Magic Pills

I just read a blog post that has really got me thinking.  It started with a tweet on Twitter.  Anita1956 said, “Would I take the straight pill? Here’s my answer.” with a link to her blog http://tinyurl.com/aa78mp.  Here’s what she said:


The Straight Pill

Date March 13, 2009

If there was a pill that could make me straight

…..Straight in body

…..Straight in mind

…..Straight in heart

…....I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would restore all my lost friendships

…..And regain my parents pride

…..And give back my families respect

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would return me to my former ministry

…..And the admiration of the congregation

…..And the loving welcome of the church

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would replace the love I have for my wife with an equal love for a man

…..And we could legally marry

…..And we would be granted full rights under the law without fighting for them

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill would mean no one would reject me for being who I am

…..And for saying what I believe

…..And for standing boldly as one who follows Christ

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking such a pill could take the world back in time,

…..Before I came out of the closet,

…..Before I said I was gay

…..Before I knew I was gay

…..Before inequality touched me

…..Before hate revealed its ugliness to me

…..Before anyone rejected me

…..Before anything was lost to me

…..Before I ever questioned God’s love for me

…..…..I would not take it.

If taking that pill would make me straight

…..And famous

…..And wealthy

…..And talented

…..And adored

…..And beautiful

…..And thin

…....I would not take it.

…....I would not take it.

…....I. Would. Not. Take. It.

I would never take a pill that would make me straight because

…....I love being who I am

…....I love being whole and free

…….I love seeing the world from where I stand

…....I love knowing God from this place

…....I love feeling passion burning in me for equality

…....I love being part of a people who are courageous and relentless

…....I love being one in Spirit with every queer youth

…………..With every gay man and woman

……………With every bisexual man and woman

…………..With every transman and transwoman

……………With every ally and friend

……………With everyone who questions, doubts and searches

…….And I love being one in Spirit with you

……………Bound in hope, and faith, and love

……………Bound in God

If there was a pill I could take that would make you straight

………..And taking that pill would end all your confusion and anxiety

……….And remove your fear that God has rejected you

……………I would not take that pill even for you.

You are gay.

…..You are not wrong.

…..…..You are not sinful.

…..…..…..You are not evil or perverted.

…..…....…..You are not unworthy.

…..…..…..…..…..You are not a mistake.

…..…..…..…..…..…..You are not to be ashamed.

You are gay.

…..God loves you.

…..…..God holds you.

…..…..…..God stands with you.

…..…..…..…..God delights in you.

…..…..…..…..…..God calls you “My own.”

If there was a pill that could make me straight

…..And make you straight

…..And you

…..And you

…..And you

…....I would not take it.

…....I would not take it.

…....I. Would. Not. Take. It.

Before I even clicked the link to her blog I answered that question for myself.  “Yes!  I’d take that pill in a heartbeat!” Being gay is one of the biggest struggles I’ve ever dealt with in my life and most of the time I feel like if I could chose not to be gay, I would.

Growing up in a “Christian” home as a gay boy is an incredible challenge.  It is made abundantly clear to you from the beginning that homosexuality is wrong, that homosexuality is a perversion, and that homosexuals are damned for all eternity.  There is an incredible amount of fear that is driven into Christian children about hell and sin and damnation and we learn from a very young age that we want to do everything in our power to make sure we don’t go there.  This results in tremendous amounts of guilt and shame.

For me, the shame was too much to bear and I denied who I was for most of my life.  I chose to believe that I was not gay, that there were other, perfectly legitimate reasons why I was aroused by the images of the male models in the International Male and Undergear catalogues I subscribed to when I was a teenager.  I convinced myself that one day, when I met the woman God had in store for me, I would be physically attracted to her and I would feel normal and complete.

I finally began to admit to myself that I was gay and accept who I was about four years ago and I said it out loud for the first time when I told my therapist two years ago.  By this time, I had read the bible, The King James version, from cover to cover and learned that what I had been told my entire life was cut and dried, well, it really wasn’t.  I learned that there were a lot of discrepancies between the things I had been taught to believe and what I determined for myself in those pages.  I learned that while the Bible is an important resource that there is more research to be done and so I did.

I researched on-line the question of whether homosexuality is an immorality, whether it’s a sin and what it means to be gay and a Christian.  When it all started, I went in search of something definitive that would tell me what I was already sure must be true:  That Homosexuality is, in fact, an irrefutable sin.  What I found instead, was a whole lot of the same rhetoric, the same answers and explanations about why homosexuality is wrong, with all of the same holes that I had yet to explain away.  The same holes that made me question the accuracy, the validity of what I’d been taught.  These holes left me with questions and doubts.  The explanations didn’t sit well with me.  They didn’t feel… They didn’t feel true.  I believe that we all, each of us, possess a spirit that is to some extent or other, in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I started to realize that the reason these explanations didn’t feel or seem right to me is because my spirit knew they weren’t.  My spirit was hungry for the truth.

