“My dream is that the Pillow Talk Project can be a place where you can lay your burdens down, free of judgment. A spot to call your own, ask and talk freely, and simply join me and countless others as we figure out this beautiful but complicated thing we call life.” – Keith, creator of The Pillow Talk Project
At the beginning of every interview, I use a creative question to get people to relax and tell me about themselves. Now, if a stranger were to just walk up to you and say, “Tell me about you,” it wouldn’t be very successful.
That’s why I get each interviewee to, instead, pretend that we are in a movie theater about to watch a film inspired by their life. And as the lights dim and the screen expand, they have to explain what we’re going to see in the first five minutes of the film, knowing that those images and scenes set the stage for us getting to know the basics about them: who you are, where you come from, and an important experience or two that explains a significant point in your life.
For Brian, an early-twentysomething from the Bronx of Guyanese descent, the first image that came to mind was of him running:
I’m running by myself down the street. You wouldn’t know where I’m going, but you would see my mother driving a car, looking for me. In another scene, you would see my father at work calling people to see where I am.
I grew up with my mother. I knew my dad, but never lived with him; I’ve lived with my mother all my life. Because I lived with my mother, we’d butt heads because of how strict she was. In comparison, my dad and I got along more because he let me do whatever I wanted.
The older I got, the more I been an independent person, trying to do my own thing. But my mother would always try to make me do things her way. My dad would try to understand me, but he was more nonchalant about it.
As the scene moved on, you would eventually find me at a friend’s house. She used to be my babysitter, but over the years I had gotten really close with her and her family because when I was with them, there was a sense of belonging. In many ways, I had always felt like I’d come from a broken family, but my friend’s family was exactly what I felt a real family would look and feel like.
Whenever I came over, they would feed me and take me places with them. There, I felt like I had more of a family than anywhere else. So, I’d go there for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every chance I could, I’d wind up in their backyard, and the door would always be open for me, along with a hot plate of food.
What struck me about this setting is that it not only represents an important time in Brian’s life, but it also symbolizes what I think many young men are going through as they come of age. For so many of us, the teenage years can be liberating but quite shocking.
Whether it is figuring out where you fit on the spectrum of masculinity, beauty, or sexuality, or just trying to understand the damning labels that people throw at you, it can be hard. And for young men in particular, it can feel even more intense as you are often forced to fight and be tough, confident, and almost invincible–no matter how you might feel on the inside.
….what’s missing is that place where we can all stop pretending. That moment where the judgment and posturing can halt and you simply have time to figure out who you are and where you fit on the spectrum, free of the pressures of everyone around you.
Whether you’re interested in dating or not, you still have to come across as a casanova that’s smoother than a southern pimp. Even if you don’t understand why guys walk with a limp, dress a certain way, or make fun of guys that are smaller and weaker, you feel compelled to do the same or become a target. Even if you’ve never had sex, you’re supposed to pretend like have the secret that guarantees multiple orgasms for any woman brave enough to come to your bed.
But what’s missing is that place where we can all stop pretending. That moment where the judgment and posturing can halt and you simply have time to figure out who you are and where you fit on the spectrum, free of the pressures of everyone around you.
In this place, every guy isn’t your competitor or enemy, but someone you can confide in and learn from. You can ask the questions most people are afraid of and not risk being laughed out of the room or called a pussy. Blatant “I don’t knows” can be transformed into fervent “I wonder whys,” and the answers can be explored together.
To be honest, I don’t know if everyone is able to find that kind of place in their own lives. But whether you can run to a neighboring house with the promise of a home-cooked meal or not, my dream is that The Pillow Talk Projectcan be a place where you can lay your burdens down, free of judgment. A spot to call your own, ask and talk freely, and simply join me and countless others as we figure out this beautiful but complicated thing we call life.
So, ask your questions, vent about your own experiences, and share what you think might be the answer. I can’t wait to read your comments and hear from you soon!