truly had no interest in, and then round it all off by dancing at Rich’s. Or, conversely, maybe the plan would flop and we’d all just end up crying and eating our feelings. I hoped the latter wouldn’t present itself as the more likely option, but knew that after a few glasses of Cabernet on the back patio of Barnaby’s, I’d end up crying and rushing to the bathroom to fix my face before dodging questions about what was wrong with me and smiling stupidly to placate my worried, drunken friends.

Immediately after sending out an open invitation on Facebook, requests to partake came flooding in. The excitement of making this come to life was thrilling me. I wasn’t the only sad, heartbroken queer in Houston; though one could argue that I was the most pathetic of the bunch. Why shouldn’t I stand myself at the helm of a fun, senseless day that could end up making us all feel fantastic or at least alleviate our woes for a few hours? And what more effective method was there? Historically, each and every time I’d had my heart broken, this was the only method that worked.

When I’d made a conscious decision to put a little space between Ezra and I after he’d broken my heart (albeit unintentionally), the only thing that ever made me feel better was the kinship I shared with my friends like Gwen and Chance and, yes, even Peter! Maybe even especially Peter. Definitely so especially Gwen. I’d have died without her by my side those hard months. When I’d cut myself out of the canvas of the world after being raped, I was only resurrected from my internal purgatory because I had those same people surrounding me. When my ex-boyfriend, Parker, and I had broken up — and even when I recently found out he’d just wed only a year after telling me he wasn’t the marrying type — my friends were the only thing that carried me through the shitstorm that ensued within my mind.

So, why shouldn’t I call on the #girlsquad to come and distract me for a while? And why shouldn’t I be there to do the same for them if they were struggling, too? Before I’d even finished rationalizing the logic to myself, friends from grade school expressed their interest in such an event; closer friends like Gwen and Alice came ushering in to show their support; members of my clique from high school popped up offering to bring edible treats — likely cooked in marijuana butter; even a few folks I hardly knew at all began springing up and wishing to join in on the festivities. It appeared as though the weekend was going to prove to be successful for my little heartbroken and/or supportive coven. Only, when I woke on Wednesday from a short nap after staying up all night working, it appeared that #girlsquad time would be happening sooner than I’d expected.

In Houston’s LGBTQIA community, everyone who is someone — and really, even those who aren’t — seems to sort of know everyone after a while. There’s the indoctrination phase, which usually happens after befriending one social gay and being invited into one friend circle before being dragged by the hand into another, creating some big, gay Venn Diagram. Then come the seemingly-vapid rites of passage, like staying up until the sun wakes doing cocaine at some after-party in Midtown or Eado, or shoving ones down a stripper’s jockstrap at Tony’s Corner Pocket, or maybe even witnessing your first patio blowjob at Ripcord. Finally comes the ‘I-met-one-person-at-an-event-and-now-have-a-hundred-friend-requests’ phase. Maybe you’ve just befriended a drag queen with a great deal of clout like the reigning Miss Gay Texas America, Regina Blake-DuBois, after watching her lip sync a number from Wicked at her show, The Broad’s Way. Maybe you bumped rompers with one of the Pride Houston chairpeople while sipping Bellini pitchers at Rosemont. Maybe you’ve attended your first Pride Portraits photoshoot or Montrose Center fundraiser. Or maybe you’ve just spent three-and-a-half minutes arguing with Brenda Rich as to why you had to pay the seven dollar cover at front counter of Rich’s [insert obligatory: “That’ll be seven dollars” here].

The point is that everyone seems to know everyone else. And if one person overhears a rumor about another person that they don’t know, the chances are that they’re separated from one another by only a few degrees; and the person on the receiving end of the rumor will go out of their way to get to know that person. After all … the gays are a nosy people.

So when I awoke from my nap to find a work-related text message from a relatively new acquaintance whom we’ll call Matthew inviting me to meet up with him at JR’s, I jumped on the opportunity. Because, as he put it, “Bertha and I are gonna be on our dumb bitch behavior today if you’re not busy and want to be mildly entertained/driven to drink.”

Naturally, I replied, “Yesgodwhen.”

