Unlearning Groups

When I left undergrad to “romantically” be with my first boyfriend, I did it because it was a dramatic and interesting move.  To me it made me as worldly and spontaneous as my college friends.  After that and the rest of my twenties, I un-learned the group mentality.  I wondered what about who I was that was unacceptable.  I separated myself into different baubles, guised with adjective-derived masks to fit in, which denied myself a confidante.  Because I was scared that if I shared my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, with anyone they’d not like me – and that there is no possibility for repair. I imitated others’ expectations, hoping to be included, itself predicated upon adopting various skins that brought me affection and attention.  My not being seen combined created a spiral of neglect bound with being loved.  I had observed my peers and saw what I wasn’t. Growing up, I was bombarded with the norms you’re transgressing, or will come to transgress. Passing and normalizing have great benefits in day-to-day ease of life—what they meant for my spirit was an entirely different issue, of course.  Compliance allowed me to go unseen

I felt punishment was warranted. Over time I learned to express feelings and practice self-compassion, by putting a strong spotlight on the dried and cracking leather hid of my baggage.  I embraced my uniqueness – shown self without a mask.

 

Identity in Separate Baubles [2018.02]

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My high school façade was designed for survival

In high school, I didn’t go to parties because I wasn’t invited.  If kids were doing drugs and drinking it wasn’t with me because no one asked.  Popular was the jocks or musicians because they got all the attention; and paid attention to all the girls, and not to.

My high school façade was designed for survival, leaning heavily on the cartoonish geek persona from middle school.  The comic books that had sheltered me in middle school became the defining trait in high school.  The differences I had from other boys was easily masked by the label “geek.”  I welcomed being considered a geek because it allowed me to avoid being ostracized as a “sissy.”  While this got me socially accepted, it limited the depth of my character.  I allowed peers to dictate my identity and silence my own interests. I strived to fit-in but gained attention because the adjectives that allowed me to nonchalantly shift cliques fixed a spotlight on me, and the impending question about my outsider status.

I knew acceptance wasn’t me being made into a token, but I sabotaged acceptance by defensively rejecting labels.  Instead my rejection came from refusing my own skin, which was rooted in the denial that was needed in high school to survive.

In high school I met Luna, an openly butch lesbian.  We ended up meeting over Erykah Badu, Live, in Freshman English.  I do not know what Luna’s true feelings were towards me, but our friendship was one sided.

Luna seemed embarrassed by me and our friendship.  She aligned herself with me while in school, but when it came to life outside of high school she dissuaded me from participating in the same, and only, local gay youth group.  The handful of times that I asked Luna what happened at the meetings, she told me they talked about what was going on and their problems.  When I followed-up with inquiries to go, Luna told me that I would hate them and that they weren’t filled with my people.  Luna was confident in her identity, her labels – similarly to those in the youth group who had already presented to their parents – gave them the bravery to confront the world that I lacked.

After asking Luna those handful of times to participate, I got the hint that I was not welcomed into that part of her world.  I could not discern what it about myself that kept me from being acceptable for a youth group targeted at my group.  I had made my friendship wholly unconditional and fully.  It was when I discovered the usage of the internet and Gay.com as linkage to fellow young gays, was I able to comprehend why.

The homosexual teenagers I conversed with through the internet, just as the youths in the gay youth group, had an acceptable idea gay youth: Bruce la Bruce models.  Repeatedly from the other teens, who lied that they were 18 as well for access, I was not an acceptable because of comic books.  The geek façade that protected me in the halls of school isolated me from the homosexual community because I didn’t appear to fawn over pop-idols as porn stars.

Since I was 9…

Beginning when I was 9 years old homosexuality entered my peripheral through knowledge of AIDS, gleamed from the deaths of Anthony Perkins and Robert Reed, attaching a dark stigma of death, separation, and sensationalism to homosexuality.

Self-contempt, isolation, and a strong sense that I was untrustworthy accompanied one another until shame became my core identity, and locked in a set of very unhealthy beliefs. I was incapable of trusting my own emotions as a compass for living; I felt shame for being abnormal or wrong, that my failures would bring unnecessary drama.  There was no developed skill to ground myself in the present, and being in the moment and staying observant without judgment of my own emotions.  The parts, believed, that would force support networks away are believed to be shadows of our true place in the world.  I diluted or ignored parts of myself that I thought would alienate me, believing I was a failure.

