Today's special guest blogger, Matt Sullivan, comes to us with a unique, and uniquely gross problem: People think he's dating his relatives. We can't explain any more than that. Just ... just read it.
It seems that whenever I hang out with a member of my immediate family, someone assumes we're on a date. The first time I was accused of a relationship more kin than kind, I was saying goodbye to my mother. We hugged innocently -- or so I thought
-- after she dropped me off at the bus station. As I prepared to board the Boston to New York shuttle, the driver, who was standing outside the vehicle smoking a cigarette, informed me that he wouldn't be leaving for a few minutes.
"You still have some time to smooch!" he said, encouragingly. "That's my mother!" I replied, horrified. I didn't poke my eyes out like Oedipus, but I did briefly consider taking out my contact lenses in tribute (both then and every time my delighted mother repeated this flattering anecdote to her friends. Eat your heart out, Susan Sarandon! ).
The next time I was accused of keeping it "all in the family" was at a comedy show on New York's Lower East Side. Patrice O'Neal, an insult comic notorious for his audience interaction, honed in on my brother and I in the audience, asking, "What's the deal with you two? Gay lovers?"
I would've protested that our physical resemblance should have made it clear that weren't gay lovers -- but anyone who's ever seen clone couples walking together around Chelsea knows that Narcissus would no longer have to drown in a pool if he wanted to be in love with himself. Yes, it was true that I was a top and my brother was a bottom ... when we had bunk beds.
Suffice to say, by the time my younger sister moved to the city, I had developed some incest accusation aversion techniques. Out to dinner with "Sis" (a nickname I had never used in the 15 years we shared the same home), I would always find a way to ostentatiously name-drop our parents-especially if the waitress serving us was cute. "I talked to MOM today!" "What are you going to get DAD for his birthday?" Still, this didn't stop friends from making "Flowers in the Attic" assumptions about us. After introducing my sister to my friend Dave at a loud salsa club in Brooklyn and enjoying a 10-minute conversation, my sister politely dismissed herself to take a cell-phone call outside. It was at this point that Dave leaned in and said, "So, when did you meet this girl?" Um, when I was 8?
Sharing a last name doesn't even help matters. Showing my ID in the lobby at my sister's place of business, the secretary dialed her extension and said, "Your wife will be down in a minute." It's even a relatively (ha!) sensitive subject among my own inner circle.
Recently, my friend Jill asked me, "Do you think Ellen Page is hot?" I said no, although I liked her performances in
"Hard Candy" and "Juno." "OK, good," replied Jill, relieved. "Because I wanted to say that she reminds me of your sister, but I didn't want to creep you out at all." You and me both!
You'd think the buck would stop with my dad. You'd be horribly, horribly wrong. Walking around in Hell's Kitchen with my Geraldo Rivera doppelganger dad, I ran into a gay guy who works in my building. As we gave each other the "I know you enough to acknowledge you, but not to stop and talk" nod, I couldn't help wondering if there was something extra
in that nod. Maybe I'm getting paranoid.
It's weird that the Big Apple has been mistaken for my Big Appalachia, because I'm not an especially affectionate person.
Is it a coincidence that at the time of my "incestuous" incidents I wasn't dating anyone, that most of the time I was out alone with someone, it was with family? My family get-togethers were among the most intimate relationships I was having, at least as far as emotional engagement is concerned. Maybe my body language was unconsciously yet publicly expressing my message: "Yes, this is the person I'm closest to." And when I think about it, we Sullivans do kind of have a laughing, leaning-over-the-table, hanging-on-each-others'-words thing going on when we're out together. But does conviviality have to imply ... congress?
OK, I know, I know. It looks and sounds bad. But at the risk of protesting too much, I suppose I ought to be grateful to be close enough with my family that at least it's apparent we actually like each other ... just not, you know, in "that way."
's writing has appeared in Black Book, McSweeney's, Salon and on his parents' fridge.