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.

Living A Lie

My parents separated when I was two years old and divorced when I was three.  For as long as I can remember Gigi the Home Wrecker has been in the picture.  I found out when I was about 8 years old that Gigi the Home Wrecker is the reason my parents separated.  A few years later Dead Beat Dad and Gigi the Home Wrecker married and have been together ever since.

I don’t have a tremendously strong relationship with Dead Beat Dad and we go months if not years at a time without communicating, not out of any sort of animosity, but because there’s nothing for us to talk about.  So it has come as somewhat of a surprise to me, in the past, to hear when CPA Sis informs me of things such as this.  The following comes from an e-mail that CPA Sis sent to me recently:

I can tell you from past phone conversations that his relationship with her is more a mater of coexistence, now, then true love.  But he is determined to tough it out rather then make the same mistake again.

“The same mistake” that CPA Sis speaks of is walking out on his family, divorcing his wife.  Dead Beat Dad has carried around a considerable amount of guilt, for years, over what he did to his family.  The guilt, I think, is justified.  It’s also ancient history.  It’s been 30 years.  The rest of us are over it.  Maybe he should be too.

This e-mail wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this.  It’s also ten days old, so I don’t know why it was on my mind this morning, but it was.  I thought about what it must be like to live with a person, share your home and your bed with them, and not love them.  I’m not sure how much he likes her and maybe I’m making assumptions about that part, but I know that he finds lots of fault with Gigi the Home Wrecker.  I’ve seen that for as long as I can remember.

At first I thought his dedication was admirable.  It shows a maturity that he didn’t possess when he was married to my mother.  But then I thought more about it.  I started to think about it from a different angle.  I started to think about how I could relate to what he might be going through.  And I started to pity him.

You see, I can relate to the idea of living your life with feelings locked up that you can’t let out.  I understand how it feels to have something inside you that is life altering and detrimental to the status quo.

For me, it’s the fact that I’m gay and that my family can’t handle that news.  The fact that living openly is a challenge that’s difficult for me to face and which would be life altering.  Challenge the status quo.  For him, it would be the fact that he’s not happy in his marriage.  That he doesn’t want to share his life with this woman.  The circumstances are certainly not the same.  But I can imagine a lot of the feelings and effects are.  I can imagine that for him, it’s scarier to consider telling the truth and getting out of the situation than it is to deal with the daily impact of living a lie.

I would love to be able to bring this post to a close with  some brilliant revelation or realization.  I’d love to be able to say that looking at what he’s dealing with gives me the strength I need to live unafraid.  I’d love to be able to make a declaration that from this moment on…

I can’t.  The fear is real.  The danger is real.  The compromise is real.

But for just a moment today, I understand him a little better.  How ironic that I can’t share that understanding with him and have him understand me better as well.

It’s Just Emotions Taking Me Over

big-edenLast night I watched another gay themed movie I recorded to my DVR, off the Logo Network, Big Eden.  I didn’t really know anything about it other than what I’d read in the very brief description on my DirecTV programming guide.

henry

Henry, Big Eden

sampa1

Sam, Big Eden

Big Eden is the story of Henry Hart an out artist living in New York City who is about to have a gallery opening when he receives a call from a friend in his hometown informing him that his Grandfather who raised him had suffered a stroke.  Henry abandons his opening to go back to see Sam, who he calls “Sampa”.

dean

Dean, Big Eden

Not long after arriving back in Big Eden Henry finds out that his childhood friend – and unrequited love – Dean has moved back to Big Eden after his divorce, with his two young sons so that his parents can help him raise his children.

pike

Pike, Big Eden

grace

Grace, Big Eden

Henry is introduced to Pike a Native American man who operates the local general store.  Pike is known to be very shy, but Grace, the friend who notified Henry of Sam’s stroke asks Pike to assist Sam and Henry by picking up meals from the local busy body widow and bringing them to Sam’s house for the men (apparently Henry can’t cook).

The movie has a rather predictable element to it; a love triangle between Dean, Henry and Pike and an unsurprising outcome with Henry and Pike falling in love.

There were several things about this movie that I was surprised at how I felt and reacted to them.  To start with, Henry has never told “Sampa” that he’s gay.  It’s never really explained why this is, it’s just clear that Henry is afraid.  It seems as if everyone knows the truth except for Sam, or does he?

Henry is asked at one point, “Do you really think he never figured it out?”  And that question is answered in a scene late in the film when Sam confronts Henry about what his plans are.  Henry came back to Big Eden to check on Sam after his stroke, and stayed for a year.  Sam tells Henry, he’ll be “joining” Henry’s Grandmother soon and he’ll need to know what to tell her.  After Henry attempts to avoid the conversation, Sam says to him, “You won’t tell me who you really are.  Why?  Is it shame?  Did I teach you to be ashamed?  ‘Cause if I did, I did a terrible thing.”  Henry responds by bursting into tears and laying his head in his grandfather’s lap, allowing the older man to comfort him.  After Sam dies, Henry says to Grace, “I never told him.” to which Grace replies, “Well.  He knows now.”  I was a little confused and maybe slightly annoyed that no one pointed out that clearly Sam already knew.

