National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day.

Naturally, as someone who spent a very uncomfortable 4 years in the closet, this day means a lot to me. Now more so than ever. If you had told me when I was in the 7th grade, first starting to go through puberty and realize I was gay, that 12 years later I would be out and living in West Hollywood, I would not have believed it. When I first knew I was gay, my only feeling was annoyance. I was annoyed at God for adding one more thing I had to deal with to what already felt like a very long list.

At first I thought that maybe it would just go away on its own, that it was a passing phase. But the more time went on, the stronger it became. There was no denying I was attracted to men, and any fleeting attraction I had had early on towards women was nonexistent now. So, I just decided to put it on hold. I told myself, “This is a problem for future me.” And I spent the next four years very unhappy and very much alone.

It wasn’t until I began to make real, true friends my sophomore year of high school that I eventually felt comfortable enough to share that part of myself with people. And once I did, things in my life got exponentially easier. Virtually all of my friends accepted me, my family was nothing but supportive, and even my church was accepting.

I recognize, however, that this is not most people’s story. In fact, I might say that I had one of the best coming out experiences that I could have possibly had. And I am grateful for that- I am grateful that the path for me to be true to myself and honest with those around me was open and easy, and that I was supported every step of the way.

So I have to ask myself- What do I do with that? How do I take the immense luck and grace that I experienced, and use it to help other people? I know that I can’t make everyone’s coming out experience a positive one. I know that you can’t force someone to believe what you believe, and that homosexuality is never going to be something people can look at objectively. Because the reality of it is, a great many people out there view it in a negative light because of the religion that they were raised in.

I personally was raised Presbyterian, and in church every Sunday I was taught that there is a loving Creator who gave His only son to die for our sins, so that He could have a relationship with us. To me, faith has always been about being in relationship with God. But for many people, it’s not. There are rules, there are restrictions. One of these restrictions that feature prominently in many religions is the condemnation of homosexuality. Having taken classes on the Bible in college, studying it from an academic and historical perspective, I believe that those verses are taken out of context. I believe that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. But that is my belief. It is not provable, because nothing in faith is provable. That is the very nature of faith.

So how then, do I pave the way for other LGBT people to make their coming out as easy as possible? I think it’s by telling my story. I think many of the people who view homosexuality as a sin do so from a theoretical perspective. They view homosexuality from an outsider’s perspective. They think of it in terms of Sodom and Gomorrah, in terms of the AIDS crisis, promiscuity. When they think of homosexuality, they don’t think about the kid they know in church who sits there every Sunday cringing whenever the Pastor brings up “the gay lifestyle”. They don’t think about their friends and loved ones who deal with being “other” every single day of their lives, for whom discrimination and being treated like a second class citizen is a part of their daily lives.

I want them to know. I want them to know that when they talk about loving the sinner and hating the sin, that they are pushing away their son or daughter who is waiting for the right time to tell their parents something that may or may not destroy their relationship with them. I want them to know what it entails when they advocate for things like conversion therapy for minors. I have met so many gay people who have been told that there is no place for them in the church. People who have been raised to believe that there is one God, and He does not accept homosexuality, so how could He accept them? They have been sold on this lie that they don’t have a right to believe in whatever they choose, and they must either choose to live in accordance with the teaching of the Church or they cannot have a relationship with God.

I do not think it is one or the other. I think it is entirely possible for someone to grow up being taught about faith, and to come out to people who accept them wholeheartedly. And I know it’s possible because that is my story. And the more I can write about this, the more I can show people that faith and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive, the more I think people will come to understand, accept, and love people just as they are, not how they want them to be.

I thank God for all the gifts that I have been given in my life. But I know that with that, comes a responsibility to share that gift. Because the only thing someone should hear when they come out to another person is “I love you no matter what.”

-Theodore Dandy

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How To Lose An Uber Driver In 10 Minutes

Uber has been a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I was once driven across LA with such speed and comfort during the height of rush hour that by the time I was dropped off at work with more than a few minutes to spare, I was ready to propose to the driver. On the other, I once had an uber driver who had no air conditioning on the hottest day of the summer and told me that global warming was caused by a spaceship in the Antarctic. Please, just get me to my destination.

Still, I use the ride-sharing app a lot more often ever since my car was totaled, and each ride brings a new experience to add to my roster of ubers. Will my driver be a foreign man who doesn’t speak to me? Or will it be someone with snacks, who asks me about my life? Some days I prefer one over the other. I tend to enjoy riding in silence, but with the right person, a conversation could be nice. I also pool with other people sometimes, and they can be just as if not more interesting than the drivers.

I once rode with a driver who worked on music videos for a lot of famous people. The man who I was pooling with promptly began networking and asking if the guy could pass along his music to the people he worked with, playing his music aloud for the car to hear.

“It’s not really like that. Nobody notices me- I just sit in the corner and work on the computer,” he said.

When I worked at the pizza place, I would often take home pizza and offer it to my uber drivers. Quite a few of them accepted. The people I pooled with also tended to accept, awarding me with drunken compliments.

“Did you just come out of the closet?” one guy asked me. “Gay men are never this nice.”

I’ve also recently started using Lyft, since everyone told me it was cheaper. The first time I tried it it was a dollar cheaper, so I took a lyft instead of an uber. Then, when I got there, I saw that you could tip on the app, which basically meant I ended up paying what I would have paid for an uber. The next time I took an uber, my driver, Ejajul, adds a 50 cent extra fee charge for an extra seat, because he thinks that a friend I’m saying goodbye to is coming with me. I figured it didn’t really matter but still made the ride a bit awkward.

On the ride he asks, “Why is your uber rating so low? You only have a 4.6.”

I’m like “I don’t know, Ejajul!”

So then I spend the rest of the ride googling why my uber drivers wouldn’t like me, which made me carsick from being on my phone in the car. Apparently, what I’ve found out, is that while you don’t have to tip using uber, you can tip via cash, which I had not been doing. Perhaps that is why my rating was so low. Either way, I was now intimidated away from using uber due to my low rating of 4.6, and figured lyft was cheaper anyway.

However, on the last uber I took my driver was an older man who was also taking a female passenger named Teodora to her destination. He asked her if her name meant anything.

“No,” she said, “It’s just a name. It’s historical. Like a Byzantine princess or something.”

“So it does mean something,” he said.

“I mean, I guess. But it doesn’t translate to ‘poppies’, or anything like that.”

I began to count how long it would take to get me to my destination. I was setting up my gas utilities, and this was my first human interaction of the day. I was not enjoying it.

“Are you on your way to an audition?” he asked Teodora.

“Yes,” she said. “Me and another person are actually auditioning together, so I’m meeting him.”

“Ah, you’re getting discovered,” he said.

“That’s the plan,” she said. She then turned to me. “Are you trying to get discovered?” she asked me.

“Kind of,” I said. “I’m a writer.”

“That’s the most important part,” the driver said. “If you don’t write, we don’t have words to speak, the director doesn’t have anything to do, there’s no show.”

“That’s right,” Teodora said as we pulled up to her stop. She got out of the car.

“I hope you get discovered,” she said to me.

“Good luck on your audition!” I said.

“I’m just kidding,” she said. “I don’t believe in getting discovered.”

She shut the door and we drove away.

“Actresses are weird,” said my driver.

He then continued to drive me to my destination, while telling me about his experience as an actor in Los Angeles. The part of me that doesn’t like interacting with other people and prefers to keep all small talk to a minimum wished he would stop. But the other part of me was fascinated by what he had to say. He talked about drive, and passion. He warned me not to get mixed up in Scientology, which is always good advice. Then he told me about his wife, who was a stand up comedian.

“Would you like to see her?” he asked.

“Sure!” I said, thinking he would take out his phone while driving and show me a picture of his wife, however dangerous that might be.

“Just type her name into Youtube and her stand up will come up. The audio isn’t great but she’s still excellent.”

