As Willie stood at the front of the stage, I couldn’t help but stare at that guitar-my god, that guitar-that has forty plus years of road wear dripping from the bridge to the headstock. If it could talk, it would sound like Sam Elliott. And on top of everything else, you won’t find an octogenarian as cool as Willie. This is after all, the man who got former president Jimmy Carter to sit in on harmonica, and introduced him by saying “play it Jimmy!” THAT my friends, is clout.
I’m not going to explain how horrible training for a half marathon was. I won’t tell you all about how I’ve never run much, am completely out of shape, and had no business running 13.1 miles on Thanksgiving morning, in sub-freeing temperatures. I won’t lament, I won’t complain. But to understand, I’m going to have to come clean here. I have a hard time sticking to things. I’m easily distracted. I’m all in, all for it, until a new shiny thing comes along. Sign me up. Let’s do this. Until of course, the next thing. It’s a vicious cycle. So committing to running a half marathon was going to take some diligence.
Five months ago my sister Emmalee, who had a half-marathon under her belt, and my wife Jessica who had a number of races, a triathalon, and some half marathons on her running resume decided the Atlanta Half-Marathon on Thanksgiving Day would be ours. We’d run the 13.1 partly because of the weather of the training season, and mostly because we wanted a plate full of sweet potatoes later without feeling guilty about it. Yeah, that’s it. The date was circled, and we stepped off into the great running yonder. I was apprehensive, and worried I’d fail miserably, being led off the path by that next shiny thing to come along. I realized early on the importance of running with Jessica and Emmalee. At the first signs of slow-down, they’d push me. And push me again.
The early runs weren’t difficult, but it wasn’t lost on me that this was going to get harder. And it got harder quick. 3 miles was relatively mild. 4 miles wasn’t insurmountable, but about the time we started five-mile runs, things were getting difficult. 6 miles turned into 7, 9 turned into 10. The strange thing about running is the evolution. The jog to the stop sign turns into the jog to the mailbox, which becomes the run to the intersection, and then becomes the run to the post office.
Our strategy was simple: don’t speak much during the week, save all your discussion topics for the run. I never said much, I was to busy gasping for breath. But I’d run, listen to them, and before long, our weekly runs became a thing. It completed the weekend. It actually became something I looked forward to. I’d kick and scream about it the entire time, but deep down I had some excitement about it. And soon I realized our runs were a little less about the run, and more about us. It’s one thing to run, but it’s another thing to run together. The miles go by faster, and the pain isn’t as bad when you’re all sore from top to bottom.
Once race day came, and we stood at the starting line, I had some nerves-I’d never actually gone 13 miles. We’d topped out at 12, just like the training schedule said, but I figured hey, 12, 13, at that point, it’s all the same, right? Wrong. Very wrong. But we treated it like any other run, it just so happened there were 14 thousand other people running that morning. Oh, and it was 22 degrees at the start. And I had snot frozen on my face. Totally normal. Until the last two miles.
Passing the 11 mile marker, I was sore. I was tired. And I had blown off my wife’s advice to not chug water. I chugged, and gasped, and paid the price. The water shot through my calves, locking them up like a jail cell door. I should have listened. But I didn’t. And she knew it. You were right, Jessica. You were right.
As we turned the corner, Emmalee ahead and Jessica running shotgun with me, I realized that the finish line wasn’t really what this was all about. It wasn’t the end. The hard part was actually over, and it wasn’t about the race. It was about the 8am morning runs, when it was just the three of us in August and the temps were already in the 90’s . It was about us running, having coffee after, and bestowing our grossness on the customers at Einstein’s. That’s what this was about. And it was about the text messages the night before training runs that said “do we HAVE to run tomorrow?” Yes, you guys, we do. And yes, we did.