So I dug deeper and I found several resources with more information.  I found resources that did a better job of explaining what the various Biblical references which are used against us might have really meant.  I found scholarly authors who had a deeper understanding of what the times and the languages were like, and how the Bible might have been translated incorrectly over the generations and centuries that have passed.  And I found a reminder that the God I love and serve is a loving God who wants the best for me, who wants me to be happy.  I finally came to accept that the thoughts and feelings and urges that I was stifling for so many years, close to 30 of them, were normal and natural and a part of me, who I am, the way God made me.

I didn’t take this information lightly, and I didn’t set out to find justification for me to behave in a way that was not morally right.  Honestly, I set out to prove, once and for all, that what I was taught my whole life was absolute fact and that I had to continue to suffer until God saw fit change me and make me “normal”.  I resisted the things that I read that told me that I was OK as a gay man.  I resisted the urge to rejoice at the affirmations that I found because surely, as my mother would have told me were she involved, I was “possessed of the Devil”, I was “being deceived.”  Surely it wasn’t possible that I could, in fact, be gay and be acceptable in God’s sight.  But the evidence mounted, the case was made over and over again… and my spirit?  My spirit was at peace.  I stopped hurting.  I started healing.  I told my four closest friends.

I still struggle with the internalized homophobia that I was raised in.  I still struggle with accepting myself, but now, it’s because I’m programmed this way, not because I really believe that there’s anything wrong with whom I am.  I have to believe that as time moves on, I’ll struggle less and less and be more and more content in my life.

What I really struggle with, though, is the shame.  Not shame because I think there’s something wrong, but shame because I’m so sure everyone else will.  I get anxious when I write something like this because I’m sure that someone will read this and tell me that I can’t be both gay and a Christian.  (Of course I can.)  I’m afraid someone will read this and begin to scrutinize me and my behavior in a different way now that they know I call myself a Christian.  (I’m not living my life for those people, but no one likes to be judged.)  The truth is I hold myself up to the measure my mother has set out for me and I know I fail miserably.  Most days I’m OK with that.  I know I will never measure up to her expectations and I know that most of her expectations are unreasonably high anyway, but part of my internal programming is to see her expectations as those of all Christians and I assume I’ll be judged and condemned by all of them for one reason or another once they learn that I call myself one of them.  (I don’t really call myself one of them and I suspect that will make for another lengthy blog post in the future, but the terminology is the same even if the intent is different.)

The shame that I struggle with has crippled me with regard to coming out to my family.  Not a single member of my family knows that I’m gay while I have to believe some of them may suspect.  It is with this knowledge that as I bring this post nearer to its conclusion and prepare to press that “publish” button I am shaking and feeling genuine anxiety about putting this information out there for the world to see.  You see, my Twitter account updates my Facebook status.  My brother is my only immediate family member who is on Facebook.  I post links to my new blog posts on Twitter which means they’ll show up on Facebook as well.  It is not a stretch to think that my brother will actually see this post and because I am such a coward, this is how he’s going to learn the truth.  Will he say anything to me?  I don’t know.  Will he tell other members of my family?  He might.  Am I disappointed in myself that I can’t just say it to them?  Of course I am.

So if such a pill existed that could make me straight, would I take it?  I’m afraid that is not as simple a question as I first thought it was.  I’d be inclined to take it.  I’d never have to worry about telling my family the truth.  I’d never have to worry about facing the internalized doubts and fears that persist.  I’d never have to worry about having to tell people in my daily life.  And I’d never have to worry about trying to learn how to date as a gay man, or find someone that I could happily spend the rest of my life with.  Life would certainly be easier if I were straight.

On the other hand, maybe taking that pill would be like turning my back on everything that I learned in this process; that God did not make a mistake when he made me; that I am gay because that is how God intended it; that there is nothing wrong with me just because I’m gay; and that God loves me every bit as much today as he did the day I invited him into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior and the only thing that has really changed is, now, I know the truth.

If there was a pill that I could take that would make me straight, would I take it?  I’m sad to say that it would be a tough decision to make, but in the end, No, I would not take it.


———————————————————————————————

My special thanks to Anita, author of the blog that started this, first for writing the post to begin with and second, for granting me her blessing to re-post it here for all to see.

Such A Twit

twitterI’ve recently fallen pray to a new addiction.  It’s called Twitter and it’s more fun than one person is entitled to have.

