Bachelorette in NYC?!

As soon as we rolled into Manhattan and fell onto the city streets, I turned to Aspen and said “we just went to New York for the weekend. Who the fuck do we think we are?”

We both laughed.

One of my college friends just got engaged! I wasn’t surprised to hear Aspen was getting married because I knew she’d been dating her man for a few years. In fact, she once asked me if I knew what love was (you can read my response here).

I was surprised to know she wants me to be part of the royal court (aka in the wedding). Of course, I obliged. Do people really turn down the request to be a bridesmaid? Rude, lol. We’re a month away from the wedding; the bridesmaids and I just pulled off a cross-country bachelorette weekend – borderline psychotic, inevitably worth it.

The entire bachelorette getaway was a surprise. All my engaged friend knew was “pack a weekend bag, bitch.” I sent Aspen’s plane ticket to her fiancé, who dropped her off at the San Diego airport, informing her of the destination before she entered the security checkpoint (Aspen told us she cried tears of joy when Pat revealed the location). We fell asleep on the redeye and woke up in New York City.

The 2 hour ride from JFK to our bnb, just West of Times Square, felt like 2 minutes! For the short time I’ve been alive, it never ceases to amaze me how time passes so quickly when you’re catching up with old friends. Even still, I’m continuously amazed by friendships that are tested with distance and time apart, but remain as strong.

We met up with the other bridesmaids in Hell’s Kitchen for famous NY bagels. I’ll tell you what, Cali be making some small ass bagels if you see what they’re baking in New York. After, we mosied on down to SoHo for custom made lipstick.

Have you heard of Bite? I’m not really into girly shit, but this is a pretty chill experience if you have a love for lipstick. You sit at this beauty bar and the lip ladies mix colors for you to try on. You test as many colors as you fancy; then, they melt the color of your choice into a custom—made stick.

I’m not a big beauty gal, but I do love me some cafes. How hipster do I sound? One of my favorite things being in cities is visiting adorable coffee shops. Joe & The Juice was next on our list (not because it was on the itinerary, but because we have caffeine addicts in our group that needed to stop for a latte). I discovered Joe & The Juice is actually a Danish brand and they serve coffee and freshly pressed juices.

We burn more daylight walking the streets and end up at The Plaza Hotel for afternoon tea. What’s the best way to get trashy later? Acting classy now. I can’t remember whose idea was mini sandwiches and petite desserts, but the scenery is beautiful. The main purpose of the trip is to treat the bride like a queen and this atmosphere accomplished that mission.

Once back at our flat, we knocked out. The place is definitely a vacation rental, minimalist, pure white, accented with brightly colored pop art; 2,000 square feet of 42nd floor views of Manhattan, the Hudson, and Jersey shore. 2 bed, 2 bath, 5 girls, and 1 reason to celebrate.

When we woke up from our afternoon naps, we celebrated indeed. The bars we hit are known for cocktails and open air patios. Bar SixtyFive is, you guessed it, on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. PhD, next on the list, is located at Dream Downtown. If there’s one thing I can promise about NYC, it’s endless amounts of class and rooftop views, views, views.

What else can I promise about NYC? Pizza. The night led us to a high-scale pizzeria; we ordered 4 thin crust, too delicious, we order 2 more. I can’t really tell you what happened after that, but I know we didn’t crash until 5am. We woke to the morning sun shining bright through our midtown windows. A few hours later (the amount of time it takes to get 5 girls up, dressed, and out of the penthouse) we headed for breakfast at Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market, although crowded, is definitely a place to check out for unique eateries and shops. I ordered a vegan salad (in desperate need of fiber) but the rest of the bride tribe ordered food at Creamline, which took so long that we convinced a server into giving us 2 White Russians, 1 beer, and 5 glasses of rose for free, for the wait. By the time we finished our food (and the booze) we stumbled through Chelsea Market window shopping (or, in my case, real shopping). Lingerie shopping was next on the itinerary, but I didn’t buy anything of that sort.

