Feature image via Daniel Ortberg’s Instagram
One of the strange things about dating someone of whom you were, once, a fan (and certainly are no longer, once you have beaten them at chess roughly 85% of the time since you both started playing) is that you acquire information about your own place in the writing that you enjoyed so much. Danny and I were just gamboling and cavorting as lovers do, and we recalled a conversation we had when we met, about two and a half years before we kissed. And a good two years before we were at all secure in relation to our transitions — of which, as you all probably know by now, Danny’s was more epiphanic and mine more gradual.
The conversation we just recalled was this. Back in 2015, I had recently learned the phrase “down to clown” as a euphemism for sexual intercourse, and Danny offered me $100 if I could successfully secure a date from someone by asking them if they were, indeed, available for a trip to the big top. We used to meet in bars — I was still drinking when we met, though he wasn’t — and I would sit and get steamed while working up the courage to find someone to make the merry circus with me. It never happened. Anyway, just now, Danny revealed (and I suppose it was, in retrospect, quite obvious) not only that he was attempting to flirt with me, but that his frustration at my inability to tell that he wanted to make like Dumbo and get flappy led him to write a piece of his that I loved, “A Guide to Flirting With Plausible Deniability,” which was published on The Toast on January 11th, 2016 — a week to the day before my last drink, and two years, five months and five days before Danny finally became my Ringmaster.
I loved that piece! And the sequels:
– “How to Tell If Someone Is Flirting With You,” March 1st, 2016.
– “How to Respond When You Suspect Someone Is Flirting With You,” April 26th, 2016.
I asked Danny… were there other things you wrote to try to get my attention? Sheepishly, he admitted that there were and started sending me them. Looking back the flirtation was sort of obvious? Danny characterized the general tone as “I wanted you to know I didn’t speak French, but that I was still smart.”
– “High Water-Marks For Heterosexuality,” March 8th 2016.
– “Sondheim As I Understand Him, From A Woman Who Has Seen About One Cumulative Hour Of Sondheim’s Work And Almost Certainly Misunderstood It,” April 25th 2016.
– “Movie Yelling: Tea and Sympathy, Sixty Years Later,” May 2nd, 2016.
– “The Best Part of Jane Eyre Is Guessing What French Is,” May 20th, 2016.
I kind of knew that the Sondheim one was flirtation, and was irritated by it at the time. Which reminds me that, damn, it must just have been kind of sad to be hung up on someone that is just too fucking messy (I was so fucking messy) to be able to respond, however much she wanted to:
– “What Was the Most Dirtbag Summer of Your Life,” February 4th, 2016.
– “Prayers That Would Double As Excellent Pickup Lines If I Possessed Even An Ounce Of Real Courage,” January 19th, 2016.
I date my sobriety to the day before Danny published those prayers, some of which I had probably still never heard. Then there were the ones in which I made a direct appearance under my old name and pronouns, usually being negged (the first thing he said to me was a spiky little barb about my mustache). Often I am a bit of a prig in these appearances, in the first of which I made a joke about the Michigan Women’s Festival.
– “Movie Yelling: Things About The Witch That Got My Dander Right Up, Like The Ending And All The Stuff That Came Before It,” February 25th 2016.
– “Christina Rossetti’s Goblin-Market, As I Understand It,” July 26th, 2017.
– “Questions I Have Asked During The Only Episode Of Doctor Who I Have Ever Seen Until My Friend Said “Okay, Mallory, Why Don’t You Write Your Questions Down And Ask Them All After We’re Done Watching?”,” July 26th, 2017.
And, finally, here’s the Toast post that Danny put up the day we met.
– “Characters I Have Inappropriately Identified With When I Knew I Was Not Supposed To,” December 2nd 2015.
He can’t now remember whether he did so before or after he’d started clowning on my mustache. But anyway, I was down.
This article first appeared on The Stage Mirror — Grace Lavery’s newsletter on “Victorian literature, psychoanalytic theory, academic gossip, trans femme style, and scurrilous ribaldry from Califorinian writer and critic”, which you can and should subscribe to now — and is republished here with permission!
omg omg! i saw this was on grace’s newsletter and i SO wanted to read it but haven’t made the leap to paying for newsletter subscriptions so i am so HAPPY a version is here! ok now off to read it
+1 to this exact sentiment
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH I DO NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH ALL OF MY FEELINGS RIGHT NOW
I LOVE THIS AS A WEIRD INTERNET FAN OF DANNY AND GRACE’S RELATIONSHIP
I LOVE THIS AS A WRITER WHO OFTEN WRITES THINGS ABOUT MY CRUSH THAT I COULD PLAUSIBLY DENY ARE ABOUT ANY ONE SPECIFIC PERSON
I LOVE THIS AS A HUMAN WHO HAS DATED WRITERS AND HAS BEEN FLATTERED AND OCCASIONALLY HORRIFIED BY THE THINGS THEY WRITE TO ME
I LOVE THIS AS A QUEER PERSON WHO LOVES LOVE
I JUST REALLY FUCKING LOVE THIS OKAY
THANK YOU FOR THIS GIFT I WILL STOP YELLING AND SEE MYSELF OUT NOW XOXO
I second all of your caps
adding “make the merry circus” to my vocabulary IMMEDIATELY
also, just like…writing to impress a crush is absolute goals
GRACE!!! YES. What a dream. Thank you, Autostraddle. Thank you, Grace.
This is so cute I ran into the other room to tell my wife about how cute it is, back and forth, like 3 times.
Oh my gosh you were a Toast muse, this is amazing. And adorable. Adoramazable
If I ever get sent back in time, that would be my life goal.
Would read an entire book called True Confessions of a Toast Muse, tbh
Just write a memoir already Grace!!!
I’m Pitching an Outlet even as we speak! For a magazine thing rather than a book thing. But ONE DAY
THIS IS PERFECT INTERNET CONTENT
“he wanted to make like Dumbo and get flappy”
baps, flaps, and naps, baby!!
Wow!!!! An article by Grace Lavery?!?!? AMAZING!!!! (star struck= all caps stuck). I knew she was really, really smart, but finding out that Daniel Ortberg is intellectually intimidated by her… I’m officially terrified.
I love this so much. So, so much.
This is wonderful and amazing but also I still miss the Toast more fiercely than all but one of my crushes 😭
Yes! But I do like finding all the new pockets of the internet to which toastees migrated.
Thank you for this and also introducing me to circus talk !!!
Daniel and Grace are the only valid reason for the internet to keep existing I stg like I LIVE for this content
*happy raptor squeals*
The Toast! This is like getting behind-the-scenes gossip. Weeee!
While I don’t have any authority to say “welcome to AS!”, it’s very nice to see you here, Grace!
And, well, it’s a delight to understand the background behind some of my favourite Toast posts (although the flirting ones pointed in a certain direction, the subject, of course, was not obvious).
*cries with joy*
Grace Lavery on Autostraddle? Yes, perfect, I stan
i am a stranger from the internet who is OBSESSED with you two, and i adore any social media tidbits i come across about your relationship, particularly your origin story. this is a FEAST! what a treat!!
Hello just wanted to come also yell about how great it is to see Grace’s writing here!
jesus christ tho, it’s lowkey heartbreaking to see the toast starting to crumble due to old age through broken images, etc
IM SCREAMING I LOVE THIS I LOVE THE COMMENTS THIS IS SUCH A GIFT
I…I…I…I…I…DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MY FACE. I can’t believe this is real.
This was the best goddamn start to my weekend. I’m beaming.
I’m adding this to my “Autostraddle articles I read to my partner when she is driving” list.