I was reading some article that said you had been feeling crucified by the press and even the fans lately because of your performance this season. When I read that part of the article, seeing the word “crucified” made me think of Crucifictorious, this fake band that was on the Friday Night Lights TV show. I used to have a crush on Jesse Plemons, the guy whose character headlines the band. Jesse Plemons himself is a few years younger than me, and he is even younger than you are, but I did tend to go gaga over him the entire time that I watched that show. I know the guy’s got a goofy face, but his character was really sweet and from what I have seen in his interviews and the handful of other roles I have seen him play, there is a lot of himself in the role of Landry.
Had you mentioned to me in real life that you felt like you were being crucified, I would have interjected with a non sequitor response like “Crucifictorious, even.” And then you would have done a double take and asked, “What?” Depending on what kind of personality you have, you may be irritated at me for abruptly changing the subject, or you may be amused at my random nature.
That’s what I do. I like to diffuse situations. It’s not that I necessarily like to avoid confrontation — even though, in fact, I hate confrontation — but you don’t get to be 30 without learning how to manage not just confrontation, which is so dramatic a word, but on a less dramatic note: simply, conversation. And in conversation, if things become too tense, I like to use humor. Not in an extreme way, the way Chandler Bing did on Friends (wow, I’ve already made two NBC references in one never-to-be-sent), but in a way that I hope makes everyone in the conversation feel a little more relaxed.
Maybe I picked up that habit from Pop and Ma. When I was a kid, they argued a lot. I’d happen to walk into the room during some fight, and because they did not want to argue in front of me, inevitably one of them would break from the argument into a kind of forced laughter. Sometimes Ma would utter a strained chuckle and go, “He’s mad.” And then Pop would chime in with his own hiccuping laughter and say, “No, she’s the one who’s mad!” (It was even funnier — in an awkward way, of course — because their arguments were always in Tagalog, but when they broke for me, they’d speak English.)
Pop and Ma got married young and then began to realize that they didn’t have much in common. If they were ever actually in love, I only know about it from one picture, where they look astonishingly young, and new to the world, their whole lives ahead of them. I can tell they are at a party. Maybe it’s because someone else took the picture, or because Pop is wearing a fitted polo shirt and his slick hair is combed back. Ma is wearing one of those “boyfriend” flannel shirts that were so popular back in the 80s over capris. She used to wear headbands a lot back then, and in that picture she is wearing one. Ma has baby cheeks. When she smiles, she looks like a young teenager, even though in that picture she must have already at least been 21 or so. Pop’s arm is around his beauty pageant queen.
I’ve described all of this from memory, Linc. I don’t know where that picture went. It has been many years since I physically held it in my hands.
Talking to Ma lately has been very exhausting. My whole life, she has always conveyed all of her expectations upon me, whether I was only in the first grade and already expected to get straight A’s on my report card or the furious disappointment that met me when I came dancing to her in high school after I’d gotten accepted into my first choice college. I’m an only child, so there has never been anyone else to whom I could deflect the attention, and in many ways I’ve always felt like I was the salve to some open wound that Pop and Ma each brought into their marriage, into our family. What a terribly enormous expectation to shoulder upon a child. These days, Ma is getting on my case about my new job, insisting that it was a mistake to leave the other one. “I don’t care about my dreams,” she actually told me last night. “I just like that I am making good money.”
But that’s not how I think.
It is going to be very difficult making ends meet. It’s already very difficult now. But I knew what I was getting myself into. I didn’t dive into the dream without first testing the waters.
So, what I’m saying is that it’s not the new financial reality of my new job that’s driving me nuts. That stuff does stress me out — I’m still sore about how dispassionate the food stamps lady was yesterday, even though I know that having that kind of attitude is par for the course of their position — but I can handle it. I can get through it. I’m 30. I’ve gotten through a lot. What I can’t handle is the fact that, at the age that I am, it occurs to me that my own mom doesn’t understand me. I don’t know if Ma has ever bothered trying to understand me. As for Pop, well, I can think of one good example, but I have to reach all the way back to high school.
I came downstairs from my room — because in those days I had a very tight circle of friends that I never much strayed away from, and I was overweight, and I just watched TV or went online most of the time — and I was headed to the kitchen to get some food when Pop presented me with a magazine that was turned to a certain page. The page contained information about a writing contest. Pop said to me with a hopeful smile, “You should enter this, son.”
