Okay, as many of you may know, I am writing a comedic memoir. I am still putting together a very rough draft. I decided that because one of the chapters deals with something very personal to me and it also mentions “Full House” several times, I am going to post that chapter. I have decided to do so for many reasons. Numero uno, I think it’s important to garner some feedback while still in the rough draft phase to make any necessary adjustments and B, it is my homage to the premier of “Fuller House.” So here it is y’all!
CHAPTER “Jessika Donaldson”
There is one thing I want to get out of the way, and I will do so by sharing how “Full House” helped me discover myself. John Stamos was the eye candy of that show. Although I was only in elementary school, I would hear kids bantering in class about how gorgeous he was, which would quickly turn into fights over who was going to be Mrs. Stamos. I even presided over a wedding between a childhood friend of mine and a stunning photograph of Mr. Stamos. It was a rather sad affair with very few people in attendance. There were a few boys there and their sole purpose was to piss and moan about cooties and how stupid we were. I didn’t understand why people were pissed at me, I mean I wasn’t the bride. I have always been really good at playing the devil’s advocate. What was interesting about my “Full House” days, was that while I swooned over John Stamos with the best of them, I discovered I had formed a very foreign attraction to aunt Becky, I’m sorry Lori Loughlin. None of it meant much to me at the time because I didn’t understand what I was feeling and did not have any frame of reference in my actual life. I didn’t necessarily bury these feelings, I simply paid them no mind. That is until “Boy Meets World” and Topanga made their way into my telly rotation. Hello Danielle Fishel.
As I went into middle school, one of my favorite shows was “The Wonder Years.” The show itself is a gem, but I would wait for scenes with Karen with such anxiety it was downright neurotic. I had a new girl crush and her name was Olivia d’Abo. At this phase in my life, I was putting things together and dissecting my crush on Lori Loughlin. I was beginning to question my sexuality and wondered if I was automatically gay. I had no clue what a bisexual was, I had never heard this term. In my preteen brain a person was either gay or not. I was cognizant of what gay was for many reasons. My mom was open and accepting and often spoke of her gay friends and their partners. My grandma suspected one of my friends to be gay. I had seen Roseanne get a kiss planted on her in a bar, by Mariel Hemingway. I had a total girl crush on Sara Gilbert. I watched Ross give Carol away to Susan on “Friends.” I was never shielded from this in my life. My mom would often tell me that she thought my favorite talk show host, Rosie O’Donnell, was a lesbian. In perfect conjunction, it was around this time that one of my middle school besties Paloma Rose and I were obsessed with “A League of their Own.” If you want to confuse a young girl searching to define her sexuality, what better way than with a film about the All American Girls Baseball League? Between Dottie Hinson, Kit Keller, “All the Way” Mae and Helen Haley, I was increasingly hormonal. Still, I wondered if gay was what I was and I spent a lot of time tormenting myself and forcing myself into that label. I owe Rosie a lot for many reasons. For starters, my deep and psychotic love for musical theater can be traced directly back to her daytime talk show. Thanks Ro. I owe a lot to Madonna too, because I bonded with one of my other middle school besties, Erin Donoghue, over Madonna. Her father was quite conservative and she was forbidden from owning any of Madonna’s music. Well, I am not one to be denied art and artistic freedom and I would sneak her albums, specifically “Erotica” over to Erin’s. We would jam the fuck out in her room. I may have also snuck a copy of that wonderful coffee table book, “Sex” over to Erin’s house one fine afternoon. We learned a lot that day and yet a whole new batch of questions started sprouting.
