Ill-Equipped for Ethnography

For such a long-time Joey cast a constant shadow over my decisions and actions.  My life was in a holding pattern as I hoped he’d come back in.

Joey seemed to be the first same-age guy that showed an interest in me.  Prior to Joey, guys my age said was too geeky, too short, too thin, not thin enough, not gay enough.

Joey liked all those things about me.  He was sweet to me.  He was kind to me.  College’s manic pixie boy façade had paid-off.

In my memory, he was the perfect straight-laced rebel.  Edgy enough to be interesting, and clean enough to bring home.

That New Year’s Eve, through Joey and his friends, I was fully introduced to seedy and drug-fueled as normal.  I was introduced to the concept of frenemies by how Joey and his circle behaved toward one another.  A world where my façade got me accepted in and insulated me from; my silence and listening-skills gave the illusion of emotional investment.  In truth, my carefully designed masks had kept me the constant observe of life and not the actor, leaving me ill-equipped for ethnography.  I began seeing the catty duplicitous behavior and normalized it.  I gave myself permission to replicate their naughty behavior.

Eventually, I went back to school and Joey and my correspondence petered out, as he was always too busy to answer a phone.  As I waited for Joey to re-enter my life, I created disruption in my relationships, making myself always available but never alone.

Identity in Separate Baubles

Art by Sachin Teng
Art by Sachin Teng

Being homosexual has consistently been present in my life, beginning when I was 9 years old when AIDS entered my consciousness, putting a dark stigma became attached to being homosexual.  The original facts I had about homosexuality came to me through knowledge about AIDS, gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, effectively connecting homosexuality with death, separation, and sensationalism.  With limited exposure to healthy examples of homosexuality I stumbled into a stagnate malleable inauthentic identity, designed for avoidance.

As I grew up I struggled with the idea that there was something false and untrue about my place in the world.  In reaction, I created a false self that wasn’t defective or flawed.  I diluted or ignored parts of myself that I thought would alienate me from those around me.  When a false-self was created I ceased to be an authentic human being.  The psychologist, the late Alice Miller calls this “soul-murder” – shame that leads to believing that I was a failure. Self-contempt, isolation, and a strong sense that I was untrustworthy accompanied each other until I believed I was a failure. Shame became my core identity, shutting me down to human relationships, living in hopelessness, and locked in a set of very unhealthy beliefs. Continue reading “Identity in Separate Baubles”

Manhattan Dreams

Art by Joe Kelly
Art by Joe Kelly

Manhattan was the setting where I could pursue being queerly perfect.  Manhattan was the place I wanted to have my original introduction to homosexual subculture.  New York City’s celebration of subculture and minorities was to be the place where I’d be amongst others who actively kept their queerness secret from family and friends because society won’t accept it.

With a false identity in place, I adventured beyond campus-boys to older gay males.  I quickly accepted invitations, hoping that I’d be a step closer to NYC-escape. Behind my more sophisticated and cool mask older men seemed more worldly and attractive. The Jodie Dallas specter faded from the peripheral of my concept of homosexuality, Sex & the City experiences that I had dreamed of seemed a greater possibility.  Instead of the Manhattan fantasy – theatre, dinners, and art galleries – I repeated my suburban youth in reverse.  This version though didn’t synchronize with the ticky-tacky boxes.  Now I saw behind the neighbors’ curtains, and I didn’t like it.  Calling them dates is using the term at its loosest.  The men that I went home with would close their curtains, citing their need for privacy.  As my perceptions grew I came to see “privacy” as a bent mirror to my rejection of the homosexual label.

Undergrad Realization

There was freedom to undergrad life away from home near New York City, of a world that I had dreamed deeply about escaping to.  Manhattan was the setting where I could pursue being queerly perfect.  I have always had dreams of living in Manhattan, beginning with the rollicking technicolor adventure of Disney’s Oliver & Company that created the landscape that fueled my queer escape fantasies.  Oliver & Company painted the picture of New York City, and Sex & the City populated the city with the experiences and people I wanted.  Sex & the City’s high playful fashion, wit, and comradery showed a New York City was the world that was tailored to me.

