By Will Thames
It is three in the morning.
My eyes snap open, discovering my sheets are soaked through with cold sweat. Through my open window, the final chorus of Deniece William's "Let's Hear It For The Boy" blares from the street below. A part of me is relieved to pinpoint the source of the sound- it explains the sudden steamy turn my dreams took. "Let's give the boy a hand," indeed. The relief only lasts a breath as my mind catches up to what the song means. The first sign is always music. "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," "Born This Way," or any of Hayley Kiyoko's discography would have sufficed. As it happens, this year's harbinger of doom is Deniece Williams.
The word invades my consciousness and envelopes my thoughts. NO follows me out of bed, to the window, and outside as I stick my head into the clear night air and scream for all I'm worth.
My pain is met with nothing but a silk-smooth transition into "I'm Every Woman."
Oh god, it's worse than I thought.
I thought I had more time- any amount of time.
Just one more week of quiet- a little more peace and I'll be ready.
But not so soon. Not now. No no no fuck no.
I slam the window shut and vault myself into bed, wrapping myself in every blanket and oversized sweater I own. This will do nicely. Somewhere dark, warm, and within shouting distance of Columbia University's Irving Medical Center if I can stand to open the window again. No amount of sweat or bedsores can dissuade me from retreating into my makeshift womb until July 1st.
"Pride," I shudder to the darkness.
"I'm every woman," the darkness answers back.
This reaction is not the gay-agenda-mandated response Pride deserves, especially from a member of the ranks. My mind flashes to sunburns, weird small talk with exes, and dehydration before it flashes to rainbows, community, and solidarity. Tis the season to strap in, strap on, and make noise. That is if you're the noisy strap-on type.
For the remaining, celebrating Pride can feel like an uphill battle, if not an outright slog. Pride can also feel barren for those who aren't out to drink a LOT, dance a LOT, and shout a LOT. Not that any of these are inherently harmful pastimes; a good drink/dance/shout is fundamental to a 21st-century queer existence. But when your energy threshold only supports a moderate amount of wassailing, Pride can feel downright unattainable.
As with all my hang ups, sexual and otherwise, I can confidently trace the source of anxiety back to sketchy marketing priming my brain for something unattainable. The ads began in earnest a couple of weeks ago; glistening torsos stamped with vodka logos, boys (90% of the time it's boys) in booty-shorts sporting their brand new pride gear from ASOS, Old Navy, Calvin Klein, even Disney. Slap a rainbow on a tube sock and charge 13.99 instead of the usual 7.99- our free market economy remains Silverado Strong. So if hot boys and late capitalism aren't fulfilling me, how am I supposed to get myself out of the apartment this month? Much less wag a finger carelessly to the wind, and in a chorus of thousands, emit a fearful yet mighty "YAS."
As long as I've been aware of queer people, I've been aware of Pride. Before I knew for myself that I was a part of this community, I had a rotating set of images in my head about what Pride meant. And Pride meant party. Not just any party. THE party. The most fabulous, most exclusive, deceptively smelly party available to humanity. Even growing up in rural Texas in the early 2000s, I still knew Pride = bombast, splendor, and miraculous freedom of expression that both thrilled and terrified me to behold. At a great distance, parties sound like heavy artillery.
It took five minutes of Denver Pride 2016 to disprove a vast sum of my ill-informed assumptions. With hope in my heart and a mixture of dread and tacos in my stomach, I waded through whole kaleidoscopes of people; equally exposed and clothed, loud and quiet, hard and soft, welcoming and intimidating. The thrill of jumping into the deep end gave way to a much more inescapable form of suffering. I'm pasty as they come. And it's hot as hell,
Many of my gripes with Pride are the same gripes I have with the concept of a water park. Namely:
Why do I need globs and globs of sunscreen to have fun?
Thirteen dollars for a pair of novelty sunglasses is THEFT, HENNY.
I don't trust that pool's water-to-pee ratio one bit.
Why is there a man dressed as a hammerhead shark telling me to dance?
This funnel cake isn't tasting better because I'm eating it on the ground.
And so, my fellow introverts, nap-needers, pool-doubters, and bulky-sweater-lovers;
I propose reorganization. While we can't go back in time and; through a series of misadventures, near misses, and socio-political puppetry, postpone the Stonewall Riot until late fall, we can take small steps to help ourselves. Pride may be a year-round privilege, but this month it's an occupation. If we are to do our jobs alongside our louder, fire-sign friends, we must strategize. We must prepare. We must become tactical queers. We must make like a middle-American mother packing for her families first Disney vacation and OVERPAAAAAAACK.
1. Sunscreen. Spray-on if you can find it. The sheen of the mist will give you a wet, just crawled out of the swamp look.
2. Ibuprofen. Take two, take three, take a few more just for kicks. With water, you miscreant, the kamikaze shots come later.
3. Phone charger. You do NOT want to be downtown, mid-parade, and on 2%. Everyone knows the biggest reason for stepping outside is to document how the light plays off your new highlight. Bring a charger and keep tabs on the nearest Starbucks, Wendy's, Subway, etc. for outlet purposes.
4. A butterfly net. Mostly for prop-humor. Use it like you're pretending to catch yourself a husband. Instant comedy queen.
5. A change of underwear. Juuuuuuuuuuuuust in case.
6. A fanny pack- often maligned with irony, now risen again from the ashes of 80s beachwear. The fanny pack is easy, convenient, and fits all of thee above mentioned amenities!
7. Pacing. Pride is a marathon, not a sprint, Rebecca. Take it one adventure at a time and don't forget to breath and HYDRATE.
8. Water - you need it to live, dummy.
9. See a movie. In case of overheating or general fatigue, don't discount the therapeutic effects of 2+ hours of air-conditioning.
10. Lastly, a can-do attitude. Because you CAN DO this.
Some additional (not mandatory) items include condoms, parent's credit cards, nips, the other kind of 'nips,' nasal spray, eye drops, art supplies, that signed headshot of Zachary Quinto that gets you past Stonewall's cover charge, and a valid pilot's license.
You're going to be on your feet; jumping, running, rolling, bobbing, and weaving. Dress your feet as though you KNOW you are about to guest-star in an episode of Billy on the Street (which you just might, who knows??) If you can't drop everything and sprint after a bear with a microphone, you can always rent an electric scooter.
Finally, for when the party begins to thin and June parades make way for July fireworks, a reminder gentle reminder that…
Pride takes many forms.
Pride is sleeping in late.
Pride is staying inside watching K-Pop videos in the bathtub.
Pride is hotboxing your closet and playing video games
Pride is browsing pictures of Katherine Hahn when you're sad.
Pride is making time to call your mom.
Pride is holding hands in public.
Pride is being in public period.
Pride is dancing naked to Fleetwood Mac
Pride is shouting at the top of your lungs
Pride is whispering in someone's ear
Pride is telling your story, whatever medium you choose to tell it.
Pride is making things with your hands.
Pride is smiling in the mirror.
Pride is talking to your Doctor.
Pride is telling them how you feel.
Pride is everywhere, bitch.
If you are queer and existing, you clear the bracket. Done and done. No take-backs and no refunds on company jackets. Because for all the misleading commercials and glistening pectorals shoved down our throats, the beauty is that Pride is what you make it. However, you choose to make it, make it inclusive, comfortable, and joyous.
Everybody is invited to the party.