OK, it’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds; he’s not an actual girl. He didn’t secretly begin life as one, nor is he in the process of transitioning into one. But he has started dressing up as one for fun and profit, and it’s taken some getting used to. We spend a lot more of our disposable income on makeup than we used to, for one thing, and there are feathers everywhere.
Last summer — our eighth together, mind you, with nary a whisper of “I want to be a drag queen” in the interim — we were glued to Season Three of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix. Jared has seen every season, but I have not. I have only seen Season Three. Over and over again, because RPDR is produced in such a way that I am riveted to every episode, even if I’ve seen it several times before. Knowing the outcome before we even sit down to watch a given episode, I’m still on the edge of my seat by the second commercial break, yelling my commentary and critique at Jared, at the television, and all up and down Facebook each time, because my ideas and opinions stay fresh like that. (Don’t roll your eyes at me.) Raja totally deserved to win, but I still root for Alexis Mateo each time around, just in case RuPaul does Drag Race like the movie Clue and there might be a surprise ending. But really, as long as they keep sending Carmen Carrera home, I’m happy.
So Halloween rolls around, and Jared declares that he’s going to dress up as Adele. And without, I swear, so much as a thirty second conversation around it, he jumps from thrift-store-black-dress-and-eight-dollar-Target-wig-you-get-the-idea Adele to made-to-measure-custom-dress-and-Denver-Drag-Superstore-professionally-styled-hair-dead-ringer-cat-eyes-and-all Adele in the course of an afternoon, and plans a party at which to debut. Someone “recognizes” his drag persona in his Facebook pictures — which needs to be impossible because he’s never taken his Adele act out of our living room at this point, but somehow this happens — and books him for a show, in the middle of which he is invited to compete in his first pageant. Suddenly the name “Pinky Pie,” once reserved in our house only for sunburns, has run off and found itself new life as the moniker of an up-and-coming queen on Denver’s drag scene, and I am left spinning on my stool in the corner of the bar, holding my boyfriend’s purse and his high-heeled shoes — two wardrobe items, it should be mentioned, of which two weeks prior he had approximately none. It all happened kind of fast.
I didn’t like them, but I had weird feelings about it at first. Oh, not about him dressing up to perform: far-removed from his drum corps and color guard days of yore, Jared has long needed an outlet for his creative and artsy impulses (read: genius). He was starting to feel trapped in a grind of work, dinner, bed, work, dinner, bed, and coming home to me every night, clacking away at the keyboard in the same pajamas he’d left me in, shirking my regulation-uniform-necktie job at every opportunity, probably didn’t help. While it came up as a topic in our house kind of out of left field, drag is a very natural fit for him, what with the music and the dancing and all the glitter. Jared the lip-synching fat guy in flip flops has no audience and few (I wouldn’t say “no”) fans; Pinky Pie brings the house down every time she gets up on stage. She has followers on Twitter and a fan club on Facebook and so yeah, to build her brand (and/or finagle her way into the lineup), she goes out as Pinky. Not only do I “get it,” but I often (read: unless I am out of town, and even then we sometimes send pictures) weigh in on which dress, which shoes, and which eye shadow. I bring her accessories; I buy her jewelry; I suggest — then select, then burn to CD — songs and artists and motifs until I know she wishes I would go find something else to do. A drag performer never had a bigger booster or a more reliable assistant than has Pinky Pie.
Sometimes, though, he’ll just want to go out as Pinky, like to bingo or to a friend’s party. And as a gay guy who’s hot for men in general, and still really hot for this man in particular, when we were just hanging out in our regular, non-Superstar life, I kind of felt entitled to my impotent, simmering If I wanted to go to this party with someone that takes two hours to get ready and then is all covered in lipstick come kissing time, I’d be straight. It felt weird; I’m not with a giant woman, I’m with a big cute boy. If he was in the Ice Capades or played Black Bart at Casa Bonita, he wouldn’t wear that costume to a party, would he? I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead at one in my uniform — they can barely get me to wear it to work. I’d get frustrated — this isn’t who I’m with, so how the hell do I present? I’d see him putting his face on, wriggling into those pantyhose, and think to myself, Honey, we’re boys; we dodged that bullet. What are you doing? What, I think I wondered, was he trying to hide behind Pinky’s glamorous facade?
Then last weekend, Pinky Pie made her drag pageant debut. It was a very small, very local affair. A bunch of our friends came, everybody wore something pink, we quaffed over-priced cocktails and cheered for Pinky, who was nothing short of spectacular. She looked great, she knocked her talent out of the park, the audience loved her. She was a high-heeled shoe-in for the crown; she did not win it, and I was crushed to an extent for which I was completely unprepared. And I learned some things about my husband that my previous months spent wallowing in He takes forever to put on makeup and then makes me carry his purse; I didn’t sign up for this! had kept me from realizing.
For one thing — and you already knew this, but I had to be shown — it’s not about me. He doesn’t do drag to annoy me or embarrass me or titillate me or give me a reason to troll YouTube late into the night in search of hot Adele remixes. He’s not hiding anything when he’s in drag; so far from it that it pains me now to cop to those feelings. Watching the pageant, it was glitteringly obvious to everybody in the room, and finally to me, that Pinky is an authentic expression of a piece of Jared’s personality; not to put too fine a point on it, as Pinky, he lays bare and celebrates an element of his spirit that I’m not sure would have anyplace else to go. And not just the side of him that wants to wear a dress or be on stage, but ideas, feelings, perspective, inspiration, and artistry that have, up to now, smoldered unexpressed. The pageant drove this home, but it was by no means the only instance in which this is true: in Pinky, there is a piece of Jared that has its first opportunity to be Seen and to be Loved. It was never about the crown, not in the Big Picture, and Jared surprised (and enchanted) me by already knowing that. Pinky had plans and big ideas for a possible reign, of course, but the opportunity to be seen and celebrated, not only for the person Jared is but for the person he wants to be, was the true victory, and to see and feel him experience it as such is so affirming as to almost be overwhelming. The other shoe has dropped, and Jared has come into himself so fully that there are ways in which I feel like I will have to get to know him again. Phrased more accurately, ways in which I feel like he has been given — and made the often-difficult choice to seize! — the opportunity to share more of himself with the world and with me, which makes me long to get to know him on unexplored and exciting levels. I feel a little bit like Blanche Devereaux when she famously asked Sophia and Dorothy, “Do you realize how rare it is to find out the person you’ve been sleeping with is the person you love?”
Pinky didn’t win the pageant, but she did win over the audience, and her place to play in the Denver drag community. There will be other pageants. Other shows. As one of Pinky’s friends put it on Facebook, “many opportunities to shine and/or outshine;” in Pinky, Jared has found his perfect creative niche. He’s energized, he’s inspired, and Pinky will continue to bring her A Game every time she sails onto the stage. Jared is a better man for sometimes dressing like a woman, not least because it is an expression of his love for a form of his own self long left untended. So yeah, I’m as gay as they get; hot guys drive me wild; I’m not with a giant woman. But I’m with a brave, crazy, handsome and forthright man, and I’m proud as hell to be a drag queen’s husband. Not because he’s beautiful, which he is, or because he performs like a star, which he does, but because he’s got the guts and the good sense to follow his heart and be Pinky.