I “follow” 52 people, most of whom are famous celebrities.  I have 13 followers following me.  Many of whom, again, are famous celebrities.  I interact with these people every day.  I read their messages, I laugh at their jokes, I click on their links.  We have a good old time.  ‘Course none of them are talking directly to me, and with one notable exception, I’ve never received a reply to anything I’ve directed at anyone specific.  Yes, that’s right!  @therealnph (to use proper Twitter lingo) has tweeted at me… ‘Course the jury is still out on whether he’s really the real NPH, (That’s Neil Patrick Harris, for those not in the know) but I guess I can now say “I’m friends with ‘therealnph’.”

I’ve really enjoyed being on Twitter.  It’s open on my computer all the time, whether I’m at home or at work.  I’ve got two separate apps on my iPhone for accessing the Twitter platform.  I’m always on Twitter and it’s great fun.  However, I can’t help wonder what Twitter feels like to someone who is like I was most of my life; easily discouraged, insecure, feeling unloved and unwanted.

You see, being on Twitter tests my ability to handle rejection and judge my own self worth.  Having been clinically depressed most of my life, having based a lot of my self worth on whether or not other people wanted me around (or how I perceived whether they wanted me around), I could understand how someone who experiences these things would quickly be discouraged, possibly even hurt, by being a Twit.  It would be easy to develop a false sense of popularity, or cool…ness.  I don’t have five real friends so 52 twitter friends seems pretty impressive, ‘course most of them don’t know I’m following them. (Doesn’t that make me more like a Twitter stalker?) I’m just one of a legion.  And those that follow me, probably follow everyone who follows them.  Let’s see…

hal-sparks-autographHal Sparks is being followed by 656 people and  following 327 people.  I’m one of those 327.  OK.  I guess I’m special.

hayden-panettiereHayden Panettiere is being followed by 341 people and is following 81.  Not only am I one of them but she added me as someone she’s following within minutes of me adding her as someone I’d follow.  I guess that’s kinda special!

gavinnewsomNow, Gavin Newsom is being followed by 1351 people and is following 1262 people.  I’m one of those people, but that’s 93% of the people following him.  More importantly, Gavin Newsom is the Mayor of San Francisco and running for Governor of California.  I’m sure his following me is politically motivated…  More importantly, I’m certain Gavin Newsom himself rarely, if ever, sees his own Twitter timeline and the person/people really seeing my tweets are interns working on his campaign.  Me?  Not so special.

livestrong3I follow the LIVESTRONG foundation.  Livestrong has 5905 people following them and they’re following 6182 people.  This would imply that they’re following 100% of the people following them and then some.  Once again, me not special.

scharzenegger_narrowweb__300x3790Arnold Schwarzenegger is being followed by 16,760 people and is following 16,487 people.  I’m one of those people, but that’s 98% of his followers.  Among the masses, am I.  (Who let Yoda in here?)  Arnold is our current Governor so obviously his Twitter activity is politically motivated.

maria-shriverMaria Shriver (mostly just ’cause I can) is being followed by 6708 people and is following 5515.  Well, that’s only 82% and she started following me pretty much immediately too.  I guess that would be kinda special but she’s the Governor’s wife.  She has her own political function.  Again, pretty sure it’s an intern of some sort running her show.  Besides which, nothing has been posted in her name since I signed up.

barack-obama-for-presidentOh, and then, of course, there’s Barack Obama.  Followed by 298,345 people and following 287,407.  That’s 96%.  I’m one of them, added on the same day.  I’d feel special but I’ve never been more sure of anything than I am that The President of the United States is not running his own Twitter account.

I seem to have gotten a little lost in my point making.  Oh yes.

While I could be wrong and one or two of the people I listed up there might have found something interesting in the very slight bit of information they might find about me, I doubt it very much and can only assume that adding me as someone they follow was somehow a political/career move on their parts.  If what they thought of me mattered, or if I was counting on Twitter Popularity to make me feel good about myself that would probably hurt me.  If I had some real hope of becoming friends with famous people because I Tweet (and if you’re reading this, I do want to be your friend.  Let’s do lunch!), I’d certainly be setting myself up for a fall.  But I don’t expect that’s going to happen. I take Twitter for what it is and I do not expect anything more than what I’m getting.

Clinical Depression is not something that just goes away.  For me, it’s under control now.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life and I have, at least some, of the tools necessary to deal with it.  So while I admit that I get pangs of unwarranted negative feelings about what happens on Twitter, I am quick to remember that this is not where my value lies and not what my self worth is based on.  It’s just a fun thing to do!

Oh!  And Hal, Hayden, Mayor Newsom, LIVESTRONG dudes, Governor Schwarzenegger, Maria or President Obama (or any of your Interns), if you’re reading this, thanks for following me on Twitter and for stopping by my blog!  You’re my favorite Comedian, Actress, Mayor, Charitable Organization, Governor, State First Lady, or President (or any of their Interns) reading this at this moment!