It is clear from the beginning that Pike is attracted to Henry and wants a relationship with him, but Pike has always been a very stoic and quiet man, easily rattled and embarrassed, unable to adequately express his thoughts and feelings.  For a time he seems almost to dislike Henry as he avoids contact.  Day after day, Sam and Henry invite Pike to join them in the meals that he brings and he declines.  Then one night, Henry is out and Sam invites Pike to stay.  Finally, Pike accepts.

After just a few days of delivering meals to the men which have been prepared by a local widow, it becomes clear that the meals are not very pleasant tasting.  Pike takes a book entitled “The Joy of Cooking” from his lending library and studies it.  The next day Pike prepares a delicious meal and delivers it to the men.  The regular invitations are extended, the usual declination given and Pike returns home where he himself eats the unenjoyable meal provided by the widow.

As the movie progresses it becomes clear that Pike has feelings for Henry which he does not know how to express.  Many of the peripheral characters begin to see what’s happening and attempt to help.  Eventually, Pike comes by with a meal for the men but Sam is asleep.  Henry invites Pike to join him and after a few attempts to escape, Pike finally agrees.  They have a very pleasant conversation and a friendship grows.  Naturally, as must happen in such a story, Henry does not see what’s happening.  Henry is learning more and seeing more of Pike but does not understand Pike’s feelings.

Midway through the movie, Sam has a medical episode and has to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.  Henry spends the night at the hospital with Sam, awake all night.  In the morning, Dean comes and takes Henry home.  It’s been clear that there is a relationship developing between the two but it’s slow and awkward.  Until this moment, you’re not really sure what is going on with Dean.  After returning to Sam’s house from the hospital, Dean offers to cook some eggs for Henry and while he is cooking there is a moment of vulnerability and tenderness when Henry places a hand and then his head on Dean’s shoulder and places his other arm around Dean.

dh-kissDean pushes the pan aside and turns toward Henry.  The two embrace and there is a brief kiss before Dean turns his face away and they hug.

“I can’t,” Dean says.

“I know,” is Henry’s reply.

“I want to.  I just can’t,” Dean repeats.

“I know,” Henry says again.

There are a few things about this movie that affected me.  The first is the relationship between Henry and his “Sampa”.  It is so clear to the viewer and to everyone else in Big Eden that Sam knows Henry is gay.  There’s even a scene when Henry is away at a town picnic so Pike stays and shares dinner with Sam.  After they eat, the two men go out by the lake outside Sam’s house to watch the fireworks.  They’re still outside when they hear Dean’s truck pull up to drop Henry off.  Pike and Sam observe what might be construed as a tender moment between Henry and Dean but but is in actuality more a push-me-pull-me exchange about the nature of their relationship.  Sam looks at Pike and says, “I’m sorry, son.”  He knows that Pike has feelings for Henry but they both assume there’s something there between Henry and Dean.

I struggle on an almost daily basis with the idea of what it would be like to tell my family that I’m gay.  The situations are different.  Henry was just afraid with no real explanation as to the reason why.  I come from an extremely conservative fundamentalist Christian family which believes that homosexuality is a sin and to be gay is to be damned.  I do not share in their sentiments and do not have any guilt about my orientation, but being able to tell them the truth and to explain my beliefs to them is a far more difficult proposition with very unpredictable outcomes.  I watched this movie, and particularly the exchange between Sam and Henry about seeing “Grandma” and I thought, “Just tell him!  It’s clear he already knows and it’s obvious he will accept you!  What have you got to be afraid of?  Do you know what a precious gift this is?!?

I imagined what it would be like to be in a position of knowing that what I have to tell would be graciously and lovingly received without any judgment or condemnation, to know that I could be open and completely truthful about myself and my life with the people who are supposed to matter the most.  Unfortunately, I live with the knowledge that very much the opposite is true.

The real irony is that I suspect that most if not all of my family knows, or at least suspects that I am gay, so it would not come as a surprise to them, yet I’m certain they’re also hoping that I’ll never accept it, that I’ll never act on these feelings.  I’m sure they think that as long as I never act on the feelings and I never say “I’m gay” to anyone (including myself – too late), then it won’t really be true and I won’t be damned.

The second thing about this movie that affected me was the general existence of the character, Pike.  I could relate to him, in a lot of ways.  In the real world, I also tend to be very shy and socially awkward.  I don’t really know how to talk to people I don’t know very well.  I’m very awkward with my feelings and don’t really know how to communicate them effectively or productively.

The third thing about this movie that affected me, which actually relates to the second, is the scene I described between Dean and Henry.  When it’s finally clear to everyone that there is an attraction and feelings between the two, when they finally kiss, and then Dean backs away, saying, “I can’t,” a part of me screamed, “Why not!?!  What are you so afraid of?  Do you know how lucky you are to be loved?  Why be so afraid of your feelings?

