Cameron Esposito

Cameron Esposito

The standup comedian (Late Night with Craig Ferguson) opens up about her conservative Catholic upbringing, doing volunteer work in Jamaica and coming to terms with being lesbian.  She and Paul talk about bad porn, being turned on by things we wouldn’t want in real life and the heavy burden of being co-dependent.

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Visit Cameron's website www.cameronesposito.com

Follow her on Twitter @cameronesposito

Episode Transcript:

Welcome to episode 130 with my guest, Cameron Esposito.  I’m Paul Gilmartin, this is the Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour or two of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas and sexual dysfunction – yeah that’s right, I’m throwing that in there – to everyday compulsive negative thinking.  This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling; it’s not a doctor’s office – it’s more like a waiting room that doesn’t suck.  The website for this show is mentalpod.com – go check it out, there are surveys you can take there, you can join the forum, you can read blogs, you can support the show, and you can email through that.  You can also email me directly at mentalpod@gmail.com and @mentalpod is also the Twitter name you can find me at.  And I want to remind you that Podfest is coming up next month, we’re about a month away, and the website for all the information about that is LAPodfest.com and I’m going to be doing a show.  I don’t know who the guest is yet but I’ll be doing a show Sunday October 6th from noon to 2PM but Podfest is that entire weekend, that Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  It’s at a great venue and it’s right near the ocean in Santa Monica in beautiful Los Angeles.  I kinda like that voice… Yeeeeah, I’m gonna kick it off with an eeemail…  No I hate that voice.

 

This is from listener Roxanne, and she writes: “Hi Paul, for the first time while listening to your podcast I had to end early.  I felt your guest crossed a line asking me to empathize with rapists and pedophiles.  I wish I could ask David this question.”  She’s talking about last week’s episode, number 129 with Dr. David Hirohama.  He is a clinical psychologist who worked for a year and a half at Coalinga State Mental Hospital in California.  She writes, “Is it true that I’ve read that male sexual predators report an extremely high rate of being victims of childhood sexual assaults but the percentage drops dramatically when they are told will be given polygraph tests to confirm their honesty.  Isn’t it true that much more influential is their unwavering sense of entitlement to other people’s bodies which drives their sexual assaults?  He gives me the creeps when he refers to a judge who would lock up a rapist or a pedophile as a bad judge.  Ick.  I’m still a big fan and owe you a huge thank you.  Through you and your guests’ encouragement I have redoubled my efforts to get my prescription straightened out and have finally found groups to attend as an incest victim.  The group makes me feel amazingly okay rather than ashamed.  Don’t get me wrong, there is still tons of painful work to do, but now I feel I have a strong foundation on which to build.  Thank you thank you thank you.”  Well, you’re welcome Roxanne, and I appreciate you guys giving me honest feedback.  One of the things that is hard sometimes about doing the show when you’re used to doing stand-up comedy—you know, stand-up comedy you know where you stand with the audience but sometimes when I put stuff out there I don’t know how it’s going to be received and I think this next one is a perfect example where you can see the gambit of how different people are affected differently by the same episode.

 

This is from somebody who didn’t disclose a name or an email, and they write, “Paul, I’ve been a Mental Pod listener for 18 months now and I’ve loved every episode.  I have yet to miss one, which is more than I can say about any other podcast I listen to.”  Oh, that’s very sweet.  “I haven’t communicated with you before but have considered it, and after this most recent episode I felt compelled to.  I really did not appreciate the Dr. Hirohama episode.  The fact that everyone he talked about was an offending child molester or rapist meant that it left out a massive portion of those people, those who don’t offend.  There are so many of us non-offending pedophiles and our existence is one that is marked with constant longing tempered with control and can be absolute torture to face.  I wake up day after day wishing I didn’t have this monster to hide, knowing I’ll do anything to not hurt someone, knowing that no one will ever know or give me a pat on the back for how hard I try.  I attempted to talk to a counselor once about this but he brought up how disgusted he was by pedophiles and I immediately tamped it back down.  I’ve never spoken of it since.”  By the way, shitty fucking counselor.  Shitty fucking counselor.  He should be ashamed, or she should be ashamed of herself, whoever that counselor was.  And I am giving you a pat on the back for living with that monster inside you and not acting on it, and I know many of our listeners are as well.  Continuing.  “I think there are a lot of us that listen to your show, sad lonely men and women”—and thank you for including women by the way.  It pisses me up when people assume that all pedophiles are male.—“…sad lonely men and women who are cursed to lead sad, lonely lives no matter how much therapy we go to or medications we take.  All the words about pedophiles are like this or ‘gosh, I just don’t get how they can be so horrible’ and the Dr. Hirohama episode felt like a knife was being inserted right into my soul.  I’m lumped into that category despite all I try to do and I know you are not doing it purposefully but I felt hurt by what I heard the two of you say.  I have obviously not left you a way to contact me, and if for some reason you want to continue this conversation, please feel free to mention something on Twitter, the blog or the show and I will get in touch again.  Please keep doing what you’re doing.  I am sorry, I suppose, for what I am and for putting the weight of it on you but I think someone should say it.”  You are not putting the weight on me by saying that.  This is the kind of feedback that I think can only help the show.  The more diverse experiences that we get to hear about on this show, the better the show has a chance to be, so I appreciate that.  I think—I wish people would make a distinction between pedophiles and people who have pedophilic thoughts, and I would put you into the latter category.  I think there is a huge difference between pedophiles and people who have pedophilic thoughts.  So that’s what I say on that.

 

Let’s get to the interview, huh?  Motherfuckers.  Wow.  Did I really need to say that?  Umm.  I’m going to take it out with a Happy Moment.  This is filled out by Eileen and she writes, “I remember Father’s Day where I took my father to his favorite restaurant when I was maybe 14 and it was just him and I and I got my dad’s unconditional listening and his full attention which was always very limited, and we had a wonderful dinner together.  That instilled in me to always do one-on-one time with your son and daughter where the attention is on and really listening to them.”

 

[SHOW PREAMBLE]

 

PG:  I’m here with Cameron Esposito, who is a stand-up comedian.  I think we met the first time I saw you at Bridgetown, the Portland comedy festival.

 

CE:  Right.

 

PG:  Like two or three years ago.

 

CE:  Yeah, that would have been a couple of years ago.

 

PG:  Yeah, and I was just immediately struck by how personal your comedy was and I just like the way your brain works.

 

CE:  Oh gosh, thanks!  That’s probably the nicest thing you can say to a comic, right?  I mean, isn’t that what we’re working for, is just to figure out how to be more and more personal?

 

PG:  Yeah.

 

CE:  Because, like, when we get there, then that’s what people can’t replicate.

 

PG:  Exactly.

 

CE:  Right?  That’s what we’re being hired for.

 

PG:  That’s what I like to get, I like to get a sense of the human being behind the jokes.  The jokes are always certainly great and they have to be there but, you know, that’s what—we were just talking about Richard Pryor a couple of episodes ago and that’s what always made his comedy so great to me was I got a sense of who he was as a person and the funny was on top of that.

 

CE:  Yeah, absolutely, I mean really we’re only talking about, like, four things.  All comics only ever talk about four topics, so it has to just be your vision that is the specificity.

 

PG:  Society, religion, your parents and fucking.

 

CE:  Yeah, there is nothing else!

 

PG:  And death, and maybe death.

 

CE:  Right, which might also be about your parents, or could be religion…  Or fucking, depending on what kind of death you’re imagining for yourself.  (Chuckles)

 

PG:  My first—well, my only CD was called Sex, Religion and Death, because I was trying to figure out, what am I going to call it, and I looked at every bit on it and it was like, they all fall into one of these three things.

 

CE:  Yes!  You covered it.

 

PG:  And if you think about it, if you were raised Catholic, how can you not be obsessed about sex, religion and death?

 

CE:  And I was raised Catholic so I know what you mean.

 

PG:  Then here we go!

 

CE:  Now we’re about to start.  I also was the theology major in college.

 

PG:  Really?  Where did you go to school?

 

CE:  I went to Boston College, so a good Catholic school on top of that.

 

PG:  Oh my god.  Are you from Chicago?

 

CE:  I am from Chicago, yeah, I’m from Chicago originally.

 

PG:  Whereabouts?

 

CE:  I’m from the Western suburbs, right near Hinsdale, Western Springs.  Like a really nice picket-fencey…

 

PG:  That’s a lovely area.

 

CE:  It’s a super-lovely area.  How do you know it?  Where are you from?

 

PG:  Well, I’m from Homewood.

 

CE:  Oh, sure!

 

PG:  But my brother lives out kinda near there and I’ve just, you know…

 

CE:  I didn’t know you were from Homewood!  How adorable!  Look at us – we have many of the things in common.  Yeah, that’s where I’m from.

 

PG:  So I’m glad you’ve agreed to come do the podcast, and I’m just really interested to hear more about your life and your story.  Where would be a good place to start?  What was your family life like?

 

CE:  Sure, well, I guess we’re already talking about where I’m from so we could give that a little bit more of a full… color.

 

PG:  Can I ask how old you are?

 

CE:  I’m 31 years old, but I’m very youthful-looking because of being a lesbian.

 

PG:  And the side-mullet.

 

CE:  Yeah, it makes me look like a 15-year-old forever.  Um, I’m 31 years old and I, yeah, grew up in just a really, I mean, super-white area.  There was one black family and everybody else was pretty white, and like, pretty white.  And pretty Catholic also, area, and really close family – my family is Italian.  People sometimes are confused because I have a last name that might sound like it’s Mexican, plus people think my name is Carmen, but yeah, I’m an Italian Catholic suburban girl.  But my parents were both from these really conservative Italian Catholic families.

 

PG:  You’re not related to Tony Esposito, are you?

 

CE:  Unfortunately no, because I’d be richer since he is a very successful hockey player.  (Laughter)  But no, not those Espositos, they’re doing great.  Good job, those Espositos, but that’s not me.  And what else to say about growing up?  Well, I was a little gay kid.

 

PG:  When did you know?

 

CE:  Not until college really.  Because there was just nobody who—there was nobody around who was—I mean I bring up the race thing because that’s was kind of emblematic for me of the lack of difference, you know?  There wasn’t racial diversity, there wasn’t—I mean it was even pretty taboo to have divorced parents, although I had a bunch of friends who had divorced parents but because I went to such a Catholic school they had, like, an after-school outreach program just for kids whose parents had been divorced that you had to go to, and it was very… stigma.

 

PG:  Yeah, I don’t know if I knew of any family, growing up, that had divorced parents.

 

CE:  Isn’t that wild to think about, with what’s actually happening in the world, and—

 

PG:  And I also don’t know if I knew of any family that had happy parents.

 

CE:  I was just gonna say.

 

PG:  Happily married parents.

 

CE:  So my parents are—I don’t get the sense from them that they are, like, stuck together and miserable.  They’re really different people but they also have been together for—this will be their 40th wedding anniversary, and they really like each other a lot, I think, in this way that is—like they’re very bonded, I can see that they are choosing to still stay together, even 40 years in.  But that is not everybody’s parents that I knew growing up certainly, and I think you’re right, yeah, it’s a lot of like—

 

PG:  ‘We’re gonna stick this out.’

 

CE:  A lot of ‘we’re gonna stick this out,’ yeah.

 

PG:  Which, you know, when you’re doing it for the kids on a certain level I have such respect for that, but I think it depends on how badly you don’t get along and how well you can kind of hide it from the kids – I don’t know if hide is the right word, but—

 

CE:  Or even—no that’s a great point.  I also think if you can have separate lives and both be happy in that way, because I guess that’s kind of—as my sisters, and I have two sisters and as we’ve all gotten older and we need our parents less I’ve seen that they’ve just continued to be branching out and having more full lives each individually, and I think that’s another thing, that if you’re stuck in an unhappy marriage for the kids, like, please go do something that does make you happy.  That’s another thing I saw a lot, people that were spending a lot of time hating each other.

 

PG:  Yes, and kids really tune into their parents’ unhappiness, and a lot of kids—because kids instantly blame themselves, think ‘what can I do to make my parent happier?’ and that’s such quicksand.

 

CE:  Absolutely!  And I also think that if your family is really—so I didn’t have that, but I had kind of the opposite of that, which is that because my parents are, like, together, and then…  My dad is adopted into his family at a time when that still would have been pretty controversial, like in a Catholic Italian family, for him to be adopted in the ‘40s was like a failure for his parents in a way, and also really great for them – I mean, they were great parents to him but it was like he was carrying—it’s different now.  Not that it’s not still something that kids and parents have to process together but it’s just like not so much a negative thing.

 

PG:  Right, it wasn’t like an interracial couple in the ‘50s in the South.  (Laughs)

 

CE:  Right, exactly, yes!  (Laughs)  So he was carrying that into our family and then also my mum wasn’t super—wasn’t always very close to her family geographically or even emotionally, and so they created this family of their own that was like blood and really close to each other and so my closest friends in my whole world are my two sisters and my parents, which is a weird thing for anybody who’s in their early 30s to say, I think.

 

PG:  That’s kind of sweet, though.

