Whitney Houston? Does She Even Have an Album?

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The night was November 17, 1998 and the event was Whitney Houston’s FIRST studio album in eight years being released. I have a few iconic stories (handsome man dancing across the room checking me out to name one) but this night was pure magic….almost.  Whitney had an amazing decade.  It has been 10 years since her second album Whitney was released and broke records.  She released I’m Your Baby Tonight (an underrated album I might add), starred in The Bodyguard and released the soundtrack album that shattered records and remains the best selling soundtrack album in music history.  She starred in Waiting to Exhale and released “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” (sadly the last #1 song of her career.  The iconic Christmas classic The Preacher’s Wife (what, it’s not an iconic Christmas classic?) was released.  But now, 1998 was here and it was time for Whitney to get back to her roots with a studio album.  Thirteen new songs.  An entire album of new Whitney material.  I was beside myself excited.

Across from campus at Michigan State used to be a huge Tower Records store.  Kids these days just do not get the magnificent beauty of a record store.  I used to stop on my way home from class or divert over while headed to the library.  Any chance I could I would go listen to music at Tower Records.  Back then, Tuesday was the huge release day for all albums each week.  The duet between Whitney and Mariah had been promoted big time.  Both of them were all over television and radio with their duet, “When You Believe”.  They were putting aside all of the rumors of a diva feud between them.  You might remember this VMA appearance, “Try it on me!”

So with the non-diva feud set aside, it was time to release the albums.  Whitney had My Love Is Your Love and Mariah had her first greatest hits collection #1s.  That same night Garth Brooks was releasing a live concert album, Jewel had a Christmas album and some big rapper of the era was releasing an album too.  My wonderful friend Cary was a huge Mariah fan and me being a huge Whitney fan, we had to go together and wait in line for the release.  Another thing the kids these days don’t understand is that albums were released at midnight on Tuesdays, called Super Tuesday, so we would wait in line until midnight for the release.  This night, in particular, had a lot of star power so the line outside Tower Records wrapped around the block.  Cary and I were so excited!  After quite awhile, the line started moving.  Once we were in the store the line wrapped in and out of each aisle.  We were getting closer.

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There were promotional posters and signs all over for Garth and Mariah and Jewel, but I didn’t see one for Whitney.  What?  How could this be?  Such disrespect!  We finally made it up to the front of the line.  Behind the counter they had several carts full of cds.  When you got up to the counter you just told the sales rep the cd you wanted, easy, done.  Many people were there for Garth, that was obvious.  There were several for the rapper too.  My friend Cary was first.  He proudly strode up to the counter, “I’ll take a Mariah and a Jewel.”  The representative got him his cds and began ringing him up.  Now it was my turn at the counter two places down from him.  I walked up to the counter.  “Whitney Houston.”  The representative, “Who?”  Me, quieter, “Whitney Houston.”  The agent, loudly, “Whitney Houston!  Does she even have an album?”  I’m dying!  He’s looking on the racks behind him.  “I don’t see anything.  Hey Mike, does Whitney Houston have an album out?”  He cannot find anything on the cart that probably has 100 cds on it.  Then he starts looking under the counter and finds a box with about 20 Whitney Houston cds in it.  At this point I’m dead.  I’m so embarrassed.  Cary is dying laughing at me.  I just wanted my cd and wanted to get back to my house and listen to it.  Cary and I leave and he is beside himself laughing.

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Needless to say, this night is one that we still talk about and laugh about to this day.  After 20 years, Cary and I are still wonderful friends with so many memories.  We actually have many performances of “When You Believe” under our belts, most notably while singing it in a gazebo up in Glen Arbor, Michigan.  Friendship is a beautiful thing, especially after more than 20 years.

Happy 20th Anniversary to Whitney’s My Love Is Your Love album.  Where were you 20 years ago on November 17, 1998?

I Am Gay: Live Your Truth

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For so many reasons recently, I have been thinking about living my truth and how I got to this point.  First of all, my spiritual force, Oprah, has been talking a lot about living your truth.  Secondly, I just recently got married to *gasp* a man, my truth.  Thirdly, the motion picture Love, Simon was released nationwide last weekend.  Lastly, but I don’t promise to go in this order (the English teacher in me is disappointed but I need to just write) the new Queer Eye on Netflix has me crying like a baby each episode.  So for all of these reasons, I have just been thinking about my truth and my coming out and my years spent in the closet and how all of it might have been different if the media coverage today of gay men and women was out in the 90s or if the messages in movies and tv were what they are now.  Back in the 90s, a lot of my coming out would have been different, and much sooner, than the age of 26, that I know for sure.

