Category Archives: Either Sadness or Euphoria

Stranger Danger

I went for a walk this afternoon. I enjoy fall days and for the last few weeks, I have went out to the Des Plaines River Trails and walked at least seven miles. Since I don’t have the ability to run that far anymore (yet), walking that far is all I have. I put on my headphones, grab a bottle of water, and just walk. I have a whole list of podcasts that I need to catch up on so I can stay up to date with the political, scientific, and just fun news. Two hours of walking works perfectly for that.

My mind wanders as I walk through the brown leaves. I think about work; I think about life; I worry about things; and I listen to the stories in my ears. I find it incredibly relaxing, but also enjoyable. There is something perfect about walking alone with a slight chill in the air and nothing to stop you.

I passed about ten people all morning. Most people walked in pairs, some with dogs. Some rode bikes. And one man was running. There was nothing unique about the path or anything interesting besides a large number of deer running around. Overall, it was uneventful.

But as I got closer to my car, I saw a father walking with his son. They were walking towards me and I smiled. The father’s immediate response was to put his hand on his son’s back and move forward. It was a very defensive gesture and when I was about one-hundred feet away, I turned around and noticed that the hand was no longer there.

I probably shouldn’t read too much into things like that but it always troubles me when people just assume a stranger is a danger. Of course there are bad people out there and I would be lying if I didn’t think at least a few times on my walk that someone could be in the woods, grab me, and I would never be heard from again. But there are also casual interactions with people that I will never understand why we become defensive.

If we were at a mall, the father would not do that. If we were at a Chipotle, he would not do that. But in an open forest preserve, people assume that there is a likelihood, this person I don’t know will steal my child or try to hurt one of us. I have experienced the same gestures in parks.

Maybe it is because I don’t have a child of my own that I don’t understand this reaction. I would like to believe that I would not have that knee-jerk reaction to someone I don’t know and honestly, I don’t think I would as I like to assume that another person is naturally good unless shown otherwise.

We all experience strange behavior based on who we are. One reason I don’t like giving away candy on Halloween, for example, is that I have gotten strange looks from parents in the past, as if I am some sort of leech. Or some sort of Boo Radley.

I wish we didn’t live in a world where a father would see a random person just minding their own business and smiling and didn’t think that this person could come after my child. I wish I understood why people always jump to the conclusion that a solitary person is trouble.

As strange as it seems, for over two hours, I was in a peaceful and pleasant piece of mind, but the minute that happened, it ruined it for me. I felt bad. I felt bad for this father for being so untrustworthy. I felt bad for me because as a childless, unmarried man in my thirties, people make assumptions. And I feel bad for our society where we fear everyone until they have convinced us that they are okay.

We don’t talk to each other on buses or trains. We don’t make conversation when we walk or run by ourselves. And maybe it was the headphones – I know those things are a menace to social interactions.

Brian always smiles when I wave at someone on the street when we walk somewhere even when I don’t know them or how I say hello to anyone we pass. I try to smile at strangers because I like to smile. And in return, we always seem to meet interesting people who like to talk to us. We talked to a couple as we ferried across Lake Champlain. Some old ladies showed us all their favorite spots of a toy train showcase in Madison. We met a woman from St. Louis who traveled by herself to Salem, MA to relive her youth. And each of these encounters enhanced our experiences. We may not stay in touch with any of these people but they added something to my life for a few minutes and will always be in my head as people I have met. I have lots of stories of people doing this and making conversation with me and maybe it is because I try to be open to that possibility by not showing defensive maneuvers.

I guess I just wish more people would try that. Most people are good. And you never know what you may find out about someone. It could give you a whole new perspective on life.

So, though, this hurt me, I know it won’t change me. There are too many interesting people out there for me to change how I act based on people who live every day in fear. I hope others move past fear as well.

Why I Like to Write

My favorite writer.
Sinclair Lewis

I write poems. I write short stories. I write personal stories. I have written short little stories for as long as I could remember. I would write these little plays about animals and their friendships when I was a small kid. I created a comic strip with a friend where she would draw it and I would write the word balloons as we said in this pile of tires that for some reason was considered part of a playground in 1992. Writing gave me an outlet that language never did.

