Hermit Emerging, Gradually:
A Quasi-Journal of Pride Weekend

 

Prologue: Not Ready for Pride Time

To say I wasn't in the mood would have been an understatement. Since Pride 2004, which I'm not even sure I went to, I had endured a stressful job, illness, hospitalization, recuperation and unemployment. Spring 2005 had me focused on physical recovery, but I was still suffering the consequences of anxiety and isolation. Stability of body was an important goal, but my social self had atrophied even more severely than my muscles had; as a result, making plans with people, friends old and new, was an often painful struggle.

And Pride? What possible visions could have lured me there? Let's enumerate a few: tanned smiling shirtless people showing off the work they'd either done or had done since the previous June. Someone handsome filing past me, my interest in him fading as I notice he's tightly holding hands with the guy immediately behind him. Enough alcohol being consumed that I could never be sure any attention I received was a compliment and not a symptom.

Against such a visual and psychological backdrop, I still tried to create a social calendar for the last weekend in June. After all, I knew I didn't want to marinate further in my apartment, and anything I did do might actually be more fun than staying home. At worst, I reasoned I'd at least come up with material for this column. I know in retrospect that assigning myself to have fun sounds pathetic, but that's how constricted my life had been over the preceding months. I certainly didn't have grand expectations, but I was hoping I'd be surprised.

Friday: SoMa Safari

A friend had come from New York to see friends and enjoy the weekend. We were all supposed to meet for dinner at a restaurant in the Mission, but on the way I ran into friends from the Queer Disability conference a few years back. They told me that some performers from New Zealand were doing a sexuality and disability cabaret, and that I should come with them. I told them I'd try to come by after dinner

Our meal in the Mission was fun, but I still felt disconnected from people who were planning their weekends. It had been so long since I'd met anyone new in person (damned Internet!) that I was making conversation with some and expressing interest in others as shyly and awkwardly as I had in junior high school. Mortified at how much ground and confidence I'd lost, I looked at my watch as our group dispersed. We'd run late, and it was already 10 PM. Some people ran to catch a movie at Frameline, and I was seconds away from heading back home, my energy depleted. But then I remembered the cabaret, and resisted the temptation to call it a night. I had to take risks if things were going to improve, so I decided to go.

Two important details come into play here. For one thing, out of fatigue or absentmindedness, I had crushed part of my seat belt with my chair several weeks earlier. For another, whether stretched by body spasticity or regular use, my pants had decided to abdicate their sartorial role for the evening. As a result, I was zooming along the sidewalk of an unfamiliar neighborhood, holding myself in the chair with one hand, and trying to hike up my pants with the other every few minutes during breaks from driving. (Where's a good mouth-operated wheelchair joystick when you need one?) The whole time I kept hearing two voices in my head. One, in the plummy tranny tones of Terence Stamp in "Priscilla," intoned, "You've got to be fucking joking!" The other voice, my own, said, Now this definitely goes in the next column!

Thanks to my wardrobe malfunction, one alas not triggered in any way by Justin Timberlake, I arrived at the cabaret even later than I'd expected. The performance was being held at the Center for Sex and Culture, a sex-positive educational and community center I'd heard about for years but had never been to. When I arrived, a band was playing, but it was clear I'd missed the show and all my QD conference friends. However, I had a more urgent need. I had to find somewhere to park for a few minutes to fix my pants. I went into one dark corner and quickly backed out, realizing that two people were busily transforming sex-positive into sex-imperative. I did finally find somewhere to stop, relishing the headline-worthy irony: "Kodmur Goes to Crip-Friendly Sex-Positive SF Hideaway; Clueless Writer Actually Puts Clothes On!"

With pants now behaving themselves, I was able to meet and chat with one of the performers from New Zealand, who turned out to be the very cool Philip Patston, BENT reader and contributor. Chatting with him at the Center was an anchor of the familiar amid the strange and intoxicating freedom which seems to suffuse the place. Of course, it wouldn't really be SF if I hadn't had major transportation hassles on the way home, but the royal personages who run the Center graciously helped me get home safely.

The old Danny might have gone home to the East Bay after dinner, with his mind still focused on cute intelligent people and his taste buds still enjoying the delicious vegan desserts. Taking the risk of trying something new had paid off, despite the difficulties. You'd think by now I'd realize that getting out into the world is nearly always worthwhile, but lessons are more easily narrated than learned.

