Book 5 of 52: Denial by Jonathan Rauch – I’m…Part Six
When It Began To Bother Me
In your mid-twenties, your friends and family start getting married. Your life is supposed to get started. Just like how I assumed that one day I would be as built as a professional wrestler without doing anything, I assumed that in my twenties, I would meet the girl of my dreams and we would get married like my parents and their parents and their parents before.
I was almost done with law school and ready to set out on a career path. All of the hard work that I put towards my goals instead of worrying about who I was going to date was going to come to a culmination. At the ripe age of 24 years old, I had graduated from law school.
Most of my family were there and I couldn’t have been happier. But it was really difficult. Most of my friends had wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, or at least a significant other who watched them cross the stage. Nothing against my family – my parents, my siblings, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins – but it was hard to not have someone like that at that event. Or any event.
I began to question myself. I began to wonder exactly who I was. The hardest part was that I began to understand who I was and I never had a feeling that my parents were going to hate me or that anyone in my family would treat me different. But I just kept thinking that same thing: that isn’t me. I’m not that person. And if nothing else, I feared being differing in another regard.
My therapist and I began talking about it. She would ask questions about work and my job hunt. But the stresses there lessened, especially after I found work. She began to ask about dating. She asked why I didn’t think I could do that. And I explained that it just didn’t seem for me. I explained that I wanted to just be happy on my own – that I never imagined someone else being in my life. I would discuss how content I was. I almost wrote off happiness seconds after saying I would be happy by saying that I would be content in my life by myself. But in reality, I knew I wouldn’t. I built up a circular logic that any first year philosophy student could poke a dozen holes into.
I wanted all those things that all my friends and family were having. I wanted to walk down the aisle. I wanted children. I wanted to have a good job. I wanted to be just like everyone else – for once. And I would go home pleading that I would be normal – that I would just fit in with everyone else.
It took one event for me to really sit down with myself and be honest. It was New Year’s Eve. My parents were with my grandmother but I didn’t want to go. And my sister and her boyfriend were in town. I sat at home watching Veronica Mars on DVD and they came home to announce their engagement. My younger sister was now on the same road that my friends were on. I was happy for her, but I was also jealous. I felt like I was doing something wrong and that I was cursed. “By now I had grown used to knowing that I was the strangest creature in the world, one whose wiring was seemingly random.” But it was time for me to determine if I was as strange as I assumed that I was.
I began talking to my therapist and she told me that I had to figure that out. She told me that it wasn’t going to be easy and that I would have to put myself out there to figure out exactly who I was and who I wanted to love. It took almost two years of prodding and discussion. For anyone who knows me, this is a short amount of time for me to commit to do anything. I have a difficult time putting myself out there , but I did. In 2009, I went on my first date.
About a month later, I told the first person. My brother and I were watching TV and we began the news on an issue I don’t remember, but it involved homosexuality. He said something along the lines of: I guess I don’t know for sure what I think about being around a gay person cause I really don’t know any. He wasn’t saying it to be biased because he isn’t. He was saying it because in our little suburban world, it was foreign. Not something to hate or dislike, but just foreign. In response, I said, you kinda do. He said, “I do?” And I said, yes, me. I told him that I was trying to figure things out and we didn’t talk much about it otherwise. A little while later, I told my sister when she was home for spring break, she was a bit more animated and cried because she assumed I was struggling with this for a long time and that it had hurt me.
It did hurt me, but not in a sense that deserves tears. Rauch put it perfectly: “I never did recover from the loss of my adolescence: from the vacuum where my awakening to love and sexuality and self ought to have been.” But I knew I would survive. I then told my parents and we were off to the races.
Concluded in Part Seven