I remember watching “Ellen” with my mom during those tumultuous junior high years and we would full on belly laugh. Then it happened, an important announcement regarding the sitcom, and y’all know exactly what I’m referring to. THE episode. My Ellie Sattler, aka Laura Dern was making a guest appearance. I kid, I kid. The Puppy episode was being blasted in promos and my mom took great pride in saying, “I told you she was a lesbian.” We watched Ellen on The Rosie O’Donnell show and laughed our asses off at their little Lebanese schtick. We then watched the infamous coming out episode together and again, laughed our asses off. I distinctly remember the line where a cashier is giving Ellen her total at the supermarket and she says, “That’ll be elesbian dollars.” We roared. My mom and I didn’t much discuss the episode, it wasn’t a big deal to us. My mom thought it was a funny show, and I was already in tune with the simplistic definitions of what gay meant. Oprah did a whole episode about Ellen after she appeared on Time Magazine. I didn’t understand why the big to do, but again, my mother and I watched. I don’t remember much about that episode. The little snippet that lives in my mind was when a lady in the audience basically bitched and whined to Oprah saying that she saw the “Time” cover in a grocery store. Her panties were in a bunch because her son was with her and he also saw the magazine cover. She told Oprah she found it inappropriate that she now had to explain to her son what “gay” meant. My mom, without missing a beat said, “Well he should know.” And in an epic a-ha moment less than a second later, Oprah said to the woman in such a matter of fact tone, I truly believed that woman was about to be grounded, “He should know.” My mom didn’t take it as an a-ha moment, rather it was another “I told you so” moment that she added to her arsenal.
I declared myself a lesbian. I didn’t dare tell anybody because I was frightened of the repercussions. In my head it was decided, I was gay. I would chastise myself for being a lesbian. I searched for answers as to what I did that caused me to be a lesbian. Was it because I partook in the ancient masturbatory arts, come on (or shall I say cum on) Princess Leia in the gold bikini, am I right fellas? Had I been a male in a previous life and my soul got jumbled up when I came back as a female? I doubted every choice I had ever made, every thought I had ever had and regretted every negative action I had ever committed. Was this Catholic guilt? With the great entrance of the internet to my world, I took to the World Wide Web. Time consuming as it was, I began to believe that I was going to hell and was a bad person. Ellen’s career took a massive shit. Nothing good could come of this. I wrestled all of these notions even more when I got myself a nice little boyfriend. Our middle school love affair was short lived even though I really really loved him, I mean REALLY. I was a horrible lesbian. I found comfort and escape in my television shows and my movies. That’s what helped me through that time period. I never missed an episode of “Mad About You” and me and Paloma Rose would carefully compare notes the following day in class. We both dreamed of a love like Paul and Jamie’s. And whenever Paul would do something moronic, we would call him a Fuckman (Buchman was the surname on the show.) Now, I don’t want to point any fingers or call anyone a creep, but the term “fuckboy” is popular as of late, which is a clear descendant of fuckman, I was robbed. Something else I never missed was the one and only soap opera I ever got into, “Another World.” Erin and I would practically make diagrams about the dramatics Jake and Vicky got into. My grandma got me into “Another World.” We watched together every single day. She always told me I had Alicia Coppola’s (she played Lorna Devon) profile. That was our thing, our story. I watched movies in place of doing homework, and me and my mom and sister frequented movie theaters on the weekends. Things I saw on TV and in films and read in books made me ask a shit ton of questions. I learned a lot of things about the world through my love of pop culture and I was really coming into my own no matter how horrible a lesbian I was.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is not a children’s movie, and let me explain what went down. What had happened was, my mom showed me and my sister “Rocky Horror” as kids, but either turned it off or fast forwarded through the sex scenes. As I was going into high school, I finally watched the damn thing in its entirety. In the words of Jack Skellington, “What’s this? What’s this?” This Frankenfurter mother fella was sleeping with Brad AND Janet? I didn’t comprehend what it was that I was seeing. It had never dawned on me that a person could be into both sexes, LITERALLY IN, both sexes! I asked myself if I was like this Frankenfurter bloke. I had boy crushes, I had girl crushes, and I never placed a lot of thought about the gender of the people I was thus far attracted to. Eureka, I now knew that in the media, this one person was representing what I was. The new identity I found in that moment pointed me in the direction of discovering who I was as person. It was an amazing feeling, I gotta say. Going into high school, this was a very important step in my development. Something else started happening as well, shows like “Will and Grace” were on the air. Karen Walker was sexually ambiguous, honey what’s this, what’s happening? Julia on “Party of Five” was kissing her English teacher, Perry, who coincidentally was played by my girl crush Olivia d’Abo. Side note, this is not the last time my girl crush Olivia would come into play at a critical time in my life. Little did I know that my life would mirror Julia’s, in that I may have had a thing with an English teacher, and she shall remain nameless because I was a minor at the time of the fling in question. I did not speak of this sexcapade with Mrs. English until years later and it really was by the hands of fate that the subject came into play at all.