I’ve got a few fears. Some may argue I’ve got too many fears. But #1 is snakes, and #1A is heights. Being afraid of heights is a bit complicated. Those who don’t share the fear are mystified at understanding it, and those who are cursed with it haven’t got the words to really convey what it feels like. Knees rattle, chests tighten, and throats swell. And flying doesn’t really count. Being enclosed in a massive tube powered by jet engines 20 thousand feet off the ground doesn’t necessarily pack the same fright-induced punch as standing on an observation deck, or dangling from a tree with a climbing harness on. (Did it once. Won’t ever do it again.) And for those who share this fear, you know what I’m saying. Those who don’t, well, you just won’t understand. I’ve spent 25 harrowing minutes inside the London Eye. I’d come dangerously close-no, really, all kidding aside-to passing out on the Stone Mountain cable gondola. And once, battling a fit of insanity, I’d ridden the glass elevator at the Downtown Atlanta Westin.
This past week I found myself alone at Disney World. My wife was working in Orlando, and with the opportunity to dip my toe in the Disney World waters for the first time, I wandered through the Animal Kingdom theme park solo. Once I got past the bizarre and very creepy feeling of being a grown man alone in a theme park with at least 6 million children, I stood at the entrance to the park’s largest roller coaster, Expedition Everest. I hadn’t ridden a roller coaster in easily 20 years, and as I contemplated getting in this rolling metal chamber of death, I realized that at the age of 33, maybe it was time to take this fear on. I had enjoyed roller coasters in the past, primarily because they go to fast and are over to soon to even worry about heights, but this time it was different. Hearing the blood curdling screams of its passengers certainly didn’t help matters. And while the lines for rides at Disney World can stretch just north of 3 miles long, I noticed the line for single riders was claiming a five minute wait. And before I had time to dwell on it, I found myself in line, with just four people between me and the peril that awaited me on the other side. Four people became three, three became two, and then I was up. Gulp.
Climbing into the car, I pulled down the safety bar, and couldn’t help but have a little worry when the 16 year old kid who was working for 7 dollars an hour walked by during his safety check and said “that should be fine.” Right. Thanks, Tommy. Glad your concern for my safety is paramount here. The guy seated next to me said if I was going to get back into roller coasters then this was the one to do it. Thanks bud, but I’m not in the mood to chat. His sage advice meant one thing to me: time to change my pants. And in mid thought, the cars lurched forward, ripped us around a turn, where it began the slow, torturous climb up the first hill. It’s the hill all roller coasters have, just long enough to allow riders like me to contemplate the little things, like what we’ve done with our lives, who will get all our worldly possessions. Creeping up the hill, Disney World’s Animal Kingdom grew smaller and smaller below me, with each hair raising click of the tracks. And as we crested the hill, we were thrust into a lightning fast series of turns, curves, and stomach shredding falls. And as we got through the first half of the ride, something weird happened to me. I was alive, my heart hadn’t stopped, the cars were still attached to the tracks (i figured) and as we were tossed from one side of the ride to the other, I smiled. I’d been thrashed with fear, but with each turn, I couldn’t help but laugh. The safety bar across my lap stayed intact, the tracks hadn’t collapsed, and the bolts holding the ride together hadn’t rattled loose-all things I was sure would happen. I realized this was not in fact the certain death I thought it would be. I’d live. I wouldn’t need to find a home for all my possessions, and I wouldn’t have to change my pants. As the cars came to a screeching halt at the end of the ride, I turned to my partner, and laughed. I’d learned to let go a little bit. 16 year old Tommy, who was responsible for hitting the ride’s start button every two minutes hadn’t let anything happen to me. He cared. I think.
As I climbed out of the car, I got back in line for another go. And then another. And another. And then two more. 7 runs in 40 minutes. And just as I was beginning to accept the change that had come to me, on the 7th run, the cars stopped on that first hill. A complete standstill. Seated, with just a silver bar between me and the park 13 stories below, the panic was coming back. A malfunction? I was sure of it. Waiting for the other riders to finish? Maybe. After all, I hadn’t considered a mid-ride collision with another set of riders. And sitting there, for what seemed like ages, i shut my eyes, and started counting. And just like that, the ride was off again. As long as this thing was moving I was aces, and my stomach was returning to it’s normal state. Expedition Everest certainly didn’t rid me of acrophobia. It’s still there, and in a very big way. But its possible it got me one smaller step towards getting on this thing one day.
