Saturday, November 3, 2012
1980....In a suburban cul-de-sac in Northern California, The sounds of Devo's "Whip It" echo off the houses as children play in the street. Riding bikes with playing cards taped to the spokes to make a motor sound, we all pretend to be on motorcycles or...if your me...X-wing fighters. As some bigger kids in their Kristy McNichol iron on Tshirsts sit by the radio and heckle us, Devo encourages us to "whip it good". A painfully skinny stood on a skate board and held on to a rope as a friend riding a bike tows me as fast as he can peddle. Only problem is...Cul-de-sacs aren't that big, especially when you feel like you're going a million miles an hour AND your riding a skateboard for the first time in your life...EVER. The exhilaration of speed quickly gave way to the realization of fast approaching curb, and rather than plow into a mailbox at speed, I elected to hop off the board instead, hitting the ground like a meteor on reentry ..at least, that's how it felt. Now, it was a warm day and I was wearing a Tshirt and those super high 70's shorts that made miniskirts look prudish. So it was all skin on asphalt till I came to a complete stop. I discovered the definition of "road rash" on that day as I limped home, pissed at my friends as everyone laughed their heads off. Devo had made cracking the whip seem like so much fun, but as I gimped my way around the block home to complain to my mom, Picking rocks out of my legs, it sure didn't feel that way. Nor, on this average day, did it feel like the world would ever change. It didn't really feel as if the 70's were over. There was no canon blast to mark the end of one world and the begining of another....but it did change all the same. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since that day. Tomorrow will be 40 years of it, in fact.
Today I would like to take a moment to reflect on what this birthday means to me and what my hopes are for the future. So have a slice of birthday cake, pull up a chair, and feel free to talk about being a getting older but not growing up.
I remember being about 9 years old and feeling like turning 18 was so fare away I couldn't imagine what it would feel like. Now, 18 is so far in the rear view mirror that I can't see it anymore. Being a "grown up" was just something I could never visualize for myself. I knew that, one day, I wanted to get married and to be a father but the rest of life was just one big question mark I had no idea what to do with. And on that day in 1980, my only concerns were playing at my friends house and dreaming about Star Wars. I could not fathom that my life would take the changes it did. The 80's hit like an atom bomb and with it brought the divorce of my parents and an utter upheaval of life as I knew it. Years of dealing with my parents rancor and bitter battles with each other and trying to survive school, though bullies would always be a part of making my life hell....If I'd have known that was coming I never would have got out of bed again. Those were years when I fell into a lot of depression and self hatred that felt like it never had an end.
I watched my classmates as they got older and began to be interested in each other. Boys who before ran from girls...and girls who thought boys were gross began passing notes to each other that read, "check-the-box: Do you like me? yes or no?" The popular kids paired off pretty fast and that left kids like me, that still wanted to play Star Wars and swing on the monkey bars, out in the cold. So I started to wonder why, and to invent my own crushes that would never actually become real. It would take me many years of chasing love in all the wrong places to figure out why it never worked.
I found religion..became a real jerk because of it. I tried too hard to be "good" at any cost including in my thoughts. I tortured myself on the inside over things no one else would, and it is from this point that I recognize the onset of OCD. I managed to work hard and graduate from high school. It was a really big deal considering how close I came to dropping out completely and how much hard work it took to come back from that edge. I had wanted to hide being a smart kid who got A's because it singled me out and instead, my hiding what I could do meant I had ruined my chances for the future. I was ashamed at the thought and worked hard not only to graduate...but to come to terms with the fact that I was a nerd who likes to learn and there was nothing....nothing at all...to be gained by hiding that fact from others. Even if it meant they made my life hell...which they often did. I pulled it together and my family was all there on graduation day. The picture I have of myself on this day is one of the biggest smiles I have ever had..and that's because, for the first time I had believed in myself and had accomplished something I didn't think I could.
I had a job, a diploma, a car, and I was going part time to collage. Being of legal age made me think of the possibilities. I continued to date women and had my first sexual encounter. And of course, this meant I fell head over heals in love with her. she was my first and that's how it happens to us sometimes. Fortunately, she had the good sense to know it wasn't going to work out and even though I cried for days...I could not see what was coming right around the corner of my life.
