You all know that Dolly Parton is one of my heroes. She taught me to Dream More. It's part of her four pillars of success, as she outlined to the University of Tennessee graduating class commencement speech and then elaborated in her book Dream More. (I highly suggest the audio book read by Dolly herself.)
Dolly says, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” That's what I work to do with this blog, and that's what I'm hoping to support with this Reiki-infused tea business!
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I found out a couple of weeks ago that a former sweetheart of mine passed away. It was very sudden. We do not know why (beyond knowing that it was not foul play), nor do we know if we will find out why.
I have been in a lot of shock and denial about it. I also believe that the stories that are hardest to tell are the most important to share, so I thought I would put down my thoughts and remembrances.
Photo courtesy of Tanja Tiziana.
I met Luscious in 2005 at the NOLOSE conference. I always thought she was cute and regularly flirted with her, to no great reciprocation (she was incredibly shy in that way). I also always thought she was in an open relationship. Thanks to her erroneous Facebook status.
For New Year’s Eve 2008/9 I went on a girls’ road trip to Toronto to visit friends and eat our way though town. I thought it would be fun to proposition her for a casual make-out, which I did in a clever and carefully worded email sent a week before we left town. She said yes and proposed a night to hang out. She was a very talented chef and came in on her day off to the restaurant she worked at (Disgraceland–fabulous name). She cooked us an insanely amazing meal of fried chicken, poutine, fried okra, mac & cheese, corn dogs, fried green tomatoes… The gravy on the poutine remains the best I’ve ever had.
After much stalling and making me wait patiently (not my strong suit), she finally kissed me and we made a date for New Year’s Eve. We began our affair all night that night and had instantaneously intense chemistry. That first night I remember her sitting up on the bed and coming up behind her to put my arms around her. She leaned into my chest and said “I feel so safe with you.” That is one of the most treasured compliments I’ve ever gotten from a lover.
We began texting fast and furious the days following my departure. We had a marathon phone conversation where she moved furniture so she could get cell reception to talk to me. She invited me back and being both impetuous and impatient, I decided to drive back up 10 days after leaving the last time.
We checked into love island and had an amazing time. She drove me around Toronto in the winter, showed me her favorite spot in the city, someplace right on the lake where she could sit and look at the city skyline and think, or talk to her BFF, Arun. I got to hang out a lot with Arun, who at the time was beginning to court my BFF, Zoe.
We loved many of the same movies, Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias were top choices. So we curled up to watch them on her bed-like concoction instead of a couch, which she called her “Flatress” and was more of an entity than it was a piece of furniture. She cooked me an incredible brunch. She complained in a facebook status update once that she wanted someone else to cook for her, so as a surprise for her I took a turn in the kitchen in lingerie and heels, making her muffins and bacon with brown sugar.
I met a few of her wonderful friends, but mostly we stayed on love island. She sent me home with cupcakes she bought for me from her vegan, gluten-free baker friends (they were seriously better cupcakes than I’ve had in NYC) and deviled eggs she made for my road trip.
One time she texted me “All I have to offer is my good palate, strong hands and big heart.” She had so much more to offer than that, but those were her most noticeable characteristics. She didn’t always speak up in big social groups, but she was incredibly giving to me in terms of intimacy. We talked a lot from the heart.
She was so kind. Even to people who weren’t particularly kind to her. One time we were in the grocery store, I was down the aisle a ways and this small child walked up to her and told her she was fat. I forget what Luscious said to the child but it was one of the most sweet and generous teachable moment responses I’ve ever witnessed.
She gave me one of my favorite cds, Dance Yourself to Death, who are her friends. I listened to it nonstop in my car for months.
On my next visit she curled up with me on the Flatress and showed me all of her photo albums, through her childhood and teen years. She was heart-open about so many things with me. She drove me to see places that were important to her history in Toronto and outside. She always held my arm when we were walking outside because she knew the ice terrified me. We had incredible sex.
The problem with long distance is that it only works if the parties have compatible communication styles and abilities. She sort of dropped me suddenly, without warning. It was really devastating to go from a deep intimacy and fairly constant contact to next to no communication. About a month after our last visit and the sudden lack of communication we exchanged a couple of emails, but I still never really understood what she was doing or her intentions, and we came to no resolution because she never could tell me what she wanted from me or “us”.
I went back and re-read some of my journals from that time. I had forgotten how heartbroken I was over Luscious for quite some time. Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” on repeat heartbroken. Couldn’t stop talking about it for months heartbroken.
Though I still felt very sweetly towards her, as a matter of self-preservation I kept some distance and we mostly communicated through Facebook comments and status likes. I was always pumping Zoe for updates on Luscious when she would return from visiting her boyfriend in Toronto.
I emailed her in December when I found out she was having gastric bypass surgery. I know it can be really isolating and hard to make decisions about weight-loss (especially surgery) when you are in a fat activist community and I wanted her to know I was available to talk and supported her doing what she needed to for her own bodily self-determination. I also secretly wanted to open the door for communication otherwise.
I saw her again at the NOLOSE Conference in Oakland the weekend before she died. I went up to her and gave her a big hug and kiss on the cheek. We didn’t really talk beyond small talk though. It was hard to figure out what to say. We shared a lot of stolen glances, and the look on her face when I was on stage on Saturday night is something I’ll never forget.
I know right now I am feeling very confused, devastated, and needy. It feels so weird since I don’t live in her town and wasn’t an active part in her life. We were Facebook “likers”. In this day and age of Facebook and social networking it feels weird and hard that she has a Facebook account. It seems weird that I got a notice that she liked my status update on Saturday and then moments (?) later she was gone. It seems weird and also awesome that her Facebook page is now a memorial site for people to post about her.
It also feels weird to grieve someone who I was so intimate with, but who was no longer a current person in my life. I feel really grateful that many of my friends reached out to me when they found out. One of whom is my friend Kristyn, who also had former lovers die suddenly (multiple within a year) and she met up with me to talk about it. She said this really beautiful thing to me, the gist of which is the following.
As sex positive queers, it is really important to acknowledge that sharing your body with someone is a really sacred act. And even if you’re no longer sharing your heart and body with someone any longer, when they leave this earth there is still part of you that goes. It is really important to recognize that it is a significant and distinct loss.
At this point I am just trying to feel it. The first day I had some time alone after I found out I spent the day writing, working and listening to Brokeback Mountain soundtrack. I cried a lot and got it together to go to Rebel Cupcake. I dedicated the show and the party to her–a fat positive queer dance party with lots of good seating was exactly her jam. No one there knew her but it felt like something I could do for me. I am still finding ways to honor her and my grief day by day. Leah Lakshmi told me the night I found out “Shark, do the best you can to just feel your feelings.”
She was really important to me and still is. I still thought about her every day. I hope that whatever happened that she wasn’t scared. I hope that she is someplace looking over us, and smiling.