Saturday: Interlude and Rondo

I was so energized by my night out amidst the sexual counterculture that I stayed up very late, and spent much of Saturday sleeping, though in my waking hours I rehashed every possible argument for staying home on Sunday: hate crowds, hate being tripped over, hate being single, hate going by myself, hate long lines for overpriced food, hate all the commercialism, and so on. I suppose I thought that having a bad time would only make me feel worse, and that I could just as easily watch the damn thing on TV, so why go at all? I couldn't think of a reason. With Frank Sinatra singing "Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week" in my head, I went to sleep, fully intending to redeem a wasted day by rising energetically and optimistically the next morning at nine.

Sunday: Remnants of a Celebration

Hah! I'm up, and my alarm clock reads a little past noon. So much for rising purposefully to greet the new morning. I procrastinate, reading the New York Times online, listening to music, leaving voicemail for friends I'm hoping to see at Pride: "Uh, it's me. I still haven't left yet. Ya. ya, I know, lame and lazy ... I'll call with an update in a while."

By three or so I finally decide to go. At the very least, I want to go to the Radical Faerie Village to see my friend from New York. I envision men with wings, jewelry, skirts, dresses, costumes, all subverting and living outside traditional societal roles. I like Faeries. They tend to be thoughtful, attractive, openminded. So why am I going to their Village dressed like a square in a buttondown shirt? Because it's comfy and tinted lavender, or because I'm being consciously perverse? Maybe both.

Arriving at Civic Center BART, I find myself driving behind a guy in a chair with a rainbow bumper sticker. I catch up to him, to tell him I think it's cool. He says, "I know you! You're Danny Kodmur, aren't you? You write for BENT. I've read your stuff!" Thanks to him, I feel better than I have in a while, and I go above ground for what's left of the Pride Celebration.

The Faerie Village is as I've imagined it, except there was no way I could have known the afternoon's major attraction would be a large naked man masturbating for a cheering audience. The guy is even kind enough to pose with tourists for photos. How will that go over back home, I wonder?

It turns out I have missed my New York friend, but I do bump into several other people I know. Two guys even recognize me from chatting online, a definite sign I need to get out more. The Village crowd is diverse in age, interest, and body type. I may feel like an oddball in my job interview shirt, but here, everyone is odd, and it's okay.

As I head back home, I chat with a friend I haven't seen in a while. We compare Pride Weekends; I want to tell him mine was better than I thought it would be, but we're both tired, so we chat about other things. I come home to relax, contemplating my status as hermit and intermittent social butterfly, and reviewing the last few days. Was it enough to break my cycle of isolation and self-doubt? I don't know, but I hope the answer is Yes.

Epilogue: No Big Deal?

I don't know if I was ever young enough or confident enough to really believe the myth, that Pride Weekend, especially in San francisco, was a time of magic and possibility, kind of a queer version of Woodstock every June. Now Pride feels more like Mardi Gras or a queer Super Bowl. I like watching the Super Bowl, but I know that peoples' parties are often better than the game. The parties are great because of the people; if I stay home and try to experience the Super Bowl by myself, chances are I'd be able to see the game and the commercials pretty well, but I wouldn't be experiencing the event, just looking at it.

I want to relate to Pride without either condemning it or making it carry unreasonably positive expectations. I can't treat it like a huge angst-ridden social dilemma I wrestle with every June. Avoiding it won't wreck me, nor will embracing it magically transform me. It's really just like any other weekend. If I yearn to spend more time with people because I've been isolating myself, it's a year-round problem requiring a year-round solution. One weekend can't possibly compensate, especially one that embodies so much ambivalence for me already.

I do feel myself gradually emerging from the morass of the last several months. If I can keep that feeling going, and re-connect with so many of the people who have enriched my life, that will indeed be something to be proud of.

©2005 Danny Kodmur

 

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Danny Kodmur lives, writes, and tries to figure his life out in the Bay Area. His work is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories" (Haworth Press), a 2004 Lambda Literary Award winner. Suggestions for his social calendar can be sent to profxavier@comcast.net.

 

More by Danny Kodmur

A Soul Clothed in Shining Armor~5/00
How Much Does it Matter? Wrestling with the Metaphysics of Disability ~11/00
On Being (Un)Representative ~1/02
Testing My Faith in Romance ~3/02
No Need to Kick My Tires ~5/02
Balcony Scenes with a Twist ~7/02
Productive Confusion ~7/02
The Music and the Mirror ~9/02
The Music and the Mirror:II ~11/02
Life Under the Spotlight: Disability and Depression ~1/03
On Getting Stuck ~3/03
Of Cities and Closets ~5/03
So How Old Are You, Anyway? ~7/03
Socializing and Sobriety ~9/03
Walking in L.A. ~11/03
Wedding Bell Blues ~3/04
Fortress of Solitude ~7/04
Sound Bodies ~9/04
Fear, Fat, and Fabulousness ~5/05

 

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/July 2005