Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

13 December 2016

Summing Up 2016

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?
Visited the Mayan temples at Cobá and Tulúm.
Went to Savannah to try to see some haunts.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I had three resolutions last year: to finish writing my book, to cook through Ottolenghi's  Jerusalem, and to have noticeably bigger arms. I kept the first one. I mostly finished the second one. The third... well, although I did Insanity every day during the Summer, as soon as Fall rolled around I started slacking again. The job I have takes up an enormous amount of my time, and working out every day means not doing any of my own research. The arms, in other words, are not noticeably bigger. Maybe in the Spring I will figure out a better plan?
I'll probably make some resolutions for next year, but I need to think about it more.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! Carlos and Danis had their son Owen. And Aaron and Kristen welcomed little Caleb.
And Mike and Brandee brought home baby Poet.
(After this was posted, my friends Rick and Jill welcomed their daughter Maura Alessandra.)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No. But I am keenly feeling the loss of bisexual adult film star Alexander Gustavo, who took his own life on December 17th. [NSFW link to this story here.] And George Michael died on Christmas Day. I will, perhaps, write something more about these two deaths, which have really saddened me.

5. What countries did you visit?
México. Three friends and I went to Tulúm in the state of Quintana Roo for Spring Break. I saw many Mayan ruins. I laid on the beach. I did a Temazcal ceremony. I ate lots of ceviche. It was lovely.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
A contract for book #1.

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
As much as I'd like to, it's going to be pretty difficult to forget election day of 2016, November 8th – the day we found out that a lot of people have decided to give up on liberalism in the U.S.
June 12th, too, is going to stick in my memory for a long time. The Pulse shooting, where 49 people (mostly queer people) lost their lives to a homophobic American terrorist, happened only 9 miles from my apartment. I had had a really fun weekend with my friend Adam, but woke up to horror on the news.
Also March 11th, the night before my birthday this year, was amazing. More on that below.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finishing the first draft of The Violate Man this summer.
Doing the Insanity program again at age 35.
But let's be real with one another: 2016 has been a garbage fire of a year. Everyone agrees. Simply surviving it without going totally nuts is an achievement worth acknowledging.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I fail, frequently, to be patient with others. I have also failed, in many cases, to communicate to my friends how much I love them. It is easy for me to disappear into solitude. I need to be better about this.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I didn't. I had a little tiny flare-up of the diverticulitis, but I went directly to my doctor, got on antibiotics, and we think it went away.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I bought a beautiful new table.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
The heroic men and women who stood up against our government's plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Senator Bernie Sanders.
Seth Meyers.
President Obama.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
American Democrats, who decided, as a group, to run a candidate far to the right of their supposed values. I am not trying to be a Monday morning quarterback, just noting that I was disappointed in the values of these Democrats.
American Republicans, who decided, more as a group than anyone thought, to elect a man whom everyone agrees is totally unqualified to run our government. It seems that many of these voters hate Hillary Clinton beyond all reason, or they are simply so tired of the American experiment that they wish to burn it all down. Fair enough, but to have chosen to elect this man is irresponsible in the extreme.
President-elect Donald Trump, who proved himself a racist, fascist demagogue incapable of leadership, sense, and even basic politeness.
The Christian Right, who apparently care only about fetuses, and care nothing for the lives of men, women, and children who are already alive. Honestly, the fact that American Christians have not moved boldly behind movements like Black Lives Matter as a group is astounding to me. I find it indefensible, in fact, and void of any logic whatsoever. How can potential lives matter more than actual ones? And I'm certainly not suggesting that this political group needs to choose between the two. What should shock us all is that they have.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Travel, actually, which, when I think about it, is a pretty good decision.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
ASTR 2016
Summer! Actually, I think the answer to this question is: the end of the school term.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
Frank Ocean's "Solo" was definitely the song I listened to most this year.
And although this song came out in 2009, the song that will probably remind me most of 2016 is RuPaul's "Cover Girl".

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier
b) thinner or fatter? Fatter
c) richer or poorer? Richer. But that's saying nothing.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Hiking. Hanging out with friends. Reading.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Teaching. I like it and all, but boy do I sure spend a lot of time doing it.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I'll be in Los Angeles. I can't wait.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Uh... no.

22. How many one-night stands?
Every year I forget to keep track of this. I think that's probably because I think keeping track is sort of sex-negative. At least 3 – an improvement on last year!

