Recently I started watching all five seasons of Queer As Folk in honor of Pride. It dawned on me that I identify with a new character each time I watch. In fact, QAF has come to represent my own personal growth in a bizarre way, considering I’m a straight woman.
When I watched my first episodes way back in 2006, I was easily First Season Michael. Michael Novotny is sort of the heart of the series. You start with him narrating the action and the series ends the same way. He’s not so much the nucleus of the action, that honor goes more to his best friend (and drug) Brian Kinney. The two, in fact, are the yin/yang of the story.
Where Michael is considerate, kind and thoughtful, Brian is self-serving, egotistical and unapologetic. When I first met these characters, I actually hated Brian because of the way he used and abused Michael. He treated him like shit because he knew he could. Michael was crazy in love with him and it would have taken an act of God to wedge Michael out from under his overwhelming influence.
Let’s just say I’m familiar with the dynamic. The more Brian toyed with Michael, the more I hated him. To squander that kind of affection and loyalty is a shitty, shitty thing to do. There’s an argument that can be made that Brian never promised Michael anything, but he never truly let him go, either. He liked knowing that no matter what he did or how bad he fucked up, Michael would be there to love him… to worship him. My BFF and I have had endless conversations about this, as he didn’t like Brian either. He says he’s known these kinds of guys who, while they were young and beautiful, would scorn the affection of their “groupies” while giving them *just enough* to keep them on standby for the day that they weren’t so young and beautiful anymore.
Essentially Brian was keeping Michael on layaway. He gave just enough attention to maintain a certain level of ownership without truly committing to the “full asking price.” In this case, “the full asking price” was returning the love that Michael was willing to give, especially in the bedroom.
As someone who has been on layaway many times in my life, even when someone committed to the “full asking price” of marriage, I found this quite objectionable. I couldn’t understand why Brian Kinney had the fan base that he did. He was an unapologetic asshole who did whatever he wanted to do, especially when it would piss off everyone else and hurt the people who loved him the most.
It was the main reason, honestly, that it took me until just this past year to finish the series.
The second time I watched QAF, I muscled through the whole series within a few months back in the early part of the year. My own interpersonal relationships had changed DRASTICALLY since 2006, particularly with my own Brians, so while I was pissed that Brian hurt Michael (often on purpose,) I was angrier that Michael let him.
In 2006, I wanted Michael and Brian to hook up because that’s what Michael wanted. In 2014, I knew that wasn’t what he needed. Ben, the man Michael would ultimately marry, was the better match in every way. He didn’t treat him like a child, like everyone else, or treat him like a possession, like Doctor David. Even with all the ups and downs, we knew that Ben honored Michael in a way that Brian would never be able to.
So I patted myself on the back for graduating from First Season Mikey to Third Season Michael. Growth! Evolution! Pride!
This time around, I’m kind of past Michael altogether. This time around, I identify more with Justin, someone I previously dismissed as a Brian wannabe. He was a teenager when he hit Liberty Avenue, and through the five years that followed, he blossomed into a man of his own. It took a village to raise this kid, and he got the best of all of them. He was devoted, like Michael. He was fearless, like Deb. He was nurturing like Mel and Linz. He was smart like Ted, confident like Emmett and loving like Ben. Sure he took cues from Brian to go after what he wanted and not make any apology for it, but as someone who has always done that myself, I can hardly criticize him for this. When I was 17 and I fell in love with someone bound and determined not to love me back, I would have done exactly what Justin did. (And did.)
As my empathy for the Justin character grew, I started to see Brian in a whole new light.
There are things he did that were heinous and unforgivable, but there were also things he did that took a great deal of moxy. I could see why, when things went to shit, everyone turned to Brian to fix things.
Yeah, he was a selfish son of a bitch, but he was also driven, intelligent, creative, passionate, ambitious, tenacious, outspoken…
Sounds like someone else I know.
The main difference between Brian and me (aside from the obvious) is that he refused to be a nice guy. He had no interest in being “nice,” no matter what society demands of us. While we all chase our tails trying to meet the expectations of others so they will like or respect us, he was unabashedly himself. He was completely conceited and self-serving, but he worked damn hard for the privilege of living life on his own terms.
He never asked anyone for anything. He made no promises and had no real expectations. He assumed if people were willing to give him anything, including attention, it was all on them. He’d take what he wanted and gave himself permission to reject the rest.
When Justin fell for the Violin Player, chasing after the fairy tale idea of wine and roses romance and love, Brian never even asked him to stay. He never asked to be chosen. He didn’t change who he was and he didn’t ask Justin to change what he wanted. He allowed Justin to make that decision for himself, even if Brian lost him in the process.
Playing nice, caving in, making compromises and concessions never even occurred to him. He never wanted anyone to tell him how to live so he refused to do that to anyone else. In his mind this wasn’t love, and he’s probably right. To love someone as they are, instead of who we want them to be, is one of the most challenging things we can ever do.
He had opinions and he expressed them, holding nothing back and sparing no egos, but he always let everyone make their own choices.
Looking back I can see that he held onto Michael simply because Michael always gave him what he wanted/needed without him having to really ask. He may have called it pathetic, but he never really turned Michael away, especially when he was battling his biggest problems.
He just needed it to be Michael’s choice to do it. He would never ask for a goddamned thing.
And I get that.
