By Buddy Early, May 2018 Issue.
“Why are you not more successful?” a friend asked me recently over coffee.
This wasn’t really what he said but I fancy myself as someone who can – and should – re-write what people say in order to better represent what they really mean … or at least what is implied … or, OK, what I interpret. Fine, in my head this is what he asked.
Now, it must be said that this person is incredibly accomplished. He collects college degrees like Pokémon characters, whereas I was known to ask “What’s the least amount of work I can do to get a ‘C’ in this class?” This is the guy who makes everyone else look bad – by joining the Peace Corps and teaching English in China, by leaving a thriving law career to teach something called Humane Letters at a prep school, by running for a city council seat, losing, then coming back to run again until he won. The kind of a-hole who makes no-interest microloans to dudes in African nations where the American dream of entrepreneurship remains alive and well.
Yeah, he’s that guy.
So, what he really meant to ask me was why I am not doing more of what I love. You see, for most of my adult life I was doing fun things like writing and performing comedy, not to mention enjoying a cool-but-unlucrative career in journalism. But at this point I’m simply toiling away at a nameless corporate machine whilst occasionally telling people that I’m still working on the next Great American Novel. And by “working on” I mean trying to find where I saved that half-written first chapter.
My friend is who he is: a success in traditional terms. And I am who I am: umm, not that. We’re a combination of our successes and failures, our best and worst traits, our most positive characteristics and our strangest quirks. For me, that means I am a perfect combination of being a slob yet fabulous. I’m Slobulous.
What does it mean to be Slobulous? Well, like pornography and spoiled milk, I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I taste it. Slobulous, as applied to my life, means having your sh*t together and simultaneously being a mess – a man-child with 16 pairs of shoes, a pretty sweet cable sports package and a bank account. I certainly have my mental health issues, but I have it together enough to not air my petty drama on social media or repeatedly call an ex-boyfriend’s work until he gets fired. So, basically, I’m a success as defined in Slobulous terms.
What else makes me Sloublous?
- I maintain a seemingly tidy and organized apartment, yet the dust bunnies under my sofa and the grime around the rim of my toilet are dangerously close to unionizing.
- I am never late paying my bills, but I am astutely aware of the “grace period” offered by each of my debtors.
- I take pride in how I dress – but not too much pride, which is why I am an expert user of Downy Wrinkle Releaser™.
- I cook/make many of my own meals at home, yet I use the same plate/bowl/fork/spoon that I just keep washing and leaving out to dry in the strainer.
- I know who all the current pop divas are (or have at least heard of them), yet would be hard-pressed to identify any of their songs.
I don’t know if that last one is really important, but many of my friends have shamed me for it.
So, who’s to say what success is anyway? Sure, you may say it’s excelling at a high-paying career that lets you have awesome possessions and travel to exotic locales. But isn’t success really being a fortysomething, single, overweight gay man with high blood pressure and cholesterol who knows the difference between serif and sans serif fonts and doesn’t drink too much beer?
It took four decades in this life for me to accept all of these things – these things that make up who I am. When I was (much) younger it was important to buck stereotypes about gay men and present myself as (ugh!) “straight-acting.” Some years later I found myself working hard to prove myself as a gay man and fit in as a member of the community. Lucky for me I’ve grown enough to no longer pretend to be someone I’m not. For the record, my loves are sports, Broadway musicals, beer and drag pageants. I simultaneously have my sh*t together and I’m a mess.
My wish is that those of you entering this awesome community do not take so long to realize how wonderful it is to embrace everything about yourself. That’s a level of success some people never achieve.