Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Confessions of an Adult Grudge Holder

How long is he going to last this insecure little boy that lives inside of me? How long before I release the scared young man that was frightened to walk down the hall at school unaccompanied by a friend? I’m nearly 40 and many of these feelings are over 20 years old. When does it end? When does all the work I’ve done on myself and the person I’ve grown to be actually defeat the self-doubt of my youth?

I saw a production of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead last Friday night. It’s an interesting imagining of the Peanuts® characters as teenagers in high school. Charlie Brown is saddened over the death of his dog and confused over his feelings for Schroeder. Yep, Snoopy is dead - rabies. He had to be put down after he killed Woodstock. Sally is searching for an identity. One minute she’s Wiccan the next she’s gangsta. Linus is a total stoner. As for his blanket, Lucy and Charlie Brown burned it so he laced a joint with it and smoked it thereby making it part of his body forever. Lucy is locked away after setting the Little Red-Haired girl’s hair on fire. Oh yeah, she had an abortion also. Pig-Pen is a total germophobe and homophobe. For 5¢ I bet The Doctor Is In and can help with both of those phobias. Schroeder’s dad went to prison for molesting him and everyone stopped being his friend. He’s the one they all call “fag” and “queer.” They all think he’s gay, but he’s not sure…yet. He and Charlie Brown not only kiss, they have sex. Peppermint Patty and Marcie are the original mean girls – nasty and fake to the core.

This vision is not what I think of when I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. I think they’ll always be the same – friends – but we all change. Just as happens in life, we grow out of our friends and into clicks. Someone that is your best friend in elementary school may become your enemy, or the person you choose to pick on and belittle, in middle school. It gets worse in high school. Why are we such fools? Why can’t we see that we’re all people, searching for love, compassion and camaraderie? Why do we seal ourselves away at the cool table, the nerd table, the band geek table and the stoner table?

My niece is approaching middle school. My heart actually breaks a little when I think about the bullshit that she’s getting ready to start going through. Popularity becomes so important and anyone that’s different starts to stand out.

My life is so changed from what it was 20 years ago. I’m more confident in many ways while still insecure in others. Example: I can walk into a room and command attention. I want to command it. Then I begin to wonder why I’m commanding it. Confidence, insecurity, questioning, understanding – it’s like a bipolar cocktail being shaken and stirred at the same time. Insecurity sucks! How do I unlearn that? What I really find fascinating is that for all of my gay and proud bullshit I’m still insecure about being gay too. All these years later I’m alternately excited and nervous when I see two men holding hands on the street. I don’t know why I can’t just be happy. I am partly happy, but also partly afraid they will be physically or verbally attacked. Fear of what one doesn’t understand can make him the meanest bully of all.

I can tell you that I’m afraid of what people think. I give my power away every day. I learned it a lifetime ago from my dad. He is so concerned with what other people think and how they perceive him that it is solidly ingrained into me. I wish I could shed that “caring” like a dead skin and rid myself of its restrictive imprisonment. Regardless of whether anyone else is or not, I want to be proud of my choices and me. I want to stand up for what I believe and not feel like it’s a confrontation to express my opinion or my beliefs when someone else feels differently than I. I want to stop apologizing for my life. I want to not be ashamed of being gay. There I’ve said it. It’s disgusting to me to even admit it, but I think I have residual shame attached to being gay. I’m not ashamed that I’m gay really, but I was always afraid of bringing shame on my parents. There’s that caring-what-people-think thing again. There’s no shame in being born black. There’s no shame in being born a blond. There’s no shame in being born gay. NO SHAME!!

I’m out to my parents now. They love me. There’s nothing to hide. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I can’t keep my head down and my eyes averted forever. I’ve been there already. I walked with my head down in high school a lot. I made a conscious choice to walk with my head held high and my eyes level when I moved to New York City. Over the years I have slipped back into old patterns. I want equality. I want my gay brothers and sisters to be able to marry should they so choose. I think that I’m afraid because the spotlight is on gay issues in this country (hell, the world) right now. We are trying to be so PC that we cease to just live and be people. We just need to respect each other and help each other and show compassion. Damn it! We need to treat each other better and maybe some of the fear that I feel and the boy in high school, unsure of the feelings he’s feeling, feels will go away. Different is not bad. Different is nothing to be scared of. Different is what makes us unique and strong.

What I’m learning is missing from my life is forgiveness. I have yet to forgive the tormentors from my youth. I have tried to forget about them since leaving Carlisle County, KY. That does not allow for healing and forgetting doesn’t work. For some reason I think holding the grudge gives me some kind of strength. It doesn’t! I know that I need to let it go and give my forgiveness for the bullying and teasing, which was more about them than about me. Why should a man with this much distance and space between that past and this present continue to hold a grudge? Saying “I forgive you” doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t make them the big winner. Saying “I forgive you” makes me a stronger man; it diminishes their power over me. I will be 40 in a matter of months and I’m just realizing that people who probably haven’t thought my name in two decades have a power over me that they don’t even know about. What a waste of energy and time that is. Saying that I want to forgive them is easier to do than actually forgiving them. I am aware of that. Wanting to do it is the first step in actually doing it though, right?

Maybe by forgiving I will stop apologizing for who I am. Maybe my head will come back up to a held-high position. Maybe, just maybe, I will stop caring what everyone else thinks and just stand firm behind my own thoughts and opinions. Maybe the little boy and the scared young man will see the strong man I’ve become and put their fears aside. Maybe I will start to appreciate and love myself more.

Oh, I almost forgot, Pig-Pen was so incensed by the kiss and the sex between Charlie Brown and Schroeder that he broke Schroeder’s fingers. Unable to play the piano anymore and completely defeated by the bullying, Schroeder saw no other alternative but suicide.

I want to take a moment to say thank you to all the people back home that accept me for the person I am. Who accept me for just being a human being. I want to thank all the people who want my friendship and tolerate my insecure bullshit. You’re appreciated and loved and I am blessed.