A pot of lavender on your patio.
The guy who stands on the corner who sings Motown covers.
A shaggy black dog in the elevator.
The smell of waffle cones wafting out of a downtown ice cream shop.
A text from another sober person who just wants to let you know they’re thinking about you.
At the little side job I have currently to keep the flow of income happening while I await that big paycheck from an anonymous billionaire who wants to pay me to watch Netflix, there it was, the Ghost of Bitter Homosexual Future. The “cranky old queen” is a trope for a reason. This old bitch has been sipping martinis at bars and verbally assassinating anyone in her sights since time began. Wilde was maybe the first one. Capote was definitely one. Warhol? Certainly qualifies as do Crisp, Kramer and Savage (best law firm of all time, by the way). This particular real-life Bitter Betty tried to convince me how much I’ll hate Portland while also encouraging me to follow him on Facebook where he “does nothing but complain about politics! It’s fun!” Uh. Hard pass on that one, home skillet. But thanks for the offer!
There was an aggressive and salty quality about him the rubbed me the wrong way from moment one. Which was a bummer. There is nothing I love more than when two gay men get the “hey, sister” vibe right away and are able to kiki with each other immediately. But that was not happening here. Being contrarian for no reason other than being the biggest hater in the room is a very bitter old queen thing to do and this one was rocking it hardcore. Everything me and my other coworker laughed at, he sighed or walked away from. Even when trying to be nice to me, he seemed annoyed that I was in his presence breathing. Listen, I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean I discovered he’s a vegan who smokes cigarettes (lol) so I was willing to cut him some slack. But by the end of the night, I wanted to run screaming out of my little side job. Primarily, because I know that the role of bitter bitch is one I can instantly slip into myself.
The feeling you get when you talk to your mom on the phone.
Listening to your husband jam out to old school Mariah Carey in the next room.
The birds that land on your window and drive your cats insane.
So let’s get this out-of-the-way: my name is Sean and I’m an alcoholic, an addict and a sometime bitter gay man. Look, I’m not proud of it. But it’s like being bitter is one of our factory settings as gay men. We can all “go there” without blinking an eye. What can be charming, biting, smart and truth-telling can also easily turn into bitter and unsavory. For me, it’s an ugly outfit I slip on and don’t even realize I’m wearing it. After all it’s comfortable. It fits me. It’s easy to find. More than all of that, it feels like something I’m entitled to wear. But like I said, it’s fucking hideous. Still, there’s a huge part of me that feels justified for being bitter. Like you’d be bitter too if you had my lot in life. Didn’t I earn the right to be bitter after the way straight people had fucked with me since I came out of the womb in a poof of pink glitter? And maybe I’m not being bitter. Maybe I’m just discerning or critical, in the same way a one-eyed pit bull is discerning or critical. Now pass me the cigarettes and vegan meatballs along with my martini!
White Hydrangea in glass vases.
Afternoon naps while it rains.
Remembering to meditate in the morning.
Yet as a sober person, being bitter is a big no-no. That literature that lots of sober people read says the grouch and the brainstorm are dubious luxuries for normal men but no bueno for drunks and drug addicts like me. So I’ve had to find a new way to live which means I can be a little bitchy but not full for bitter old queen. For example, I gleefully like to say, “I hate everyone/everything.” Yet I don’t actually mean this. I spout it off in a salty, sassy way. Like in a “Aww. Isn’t Sean adorable? He hates everything again. Go get him a cookie,” kind of way. Believe it or not, I actually see and encounter things I like and even love. And nearly every hour of the day.
As we’ve talked about here before, I write gratitude lists every day and have for over 7 years. I find five things that made life a little better and I write them down. That’s it. That is the whole practice. Its a kind of magic that does not require special oils, a wand or even an ancient spell. Listen, I don’t know why it makes me less of an insufferable asshole. That’s why it’s magic. All I know is that it does work. A little daily flow of positivity and love helps keep the bitter old queen away. Or maybe not entirely away but less bitter.
When I was 24, I worked at a Mexican restaurant where old gay men would sit and drink margaritas and bitch about their lives. Bobby, the bartender at that place, smoked cigarettes and told me stories of his days on the MGM set as an assistant. He even went to Korea with Marilyn Monroe. I loved dear Bobby but she was a bitter old gal who drank a lot. I just naturally assumed this would be my destiny. Drunk, bitter and unhappy. But in the ultimate plot twist, I’m no longer drunk and I’m certainly not unhappy. I’ve already defied my gay programming and started to erase the writing on the wall. So hopefully, one day at a time, I can be a less bitter too. In the meantime, I’ll settle for sassy and salty.