It feels like an eternity since I attended my first Pride parade. I remember it so vividly, yet it seems it was in another lifetime. So much has changed since then. Both in the world, and within myself. I was in my early 20s and had just come out. It seemed only proper to celebrate that milestone by joining my fellow LGBTQs in the upcoming Pride festivities. It was my gay rite of passage, after all!
Back then I’d go to New York New York (now 5801 Video Lounge) in the hopes of meeting people, specifically women. I’d usually end up drinking alone or sometimes chatting up older gay men, against their will. I’d also go to Tuscany Cafe in the Southside for Will & Grace night on Thursdays, as well as Queer as Folk night every Sunday (Queer as Folk is back btw!). That’s where I fell in love with HIM. Brian Kinney. 😂 But that’s another story. Despite my efforts to meet women by hanging out with gay men who didn’t notice me, I sadly only had one gay friend. He was 20-plus years my senior and I met him through my mother. He was wildly inappropriate, always up for a party, a scheme, or a road trip to a gay destination. He took me under his wing and it was exactly what I needed then so that I could tell these stories twenty years later.
“Come on, you Lezzy!”, he’d say while attempting to convince me to go somewhere with him.
“Lezzy” was a term of endearment from him. You had to be there.
He was the one who led me to my very first Pride parade.
Like a true Pride veteran, he insisted we partied the night before the parade. So I picked him up that Saturday evening and we headed east, venturing to a town unbeknownst to me. We arrived at a little hole-in-the-wall bar somewhere near Mount Pleasant, PA. It didn’t really seem like the place for being out and proud. It felt like the type of place where you’d go to hide all your dirty little secrets. But I went along with it anyway. Shortly after entering the bar and ordering drinks, my friend told me to find a woman while he went off to another section of the bar. I thought it was his way of helping me by leaving me alone to mingle, as I was pretty shy. I see now that he was probably just having sex in the bathroom.
I didn’t really know my type back then. I had been “in love” with two women up to that point; one blonde, one brunette. One was petite, the other tall. Both were kind of bossy and mean. Ok, so I had a type. All I can say is my type was nowhere to be found in that crowd. Sometimes you learn what you don’t want before you learn what you do want.
While I was lost in my own philosophical tangent, a woman approached me. She must have been a time-traveler, I thought because she reminded me of 1985. She was not subtle with her flirting, and though I was flattered, I wasn’t interested. She bragged about herself heavily, which was a turnoff. I allowed her to buy me a drink, however, and learned a valuable lesson in doing so: You can’t get rid of someone once you accept a drink from them. She followed me around every square inch of that bar. I finally found my friend and was hoping he would be a wingman and get me away from that woman. Instead, he told me that I should go for it with her that night. He kept saying that I needed to have experiences and that one day I’d understand. The problem for me was that there were a lot of problems there. For one, she was wearing a Steelers sweatshirt in the summer. Two, she was wearing a Steelers sweatshirt. And three, she had a mullet. Now I know I said this was a long time ago, but honeys, it wasn’t that long ago. I simply was not attracted to her. I wanted to run my hands through a woman’s hair, not just the backside. I was sure she heard all of this as she was standing so close to me that I could feel her warm corndog breath hitting my neck. The bar served corn dogs. Weird, right?
Again, my friend convinced me to do something. As this woman looked at me with puppy dog eyes and that big mullet, I thought, “Wow… I’m gonna have sex in a bathroom tonight.”
While everything in me, especially my OCD, told me to get out of there, I decided to stay and take my old friend’s advice. “Steelers Sweatshirt Girl” (I never got her name) and I ended up in the bar bathroom where she did her best to make a woman out of me. I faked it with the hopes that she’d leave and go high-five her friends. It was closing time when we stumbled out of the bathroom and I was ready to go. The parade was early the next morning and I was going home to wash off this night.
But wait, there’s more…
My friend grabbed me upon exiting and said that I should go home with SSG (Steelers Sweatshirt Girl). He had found someone local he wanted to go home with and said he’d pick me up at SSG’s house in the morning. SSG heard this and agreed. I felt a little trapped as my friend drove off in my car, leaving me to go home with this woman. I had little choice so I hopped into her truck (yes, truck), with the goal of falling asleep on her couch.
That’s the story I wish I could tell. Shortly after 2:30 AM, we pulled up to what I believed was her house. I followed her onto the porch waiting for her to unlock the door.
Instead, she started to pry open the front window.
I thought maybe she forgot her house keys. Nope. She was breaking into her friend’s house and I quickly realized it when a very tall, intimidating woman who I recalled seeing at the bar earlier, came barreling out of the front door with a large shotgun. An argument ensued between the two while I just stood there wishing I could get some french fries. This was way before DoorDash or Uber Eats. After a few minutes, the actual home owner went back inside and begrudgingly invited us in.
It became very awkward after we were inside. Her friend went back to bed but allowed us to sleep in her living room even though she was still clearly upset at SSG for breaking & entering whilst bringing “home” a girl.
At this point, you’d think I had learned my lesson about doing things I didn’t entirely want to do, but I hadn’t. SSG wanted to make out and I was like, what else am I gonna do in this town tonight, so I complied. My pants were halfway off when I discovered a very large dog standing over me. SSG told me to ignore him but he kept trying to lay on the top half of me as she was all over the bottom half of me. I wiggled myself into the fireplace away from both of them. I was done being mounted in Mount Pleasant. I stood abruptly and said I was going to sleep alone.
In the morning I awoke to the tall woman staring at me from a chair in her living room. She offered me Bagel Bites™, and while I wanted to tell her that wasn’t a healthy breakfast choice, she scared me so even though I was lactose intolerant I ate everything.
I kept typing to call my friend but I had one of the first Cricket phones and it only had good reception if I was standing in my kitchen at home. Eventually, I was able to get through to him using their landline and though it was late, he picked me up and we drove as fast as we could, determined to get to Shadyside. We arrived just in time for the parade, looking and feeling like a walk of shame. I was finally there, at Pride, with my people. At last. I’m pretty sure we weren’t the only ones unshowered and smelling like the night before. But I’m pretty sure I was the only one who ate carbs that morning.
While my Pride experiences have definitely evolved over the years, you never forget your first.
However you identify and however you choose to celebrate, do it for YOU.
Happy Pride, Pittsburgh!!