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Friday, November 11, 2011

One of My Biggest Regrets

I have to come out of the closet again. I found something out about myself this year but haven't told many more people than some of my closest friends. So here we go; hoping you won't judge me to harshly.....I love Glee. There, I said it. Even as a fairly secure gay man, I wasn't secure enough to say I enjoyed a show about singing and dancing and feelings. I finally broke down to watch it this year and see what all the noise was about. Its been my dirty little secret for months now. More like a guilty pleasure. After a bad day or stressful situation I could come home, turn on netflix, and forget the world for a moment.

It has made me question my gayness. While I have zero issue with men who's flame shines a bit brighter, I don't fit in that stereotype very well. I can cook and can appreciate dressing better, but I couldn't tell you what the new fall colors were at Nordstrom, what names they carry, or what the great vintages of wine are. I will tell you that Ross carries some decent clothes at decent prices and I do enjoy shopping. I can also tell you that Cumin is an undervalued spice in this world. That's about as far as my gay gene takes me in the world of fashion.

Regardless of how "straight-acting," "masculine," or butch I may naturally be, there are areas that Kurt and I relate on a very personal level. He goes through many insecurities that I have dealt with, even if they weren't as easy to spot as his are.

I have gone back and done something I almost never do, I have started re-watching episode one. I never watch shows I have seen over again. Always seems pointless to live in the past (Even though I have bought the first six seasons of Smallville, but haven't watched them over again at all), but Glee has me doing it.

I watched the 4th episode of season one last night and it hit me strongly again. For those that haven't seen it, Kurt (the gay character with a "bright flame") comes out to his dad, but not without some final attempts to prove his masculinity and hide his secret. While he meets being on the football team with moderate success, it doesn't fulfill him. It took me back.

In high school I was always asked what I played on the football team. People were suprised when I told them I didn't play football. I was tall and husky (still hate that word) and probably would have done OK as a lineman, which I think is a real position, right? I had no real interest in football, but did play in the band at home games and enjoyed that instead.

Sports scared me. I avoided them at all costs as I worried my lack of talent would be discovered and somehow that would immediately have people arrive at the conclusion that I must be gay. I wasn't going to have that shameful secret exposed. Now looking back, not joining in church ball and avoiding all other sports probably wasn't as good of a cover as I once thought. I did play one sport, soccer. I loved it and played until I was old enough to realize I wasn't as talented as my older brothers and would end up on rec teams instead of competition teams. I wasn't the worst player, but just was shy of having enough talent and speed to move on. Thus ended my career in sports at the old age of 13.

I wanted to play church ball, I really did. My dad was the coach and had been a star player in high school. He would always ask me, but I always had a good excuse about homework or fixing a car, or some extra curricular school activity. Secretly I had hoped he would just take me aside sometime when others weren't around and show me how to play basketball and be like the other guys. I was too prideful and too embarrassed to ask. My older brothers had more talent and I didn't want to embarrass him or me by my lack of athletic skill.

I think mt dad was fairly perceptive, even though he never caught on that I did want to play basketball, but I just wanted him to get me up to speed before I looked like a fool.

There is the old chain of thought that being gay was as a result of an over-bearing mother and distant father. I don't buy it. I will have to cede the fact that my mother did fit that stereotype, if not the very definition of it. Her picture may actually be next to the word in the dictionary. I am too afraid to look. As far as my father goes, he wasn't distant, but he was "old." I had one of the oldest dads among my friends. I loved hearing about all the camping, shotgun shooting, hiking, sports, etc that my older brothers and sisters did with him. I was often jealous. I was the youngest of seven and now see why he had to work so hard to provide for us. I knew he was older, but it didn't make me not wish for those days they would speak of that I spent coddled by my mom while they played.

Looking back, I don't think that makes him a distant father though. He worked hard, but he was always there at whatever I was doing. Whether I was in a play, or a concert, or just having him watch me color on his workbench as my mom would be off shopping or doing some important civic work or something "important."

The most fond memories though are when Dad would take some time off for just me and we would go to the local car show. I loved it and couldn't get enough of his old stories of which car he drove or what he dreamed of. I love my dad and I miss him more than I can possibly explain. [Hopefully my spelling is OK as the screen is a bit blurry at the moment. Must be allergies, right? ;)]

My eyes did well up a bit honestly as I watched Kurt come out to his dad. I never did. It is one of my biggest regrets. I was 20 when my dad passed away after a long, and often painful two years of kidney failure. It was not an experience I would wish on anyone, but there were silver linings on those dark, cloudy two years.

I stayed home from my mission for two reasons. First, 24/7 with another guy my age seemed like way too much of a temptation and I needed to avoid being gay at all costs. Second, I was the youngest and only one at home still. Someone needed to car for dad and help him. I will say the latter helped mask the first well. (Aside from all the promises that he'd be "cured" if I would only just go serve God for two years....don't get me started on that one.)

