The Day I Stopped Being Pretty, chronicles the life of a young, black, gay male who awakes and finds himself in the emergency room after a failed suicide attempt. After regaining consciousness, he begins to reflect on the events of his life that led him to attempting to end it all. During the course of his life, we see his battle with substance abuse, physical abuse and sexual activities that lead to his eventual HIV diagnosis.
On the surface, The Day I Stopped Being Pretty looks like a tale of a man whose broken relationship with his father has led him on a tumultuous path to fill the void of unrequited love. But if you look above that surface you would realize that The Day I Stopped Being Pretty is much more than that.
Rodney Lofton takes a bold and daring move in his debut book. It is easy to say that for the sake of length Lofton was not being verbose. He paints a vivid picture of his life, so captivating, so interesting and compelling, that it makes many memoirs look like underdeveloped fables.
The Day I Stopped Being Pretty is not a memoir where self-discovery and happiness are the climax of the story. This book is depressing and raw and there’s absolutely nothing humorous about it. The Day I Stopped Being Pretty is a page turner and I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind shedding a few tears and at times cringing back out of fear and pain for Lofton.
Why did you decide to write The Day I Stopped Being Pretty?
A: I decided to write The Day I Stopped Being Pretty after a failed suicide attempt. At the time, I was battling a great number of demons in my life. Loss seemed to be the one constant thing going on in my life at the time. This is included the loss of my father, grandmother, my mother’s fiancée and my aunt. I was also dealing with the loss of someone special in my life. I realized after the failed suicide attempt I had a pattern of behavior that repeated itself and I needed to revisit some of those behaviors in order to move forward. Out of this time of reflection came The Day I Stopped Being Pretty. In many ways, the book became my purging and saving grace.
The title of the book is actually what drew me into wanting to read the synopsis of it, how did you get to choose the title?
A: As I talk about in the book, the title came out of something my father said to me when I was about the age of 10. I was use to the term “pretty” being applied to me when someone saw me. My father overheard a young lady pay me this compliment. When this happened, he grabbed me about the arms and informed me men were not pretty, they were handsome. The title comes from that moment; in my father’s eyes, that was the day I stopped being pretty.
Did you change the names of the people in your book or are those their real names?
A: I actually changed the names of the individuals in the book.
Has anyone in the book commented about how you’ve portrayed them?
A: No one has commented about how they were portrayed. They all know about the book by now, but no one has said anything to me about how they felt they were portrayed in the book.
Do you keep in contact with any of your old boyfriends and lovers?
A: Yes. There are a couple of individuals I keep in contact with from the book. Some were too painful to revisit and for me that was the best way to keep it. I will say, there is one more than any of the others I would love to see again, but who knows what the future holds. He will always have a place in my heart and truth be told, I do think about him often.
Your father was a huge component of your story, what do you think his reaction would be if he was alive to read the book?
A: I can’t really say. I would hope if he were still alive that maybe we could have resolved some of the issues that distanced the relationship between the two of us. I do miss him and I have to thank him for giving me life. I may not have agreed with the way he treated me, but he was my father and I did love him. I have come to realize in defense, he loved me the best way he knew how. That is something to hold onto.
How would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read it?
A: Some have said it is just a book fueled with drugs and the sex life of a black gay man. It is unfortunate if that is the only thing the reader takes away from the book. It is the story of a man-child who is searching for the one thing we all want – LOVE. He discovered through all of the ups and downs, the love he searched for was the one place he never looked – it was inside. That’s what I hope readers take away from The Day I Stopped Being Pretty.
Is there anything you left out of the book that you wish you could have included?
A: There are some things and a few ex-boyfriends and lovers who were left out, but I really wanted to focus on the individuals who really left a mark in my heart and thoughts.
Tell us about your new book No More Tomorrows?
A: I am really excited about No More Tomorrows: Two Lives, Two Stories, One Love. It is, in my opinion a very beautiful love story of two individuals, one who is HIV positive and the other HIV negative, living and loving in the face of adversity.
It traces the journey of love between Mark and Kevin from the very first meeting, to their first date, their first kiss and the first time they make love. It shows the reality of living and loving in the era of HIV/AIDS. It is very moving to see the love shared between these two incredibly loving Black Gay Men. It poses the question, “What will you say, when it’s time to say good-bye?” I hope readers will read with an open-mind and a compassionate heart the love of these strong brothers.
This post is a special feature to lodarian.com by blogger and journalist Steven Emmanuel aka Queer Kid of Color.