I made masks for acceptance based on the expectation others had of who I was in relation to them.  I created an untrue place in the world, a false self that wasn’t defective or flawed, amplifying the most acceptable of myself.  I sanded off the more off kilter interests, such as poetry and Southern literature, and less culturally mainstream – comic books, cartoons, and fantasy.  I buried what I did on weekends with

I didn’t want to give a reason to have the spotlight on me.  I lived in fear that my masks would not be viewed survival, but would be duplicitous, bring about rejection from others.  I became paralyzed by the intense feeling that I would be ignored or thrown away.  What didn’t lead to being ignored was compliance to others’ needs. It was easier to serve another than to assert myself.  The very nature of my game necessitated duplicity as I navigated the numerous worlds that I had begun inhabiting, as I tried on various masks and identities.

I tap danced to be seen.

Unfortunately, the dance is all that is seen.

 

Birthday Post 2018

Chronic shame developed from the best of intentions of my parents when raising two children.  They were good at it, striving to create balance for two radically different kids – providing food, shelter, and safety, but I still felt neglected because my parents did not bond emotionally with me.  I have few memories of being held, comforted, played with, or asked how I was doing; plenty questions about the events of a school-day, but not their impact.  When they didn’t live up to expectations they privately, and I’m sure to this day, scolded themselves; they failed less times than they believe they did.  My parents instilled in me the three F’s – family, food, and fun.  If there were two then the third would be automatically follow suit; should food be part of the family gathering then we’d have some fun; if there was food and fun, then one must be amongst family.

Growing up, I overcompensated to be the “good child,” or just being generally more agreeable; in comparison to the spectacle that was my sister; I didn’t want to be the reason for everything or have the spotlight on me.  The chaos she created taught me that disruptions to a plan lead to eruptions of anger and violence.  My sister’s behavior drew my parents’ attention, exhausting them, resulting in an often-chaotic home life.  I was not going to add more concerns to their already full plate.  I vowed to not be the straw that broke any one’s back, becoming respite for my parents from my sister.  I felt shame for being abnormal or wrong, that my failures would bring unnecessary drama. The feelings of my parents, whether expressly communicated or sensed became internalized and automatic. The state of being alone and powerless became pervasive.

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.  Ever since grade-school, I have always wanted a surprise birthday party, where a home would be filled of people that wished to be there.  That dream has never come true, even when it was mandatory to report to a classmate’s birthday.

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; becoming 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.

Authenticity’s exposure is informed by expectations, the measurement ruler that experiences are held against.   Expectations color our how we present our authenticity, often diluting, covering up, or ignoring parts of myself that I would alienate me from those around me – the unique parts of an individual.  These interactions become cornerstones of authentic identity, informed by cooperative experiences.

Entering Two Worlds

Adult homosexuals from the internet were just as eager to meet as peers I interacted more with adults, but their eagerness to meet only reinforced my Jodie Dallas induced greatest fears of being queer.  Still, though, I more quickly accepted an adult’s invitation to meet than a peers’.  In adult companionship, I saw a greater possibility of the exciting homosexual adventures, like those in Queer as Folk; their adventures seemed like the safe juvenile antics I should be participating in.  I had wanted big city Sex & the City adventures with Mr. Big, who’d take me to theatre and art openings.  What I found instead was sneaking off to the backwoods of Upstate New York and trailer parks, where their own inauthenticity funhouse mirrored my own.  They were adults trapped in adolescence, attempting to stay past their prime by hanging with the freshly prime.  I was an adolescent playing adult, attempting to stay out past bedtime by hanging with those without a bedtime.  The very nature of my game necessitated duplicity as I navigated the two worlds that I had begun inhabiting, as I tried on various masks and identities.

Superficiality

In homosexuality the superficiality of idolized physicality was not me – the queer geek who’s the interests, experiences, and beliefs existed on the peripheral of popular.  I liked dressing in big sweatshirts and sweaters with oversized jeans; everything I wore was about disappearing my differences.  The popular straight boys, who got all the attention, were pop-idols and porn stars who looked like Justin Timberlake in Abercrombie & Fitch.  Not me.

