Ruby Slippers, Western Stampin’ Ken, and A Whole Lotta #Diva

Originally Published: August 28th, 2013; Updated: June 24th, 2014

I had a MAJOR gaypiphany the other day, like I often do when I’m reminiscing about my childhood. Gayphiphany: How did everyone NOT know I was gay by the time I reached 7? And if they did, WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME? Disclaimer: this is SO stereotypical. And I’m OK with that.

Exhibit A: The Ken Doll Saga

It all started when I was having a ‘Writing Pow-Wow’ with Nic that somehow strayed into a discussion about our Lord and Savior, Mariah Carey, and how Ariana Grande is like a mini-Mariah (please excuse my erratic messages; I’m just insane):

Nic: omg I’ve been loving Ariana as well!




 Can we just talk about “almost is never enough”?!






Me: Ariana is amazing




i love her. 




I want to keep her under my pillow. 




”Almost” is such a good song! 




I’m in love. 




If I can’t have Mariah, I’ll have Mariah’s poppier, less bombastic sister. 




 Like, if I can’t have Barbie, I guess Skipper is fine.




 Also, when I was eight, I wanted a Ken doll for Christmas. And got one. It was Cowboy Ken. 




 He was delicious 




AND NOBODY THOUGHT I WAS GAY. 




I don’t get it. 






Nic: OMG!!! COWBOY KEN. I just died.




 DIED











Me: He had a white and silver cowboy outfit




it was beyond fabulous. I’m trying to find a pic on google. 




Oddly enough, in a search for “cowboy Ken doll 90s,” pictures of semi-nude men pop up.

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Nic: Please tell me you added that arrow yourself











Me: OMG I FOUND THE KEN DOLL I USED TO OWN. ARE YOU READY?! ARE YOU FUCKING READY!?











Nic: I’m ready for the cowboy regalia!

WesternKen1

Me: His official name? Western Stampin’ Ken











westernstampin

Nic: Hdxhsjdtsto LMAO! He looks like a 70s gay porno











Me: This is just…supreme. This is my entire gayhood.




 The crux.











Nic: I’m.. I just. I’m speechless









 

Me: I just…this is just…the biggest A-HA! moment for me ever.




 

Now, it doesn’t necessarily seem like this would be an epiphanic moment. I liked to play with Ken dolls when I was growing up, obviously I’m into guys. Just because Western Stampin’ Ken spent A LOT of time hanging around the saloon with my Aladdin doll doesn’t mean that they were getting it on. I mean, both spent a lot of time sans shirts and gently holding each other, but THEY WERE JUST BESTIES, OK!

MAN-ON-MAN wasn’t part of my vernacular. Still, I was always drawn to the rippling pectorals, chiseled abs, and bulging arms featured on the Ken Dolls. The fact that Ken never had a penis was inconsequential — I wouldn’t know what sex was until I was 13 anyway — I just liked playing with Ken more than I liked most other Boy Toys [see: Hot Wheels, G. I. Joe, sports equipment, etc. Except Batman. My Batman toys were EPIC].

But this whole revelation made me think about everything else from my childhood, and I realized that, when I look at everything from the perspective of a happily well-adjusted not-quite-but-almost 27 year old gay man, my childhood WAS TOTES GAY.

Walk with me, guys, while I attempt to map out my gaystory [gay + history, obviously]:

Since we’ve already worn out the Ken Doll [pun not intended] …

.

Exhibit B: ALL the Sass!

Me at Disney

I had ALL the sass as a kid. The above is a picture of me at Disney World. Notice the hand on the hip and the #fierce face. Sass is/was everything.

I learned at a young age how to deal with life: develop a strong sarcastic wit. It’s how I dealt with my parent’s divorce. It’s how I made friends. It’s how I processed being (or rather, allowed me to convince myself for YEARS that I wasn’t) gay. It’s an art I perfected at a young age.

Also: RUBY RED SLIPPERS.

tumblr_maktcq5BcI1r7qhgbo1_500

Also, I kind of enjoyed wearing Dorothy’s famous ruby red slippers (and there is picture evidence somewhere in the world to prove this).  I’m not saying that I enjoy dressing up in women’s cloths (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that), but for some reason, I quite enjoyed wearing the slippers. They were comfortable. And glittery. Or something.

