Robert W.M. – Cafe Aulait!
Leigh Montano – That just sounds like coffee though…and looks like coffee…
Robert W.M. – Yeah…
Leigh Montano – Pepper Ally
Robert W.M. – ???
Leigh Montano – Pep Rally
Robert W. M. – Ah…
Leigh Montano – I’m sure that one’s been done
Robert W. M. – Ah…
Leigh Montano – Britt Tish
Robert W. M. – Rofl!
Yumi Andim, add it to the list.
Leigh Montano – k done
Robert W. M. – ^.^
Leftoversushi: Things I’d never thought I’d do: Help my brother come up with a Drag name. (31 Jan)
Of all the things that I thought I would be doing with my brother his senior year of high school, helping him pick out a drag queen name was not one of them. Helping him pick out a tux for his senior prom, helping him send out graduation announcements, helping him pack for college, these are all of these things I expected to do. Picking out a drag name, not so much. .
List of Robbie’s Possible Drag Names
· “Tara Dactyle”
· “Tori Niquette”
· “Cheri Toppings” (my favorite)
· “Sue She”
· “Torta Linni”
· “Yumi Andim”
Although, it’s not really a surprise.
On July 14th, 1992, Robert “Robbie” Warren Montano was born, and I was told that I was finally a big sister. I had been waiting to hear this for a while, about nine months. The idea of having a little brother was exciting, although I really didn’t know what having a little brother meant. I didn’t know that we would spend years fighting with each other, yelling, crying, and not getting along, until finally I moved off to college and realized he wasn’t such a bad person. He could actually be tolerable (when he wanted to be).
I knew from early on that there was something different about my brother. I didn’t know what “being gay” was as a child, but I definitely knew that there was something different about him. At the tender, and often cruel, age of seven, I thought it was just wrong for my brother to want to play with my Barbies instead of his action figures. I didn’t understand why he wanted to play house all the time, and I never understood why he didn’t want to be the dad. He was, after all, the only male in our little play group made up of three girls and my brother. He just had to be the dad. If he didn’t play by the girls’ rules, he was kicked out of what ever bedroom we were in, either mine or Sarah and Ariel’s (the other two girls in our playgroup). There were numerous afternoons that were spent with the girls versus the boy. Our often fatal attempts to try to get him to either play Ken to our Barbies or Dad to our Mom and daughters usually ended in tears. His, not ours.
I distinctly remember one such afternoon when I think everything started to click. It was a Saturday, or the summer, I don’t remember which, but it was during the day. The afternoon sun lit up my Barbie pink bedroom like a hot, neon sign. The tired whirring of the elevator of my Barbie Dream House and little girl giggles were the sound track to the afternoon. My brother had barged into my room after playing in his, bored, and alone, for a good portion of the day. Looking back on it, he probably didn’t barge in, but just kinda snuck in while us girls were fighting over which Barbie got to marry Ken. I only had one Ken doll because all of my others had been used, unintentionally, as chew toys by the litter of puppies we had had earlier that year. He was a very unattractive Prince Charming Ken doll that, when he wasn’t being used as the main object of affection for Barbie, was made fun of for his long hair that stuck up funny. I believe he was the transformed version of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, which must’ve been why he had the long hair.
I had told my brother for seemingly the millionth time that he wasn’t allowed to play with the girls and that he had to get out of my room. That he should go play with his toys and that he definitely wasn’t allowed to play with my Barbies. The angry yelling coming from my seven year old mouth was probably a bit harsh to be thrown at a three year old. The tears that ensued just annoyed me, but only for a short period of time because, I was, after all, only seven and seven year olds aren’t known for their attention spans. It was then that I began seriously wondering about why my brother might want to play with my Barbies. What attracted him to them? Was it because he was a boy and he was attracted to their curvaceous, plastic bodies? Was it because he wanted to look up the skirts in hopes to find something more than fake underwear printed on Barbie’s nether regions? Or was it because he liked playing with dresses? Was it for the same reason that I spent almost every moment of my time playing with Barbie and her pals? I enjoyed dressing them up and making up reasons for them to go shopping and getting ready for some big party. I enjoyed the soap opera like story lines I created for them. Barbie is mad at Skipper because Skipper tried to steal Prince Charming Ken away from her but really all Skipper was doing was showing Prince Charming Ken what a horrible person Barbie was. I pushed these thoughts aside because, again, I was seven. I didn’t usually put this much thought into anything unless it had to do with new story lines for my Barbies and how Skipper was going to ruin the day again for Barbie.
