Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mel and FeMel

Ten years ago I attended a hair show in Vegas and met one of the platform artists. Months later, I saw him in a magazine and got the bright idea to hire him for the grand opening party of my salon. I contacted him and he put me in touch with his agent, both lived in New York. I will never forget the first phone conversation I had with the agent, Mel. I was sitting at the front desk and at the first sound of his voice I thought, this won’t work. I don’t have anything against gay men, but he sounded extreme, and I’m a little on the conservative side. Maybe I thought he would be dramatic or just too much for my southern salon, I’m not sure. Now, I look back and realize how misleading first impressions can be.

Mel and I began speaking regularly, planning the event. During that time, I found a kindred spirit connection with a gay man, and he came complete with a husband. (They were the first married, same sex couple I had ever known.) Mel and I connected in such a unique way, unfamiliar to anything I had ever experienced.

The day I went to the airport to pick up the guys, I knew immediately which one was Mel by his airy, light walk and fashionable scarf. The rest is history.

As far as the grand opening, I cannot say it went as planned. I discovered after the show that the impressive, cute little hairstylist ended up seducing virtually every model. Not to mention, he did not do any of the looks I had requested. However, the good that came out of it all was that I met one of the greatest people God ever created, Mel Mel.

Mel and I continued to stay in touch by phone and email. We discussed everything imaginable, even the controversial issue of homosexuality. Until that point, I had never given a lot of thought to the topic or how I really felt about it. I categorized it together with interracial relationships, neither were “right.” Being from the south, it is simply the way it is, but I couldn’t decide if I felt this way from within or because this is what I have been taught by default. I dug deep, asking lots of questions to lots of people and turning to the Bible.

As far as interracial, that was a quick conclusion. I began to question myself; I have black cousins who are adopted, but we love them the same. Do I expect them or my children to love based on color? My best friend is Filipino and married to a white man, what’s the difference? Many use the argument about the kids, saying they don’t fit in. That led me to think about an older couple who adopted a child from China. This child was the only one in her circle who looked different AND her parents were the age of her peers’ grandparents; yet, this is seen as a good thing. Hence, I discovered my feelings toward interracial relationships. They are the same as any other one and no different than an able bodied person marrying one with a disability. That’s just my thoughts and feelings on the subject… To each their own.

However, as I pondered homosexuality, it didn’t come as easily. It simply would not feel right and the Bible was clear. I went as deep as to ask a nurse who worked with newborn babies. Some people are born with both male and female parts. Who is to say which gender they feel they are? What about Autism and such, where some wires get crossed but we cannot see it from the outside? Maybe some people can get wired to be attracted to the same sex?

Never experiencing such a thing, I knew I could not relate … but because Mel was/is so open, I could ask him and talk to him. One day, I cried because it all scared me. I loved this man and the whole concept was overwhelming. I said, “I just don’t understand. How can one tendency be a flaw, like being messy, but another can be salvation threatening? I’m scared Mel. I’m scared that …”

Mel said, “That we won’t be in the same place after this life?”


He was comforting and assuring, but I couldn’t find peace with it. Mel is a devout Christian and a deacon at his church. It is a gay church, which I had never heard of before I met him. That put an even greater twist on things, especially when I describe this man as one of the most Christ-like, loving people I have ever met. He is love. Walking, talking love.

Within a year or two after the event at my salon, I had a client who moved to NY and flew me there to do her hair. The exciting part was getting to reunite with Mel. One of the first places I wanted to visit in New York? Mel’s church and I wanted to meet his pastor. I had questions …


Obviously, I love Mel, but the beautiful part is how much I am loved BY Mel. When he describes my first trip to NY, he says, “My beautiful friend comes to New York and where are the first places she wants to visit? Not Gucci or Prada, but Ground Zero and a gay and lesbian church in an attempt to understand something she does not.”

He took me to his church and the pastor set aside time to meet with me, allowing me to ask her questions and answering all of them in a calm, loving way. In their church, they accept all. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender … any and every one, and they focus on caring for the homeless. It definitely was not a “bad” place and it was one of the more meaningful, profound experiences of my life. Learning to learn instead of judge.

Though I cannot say I now agree with or understand homosexuality, I can say that I see it all in a different way. Ultimately, it’s not up to me to decide if another’s choices are right or wrong. As Mel says, “If I remember correctly, Jesus said ‘Love one another,’ I don’t remember him saying ‘If or as long as …”

I love Mel and he loves me. In fact, I have never had another person completely stop what they are doing for an entire day to solely focus on me and/or spend time with me. Gay or straight. He gives undivided attention to me and to me and my children when they are with us, as if there is nowhere else on this earth he’d rather be. I would be conceited beyond belief if I thought I was as special and important as he treats me, and it has been that way for a decade.