.

Exhibit C: An Affinity for Roleplaying

IMG_3409

I always had the best, GAYEST Halloween costumes EVER. But the cake was taken by my EPIC portrayal of The Riddler from Batman Forever. Handmade by my talented mom, all of my costumes were the most elaborate. I’d DIE before being caught in a store bought costume.

But it doesn’t end there.

Join me for a trip down memory lane, won’t you? Picture this: Christmas, 1993…

Everything has brought me to this one moment. My heart is pounding and my chest heaves back and forth, going a hundred miles an hour, but I’m ready. I check over my shoulder looking for Mom, who smiles and nods for me to look straight ahead. I search my brain for the words, going over each one in case I forget something vital. It’s as if I’m on a soundstage and nobody else is around. A soft spotlight baths me as the red light flickers on and I take my take my place. I can hear the sound of a thousand trumpeting horns signaling my arrival.

My aunt presses play on the Karaoke machine; the tape had begun to wind itself, and the sound of gears slowly turning is replaced by a thousand horns. Like characters from My Big Fat Italian Wedding, the audience takes their place: the Nonna, the Great Aunt, the Aunt with the teased hair as high as a skyscraper, and her boyfriend, the body builder.

The music begins.

My mouth practically eats the microphone, and I start to mumble the words.

“Make way for Prince Ali! Say hey! It’s Prince Ali!” I sing along with the roaring men.

Suddenly the music stops.

“Wait wait wait…” my aunt says from behind the video camera, “can you do that again? I want to get the whole family in the back.”

I can’t just do it again, I have to be inspired!” I tell her. Some call me dramatic, I say it’s because I’m an artist.

“Please!” I hate it when she begs.

“Fine,” I say, bending down to pick my stuffed Abu doll so I can bend his legs and position him on my shoulders. “Now I’m ready.”  

The red light let me know that it was time to reveal myself to the world.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaand ACTION!” she says, pointing to me, with a huge grin from ear to ear.

“Prince Ali” blasts through the small speakers again, and I’m trying to best Robin Williams, effortlessly mimicking every voice in the song. As the Genie changes his pitch and accent, I’m right there, doing it better

“Genuflect, show some respect down on one knee,” I sing into the microphone as I get bend down for full effect.

“So try your best to calm,” I jump up on the arm of the pink couch and climb over the laps of my audience.“Brush up your Sunday salaam! And come and meet a spectacular coterie!”

My favorite part is coming up, I make my way into the center of the living room, next to the Christmas tree: “Prince Ali, amorous he! Ali Ababwa! Heard your princess was a sight,” my voice spikes to high-pitched shrill and my hand flails as I mimic the Genie’s, “lovely to see!” 

The livingroom claps wildly.

My best audience yet. I pretend like I’m flying through Agrabah on a magic carpet as the song crescendo’s. Everything has brought me to this one moment. My heart is pounding and my chest heaves back and forth, going a hundred miles an hour.

And bow.

.

Exhibit D: for #Diva

I first heard Mariah Carey back in 1992, when “Emotions was all over the radio. But it wasn’t until “Hero” in 1993/4 that I really fell in love. And ever since, it’s been a painful and totally unhealthy obsession with the ULTIMATE Diva.

When Daydream came out in 1995, I brought the physical CD  and my old  walkman to school EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. At 9 years old, I would sit at the back of the bus and rock out to “Fantasy,” “Always Be My Baby,” “One Sweet Day,” and the rest of that #perfect album and when nobody was looking, I would perfect the Mariah Handwaves:

It’s an art form. And one that should be appreciated. LOOK AT THOSE FINGERS. And the feeling in her face.

#Genius.

Before I hit puberty, thanks to Mariah, I was knee-deep in #Divas. TLC, Whitney, Spice Girls, Britney Spears. You name it, I was obsessed.

My room was plastered with Mariah Carey album posters. I even had an 8 foot high posters of the #1’s album cover.

Mariah-Carey-1s-359561-991

I also had this poster:

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#ColorsoftheWorld. Also, #NoShame.

It’s like that, y’all.

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Bottom-line: My Childhood was FABULOUS.

