[NB: This piece was originally read at a queer story-telling hour. I’ve left it more or less how I wrote it for performance, so the formatting may seem weird.]
Two facts you need to know about me.
First fact: one of my absolute favorite foods in the world is a chocolate-iced cake donut. Just a plain-ass cake donut with chocolate icing on top. That’s a perfect fucking food right there.
But cake donuts give me indigestion— it is Fried Cake, after all. So if I eat the donut,
I’m going to get indigestion,
and I’m going to feel queasy,
and I’m going to break my rule about not eating sugar,
and I’m going to end up disappointed.
But, disappointment is weird. —
— because I won’t be disappointed for the thing that actually happened.
I will have eaten the donut, and it will have been fucking delicious (because even a stale cake donut is better than most foods). So, no, I’m not going to be disappointed that I ate the donut.
Instead, I’m going to be disappointed because I’ll be comparing myself to some imaginary Other Me,
some concocted vision of a fake-ass world where I didn’t eat the donut, didn’t get indigestion, didn’t violate my draconian code of personal ethics that makes me feel really guilty for eating sugar but is somehow fine with smoking half a pack of menthols a day, and so on and so forth.
So I’m going to be disappointed for a world that I’ve never known and that never really was. And then the disappointment will spiral.
Because as long as I’m making shit up in my head, well…
I bet that fake-ass Other Me didn’t only NOT eat the donut,
but I bet he didn’t avoid going to the gym for the last year, too.
I bet he didn’t avoid yoga this morning,
I bet he didn’t drink more than he intended to on Monday night,
that he avoided over-spending and over-indulging, and, pfff—
I bet Other Me didn’t find himself unhappily unemployed and creatively celibate for the last nine months.
As for Actual Me…
after I eat that first bite of the donut, I’m going to gobble down the rest of it way too quickly, and I won’t enjoy it, and in less than forty seconds, the donut will be gone, and then not only will I not have the Perfect Life That Other Me clearly has I also won’t even have my fucking donut.
All I’ll have is indigestion
because you cannot have your cake donut and eat it, too.
Disappointment almost feels like an emotion in reverse. Like the creepy cousin to empathy; a way to feel bad for things you haven’t actually experienced.
So, here’s the second fact about me — remember, I said there were two facts? — second fact:
I’ve only voted for President of the US twice in my lifetime.
The first time I voted, it was the 2000 election and I voted for Al Gore. And he won! Never forget that he won, and his win was taken away by the Supreme Court. So that was 2000, and the very first time I voted.
Then I didn’t vote for a president in the 2004 election, because I had been rooting for Hillary Rodham Clinton, and she didn’t end up running, and I was still angry over the 2000 decision.
And then I skipped over the presidential vote on the ballot in 2008, because, again, I had been rooting for Hillary Rodham Clinton and, although she ran, she didn’t get the nomination and I was butthurt about it, and then in 2012 I abstained one more time, but then finally in 2016…
In 2016— maybe yall know this, but I’m going to tell you again for posterity— in 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton ran for president and she got the nomination, and there was this woman who had been inspiring me since before I understood what politics even was;
this woman who refused to sit at home and bake cookies;
I had wanted Hillary Rodham Clinton as my president since before I could vote— since before I was even a teenager—
and so in 2016, I proudly voted for a president for the first time since I had voted for Al Gore.
… and we all know how the 2016 election went.
So, yeah, I feel like I have the credentials to talk about disappointment.
Because in some other world, some imagined place in my mind where things happened differently, there is that Other Me,
and while he doesn’t get to eat the donut, he does get to have President Clinton, hell— president Gore, even—, and while I can barely talk about these disappointments without crying, Other Me just gets to be happy and indigestion free, and so, yes. I am disappointed that I’m not him.
I’m disappointed that I’m not him,
and I’m disappointed that my career isn’t going anywhere,
and I’m disappointed with my non-existent sex-life,
and I’m disappointed that Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t president,
and I’m disappointed that I’ve developed this tortuous relationship with donuts and ethics and self-actualization—because even though the donut is a metaphor, it is also very much a real donut. It’s fried cake covered in cocoa flavored butter-sugar, why can’t that just be okay? Why does even that lead to disappointment in my mind?
Because, and this is the point— this isn’t a story about politics or food or even really about disappointment. It’s a story about acceptance.
Because I don’t think that disappointment is an emotion for something that is; I think disappointment can only be felt for something that is not.
It’s about a potential that didn’t happen.
It’s a comparison to your imagination.
It’s like empathy, but grotesque and self-righteous and twisted.
To be disappointed requires that we dwell in a world that didn’t happen, and abandon acceptance of what is.
So I wanna be done with it.
As I have said…
…countless times this year and will continue to say countless times more— 2018 is the year that I am choosing love. And that includes choosing to love the weird mistakes I may or may not have made that have separated myself— my actual self— from this bizarro imaginary Other Me where my hair is always cute,
and I have work that I love and that pays the bills,
and I have enjoyable sex more than once a year,
and I never worry about donuts,
because everything is perfect,
because none of it is real.
None of it is REAL.
I don’t want to spend any more time feeling for a world that does not exist; that has never existed.
As much as it hurts, I have never lived in a world where Hillary Clinton was president
and I am never NOT going to eat the damn donut.
It’s time for acceptance, because I don’t think disappointment is working— not for me, anyway.
So I’m going to try to stop being disappointed, and I’m going to stop worrying about being a disappointment, too, and, instead, I’m going to focus on acceptance and love—acceptance as a path to change, and love as the goal beyond anger.
It’s still 2018, y’all, we still need to choose love.
[Greetings From Queer Mountain, episode 62: Disappointment, 27-June-2018.]