I wrote this a few years ago, but I felt so many thing still hold true. I feel like when we share our pain, we may help others alleviate their own. So here is a little story about a drag queen named Pandora Boxx.
I sit here in front of my mirror, staring at myself. I don't look vainly; I look contemplating, reflecting. I think about who I am, who I was, how I got where I am. I look at someone I barely recognize at times. I gaze at the image before me: long, golden-blond hair that flows just past the shoulders; deep-blood-red lips; long, dark eyelashes; touches of color around my eyes and on my cheeks. Sometimes it makes me laugh a little that only an hour ago I was a boy.
Looking in my eyes I see such emptiness tonight. My stone-gray eyes seem to reflect nothing but the bright lights of my dressing room. Could it be that I have reached the point where I can go no further? Is this circle of my life complete? Or is it just that ever-constant feeling of "why am I here?"
I look around my little dressing room, all decorated in pink and white, fabric draping all over the ceiling and the walls, pictures of Madonna, my muse, placed here and there. When I am in here, I almost forget the fact that I am in a dank, dirty basement of a nightclub. My only constant reminder is the loud, pounding music from upstairs, vibrating the ceilings and walls. I can feel the vibrations of the bass throughout my body. The old floorboards creak and groan with every step the dancing patrons make above me, dancing wildly with abandonment, not realizing that below them, this shy little boy is undergoing a complete transformation.
I jump slightly when I hear a loud knocking at my door.
"Ten minutes, Pandora," the muffled voice shouts.
Ten minutes. Another show, another crowd, just another night.
Pandora. Who is she? In a way she is me, and in another she is my creation, and in another she is what I wanted to be.
According to Greek Mythology, Pandora was the first woman created. She opened the forbidden box and unleashed all the evils into the world, leaving only man's hope inside. My choice in names would ironically prove to be very fitting. I never realized the Pandora's box I was opening when I created this character, or how many sides the box had. Although it was not evil I unleashed when I opened the box, it definitely came with its twists and turns.
I was born in Jamestown, N.Y. My earliest memories are very happy, normal childhood ones. I was well liked in school. I got good grades, although my teachers did say I was a little chatty. The turning point came in second grade, when my father's job transferred him to Olean, N.Y. This was the beginning of a change in me. It began my introversion into myself, and the self-hatred that has plagued much of my life.
Olean was very different. I no longer felt very comfortable. This was also when the teasing began, something that would haunt me for most of my life.
I remember walking down the halls of school or being outside during recess and praying, "Please don't let anybody say anything. Please don't let them hurt me today."
It rarely helped. The taunts and torment were daily occurrences. I don't even remember if there was a day that went by without me getting picked on. The names and phrases whispered and shouted: "Fag." "Is that a boy or a girl?" "Hey, faggot!" "Homo." "Queer."
Everything I was called and every hurtful phrase just forced me further into myself. I always wished that I could be one of the kids everyone liked, someone who was very popular. I wanted to be a part of a world I felt so distant from.
I remember walking into the boy's restroom of my elementary school only to find my nemesis and his friends. I wanted to leave without trying to make it look like I was running, but it was too late. He came up to me, backing me into a wall, pretending like he was going to kiss me. I turned my face away, not knowing what to do. He was bigger, and I was definitely not a fighter. He just laughed at me.
"What are you, some kind of faggot?" he said. "If some guy tried to do that to me, I'd punch him in the gut. You must be a faggot!"
"Yeah, look at the homo," his cohort said.
The funny thing is that at the time, I didn't even know what a "faggot" was. They were just words to me, words that were bad to me because that was the reason I was not like everyone else: I was a faggot.
The overture for the show begins to play. I can hear the clicks and patters of the shoes upstairs walking to their seats. The crowd starts to cheer and scream. I fumble through my rack of clothes, looking for the outfit I want to wear. I push through the different plush fabrics, the shades of black, pink, and blue. I think about how each outfit is like a different skin, a different mood, a different character.
Characters. That was my only escape when I was young. I discovered acting at a very young age. I could become someone else, if only for a brief moment. I could be anyone; I could escape my fears and my shyness. Most importantly, I could be somebody else besides me. When I discovered "drag," it was as if someone shined a floodlight on a dark room: the way the audience would scream and cheer for the performers, the way they loved them and accepted them. Everyone knew who they were.
Thus Pandora was born -- born out of need and desperation, born out of a longing and desire, the key to being free of the desolate world of shyness. I could be the one everyone wanted to know. I could be in the place I always wanted to be: the center of attention.
As Pandora I have been loved, adored, hated, revered, envied, and accepted. I became what I wanted, but with prices to pay. Pandora gave me the extroverted side I needed. She gave me the opportunity to break down walls and learn more about myself than I ever thought possible. She also created a sense of duality inside me, a feeling that I was only liked or accepted when I wore that mask. I began to feel lost in Pandora, that she was taking over my life. I felt I was leading two very separate lives.
Only recently do I feel the beginning of a true balance in what I do and who I am. I have a true yin and yang. I have the equality I have been searching for, to love what I do without letting it consume me.
As I walk up the small staircase to the stage, I glance at myself one last time. I don't see Pandora; I see me. I see the actor, the performer, the character. I see through all the makeup and the costumes to see just me. I see where I have been and what I have been through. I see heartache and tears. I see laughter and joy. I see triumph and pain. I see hope. What I thought was emptiness in my eyes was not emptiness but an ending. It was an ending to hatred and to the prison I kept myself within. This moment in time is one I will remember forever. This was an ending but also a beginning. It is the beginning of a new road to my life, because for the first time, when I look into that mirror, I like what I see.
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