January 23, 2004

I’m home in South Carolina for the first time in almost three years. I’ve been here for five hours now and I’m about to lose my mind.

The house I grew up in has been renovated almost beyond recognition. My father’s computer is so slow as to be carbon-datable. I have been forced to play checkers with the child my father and his wife seem to have placed under their protection. It’s all so hideous it makes me want to die.

The one saving grace is that I’ve spent much of the day looking through my old books. Because of a story that’s not relevant to this post (but that I promise I’ll tell at some point), my father has a moral obligation never to throw away any of my books. And so I’m running across forgotten bits of my history at every turn.

I found the first gay book I ever acquired, a slim volume called I’m Looking for Mr. Right but I’ll Settle for Mr. Right Away, by one Gregory Flood. I bought this book at a new age bookstore in Los Angeles when I was fifteen or sixteen, during the same trip on which I narrowly escaped doing all sorts of things in the bathroom of the local mall with a man who seemed at the time to be centuries older than I. Acne-ridden and wearing a fuchsia T-shirt, I was standing in B. Dalton when I heard somebody whisper at me to lift up my shirt. I looked over and saw the ancient man from whom the whisper had emanated; heart pounding with excitement or terror–who can tell which?–I did as he’d asked, but then had the presence of mind to flee when he suggested that we continue our interaction behind the Chick-Fil-A. I spent the rest of the day in a state of relief that I hadn’t done anything with him and despair that I wouldn’t ever do anything with anybody.

I found John Grishamn’s The Pelican Brief in French, which I bought at a train station in Paris so I’d have something to read on the trip to Madrid, where I was going to visit a lamentably heterosexual friend who lived there with his parents and sister, whom he hated. It was the first time in a decade I’d been to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language; I quickly picked up enough Spanish to ask for directions to places like the Royal Palace, but not enough to understand the answers I got. As a result I ended up hopelessly lost in the streets of Madrid until I managed to find my way back to my friend’s house. Upon my return to Paris, where my family was staying for a month, I went out to dinner with my father and he asked me how I’d feel if he got married to the woman he was dating. Even I, dissembler that I am, couldn’t cover my dismay completely, but it seems to have made no difference–as was only appropriate, since it was his proposal and not mine.

I found a diary I kept for exactly a week, starting the day after I came out. It begins with these sentences: “So. It’s true. I’m gay.” I haven’t been able to bring myself to read any further, for fear that remembering the naivete (forgive the lack of accents–I don’t know how to make them on my father’s Cretaceous computer) and confusion and terror I felt then will somehow destroy the illusion I’ve managed to create–and sometimes even to believe–that I’m more in control of my life now than I was then.

More than anything else, reading my autobiography as reflected in these books makes me wish I could travel back in time and whisper in the ear of my adolescent self, “It’ll all turn out okay. Really, it will. I promise.”

Or is it that I wish my future self could travel back in time and whisper those words in the ear of my present self?

It’ll all turn out okay. Really, it will. I promise.

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9 Responses to I'm home in South Carolina

  1. zenchick says:

    It’s great to get that perspective. Thanks for the real and toucing post.

  2. Tanya says:

    Everytime I see a picture of myself it brings back the anxiety I was feeling at the moment. I always want to do the same — go back and tell myself “it’ll all turn out okay.” Strange though that I can’t then make that logical leap during times of anxiety and calm myself with the thought that things will probably work out well as they have before.

  3. Daniel says:

    “Don’t worry ’bout a thing, ’cause every little thing will be alright”

    A little mantra a friend gave me that I still cling to during tough times.

  4. Dr.P says:

    Its interesting to confront your past self. Whether you felt it was something good or bad, it shaped you into the person you are today. Instead of feeling bad about it, you should feel that it was important it happened.

  5. MzOuiser says:

    I think many of us feel this way. I was just saying to a friend not too long ago that I’d give anything for the 17-year-old me to have a glimpse of the 32-year-old me. I think it would have helped her immensely and prevented her from falling quite so deep into despair for so long. However, knowing this, helps the now-me realize that the future can’t possibly be as bad as the past me was afraid the now-life was going to be.

    Geez. That was convoluted.

    Anyway, it is turning out ok. It has turned out pretty damn well. And there is every reason to believe we can keep this up.

    We really can. I promise.

  6. Adam875 says:

    Funny coincidence: I recently unearthed my journals covering 8th grade til sometime in 11th. Vastly entertaining. And frustrating, and full of stupidity and naivite and ignorance and things I’m embarrassed by. Yet reading them was really quite fun, when all was said and done. I take great comfort in knowing that I made it through intact, and that I am, in fact, far more together now than I was then. There were even some interesting revelations, such as realizing that for years I’ve been in denial about my own denial!

  7. A Fan says:

    Something to ponder:

    Your personality is everything that you have taught yourself.

    From what you share about yourself in your postings, you have taught yourself well.

  8. I know exactly how you feel about wanting your future self to assure you that things are going to be OK. It seems like I am stuck at a fork in the road and am having problems deciding which road to choose.

  9. no milk says:

    i hate the past. i can’t stand it. things from my youth still haunt me, so much so that i will make unconscious headshaking. i try not to look back…

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