If any of you saw my post on Crazytown last week, you'll know why this particular song is in my head. I wanted to write a bit more about role models and how important they are, and particular how much I was influenced by my camp counselor at Interlochen. If you missed the aforementioned post, I'll take the liberty of quoting myself:
"I always say that everything I need to know about being gay I learned at theatre camp. I went to Interlochen Arts Camp, a very intense, rigorous theatre training program in Michigan, and that's where I met my first gay role model: my counselor, Pete. I was 12, and every morning we would clean the cabin with ABBA blasting and Pete sashaying around with a broom. He took a bunch of us to an Indigo Girls concert; he quoted The Golden Girls in every situation. I even remember talking about Pete's delightful flamboyancy with my two best camp friends, both of whom are straight, and we all gave a collective shrug. Pete was super-fun. Who cares that he's gay? Well, I did, but in a good way. It was an important moment for me. At that point, Pete was the closest I came to someone who I thought I could grow up to be like."
He also introduced me, as I pointed out, to The Indigo Girls. My first memory of the duo actually came from my sister, who favored their cover of Dire Straight's "Romeo & Juliet," but at the time I never actually identified them as the Indigo Girls. It was Pete who put the two together for me. Seeing them live was a wonderful experience (in fact, when I think about it, I was so spoiled by the amazing acts that came through Kresge Auditorium during my summers at Interlochen - yet another example of how that place shaped me as an artist).
Here's the song:
"Closer to Fine", I think, resonates with the idea of role models and what they can teach you, or really what they can't teach you. In the beginning, the lyrics ask some unseen second person for "insight between black and white" and claims to be "crawling on your shore" after her "ship of safety" has sunk. Yet, the refrain maintains that uncertainty is OK: "there's more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in a crooked line," and decides that becoming "closer to fine," which, one presumes, means being ok with oneself, entails giving up on something "definitive." The refrain also lists many possible sources of information for answers: the doctor, the mountain, the children, the fountain, and seems satisfied with the idea that each of these sources will give you a different answer.
I think the reason I'm linking this song with Pete, other than that I will always associate him with The Indigo Girls, is that he moved me a little bit closer to fine. Pete and I never had a conversation about sexuality. He didn't give me any answers, definitive or otherwise, but at the time, his presence made me feel like I could grow up and be, "fabulous (in giant quotation marks)" and have a great life. Pete seemed happy and fun, which is all I wanted to be.
So again, thank you Pete for the confidence boost, and being a formative influence on me. I crossed the line of being fine with my sexuality a long time ago, but 18 years ago, you were certainly part of the reason I moved a little closer to it. Wherever you are, I hope you know that.