Sometimes you have to combine two ridiculous tasks into one ridiculous outfit. It's that odd conundrum of efficiency that swooshes prom dresses up Wal-Mart tampon aisles, purple-flowered nurses' uniforms through the indignity of Home Depot caulking emergencies, and nipple clamps and ball-gags into the hamster wing of the emergency room. One exhibitionistic task clearly outweighs the other, so a compromise — say, a trench coat or bathrobe — is hastily overlooked, and you're willing to forgo the disparity of apparent context for the sake of convenience or necessity. Besides, who in this day and age is even looking, and why should you even care?
"You ever watch that Top Model show?" The Publix cashier allows her eyes to travel geometrically around the three-piece constellation of my suitably horrific white polyester suit, ending near the top of my last bleached split end. Bleep, bleep, bleep go my Ensure shakes, cocktail mixers and baby wipes.
"Well, no, not really," I bat an eyelash or two at whether this is going in the direction of disposable cover-girl beauty catfights or the one where I actually know it's going. "You mean the one with Tyra on it?"
"Yeah!" Bleep, nasal spray, bleep, Prilosec. "You look just like that guy on there, the crazy one with all the white spiky hair."
"Well, I don't mean to," I gather my Jay Manuel makeup kit. "It's just sometimes you have to mix beauty with duty."
That duty, tonight's White Party at the Parliament House, stands at great odds with my actual physicality. It should be known that all of these years of sniffing around the corners of party bathrooms, chasing back appetizer halves with party swill and generally making a party ass of myself to the delight of my regret-then-gag reflex have rendered me a consumptive mess of dysentery and the vapors. I'm running on fumes, and not the Vicks ones that the doctor's ordered.
I've made big gay plans, see, and big gay plans cannot be redirected without first contacting the big gay authorities and offering up three rhinestones, two sequins and another ounce of dignity. I have none of these to spare. Instead, I've been forced to extract myself from my hysterical Saturday coma, throw on a distraction to match the pallor of my skin, swing by the local grocer's to test my footing and then go out. This isn't going to be pretty. But then, neither is Jay Manuel.
"I'll be there at 6:30," even my text has a rasp. "If I'm not dead."
Fortunately, this is to be an early-evening event, although the irony of its charitable cause isn't lost on the budding pneumonia splashing through my lungs. The Runway for a Cure is a benefit fashion show meant to boost the coffers of the following weekend's AIDS walk around Lake Eola, and serves the purpose of a sort of forgive-me philanthropy prior to the K-shirt circuit abandon of the age-old institution of parties called "white" with a wink.
"My name is Bi—"
"I know who you are, I just don't know where you are on the guest list!" Bleep, bleep.
Because my sniffles have already come pre-ordered and my brain is operating like an engine lubricated with phlegmatic sludge, my ticket-table tantrum quickly morphs into a backstage access swirl of teasing brushes and burning hair. Everybody is rather seriously constructing a decidedly Orlando version of haphazard couture — meaning asymmetric art-print shirts and fluorescent hair extensions teased akimbo — and I am in the way.
"Omigod, I love your suit!" My hairdresser's-wife friend Jen doesn't watch that Top Model show.
"Yeah, I was going for something that was a bit Nik Kershaw and a bit George Jefferson," I blur some fetid spit out of my mouth. "Wouldn't it be good if we were moving on up?"
Nobody gets it, nobody gets me, the show is starting, fuck the world.
There are angelic themes (good versus evil), drag numbers (Pussycat Dolls), some darker Buckcherry pectoral musings and some rather capable backup dancing from hairdresser Jeff, who twice tried out for So You Think You Can Dance and looks nothing like Jay Manuel. Along with all of this kaleidoscopic mood enhancement is the ever-present empty feeling that, despite my valiant Jeffersonian efforts, I'm not even dressed appropriately for this. I don't belong here.
"I need something to drink before my head falls off," I rasp-text bartender Taylor.
"I'm outside," he throws a life preserver.
Outside, Taylor's setting up his bar for the big "white" show next to an approximation of a white-and-aluminum-foil parade float, presumably set up for naked porn stars to stand upon later while chocolate fountains from heaven make them edible for all. We run over and pretend it's our own winter forest of awful, and that this is the apocalypse.
"I love your suit!" he offers, as my drink pours.
"I've got it bad — you don't know how bad I've got it, Weezy!"
And he gets it. Better still, he's sporting white paint-splattered overalls two sizes too small. I get it!
"Freeze-frame!" I Peter Wolf.
"I was going for a little bit blue collar, a little bit J. Geils Band."
And seeing this touchpoint of momentary validity finally come to life, I was just going. Instead, I'm lured by Jen and her husband Chris to their palatial estate for an evening of making myself even less healthy by screaming.
"We have American Idol for the Wii!" Jen exclaims, signifying nothing.
There will be Erasure songs, Duran Duran songs, Yaz songs and the hasty falling out of everybody around me. Then I will be leaving.
I need to stop by 7-Eleven in my suit for some NyQuil and suicide pills. I'm that guy.