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Topher Payne: Strangers with candy

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

I do all I can to avoid situations where I ask my husband for money. The chasm between Preppy’s income and my own is almost comical, but I like to think I can get by on my earnings without asking for a handout.

Granted, I have no issue with him covering things like health insurance, the mortgage, or household bills. But I will go to great lengths to avoid requesting cash, because then I can maintain my carefully constructed delusion that I am in some way self-sufficient. As a result, I make a lot of trips to the CoinStar with a tube sock full of small change, most of which is also probably my husband’s.

I’m in line at CVS, waiting to purchase deodorant. In one pocket, a sock of coins I’ll be cashing in at my next stop. In the other pocket, nothing but quarters. I pick all the quarters out before I cash in at CoinStar, because they’re almost like real money.

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Topher Payne: My battle for a good night’s sleep

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

It’s four in the morning. I wake up agitated. It’s too quiet. I realize the air-conditioning isn’t running.

The bedspread is on the floor, and the sheets are soaked with sweat. The room even smells hot. 
Confounded by this, I check the thermostat. It’s 86 degrees, which would be perfect if I was at a barbecue, but not really ideal for a night’s sleep. There’s air coming out of the vents. Warm air, mocking me. I throw on boxers and look at my husband snoring contentedly. I have no idea how he sleeps through stuff like this.

I’ve always been the person who wakes up at the slightest provocation, bolting up to seek the source of sound. My father used to go to work at five every morning, and I’d jump out of bed when I heard him in the kitchen. I couldn’t keep myself in the bed, knowing there was something going on in the house which required investigation. I’d find Dad at the kitchen table, eating Raisin Bran in his postal uniform.

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Topher Payne: Seems like old times

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

It’s after midnight in Washington, D.C., and I’m at Trio Restaurant with my best friend from high school, Kerstin. I haven’t seen her in a decade. We’re friends on Facebook, but keeping up with old friends via social media is like keeping up with the exploits of Amanda Bynes. You get the headlines, occasional in-depth reports, but you just can’t make sense of the whole story.

We look, sound, and interact exactly as we did at age 15. When you’re a teenager, you assume you’re going to grow up and become a completely different person. At some point your life will reach that point in the movie where there’s a clever transition and the child actor is replaced by the adult actor.

But then 20 years go by, and you realize the grownup version of you is still being played by you. This is horrifyingly bad casting — like Lohan-as-Liz-Taylor bad. You do not have the mind of an adult, and have no business being in charge of things.

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Topher Payne: Tag. You’re it.

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

I came out to the customer care lady at the cable company. I’d called because I decided I wanted to watch “The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio,” and my cable box, confused that anyone would wish to see this film, froze up completely.

So I called the help number on my screen, and the representative addressed me by my husband’s name.

I said, “No, this is Topher, his husband. I’m authorized on the account.”

She replied, “Oh, yes, I see. You’re the other Mr. Payne. What can I do for you?”

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Topher Payne: You’ve got male

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

When I was 19, I managed to land a job in Atlanta, and I moved here without even visiting first. I just found an apartment online that I could afford, got approved, packed up my stuff and came for the keys. Had I visited the city beforehand, I would have realized why apartments were so cheap by Gwinnett Place Mall.

But even in Duluth, I was still totally connected to the hot and happening Atlanta gay scene, thanks to the 1990s uniter of the masses, America Online.

For the Millennials reading this, allow me to explain the process of trolling for strangers online during the Clinton administration. Disable your call waiting, dial into America Online, if it’s peak hours you might have to try a couple different numbers, then sign in as one of your six optional usernames, which America Online specifically offers for purposes of anonymous cyber sex.

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Topher Payne: Friend of the court

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

SCALIA: When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit gays from marrying? Was it always unconstitutional?

OLSON: When we as a culture determined that sexual orientation is a characteristic of individuals that they cannot control, and that that -

SCALIA: I see. When did that happen? When did that happen?

OLSON: There’s no specific date in time. This is an evolutionary cycle.

SCALIA: Well, how am I supposed to know how to decide a case, then, if you can’t give me a date when the Constitution changes.

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Friend of the court

Topher Payne goes to the Supreme Court in this week's Domestically Disturbed

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Melissa Carter: Lessons from ‘Angry Fags’

Melissa Carter

I have only a few performances left before the curtain falls on Topher Payne’s world premiere of “Angry Fags,” in which I played a lesbian state senator — my first acting role.

The knowledge I have gained these past several weeks has been invaluable. I have been scared, nervous, humbled, excited, proud and relieved. But I wouldn’t trade anything for what I have learned and so many of these lessons apply to all of our lives.

First, be comfortable with your body. One element of theatre that was not explained to me beforehand is that you all change in front of each other in a tiny space. There isn’t time to run to a private bathroom every time you have to switch into the next outfit.

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Topher Payne: Clearing the air

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

Part of my trip planning whenever I go out of town for more than a few days includes a stop at the discount tobacco store for a carton of American Spirit Perique Rich Robust — they’re the ones that come in the black pack, which inarguably makes them classier.

When I get ‘em by the carton it works out to around $5.50 a pack. I smoke roughly a pack a day. Yes, I’m fully aware I’m spending two grand a year on cigarettes, I can do math. So let’s just bring those eyebrows back to a neutral place, thanks.

Those same cigarettes are $9 to $12 in other cities, so I plan ahead. Last time I was in Manhattan, whenever someone asked me for a cigarette, I’d offer them two for a dollar. And they went for it! They paid!

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Topher Payne: If you see something, say something

Playwright and writer Topher Payne

I’m on a Delta flight from New York to Atlanta, awaiting takeoff. I have the aisle seat. In the middle, a baby-faced guy who I’m pretty sure is a Mormon, or at least he dresses like one.

At the window, a fiftyish businessman type, brandishing a copy of an Ann Coulter book called “Mugged.” Ugh. I just cannot stand Ann Coulter. That woman is not a conservative, she’s a provocateur. Ann Coulter is like one of those performance artists who work with body fluids — there’s no meaning behind the action, they just want everyone to notice their poop on a wall.

So already, I’m not a fan of Window Seat, as I watch him tapping out very important texts on his Blackberry.