Book 5 of 52: Denial by Jonathan Rauch – I’m…Part Two
In the beginning of Denial, Rauch explains that, at a young age, he was practicing the piano and realized out of the blue that he would not be getting married. He didn’t know why, but it was something that he just felt. He describes it as “otherworldly blandness of a realization which is as certain as it is apparently baseless.” Though I didn’t have a similar thought on marriage at ten (that thought came a bit later), I remember writing short stories and telling people that I would adopt children. It never crossed my mind that I would have children the old fashioned way. When I look back, I would link it to my love of superheroes, specifically Bruce Wayne, who got a new ward whenever the last Robin got tired of him and his controlling personality. I also would tell myself that it was better for the world if I took care of children that were already here without a home, instead of creating more. It seemed very noble. I knew at the time it was weird for me to think these thoughts, but I figured, like Rauch, it would go away. Eventually, I would have a switch that goes off that makes me understand fifth grade sex ed and the feelings I was being warned that would come my way.
It would be easy to say that my thoughts on my sexuality, at this age, were defined as right or wrong as defined by the Church.
I grew up a Catholic, I was an altar server, and for a long time, I wanted to be a priest. But it wasn’t a right or wrong dichotomy that was in my head. It was all about wanting to just feel the same way everyone else felt. I didn’t know how they felt before they decided to pursue a girl or boy. Did a switch turn on that told you what to feel? How did you feel the day before? What were you to do next? All that I knew that I wanted was the white picket fence and to be loved. I wanted to have a family and I wanted to grow up like everyone else. And I would pray that I would. I didn’t pray to change who I was – I had no idea who that was. I just prayed for the life that TV and movies define as a the good life.
These feelings never came. And I was ashamed that I didn’t have those feelings. I really didn’t have any feelings. I pretended that I did. I did whatever I could to be what I envisioned the person everyone else wanted me to be. At my core, I felt, like Rauch, “sexually retarded.” As other boys and girls began having feelings for each other, I would develop them at a time to be determined later. When they didn’t come, I just figured, I was incapable of loving someone like that and therefore was incapable of being loved. I became envious.
I remember listening to the lyrics of I’m A Believer and understanding one line (and not much else of the song): “I thought love was only true in fairy tales. Meant for someone else but not for me.” Instead of thinking that I was just like everyone else (just slightly different). I turned myself into the best kid I could be, so no one would see my differences. Or if they did, it didn’t bother them because I was such a good guy.
Continued in Part Three