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Let us begin with Mother Oprah, my force, my leader, my guide.  I love her.  The above quote is from her Golden Globes speech back in January 2018.  “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we have.”  Wow-yes it definitely is and recently I have been having conversations with some of my students about speaking their truth and because of those conversations I have given some long thought about my truth and how it came to be and why it came to be the way it did.  I also heard on a podcast today Oprah say, “Every person who comes to Earth has a responsibility to seek the truest, highest expression.  And the keyword is true…the responsibility is how do you not just speak the truth but how are you the truth?  The responsibility is to show up in that which is the most authentic truthful version of yourself.”  Wowza that is a lot, right? My teenage self wouldn’t have been able to digest that, but my 41-year-old self say hell yes and what I do with that is take on the responsibility to show up as the most authentic version of myself and share my story and live my truth.

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Let’s be truthful here, I love clothes and I love shoes and my closet is full of both.  Now THAT is a great closet.  But you know what isn’t a great closet?  The gay closet that I and so many people live or lived in for years.  People ask me when I knew I was gay and I always say that I knew I was different around 3rd Grade.  That was the first time I can place a feeling I had about a boy I knew.  It was a feeling of excitement in my tummy when I spent the night at his house, in his bedroom.  THIRD GRADE y’all!  Then in 6th Grade when I knew much more about what was going on with girls and boys, I knew that changing for PE meant getting down to our underwear to put on our shorts and t-shirt and I didn’t hate it.  Hahahah I didn’t hate it because it meant I got to see boys.  Now what I did with that information was suppress it down to the deepest place in my subconscious because I didn’t know what to do with that information.  There just weren’t examples for me to look up to or strive to be like or just to know that it is ok.  There was also a lot of hate.  In 7th Grade, minding my own business walking to class, someone for the first time in my life called me a faggot.  I can still see his face, clear as day, in my mind.  That reprehensible word has so much negativity and hate and for me, fear attached to it.  Now people were starting to notice I was different and they were calling me out and now I have to suppress my sexual orientation even more.  That was fear and not understanding and not knowing who or if I had anyone I could talk to about my feelings.  I remember telling my dad about that incident and he asked, “Where you walking really fast?”  Obviously he had some stereotypes in his head too, but he tried to help me make sense of it.

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In the new Queer Eye on Netflix in episode 4 a closeted gay man gets made over and comes out to his stepmom.  I sobbed like a baby, on the plane, over that moment.  But what one of the cast members said stuck with me when he talked about his coming out and having to climb over “the wall” of three words — I AM GAY.  Those three words were the hardest three words I have ever had to say.  It still gives me a feeling in my stomach thinking about the night I told my parents.  What I know now is that they love me no matter what and their reaction, staring at the wall, was out of fear; fear that my life would be harder and subject to discrimination and childless and partnerless and lonely.  None of that is true.  Maybe childless, but I chose that, and maybe I experienced a little discrimination or hate over the years, yes, but really, none of those fears came true.  But they all shadowed my life and why I kept things in the closet for so long.  One other thing I want to say here, about that night in 2002, is that I didn’t understand that sharing this piece of me wasn’t just about me.  Parents have to go on their own journey too because mostly out of fear, but also out of the need for a moment to digest things.  Wilson Cruz of My So Called Life fame recently said in a podcast, “They [parents] are really amazing now.  They had to go on their own journey and I needed to support them in that.  When we come out to people it’s not just about us, right?  Yes it’s our experience and we’re sharing our lives with people but I think we need to be generous in that moment, as well, to the people we’re coming out to and give them a minute to adjust and digest and then give them permission to show up for you.  But it’s not necessarily going to happen right away, and that’s ok.”  I wish I had handled my parents a little more gently.  I mean, I was surprised they were surprised considering all of my childhood interests, but they were nonetheless.  I started shoving it down their throats bringing up how hot Brad Pitt was and always wanting to talk about celebrity men, just to see their reaction.  Calm down and give them a minute, is what I wish I had done.  Regardless now of where I am or how I got here or how long I took to stay in the closet, I’m here now and I’m living my truth for the past 16 years.