Dad died just before my 21st birthday and right after his 60th. We hadn't even celebrated it yet. He chose the morning of Memorial Day 2001 to leave us. It was almost 2 years that he had been ill. 2 years that I spent serving the mission I should have been on. I felt at peace with that. Had I gone on an LDS mission, I would have missed many painful moments as I watched this giant of a man slowly die. However, I would have missed some of the greatest bonding moments of my life. This was my time with my dad. While not as fun as shotgun shooting, or hiking, or camping. This was my time. I got to know this well-loved man in ways many did not. Unfortunately I live with one major regret from that time, that I didn't tell him.

Every boy wants his dad to be proud. I did a lot of things trying to be a son he could be proud of. I was smart, excelled in scouts, involved in church, etc. But, I was gay, and it was my weakness.

Today, I regret not having that conversation with him. It was one thing I regretted from the moment I came out. As I watched Kurt last night come out to his dad, it took me back to that regret and made me wish I had. I wasn't quite ready then, but I wish I would have been. It took me 8 years, a wife, and two kids later after that to finally accept who I was and come out.

Coming out was ugly all around. I was ill prepared and floundered many times. Many that read this blog or know me personally will know that my family has all but vanished in my life. I was the party planner in my family. I made sure the events happened and that we got together. I was the glue that brought together all the differing opinions and drama hoping to keep the family together after dad died. I was often told I should have been the oldest, not the youngest. I acted like the oldest. Having them disappear from my life out of misunderstanding, fear, or religious beliefs has been tough. I have often thought these were not the children my dad raised. He would never have stood for this.

I never did come out to him and I regret that deeply. I could go on and on about my dad and all the fond memories, but for now I'll shorten it up. He was a great man. He was loved by his children, his religion, his community. He is the man I look up to and wish to model my life after. When I hit a hard spot in life and consider my options, he comes to mind. Its not "what would Jesus do" that I think of, its "what would Dad do." Its not a weird pressure like religion. I don't feel like I am earning points or avoiding his dissatisfaction and guilt by wanting to be like him. He is just the man I admire and know that his heart was always in the right place. I see happiness when I remember him and I find happiness when I make decisions I know he would make. He loved everyone, even those who made his life harder. He accepted everyone (which will be a separate post one day). He had friends from all walks of life and he treated them all with dignity and respect. He would have done the same to me.

I do believe things would be different today had he lived to see me come out. I wish I would have been in a place to tell him 10+ years ago, but I wasn't. I think he knew though. Just like Kurt's dad, he may not have loved the idea, but he would have loved me. There may have been some questions. He may have needed a moment to breathe, but he would have loved me. He would have been my ally and biggest fan as he always was. Whether he has a soul somewhere or is just moved on to being a part of the circle of life here on Earth, he loves me. I know my dad and I do believe it would cause him pain to see his other children act towards me in the way they have. I feel sorry for them, they missed Dad's greatest lesson; to love unconditionally. He wouldn't have put up with it. While he rarely put his foot down, this would have been one of them. He would not have let the prejudice, disgust, or distance my family has chosen stand for one second. Sure, there is pain in not having my family accept me. Sure, there is pain in no longing belonging, but the sadness I feel is mostly for them. They have had an opportunity to "do what Dad would do" and they have ignored it. They have looked past, and in some ways, dishonored the man he was. They have stunted their growth and missed an opportunity of a lifetime. Dad didn't love because he was commanded to. He loved because he wanted to. After years of loving how I was commanded to, and now loving as I want to, I realize how different those two things really are.

I love the saying "I may not be perfect, but parts of me are pretty awesome." I have to say that those awesome parts are things I learned and felt from the greatest man I will ever know; my Dad.


Gay LDS Actor said...

Beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

Trev said...

That *was* a beautiful post! Thank you. And the first part about Glee was funny.

Ned said...

Beautiful post. My dad's also gone and I still miss him. So I kinda know how you feel.

Bruce Almighty said...

Ben, I loved your tribute to your father. I agree that it is sad your family is missing out on what your father stood for. If you'll adopt me as a brother, I'll have you.

Philip said...

I loved the first part about "Glee". My wife recently outed me to our daughter. We were talking about TV shows we love and my wife told my daugher that I watch Glee. To which my very supportive daughter laughed and said "Dad, that's so gay". We all laughed.

I don't fit the stereotype either. I am masculine though truth be told I have met some effeminate guys that are way more secure in their manhood than I will ever be.

I also like what you posted about your Dad. I was out to my Dad but we never talked about it. However, he never changed how he acted towards me either. And I never doubted his love for me even though he could never bring himself to say it out loud and to be honest, if he had, I don't know if I would have been comfortable enough to say I loved him back.

That's why I tell my son I love him because I know he knows that I do but I want him to hear it and he tells me that he loves me, too, with none of the embarassment I would have felt at his age.