I am not a talker, sometimes. I can talk a lot. You ask me an opinion on politics or a recent issue of a comic book or the work of Jack Kirby, and I am off to the races. But I have never been good at talking about how I feel or what I’m thinking. It’s one reason why I like going to a therapist. I know that whatever I say, it won’t leave that room.

I write a lot about what I’m feeling or thinking. It’s fun to create characters of people I wish I knew or whom I wanted to be. It’s fun to imagine a world that is like the one I live in but that is completely different. I try to put Dan-like characters in all of them. Generally, I create a Dan I wish would exist. A Dan that could do small talk without getting short of breathe and the sweats. A Dan who had his own apartment and a group of friends who lived next door. A Dan who actually was a dog.

But more importantly, I write because there is nothing that relaxes me or lets my mind flow more than typing words or writing something on paper. I feel freer than I ever could in any other medium. I used to feel that way sometimes when I would run. But even on my favorite runs, I was creating stories in my head. There is something that makes me feel good. And sometimes there is something about it that makes me just feel.

I wish I did it more, but when I write anything, I’m happy for the rest of the day. I’m lucky to have something like that in my life and I hope to continue writing more often in the days to come.

Jeopardy Quiz or How I’ll Never Be A Contestant

I always get nervous about the Jeopardy quiz. For the past four years, I have taken the Jeopardy online test to qualify for a possible random selection for an interview and a practice game to possibly appear on my favorite game show. I take it because I love games and want to test my knowledge on so many fields. I have a few wholes in my knowledge – geography, liquor, and classical music. Last year, I read Othello and part of Wuthering Heights to prepare for Jeopardy. No questions on either of those this Jeopardy quiz. There was one on King Lear. I think I got it right. But I would love to appear on the show. I think it would be amazing to meet other people who love trivia and have little nerdy qualities. I would love to compete against them in fun categories about minerals and TV theme songs. Not just look at the JBoard.tv website after the Jeopardy Quiz and make small talk with a few other contestant hopefuls.

Jeopardy QuizI used to show up late for cross country practice to see Final Jeopardy. I have taped it every day since law school started. I watched every episode of Ken Jennings‘ long run on the show. I had a Jeopardy! handheld game. I had the computer game. I had the Super Nintendo game. I just love trivia. I love the game and I feel lucky to just take the Jeopardy quiz each year.

Of course, I would love to appear on the show one day or at least meet Alex Trebek and tell him how much I enjoy the show. But if that never happens, I’ll survive. Most people don’t get to appear on the show. And the quiz really makes me realize where I am in my knowledge and what I’m missing.  I know my television and musicals. But hard knowledge – not so strong. I generally guess my way through with basic knowledge. But I always forget about Mt. Etna and have no idea where any desert besides the Sahara is. I think I got 33/50. I probably should have paid more attention to The Hunger Games…

Here is a YouTube video of the Jeopardy quiz for an idea of what you missed out on:

Marijuana Legalization

I remember in high school that I was once on a run with some teammates and they were talking about marijuana. Because they knew I liked politics, they asked me if I was for legalization. I was never a popular kid and I did want people to like me. I honestly had no thoughts on the matter because I didn’t even really know what it was besides what I learned from after school specials. I had never encountered it. I had never encountered any drug outside of the time this girl would hide her cigarettes in my locker in middle school because she knew that no one would search my locker. I went through all of high school without seeing anyone with a red Solo cup or tasting a beer. I definitely never saw pot.

Marijuana Rally 2007-09-15 34So, I said, yes. I did support legalization. I believed them when they told me it was no worse than alcohol. I believed them that it was a way to relax. And if nothing else, I didn’t need to seem even more square than I already was. It didn’t mean I was going to try it. But I wanted to show that my liberal credentials were solid.

Unfortunately, I still feel I need to do that on this topic.

After Colorado and Washington legalized small amounts of pot, it has become a hot topic. And strangely enough, the only real connection to marijuana use happened in 2013. A few days ago, I wrote to Andrew Sullivan of The Dish the whole story.

