“I’ll Be There For You”: Post-Grad Life is a Sitcom

January 19, 2012 1 comment

So no one told you life was gonna be this way?

Flash back to to Spring, 2011. I am a senior at a well known college (at least in the Bay Area), graduating with honors, and have accumulated more extracurricular activity, professional experience, and academic endeavor to fit onto one overly priced piece of resume paper.

I was at the top of my game. Becoming a big grey fish in a small Catholic pond didn’t require any more effort than simply being myself. And what better gift could my senior year have given me than a partner in crime to match my sardonic wit, appreciation for the right balance of intelligence and superficiality, and unyielding bloodlust to establish classroom dominance. She was me in red lipstick, pumps, and cheetah. We were each other’s greatest competition, and knew that we would be Friends for life. We were ready to take the world head on on our path to lawyerdome. Tassels and all.

Snap to January, 2012. At this point I realize I share a bond to pop culture far stronger than my tie to Will & Grace. There is no understatement that I, along with my Friends, have not lived every line of the Friends theme song–and I don’t mean the short TV version. Job’s a joke (but suddenly you are too scared of Maryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada), we’re broke, our love lives have hit DOA at many points. And maybe it was not necessarily our mothers who warned us of days like these–we have a plethora of mentors, professors, extended family members who can only serve as council–but nevertheless, the only thing it seems we are getting better at is not letting every single over-sized lemon that is thrown in our way knock us out.

At 22 I thought I’d have it all figured out: the job, the grad school, the apartment, the new car, wrapping my mind around student loans and the daunting ARP Monster. Boy, and Girl, was I wrong. It’s not that I forgot everything my major, sociology (split with women’s studies), taught me. I have a tight grasp on the concept of “social location.” For the recent college grads vigorously fighting to outshine each other on Craigslist job responses, life seems…grim. Do I Occupy Oakland, San Francisco, or Marin County because I am a jaded member of the 99%? Or do I Occupy my day job so that I can continue to build experience for some destiny that I conceived at 16; and so that I can keep the APR Monster from growing larger than me.

I think to myself every day, “There should really be cameras following me. I’d give Jersey a run for its money.” I believe that my life is a sitcom. There have been too many nights out where I would have to work with Friends the next day to collectively piece a story we can all call “memories.” “Did a stranger really call your cheetah print thigh-high boots tacky? How?!” “Is that vomit on your Sperrys? It’s only 6:45 p.m.!” “I can’t believe you were escorted out of a club because you were mad that someone called you cheap–then cried about it on a stoop for an hour.” “You chased a thug two blocks down and football-tackled him, in boat shoes and a blazer, because my clutch was too cute to be stolen. Then a comp bought me a back of cigarettes”

It’s true what they (whoever “they” are) say: you just can’t write this stuff. But what happens when you should write this stuff?Your car radio was stolen two summers ago so you spend your long drives thinking about how much you would love a chance to re-make the Power Rangers for an older audience, how much you want to create and star in the next X-Men movie, or how you are convinced that all of the employees in a bordello-turned-restaurant in Oakland were turned into vampires in the heyday of their overpaid careers as prostitutes or prostitute staff–80 years ago. Can you write this stuff yet?

It is times like this where one has to ask oneself, “Is the life you’re living the life that the life inside of you wants to live?” At least that’s what I learned in a college leadership class one January. Who knows at 22? At what point to you try to juggle prestige over creativity until the scales tip and you realize you are either happy, or you are not. The moral of this paragraph is this: When at the very least you’re young, smart, and charismatic–albeit at the bottom of the corporate totem pole, over worked and underpaid, and living beautifully and dirty rich (Gaga)–life isn’t that bad when you have Friends, and even loved ones (most of the time in that order).

My resolution for 2012 is to simply take what life has to offer, literally squeeze those lemons dry, and write about it to the Friends theme song. Since I was thrown into the adult world I haven’t had my day, my month, and 2011 certainly hasn’t been my year, but who knows, maybe someone will see my life as a sitcom they also live–would it all be worth it?

