A Day In The Life: Karl Gustafson


Name: Karl Gustafson

Where did you grow up? Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Eagan, Minnesota

Where do you live? Highland Park, St. Paul

Who do you live with? The love of my life, my husband of five years, Gregg

Photo by Josie Bergmann

What is your occupation? I currently work full-time as a Sales Coworker at IKEA Twin Cities. This is the job that officially pays my bills. The job I’m most passionate about—and the one I could see myself pursuing for many years to come—is my part-time work as a tour guide at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul. (Come on one of my tours! They’re a blast!)

When did you come out? My senior year of college, in 2012

How’d that go? Interesting, to say the least. Individual reactions have varied, but most people have been positive and supportive. My greatest sense of validation came the other month at a cousin’s wedding when, having finished dancing with my husband, the mother of a young boy came up to Gregg and myself and asked if we were married. Her son, she said was in love with his best friend and had seen us dancing together. It was such a great moment to reflect on how far we’ve come as a society and how people love people more than they love their beliefs. We can change hearts and minds just by being true to who we are. If we love ourselves, then the rest of the world is sure to follow!

When do you wake up? As late as possible, but usually around 9 or 10 a.m.

Phone alarm or old school alarm? Phone alarm (do people really still use old school alarms?!?)

What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Eat breakfast in bed and cuddle with my husband

Breakfast? A chocolate chip Clif Bar

Coffee? Only if it’s iced or there’s nothing better on offer!

Cream or no? Whipped cream all the way!

How do you spend your commute? Lip syncing for my life! I’m convinced (in my own head, at least) that I’m the next RuPaul’s Drag Race superstar! Favorite tunes to belt include: “F*** U Betta” by Neon Hitch, “Listen” by Beyoncé, “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato, and “You Don’t Own Me” by Grace.

If your job were like a yearbook, what would you be voted? (Class clown, best dressed, most annoying, etc.): Social Butterfly

What inspires you? Just about everything. In particular, though, I enjoy reveling in the beauty of nature, art, and music and in quality conversations with good friends and family.

Do you eat your lunch while working or take a break? At work, I always take a break for lunch. At home, it really depends on what’s occupying me at the time and how devoted I am to finishing my task (housework, you’ll just have to wait)!

Is your work space tidy or a hot mess? At work, it’s immaculate. At home… well, that’s another story!

What’s been your favorite job? I love the work I do as an Interpreter at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul. Built in 1891, the house itself is 36,000 square feet, making it the largest private residence in the state of Minnesota. But it’s also one of the most modern for its time, with a state of the art security system, hardwired electricity, 16 gas fireplaces, and hot and cold running water (in an era when many houses had none!). Not only that, but the house allows me to explore many issues of the Victorian/Edwardian eras that we’re still dealing with today: gender (in)equality, (un)equal pay for men and women, racism, and classism, just to name a few.

Who are your heroes? My husband, Gregg. He has two Master’s degrees and has met some of the world’s foremost performers: Rosemary Clooney, Carol Channing, Yo-Yo Ma, Rudolf Nureyev, Bernadette Peters, and Neal Sedaka, just to name a few, in his work as an arts administrator. He’s an absolute genius, and I love him to death. Other heroes include strong female figures like Princess Diana and Michelle Obama and Gilded Age architects Horace Trumbauer and Richard Morris Hunt. (Just Google some of their houses! They are absolutely stunning!)

Favorite weeknight meal: Go out, take out, or cook in? All three, actually. It really depends on the day and what kind of a mood I’m in. My husband is a wonderful cook, so I love to eat whatever he’s prepared for the day!

Most embarrassing moment: Getting stuck in a plastic Ronald McDonald statue at 5-years-old. Let’s just say I was buns-up between his legs and there were suggestions of greasing me up to free me from his nether regions. Ultimately, some firefighters were able to free me by unscrewing Ronald McDonald from the floor. But my adventure served as a cautionary tale for all future McDonald’s. Thanks to me (or at least I think it’s thanks to me), all Ronald McDonald statues now have plastic between their legs to keep other young adventurers such as myself away from Ronald’s jewels! So much for a Happy Meal!

On a usual weeknight, you are doing what? Working at IKEA or relaxing at home.

Bedtime: As late as possible, but usually around 10 or 11. Very rarely will I stay up past 2 or 3, but it has been known to happen!

Favorite weekend activity: Partying with friends, especially at the Gay 90’s Ladies of La Femme drag show! Those ladies are fabulous!

What are you most proud of and why? My marriage. I know it sounds corny, but I witnessed many unhappy marriages growing up and thought mine would be the same. Fortunately, I found a man who not only appreciates me for exactly who I am but who also challenges me to be my best, most authentic self. Most importantly, we love being together and can’t get enough of each other’s company. Marriage is bliss with Gregg, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Words of wisdom to share: “If you can’t love yourself, then how in the hell are you ever gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen!”- RuPaul

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