 

One more thing about growing up in the 90s and living in the closet.  I loved season three of The Real World San Fransisco.  Pedro Zamora was my first introduction to a mainstream gay person on television.  I watched the show religiously each week and each week I watched this gay man live his truth, with AIDS.  This was an extremely admirable thing that Pedro did and a gift that he gave to all of us.  Yet, as a 15-year-old, closeted gay boy in small town Michigan, it was also incredibly fear inducing.  HIV?  AIDS?  The only thing I knew about those letters was that it meant you were gay and it meant you were going to die.  Pedro did die.  I didn’t want to die.  I didn’t want to get HIV.  And there you have a huge reason why I suppressed my feelings and my true self for so many years.  I was uneducated and as much work as Pedro did on the show TO educate me, fear won out in my head for far too long.  Part of it was just the way of life back in the 90s and I think, what if I was a teenager now, would I still be scared?  Sure, I am positive there would still be fear, but all of the information and media coverage that we have now about HIV, it is a very different time.  So thank god for Pedro and for his education of us all, but with it came a cost, a fear for me.

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Now here we are in 2018 and there is a major motion picture out in theatres called Love, Simon.

“No matter what, announcing who you are to the world is

pretty terrifying, ’cause, what if the world doesn’t like you?”

***

“P.S. It doesn’t seem fair that only gay people

have to come out.  Why is straight the default?”

 

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What would it have meant to my 15-year-old self had this movie been out in the 90s?  What would it have meant to my parents at the time?  How would my life be different now?  I’m positive my life would be slightly different but not that much.  I’m here and I’m queer and I have a wonderful life.  I might have come out a lot younger.  My parents might have had a different experience the night I climbed over the “WALL” — I AM GAY.  But we all get to our truth when we are supposed to get to our truth.  We all, I hope, will eventually live our truth.  I hope that each person out there, gay teens, straight teens, people of all kinds, find the power in speaking their truth.

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Whether you’re lucky enough to be gay or not —

Find Your Truth.

Speak Your Truth.

Live Your Truth.     

 

 

Never the Same Love Twice

“When you least expect it, Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot. Just remember: I am here. Right now you may not want to feel anything. Perhaps you never wished to feel anything. And perhaps it’s not to me that you’ll want to speak about these things. But feel something you obviously did.

You had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, to pray that their sons land on their feet. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it. And if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out. Don’t be brutal with it. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster, that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything ― what a waste!” ~ Call Me By Your Name

The above is a monologue from the 2018 Academy Award nominated movie, Call Me By Your Name. It comes at the most heart-wrenching, pivotal part of the movie when the lead character, 17-year-old Elio is being comforted by his father. The monologue is given by father to son. The pure ache and at the same time the sweetness that it provides is so very real. Elio had a summer love with a male grad student who came to live with his family in Italy.  When summer was over, and time for Oliver to return to the United States, so was their romance. It was Elio’s first love, and for a 17-year-old boy, trying to figure out love and lust and sexuality, it was his most important coming of age moment. We all experience, at least I hope, coming of age, love, loss, and yes, even heartbreak. It changes who we are to the core, and if we do it right, it changes us for the better, for good.

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When the screenwriter for Call Me By Your Name won for Best Adapted Screenplay he moved me to tears in his speech when he said, “I hope we’ve all experienced first love and come out of it mostly intact.” Quotes like this, songs, moments, memories, have the ability to take me back to a time in my life that was really difficult.  In May of 2013 I had my heart broken.  You can read all about it in my blog post For Now. It goes without saying, I had a rough, rough time getting over him. I remember months later, after a lot of personal work, meditation, therapy, rosé, time with friends, more rosé, and really investing in meI came out of the darkness. I remember the moment with my friend Yuka having the realization that my ex was my first love and that I would never love in the same way again. It wasn’t a crushing thought; it was actually a freeing feeling. A few weeks later I met the man who would become my husband.

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It is SO not a sad thing that I didn’t marry my first love.  Holy Cow, what I learned about myself in my twenties and thirties was invaluable to leading me to the man who I married, the man who loves me unconditionally (RIGHT honey?) the man who makes me better and treats me like gold and is my true partner. I love him so much and I am so thankful that he wasn’t my first love. And honestly, well besides the depression and tears and anxiety and panic and weight loss… actually I’ll take the weight loss… I’m fucking glad I got my heartbroken because it made me do the personal work that I had never had the opportunity to do and it made me a much, much better partner and lover and husband. Heartbreak taught me that shitty things happen but life moves on.  Heartbreak taught me that friends can be your rock and show you so much love. Heartbreak helped me fall in love with rosé more than I already was. Heartbreak brought meditation, yoga, my fastest marathon time, new friends, Saturday morning brunch by myself dates, and so much more into my life. It was hard, really hard, but it taught me so much and had I not taken that time and learned those lessons about life and those things about myself, I wouldn’t have been ready to meet the man of my dreams; the man who brings so much love to my life and treats me better than anyone I know. So to the screenwriter and his quote, yes, I came out mostly intact.