I don’t know if it is worse than alcohol. And as someone who doesn’t drink, I have no frame of reference. I have never been drunk. I have never wanted to be drunk. I had only one drug in my past – antidepressants. And I never want to have that loss of control feeling again. I hated it because I lost myself. And as hard as I am on myself, I like myself. Maybe I am not supposed to be relaxed. I might be tense and a bit of a stick in the mud. I may not be very social and maybe a drink would calm my nerves but I have made the decision to not do that to myself. It isn’t good for my social life, but I am content with being the guy who reads and writes.

I understand why people want to use drugs. I understand the want to relax and basically shut your mind down. I do the same thing with reality television and superhero comics. But there is one thing that reality television and superhero comics don’t do: create addiction. Yes, alcohol is legal and creates addiction. And maybe pot should be legalized with the same thing. But to just write it off as a given and a good thing ignores one big problem. And I have not seen anyone pointing this out. I don’t know if it is a gateway drug and honestly, I don’t care. My biggest concern about marijuana legalization is that addiction is forgotten. Marijuana is addictive.

People addicted to things aren’t bad people. People are addicted to lots of things – good and bad. But addiction creates a dependency on something that seems to extend past boundaries. And that was how it affected me in 2013. I don’t know how to talk about this without going into the details and I don’t want to get into the details, but it hurt more than I can really say. I saw someone on marijuana say and do things that I couldn’t comprehend. It is why I am torn about legalization.

I understand the tax arguments. I presume the “no worse than alcohol” argument. I presume the crime statistics are true and that there are lots of individuals arrested for marijuana possession. But there are going to be people hurt by legalization, just as there are people hurt by alcohol legalization. And that will be something I will never understand. I don’t think I’m meant to.Marijuana Tax Stamps

I don’t see this as some big civil liberty win. I see this in the same category as abortion. It is something I wish never happened. I wish no one got high. There are so many beautiful things in the world to see and explore. I will never understand why it is more fun to sit in a room and get high, just like I don’t get why it is fun to get together with friends, get drunk, and then forget what happened the night before. I honestly believe I only have so many hours on this Earth and I want to be aware of as many as I can. I need my sleep but otherwise, I want to be alert and ready to go.

Lots of productive people smoke marijuana. Lots of smart people drink. Lots of amazing people do both. I will never be one of them. Just like abortion, I understand why people want it to be legal. But just like abortion, I wish that we lived in a world where it didn’t have to be. So, if it is to be legalized, I won’t celebrate it. I don’t think it will be the end of society or the beginning of some sort of US crash as the Chinese become more productive than us. But I will continue to wonder why people need something to escape.

2014 Goals

Goal LineAs 2013 was derailed early, I didn’t get much of what I wanted accomplished done. Well, not this year. I’m going to make a few changes and actually get things on track. So far, 2014 has started

  1. Write 4 short stories (at least).
  2. Return to my novel, The Release.
  3. Write on this blog at least once a week and write at least once a week on my comics blog, comics.rockthewesternworld.com.
  4. Continue going to the gym and running. I want to run a 10K this summer and be under 8 min per mile pace. It isn’t an insane goal, but I want to shoot for doable.
  5. Just enjoy life. Sounds easy. It usually isn”t.
  6. Redesign the blog. Make it more of a personal page with blog outlets. I just need to think of a good homepage!

 

Book 5 of 52: Denial by Jonathan Rauch – I’m…Part Seven

 Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six

The Future

I am not writing this for pity or sympathy or for anything besides as a reaction to a book. I cannot express how important this short book was to me. It opened my eyes to the fact that I did not grow up wrong or as a monster like I have always assumed. My mindset was not unique. It is easy to say that I was and still am confused, but when you’re growing up different from everyone else and you can just feel the difference, you have no one to talk to. You just assume that you will get to the place where everyone else resides. I didn’t know how it felt to love someone or to have a crush on someone. I had crushes on lots of people over the years but they didn’t make any sense to me. I would hear guys talk about the girls that they liked and it wasn’t how I thought, so I assumed that I was just different. I have no idea if that is truth or what I could have done differently. And in truth, it doesn’t matter. All that I can do now is live the best life I can live.

