Home Style Gravy

Drag has become a regular part of my life. Every time you might get dressed up for church, a fancy dance, or a theatrical performance, you are really doing drag. Anytime you purposefully alter your appearance to make an impression on others, you are doing drag. A lot of emphasis is placed on drag that is done by those who are purposefully transforming themselves to take on the impression of the opposite sex. This is a powerful and purposeful form of drag that is worth its currency in gold. I would also argue that drag is a valuable tool of empowerment to those who want and need to connect with their soul’s version of themselves.

On any given day, I am not the most attractive girl. I weigh over 300 lbs. My hair is long, thin, and lifeless. It is often pulled back into a ponytail. I fight to keep fly a ways tucked behind my ear. I wear dark wash jeans that are a little baggy with a V-neck t-shirt and some form of hoodie. No jewelry. No make-up. My footwear is either a slip-on Croc or a men’s work boot, depending on the weather outside. My “uniform” is comfortable and practical, but it doesn’t reflect the feminine. Now, I am a cis female and could just put on a dress and makeup, but that isn’t really me either. The reality of navigating the world in Spanx and layers upon layers of unbreathable flammable fabrics with a thick layer of makeup would be my own personal hell. Besides, there will be a point where I will just look like a sad melted clown.

In the safe space of my besties, Alex and Max’s home, I can live my fantasy and be in touch with the goddess that is Mimi. Over the years, my old dresses and costumes, underwear and wigs, nylons and jewelry, have found their way to our drag room. Combined with yards of sparkly fabrics, scraps of satin, and new infusions of makeup and whatever else we can repurpose, we have been able to come up with hundreds of looks with almost nothing. It has grown from a few bins in a closet to an area that has taken over what was once the largest room in their house.

Allowing ourselves permission to do this took a long time. It really started from a place of desperation. We were all pretty depressed and battling the curse of mid-life self-reflection. After following the rules, getting the careers, and buying the houses, none of us felt fulfilled. Painting our faces and putting on a costume and a wig lifted us. When I was diagnosed with cancer, after I had my surgery, even when all my hair fell out, dancing in drag made me realize that I wasn’t broken. I was still a whole person. Make-up can cover any imperfection. A little bit of fabric, pinned and tied in a certain way, looks younger and more flattering than any garment bought off the rack at Lane Bryant.

Filming our drag allowed us to really “see” ourselves. First, it gave us a purpose. The camera was an audience to perform to, and we were all hams. What came next was the ability to watch ourselves over and over. After a while, a personality began to appear. We all have had many breakdowns either while filming or after filming, and this was usually caused by not accepting who we really were or by trying to be something we were not. Eventually, when you are able to remove the judgement of yourself or how you think others will perceive you, I was finally able to really see myself. I began to enjoy what I saw. I would even venture to say, I learned to love myself and appreciate my own unique beauty.

Once you are blessed to find such an avenue of self-discovery, you want to share it with others. I have shared videos on this blog before; the boys and I have shared these videos with our families; I have even shared the videos with some of my students. Still, it is amazing how tepid the response can be. Some of the people we know best in the world are reluctant to share the joy and humor of these videos because it features guys in dresses. When you are so passionate and feel a conviction to share that passion with others, putting your art out there is like showing someone your new born child. You hope someone will like it; you wish that they too will see the beauty in it.

Uploading a video is frightening, but waiting for a response is agonizing. I have never felt more alone than waiting to see if anyone will watch it, like it, or comment on it. This is not much different than when my students hand me a paper to look over. I teach basic, transitional English to adults. Many of them have a lifetime of experiences to write about, but lack any confidence over their usage of grammar or structure. I like to let them know as quickly as I can that I am a friendly audience. My goal is to help them express themselves to the best of their ability. I always hope that those who stumble upon our videos approach it from the same place of love.

Of course, the desire for feedback is strong, but sometimes you need to just let go. Over the years, perfectionism has improved and also impeded our drag. Waiting for perfection stifles what is inspired. Attaching your worth to the acknowledgment of your peers just makes you crazy. So, release it. I am rebooting this blog because I need to write, and this site is my home. The boys and I are putting out our drag because we love it.

With that being said, I welcome you to our new series, “Home Style Gravy.” Our drag is from our living room. It is simple and unpretentious. The hope is that for some viewers it will feel like gravy. Unexpected. Delicious. Extra. I have taken the time to build a page that showcases these new videos as well as some of the old. Enjoy them. Share them. If you have a second to like or give a positive comment on them, we would love it. Appreciation is something that is always welcome. I thank you for sharing the joy with us. My hope is always that you leave with a smile on your face and the feeling of warmth in your heart.

Commence Time Traveling

For most of my late 20s, I felt numb. I went through the motions. I worked 80-hour weeks. I had so many obligations. I had no personal life. I spent every hour of every day working for someone other than myself. At the age of 30, I knew this had to change.

My best friends moved from Chicago to the house across the street from me. It wasn’t forced; it just happened. I went from feeling like I had no confidant in the world, to having my best friends only a stone throw away.

I gave up any obligation that I didn’t enjoy or didn’t serve me. This was tough. I was always a “yes” person. I thought that if I did good deeds that somehow I would benefit from the good karma. Loosening up the schedule helped me regain some balance, but I began to be horrified of the absence of something keeping me busy.

