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Cat People

I’m really into classic films. I think it’s because I love theatre and classic films are very theatre like. These last few days, because it’s fall, we’ve been watching classic horror films. The other night we watched the 1940s original of Cat People. It’s about a woman from Serbia - her accent said otherwise - who turns into a panther when she’s kissed by a man. It was over-the-top, over-dramatic cinema.

For me: camp

Clearly, I’m not talking about the cabin by the lake while making s’mores type of camp. Webster’s technical definition is: “a style or mode of personal or creative expression that is absurdly exaggerated and often fuses elements of high and popular culture”.

A mouthful.

Camp is Daytona Wind.

Camp is Lady Gaga in 2008; or in the Telephone music video Lady Gagay; or at the 2018 Met Gala Lady Gaga.

Camp is such a free form on expression that you can't help but notice when you're in its presence - I love every bit of camp

It's all so interesting that I find Halloween such a conflicting holiday.

I don’t know if they’re aware of it or not - and I mean this in the most sincere way - but my parents raised a gay ass kid. Seriously, they did. As you could probably guess, I was what most would say a “flamboyant” child: Every place I went turned into a stage where I was, for obvious reasons, the star.

There are times where I’m shocked I didn’t come out until I did. I don’t know what I was worried about - my parents held the lure in front of my face for years - but I never took the bait.

Part of me wonders what it would have been like if I had come out in high school. I wonder if my life would have been any different or if I was always going to be on this path. Sometimes, I think back on the loneliness of my youth, where I was so desperate to tell my inner circle (or even my family) that I was even more different, beyond my obvious Black self - often the only in the room with them. How was I supposed to tell them that I was my own version of cat person?

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with my dad about why I hadn't come out of the closet during my high school years. Unbeknownst to me, he and my mom had always thought I would.

"I always wanted to, Dad," is how I started, before my voice cracked and my eyes started to mist. "Trust me, I did. But I also knew that it would be hard being the only Black gay person at school, since there were so few of either."

There was a long pause between us. My dad shifted in his spot on the couch, I adjusted in mine.

"You know, I never would have thought about that," he said, as soft and controlled as possible. I heard a slight tremble in his voice, but he probably wouldn't admit it. "I said it because I thought it would take a lot of the pressure off of you. You always seemed so tightly wound, that sharing that would have loosened you up. I didn't think about how it would be to be Black AND gay there."

"You could have told us,” my mom said, a few weeks later. Since their divorce, these talks have come in twos, but generally have similar consensus. “We knew that something was up, but you never told us. There was a point that you started keeping things to yourself.” She paused. We were sitting in her living room, bodies sunken into her overly comfortable couch, toes curled in a shared blanket. Singer/songwriters of 1970s Laurel Canyon crooning softly in the background, a reminder of a simpler time - a staple of my mothers house. Every time I'm there, I like to look through old photo albums my mom painstakingly assembled, before the internet. I paused on this picture.

"You got kind of quiet after that Halloween."

Halloween, 1998.

I remember telling my parents that I wanted to be the Bride of Dracula for Halloween. They looked at each other, then looked at me, then looked back at each other.

“I think Katie has a dress that can fit you” - Dad

“I’ll do your make up and have fake blood running down your chin” - Mom

There wasn’t anger or telling me “no” or saying to wear something a boy should. Just parents letting their child dress up for Halloween - the whole purpose for the holiday.

I only made it to five houses that year before I went back home; The laughs still echo down the halls of my mind. It was also the era where derogatory language was rampant, most of which was withheld from many my age. I had heard the word faggot when I was walking the streets with my sisters. It was quiet, in passing - I'm not even sure if they heard it. I didn't really know what the word meant, but I knew it didn't make me feel good. I knew I didn't want to be outside in a dress anymore. I already stood out as one of a few black kids at school, I couldn't let this find its way back either. I was devastated and I've rarely dressed up for the holiday since.

It could have ended there, as a kind of sad story. But, I’ll never forget what my parents said when I told them what happened:

“They’ll get it when you’re older”

The words made the sting go away. The hug that followed soothed all of the pain. Then, we did what we always did: lounging in the living room, wrapped up in a blanket, popped corn in our laps. The room is dark because the movie is about to start.

Tonights feature the campiest one of all: Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

- G

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