And then I began to think about myself.  I began to think how I can’t relate to him after all.  I can’t think of a time when I have felt a powerful attraction to a person.  I can’t think of a time when I was just so overcome by passion that I wanted to rip our clothes off and make love, right then and there.  I can’t think of a time when I was so distraught, or was with someone else who was so distraught and in need of comfort, that the most logical course of action seemed to be sex.  I can’t think of a time when physicality was —

Well… I can’t think of a time when physicality was not a terrifying prospect.  I can imagine that, assuming I somehow found myself in a situation like Dean did, that I’d react very much the same way he did, assuming we even got as far as a kiss.  I can imagine I’d be just as afraid to act on my feelings.  And it makes me angry.  Why should I be so afraid to act on my feelings.

But the thing is, I’m inclined to say I don’t have feelings.  I’ve only been “in love” once and it turned out not to be real.  It fell apart at the first sign of trouble.  And I haven’t dated much in the 15 years since.  I’ve thought a bit lately about the relationships in my life and how I’d feel if they ended.  With the exception of my friend Eve, I don’t really imagine being terribly upset about the end of a relationship and I already know that relationship is going to end so I have time to prepare myself… I hope.

I’ve thought about what my reaction would be if one of my parents died.  I don’t think I’d have much of one.  I don’t think I’d be terribly upset.  I think I’d be relieved in a lot of ways.  I’ve thought how I’d feel if one of my siblings died.  I don’t expect I’d feel much differently.  I’d be a little more upset if CPA Sis died because she’s the only one I’m really all that close to.  But if Ex Con Older Brother died, I wouldn’t even feel like I’d lost anything.

What I’ve determined is that I don’t feel strongly enough about anyone, or anything, to have a strong reaction.  “I don’t feel anything” I thought.  “But wait.  I can be very emotional and passionate when I feel like I’m being mistreated or abused… So I’m only capable of experiencing negative emotions strongly?  That sucks.  And it doesn’t help my case any.  I’d like to date.  I’d like to fall in love and share my life with someone.  How do I do that if I don’t feel positive emotions?

You know, I was beginning to wonder how I was going to bring this post back around and this is it:

I don’t feel positive emotions.  I don’t feel attraction or affection and certainly not love.  So if I somehow found myself in a situation where I was so affected by and attracted to a person (male or female) as Dean was in this movie…  I’d have to be all over it.  I hope that I would not let that moment pass by.

Man, Will I Be Glad When This Day Is Over

I hate Thanksgiving.  I always have.  I have virtually nothing but bad memories of Thanksgivings past.  I do not eat traditional Thanksgiving food for the most part, and I grew up in a Christian (Read: NO BOOZE) family so there was nothing to “numb the senses” or “dull the pain.”

I rarely spent Thanksgiving with Dead Beat Dad, and I was never really unhappy about that because the traditional meal at his house was something he learned about when he was a boy and Papa was working for Billy Graham and traveling the world.  I don’t actually know if it’s the official name for it but Dead Beat Dad always referred to it as African Chop but looks nothing like this. No, African Chop in the Dead Beat Dad house is some strange concoction of foods that amounts to a plate of white rice with a thick gravy composed of shredded chicken, chicken stock and peanut butter (yes you read that right) poured over it.  there was also a sickening array of items to top the plate off.  Everything from chopped, raw fresh fruits and vegetables to multiple kinds of nuts and toasted or raw shredded coconut.  Honest to God, I feel like I could barf just describing it and I don’t think I’ve had it in over 20 years.

Thanksgiving at Scornful Mother‘s house wasn’t a whole hell of a lot better.  She always thought that Thanksgiving should be the traditional meal, which I understand but since I don’t really care for any of the food it wasn’t really all that much better.  What it was, for me at least, was an extended week-end of concentrated time with an unhappy family.  Even Ex Con Older Brother who pretty much lived in his bedroom and hated the rest of us would “come out and play”, which to him, usually meant tormenting me.  There would be little or no food to be had for most of the day while Scornful Mother “slaved away” in the kitchen for the big meal which would come around 4:00.

This was a really brilliant strategy on Scornful Mother‘s part as the tradition always started with Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast…and only Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  So she’d feed us sugary carbs for breakfast and then expect us to not complain about being hungry and not fight amongst ourselves while she cooked all day and didn’t feed us for six to eight hours.  Then she’d feed us Turkey with Stuffing.  I don’t like Turkey, but I love stuffing (More straight carbs.)  There would be jellied Cranberries out of a can, yuck, yams, double yuck; green bean casserole, yuck and yuck (I don’t like green beans, on their own or in a casserole); and rolls or cornbread, I enjoy those, but again, carbs.  The only thing that I consistently love about Thanksgiving is the Pumpkin Pie.  And if you’re like me, you like a little bit of pumpkin pie with your Cool Whip.  And then as if all this weren’t bad enough, Scornful Mother always used the enormous amount of left overs as an excuse to not make real meals for the rest of the week-end.

