The last time I saw my father was in 1997 when we went to see Titanic. He’s not dead or anything, we just don’t talk anymore.
My father never wasn’t conventional. My parents divorced when I was young and my father got custody of me and my siblings. We lived with him for six years until he sent us to live with our mother (on June 7, 1993, not to be too specific). It was in those six years that the groundwork was set for the man I would eventually become. And yes, I am really a man.
I never had a bedtime. Not because he didn’t want me to have a bedtime, but rather because I insisted on watching “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” It was there that I saw the stand up comics that would become my inspirations for pursuing the same goals.
He encouraged my obsessions with Bette Midler, Madonna, and Oprah, even though they didn’t necessarily fit the mold of what makes a “young man.”
He let me watch any movie I wanted to, no matter its rating. How else was I going to see my first crush, Tom Cruise, in Rain Man?
We don’t speak anymore because of the incredible amount of negative history that is there. As I age, I’m able to separate the things he did from the things I’m grateful for. Nothing is ever perfect, especially in relationships, but what matters most is one’s outlook on the bigger picture. He wasn’t a dad, he was more that distant Uncle who overstays his welcome at Thanksgiving. And that’s okay.
I see him in me, both the good and the bad, but being able to rationalize that is what makes me a man. Well, that, and this…
When I was baptized I knew it was a bad idea. I figured I’d try to stump them, so I asked where all the black people were. They immediately said Gladys Knight was Mormon. I know, I was shocked by that too, I had no idea the midnight train stopped in Salt Lake City.
I’m originally from a small town in Missouri, Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis. Very quaint, simple little town centered around the train station and high school football team. We’re famous for the local pizza guy kidnapping a kid and keeping him in the basement for 4 years. But he made great pizza!
Watching the “It Gets Better” videos has left me feeling like somehow I missed out on something. Where’s my agony? My heartache? I was so painfully well adjusted with liberal parents (sure we’re Mormon, but we were like the affirmative action family for the Mormons, they kept us around because we made them seem populist). Instead of wearing black or a trench-coat or some other hate crime inspiring apparel, I wore khaki’s, sweater vests and pastels. Finding out I was gay was about as shocking as running into Newt Gingrich at a buffet.
Not once was there ever a time when anyone thought I was anything but gay. I’m a gold star gay, I’ve never been with a woman. I just recently learned women don’t pee through that little “man in the boat” situation downstairs. My mother would even say, “When you kids grow up an have children,” and then to look to me and say, “… or adopt.” There was always an alternative for me.
Every gay guy has that one special gal, in my case, I had an entire family. They were the Whites (that’s their last name, not just white people in general, however the Whites are in fact white).
There was Judy, the Mom, whose creativity and unique point of view showed me that I could say anything I wanted if I just owned it. Meredith, the universal baby sister to us all, whose warmth and kindness is masked by a fierce determination to accomplish anything (picture Hillary Clinton talking Osama bin Laden down while wearing pearls). Finally Lori (L-O-R-I, thank you very much), who had this boldness and awesome sense of self (and just a flat out genius). Over the years we spent together, these three women became my second family. Together the three of them made what would be like a super hero gay man.
We had a tendency to dress in themes for dances (I know!). I dressed as Elvis Costello once for Lori. My real last name is Hoeninger, but is often mispronounced as “Ho-Nigger.” Which is just another reason why it was destiny for us to join forces. Together we became a collective White Ho-Nigger.
As a comedian, you take adversity and turn it into comedy. I’d probably be more successful if I were to have, I dunno, a mini-bout with being bipolar, some sort of bullying, maybe a pathetic attempt at suicide involving a broken Madonna cd, I-don’t-know. Instead all I got is that, because of the Whites, my awesome parents, and some strange element of “I-don’t-give-a fuck” attitude, I went to a high school dance dressed as Elton John in a pink boa (you read that right), and be crowned King! To quote my friend Sharon Spell, it never really could get better for me, it’s more like “It plateaued.”