Well, Either You’re Closing Your Eyes to a Situation You Do Not Wish to Acknowledge, or You Are Not Aware of the Caliber of Disaster Indicated. Ya Got Trouble, My Friend, Right Here, I Say, Trouble Right Here in River City.

In case you haven’t heard, times are very tough.

unemploymentMillions of people have been laid off from their jobs and the national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent as of January.  In California where I live it’s higher, at 9.3 percent.

The state of California is broke with a $42 billion budget deficit and it’s only getting worse by the day as the state legislature can’t seem to come to an agreement on the budget.

Can we all agree that times are tough?

I’ve known this all along but somehow I guess I didn’t really get it.  I’ve been suffering from “not me” syndrome.  “Yeah, it sucks.  Yeah people are hurting and I wish I could do something, but at least it won’t happen to me.”

Before anybody get’s too worried about me, no, it hasn’t happened to me… not yet, anyway.  For weeks, maybe even months, Douche Bag has been saying that we have to tighten our belts and cut back on spending, but he’s also been saying that we were not going to be facing any lay-offs.  “Senior Leadership” has stated that it won’t benefit The Company that Created the HMO to lay people off because after you pay severance packages you don’t realize any cost savings for at least a year if not longer.

Last week an e-mail went out from the President of Operations addressing the current economic crisis.  The e-mail said that we were facing some lean times.  It said that in an attempt to deal with these lean times they were taking certain measures to ready ourselves for the tough times ahead.  Among those measures was freezing the salaries of the top 500 employees.  This is a good move.  It proves that they are not just out for themselves and that they are trying to take care of their employees.  The e-mail went on to say that while The Company that Created the HMO was still going to give merit increases, they were reducing the overall budget for the increases by 1%.  Normally, my region’s budget is 3% so this year it would be 2%.  Not great news but livable.  In addition they were still going to give out the annual bonuses that we traditionally get in March.

Honestly, I had full expected to get absolutely nothing this year.  Not an idea I enjoy but not surprising, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when the follow up e-mail came today.  While The Company that Created the HMO as a whole is following those measures, it has been determined that some regions will need to take additional measures, determined by the market they serve.  Northern California is one of those regions.  Not only will the top 500 Executives have their salaries frozen, but not a single one of the Northern California non-union employees receive a raise before fourth quarter when they will re-evaluate our financial status.  (Read, probably not then either.)  We will still receive our bonuses, which comes as a surprise to me but, raises will not be happening.  And then the big shocker, the e-mail stated that it will not be sufficient to maintain our 2008 staffing levels.  We must reduce the number of full time employees.  There’s no other way to read that, there will be lay-offs.  I think, perhaps, it would have been good if they’d included in that information when and how many they are planning, but at least now we know that it’s going to happen.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last few weeks, as rumors started flying, about how I could see this playing out and there are a number of scenarios that could play out that would leave me vulnerable.  I have the most seniority in the department, besides Douche Bag, and my function is somewhat unique, in that no one else in the department does what I do.  It could be that the seniority will save me, but on the other and it could be that the seniority also makes me too expensive to keep around.  It could be that the uniqueness of my position will save me, but then again I do have a counterpart in another building that does the same thing and there was a time when our jobs were a one man operation for all of Downtown Oakland.  There has already been a proposition that the functions I currently perform should be consolidated to this other person leaving me free to take on other responsibilities.

I see three possible scenarios with that as well:

  1. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal to consolidate the function to my counterpart and I’ll continue working here fulfilling other responsibilities – and potentially finding a way to like my job again;
  2. Captain Oblivious will deny the proposal with concern that doing this would leave me vulnerable to being laid-off;
  3. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal and instruct that I be laid-off.

I have a peace about this.  There’s nothing I can do to change how things will play out.  I go to work everyday and do the best job I can do (when I’m not reading or writing blog entries or Tweeting) and wait to see what happens.  In the end there’s not much more I can do besides leave it in God’s hands.  I trust that he will lead me through it.

Yes, times are tough, but things will turn around.  They always do

Mama Told Me Not To…

It almost seems like a cliche to me when people talk about that special teacher that changed their lives.  Maybe it’s because I was never on a bad path.  Hell, I was never on much of a path at all, to be honest.  I never knew what I wanted to do with my life because every time I suggested something it was shot down by Scornful Mother.  She always said I couldn’t do whatever that idea was and remain a solid, faithful Christian.  I don’t know if she was trying to get me to follow a particular path (ministry, maybe?) or if she just didn’t like the one, she felt I was on, but nothing ever measured up to her expectations, which is funny because she was an undereducated secretary my whole life.  Dead Beat Dad on the other hand was– Well, the moniker pretty well speaks for itself.

