If you didn’t already have the impression that I’m from the WASPiest family in existence, allow me to introduce you to one of our dozen Christmas traditions… Instead of getting gifts for everyone, we decided years ago to do a gift exchange of wall calendars for the upcoming year — something useful and inexpensive. This year, however, simply buying a calendar would not suffice, we had to design a calendar… or, at least a page of a calendar that would be combined with everyone else’s… And of course, like any typical Christmas-gift-exchange-make-your-own-calendar-tradition there would have to be a theme! Us being a musically inclined family (a mandatory piano recital was one of the traditions in years past), the theme for our 2016 calendar was “Songs with Stories.”
Below is the story that accompanied my submission and adorned my family’s office/kitchen/bathroom walls for the month of January…
To understand how Rihanna’s SOS became my personal gay anthem, we must travel back in time… a time not many years ago but eras away. A time when I was just starting to come out of the closet. A time when Myspace was actually a thing. Not just a thing, but THE thing. In 2006, Facebook was just for college kids and all you could do with it anyway was upload low-res photos and tell people “how you feel” on your own wall. Myspace, on the other hand, was the Wild West. Anybody and their housekeeper could have a profile page so full of background images, animated gifs, colored text, and auto-play music that the information was almost entirely unreadable and crashed your browser before it finished loading.
It was during this time that a young me, who was too unsure and afraid to go to any gay bars or on any gay dating or social networking sites for fear that someone he knows might recognize him, happened across the profile of this one Thai guy from San Francisco on Myspace who looked definitely cute and probably gay.
His name was Bankie… Something. I actually have no recollection of his last name, and no matter how hard I tried to search for him for the purposes of writing this story, it seems that both the name and the man himself have escaped me. But at the time, Bankie’s Myspace page was cued to auto-play Rihanna’s SOS as soon as you visited it — a song which I had never heard before in my life, so naturally, the first message I sent to him was, “SOS is my FAVORITE!” (I figured it was better than, “Hey I was creeping on your profile like a weirdo and you looked cute.”) In the subsequent days and weeks of our friendly and flirty online dialogue, I convinced myself that SOS actually was my favorite song, and I began to download similar dance club music to round out the playlist on my iPod.
Rihanna’s SOS became my first public embrace of gayness.
My online friendship with Bankie remained only that and since we lived in different cities, we never actually met during our Myspace romance. Then, as I became more comfortable with my sexuality and came out to more friends and family and started making real-life gay friends, flirting on Myspace fell by the wayside. Then Myspace itself fell by the wayside, I replaced my flip-phone that had his number, and I lost all contact with Bankie.
It wasn’t until years later, at a club in San Francisco with my boyfriend, that I actually ran into him in person. He was shorter than I had imagined, a bit annoying to talk to, and we’ve never spoken since, but still to this day, whenever SOS comes on my iPhone, the radio, or through the speakers at the club, I think fondly of Bankie and of how far I have come in my gay life since the days of lying about my musical tastes on a failed social networking site.