The only part of this day that has ever held any kind of appeal to me, beisdes the pumpkin pie, is the cinnamon roll breakfast and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  So you can imagine my surprise, this morning, when I was sitting in my cold apartment, with my blanket over me watching the parade and eating my pan of cinnamon rolls, when I suddenly found myself fighting back tears.  I can’t really explain what happened other than to say that I’m going through a lot of changes in my life and my emotions are starting to rise to the surface a bit more.  It’s not really that I miss my family because I really don’t.  I wish I was able to spend a little more time with CPA Sis and her family, but I’m not really that bothered that about it either.  I do not miss spending time with Dead Beat Dad or Scornful Mother and I know that spending time with any of them on occasions such as this only serve to make family relations more tense.  I definitely do not miss those events.

I guess the tears came from the rush of familiarity.  For a moment I could imagine myself, nine years old, sitting on the floor in front of the television watching the parade and knowing the cinnamon rolls were in the oven.  I could smell them baking and I could imagine what they were going to taste like, and since the only time Scornful Mother ever made them was Thanksgiving and Christmas days, it was special to me.  I used to love to get up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I don’t know why.  It’s cheesy and the hosts, always the Today Show hosts as I recall, delivered line after corn-ball line about the floats and acts in the parade.  I don’t know what I thought was going to happen but I always watched with excitement and expectation, of what, I do not know.  No one else ever had an interest in the parade but Scornful Mother always made CPA Sis and Ex Con Older Brother leave me alone and let me watch it.  I was still young and naive enough to think that this was going to be a special day, but in reality, I only had until noon, when the parade was over, before the hellishness would really set in.

Watching the parade this morning I realized what ludicrous propagandizing it really is.  It really amounts to a three hour sales pitch for TV shows, and musicians new CDs, etc., interspersed with poorly written comic lines delivered by decidedly unfunny MCs.    Soon I was in sugar shock (living alone there was no one to help eat the cinnamon rolls), over the nostalgia of the moment and the tears were gone.  Gone, but not forgotten.

CPA Sis, Mr. Fixit and Precious Nieces #1 & #2, are visiting Scornful Mother for the holiday and while Mr. Fixit does some more renovations of Scornful Mother‘s house.  Last night I received an e-mail from CPA Sis:

Tomorrow should be interesting.  I had a nice little fight with Scornful Mother this evening.  It’s a fairly long story.  Suffice it to say that Scornful Mother thinks we don’t communicate well enough with her and Mr. Fixit thinks she is judgmental and ungrateful and incapable of accepting any responsibility for problems and I think they both are being difficult and intolerant children. Mr. Fixit is ready to leave and never come back.  I am not far from the same position, but where would we go?  We can’t all stay at Mr. Fixit‘s parents’ apartment for the next 5 or 6 days.  Not to mention the fact that that leaves her with a house that still is unfinished-not that she has the money to finish it.  I really hate feeling like I have to be responsible!

Anyway, I need to get back to Precious Nieces #1 & #2.  I just needed to vent for a few minutes.

Man am I glad I’m not there.  Scornful Mother asked me to come back for Thanksgiving and I declined.  Definitely the right choice.

Despite my lack of desire to spend this time with my family, I can’t help but remember that it is a holiday on which families come together.  It’s a Thursday on which I feel perfectly healthy and I’m not at work, reminds me it’s a holiday.  It’s a Thursday and my otherwise bustling and noisy neighborhood is virtually silent, reminding me that all the people who are normally outside my house making the noise, have gone away or gathered in-doors, to celebrate the day and spend time together.

I receive only one invitation, each year, and it’s to join Green M&M and her family.  When I first moved to California, I accepted this invitation a few times, but I never really enjoyed myself.  It’s a noisy and chaotic environment which I really do not enjoy, and I don’t particularly care for a number of the family members that gather, so now I decline the offer.  Come to think of it, the offer wasn’t even extended this year.  Green M&M knows I’ll decline, so I guess she figures, why bother?

At times like these, I often think about the TV show Friends.  I loved that show.  Six individuals who are friends, with no readily accessible family to speak of (except of course for Ross and Monica) who make a family of themselves and spending the holiday together.  I, of course, would be the Chandler of the group, (doesn’t like thanksgiving food…  oh, and gay) but I would really like to have a handful of close knit friends who view each other as family and who actually enjoy spending these times together.  I’d like to have somewhere to go on days like today where I don’t have to feel like I’m intruding on some other families day, and where I’m not burdened by my own family.  At the vary least, I’d like to be able to feel like I’m alone today, because I chose to be, not because I have to be.

I’ll be glad when this day is over, largely so I won’t have to deal with all of this any more, but even more so because there is one, truly wonderful thing, that I absolutely love about Thanksgiving.  If today is Thanksgiving, then tomorrow is the day I get to spend with Eve, and that, dear blog readers, is what I am the most thankful for!

Getting “In The Game”

I was a painfully lonely child.  Even while most kids with siblings have built in best friends, my sibs hardly wanted anything to do with me as a child.  I desperately needed for someone to love me and want me around.  Ex Con Older Brother and CPA Sis are only two years apart and always had more in common with each other than either had with me.  For reasons I may never be able to understand, I wasn’t really ever able to make friends with people my own age, and so I spent a lot of time after school and on the week-ends being alone.