Knowing that NYU or other colleges within Manhattan or New York City itself were beyond my reach, I became an alum of SUNY @ Purchase.  In the shadow of the city I wanted to call home, I freely made my homosexuality explicit and explore relationship dynamics.  In college, I found that perfect hand transmogrified into the antithesis of high school, evolving to be the artistic and eccentric.  Outside of high school, perfect was chased by girls and boys, but perfect boys were more likely to chase boys back.  Perfect was still not the quietly humorous one who liked school and read in his dorm – he was cool though, which afforded me the opportunity to be entertained by a peer as a possible date.

Refreshed by a gust of attention, I maintained a crush on Marc, the friend of the students on the floor below me, and visited every weekend.  My dormmates knew Marc’s friends on the floor below through a mutual friend from Long Island; guess New York City isn’t that big of a city. I bought weed for the first time to impress them, in an effort to appear more appealing to Marc.  My crush was an obvious fact that quickly dissipated by his rejection (I wasn’t his type, and he preferred guys more seasoned than I was).  His friends felt sympathy for me, revealing that Marc gets crushed on a lot.  I thought how if I wasn’t special or a first to Marc I’d move on and I was over him.  We hung out after and it was clear we had nothing in common other than our mutual friends.  During that friendship, I saw that beneath bravado, was a desperate want for stability with a boyfriend, just as I did.

Three Icons Make 1

Art by George Petty
Art by George Petty

The identity I forced was rooted in femme fatales of Hollywood’s Golden Age.  Garbo, Dietrich, and Bacall fascinated me.  Each of them exemplified a chilly aloof, embodying characters who lived as if any compliment was no surprise.  Their no non-sense control was what I needed to conceal the embarrassed boy.

In the three actresses, I found icons I could take who I was and reshape myself.  Growing up excluded from school parties and youth groups, I learned a preference for being alone or with the few close friends I had.  Like MGM did with Garbo, I molded an air of mystery around myself, utilizing silence and deflecting questions to gloss over my lack of life experience.  I became the master of the eye roll.  I learned to manipulate people’s gaze through the way I dressed and colored my hair, fetishizing myself, just as Dietrich had.  Combining the two I designed a Bacall inspired display of command over movement and gesture, never crawling to be noticed.

I consulted them frequently for advice on how to play it cool.  The best masks sit directly upon the face – smoothing over to present a picturesque self.  A generalized individuality to be seen and easily blend into a crowd.

Verve (January 2017)

Growing up I longed for a surprise party that was like what was seen on movies, where a home would be filled of people that wished to be there.  That dream has never come true, even in grade-school when it was mandatory to report to a classmate’s birthday.  I never enjoyed the idea of celebrating my birthday; I do enjoy getting older though.  What I feared was not getting older, but that no one would ever come to a birthday party for me.  My sister was unable to make time to celebrate my birthday, and since family waited for each other to acknowledge milestones, birthdays adhered to my sister’s schedule; my sixteenth birthday was two months late because my sister couldn’t be bothered to take time off from work.  Eventually, I stopped sending invitations out at all, choosing to ignore the celebration and take enjoyment only from cards – and then settle for Facebook birthday posts.

My birthday was where I learned to exist within the cracks, as typically during the school year it fell in the middle of Winter Recess.  Later, this became the excuse for why no one needed to hold a celebration for me.  I wanted to avoid any fuss that would draw attention from friends because if they were paying attention to me, I believed they’d peak beneath my mask and judge me inappropriate – or worse, inadequate.  Around friends, I remained shy as if they were strangers because facades kept everyone at an arm’s length.  It was simpler to cover my self-consciousness and inferiority beneath masks, that were fashioned for inclusion by adopting specific friend-interests, and sub-cultures, and abandoning my own.

