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An Open Letter to My Aunts: Pride

An open letter to my aunts

& the rest of you judgmental b*tches;

For those following Girls5Eva, please know that I am the definition of a New York Lonely Boy. And for those of you who are not subscribed to the premium version of Peacock... good for you. Please continue to deprive Tina Fey of money. But here's a little education, free of charge.

New York Lonely Boy:

  1. An only child raised by a parent/parents that fall in some “quirky” category (old, widowed, part of a coven)

  2. Seen as gifted, mature for their age. They eat steak rare or are vegetarians, and all their friends are 20 years older than them

I grew up in a five-story walk-up on the backside of K-town in Manhattan. I didn’t have a doorman to idolize, but the freight shipping store on the first floor of our building was run by Juan, who was and will always be dear to me. My friends were my mom’s friends ----- a gaggle of childless thirty-somethings who loved drinking, karaoke, and teaching me lyrics to songs I shouldn’t have know (i.e. Khia’s My Neck, My Back).

I was the epitome of a New York kid, and anyone who met my mom would have thought she was a born local as well. Outside the city, my mom was one of eight kids who was raised on a 150-acre farm in the middle of Kentucky. The story I grew up on was of a 17-year-old who escaped an oppressive Mormon hell to couch surf across the US, eating tomato soup made from stolen ketchup packets when money was tight.

If my mom and her sisters were the Spice Girls, my mom would be Posh Spice.

Her siblings, we will call them Baby, Ginger, Sporty, and Scary were my other-mothers. With bold, distinct personalities, I held their opinions in high regard. I wanted to impress them all, being the mature, sensible, but eclectic person I was always told I was.

Their opinions were why I hesitated at the dinner table taking seconds.

My mom, widowed, then divorced, was the only one of her sisters who was single. But even around my married aunts, divorce jokes were always tossed around. I remember conversations about how getting married before 30 was a death sentence to your sex life, love life, and independence.

Art by Adriene Vento

Sometimes now I wonder if I was ever mature for my age or if I was obedient, willing to mold myself into the expectations of the people I respected.

The life my mom built for us in New York was a direct rebellion of anything rural, suburban, Christian, or traditional. I would sooner touch the third rail than scorn my mother by reverting back to the life she once fled.

In my coastal bubble, I thought most people were queer and/or Jewish, that gender was only a fashion statement, and that I would like to be an unattached world traveler who had international affairs.

But even in New York, public school crushed preconceived notions about what was what. I realized the queer-friendly ads that ran on TV were only designated to play in New York. I started to see that queer people flocked to cities because a lot of other places were homophobic. To give you an idea of my privilege in this regard, I don’t think I’d even heard the word “homophobic” until high school.

I did not notice marriage inequality until it was explained to me, because the queer people I knew were just like the straight people I knew; in their 30s or 40s, single (maybe dating a bit), and just a tad bitter.

So as any kid would, I understood this life I grew up around to be my future. I would be an eclectic queer living in the same 5-story walkup I was born in, complaining about the city I loved, wishing the West Elm couch I wanted was just a little bit cheaper.

I somehow was raised so Early 2000s Queer that I circled back to a very problematic and narrow view of what queerness meant.

In college, after a very calculated freshman year full of appropriately aged peers, drinking, and questionable choices, I did something that would have haunted my former friend group of thirty-somethings… I fell in love. I fell in love with a midwesterner and dated them for 2 years. Suddenly I was thinking about marriage, kids, and owning a house. It was embarrassing how fast I latched onto the idea of a nuclear family, something I didn’t think was an option for me. This nuclear family was a rebellion, a forbidden fruit, the things of films and television.

My epic college romance blew up for a million reasons. I realized I didn’t actually want the house, kids, or SUV. I got caught up in the dream of being someone different than who I actually was ----- which is what is supposed to happen in college, right?

I ended up trading the home I shared with my ex for a 300 square foot shack on Tybee Island where I shared a full-sized Ikea bed with my best friend (a former furry, current horse-girl) and her chihuahua.

I graduated an independent queer with all the unattachments that I always hoped for.

I returned to the city, and for the first time really smelled the city.

