I posted something on Facebook the other day about how being honest about who you are can be the most liberating feeling. I was tying it into the fact that it is September, and I count this month as the big month when I went to UMASS in the Fall of 1991 and finally came out. Of course, this is not entirely true as I came out to a friend in 1988 (still one of my best friends today) when I was 16 and several people in the subsequent years. But many of them were not always understanding and in the Fall of 1991, I finally met "my own kind." And I also got the nickname, Big Fuckin' Ed which I had drunkenly anointed myself at a work party a few months earlier.
What I had overlooked at the time I made my Facebook post is that I was 19 in September of 1991 and I am 38 now. That's half my life. My first 19 years were interminable, the last 19 have gone by in a flash. I still feel as insecure and unhappy and naive as I did at 18, other times, older than a fossil. But that wonderful, madcap era of college still feels as new and fresh as it did then. I posted a profile pic of me on Facebook recently from that era and a zoo coworker's comment is that in it I look "genuinely happy." And I guess I was. You know that song from the Rankin-Bass "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" when Jessica the schoolmarm lets down her hair and sings, "My World is Beginning Today?" That's exactly how I felt back then, sans the psychedelic imagery and stop-motion animation.
I've been thinking about this time even more these past few months as I am now in a job where I am quite a bit older than most of the other employees. What few other gay kids were there are gone or left for school. Once again, I feel like the lone gay guy in a roomful of straight people. It's as though I am back at square one, as tough the ensuing years have never happened. Maybe I am a mystery to these zoo coworkers, not always happy, sometimes in a bad mood. But the truth is, I have gone so long feeling one way that to go back to feeling another way - alone- is terrible. And I'm disoriented. I can always come back to reality when I am back in my apartment, talking with my friends. But I also have this insane need to be liked by everybody. It's not as intense as Neely O'Hara in "Valley of the Dolls" with her "mass love," but it's close. But why would these people have any interest in be friending a guy who's almost 40??? I think I'm a cool guy but I'm an anomaly now. I've never really wanted to be back in this position, it can be a bit alienating but I do like these people quite a bit. And, embarrassing to admit, even feel a little protective of them sometimes.
This time is not completely the same as when I was young, though. This time I can speak my mind, unlike in high school when I was afraid of my life. I can assert my opinion if I feel people are misinformed. And quite a few kids are. There was a wonderful moment when one guy was going on about what gay people. I said to him, "That's how you think gay people are, huh?" He said yes and I said, "Do you know you've been sitting next to one for the past half an hour." Dead silence.
Ah, score one for Big Fuckin' Ed. I've still got it.