 

CE:  It is sweet.  It’s also the opposite of what you were saying, because you were saying it’s a big burden on the kids when the parents are miserable.  It’s also a big burden on the kids when the parents are, like, they just love you so much…  And that’s okay, but like, for instance, it was a real risk for me to move here to L.A., because I have always kind of been meeting their expectations of being physically close by in case they needed me.

 

PG:  That’s such a double-edged sword because it’s so nice to feel wanted and important to them, but there’s this weird line that some parents cross – and I’m not saying that’s the case with your parents – where the child begins to feel as if a part of their life is being lived for the parent, and that the parent doesn’t have a life separate from them, and I think that can really be kinda smothering and kind of fuck with your head a little bit, because it’s like, I don’t know, it’s like intimacy in a bad way.  You know, it’s like a neediness instead of intimacy.

 

CE:  Well also—how old are you?

 

PG:  I’m 50.

 

CE:  Okay, so there’s also an interesting maybe generational gap here between you and I in that people that are my age, like, our parents also—it’s that hyper-scheduling.

 

PG:  Yes, the helicopter parents.

 

CE:  And then all the things that that translates to for the rest of your life, so like if your parents need to take you to 75 soccer practices, then when you are 20 they still kind of think that they need to take you to 29 soc—you know, it’s like, you know, my parents come to shows and stuff, and it’s cute, I’m happy they’re there but I also don’t—you know, it’s my job, so I don’t really need them to be there.

 

PG:  Do you feel like you want more breathing room from them?

 

CE:  I feel like I’m so glad that I live here because it has actually improved our relationship.

 

PG:  I always say that the reason that I settled on Los Angeles is, that’s where I hit water.

 

CE:  (Laughs)  Exac—well—the thing is, I felt like I was always trying to kind of run away from them when I lived in Chicago—or I lived in Boston for school and then some years after there but it was kind of like this idea that I was trying to tell them to leave me alone so I could live my own life.  Now that I’m here there is such a great physical distance that I feel a lot more comfortable being the one that is reaching out, and I don’t feel like I have to—like they can’t just show up at my house, even if it’s just to bring me presents, which is very nice, but they can’t show up at my house.  So then I call them a lot more, and actually our relationship is really great right now.

 

PG:  And are you excited then when you go home and you get to see them?

 

CE:  Yeah, it’s a little bit intense because, again, I have—so I mean I lived on the same block with my two sisters before I moved here, and my one sister is married so her husband as well, we like all lived on that same block.  And…

 

PG:  Your home?

 

CE:  No, downtown in Logan Square, which is like a really hip neighborhood in Chicago.  But half hour, you know, half hour drive.  And then my parents would come down a lot because we were all located so close together.  I mean, I feel like every day I could have gotten a call that was like, ‘Hey, mum’s over at my house,’ and then I have to go that sister’s house, or my dad’s at my house and they have to come to me or whatever, and it was just very—it is really nice to go back there but it’s also, now all that in like four days as opposed to a lifetime.

 

PG:  What was the attitude in your family and your neighborhood about gay people.

 

CE:  So, two nights ago—well, first of all, I’m enfianced, I’m engaged to a fabulous woman who is—

 

PG:  Congratulations.

 

CE:  Thank you!  She is also a comic, she’s great, and she—I don’t know how this came up but two nights ago we realized that I had never seen the puppy episode of Ellen which is where she comes out.  I’d never seen it because I was remembering that I wasn’t allowed to watch it.  So that is the attitude.  We’re talking two nights ago.  It’s that episode of her show where she comes out, 15 years ago.

 

PG:  Okay, not her talk show, her sitcom.

 

CE:  Her sitcom, yes, of Ellen.

 

PG:  It was huge.  It was a huge deal when it happened.

 

CE:  Huge deal!  And Oprah’s in it, which I—because I had never seen it, I didn’t know.  It’s actually this crazy moment that really made me—I literally cried when I was watching it because I was thinking at the time that maybe Oprah must have been, I mean, she was like—who could you get there to be a more powerful woman to be in that show?  Because they have her set up Ellen’s therapist, and then Ellen says like, ‘I just want someone to tell me that it’s okay that I’m gay’ and then Oprah leans over and actually physically touches her, she puts her hand on her thigh, and she was like, ‘Ellen, it’s okay.’  And I was thinking, I mean, basically it was like, when that episode came out it was like they got God to come and say that to her.  You know what I mean?  Like who could they have gotten that would have been more influential.  So anyway, a shout-out to Oprah.  Good job, girl!  I’m so stoked that you were a part of it.  But yeah, I wasn’t allowed to watch that show.

 

PG:  Did your parents say why?  That episode or that show?

 

CE:  I think she came out as a person before she came out on the show, so I remember when she came out as a person, then I was not allowed to watch it.  And I was also not allowed to watch Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show.  Or, like, I mean I was a teenager, like I was a teenager when this was happening.

 

PG:  Wow.

 

CE:  One time there was a kiss between two women on like the Video Music Awards or something.

 

PG:  Yeah, I remember.

 

CE:  I mean, it was super sensational, like it was not a—

 

PG:  Yes, it wasn’t passionate, it was more like a novelty.

 

CE:  But I remember my dad walked in, and the VMAs were just on, and he like walked into the house and saw that I was watching it and he told me to turn it off.  So…

 

PG:  And get out of the room so he could jerk off.

 

CE:  (Laughs)  No, because it was a sin!  I mean, maybe, but—

 

PG:  So your parents were pretty hardcore Catholics.  Are they still?

 

CE:  Uh, well…

 

PG:  Does it come from their Catholicism or does it come from their kind of societal—

 

CE:  You know, I think, so I think the first thing is, when your kid comes out to you, then you have to acknowledge that your kid has sex of some kind, any kind ever, and I think that’s always weird for any parents.  And then especially the societal attitude toward homosexuality.  I can came out 10-12 years ago and in that span it was such a different thing to say that you were gay because there were still no representations of happy adult couples or marriage wasn’t a thing that was legal yet at all, people weren’t really talking about the possibility of kids…  So I think my parents were really—they were worried that I was choosing to ruin my life, it’s something that we talked about a lot.

 

PG:  (Chuckles)  That one always just baffles me.

 

CE:  Well, but I mean a part of me—because I also grew up, like, drinking the water where they were living at the time, I understand why you would think that.  I mean, why you would think that you would be ruining your life.  I think that for a kid when they’re coming out, what’s happening for them is they’re about to enter the happiest part of their life because now they finally make sense to themselves, and for a parent you never lived any of the horror that is not knowing why are you so weird, and so you just think your kid is feeling fine the whole time.  Then they come out and that’s when the terror starts.

 

PG:  They think it’s turning for the worse and the kid knows it’s turning for the better.

 

CE:  Exactly, so it’s the exact opposite experience I think that parents interpret for the kid who’s coming out.  It’s the exact opposite experience.

 

PG:  That’s such a great way to put it, that’s such a great way to put it, I’ve never thought about it that way.  What’s it like having that secret inside you?  How many years did you have it inside you before…?

 

CE:  Because I had no models for this being a thing, I just thought that everybody felt the way that I felt, like I thought that all—because I had really close female friends in high school, or even in grade school, but then I also dated men, and I just thought that everybody…  And also the funny thing is, because we teach women that their sexuality is so much more fluid than men – and I don’t even know if I actually believe that, I believe that’s part of a construction that we’re putting on women.  ‘Oh, you guys can be fine with whatever.’  So I really thought that everybody was fine with whatever, you know what I mean?  Because Cosmo is basically just writing articles where it’s like, ‘ways to jerk off your guy, also if you want to have sleepovers with your best friend, here’s like a…’  There’s no clarity in how you’re really supposed to feel, or what you’re truly feeling I guess is what I’m trying to say.  So I just thought that everybody was super grossed out when their boyfriends were kissing them.  (Laughs)  Just want their boyfriends to go home immediately.  I thought that’s how we all felt.  Then at the same time I was drawn to…  Okay, I remember watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer because there was a character on there, Willow, who was like a gay character.  And I remember my high school boyfriend being like, ‘Why do you like this show so much?’  Like, I remember I was trying to wear my hair like her hair and stuff.  I just like, ‘I don’t know, she’s just great, she’s just rad.  I think she’s just like a really funny person.’

 

PG:  And did you know that that was why you were attracted to her then?

 

CE:  I had no idea!  I mean, it was so confusing.  Looking back on it—so I kissed a woman for the first time when I was a sophomore in college, and that moment was…  I describe it to people as like that moment in Signs.  Did you ever see Signs?

 

PG:  Uh-huh.

 

CE:  There’s like aliens—you’re trying to watch the movie in reve—or like the movie Memento where it’s like, he has tattoos but he doesn’t understand what’s going on, and then at the end there’s like ‘oh’ – an M. Night Shyamalan twist and they solve all the…  That was what it felt like, I felt like I was getting all these clues my entire life and then I was like 20 and then I suddenly realized, ‘Ooooh!  You’re totally not—you’re not heterosexual if you have all these songs that make you think of your best female friend, and no songs that make you think of your boyfriend, and you’re not heterosexual if you think your boyfriend is really esthetically interesting but you also are an outspoken advocate of abstinence because you don’t really care about sleeping with him.

 

PG:  (Laughs)

 

CE:  Because I was in high school.

 

PG:  How convenient!

 

CE:  I know, I know!  And I was never really judgy about it, but I just remember I would always be like ‘We’re waiting…’  Which is so funny to me now.

 

PG:  (Laughs)

 

CE:  I’m so sorry to all those poor girls that I…

 

PG:  But you probably spared yourself a lot of really uncomfortable moments where you wouldn’t be true to yourself.

 

CE:  Yeah, and I mean, I actually didn’t end up waiting, I did have sex with men, and it was…  I mean it wasn’t—I guess at a certain level human contact feels good.

 

PG:  Yeah.

 

CE:  So there was that element to it.  But then the first time I was with a woman I understood what the difference it.

 

PG:  The passion on top of the friction.  (Chuckles)

 

CE:  Yeah, like, it’s probably what it’s like to kiss somebody on screen for a TV-show versus kiss the person that you’re choosing to sleep with that night.

 

PG:  Right, and you know, people that have been sexually violated say all the time on the podcast, their bodies often respond and they think that meant that they wanted it, which is not the case at all, even in the worst of worst situations people can still experience physical pleasure while their soul is screaming out, ‘This is not right.’

 

CE:  Absolutely, absolutely, and I do stand by that.  Also because I think that’s another thing that people get really confused about about lesbians specifically, because so many lesbians so have experience with men, because again so much more is allowed, that when you’re a little kid nobody really yells at you what you are with the same frequency that that happens to gay men.

 

PG:  And who is not going to give it a shot?

 

CE:  Right, exactly, you give it a shot, you try it out, and I think that for some people that’s confusing, like, if you can, or people will think that I don’t understand if men are attractive at all, which is also really hilarious.  I’m a human being, I understand that men are attractive, it’s more so, I just think about who I would want to sleep next to, not necessarily who in a moment of looking at them from across the room I would want to sleep with.  I think there’s a really big difference there.

 

PG:  We get so many people who fill the survey out who can only orgasm—they identify as straight but they can only orgasm thinking about somebody of their same sex and they have no desire to be in an intimate relationship, you know?  So I think there’s all kinds of varieties of, you know, what turns you on esthetically, what turns you out emotionally—

 

CE:  Absolutely.

 

PG:  —and people should give themselves a break on trying to force it into different things and just go, ‘Hey man, I’m beautiful, I’m unique, what makes me cum makes me cum and fuck anybody that doesn’t get it, as long as I’m not hurting anybody else or lying to somebody who’s close to me, you know.

 

CE:  Yes, and if we could be more open about that, I mean this is—I think one of the reasons that you initially contacted me was that I had recently written something about how I really prefer to watch gay male porn than anything else – if I’m ever watching porn, that is what I’m watching because to me that looks a lot more like my sex life and I think it is because for some reason the way that it is generally shot, gay male porn is…  Like, there may be some dominance going on but there is also…  Often the dudes are like a similar size to one another or they actually have erections so you can at least tell yourself in your mind that maybe they’re enjoying themselves.

 

PG:  Right.

 

CE:  You know?  I know that sounds nuts but—

 

PG:  I don’t think it sounds nuts, it makes perfect sense because I think for a lot of people feeling aroused is that you want to know that the other people are enjoying themselves.  I’ve heard women say that they don’t like dick pics but what they do enjoy is a picture of an erection in the context of that man being turned by the woman he’s with, and that they find erotic.