Abandonment became engrained in middle school when everyone began pairing-off to experimenting with relationship dynamics, leaving me feeling alone.  I couldn’t go to local gay youth groups because I wasn’t ready for an identity label, which was rooted in the denial that was needed in high school to survive.  The homosexual teenagers I conversed with through the internet seemed so much braver than myself because they had found and proclaimed their inner authenticity.  Their assured identity, confidence in their labels – which had already been presented to their parents – gave them the bravery to ask to meet immediately.  I was incapable of reading other homosexual teenagers’ eagerness to meet as a shared isolation, and so made excuses as to why that couldn’t happen.

Personalized for Authenticity

Authenticity’s exposure is informed by expectations, the measurement ruler that experiences are held against.  Expectations color our how we present our authenticity, often diluting, covering up, or ignoring parts of myself that I would alienate me from those around me – the unique parts of an individual.  Conversations expressing authenticity are collaborative dialogues.  These interactions become cornerstones of authentic identity, informed by cooperative experiences.

Struggling with presenting authenticity is first, contradictorily, dealt with by creating facades that amplify the most acceptable of ourselves.  The parts, believed, that would force support networks away are believed to be shadows of our true place in the world.  Reinforcing social facades requires experiences go un-analyzed, unlived.

On the playground we are taught, as evolutionary survival, that it is important to be like everyone else, to find acceptance into the group dynamic.  From pre-historic to ancient-times, and beyond, avoiding being ostracized meant avoiding death.  This evolutionary hold-over is what pushes queer youth to hide our authenticity from others, keeping our interests, past-times, and loves from friends and families.

I grew up in a suburbia that was a nostalgic Mayberry: students walked to school, left campus to eat lunch in the village, and formed cliques based upon clothing labels; there was a dairy to buy milk fresh from the cow and boutiques that were hobbies for doctor wives.  The school district heavily focused on academic success and rigor, not grit or character; children were taught to be students and not to interact with educators.  We were academically prepared but street smarts were not taught between Great Expectations and chemistry.  The few gay boys that were known easily fit the mainstream suburbia of backyard pools, in ways I never could.  I sabotaged acceptance by defensively rejecting the labels and tokenism they appeared to willingly accept.  I deliberately kept to myself, denying myself a confidante, by refusing anyone I could divulge to because I was scared that if anyone knew my real fears, secrets, and thoughts, they’d not like me.

I retreated into books, making the characters my friends.  I found with Spyder from Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Silk, the characters of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Milkman from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and everyone in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, characters similar to myself – they struggled with authenticity in silence.  The characters modeled authenticity as being politely selfish by connecting through known shared hardships and joys.  Connecting through the simple failed-expectations of personal days deepening relationships with friends and family.  Personalizing shared experiences allowed façades to be dropped, deeper connections are formed, resulting in an increased quality of life.

Suburbian In Reverse

Freedom came with undergrad life.  I was away from home and finally near New York City, of a world that I had dreamed deeply about escaping to.  At SUNY @ Purchase perfect was the antithesis of suburban high school, evolving to from machismo jock to 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.  I freely made my homosexuality explicit and explore relationship dynamics.

Refreshed by a gust of attention, I set my sights on who was deemed the most desired boy on campus: Marc.  He wasn’t a student, but was the friend of 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.

Mutual friends who knew of my crush arranged for a chance encounter with Marc.  While nothing came of the meet, I did gain wonderful new friends who are cherished deeply.  Marc, also, knew of my crush on him; apparently, subtlety was not in my repertoire.  His rejection of me (I wasn’t his type; he preferred guys more seasoned than I was) dissipated my attraction.  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.

As college goes relationships were fleeting but sexual encounters were not, with my attention no longer fixated on one person. The relationship that I had dreamt of, had hoped for during the college experience, eluded me.  I was good enough for a lay, but not to spend time with.  I was no wallflower, but I was unable to break the habit of isolating in my room and studying.  I didn’t go to the campus’ LGBTQ Union to meet peers because the members I conversed with assuredly proclaimed their identity to everyone.  Despite my sexual escapades during this time I continued to rebel from any identity label, that I had no history with.

With a false identity in place, I adventured beyond campus-boys to older gay males.  I turned, again, to the internet to dominate my acquisition of homosexual dynamics.  I quickly accepted invitations, hoping that I’d be a step closer to NYC-escape, that I had expected from Oliver & Company and Tales of the City. 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.