Over the years, I have traveled to NY several times and there is ALWAYS time set aside for Mel. We walk arm in arm all around his hectic city as if we are the only two people there, talking and laughing non-stop. I love my time with this man, just love it. However, all of our visits have been in NYC. He hasn’t been back to Nashville since the event at my salon. But, we stay in contact by phone and through texts.

Not long ago, we were talking one night and he was a little upset. He had a rough day, and though I was compassionate, I was laughing at the way he was describing it in his gay way. It was so cute. He said he called for a car to pick him up TWICE and both times the person said “Ma’am” and proceeded to say “Pick up a woman at…”

Mel said, “I was saying, ‘NOOOO. I am not a woman. I am a MAN. Be looking for a man!

I laughed so hard and said, “I forgot … you DO sound like a woman! Now, you sound like Pinocchio, ‘I’M a REAL boy!!!” 

Ten years ago, when I first heard his voice, that’s all I heard (was a woman sounding person,) now I cannot hear it at all, I just hear Mel. Funny how things change …


Last year, I took one of my dear friends to NY in February. She met Mel and fell in love with him too … as any person would. My friend had Stage IV breast cancer 5 years ago and was given 3 years. She has done great since that time, and we had a blast together on this trip. Mel learned all about her journey and was so impacted by her and her life, as was one of his friends who joined us that day. The four of us have stayed in touch as a quadro (new word) for a year and a half.

          At the end of last year, my friend developed a severe, chronic cough. After months of trying to determine the cause, we found out the cancer had returned in her lungs. Mel and his friend both texted me throughout the day of her surgery and I spoke to them by phone. Typically, most people would say, “Oh no. That’s terrible,” or something along those lines. That was NOT how these two gay men reacted. Both were clearly upset and totally focused on what was going on here. Mel immediately contacted his pastor and then forwarded a prayer email his pastor wrote for my friend, who she (the pastor) had never even met. The most genuine, concerned acts of love and support one could imagine. Makes it hard for me to agree with or understand the thought process about how “terrible” gay people are …


          Obviously, no one knows the outcome of my friend’s cancer. She’s a fighter and we all hope for the same results as last time, but for now, she’s sick. What does Mel do? He buys a plane ticket to Nashville to spend 4 days with me, my girls and my friend … because she doesn’t feel well and needs to know and feel how important and loved she is.

          Mel’s plane landed last Friday at 10:04am. I anxiously awaited seeing him walk/glide through security toward me. There he was, waving, wearing a sports jacket and cuffed jeans, fashionable glasses, and smiling as big as possible. I was snapping pictures of his every step as he was waving his arms fully extended. The security lady said to him, “I think you are going to have a good day!”

“YES I AM!!” he said, beaming like the sun.

We hugged and hugged and hugged, then walked to get his silver luggage from baggage claim before starting our perfect visit together. I took one million pictures. Mel walking. Mel getting his luggage. Mel putting his seatbelt on. Mel holding the dog. Mel in the bread aisle of the grocery store. Mel at my daughter’s college. Mel riding co-pilot while my daughter with a learner’s permit chauffeured him around town. Mel at his first professional ice hockey game. Mel going to bed … It was like the book “See Spot Run,” or a crazed parent taking pictures of the firstborn child’s every move. Fun, fun, fun. AND, a gay man doesn’t mind using our Bath and Body Works scented body wash when using our shower. J Added bonus …

This was our first visit together for four solid days, all day. We have never seen each other after waking up or just before bed. We’ve never watched a movie together, fixed dinner together, done dishes together or ran errands together. It was a lot of “together,” and I miss him …A Southwest plane took him away yesterday at 3:34pm.


          But, while Mel was here, we spent only quality time together. We spent two days with my friend. One day we traveled to her house and the next day she and her mom came to my house. It’s a toss-up and hard to say if those visits meant more to him or my friend. I’d say it is pretty equal. Both walked away with wonderful, valuable memories that only come from genuine, quality time and relationships. His love for my friend, and her love for him make me love them both even more.

          In closing, I no longer have or need an opinion about homosexuality. Mel’s identity is far beyond that label. He is my precious friend, and in New York, a piece of my heart walks with him. I thank God for him and all of the lessons his existence has taught me, especially about myself. To me, Mel is neither gay or straight, male or female, he is simply my friend and part of me and my life. I have even given us a name: MEL and FE-MEL.

          I can’t say I now adore all gay people, but I can’t say that about heterosexual people either. I can only say, I love Mel.


  1. I love this Sherry!! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you!! I'm sorry I just saw your comment