“Mommy,” I used to say to Vengeful Mother, “I’m bored.”

“So find yourself something to do,” she would respond.  “It’s not my responsibility to entertain you.”  Even Vengeful Mother didn’t want to spend time with me.

I rarely ever considered the idea of having a little brother or sister.  I couldn’t remember when my parents were married and so for me to have a little brother or sister would require someone to have sex outside of marriage and, well, that of course was out of the question!  So while, from time to time, I wished for a built in best friend like my siblings had in each other, I never really seriously considered the desire.  So I was painfully lonely.

I used to overhear ECOB And CPA Sis talk about “The Game”, and I had no idea what they were talking about.  Finally one day I learned that they had an imaginary world, known simply as “The Game”, wherein they pretended to be other people, with other lives.  Generally older than they really were, with spouses and families and friends that didn’t really exist.  And I wanted in.  They, of course wouldn’t allow it, so as usual I was out in the cold to play my own game.  So, play my game I did.

richardsimmonsI used to have great fun playing my game.  As a very young child I was completely enamored with Wonder Woman, but of course I was a boy and I knew I was not permitted to want to be a girl.  (In truth, I didn’t really want to be a girl, I just didn’t have a lot of imagination.)  So I pretended I was Wonder Man.  (I never knew there really was a Wonder Man character.) I imagined I had the little red boots with the white stripe and the slight heel.  As to the rest of my costume, well, as I just said, I didn’t have much of an imagination but I had to “masculinize” Wonder Woman’s costume for myself…  So imagine, Richard Simmons… feeling very patriotic…  That’s pretty much what my imaginary Wonder Man costume looked like, complete with the golden lasso, bullet proof cuffs and boomerang crown naturally!  Of course if I’d known then, what I know now…  I might’ve imagined myself looking a little more like this:

wondermanI used to run around the yard outside our after school care ladies house kicking my heels into my butt cheeks (because that was how Wonder Woman ran so fast, dontchaknow) and making the ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch sound whenever I’d “jump great distances.”  This, by the way was the same sound I made while “performing great feats of strength”, when I pretended I was The Six Million Dollar Man.  ECOB and CPA Sis pretended not to know me.

I used to love MacGyver.  I hadn’t taken any significant science classes at that point (and come to find out I’d suck big harry nuts at science) but I thought he was the shiz.  Plus, he was blond.  Something I always wanted to be but never was… Not naturally anyway.  He was attractive.  I could tell because CPA Sis and Vengeful Mother both really liked him.  I always got a happy feeling when I’d see him on the screen.  So at one point I wanted to be MacGyver.  (As a side bar:  With the resurgence of “old time” TV shows lately (Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, 90210) they should totally make a new MacGyver.  I’m thinking Ryan Reynolds or maybe that guy from Brittney Spears’ “Womanizer” video (shirtless at all times of course.) I’d do ‘im– er, watch him.)

I always liked The Facts of Life, and, go figure, Jo Polniaczek was my favorite girl.  I knew I was supposed to like girls and of the options, she was the least girlie, black or fat.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I always liked Jo, for real, but if I was supposed to like a girl, she was the one.  And at the time I thought I was sincere.

So for a while there, “in the game” I was MacGyver and I was married to Jo Polniaczek, living in Mrs. G’s house and sharing the household responsibilities with the other girls and their husbands (Yes.  The four of them all still lived in the house.)

For a brief period of time in 1988 I even pretended I was Mario Van Peebles, a la “Sonny Spoon” and I was married to Olympic Figure Skater Debi Thomas.  I know they say that “Once you go black, you never go back”, but this phase didn’t last very long and when it was over, it was all white guys from then on, for me.

Eventually, Ex Con Older Brother outgrew “The Game”, and CPA Sis wasn’t ready to call it quits, so suddenly, I was old enough to play.  I still remember, from time to time, whenever one of us would learn something new about someone, or find a new celebrity or character we liked, we’d change “The Game”.  At one point CPA Sis and I were both infatuated with MacGyver at the same time.

“In the game, I’m MacGyver,” I said.

“You can’t be.  I want to be married to him,” was her reply.

“Hmmm.  Ok.  Then….  I’m his twin brother GyMacver.”  I replied.  (I don’t think I really fucked with the name like that, but who knows.

On other occasions:

“In the game, MacGyver is sitting right here next to me with his arm around me helping me with my homework.”  Guess which of us said that.

The worst was when I was spending the night at my friends house (we’ll call him the Pickle) once and I thought it would be cool to let him in on the fun.  I told him about the game and that in the game I was MacGyver and I was married to The Bionic Woman, and then pretended to kiss her.  The Pickle and I were lying on the floor in his parents room playing a board game, (Life, I think) and when I finished kissing Jamie Sommers and looked back at him, he looked at me like I had three heads.  Fortunately, about three seconds later, he forgot all about my game.

He’d been playing with an electrical cord with his toes while we were playing the board game and suddenly his mother’s iron came crashing down on his head, point first.  As the blood gushed forth and down over his forehead, no longer was the stupidity of my imaginary game at hand, and never was it mentioned again!