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 I have so many different people in my life who are in so many different places with relationships. If I had a message I could send to them it would be the above. It would also be the opposite,  Choose HOPE when you can’t find the FAITH. Hope and faith.  Faith and hope. Two words, in my opinion, that work together. They both move in and out of our lives so when you are losing one of them, find the other. Don’t stay in something that isn’t meant to be, just to be in something. Don’t worry that when something ends, nothing will come. To the contrary, maybe by freeing yourself up, that is exactly the time that you will meet the man or woman who will be your rock and treat you like gold. Think about it, if the other relationship didn’t end, you wouldn’t be free for something better. In your times of singledom, find your joys, wrap yourself in the love of friends, travel, find the things that make each day better because those things are far more important than a dud of a person. My message for you is, open yourself up to true love and true joy, it might just be around the corner waiting for you.

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So this brings me back to the beauty that was Elio’s first love in Call Me By Your Name. The innocence, the wonder, the lust, the passion, the confusion, the sadness, the true emotions of life are what we feel when we fall in love. And if we never put ourselves out there to get hurt, can we ever really find the true love we are looking for? As Elio’s dad so wisely told him, “We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster, that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything ― what a waste!”

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I Have a Crush & His Name Is Adam Rippon

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Don’t get all excited.  My crush isn’t romantic at all, more I’m crushing on Adam Rippon because of the role model status he now has as the first openly gay athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics.  What a joy it is to know that there are so many people out their for our young, questioning LGBTQ+ youth to look up to.  When I was young I didn’t really have anyone.  Gay men were not in the media except Liberace and eventually Elton John but I didn’t relate to them.  Now, just within the last few years and especially right now there are so many different examples of real and fictional people who are role models and what a breath of fresh air!

“I always felt like it was really important for me to share my story ’cause like when I came out, I did that because when I was young,  I didn’t really like have any role models and um, I wanted to share my story and kind of normalize it a little bit.  And I think it is really important especially in this day and age to share who you are; share your story, especially as a gay athlete.”  ~Adam Rippon

And there you have it, my crush because he is unabashedly himself.  He is snarky and flamboyant and talented and athletic and full of heart.  Adam Rippon is out there setting an example and being himself and sharing his confidence and love and spreading joy.  I will admit, my first encounter with Adam was back in January at the National Skating competition.  I felt he came off confident and charming, but almost arrogant.  That all changed a couple of weeks ago when I started watching the Olympics, watching his interviews, and following him @adaripp and @NBCOlymics on Instagram.

And then there is this one!

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Let’s be honest here, as a young boy growing up there were not role models.  I mean, I loved Whitney and pageants, but I couldn’t talk about that but I didn’t feel safe really talking about that and there wasn’t someone older out there, gay, saying he was interested in the same stuff.  I watched the “Battle of the Carmens”, Katarina Witt vs. Debbie Thomas, and the “Battle of the Brians” Brian Orser vs. Brian Boitano, at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  I loved it.  Those were the first Winter Olympics I remember.  The red and black sparkles of the ladies’ outfits and the military spandex of the men.

But it wasn’t until 1992 in Albertville that I really fell in love with skating.  Kristi Yamaguchi was everything in my world at that moment.  I had articles and photos taped to my bedroom walls.  I remember the night of the short program I had a band concert and I was so upset that I was going to miss her performance.  Luckily I taped it on the VCR.  I was 15 at the time.  After that Winter Olympics I got rollerblades and I created programs in the street and at the neighbor’s house.  Of course I couldn’t jump, but I was doing triple toe loops in my head with music blaring from my boombox.

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A few weeks ago, when Adam Rippon hit the Olympics and landed an expert program to help the USA bring home a team bronze, there was so much buzz.  I read this article from Vanity Fair and basically I could have written it myself.  It is everything I think and feel from back in those days and coming full circle today.

The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon

How much an out gay Olympian could mean to a kid now–or to a 34-year-old who’s been waiting for it his whole life. 

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The subtitle says it all.  It could read, “A 41-year-old who’s been waiting for it his whole life” and that would be me.  So here I am thinking how wonderful a time it is to live, minus all the news out of Washington D.C., for many of our LGBTQ+ youth.  Yes, there are still attacks on transgender rights and that has to stop, but for a brief moment in time, Adam Rippon captured the conversation of a nation.  Everyone was talking about Adam.  And because of that and all the media coverage, some little boy in Nebraska, who hasn’t quite figured himself out, but now knows that there are people out there like him and Adam and me, who might now feel just a little bit more confident that, everything will be ok.    