Elusive Ideal

For the longest time Joey was the elusive ideal.  Joey was sthe one ex that all potential suitors were measured against.  In attempting to write down our first encounter I came to the realization that there was nothing epic, template worthy, about the encounter.  There was nothing grandiose or particularly outstanding about the relationship’s arc.  In fact, the mental glorification of that relationship and its beginning is rather obsessive.

I met Joey just as I was turning 20 years old.  It had been New Year’s Eve, at club Tilt, during the celebratory drag show.  I felt the back of my ear get flicked.  I turned around, “Hi.”

Joey explained he was following an impulse and immediately knew the type of person I was dealing with.

“Alright.”  And turned back around.

Joey got my attention again by asking if wanted to roll.

“Okay,” I answered.

 

While we dated, I believed I was not complex enough for him because all that he was appeared brave and loud.  Two things that I was not.  I was scared the whole time that he’d find out that beneath the image I had designed wasn’t someone worthy.  I feared his rejection, and so created chaos to deflect from being a cypher.  I covered up my exuberance, believing that a demeanor of cold detachment decision making would be impressive, because in my fantasy of you I saw strong and decisive; weighed down by another’s gushing emotion; a man that saw devotion as a flaw.  Instead I became frigid and distracted with constant repair on my ice-walls.  I never learned to thaw for those I care about.

We broke up in 2011 on a Sunday in mid-January.  Thank you for being polite until after my birthday, but that didn’t make it hurt any less.  We hadn’t seen one another the previous night – I had worked late, so was all puppy-dog tails to see him.  When I arrived, I was greeted by a friend of his unceremoniously handing me my things.  I was numb; I needed to understand, so putting my belongings down took out my phone.  Joey’s response was a generic text stating the official dissolution.

I should have predicted the break-up because of the distance for three-and-a-quarter-months.  I persisted by being better at playing house as a new year’s resolution, but it was all too little, too late, and now suspiciously out of character.  His apprehensive glances telegraphed the to end our relationship.

Years later, when I looked backed on the relationship I know I wasn’t particularly happy.  When I recall the relationship with Joey, what comes to mind is his habit of telling him something, then he vehemently disagrees.  These weren’t ideological differences, or rooted in arcane knowledge.  Rather, disagreements came over individual rights and basic operations of politics and humanism.  We’d part in the morning for our separate work, and then return to each other that evening with Joey’s mind changed.  This change of mind arose because he had talked to his co-workers, who told him that he was in the wrong; that I was correct.  That was the routine of our relationship: Joey respected only his friends and their opinions, and not mine.  The chaos that I had sewn had seeped into every aspect of our relationship, leaving Joey unable to have faith that I’d be saying the truth, or respect my stance as having validity.

Dorian’s Want for Birthday Parties

The power went out on my block last night, delaying yesterday’s Vagabond Ways themed post.

***

Growing up I wanted a surprise birthday party a home filled with joy and people that wanted to be there – like what I saw in my mom and dad’s old blu-rays.  That dream never come true, even in grade-school when it was mandatory to report to a classmate’s birthday.  What I feared was not getting older, but that no one would come to a birthday for me.  My parents’ constant migration following the Huxia Rejenys flotillas, based upon access to knowledge and culture that would help them in their accumulations, kept my social circle small and intimate to just myself and my books.

While in Huxia, my parents celebrated my sixteenth milestone two months late because they couldn’t be bothered to take time off from research and worship.  I stopped sending invitations and chose to ignore celebration, taking enjoyment only from cards – and then settle for Facebook birthday posts.  My birthday became where I learned to exist within the cracks, becoming the excuse for wanting to avoid any fuss that would draw attention.

Eventually, at 16 I left the flotillas and headed to the family estate in Pentapolis of the Valley, working my way across Bharat as an artist’s model; I never considered myself the prettiest, but I smiled deceptively locking myself in another mind.  After Bharat, I took an ocean-liner back to Biell, in The Valley.  Having graduated high school early I treated what would’ve been senior year as a skip year.  During this time, I hung with the freaks and the wild ones, drank and got into drugs.  I lived hard in every moment. I joined Blithedale, and met Michel Caillois, who I wanted to teach me how everything worked.

At Aerynd University I avoided most social circles, believing 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.