I’m not really sure when it was, sometime in the mid to late 1990’s I suppose. The Redskins were playing the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and sitting in my family room with my dad, we were watching yet another meaningless game, at the end of a meaningless season, with any number of meaningless players. Players I don’t even remember, because frankly, no one remembers them. The details of the game, I don’t recall, other than the Redskins lost. What did stand out to me that afternoon was one particular play-the only thing I remember from the game-that encapsulated just how bad things were for the Redskins over the last 14 years. Quarterback Brad Johnson dropped back to pass, and in a moment of confusion, threw the ball towards tight end Stephen Alexander, where the ball promptly hit Alexander in the butt, and fell to the turf.
That play, at the time, was the worst I’d seen from this team in their years of futility which unbeknownst to me, would last another 11 years. The quarterback was confused, the receiver had no idea what the play was, the offensive line had collapsed, and for 12 years after, that one play would be the symbol to me of what it’s like being a fan of this team. Last weekend, that all changed.
When the Redskins made the trade for the chance to draft Robert Griffin III, I was ecstatic, but hesitant, even though I wouldn’t admit it. When he was drafted, I was again ecstatic, and again hesitant. Still afraid to admit it. I’d been down this road before. When he and the rest of the team took out the Saints in week one of the 2012 season, I was all but convinced the past was over. Then, last Sunday night happened. I stood on the top deck of FedEx Field with my wife, dad and brother, and looked down at the field as Robert Griffin III ran onto the field for warmups. As he he trotted out, the crowd’s chant grew to a crescendo, and as the noise grew, so did my willingness to let the years of frustration go. No more “same old Redskins” refrains, no more typical 4th quarter fumbles leading to a loss, no more assumptions that they would find a way to lose. This crowd and this fan base was eady to run towards optimism, not away from it. We were cleansing ourselves of the negativity that shrouded our Sundays for the last 13 years. Watching the Redskins that night allowed me to shake the names of Sanders, Haynesworth, Stubblefield, Carrier and Spurrier. I forgave quarterbacks like Shuler, Frerotte, Banks, Matthews, George, Campbell and Grossman.
With a home playoff game this weekend, the Redskins have-and I almost hold my breath when I say this-turned the corner. This is a team that matters. This is a team that people will consider in August, when they jot down the predictions that every football outlet in the world feels compelled to do. This is a team that will be in the A-block segments of NFL Live, ESPN Sunday Countdown, and all the other NFL shows. This is a team where coaching assistants are considered for head jobs around the league, a place where free agents will consider because there’s something going on here.
Alot has changed since that play in Pittsburgh. 12 years, hundreds of games, a handful of head coaches, and the roster has turned over at least 6 times. There was one thing that had to change: the culture. And even though it’s taken a while, and the road was long to get here, I looked around at the crowd last Sunday standing for hours in frigid winds, and realized that yes, it has. Is this team championship caliber? Possibly. Are Redskins fans afraid to embrace that? Nope. We’ve grown up.
Look, I understand this blog has been dormant for a good couple of months. Mostly because I come up with fantastic ideas to write when I’m sitting in traffic, waiting in line at Target, or standing outside the auto shop getting an oil change. I can’t help it, my muse is fickle. I also dont write things down when they come to me, and before I know it, three months has elapsed between posts. Or four. But who’s counting. Coupled with writer’s block, well, i’m a terrible blogger.
What this blog is or will become, that’s still something yet to be determined. It may get some direction, it may never have any at all. I suppose that’s what is great about it. Sometimes I’m raving about the ridiculousness of everyday life, like the time a three legged cat almost caused me to rear end a school bus. (No, really, that happened.) Sometimes I’ll rant about sports, most of the time I’ll have something to say that in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that important. It will largely go unnoticed, but the fact I’m putting it down on paper (or, well, a computer screen for the sake of this exercise) is really the important part.