We bought more pizza before we heading back to the penthouse, carbs before a comedy show. Funny enough, the troop imitated Aspen and one of the bridesmaids during the improv. One of our bridesmaids got too fucked up from day drinking, she missed out on the clubs. But, so did we. What I learned about NYC clubs is there’s a very high price to pay to get in. Most clubs require reservations, bottle service, or a set tab, which is whatever the bouncer decides, on any given occasion. We learned this first hand, at 1 Oak, which is famous for celebrity appearances (I think the Kardashians were literally there last month).

We don’t mind passing up clubs because I did a fair amount of research on cocktail bars in midtown. Dear Irving was the chosen joint, which I particularly liked because of the unique “rooms.” There are 4 different ambiances in this spot, which I think is geared toward being a speakeasy.

I’m glad we made it to a cocktail bar instead of a dancing club. This intimate setting and chatting about marriage, is more impactful than losing brain cells some place I most likely won’t remember the name of. We spent our final night discussing love and how our lives have changed from love’s affects.

We ate breakfast at Gotham Market, around the corner from our apartment. 2 bridesmaids already left for the airport. Me, the maid of honor, and the bride head to The Highline, where Laura is staying at The Jane hotel one final night, before flying back to Cali later in the week. We spend our final hour at the hotel bar, reflecting on the weekend.

Overall, the last 3 days reminded me that time apart doesn’t necessarily mean that friendships are lost; real friends never really fade out of your life, even if you don’t speak on the daily. We also reflected on marriage, “kinda a big deal,” sacred ceremony, love and matrimony type shit. When you’re with someone that makes you certain love is real, you marry them.

I am so excited for Aspen’s wedding.

How Do You Know?

A few years ago, one of my close friends from college texted me late at night. We were catching up and then she randomly asked me “how do you know when you’re in love?”

Naturally, I was caught off guard. First, late-night catching up sessions aren’t usually geared toward philosophical topics. Second, I was recently single (which was most likely the result of lacking any knowledge on love lol). Third, because I didn’t really know how to answer the question.

I took pause. I thought, do I really know what love is? I concluded that I didn’t, in fact, know what love was. I was young, naive, and what quasi-relationships I’d been through could hardly count as experience. However, I knew a feeling…something I would most closely relate to what I thought love felt like. Love feels like joyful sacrifice.

Love is opening the door for her wherever we go. Love is holding the grocery bags, carry-on luggage, and bear spray so she doesn’t have to. Love is driving around for hours, with a destination in mind or just get away, to cruise side by side – what matters is being together. Love is calling her up because you have happy or sad news, it’s about sharing all aspects of your life with her.

Love is being able to say what’s on your mind without reservation or fear of judgement. Love is sharing secrets and trusting they’ll be kept. Love is asking questions and discovering different perspectives; most times, it is realizing beliefs, values, and core principles align.

Love is an action, not a passive reaction. Love is compromise; love is forgiveness. Love is feeling safety in chaos. Love is effort, love is challenging, love is difficult to comprehend; but, all the while, love is the feeling you have when being with her makes you happy, when you yearn her presence, when being with one another feels so easy.

That feeling, that’s what I think love is. Love is often described as the relationship between two lovers, which may be the first thing to come to mind, but that type of love isn’t alone. Love is so much more than your feeling toward a significant other. There is parental love, sibling love, friendly love, love for passions, for all beings, for the universe.

I told my friend the only truth I knew about love: love probably feels different for everyone and knowing when you’re in love can only be judged by you. Maybe your love is taking him on an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii. Maybe it’s packing him lunches and making homemade dinners every night. Maybe your love is watching curling during the Winter Olympics, even when you think it’s the most boring sport on the planet, but he loves cheering on team USA.

How do you know when you’re in love?

You don’t do these things because you’re told. You don’t do them because you have to. You do whatever it is because there’s a feeling deep within that encourages you to do them, almost like a reflex. You do these things because you want to, for the sake of someone else’s happiness – you act out of love.

I’m not sure what my friend’s love feels like. I didn’t ask because I know love is too complex to describe. We can try to explain what we think love is, but love may not be able to be illustrated with words, maybe it’s something we can only feel.

Earlier this year that very friend reached out again. This time she asked, “Will you be my bridesmaid?”

I think it’s safe to say she found her own definition of love. (I said yes, btw.)

PRIDE

Iconic rainbow flags, rainbow socks, rainbow unitards, rainbow tutus.. blouses.. headbands.. pants.. dressesrainbow-everything flicker my eyes in different directions. Rainbows fall from clear-blue skies; rainbows sprout up from underneath Market Street; endless colors adorn me me gaily. If you haven’t guessed already, it’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco.

I step off Caltrain with Giants fans heading to AT&T Park in jerseys, baseball caps, and black-n-orange with a mix of colorful and eccentrically dressed parade-goers walking the opposite direction. As I get closer to downtown, people in face paint, boas, and flags used as capes become more plentiful. I’m wearing the same tie-dye sports bra I made for last year’s parade with black high-waisted velvet pants. Pink, gold, and purple glitter shines above my left eyebrow down to my cheek bone, accented by transparent sequins. Face jewels are enough to draw interest from strangers and a couple people ask to take pictures with me. Of course, I oblige – “Happy Pride!” [our salutations].

Searching for my friends in the crowd is only challenging because I’m distracted by beautiful people and the fun everyone is having marching and/or onlooking. One of my best friends is dancing  in the middle of the block with a crowd of her colleagues, all wearing uniform Tesla pride t-shirts. A talented Tesla employee DJs on a podium at the back of a hand built trailer, pulled by the Model X. As we approach the start of the parade, we jump aboard the make-shift stage, our bodies in unison with the rhythm of the music.

The trailer emerges on Market Street and we jump higher from the energy of the crowd. We didn’t even make it one block. The front wheel of the trailer breaks from everyone dancing too hard, so we jump ship. Not being on the trailer allows us to run, skip, dance our way down the street, hollering and shouting, waving to the people pressed against the barricades on the sidewalk and handing them mini rainbow flags.  Paper confetti shoots out the back of the car and I truly feel like a celebrity.

Pride month means a lot to me. I used to love attending the parade as an ally to the gay community. I’ve trekked a long and [at times] unforgiving road through self-discovery; eventually, surrendering my resistance to whom I was forcing myself to be, to who I actually am. It’s hard to explain to straight people that “I didn’t know I was gay until I knew.” In fact, the topic has so many layers of complexity I could write an entirely separate blog post about the epiphany of my sexuality (and probably will sometime in the future). At first, I didn’t want to be known as “The Lesbian” to my friends or strangers. I was under the impression that the term would be the only descriptive feature one learns about me during first impressions, as if it has an undesirable connotation. Yet, in time, I realized that being gay is such an integral part of who I am as a person that being “The Lesbian” isn’t something I should shy away from, but be proud of.

As much as I’ve overcome obstacles, being gay is still difficult (maybe only gay people understand how I feel), which is why Pride is such an important event in my life. June is the month that this community shines in a spotlight, as if we are allowed to creep out of the shadows discrimination. Sometimes I feel estranged or lonely because I’m different, almost like alienation (most of my close friends and others I know are straight). I love this particular weekend of the Pride Parade in San Francisco when I can take public transportation without a shirt, glitter all over my face, and not receive confused or distained looks. Above dressing up (or down) and the superficiality of what everyone is wearing, Pride Parade brings together people just like me. I am surrounded by openly proud and extremely gay strangers, but they make me feel connected; these are my brothers and sisters. I feel less alone.

This is my third year attending the parade as a self-accepted lezzer but the first I was able to march the entirety of. This parade is not just a march, it’s a massive city-wide celebration. This is a fucken party to rejoice in acceptance of ourselves and revel in the support from our allies. We celebrate how proud we are to be who we are, or what makes us different than the remainder of the population. To me, this is more than a two-day bender just drinking and dancing in the streets. Being here is the reason I’m alive; it’s times like these that keep me alive; this is a lifeforce.

Dancing in this year’s parade isn’t happiness, no, better…this is NIRVANA.