 

CE:  Yeah that’s really interesting, wow.  That’s actually really interesting.  Yeah I think that’s 100% true and so often because I’m a woman, what is happening in porn to women or with women I know wouldn’t really be pleasurable for most women, because men are generally the creators of porn and so a lot of times we’re watching something that a man thinks another man wants to watch and it’s like…  I don’t know, I mean why is that even in there?  It’s just—I have to turn right off.  It super grosses me out.  So…

 

PG:  Can you be more specific about what the vibe is of it?  Is it that there is—

 

CE:  Sure, I’ll tell you.  Yeah I can give you the vibe.  I think that it’s the amount of participation that that person seems to be having in their own body in that moment, which again I think kind of goes back to the erection thing.  Yeah you can take a pill and kind of fake that but there’s also like a physical representation that it’s working for you, and a lot of these women—like, if they’re touching themselves in a way that is like, just like, there is a lot of weird slapping that happens, and things like—like, her face is first of all not seeming really into it, and then also her body is clearly doing something that must not be awesome for her.  So I’m always wondering about the direction that she’s getting from over there and I wish that she was getting direction from inside of herself.

 

PG:  I feel like a lot of the porn that I have seen is kind of the equivalent of the stripper pole dancing which I have never found attractive.  It has always felt like this is her idea of what sexy is, but she’s not—she may enjoy the feeling that she is turning other people on, but it has never been sexy to me, it has always felt like bad gymnastics.  The sexiest I’ve ever seen, you know pornography or being in a strip club, has been where there’s a subtlety to it, and it’s the look on her face and what’s in her eyes, and she doesn’t have to do much at all – it’s about her body language and the way her eyes move.

 

CE:  I was also going to say, you know what else kind of can make that more a factor for me is that you actually get to see the transaction that’s happening, you get to see that somebody is paying that person to do what they’re doing.  So on some level that also kind of adds a participation that you get to see from that.  Because like, okay, she is doing something and I’m hoping that she’s safe, you know, that’s something that I’m always going to look for.  Have you ever been to strip clubs in Portland, and there’s like a very safe and comfortable esthetic going on there that kind of takes care of some of the problems that I might have if I walked in and I was like ‘Please, somebody, get a van, we need to get all these women out of here!’  (Laughs)

 

PG:  I would imagine a lot different than what you would feel in Tampa.

 

CE:  Yes, exactly.  So these women have made a choice, and then they’re also getting money, so fine.  I’m fine with that. They know they have a job, they’re doing their job and it’s immediately rewarding for them, but something like a video clip on the Internet – I have no idea what happened to the woman before she was right there, and then if the actual thing that I’m watching is also something that seems dangerous or seems like it wouldn’t be sexy to her or pleasurable in any way.

 

PG:  It almost feels to me like when you see bad comedy that’s really loud but isn’t saying anything, that’s what bad porn feels like to me, where’s there’s just a lot of energy being expended but there’s no kind of authenticity to it.

 

CE:  (Laughs)

 

PG:  And you know, the times that I have been at a strip club – I don’t go to strip clubs anymore – but when I used to go strip clubs I would always be aware that this person would rather be someplace else making money, but given that, there could still be a certain amount of enjoyment that she’s doing her job well and that she’s proud of her body and that she’s proud that people find her attractive and what she does, she does well.  That’s the most that I could ever kind of say, ‘Okay, this is as real as your fantasy-ridden head can get.’

 

CE:  Yeah, I completely agree with you.  It’s that overt, ‘Yeah, that’s her job, she’s at work, she’s doing a good job and therefore she gets rewarded.  And it’s so funny that you brought up the bad comedy thing.  (Chuckles)  Because you’re right.  Bad porn, bad comedy, never knows when to stop.  It just keeps going, tries to find that button that works.

 

PG:  It’s like bad improv too, where it’s just desperate, there is a desperation to it that is really—it’s like a train wreck that actually winds up making me sad.

 

CE:  That’s such a good word for it, because especially since—the reason I’m talking about women with this is because there’s another thing happening which is that men in life are not as desperate as women are in terms of their safety.  So watching a guy get fucked is really different than watching a girl get fucked, even if you know that that guy may or may not be gay, he may or may not be having the time of his life, like when he leaves the studio then he still gets to be a guy and maybe not worry about alleys so much.  But that woman has to leave the studio and she has to have whatever happened to her and she also still has be a gal that’s just trying to navigate the world with the inherent unsafe feelings that you have as a woman.

 

PG:  I think the mistake a lot of men make and what the mistake I made for much of my life, is that, you know men are so genital-focused and I think they assume that women must be to a certain degree as well, and they think how can a lesbian be turned on by an erection and then not want it outside of that situation.  Because men can’t imagine that.

 

CE:  I know, I mean I get that.  So that’s why I’m saying I think it really is about power dynamics and about the fact that those men—I’m watching two people that are powerful in some way that are interacting with each other and that’s not necessarily always present with the women.  And then still, because it’s a human body, it is pretty and interesting and then on top of that, if you are lesbian you are into women but you also have grown up in a super-duper straight world, so you still are invited to sexualize a penis.  I mean, it’s not like if you’re lesbian nobody has ever told you before, like ‘Hey, have you thought about looking at men?’  You’ve spent your whole life kind of living in between two worlds, one of them being the world that you associate yourself with and then the other being the world that you’re dropped into, and so I also think there’s an element to that there.  I mean, just the idea that we gay people still talk about things like tops and bottoms, or doms and subs, or like ‘who’s the man?’ is something that still comes up for people, and that’s because that’s the majority of the world we live in.  All the TV, all the pictures, all the art, it’s like everything we’ve ever seen so of course that’s there.
PG:  The first time I saw—I don’t remember if it was a clip or it was just a picture but it was of a she-male and I got a feeling inside of me that was so uncomfortable.  And I’m okay with it now, and I don’t think I’ve ever even masturbated to it but it made me so insecure because—

 

CE:  Do you know why?

 

PG:  Well, because I thought that must mean that a part of me is gay.  And it took reading something or hearing somebody say that a lot of straight men are turned on by she-males, and…  But I remember thinking to myself, I could blow that, that woman or I don’t know what the pronoun would be for that, and I had never…  I don’t know if I could, but the thought of it was erotic to me, and I had never felt that way about a penis before.

 

CE:  That is so interesting.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard Dan Savage speak on that point.  Have you ever heard him speak on it?

 

PG:  No.

 

CE:  So, Dan Savage, sex-based columnist, his over-arching view on that is that gay men are never attracted to she-males.  That that is actually only for straight men that want to also encounter a penis, because gay men don’t want to sleep with a woman, so the whole rest of what that person is presenting to the world is a woman, and then just with a penis which is something, as I said, we’ve all been eroticizing our entire lives.  I mean, we also kind of—we’re also sexy with ourselves sometimes, we have appreciation of our own bodies, and so it’s just a moment for, like, attaching to something that is – well not attaching – connecting with something that is yourself and the other thing that you might be into.  And I think most gay men are actually not super into that, I think that actually means you’re straight.  But I also know that straight men really worry because they hear it a lot in comedy.  I know that straight men really worry about—as if there’s like a tally, that if these things, then you’re gay.

 

PG:  Yeah.  You’re less of a man – each one takes away from your masculinity, and the older I get the more I feel like no, the more you can be honest about what you think and feel, that adds points to your manhood.

 

CE:  I absolutely think so.

 

PG:  I have to say, though, the part that I think would keep me from ever wanting to – and this is assuming that I wasn’t married – the part that would keep me from wanting to put that in my mouth is the scrotum.

 

CE:  (Laughs)

 

PG:  I just find scrotums…

 

CE:  Me, I love scrotums!  No I’m just kidding, GROSS!  They’re the worst.

 

PG:  It is the worst!  I know it provides a function but it is just the saddest-looking body part ever!  Ever.  It’s like if there could be a body without a scrotum I might even be gay!  If there could be a body without a scrotum.  But anyway.  Do you want to talk about when you came out?  Do you want to back up before that?  Was there stuff…

 

CE:  I guess we could back up a little bit, also because—okay, so, yeah I was a little gay kid in a weird place to be that.  Not that there’s like a super comfortable place, we’re still in a vast minority.  And I also had crossed eyes for a lot of my childhood and I had to wear en eye patch for eight years.

 

PG:  (Gasps)

 

CE:  Which I say just because, I mean, you know this…

 

PG:  24 hours a day?

 

CE:  No, first 24 hours a day and then it would taper off because I was strengthening my eye muscles, so when I was a little kid—in pictures you can kind of see like they’re just drifting, but it happened overnight, they were just BANG – crossed.  I was two and I had to have surgery and then I had to wear special glasses and then I had to patch.  First it was a lot and then it was school and then it was just after school and then eventually not at all, but I still have crossing eyes sometimes if I was super tired, like I would go to school dances with completely crossed eyes.  And then I had to have a second surgery when I was in my twenties as well, to correct the same problem.  And actually, stinky, but it is also coming back now, I’m so bummed about it because I was feeling such a reprieve the second surgery had worked, but it’s just like a weakness that I have in my eyes for my whole life.  And the reason I bring this up is because I also think it’s really relevant to being a stand-up comic, which is that you always know, if somebody’s a comic, that they had…  Like, what was your thing?  You know what I mean?  It was like, you had a thing…

 

PG:  What was the torpedo that sank your boat?

 

CE:  Yeah, you had a thing, I don’t know what it is but it was a thing.  I really think that—so not only was I awkward in terms of—I’m just wearing weird clothes, I didn’t know how to dress or how my hair should be.  Because when you’re gay you shouldn’t be wearing dresses all the time, unless that’s the kind of gay you want to be, but you shouldn’t have to be some sort of bizarre extra from Peter Pan or something.  Or maybe Peter Pan himself.  I think a bowl a cut…  It was bad news.  But then also I think the thing about having an eye patch is, you really learn how to cut people off with a pass when you’ve like a very physical thing going on with you.  Nobody can ever make fun of you if you are hilarious first.  So I feel like that’s something a lot of comics develop, like that thing, that distraction device where it’s like, ‘Yeah it’s crazy, there’s stuff going on on my face, but have you noticed how hilarious this is?’  You know, a kind of diversion tactic.

 

PG:  Yeah.  Did your family consider you funny?

 

CE:  Yes.  Yeah.

 

PG:  That must have felt good.

 

CE:  It did.  Did your family consider you funny when you were a kid?

 

PG:  They did – my brother not so much.  I don’t know if he was annoyed by me but my parents did and that was always a big icebreaker for me because there was so much tension between them.

 

CE:  Are you older or younger?

 

PG:  Younger.

 

CE:  Yeah, so, my older sister – I don’t know what the dynamic was between you guys – my older sister was like very, a little bit shy and very cute and very feminine.  She was a ballerina, and so I think especially because of what was going on with my sexuality, like, following that.  We’re three years apart but we were raised really closely.

 

PG:  It’s like a Todd Solondz movie.  (Chuckles)

 

CE:  So it was like, I had to be like, you know what I mean, I knew I couldn’t be that.  It was the exact pinnacle of that, you know, a ballerina!  There’s a Christmas video that I found a couple of years ago that’s the two of us getting presents, sitting side by side, and she gets elbow-length—she’s ten and I’m seven, and she gets elbow-length gloves and children’s make-up and a tiara.  And I got a black Ken, because I collected Kens and it was the one I didn’t have yet.

 

PG:  (Laughs)

 

CE:  So she…  (Laughs)  So she…  You know!  It’s so good.

 

PG:  If you saw that in a movie you would be like, ‘That’s a bit much!’

 

CE:  I know, it’s so good!  And I’m wearing like a long—she has really long, skinny legs and I’m wearing an over-sized T-shirt that somehow is super tight on my butt cheeks.  It’s so amazing.  She’s like, ‘Oh my god, elbow-length gloves, I can’t even believe it!  How kind!’ and I just go like, ‘BLACK KEN!!!’  Literally the loudest voice you have ever heard come out of a seven-year-old, and I’m dancing around and I turn around and my T-shirt is tight in my butt, you know like just the worst kind of like, chubby and a bowl-cut, I have glasses, wearing an eye patch, I have a tight T-shirt in my butt, I’m getting Kens…  Sure, it was a little bit rough!

 

PG:  (Laughs)  That’s so fantastic.  Of all the tableaus I’ve had painted for me—

 

CE:  (Laughs)

 

PG:  —in doing this show, that is among the best.  I think my other favorite tableau was when David Holmes came out to his mom.  She couldn’t accept it, and one day she calls him, and she doesn’t even say ‘Hello, it’s mom,’ she just says, ‘What about a masculine female?’

 

CE:  (Laughs hysterically)  Oh my god!  But yes, that—I’ve gotten some of those calls.  They didn’t sound exactly like that, but similar ideas.  Yeah.  Holy shit.

 

PG:  That is gorgeous.

 

CE:  And then my little sister is very artsy—

 

PG:  Three kids?

 

CE:  Yeah, three kids.

 

PG:  Three girls?

 

CE:  And then my little sister is seven years younger than me and ten years younger than my older sister, so it’s kind of like a huge gap there, so my older sister and I were kind of raised like twins, but the opposite sides of the coin in the most black and white way possible.  And then my little sister was just kind of this like—she was always teeny, you know?  She was always so little and we could carry her around and stuff and she was very, like, wacky, and kind of on her own vibe always.  But a really awesome vibe, but she was just always doing her own thing.  Like selling various things at various stands in our front yard, she was always having business, like some kids would have lemonade stands but she was having, like, bracelet stands from bracelets she made or, she just always had to work.

