During my third-grade year, Cabbage Patch Kid fever swept the country. Little girls (mainly) couldn’t get enough of these dolls with their hard faces and soft bodies. Each doll came with an official birth certificate with a name, and date and time of birth—details you could only discover when you purchased the doll and opened the package.
I remember when they released the first little boy Cabbage Patch Kid. I met him on a shelf at Kmart. He had curly, blond hair and (literally) rosy cheeks. He wore light brown overalls fringed with red. I didn’t know his name, but I had to have him.
In those days, Kmart had a layaway program—a bulwark against instant gratification. Basically, such a program allowed a person to set aside something they wanted to buy until they had sufficient funds to make the purchase. So, my eight-year old self marched the doll to the layaway department at the back of the store. And there he sat and waited for five months as I did extra chores for my parents and grandparents. With each window I cleaned, each floor I swept, each leaf I raked, I inched closer to him.
Some of the most treacherous stretches of road to drive in winter span between Chicago and West Michigan. Lake effect snow is unpredictable and can quickly turn from light falling flakes into a blizzard.
A number of years ago, I journeyed from Chicagoland to Grand Rapids to return home for the holidays. By all accounts it was to be a gray day, nothing more. As I reached the Indiana border, however, it started to sleet and freeze. I discovered then that my wiper fluid was frozen and I couldn’t easily clear my windshield without the assistance of semi-trucks splashing significant moisture on the front of my car. My field of vision shrank to a small square immediately above my dashboard.
So I hunkered down and drove on.
It was the turn of the millennia and I was lonely.
So begins the story of how I watched my first season of reality TV. I had recently graduated from college and found myself in an apartment with three other guys and a cable subscription. I didn’t yet know these guys and all my college friends had spread themselves across the country.
Thus, I found myself watching MTV’s Real World—which, as I quickly found out, was nothing like any real world I’d ever known. In the first episode, we’re introduced to the “characters” as they arrive at the home where they’ll be staying for that season of the show. It’s here we’re introduced to a young man with a “secret.”
He’s quite intent on telling his housemates that he has a “secret” in spite of the fact not one of them knows him or shows an interest in hearing this secret. Seeing this tactic isn’t advancing his mission, he starts sharing the secret (you guessed it)—he’s gay.