In those days I was a typically resentful teenager and, on top of that, Pop and I were repairing our relationship from all the years he had to be away in the military. When he gave me that magazine page to look at, I read it quickly enough to immediately realize that the contest wasn’t for me. First of all, the magazine was Redbook and so, naturally, the contest was soliciting entries from women and, specifically, the women’s experience. But despite whatever my resentful mind and hormones were telling me to do, I ignored it all and managed to strain out a thank you to Pop because my heart was soaring with gratitude that he understood me as a writer. I did not tell him that I could not enter the contest. Instead, after thanking him — and I think I even uttered what I hope was a convincing “Cool” — I took the magazine, got my food and retreated to my room.
I know that I keep saying that I’m 30, but the reason why I’m being so repetitive about it is because this is a turning point in my life. It’s not just the number that is making me think (and perhaps overthink). It’s the fact that I have been alive long enough to know that there are things that I want to do for myself, things that I need to do for myself and, yet, maddeningly, I don’t really know who I am. In fact, I was on my run this morning and I had to come to a halt so suddenly that I hunched over and only by clutching onto my knees did I manage to avoid a complete fall. What had happened was one of those bizarre sparks in the brain that fires an existential crisis. For a fleeting but intense burst of several seconds, I was wide awake with the horrifyingly hyperaware realization that I don’t know who I am.
When I have to get the riot act from Ma about how I should do this because she wants to do that, it’s hard. At this age, I have to figure out who I am because if I don’t, I’ll spend my whole life not knowing and therefore not living what I would consider to be a meaningful life. I can’t worry about Ma’s expectations, and yet, if I don’t have her approval, if I have to walk around with her expectations and knowing that my life isn’t good enough for her, it hurts, Linc. There’s nothing I can do to walk it off. I can’t help but take it personally.
The good news is that there are some things that I do know about myself. The bad news is that it is not always easy to reconcile that with Ma or the rest of the world. So, here is what I know:
- I am a bookseller. I do not make much money. But I love what I do. In addition to being a bookseller, I am an events coordinator. I mingle with emerging stars and sometimes super stars. I am professional. But I am also very approachable. I love my job.
- Because I do not make much money, I have to make adjustments. Living my dream also means that I have to live responsibly to support that dream. I applied for food stamps. I am considering getting a small part time job. I’ve slashed my budget. I am trying to make this dream work.
- I need a husband. I am sorry if this goes against feminism and whatever the feminism equivalent is for the gay community. But I can’t do all of this alone — I mean, I can, but at the end of the day I feel so alone. And I’m tired of it. I need a partner. I want someone to tell me that I can do it, and I want someone to whom I can listen in return and to whom I can be a good husband, as well. And I want intimacy: yes, I want sex! Lots and lots of sex with my husband. As Michelle Pfeiffer’s character said in Up Close and Personal when she wanted to get married to Robert Redford’s character, “I want to know that you’re legally required to be here in the morning.” And I want to make you so exhausted in the morning that you will take after Ryan Gosling in The Notebook and demand nourishment and accuse me of sending you to an early grave.
- I want kids. I want two kids and I’m going to raise them to be partners. I want them to be best friends but I’m going to try and hold off on placing my expectations upon them. They might not always like each other but they will have each other’s back. When they reach adulthood, I will not tolerate either of them saying any variant of “We haven’t spoken in years.”
I’m a nomad with a modestly packed backpack. Those are my tools through the journey of life. They are the keepsakes that remind me of what I have left behind, and the hope of reaching a fine destination.
Speaking of journeys, you’ve got a start coming up in a few minutes. Duck the Fodgers!
Baseball 2.0 is the blog and living memoir of San Francisco writer Joe Ramelo. At 30-years old, he is an internet veteran, having been a cyberspace colonist since 1994.
Written in the format of unsent (“never-to-be-sent”) letters to San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum, Baseball 2.0 discusses baseball, the world and life — though baseball could be considered to be all of the above. In particular, there is special emphasis on baseball and life through the author’s background as a gay Filipino.
All that introspection is time consuming, so there’s not a lot of opportunity to hope that Tim (variously and vaguely referred to as either “the Avatar” or “Linc,” not really because of movies or video games but due to the author’s personal superstition/belief about the power of names) actually writes back — which he likely wouldn’t, anyway.