 

PG:  Go-getter.

 

CE:  Yeah, she was a go-getter.
PG:  What was your older sister’s attitude towards you, like especially when you were in high school and people knew that you were her little sister.  Was she embarrassed by you, was she protective of you?

 

CE:  The funny thing about all of this and all the things I’m saying is that I was never unpopular.  And I don’t mean like in a braggy—I mean, it’s shocking to me looking back on it, I really was rarely made fun of, because I did so much of the being boisterous and laughing myself.

 

PG:  You did a lot of footwork.

 

CE:  I did a LOT of dancing, yeah.  And the other thing is that I’m pretty shy actually, as a person, pretty introverted, but I can really perform.  I really like people and I really like making people happy, so that was always true.  I would go home and spend a lot of time by myself and lock myself in my rooms and not want to leave and not want to go out and hang out with people, but then if I was able to leave the house and go out then my personality kind of switches completely and I’m—

 

PG:  So you picked your moments; you weren’t just constantly on?

 

CE:  No, and I’m still not to this day.

 

PG:  I think most good comedians have to have that quiet place to draw from, to observe and get philosophical.

 

CE:  Yeah, I do too.  I also—I don’t know how people do it the other…  I guess that’s the thing about being an extrovert versus being an introvert, but I just get so exhausted and have to take time in my brain, to slow my body and my mind down because otherwise all will go so fast that I explode.  So, anyway, this is all to say that I was just really well-liked because of the performance aspect, and so—

 

PG:  And you have a natural likeability too, you know, I wouldn’t say that it’s all…

 

CE:  Yeah, I’m honest and I care about people, and I always was.  I never was, like, trying to—I mean, I don’t know, it takes a special kind of asshole to make fun of the kid with the crossed-eyes who’s like ‘Guys, I have crossed-eyes and it’s pretty hard…’  You know?  Because I was always pretty honest about it, and it pretty sad, you know?

 

PG:  Do you think your gener—and this may be a hard question for you to answer because you weren’t a part of my generation, but do you think your generation’s sensitivity towards people with differences was a little greater than ours because of more attention in media about it, with talk shows like Oprah and, you know, more after school specials.  Whatever it was, MTV, it just seems like—I’m always shocked when I hear about a kid that came out in high school and had like no problem, or like people were supportive and they were elected prom king.

 

CE:  Yes and no.  I mean, I do think there’s improvement and I do think that—I can’t believe how different people’s narratives are about their lives now coming out then even just ten years ago.  It is so far apart that it blows my mind.  It is so far apart, how controversial it was.  I came out at a college where they refused to have a non-discrimination policy about sexual orientation.  It wasn’t just that there wasn’t one; they refused to have one.  So the university that I came out at could have kicked me out.

 

PG:  And which one did you…?

 

CE:  Boston College.  And it was something that they were fighting.  They were fighting with the students about this while I was coming out, but there were like ten people that were out, or eight or something, and it’s of a 4,000 or 8,000 person student body – I mean, the percentage is really small.  And yeah, they wanted to reserve their right to kick kids off campus.

 

PG:  Is BC a Catholic university?

 

CE:  Yeah, it’s Jesuit.

 

PG:  Okay.

 

CE:  I think they’ve changed that now.

 

PG:  I think Jesuits are a little more progressive too than the other Catholics.  They tend to be a little more philosophical and kind of open-minded in terms of, you know, maybe I’m wrong, but that’s—

 

CE:  Yeah, I think you’re right, you’re right about a lot social issues.  It’s weird because I went to a school that was very known for its social activism, but about things kind of outside of the student body.  I mean, they were also—I was in Boston during 9/11 and the airplanes had left from Logan Airport which is in Boston, that had crashed into the towers.  I also remember another thing that was happening on campus was like the very few Muslims that we had were getting stopped by campus police, and things like that.  So it’s the same university that would send kids to—like, I went to Jamaica, to inner-city Kingston to, like, pray with people and build a house for them and honestly touch lepers.  Like, really, that was a thing, they had programs like that.  But then bringing it back home, the pain that their own student body was facing at the time, like a Muslim kid who is just getting stopped at the dining hall or something, with zero reasons, you know.

 

PG:  Wow.  That’s awful.

 

CE:  Or like saying that you won’t protect your gay students.  I actually think that way about the Catholic Church in general, that sometimes it’s so about the ideas and it’s not about the actual people that are really there in front of you.

 

PG:  Yeah.  And that’s usually what changes somebody, is they experience a person in their life and their attitude changes about that thing because they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, these ideas actually affect a human being that I love.’

 

CE:  Yes, and so when you encounter somebody who knows people and it doesn’t affect them, then that always makes me wonder what is wrong with that person.  And that is what I encountered at that school, you know, I was like a 20-year-old kid, super confused and having a hard time.  I had some professors that were very supportive and I also had some very clear messages from the administration that who I was, was wrong.  Those are 50-year-old men looking at a confused, alone 20-year-old girl and saying, ‘You are going to hell.’  The amount of cruelty there is actually pretty substantial, I think.

 

PG:  You know, there’s this certain current running through a lot of Catholic people, and I don’t know if it’s their buried rage at accepting a tradition that they don’t really like but they’re afraid to question, but there is a meanness to certain Catholics that is almost unparalleled.  And I’m sure it—you know, because I haven’t experienced other communities like Baptists and stuff like that, that can also be super repressed, but some of the meanest people that I’ve ever encountered are people I meet when I go back home and they are still church-goers and they’re just so racist and they’re so—just mean.

 

CE:  For me it actually goes up to the people that are in power in the Catholic Church too, not just the—because you’re right, talking to someone face to face is very intense but I think that might be the issue with that organization is that they could do so much good.  There’s a lot of churches that don’t have the history and the power and the potency and the social currency that the Catholic Church has.  The Pope is The Pope, you know?  There’s an evangelical Christian community – they don’t have the sides of buildings in Rome and then also the sides of buildings in Buenos Aires.  They’ve so much money.  They’ve so much land.

 

PG:  He could put out a rap album and it would come out as number 1 on the billboard charts.

 

CE:  He could do anything and it would come out on the top!  So I guess that’s what really bothers me about it.  It’s like Spiderman – with great power comes great responsibility.  It’s one of those traditions that really is still respected generally by the media and by people’s vague familiarity with is, and then to just squander that.  I can’t understand it.

 

PG:  And I know many Catholics who are really good Christians who walk the walk and don’t judge other people and are wonderful people.

 

CE:  Certainly.

 

PG:  Talk about your experience in Jamaica, that sounds really interesting.  What was that like?  What were you thinking and feeling as you were doing that?  Give me some snapshots.

 

CE:  Yeah.  In Jamaica we went to an orphanage for HIV-positive kids because their medical system there doesn’t necessarily support long-term care, so kids who are HIV-positive sometimes fall out of the system.  They can’t stay in their homes, so they would be at this localized facility.  And there are leper colonies.  Leprosy is actually treatable, it’s curable, so it’s just a lack of the right medicines getting there.  And the leper colonies are run by nuns, the same order as Mother Theresa actually.  And going there and seeing all this stuff, I mean I feel really lucky that I was able to see just a larger picture of the things that are going on in our world, but it’s also pretty intense for me to think back on that, because I was 20 and I didn’t have really great skills to offer these people.  I mean, I had “my concern” and “an open heart,” but what I really wish that I had done was use that money that I used to go down there and instead, if we had hired or paid for somebody who knows how to build a great sewer system, or doctors, people like that to go down there.

 

PG:  Did you make the mistake of asking a leper if they prefer a high-five or a fist bump?

 

CE:  (Chuckles)  Have you ever seen—I can’t believe I—have you ever seen a face without a nose?

 

PG:  I have.

 

CE:  That’s a weird thing, isn’t it?  I’ve seen it a couple of times here, too, but—

 

PG:  There’s a guy that would panhandle outside Pete’s Coffee and Studio City, and I think he was a burn victim as well, and he didn’t have a nose, and it’s pretty intense.

 

CE:  Because like, it’s always the little things in a human face that you don’t even realize how much that shapes how we interpret everything else.

 

PG:  But yeah, that is something I did during that time in my life, and I hope that sometime when I’m more financially stable in the future, that I could do something that would be open-hearted in that way but also a little bit more responsible and not just like, ‘Hey, here’s a bunch of kids, and it’s spring break, and they’re not going to Mexico, they’re going to YOUR country to help you, and they’re WHITE people!’  You know, there’s a lot of stuff going on.

 

PG:  But isn’t that kind of par for the course for, you know, an excited 20-year-old kid that has limited world experience, that that’s—you know.

 

CE:  Yeah, and I mean I don’t think I went anywhere super arrogantly either, I wasn’t like ‘Hey guys, now you’re fixed, because I’m here.’

 

PG:  I love, by the way, that you went down to build houses in Jamaica and interact with lepers and you’re finding fault with some of that.  That takes a special talent.

 

CE:  (Laughs)  Well, it feels really selfish to me, it really does.  It feels very selfish.  That is where I met my first girlfriend, though.

 

PG:  How the fuck is that selfish?

 

CE:  Again, I’m saying, it feels like tourism.

 

PG:  I see.

 

CE:  It feels like tourism in somebody’s life who actually just has to live that life.  Like for instance one day I had a little bit of extra money in my pocket, two dollars or something like that, and we were helping this gentleman and his daughter who own a sandal store where they would make leather sandals by hand.  And there were little kids that were helping us paint a mural so that the store could look nicer, like we had finished a wall for them and we were painting it.  And a dude walked by who were selling plums or something like that.  And I said, ‘Oh, I’ll take a bunch of those, how many can this buy?  I’ll just take that number.’  And the woman whose dad it was who owned the store—because I had these plums and then I turned around to offer them to the kids who were helping us, and she pulled me aside and she said, ‘Please don’t do that ever again, because I can’t afford to buy plums for these kids and when you come here and do that then you give them the message that, like, some white person from America is going to come here and save them, that they can ask for a hand-out and that they should ask for a hand-out, and also that their community can’t provide for them what they need.’  And so I deferred to her on that because I was really embarrassed and I actually agreed with her.  It’s probably very intense to live your life there and then have somebody come in and just be like, ‘Oh, you guys eat fruit?  Oh, I’ve got all this money, so, ha ha, I don’t even care!’  You know?

 

PG:  (Laughs)  It seems like the last thing that people have that they cling to is their dignity.

 

CE:  As they should, right?  I mean, thank god she said that.  That’s a great spirit.  I’m glad that’s what she has to say, that she’s not saying like, ‘I’ll do whatever you need and you should do whatever you want,’ you know, that’s she’s saying ‘There have to be boundaries because you don’t have to stay here and this is not your community and I don’t want you to be the one that fixes it. You’re half my age and you don’t live here.’

 

PG:  There’s a great book written by a guy who – the title of the book and his name escapes me – but it’s about—he decided to travel the length of Africa over land, not take any flights, and he had been there in the ‘60s and he was comparing how it was different now than it was in the ‘60s, and he was actually against aid, saying that it had made people complacent and he showed all these examples where people had kind of lost the motivation, their entrepreneurial spirit – which I’m sure is incredibly difficult in an impoverished Third World country, but he really came out of there—I think he went in there feeling pro aid but he came out of there thinking, ‘No, this is ultimately something that is really kind of sapping the integrity and spirit.’

 

CE:  Yeah, I think it’s very complicated, right?  Because there’s a bunch of different levels that you can help, you know, you can send money that then—who knows where that goes?  Or you can physically be there and hand out money and that’s such a short term solution.

 

PG:  Like mosquito netting for malaria, there’s no question that’s an awesome thing.  Medicine for kids, that’s clearly awesome, but I think financial assistance to adults in the village, I think that was kind of his point.

 

CE:  Sure, I can understand that.  But at the same time, you can’t look at that and be like ‘No, I shouldn’t help.’  It’s just such a complicated—

 

PG:  So complicated.

 

CE:  It’s complicated here when you walk down the street and there’s homelessness here that I’m not used to seeing because in Chicago, I think because of the weather changes the homeless people have to take some sort of shelter at some point, like they can’t stay out all winter long because they would be too exposed to the elements, but there are people who live here on the street year round with no coverage, no shelter, nothing.  And then I just have to, like, go to my house with my groceries walking past that person.  I don’t know how we’re supposed to deal with these things.  That got so serious, but I’m really affected by that.

 

PG:  I’m struck by—and maybe I’m reading you wrong but I’m struck by what a predominant emotion guilt is.

 

CE:  Oh, wow.

 

PG:  Is that a fair assessment.

 

CE:  Yeah, maybe, I never thought about it.
PG:  I mean, clearly you’re somebody who’s very, very sensitive and considers others, but I almost get the feeling like you have a hard time being okay with yourself navigating the world because there are other people suffering, as if they have to be mutually exclusive.

 

CE:  Oh, that’s really interesting.  Yeah, okay.  I think maybe that’s right, I guess I never thought of it like that.

 

PG:  And I get it.

 

CE:  It makes sense to me, saying that.  I mean, it’s also what I was talking about earlier, you know, grow up in a family where it’s like sink or swim for everybody, it’s really hard to lose that perspective for the rest of your life and for everybody else that you meet.