I begrudgingly pulled out my phone and proceeded to watch his wife’s stand up, which was actually pretty funny. She talked about being a pastor and how for one person’s funeral they had a decoration of flowers surrounding a phone that said “Jesus Calling”.

“To this day,” she said, “the phone will ring and I’ll scream ‘Don’t answer it!'”

We got to my destination and I got out of the car. Before he let me go, however, he had a bit of advice for me.

“Just keep writing,” he said. “And never stop pursuing your dream, no matter what.”

Sometimes I’ll take an uber, and have an experience that makes me think I was meant to be in that car at that moment. I often find myself looking at someone and judges them on face value. I think there’s nothing I can learn from them and I dismiss them. But I know that that comes from fear. I choose to limit a lot of my interactions with people I don’t know, because I’m afraid. I don’t know what I’m afraid of, exactly. Mostly I just don’t want to say the wrong thing. When I choose to look past that fear, and just listen to other people without feeling pressured to be anything other than myself, I tend to hear some pretty wonderful things. And, if nothing else, I experience enough strange shit that I can then write about. So it’s a win-win.

-Theodore Dandy

Play the Gay Away!

I have an idea. That’s all it is right now, an idea. But I feel as though it is the most important idea that I will ever have. The idea first came to me when I took my first playwriting class in college. I had always enjoyed writing, but had never really understood how to craft a story structurally. In many ways, I still don’t, although I have gotten a lot better. Still, I had never assumed that writing would actually be something that I would seriously consider as a career until I actually sat down and wrote my first play.

The first play I wrote was based on a writing prompt I received the first week of class. The prompt was to write a play based on a “disrupted ritual”. To me, ritual was Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve was my favorite day of the year, spent trying to recapture the feeling of excitement and joy from when I was younger. Naturally, this meant forcing my family to go to the Christmas Eve bell service, even though they insisted it was “just for kids”. Each year I would try and recreate the Christmas Eve’s of my childhood, only to fail and realize that, try as I might, I could not stop time from passing, stop myself from growing older, and return to a time of youthful naiveté.

The play I wrote was a short play about a father and daughter celebrating Christmas Eve a year after the passing of the mother, Eve, in a car accident. Ingenious naming. The dinner is interrupted by their grief over the mother’s death- more specifically, the daughter’s guilt over the last things she said to her mother before she died. I was inspired by the scene from Lost where the character Claire speaks to her mother, who is left in a coma after a car accident in which Claire was driving. She apologizes for the things she said, an apology which I may or may not have included almost verbatim in my play during the daughter’s recounting of the accident. I’m not exactly sure how I was not aware that this was blatant plagiarism, although at the time I thought it was genius.

I believe I also named the daughter Claire.

I presented the play in class, and was shocked when I did not receive solely praise and commendation. People were critiquing my characters, giving notes on improvements to the dialogue and form of the story. Naturally, I was appalled. I was sure that, after reading my play, the classroom would burst into tears with one person leading the rest out in a slow clap before carrying me out of the room on their shoulders. Imagine my surprise to learn that I was not, in fact, all that.

The next play I wrote was based on a prompt about 2 characters whose conflict is created by their environment. I wrote a short play about a man and a woman in an underground bunker after a nuclear attack. I was inspired by a scene from an episode of 24 where a man convinces Jack Bauer’s daughter that a nuclear bomb has gone off outside, and that they must wait it out in the bunker. She later learns this is not true, and must escape from the bunker. Again, not sure how writing a play about something that has already been written about in pretty much this exact way is not plagiarism. At least I didn’t name the woman “Jack Bauer’s daughter” this time. I was shocked years later when I saw the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane, which appeared to have the exact same plot as my play. How could they have copied my idea? The nerve.

This brings me to the next play I wrote, which began the formation of my idea. The prompt was to write a play based on a newspaper article. I was browsing Queerty, the gay news website, when I came across an article titled, “Catholic run sports camp seeks to convert gay teens through athletics”. I instantly knew I had found my play. What better to write a play about than that? It was rife with comedic potential, and something that I cared deeply about. I went to the camp’s website and read all about it. It was run by Father Paul Check, and it had testimonials from boys with names such as “Louis. Jim. Steve. Eric.” They said things like, “Sports camp is way cool!” and, my favorite, “There was one guy who intimidated me, but after I made a touchdown, he gave me a sweaty, shirtless hug. I really felt like one of the guys.”

I immediately set to work on a 7 page play about an Evangelical sports camp. I changed it from Catholic because I knew a lot more about Evangelicalism than Catholicism and figured the less specific the denomination the better. The camp in my play was ran by Pastor Paul and followed the story of Louis, Jim, Steve, and Eric. All 7 pages were innuendo and there was little to no plot. It was basically 7 pages of gay jokes, with the title, “Play the Gay Away!”. The class enjoyed it, although criticized the lack of plot. I put the play away and quickly forgot about it.

The next year, I decided to continue playwriting and I took Advanced Playwriting. Each week we would bring in 10-15 pages of whatever we were writing and the class would read it. I decided I wanted to take “Play the Gay Away!” and make something more with it. I began to rewrite it with realistic characters this time, modeled on the types of people I had met in the Queer Student Union at the University of Virginia. I had heard many stories of kids who had been forced by their parents to go through conversion therapy, designed to make them straight. The thing that surprised me the most was how ignorant most people were about the topic. Most people didn’t know that conversion therapy was a thing, or that it was perfectly legal in almost every state for parents to force their children to attend ex-gay therapy against their will.

I think what drew me to the topic the most was the absurdity of it all. The idea that there was something that existed that was so absurd, so ridiculous, and so deplorable, and yet thousands of people actually believed that it had value and was an effective treatment for homosexuality. I didn’t have to write the comedy- the comedy wrote itself. All I had to do was listen. I listened to the experiences of my friends who had gone through ex-gay therapy, and read online about people’s experiences and thoughts on the subject. I wanted to understand what would drive someone to willingly enter such a program, what would make a parent believe that is best for their child, what would lead a person to think that this is God’s will. Of course I had had personal experience with the topic during my brief “undercover” infiltration of an ex-gay student group. But I had barely scratched the surface. I wanted to know these people intimately, I wanted to show every side of this topic.

This play became my baby. I would think about it all the time- before I fell asleep at night, in the shower, on the way to class. I would mull these characters over in my mind. Who was Louis? What drove him? Was he a version of myself? Was that arrogant, to write myself as the main character? Of course. But that didn’t stop Ben Affleck from casting himself as the Mexican-American lead in the movie Argo. I wanted these characters to represent the kinds of gay people I had met, to show the vast difference of experience. There was Jim, who was angry at God, at religion. He hated everything he had been told about who he was, and ran as far away from God as he possibly could. Then there was Steve, who was in all respects the opposite. He was weak, terrified of his sexuality and certain that if only his faith was strong enough would God remove this temptation from him. Naturally, Jim and Steve were hooking up. Then there was Erica. I decided to include one girl, because in everything I had read about ex-gay therapy, it was all directed towards men. All the resources were for men, most of the participants were men, the programs were all for men. After all, sexism is the root of all homophobia. So who was Erica? The girl who everyone ignored, whose opinion never mattered. What did she think? Why was she here? And what about Louis? I wanted to show the relationship between Louis and his parents first and foremost. What kind of parents would put their child in such a camp? Were they bad parents? Or did they truly believe this was what was best for their son?

I mulled this play around in my head for months, writing it out bit by bit. Finally I had finished the play. It was good. Not great. I reread it. It was awful. Cliche, no form or substance, everything was surface. I put it away. But still I thought about it. Because it was important to me. I wanted to make it good. No, I wanted to make it great. I wanted it to be the best thing I had ever written. I wanted it to be my Magnum Opus.