So there I was, an awkward drama nerd making her way through high school. I didn’t have many friends, but I did have a close knit group made up of drama kids and some would be loners. I now identified as a bisexual. I was known for my impressions and the ability to sing any Phoebe Buffet song in an instant. Oh, the other thing? I was in love. I was in love with a broad known as musical theater. I can’t sing a note so I didn’t audition for any of the high school musicals. I simply loved being surrounded by musical theater. “Rent” was my drug of choice. Myself and a close friend name Sacha would belt “Seasons of Love” and “Take Me or Leave Me” in the drama auditorium. Oh my god, a bisexual! Maureen Johnson, holy ambiguity Batman! It was somewhere in this window that I also discovered “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and damn it, bisexuals ARE taking over the world! Angelina Jolie was in the process of taking Hollyweird by storm and her sexuality was fluid. Drew Barrymore was also being spoken about as a bisexual. It was also around this time that I fell in love, legit. WARNING: We did not end up together, this is not a love story. Her name was Rina and her deep dark eyes were full of so much soul and life they took my breath away. We got extremely close extremely fast. It was also around this time that I took up smoking. WARNING: I still smoke and yes I know it’s bad for me. Drama class was the one class I attended on a regular basis. I’d make out with guys and dolls in the orchestra pit or the catwalk rather than go to class. Discussing my TV shows and the movies I was seeing was by far more productive and interesting in my teenage brain. So that’s basically what my high school career consisted of. I had identified my sexual orientation and LGBT culture was slowly making the way to the main stream. One of my favorite shows at the time was “ER.” My mom and I watched it religiously. Uh oh, there was a smorgasbord of girl crushes happening. Maura Tierney was my main squeeze. Here again we also had a lesbian character, Dr. Weaver. I felt like the world was changing. My naiveté was getting the best of me. It wasn’t until I got my head smashed into a locker by some cunty blondes for kissing my girlfriend that I realized the world was not accepting of who I was. Movies and television again became my main escape.
I didn’t party like it was 1999 or anything, but I did fall truly, madly, deeply in love with not only Ms. Jolie, but also one Natasha Lyonne. What had happened was, I was up all night one normal eve when “Freeway” was on the telly. I had never seen it so I watched and was quite entertained. Cruel Intentions was all the rage in the hallways at school. I was guilty of watching it repeatedly with my girl Rina. Honestly that’s the main reason I watched “Freeway” that night, because I dug Reese Witherspoon. I remember it like it was goddamn yesterday. After the film ended a promo played above the credits. It was one of those corny, “Up next” ads and the film playing juxtapose was titled “Freeway II Confessions of a Trickbaby.” Now, anything worth doing is worth doing right and I am habitual when it comes to watching all films in a series, regardless of whether or not I like them. So in the wee hours of the night, I watched Freeway II. There she was, Natasha, a fucking badass in every sense of the word. The film itself was clearly low budget but it was by far the ballsiest and raunchiest thing I’d seen up to that point. White Girl was the character played by Natasha and I couldn’t get enough. I am about to date myself here and I don’t give a shit, this is how it went down. The movie ended and I was immediately on the phone with Rina telling her all about the sick and depraved nonsense I had just witnessed. From cross dressers to cannibalism all the way to lesbianism and cocaine, I explained in specific detail what this cinematic adventure was. We were on a mission, locate and acquire a copy of “Freeway II.” We searched high and low, mind you back in the day finding a movie consisted of finding and renting it at a video rental store. We called all over town, to be fair though, Albuquerque isn’t that large of a search area. Finally we found a Blockbuster with my latest obsession is stock. We rented that sucker straight away and went right back to Rina’s house. I will never forget, we literally watched it all the way through and immediately hit rewind and waited the agonizing 3 minutes for the tape to reach the beginning and watched it all the way through again. Every day after school, sometimes instead of school, we watched “Freeway II.” Tragedy was soon to strike, our 5 day rental period was approaching. Here’s the thing about me and Rina, we mesh and conspire extremely well together, like rob a bank style. What we did, was get a blank VHS and after carefully and cautiously removing the label from the legitimate tape, we stick that baby to our blank and returned it to the Blockbuster drop box. I wondered if anyone would rent “Freeway II” because this was as far from mainstream as I could have imagined. I wondered how long it would take someone to rent it only to discover that the fucker was blank. The point is this, we owned “Freeway II.” I eventually acquired it on DVD but the true testament is that I actually believe Rina still has that VHS amongst her possessions.
