I despise the musical Rent. I understand as we have celebrated the twentieth anniversary of this award winning show, it’s a part of our LGBTQ tapestry. Even more than that, it is a true representation of life in one’s twenties. Attempting to discover how to become comfortable in one’s own skin. But is it? I too was in my twenties, shocking I know. There is an age of discovery when you are out on your own, finding a place to stay warm. How to function in a society that does not care. Rent is a mirror held up to America to force everyone to see HIV. To see true loneliness, helplines, and inner strength. How in modern times the simple act of paying rent was the pure definition fighting to find a place in this world. But is it? The opening number of Rent is a declaration of how regardless of how society defines them, they’re not gonna pay, they’re not gonna pay last year’s rent; this year’s rent; next year’s rent.
Now, I understand this declaration. I do. I was out on my own in the middle of high school. Attempting to get up and go to high school while living in a flop-house filled up with homeless homosexuals. Hiding stolen jars of peanut butter under my bed so I could have dinner. My twenties would see me in a series of run-down scary-ass apartments. Progressively getting better as my jobs paid more and my education progressed. Slowly working my way through my twenties. Avoiding, unbelievably, the HIV virus, and the rats that lived in the apartment dumpsters. There is one thing I did do differently…
I paid my fucking rent.
There is one thing that always struck me as odd while attempting to find make a home for myself in my twenties. Moving from place to place. These scary ass apartments had one thing in common. They were filled with people that did not know how place their garbage into the dumpster. Bags of trash would always find their way next too, adjacent, but not into the trash cans. As I left my twenties and moved into my thirties, I also left the type of apartments that white people point to and make cases for Urban Renewal. Yet, even as my monthly rent skyrocketed, there were still those bags of garbage that don’t make it into the trash cans. It just goes to show that every social-economic class has its inconsiderate A-holes. From paying rent in can goods to a possible pedophile named Rick, to automatic bank transfers for $2000.00, some declarations in our twenties do not change society.
Now I live in an apartment that overlooks a golf course. A statement that cannot be conveyed without coming off like you are attempting to sound pretentious. So, yes. Golf course on one side, but turn to your left and you will see the city’s loudest commuter train link. Down the block you see the low-income housing. Where all leases include the legal statement, “you must install a dinette set and console television upon your balcony.” We have a pocket of luxury, and we are allowed to enjoy it for the monthly price of a new Honda Prelude in 1978. Yet, still that stack of crud sit next to dumpsters. Last week a fully decorated Christmas tree, sat next to a happy (if not befuzzled) snowperson. A true Christmas in July. My roommate taking beaming selfies with each exciting pile of shit then sending them to our management company.
I guess I am viewing the musical Rent through the eyes of someone in their mid-forties. I still feel it is trite and sensationalist. Yet, if I squint I can see the twenty year old terrified that a virus was stalking me, and how I stepped over bags of trash next to dumpster as I left for yet another waitering job. Not knowing if I was going to make next month’s rent. Some things, even if you perform a song about them, do not change.