By the time I’d had time to shower, find an outfit, and fight inner-loop traffic, an hour had passed and the dynamic duo had moved on from JR’s to the Eagle, where I stood on the patio finishing a Marlboro before joining them inside. Before I’d even had time to extinguish the cigarette, a voice from behind me chirped, “Oh, heeeey.” I turned to see Matt poking his head out the old French doors and waving before weaving back inside. When I joined them, Matt and Bertha sat perched at the bar discussing how, just the night before, Matt had been traipsing around the bar flashing a photo of his penis to all the patrons around last call. Bertha — or Bertha Bored — was Matt’s drag queen best friend who was notorious amongst the gays for being one of the most outrageous caricatures I’m sure most any person would ever encounter in their lives. Today, she was out of drag and hanging out as one of the gay boys. Although, in spite of her cis-ness, Bertha still answered to Bertha full-time and seemed to take no issue with feminine pronouns.

Truth be told, I barely knew either of these people. What I did know of them was based solely upon what I’d heard from other people — truly all good things — and the interactions I’d seen them partake in on social media. Patrick was a local bartender and pocket gay that, in spite of his butch presentation, epitomized a few too many gay stereotypes. Bertha, on the other hand, was equally outrageous, although far less so in more quaint settings than she portrayed herself to be while working or on Facebook. That last part, as it happened, seemed to be something we all had in common. While not a single one of us now sipping from tall bar glasses could get away with saying that we weren’t boisterous or over-the-top, it could be easily read from spending time with the three of us that we weren’t actually as slutty or as drunk or as loud as we led other people to believe.

Don’t get me wrong, the three of us were all of those things; but the public personification was far more exasperating than the gay men behind the curtains.

“So what’ve y’all been up to?” I asked as I sipped from a vodka cranberry that Matt had taken the liberty of putting on his tab.

“Well,” Matt began, “I texted this one earlier …” he motioned toward Bertha, “… and told her that I was bored and wanted to do something. But I told her I really didn’t want to be a dumb bitch today, but that it’s really the only thing I’m good at.”

“Right, right,” I agreed with a single nod.

“And then when I was messaging you, I sort of was like, ‘You know, Anthony said that he was wanting to do a girls’ night thing. Why don’t we invite him to hang with us?’.”

“And here we are,” I added.

“Being dumb bitches,” Bertha concluded as we all raised our glasses in cheers to Dumb Bitchery, new and old.

Continue to Pt. II

… and the New Guy

Less Than Butterflies Anthony Ramirez See Ya’ Later Masturbator Masturbate Love

Less Than Butterflies, No.15

While it’s probably best that I don’t equate falling in love to some sort of illness, it is worth noting that there are symptoms that accompany falling in love with another person. The symptoms might be a bit different from person-to-person, but upon hearing the symptoms described by someone else, those of us who have in the past been afflicted can recognize them almost immediately. For some it’s the utter disinterest in perusing for other partners or the lack of intrigue in having sex with someone else. For others it’s that jealous, angry pit that opens up in the bottom of your stomach when you see the object of your affection romantically involved with someone else or when they talk about their sexual conquests or recent dates. Of course there’s the natural, nurturing feeling that comes along with seeing one’s beloved hurting or sick or maybe mad at the world and wanting to immediately hold and console them. Then there’s the simplest one—the one that we all want most: the feeling when they walk into a room or a text message from them appears on the home screen of your phone that’s followed by your stomach doing cartwheels, tickling and scrunching up as the inside walls are traced by the wings of the butterflies bouncing around inside.

That’s sort of how I knew I had fallen for Ezra. It took a while, but I was eventually cognizant of the fact that I was suffering from certain symptoms I’d experienced before but hadn’t recognized because it had been so long since I’d last felt them. All of those were there: the jealousy, the nurturing, the butterflies, but probably first and foremost came the lack of interest in dating or sleeping with other men.

Now, that’s not to say I’d lost all interest. Certainly when attractive men, whether that be defined by their looks or by bright mindedness, would pass me by or smile at me or give a friendly hello, I took note. But there was a certain compartmentalization that took place that prevented me from pursuing it any further. One of the many compartments was marked Anthony, Who is Always Boy Crazy, and it was there that any thoughts or urges were placed until later. Later, I say, because I was living out of a different compartment of tools at that time; one that was marked Anthony Who Is Falling in Love with Ezra.