I had to accept this fact: “What I was in the dark about was something which in fact much or most of the world still misunderstands: homosexuality is not about what you may or may not do for sex, it is about who you fall in love with.” My life does not have to be the sexualized version of homosexuality that Hollywood and the media like to portray. I have never been to a gay bar, I have never gone dancing, I have never gone to a parade, I have never walked around even with my shirt off. Ask my old teammates – I never ran without at least a t-shirt on. There is nothing wrong with any of those traits, but at my core, they aren’t me. But I thought, just like I thought that a heterosexual has to talk about girls the way I heard guys talk about them on runs or while riding a bus. I assumed if I was a homosexual, I needed to like those things that I am told to like and that those qualities define who I am. I hate parades. I hate crowds. I hate bars. I hate dance music. But I want to fall in love. And I want to be loved.

Christmas - 2012

It is still incredibly difficult. I still cannot have all of those things I imagined I would have. Getting married is not a reality yet. I am sure it will be, but as of this writing, it is not. Finding someone to marry will still be difficult, just like it is for everyone else. Having a family – that may be where it gets harder than normal. It is expensive, time consuming, spirit crushing, but, in the end, rewarding. I suppose it is why I get upset when I hear parents complaining about their children or how hard raising kids are. I suppose it is why I get upset when I see people treating their children like crap. I suppose it is why I want to be a father. I listen to people talk about their children or grandchildren and I want to be kept up at night by a child. I want to bring a grandchild over to my parents’ house for them to enjoy. I want to see the joy in their eyes when they see something new and the hate in their eyes when I won’t buy it for them.

I end many nights thinking that if I wasn’t built this way, I would have those things. I think about how much simpler life would have been and would continue to be if I could just be like the majority of people. It isn’t a self-hatred or because I believe I can change who I am. I don’t hate who I am – I am sometimes not fond of myself or my behavior – but at the same time, I think it is easy to forget how difficult being different is. However, this sense of difference is not like being a comic book nerd or being a little smarter than the average kid. At the end of the day, love is central to life. Almost every song that is written is about love. Almost every book that is written is about love. Almost every day, you think about who you love and how you want to be loved. And on those nights when I wish I wasn’t built this way, I do what I did back in junior high when I couldn’t take the bullying anymore. I grab my stuffed dog puppet, Wrinkles, and question why I was dealt this hand and what I can do differently.

Yet each day, I wake up in the morning believing that life will come together. I have always been a goal-orientated person who does my best to achieve what I want to accomplished. I don’t need a 100% success rate, but I do have to feel like each day I’m moving a step forward towards my end goal. And I am going to be happy that day when it all comes together. I know it will be a hard road and there always will be bumps – there have been bumps already. But as Rauch ended the book: “I am the man who is grateful to fall down because he once believed he would never walk.”

Buy this book: Denial by Jonathan Rauch

 

Book 5 of 52: Denial by Jonathan Rauch – I’m…Part Six

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five

When It Began To Bother Me

In your mid-twenties, your friends and family start getting married. Your life is supposed to get started. Just like how I assumed that one day I would be as built as a professional wrestler without doing anything, I assumed that in my twenties, I would meet the girl of my dreams and we would get married like my parents and their parents and their parents before.

Graduation - 2007I was almost done with law school and ready to set out on a career path. All of the hard work that I put towards my goals instead of worrying about who I was going to date was going to come to a culmination. At the ripe age of 24 years old, I had graduated from law school.

Most of my family were there and I couldn’t have been happier. But it was really difficult. Most of my friends had wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, or at least a significant other who watched them cross the stage. Nothing against my family – my parents, my siblings, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins – but it was hard to not have someone like that at that event. Or any event.

I began to question myself. I began to wonder exactly who I was. The hardest part was that I began to understand who I was and I never had a feeling that my parents were going to hate me or that anyone in my family would treat me different. But I just kept thinking that same thing: that isn’t me. I’m not that person. And if nothing else, I feared being differing in another regard.