Researching the Part

At SUNY @ Purchase, I freely made my homosexuality explicit and explore relationship dynamics.  I was no virgin before or during college, but a relationship continued to elude me.  I wasn’t laser focused on acquiring a boyfriend because the class load made it quickly clear that was not going to happen.  I was a child compared to my classmates who all seemed much worldlier than I.  Their world seemed so much bigger than the one I came from, filled with parties and adventures that I had only see in movies and television.  I desperately wanted to be like them, sophisticated, well-read, and so comfortable in their uniqueness that they could sell themselves.  This was something I couldn’t be, but I could pull forth a façade.

Hours were spent in the college’s library developing my cool gay cabinet, identity, and vocabulary; I read cultural writers to know what to think, and studied the writers and artists to know what to get away with.  I formed a cabinet of (famous or not; perfect or not; real or fictional) people of characteristics to emulate, to develop a crisper identity and world-view.  The cabinet that was selected had no root in the people and interests of my own, but in the interests of the people I wanted to impress; Kafka, architecture, Feminism, playwriting, and psychology.  I could converse deeply about their interests, and engrain myself into their graces.  They revealed themselves, exposing their interests and desires, while I continued behind a mask that reflected them back.  Everyone enjoys seeing themselves in others because it knocks down walls of isolationism, in favor attachment.

Undergrad Dating

 

“In the Year 2001″ by an illustrator in 1895, via The Appendix
“In the Year 2001″ by an illustrator in 1895, via The Appendix

For my undergrad I attended SUNY @ Purchase, where perfect was the antithesis of high school, evolving to be the artistic and eccentric.  In college perfect was chased by girls and boys, and perfect boys were more likely to chase boys back.  Perfect was still not the quietly humorous one who liked school and read in his dorm.   He was cool though, which afforded me the opportunity to be entertained by a peer as a possible date.  Refreshed by a sudden gust of attention, I set my sights on who was deemed the most desired boy on campus: Daniel.  He wasn’t actually a student, but was the friend of the students on the floor below me, and visited every weekend.  Luckily, the friends I had made on my floor knew the people down stairs through a mutual friend from Long Island; guess New York City isn’t that big of a city. Continue reading “Undergrad Dating”

Verve (4/10-4/14)

I am a living on a treadmill.  Stationary is a synonym for sedentary.  My life needs a rebranding, new experiences that will give me a potpourri of emotions, and not just the same safe ones of being home and being at work and exercising and reading.  Instead I have created discord between my routine and my goals, breeding familiarity as a crutch, and not a platform for change has become exhausting.  Structure is meant to create a safe framework where risks have not been taken.  I am looking for change and am hoping new experiences will fall into my lap.  I would prefer if the new does not lead to repeating past cycles of abandoning my own self for others’ interests, bending backwards to create a new personality that is more accommodating.

I have only had four relationships in my life, and they all began post-college years.  My college years were high school.  Opportunities to practice and flex my queer identity were hampered by the times, which is in stark contrast to the new freedoms of exploration allowed to youths currently.  They are dating and expressing queerness at younger ages, which allows them to avoid the pain that currently creates paralysis within me.

Identity in Separate Baubles

Identity In Separate Baubles            My gay identity has never been known.  I have no formed queer identity, rooted in beliefs, attitudes, and values.  My identity has been separated into different baubles, adjectives that carry their own connotations.  Through critical analysis of my formative years, the books, celebrities, television, and movies, I will involve myself in crafting my gay identity.  Finding my cultural identity will provide a relationship to queerness; homosexuality is same-sex attraction, while queer is cultural practice.  By creating a tether to queer I will develop a critical lens, a tool that will aid in how I navigate and perceive the world and my relationship to it.

Gay culture is not similar appreciation for a single genre of music, literature, or way of dressing.  Queer culture is a set of shared perceptions that take heteronormative practices, beliefs, and arts, to repurpose for identification.  Self-classification as any one sexual category, such as heterosexual, does not eliminate one from participating in queer culture.  Rather, participation requires the ability to empathize with and perceive the world through the experiences of fringe and minority groups.

[To Read the Complete Personal Essay Click the PDF Below]

Identity in Separate Baubles [blog]