Leigh Montano: I would like all my Facebook friends to comment on this status about how you met me. But I want you to LIE. That’s right. Just make it up. After you comment, copy this to your status so I can do the same
Robert W. M.: Well, it all happened one day when I was snatched out of my home. You see, the king’s wife had a monster child and it was in this maze thing and we were sent there as sacrifices, but somewhere along the way the destination got screwed up and we ended up in David Bowie’s Labyrinth instead. Which, personally, I find scarier. I mean I can deal with a minotaur, but Jareth? No thanks! Thankfully you saved me before his crotch could destroy us both. We have been siblings ever since!
I wasn’t a completely horrible sister. I did care about him. When I saw the movie Labyrinth for the first time, it was another Saturday play date with Sarah and Ariel. We went over to their house and after a lunch of bologna sandwiches and Pepsi, we decided to watch a movie. We could never agree and Sarah usually decided which movie we got to watch because she was the oldest and at the time, biggest, not to mention the meanest, but that’s another story for another day. The movie had started and I was intrigued by the hazy setting and a girl dressed in medieval clothing, not really making sense to my young ears. The movie went on and the girl had started complaining about her much younger brother and even asked for the Goblin King to take him away. When she first started chanting and begging, I covered my ears to make sure I wouldn’t remember any of it so that there would be no chance for the Goblin King to take away my brother if I decided one day to use those same lines against my own sibling. My brother doesn’t know about my secret fear that the Goblin King would take him away because of me and my frustration with him. See, I’m a nice big sister.
A few years later the movie Grease was re-released for the 20th anniversary of its premier. My mom, having loved this movie when she was younger, bought it on VHS and showed it to me and my brother. We both fell in love. We spent many evenings after school and after after-school care and after my mom had brought us home from her office, singing and dancing to Grease. We had done this before with Disney’s Hercules, although there wasn’t as much dancing involved with that one and it didn’t attract us as much as singing about cars, or singing what we thought were songs about cars, did. We would delegate who got to sing which part, often me deciding on which parts I wanted to sing and which Robbie had to sing because I didn’t want them. He would always argue for the main female lead. I would scoff and tell him, “no” and follow with my many reasons why, number one usually being, “You’re a boy. You can’t sing girl parts!” This wasn’t fully because I thought it was wrong for him to sing the girl parts. It was also because I wanted to sing those girl parts. I wanted to be the coveted female lead that all the T-Birds went crazy for.
And Robbie had a terrible singing voice when he tried to sing falsetto.
Leigh: What all musicals did we sing and dance to? (Feb 2 9:45 pm)
Robbie: Oh, god I don’t even know. (Feb 2 9:47 pm)
(That’s not really helpful…)
The years went on and so did the musicals and movies we acted out in our front living room. The musicals had replaced the Barbies at this point in time because it was so not cool to be playing with Barbies in the early years of middle school. Grease, The Little Mermaid, Bring It On, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Musical, Moulin Rouge, and at Christmas time, White Christmas just to name a few of the many productions we would perform. After many more musicals, my brother’s voice finally started to change, and his ability to sing falsetto went right out the window like a thrown dead bird. He finally realized he was stuck singing the boy parts, and, little did everyone know, my brother actually had a really good singing voice when he wasn’t singing falsetto!
