In the 48 years I’ve roamed this earth, the once constant I’ve learned in this life is that change is inevitable. You can stomp your foot, you can screech into the stratosphere, but change comes fast and dirty, and there is nothing anyone can do about it but adapt and hopefully grow from the experience.
I’ve seen my share of changes, and often wondered to myself how things might have evolved in not only my life, but the lives of those around me, had no change ever presented itself. Now, in saying that, we all know some change is for the worse (reality TV is but one example), while some change is for the better.
Such as the role of women in society. Now, I grew up in pretty much a matriarchal household, one where the women outnumbered the men, and while my father’s role was never in question about who the breadwinner was, it was a foregone conclusion that Mama ran the house. To be blunt, if you valued your hide being its original shade, you best not cross any lines she set down in the sand, or you’d be sorrier than sorry for the transgression.
My generation was the last of the “spare the rod/1940’s mentality” generation.
I, for one, as an adult, thank my parents for making their point the way they did. I shudder at the thought of how I’d have turned out had those strict limits not been placed in my path, to keep me travelling the straight and narrow.
However, it wasn’t all goodness and sunshine. Not by a long shot.
You see, I was a pretty odd little boy. Having been rejected by my “real” father at birth might have had some bearing on it, who knows. I do know now my head overflowed with contradictions, short circuits, with a lot of notions that drove my parents, teachers, whomever, to distraction.
What went on behind these eyes…
I showed a talent for some pretty broad interests, I must admit, and while some of those talents found themselves nurtured, others were literally things that had my parents up in arms.
More often than not, my hide paid the price. As I said, it was the tail end of that 1940’s mentality.
I know now that my mother and father were doing the only thing they could…by trying to strap the fag outta me. I’m certain they did this hoping I’d turn out “right”, instead of the way they feared. I know that sounds awful, but it was the 1970’s, and that’s just the way the world was back then. They’re certainly not to be faulted for their actions, because, to be frank, they didn’t know then what they know now.
I’m probably the only boy on the planet that cried getting a Hot Wheels set for Christmas. Mainly because those tracks would end up being applied to my butt (there were so many to choose from I suppose) for whatever my daily infraction was.
I was, shall we say, of “independent” thought., and pushed my poor parents half-out of their minds because of it. There were so many assorted sins I’d commit all in the name of my skewed vision back then.
If I had ice skates, I wanted to be a figure skater. If I had a baseball glove, it’d sit, untouched. If I wanted to play with my sister, it was almost always beauty time for some helpless doll. That last one brought the most grief my way. Dad, a tough, no-nonsense former Army man saw men one way, and I’m sure died a few thousand deaths when he watched me unfold. I was anything but his idea of what a little boy had to be. A bit odd, a bit effeminate, a bit of a mix of all sorts of conflicted actions, he just did what any father during that time would do, he’d…you guessed it, strap the fag outta me. That, or throw baseballs and make me catch them.
Dad…thank you for that one. I’d still be a little wimp today I believe if you and Ma hadn’t forced me to face my fears head on. I know it couldn’t have been easy raising me knowing what you learned to see as “wrong” back then.
I should mention here that my father…the one that matters, is my stepfather. But, he’s the only father I’ve ever known, and there is no “step” in my eyes.
In saying this, all these many years later, I confess, I really dug little boy things too. Love playing with my cars, having fake space battles with cut-out Klingon Birds of Prey and starship Enterprises. Always enjoyed playing “Rocket Robin Hood”. Couldn’t pry me off that crazy carpet in the winter…in short, I wasn’t all “girly”. But, I definitely loved the stuff both of my sisters pretty much eschewed….especially Petra.
We’d get into cahoots with one another about dolls and cars. If I liked a Barbie, she’s write it on her list. If she liked a type of truck, down it went. And, when no one was looking, our sinful swap took place.
My poor mother tried and failed to get her queer little boy to pursue masculine things. I mean, I had GI Joe’s and Big Jim, complete with sports camper. Imagine her surprise when one day she found finishing nails pounded into Big Jim’s feet for heels, and a lovely wig and dress on him….I was hopeless.
