The Queen of Gay Street
Born in the Tenderloin, which could be politely described as San Francisco’s grittiest area, Esther Mollica’s earliest memories are of “walking past prostitutes and heroin addicts … on the way to school.” Her early home life wasn’t much better than the life outside her home either. Her mum had borderline personality disorder while her dad was a diagnosed narcissist and sociopath, and they both exhibited significant rage and a distinct lack of empathy. What’s worse, her father sexually abused her from the age of five or six and her mother didn’t stop him. Even when the pair divorced, they each remained a force for devastation in Esther’s life.
Initially at least, adulthood proved to be a continuation of a dangerous and self-destructive roller-coaster ride for Esther. She came out, moved into her own apartment, secured a moderately paying job, and started dating. It was the dating that proved particularly problematic. As Esther describes it, she went on “dates with girls who had shown up on heroin, dates where women had disclosed that they had husbands or were still living with their girlfriends, dates where girls I barely knew tried to get me into threesomes.” She eventually formed a long-term, long-distance relationship with a woman named Morgan—who Esther later found out had been married to a man throughout much of their time together!
The painful breakup with Morgan prompted Esther to re-evaluate her life: she quit her job and moved to New York with no kind of plan in place. It was certainly a bold move, if not exactly a well-planned one, and it led to her becoming embroiled in even more romantic shenanigans, in addition to finding herself in numerous hairy situations and various employment-related catastrophes. Filled with drama, distress, hope, and hilarity, The Queen of Gay Street is Esther’s forthright memoir of her early years in New York, a period that saw her rise above the many obstacles that appeared in her way and achieve the victory of being truly herself.
Of course, a person can’t have a present without also having a past, and so Esther weaves reminiscences about her childhood and young adulthood into her memoir. While she deals with them in a matter-of-fact way, the memories she relates are often deeply troubling and upsetting, which really highlights how strong, resilient, and self-motivated Esther has always been. She has had to triumph over adversity after adversity, and she has maintained her compassion and good humor throughout. Given the shocking nature of much of what Esther experienced, The Queen of Gay Street is often far from being an easy or comfortable read, but it does manage to maintain a surprisingly positive tone.
Esther’s initial years in New York might not have been as disturbing as her earlier years of life but they were still characterized by any number of odd people and incidents. Some of the situations she found herself in really were mindboggling—it’s amazing she remained sane after dealing with one particular design agency’s Christmas card “database.” Plus, the relationship she fell into with Juliet, the web editor of a magazine she worked for, could only be described as soul-destroying. Still, no one’s life can be solely material for a “Broads in the Big Apple” column and The Queen of Gay Street ends on a melancholy high, leaving plenty of hope and belief that there will be great things in store for Esther in the future.
|Idée Fixe Books
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