Eventually I moved out to Los Angeles, to act and to write. I realized, as time went on, that my voice had always been first and foremost in my writing. Anytime I had the opportunity to write, I was always much more excited than when I was acting. Acting was my face, my body, but someone else’s voice. Someone else’s story. Writing, however, was me. It was my story, my words, my experience. Writing was how I found my voice.

And still I had this idea. About this camp, about these kids. But I didn’t know what to do with it. I knew it wasn’t meant to be a play- my writing has always leaned towards shorter scenes, moving from place to place quickly. I had always loved television- the serial format, returning week after week to the same set of characters, developing them and their stories over hours and hours, becoming so well acquainted with them that the end of the show felt like a death. I knew that “Play the Gay Away!” had always meant to be a tv show. But how could I write it? I didn’t have a writing job. I wasn’t a Showrunner. I wasn’t Ryan Murphy, nobody was going to give me money and airspace to create a tv show with me as the head writer and guiding the creative vision. So I put it on the back burner. It was almost torturous, to have these thoughts in my head that I couldn’t act on. Why was I having these ideas now, and not 10 years from now when I could actually do something about it?

Art to me has always been about telling a story, whether it’s theatre, television, painting, whatever. What has always drawn me to art is the idea that through it I can experience something I would never otherwise in my life experience. That through art, I can send a message to people and have them hear me. That I have a voice that needs to be heard. This is the message that I want to send to the world. This is the most important thing that I want to say. The idea that you can be gay and you can have a relationship with God, and you don’t have to change anything about yourself to do so. That whether or not you consider yourself a believer, there’s someone out there who made you, who cares about you very much. And yes, I did steal that last line verbatim from the tv show Kyle XY. But just because I plagiarized it doesn’t make it any less true.

-Theodore Dandy

Alcoholic, Interrupted

I had my first drink on December 31st, 2009. It was New Year’s Eve, and it changed my life. I had never had more than a sip of anything before, and had always hated the taste. But this was different. I remember finishing my drink, and my brother’s drink, and my brother’s girlfriend’s drink. I remember them being very mad at me. But most of all, I remember the excitement. I remember the feeling of freedom. I remember feeling like anything was possible. Like I had finally found out what I was living for.

It didn’t take long after that for me to experience that feeling again. My parents had a liquor cabinet that they almost never touched, and I was a wiz with how much I could water down a bottle before it was immediately noticeable. I remember thinking, “If people could feel this way every day, why don’t they?” I would mix together whatever was in my parent’s liquor cabinet, wash it down with diet dr pepper, and stay up late watching Criminal Minds. To me, this was living.

I was just so bored. Bored with my life, bored with the feelings of anxiety and hopelessness that had been a part of me for so long. I wanted to feel different. And here was something immediate- something that altered my state of mind and allowed me to leave behind the fear. Until the next morning. The mornings after were always the worst. Accompanying my hangover was an overwhelming sense of terror, so strong that at times I thought it would kill me. But what price was that to pay? In return for all that alcohol had given me? Alcohol had given me a reason to live, and I quickly forgot how I had ever made it up to the point where I took my first drink.

I remember leaving on a church mission trip and thinking, “surely I can make it a week without drinking, right?” Wrong. I made it 2 days before I was crawling the walls, needing to drink. It was like an itch inside my brain, once I felt it I couldn’t ignore it. I had an obsessive need to drink before the end of the day. I ended up getting my hands on four loko, temporarily abating this itch. But the damage it did to my relationship with my parents and my friends from church when they found out was devastating. It added a whole new terror surrounding my drinking. Drinking would always be devious for me, something done in secret with preferably no one around me aware.

Going off to college I had a rough time adjusting. Being on my own was nice enough, but I hadn’t counted on the idea that I would have to motivate myself. I went to class just enough to pass with adequate grades, and sought every opportunity I could to get drunk. Every Friday and Saturday night was a need to get loaded. If Friday came and I had no plans for a party, I would seek any way I could to get drunk. Asking upperclassmen to buy it for me, taking extra bottles from parties, anything I could to relieve that itch that told me I needed to drink.

Every roommate I had in college told me they were worried about my drinking. Nobody else did. Because I didn’t like to drink around other people, I liked to drink alone. No use opening myself up to other people’s judgement, making a fool out of myself, saying things I regretted. I drank because I was bored, but I didn’t need other people to entertain me. I could entertain myself. The only people privy to my drinking were my roommates. The ones who woke up when I was knocking things over in the middle of the night. The ones who had to bang on the bathroom door to get me to wake up after I’d fallen asleep in the shower for 2 hours. The ones who saw me pouring myself shots of vodka into my drink as we watched tv on a Tuesday night.

My drinking quickly escalated into more than just weekend drinking. It became 3 days a week, then 4, then pretty much at least every other day. If I didn’t have a class before 11, it was almost certain that I was drinking the night before. My third year of college I stopped going to class. I would stay up late drinking, sleep through class, feel anxious about missing class, drink, and repeat the cycle. After a week of missing class with no explanation to my teachers, I called my parents. I told them that I needed to withdraw from school for the semester, that my anxiety had become unbearable.

Naturally, they were floored. They had been worried about me, of course, because they could hear in my voice that things weren’t all right. But whenever they asked, I would deflect, telling them everything was fine. What was I supposed to tell them?

I came home November of 2013, unable to complete my fall semester. My parents took me to see a psychologist that their friend had recommended. He asked me about my drinking, and I gave him the closest portrayal of the truth that still carried plausible deniability. He immediately told me that I was an alcoholic, that I needed to work a 12 step program, that I needed to quit drinking.

This did not fly with me. I did not like being told what to do, I did not like being told what I was, and I immediately resented him for any and all future advice he would ever give me. He also told me to wake up at 6 am every morning and go for a run, so if he hadn’t lost me with the drinking, he lost me there.

“Try and stay sober before our next meeting,” he said.

I was taken aback. Try? As if I couldn’t do it? We were meeting again in two days, after all, what made him think that I couldn’t stay sober that long? I was so resentful at the suggestion that that night I got incredibly drunk. “I’ll show him,” I thought.

The next time I saw him he asked me, “So did you drink since I last saw you?”

“No I did not,” I said smugly.

That ended whatever thread of honesty I had been giving him in our sessions. After that everything was a lie. I wasn’t drinking, I was regularly working a 12 step program, I was running at 6 am every morning! In reality, the itch in my head to drink had only gotten stronger. I wasn’t supposed to be drinking when I was home, and I wasn’t old enough to buy it for myself yet, so I had to get creative. I took a giant bottle of wine left over in the garage from my brother’s wedding, drank it all except for a cup left over, and filled it with water. The next day I went to the garage, took the bottle, and smashed it on the floor. I then poured the cup of wine on top. You know, in case my parents decided to get down on their hands and knees and smell it to make sure. I told them I accidentally knocked over the bottle, and they told me to clean it up. My plan had worked. I was a genius, I thought! Never mind the sheer psychopathy of what I had done. How clearly I had a problem. I was a problem solver! I should use this as an example of “innovative thinking”.

I ended up going back for my final semester of my third year, and although I continued to drink, I learned how to manage it better. I went to class, no matter how hungover I was, and I made sure that the majority of my classes began after 11. Then, on April 1st, 2014, I woke up hungover. It was a Tuesday morning. I had Playwriting class in an hour. There were empty Mike’s Hard Lemonade cans around my bed, and I felt terrible. “I don’t want to do this anymore,” I thought. I went to class, and then shortly after I called my parents to tell them I was an alcoholic. I went to the Gordie Center for Substance Abuse at UVA, and asked what I could do to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. The woman working seemed surprised to see me, as though my request was unusual. Was this not what the center was for? She gave me the contact information of a student who was the head of “Hoos in Sobriety”, a sober student group on campus.