On September 17th, 2000, when I was twelve and Robbie was eight, we lost someone very important to us. I’ve heard losing a child is one of the hardest things that people can go through. I can only imagine that losing a sibling is pretty high up there though. My stepbrother, John, had committed suicide. He was only fifteen. It was ten days after my twelfth birthday. The days that followed my father coming for an unscheduled, midweek visit to break the news to us, is a blur. I don’t remember much. I remember shopping for clothes for the funeral. I remember the funeral. I remember the stuffy church and the too chilly limousine ride in the rain to the cemetery. I remember having to use the bathroom in the grounds of the cemetery that was really just more of a shed. I remember the rain and the mud. I had decided to go, but Robbie didn’t want to. The roles were reversed from the last time there was a funeral to attend. Two years earlier, my great grandmother had died, on September 15th, 1998. September is a bad month for our family. For that funeral my brother went to the cemetery and I had decided to go back to school. It was during ISTEP testing and the monotony of listening to my strict teacher read us the instructions every 45 minutes was a nice way to forget what I had done earlier that day. This time though he was the one to find comfort in the monotony of school and worksheets and basic instructions.
I feel guilty. For numerous reasons. Not because of the suicide. Years of therapy and angsty poetry has helped me overcome my guilt for that. I feel guilty though because I don’t know what my brother was going through. I don’t know what he felt. I don’t know all the reasons why he cried. I could go on for hours for all the different reasons I cried but I never bothered to ask him. I never asked him how he felt. In those times when I gave him a comforting hug and had tears fall on his head and his tears soak into my t-shirt, I never bothered to ask him if he was alright. I guess I knew that the answer was, “Of course not!” but I still should’ve asked.
After the suicide, I found comfort in recoiling into myself. I became mean. I became harsh. I never wanted to do anything with my brother that I still had I think because I secretly feared that one day he would leave me in the same brutal and unnatural way that John did. I became distant. The afternoons spent dancing and singing disappeared and was replaced by fighting and yelling. The most epic of these fights, that I can still remember happened one day afterschool. My friend Sam came over that day. I don’t remember why she did, but she was witness to this battle. Robbie was being moody as he often was at this point. I was a freshman in high school and we had recently moved to a new school district. My brother’s friends had disappeared and me, being his only support was like cuddling with a very angry cat. I don’t quite remember what he did to start it all off, but I do remember chasing him to his room. He started crying and threw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at me. I returned with, “WE DON’T THROW BOOKS IN THIS FAMILY!” At this point he decided to throw a jar of peanut butter at me and yelled, “BUT WE DO THROW PEANUT BUTTER!”
Leigh: Do you remember why you had peanut butter in your room that one time we had that huge fight? (Feb 6 1:24 pm)
Robbie: I was eating it while reading. (Feb 6 1:24 pm)
(Well that makes too much sense.)
I don’t remember much of how exactly he had gotten from his room into the living room, or when exactly I had gotten the lint rollers, or when I had pinned him to the ground and started pummeling him with said lint rollers. At this point Sam was sitting, watching in a mixture of amusement and confusion. I think she was the one who mentioned that we should probably stop beating each other and go back to doing what ever we were doing. We called a truce that was temporary because a few days later, I’m sure we were back to beating each other with random household objects.
The next few years went by without much excitement. I started dating a guy and graduated high school. I decided to spend that summer before college, and the summers after, at my then boyfriend’s apartment. I had a dream once that Robbie had called me and told me he was gay. I was so happy and proud that when I woke up I was slightly disappointed. When I went back to sleep, I had another dream that I had told him of my previous dream and he said, “That’s great, because I am!” I was even more disappointed when I woke up from that dream.
Those times I spent my breaks with my boyfriend instead of with my family I missed a lot of things. My dogs being two of them. I like to imagine that Rogers and Hammerstein created their musical masterpieces in a similar way I created the wonderful song, “Trini Martini.” We had a beagle named Trini after the original yellow Power Ranger. Every morning before school, we let our dogs out, Trini and Bagel, the beagles. Trini did not like being woken up so early so to get her motivated I often sang the “Trini Martini” song. I picked “martini” not because our dog was an alcoholic although it is amusing to imagine a slightly overweight beagle with a martini glass in her paws, chewing on an olive. I picked “martini” simply because it rhymed with Trini. Not many words rhyme with Trini, you know.
By Leigh Montano (Circa 2005)
Trini, Trini, Trini, Trini, Trini Martini!
(There’s also a dance that goes with this. It mostly involves wiggling your butt in a similar fashion to a beagle wagging their tail.)