 

PG:  What do you mean when you say a sink or swim for everybody?

 

CE:  Well, I was always taught that you do not leave your sisters behind, I mean, literally every night and probably every day for our entire lives.  Like still, ‘Don’t leave your sisters behind!’  And I don’t know what he’s talking about because they’re both doing exceptionally well.  One sister works for the City of Chicago in this really high-profile arts job, my other little sister is about to move to Argentina, she’s about to move to Buenos Aires.

 

PG:  (Chuckles)

 

CE:  They’re doing really well.  (Laughs)  They’re in charge of themselves and we’re all really successful, we’re really put together and generally on time and in good relationships and stuff but I don’t know what he’s afraid of.  Whatever that is, that’s definitely what I’m afraid of too.

 

PG:  Yeah.  What are—shall we go into some fears and loves, or—let’s hold off on those for a while because there are other parts of your life that I want to know about.  Tell me about when you met your first girlfriend, what was that like?  You said it happened in Jamaica?

 

CE:  It did, yeah.  We were on this trip together and she was just another gal that went to BC and we had to do training for our trips where we would read up about the culture for a bunch of months before we would go down there, so as to not put ourselves in danger or offend anybody.

 

PG:  Buy a bag of plums.

 

CE:  Yeah, buy a bunch of plums, yeah.  (Laughs)  Anyway, so by the time we got to Jamaica we had spent some time together and she was going through a really hard time with her family, which—I really like to hang out with anybody who’s going through a hard time.  I don’t know what that is, why I like love—specifically women who are complicated, because I think maybe I’m—

 

PG:  Are you a fixer?

 

CE:  I’m a little bit of a fixer, yes.

 

PG:  Were either of your parents drinkers or addictive in any way?

 

CE:  No, no.

 

PG:  Okay.  That’s just a common thing that you find in people that are fixers, like one parents has something they’re obsessive about or can’t control and you just kind of see that a lot so I was curious, but go on.

 

CE:  Well, I mean, I think it is honestly probably part of being the middle child of a very intense family where there was a lot going on between—and actually you know what, I wouldn’t say that there was not addictions going on, I just maybe didn’t think about it this way: food was a really hard problem in my family growing up, and still is.  So I think part of that might also be their—a lot of fights about what was the right thing to eat and how much was the right thing to eat, so that does sound like an addiction, doesn’t it, now that I say it.

 

PG:  Mm.

 

CE:  Yeah, and then—

 

PG:  And I’m not trying to pathologize your situation, it’s just a thought that popped into my head.

 

CE:  Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t—I don’t feel that way at all.  I guess I just have always thought that…  This is going to sound so funny, but I always thought of myself as, like, the—I’m really like the son in my family, so I have always had to keep it together for everybody.

 

PG:  Interesting.

 

CE:  Yeah.  Wow, I’m gonna honestly cry right now!

 

PG:  It’s okay, we like that.

 

CE:  (Laughs)

 

PG:  We like that on the program.

 

CE:  Yeah?  Is that good?

 

PG:  I’m so uncomfortable I called it ‘program’ right now.

 

CE:  (Laughs)  I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean to be emotional.

 

PG:  What are you feeling right now?  What’s bringing that up?

 

CE:  I don’t even know.  I think just…  Um.  I honestly think it’ll be the first time I’ve ever thought about it like that.  You’re here, we’re in this office, we’re above a 7/11.  So I think it’s just that.

 

PG:  Isn’t it cool when you have little moments like that where you—and sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s kind of, you almost feel stupid for having not seen that before.

 

CE:  Yeah.

 

PG:  But I don’t know, there’s almost like a—there’s like a relief in it for me sometimes when I get more clarity on who I am and where I’ve been, and how I feel about it.  Can you talk about...what that little moment that you just had or are having, what it feels like or…?

 

CE:  I think just—I feel, um…  Actually maybe angry, which is weird.  Guess I didn’t expect to feel angry, but I think I feel a little bit mad about just, like, having to be tough, I think.  I think it’s the combination of having somebody tell me – having you tell me – but having somebody tell me that it sounds like a carry a lot of guilt and then coupling that with just actually feeling—yeah, just feeling angry about that.

 

PG:  Do you feel like—well, let me ask you: is the anger directed outside of yourself, towards yourself, both?

 

CE:  Um…

 

PG:  At the universe?

 

CE:  (Laughs)  Yeah, I think maybe actually just…  Honestly I think it may be at my family, because the thing is, when people are really nice to you, it’s really hard to feel angry with them.  Do you know what I mean?

 

PG:  I do, I do.  And when you sense that there’s a part of them that’s broken or needs help or they can’t see, and you feel like you know what can help it, you tell yourself as a little kid that it would be selfish of you to not do all you can, but you forget that you’re a kid and they’re the parent and it’s their job to think of your needs and not your job to think of their needs – certainly not when you’re a child and they’re an adult, but kids don’t know that.  Kids often step up and become that adult before they should be an adult and it takes a part of their innocence away.

 

CE:  Yeah.  Absolutely.  Yes.

 

PG:  And I relate.  When I got in touch with that anger it was fucking rage.  It was fucking rage.

 

CE:  When did that happen for you?

 

PG:  In my twenties, first time I went to therapy.

 

CE:  Yeah, I mean, I have had some therapy myself and I don’t think I felt angry before, literally before today.  I think I felt more, like, really smashed.  Like really held down.  I was in a—

 

PG:  Would suffocated be a…?

 

CE:  Yeah, yes.  Yeah, I was in a very serious relationship for a long time that was pretty unhealthy because we had set up—I had set up one of those beautiful fixing dynamics in a situation that—

 

PG:  You had a lot of work to do.

 

CE:  I had a lot of work to do and then also I was pretty sure I had no work to do on myself, you know, how we can set that up for ourselves when—at least I can; I’m really good at sometimes finding—like if I’m going through a hard time, then I find something that’s really intense that is outside of me and then I can think about that.  Then I don’t have to worry about my own shit.  But that relationship was ending and I felt so terrible because I felt like I had ruined a really—I thought I was supposed to be with her, and so I thought that I had ruined something by needing to fix it so much, not realizing that if there’s that much need and there’s that much fixing and those are already our personalities on top of it, like if the personalities are there and then also there really is a desperate amount of stability, that we were kind of doomed to begin with.  But I was—

 

PG:  You couldn’t see that then, though.

 

CE:  Not at all!  No, I thought we were supposed to be together forever.  And I went to therapy not even understanding why I was upset about it.  I was just like, ‘my girlfriend’—because she wasn’t American and she had to go home because her visa ran out, and I was just so sad that she left that I was sad for a really long time.  And I’m not usually—I can spend a lot of time being quiet but I’m not usually sad very much.  So I was sad for a really long time and then I decided to seek therapy because I was like, ‘I feel really sad and I can’t tell why.’

 

PG:  How dare somebody smite my rescuing superpower?

 

CE:  (Chuckles)  I know, exactly, that’s exactly what it is.  I felt really sad because I didn’t fix it.  I didn’t make it all better.

 

PG:  I would imagine on a certain level – and I’m talking about myself as well as you because I’m a fixer – you begin, especially when you fix adults, it’s a real high as a kid and it makes you feel really special and you don’t know that it’s kind of an unhealthy special.  So when somebody looks at that special and says, ‘nah, I don’t want that,’ it’s almost like it’s going to the core of who you are, what you take the most pride in, like ‘I care, I listen, I have good suggestions, I empathize, and somebody is just going ‘no’.’

 

CE:  Yes.  And I will say that the reason that I am so happy to be with my fiancée is because she is the first person that—because I found that it was either that, like ‘no,’ or sometimes it was like ‘YES!’ and I didn’t even know that there was an option where somebody could say like, ‘Oh, thanks, not today,’ like where they could pick or choose times that you would help them, and then they would try and pick or choose times to help you.  I guess what I’m speaking about is balance.

 

PG:  Yeah!

 

CE:  And equity.  But it was not something that I had experienced because I was going in with so much of my own specific need to be that fixer.

 

PG:  That more is better in terms of my fixing because it means I’m a more loving person.

 

CE:  Right, exactly, right.  (Chuckles)  And also, for myself, I am very hard on myself, but I am also in my own head and I know that I also like myself a lot.  I actually think I’m pretty cool, but I also really am hard on myself and hate myself.  But I know both of those things and I think sometimes when you’re a fixer, what you can be projecting out is a lot of the negative things about that person because you’re talking about the things that need to be fixed and you’re keeping the good things that you like about them inside because those things don’t need to be fixed.  When you’re on the inside looking out you know both things—

 

PG:  Yeah, that’s a great point.

 

CE:  —but when you’re talking about somebody else, you can get really stuck on that, like ‘Hey, you know what you could do better?’

 

PG:  And you forget that then they are experiencing that not as love and caring but is criticism and is saying you’re not the way you should be—

 

CE:  Absolutely, yes.

 

PG:  —and then we’re baffled by the fact that they wouldn’t want our help.

 

CE:  Right.  I think there’s a lot of that in the specific place and time and family that I grew up as well, it was very achievement-oriented and very, you know like I said, ‘Bring your sisters along,’ but then also like go to this school and get these grades, and not just in my immediate family but in this very specifically sheltered community of people.

 

PG:  So I wonder if we should ask ourselves when we find ourselves trying to fix that person, to say is this love or is this control that I’m finding myself attracted to, or compelled to try to act on.  Because I know for a lot of years I thought that I was “teaching” my wife, “teaching” a friend, and it’s so arrogant in so many ways.  And there are certainly times when I think I have been a good friend and a good husband and have been helpful, but I think there are so many times that I thought I was helping and what I was really trying to do was control.

 

CE:  So are you able to ask yourself that question as you’re doing it now?

 

PG:  I am now, but it’s taken a long time, and I hit my head into a lot of walls.

 

CE:  Does it feel bad physically if you have to restrain yourself from helping because you realize it’s control.

 

PG:  No, it feels freeing when I am able to recognize it and say this person is on their own journey, I’m not here to teach the world how to act; I’m here to help when somebody wants help, if somebody asks for a suggestion, or one of those rare circumstances where I feel like it’s okay to say ‘Hey, can I make a suggestion here.’  But it’s taken me a long time to get there, and I think what had to happen for me to get to that place was, I had to get in touch with all of my own flaws and all of my own fears and realize that so often I’m filtering that data of the universe through my own fears and prejudices and my own experience, and that I have to accept that other people are different.  And I still catch myself doing that, and I have to not hate myself when I catch myself doing that and say ‘Hey, I’m a work in progress,’ you know?

 

CE:  Yeah.  Well, I feel like I’m just a couple of years into understanding that about myself, because I do think that I have those tendencies very much so, and I’m actually just a couple of years into this relationship that has been—you know, met a great person at a great time in my life, after I had started to do some of the digging.  Maybe the first—excavating the first eight layers of a possible eight hundred.  So I feel much better.  I’m so thankful that I did some of that work so that I could be a little bit more able to balance myself out.  But I don’t feel like what you’re talking about, that catching yourself, I don’t necessarily feel that yet all the time.

 

PG:  Your fiancée sounds like she has a good sense of boundaries.

 

CE:  Yes, well—see, here’s what’s interesting.  She has a family that is very intense, just like my family is very intense, and both of us have been working through therapy and through just growing up and being adults to set better boundaries, so I think both of us are a little bit more aware of it while not necessary having it as our base.  And actually that’s kinda nice because she doesn’t necessarily shame me for having these boundaries that—because she also has weird boundaries, so we’re working on it together, and I’ll point stuff out to her too and she’ll point stuff out to me.  So that’s a lot better than—I think it’s just nice to meet somebody who understands what the thing is, you know?

 

PG:  And I think recognizing it is always the first thing that has to happen, because nobody is like ‘Oh, I recognize it, and now I’m fixed!’

 

CE:  (Laughs)  That’s true.

 

PG:  You know, these are like pathways worn into our brain that we kind of need to rewire, and it takes a long time, it takes a really long time.  But I think what you describe the relationship that you have with your fiancée is that’s the best possible setup that you can have for two people working towards becoming more independent and also loving, you know?

 

CE:  Yes.  Yeah, I think you’re right.  I just hope I’ll be able to do it.  I hope I’m able to keep—

 

PG:  I think you are doing it.

 

CE:  (Chuckles)  Yeah.

 

PG:  It sounds to me like you are.  We didn’t finish touching on your first girlfriend and what that moment was like when you were finally able to be the authentic you.  Were you able to be the authentic you?

