My memoir’s prologue. Every Monday I’ll follow with a new excerpt.
Oh, what I would tell my younger self.
No planning, I’d tell her. Things won’t turn out the way you plan, anyway. But I promise you’ll get married.
No, not that guy.
Nope. Not that one either. Not for a few years, all right? Stop worrying!
OK, you’ll be 33.
That’s not old!
Yes, you can still have kids.
No, people don’t live on the moon.
No, there are no flying cars.
Yes, you will be happy.
“I feel like I need to do something,” I told my fiancé a few months before the wedding. I’d been thinking about my previous relationships, trying to put them to rest.
“You mean, like a project?” he replied.
“Yeah,” I said. “A project.”
The overachieving student in me immediately started salivating. A project! There were so many possibilities. I first envisioned the trifold display board of science fair fame, with the names of each of my ex-boyfriends stenciled in place of hypothesis, results, and conclusion. Then a play dramatizing my past relationships, which I would write and cast with actors from the local theater. But neither would be as heart-rending as a series of stirringly recited elegies.
I couldn’t decide. “Interpretive dance,” I pitched to my husband-to-be. “Coat hanger mobile. Eco-friendly diorama. Large art installation. Giant timeline pasted on the walls of our house.”
“Oh, that’s just what I need,” he intoned from the bathroom. “To be surrounded by The Cocks That Time Forgot.”
“This isn’t about penises,” I called back. But even as I said it, I heard a tiny voice in my head—a voice that sounded suspiciously like my best friend Ray—saying, Oh, sweetie. Everything is about penises.
It soon became obvious that what I needed wasn’t a project, but a ritual. Marriage, after all, is a rite of passage, and what I sought was purification. After expressing this to Ray and discounting his suggestion that I perform an elaborate douching ritual, I settled on a quiet ceremony featuring flames to represent each of my exes.
“Ooh! We could get candles shaped like penises,” Ray suggested.
Let me take this opportunity to appeal to GLAAD: Please do not condemn my book for what you may think is a stereotypical portrayal of gays. This memoir is about as true as a memoir can be. I’ve kept a journal since age twelve and in many cases have written down what people said word-for-word, so I assure you that Ray actually did and said the things in this book.
“Sometimes I think you just see me as a stereotypical character,” he said to me once after reading one of my essays.
“Then don’t be such a stereotype,” I countered. To be fair, Ray was not wearing leather pants during this exchange. He was, however, standing in his well-decorated foyer next to an African statue of a squatting man with a penis so big I had tripped over it on several occasions.
I didn’t think I needed penis-shaped candles for my purification ritual. I imagined myself sitting meditatively in front of an elegant candelabrum, and I needed elegant candles to match—a candle for each of my significant relationships, which, depending on the meaning of “significant,” would be roughly eight candles.
“Hey! Eight candles! This is perfect!” I said to Ray. “I’ll just get a menorah.”
Ray bit his lip. “I don’t think you can do that.”
Sure, it crossed my mind that using a menorah in this capacity might not be—pardon the pun—kosher, especially if penis candles were involved. But was I really hurting anyone if no one knew about it?
As it turns out, I’d misjudged how easy it would be to find a menorah on Target’s shelves in September. So I burned tea candles on mismatched plates, and as they burned, I started to write the terrifyingly true story of how I got to the altar.