How Will & Grace (and Jack and Karen) Saved My Life

May 6, 2011 1 comment

This post was inspired by the “Saved by pop culture” open call on Open Salon.

Sometimes, as life throws its over abundance of lemons our way, we seek solace in the arms of our friends. Sometimes, as in my case, our lemons are to ripe to make lemonade–let alone share with friends. When the time came for me to face my own demons, you know, the ones only I could face, I sought comfort in the two people who mastered the art of ice cream TV remedy.

Many of us go away to college and find ourselves “experimenting.” Sometimes we learn more about ourselves than ready to admit soon enough we become best friends with the sophomore slump. In the fall of 2008, that sophomore slump nearly ended me. As a newly gay-identified man of color at a Catholic college who just suffered his first heartbreak, it was time to retreat and pick up the pieces of my heart and self-identity. I was not alone.

I took a semester at a local junior college after that fall. My goal was to isoloate myself from everything I knew to piece myself together. Admittedly, I knew I could not do it alone, and seeing how I was “in the closet,” friend and family support was hardly an option. Who better than Will & Grace, and Jack and Karen, to help lift me up?

Will Truman was everything I wanted to be. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He was a successful lawyer with his own apartment, one that required an elevator to get to, in New York. He had a beautiful and infinitely close friend. He had the dashing and deep-voiced boyfriend. And most of all, he looked amazing in black.

Then there was Jack. Jack always had a funny way of normalizing homosexuality. He called straight people “the heteros,” prided himself on his long lineage of male cheerleaders, and never–in eight seasons–showed regret. At 19, a closeted Will ran to Jack because he was that stranger who would save his life. At 19, I did the same thing, and it didn’t take long before I was able to return to college and tout: “And 1, and 2, and 3 I’m gay.”

Grace offered something different. I couldn’t see her as one of the girlfriends, like I saw Jack and Will. No. She represented understanding. Though they had their own fair share of drama in college, Grace was able to come into understanding Will’s new life. Will, in turn, was able to understand Grace’s initial heartbreak. After all, who wouldn’t be heartbroken after finding out that Will Truman was off the market for your kind. Though Grace seemed to be scheming every time I tuned in, she always did so with the best intentions. Her quirky, bitter, and dramatic behavior made her a difficult character not to love.

Lastly, there was Karen. With a “honey, what’s this? What’s going on?” you knew that Karen Walker would never lead you astray. She would never miss a moment to criticize your attire–a trait everyone needs in a friend, who wants to leave the house looking a mess? With  stash of alcohol and pills in every nook, there wasn’t a moment when Karen wasn’t ready to party. In spite of the occasional racist slip-up, classist remark, or dirty snicker, Karen was as adorable as a “sex kitten” (as Jack so properly upon meeting her) and would serve as my wing-woman for years to come.

What once became a quick pick-me-up, paired with cookie dough ice cream, watching Will & Grace became a ritual that would carry me out of the biggest slump of my life. The sophomore slump, the coming out slump, the feeling bad about my sexuality slump–even combined, these slumps stood no match for the Will & Grace club that so many wish they were in. Yes, being gay has its down sides. The offensive homophobic slur, the barrage of young girls your grandmother throws your way, and the second-class legal status in America all hit home at times. But there’s so much silver lining. The Cher references, the gay community’s slang, and the slight narcissism made Will & Grace seem made for me. I was, as cliché as this now may seem, born this way, and Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen were like my own modern fairy godparents.

I often wonder if the creaters of the series, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, were aware that they would literally be saving lives. I guess that doesn’t matter, because they did, and I thank them for that. To anyone who is in need of some good company: give Will & Grace a try. It may seem hard to jump into their friendship at first, given they have about thirteen years  head start by the pilot episode, but they’ll warm up to you. I will give you fair warning, be wary, by the end of the series you might suffer heartbreak realizing that all of the characters are fictional and you won’t end up running into them at a bar. Or you can do what I do, pop the first season’s DVD in and start all over.