I never emailed him, though. I was too embarrassed. I wanted to go to those 12 step meetings, but the thought of interacting with other people in my recovery was not something I wanted to do. I could do it myself. I wouldn’t drink, I’d go to class, and everything would be fine. I did go see a counselor at Student Health, the head of the Substance abuse department. She was an incredible resource. She asked me about my experience with drinking, about what I thought and what I did. And I was honest with her. She didn’t try to tell me who I was, or what disease I had. She simply listened.

I later realized that the things that she’d said were all very carefully planned. I’d describe my drinking and she’d say, “It sounds like you have an allergy to alcohol.”

“Yeah,” I’d say. “That’s how it feels.” Little did I know this is an incredibly widespread term for alcoholism. She was smart. She didn’t push on me the idea that I was an alcoholic, but she let me come to the decision on my own.

My mind, however, was not as kind. I learned about the difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse. “Ah, I’m not an alcoholic,” I thought. “I just suffer from alcohol abuse!” Despite the fact that I had all of the symptoms of an alcoholic and no reason to be abusing alcohol, this let me keep the fantasy I had of one day having champagne at my wedding. Because that was the itch in the back of my mind. Was I really ready to close myself off to alcohol forever? A life without drinking did not seem a life worth living. I would refrain from alcohol until I could handle it.

That lasted about a month. On Cinco de Mayo I thought “Hey, maybe I can handle this!”

I couldn’t. I immediately got drunk, and then that itch came back, but this time with a vengeance. Soon I was back to my heavy drinking, only this time I was telling everyone I was sober. I did an acting program in NYC that summer, living in the New Yorker Student Housing. Instead of exploring New York City, seeing shows, and making new friends, I would go to class, come home, and drink. I signed up to do run crew because that enabled me to make a little money while I was there, and I quickly became an unwilling participant in a love triangle. This spurred me to drink more.

One night, I went out to a bar with the rest of the people working on the show. I remember ordering two double vodka cranberries at a time. I do not remember leaving the bar, although I am told I did. I do remember waking up in a hospital bed, covered in my own vomit. I had broken my ankle. I didn’t know how I had gotten there, and to this day I still don’t know. I was incomprehensible, and I was terrified. The nurse who was asking me questions was so condescending. She treated me like I was some sort of repeat offender.

“This isn’t me,” I wanted to say. “You don’t know anything about me.”

But of course I couldn’t form a coherent sentence. I called my parents back home, and tried to tell them what had happened. They could barely understand me. They wanted to take off from work, to fly out here and be with me. I said no. I was so terrified in that moment. I’d been telling them that I was sober, that life was better than ever. And now, here I am, wasted in a hospital with a broken ankle, covered in my own vomit miles away from home and there’s nothing that they can do to help me.

I had to quit run crew because of my broken ankle. The rest of the time I was in NYC I traversed it using a mobilized knee scooter. The humor of the situation concealed the dark truth to it, which was that I had a serious problem and was entirely alone. Of course I know now that I wasn’t alone, that I had so many people who loved and cared for me. But at the time, the way my mind made me feel, I felt alone. And I needed to drink to deal with that.

I would wheel down to the liquor store down the street every night and buy a 12oz bottle of vodka, because I knew if I had any more than that I wouldn’t go to class. I was more alone than I’d ever been, and when I finished the acting program, it was with the feeling that I had accomplished nothing.

I went back to school for my final year with the thought that, soon, I would get sober. I knew now that I needed to quit drinking for good, that no amount of time on the wagon would enable me to drink like other people. But I have always been lazy. I told my roommates I wasn’t going to drink, then immediately drank. I was taking 21 credits in an attempt to make up for my missed semester and graduate on time, and somehow I managed to survive despite my continued drinking.

I was still telling my parents that I was sober, although their trust in me had diminished to the point that I doubt they believed me. I finished my semester, telling myself that I would get sober before the end of the winter break. Of course, my days at home continued to be endless drinking and sleeping all day.

Finally, one night I was in the kitchen making food in the middle of the night as I chugged cranberry vodka. I don’t know why I was so reckless. Perhaps I wanted to get caught. In any event, my mother came out, and saw me drinking.

“Are you drinking?” she asked me, although she already knew the answer.

My mind came up with a slew of defenses. My friend had just killed himself. My brother had just had a seizure. Any of those could be valid reasons why I was drinking, just this one time. And then I realized what kind of person that would make me. What kind of person would use those things as an excuse, a reason to lie in order to be able to continue drinking? So I told her the truth. I told her that I had been drinking since May, that I’d been lying to her and my father for months. That I was an alcoholic and I needed to get help.

That was December 21st, 2014. I just came up on one and a half years of sobriety. This time, however, I didn’t do it on my own. I was willing to ask for help, and to seek treatment. That was the day that I started living. Before that day, I was sleepwalking through life. I was getting by, doing just enough to survive. I would drink to feel alive, when in reality that was what was killing me. It dulled my senses and made my days feel bland and ugly. I drank to achieve what I thought was some sort of spiritual connection. Like if I did just the right sequence of things, I would suddenly know the answer. That I would be grateful to be alive. But that never came.

Sometimes I think back on the nights I used to drink, and I miss it. I miss that feeling of excitement, of instant gratification, of mischief. But I know that it’s a lie. Because no matter how high I felt when I was drinking, I never want to feel that low again. Now, sober, I feel alive. Thanks to the program I work every day, I have more self-realization now than I ever had when I was drinking. I finally have the spiritual connection that I had been lacking in.

-Theodore Dandy

Hit Me Baby One More Time

The Little Mermaid was being performed live at the Hollywood Bowl, and Sara Bareilles was playing the role of Ariel. I love Sara Bareilles more than anything else, so naturally I bought a ticket. Darren Criss was playing Prince Eric. I want to have sex with Darren Criss, so naturally I bought a ticket for a seat up close. I bought the ticket for Friday, June 3rd at 8 pm. I requested off work for that day, and then set the date aside for several months. Finally, the day came, and I drove over to Staples to print out my ticket. I promptly folded the paper up, stuck it in my pocket, entered my car, and began to exit the parking lot.

There was a long line of cars waiting at a red light going North, but I was trying to make a left to go South out of the parking lot. Soon a gap in the cars opened up, and I saw my chance. The man in the car just before the gap waved me forward, so I inched out to make a left turn. And that’s when it hit me.

A woman was trying to enter the left hand turn lane, which started about 100 feet further down the lane. To do so, she entered the wrong lane of traffic and sped down the road to get to the left turn lane. She did not see me, and I did not see her. We did meet, however, as her car promptly smashed into mine, knocking out one of my headlights and my entire front bumper. My head hit the roof of my car, and I sat there in a daze.

“Dammit,” I thought, “This is probably my fault.” I tried to put my car in drive to get it out of the road, but the gears wouldn’t move. As I sat there, wondering if I should get out of the car when I was blocking two lanes of traffic, the woman in the other car threw open her car door, looked at me, and screamed, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!”

“Shit,” I thought, “I hadn’t even anticipated this.” I got out of the car, but before I could say anything, a man walked up.

“It’s okay man, it wasn’t your fault. I saw the whole thing, she was over the line,” he said.

“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” she screamed. “I WAS MAYBE AN INCH OVER THE LINE!”

An old woman ran up to her and shouted, “YOU DROVE RIGHT PAST ME AND YOU WERE IN THE WRONG LANE OF TRAFFIC. YOU’RE A TERRIBLE DRIVER AND IT’S YOUR FAULT!”

The two women began to argue. I stood there, stunned. Should I call the police? Do I move my car? What do I do? The man told me I should move my car, so we pushed it into the parking lot. The woman in the other car screamed, “I HIT MY HEAD. ON THE CEILING. IT HURTS.”

“Do you need an ambulance?” The man asked.

