Monday, February 20, 2012

And don't f*** it up

I am hopelessly addicted to "RuPaul's Drag Race." It's crazy and out-of-control and surprisingly touching at times. It may have started as a sort of joke on "America's Next Top Model" but it's so much more.

If you haven't seen it, the premise is simple: fabulous drag queens compete to become America's next drag superstar. There are mini-challenges, runway shows, dirty puns, bitchy fights, and nasty judges. And if that was all there was to it, it would still be fun to watch. But the more you watch, the more you realize it goes deeper.

There's a community here. From the first episode of every season, there are queens who squeal in delight at seeing each other. They help each other out, even while snipping behind each other's back. It's a competition but they know that after the show, they may be working together.

I can't imagine what some of them must have to go through to be themselves. During one episode, one queen was feeling like the others were ganging up on her, and she cried, "You don't know what it's like, to be beat up and picked on!" and they all gave her a look that was, "girlfriend, please. We are men in dresses. What do you think our lives are about?"

So many of them have stories of rejection by family. They have to rely on their friends and the families they have made. The family members who have been supportive are their heroes. One had left behind her partner (also a drag queen) and was so worried about him. When he got a message from home, he cried and cried, he was so relieved that his partner was doing well. It touched me because it was so obvious how strong their bond is and how much they must rely on each other.

(Of course, pronouns are an issue here. After one of the shows, with everyone completely dolled up, one of the queens scolded another: "Be a man." Even the queens paused at that.)

Yes, it's a competition, but it's a competition about learning about yourself, finding out who you are, and loving it. There is no standard: they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and they're all amazing. As RuPaul reminds them every week, "If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston

Unless you were around then, you have no idea how huge Whitney Houston was in the mid-80s. Her timing was perfect: Michael Jackson had made it okay to play "black" music on "white" radio and MTV (seriously: this was a thing back then.) MTV was at the peak of its power when it came to influencing actual music and what was popular, and Whitney Houston was perfect for MTV: incredibly beautiful and an amazing voice. If you have any doubt as to whether or not she could sing, watch "American Idol." Whenever one of the girls decides that she can handle a Whitney song, it's a kiss of death, because no one can come close.

She was a hit machine. I was in college when that first album came out and way too cool for Whitney Houston, but even I wasn't immune to the charms of "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." (I found earrings that were like those ones she wears with the purple dress and those were my "party earrings.") Looking back, there were plenty of people who weren't Whitney fans, but no one ever said that girl didn't have an amazing voice.

It fell apart. We all knew it, we all saw it. The details of how or why it happened aren't important. She went from this beautiful, singing angel to the Whitney Houston we've seen for these last years. Too skinny, a little crazy, unpredictable, drug and health issues.

I saw her once at an airport, about ten years ago. She and Bobby were on my flight back from Atlanta. Bobby was wheeling her around in a wheelchair, and she was shouting to Bobby that she wanted Popeye's chicken. She was incredibly skinny. I don't know if she needed that wheelchair, but she looked almost too skinny to support herself. The person I was traveling with didn't believe it was her at first. She looked too old. Wasn't she once so beautiful? But it was definitely them, whooping it up before the plane was boarded. On one hand, they sort of had this bubble around them which kept people from coming up to talk to them, but, on the other hand, they could have waited until the last minute to be in the waiting area, but they were there early, as if they wanted to have a bit of a show. There were a few people who did go up to them, and they were very nice to them. A few years later, when they had that reality show, a friend of mine wondered how much of it was acting up for the camera, and I said that, from what I saw at the airport, that's just how they were.

It's a sad day today. I had always hoped that she'd get it together and make her triumphant comeback. Wasn't that was supposed to happen? That she would be saved and we'd have an older, wiser Whitney? Now, we'll just have to remember how amazing she once was.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Smile a little smile for me

My mouth has issues. No, I'm not talking about getting in trouble for saying the wrong thing, but general healthy mouth issues. My gums are weak, at best, and, although the enamel of my teeth is strong, once there's a tiny, tiny cavity, it tends to blow up. All four of my wisdom teeth were impacted with one growing around a nerve, and I wore braces for over a decade (thankfully, not a complete set). Needless to say, I am not a huge fan of the dental profession.

I try. I try like hell. I brush with an electric toothbrush (two full cycles each time I brush) and I floss and I waterpick and I rinse and I proxabrush (and if you don't know what that is, it is because your teeth aren't the mess mine are.) I do all of this and I still get the tut-tut of the oral hygeinist wondering if I did this or that. They question if I really did all that. Did I do it right? They show me how to floss. Again. I have to assure them that as much as I dedicate myself to my dental plan, my mouth is like this. Yes, I did everything they suggested. Yes, I did floss behind my back teeth as well. We both sigh.

It's disheartening. I feel like I work so hard for nothing. I cry pretty much every time I go to the dentist. (I really do.) I am anxious for the week (weeks) before I go, and I regularly dream that all my teeth fall out.

Last week, I had dental surgery. I'm not entirely sure about all that went on there, but there was a lot of cutting and scraping and stitches and me just closing my eyes and getting through it. They assured me that it would be one day of bad, but then it wouldn't be much. They are filthy, filthy liars. Seriously: ow. I still feel like I was punched in the jaw. I'm sort of eating solid-ish foods, but I feel like I can't open my mouth all the way. I have this constant level of pain that I wish would go away. Everything I do comes with a background chorus of "myjawhurtsmyjawhurtsmyjawhurts." How loud the chorus is depends on how far into the ibuprofen cycle I've gone.

It's been a rough week. I know it'll get better, but, right now, I'm just kind of tired of it. And, no, it's probably not going to make me cry any less at the dentist.