Up to this point I had been struggling with being gay and blaming it on temptation. I wrestled a lot with myself over what I believed religion said...and what I felt in myself about being gay. Now I had the ability to explore and figure it out and no one could catch me doing it. This meant my first trip to the gay and lesbian section at the bookstore..and yes...the seedy little porn shop on the wrong side of town too. At the bookstore I made my first gay friend...and the porn...well...let's just say I got caught red handed with that at home and had some fast explaining to do. Fortunately, they hasty denials and thin excuses worked...for a while.
I was 20ish...still living at home and going to a gay youth group in secret. Scared to death that my father would find out and just kill me. It was then that I met my first boyfriend who was a young red-haired man who loved comic books and I could talk to him for hours. for the first time I understood what it felt like to have both emotion and attraction work together. this was it...this was what love was supposed to feel like. And little by little..I didn't care if my family found out anymore. So I had come out to myself and now it was time to come out to everyone else. That took some time and a whole lot of courage. I thought I would lose my dad and would kill my Grandmother...instead, the person who took it the worst was my mom and we are still not on good terms today because of it. But once I told my family, I didn't give a rats *ss who knew after that. I was out at work and as far as I was concerned, to the world.
It was during my five year relationship with my first boyfriend that I met a certain young man who would have a bigger impact on me than anyone else in my life....a young Jay Foxworthy. Then, both of us were in separate relationships and I was being introduced to him as someone Jay had to approve of. The first time we met being at a local coffee shop over breakfast. Here was this man sitting across the table from me who was handsome and confident as all hell. He could talk about comics, and star wars and radiate this confidence in himself as a gay man that I couldn't help but be drawn to....but that was still not to be for a few more years. I continued to date the young man I was with, but like most first relationships...that too came to an end. And not many months after that, so did Jays.
Having been friends before, we were already a part of each others lives but now, things were different. I have told the story before of the kiss at beach and knowing from then on that he was the one I wanted to be with. That kiss carried with it a feeling of certainty I only ever felt once before in accepting that I really was gay....I knew. And from that time when we first came together, we have been together ever since. If I blathered on about something he thought was b.s....he at least listened to me and didn't talk down to me. He was kind, a great kisser, and made me feel safer than anyone ever has. Our first years as an actual couple were a little awkward. But as year by year has gone by, I have never looked back or regretted a single day with Jay. Even on days when we fight and cant seem to stand each other...at the end of the day...he is my best friend. Our lives together over these years have been full of adventures that could only be possible because he is the kind of man that he is. Even though the things that first attracted us to each other can sometimes be the same things that drive us nuts about each other, I wouldn't change a thing. All those years ago, when I was craving love and dreaming about being somebodies husband, I wouldn't have foreseen that it would be with a man. If you could have gone back in time and tried to tell me, I would have told you it was impossible then. I would not have believed it. But even though I couldn't have known, I feel very lucky for the life I have. Add to that our two children and I have fortunate enough to be both a husband and father....two things I thought were lost to me when I came out of the closet. Again, I did not understand how the world would change.
And so I am now, husband, father, marriage equality activist....Youtubing and blogging about my life in ways that would have horrified me before. I still struggle with my OCD....but for all the twists and turns my life have taken, I am still a kid at heart and so I hope to stay. My love of Star Wars has been with me since 1977 and since Disney is now breathing new life into it, I get to grow old with it and maybe pass it on to my grandkids. How awesome is that.
The nine year old me who limped his way home in early 1980 didn't know how much his life was about to change and 40 years later...this is where he finds himself. It's bewildering sometimes to imagine all that happened when sometimes it felt like the bad times would never end and other times felt like the good had slipped away too fast. My kids who were 5 and 13 months are now 12 and 7. If I blink they will be 23 and 18....so I try not to do that. You miss too much.
As I look forward into the future, I now have things I hope to see. I hope to see Daniel and Selena graduate high school and find something to do that they love. I look forward to the day Jay retires from the sheriffs dept. and that we can open a business and be two cranky old men together....we already got the cranky part down. I look forward to seeing a day when there is no one else who is looked down on or discriminated against, who thinks that they can't live their lives equally because of something intrinsic to who they are. I hope to see the days when even though we may stumble as a people...that we get back up again and learn to treat each other better. Well....that, and flying cars....definitely flying cars too...lol. If I am fortunate enough to have another 40 years perhaps life will continue to amaze me with changes I couldn't have dared dream possible. Given the last 40, I'd say that's likely...
Until next time dear readers.....and raise a glass with me tonight...