Dykes on Bikes

pride.JPGWomen in bright t-shirts stand in front of barricades blocking the streets surrounding Dolores Park. The green of the grass is almost unseen as people stumble over blankets, bottles, umbrellas, beer pong tables, and popup tents covering the field between 18th to 20th Street. A female MC, with a soft afro and denim overalls hooked on one shoulder, introduces the next guest on a small stage near the lower west side; speaking into a microphone, her voice hardly travels to the middle of the park over the music, the commotion, the party.

The public rager continues to attract more festive attendees as the Saturday afternoon progresses. By 4:30, the park is lightyears past maximum capacity as people spill over the sidewalks, pour onto streets, drunkenly flooding the three blocks along Dolores. This is when the rev of motorcycle engines begin to roar and echo off houses between the Castro and Mission district. I throw on a neon-yellow safety vest and follow the sound, lining up along a bus disguised as an old-fashioned trolley. Behind me is a street-wide banner held by countless women and a crowd behind them, holding signs, blowing whistles, spreading love and cheer.

Believe it or not, this beautiful pandemonium is a day-long rally ending with a march known as Dykes on Bikes. (Hence the motorcycles).  The Dyke March spans Valencia to Castro Street and a couple blocks in between. This year, I volunteer as a safety monitor, keeping an eye on the jubilant crowd. Volunteering is not new to me; I began volunteering at a young age, an experience I love for being “hands-on,” and sharing my time with people, communities, and organizations in need. What I love most about volunteering at events by myself is the opportunity to meet new people.

Since it’s my first year volunteering at the Dyke March, I’m paired with a volunteer-veteran named Emma (if you’ve volunteered for a few years, you’re assigned a walkie-talkie and headset). We monitor the crowd and I stay on Emma’s left side so she can hear the communications on the headset in her right ear and hear me with her other. She explains what to look out for and the other duties we have as floaters.  As we walk the park, Emma tells me about experiences she’s had being trans and about how the Trans March doesn’t get as large a turn out as the Dyke March, but (of course) always loves going. We make it to the perimeter of the north side, where a vintage firetruck is parked and a small crowd of pedestrians and firefighters in uniform are gathered. Emma says “there’s the Fire Department recruiting every year at the Dyke March…they’re looking for strong women,” I giggle in agreement. Emma repeats a new report on the headset, a child has gone missing. As the safety team, we search. Luckily the missing child was found shortly, playing in the sandbox. After this tense bit, we retreat to the volunteer tent to take our break, resting our feet and snacking on pizza.

My second volunteer shift I’m paired with an energetic twenty-year-old named Kaleigh, who exclaims June is her most favorite month. Why? It’s Pride Month (duh, she adds). Kaleigh and I roam the park, each holding one side of a giant bucket with dollar signs written with thick sharpie. Kaleigh enthusiastically informs people that the Dyke March paid eleven grand to clean up the park after last year’s kick-off; we raise forty-six dollars in donations in merely thirty minutes. I’m not sure if it’s encouraging people to clean up their trash or Kaleigh’s slogan that drew money out of people’s pockets…She went around shouting “if you’re not gay, you owe us a dollar!” Some may not have donated, but they definitely laughed. If we aren’t collecting money, at least we’re entertaining.

Volunteering allows me to walk at the front of the parade to maintain order (what little order there is at an enormous gathering for gays). This, by far, is the best feeling, dancing in a line of volunteers, waving to the crowd, and being part of the human race, who have so much in common, but the immaculate similarity here is positivity and homosexuality. Accepting myself has been one of the most challenging aspects of my young life, but now I stand as an integral member of the lezzer community. I’ve never been so proud to be myself, never felt more connected, than I do now marching.

This is what happiness is. Spending the day volunteering for an event, which supports a cause I am deeply passionate about. These are the moments I live for; meeting and gathering with people who extinguish the feeling I have of being the alone or different. We are all one in the same. These moments are so exhilarating that I’m drained! Although I’m completely exhausted from all the walking (26, 003 steps in total), the amount of joy that fills me witnessing such amazing support from the LGBTQQ community and our allies gives me life. I have enough adrenaline to walk another five blocks to Mission. Nachos and cerveza replenish my body for the journey home and an even larger fiesta the following day…