It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that he really made a showing of a home based business, and that was in the business of tree removal.  Let’s see, sun, bad weather, grass, leaves, saw dust, falling trees, debris to be picked up, not to mention power tools like chain saws, stump grinders and wood chippers.  Not a thing about that is appealing to this mid-western, mama’s boy, homo, who suffers from allergies year round and is so pale when you off the lights you can still see where I am for about 8 minutes.  I didn’t exactly have much in the way of an example to follow or a legacy to inherit.  No, I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life on my own.  (Sadly, I’m still trying to figure it out.)

So, I wasn’t on any path.  I wasn’t on course for a life of crime.  I wasn’t trying to make myself fit into an accounting mold, when I can’t balance my own checkbook.  On the other hand, I didn’t show any natural ability or throw myself whole heartedly into any particular program or task.  I was about to say that no intervention was ever needed for me, but the truth is, I really could have stood to have an intervention of a completely different variety.  I could really stood for someone to take a special interest in me and help me find my way in life.  Help to find the resources I needed to figure out what I wanted to do and to follow that path.

No I never felt like I had a particular teacher that made that sort of an impact in my life and so while there was always one teacher in particular who stood out for me as my favorite, I never thought of her as that teacher and in fact, I haven’t thought of her at all in quite some time.  So, it was quite surprising to me when I awoke the other morning and remembered my dream from the night before… Well, maybe not remembered the dream, I rarely do, but I remembered the subject.  I dreamed about this special teacher.

In 1987, Scornful Mother decided that she wished to attend Rhema Bible Training Center, in The Town Named for Damaged Naive American Weaponry, a smallish town just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I call TTNFDNAW “smallish”, because it had all the hallmarks of a small town (no highways, more stop signs than traffic signals, no malls, no public transportation, no noticeable government to speak of), and yet I graduated in a class of 868 people and it was the smallest class we’d had in five years.  We had been living in Edmond, a smallish town outside Oklahoma City for three years when she decided this.  While CPA Sis and I went to spend the summer with Dead Beat Dad in Ohio, Scornful Mother applied to and was accepted at Rhema Bible Training Center, or Rhema, for short, but had no idea how she was going to pay for it, or for the move.  She was trusting God that this was what she was supposed to do but she had no plan.

At the end of the summer, Dead Beat Dad brought CPA Sis and me back to Oklahoma so that we could start school.  The school year started in Edmond a week earlier than it did in The Town Named for Damaged Native American Weaponry and Scornful Mother allowed us to not attend that one week of school in Edmond.  I remember feeling so special because I didn’t have to go off to school when my best friend across the street did.  We made the move and got enrolled in schools three days after the year started in TTNFDNAW, but not with enough time to get class schedules or tours of the schools.  I was in the seventh grade and had never been “the new kid in school” before in my life.

It didn’t happen the way it does in the movies and on TV.  I showed up at the school twenty minutes before classes started.  I went into the school office and got my schedule, but there was no cool kid, no trouble maker, no first period office aid to be selected by the principle to show me around and keep me from feeling like a complete outsider.  They handed me my class schedule pointed in the general direction of the first room and sent me on my way.  No one even told me where the library or cafeteria were.

Somehow I made it through the first half of my first day OK, but I was late to almost every class.  Then, lunchtime came and I was lost.  I sort of followed the general crowd but wasn’t sure where I was going and at some point the crowd split and I didn’t know what to do.  It must have shown on my face because suddenly I heard a soft voice.

“Are you lost?  Do you need some help?”  It was an “older” woman, not much taller than my 12 year old self and quite rotund.  She had on large, square framed glasses and had wild curly hair and she had the most comforting, welcoming smile.

“Yes, please.  This is my first day and I don’t know where the cafeteria is,” I said, rather shyly.

She smiled, placed a reassuring hand on my back and pointed toward a single door just across and slightly down the hall from me.  “Well, there’re two choices.  We have what they call the slow food cafeteria which is right here.  That’s the side door for it.  There’s also the fast food cafeteria down there.”  With that she pointed down the hall.  I thanked her and walked into the door she’d pointed at.  I was on the “free lunch” (there really is such a thing as a free lunch) program and didn’t know if it applied to the fast food cafeteria.

I finished eating my lunch and put my tray away and pulled out my class schedule to find my next class, music.  I walked out the same door I had walked in and looked up at the first door I saw, just across and down the hall from where I was standing.  Lo and behold, it happened to be the same room I was looking for.  I walked into the room to find the teacher and show her my schedule so she could tell me where to sit and wouldn’t you know, it was the same kindly “older” lady who had helped me find my way to lunch.  Her name was Betty Griffith and she felt like my lifesaver.  She was so kind and inviting and made me feel like I was welcome and normal and had nothing to worry about.

Mrs. Griffith was, in a lot of ways, my best friend that year.  She helped me find my way around the school, quelled any fears and embarrassment I was feeling for being lost and feeling like a spectacle.  She welcomed me into the choir and made me feel like an important part of the group.

We had our ups and downs for sure.  Shortly after school started I asked if I could come to her classroom after school each day and help her clean up or whatever she needed.  (I don’t think I ever told her it was because Ex Con Older Brother was abusive and I didn’t want to go home and be around him)  After that I spent nearly every day after school for 45 minutes or so, straightening chairs, collecting music, cleaning the chalkboard, straightening papers and talking to Mrs. Griffith.  When it came time for the school play, she directed because the drama teacher was out on maternity leave.  androcles_logoI auditioned for the play, Androcles and the Lion, (deliberately showing up at the very end so no one else would be around to hear me) and then told her I’d rather be behind the scenes.  The first of many mistakes on my part regarding my interest in the theater.  I was the curtain puller and an unofficial part of the chorus, so I was always there for rehearsal.  She asked her husband who was an amateur thespian to come and help us.  He was always very serious and direct, coming across as mean and grumpy, I thought,  and I found it uncomfortable.  Somewhere in my adolescent 12 year old mind I thought it was a good idea to tell her this.  Not only did I tell her this but I told her at a  highly stressful time for her.

I was at my post, ready and waiting to pull the curtain (hand over hand so it’s not jerky) and she came bursting through looking for someone who was supposed to be on stage but wasn’t, when I stopped her and said, just as pleasantly as could be, “Mrs. Griffith, no offense, but, I really hate it when your husband is here.”  I think I was even smiling.  I’d heard “no offense” many times and knew it took all the sting out.

She, on the other hand was not smiling, “Well, you know,” she said rather tersely, “I really do take offense to that.”  And with that she stomped off in search of the missing cast member.

I felt like a shit and couldn’t believe that “no offense” hadn’t worked.  She taught me a valuable lesson that day.  You can’t just say whatever you want to a person and expect there to be no consequences.  The next day before class, I apologized to her and all was forgiven.

Once she needed help posting something to a district owned marquee at a very busy intersection.  I of course volunteered to assist and to repay my efforts she took me to the local 7-11 and bought me a 1/2 pound bag of M&M’s.  The bag was still open and partially full, in my coat pocket the next day when I arrived at class and at some point I had gone to the front of the room and then dropped something on the floor.  I bent over to pick it up and M&M’s went flying all over the floor.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to have them in class and she was angry at me for making the mess and having them there.  I was all the more embarrassed because she had bought them for me.

When the year was drawing to a close and we had to select the classes we wanted to take the following year I had decided to take Drama.  The only problem was, you had to audition for the class.  I signed up to audition but I wimped out and did not go. When Mrs. Griffith found out about this she told me I had to audition and she would talk to the Drama teacher about giving me another shot.  For one reason or another, the boy who was playing Androcles in the play also had missed the audition and so he and I went before school one day to audition for the teacher.  We did a scene from the play where he played Androcles and I played his wife, Hermione.  (Go figure!)  I made the class and he did not.

In the 8th grade, I opted to be her student aide, instead of taking choir.  I wanted to have the best of both worlds.  I wanted to be in choir but I wanted to be special and she tried to accommodate me.  I was her first period student aide and I was late almost every day.  (Not unlike now!)  One day, I noticed that in her attendance book she had me marked as being tardy every day.  After eight tardies I was supposed to get detention.  When I mentioned to her how much I appreciated that she hadn’t given me detention, she said that she had to, and she would, she just hadn’t gotten around to it.  She never did and I don’t know if she just honestly didn’t get around to it, or if she only said that to “scare me straight” but after that I tried much harder to get to school on time.

When I moved on to the 9th grade and a new school, I tried to come back and visit her periodically but it was difficult to do and then she moved to another school.

I exchanged a few letters with her after I got engaged, and moved to live with Dead Beat Dad temporarily.  I told her of my engagement and of the young child I would to step-father.  She told me in a return letter that married men were adults and as an adult I was entitled to call her by her first name.  I don’t know if I ever did.  After six years of calling her Mrs. Griffith, I just couldn’t wrap my tongue around “Betty”.   Not long after that, we lost touch.  I think I was embarrassed to tell her that, what I suspected she thought all along, was true, that I was too young and immature to get married and it was obvious by the fact that my fiance had cheated on and dumped me.

I miss Mrs. Griff–  Betty.  She is a wonderful, sweet woman.  She may not have shaped me into the man I am today.  She may not have affected the path I would follow in my life, but she helped me, and she made me feel special and important and for that, I will always be grateful…

And I’m so excited because in the course of writing this post, and trying to find out if she’s even still a teacher, I found an e-mail address for her and tomorrow I’m going to send her my first correspondence in 15 years.  I hope she remembers me.