Well, as the lickings continued, I saw a movie at school that forever changed me. Marlo Thomas had put a really great project together. Written specially for kids my age entitled “Free To Be You And Me”, it was a must-see. In it, there was a segment about a little boy named William (Billy). This kid loved all sorts of male pursuits, but found himself derided for also wanting a doll; William Wants A Doll
For the first time in my young life, I honestly felt like someone out there understood me, and that was huge, because I really didn’t understand myself.
Now, as an adult, I grew up male, and am long past all the sissy stuff I once embraced. I also now realize that this is kinda normal behaviour for most gay children. Lesbians tend to gravitate towards more masculine things sometimes, and Gays tend to want to try more feminine things. Not always, but at times.
Marlo Thomas made it possible for me to go through my very troubled and often painful childhood with a glimmer of hope. I truly got to see that someone out there, recognized me for who I was.
I really want to say here that my parents have come a LONG way since then. Both of them realize now that some of what they knew then in terms of handling their kids may not have been the best method. Hindsight is 20/20. Still, I thank them in my mind every day for that they cared enough to try. I only wish I could offer my condolences for the hell I put the two of them through.
I most certainly don’t blame either of them for their approach to what they then saw as a serious problem. The times dictated that any form of feminine behaviour from a boy, or masculine behaviour from a girl immediately required firm action, for the sake of their child.
This was what parents of my generation knew about gays…and it wasn’t a good thing: Creepy Anti Gay Propaganda Film
Imagine if the world you knew contained nothing but negative images about what a gay person was. Well, let’s just put it this way; they’re a little wiser now, as are most people, thankfully.
But, despite the great evolution that has taken place over time, some things still remain the same for those that refuse to see change as a step forward. These people live within their narrow vision of their world. They come complete with all sorts of ugly, prejudiced notions they continually convince themselves is the Gospel.
Sadly, they’re often a lynch pin that seems to be holding us back as a species. Yet, they see just the opposite, and will cling intently to scripture. Their religious fervour is sometimes so driven that they only seem capable of purveying hatred and intolerance. In short, God is their weapon, and annihilation of anything they don’t want to understand is their life’s work.
Their judgements often come in the form of sexism, using that proverbial apple snack in a certain garden as their attempt to shackle the hard-won freedoms women are finally being able to enjoy in this world. Or, they are often targeting religions they don’t “get”. Perhaps it’s a subtle swipe at the colour of a person’s skin. Whatever their target of the week is, it all amounts to so much ugliness in the name of God.
If you don’t get what I’m trying to say here, you only need to look to Anne Coulter, or Bill O’Reilly, or move a little further back in time to bear witness to the bigoted stylings of one Anita Bryant. There are many more examples, some that held women back, other’s that claimed blacks were biblically quoted as being beneath whites. The list of “causes in God’s name” are endless.
There are those that would look down their noses at my sister for being the main breadwinner in her household. Like our father, she came equipped with all the determination and ambition to be a winner. And, her partner is utterly non threatened by this. Yet, there are those that would point their finger at her, and spew their rhetoric about how her place is at home, and how she’s diminishing her only valid role; which is to be a mother.
I’d love to see one of them attempting to say that to her face. I dare any one of them. They’d be the sorriest fools on planet earth when she finished with them.
As a mother, she followed in Ma’s footsteps and works outside the home. Yet, despite her nine to five gig, she’s there for her kids, not just present, but physically and emotionally available. And, like Mama, nothing gets past her when it comes to those two kids.
The best of both worlds made this child into a strong, independent woman.
You go girl!
I’ve heard it said that boys are mostly raised to be emotionally constipated. I’d tend to agree. With exception of my sister’s approach, and a few other families I’ve known in my time, most girls get taught to be “pretty and emotionally available”, and boys instructed to keep their feelings in check, but opinions strong.
What’s wrong with that picture.
I grew up with this, as did pretty much every boy in my generation and the generations preceding my own. The one truth we had hammered into us was that boys don’t cry.
This was the cardinal rule that came with the penis you were born with. There were no exceptions to it. If you felt something, you sucked it up, and kept it in.
In short; any display of emotion, outside of aggression in sports is a sign of weakness and femininity.