 

CE:  Well, I mean, we—it was a very good relationship but it was also really—I don’t know that I was able to be the authentic me yet, just because for a part of the time that I was dating that woman I was still dating men casually as well and trying to figure that out.  I had a lot of—I initially hated myself after figuring out that I wanted to be with her.  I wasn’t like an immediate relief, it was more like—things were really tumultuous with my family and I didn’t feel like I could come home very much because I had to remove that part of my life before I was able to come back, sort of, per request.  And so, it just took me years of being kind of in limbo, of having other girlfriends and…  And then, after dating women for—I think I had already dated two women, like dated, I mean like been seriously—not dated, like been with, multiple year relationships I’d been partner to them before I was really coming out to people.  And I had been doing improv all this time, professionally and also in college, and then I moved back to Chicago.  It was right before I had moved back to Chicago I had come out to—I just started coming out to everybody as opposed to just like whoever I felt like it was relevant to, or something.  And then when I moved back to Chicago I started doing stand-up, and I really think that part of that was because it was a great way to be able to tell everybody all the time, because I could say it every time I was on stage, and it was something to be, come on, we’re comfortable with…  It’s just weird when you’re gay, it’s not something that you physically look like or something that people can necessarily always read on you, so you have to tell them, which is awkward sometimes in conversation, not because it’s strange to be gay but just because it’s a weird thing to bring up your sexuality.  Heterosexuals don’t have to do that.  So I found stand-up, and I also started dating that woman that I was talking about, that “fixy” relationship.  But she was actually very supportive of my being on stage and also of my being on stage and talking about being gay.  And that is the first time that I felt like I was working within things that I understood.

 

PG:  What was your family’s reaction when they started hearing you talk about being gay on stage?

 

CE:  It was really bad actually.  (Laughs)  I remember this time, they brought like twenty friends or something to a show, like my parents brought twenty of their friends to a show.  Twenty of their friends, to a show!

 

PG:  I’m not gay, and those are always the situations that I would be the most nervous because I was always afraid of bombing, not because I would bomb but because then they would have to lie to me after the show, and I hate that dishonesty.

 

CE:  And they’re also—yeah number one that, and it’s people that have known you since you were a kid, so gay or not, you will talk about your life in kind of a more raw way.  You might curse, you might say stuff about butts, I don’t know, whatever you’re doing it’s probably not stuff that your parents’ friends expect to hear come out of your mouth.  So they brought twenty friends, they were trying to be supportive, I was talking about being gay.  It was at a comedy club, too, not just a weird bar or something; an actual club with a two-drink minimum and everybody’s packed in and it was terrible, it was terrible!  Because I actually had a joke about my dad at that time as well about his reaction to me coming out, and his reaction was pretty negative so I was still working through a lot of anger with him that I now—he’s more than apologized and we have worked through a lot of our issues there, but at the time I was pissed and he had not apologized yet.  So he just had to hear it in front of all his friends how his daughter is angry at him.

 

PG:  Wow.

 

CE:  Yeah, so that was…

 

PG:  Awkward!

 

CE:  That was a bad night, actually.  I was also in crutches, weirdly.  You know, those are always the nights that you’re like—I hurt my knee, so of course you’re like, ‘Oh, twenty of my parents’ friends are here and there’s only stairs up to the stage and I’m probably going to talk about how mad I am at my dad…’  Well, just definitely put me on crutches, that’ll make the whole thing easier!  (Laughs)  You’re just balancing on the crutches, leaning towards the mic because you can’t hold it.  It was great.  But I think honestly what ended up happening was that that woman I was dating at the time, she was very charming and she was really supportive of my career, like I said, my stand-up career, and she would talk to my parents who actually liked her, which completely surprised me.  I didn’t know they could like somebody I was dating that was a woman that actually liked her and she would speak very highly of my skills and talents to them, and I think they became a lot more comfortable with it because of the amount of support that she was able to give me.

 

PG:  Do you think because they realize that, ‘Oh, this is very similar to a heterosexual relationship, and it’s about emotion and compassion and genuine love and it’s just not about the degenerate sex that we picture when we picture gays together.’

 

CE:  Yes.  And I’ll add another thing which helped me at that time and which is also very interesting to be on a different side of now, which is that that particular woman was very very feminine, and I also think that that was a really interesting entry point for my parents into being completely on board with who I am as a person.  Like, it’s really not an issue anymore, I never have a conversation with them where they’re like—I mean, they are really happy about my fia—they’re like super—it’s not an issue, but it was a HUGE issue and I think it’s really interesting that she was really the first person I knew and she was kind of this really entry-level gay.  Not that you can’t be feminine, but I’m just saying, she wore a lot of high heels and a lot of eye makeup, and I think they had a chance to not—just because you’re talking about the kind of demonizing, they had a chance to meet somebody who was not very scary, you know, to maybe a suburban family.  She just looked very normative and possibly hetero.  But she was not.

 

PG:  She didn’t bring her softball glove.

 

CE:  She did not bring her softball glove.  Now, the interesting thing is now that the woman I’m going marry is very masculine.  She’s got a very pretty face but she’s got really short hair and she wears mostly men’s clothes, and my parents are—they only think she’s great and they only have said nice things and welcoming things.  They’ve never given her a weird look or anything like that.  My grandmother passed away and my fiancée wore a tie to that funeral, and a suit, you know?  But I don’t think it worried my parents at all.  But it was funny watching the trajectory of their being okay with like, well…

 

PG:  ‘Maybe she’s working her way up to a man!’

 

CE:  (Laughs)  But that is a real thing, too, for lesbian women.  My fiancée talks all the time about how—it is actually really different to walk around with her than it has been to walk around with women that were more feminine, because people—I don’t feel rejected by people but I just think people find it more interesting; ‘Wait, what’s going on over there?’

 

PG:  One of my mentors in my support group I chose—she thinks of herself as a boy, and she’s a lesbian, and she dresses in men’s clothing, and I think one of the reasons I was attracted to her spiritually in the support group was, it was kind of like the male the mentors that I had in my other support groups but she had that feminine energy, that mother energy that I so deeply crave, but there was no kind of complication of sexual attraction between either of us.  And as I’ve done work with her it has really benefitted me to hear her opinion as a woman on some of the stuff and to let me know how a woman views some of those things and it’s been really great.

 

CE:  I think that’s awesome, I totally understand what you’re saying.  When I have been with more feminine women I found that men would have a harder time interacting with us seriously because I think that they still thought there was a possibility that they could be—I mean I’m not kidding!  And for me that was never a possibility, so we were unmatched, you know, the conversation from their end was like, ‘Well, maybe…’ and the conversation from my end was like ‘No.’  But we weren’t having that conversation, it was all just energy and—

 

PG:  It was flirty?

 

CE:  I mean guys were just being, yeah, flirty, weird, inappropriate.  The thing is, I actually really love men as friends but I never want to sleep with any of my friends.  I never ever have that moment of like ‘maybe…’  So if that’s happening for that guy it just makes the relationship a little bit tough, like there’s something going on that we can’t meet in the middle on.  I have found that since I have been—because I also—not that I’m butch but I cut off half my hair and I wear clothes that make me feel comfortable, like T-shirts and jean jackets and things like that, and then I’m next to a woman who like I said is very pre—maybe more androgynous than masculine, but with a pompadour and a leather jacket on and guys actually think that we’re cool, like they don’t want to sleep with us, they want to talk to us.  Which is a really relief, it feels awesome, I’m really excited about it actually.  It’s been really interesting moving here and making a whole new circle of friends and having those people only ever see me with a woman that looks like that, as opposed to having seen me with different types of women, because yeah, everybody is like ‘Oh, we’re all just boys, we’re all just brothers, we’re all just hanging out.  Who wants to come over and watch action movies?’  I’m like, ‘I do, I absolutely do!  Thank you for finally knowing.

 

PG:  That’s awesome.

 

CE:  Yeah it is awesome.  I feel happy about it.  It’s much more comfortable, actually.

 

PG:  Is there anything else you want to touch on before we do some fears and loves?

 

CE:  No, I feel like…  Are you exhausted?  How exhausting is this for you?

 

PG:  It’s not, it’s actually energizing for me.  Because, I say it all the time, this is the connection to human beings that I’ve wanted my whole life but I didn’t know how to do it, and it started with support groups and I feel like this is an extension of it.  This is the intimacy that I’ve craved my whole life.  I mean, clearly, when it’s with somebody that I’ve really never sat down and talked to it’s a limited intimacy but it still is an intimacy and, no, it energizes me.  It makes me feel alive and, like, a sense of meaning and purpose that was unattainable to me on a certain level before, before I got sober and certainly before I started doing this show, so no, put that thought to rest.

 

CE:  I’m happy to hear that.  I mean, for me, it actually makes me anxious to talk about my emotions, so I am a little bit exhausted, and that’s okay because I knew that coming in, I knew what I was going to be doing today.  But it’s interesting to me that it’s an opposite experience for you.

 

PG:  Yeah, that’s because I’m draining you.  I’m a vampire.

 

CE:  (Laughs)  I was noticing that my arms were kind of losing color.  No, you’re not draining me, we’re—I don’t know what’s going on, but…

 

PG:  I’ve had many guests say that they had to go home and take a four-hour nap after doing it, and I’ve had that too when I’ve spilled my guts to people and been anxious and the episodes where I’ve put up where I really kind of show my warts and talk about things that scare me and things that I have complicated feelings about.  I sometimes agonize about that going out, for people to hear and know about me, but having done that in support groups and seen that it’s only improved my life I know it’s going to be okay if I can just get through that initial fear, but yeah, I get that, that exhaustion, I get it.

 

CE:  While just talking, you know.  That’s what we are as humans, just talking is exhausting sometimes.

 

PG:  Yeah.  And I’m exhausting, let’s be honest.

 

CE:  Yeah it’s mostly you, it’s nothing to do with me.  You’re annoying as hell.  (Laughs)

 

PG:  Let’s start with some fears.

 

CE:  Okay.

 

PG:  I will be reading the fears of—because I have listed like 400 of my fears on the—maybe at some point I’ll go back and start doing my own fears again, but I do the listeners fears.  I’m going to be reading the—continuing the list of fears from Rachel, and she says, “I’m afraid that I will eventually leave the career I love (teaching) because I need a job that makes more money.”  I bet a lot of teachers have that.

 

CE:  I’m afraid that my parents will die on a night that I didn’t say goodnight to them, just like that book I read as a child, Sarah, Plain and Tall.

 

PG:  Mm.  Rachel says, “I’m afraid to permanently move back to the States.  I’m afraid that all of the hustle and bustle and expectations will simply overwhelm me.”

 

CE:  I’m afraid that I will not be able to tolerate men at some point and thus will become an actual man-hating lesbian.

 

PG:  (Laughs)  Give me a heads-up, would you?

 

CE:  (Laughs)  I’m worried about it!

 

PG:  I will know to avoid you.

 

CE:  I’m afraid that one day I’ll give into the voices I hear in my head and cut myself.

 

CE:  I’m afraid that my pants will not fit and someone will take a photograph on stage where it is obvious that my pants did not fit and then they will post it on the Internet and somebody will comment on it that my pants do not fit.  Body image.

 

PG:  That is a thousand different kinds of awesome.  “I’m afraid my life has no meaning, that I’m simply taking up space in our world.”

 

CE:  Here’s another body image one.  I’m afraid that my boobs will become super weird with age and I will want to have surgery to correct it but I will be afraid to get that surgery and also ashamed of myself for even considering it.

 

PG:  That’s a good one, that’s deep.  “I’m afraid that I depend too much on my students to make me happy/smile.”

 

CE:  I’m afraid that I’ll not be able to control my eating habits and will consistently feel sick to my stomach for overeating like I did when I was a child.

 

PG:  “I’m afraid that there is no one in the world that will love me in a romantic way because I have both genital herpes and genital warts, even though the diseases were how I found out that a former long-term boyfriend was cheating on me.”  Oh, my heart goes out to her.

 

CE:  Yeah, that’s really…  I’m just taking a moment with that.

 

PG:  Yeah.  And I do know that there are people that have great relationship when one person has herpes and are totally able to manage it, and couples that both have it.

 

CE:  Absolutely, and that it is a manageable medical situation, and also that more of us are exposed to things than we even realize, there’s no shame in that.
PG:  Yeah.  I had genital warts in my twenties.  I had to get surgery, laser surgery.

 

CE:  That sounds really painful.

 

PG:  The thing that really sucked was the first time this guy treated—I went to like an old-timey guy whose methods were, like, Victorian and he—the best way I can describe it was he took a rototiller that had dry ice on the ends of it and just drove it over my dick.

 

CE:  Oh my god.
PG:  It was so fucking painful, and it didn’t work!

 

CE:  Oh my god!

 

PG:  It was awful, awful!

 

CE:  I would also say that honestly one of the things that drives me—just makes me very angry in stand-up is actually hearing people throw away herpes jokes, because most of—statistically a bunch of people in the audie—it’s the same thing I feel about rape jokes—statistically a bunch of people in the audience are dealing with that and possibly people on the show with you, and in the case of herpes a bunch of people probably have it and don’t even know that they have it, so there’s no need to shame—like, we all have herpes, or in the next two years we’re all going to have herpes, because the infection rate is very high and not everybody manifests symptoms but you’re not alone and there’s nothing wrong with you if you do, because many many people do.

 

PG:  I would like the heads up from you on both when you’re going to become a man-hating lesbian and when my herpes are going to break out.

 

CE:  I’m gonna let you know!  I’ll send you an email about your herpes.