Playing with Ken dolls, wearing ruby red slippers, and listening to a revolving door of #Diva’s didn’t make me gay. Sure, looking back at it now, it makes some sense, especially when you think about the stereotype of what “Gay” is, or it should it be based on what society has allowed us to believe.

But guys, #newsflash: Mariah Carey didn’t make me gay. Neither did Ken. Let’s be real, if a doll had that power, I’d probably be mid-sex change because, you know, Ken was lacking in the penis department.

Every inch of my childhood is a piece of fabric that makes up my history, but it also lends itself to a superficial explanation of my sexuality. Nothing here wholly defines me, [though the ruby slippers often come up in conversation with my best friends and their parents]. That’s who I was when i was younger.

I didn’t know that it was wrong to be attracted to the same sex until I was made fun of in school for liking “girly” things and not fitting in. And I thought, I don’t see any boys holding hands. I don’t ever see two dad’s; it’s always one mom, one dad. That’s normal. I knew I was different for feeling this wayIsn’t that what “GAY” feels like at such a young age? It’s not about sex, it’s about a feeling that can’t quite be explained.

I always felt like I didn’t quite belong. I never played sports with the rest of the boys. And even though I found myself gravitating towards the girls who swapped Lisa Frank stickers during recess over playing soccer or football or baseball, I still felt like I shouldn’t be doing that, despite it feeling normal. We’re always taught that, as boys, it’s not quite normal to be into dolls and diva’s. It’s not OK to want to play house as one half of a Daddy-and-Daddy scenario.

I fought myself, my actions, and my predispositions a lot growing up. I thought myself defective.

As a man who has accomplished a lot, including realizing that who I am is OK wonderful and giving myself fully to love and finding the love of my life, I know now that nothing made me gay. Gay is a feeling, something that cannot be controlled. It’s not about what music you listen to, what you play with when you’re little, or how you dress. It’s about love. It’s something that cannot be controlled because it’s a part of your soul, your make-up, your DNA.

I was/am not defective.

I was born this way, and it’s fucking fabulous, so

7 Comments

  1. I do not even know where to BEGIN with my adoration of this post. The Ken, the SASS, the Aladdin performance, THE MARIAH… I just, I #can’t. Amazing. Also? Obsessed with the ending.

    Soccer boote: We might need to collaborate on a joint nineties memoir, since this post proves that we were basically the same child. (Jim Carrey’s portrayal of the Riddler? MY LIFEBLOOD… and you pulled the look off masterfully, I must say.)

    1. I would be SO DOWN for a little writerly collabo! Let’s #MakeItHappen.

      Also, glad you liked the ending. I took the “Ok, done with the humor, let’s get real” route and I’m glad it paid off!

  2. Gurrl, I’m dying.

    I live in Rio, Brazil, and we had almost exactly the same childhood.
    My mother took 9 years to finally comply to all my begging (crying on my knees and everything) and give me a Barbie doll, but I remember saying that if it were so impossible to get her, I should at least have a Ken or her car. Sad.

    Long story short: I’m now a Barbie collector and I always sneer at her saying that because she denied me one, she eventually had to buy me a hundred!

    The diva thing came with the Spice Girls and I also had a poster. Love ’em to this day!

    1. Hahahaha I’m glad I could give you a chuckle.

      Also, isn’t it strange how kids countries apart could share similar childhoods! I love making connections like that!

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Oh, and YES @ Spice Girls = Best. Ever.

  3. Ha, I loved this! for me, intead of Mariah and the Spice girls, it’s always been Mariah and Janet. When I eventually came out to my mother shortly after high school she said “But what about all those pictures of Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson you have in your room?” Exactly Mom! The 75 pictures of divas plastered all over my walls should have been a gigantic clue! (In addition to the obsession with Disney princesses and playing with my younger sister’s dolls and “house” sets.) Its crazy sometimes how we humans don’t want to see what’s right in front of us!

    1. This comment is giving me life! LOVED Janet (never had any Janet posters, though). Also, my Disney obsession is a little bit unreal from time to time.

      I just love hearing from people about similar/shared experiences growing up.

      And it’s so true about not seeing what’s right in front of us…even though so much of this post was surface-level, there is SOME kernel of truth to what we’re drawn to being a part of our biology.

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