“NO I DON’T NEED AN AMBULANCE!” She screamed. She then proceeded to call her husband, crying hysterically. I dialed 911, and got a busy signal. Thank God I wasn’t being murdered. I called again, and someone answered. I told them what had happened, and they asked if we needed an ambulance. I said no. They transferred me to non-emergency services, which again gave me a busy signal. I hung up and dialed the non-emergency number. 5 times in a row I got the busy signal. I finally called 911 back and asked if they could send an officer. They told me if no one needed an ambulance and we didn’t hit a public fixture that we didn’t need an officer, and to call our insurance companies and exchange info.

I told the woman this, while the two witnesses gave me their information. The woman shot me death glances during this, still on the phone to her husband. I called my parents and asked them what to do. While I was on the phone to them, I heard the woman say, “He doesn’t love me anymore!” I had no idea who she was talking to, or why she chose this moment to have this conversation, but it was all very dramatic.

My parents gave me the info for my insurance, and I called to file a claim after exchanging info with the woman. The whole task was incredibly laborious, having to describe in detail what happened and spell everything over the phone. “N as in Nancy. E as in…” I wanted to say “Eloté bowl”, which was the new salad at Healthy Chipotle, but I realized he probably would not understand. He asked me questions about her car, and I tried to answer based on the pictures I had taken of her info. There was no way in hell I was gonna go ask her, dramatically sobbing on the curb. Finally I finished the claim and hung up. I called AAA to come tow my car and then waited. An older man showed up and hugged the woman who hit me. I hoped he wasn’t her husband, and that he wouldn’t beat me up. I kept to myself.

Finally the woman approached me. “Oh my God,” she said. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t even ask. Are YOU okay?”

“I’m fine,” I replied.

She went to call her insurance and I texted my boss, Katrina. She immediately offered to come pick me up and buy me ice cream. “Sure!” I said. It was nice to have someone take me away from this hostile woman. I overheard her say to her insurance, “But there were these two witnesses who immediately came up and blamed me! Like, how am I supposed to defend myself when they’re against me from the start?” I waited for the tow truck in uncomfortable silence, avoiding eye contact with the woman and her friend. Finally it came. The man offered to take my car to a AAA storage facility, and said maybe her insurance would pay for storage. I hoped so. As he drove off with my car, the woman came up to me.

“Oh my God,” she said again. “Do you need a ride? Can I call you a taxi?”

“I’m fine, my friend is picking me up,” I said.

“Do you need anything? A protein bar? A water? I have a tote bag in my car. I’m just trying to make up for lashing out at you. I don’t want to be a shitty human being,” she said.

“I’m fine, thank you. It’s okay, we’re both in shock, it’s fine!” I said. I was just afraid of interacting with her period.

“Do you understand what I’m saying though?” She continued. “I wasn’t over the line- I was just trying to turn left. It wasn’t my fault.”

“I think we should just let the insurance companies deal with it,” I said. Thankfully my friend arrived at that moment. We shook hands and I got in my friend’s car. We drove off, and I was never so relieved as I was in that moment.


My friend Katrina took me to Mashti Malone’s where we got ice cream cones and took post-car-crash pictures. It was only 7 pm, and I realized I could still make The Little Mermaid.

“Is that a good idea?” I said. “Should I still go?”

“Absolutely,” my friend said, and she drove me to the Hollywood Bowl. I walked in, found my seat, and just as I was sitting down, Darren Criss comes out onto the stage. I flipped my shit. The first time seeing my one true love. Everything had been worth it. He brought Alan Menkin out on the stage, who sang a medley of Disney songs that he had originally written. When the show started, you could feel the excitement in the air. The audience was full of adults who had grown up watching The Little Mermaid, some with their own children who were just as (or maybe not quite so much as) excited to see the movie.

They played the movie while a full orchestra played the music. Every time a song came on, an actor would come out and perform it. The minute I saw Sara Bareilles, I knew all was right in the world. Here I was, in Hollywood, watching my favorite artist singing along to a Disney movie I had watched over and over again as a kid. It was magic.

My friend Katrina ended up picking me up as well, and drove me back to my house. I collapsed into bed, and cried. It had been an incredibly emotional day.


The next morning I ubered to work, where everyone asked me what happened. I told the story of the accident many times, to many people, with hand motions, diagrams, and emphasis on the words “He doesn’t love me anymore”. Finally my insurance agent called.

“So, unfortunately, you didn’t have a legal right to make a left turn out of the parking lot, so even though she was driving on the wrong side of the road, you’re both in the wrong. So there’s a chance her insurance won’t pay for anything. Also, since you don’t have collision coverage, we’re not gonna pay for anything either, so any compensation you’ll get will come from them. I would suggest moving your car to a secure location, and waiting for her insurance to call you. But since it’s the weekend, they probably won’t call until Monday.”

Strange to say, a part of me knew this would happen. Even though I knew the accident wasn’t my fault, I knew that it would be way too good to be true for everything to work out. I was pretty sure that somehow I would end up fucked. And here it was. I called my parents and freaked out.

“What do I do? Where do I put my car? How will I pay for a new one? What will I say to her insurance company?” I didn’t want to deal with this. I wanted to crawl into bed and sleep forever. I wanted to let my parents handle this. I wanted to quit my job and move back to Virginia Beach and uber everywhere and never have to deal with insurance again.

My parents calmed me down, and told me we would figure this out. After I got off work, I ubered back to the scene of the crime to take detailed pictures of the road for when her insurance called me. That way I could clearly show what the lanes looked like and that I wasn’t at fault. After I finished that, I ubered home to change and go to the gym with my friend Katrina. She again offered to pick me up, and while I waited for her I looked up bikes on Craigslist. I found one for $70. I texted the guy, and he told me I could come over now to look at it.

When Katrina arrived, she offered to drive me to the guy’s place to get the bike. I stopped at Ralph’s to withdraw money, and also to buy gummi bears to eat in sadness. We drove to the guys house, and he brought the bike down. It was dusty, and the tires were kind of flat, but it worked. I gave him the money and put the bike in Katrina’s car. She drove us to the gym for our workout where a buff guy watched us condescendingly on the seated rowing machine and then corrected our form. I was feeling hypersensitive about it, although it was probably for the best since we were in fact doing the exercise wrong. After the gym Katrina drove me home and I thanked her for the ride.


The next day I got a ride to work with my coworker and at work I desperately messaged everyone I knew, looking for a place to store my car. I didn’t even know where my car was, since I didn’t ask the AAA guy which place he was taking it to. I called his number but only got the busy signal, so I sent a text asking about my car as a Hail Mary. Nobody had a place available for me to put my car, and it all became very overwhelming. I locked myself in the bathroom at work, sat down on the toilet, and cried. I had never cried at work before. I was feeling very dramatic. I felt like everyone was letting me down, and that nobody was helping me. I knew this wasn’t true though. My boss had given me three rides, bought me ice cream, and been nothing but loving and kind to me. My coworker drove me to and from work. My parents were telling me that they would help me no matter what happened. Still, I couldn’t help but feel negative. I wanted to isolate. I knew this was probably from the trauma of the accident.

But like for real though. I mean, how much fucking PTSD can one person endure? I had already been in an accident back in October (that was my fault), been robbed at gunpoint, and now this. Los Angeles did not seem to be very kind to me.

As I got back to work, I got a text from my roommate saying I could store my car in his spot for a week. I was so relieved. I still had a billion and one concerns, but at least things felt manageable. This was one less thing I had to worry about.


There’s a customer named Jake who comes into my café every day and always gets the same cup of tea. He’s my fitness guru, and is always giving me tips on protein (or as my boss calls it, brotein), lifting, diet, and exercise. I was relaying my car crash woes to him when he gave me some advice. He told me that I had a choice, that what made people like me different from other people was my ability to take the negativity in my life, accept it, and move on. That I could spend my time focusing on everything wrong or I could focus on the good. And that I was lucky to have an outlet, to be able to write about the experience and not keep it all inside, wearing it on me like a death shroud to show everyone around me what I had been through.