23. What was your favorite TV program?
I watched way more television this year than I have in the last decade. I watched season two of American Crime for work (it was good!), but more importantly, 2016 was the year that I got hooked on RuPaul's Drag Race. A student sent me a video of an episode of the All Stars 2 season, and it was totally compelling. Now I'm watching my way backwards. I've seen seasons 8, 7, and most of 6. I am honestly not that interested in the cattiness of the queens, and I think the worst part of the show is the judges' completely inane puns during the runway sequences. But I love watching these gay men interact with one another and tell their stories. It's really beautiful.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Last year I was like "Who has time to hate people?" but this year has brought out a lot of bullshit. I still don't think I hate anyone. But I have definitely run across one or two folks in the course of my job whom I find completely unbearable.

25. What was the best book you read?
Nick Salvato's Obstruction is a beautifully written book about writing and the work and blockages involved in creativity.
I fell in love with a couple of great plays, too: Jackie Sibblies Drury's We Are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, from the German Südwestafrika, between the Years 1884–1915 and Chantal Bilodeau's Sila.
I have been disappointed in many of the contemporary novels I've read recently, but not disappointed at all with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah.
And as for classics, I loved Invisible Cities and 2001: a Space Odyssey.
Oh! One more. Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts. It's surprising and beautiful.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
James Vincent McMorrow. (Thanks, Kody!)

27. What was the best piece of theatre you saw?
I saw very little good theatre this year, but at Orlando Fringe I saw a little piece called Darlings by a group called Animal Engine that I really loved.

28. What did you want and get?
Attention from a publisher.
A new album from Frank Ocean.
A new movie from Pedro Almodóvar.
Oscar nominations for Charlotte Rampling and David Lang.
An Oscar for Son of Saul.
Legalization of marijuana in several states.

29. What did you want and not get?
The dismantling of American prisons.
I mean, look, I'd like a lot of things – increased police accountability, an end to violent American colonialism, an attempted mitigation of the destruction we are causing to the planet, more liberty for individuals in this country. I understand that these things are not priorities for many USAmericans. So I try to keep my desires in check.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
It's still early December, but so far it is Embrace of the Serpent.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 35 and spent the day in Tulúm, México. Three friends and I joined four strangers for a Temazcal sweat-lodge ceremony the night before my birthday, and we sweated and sweated in a room filled with red-hot stones. The Temazcal is supposed to be a way of connecting with the earth and connecting with the elements. It is designed, as well, for the participants to get rid of things they no longer wish to carry and then restrengthen themselves before joining the outside world again. The ceremony took almost everything out of me, and I needed help standing as I got out of the lodge. My friends and I all had similarly powerful experiences, and we realized we were all too frail to go back to town immediately, so we walked out onto the beach at night and sat on the sand quietly feeling the wind and the surf. It was a powerful way to ring in thirty-five.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Someone with whom to share it.
But then again, maybe not. I am very used to living alone, at this point. I'm not sure I could manage another person taking up space here.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Terrible. I don't think I went shopping once.

34. What kept you sane?
Travel. This year I traveled much more than I usually do. It always makes me anxious, still, but my trips to México, to Chicago, to Minneapolis, to Ft. Lauderdale, and to Savannah this year were all so necessary to my well being. Living far away from friends means that one needs to pack a bag and go see them every once in a while. I did not go to Virginia this year, even though I usually spend much of my summer there, and instead I went to lots of other places. I am sure it was the right decision.
And group chats. I have one on facebook with my friends Alex, Ryan, and Patrick. It definitely keeps me sane. Those three help me navigate the absurdity of academic listservs, job market woes, and publishing anxiety with generosity and grace. I love them. But I have 2 group chats via SMS as well: a group of high school friends who share jokes and ridiculous products for sale, and one called "Firing on All Six Cylinders" with a group of roommates from grad school. I need all of them in order to keep an even keel.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
 Colin Kaepernick

Alden Ehrenreich

 Danell Leyva

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Black lives matter. Say it. And keep saying it. And if you can't say it, or don't want to say it, let's talk about why that is.

37. Whom did you miss?
More than anyone else, my colleagues in the Northeast.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Deborah Hartranft

39. Tell us a valuable life-lesson you learned in 2016:
Stop volunteering for things! You have enough to do on your own; you don't need to go making more work for yourself by trying to help people out. It is nice to be a nice person, but really you need to protect yourself.

40. Share an important quote from 2016:
"Regard everything that lies around you like the luggage in a hotel room. You must move on. You came in at nature's behest, and you are going back the same way. You are not allowed to take out more than you brought in, or rather, the main part of what you brought in with you into life must be laid aside."
Seneca the Younger, Letters on Ethics 102.24-25.