In the process of trying to fall out of love with Ezra, or at least trying to get back to being okay with just being his friend, I’d begun digging my way through the former compartment to see what was inside. The symptoms Ezra brought about for me weren’t quite gone—not even close, if I’m being honest—but I also had the cognition to understand that if I didn’t dig through the compartment where I’d stored all my feelings separate of him, I’d never really get past them at all.

While doing so, I began letting myself pay closer attention to the world around me with my focus not so keenly set on the man I’d fallen for and who had broken my heart. What I began to see was that, in the process of trying to win one man’s heart, I’d not realized that there were plenty of others standing all around me at all times. I’d been mildly celibate and dateless since I’d confessed my feelings to Ezra. Even in hearing him say he couldn’t reciprocate them, I’d been convinced that by holding out, something might change; but the only thing that changed was the fact that opportunity-after-opportunity had gone by and I’d not even batted my eyes at any of them.

That’s how I’d missed a boy named Mason as if I were shooting a gun at a target for the first time in my life. Nearly as long as Ezra had been around, Mason had been around, as well. In fact, that wasn’t the only way our happening upon one another had been similar to that of Ezra and me. Although, I don’t want to go into the details just yet.

That, however, is where the similarities between Mason and Ezra stopped. We met similarly. That’s it. Ezra was asexual, Mason was … well … not. Not. At. All. Ezra was a man of numbers and solitude, and Mason was more of a words and people person. Ezra didn’t particularly enjoy drinking, as to where Mason loved being drunk, though didn’t do it that often and certainly was unable of keeping up with me while I was drinking. Ezra preferred to spend his time alone and at home, but Mason was a person who enjoyed company and explorations.

They couldn’t have been more different, actually, which was a relief to me. It was a reminder that even though I may have had a type—smart, dorky, nerdy, cute nevertheless—I was not doomed to repeat a cycle with the same type of man for the rest of my life.

Well … hopefully not. That much remains to be seen.

But as much a fondness as I was still feeling for Ezra, my eyes had finally realized that the entire time I’d known him, there was this other wonderful man standing right in front of me. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t thought about it. The thoughts had just been fleeting. I shrugged them off as distractions or things that would ultimately prevent me from obtaining the very thing I was destined to never have. So, when I saw Mason—not saw him for the first time, but really saw him—I remember thinking to myself, I wonder …


What we were celebrating escapes me, now, but I knew that we were celebrating something. Maybe it was a big advertising account I’d scored at the magazine or maybe someone had gotten a promotion or a divorce. Not just Mason and I, but a large group of us had made our way to JR’s in good spirits, ready for a night of reprieve from our droll, day-to-day humdrum. I had been drinking since much earlier in the day as I’d had that Friday off work and even arrived ahead of schedule. As the masses trickled in—Mason, Alice, Elaine, Taylor Kyle, and Max—I began ordering drinks for everyone, and a round of shots when they’d all arrived. We took our shots at the bar, then retreated to an empty patio cabana where everyone lamented about work, boys, their families, and, again, boys.

“Oh, this guy is cute,” Mason said as his phone resonated the Grindr ping! and he typed out a message.

“Let me see!” I laughed as I snatched his phone away. The guy on the screen was short, but had nice arms and a very serious-looking face. “He is cute,” I agreed as I zoomed into his arms. “And those biceps, though! Oy gevalt.”

Riiiiiight?” he said with a smile as he pulled his phone back toward him. “We can share him if he’s into it.”

I laughed and downed the remainder of my drink.

“You know, I remember being where you all are,” Elaine told us with a laugh and a flip of her ginger hair. “The cruising for guys, the shameless flirting, the endless amounts of random dick.”

“When she says it like that, it almost God is using her to communicate with us,” I teased.

Everyone laughed. “I’m serious,” she insisted. “But when I met Cameron,” Cameron was Elaine’s husband of nearly a decade, “all of that changed. And I’ve never wanted it since.”

“Oh, bullshit,” Taylor antagonized. “You’re telling me that in ten years of marriage and eleven years of being together, you’ve never looked at another man?”