There was a point in the late 80s where I also fantasized that I was Officer Tom Hansen as played by Johnny Depp.  This one worked particularly well, because I could go to my school and learn my lessons while pretending to be this cool, older, sexier guy that girls swooned over.  There’s one episode of 21 Jump Street that has always stood out for me.  Tom decided to become a Big Brother as in Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, but he was ultimately rejected.  It turned out that Doug Penhall had discouraged the BBBS from accepting Tom, for one reason or another…  Hey!  I was 12.  I can’t be expected to remember ALL of the details.

In late 1988 or early 1989, I had become enamored of the “Patch and Kayla” story on Days of our Lives (which I’d been introduced to by CPA Sis.)  I didn’t especially think much of Steve, but I thought Kayla (Mary Beth Evans) was awesome.  Since I had no imagination, I decided I wanted to be Steve so I could be with Kayla.  I knew CPA Sis wouldn’t be impressed with that so I didn’t tell her.  I continued to pretend I was pretending to be MacGyver because that was acceptable to her, but really I was pretending I was Patch.  (I guess this was the beginning of my career pretending to be something acceptable to my family.)  I remember the day in the late ’80s when I realized that something was not right.  CPA Sis was 16 or 17 years old and her heart hadn’t really seemed into it when I’d talk about “The Game.”  One day I said, “You don’t really want to play ‘The Game’ anymore, do you?”

“Not really,” she said.  “I’m kinda too old for it.”

And that was the end of “The Game”…  Or was it?

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I continued to play “The Game” alone, well into my 20s.  When Party of Five came out, I was head over heals for Scott Wolf/Bailey Salinger.  I wanted to be him.  God only knows why he was the preferred character for me.  I was certainly closer in age to Charlie Salinger, but it was all about Bailey.  I had a whole fantasy worked out.  I was Bailey Salinger, and (as was often the case in those days) I had an infant child which was the product of a one night stand with a girl I met at a party.  She had died during child birth (as they always did, ’cause who needs the girl around) and I was raising my child on my own (the only way I’d want to.)

When I moved to California, and had my first job with The Soul Crushing Telecom Company for whom Green M&M still works, I met a guy.  His name was Scott and he was beautiful.  I wanted him, but mostly I just wanted to be friends with him.  My fantasy  was that Scott and I (Bailey Salinger) were such good friends that we hung out together all of the time.

One day Scott didn’t come to work.  I found out that he had always wanted to ride his motor cycle to LA and back and so he took a Friday off to do this.  In my imagination, I came home from work to find him in my apartment.  He’d gotten halfway to LA and realized he wasn’t having any fun ’cause I wasn’t there, and he turned around and came back.  He couldn’t wait to tell me all this and how much he wanted to be with me.  That was the first night I allowed myself to unabashedly fantasize about having sex with a man.

To this day, when I’m feeling particularly lonely, or when I’ve got something on my mind that I need to hash out with someone, or when I’m horny and I need a boyfriend…  I find myself leaning toward “The Game.”  I’ve found it to be like an addiction.  I have a physical need for it.  Honestly!  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m the only person in the house and that I can talk to myself all I want, I’m just talking to myself.  No one is going to answer me.  It’s not that I have to pretend I’ve got this whole alternate life going on anymore.  But sometimes I imagine both sides of the conversation/encounter and play it out.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with this, it’s just that it’d be real easy for me to slip back into “The Game” if I let myself and I don’t want to do that.  I want real relationships.

So, yeah.  I was lonely a lot growing up, and despite my knowledge that getting a little brother would mean “unacceptable” behavior on my mother’s part I always wanted someone I could be close with.  I finally got my “little brother in 2000, when CPA Sis married Mr. Fixit who is three years my junior.  Unfortunately, my “little brother” was going to be living 1800 miles away (3000 miles now) and is nearly six inches taller than I.  Very funny God!  You’ve finally answered my prayers and my “little brother” is bigger than I.

—————————————————————————————-

About a year ago, I grew very tired of being lonely and set about looking for ways to find and make new friends.  The ancestral version of this blog was part of that plan, but that didn’t come until later and when it did, it didn’t work out the way I had intended.  I decided that I could make an effort toward meeting people, and perhaps make myself feel a little bit better by finding some sort of volunteer work I could do.  I looked into Habitat for Humanity.  I really enjoy things that have tangible results to show and what better way to have tangible results than to build something, but their needs and my availability didn’t really seem to match up.

I found myself low on further ideas for additional opportunities so I did an internet search and came across a website called Volunteer Match and I found a number of listings for mentoring.  Nothing sounded familiar to me and I felt like that was too big of a deal to enter into lightly, but it reminded me of the episode of 21 Jump Street.  I remember watching that episode in silence while secretly being tremendously affected by it.  Of course part of it was, how could I not want Johnny Depp to pay attention to me?  But mostly it was just my secret longing for anyone to really care about and pay attention to me.  To make me the center of their universe, even if it was only for a few hours a week.  I was hurting while I watched it because I was thinking, I could really use someone like that in my life.  But I couldn’t ask for it.

