Last night I found myself standing in a fabulous loft in Chelsea in the company of over 100 gay men... and Barack Obama.
(Magical rewind! To build suspense!)
My Dad, as another birthday present (I am really loving the “experience” gifts, by the way; my mom gifted me a haircut, too! Mostly because I am too poor to afford one, but whatever – score!), let me tag along to an Obama “dessert reception” held at the apartment of a few of his friends. It was aimed at the LGBT community, and also for people who had donated $2300 (the most you can donate to a primary candidate) to the campaign. So I was crashing on multiple counts.
When we arrived, almost everyone was wearing Obama buttons. I had assumed that this was tantamount to wearing the T-shirt of the band you’re going to see, and so had affixed a ’64 “Citizens for Johnson and Humphrey” button to my cardigan. I pictured Barack reading it and laughing, as we chatted over cupcakes. More on that later.
So, first things first: security was pretty lax. They had people taking names at the door, and my name wasn’t on the list. You’d think they’d be strict about letting an anonymous person into a private event where the nation’s most assassination-likely public figure was going to speak, but they didn’t even ask me for ID, let alone look in my bag. I frequently think (morosely) that I would make a great terrorist (note to the CIA: I am joking, obvi I am not looking for such a job, please don’t arrest me) because no one ever stops me for anything. I guess I look like a rich lesbian. Who knew?
We rode up in the elevator, which opened up into the loft. I was kind of hoping that Obama would be there already, padding around in socks, sipping a beer and making small talk with the guests. This naïveté would carry me through the night. I brought my camera with me, so sure was I that I would leave with a snapshot of me and Barack. Oh, sometimes I am just so precious I can’t stand it.
Dad and I were standing by the windows when Secret Service came over and closed all the blinds. Someone said it was for safety reasons, which suddenly did not make me feel good at all to be standing by the windows. Then again, the cupcakes were by the windows. Which brings to mind the old Eddie Izzard routine: Cake, or death? In this case, the two were inextricably linked. Unsurprisingly, I stood my ground by the desserts.
The place was pretty packed when, all of a sudden, people started clapping and hooting, signaling that Obama had arrived. Sadly, my post by the cupcakes meant that I was far away from the reception area, but I held out hope that Barack would have to sample the food at some point. The Secret Service cleared a little circle at the front of the room and Obama began to speak. At which point I found myself in my first ever Caucasian gospel church.
As you probably know, white people don’t tend to make noise in church. They sit quietly and sing their hymns and that’s that. But when Obama started to speak, it was like there was a fever in the room. Men in suits were swaying and nodding as they attempted to take photos with their iPhones. Women stood barefoot on chairs, shouting “That’s right!” after every articulate point the senator made. Murmurs would rise and fall like waves. I almost expected people to start fanning themselves and crying out “Amen!” And, you know, I guess white people have as much of a right to do that as anyone, but it just looked so funny. The woman on the chair was really annoying me, though. First of all, you do not take your shoes off and stand on someone’s leather chair without asking. Secondly, no matter how much you agree with Obama you do not need to shout affirmations at the top of your lungs. Thirdly, she just had that look of someone I knew needed a smack. So many people have that look. Maybe it’s just me?
So anyway, Barack spoke and was very good and funny and articulate. He spoke a lot about gay rights and concerns that the LGBT community might have, in a way that was very real. He said he has always voted in support of civil unions but doesn’t think it’s realistic that there will be a national law legalizing same-sex marriage anytime soon. “I know I’m in no position to tell anyone to be patient,” he said, “But politically I don’t think we have a majority right now.” I appreciated that he was honest and wasn’t making empty promises. He didn’t use sound bites and it felt like he was thinking about his answers. I caught a few peeks of his head bobbing around. He is handsomer in person, not as washed-out looking. The possibility that I would meet him, or even shake his hand, dwindled with every passing moment. There were too many assholes standing between Obama and the cupcakes. He would have to be insane to open himself up to that kind of parade of handshaking, not to mention that you could tell that almost everyone there would shove themselves in his path and ask him obnoxious questions. I was, I admit, a tiny bit relieved that I might not actually meet him, given my track record of humiliating myself in front of celebrities. Still, I knew that this was probably the closest I would ever get to him. I comforted myself with Rice Krispies treats.
After a few idiotic questions (why do people feel so compelled to ask cocky, ridiculous questions like “What are the first three things you will do the morning of your first day in office?” I so wish he had said “Uh, probably take a piss, read the newspaper, have some Danish.”), Obama begged off, saying he needed to get some sleep. He started to make his way back to the elevator, and my Dad, God bless him, shoved me forward. I inched closer and closer to Obama, but lo and behold, the bitch from the chair pushed her way in front of me and literally threw herself through a sea of people, sticking her arm out like she was grabbing at a drowning child. “Your family is so wonderful,” she said. Really? That’s the sparkling jewel you simply had to utter? Her level on my Smack-O-Meter went up to Red (I base it on the government’s Terror Alert chart).
Anyway, long story short I didn’t get to touch Obama. I didn’t get to chat with him over profiteroles, and I certainly didn’t get my picture taken with him. The closest I got was standing in the elevator he had just been in, holding his eponymous cupcake. Which I carried all the way home and then fed to my husband.
(Pre-haircut. I hope to look much better than this soon.)