Warning - this is a long long entry
For as long as I can remember I have always had a negative perception of myself. It seems that no matter what I do I never seem to be happy with myself. Looking back over the years, I can find quite a number of factors that have influenced my perceptions.
Let us start with grade school. At the elementary school that I went to, there were maybe 25 kids in my class. It was a very rural community in south western PA. It was during my 4th grade year, that I ended up with my first set of braces on my teeth. Well, kids being kids, I received my share of teasing and pranks. I knew that there was nothing that I could do about it, so I dealt with it as best as I could. Even back then, I knew that I had to do something to divert their attention from my braces on to something else. So I decided to throw myself into my school work and became a “math whiz” so to speak. Each week, the teacher would have a math contest and the top 5 people would get to go outside for the last 30 minutes of the day while the “losers” would have to write their multiplication tables over and over again. I never dropped out of the top 5. Although this made me popular with the teacher, I was now the class nerd with braces. So much for boosting my image.
That summer my parents signed me up to play soccer. My team – “Purple Lightening” was the most feared team in our age division. My sister and I along with a kid named Charlie became known as the “Terrible Trio”. We weren’t undefeated that year, but we ended up winning the county title for our division by blowing away all of our competitors in the tournament.
I was the only one in my elementary class to play in the league. Since it was a rural school, you had to drive into “town” to play in the league, not many parents were willing to drive their kids 10-15 miles for practice and games. Plus the league was relatively new. The soccer experience made me a popular kid on the play ground when we played kick ball. My image as class nerd was changed to class jock. All the teasing and pranks stopped. All was well again. Playing soccer changed things for me. And because I was good at it, people looked up to me. Being popular did have its advantages.
Sometime around then, I hit puberty and the hair seemed to grow over night. Besides this guy named Eric, who was a few years older than me, I was the hairiest kid around. Again the teasing started. I guess there was something funny about a kid covered in hair who weighed no more than 110 lbs soaking wet. My solution? About once a week I would grab the hair clippers, lock myself in my parents bathroom and trim any bit of hair I could reach. I also relied on my soccer skills and the friends I made thru the sport.
By the time I was a freshman in high school, I gave up on the hair trimming. I realized that like the braces, I couldn’t change it. My soccer skills brought me more fame in our little school district, as I became the first Freshman since the varsity soccer program started a few years prior, to make the team and be on the starting lineup. Needless to say, this pissed off a lot of older teammates, especially the Seniors who got bumped. Now I had to prove my worthiness in a sport where I had always excelled. It wasn’t easy, but by the end of the season, I managed to show some people that I did belong on the team and that I was worthy of being a starter.
During the summer league, my coach that summer, was the head soccer coach for a local private school. Now, I always had an attraction to men, but this probably would rate as my first large crush on a man. My nights were filled with dreams of being naked with Randy and the assistant coach Jim. Both had facial hair and both furry as hell. I wanted to be just like them. Randy wanted me to change schools and play soccer for his team. As much as I wanted to, and as much as I wanted to be closer to these two men, I knew my parents could not afford to send me to his school. I tried to maintain contact with them, but as the old saying goes, life goes on.
Shortly after the summer league ended, the school varsity season was starting back up. This year brought with it a new coach, who happened to be my mother’s boss at the factory where she worked. One night before practice started, Roger sat the team down saying he had a few announcements to make. He said that he overheard a few people talking about who was going to be on the starting lineup for the first match, and that certain people were guaranteed a starting position because of their parents association with the school and with Roger himself. Roger said that it didn’t matter that my Dad was on the school board and that he worked with my mother, performance is how he is basing his starting lineup. So again, I had to prove my worthiness to be on the team. I pushed myself and pushed myself to prove to them that I was worthy of my starting position. In the end, I pushed myself too hard and ended up injuring myself at practice to the point that I had to sit out for a few weeks. My doctor released me to play the day of our first game. I didn’t start that game, but got a good bit of playing time in. By the next game, I had my starting position back.
On a side note, my phys ed teacher, a bearish type man, called me into his office when I first injured myself and wanted to see what I had done. I cant remember the exact injury that I had, but it involved my hip and upper leg. If I recall correctly, it basically amounted to an injury similar to jamming your finger or toe, only I had come down on my leg so hard that day at practice that I had basically jammed my hip, so much that I couldn’t walk and was on crutches for 3-4 weeks. Anyways, he called me into his office after class, and wanted to look at it, because he said he had never seen an injury like mine. He closed the door to his office and had me drop my pants. He ran his hand along my hip and leg, commented about how furry I was, and then he pulled his hand away. A little dismayed, I asked if he was done. He said “Yes”. I pulled my pants up, he wrote me a late slip for my next class and I was on my way. After that I played that scene over and over again in my head, adding a little more than a touch along my hip and leg to the scene.
My perception of myself never really improved. I always felt like I had to prove myself to other people. When in reality, I was actually trying to prove myself to me. I look back now and wish I had come to grips with my being gay a lot sooner. But growing up in redneck central, I had no outlets to be who I really was. No one to talk to about my feelings for men. And thanks to the presidential administration during those times, being gay also meant that I would probably get AIDS and die. I had no resources available to me.
