There are moments in your life when you can say everything changes. When you know with absolute certainty your approach to everything, even yourself transforms. You remember the weather, what you were wearing and, hopefully, where you parked if your moment was happening in Los Angeles. Which is where my moment happened on a Wednesday in June on the steps of a duplex in Silver Lake. At the time, I was seeing this woman named Ann. Ann asked a lot of questions and liked to start sentences with, "Here's what I think about that... " We met in conversation at a party in Echo Park back in April, sitting on a deck discussing LACMA's move to take over MOCA, and what that meant for the Los Angeles art world. I'm not convinced either of us knew what we were talking about, but she was wearing a blue sweater and it matched the birthday cake.
Ann was never available but it didn't bother me. She made me laugh and we were enjoying a wonderful series of 14-hour dates. The most memorable being Tuesday, June 25, 2013. Ann invited me over for a backyard dinner on her string-lit patio. Half of the bulbs were out so it was dark and we couldn't differentiate the fish from the tomatoes, which made for a great game of fork roulette. Luckily, she was a great cook and there were no casualties. After the dishes were done, and I learned that "Pilates showered" fell somewhere between a quick rinse and a face wash, Ann had an idea. She led me to her floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in the hallway, leaned into them like they were high school lockers and examined the spines of the middle rows. Somewhere at the end of row four, she slipped out Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem in a way that suggested a secret passage or whiskey stash would be revealed. She grinned, "Read the last essay. You'll like it."
"It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends... "
A previous reader had underlined the line and I was curious to know who. But first we needed to check in on the life-changing matters happening on this particular Tuesday night in the United States. Ann scrolled the social feeds and reported that a mutual friend was feeling positive for a Supreme Court ruling to end DOMA in the morning. This was the consensus, but it could go either way. On a parallel path, Wendy Davis, the fortitudinous senator from Fort Worth, Texas had been filibustering on her feet for 13 hours in bright pink Mizuno "wave rider" sneakers. Wendy was fighting for the women of Texas and for women everywhere without a bathroom break or a glass of water. It was a big night and suddenly there was a little too much anxiety about not knowing what we would wake up to. In the spirit of enjoying the moment, Ann tossed her phone, sat on top of me, read out Didion line-by-line, and we remembered what it was like to live in New York.
"Nothing was irrevocable; everything was within reach... I could stay up all night and make mistakes, and none of them would count."
At 7 a.m., we woke up to the chimes of the bougainvillea bird sanctuary outside the glass doors and simultaneous New York Times iPhone alerts buzzing both sides of the bed. All devices declared a new dawn and the end of DOMA. It took 25 minutes for the news to register in my brain that on the same morning California's Proposition 8 was overturned, Wendy Davis was deemed victorious, and I had made coffee in Ann's apartment for the first time. For the record, this was the morning of Wednesday, June 26, 2013. It was a great day for human equality and we celebrated with a kiss outside the kitchen.
"I wonder how many gays across the country are making out right now," she posed.
"I wonder how many lesbians are doing it holding their dry cleaning," I said.
She was packing to leave for 10 days and holding six hangers in her right hand. Raising up a navy blazer while eyeballing her All-Stars on the floor she asked,
"Should I go schoolboy prep for the plane or studio suit?"
"Wear your sailboat pants."
"They're not sailboat pants."
"One would wear those pants on a sailboat."
"I'll go with schoolboy prep. Hey c'mere and give me a kiss. We got some rights today."
I left her apartment that morning feeling an innate shift -- that everything had changed and anything was possible. Equal rights will do that to you. As I made my way down the stairs, I was reminded of a line Ann read out from J.D. the night before:
"I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month."
Today possibility was peculiar to everyone and it was happening to me right now on a Wednesday in June on the steps of a duplex in Silver Lake. I remembered the first time I had a glimpse of this state of being back in 2008 when we marched for marriage equality in California holding signs that read, "No to Prop 8" and, "Love is Love." I remember making those signs in my apartment while chain-smoking with initiative as we spread poster board and markers across new hardwood floors. I remember showing up to all the rallies, including the final march downtown when our adrenaline wore off heading north on Main Street and we decided once we hit Chinatown to break left and get tacos.
Now, here I was five years later, standing in the same city, putting my finger on the moment Prop 8 ended and dancing to ding-dong-DOMA's-dead. It was an extraordinary morning and naturally, I had to call my mother.
Turning right down the Lucille Ave. hill, my mother who lives in Florida and had been fishing all morning was in stereo on the car speakerphone. She's Italian, so she was screaming,
"I'm so excited! I can't believe it! What are they saying?! I didn't think I would live to see it!"
My mom and her partner, Allison, had been together for 17 years. I've always considered Al my stepmother whether it was legally recognized or not. She had been there for me through straight love affairs, gay love affairs, kitchen Olympics, multiple bi-coastal moves, that intense transition from your 20s to your 30s, and that one time my mother's assistant caught me smoking pot on the back patio of our Rhode Island condo in 1997. Al has a gift of making the hard times tolerable and light times effervescent. She was the one who, to her joy and soon mine, would play Brown University's college radio station on Sunday nights to hear Suzanne Vega and early R.E.M. She was also responsible for bringing Ani Difranco into the house, which I first rejected but quickly conceded because I found humor in my mother's reaction to "Dilate" which was immediate and visceral, "Ugh. Change it. I can't listen to this. She makes me so nervous." My mom preferred Carole King. They made me laugh back then. They make me laugh louder now.
Both my moms are there for me equally because that's what parents are there for. They pick up the phone, they understand, and odds are they can fix everything with a story from the '60s or the '80s because no one talks about what they did in the '70s. I'm pretty sure my mother and Allison got together the spring before DOMA was put into place on September 21, 1996. Good news is today we bid limitations adieu and they can make their commitment legally real.
"I just want to make sure she gets my social security when I'm dead."
"That's romantic, Mom."
We were sharing a laugh and a thrill while the conversation took us down Sunset Blvd., past Mohawk General to the Vista Theater. That's when I realized Wednesday meant street cleaning and I had to focus on finding a spot so I could get to work on time. It was the kind of morning where you forgot about jobs and just wanted to go on a holiday because we declared it to be one. By 9:30 a.m., plans were solidified to meet at exactly 6:00 a.m. on Flores St. in West Hollywood, to celebrate love and the option of a prenup. Later that afternoon, we would reevaluate that plan due to traffic being outrageous and parking being a nightmare. Nonetheless, tonight would be the grand celebration of equal rights in West Hollywood Park where all the digital construction signs on Santa Monica Blvd., west of Crescent Heights read: Marriage Parking.
When you're given equal rights, you're given the opportunity to stop living your life in theory. Waking up to a windfall that green lights a major theoretical conversation you've been having with yourself simultaneously green lights all the theoretical conversations you've been having with yourself. This creates a chain reaction of personal freedom where self-imposed limits fall away and your approach to everything, even yourself, changes. Life becomes unlimited and everything attainable. Take the next morning of Thursday, June 27, for example. Where at a green light, in a blue Prius, next to an air force base outside of Cocoa Beach, FL, a moment 17 years in the making happened. I woke up on the west coast a few hours later to an email from my mother. Subject line: Engaged.
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