I did not understand the process of growing up. I didn’t have older friends or an older brother to guide me through those tough years — not like I was much help to my little brother. But I never knew how to talk about any of the thoughts in my head. I would write them down or tell them to my stuffed dog and eventually my real dog. I didn’t get much of a response as you can imagine.
Yet, I remember when I had to change my word choice to seem less “gay,” even when I had no idea what that word meant. I would call friends on Saturdays to “play” but I remember being teased on the playground that play had a sexual connotation that was silly for a 9 year old boy to say to another 9 year old boy. It was around the same time that someone did the condo/condom joke that tripped up Grandpa Simpson. Instead, I would ask if they wanted to hang out. Over time, very few people did. I would imagine my hit rate was near 20%. Instead, I read and watched a lot of TV.
When I was in sixth grade, my dad made me join cross country to get out of the house and to stop watching cartoons. I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t like it and I didn’t make any friends doing it. Instead, I got bullied there, just like I got bullied everywhere else. One day, I remember running home. I was crying, which was not rare for me returning home from a day at Lincoln Middle School. My dad was doing something to the car in the garage and he saw me come up the driveway crying and he asked what was bothering me. I said that the kids on the teams were calling me names and I didn’t know what the words meant. My dad asked what the words were and I said I didn’t want to say. I considered them profane, even though I had no idea what they meant. He prodded me and prodded me and eventually I said the word: fag. He didn’t explain what it meant to me and I think it caught him as a surprise. I just remember him saying that I wasn’t one, so I shouldn’t let it bother me.
I don’t think that middle schoolers have some insight into someone or saw something in me that I did not see. If anything, it is just a word that people throw around without knowing what it means. Like serendipity. Nonetheless, it proved to me that I had to fall deeper into the shadows and just do my best to be normal. Or if nothing else, to not think about relationships or dating or girls or boys or really anything. I focused on something else – anything else.
Life is hard in high school if you don’t talk about girls. I have lots of memories of people (generally, teammates) trying to get inside my head to figure out who I liked. And honestly, there were girls I liked. A lot. I remember three in particular that I would have done anything for them to talk to me. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with one. But I didn’t want to kiss or touch or any of that. I just would imagine a sitcom like lifestyle where I would come home and she would be there and we would live a very Disney life. I imagined that a lot. I wanted that so much. I wanted to be a husband. I wanted to be a father. I wanted to be all of those things that a normal person is.
When the relationship I was in at the beginning of college ended, I knew why. I was not providing the care that she deserved and I regret ever putting her in a situation where she was not cared for. I have no idea if she suspected anything or was curious why I wasn’t that person for her. So, I convinced myself of something. Ironically, so did Rauch: “I had no sexual feelings, but instead was madly obsessive. I could not be a homosexual: I was not effeminate, I had no desire to be touched sexually by a man…But I was not behaving the way heterosexuals behaved.” Therefore, I was some sort of asexual creature – a monster, in all honesty, that was going to spend the rest of his life alone and in solitary confinement.
I thought that with time, I would transform into a normal person. This was not the first instance of such thoughts. I remember looking at pictures of models in magazines with huge pectoral muscles and looking my my concave body in the mirror and imagining when that would happen to me. I assumed like a girl, one day, I would just wake up and they would start growing. I had no idea that I needed to bench press my body weight or be able to do more than a handful of pushups. But for a 21 year old to assume that his body will activate and everything will work out is silly. That one day, a woman would walk by and I would have the feelings that everyone else I knew was having. Instead, I was back to imagining the long life I would have on my own. But I would be successful: law school and all of that, so who would question me? I had the best excuse: I’m too busy to think about a serious relationship. “I was childlike, responding with no response at all except to change the subject.”
It is a strange position to be in where you want to fit in completely and just hide in the shadows, but at the same time, you want to excel to take any glare off of another part of your life that you don’t understand. In a recent New York Times editorial, Adam D. Chandler wrote about this article as a coming out of sorts to millions of readers. He described how he wanted to fit in. “I copied how the boys at school sat in their desks, with their knees apart. I observed how they wore their backpacks, using only one of the shoulder straps.” But he was also an overachiever – a Harvard law graduate who grew up trying to distract with good report cards and success.
Rauch made a similar point that I believe was even more true for me regarding being normal: “[l]ittle boys and teenagers want many things, but most of all they want to be normal. The desire not to be strange is not, I think, the callous invention of a capitalist or racist or sexist or whateverist culture which seeks to repress human beings’ explosively variegated diversity. It is, for people, an indivisible part of the socializing instinct.” I didn’t want to be abnormal in another form. Everyone told me I was smarter than the average bear. I was far weaker, shorter, thinner than most boys my age. I did not have a large circle of friends and I never felt normal socially. I felt like an outcast in almost every fashion of my life.