When I went to college, I thought things would get better. Two things happened my first year in college. I had my first sexual experience with a man. I learned that being smart in a small high school didn’t necessarily mean that you would be smart in college. I still wasn’t out to anyone during college. When I played with men, I drove to Greensburg which was an hour away so that no one would find out.
The Spring semester of my Junior year, would be my last at IUP. Trying to arrange a school schedule so that I could work 4 days a week was getting to be too tiring., plus a certain event that happened during the final weeks of the fall semester convinced me that I needed to transfer. I could not schedule classes before noon on Monday or after 4 pm on Thursday so I could drive to Seven Springs in time to be at work by 6pm. I would work Thurday-Sunday at the Resort, leaving Sunday night or Monday morning to drive back to IUP. Usually taking my friend Walter back to IUP if he had come home that weekend. I also had 3 roommates at the time at IUP. (Big Mike, Matt and Rob) Big Mike got his name because he was 6’3”, 220#, ex-navy. I was Little Mike because I was 5’9” and about 140#. The 3 of them loved to party on the weekends and loved to have them at our place. It was always nice to come home and find a new hole in the wall. I would usually spend my Monday nights after class, cleaning up the beer bottles and food laying around the house. One night Mike came home from the bar drunk off his ass. I was sitting on the sofa doing some school work when Mike started yelling at me, something about the fact that he was tired of the fact that I never contribute any money towards their parties and that I am never there to clean up. When someone yells at me, I tend to get very defensive and loud. I reminded him that I was not there on the weekends and that I was the one who cleaned up Monday nights. That just infuriated him more. Next thing I know, my body is being slammed against the wall like a rag doll. Mike continued to scream at me. Matt tried to step in, but Mike pushed him away. Mike yelled at Matt and asked if he knew I was a “faggot” and that I “liked to suck dick.” It seems I had stopped and picked up a gay newspaper and left it out and visible in my room. Finally Matt was able to get him to stop, I ran to my room grabbed my car keys and ran out. Now, remember I said that I grew up in a rural area and this all happened right after we got back from Thanksgiving break. In PA, that means “Buck Season”. When I got to my car, I saw my orange vest laying in the back seat. I remembered the gun I had in my trunk. I grabbed the gun and a few shells, walked back into the house, looked at Mike and said “See these bullets. See this gun. See these bullets go into the gun. The next time you lay a hand on me, this faggot is going to put some buck shot in that ass of yours.” That was the last time, he touched me. Every now and then he would make a comment like, “oooh, I don’t want to get Mike mad, he might put a cap in my ass”. After all that, I knew I needed to change schools. Plus the fact that Mike had told everyone he could that I was gay and friends quickly became ex-friends. I couldn’t help but feel that my being gay was the cause for all the problems in my life.
My solution – alcohol, and lots of it. When I wasn’t in school, or at work, I was drinking. Jack and I came to know each other very well. Usually I would work until 11pm, have a few drinks at the Matterhorn (bar at the resort), jump into my car and drive the 45 minutes to the bookstore. Yes, I was a bookstore slut at one time. It’s a miracle that I killed anyone while driving to the bookstore. I always took backroads to the bookstore, this might have added a few minutes to my drive time, but it helped me avoid the cops and other cars on the freeway. You would think that after wrecking my car twice and my mother’s car, that I would have learned. You would be mistaken if you thought so. Hell, one night I awoke only to find myself sitting along side the road. The damage to my car was minimal (busted gas tank and some cosmetic damage) but I had no recollection on how I got there. After that incident, I vowed to quit drinking and quit going to the bookstores. I felt that I was being punished for drinking and being gay. That feeling didn’t stay long and I was soon back to the old routines. I figured that since I was a loser, it really didn’t matter what I did with my life.
Then came my short trip to Oceanside, California and on my flight back to PA, I started examining my life. I realized that being gay didn’t make me a loser. I still felt like a loser, but I knew that my being gay wasn’t the cause. Shortly after I got back to PA, I met Scott, my first partner. And even though I have trashed him somewhat on here, he was a good guy. He did have his faults, as I’m sure he felt that I had mine.
Scott was quick to point out my faults and things he didn’t like about me. To Scott, I was a short fat man with thinning hair and he had no qualms about pointing that out to me or anyone else he came in contact with. I know he loved me in his own way, but after 4 years of hearing that, and combining that with my already self-loathing perception, I knew that I had to break free of him.
Lately, I’ve been doing better with the perception of myself. I do have my days and Dad recognizes this and always tries to do something to make me feel good about myself.
I read the entry I wrote the other day when I was feeling sorry for myself. Most of the things on that list are things that I can change. I have control over my weight, my looks and my debt. I am the one responsible for the outcome. As I learned in Breakthrough Leadership class, I need to focus on who/what I want to be and look at what a person with those qualities would do to be that person. Instead of saying “if I only had time to go to the gym, I would be healthy or if only I didn’t have this debt, I could go on trips”, I should look at what I consider “healthy” is and what a person who is healthy does to be healthy.
Damn, this turned out to be a long entry. Longer than I thought it would be, but reading back over it, I realize that this is a good thing. It helped me get a lot of things out in the open and maybe, just maybe, I’ll develop a positive perception of myself in the future.