My therapist and I began talking about it. She would ask questions about work and my job hunt. But the stresses there lessened, especially after I found work. She began to ask about dating. She asked why I didn’t think I could do that. And I explained that it just didn’t seem for me. I explained that I wanted to just be happy on my own – that I never imagined someone else being in my life. I would discuss how content I was. I almost wrote off happiness seconds after saying I would be happy by saying that I would be content in my life by myself. But in reality, I knew I wouldn’t. I built up a circular logic that any first year philosophy student could poke a dozen holes into.

I wanted all those things that all my friends and family were having. I wanted to walk down the aisle. I wanted children. I wanted to have a good job. I wanted to be just like everyone else – for once. And I would go home pleading that I would be normal – that I would just fit in with everyone else.

Katie's WeddingIt took one event for me to really sit down with myself and be honest. It was New Year’s Eve. My parents were with my grandmother but I didn’t want to go. And my sister and her boyfriend were in town. I sat at home watching Veronica Mars on DVD and they came home to announce their engagement. My younger sister was now on the same road that my friends were on. I was happy for her, but I was also jealous. I felt like I was doing something wrong and that I was cursed. “By now I had grown used to knowing that I was the strangest creature in the world, one whose wiring was seemingly random.” But it was time for me to determine if I was as strange as I assumed that I was.

I began talking to my therapist and she told me that I had to figure that out. She told me that it wasn’t going to be easy and that I would have to put myself out there to figure out exactly who I was and who I wanted to love. It took almost two years of prodding and discussion. For anyone who knows me, this is a short amount of time for me to commit to do anything. I have a difficult time putting myself out there , but I did. In 2009, I went on my first date.

About a month later, I told the first person. My brother and I were watching TV and we began the news on an issue I don’t remember, but it involved homosexuality. He said something along the lines of: I guess I don’t know for sure what I think about being around a gay person cause I really don’t know any. He wasn’t saying it to be biased because he isn’t. He was saying it because in our little suburban world, it was foreign. Not something to hate or dislike, but just foreign. In response, I said, you kinda do. He said, “I do?” And I said, yes, me. I told him that I was trying to figure things out and we didn’t talk much about it otherwise. A little while later, I told my sister when she was home for spring break, she was a bit more animated and cried because she assumed I was struggling with this for a long time and that it had hurt me.

It did hurt me, but not in a sense that deserves tears. Rauch put it perfectly: “I never did recover from the loss of my adolescence: from the vacuum where my awakening to love and sexuality and self ought to have been.” But I knew I would survive. I then told my parents and we were off to the races.

Concluded in Part Seven

Book 5 of 52: Denial by Jonathan Rauch – I’m…Part Five

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four

Therapy

Surprisingly, all of this had an affect on my mental well-being. I was always a bit of a depressive. I was not a strong person who had a big social net to fall back on.  I had me. But I cracked. First, in college. Then, before law school started.

One morning, I believe it was the fall, which was the hardest time of year for me because cross country season ended. I woke up early on a Sunday morning like I usually did. I would go for a walk outside and just enjoy the stillness as my roommate slept. When I opened the door, on our whiteboard, someone wrote FAGGOT and there was a rope that looked like a noose tied around my door handle. I flipped out and got very scared. I erased the board and pulled the rope off the door as fast as I could. At this point, I was wondering if that was what I was anyways since I didn’t seem to have any feelings for a member of the opposite sex during a time where everyone was trying to get into someone’s pants. I wondered who knew this about me or if it was true or what it was. But I went for my walk. When I returned, I sat at my computer and I didn’t move.

I remember being like a statue – with hands on the keyboard, readied to write whatever paper I was going to write that afternoon. But I could not move. My roommate eventually awoke and tried to get me to respond. Much of this is very foggy to me and is pieced together from what other people told me. He called our RA down, who was a mutual friend, because he didn’t know what to do. They tried to get me to respond and I wouldn’t. Eventually, they called my brother, who was a freshman at the time, and got me to the hospital. I had a panic attack. And they called my parents who took me home to take me to a doctor and try to get straightened out in the head. I was put on a lot of pills but none of them helped. I later found out that the rope on the door was not a noose. As a prank, someone tied our door handle to the door across the hall, which would make exiting impossible without cutting the rope. It was just a coincidence that it looks like a noose once someone else cut it. I’m also assuming the word on the white board was not directed at me. It was just the actions of a drunk idiot.

