debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
I've been feeling rather restless and out of it for the past six months or so. It seems that my tolerance for staying in one place is about that, six months. I love to travel; even if all I get is a weekend abroad, I feel better when I come back. It compounds, for me, the sadness of not having a job in my field. Most of those jobs would involve travel. I don't know how to live here, and just here. I've always been vaguely uncomfortable with American culture; people here are friendly and often kind, but not warm or close. I much prefer the French way, in fact, of being a little distant to strangers but very tightly connected to the people you know. I prefer places with a more human pace, places where people value things like time to read, time to spend with friends, and time to raise your children more than they value time to work. Many recent newspaper articles have suggested that, with the economic downturn, that attitude will come back to the U.S. I hope so.

I've also been thinking about childhood with its confusions. Many of you know the rather grimmer picture of my youth, but it wasn't all grim. I was, I think, always a fun-loving and innocent little thing under all my reserve, and under that protective coating of arrogance. I wanted so much to be everything I thought was good. I wanted to be the perfect student, the perfect friend, the perfect daughter. I was none of these things. Instead, I was an erratic student, a distant friend, and a very disappointing daughter.

For a long time, I counted my disinterest in boys to my credit; I was being age-appropriate, I thought; I was certainly too young to be interested in boys. That fell to pieces one warm October day in 1991. I was on a school retreat. My high school did marvelous retreats; they were really times away from the routine and the hustle-and-bustle of daily life. The group leaders were always other students. On this, my first retreat, my group leader was a Junior with butter-yellow hair and turquoise eyes. She gave a talk about some of the struggles she'd gone through when she was a Freshman. Involved as I was at that time with my dying godfather, I sensed an immediate kinship with her.

I couldn't take my eyes off her, even at the breaks.

As the weeks passed, I wrote her sonnets. I would pack my bags early to leave religion class, knowing that her history class was right across the hall. I waited on the Freshman lawn to see her arrive at school. And still, I thought I was straight. I truly believed that this would be the year I got a boyfriend. I even went to a school dance, where I concluded that either I was afraid of boys or, perhaps, I should try Loyola boys, since Crespi boys were clearly not my style. Thinking about this, I marvel at my belief in such self-deceptions. I can't imagine why they were so effective.

I realized that I was gay during religion class in April of 1992. I was sitting across from a friend (whom I later learned was also gay), looking out the window, waiting to leave class, and suddenly I started to write. What I wrote was dark and frightening; it had come from the deepest part of me. The walls came down, and I was bare and vulnerable. It was August before I told anyone. I told my oldest sister, who will be here on a visit with her husband in a few days. I told her just days before my godfather died.

Now, when I look in the mirror (as I sometimes do) and see myself on a particularly dykey day, I often truly like what I see. That self-respect took further years of work, of pain, and of learning. I am still amazed by my joy in who I am.

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debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
debboamerik

January 2011

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