Friday, June 13, 2014

Back to Boys

Though much of my recreation time was spent at gay clubs and napping in my mom's lawn chairs, I did occasionally still think about dating and heterosexual men.

My ever-mysterious, bum-shaking coworker Jay was still charming as ever and a couple of guys from church were giving me sideways glances now and then. But I couldn't give them proper focus. I've always been the kind of girl who worried about boys a little too much, but at this time in my life there was so much going on in my head that there just wasn't room for extra thoughts about them. I was still coming to terms with the new person I was becoming (or discovering?), which was simultaneously amazing and horrifying.

Say what you want about Taylor Swift, but her description of being "happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time" from the hit song 22 is SPOT ON.

So my time spent with men was a pretty mixed bag. I hung out with Ethan a lot. Once or twice, I went over to Jay's apartment. On one such evening we ended up putting in a movie that he slept through. When it ended, I snuck out quietly. The sideways glances from boys in church turned into a couple of fun game nights with light snuggling. But overall I was without a plan, without a clue and without tons of prior experience to guide me.

Up until this point, I had only kissed two people. One was Alex (my high school dreamboat - there's a series of blog posts on here somewhere all about him) and the other was Jared, my first foray into girlfriend-hood. Jared and I dated for about 6 months before we both got confused and angsty and decided to not date anymore.

That's it. Just the two. When I would have late night gossip sessions with my roommates in college, the talk of the town wasn't how many men you'd slept with - for most of us that number was a big zero - but how many boys you'd kissed. We would giggle endlessly as one girl would brag of her 12, while others were still in the single digits. Sophomoric? Perhaps. Precious memories? Mos def.

I wasn't sitting pretty at 2 because I didn't want to kiss more boys. I certainly wouldn't have minded being a bit more lip-promiscuous, but I never had the sexual confidence that some of my peers flouted as they went about breaking hearts and collecting smooches. Their laundry list of ex-boyfriends always sounded so cosmopolitan. Plus there was the ever-beguiling concept of the NCMO. I never could quite figure out how this worked.

A NCMO (pronounced NICK-mo), for those of you who never attended BYU, is a Non-Committal-Make-Out. It means you're smooching someone you have no intention of dating. I first encountered this concept as a freshman.

Asia: You guys made out?
NCMO girl: Yeah, he just texted me and we met up.
Asia: So is he your boyfriend now?
NCMO girl: Ew, no.
Asia: ??????

Hearing stories like this perplexed me to no end. It was like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. How on earth could this be a thing?

Flash forward to the new, bar-singing, weight-losing, 22 year-old version of me. I wasn't suddenly a vixen with an appetite for carnality (I was still awkward, Mormon me), but I was more confident than I had ever been and was starting to realize more and more that I was at the helm of my romantic experiences.

This realization came to a head one night at the gay bar with Ethan. We had run into a boy that we both knew from high school. He was cute, he was fun, he was straight, and he was looking at me. We'll call him Robert. Apparently it's not crazy uncommon for straight people to hang out in gay bars (who was I to judge?). Plus he was bffs with the bartender or something. He asked me lots of insightful questions about what I'd been up to and had a nice, genuine smile in response to my fascinating responses.

The following week, he was there again. Our friendly chats began to turn into flirty chats as he offered to buy me a bottle of water (my beverage choices never got much more exotic than that). Then, as per the norm, a David Guetta song came on that Ethan and I could not resist. We headed to the tinsel-rimmed dance floor and shook our stuff. I motioned for Robert to join us.

The fun dancing turned into flirty dancing and before I knew it, Ethan was no longer in the picture and Robert and I were dancing pretty close (not dirty dancing close - I'm not a fan of the bump-and-grind). Then, a second later he was kissing me. I'll admit that it wasn't altogether a surprise, but it definitely wasn't anything I had experienced before. It was a NCMO. I was NCMO-ing in a gay bar. Take that, BYU gossip parties!

After that, Robert texted me once or twice, but we lived on such separate planets that I think we both knew the depth of our connection would have to subsist of a few minutes of smooching in a gay bar.

The next boy I would kiss after that would be my husband.

Looking back at all the gossip sessions where I would marvel at the girls with high numbers and wonder what was wrong with my lips makes me want to go back in time and give myself a hug.

"Don't worry." I would tell 19-year-old me. "It's perfectly alright not to kiss all the boys. Just wait. You'll have a NCMO. You'll kiss a girl. Then there'll be Austin. You don't need to kiss 100 frogs before you find your prince. Remember how Mom always says, 'You just need one?' Well, she's right, as usual."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

SO Dramatic

Shortly after I was hired to work at Harmonious Monks, it was suggested that I learn "Mercy" by Duffy and continue singing "You Oughtta Know" by Alanis Morrissett. Those were my two contributions to the evening entertainment. Mercy went pretty well and became a staple of my repertoire. I sang it every Friday and Saturday night for about a year. You Oughtta Know was one of my favorite songs to sing, but was assigned to another singer after a couple of months.