I know that Rogers and Hammerstein probably didn’t dance around their living room with their beagle waiting for her to go to the back door when they were composing The Sound of Music, but hey, a girl can imagine.
Trini died in November 2009. The phone call to my dad was strange. He was treating her like she was a human and telling me that if I needed anything to just call. I cried more during that phone call than I did during the phone call when I found out my great grandfather died. I think because I wasn’t expecting that phone call like I had been expecting the one for my great grandfather. There weren’t many questions that had to be asked either. There were no funerals to order flowers for or wakes to attend. She was buried that night in the back yard next to our other beloved pet, Milo. Trini was important to us. She was a member of the family, like all dogs should be.
She was a good dog, Charlie Brown.
Of all things I missed from home on those breaks away, spending time with what I thought was my one true love, my brother was the thing I missed the most.
July 14th, 2008
So he’s 16…
To Robbie (because you’re always going to be Robbie to me!)
16 years ago today (Oh em gee! Robbie’s 16, that means….Holy crap! I’m going to be 20 soon!), I was told I was finally a big sister. I had been waiting for this for 9 whole months and for a 4 year old that’s intense! You were cute! Like all Montanos you look like Winston Churchill. All you needed was a cigar. I remember holding you. You were heavy. There are lots of pictures of me holding you. For some reason everyone thought it was cute. I don’t get it. You were really boring for a long time. Then you got loud. You liked to cry, except when the weather lady came on tv. Then you shut up. It was kinda annoying. I finally realised how Milo felt when I came home from the hospital. After about a month, I was bored with you and frankly annoyed too. I think it was about then I started trying to sell you. When I was about 6 or 7 someone, I think it was Daddie, told me that one day I would really be glad that I had a brother. At that time I thought, “Are you kidding me? He’s annoying! I’m never going to be glad I have a brother!” Well, last year at school, when I didn’t get to see you every day, and I didn’t get to argue with you every day, and I didn’t get to sing musicals with you every day, and I didn’t get to be loud with you every and generally annoy Mommie, I realised what Daddie said was true. I’m glad I have you! You’re my favorite brother and always will be unless you seriously mess and then Patrick becomes my favorite…
I miss you and I will always love you!
Happy birthday Buttface!
Beth (that’s my aunt)
Someone once told me that someday I would be glad to have a brother. That someday didn’t happen until we were both in our 20′s. I’m glad you figured it out sooner.
That “one true love” eventually disappeared and I started spending my breaks at home again. Thanksgiving break 2009, I was in my bedroom folding my mound of clean laundry when my brother came in. We started chatting. I knew he was kinda nervous when he took a deep breath and said, “I’m bi.” I dropped what ever t-shirt I was in the middle of folding and went over to him and hugged him. I already knew this of course because my friend Gwen had texted me about a month earlier telling me that he had told her. She had tried to convince Robbie to tell me but he was afraid because he had thought for some reason that I wouldn’t be accepting of it. Little did he know that I had been expecting it since he was three. He didn’t know who he was and even though I was distant through my early teen years, I knew who he really was. Even if he was hiding it from himself or if he just hadn’t quite figured out who he was yet.
He has since dropped the title of “bi” and has fully embraced all of his fabulous gayness.
Robbie: we should do something with an alcoholic drink (Feb 3 8:34 pm)
I felt sad just typing the words into my phone. I knew that Robbie would be sad too, but I had hoped that he would love the idea as much as I did. I paused before I hit “Send” and even started to erase the words before I decided to just go for it. What’s the worse that could happen? He say, “No, it’s too sad,”?
Leigh: Trini Martini! (Feb 3 8:35 pm)
At least his name will be original. Not many drag queens can say that they’re named after their dead dog.
Leigh Montano plans to be a perpetual student but not in the philosophical sense, in the “forever in university” sense. She enjoys cursing and complaining about the little things in life on Twitter. She also enjoys knitting and planning large projects that eventually intimidate her into quitting. One day she’d like to teach at the university level about the evils and necessity of media, and maybe she might even get a book published.
Leigh Montano is featured in the inaugural issue of Embodied Effigies.