My Natasha phase was in full swing when Rina and I discovered “But I’m A Cheerleader” that same year “Freeway II” graced us with its fucked up presence. Whoa, homo rehab? This couldn’t be. In that time frame, Rina and I identified with Natasha’s character Megan and Clea DuVall’s character of Graham. Those characters couldn’t be open about their feelings and were under such scrutiny, who could have blamed them for giving up. They didn’t. They found support in unlikely places and pushed through the shit storm. Perhaps we read way too deep into this thing because at the end of the day it was, after all, a comedy and it did its job, we laughed our fucking asses off. Even now, if you listen carefully, you might hear me contextualizing one of the best one liners from the film,
“I’m a homosexual!”
Au contraire reader, au mother fucking contraire.
Wouldn’t you know it, that same fucking year “American Pie” was released? And what do we have here? Not only did Natasha Lyonne have a part in the fuck fest, to bring shit full circle, that bitch’s name in the film was Jessica. Look, I know my name is one of the most insanely popular names on the planet, thank you William Shakespeare in love for that. Let me just have that name choice anyways. This was Natasha we were speaking about. I felt as though I had single handedly discovered this talent and I felt a certain proprietary ownership over her. Cut to me discovering she’d been around for a bit and the only thing I had discovered was an idealization of the woman and actress I wanted to grow into.
I did what any proper stalker would do and I forced Rina to help me locate all of Lyonne’s previously released films and have a marathon. There we discovered several gems, a trove of jewels if you will. One said jewel of my eye was “Slums of Beverly Hills.” Another set of jewels was of course Marisa Tomei’s rack. I kid I kid! Kind of. Seriously, new girl crush right there. The film itself really was a work of art in my opinion. Suddenly I was noticing things about the writing and I was absolutely impressed with Tamara Jenkins. I knew what kind of writer I wanted to be because of that film and because of such lines so craftily deliverd by Marisa Tomei such as,
“Seconal, Demerol, Tuinal, Valium, Quaaludes, Percocet?!?”
Or how about Alan Arkin’s beautiful chops when he tells the story of the meat thief, ending with,
“I’m their father. I’m their FATHER. I’M THEIR FATHER!”
And let’s just say, a certain song became part of my listening rotation, “Give Up the Funk” by Parliament Funkadelic. I learned so much about vibrator dancing, thanks Tamara.
The point is this, I didn’t know if Natasha was for real gay, bi, straight or what. What I knew was that she was excellent at portraying these types of characters and because I couldn’t tell what was her and what her manifestations were, I was grasping what good acting looked like. I also discovered that she was a strong ally to the LGBT community and for that, I remain grateful. Her portrayals made me feel comfortable in my own skin. I am grateful to have had this during my high school years, she was a crutch of sorts and a lot of people don’t find this solace during those fucked up years.
Truth be T, even though I felt lost and afraid for the majority of my young adult life, I am lucky because the LGBT community was starting to show face on all things mainstream. I had a very close knit group of friends, many of which I eventually attempted relationships with. I had male friends who were gay and they by far had it worse than I ever did. We had our own support group as we all grew into our adult selves, I became sort of cool in the high school hallways. I was by no means one of the popular girls but I got along well with nearly everyone. My peers, with very few exceptions, didn’t give me too much of a hassle. Hormones however led to males harping me with perverted questions about what goes where, who does what and my personal favorite and most asked, who wears the pants. Face palm. I tried for years to explain my position on who I was attracted to. It was in high school during one of me and Rina’s deep conversations that I finally pinpointed exactly how I felt. I started telling people that I look at love and intimacy in the same way I look at a pregnancy. It is something that must be nurtured and I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, as long as it’s healthy. Lori Loughlin eat your mother fucking heart out.