And while I was remembering that it hit me.  I could be a Big Brother.  I could do for some kid or kids what no one ever did for me.  I could be a positive influence in their lives.  So I went to their website and I applied.  It wasn’t meant to be at that time.  There was an obstacle that I had to over come before I could be a Big Brother, but it was a blessing in disguise.  It gave me a year to think it over and make sure, was this really something I wanted to do?  Yes!  Am I really ready to handle this?  Fuck if I know, but I imagine it’s a little like parenthood.  You’re never ready, you just do it.

Today, I had my first interview with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Bay Area.  It was nerve racking, though not as much so as I thought it would be.  The match specialist was fabulous and made me feel very much at ease.  She seemed very non-judgmental and more than once expressed her appreciation of my candor.  It was actually easier than I thought it would be to tell her I’m gay, but I thought it was important to establish that up front.

Now begins the arduous wait while they go through their process.  Tomorrow, she’ll send her reference checks to CPA Sis, Green M&M, Eve and Douche Bag.  I would have just as soon not included him, but as I recall the application asks for your immediate supervisor as one of the references.  The good thing is that DB doesn’t do confrontation, so I can rest relatively assured that he’ll say good things about me and not hurt my chances.  I don’t know what he would possibly have based this statement on but when I told him I would be leaving early today for the interview he said, “That’s great!  You’d make a great Big Brother.”  While it’s nice to hear, I don’t feel particularly like that’s praise worth it’s salt coming from him.  Anyway, while they wait for the references to be sent back, they’ll run my background check.  The only thing they’ll find is the DUI I received on January 18, 2003 and they’re already aware of that.  (This is the obstacle from a year ago.)  They can’t officially match me with a “Little” until after it’s been five years, so I have a couple months to wait.  I was informed that being gay, it will take longer to match me, anyway.  Apparently, there are a lot of parent/guardians out there who are ignorant and fearful of homosexuality and have specified that they do not want their children paired up with a homosexual.  It’s unfortunate, as it’s the “Little” that they’re hurting, but it is their prerogative.  I can’t say I’m surprised by the likely delay, but it’s still sad to hear.  Meanwhile, if I’m accepted (God, I hope I’m accepted.  What would it say about me if I’m not ‘good enough’ to work with underprivileged children) they do offer some training for me to take which will help prepare me to be a “Big”.

I’ll be honest.  I’m terrified.  My stomach is in knots and my heart is in my throat, just writing about it.  But it is important to me.  I can’t wait to be able to have a positive impact on some boy’s life.  To teach him that there are people out there who want nothing more than his health, safety and happiness.  To teach him that no matter what shit he’s going through there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel.  And, God forbid, if he’s been through some serious problems (i.e. molestation, physical abuse) to teach him that not everyone wants to treat him like that.  That there is good in the world and that he deserves to experience it.

I can hardly wait!

It’s Cold

It’s Friday.  It’s morning.  And it’s cold. Yes folks, it does get cold in California.

In my imagination, I look out my 23rd floor office window and see Lake Merritt, frozen over.  It’s not cold enough for ice skating.  Not yet, anyway.  But the kayaks are gone.  The rowing crews in their skull boats are gone.  And the senior excursions on the larger rowboats, all the passengers dressed in white with white sailors caps, looking oddly reminiscent of the Titanic Survivors from my vantage point, gone but not forgotten.

In my imagination, I look out my 23rd floor office window and see the roads are a little darker in color, the overnight frost has been crushed to fluid, but not totally absorbed and the cars are spreading it everywhere.

In my imagination, I look out my 23rd floor office window and see the grass and trees in the park across the street with the bits of ice frozen solid over every branch and blade.  I can hear the crunch of the green shirted school childrens’ feet as they walk on the grass.  I can see the birds huddled together for warmth at the inner most part of the trees.  They too, not prepared for a California winter, wishing they’d flown further south. And I can hear the thoughts of those green shirts, quietly cursing the powers that be for making them go out in the cold, while simultaneously laughing and screaming as they play heartily with their friends.  And laughing at the absurdity of the hope of school being closed do to inclement weather.

In my imagination, this is perfect curl up by the fire, under a warm blanket, with a good book and a hot toddy weather.  In my imagination.

In reality, it’s 56 degrees, and yes, that’s cold.  At the peak today, the temperature will be in the mid 60s, and I’ll get no sympathy from CPA Sis and her clan in Up-State New York who soon, will not have to imagine the scene I just described.  They’ll be ankle deep in the powdery white stuff and watching their breath form clouds of vapor as they speak and breathe.  I’ll get no sympathy from Vengeful Mother in Oklahoma, who soon enough will have to contend with temperatures at or below freezing for days on end, and roads that are covered in ice from sunset to sunrise and drivers who can’t manage.

But I tell you, people!  It’s cold!

The Very Most Important Election

I hate a cliche.  Always have, and at this time of every fourth year, one of my least favorite cliche’s gets heavy rotation.  “This very important election.”  I hear it all the time, and it so rarely seem true.

