Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What were YOU doing on Christmas circa 1998?

The other day, a woman who I've known virtually all of my life sat down with me over a cup of tea and reminisced about Christmases Past.  We each talked about how when we were kids, we had great family Christmas memories, complete with playing touch football in the front yard before dinner.  Back in the day, (and locale of where we each grew up) the Dallas Cowboys were God's football team.  Seriously.  No, really.  SERIOUSLY

So, in the spirit of Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Roger "the Dodger" Staubach, and countless other 1970's football heroes, we romped in the yard with our fathers, uncles and cousins.  Yes, those were the good ole days to be sure and of course, our beloved grandparents would visit each sibling's family and share in the gift giving, left over dinner and so on.  The belts were loosened around the girth of the men and little girls learned from their mothers and aunts that cleaning up was "our" duty.  Well, some of us learned, anyway. (That's code for NOT ME).

Then, as time passed and the memories and innocense of Christmas became more difficult to conjure, we each grew into our adulthood.  As I took another sip of tea, my friend confided in me and told me that 1998 was the year that were a multitude of "firsts" for her.  "Hmmm?" I asked in mid-sip.  She leaned forward as if ashamed and admitted to me that she was gay.  She had hidden it for years and even was in denial about it.  Then, as they say in Texas, "Things happened and it came a gully wash."  Which meant, that crap happens. 

She was so profoundly sad about learning that she was gay that she didn't think she would ever be accepted into heaven.  She even considered the fact that if God wanted men and men, women and women to be together, surely he would have concocted a way for procreation as homosexuals.   I mean, if homosexuality was "right" or "correct" in God's eyes, then this would be the divine way.  Ya know, Adam and Eve not Steve.  We talked at length, as I never knew that this secret was burning a hole through her soul.  You never know the grief and pain some go through, all without saying a word.  She told me about Christmas 1998 where she cried for hours on end, hating herself and even wanting to "off" herself.  I mean, this wasn't normal. 

When I asked her how she came to grips with it, here's what she said:

"It was Time to Clean Out My Closet.

Isn’t it amazing the things that you accumulate in your life? If you need a reminder, try cleaning out your closet. You know, the one you came out of at “that moment”.

I found myself doing just that a couple of weeks ago. I walked into “that closet” and took a good look. It was very good at keeping my personal things out of sight. It made everything look like it was in order and functioning just fine, thank you very much. I knelt down and opened some old boxes and started going through some of my childhood memorabilia. I had to chuckle to myself, here is the lacey dress with petticoats that I wore when I was about 5 years old. Oh wait, the patent leather shoes….My God, here they are. Did I really wear all that? Oh, yes. Wait, here’s another box of photographs. I’m wearing my ever-present Shirley Temple hairdo, courtesy of my Mom, hair rollers and significant amounts of Dippidy-Doo and Aqua Net. I was the frilliest, most feminine little girl I had ever seen.

Then I looked at myself really closely. I think my eyes said it all. I was different. So different it was absolutely painful, and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why or how I was different from everyone else. I looked like all the other little girls in elementary school. I looked at another picture and something caught my eye. I was standing in front of my elementary school smiling for the camera, and someone had written on the brick walls, “Queer”. As I saw this phrase scrawled behind my right shoulder, I realized that it had been following me all my life. There it was, always right over my shoulder.

It wasn’t for quite a few years that I turned to a counselor to help me clean out my closet. Together we talked, I cried, felt relief, anger, denial, guilt, and a plethora of other emotions. I had to experience them all to get where I am now. I put the lid back on the boxes and neatly arranged them in my closet. I turned out the light and quietly closed the door and thought to myself, I’m glad I had the courage to clean out my closet."

Need help with cleaning out your closet? Don’t hesitate to contact a counselor, trusted friend or parent. You’ll be glad you did.

By the way, if you haven't figured it out yet, the woman I was talking to was ME.

More Musings Later-

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