I began writing as a kid. My mother got a job as a newspaper reporter, and in an attempt to get me to shut-up while she worked on deadline, she threw me a pen and a reporters notebook. A few days later, I’d filled the notebook with The Fire Of Doom-my first foray into the written word. I know…I’m still trying to find time for the second book in the series, The Flames Of Ruin. My mother, god love her, still threatens to pull that gem from the attic when i least expect it. This wasn’t long before I entered a school Christmas writing contest, where a story about Santa Claus and a jet powered sleigh garnered me a second place ribbon. I’ll never forget hearing my name over the loudspeaker, as they announced the winners. Take that Tommy Baldwin. (Hated that guy. Dude won everything. And clearly, his name has been changed….for the sake of this exercise.)
Writing started for me early. It continued in high school and college when I cut my teeth as a reporter, serving as the primary sports reporter (and by primary, I mean one and only) at the local newspaper. Suddenly, what I said was in print, people read it, and sometimes, wrote me mail. Once I even ruffled some feathers when I blamed the lack of athletic success at the local high school on talent and desire, instead of a lack of funding and facilities, which was the popular scapegoat for being the league doormat.
Clearly I’ve wandered off the beaten path a bit, but all this is to say that I’m writing things down now. I’m being a better blogger, in hopes that I can become a better writer. After all, the world needs the written word, and even more so, they need The Fire Of Doom. We all do. Don’t we?
I told myself I wouldn’t do it this year. I told myself that unlike the 26 or so other opening days since I began rooting for the Baltimore Orioles, I wouldn’t get caught up in the optimism of spring. I refused to let the fresh start and hope-filled dreams of a new season take over my normally tempered expectations of what the Orioles could do in 2012. And you know why? Because I did it last year. And the year before that. And the year before that, too. In fact, going back to say, 1987, to the infancy of my Orioles allegiance, I was plagued with eternal optimism for this club. I really, really don’t want to expect anything out of this gang of kids, who manager Buck Showalter has convinced me could somehow compete with the likes of the Boston Red Sox and New Yankees in the afternoons of late August and early September. Dammit Buck, you’ve done it. You’ve got me hoping.
Save for a three-year run in the late 90’s, being a fan of the Orioles hasn’t necessarily been filled with memorable moments. They’ve cycled through managers at a blinding rate of 12 in the last 26 years. They’ve shuffled general managers almost as frequently and during this off-season turned to a man who had been out of the league for 9 years to right the ship. But every year that begins, with it begins a hope that finally they will stand up and let the rest of the league notice there’s someone else at the party aside from the Yankees and Red Sox. But still, no one else is listening. This is, after all, the team that lost to a community college team yesterday, no matter how you spin it.
I woke up today as I did every year previously. I knew it was the start of a new season, a very long season in fact-yet somehow had convinced myself that they could win it all on opening day. Things will change. Foul balls down the line will bounce the other way and become triples in the corner. Young starting pitchers are all Cy Young Award candidates on a day like this, and will go seven innings instead of four. And what was once a fly ball caught at the warning track will find just a little more it to get over the left field wall.
Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar, Mike Mussina and the mid 90’s are all long gone. Brady Anderson is back, but this time as an assistant coach. What used to be a hope for a 100 win season is now the hope of avoiding a 100 loss season. The Orioles used to be the hottest ticket in town, they were the penthouse apartment with a skyline view. Now, the tickets are virtually free, and they’re a burned out house across the tracks. Except today. They’ll likely spend the next 161 games toiling in mediocrity at best, futility at worst. But for today, at least, they are contenders.
I know, this isn’t a blog about working out. It just so happens that i’ve been pretty focused on that area of things for the last few months, and what can I say, it makes for good copy. I’ve never been a runner. In fact, my lack of exercise for the first 30 years of my life is well documented, and truthfully, the running thing was never something that appealed to me. Exercise, sure, I’d give the gym a go here and there. But running? Ummm…..no. No thanks. That’s not really what I “do.” My wife, prior to our meeting, had always been a runner and had run 5/10K’s, half marathons, and even a finished a triathlon. She’ll swear it wasn’t a real triathlon and downplay it but i say if you do anything with running, swimming and biking in the same day, you’ve earned your badass card. And for that, I’m envious of her. She is a card-wielding badass.
