One of the main things our movement is about is pleasure. The right to pleasure — the goodness and innocence of all pleasure that hurts no one — is what we, more than anyone else in our time (and perhaps any time), assert and defend. In honor of Pride, this is a column full of pleasures that cannot be bought, as we ourselves cannot be bought and sold. Screw the corporatization of Pride, here is a list of stark raving pleasures you don’t have to go into debt for, not make rent for, or even post about so that some advertiser will reward you.
The play of air on your bare legs in shorts. Lips like roses, soft and with that rose-texture and even the smell of roses, overwhelming you with kisses. An entire mouth, open and trusting, on your nipples, exploring them around and around and through. (You might protest that you could buy this experience, but you cannot buy the specific pleasure of having this done to you by someone who is doing it for free, for no other reason than because they really, really want to.) You, going swimming in the ocean and letting the waves jump you. Someone’s vagina like a volcano in your fingers.
Taking over the street for a demonstration with a group like the Dyke March or Black Lives Matter or the Drag March, instead of submitting yourself into the tightly confined police pens of Heritage of Pride. Believe me, if you’ve never taken over the street with a bunch of people, it gives a feeling of exhilaration and camaraderie and sweetness that no one can ever take away from you. (This only applies if the organizers have taken steps to keep you safe, as all the above groups do.) When I was younger this was one of the few things that ever made me feel like I was part of a “community.”
Now, my humanist congregation in Brooklyn does it for me, too, along with many other pockets of liberation and beauty in this city. But you’ll find your own spaces where you will be welcomed as you are, for free. People of color spaces, trans spaces, women’s spaces, radical spaces, libraries. Faerie groves and artists’ spaces and caring circles. Though you’ll like some of the spaces better than others, there will be at least one flowering oasis in the desert waiting for you — a spiritual or political or healing site where people will listen to you and expect you to listen to them, too, even when you disagree.
Make an omelette in your own house, with your own toast — not free, but cheap and very easy: Fry some onions and mushrooms. Put scrambled egg mixture in. Invite others over for brunch or eat your omelette wonderfully alone, naked and relaxing and listening to free old bossa nova music online, while admiring your naked belly in the mirror and discovering how scrambled egg feels on your stomach. Get Nalo Hopkinson’s “Falling in Love with Hominids” out of the library and read her astonishing story-version of “The Tempest,” narrated by the Caribbeans Ariel and Caliban and their mother.
Read in bed. Read lying on the couch, if you have one. If you don’t have a bed, read propped against a wall. Read Gerard Manley Hopkins from the library or online, a 19th century Jesuit priest who wasn’t out but wrote the most gorgeous poems I have ever read, about the beautiful bodies of men and the sexiness of God. Find a man somewhere outside with a beautiful naked chest and feast your eyes on him. Read Hopkins’ lovely S/ M love poem to Jesus, “The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord.” (Somewhat surprisingly, Hopkins writes Jesus as a top: “Brute beauty… O my chevalier!”)
As though you were in preschool, make art with crayons and cutouts and macaroni and finger paint, even if you don’t think you’re good at all. Make your lover an artwork with finger paint. Make music with children’s instruments. Drums, maracas, tambourine, chimes, bells, plastic recorder! Make a wild rumpus. Dance around. Remember the writer Kurt Vonnegut saying, “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” Invite all your friends over to read aloud to one another work by yourselves and others.
Put the flowers right up against your nose and smush them onto your face at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Saturday before noon or all day Tuesday, the free times. Do the same thing at the crazy-good flower garden at Fort Tryon Park, which is right near the entrance and always free. Jump in the surf at Coney Island instead of going to the amusement park. Go to Forest Park in Queens and breathe in the greeny, foresty air. Take a bath with salt in the water while listening to your favorite loud, fast music. Go on the Staten Island Ferry, the best place to bring a date in Gotham. Speak a foreign language to native speakers, even if you’re terrible at it. Take in: the man with the ices cart who smiles at you, the woman who lets you take a seat on the train, the person with the beautiful orange scarf, the calf muscles of the dude in the red shorts, the shoulder muscles of the butch in the navy tank top, the lipstick and the skirt of the glorious woman in the market, the last praise you received, your memory of what your parent cooked for you that you liked, trans woman Roz Kaveney’s “What If What’s Imagined Were All True,” a book of magical poems from A Midsummer Night’s Press, the recognition that you could make something with your own hands that would taste delicious, even if it was only peanut butter and jelly on whatever bread you could find.