I had a huge birthday party and invited all of my friends. We had the best time, completely drunk and singing poor karaoke. I felt the love and began to release it. Slowly, I distanced myself from my friends. I needed to not feel as if I was being used. I would force myself to hang out with some of them, and pretend to care about their laundry list of life’s irritations without feeling like they cared about any of mine. In order to gain clarity, I needed to redefine my relationships.

I joined a weight loss competition and lost 80 lbs and 4 dress sizes. I felt good and kept it off for almost a year, but my father became diagnosed with the same cancer my mom died from 5 years earlier. I had to take a leave of absence from work to care for him through surgery and recovery. At the same time, my sister decided to get married. I had to balance being the both mom/sister to her and daughter/spouse-like/nurse maid to my father. I eventually gave up on myself.

I went back to school. I earned a Masters in business in order to become a better candidate for a managerial job. I started a Doctorate to try and become a college professor. I quit the Doctorate program when I realized online education is a scam. I returned to my alma mater to get teaching certification and picked up a second bachelor’s degree. I have always been, and will always be, a fantastic student. What I wasn’t prepared for was a life of indentured servitude. My student loans total over 6 figures. I have no idea if I will ever be able to pay them off. To just pay the interest on them, I would have to give up more than 40% of my income.

I switched jobs, went from employed to unemployed. I focused on teaching because I loved it. Once I got into it, I realized that too often the last thing teachers are allowed to do is teach. I have seen miserable administrators and have felt 12% pay cuts. I have worked more than two jobs to just afford to do the first.

Still, I kept plugging away.

I have to say that over time, my enthusiasm began to diminish.

I stopped exercising. I would binge eat crap food. My addition to fast food was ridiculous. I would buy groceries and watch them rot because I would be too tired to cook when I got home. I would go without eating more than a meal a day for a week, then purge on fantastic meals on pay days. My erratic eating lead to extreme fluctuations in blood sugar. On days I ate well, I felt euphoric and capable of doing anything. On days I ate minimally, I found it difficult to get out of bed. I had no energy. I would become so emotional-depressed, sad, upset.

I was still trying to conquer the world, but the engine on my car wasn’t working to capacity. I spent days in bed. I felt crappy. I would get bronchitis regularly. I couldn’t breath or would often be short of breath. I was bleeding all the time. I felt like a horrible, worthless monster.

I started to feel so far from whom I thought I was, that I didn’t recognize myself any more.  I was so disgusted with myself that I would go on regular death spirals of self-loathing. I knew I was not well, but I was too depressed to care.

At the end of December, I was feeling okay but I knew my health was not optimal. I was becoming increasingly concerned that life was just an exercise of going through the motions of what others’ expected you to do. Success equated having all of your bills paid, a closet of expensive clothes, a husband and kids….and I felt like I was never going to achieve it. I was a failure on so many levels.

I was at my best friend’s house and we were having a little dress up party. We got out make-up, wigs, and costumes. While I watch the two of them painting one another, I felt a level of euphoria I had not felt in years. I was so incredibly happy in the present moment, something that was incredibly foreign for me to feel, that I was positive that I was close to dying.  In my experience, people could only appreciate true joy if they were close to dying. It was the only time, I felt, like people would allow themselves to recognize it and feel it.

In that chair, I felt my heart race. My breathing was already shallow. I thought…tonight might be the night. I looked at my best friends and knew I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t want them to worry. I felt so happy and at peace there, with them. I couldn’t think of another place on the planet that I wanted to be. I loved them more than life itself. We took videos of us lip syncing and dancing, and I felt like I was leaving a legacy that they could go back to after I died to remember how much fun we were having together.

Hours latter, we sat down to watch some TV. An old commercial from the early 90s came on for some collection of music. It spanned several years, and I had sworn I used to see this commercial all the time when I was younger. As I watched, I felt myself begin to time travel. Seriously. I am not kidding. I saw myself as a fat 13 year old. I felt pathetic because I was being bullied at school and spent hours in my bedroom alone. I could feel how scared and lonely I was. I moved to my thin self at 18. I felt indestructible. I was a straight A student. I was loved by my friends and family. I collected awards and scholarships, performed in theater and singing groups, and felt the world was mine to own. I felt the glee of my 20-year-old self in Spain. I saw the wonder of the world through my 8-year-old eyes.

It then dawned on me…. I had thought the best times of my life were in the past. I thought being an adult meant that I could no longer find moments of complete wonder and fascination. What I realized was that what I had been telling myself was absolute bologna. I still was capable of feeling as great as I did during the best times of my life. That feeling of complete joy was still accessible. It didn’t go away. I have always possessed it. I had just convinced myself that it didn’t exist. Whenever I wanted to feel those feelings, all I had to do was tap into what I already possessed.

I bawled with overwhelming joy at this revelation. My friends looked at me with concern. I told them what I had experienced and they saw a level of joy from me that they had not seen in years if ever. A light had been reignited.

It was from that moment that a series of incredible realizations and grow experiences were built. I am so eager to share them with you. Patience is not my strongest virtue, but it is my intention to do so with this blog over time.