I live in a flat just above the Arc de Triomf on Passieg de Sant Joan in Barcelona. It’s a white-on-white sanctuary, a virtual cathedral of style in the City of Misfits. Other than Jakarta, Barcelona is one of the first places I’ve ever wanted to settle down. I’m sort of nomadic in the same way the Pope is sort of Catholic.
I lived in Tulsa more than once. I enjoyed going to college there, all the while feeling like an alien and proud of it. Tulsa was one of the first cities I stayed in long enough to get a real feel for the place, although I never saw it as home. I was born in Hollywood but grew up in the Bay Area, as well as Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico, both old and New. This is all before I was 17. I can’t remember all the cities and towns I’ve lived in, some for less than a year.
My mother was nomadic, too, an adventurer never comfortable in her own skin, so she roamed the earth doing both fantastic and meaningless things, mostly art and teaching, in hopes of finding someplace that felt right. I came out to my mom at 6, but then for various reasons, even after a couple Halloweens, one dressed as Cat Woman, and one as Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, I kept to myself. That is, after my first boyfriend at the age of 9. We lasted a year, then I moved again.
The upside to not having a city to call home is that you can pretend that there is some “perfect” space out there where you’ll fit in (I tend to like Disney cartoon movie songs where people sing wistfully about belonging). The downside is that you live in your imagination and think, “Someday I’ll find my place, someday I’ll start living.”
So now I’m in Barcelona. My family has roots here, although as a child I hated the Spanish and Catalan languages. I refused to speak them, and my mother didn’t make me. I wanted to be American, to fit in. Being a misfit is only great if you’ve been given a fantastic score, brilliant dance numbers, and have abs. Unattractive unchoreographed, and unaccompanied misfits are simply an abomination. Barcelona, for me, is an attempt to honor some heritage, reclaim some roots, but on my own terms and properly accoutremented.
Barcelona is not only a place where you can be different, but you can do it with flair. Here I can live in sin. I have a hot Argentinean husband and an even hotter Swedish boyfriend, long story. And I frequently jaywalk. However, this is not as exotic a place as you may imagine. Barcelona is, in a sense, just like Tulsa.
Tulsa is also a big town masquerading as a city. In Tulsa and in Barcelona, you’re one degree from meeting everyone else, and many you haven’t met already know your business. Both cities also exist against a stunning backdrop of architecture (Modernisme in Barcelona, Art Deco in Tulsa) and have an eclectic populace of fascinating diversity. I live in Barcelona for the same reason I lived in Tulsa. I simply can’t be me without such places.
Did the planners of either city know that they would attract misfits like me? Are they turning in their graves or applauding our antics? In Tulsa I lived in fear that I would be discovered as a freak, a fraud, not only sexually, but in every way imaginable,–well, my imagination. Here, in Barcelona, I wander the city, noticing all the other misfits. There they can be unique, unashamed, and wonderfully themselves, the soul of the city. I’m at home here, inspired to let go and be the wild me, acuario salvaje. And when I think of Tulsa, I like to believe that the misfits there, those who stuck it out, unlike me, have become the soul of that city, making it their home.