This week-end I was watching Saturday Night Live (love it) hosted by Ben Affleck (love him) and he made that statement in his opening monologue (loved it – He’s a curse to any candidate he endorses so he’s endorsing McCain) and it made me stop and think.

This really is a very important election.  In my opinion, the most important election in my life time.  There is so much on the line right now.  So much is at stake.  Especially here in California, and especially to those who are like me, gay, and desiring equality!

You see, I’ve never put much stock in elections before.  I vote, because I’m “supposed to” and because I’m a Permanent Absentee voter and if I don’t vote in every election, I’ll lose that status and have to reapply.  But up until this year I’ve voted on issues and offices based on some very simple factors.

For office, if I don’t know anything about the people, I vote for the Democrat.  If I don’t know anything about the office, or if there’s more than one Democrat I vote for the incumbent and if there’s no incumbent I vote for the person whose current title sounds like they’d be most likely to do well in the office they’re seeking.  For instance, on this ballot I had the choice of two individuals to elect for judge.  Once was a “public interest attorney” the other was a “deputy district attorney.”  I don’t know anything about either of these candidates and I hope never to set foot before another judge and therefore wasn’t really going to be overly affected by the outcome of this one.  Therefore, I thought for exactly 2.0876 seconds and decided that a “public interest attorney” as likely to be more fair and less jaded than a “deputy district attorney.”  Settled.

Issues?  What’ll it cost me?  What’ll it cost the state?  Does it make good financial sense?  I almost never vote in favor of bond issues.  I can’t condone paying 95% interest on a loan, any way you slice it.  There was one bond issue on my ballot that was for $998 Million with a payback of the principle plus $995 Million.  If you ran your personal finances that way you’d be homeless on the street in a matter of weeks.  The payback on this measure was something like $67 Million dollars a year for however many years and I can’t help thinking, “We could do twice as much if we used that $67 Million dollars to pay cash for whatever purpose its serving and just parse out the project over a few years.”  Seems like simple economics to me (and I’m an idiot when it comes to math and finance.)

I rarely vote in favor of School initiatives because, call me a bad person, but I don’t have children, and don’t think I ever will and I don’t want to pay even more money out for something that doesn’t benefit me.  I pay too much as it is.

This year I didn’t vote in favor of anything that gets it’s funding from property taxes because frankly, I don’t think we as citizens can really afford it.  Things are bad enough without piling on more taxes, fees and levies.  I will vote in favor for something that I think is a worthwhile initiative (usually something I’ll benefit from) and it’s funded by a fraction of a cent sales tax because I figure it’s more fair.  Everyone pays a share and it’s for a good cause (if it’s not, I don’t vote for it.)

Most years, the things we’re asked to vote for are silly, let’s-find-more-ways-to-spend-money-we-don’t-have initiatives.  I vote because I must.  I hardly call those “important elections”.

But this year, I agree.  This is an important election.  The country is in the worst shape it’s been in since the great depression…  Or so I’m told.  I’m too young to know that.  What I do know is, it’s in the worst shape it’s been in my life time!  I think (again idiot at math and finance) that we’re on the brink of a financial collapse and that we have our Government as a whole, and our President in particular to thank for it.  Something MUST be done!

And yet, that in itself isn’t enough to make this an important election.  This will be an historic election for sure!  By the end of this day we will either have our first black president or our first female in executive office.  Either way, we’re taking a huge step toward truer equality on a national level.  That’s awesome.  But the historical outcome is a given.  Still not “important”.

For the first time in my voting career, I’m asked to vote on something that really matters.  Not just another shall-we-waste-your-money initiative.  Not just another who should be in office for the next 2-4 years ballot.  Not just another transportation initiative or how-shall-we-deal-with-teenage-pregnancy initiative.  This year, I’m voting on something that impacts me directly and personally!  I don’t get much more average, so I never had to worry too much about discrimination until I came to terms with being gay.

Suddenly, discrimination is a real fact in my life.  If I ever fall in love and want to share my life with someone, will I be able to make it a legally binding commitment with all the rights and privileges that go with it.  CPA Sis and Mr. Fixit, Dead Beat Dad and Gigi the Homewrecker, and so many others.  They’re married.  They share all their financial and legal obligations.  They can speak for each other in medical situations.  If one of them dies the other will not lose anything besides their loved ones.  In the case of CPA Sis and Mr. Fixit if something were to happen to CPA Sis, Mr. Fixit wouldn’t have to worry about having their children taken away from him.

Now I’m no where near having any of that in my life.  Not sure if I ever will, and not really sure how much of it I want.  But what I am sure of is that I do not want to be told that I’m not allowed to have those things because I’m somehow a substandard human being.

I’m so proud of this state, and of the supreme court, the Republican, conservative supreme court for recognizing that we are not being treated as equals, that we are substandard, and for doing something about it.  Right now, as I’m typing this I’m allowed to be legally married to another man, in the state of California.  What’s at stake today, is whether or not I’ll still be allowed this time tomorrow.

What could be more important than that?