Then tragedy struck. While rolling silverware one night before the big dinner rush, I saw on the TV in the corner that Whitney Houston had died. Everyone gathered around as we heard the sordid details of her final moments. Ethan was devastated.

When Dennis arrived, he announced that he wanted to add a song to the show in honor of her passing. He looked at me.

Dennis: We're going to add "I Will Always Love You" to the show and you're going to sing it.
Asia: Whaaaat...

I told him that long, ballad-y songs were not really my strong suit and - also - I'm not Whitney Houston so please don't make me embarrass myself trying. But Dennis believed in me and started getting the track ready.

I'll be honest, most nights it was passable. Some nights it was awful. And I can distinctly remember 2 or 3 nights when it was really good. Nights when my vocal cords were loose, strong and soulful. Below is a video that a good friend took of the beginning of it one night.

The crowd enjoyed it and always had nice things to say, but they always had nice things to say about everything. Drunk girls drinking out of phallic straws love everything and everyone.

In Summer of 2012 my aunt got sick. Aunt Jackie is my mom's closest sister and was, at times, like another parent in our household. She moved in after my dad died to help ease my mother's burdens. She helped with science projects, hairdos, and taught me about Janis Joplin and Pink Floyd. She loved when I sang and always made a comment about how it made her cry.

When I lived in Provo, she lived in Lehi and I would go to her apartment every Monday night to watch Hallmark movies and eat quesadillas. She thought it was so sad that I had stopped singing when I went to college. "There's no room for another singer out here." I would tell her. She would roll her eyes and tell me that I was the best singer in America. I would roll my eyes right back.

Right before I moved back to Jacksonville, she was having some pain but didn't want to go to a doctor because she didn't have insurance. A little while after I was settled in Jacksonville, Jackie went to a doctor and found out that she had lung cancer.

Her condition deteriorated quickly. She was in the hospital losing her strength and her energy; the same energy that lit up the room like a candle every time she laughed. The energy that had kept us all going during some difficult times in my childhood. Then one afternoon, she passed away.

It was awful. I got the call from my mom one night while I was at girls camp and I sobbed until I couldn't breathe. Major props to Sherry Warner for sitting with me for hours as I incoherently babbled about how I wished I had helped more with the quesadillas or taken her to go thrift store shopping more. It was odd - I know where we go after this life and I have no doubts that Jackie is taken care of by a loving God and other family that has passed on - but that day, for whatever reason, I just couldn't handle it.

Eventually I was able to breathe again and I joined the discussions about helping with her funeral. My mom asked me if I wanted to sing as part of the service. I knew that Jackie would have loved that, but I also knew that there was no way I would be able to get through a song without completely losing it. I volunteered instead to give a brief history of her life.

A week or so later, we held the funeral (memorial?) service. It went well. Lots of beautiful things were said and I felt the love of family and friends. So many people knew and loved her. The sadness was dissipating like clouds after a hurricane. The heft of the loss was growing light and we were able to smile and talk about things of less consequence like lunch and naps and work.

That night, I went to the restaurant to work my normal shift. I sang Mercy without a hitch and, other than the odd contemplative moment, was doing fine emotionally. But then Dennis called my name. It was time to sing I Will Always Love You.

I had sung it dozens of times. I knew all the words. I knew all the notes. And on this night, I knew that I just wouldn't be able to handle it. I took the stage and started the song, but about 30 seconds in, the words began to slur together and air was hard to find as I thought about Jackie.

In a super dramatic moment that one could only find in a Hilary Duff movie (Raise Your Voice, anyone?), I ran from the stage in sobs, leaving Dennis and the band bewildered and alone as the track continued to play.

I went and sat on the gross floor in the back near the walk-in freezer and tried to get myself together. It was extremely unprofessional and extremely embarrassing. The only thing that made it better was Ria kneeling beside me saying, "What do you need? I'll get it." and Ethan somewhere in the background of my mind saying, "I always thought that if someone was going to run off the stage dramatically, it would be me."

Another one of the servers jumped up to the stage and finished the song. It was a little odd to hear someone else sing it, but I was grateful that the show went on.

Once I was up again, I took a sharpie and a paper towel and wrote "Dennis, I am SO SORRY. This will NEVER happen again. -Asia." Then I walked up to the stage and set it on his keyboard so that he would see it.

Looking back, it's funny how dramatic that moment was and what little control I had over my emotions. I'm grateful for supportive coworkers and boss who let it roll of their backs like water off a duck. When the night ended (about 5 hours later), people were so exhausted (and some of them drunk) that they scarcely remembered my botched performance.

All of my songs after that night were better and, thankfully, tear-free. And I still sing. In one way or another, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, I try to always find a way to sing. Not because I'm the best singer in America, but because some people like it and, when I'm being honest with myself, I really like it too.

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