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Stiff upper lip

Stiff upper lip


I love London. My travel-agent parents took me there for my 13th birthday, and I immediately fell in love with the history, the food hall at Harrods, and the pretty, ruddy-faced boys who towered over me like trees. My mom and dad took me to see A Chorus Line in the West End, and when each male dancer stepped forward to sing or speak about what it was like to grow up gay, I blanched in recognition. I came home from London that summer wearing leg warmers, emboldened by the knowledge that I wasn't alone.

I returned to London this year for my 40th birthday. My partner, Jamie, and I rented a flat in Knightsbridge and spent the first three days doing all the touristy stuff I loved as a kid. The cockney beefeaters told the same gory tales of beheading at Tower Hill. The Harrods food hall, still abundant, now incorporated a sushi bar and a stand that sold Krispy Kremes. British boys were still hot and lanky and made me feel like a Hobbit. The West End hit this trip was Billy Elliot: The Musical. This time, instead of sinking down into my seat, I was actually craning my neck. Sting and Trudie Styler were sitting two rows ahead, and I wanted to get a good look.

The third day we woke up to a phone call from a local friend. "London's a bit of a mess this morning. Turn on BBC." Gradually the number of casualties was announced.The footage of the injured and bloody being escorted from the tube to the hospital played and replayed. Jamie and I sat in front of the set horrified. I did what any good Filipino would do in a time of crisis. I suggested we eat.

We ended up at Patisserie Valerie around the corner and proceeded to ingest every baked good in sight. If Armageddon is on its way, I'm going to face it with a croque monsieur in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other. I noticed that while the mood in the cafe was understandably grim, something in the atmosphere was completely missing: fear.

I saw Brits riding double-decker buses that same afternoon and entering tube stations the very next day. The bombing was henceforth referred to by Londoners as "the incident." Nothing to get your knickers in a twist about, just an "incident." The following night every pub was filled, every restaurant packed, and we found ourselves at place in Chelsea called G-A-Y Club. And it was. The entire club was at capacity, with two floors of gay men who danced with complete abandon. This was not denial. This was defiance. A Barbara Stanwyck-like fuck-you refusal to be bullied into paralysis or self-pity. We followed their lead and danced until we could no longer walk.

As we sat in the departure lounge at the airport there was a national moment of silence to honor the dead. Before arriving in London I felt 40 was an ordeal to be endured. As the airport came to a standstill I was mortified by my own vain preoccupation. In the silent tribute to those less fortunate, it became clear that actually getting to turn 40 was a spectacular gift. I once again left London emboldened. Jolly good.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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