Whatever Made Me Think That I Was Number One I Oughta Know Easy Come, Easy Go Sittin’ It Out, Spinnin’ The Dial Thinkin’ About The Chump I’ve Been

I’m going to go on the record right now as being severely, anti-poverty.  I don’t like it.  I don’t think it’s fair and no one should have to deal with it.  Least of all, me.

Unfortunately, simply stating that fact doesn’t do a whole lot to alleviate the problem, so I’ve had to take additional action.  Nearly two weeks ago, I laid off my therapist, who I had to pay out of pocket, and now that’s $75.00 less per week that I’m spending.  With this being a new year, my optional Health Care Spending account which I used to pay for my Invisalign braces is paid off and no longer part of my expenses.    That’s $550.00 a month more money in my pocket than I had before.  Which is important because I have fallen behind on all of my bills and all three of my credit cards were over the limit.

So it is with very mixed feelings that I now report that today is payday.  I’ve just finished paying bills.  I’m still a month behind on most of them.  But I’m making progress.  The bad news is, I’m still one month behind on almost all of my utility bills.  The good news is, I’ve paid enough on my credit cards that, as long as I don’t use them, and I must not use them, they will not go over their limits when the next round of outrageous  finance charges comes through.

I am, historically, tragically bad at managing money.  It is my goal to improve that these first months of 2009.  This year, I intend to catch up on, and keep current with, all of my utility bills.  I intend, this year, to pay off my credit cards.  In actuality, I only owe about $2300.00 so I hope to be able to do that fairly quickly.  I had intended to cancel two of the three cards, but I learned yesterday from Suze Orman, she of the distractingly unattractive teeth, that canceling my cards will negatively affect my FICO Score so I’ll just put the cards away and forget about them.  If I can complete this task this year, then I intend to build up some savings.  All the while I have to stay constantly vigilant about not spending money, and not buying things because I tend to lose track of what’s come through the bank and what hasn’t.  I tend to spend money, thinking I have plenty of money to spend only to realize that I spent more than I had and now I’m starting off in the hole.  I’m really tired of giving the bank my money.  I’m tired of paying fees for going over limits and overdrawing accounts.

So right now, I’m struggling with mixed emotions.  I feel good to have taken some positive steps to improve my financial situation.  I feel like I’ve done the right thing as far as taking action to get out from under this debt.  I’m also angry.  I’m angry to have to pay out the vast majority of my paycheck, not 12 hours after it went into my checking account, to make that happen.  I’m angry to have to face the next two weeks (really more like two years) having to constantly keep in mind that I can’t spend money.  To have to constantly remind myself that I’m working to not have debt and the only way to do that is to not spend money and not buy things and just pay bills.  It all just sucks.  A lot!

But The Devil Take that Woman, Yeah, For You Know She Tricked Me Easy

“I don’t understand The Tag-Along,” Unsvelt Girl Who Runs, said to me as she plopped down in a guest chair across from my desk.

I’m puzzled, but don’t know if I want to engage.  “Wh-  Huh?  What do you mean?”

“I don’t understand her.  She’s afraid to try new things and says she doesn’t understand how I can.”

Still leery, “Ooook.  Why do you say she’s afraid?”

“She said it!”

“Oh.  OK,” I wasn’t expecting that response.  “Did she say why?”

“She’s afraid she won’t be good at it.  She’s afraid she’ll look bad.  She’s afraid to fail.  I don’t get it.”

“OK.  Well, I can understand that, actually.”

Now, Unsvelt Girl Who Runs has decided that I’m afraid to try new things, which is slightly true, but mostly not.  I said, I can understand it, not that I can relate to it.

A few hours pass and Unsvelt Girl Who Runs returns to my office with papers in her hands and plops back down in the same chair which is next to a small round table.  She turns toward the table with the papers and begins fumbling with one, while the others are on the table.  She’s folding the sheet in her hand and turning it around and muttering under her breath.

“What’re you doing?” I ask intrigued.

More muttering ensues, but no response is forthcoming.  I turn back to my computer and begin “working” (probably reading blogs) but the muttering continues and soon I need to know what she’s doing.

“Seriously.  What’re you doing?”

She never looks up at me, “Origami.”

“Agami?”  I tend to be mean like this.

“Origami.” she repeats.

“What’s agami?”

“Ori– What?”  She stops and looks at me.

“I asked what you’re doing.  You said, ‘Or agami’.  What’s agami?”  I grin at her.  The jig is up.

More muttering, twisting and folding.  Finally she emits a triumphant “A ha!  There!”

“What is it?”

“It’s a book.”  This is some impressive Origami!

“You made a book?  Here let me see that?”  I hold out my hand and she obediently places her “book” in my hand.  She has managed with one slice and seven folds to turn an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper into a seven page booklet 2 3/4 x 4 1/4.  On each page is a table of numbers.  “What is this?”

“Instructions.” she says.  It’s a training program.  At the end of 6 weeks you’re supposed to be able to do one hundred push-ups.  But first, you have to do the initial test to see how many you can do now.”

“Well, that’s easy.  None.  I fall in the under 40 category and I can’t definitely do 0-5 push-ups.  Emphasis on the zero.  Are you going to do this?”

“I was thinking about it,” she says.  “I hate push-ups.”

“Me too,” I say as I’m flipping through the pages.  This looks doable.  “I’d like to be able to do push-ups.  It’s supposed to be really good for your biceps and chest.  Actually, it’s supposed to be good for your everything but especially those.  But I really hate push-ups.”

“Me too, but I think I’m going to do it.”  Unsvelt Girl Who Runs apparently has no problem trying new things.

“Maybe I could give it a shot too,” I say as I slip the booklet into my shirt pocket.

“Hey,” she squeals, “that’s mine.”

“Possession is 9/1oths of the law.”

“I can tell you where to get print out your own,” she tells me.

“Why would I do that?  I have one right here in my pocket!”

“Are you gonna do it?”

“Sure,” I say.  I’d like to, but I’m a wimp and my wrist hurts.

“Well, OK then.”

But the devil take that woman, yeah, for you know she tricked me easy!  Now I am apparently committed to the six week, one hundred push-up challenge.  How the hell did this happen!

So tomorrow I have to do the initial test and I seriously expect to fall in the 0-5 range which means that on Monday I’ll have to do:

Set 1     2 push-ups

Rest 60 seconds

Set 2     3 push-ups

Rest 60 seconds

Set 3     2 push-ups

Rest 60 seconds

Set 4     2 push-ups

Rest 60 seconds

Set 5     “Max (at least 3)”

Guess we’ll see how that works out.  I do have some hopes and plans for weight loss and exercises in 2009 so maybe this will give me a little head start…

Shit.

Jimmy Has to Ride in Your Pocket or Lock Him in Your Wallet

I was going to write today about my Thanksgiving break and the day I got to spend with Eve, the coolest person I know, and how it was ruined at the end by her ass hole of a Grandfather.  I’ll still probably write that post but as I was surfing some of the blogs I subscribe to it came to my attention that today is World AIDS Say, and I thought it might be a good idea to touch on that instead.

You see, I’m afraid of AIDS.  Silly right?  It’s 2008.  There have been mad medical advancements.  What do I need to be afraid of?  Well, my answer to that would be simple, one word!  AIDS!  That’s what I need to be afraid of!

I’m referring to my lack of sexual experience, due in part to my lack of opportunities but just as much due to my fears about what could happen. I’m sure I’m being completely unreasonable about this.  It’s not exactly all THAT common, is it?  But honestly, I worry about all kinds of STDs.  I worry about taking risks and about thinking I’m protected when maybe I’m not sufficiently and I worry that by taking my chances, I’m inviting the worst.

I know that, as a gay male, I’m automatically at a higher risk than many and to me, that It’s a real concern.  I also know that many people live their entire lives without contracting anything and I have no reason not to think I’d be one of those people.  I’m not stupid.  I know that I have to protect myself and if and when I do engage in sexual activity I will insist on the highest level of safety possible.  But the inherent fear of the whole thing makes me that much less inclined to date.  I have a preconception, however wrong it may be, that gay men consider sex to be an automatic and integral part of dating, even casual dating and I’m not ready or willing to jump into the sack with any and every man that comes along, despite what you may have read, and therefore I find the inclination toward dating frightening.  It’s a real internal conflict.  I do not want to be alone.  I want to be in love and share my life with someone and yet I do not want to rush into anything.  And, I find myself automatically inclined to be afraid of even a first date with someone because of all the pressure and turmoil that could come with it.

It seems lately like society as a whole tends to take it all to lightly, and while I’m sure I take it too seriously, there must be a reasonable middle ground.

I guess I don’t really know where I was going with all this except to say that AIDS is still a very serious issue that should not be taken lightly and that all of society, but gay men in particular should still be very proactive in protecting themselves from this and all other sexually transimitted diseases.  So take advantage of this day, this national reminder of what we’re facing, and recommit yourself to your own, and your partners’ safety.  Always wear a condom, unless you’re certain your partner is disease free, and never, ever, take any unnecessary risks

OK.  I’m done.  Can somebody come get this soap box?  The air was getting a little thin up there anyway!