Chandler wrote at the end of his piece, “The flip slide of discovering you’re not alone is the melting of your presumed snowflake uniqueness. Now I’m a statistic, another data point, just an ordinary overachieving closet case.” He is right – that feels bad. There are fears that my drive will reduce. There are fears that I will still end up alone. But instead of having excuses, it does feel nice to be a statistic for once, where my actions and reactions were more normal than not. A little normalcy can go a long way.
Yeah, I wasn’t unique at all in my reaction. And strangely enough, that doesn’t bother me one bit now. It feels good to know that I am not unique or strange or abnormal – at least in how an adolescent reacted to figuring out his differences. I just wish I could go back in time and tell 11 year old Dan just that.
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.
Jonathan Rauch has graced this blog before. Maybe, not in name, butinspirit. Ever since I read this article Caring for Your Introvert, I felt more confident in who I am as a person. I get more energy from being alone than I do from other people. A few weeks ago, he published a new book called Denial. For a second time, I have to thank Mr. Rauch for writing something that will shape the rest of my life (besides his many political pieces, which I find interesting and thoughtful). It will shape who I am today and who I will try to be in the future.
I have never written these words. They aren’t news to many people in my life. But here they are…I’m gay.
It’s a hard thing to write, even at thirty years of age. It isn’t shame or embarrassment that makes it difficult. My family and many other people have known for over three years now. But I’m a genuinely private person (even for someone who has a personal blog that he likes to write in). And I think I also still have a bit of shame about being different. And part of writing this is to stop with that shame, or at least slow it down.
When I first began to accept this part of me, I wasn’t liberated. I was a bit more scared than I was the day before. Rauch described it like this: “Imagine being born and raised in a dark dungeon cell, where you hear of an outside world but cannot conceive of a path to it; and then imagine the one day you put your fingers to the brick and push a bit, just the slightest bit of pressure, and all four walls of the cell simple collapse into the ground, and all traces of captivity are gone except the ones inscribed on yourself.” I have inscribed so much on myself that it is painful to think about. I put myself in captivity. I assumed that I could not be loved, that I was different, that I was a depressive who should be on his own, and that I don’t deserve to be happy. I felt safe in my surroundings. Like the Simon and Garfunkel song, I Am A Rock, I had my books and poetry to protect me.
It was easy to stay safe in the womb I built if I didn’t put myself out there. And eventually, I decided I needed to leave my safety net. And so I did. This is that story.
Every once in a while, you read a book because you are trying to read 52 books in a year. You look at the cover and it looks cool. The ideas seem interesting. But it does nothing for you and you end up taking weeks to finish it; you end up keeping it for ten days overdue from the library; and you end you just wishing you never picked it up in the first place. The Investigation by Phillippe Claudel is just that book. It is beautifully written and I think its theme that you shouldn’t define yourself or anyone you know by their role, job, or defining characteristic. There is more to a person than any of that. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t care. I found it annoying.
Claudel was trying to be Kafka. He tried to create a world that didn’t make any sense but was really interesting. It confused you but it painted an absurd image of the world. I am sure that there are lots of people who like this book and like how it is mind-challenging. But I found it tedious and boring. I had no connection to any character, the events, or where it was heading. It isn’t for me. I didn’t find it enchanting. I found it troublesome. I didn’t find it engaging. I found it tedious. It felt like I was being beat over the head with its absurdity and it didn’t go anywhere. I’m sure that was the point. Yeah…I didn’t get it. Either way though…
In April, Mount Prospect will hold an election for village trustee. There are six candidates on the ballot. Below are samples of articles regarding the candidates, information on their personal beliefs and other political opinions, and this will be updated along the election to better serve Mount Prospect.
<updated with new Carl Ariazza video 2/26>
Almost every candidate running for Mt. Prospect village trustee and park board commissioner have agreed to participate in the Mt. Prospect Journal’s debate/forum on Wednesday, Mar. 20 beginning at 7 p.m. at Mt. Prospect Village Hall.
A 501(c)(4) organization started by former Sen. Rick Santorom
Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 – “”We, as the village, need to take a leadership role there and get all the existing business and property owners on the same page,” Polit said. “I’d like to see a ‘Kensington Business Center Association’ formed to provide a single focus.”
“What are you going to cut and how much will that save?” Matuszak asked. “When you cut those services, what will be the impact to the community?”
According to Matuszak, Dyslin and Arriaza continue to argue taxes are too high, but do not offer an alternative budget. “If they want my vote, they need to tell how their budget cuts will impact my life,” Matuszak emphasized.
Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - ”The Internet has been a huge change, obviously,” he said. “Going forward, we should target businesses that can do well on the Internet. Mount Prospect is a great location for companies and retail stores, we just have to be smart and aggressive to get them.”
