Thursday, November 1, 2012


“Four queers in a room, six opinions.”
Ancient gay adage

It’s hard enough to shop for a dress. It’s even harder to shop with a gay man. Just try shopping with a dead gay man, and see where that gets you.

My friend Joel died last week. There is an awful lot of meaning contained in that sentence, but I’ll move on, which is the strategy I'm adopting for every part of my life these days. A memorial service will be held next week in San Diego. I’m not only going to attend, but I am, to quote Derek Zoolander, eugoogalizing.

I have spent days and days on epic crying jags, but, in between my carrying-a-box-of-Kleenex-around-the-house fits, I suddenly started hearing one word, repeated over and over – fabulous.

It dawned on me that I was going to be at an important life event with some well-toned, well-maintained, perfectly tanned and 300% gay Californians. It was as if I could hear Joel saying, “You are NOT going to come to my funeral looking like Ma Joad from Minneapolis, so Snap Out of It!”

With the help of Joel’s tough love from the great beyond, I realized that this was a Complete Beauty Emergency, Code Pink. Somehow, the incredible life force of my beloved friend was turning into an afterlife tsunami of makeover demands, including:

Emergency #1: My Clothes
I hate to shop for clothes. I put my arm in the wrong holes (and just stop right now, I don’t need your smutty comments, and you know who you are), plus I have a horrible time putting everything back on hangers. My mother, who, the more I have two teenaged girls in my life, I am realizing was an absolute saint, used to go shopping with me, sit in the dressing room with me, and arrange my discards.

Also, mom helped me look for wearable clothes, since my preferred method of shopping is to stand in the aisles and wait for perfectly assembled outfits to arrange themselves on me, Disney-Cinderella style. When she died 14 years ago, it put a big dent in my fashionability by about a factor of ten. I will confess right here that I have not bought an item of clothing at any place other than a garage sale or thrift store in, oh, five years. And you know that I’m lying right now and it’s more like ten.

So, yeah, I need a dress for the service. But damn if I can find one. I’ve hit just about every toggery in the Twin Cities. On Tuesday, I even went into Dress Barn, just because I knew it would annoy Joel so wonderfully if I showed up in something from Dress Barn, for God’s sake.

But there is nothing on offer, even in Dress Barn, for a woman of my intense pickiness and strange, potato-like proportions. First of all, if you didn’t already know this on the first of November, it’s Christmas. And not only that, it’s also New Year’s Eve. Every black swatch of garment at which I grab turns out to be covered with sequins. Which, even for California, does not seem appropriate.

On the plus side, Joel and I have had several good laughs. He has strong opinions (surprise!) about everything I’m trying on, and they are usually not very complimentary, but often hilarious. On top of that, he keeps double-dog-daring me to arrive in leopard print, or hot pink, or pleats. Oh honey, I sigh, and realize I am talking out loud to him in the Macy’s Better Dress section, and think about going home.

Emergency #2: My Boobs
But no, I’m not going home, because Mr. Smarty suddenly announces that I need a new brassiere, and pronto. He even starts in on the Ma Joad stuff again, which is how I find myself in the Victoria’s Secret at Southdale Mall at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, telling my whole sad story to a very frightened 18-year-old (and no, for the record, I did NOT tell her “my dead friend sent me to buy a bra,” but I think I was scary enough just on my own). She, in turn, handed me off to a very competent 40-year-old, who wielded that tape measure like a majorette’s baton and who told me, “Of course I know exactly what you need. And in neutrals, of course.” I guess I just looked neutral to her.  I do that to people.

When I was checking out, I asked her about the bra I was buying, my first-ever purchase at Victoria’s Secret, and she told me that the brand name was “Fabulous.” 

Well, of course.

Emergency #3:  The Rest of Me
I had my eyebrows waxed this morning. I’m getting a gel manicure before I leave town (first-ever; notice the emerging theme?). But my hair, wow, that’s another story. For the past several years, I’ve been buying boxes of Miss Clairol highlighter at Target, and having my daughter Emma create her own teen-inspired home highlights. On my very own head. In the kitchen. While I’m wearing the Disneyland rain poncho. Afterward, we go out on the back porch and she cuts off my split ends with the crappy scissors, the ones I use for cutting cheap gift wrap from the dollar store.

While Emma has done a fine job for me in the past, I think her attention to detail may be slipping. There was the bullet hole incident, which I wrote about last summer. And last time, well, maybe she was thinking about SATs, or college applications, but wow, what’s on my head right now looks very, um, spotty.

So I asked all my best girlfriends to recommend a stylist to me, someone who was a genius with cut and color. In Joel's honor, I requested that they suggest an absolute flaming gay boy, one who would truly understand ol’ Ma Joad’s dilemma.

Here are the names of the stylists my friends suggested: Kathy, Molly, Heidi, Rachel, Trish, Annie and Monica. Notice something about those names? Where is Jeremy, I ask, or Jonathon, or Steven? Have gay men assimilated so well that they've gotten out of the hairstyling business altogether? I'm afraid that they've all become derivatives traders or ag supply sales reps or something equally dull and incomprehensible, God help us.

I finally settled on a woman whose backstory was provided by a savvy friend who knew in advance that I’d be gender-discriminatory without a little nudge:  the stylist moved here from Hawaii with her brother, who is one of the few “out” former NFL players, now working as a chef. Her brother’s ex-boyfriend owns the salon, and the bro still comes in for tip highlights.

Given the way my life is trending these days, she seems like just the ticket.

So Here I Go
The memorial service is next Saturday, in Balboa Park. I’ve written my eugoogaly, as Derek would say, and I’ve been practicing it in front of everyone who will listen, and several who aren't too keen about it, because my goal is to get through those six minutes (seven, with laughs. okay, eight) without crying one single tear. Wish me luck with that.

My other goal is to represent as someone other than “Ma Joad from Minneapolis,” so wish me luck with that, too. I may not be as fabulous as he deserves me to be, but I hope that I manage.

And honestly, if I'm wearing the "Fabulous" bra, how can I go wrong? 


  1. Julie, I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear friend Joel. If your post here is any indication of the eulogy you wrote, you're sure to be a huge hit; knock 'em dead in CA girlfriend and godspeed!

  2. This post is...well...fabulous. And you will be too. Big hug to you.

  3. Good luck, safe travels, be fabulous.

  4. Julie, you'll have them at "hello". Safe travels to you. (Next time we get together, I'll wear my new blouse from Dress Barn and we'll have a good chuckle.)