I lived with four roommates but always felt alone.

So in true New York fashion, I covered up loneliness with bar-hopping, see-through shirts, and tinder dates.

I met my now-spouse through Tinder in January 2019. I’m pretty sure I fell in love on the first date, but I pretend it was at least the third to maintain a level of chill about it. We were exclusive 3 weeks in, in an official relationship 1.5 months in, and mutually in love 3 months later.

I also started fixing a lot about myself… drinking less, texting back my friends more, taking on hobbies I liked rather than ones that were trendy, and taking my meds.

With my newly found therapist, I started to admit that maybe thirty-something-year-olds aren’t great friends for a child. I realized that the version of me I had always dreamed of was one that clicked seamlessly into a friend group that wasn’t even my own.

When quarantine hit I joined my now-spouse, who was clerking out of state for the year, in Cleveland, just a few hours outside of their hometown. We spent the weekends with family, making fires, eating s'mores, and shopping in BIG grocery stores that had aisles where people could pass each other on either side.

In my most insecure moments, I worried that I was changing too much. Although I had spent twenty-something years deep in the New York lifestyle that felt laid out for me, this person I was growing into felt more like myself than I had felt in a while.

Sometime in August 2020 I was sitting on a covered porch and realized that this covered porch might be my life goal. It was “the inside,” but outside, and it was luxurious. And suddenly I could imagine myself with my S.O. forever, and I wanted to be a parent with them, and laugh at the dumb shit our kids did.

But this is how I felt last time… so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept waiting to wake up and fall out of love. I kept waiting for months until I realized that I never stopped wanting to be married, I just stopped wanting to be married to my college ex.

I let myself imagine it. I actually dropped not-so-subtle hints that included asking “What do you think about getting married?” followed by the clarification, “to me.”

We talked a lot about what marriage meant and what it meant historically to queer people. I was worried that it was falling into heteronormativity, that I was desiring what the bad straights tried to jam down my throat.

I came to the realization that I was never raised by heteronormativity. I was raised as a New York Lonely Boy, who much like other kids, thought that I had to grow up to be like the adults around me.

The week after a very romantic trip upstate to walk in the mountains and see something other than shit on the street, my now-spouse proposed.

It was a bizarre 80-degree day in September and we were doing the dreaded city grocery trip, complete with a banged-up rolling grandma cart. Outside the Food Emporium in Union Square, I was wearing towel shorts and holding a case of Heineken when my now-spouse said, “I hate everything. Except you.”

Before I could return the sentiment, they continued, “We should get married, do you want to get married?”

“For real?” were the first words out of my mouth, followed by “YES!”

The best part of the proposal was the day after, when my spouse realized they should have proposed on that romantic trip rather than in Union Square.

Art by Adriene Vento

We got married quickly after our engagement, over Zoom. The whole ceremony took 7 minutes and we celebrated by going to Target and buying a puzzle.

Those seven minutes drastically changed my relationship with a lot of people ---- the least so with my actual spouse.

My aunts, who told me about how hard divorce would be later, were disappointed in my ring. A simple hammered band instead of a huge rock signified that my spouse was cheap. I got the impression that if I wasn’t marrying for money, I shouldn’t be getting married at all. Especially at such a young age where truly I should be, and I quote, “exploring my sexuality.”

But I was always thirteen going on thirty, so really wasn’t it about time?

To my New York friends, I was a child bride. They asked if I’d been made to sign a prenup. They asked if we were sure. I was told that I might change my mind. The worst offenders actually said nothing; their eyes just kind of bugged out when I told them over facetime.

I had thought that the biggest controversy in my life would be that I was AFAB and that I don't identify as any gender at all. Yet my gender hasn’t been a “big deal” in my family, in fact, it seemed to be wrapped up in the acknowledgment of my queerness.

Apparently, the bigger drama would be getting married at twenty-four.

My aunts seem to think I have lost my mind. I have lost something in the last seven months of being married. I have lost so much of the self-doubt I once carried with me. I have found someone who validates my pain, reminds me when people aren’t treating me properly, and calls me on my shit.


A Not So Lonely New York Lonely Boy

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