Eavesdropping

Solomon Georgio Looks Back at the Year His Parents Forgot His Birthday

The comedian recalls how a “Sixteen Candles”-eque situation led to a brief stint as a runaway teen in Los Angeles and an honest moment between him and his parents.

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L.A. Weekly spotlighted Solomon Georgio as one of their People of 2016. The comedian has been featured on “Conan,” “Last Call with Carson Daly,” and Viceland’s comedy documentary series “Flophouse.” You can catch his stand-up around Los Angeles, or next month in Portland, Oregon at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. Below and in the audio above, he shares a tale from his youth.

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It was the winter of 1998. I was a 16-year-old high school junior/Subway employee living in a northern Seattle suburb called Lake Forest Park, cleverly named for its main three geographical features: a lake, a forest, and a park.

At the time, I was an overachieving student. I spent every waking moment focusing on my studies so I could follow a detailed plan my Ethiopian immigrant parents laid out for me: go to a good college, become a successful doctor, marry an Ethiopian woman, and produce a flock of children. And I was OK with this plan until my 17th birthday, the year my parents forgot my birthday.

Now, I’m one of seven children, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I was born on Christmas Day. They whole world already made me feel invisible on my birthday because of some Middle Eastern wizard that wasn’t even born on that day. My parents forgetting that they produced a child on a major holiday was unforgivable.

I knew I was gay at that point, but I was willing to hide it forever just to follow the plan. But screw the plan! It was time for me to become a rich and famous, openly homosexual man, and the first step was to run away to Los Angeles, California.

Over the course of the next four months, I obtained my school transcripts, put in my notice to Subway, extorted $850 from my mother’s bank account, and obtained a Greyhound bus ticket. And then, one spring night, while my father was fast asleep and my mother was working at her second job, I left a runaway note on my pillow and took the biggest risk of my life.

I spent five months in Los Angeles as a runaway teen. The first month was spent in a hostel in Hollywood. During that time, I went to my first bar, did my first stand-up comedy set, got booed at my first stand-up comedy set, had my groceries stolen by a former member of a rock band, and I even went to watch “The Mummy II” with Brendan Fraser’s estranged brother.

By the end of that month, I was out of money, so I needed to find a new place to stay. And that’s when I went to my first shelter for runaway teens. They kicked me out after three weeks because I refused to contact my parents and go back home. And that’s when I went into another shelter. But unfortunately, I couldn’t stay in that shelter forever, and that’s when my anxiety kicked in pretty hard. I actually locked myself in a bathroom with a pair of blunt scissors, cutting my own hair and eyebrows just to escape from myself.

This behavior actually got me kicked out of the shelter and an indefinite stay in a children’s mental hospital. I was at my lowest point. I called my mother, and she began to cry. Neither of my parents knew where I was. Because they’re both illiterate, the runaway note I left on my pillow went unread. So, I pretty much just left garbage on that pillow for them.

My father flew down to Los Angeles and signed my release papers from the mental hospital. I ran to my father, and I gave him a hug. We’re both crying, and, immediately, he starts making fun of my awful haircut. Then I knew I was home.

I knew now that if my parents could handle me running away, the least I can give them back is my honesty. So, I told my parents — and practically anyone within a 10-mile radius of Lake Forest Park — that I was the gayest person alive.

And you know what? I learned from that moment that life isn’t about following concrete plans, and I think my parents also caught wind of that, too. And from that point on, they never forgot the day I was born.

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  • janeofall

    During the intro for this show, I kept wondering where I’d heard the name Solomon Georgio before, if I had seen his act, or what, but I couldn’t place him. Then I heard the intro, and it clicked — high school classmates. Weird.

    I’m glad to hear that things have worked out — I remember Solomon as one of those art-type kids who was pretty cool but probably didn’t think so himself. 🙂