Thought No. 3: Sunday / by Jennifer Wisniewski

"Behind every strong woman is an amazing gay."

Ryan Beshel is my publicist, friend and the man who convinced me to start Tall Orders. He also happens to be an (my) amazing gay. Often I find that I follow behavioral patterns with relationships – and having a gay who makes me think I can do things that straight people would mock – is my pattern. Why is it that I find myself in this pattern? Would I even get out of bed is it wasn’t for my gay?

When I was a teenager, I went to an all-girls catholic school in Wilmette, Illinois. I was well-liked, had lots of friends, but was mostly apathetic to the social scene. I felt detached and disinterested with most of my peers. On occasion, I would go out with them and find myself at another house party on the Northshore, where they would be doing beer bongs in argyle sweaters. Mildly interesting - but ultimately not the entertainment I was longing for. It’s not that I didn’t like them. I just knew that when you’re seven and your father goes to prison - and then dies when you are ten – that you may not have much in common with a child from a conventional two-parent household. Pain changes you. It makes you different. I knew, even at a young age, that if you hadn’t gone through something emotionally transformative: there was no connection for me. 

I met Michael Juliano at Medusas. My sister took me there once and I was hooked; we went every weekend. We stole our mothers Grand Marquis and would drink Orangina and take hallucinogens from nice people and dance to Ministry. When I met Michael, I didn’t initially make the connection that he was gay. (It was like when you saw The Village People or Charles Nelson Riley. You just thought they were fun.) Finally! A man that didn’t look or act like like my best friend’s Dad: always pissed off and scary. He was so witty. He could make fun of me and I wouldn’t be offended. (Another great gift of the gay best friend.)

One day, Michael asked me to be in a fashion show with him at Medusas. I had/have the worst stage fright in the world and I didn’t want to do it - but he talked me into it. I remember standing backstage in a slip with Goth makeup on. I had half of my hair shaved into a Mohawk and I was petrified. The smoke machine and strobe light were making my anxiety worse, and I could hear the crowd screaming. While I was wishing for a trap door to open up beneath me, I turned to look at Michael. As my eyes met his, a Cheshire grin formed on his face … and he couldn’t be happier. I told him I wasn’t going to do it and he said “don’t worry”. Before I could answer back, he took my hand and we skipped across the stage. Him in underwear and combat boots - and me with legs like jelly. I was walking like Frankenstein as he sauntered across the stage, gliding along in those big black boots. I held my breath and held on to him for dear life – until we were off the stage.

I was sixteen when Michael grabbed my hand and wouldn't take "I'm scared" for an answer. As I stared down that stage, little did I know ... those first shaky steps in an underground punk bar would lead to a fifteen year career in runway modeling.

My intention today is not to stereotype gay men. Looking back on most of my relationships with them over the years, I can see that the similarities of our connection. Maybe it’s because they understand pain. They know what it’s like to feel different, shamed and confused from the time they are young boys. They have to develop a wit about them, to escape dangerous social situations. They say what's on their minds and stand for what they believe in, because for so many years – they simply couldn’t. Often I find they have the most color imaginations: a world they have created to escape the suffering of adolescence. It is these things that we have in common. It is this familiar pain that ties us together. But, it is that same pain that keeps us roaring with laughter, while together we learn to heal each wound.

Best,

Jen

Side note:  When writing a story about how much you love gay people - you had better include how much you care about your current gay. Or: they get very upset. Don’t upset your gay, ladies. They WILL cut a bitch.