I had a lot of bad days between then and the end of college. I had another panic attack where I felt crippled in my basement a month before I started law school. Eventually, my dad carried me up the stairs after yelling and screaming to get me to move. FYI: if you have a family member who is having a panic attack, don’t yell at the person panicking because it doesn’t help.  But again I went to the doctor and was given the name of a therapist. This guy ruined my first semester of law school by putting me on a lot of anti-depressants and social anxiety pills. When it didn’t seem like they were working, he told me to stop taking them, but didn’t wean me off of them correctly. Instead of studying for finals, I watched The OC on DVD. I couldn’t focus as my head was a mess.

Hulk Gets Help

But that December, I met my current therapist, who helped me get as prepared as I could for finals and how to deal with the stresses. She has been with me for almost 8.5 years. We dealt mainly with social anxiety and my fears. And then we got to relationships. Rauch wrote, “I saw that no one noticed me, no one desired me, that my position in life was always to be admiring and never admired.” I don’t remember getting hit on. I knew there were a few girls who liked me, but overall, I have never felt desired. But I admired so many people. Strangely, it was not in a sexual nature, which is why I was so confused by it. I admired the ability to love. I wanted to have someone to talk to on an intimate level, someone to hold their hand, tell them that things will be okay, share all the good and bad moments with. I admired everyone around me who had that.

“I could not love, I could not kiss, I had no passion, only resentment and a kind of childish longing and a fetishistic fascination, and I knew that other people did not suffer those disabilities.” I kissed two girls before I turned 27 years old. Once when I was 18 and once when I was 21. For the years that followed, again, while many are trying to kiss as many people as possible, I was untouched. It didn’t bother me one bit though.

Continued in Part Six

Book 5 of 52: Denial by Jonathan Rauch – I’m…Part Four


Part One Part Two Part Three

Growing Up Ignorant

I did not understand the process of growing up. I didn’t have older friends or an older brother to guide me through those tough years — not like I was much help to my little brother. But I never knew how to talk about any of the thoughts in my head. I would write them down or tell them to my stuffed dog and eventually my real dog. I didn’t get much of a response as you can imagine.

Yet, I remember when I had to change my word choice to seem less “gay,” even when I had no idea what that word meant. I would call friends on Saturdays to “play” but I remember being teased on the playground that play had a sexual connotation that was silly for a 9 year old boy to say to another 9 year old boy. It was around the same time that someone did the condo/condom joke that tripped up Grandpa Simpson. Instead, I would ask if they wanted to hang out. Over time, very few people did. I would imagine my hit rate was near 20%. Instead, I read and watched a lot of TV.

When I was in sixth grade, my dad made me join cross country to get out of the house and to stop watching cartoons. I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t like it and I didn’t make any friends doing it. Instead, I got bullied there, just like I got bullied everywhere else. One day, I remember running home. I was crying, which was not rare for me returning home from a day at Lincoln Middle School. My dad was doing something to the car in the garage and he saw me come up the driveway crying and he asked what was bothering me. I said that the kids on the teams were calling me names and I didn’t know what the words meant. My dad asked what the words were and I said I didn’t want to say. I considered them profane, even though I had no idea what they meant. He prodded me and prodded me and eventually I said the word: fag. He didn’t explain what it meant to me and I think it caught him as a surprise. I just remember him saying that I wasn’t one, so I shouldn’t let it bother me.

I don’t think that middle schoolers have some insight into someone or saw something in me that I did not see. If anything, it is just a word that people throw around without knowing what it means. Like serendipity. Nonetheless, it proved to me that I had to fall deeper into the shadows and just do my best to be normal. Or if nothing else, to not think about relationships or dating or girls or boys or really anything. I focused on something else – anything else.