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Recently, Oprah made headlines with a speech she gave at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards.  It was a very powerful speech for many reasons.  She spoke about the #METOO campaign and she talked about living your truth.  When we live our truth we put out there positive energy that not only helps us, but undoubtedly helps someone else who might be watching and we just don’t know it.  When you live your truth you live with power.  You live with the power to make choices and to take roads less traveled and to blaze a path that perhaps has never been blazed before.  When you live your truth you empower not only yourself but you empower other people.  Living our truth is the greatest gift we can give.

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What is so wonderful about Adam Rippon is that he lives his truth.  Maybe if there was an Adam Rippon back in 1988 or 1992 I would have started living my truth much sooner.  Maybe I wouldn’t have, who knows, but what I know for sure is that we might not all identify with him on the surface, but we all can relate to the power he brings to the conversation about just being you, just being the person you were born to be, just living with the freedom to be who YOU are supposed to be.

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So that brings me to the now.  Besides Adam, there is so much GAY out there and it is wonderful.  We have the reboot of WILL & GRACE and QUEER EYE!  I cry at every single episode of the new Queer Eye.

These are two shows that changed the conversation back in the late 90s and early 2000s.  Our country is in such a different place of acceptance and tolerance now.  We do have a long, long way to go but we’re getting there and perhaps these shows helped just a little bit.

You remember this and what a shock it was and then what an, ah ha moment!?!

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And at the Oscars on Sunday, Call Me By Your Name is up for several awards including Best Picture and Best Actor.  It’s a movie about love, finding love, and losing love.  Yes, the title characters are gay, but they could be anyone really.  These are two men who are trying to live their truth while needing to hide it as well.  What a beautiful story about love and lust and the agony of loss.  These are the normal emotions we all feel.

Finally, on March 16, the move Love, Simon will be released in theatres nationwide.  What is that you say, a nationwide released movie about a teenager coming out and finding love?  YES, yes it is indeed!  This is AMERICA and in 2018 we have movies about Amer-I-CANs living their truth.  I wonder what it would have been like if ALL of these amazing, heartwarming, wonderful things in the media and pop culture would have been around in say 1990?  How would my life and so many gay American’s lives be different?

“Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier, it’s a little more complicated. He hasn’t told his family or friends that he’s gay, and he doesn’t know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing. ~Love, Simon

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What I know for sure (I love you Oprah) is that I was gay as hell back then and I’m gay as hell now.  Almost everything about my interests as a kid and teen SCREAMED, “YOU’RE GAY MATT” but I didn’t have an Adam Rippon to look up to.  I didn’t have shows and movies that portrayed anything other than heteronormative families.  I was different, and I knew it, but I never felt I could express it to anyone.  Sure I played dress up in my house and watched pageants on television and I loved figure skating and thought boys were cute and the list goes on and on.  One of these days I should write a blog titled, “The 1000 Signs Matt Was Gay As A Kid”.  I mean, honestly, there might be more.  I digress, what I love about right now is that Adam Rippon is the first openly gay athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics, compete in them and WIN a medal.  Way to Go Adam!  Thank you for living your truth, being gay as hell, and sharing it all with us.  We owe you, all of us, big time!!

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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Let’s get this out of the way, Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday that we give so much power to, yet we’re all ok on February 15 whether we got a box of chocolates or a dozen roses or nothing at all.  The sun still rises and our lives go on.  Believe me, BELIEVE me, there have been times in my life where I was sad not to have a Valentine.  Let’s say for about 36 years I never had one, but I was ok.  I had the love of friends and when I became an adult I had the love of red wine.  Now I’m a married man and EVERYTHING has changed…..or not much at all.  I’m at home, alone, writing this blog.  My husband and I live in two different cities so being together is not possible.  And honestly, we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day much anyway because, remember, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow whether you have that dozen roses or not.  Just go get a glass of wine and sit back to read my blog.

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Like I said, for about 36 years I never had a Valentine and I dealt with it and I was fine.  Of course I wanted the chocolates and the roses and all of that.  I did.  Society has told me over the years that I need that to make myself whole, but in reality, I do not.  Then at age 37 I got them.  It was great.  I was excited.  I was fulfilled and everything was just perfect.  Then three months later my heart was broken and I was devastated as evidenced in my blog post “For Now”.  Then for the next year I did some really hard personal work.  I survived my next Valentine’s Day while dating a new guy, then a few weeks later that ended.  Was it wonderful to have these Valentines flowers and candies and candles?  Of course it was but what I learned was that someone can give you all that stuff and not truly love you and so then, what does it matter?