And he’s right. There is a lot of good in my life. For everything Los Angeles has put me through, it has given me so much more. A home. A place to be an adult, to grow. A place to be sober. To work, to write, to make incredible friends and mentors in the most unlikely of places. And it’s the same with this accident. I could focus on the bad, on not having a car, on insurance, on people not being there for me when I need help.

Or I could focus on my friends, who were there for me when I was in need. Who gave me rides, bought me ice cream, drove me to work, and offered to help in any way they could. Like it or not, situations like these always show me who my true friends are, and just how much I mean to them.

Jake told me how he spoke to Katrina about her coming to get me after my accident, and how impressed he was with her. Her response was, “but I love him.” It’s things like that that make me realize how blessed that I am. The love of my friends and family is what keeps me going through stuff like this. And while it’s easy to think I might be unlucky, or that life is never on my side, I know that this is just life on life’s terms. And if I can make it through this, I can make it through anything. Everything passes. Friends make it pass a little easier.

-Theodore Dandy

Coming Home to San Francisco

I have never been to San Francisco before, but as a Friend of Dorothy I have always revered it in my mind as a Gay Mecca; A place I would one day make my pilgrimage to, finally returning to the Mother (which I envisioned sort of like the giant mother alien from the movie Aliens). So when I was invited to go up to visit for a few days last week, I jumped at the opportunity to make my way to the Gay Land of Milk and Honey.

My friend Jolene, with whom I worked at Healthy Chipotle, was staying in Palo Alto just outside of San Francisco for two weeks while she helped open up a new store. My former coworkers, Martin and Corinne, were planning on making a trip up to see her and spend a day in San Francisco. We departed at 7 am, stopping at the Fancy Starbucks I work at for coffee before heading to San Fran, which was six hours away. I have been told, by the way, never to call it San Fran, but it seems to have found its way into my vocabulary nonetheless.

Martin wanted to stop at the Halfway House Diner in Santa Clarita on our way to Palo Alto, because it was featured in a Pepsi commercial in the 90’s starring Cindy Crawford.

“Did you ever see it?” Martin asked, while Corinne shouted “NO ONE HAS SEEN IT, NONE OF US ARE OLD LIKE YOU.”

I found this a bit unfair since Martin is only a few years older than Corinne and I, but I couldn’t argue with that since I had not, in fact, seen the commercial. Nevertheless, we drove to the diner and got out of the car while Martin proceeded to take pictures. I decided there was no time like the present, so I posed with my Ralph’s brand seltzer water and pretended to be Cindy Crawford.

We ate a relatively average breakfast, and then got back on the road. As we headed back to the interstate, we came to a road closed sign. Corinne used the GPS to find a detour, which took us to a dirt road in the mountains that did not seem to be meant for anything besides an ATV. “This is getting pretty dangerous,” I thought, but I assured myself that if what I was doing was stupid, one of the other two people in the car would speak up. Finally we arrived at a part in the road where there were two rivets for tires and a raised bit of grass in between. I pushed on the gas, hoping to rush through it, but of course ended up getting the car stuck.

“This is it,” I thought. “This is how it ends. What will my mother think? I didn’t even make it to San Francisco before I died. Will I go to heaven?”

We managed to get unstuck using the floor mats from my car under the wheels, and I managed to turn the car around without falling off the very precarious cliff nearby me.I wasn’t convinced that we were out of the woods, however, so I took the prayer cards out of my wallet and threw them at Corinne.

“READ IT!” I said. “READ THE SAINT FRANCIS PRAYER!”

“Lord make me an instrument-”

“LOUDER!”

“LORD MAKE ME AN INSTRUMENT OF THY PEACE!”

Corinne kept reading through the prayer card until we finally hit solid ground again. We ended up taking a longer route to get around, but this time felt much safer as we finally got back on the highway.

We got to Palo Alto after about 11 hours, delayed by driving in the wrong direction for 8 miles, being stuck behind a truck going half the speed limit for 10 miles, stopping for Corinne to squat and pee in front of some office buildings off the highway in the middle of nowhere, and a detour to Santa Cruz to visit where the first Fancy Starbucks was founded.

We got there around 4, and stopped in for coffee. I told the barista that I too was a barista and he gave me his shift drink, which I knew he would. There’s nothing a barista loves more than another barista. We got sandwiches and candy next door, and I again entered everything into my food app. I was feeling a bit apprehensive about the amount of calories I was having, so I took the vegetables off of my sandwich.

“Yeah, that’ll help,” said Martin. “Don’t eat the vegetables, but keep eating the candy.”

He had a point, but the candy was licorice wheels, and there’s no way I was passing that up.

We continued on to Palo Alto, until we finally arrived around 6. It had taken us a full 11 hours to get there, even though the trip was supposed to take about 5 and a half. We arrived at Healthy Chipotle, and saw Jolene working behind the counter. Her eyes lit up, but I motioned for her to say nothing because we wanted to pretend to be customers. Corinne wanted a salad, so we waited in line while the people who had been newly hired made her salad.

“Would you like light, medium or heavy dressing?” the girl behind the sneeze guard asked.

“What’s light look like?” Corinne asked, feigning ignorance.

“Light is one swirl around,” the girl showed Corinne.

“So medium is two?” asked Corinne.

“Yep!” the girl said, adding a second swirl of dressing to her salad.

“Oh, well I only wanted one and a half, so…” Corinne said.

“Oh, uh…” said the girl.

“She’s kidding. We work here, we’re just visiting our friend. We wanted to give you guys a hard time!” I said, sparing this poor girl more awkward silence.

“I actually did only want one and a half,” said Corinne.

“Well that’s your own damn fault,” I said.

Jolene came from behind the counter, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, “I hate it here. Get me out of here.”

I felt like an undercover cop talking to a hostage.

It turns out there’s nothing to do in Palo Alto, and poor Jolene was bored to tears. I was thrilled, however, because it was at the candy store next door that I rediscovered licorice whips.

Let me tell you something about licorice whips. I used to have Twizzlers licorice whips all the time when I was a kid until they discontinued them. I have been searching for them ever since. I have only found soft cherry licorice whips, not the stale strawberry kind I loved as a kid. So I bought these hoping they would be what I was looking for. I ripped open the package after paying, and took one bite. It was in that moment that God revealed Himself to me. Images of post piano lesson trips to 7-11 flashed through my head, and all of a sudden I was a child again. I immediately walked back to the rack of licorice whips, grabbed all of the bags that were hanging there, and dumped them on the register. I spent $25 on licorice whips, and regretted nothing. I threw in one of those little fake hands that you can put on your finger as well.

When we arrived at the airbnb that night, I immediately headed for bed, exhausted from the drive. I finished typing in everything I had eaten that day into my fitness app, and then hit the “complete my food diary” button.

“Congratulations!” It said. “If every day were like today, you’d gain 20 pounds in five weeks!”

That app can go fuck itself.

The next day I woke up around 9 am and decided to wake Jolene up with my little hand, a move she did not appreciate. We left the airbnb for San Fran at around 10 am, and managed to drive into the city without passing any tolls. Blasting The Village People as loud as my car speakers would go, we drove around the city until we found unpaid street parking, an apparent miracle in San Francisco, and stopped at The Mill for coffee. I told the barista that I too was a barista and he gave me my cappuccino for free, which I knew he would. We sat to drink it but not until Martin posed each of our drinks for an instagram photo. Apparently, Martin is instagram famous, and likes to take pictures of fancy food for his instagram. I sat there for several minutes while Martin arranged and rearranged our drinks, lamenting the situation I now found myself in.

We drove past the beach, and I recognized it from an episode of the HBO show Looking, where Patrick and Richie had their first real date. I took pictures while driving, a move I’m sure everyone else in the car did not appreciate.