Life is hard in high school if you don’t talk about girls. I have lots of memories of people (generally, teammates) trying to get inside my head to figure out who I liked. And honestly, there were girls I liked. A lot. I remember three in particular that I would have done anything for them to talk to me. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with one. But I didn’t want to kiss or touch or any of that. I just would imagine a sitcom like lifestyle where I would come home and she would be there and we would live a very Disney life. I imagined that a lot. I wanted that so much. I wanted to be a husband. I wanted to be a father. I wanted to be all of those things that a normal person is.

When the relationship I was in at the beginning of college ended, I knew why. I was not providing the care that she deserved and I regret ever putting her in a situation where she was not cared for. I have no idea if she suspected anything or was curious why I wasn’t that person for her. So, I convinced myself of something. Ironically, so did Rauch: “I had no sexual feelings, but instead was madly obsessive. I could not be a homosexual: I was not effeminate, I had no desire to be touched sexually by a man…But I was not behaving the way heterosexuals behaved.” Therefore, I was some sort of asexual creature – a monster, in all honesty, that was going to spend the rest of his life alone and in solitary confinement.

I thought that with time, I would transform into a normal person. This was not the first instance of such thoughts. I remember looking at pictures of models in magazines with huge pectoral muscles and looking my my concave body in the mirror and imagining when that would happen to me. I assumed like a girl, one day, I would just wake up and they would start growing. I had no idea that I needed to bench press my body weight or be able to do more than a handful of pushups. But for a 21 year old to assume that his body will activate and everything will work out is silly. That one day, a woman would walk by and I would have the feelings that everyone else I knew was having. Instead, I was back to imagining the long life I would have on my own. But I would be successful: law school and all of that, so who would question me? I had the best excuse: I’m too busy to think about a serious relationship. “I was childlike, responding with no response at all except to change the subject.”

Continued in Part Five

Book 5 of 52: Denial by Jonathan Rauch – I’m…Part Three

Part One Part Two

Best Little Boy

I thought I was unique, but then I recently read an article in Basic and Applied Social Psychology called “The Social Development of Contingent Self-Worth in Sexual Minority Young Men: An Empirical Investigation of the ‘Best Little Boy in the World’ Hypothesis.” The hypothesis goes back to a book called “Best Little Boy in the World” that hypothesized that “young sexual minority men learn to deflect attention away from their concealed stigma through overcompensation in achievement-related domains.”

Every Good Boy Deserves FavourIt is a strange position to be in where you want to fit in completely and just hide in the shadows, but at the same time, you want to excel to take any glare off of another part of your life that you don’t understand. In a recent New York Times editorial, Adam D. Chandler wrote about this article as a coming out of sorts to millions of readers. He described how he wanted to fit in. “I copied how the boys at school sat in their desks, with their knees apart. I observed how they wore their backpacks, using only one of the shoulder straps.”  But he was also an overachiever – a Harvard law graduate who grew up trying to distract with good report cards and success.

Rauch made a similar point that I believe was even more true for me regarding being normal: “[l]ittle boys and teenagers want many things, but most of all they want to be normal. The desire not to be strange is not, I think, the callous invention of a capitalist or racist or sexist or whateverist culture which seeks to repress human beings’ explosively variegated diversity. It is, for people, an indivisible part of the socializing instinct.” I didn’t want to be abnormal in another form. Everyone told me I was smarter than the average bear. I was far weaker, shorter, thinner than most boys my age. I did not have a large circle of friends and I never felt normal socially. I felt like an outcast in almost every fashion of my life.

Chandler wrote at the end of his piece, “The flip slide of discovering you’re not alone is the melting of your presumed snowflake uniqueness. Now I’m a statistic, another data point, just an ordinary overachieving closet case.” He is right – that feels bad. There are fears that my drive will reduce. There are fears that I will still end up alone. But instead of having excuses, it does feel nice to be a statistic for once, where my actions and reactions were more normal than not. A little normalcy can go a long way.

Yeah, I wasn’t unique at all in my reaction. And strangely enough, that doesn’t bother me one bit now. It feels good to know that I am not unique or strange or abnormal – at least in how an adolescent reacted to figuring out his differences. I just wish I could go back in time and tell 11 year old Dan just that.

Continued in Part Four