“Oh, c’mon!” Elaine replied. “Of course I look. Hell, I look at all your friends, and they’re all gay.” Everyone giggled a bit at this. “But it doesn’t mean you want to be with them,” she said as she finished the remainder of her drink, as well. “Besides … Cam has a huge penis. It’s like … perfect.”

A-yo!” I shouted as I stood up and reached over to high-five her. “I get it, though. I mean, not the married part. Ew. Gross. Kill me,” I began. “But even when I was super hung-up on Ezra, I couldn’t really get into sex with other guys. So … I just … I don’t know … didn’t have much.”

There was a near-communal gasp around the cabana.

“What?” several of them asked.

You?” Alice asked. “You didn’t have sex for that long?”

“It’s only been a few months, Alice,” I told her with a smile. “I don’t need it. I don’t even really remember if I like it,” I chuckled before saying, “Oh, my.” I paused and looked around. “Is this what growing up feels like?”

“Partly,” Elaine jabbed.

I slid a piece of ice of my glass and into my mouth. After crunching it, I said, “I don’t like it.”

“I love sex,” Mason said. “And I even think I need it a little,” he added as he went back to the men on his Grindr app.

“I’m just saying,” I told them, “that when you really love someone, when it’s the real thing, it isn’t that you don’t really think about anyone else or that you don’t lust over anyone else. It’s just that you don’t really want them. You might think about it, even …” I gave a masturbation gesticulation to them, “… about it. But it’s like this side effect of falling in love that you just don’t want it badly enough for it to be with anyone but that person you’re in love with.”

“What about polyamorous people?” Taylor asked. “Or people in open relationships?”

He posed a good point.

“I don’t know,” I confessed. “I’m sure it’s similar, just with more than one partner. But I could be wrong. I’ve never tried either of those things.”

“Exactly,” Elaine agreed. “He’s so wise.”

“Well, I’m only 24-years-old, but I have a mind as old as Elaine’s frown lines,” I told them as I stood up to get us all more shots and me another drink. She swatted at me and laughed as I walked by.

At the bar, Mason joined me. “There’s nobody here I wanna make out with,” he said as he slumped onto the bar and gazed around at all the gays in Montrose who had come out to enjoy their Friday. They drank the way any of us would … with a disposable gay income.

“What about the cute Grindr guy? Where’s he at?” I asked.

Eh. I think he’s on the DL,” he told me with a grimace.

I ordered us each a shot and then new drinks, as well as one for Elaine. We raised our glasses to whatever it was that we were all celebrating, took our shots, then just stood their in awkward silence for a moment. I tried not to stare at him, but the closer I got to the finish line of romanticism with Ezra and the nearer I grew to just looking at him as my friend, my tunnel-vision for him expanded to see what else was around me. And right there in my line of sight was Mason.

He was terribly cute, I must say. Almost like … cartoon character cute, if that makes any sense whatsoever. He had big eyes and messy hair, but was well-dressed in clothes that hugged his average frame. He wasn’t bulging with muscles, nor was he really “skinny”. He was just kind of … him, I guess. I caught him looking at me, too, and for a moment I smiled, then laughed, then had to turn my head because I was blushing.

Yeah … blushing.

I swear to God I couldn’t remember the last time a boy had made me blush, especially just from passing along to me a sheepish smile. But that’s all it took to make me smile and giggle like a child and blush, all one-after-the-next.

Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe not.

In the cabana, we all drank more; we all talked more.

“You’re basically comparing love to cancer,” Elaine refuted my cynicism.

“No, I’m not!” I said after explaining to them all my theory about the symptoms of liking someone else. “It doesn’t kill you in the end.”

“It can,” Max chimed in. “I tell you what, when my ex left me, I felt like I was gonna die. It’s been almost four years, and I still get weepy thinking about it. Then finding out he was gay, and then having him tell everyone else in the free world but me—that almost killed me. We were high school sweethearts,” she explained. “If nothing else, was I not still important enough or a good enough friend to confide in? If anyone would’ve reacted well, it would’ve been me. Hell, I’m a fruit fly!”