We stopped for pastries and sandwiches at Tartine, while Martin again photographed everything while I sat there hungry. I couldn’t complain, though, since he had bought them all. We decided to walk to David’s Tea, where I bought four ounces of something called “Forever Nuts”. After leaving the store, we walked past a park which I recognized as being the place in Looking where Augustin tells Patrick that he’s slumming it with Richie. I again took pictures, feeling like a part of the show.

My friends then asked me what I wanted to do, so we drove over to The Castro while blasting “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross. Getting out of the car, I felt like I was immediately transported into the past. This was the same street that Harvey Milk walked, the place that so many gay men and women had lived and loved and fought to protect. It was a powerful feeling being there. I was delighted by the rainbow flags, and that every sign seemed to include a double entendre about penises.

We stopped in a place called Castro Coffee, and I ordered a cappuccino.

“Would you like 12 oz, 16 oz, or 20 oz?” The barista asked me.

I was taken aback. In what world is a cappuccino 20 ounces? Good God.

“12 oz,” I said.

I told the woman behind the counter that I was a barista, expecting my free cappuccino.

“That’s cool. It’ll be $3,” she said.

Dammit.

I paid for the cappuccino, and took a sip, but nothing came out. I realized that half of the cup was foam. I tilted it until finally some liquid managed to come out, and I was shocked when it scalded my mouth. It tasted terrible, so we went across the street to another coffee shop where I ordered another cappuccino.

“Can I have a cappuccino?” I asked the barista.

“For here or to go?” he said, hurriedly.

“To go. You know-”

“That’ll be $4,” he said.

“Okay,” I said, pulling out my card. “It’s funny, I’m also-”

He grabbed the card out of my hand and swiped it. Dammit. Looks like my attempts at getting free cappuccinos in San Fran were running thin. At least the cappuccino here was amazing.

At the end of the trip, it was nice to sit and drink my cappuccino in the Castro District of San Francisco, soaking up the history and the queerness of the city. It was everything I had dreamed it would be. The architecture, the people, the two dads walking along the sidewalk holding hands with their little girl. I really did feel like I was a part of something much bigger. I only wished I could have been there longer.

If I could live in San Francisco, I would. It’s the most interesting and beautiful city I’ve ever been in. And the abundance of queer history and people make it incredibly appealing to me. But I know that if I want to be a writer, I have to live in Los Angeles. And it’s not like LA doesn’t have it’s own queer history. I mean, I live in West Hollywood for Christ’s sake. Still, a part of me will always feel drawn to San Francisco. Until we meet again, San Fran.

-Theodore Dandy

Dancing Through Life

School dances always used to make me uncomfortable. I have no earthly idea why I attended them, for God knows there was no one I was going to slow dance with, let alone hang out with there. My middle school always used to have a dance pretty much every three months, which I always thought violated the clause in the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution regarding cruel and unusual punishment.

I went to each of these dances. My night usually consisted of being dropped off by my parents, finding people I vaguely knew there, and hovering around them. Hovering was something I was very good at. I would hover on the outskirts, swaying lightly from side to side as I watched what all the other kids were doing. Usually something that would make any God-fearing woman clutch her pearls. I swear I saw a child conceived on the dance floor at my Senior Prom. But I digress. Middle school dances were a bit more tame, but not by much.

The thing that I usually enjoyed about them was the music. I didn’t listen to music when I was younger, and to this day I don’t know why I never did. For some reason I was always embarrassed that I wouldn’t like the right music. But school dances were the time that I could hear what all the kids were listening to, and take notes on what I liked and could maybe Ask Jeeves about later in the privacy of my own home.

I remember one school dance, during my routine hovering, I saw a list where you could request songs for the DJ to play. I immediately descended upon it and proceeded to list the four songs I knew in rapid succession. I don’t mean that I put them down once- I put them down ten times. Now, I didn’t realize at the time that the likelihood of the DJ playing the same four songs ten times in a row was slim to none. What can I say? I just really wanted to listen to Toxic by Britney Spears on repeat. I still think about what that poor DJ must have felt, thinking, “Who in the fresh hell keeps filling up this list with the same four damn songs???”

If I knew the song that was playing, which was rare, I would stop hovering momentarily and proceed to dance as wildly as possible, perhaps incorporating snapping my fingers into my routine. I must have been quite the sight, flailing around the dance floor to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” while snapping my fingers.

There are many things I did as a child that make me cringe. Many moments in time that I think about in the middle of the night, that create an instant sinking feeling. Surely everyone must be picturing this every time they speak to me? It would be impossible to forget. But then I remember that each of these moments is a precious gift. What better to laugh at than yourself? Each moment I do something to embarrass myself is simply an opportunity to later find humor and something to write about.

And each dance, at the end of the night when everything was over, my parents would pick me up and I would be exhausted, but happy. And those were the moments where I thought, maybe middle school dances weren’t so bad. Because even though I didn’t have anybody to dance with, didn’t mean I was alone.

-Theodore Dandy

The Boy Who Got Yoinked

I knew who he was as soon as he walked in. After all, I was an avid fan of The Following, where he played a bisexual serial killer, and I’d just seen the episode of The Catch last night where he played a murderer. He ordered a Gibraltar, and as I was ringing him up I said, “I saw the episode of The Catch that you were on last night.”

“Oh, cool!” He said.

“I have to tell you though, I knew you were the killer, because I’ve seen The Following.”

He laughed, and I imagined our lives together, growing old and telling our grandkids the story of how we met. Sadly, I simply made him his drink and he sat down to read. As we closed the store, I was brimming with excitement at seeing this handsome actor who I had most definitely fantasized about.

After he left, I finished closing the store, and left to walk to my car. I began immediately texting my closest friends about him coming in and asking if I was single, and that we were now dating. As I sent off the last text, I heard footsteps running up behind me.

“Aw, shit,” I thought.

A man knocked my phone out of my hands from behind.

“Give me your phone,” he said.

“Take it!” I said, turning to walk back to my work. I saw another man holding a gun at me.

“Keep walking that way,” he said.

“Okay!” I said, turning and walking back in the direction of my car. As I power walked away, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I was so glad that nothing bad had happened, and I felt almost giddy with the adrenaline running through my veins. I got to my car, and started to drive back to my work.

“I wonder what I’d do if I drove past them,” I thought. “Maybe I should run them over. Is that legal? Would that be self defense? Probably not.” And I know my dad the judge wouldn’t help me get off for running someone over with my car, because I asked if he would, and he said no. My own father!

Luckily for me I didn’t see them driving back, but I did see a police officer standing next to his car on a side street. I quickly pulled over and jumped out of the car. “Hello, I was just robbed at gunpoint,” I said.

“What are you doing in the area?” The officer said.

I was confused. “I work here! I was just walking back to my car.”

They asked me a bunch of questions about what happened, including what my attackers looked like.

“One of them kind of looked like my roommate,” I thought, but I didn’t tell the cop that. I described them to the officer. “One of them had frizzy hair.”

“Like an Afro?” The cop said.

“More like Yaya DaCosta from Cycle 3 of America’s Next Top Model,” I thought, but, again, I didn’t tell the cop that.

They took me down to the station to file a report with another officer because that wasn’t their area. I was more annoyed at losing two hours of my life rather than my phone at this point.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” The officer filing the report said. I felt like the female love interest who’s new in town in some 1960s movie starring Katharine Hepburn.

“Why no, I’m not,” I said, batting my eyelashes.

“Yeah, I can tell. This sort of thing happens a lot here. When I was younger we called it Yoinking.”

“Yoinking?” I asked.

He made a swiping motion with his hand. “Yoink!” He said.

Let me tell you, that is ten times less fun than it sounds.

I went home and used my computer to message my friends telling them what had happened. Everyone was really worried, but I was feeling surprisingly fine. I was just glad that all that happened was my phone getting stolen.

