I’m not going to tell you about getting spanked with a Bible (King James Version). I’m not going to tell you about the extemporaneous Dreamgirls performance in the dressing room, or getting all choked up onstage when the guy to my left leaned over and whispered, “You know we’re in the end of the Tom of Finland movie right now, right?” And I’m not going to tell you why I gave that guy the nickname Olympia.
I’m not going to tell you why anyone yelling, “GET IN THE FUCKING UBER, JONATHAN,” will forever cause me to crack helplessly the fuck up. I’m not going to tell you about the Incident in the Stairwell, or the late-night recovery meeting that went gloriously south, or randomly bumping into the model from my favorite animated GIF**. Instead, I’m going to tell you about a text conversation I just had with my IML brother Travis.
Travis: “How are you?”
Me: “I am hanging in there. Heading back to the day job this morning, with event-drop kicking in. Hopefully I won’t have too big of a meltdown in front of the vanilla co-workers.”
Travis: “You’ll be fine. And if you do have a meltdown, just tell them your dog passed away. His name was Billingsworth, and you had him for 12 years. He was a poodle.”
Me: “Billingsworth once pulled me out of a lake to save me from drowning and jumped on my chest until I started breathing again. I miss him.”
Travis: “But he humped all the houseplants.”
Me: “Hey, everyone deserves love. #NoLabels.”
I’m sharing this particular interchange, because even after the fact, it sums up my IML experience perfectly. I was terrified of Travis when I met him, just like I was terrified of Ben, and Brian, and Magnus, and Mark, and Scott, and Scotty, and Taliesin, and all of the other beautiful men with twisted senses of humor who just… got me, and who became my closest friends and emotional support during the competition.
Maybe I’ll get around to telling those other stories once I’ve readjusted and settled back into normalcy (except for the stairwell thing; that shit is under lock and key). For now, though, I will tell you that I placed 25th out of 71 contestants, and I am ecstatic — not because of the score itself, but because I was a part of the IML Class of 2018; because even if I’d come in 72nd, I would’ve done so as myself.
I (literally) bared it all in Chicago, and the people around me cheered — not because I was the most handsome or the best built or the smartest or the wittiest, but because I was me.
And I am so fucking proud of me for that.
*Photo and explanation of the tattoo to be posted as soon as it finishes healing. It’s currently in the gory, scabby phase but will be ready for its closeup in a couple of days or so.
**See? He’s not CGI after all. And probably not a hologram.