What’s A Retired Pope To Do?

Today was Benedict XVI’s last day as Pope. He stepped onto the balcony of Castel Gandolfo as the teary-eyed pilgrims below shouted, “Don’t go! One more prayer!” But the sun was setting. It was time to hang up the red Prada shoes. He couldn’t go out like John Paul II. Those last years were just too awful. They carted the poor Pope around like Weekend at Bernie’s. No, it was better to go out with dignity. It was time to slip off the ring and make that long walk into the Vatican’s backyard, where in a few weeks he’ll be peering out the window, watching as some other guy tools around the Square in his old Popemobile.

That used to be me, he’ll think.  I had it all.  I was infallible. Now I don’t even know if I picked out the right yogurt for breakfast.

Most days he’ll putter around, check the thermostat, start a word jumble, but he’ll keep thinking about all the things he could’ve done. Removing the ban on condoms, for instance. He’d always been told they were uncomfortable and ruined the mood, but he’d never actually put one on. He’ll think about the corruption, the hypocrisy. Condemning homosexuals, while hiding pedophile priests?

That was rich, even for me.

But mostly he’ll wonder if he went out the right way. Right before he stepped out of St. Peter’s for that last time, he’d considered pulling a Jerry Maguire, throwing out his arms and asking, “Who’s coming with me?!”

But he didn’t, and now it’s too late.

Or is it? he’ll think.

That night, when everyone’s asleep, he’ll sneak across the villa, quietly open the closet, and there it will be, the old big hat.  Maybe just once, he’ll think and try to hoist it on his head before falling back against the wall, tired and out of breath. He’ll catch a glimpse of himself in the mirror and remember he’s no longer the Vicar of Christ. He’s just “Your Holiness Benedict XVI,” “Emertis Pope,” and “Emertius Roman Pontiff.” Sure, they look impressive on his business cards, but none carry the gravitas of plain old “Pope.”

Andy Reid and the Chiefs Stole My Dream

I’ve spent my entire morning irrationally angry. I know it’s irrational because I’m upset by a rumor about the Kansas City Chiefs. Today there was a report the team is trading for Alex Smith. I want to punch a wall. I already threw my Chiefs hat in the garbage.

And I’m not even a diehard fan. I hardly watch the games. Suffering from depression, I’ve learned it’s best not to see something so sad. But I do follow the team. I try to keep up with the stats and scores, because the Chiefs are the one thing my father and I can always talk about without risking a fight.

My favorite memories are of my dad and me at Arrowhead or cheering in our basement. To live in Kansas City during the 90’s was glorious. The Chiefs never made it to the Super Bowl, but they won over a hundred games. We went to the playoffs almost every year. We had Joe Montana. We had Derrick Thomas.

There was reason to believe we’d hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

The Chiefs haven’t given that hope in a long time, but there’s a stretch of four months every year between the Super Bowl and the draft, where we can all dream. We study college prospects and pour over mock drafts. We click on articles about coaching hires, contract negotiations, and free-agent signings. We cross our fingers as the pieces fall into place. We tell ourselves this will be the year we turn it around, the year where our jerseys will be seen on NFL’s final Sunday.

That’s the dream I’ve been holding and cuddling after I gargled the puke of last season. I even started to get those tingly feelings of hope. We fired Scott Pioli. We hired Andy Reid. Then we picked up John Dorsey as GM. They’re proven winners. They have NFC Championships. There was reason to believe they’d repeat that in Kansas City, the town I grew up in, the place where you could be stricken deaf from the roar every Sunday afternoon, or crushed by the sea of red rushing down 1 Arrowhead Drive.

Screw the brave. This was the home of the Chiefs.

Even if they never made it to the Super Bowl, even if we sucked every year, for these precious months of off-season we, as fans, get to hope. We get to dream.

But this morning that died with a report the Chiefs are trading our second round pick for Alex Smith, a man benched last year in San Francisco for Colin Kaepernick.

Is Alex Smith better than our current quarterback, Matt Cassel?

Yes.

Did we need to improve the most important position in the NFL?

Yes.

Did Alex Smith lead all quarterbacks last year in QBR until he suffered a concussion?

Yes.

Does Alex Smith make us better?

Yes.

So why am I crapping and crying over this potential trade?

Because if it’s true, then John Dorsey and Andy Reid stole the small moment when Chiefs fans don’t feel foolish fantasizing about Super Bowls and champagne.

