John Paul (J.P.) Brammer was used to strangers calling him ‘papi’ on Grindr instead of using more traditional forms of greetings like “Hello, nice weather we’re having” or “sup?” The acceptance of this term for himself as biracial was the launchpad for his wildly successful advice column Hola Papi which first appeared in Grindr’s LGBTQ+ outlet INTO in 2017. When Brammer originally pitched the idea, he imagined it to be something from the mind of a “Queer Latinx Dear Abby Huffing Poppers”, a column that would give readers some resolution to the hollow greetings, headless torsos, and unsolicited dick pics in their lives.
Needless to say, the popularity of Brammer’s column led to a book deal with Simon & Schuster for his debut book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, a memoir composed of essays responding to reader questions.
Through each chapter, readers get to know Brammer’s coming-of-age story of a gay man who is searching for his own identity in the intersections of being a queer person of color in the conservative town of Cache, Oklahoma. Brammer takes us through emotionally driven moments in his life with incredible wit as he recounts being closeted, coming out, and trying to connect with this Mexican heritage.
Sexuality and encounters are also at the underbelly of Brammer’s memoir, so do not despair–it is based on a Grindr column, remember? Brammer takes the reader through the awkward stages of hooking up, anticipation, rejection, heartbreak, and judgement that are handed to you when you receive your gay card at the membership drive. It’s real, honest, and at times, too familiar, which makes you fall in love with Brammer’s ability to bridge readers back to their own experiences.
Brammer doesn’t consider himself anything of an advice expert, though. He simply works through his own mental and emotional roadblocks as best as he can and imparts what he has experienced with his readers. Through Hola Papi, and now through his debut book, he helps them help themselves.
In this brief interview, J.P. Brammer gives some insight on what it has been like to write Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons:
DAVID LOPEZ: So–first question–what is the perfect Grindr pic?
JOHN PAUL BRAMMER: The perfect Grindr pic, for me, is a man holding up a fish. Everyone hates it. Everyone makes fun of it. It’s toxic masculinity, they say. “What a bro,” others might add. Not me. I want to see a man holding up a fish. It’s a really unfortunate trait of mine. “There’s a dude who is proud of a fish he caught.” Love it.
DL: At what point in writing your column did you realize that ¡Hola Papi! could be a book?
JPB: I didn’t set out with the intention of turning ¡Hola Papi! into a book one day. Nor did I really set out to be an advice columnist at all. It’s more that I saw the column as a vehicle for expression, and I wanted to honor that same spirit with the book. The book is just sort of a conduit for me, just like the column. I think the meat of both is my voice.
DL: Have you ever met anyone who has written-in to your column? If so, how did that go?
JPB: I’ve had a few people I know in real life ask me questions, and some people have reached out after I answer them. It’s all fine for me, because writing a Papi column feels so separate, it’s such a unique voice that it almost feels like he’s another person entirely. It hasn’t gotten awkward or anything.
DL: In your book you share some gut-wrenching stories of heartbreak and dating fails, are there moments that didn’t make it into the book that you wish you could have included?
JPB: Oh, absolutely. There are so many stories in my life I wanted to include, but I couldn’t find my way in, or they just didn’t conspire to support the main theme of the book, so they didn’t really work for this project. I definitely hope to write about them in the future.
DL: With having an advice column, do you find that you are usually the friend that people turn to for advice?
JPB: Ha! No! It’s funny. My friends don’t turn to me for advice in any special way, or in other words, they ask me for advice in the way your friends probably turn to you or any other friend. It’s nice. It’s casual. I would hate to be Papi in a friend group. He’s fun, but he’s work.
DL: You are honest about feeling like you are not the best advice columnist. Since writing ¡Hola Papi! has your dealing with advice, in and out of your column, changed?
JPB: I think “advice” has become a formal genre, and I don’t like formal genres so much. I don’t like the idea of being “self-help” or even a columnist. I’m fine with admitting I’m not the best advice columnist because that’s not how I see myself or even my main goal. I think I’m a really good writer, and I wrote a good book, and that to me is more where my priorities are. I enjoy being an advice columnist, but that’s a box, and it’s limiting, and I’m not super invested in boosting my stats in it.
DL: Which, would you say, is the funnest chapter in your book?
JPB: I think the funnest chapter in my book is the How to Describe a Dick chapter. I was taking assignments from this mysterious twink in Prague over Skype to recap gay porn to make ends meet. It’s such a funny, almost TV-show-esque situation to be in that it makes me laugh, though certainly it was less fun living in it.
DL: The hardest?
JPB: The hardest to write was How to Disagree With Who You Used to Be, just because the subject matter was so sensitive and I wanted to do it justice while still bringing nuance to the conversation. That was tough.
DL: Finally–do you consider yourself a ‘papi’?
JPB: “Papi” was always something other people called me, and then the column was a subversion of that fact, but now, after all is said and done, yes! I’m a prominent Papi. It’s a fun thing to be. I enjoy it. I don’t take it too seriously either. That’s kind of the book in a nutshell too, isn’t it?
Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons is a commentary on how we face our issues in the Latinx and queer community. It is a unique journey for everyone, some with more difficult terrain than others, but each with a special perspective that contributes to the world.
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Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons is available now wherever books are sold