If you’re wondering how it is I ended up in a throuple with two metrosexual, bisexual men — that part is all my fault. Certain disapproving parties prefer to believe that I have been entrapped, or tricked, so as to allow two gay men to conduct their gay business under my naïve nose while I provide them with love, support, and a beard. This is not true, and before we go further with this silly post let’s get that much straight: seriously, I’m here because I put myself here (and I’m no beard).
But free will does not mean you exist in a vacuum, as a philosophy professor of mine would be happy to tell you. You have choices, yes, but the set of these is limited by what has come before you, and what can possibly come after. How ELSE did I get here? Yes, I wanted this. But why?
It’s that cat’s fault, up there in the fancy Leotard. (See what I did there? Leotard. I’ll wait.)
I don’t have a lot of pre-surgery memories, but I do recall my mother taking me to see Cats at the Winter Garden Theatre (By the way, I was APPALLED when the thing to finally take over at that venue was Mamma Mia!. Just kick Andrew Lloyd Webber while he’s down, why don’t you?). It’s probably the initiation to theatre for many children, because its focus is on visual spectacle over intricate plot. Also, they’re kitties. They do intricate ballet, energetic tap, impressive acrobatics, delightful tricks… and then sometimes they lick their paws or stretch or make fun of dogs by putting shoe-boxes on their heads and barking. That’s on the level with child’s play.
But my mom recalls that I grew up fast (and not without reason, with my disability pulling focus). I did not think Cats was silly. I thought Cats was serious business, dammit. We got the VHS tape of the film, and I used to go down into the family room in my leopard-print pajamas, eating slices of Cracker Barrel Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese and watching. I would get up and pretend to be Rumpleteazer, jumping from couch to love-seat and back. I used to try to tap-dance when the Gumby Cat threw off her big coat. In fact, that number was the reason I finally agreed to the surgeries that terrified me so. I couldn’t ever play the Gumby Cat if I couldn’t properly tap, and I couldn’t properly tap if I didn’t take the risk and get my wonky legs fixed.
But the Gumby Cat gets interrupted, you know. By Rum Tum Tugger. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the gateway to my often-frustrating, rarely rewarding doom. God, I thought he was sexy. Sometimes I pretended to be him (That’s yet another story — oftentimes I can’t be sure whether I love effeminate men or if I just want to BE one myself, and there’s been struggle there.), gyrating my hips and teasing an imaginary Bombalurina, but mostly I sat very still when John Partridge came on. And yes: the actor is gay. I didn’t know that then. I would’ve cried if you’d told me. But…
If you go to about two minutes into that video, you’ll see Rum Tum Tugger reject Bombalurina. He drops her, just as she’s offering herself, completely at his mercy, and she’s undeniably sexy (for a dancing woman-cat). He drops her. He says “no.” And he’s so not kidding. He’s not interested. I thought that was sexy, too.
He was so above everything, or that was what attracted me: his certainty, his ego, his suaveness, and that pretty, effeminate, made-up face. But certainty and ego and suaveness are not what that “no” is really about. You couldn’t have told me that at ten or eleven years old. Therein lies my lifelong struggle.
I didn’t know what it meant, what I felt about Rum Tum Tugger. I just thought I loved him. I wanted him to kiss me and hug me. You know. I remember dragging my step-brother (he being teenaged) down to watch Partridge’s performance. He went straight up to my mom and said, “You let her watch that? That is four minutes of hip-gyration in spandex.”
And my mom said: “It’s theatre. It’s okay with me.”
I was on her side, and am still. But all these years later I do see his point. I wonder if anything would have been different. I wouldn’t wish it so, but it’s something to think about.
Right before my surgeries (so I would’ve been about twelve), Mom decided that it was time to expose me to another musical on film. I guess she saw it in BJs on VHS and had to buy it. What she didn’t have to do was show it to me, but she decided to do that, too. It was time for me to learn about the birds and the bees, I guess, and she didn’t feel like talking about it. Instead, I learned from the sumptuous devil-mouth of Tim Curry, in The Rocky Horror Picture Show…
More later, guys. Stay tuned: Tim Curry changed my whole life, and there’s a happy ending that has nothing to do with my non-traditional marriage. Also, if you think Rum Tum Tugger’s entrance performance is garish, let him try to woo you once more. This is the good stuff. And part two… (That quiet, sweet part at the end? Oh…)