Boy…my poor Dad. What he must have thought when he got a load of his whiny little shithead in action.
For a really long time I couldn’t cry. I was literally incapable of it. My sister, Petra commented on this, and decided to lay into me about that particular “rule”. I’m forever thankful that she called me out, and forced me to take a long, hard look at my programming.
It took a good three years, but when those floodgates finally opened…soon after, my “reconstruction” began.
I realized that I was carrying a lot of dead weight. My mindset was deeply flawed and my attitude sucked. it was then that I finally I started to wake up and realize that letting go and letting be was the only way I was going to become a whole person. Up until then, I was nothing but a shattered soul.
My journey is far from over, and I’m grateful for the emotional place I’m in now, with a couple of exceptions. In saying that, there are times I wish I could just plug another person into my brain, and show them the things I’ve learned. However, everyone needs to figure out what’s what for themselves, otherwise, those lessons won’t always compute.
I see a lot of people out there in the same spot I once occupied. My truth finally allowed me to become a wiser person. It’s sad that I know they’re equipped with all the right tools, but lack the confidence to move beyond their pre-constructed ideals of what it is they deserve. As I bear witness I truly want to help, yet I realize that the help they need must come from within.
All I can do is hold up that proverbial mirror, and hope they see what the world sees. Lord knows I’m not exactly the greatest example of a human being, and far be it from me to start thrusting my own truths upon another.
It’s perplexing to think that in this day and age, the colour of a person’s skin, religion they practice, or the place a person happens to be born makes them “less” in the eyes of another. A simple fact that these people choose to ignore; no one human being is above another, period.
While some of our actions might need a re-evaluating at times, that we all breathe and bleed is everyone’s truth. Our race, the country we live in, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, creed, and the list goes on shouldn’t matter to anyone. After all, we come into this world the courtesy of a womb, and we all eventually leave it. That is inescapable, and there are no exceptions.
In the end, we all wind up just so much fertilizer. I don’t think Donald Trump’s grass is going to grow any greener than the turf I’m occupying a space beneath.
The skinny of this is, people are beautiful just as they are, period. Dark skin, light yellow, red, white, we’re all people, and the one thing I still see a call to revolution for is learning to love ourselves for who we are.
I am a big man. I am a hairy man. I could diet and shave my body, and I could sculpt that body. But underneath all that esoteric nonsense, I’d still be me…and I’d still feel the same things, think the same thoughts, and continue to be a misfit. It’s my role in life.
Society looks at who I am, and often thinks I need to disappear, that I’m “less” because of my weight, my fur, my lack of gym definition. And I admit, I feel less sometimes as well. It deeply saddens me that I still feel inferior to others. I am a work in progress, clearly.
For example, a lot of my friends will post photos of their idea of male beauty on their Facebook pages, and I really have to wrestle with what I see. The reason is, the images only show one type of build as being attractive. Big, bulky, furry, muscular men, in short muscle bears. I know just how a chubby teenage girl feels passing a magazine stand loaded with skinny girls on the covers, believe me.
It bothers me that it hurts so much when I see these postings. I finally figured out what cut so deeply is what these men represented to me; the ideal I could never meet. No amount of stretching is going to make me taller. No amount of starvation and gym work will ever give me a flat six-pack. I’m simply not constructed that way, period.
It’s unfortunate that I feel so much self-loathing and worthlessness every time I come across one of these photos. And, in saying that, this is where my personal revolution must begin.
I’m Teddy Ruxpin, can I be my friend?
I came to this inescapable conclusion that I must start planning my own personal uprising. That action is going to include a long, hard look at my “shortcomings”. It must also have a plan of action where one pocket bear learns to stop de-valuing himself. On the board as well is the simple act of ceasing the unrealistic comparisons of what he sees. Most importantly, he needs to start loving himself for who and what he is instead of chastising himself for what he isn’t.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s their party. If I want to continue being included on their guest lists, it’s a matter of good form to accept that others happen like something I will never be. It’s also a sound idea to reconcile the notion that it’s OK to be who I am, a walking, talking Teddy Ruxpin.
Change is inevitable, and sometimes painful. But as Cheryl Crow sang some years ago “Change will do you good”.