The next day when I went into work, all the girls that were working came up to me and devoured me in a group hug. I loved the attention, but it was feeling a little unwarranted. I was fine!

A few hours later, however, I started to feel uncomfortable. I felt jittery, which I attributed to all the espresso I had sipped. As soon as I got off work, I went home and went to sleep. I slept in until noon the next day, which isn’t particularly unusual for me. But that day I just couldn’t get out of bed. I had someplace to be at 615, but I ended up sleeping though it when I decided to take a midday nap.

I felt paralyzed- terrified of leaving my house and interacting with anyone. I spent the day in bed eating chips and candy and watching Daredevil. I realize in hindsight that watching a show about a vigilante superhero is probably not the best thing to do immediately after being robbed at gunpoint.

The day after that was much of the same. Waking up at noon I thought, ill just keep going back to sleep until I feel like waking up. When the clock hit 130 I realized I will literally never feel like waking up. Something was wrong with me. I didn’t understand, why would I feel like this 2 days after what had happened, when I had felt fine at the time?

I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. I was falling back on every trick I knew how to check out of my brain, except for drinking. Part of me felt like I was just making up feeling traumatized from what had happened as an excuse to be lazy, eat junk food, and possibly call out of work if I wanted to. It was certainly feeding my need for attention.

I remember the officer telling me, “I hope we get those bastards.”

I could care less if they find them. What difference does it make? I don’t want them to be punished. I just want to feel okay again. How is arresting them going to help that? I don’t want justice for them. I want my peace of mind back.

I spoke to some friends about what I was feeling later that night, and how I’d felt guilty for missing my commitment the night before.

“You’re being pretty hard on yourself,” my friend said. “Would you ever say that to me? If I had been robbed at gunpoint, would you be like ‘well, you need to buck up, you should have been there.'”

“Of course I wouldn’t,” I said. I realized why I was feeling the way I was. The only time I’d felt like this was after a man I was on a date with groped me. I felt violated, unsafe. I felt like I was constantly under attack. PTSD isn’t something I’m incredibly familiar with, but I know enough to realize that that was what I was dealing with. I knew that isolating and checking out was not the way I should deal with it. I just felt so tired. Tired of working a 40 hour week, tired of being an adult, of paying rent, or writing, of living. If something like that could happen and take it all away, then what was the point of trying at all?

I asked my friend Bunny what I should say when I felt like giving up. He said “You can always give up tomorrow.”

That’s what’s getting me through today. When I woke up this morning at 5 am, I wanted nothing more than to check out of my life. But I showed up, and I’m going to keep showing up. I’ve felt like a coward for too long- afraid of so many things, I let fear run my life. I know how to deal with the fear. This is just another kind of fear, but the solution is the same.

I got my phone replaced, and now all that’s left is the memory of what happened. The only thing keeping me in this cycle of fear and despair is myself. I can choose to give up, or I can choose not to. Because it really is true- I can always give up tomorrow.

-Theodore Dandy

Who Was My First Love?

My answer to this is simple.

 

I’ve never been in love.

 

I remember the first person I had a crush on, a girl in my elementary school class named Caitlin. I liked her because she spelled her name the same way that my sister did. I don’t think I really understood what the concept of a “crush” was, I just wanted to have somebody to like.

 

I remember the first boy that I was attracted to, when I was in middle school. I remember joking about girls and faking that attraction, but secretly wishing that Kyle would notice me, let alone think about me the way I dreamed about him.

 

I remember the first guy I dated. His name was Sebastian, and we were the only two openly gay kids I knew at our high school. We dated for a brief month, before he broke up with me because he couldn’t hold my hand in public. I thought that was the end of the world- I finally had someone who could be mine, but they were too ashamed of me.

 

I remember the first guy who told me he loved me. We started dating a week after we met, and a week after we started dating he told me he loved me. I remember thinking it was strange that he could say that so quickly. He asked me if I loved him, and I said it was way too soon to tell. I loved him like a friend, but I couldn’t love him romantically yet. He asked what the difference was. I didn’t know. I still don’t. He broke up with me two weeks later for the same reason my first boyfriend did. I began to think I would never be in love.

 

I remember the first guy who I thought I was falling in love with. He was older, and he made me feel mature, and wanted. I broke up with him this time, because I knew that I would never love him, and I didn’t want him to fall in love with me. It was then that I realized how dangerous love can be.

 

I’ve never been in love. To tell you the truth, I’m afraid of it. It’s all I think about. I want it so badly, but every time a guy likes me, it feels like an obligation. I don’t know how to open myself up to people.

 

Who will my first love be?

 

I have no idea. I hope that he’ll be handsome, and nice, and smart. And funny. He has to be funnier than I am- that’s a deal breaker. But all that really matters to me is that he’s someone who I can be myself with. Someone who I don’t have to be afraid to love.

 

Because I should never have to be afraid to love, or to be loved.

 

They say you have to learn to love yourself before you can learn to love another person.

 

Maybe my first love will be me.

-Theodore Dandy

No Day But Today (I Know That’s A Line From A Rent Song)

Today I had a revelation. For so long I had been waiting to achieve the next level of enlightenment. I don’t know when I bought into such a Scientology way of life, but apparently somewhere along the line John Travolta wormed his way into my brain and I was under this strange impression that once I reached a certain point of maturity and experience that everything would fall into place, and I would achieve serenity. Obviously, this is not true, although that was not obvious to me for the last 23 years of my life.

I read somewhere that there are only two days that you can’t get anything done- yesterday and tomorrow. I know that sounds like one of those annoying motivational pictures my mother posts on facebook, along with things like “I hope when I die my kids turn me into a tree like in this cool video! Ha!” Even so, I think that it’s true, today is the only day I can do what I want to do. I try to remember that, but inevitably I tell myself that everything I need to get done I will get done tomorrow.

I’ve spent the last seven months of my life working at a job that caused me incredible amounts of stress. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, it was just to pay the bills so that I could live in Los Angeles and become a television writer. But I let it consume me. Now, I have a new job at a place I’ll call “Fancy Starbucks”, working for a woman named Katrina who is a dear friend of mine. We got to know each other because I used to come into her coffee shop and complain about the stress of my old job. My new job is much less stressful and takes a huge burden off of me both financially and emotionally. But new challenges present themselves. I have rediscovered monotony, and am continually finding myself making new excuses as to why I haven’t been writing, or going out, or doing anything other than sleeping and working.

Today was different. Because today I realized that I can be as happy and serene and fulfilled as I have ever wanted to be today if I really made the most of it. And if I was present. I’m saying yes when people ask me to do things that I’d rather sleep instead of doing. I’m showing up and being present. I’m turning all of my bad feelings over to God. And now I’m starting to appreciate things.

For example, A homeless man came into my work and asked for a sample of coffee. My coworker generously gave him a cup of coffee. The man thanked him by going outside, pulling the flowers out of the flowerpot in front of the store, and dropping them on the counter. He then proceeded to go outside and rip out more flowers, when my coworker had to go outside and ask him to stop. This was beautiful to me.

I saw a billboard with a drawing of a whale on it that said “Whatever you’ve done, I don’t care. I forgive you.” I’m sure that doesn’t apply to things like mass murder or genocide, or else that is a very forgiving whale. This whale meant a lot to me.

I got a $76 ticket for talking on my phone while driving today. While this normally would have upset me, today I just chalked it up to fate and resolved not to talk on the phone anymore while driving unless using a hands free device in accordance with California law. Also, it helps that the cop was a dreamy Latino on a motorcycle.

Each day is a separate entity, and each day I have the opportunity of getting a daily reprieve for my alcoholic brain. I can’t prepare for tomorrow by thinking and planning and worrying about it. The best way to set my future self up for success is by making the most of today. And if I do that, then maybe I’ll be able to find a few moments of serenity. Just for today.

-Theodore Dandy