Honestly… I have newfound respect for the Brian Kinney character in general. There is something very empowering in a character that isn’t afraid to say what he thinks and go after what he wants, even when – especially when – society at large disagrees.
It gave him a charge to flout convention. He welcomed the haters. He never worried whether or not he would impress anyone. He didn’t give a shit what anyone thought. As I divorce myself from public opinion, I recently adopted the mantra, “The lion doesn’t care what the sheep think.” Brian Kinney is the epitome of this. He had enough humanity to recognize when he crossed the line and he tried to make up for hurting the people he truly cared about, but the core of the Brian Kinney character was, “This is who I am. Love me or hate me, but your opinion is irrelevant.”
This seems unimaginable to me. I’ve spent my life conforming to this idea that I had to be the good girl, the “nice” girl. The way I saw it, I had to overcompensate for all my faults and quirks, which leave me feeling – much of the time – like the redheaded stepchild in the basement. I could blame my family or society or religion for teaching me to squelch myself for the comfort of others, but I was the one who believed the bullshit. I’ve gone into nearly every single relationship I’ve had past 1980 thinking people were doing me a favor to befriend me… that I had to work twice as hard and expect half as much as a “normal” girl in order to earn love and devotion.
As such I filled my time with plenty of folks who are happy to have me around, just as long as I don’t “expect” anything. I’m great to have around if someone wants stuff done. But if I need something, even if it’s human contact or even a text, I cease to exist. Any request was like screaming into the abyss.
That’s why I stopped asking for anything. From my first crush to my last, members of my family and a handful of fair-weather friends, my requests (spoken and unspoken) for a little reciprocation usually went unrecognized. I didn’t even deserve the effort it would take to reject me. They simply ignored me and I was supposed to take the hint, even though the relationship generally started and sustained itself on nothing more than my participation. If I ever needed affection/attention/consideration in return, I was generally on my own, no matter how devoted or considerate or “nice” I happened to be.
All “nice” really means is that you’re doing everything for everyone else, but you don’t expect anything in return, apparently including simple consideration.
My disappointment stemmed from this unmet expectation, as if they owed me anything… like being “nice” in return.
And you know what? They don’t. Not a damned one of them. Everyone gets to make their choices and none if it has to do with me.
So why am I taking it so personally, to the point of changing who I am to accommodate it?
In the end, people only care as much as they’re going to care, AND on their terms. In the end, I’m still going to be invisible for some while they keep me in layaway, treating me like an option rather than a priority.
In the end, no matter how nice I am, I’m always going to be First Season Mikey for someone. A nice little doormat who isn’t even worth the response to an email, much less the “asking price,” no matter how much I mark myself down.
Or… I could be Brian. I could do what I want, say what I want and expect that the people who dig that about me will hang around.
You know, kinda like I’m expected to do for others.
After an upsetting episode on Friday, I spent the entire morning yesterday of trying to make sense of this, in tears feeling insignificant because someone I thought was really “nice” ended up being an inconsiderate flake at best, a self-important jerk at worst. (Seriously? Dropping a conversation midway through? AGAIN? For someone so “nice,” I wasn’t even worth a goodbye/get lost.)
One of the questions I kept asking myself was, “Is it me?” Why am I so off-putting? Am I really that hard to take? Am I really that difficult that it is impossible for someone to treat me with a little human decency?
Brian Kinney would never ask these questions. Only First Season Mikey would, and that’s reason enough to make some changes.
The only obligation I have in this world is to be me. That comes with a lot of ingredients in the gumbo. There are a lot of tasty, palatable ingredients, but there are some spicy components as well, which won’t be to everyone’s taste.
There’s always going to be someone more desirable than me, easier than me and nicer than me. But there will only be one me. If you don’t consider this a loss, I don’t have the time to chase you down and convince you otherwise.
It’s like pruning a dead leaf off of a plant. The more I cut these stragglers down, the more energy I can send to the people who deserve it.
So if you want someone nice, if you want someone easy, if you want someone polite and unassuming, keep looking. My Michael days are over, and the Brian Kinney era has commenced. I’m done compromising myself for people who don’t give a damn about me. I refuse to glue dead leaves back on my branches, or mark myself down for those who cannot recognize my worth.
I need all my energy to get where I’m supposed to go, which is a thousand times further than people like that would expect me to anyway. #itsallhappening #aintnobodygottimeforthat
The Emmett Era is yet to come. Thanks to the a-holes for freeing up my dance card for the people who really count.
I wrote this blog yesterday, when I was having a rough emotional go of it and trying to strengthen my spine and my resolve. A lot of times I preach to myself in a Tough Love kind of way. After I wrote it, I was satisfied not to publish. It’s kind of ambiguous and the last thing I need are more rumormongers reading things into stuff that isn’t there.
BUT today the universe hit me with a brick when my dear friend posted this:
And so she encouraged me to post for the benefit of anyone else who may need the message. Since she is my fellow OGWO (Oh Great Wise One) I heed her advice. 🙂
It is also important to note that I used the supermoon to release these old mindsets and today the Universe rewarded in an epic and unexpected way. Essentially I pruned an ugly dead leaf and today I found a bright, colorful bloom.
Life meets effort, step for step.
Trust me when I say, it’s not only OK to prune the dead leaves … it’s critical. If your life is gummed up, kick away the things that don’t serve you.
Raise your value. You’re worth it! And you’re worth the people in the world who will agree.