“Didn’t see it coming.  No kind of warning.  I can’t work out what I’ve done wrong.  His clothes are missing.  But his keys still here.  Please somebody tell me whats going on.”

I recently heard the song “Suitcase” by Emeli Sandé which was in heavy rotation the summer of 2013.  I had such a broken heart and I did everything possible not to be alone, ever. After work I would go to yoga practice two classes in a row and come home and go straight to bed.  But what saved me from myself were friends.  Friends are really incredible people.  No matter what, they love you.  Friends are there to go to dinner and talk and hate on the ex and just be there with you.  I have so many friends who helped pull me through.  I also did so much for myself like yoga and meditation and blogging and finding the little things in each day that made me happy with #100happydays.  I found the joy in a fresh, ripe avocado.  I found the joy in friendship.  I found the joy, as hard as it was, in being on my own.  Although I had lived so many years single, the year I spent in between my heartache and finding the love of my life was really hard.  I had a taste of what I longed for for so long, not being alone.  But in reality, what I know for sure, is that whether I’m alone or with someone, I’m going to be ok.

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The reality is that we all want to be loved by that special person.  We learn about it and see it growing up and we long for it as adults.  BUT, “somebody” can be family, friends, or YOURSELF, too!  How wonderful it is to find the love of yourself?  Let me tell you after a year of really hard personal work, it is wonderful.  Had I not done the hard, personal work after being dumped and having a broken heart, I would not have been ready to find the love I have with my husband now.

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“Even when the dark comes crashing through.  When you need a friend to carry you.
When you’re broken on the ground.  You will be found.”

Dear Evan Hansen the Tony Award winning Broadway sensation has a song “You Will Be Found” with the lyrics above.  What I can tell you about Valentine’s Days past and love and friendship is that you will be found because your friends will never let you crash down without picking you up and dusting you off and pushing you out there into life to live again.  Check out my post called “Waving Through A Window” and you will read about the joy that love has brought me.  However, had it not been for the love of friends and family, and a lot of personal work “Single Season” I would not have been ready for the love of my life.

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So whether you are single or partnered on this Valentine’s Day, find the joy in your life.  Look for the simple things that make you smile.  Look for your family and friends.  Look for the wine!  Whether you are alone or with someone right now, I can tell you that loving your life and taking a deep breath and just embracing it all is what you can do today.  And to all of you Valentine-less people out there, enjoy it.  You get to do what you want, when you want, and how you want.  There is something beautiful about that.

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My Most Magical Day

It goes without saying, I have lived so many incredible experiences in my life. Traveling the world and experiencing different people and different cultures–Amazing! Running five marathons in five years, four of which I ran under four hours–Thrilling! Living moment to moment on my wedding, with so many friends and family around, and saying “I do” to the man of my dreams–Absolutely Magical! Since September I have tried to sit down and write about our day, but it seemed too fresh and honestly, I think I was still in the euphoria.  Now a few months out and in a new year, it’s time to relish the moments and share the magic.il_fullxfull.685102515_l2jb_original

When you’re getting married everyone gives you advice and relives their wedding.  I really think people love love because it reminds them of their special day and the special time in your life that brings all of your closest friends and family together to celebrate. There was a time in my life, well most of my life, when I never thought I would have a wedding. It isn’t the same for guys as it is for girls, at least I don’t think so. I didn’t grow up dreaming about my wedding, I was wrestling with a few more issues that needed to be figured out before I could, I guess. But once I came out and marriage was legalized for gays in the USA, I did want something. Of course I wanted the celebration, the party to end all parties.  My husband was like, “Let’s just go to the courthouse and get it done, simply.” Those are his famous last words because our wedding was anything but simple. I told him, “No, I want acknowledgement of our love. I want our friends and family to witness our commitment. Too many gay couples never got to get married. Now I want to celebrate our joy and I want the love and the support of everyone around us.” Well, I got just that and it was just perfect.

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The above quote from George Michael struck me so hard the first time I heard it. He was so right that joy comes from being proud of something and for too many years I tried to hide my sexuality in order to “be like everybody else” and I tried to “make it work”, but that wasn’t my story.  My story was to love a man and to celebrate the wonderful joy that we bring to each other just as you do with your husband or wife. When I say our wedding day was pure magic, it just simply was and I think everyone in attendance could feel that magic and that love.