 

PG:  Okay, I appreciate it.  I want to be on speed dial.  Your fear?

 

CE:  Oh yeah, that I will make no money doing stand-up comedy and thus will have wasted my parents’ investment to send me to a college just to have me fail at some dumb arts job.

 

PG:  (Chuckles)  I’m now going to switch to fears from a listener named Nadia, and she says, “I’m scared my knee won’t get better and it’ll keep hurting and that I won’t be able to run again or bend it all the way and will be out of shape because I won’t exercise.”

 

CE:  I’m scared that my eyes will cross and stay crossed and I will lose my vision.

 

PG:  But what would be positive is you would always get hired to do the scene where somebody orgasms.

 

CE:  (Chuckles)  The other thing is, if my eyes crossed and I lose my vision, can you imagine how marketable that would be as a comic?  Think about it!  America’s Got Talent in the bag!

 

PG:  (Chuckles)  Nadia says, “I’m afraid I’ll start binging again and gain a bunch of weight and my life would crumble.”

 

CE:  I’m afraid I’ll fail my partner because I’m selfish and then end up alone.

 

PG:  “I’m afraid my boyfriend, who is in recovery from sex addiction, will relapse and I wouldn’t know it until it’s too late and I’ll be hurt again.”

 

CE:  I’m afraid I will be too poor to have kids until I am too old to have kids.

 

PG:  “I’m afraid I’ll get fired from my job and will have to get work that would pay a lot less and would be a lot more demanding and time-consuming.”

 

CE:  I’m afraid I’ll have no real intimacy in my friendships because I am too private.

 

PG:  “I’m afraid I won’t be a good therapist.”

 

CE:  I’m afraid of ballet class.

 

PG:  “I’m afraid my ex-husband is not addressing girls’ emotional needs.”

 

CE:  That’s actually the end of my fears for the ones I wrote today.

 

PG:  Alright, let’s jump to the loves.

 

CE:  I have, maybe I have ten of these.

 

PG:  Okay.  I’m gonna be going back to Rachel and reading her loves, and she starts off with, “I love taking the first sip of black coconut kona coffee in the morning.”

 

CE:  Oh, that’s awesome.  I love seeing an action movie in a theater with a ton of other people but without anyone being annoying or talking really, just kind of tons of people sitting around silently witnessing punching.

 

PG:  That needs to be more specific.

 

CE:  (Laughs)

 

PG:  “I love getting my back popped/cracked.”

 

CE:  Nice.

 

PG:  She doesn’t enjoy her back getting slashed – popped ‘slash’ cracked.

 

CE:  Got it, got it.  I love feeling important, like if someone comes up to compliment me on my stand-up in front of my family.

 

PG:  “I love looking at the blackheads and other stuff that is stuck on the biore strip that I just took off of my nose.  Actually, I just enjoy popping zits, blackheads etc in general.”

 

CE:  Oh my god, blackheads are the best.

 

PG:  Yeah, there’s nothing like pulling something out of your body – I get excess earwax and sometimes I do that thing where you flush it, and oh, when I get a good piece coming out of there, it just feels like victory.

 

CE:  Why is that so satisfying, yeah, yes.

 

PG:  It feels like you’re changing the oil in your car.

 

CE:  All by yourself.  Yeah, I know, I love all that stuff too.  I also love chap stick.  I love chap stick, and I love putting it on, like the first time that put on a new tube, that’s how I am a lesbian – I just really love chap stick.

 

PG:  (Chuckles)  I didn’t know that was a lesbian thing.

 

CE:  Yeah it is!  Totally.  Oh, totally.

 

PG:  Yeah?

 

CE:  Mhm, yeah.

 

PG:  “I love the fact that I am the only woman to coach high school basketball in my district.”

 

CE:  Oh that’s great.  What’s up Rachel.  I love having time to go back to sleep but then getting up and starting on work anyway.  I love that feeling.

 

PG:  Nice.  “I love telling others about my Samoan culture.”

 

CE:  I loved talking with my Nana whilst sitting on this one stool that she used to have in her apartment in her retirement home.

 

PG:  Oh that’s sweet.  Now I’m switching to Nadia’s loves.  “I love finding a small tube of hand lotion in my purse and after putting it on, offering it to someone else seated next to me in a group.”

 

CE:  I love teasing my older sister about bringing CDs on vacation because nobody brings CDs on vacation anymore, and then riding around in a rental car listening to those CDs because in fact she was right to bring them.

 

PG:  Yeah!  “I love the foam on top of a coffee cup, even when it’s an instant.”

 

CE:  I love seeing an accurate and full depiction of a gay person on television or in film and then not having that person die or end up with a person of the opposite sex.

 

PG:  I would imagine that is very—

 

CE:  Pretty rare!

 

PG:  —rare, and soothing, like, okay, we’re moving forward.

 

CE:  Yeah, exactly.

 

PG:  “I love the screeching sound a clean plate makes after I rinse it in the sink.”

 

CE:  I love this one particular Christmas walk that happens in the town next to where I grew up, where there is like cider and old women wearing matching sweaters and singing Christmas carols.

 

PG:  That’s awesome.  “I love when my kids burst into an unstoppable laughter and anything makes them laugh even harder, even showing two fingers.”  I don’t know if I get that, the two fingers.  “…even showing two fingers.”

 

CE:  Yeah, I don’t know.

 

PG:  Must be an inside jokes.

 

CE:  Maybe small kids that laugh at the hilarity of the human digit.  I love hearing my mum play “House of the Rising Sun” on the piano, which also is the only song she knows how to play on the piano.

 

PG:  “I love watching foreign movies and shows where actors look like real people instead of Greek gods or plastic dolls.”  Oh, I totally relate to that.  That’s why I couldn’t watch Lost, I was like, ‘Oh, a plane full of beautiful people and one fat guy crashed.’

 

CE:  (Laughs)  Yes!  Yes!  Absolutely.  I love having worked with kids in various capacities over the years and then being able to still be connected with those kids and hear what they’re doing now.

 

PG:  Oh, that’s sweet.  “I love warming my hands on a ceramic mug of hot coffee or tea.”  I love that one, too.  You don’t have to worry about that too much in California, but back in the Midwest.

 

CE:  No, that’s true.  I’m out of loves, but I can make some up.

 

PG:  Well, I’m gonna do…

 

CE:  Do a couple more, I’ll listen.

 

PG:  “I love seeing a beautifully put together woman on the street and telling her how attractive she looks.”  You know what I find myself doing, is if I see a woman like in a coffee shop that has something that’s attractive about her – not a body part but like if she has hair that is a nice color, I will come up to her and I’ll say, ‘I’m not hitting on you, I’m married, but I just wanted to let you know that I think you have beautiful hair.’

 

CE:  I love that!

 

PG:  Yeah, it’s a really nice—or I’ll compliment guys too on stuff like ‘Oh man, that’s an awesome shirt,’ or…  I’m not comfortable enough to compliment guys, like, ‘You’ve got great legs,’ or you know, something like that, but then I’ve never told a woman she has great legs, I feel like that’s something I should probably keep to myself.  “I love seeing alternative couples on the street, biracial, same sex or anything else out of the norm.”  And we’ll do this as her last one, “I love arriving somewhere at the exact time I predicted I would.”

 

CE:  Oh, that is the best.

 

PG:  I love it when it’s right down to the exact minute.  Especially if it was like a half-hour drive.

 

CE:  Right.

 

PG:  Yeah, that’s always awesome.  Cameron, people can find you at cameronesposito.com.  Thank you so much for sharing your life and all that other good stuff with us, I appreciate it.

 

CE:  Yeah, thanks for talking with me.

 

PG:  Many thanks to Cameron.  I emailed her when I told her I was putting her episode up and said that every once in a while I come across somebody when I first meet them I just get this vibe that that person’s path is supposed to cross mine and I just got that feeling when I saw her doing stand-up.  I usually listen to my instinct when it tells me that, and I felt that way about Lisa Kushell [now Lisa Arch].  I felt like we had been friends for a long time and we’re still friends, we’re still good friends.  I love that feeling.  So, many thanks to Cameron.

 

Before we take it out with some surveys I want to remind you that there’s a couple of different ways to support this show if you feel so inclined.  So sorry, those of you that listen to every single episode, you must be so tired of hearing this spiel.  You can go to the website, mentalpod.com, and you can support the show financially by making a onetime PayPal donation or the one that I love, making a recurring monthly donation for as little as $5 a month.  That also qualifies you to get in the cutting board drawing which I have whenever my depression isn’t crushing my skull.  You can also support this show non-financially by transcribing an episode, email me about more details about that.  Be forewarned, it takes an average typist a full day to transcribe an average episode.  And you can support us non-financially by going to iTunes writing something nice and giving us a good rating, or spreading the word through social media, so any of those.  Oh, also financially, you can shop through our Amazon search portal.  It’s on our home page, right-hand side about halfway down.

 

Alright, let’s get to the surveys.  I’m gonna just be reading some excerpts from some of these – hah, don’t want to startle you!  Why did I have to preface that?  This is from Shame and Secrets filled out by Brita, and her deepest darkest thoughts, “Kill my son.”  Deepest darkest secrets:  “Thinking of killing my son or others.”  That is not that unusual, Brita, so don’t beat yourself up about that – unless you kill your son.

 

This is from the same survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Barometer.  He’s straight, in his 40s, was raised in a little bit of a dysfunctional environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and never reported it.  Deepest darkest thoughts: “I think about being sexual with male sexual organs, not to be confused with men.”  Deepest darkest secrets: “I engage in urethral play and even catheters while masturbating.”  Sexual fantasies: “I would like my partner to join me in my urethral play.”  That’s a tough word to pronounce.  I feel like I’m a doctor when I say that.  Urethral, you can’t really kind of gloss over that word, it’s…  Paul, spend more time on the pronunciation of urethral.  Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies: “I have and she was accepting of it.  She expressed concern for my safety which I understand but was not judgmental about it.  I probably won’t invite her to join me because I wouldn’t expect her to be turned on by it.  Our lovemaking is good as it is so it’s probably best to keep this part of my sexuality/damage compartmentalized.”  Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself: “My feelings towards myself seem to fluctuate between pride and my bravery and competence to do this weird shit to myself without serious injury, to feeling completely depraved.  I know that this is somehow connected with past sexual abuse but I don’t know exactly how.  It’s a strange activity to be turned on by.  I know I’m not the only one who engages in this but I haven’t found any information about why we are compelled to do these things.  Danger is a part of the turn-on as well as urethral penetration.  I would very much like to know if any of your listeners have any insight into this.”  Thank you for that.  And the forum is a good place sometimes to share that, or if you have insight into that, go ahead and email me and Barometer, if you email me then I can pass along any thoughts that people have.
This is a Happy Moment filled out by Katie, and she writes, “When I was four years old Nirvana’s album Nevermind was released.  My dad bought the CD and me and my three siblings and my father were listening to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a fake mosh pit where my dad would pick us up and throw us on the couch while we were dancing like maniacs.  It was amazing to feel this free with my dad, who can usually be gruff and intimidating, but in this moment he was a completely loving and fun person.  Whenever I hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I am instantly transported to that moment of happiness and it is the greatest feeling.”  I love that one.  I love that.  As you can tell from the Happy Moments that I pick, I just love when I see parents being present with their kids.

 

This is from Shame and Secrets filled out by a woman who calls herself Hello Spaceboy.  She is bisexual, in her 40s, and I just want to read an excerpt from it.  Deepest darkest thoughts: “Every night that my husband is late I like to fantasize that he’s been killed in a car crash and that I never have to see him again.  He does nothing but play on his computer all night, ignoring me and our daughter.  He won’t touch me, not that I want him to – he’s over 100 pounds overweight.  He disgusts me.  I would leave him but I have nowhere to go.  I really hate him, and myself for staying with him.”  Deepest darkest secrets: “I have keyed my husband’s car.”  Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: “Just someone to love me.  Husband says I am unlovable.”  Well, I hope you go talk to somebody about that or go to counseling, because that’s a lot to hold in and to try to deal with on your own.