Alex Smith doesn’t suck. He’s “serviceable,” according to most “experts.” But no one dreams of being better than average. No one swoons over the idea of inching past .500.

We dream of parades and glory.

But even the most optimistic fan would never say Alex Smith is going to bring us rings.

And during these wonderful months, that’s all we we want to believe. It’s what sustains us through the worst.

Every human needs a little delusional hope.  It’s what gets us up off the floor, keeps us marching, striving, trying.

We couldn’t live without it. We’d never take a risk. I never would’ve moved to L.A. if I didn’t believe I could make it as a writer. My mom never would’ve jumped in the dating pool if she thought it’d be just as difficult to meet the right person whether you’re gay or straight.

We take leaps because of hope.

But the Chiefs snatched it away from us. They took away our Super Bowls dreams and handed us a possible Wild Card birth. Is that better than what we’ve had? Yes. But during these few precious months, we don’t want Wild Cards. We want confetti.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Alex Smith isn’t a turd Jim Harbaugh polished, like Andy Reid did with Kevin Kolb. Maybe next season I’ll hear Arrowhead’s roar all the way in California. Maybe we’ll do more than make the playoffs. And maybe I’ll pull my Chiefs hat out of the garbage, sit down, and watch us play next February.

Maybe I’ll even win my Super Bowl bet with my wife.

Mom Prom

My mom found some old pictures and popped them in the mail. This one is from my freshman year Mother/Son Dance.

I was such a little asshole that night. After pictures and dinner, all the guys brought their moms to the dance floor. But I refused. My mom begged me to take her for one spin, just one, but I thought I was too cool. Obviously, right?  I mean check out my Dockers and sweet denim dress shirt. My mom had ironed both.

This is How Mom Came Out

2001

I’m standing in my parents’ garage and my mom tells me she’s gay.  Her face is red and she’s laughing, which is what happens when she’s nervous or drunk.  It’s obvious she’s both.  She’s talking a mile a minute, but I don’t hear a word.  “I’m gay!” just keeps repeating in my head.

This can’t be how she planned to tell me.  When it’s cold outside, sometimes the garage is where we take the dog to poop.  It’s Kansas City, the day after Thanksgiving, so it stinks.

Other words start filtering in, words like, “I wanted to tell you,” and “I’m still your mother,” and “One time I tried cocaine.”  It’s a floodgate and she’s rattling off every secret she’s had since grade school.

She says she’s been attracted to girls since she was thirteen, that she fantasizes about women at work.

I feel woozy.

My mom starts crying.  “I just can’t keep sleeping in the same bed with him.”

“Dad knows?”

“Of course.”

She says she told him the truth years ago, that they’ve been staying together until my sister finishes high school.  My parents have been married for a quarter-century and they’re still sleeping in the same bed

I hear my buddies outside the garage yelling for me to get my ass out there.  It’s my last night in town.  I head back to L.A. in the morning.  I’m twenty-two years old, but right now, I feel like a child.  Someone starts banging on the garage door.

“So what do you think?” my mom asks.

“About what?”

“About what I just told you?”

“I don’t know… Are you really gay?”

My mom covers her face.  “You hate me!”

“What?  No.”

My father comes in and wants to know what the hell all this racket is.  He hits the button and the garage door crungles up.  My buddies stop punching each other in the arms at the sight of my father.

“Mr. Szpak,” one of them says.

My mom pulls me to the side and says, “We should keep talking.”  She’s trying to whisper, but the booze has removed that particular skill.

My father can tell my mom’s been sharing.

“What did you say to him?” he asks.

“The truth.”

“I thought we discussed that you wouldn’t say—“

“You can’t tell me what to say!”

My buddies pull me towards the car.  It’s like an undertow, but I don’t fight.  I just let them drag me away.  My father’s leading my mom towards the house.

“Get your hands off me,” my mom says.  She runs over.  “Where are you going, Anthony?”

“Strip club,” one of my buddies slurs.

My mom’s eyes widen.

Another friend starts to say it was just a joke, but my mom cuts him off—

“Can I come?”

My father forces a laugh.  “All right, let’s go back inside, Kathy.”

“Come on, Anthony, it’ll be fun,” my mom says.

There are moments in every child’s life, which cause parts of the brain to fizzle and burn.

