(This post originally appeared on ijusthaveafewnotes.com in November 2013. That’s why some of the references are hella old. I haven’t updated them because time is a construct.)
There’s a few list-icles being passed around of late that are variations on the theme “Things Every Gay Man Should Do Before Death”. Actually, only one is “Before Death”, the others are “Before 40”, which is probably the same thing to some members of the community. (Oh no he di’n’t! Girl, did he go there? Oh, he went there, girl.) Personally, I think these lists, in general, are ridiculous. They’re built on stereotypes that are either hackneyed (“Stop being afraid of lesbians.” Okay, thanks for the advice, Bruce Villanch) or weirdly specific (“Have sex on a beach, in an elevator, on a roof, in a car, in the desert, and your parent’s house.” Nope. Sand. Claustraphobia. Emotionally scarring.). Also, they don’t have enough GIFs (so much reading! What is this, grad school?). I decided I could do better. After all, I am an expert at having opinions.
One of the pitfalls of these lists is that they all seem to come from one point-of-view, one kind of gay man. Specifically, Brian Kinney from Queer as Folk. And although it’s a well-known fact that affluent, emotionally distant sex addicts give the best advice, I just can’t forgive him for letting Justin slip out of his arms. I. Just. Can’t. I talk about it in therapy at least once a month. And, every time, my therapist has to slyly flip through her notes to figure out who the hell Brian and Justin are. And, I have to admit, I am not here for the look of disappointment when she comes across the page, which I imagine reads “Jesus, whatever you do don’t let him start talking about the damned TV show. Bring up that time they sat him outside in the rain at Green Eggs Cafe. That story is always good for killing 15 minutes.” I AM ON TO YOU, DOCTOR!
WHY, GOD, WHY?! I mean, does it make any sense at all? They’re perfect for each other! They’ve been through so much! Honestly, in my mind, the last episode of Queer as Folk doesn’t exist and they never say goodbye and they’re still together forever now. And, by God, they’re happy. Finally. ::sobs quietly::
Anyway, I had an inkling that my list might either be similarly slanted to my particular point-of-view (or comprised solely of QAF fanfic scenarios and theories about Scandal) so I enlisted the help of a friend. Sean is whip-smart, hilarious, and, at 18, is hip to all the things the kids are into these days: Snapping their chats, twerking their Mollies, and such. We put our heads together and came up with a definitive list of things every gay man needs to do. But we realized it was such a good list, we shouldn’t limit it just to gays. We changed a couple of pronouns, took out a really excellent Lady Gaga reference, and now it’s for everyone! Except you, Brian Kinney. There’s only one piece of advice I have for you.
15 THINGS YOU NEED TO DO THIS INSTANT
by R. Eric Thomas & Sean Simon
1. Throw yourself a surprise party. Invite nobody.
4. Take a quiz to find out which Sex and the City character you are. Don’t be upset when it turns out you’re not Carrie. No one is Carrie. Carrie isn’t even Carrie; Carrie is Charlotte. Sorry to blow your mind.
5. Push every button in an elevator, and introduce yourself to whomever is on each floor. Speed dating for the modern professional.
7. ABED. Always be entering dramatically.
8. Develop snarkolepsy. It’s that thing where you throw so much shade that you fall asleep. Used in a sentence: “Girl, I got so tired unfriending bigots on Facebook that I fell into a snarkoleptic coma!”
9. Wear a scarf. It’s cold!
10. Date yourself for a bit. Take yourself out to dinner, bore yourself with your interminable stories, text yourself, don’t text back.
11. Tweet at Channing Tatum incessantly for about a week, then stop for a week, and then send him a tweet at 4 a.m. that says “Well, hello, stranger.”
Okay, real talk: this list is just a suggestion. There’s only one thing you absolutely have to do this instant.
You have to. Sorry. This is not an optional assignment. You don’t have to like yourself but you have to love yourself.
List-icles on the Internet offer all manner of improvements; they have a lot of suggestions. But I think they’re all basically trying to tell you the same thing: how to be happy.
I get e-mails all of the time with lists of things I have to stop doing right now to be happy, things I need to always remember in order to be happy, things I need to let go of to be happy, things I need to embrace to be happy. I used to be obsessed with figuring out happiness.
I’ve started to think that happiness, like perfection, is an illusion, a concept that we’ve redefined and exalted to our own detriment. I think it’s possible to be happy, of course, but I believe the thing we think of as “happiness” doesn’t have any relation to the feeling of it. It’s a stick by which we compare ourselves to others and to our ideal selves. And so happiness stops being a state of being and becomes just another thing to possess. Happiness has become commodified and the lists that tell you what to do with your life are trying to sell it to you. As if it isn’t already in you. When I see an article that says “10 Things You Have to Do To Be Happy” I immediately think, Am I not happy? More importantly, am I as happy as I could be? And because happiness is infinite the answer is no, I’m not as happy as I could be. And this is a thought process which creates a problem wherein previously there had been a solution. My happiness is not happy enough.
And I click on the link believing that it will deliver to me the impossible. I’d love to see a list of “10 Things That Prove You’re the Happiest You’ve Ever Been” or “15 Ways You Are Actually Content Right Now” or “The Present: You are In It And You’re Okay”.
Maybe I should’ve written those lists instead of this one. They would’ve caught on and become viral sensations. And I’d be an internet superstar. And that would make me happy, right? Right?