 

Same survey filled out by Sally, and I just want to read her darkest secret: “In high school I claimed I had been emotionally traumatized by a local teen’s death to get out of taking a test I hadn’t prepared for.  I said I knew the person but really didn’t.”  Congratulations, Sally, on officially having the least dark secrets in the two and a half years I’ve been doing the podcast.  Your dark secret, Sally, wouldn’t have even been my darkest secret on a given day in my teenage years, so if that’s all the damage you have left in your wake in your life, you should rest your head soundly on your pillow.  Soundly?  I don’t know.  Comfortably.
This is from Shame and Secrets filled out by Charlotte.  She is bisexual, in her 20s.  She writes, “I find myself attracted to males and females but have never acted on it.”  She was raised in an environment that was a little dysfunctional.  “My parents were loving and supportive but for a period of six years both were unemployed or underemployed due to the economy.  This resulted in some stress in the home despite their efforts to shield their four kids from it.  That aside, I think the religious climate in the community was more damaging than anything I faced at home.”  Not hard to picture that.  Ever been the victim of sexual abuse: “Yes and I never reported it.  I was pressured by a popular older girl to touch her in ways that I wasn’t comfortable with.”  Deepest darkest thoughts: “I still think about these ten minutes of my life close to two decades after the fact, but when I relive it in my mind now I do everything she wanted me to, even the things I refused to do at the time.  I was ashamed of myself when it happened because I didn’t stand my ground, but also because I grew up in a strict religious house and community and felt that caving to peer pressure cost me a seat in heaven.  I’m still ashamed of myself now because that power dynamic of dominant and submissive – especially with another female – was the only way I feel aroused.  I’m ashamed that seeing myself as the victim feels so erotic.  I also feel like every time I run through this event in my mind the wound becomes that much deeper.  She hurt me once and I’m ashamed I have hurt myself over and over again all these years.”  I would try to forgive yourself about all of that, everything about that.  I know I sound like a broken record, but…  Deepest darkest secrets: “I’ve never told anyone about how she took me to a room and made me get under the sheets with her and how she was sweet and then became stern, how I said no and fought back tears when I realized what was going on, and I’ve never told anyone how she made it seem like we came to a compromise when she got what she wanted and I left feeling dirty.  I’m still sorting out my hang-ups about relationships and intimacy and sexual orientation.  I’m almost 30 and have never been with anyone else in an intimate setting.  She’s still the only person I have ever kissed and I am worried because it took me so long to come to terms with what happened, that it is too late for me to move on and have normal relationships.”  It is never too late to move on.  Never.  Actually, I would say, somebody about to be euthanized, that’s too late for them to move on.  Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: “Dom/sub scenarios featuring rope bandage, usually as a threesome, sometimes in a group with public humiliation.”  Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend: “No because that is messed up.”  That’s not messed up, that’s totally normal.  Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself: “It feels erotic and shameful at the same time.”  Welcome to most of the population!  “I feel safer to simply be an object for someone else’s pleasure than to be an active participant in an intimate way.”  I really relate to that, I really relate to that, so you’re not alone.

 

This is from Shame and Secrets survey filled out by Roy.  He’s straight, in his 30s, was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment, was abused by his mum, never been sexually abused.  Deepest darkest thoughts: “I feel so ugly that I haven’t had sex with my wife in over a month, even with her asking nightly.”  Deepest darkest secrets: “I can’t stop stealing cash from anyone I know.  I will go through purses and wallets every chance I get.”  I wonder if there’s an addiction behind that or if it’s just kleptomania.  Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: “Me choking her.”  Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend: “Yes.”  Do these generate any particular feelings: “Not really.  I am numb all the time, it feels like to me anyways.”  Sending you a big hug, Roy.  And if there’s an underlying addiction, or if the addiction itself is just stealing, go talk to somebody about that, because that numbness doesn’t have to be there; the numbness is the result of the addiction.  It’s doing its job, which is to numb us because the feelings otherwise are too overwhelming, but a good support group will give you tools to cope with those overwhelming feelings.

 

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by Ann-Marie, she is straight, in her 20s, never been sexually abused, was raised in an environment that was stable and safe.  Deepest darkest thoughts: “I think about checking in to the psych ward and saying I’m suicidal, just so I can take a break from my life, have a few days where there will be no outside pressure.  Pathetic, I know.”  I don’t think it’s pathetic.  I have thought that thought many times.  I want my external circumstances to match my internal circumstances so I can stop having to plaster a look on my face.  This is when I was depressed, I’m actually in a good place.  “I vaguely think about killing myself sometimes, not seriously, just in passing.  I’m afraid of sex and that makes me feeling broken.  I don’t want anything to do with it and I don’t want any kind of close boyfriendish relationship and I wonder if that makes me a freak, but I still think about sex sometimes and that makes me feel just weird.”  Deepest darkest secrets: “I was verbally and physically abusive to my brother when we were younger.  I used to beat the crap out of him and say absolutely horrible things.  I feel terrible about it and have asked his forgiveness.  He said he forgives me but I’m not he realizes how horrible I was.”  He does realize it and he’s forgiving you, so listen to him.  Let him forgive you.  “I wish someone would have stopped me.  I’ve tried to make up for it being the best sister I can be to him, and now we have a pretty good relationship but it still haunts me.  I can’t look at pictures of us when we were kids because all I can think is, how could you hurt that?  Look at how little he was.  He couldn’t even defend himself properly.  I recently started self-harming again.  It’s not near as bad as it was in high school but I’m still embarrassed to admit that I’ve done it.  Especially because last night I moved from cutting to beating myself with a belt.  I didn’t even realize how bad it was until I caught a glimpse of my back in the mirror today and was shocked to see it littered with dark, ugly and horrible-looking bruises.  It scares me that I hurt myself that bad and didn’t even realize it at the time.  At least with cutting I always knew when to stop.  With this I just kept going until I was exhausted and couldn’t do it anymore, and that is fucked up.  Who does that to themselves?  And the worst part is, I know how to avoid hurting myself.  There are things I can do, other coping skills I can use that aren’t destructive, but it just feels so damn right when I’m doing it.  All I can think is, ‘You deserve this,’ and then later think ‘Why?  Why do I deserve this?  What is so horrible about me that I deserve to beat the crap out of myself?  I never seem to have an answer.”  Well, I think it would help if you stop beating yourself up about your relationship with your brother when you were children.  You know, there’s an amazing video about living with—and I’m not saying that you have Borderline Personality Disorder, but there’s a great video about this, and one of the things when people have Borderline Personality Disorder their feelings come about so intensely that they often choose cutting because it’s a release from those intense feelings.  One of the people on the video, I think it was Marsha Linehan, said that a good coping tool is to get some ice cubes and hold those in your hand, and that is a safe way to find another outlet for the overwhelming feelings.  Just throwing that out there to anybody who struggles with self-harm, try holding the ice cubes in your hand.  Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: “Honestly I don’t have any fantasies.  I guess I’m pretty sexually repressed.  I mean, the first time I went into a sex shop and watched porn later I was 26 and only did it because I wanted to see if it was as horrible as my Christian upbringing led me to believe.  For weeks afterward I was convinced I had ruined my sexual purity and was going to be punished somehow for it.  I masturbated for the first time about two months ago and felt so ashamed afterwards that I wanted to die.  I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror for two weeks because I felt so awkward that I had actually done that.  I can’t believe I’m even saying this stuff.”  I can’t imagine how repressive your upbringing was and I encourage you to start hanging around people that aren’t sexually repressed.  Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend: “No, I don’t really have any.”  Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself: “It makes me feel weird that I don’t have any fantasies and that I don’t even really think about sex that much, because it seems to be such a driving force for people.  It makes me feel weird that I’m almost 30 and haven’t had a single sexual encounter.  I haven’t even kissed a guy for god’s sakes, and the first time I cuddled with a dude I was also 26 (guess it was a good year).  I felt so dirty afterwards I scribbled the word “whore” all over my body in red ink and cried for 20 minutes when I got back to my dorm.  And that was just cuddling, nothing more.  No kissing or anything, just cuddling.  All I can think when a guy touches me in an “I like you” kind of way is ‘get the fuck off me.’  It’s such a violent reaction, such a gut reaction that I have to fight to keep from slugging him, slapping him or pushing him away from me with all my strength.  Guess that explains why I haven’t had any kind of intimate guy/girl relationship in the past two years.  It just makes me feel so terrible that it’s not worth it.  It makes me wonder why I have such a hard time with physical affection and why it makes me feel so absolutely terrible that I avoid it.”  I see so many surveys that are crying out for talk therapy.  This one is such a good example of somebody that would benefit from going talking to a professional.  There’s so much confusion and rage and self-hatred buried in you, Ann-Marie.  Please go talk to somebody.  We cannot figure that stuff on our own.  It took me years to untangle the stuff that I had repressed.  You’ve clearly got a lot on your plate emotionally and I’m sending you a big, big hug.

 

This is same survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Herbert Tiddlywink.  He is straight, in his 30s, and his deepest darkest thoughts: “I’m a teacher in a very high-profile job in the creative arts.  I go to work each day with over 300 students that look to me for guidance, education, support and nurturing.  I find it terribly difficult at times to be strong for them when I suffer from my own insecurities stemming from my chemical imbalances.  My job is often seen as the perfect one in my field and I love it but I just occasionally want to be led and not to lead.”  Deepest darkest secrets: “I love this podcast but I am embarrassed and I get embarrassed by the graphic on this podcast.  What if someone sees the pill bottle on wheels and big words “Mental Illness” on my phone.  It has slowly become a big fear of mine.”  Any comments to make this show better he writes, “I love the show but please consider changing the car and pill bottle graphic.”  I’m going to suggest to you that you become more open about your mental illness and ask for help instead of trying to do it on your own and keep this brave face that can sometimes kill us.  It almost killed me and I hate to see people suffer when they don’t have to, when there are so many talented professionals out there in support groups that want to help you, Herbert, so…  I’m keeping the graphic.  Hate to break the news to ya.

 

This one is from Shame and Secrets filled out by a woman who calls herself Bibimbop.  Her survey is fascinating to me.  She is bisexual, in her 40s, was raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and reported it.  Deepest darkest thoughts: “I wanted to say that since I was about four years old I have been excited by large round male bellies.  For decades I felt so embarrassed about this, especially since it grew into a sexual obsession.  I am a small athletic person who would be disgusted if I personally gained weight.  I think often people don’t understand fetish.  It’s not a preference; it’s something that we have no control over.  It’s hardwired and it’s what we have to think about to get off, 100% of the time.  That is really why I have some empathy for pedophiles and the like.  Actual pedophiles cannot help what makes them hard.  They will never be able to change that.  Just like me, they had no choice.  It’s only how we act on our desires that matter.  In my case I was able to tell my husband (not a fat guy) and we have come to some compromise, but only because I was totally honest.  Reality – fantasy = different, and should be kept that way in some instances.”  Deepest darkest secret: “Stuffing my Barbie’s clothes to make them fat way back when I was four or five.  Not being able to be torn away from that task, being confused by it, being ashamed of course.”  Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: “Always think about large male bellies, usually that I’ve seen on YouTube or Flickr or Fantasy Feeder.  Yes, there is a huge (no pun intended) genre of belly porn.  No genitals, no face – we are not interested in that.  So I think about men with huge, full bellies, stuffed and heavy and uncomfortable, touching and rubbing their distended bellies and finding it difficult to move, groaning and holding their huge bellies as best.  Also I get off on having cooked for them, like it’s my amazing food that has stuffed them, that they couldn’t stop eating because it was so good.”  Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend: “Yes.  Finally I told someone everything, then I married him.  With a lot of effort he’s gained 20 pounds.  He’s not naturally fat but because he’s so lean and he has a perfect round belly that I love, but of course what’s important is that I have told him all this and he didn’t blink an eye.  The previous guys have been ashamed of their fat bellies and that is such a huge turnoff.  I love the confident, older, even arrogant guy who struts his belly and his stuff and is proud of it.  He’s earned it.  Friends, yes.  One girlfriend I told, and felt quite relieved that she is fat but loves skinny guys and is married to a guy who loves chubby girls.  They have two kids and I was heartened by her story, her confidence and her candor.  Of course that doesn’t help pedophiles but my heart really goes out to them, although of course that is no comfort to them.”  Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself: “For decades, self-hatred and horrible shame because my mother is anorexic/weight-obsessed and this was the worst possible thing that could happen to a person becoming fat.  My mother weighs 77 pounds at five foot seven”—wow—“no longer able to stand on her own she is confined to a wheelchair.  It has really changed over the years of therapy to help me realize how sick my mother, my uncle (who was locked away for a decade) and their father was.  All of them saw treatment except my mother, who has managed to survive on her crazy OCD and starvation patterns forever.  Really, I don’t know how her body goes on.  It is just all in the mind.  Having said that all, I still hate myself but it’s because of my shitty personality, not an eating disorder.  I am normal-sized and love healthy food and working out.  I don’t have shame around my body because I know it’s great, however I hate my personality.”  Hey, if it’s not one thing…!  Thank you for that.  I don’t know how to pronounce your name so I’m not going to try to mangle it, but thank you for that.  I love hearing the breadth of experience out there, and you’re not alone, I know there are other people that relate to that even though it’s not something I typically hear a lot of, the fact that there’s stuff out there and I hope you can not feel shame about that.

 

And the Happy Moment we’re gonna go out on was sent in by Danny, and she writes “I was taking the subway one morning and noticed a six-year-old making faces at a two-year-old that she obviously didn’t know.  I was really cute to watch them interact.  Then, as the six-year-old was leaving she reached out to the two-year-old who reached right back to her.  It was the sweetest thing to see two people connect so simply and beautifully in a public space.  No inhibitions – just reaching out to one another because they could relate to each other.  No one else seemed to notice them.  It was their own little joyful world in a hectic environment.  It made my day.”

 

That’s beautiful.  Thank you for that.  And thank you to my guest Cameron.  And thank you to you guys for helping me do this show and keep it going, and reminding me that I’m not alone.  And I hope you know that you’re not alone.

 

Thanks for listening.