“Maybe he didn’t tell you because he didn’t want you to blame yourself or feel like he loved you any less,” Taylor analyzed.

“I would agree with that,” Alice said.

“Maybe,” Max told everyone. “It doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean I didn’t feel like I was dying.”

“See?” I asked. “Love. Has. Symptoms. Some are good, like being elated when your partner walks in the room. Others are not, like—”

“Feeling like you’re dying when your ex comes out of the closet,” Max finished my sentence.

I gesticulated toward her. “Precisely.”

Mason sat next to me on the couch as he slammed back the remainder of his drink. When he finished it, his torso was dancing—or, at least, the white people version of dancing—to the rhythm of the song playing over the patio.

He rested his head on my shoulder.

“You know, I agree, though,” Mason said next to me before he jumped into his own story of romantic free-falling. But I could hear a thing he was saying. Because the moment he laid his head on my shoulder, the minute I felt that hair against my neck, my chest tensed up—tingled, even. And the rest of the time we sat there, through drinks-upon-drinks, through stories and laughs and swear words and cigarettes, it only progressed.

First, the head on the shoulder, which was followed by the arm around me—the only punctuation between the two an ever-intensifying flutter in my chest. Then, from his arm around my waist and his head on my shoulder, the skin of his wrist brushed against that of my own and I swear to god every hair I had—not just those on that arm, but all over my body—stood up, electrified. And last came the thing that just did it, that thing I’d not felt since before it had happened with Ezra but had missing for so long since.

As I was sort of playing with his fingers only for a second, he jumped at the chance to hold my hand, to intertwine his between mine.

My body … was … on … fire.

Everything inside of me tickled, and I suddenly found myself having to fight back the urge to take it a step further—to press my nose into his neck, to rub its tip softly back and forth against his skin in slow, gentle strokes and to kiss him there along its trail I’d have left.

It wasn’t exactly the hot kind of see-each-other-across-a-crowded-bar-and-dive-into-one-another story I’d had in the past. It wasn’t animalistic or ravenous.

No, it was better.

It was kind of … well … sweet.

Everyone else noticed it, too, even for being as drunk as they were. In fact, I’d say that in seeing what was happening, in their eyes meeting mine, lids spreading further and further apart, they were sobering up just a little bit.

And there we all stayed, drinking more, taking more shots, telling jokes, and exchanging stories until the very moment that the bar threw us out because it was fifteen minutes past two, and they had to close down without us realizing how much time had passed. And we walked hand-in-hand back to our cars, which were parked right next to one another. And we said goodbye to Elaine, and to Alice, and to Taylor, and to Max. Then we stood between our cars, his hands on my hips, mine tracing the small of his back.

We stared right into one another’s eyes for the longest time, saying something, but nothing at all, smiling like the drunk, horny idiots we both were.

And the moment he pressed his forehead against mine to tell me goodnight, the moment he pulled me in closer to him and I felt his penis through his pants right there in the middle of that empty Montrose parking lot, he whispered, “Let’s go out again next weekend.”

I got excited hearing this. I felt like I was in a fever dream or something … completely incapable of understanding how this had happened between two friends who’d known each other for as long as we had or how I’d gotten here with him, how these feelings had crept up on me and surprised me and made me feel so light. I felt like steps were missing. It was like reading a run-on sentence free of commas—confusing and messy.

But the messiness of the sentence structure was okay, or, at least, I was still able to decipher it.

Maybe that’s exactly what it is when it happens, though—what all these symptom-inducing infatuations are—fevers. Maybe that’s what happens when we fall for someone, or at least when we begin to. We live febrile and all those symptoms—the jealousy, the nurturing, even the butterflies—are the accompanying symptoms. And the thing that makes the fevers all worthwhile, no matter how bad it may have get or seem at the time, is the knowledge that at the end of it all, we got to escape in the accompanying, sexy, fever dream.

Suddenly I was moving from one to the next, without ever having truly been afebrile. One compartment was being closed, and another opened as I dipped my toes into a pool of cool water just enough to not let the fever spike and take control.

Mason pulled me in a little tighter, let me go, and entered his vehicle without ever saying goodbye, without ever laying his lips upon mine.

He didn’t even look back.

My god was that sexy.