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The photo above is of my about to be husband and me watching guests arrive at our home for our wedding. We wanted a personal day that felt like a big dinner party and having the event at our house was the perfect way to make that happen. As guests arrived they were greeted with a glass of champagne or rosé, of course. We waited upstairs with anticipation.

“I’ve never served this much rosé in my life!” ~ Bar Tender

“Your wedding oozed love, organic, elegant, love-love-love just flowed.” ~ Sherine

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“OMG!!! So much fun and unforgettable wedding full of love and joy!!!!! ~ Joey

“I have such a big smile looking at these pics. So much love that day.” ~ Kristen

“Such a perfect commemoration of that perfect day. We were so happy to celebrate with you!” ~ Shannon

So, I think the love was felt by all. We sure felt it. And what everyone tells you is true, it goes by SO fast. If I could live that day over 100 times, I would. It is once in a lifetime that you gather your closest friends and family. To have it at our home made it even more special and intimate and magical. Speaking of feeling it, we recently met some neighbors at a holiday party and as we were talking one of them said, “Oh that was YOUR party we heard a half mile away. We were walking our dog and heard music. At first we thought it was a block party, but as we got closer we realized it had to be a gay party because that was one amazing playlist. The music was too good for any other party.” In fact, when Whitney Houston and Madonna came on during dinner, a dance party broke out at the tables!

“It was one for the ages…we’ll all remember…top notch all the way…you made US feel special on YOUR special day! Thanks for such an awesome event…we love you two.” ~ Kristen

 

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Now after almost four years together, traveling back and forth in two cities, my husband and I will be together in the same city in 2018!!

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What I know for sure is that I have never felt more loved than on my wedding day. I actually could feel the love oozing out of everyone. I have never felt more joy and honor than on my wedding day. Growing up I didn’t see gay people getting married. I didn’t have role models or ideas to look forward to. I didn’t have an image of the guy I would meet and fall in love with and eventually marry. None of that was even in my head. But the wait was so worth it.  Love is out there. Love is real. Go find it!

This sums up how I felt that day in September and pretty much anytime I think about our wedding and the love and magic.

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Let’s Talk Whitney

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Today would have been Whitney Houston’s 54th birthday.

August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012

So let’s talk about Whitney and her talent, legacy, and so many gifts she gave to all of us.  I recently read an article in Entertainment Weekly with the band The Killers.  In the article, lead singer Brandon Flowers talked about one of their new songs, “Tyson vs. Douglas” named for the 1990 boxing match in which then champion Mike Tyson shockingly lost to Buster Douglas.  Flowers says the song, “explores what it is like to lose a hero.”  I immediately thought about my hero, Whitney Houston.

On January 26, 1987 Whitney became my biggest hero the night she won five American Music Awards and sang her hit “All At Once”.

As an 11 year old boy she stood ten feet tall that night and every night there after.  What is so sad to me is that Whitney Houston fell.  In the late 90s until she passed away she fell from grace and that is what people remember.  Whenever Whitney comes up in conversation (which actually happens all the time around me) people immediately say, “What do you think about Bobby Brown?” “What about the drugs?” You know what, she was SO much more than either of those things and right here, we are going to celebrate “The Voice” as Oprah called her.  We are going to celebrate my hero, Whitney Houston.

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In the coming weeks Showtime will air a documentary called Whitney Houston: Can I Be Me?  I want to explore this, one of her favorite sayings, as we celebrate Whitney.  She really was never able to be herself.  She was pure pop music and her persona took on a life of its own and her mother and manager marketed her to be WHITNEY HOUSTON, but Whitney Elizabeth Houston was a much different girl.

When Whitney was a young girl growing up in Newark, New Jersey she would go to church and sing.  She loved to sing.  Whitney was also a model.  She was the first African-American to ever grace the cover of Seventeen Magazine.  Before Whitney Houston became Whitney Houston, she was way more her than the person we would grow to know and love.  There are no wigs.  Whitney was a beautiful, natural teenager.  She was happy.

When her first album, Whitney Houston, debuted in 1985 we saw a slicked back haired Whitney on the cover, but soon after the 80s pop princess would be created.

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By 1986 and 1987 Whitney was America’s pop princess and her persona as a bubble gum pop beauty was set.  This wasn’t necessarily Whitney, but this was WHITNEY HOUSTON.