Once we jumped back into the daily exercise regimen, for whatever reason, I began to supplement our morning exercise with runs with her in the evening. And when it was I decided that yes, I would in fact run, I’m not sure. Call it a whim, or maybe the momentum of our morning workouts, but the idea of pounding the pavement 30 minutes at a time suddenly wasn’t so bad. And then I started running. And the moment i put one foot in front of the other, i realized this wasn’t a great idea. The difference between a needing to stop and catch my breath and an oncoming heart attack was blurred. I was clearly not a runner, but a walker who decided to trot every now and then. This. Sucked.
That was two months ago. Since then, with the help of my wife, my sister who also runs, and two dogs who pull incessantly and make running more of a chase than anything, I’ve reached a bit of a milestone. Jessica and I set out on a run on Monday, a modest two mile loop that we’ve done a number of times in the past, but still involves a stop along the way for me to catch my breath and ward off the potential complete shutdown of my respiratory system. It was also a day i which the pollen count hit over 8,000 so running outside felt akin to jogging while smoking a cigarette. I’m not sure if that’s actually ever been done, but if so, it has to feel like yesterday.
Halfway through our run my mind was drifting to weird places-wondering what exactly concrete is made of, if the people grilling on their porch were REALLY going to call 911, their faces were drenched with a look of concern. No, no, I got this, I waved. As I turned the corner to the last half mile stretch of the run, I thought about all the times I’d heard runners talk about “runners high”, or breaking through the “wall” and finding a place on the run where you aren’t necessarily thinking about the act of running. Cute, I thought. That’s not something I’m going to reach, that’s reserved for the folks who put in 8-10 miles a day. As I kept going things got a little easier with each step, and i realized that I in fact, was there. I wasn’t thinking about the run. I wasn’t worried about trying to make it to the next landmark. It was almost as if I took my hands of the steering wheel, and the car was still going straight. This was what they were talking about. This is why people run. This I can sign up for.
I crested the hill that marks the final push of our route and as I hit the finish line, my wife was just a few steps behind me, equal parts happy for the run, and mad at me for pushing past her a mile back. Having a badass card usually means a competitive card, and she’s got one of those, too.
It’s entirely possible-actually, likely-the next run will be completely devoid of any kind of runner’s high. I’ve been given a taste of it, and now I’ll expect it every time. But it’s alright. Just once was enough, and for now, i’ll keep trying for it. I’m laced up. I’m just hoping that at some point, stopping to catch my breath isn’t an actual heart attack.
Yup. Tim Tebow. Because that’s what the world needs. Another blog writing another entry about another take on the man who can do no wrong. He hasn’t grabbed the nation’s attention per se, I’d say he’s walked up, kicked it in the crotch, wrapped his hands round it’s neck, and screamed YOU WILL LISTEN TO ME. In the nicest, most wholesome way possible, of course. And as someone who for the last four years has been a bit worn out with the Tebow love, i’m ready to admit it: I’ve converted. And I’d like to apologize for even using the religious metaphor, It seems anything anyone writes about #15 is compelled to litter their words with church and religion based hyperbole, But in this case, it’s the only thing that fits. I grew tired of him not because of Tebow himself but the insistence from every blue and orange laden Gator freak who insisted he was the second coming. Dammit, I did it again.
When he was was drafted, I assumed his train had come to it’s final stop, and he would fall into line with the rest of the rookies who wind up stringing together a few average years, make a boatload of cash, and then retire and wind up starting a business, or on Tebow’s case, continuing his ministry. Fair enough. Thanks for your time Timmy, it was a pleasure having you.