“I would first like to maintain a fiscally conservative approach to providing village services after identifying and prioritizing needed capital projects. Then implementing funding sources to accomplish these projects in a manner that provides minimal impact to the residents’ financial obligations<.>”
Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - “…he’s happy the village has taken steps to annex properties on the south end of the village near O’Hare International Airport. Those could be good sites for warehouse-type developments, he said. He added that while progress in the downtown area has been slow, there are encouraging signs of life.”
“John Dyslin is a lifelong conservative and Republican. He currently is a precinct captain for the Republicans of Wheeling Township, a Liberty Leader with the Illinois Policy Institute and a volunteer for several Republican candidates in Illinois. He also is a veteran magazine editor, covering industries such as HVAC, electrical contracting and workplace safety and health.”
Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - “…the village has to re-evaluate its business permit process to make sure it runs as quickly and smoothly as possible. He said he would make attracting businesses to the downtown area and the Kensington Business Center a priority.”
Mt. Prospect Journal article - okay with three incumbents winning re-election and will ask soon-to-be mayor to fill her empty trustee spot with him.
Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - “…while he’s pleased with the overhaul of Randhurst, he too wishes more had happened in the downtown area. He said he would encourage more active communication with prospective businesses and existing property owners. ’There’s been some progress downtown, but it’s been slow,” he said. “Bringing new businesses in is a huge help in keeping taxes reasonable for residents. Downtown has to be a top priority going forward.’”
Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 - ”…’new eyes’ are needed in the area of downtown redevelopment. While retail chains and major restaurants have opened at Randhurst, he said the village must work harder to get smaller businesses.”
I have now read all the recent issues of Avengers and New Avengers by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena, and Steve Epting. I don’t get it. I enjoyed the characters in Avengers but the villains in both are not interesting or frightening. The solutions are simplistic and a little annoying because they just end with no actual solution, even though the characters think they are over. The saddest part is I read Avengers 2 before Avengers 1 because I grabbed the wrong issue and I didn’t feel any more loss in the storyline than I did after I read the first one. Each issue (all seven) cost $3.99 so it was $28 worth of comics. I don’t know if I got my money’s worth – especially from New Avengers, which seems to be about a story that I missed a large chunk of it even though I don’t know where I missed it from. The art was never the problem. It was good. But nothing that really set it apart.
My mom introduced me to the music of Les Miserables when I was growing up. Mandy Patinkin sang I Dreamed a Dream. And I needed more. PBS shows a concert special. I wanted to watch it. I would walk around singing Stars for days. I would sing Who Am I? as I walked to school. So, when I heard there was going to be a movie, I was excited.
I have seen the stage production twice: once on Broadway and once in Madison. It is a beautiful story of justice and basically death. Politically. I hated Javert, but musically, he was my favorite. His story is one of pride and belief in the system. But the system is broken. A man who is tracks his entire life is not whom he believes him to be. But seeing the man on stage alone singing some of the most beautiful songs I ever heard made the musical.
On a movie screen, it is a different production. It is not the stage production and you can’t go into it thinking you are going to see a stage production. Movie musicals are different. A camera is different than a stage. It isn’t worse. It is different. Rob Marshall understood that when he made Chicago. He used the tricks of moviemaking to make the movie something special. Tom Hooper filmed Les Miserables like someone who sat only in the balcony for a stage production. He was always on top of the actors. You were there with them face-to-face, which is not what you get as a viewer of the stage production. It is always a separation.
Overall, this doesn’t help the story. I cried more than usual, but that is because everyone looked so much more sad than I am used to from the stage. But for the love story of Marius and Cossette, I got it with the movie. I understood their story so much more. Marius was annoying on the record or in the theater. But I understood why Cossette fell in love with him. I appreciated that aspect of the film. Eddie Redmayne added something to the character that I never saw before.
Redmayne as Marius
I read a lot of bad reviews of the movie and I will say that it is not as powerful as it is on stage. It is not shot in a way that is very welcoming. It loses a lot of its heart and its soul due to its styling. Master of the House is creepy and not very funny. It reminded me of how Tim Burton filmed the funnier parts of Sweeney Todd – something was missing. Russell Crowe is not a strong baritone and I didn’t connect to Javert as I would have loved to. I didn’t understand the premises behind his solos. It is a little sad that I didn’t see that on film.
But I have seen it. If I watch the Les Miserable concert (the one before the Nick Jonas one), I get that despair and fear and anger out of that Javert. Each staging will change how you feel about the story.
It wasn’t as good as Lincoln. I loved Silver Linings Playbook. But it was a good movie experience. And I introduced John to something that is really important to me. Worth the price of admission.
Updated: watch this fun video on Christine Pedi imagining what Les Mis would be like with different people playing roles: