I'm a white, privileged, mathematically proportioned, cisgender, masculine (well, kinda) guy. And I'm lucky enough to have a platform and a voice. With that comes great responsibility to use my voice to effect positive change. I was raised by a pack of badass women. I'm fully aware of my own masculine and feminine sides, Mars and Venus, and I'm a proud carrier of both. But this isn't about me. I want to celebrate women. The women who saved me. The mothers. The relatives. The first kisses. The middle school crushes. The teachers. The love songs written. The best friends. The lovers. The real-life pseudo-adult relationships I'm in. The future wife and future daughters and granddaughters. I am nothing without the women that made me. Without these women, I wouldn't know how to be emotional and openly express myself or how to hold doors for people. Without these women, I wouldn't know how good it feels to stay in when it's raining and to really appreciate the sound the wind makes. Without these women, I wouldn't be writing how I feel about anything or anyone. This isn't just a shoutout to my ex-girlfriends and best friends. This is an ode to the women that taught me how to love. This is a reminder that no matter how briefly you're in someone's life, you can change them for the better.
To my mother, Annie, who is the bravest of all. I hope I continue to make you proud. You fought for my happiness and success, because you are my biggest fan. You're someone I can tell my secrets to and someone who tells me hers. You are always absolutely 100% the most important. Shit, you're FaceTiming me, hold that thought. To my grandma, Phyllis, who is the hardest worker I've ever known. When you came storming into preschool in a nightgown and rollers, barefoot, screaming at my principal, I knew I was gonna grow up to be just like you. You taught me self-sacrifice and the importance of family. And how to curse. To my aunt, Irene, who taught me how to learn and showed me how to teach. Thank you for always listening. And also for taking me to the hospital when I swallowed a bottle cap playing a drinking game. I don't think I've ever told you this, but I love the way you laugh. To my cousin, Deby. You taught me what it meant to be cool. You're the girl with the ripped jeans, a paintbrush, and big city dreams. I know we may not always agree, but the blood runs deep. To my mom's best friend, Gina. You were and always will be my second mom. You taught me how to get shit for free and the proper way to eat fontanella. To my auntie, Sheryl, who is the kindest and most courageous. Thank you for showing me how to fight for your life and truly live and love wholeheartedly.
To my grandma, Tortorella. Thank you for showing me that, no matter what you look like or where you came from, everyone is capable of love. To my aunt, Jennifer, who is the hardest to write for because the words still hurt. I love you no matter what and I thank you for showing me the stars. Maybe one day, I'll see you there. To my first best friend, Casey. That Spice Girls concert was epic. We took a limo and I brought you flowers. I remember the way your house smelled and that boxer named Caramel. To the first girl that kissed me after I chased her on the blacktop at recess. Tara, thank you for the butterflies and The Grateful Dead. To my first girlfriend, Anna. Remember when I brought you that singing bear to your elementary school and embarrassed the shit out of you? Thank you for teaching me how to play suck and blow and constantly inspiring me to be funnier. To the girl in high school who taught me how to write a love song. Dana, to this day, if I pick up a guitar, I'll play one of them. "I see the way you look at him, but I see the way you look at me." To Arielle. I remember those long nights in the the attic, the poems, the long talks, and the longer cries. You taught me how to perform and feel and hurt and love all at the same time. To the girl I lost my virginity to in Mexico named Antoinette. Remember we were watching Scarface? Say hello to my little friend. I just met you that day and you had me at hello. To my high school best friend, Mary, who taught me how to smoke weed. I loved you more than you'll ever know. You showed me how to love myself and, more importantly, to question everything around me. To my girlfriend, Bridget, the one with the red hair and freckles. You taught me how to be free. Remember when I was sick and you came over and spent the night? I was like, Man, she knows she's gonna get sick and she still wants to be with me. That's love. Over the years you reminded me of the power that is sobriety, and for that I'll never be able to thank you enough.
To my high school girlfriend, Sarah. We spent years navigating puberty and leaning on each other. I remember those nights in the back of my white Mercedes, siting on 22-inch rims. You taught me how to laugh. I miss the way you kiss. To my other high school girlfriend, Sarah, the one that was older. Remember that CD I made you before you left for Berkeley? Every time I hear Dashboard Confessional, I think about you. You taught me how to drive stick. Then, I moved out of the house and met the main event herself, butthead Bethany. You taught me how to love. You took care of the monster and fed the man all at the same time. We have truly grown up together. Explorers. Teammates. I have never ever been as proud of you as I am right now. You are my best friend forever. To Jamie, the first girl I met in Los Angeles. You taught me everything I needed to know. You taught me self-exploration. You gave me raw food and yoga and expanded my cosmic connection. You believed in me. You gave me wisdom and you annoyed the shit out of me to the point of utter obsession. I am still and always will be obsessed with you, and that kid would have been nothing shy of extraordinary.
To my first Hollywood girlfriend, Sara. I love you and I am so sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I apologize. You taught me the ropes of the bright lights and big dreams. You taught me how fame works and how to eat a burger in Los Angeles. You taught me about Balenciaga and the Wilshire corridor. Every time I see a Range Rover, I look to see if it's you. I remember that we said if we ever see each other on a red carpet when we're older, we'll just look at each other and say, "Hi poop." I can't fucking wait. To Emma, who I embarrassed myself with, the one with the soft skin, the Dove soap, and the blanket. I apologize for those sloppy nights in Michigan. I was an asshole punk kid just trying to figure out the scene. And to Lindsay, the one who showed me the other side, long nights, and how to be afraid. You taught me about sweat lodges and the secret of escaping. I'm getting anxious even talking about you. You are in my thoughts and dreams and prayers forever. You are, and always will be, a voice in my head. To Tarra, the one from New Mexico. You taught me about past lives and the value of time. We connected on an ethereal level and I'm sure we will meet again. I wear the cross you gave me all the time and feel warm and protected when I do.
To the girls from Dallas. The one named Havilah, who showed me the power of openness and polyamory. You showed me how to be brave and sexual and a parent all at the same time. And to the one named Page with the big eyes. God damn. You remind me how to smile even when you're crying. To La Demi, the one that's taller than me. I love you so much. You taught me how to be a fearless warrior, a glammed-out princess goddess. You give me strength and courage and fight that is incomparable. You are the definition of self-love. You are the future.
And to Sutton, the one I get to play make-believe with on TV. Your humility, grace, and professionalism are beyond admirable. Thank you for trusting me and reminding me that the the land of puppies, rainbows, and love is the only place worthwhile. #teamjosh
And finally, to Olesya. Mouse, I love you. You and me are the beautiful tortured artists that paint dreams. This Raven still has miles and miles to soar. You know when that one comes along and she inspires you to write? Hold on to her for as long as you can, as long as she lets you. You're the sorceress to my wizardry but our spells don't always work on each other. The story of O always will be an epic love story. I'm always and forever on your side. Cheers to that, baby. In this act of tribute, I encourage you to recognize the women in your life that have made you who you are. And to take a moment and give credit where credit is due. Men are nothing without the women that make them. Girls rule, boys drool. (Well, not all of us.)