Then he became the starter in Denver. And again, like most, I assumed he would be quickly weeded out, show that he in fact can’t play at the pro level and return to the bottom of the depth chart, allowing the Broncos to get him out of their system. Ho hum.
Then he started winning. And like most, I figured it was a combination of good luck, matchups, and a whole bunch of mojo that enabled him to lead the Broncos on their mid-season surge that landed them in the postseason. He kept winning, the drumbeat was getting louder and louder, until the Tebow-mania was consuming our daily lives. And I was choking on it. I needed air.
Watching the Broncos beat the Steelers last week turned the tide. Sometime Saturday night, somewhere in the first half, I learned to love Tim Tebow. It was the storied Pittsburgh Steelers, against the Broncos, who weren’t even supposed to be there, with a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be starting. I put my chips down, pushed them to the middle of the green-I was going all in on the Tebow poker table. When he hit Demariyus Thomas for the game winning touchdown in overtime, my conversion was complete. I’d accepted Tebow into my sports life. And dammit, it felt good.
Are the constant references to his faith a little off-putting? Perhaps. Will he have to, at some pojnt, explain that something other than his faIth was instrumental in throwing 3 touchdown passes? Probably. But for now, I’ll take it. Because he, and the rest of the Broncos, are writing a script that we’re all watching, whether we like it or not. So you might as well embrace it. It’s just easier in the long run. Oh, and for the sake of clarification, let’s get real on another issue. God doesn’t care about football games.
I’m not going to spend alot of time explaining why I’ve made the decision to join a crossfit class with my wife. That’s a whole other blog. I needed something to do physically, and the gym wasn’t cutting it. So there.
Waking up at 5:30 am, going out into the frigid cold to work out with 25 strangers in a crossfit class isn’t exactly a blast. But it’s what I’m doing. My wife did it as a pre-wedding weight purge plan, and it worked. And it worked well. Meanwhile, my pre-wedding workouts at the gym were less a workout and more a couple of routines I probably comparable to bringing in big bags of groceries. I wasn’t exactly pushing it.
I’ve never exactly pursued physical fitness. It was always one of those things i figured I would get around to at some point. I’ve never gotten around to it. I was the fat kid in gym class. And to understand what that’s like, well, it’s a little difficult to put into words, but try this on for size: When you’re at your must fragile in the self conscience department, when kids are really at their nothing-is-off-limits meanest, gym teachers would do the annual weigh-ins for physical fitness testing. They’d start telling the class about it a week ahead of time, and it was the most horrific day of the school year for me. When you’re the biggest kid in class, getting up on a scale in front of 35 of your classmates was like going to school naked. Looking back, it was probably the worst possible way to do it, but i don’t think the fragile psyche of an overweight 12 year old was at the forefront of gym teachers’ minds.
So here I am, at 32 years old, 20 years removed from that trauma, and I’ve consciously decided to join a group of strangers for exercise 4 days a week first thing in the morning. There are what they call burpees, an unholy little exercise that on the surface, looks harmless. It involves dropping to the floor, doing a pushup, and lifting yourself back up and ending the whole thing by clapping your hands above your head. Despite it’s non-threatening look, it is absolutely as painful as it sounds, and as looks just as ridiculous.
There is of course, running. Which, even those who run marathons will say isn’t exactly an “enjoyable” exercise. I’ve never understood the appeal, and my wife has tried relentlessly to explain it to me. And here we are……..running. Great. I’m 15 yards behind everyone. I’d done what i had always done, which was scan the group beforehand and try desperately to find someone I thought I’d finish ahead of. I’d found him, and we’ll call him Marcus. And now Marcus was 15 yards ahead of me. I was last. It was 1992, and I was in 6th grade all over again. It’s ok though. There’s a difference this time, it seems.