My buddies give my mom a hug and say that’s why they love her.  She’s so cool, they tell her.

My father finally corrals my mom.  She knows not to push it, because she’s staring into my eyes.

I’m crammed in between two guys who played on our high school football team.  Someone hands me a beer as we drive off.  I watch my father finally get my mom back inside.  The garage door closes.

I’m Coming Out, Too!

When my mom came out she was terrified of how people would react.  She didn’t know if the ones she loved would stand by her, but she took a “leap of faith.”  She trusted us.  And her bravery has inspired me to come clean, as well.  Yesterday, on The Ricki Lake Show, I was wearing Spanx.  And they weren’t men’s Spanx.  They were my wife’s Spanx.

There, I’ve said it.  And it feels good, almost as good as peeling off those tight pantyhose shorts.  If you want to judge, then judge.  If you want to click away, then click away.   I have no time for bigots.  I stand here proudly and a bit uncomfortable in this nylon sausage wrapping.

I had no choice.  My pants wouldn’t button.  I was ashamed and petrified someone would discover the truth.  I had to pee through a little slit in the crotch.  A few drops dribbled onto my new pants five minutes before the show.  My wife and I had bought the suit especially for my TV appearance.  Damn it, I knew the suit was too small in Macy’s.  I told myself I could trim down, lose ten pounds in six days.  I ran, ate nothing but spinach, but I only lost a few.  The button on the pants would fasten, but one wrong move, one tiny twist, and I knew it’d snap off and fire into the crowd, possibly hitting someone in the front row.  What if it killed my poor mom?  You’d be logging onto mygaymom.com/theladywhowasmurderedbyherfatson’stightslacks.

I tried holding in my gut.  I tried not breathing.  But the risk was too great.  So I mustered up some courage and marched into the closet.  And I came out in my wife’s undergarments.

Sure, I could make excuses.  I could talk about how I quit smoking nine months ago, and that when I’m stressed I sometimes eat when I used to have a cigarette.  I could mention how I’d injured my knee, which made running painful.  But it’s time I take responsibility for my belly.  It’s time I tell the truth.

Yesterday, I was on TV and I was wearing Spanx!  And it felt good, like a warm hug, a warm, sweaty, slightly chaffing hug.

Welcome!

Hello, lovely people!

For those of you who just saw The Ricki Lake Show, I want to thank you for stopping by. This blog is my little attempt to tell the story of how my mom came out of the closet after 25 years of marriage. Her declaration shook the foundation of our family.  It was shocking and difficult to handle at first, but her truth forced us to really look at our family, to remember why we loved each other.  I suppose we’d been taking that for granted, slowly drifting apart.  So in some ways, my mom coming out actually saved our family.

I’ve reposted a few of the early blog posts to give everyone a sense of what you might find on this site.  I hope you enjoy.

Oh, in case any of you are wondering, Ricki Lake is, without question, one of the most beautiful, kind-hearted people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I was born and raised in Kansas City, so that’s saying something.

Thank you again for stopping by!

Black Hole

Reblogged from My Gay Mom:

When I was six years old my mom decorated my bedroom with wallpaper from the movie The Black Hole.  I’m guessing they ran out of nuclear mushroom clouds or fields of dead puppies.

.  Every morning I woke, put on my little underwear, my little pants and little shirt and stared into this giant black hole, obliterating everything.

My mom is always reminding me nothing is permanent. 

Read more… 457 more words

Hello, lovely people. For everyone who saw The Ricki Lake Show today, thank you for stopping by. Here is the post that started the blog.

Varying Degrees of Gay - Part 1

Reblogged from My Gay Mom:

Part 1

When people hear about my mom coming out of the closet, they always ask about my dad.  They want to know how he took the news.  The answer is, not well.

Growing up, I only saw my dad cry once.  We'd gone to visit his father’s gravesite and it freaked me out.  I suppose if he hadn’t cried I would have thought he was a sociopath, because that was the only time.

Read more… 860 more words

Varying Degrees of Gay - Part 2

Reblogged from My Gay Mom:

There are very good psychiatrists in this country.  Men and women who simply want to help, to quiet the voices, to bring peace to the troubled mind.  At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find a pool of scumbags and scoundrels so vile they should be listed as Enemies of the State.  These are monsters who prey on the weakest, the most fragile; they twist everything, because they need someone to hang on their every word. 

Read more… 987 more words