I remember when “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” came out in June of 1987 and in the video Whitney had several looks.  She has three distinctive looks in that video and I remember wondering about that because in January she had a shorter and full curly style.  Then a few months later she had really long curly hair.  It blew my mind being a white kid from west Michigan I had no idea what African-Americans did to style their hair.  Some process it, some use weaves, and some wear wigs.  Whitney wore wigs.  I remember asking my mom, “How can she have so many different looks in one video?”  And here you have why Whitney used to always say, “Can I be me?”  This wasn’t her but it very much was the pop persona created to be Whitney Houston.

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The Voice — Whitney had one of the most amazing vocal instruments of our time.  She was one of the most, if not the most, gifted recording artist of our time.  The purity, the power, the range make her voice one of a kind.  She remains the most awarded artist ever with over 600 awards and her record of seven consecutive number one hits stands to this day (Saving All My Love For You, How Will I Know, The Greatest Love of All, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Didn’t We Almost Have It All, So Emotional, and Where Do Broken Hearts Go).

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If you wonder why she has so many awards to her name, take a listen to the raw vocals for “How Will I Know.”

Awards over the years and Whitney looks.

 

From an Entertainment Weekly article about when Mick Jagger to come into Whitney’s studio as she recorded her mega hit, and my favorite, “So Emotional.” Her producer Narada Michael Walden,  “Houston headed to New York City to lay down vocals for “So Emotional” at Right Track Studios, and her powerhouse pipes caught the ear of the Rolling Stones frontman. “Mick was recording next door and he had to come in and witness it,” says Walden. “He started jumping around, as he does, and he just couldn’t believe the sound. Whitney was so excited about that.”

Sometimes it isn’t the studio versions or the huge live concert performances that show Whitney’s pure talent.  Take a listen to this clip with Paul Shaffer on the show Friday Night Videos from 1986.

It was recently the 30th Anniversary of Whitney Houston’s iconic Whitney album this summer.  There were a lot of articles that you probably missed (hahaha, but I didn’t) about this album, like, rating the Whitney album’s 11 songs.  Also with the new documentary coming out there have been articles rating her 25 best songs.  NPR recently rated her Whitney Houston album as the 14th best album by a female artist out of 150 albums.

‘Whitney’: Ranking every song on Whitney Houston’s seminal 1987 album

The 25 best Whitney Houston songs

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So here are my lists of Whitney songs.  We all have our favorites.  What are yours?

Top 5 Whitney Pop Hits

  1.  I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)
  2.  I Will Always Love You
  3.  How Will I Know
  4.  So Emotional
  5.  The Greatest Love of All

My Top 5 Ballads

  1.  All the Man That I Need
  2.  I Have Nothing
  3.  Didn’t We Almost Have It All
  4.  You Give Good Love
  5.  Where Do Broken Hearts Go

HM. Exhale(Shoop Shoop)

My Top 5 Uptempo Songs

  1. So Emotional
  2. I’m Your Baby Tonight
  3. I Wanna Dance with Somebody(Who Loves Me)
  4. I’m Every Woman
  5. My Love Is Your Love

HM. Million Dollar Bill

My Top 5 Performances

  1.  All the Man That I Need – Welcome Home Heroes Concert 1992
  2.  Star Spangled Banner – Super Bowl 1991
  3.  One Moment In Time – Grammy Awards 1989
  4.  I Love You Porgy, And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going, I Have Nothing – American Music Awards 1994
  5. Didn’t We Almost Have It All – Saratoga Spring Concert 1987

HM. Loverman, My Man, All the Man That I Need – Billboard Awards 1991

My Top 5 Favorite Whitney Songs

  1.  So Emotional
  2.  All the Man That I Need
  3.  You Give Good Love
  4.  I’m Every Woman
  5.  Where You Are

HM. Nobody Loves Me Like You Do

*In future blog posts I hope to explore each of these lists with thoughts and insights and clips.

So here we are celebrating Whitney on her birthday.  Whitney was and still is so important to me.  People just know and have since I was in elementary school that I am her biggest fan.  The night she died, between Facebook and text messages I had well over 150 condolences.  I don’t know why but I just connected to her and here is why.  The Whitney Houston persona took over her life and led her away from her greatest gift.  We lost a legend and I lost a hero the day she died.  I will always continue to sing her praises and will always remind people that she was a gift and there was so much more to her than the negative 2000s.  She was a performer, a vocalist, a talent like we have never seen before.  Whitney was at her prime in this video and it is one of my all time favorite video clips.  Enjoy and always remember Whitney the way she should be remembered — for the gift of her voice that she shared with us all.