In years past, I may have bailed out. I’d have done a few laps, found a reason i needed to quit-you know, because it’s getting cold-but here there’s some sort of push from the trainers that kept me moving. This isn’t boot camp, and there’s no screaming. It’s a positive, methodical approach that I realized is why so many of these people have come back. It’s why my wife has been raving about it for months, and telling me that going to the gym after crossfit just wasn’t the same. These trainers are as encouraging to me as they are to the first person to finish the warm up run. So this, this might be the environment I’ve needed for so long. It’s an even playing field for everyone, at every level. I think I speak for most of the big kids in gym class-that’s really all we’ve ever wanted.
I hate Halloween. There, I said it. And I won’t apologize for it. I’ve accepted it, I’m prepared for the ridicule, and you won’t change my mind. I have heard all of the “but it’s so fun” and “you can be anything you want” and “dogs dressed as cats are cute” excuses I can take. Because frankly, it’s not fun for everyone, I can be anything I want anytime I want, and my dog has no desire to be dressed as a cat. It’s why he is a dog. And after years of asking myself why it is I’ve become a Halloween hater, I think it’s time for me to admit to myself why. When I was 12 years old, in a fit of Hallow’s Eve desperation, I dressed as a girl for a Halloween party.
I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator. And this particular year, I had put exactly zero thought into what I’d be for the neighborhood Halloween party. The day arrived, time was becoming a factor, and I was trying to scrounge something up for the candy fueled sugar-rager. My parents were helping me out, but nothing we had in the house was able to cross that costume threshold, the one you need to strike a balance between comfort and looking like you made an effort.
As I scrambled throughout the house, somewhere in the other room my older brother said in a snarky tone-the only language 14-year-old boys speak-that I should dress up as a girl. Truthfully, I can’t confirm if it was my brother or not, but looking back it he’s the most likely culprit.
What happened next was a bit of a blur, but having a sister two years older meant that the pieces needed for the costume were more readily available. And with that, before I even had time to object, there was an eyeliner pencil in my face, and somehow mascara and lipstick became part of the equation. Being the youngest of three also lends itself to being told what to do without the ability to object, and this was no exception. In my head I was wallowing in anxiety but I was powerless. I was being transformed from Andrew to Andrea and it was too late.
Being 12 years old is the pinnacle of the awkward pre-teen years. Being a 12-year-old boy dressed as a girl for Halloween brings with it a whole new level of awkwardness. Walking into the party, I was brimming with anxiety, but as I looked around the room, it became clear to me that no one really recognized me. Whether that was a compliment or not, I wasn’t sure. But as the night went on, I was just some kid dressed as a girl. There was still a lingering fear as I saw kids I knew from school that I’d be called out. The jig would be up. But as the party wrapped up, I was in the clear. My parents were on the way to pick me up, and I’d managed to navigate the absurd bobbing for apples, the ridiculous cake walk, and all the other games and activities in complete anonymity. Until I saw Kenny. Kenny lived down the street from me and as we walked out to wait for our rides, he looked at me, completely confused.
I froze. I wasn’t sure if I should own up to it or not. And in a split second, I panicked, and blew the top off the whole thing.
“Hey Kenny,” I said. He looked at me perplexed again, and the confusion shifted to hysterical laughter. Here. It. Comes. They are all gonna laugh at me. But it never came. I was saved by my mother, who for the first time ever, was right on time to pick me up. (That’s a whole different blog, trust me.) I’d made it through a night as a 12-year-old drag queen intact. (That’s a sentence I never imagined I would write.) And the next day at school, not a word was spoken. Kenny was in a different class, so I managed to side step his inevitable cruelty. And all the other kids had been to hyped up on sugar to even notice.
Halloween hasn’t been the same since. That was pretty much the last year I ever dressed in a costume, save for the occasional college Halloween party where I had costumes that were 90 percent convenience and 10 percent creativity. And it isn’t just the year i dressed as a girl that forever poisoned Halloween for me. It’s the ungrateful kids who ask for more candy, or when the kid who has a mask and a grocery bag and is clearly too old to be trick or treating. Or my absolute favorite, the parent who says his kid is in the car and she’s getting his candy for him. So you can take Halloween, I’ll eat myself stupid on Thanksgiving. Comfortably. In my own clothes.