COURAGE UNDER FIRE

“Everyone has an interesting story to tell,” someone (whose identity appears to have permanently slipped my mind) once told me. I dissented on the inside, thinking that some folks are just dull to the core. I’ve since come around.

Several weeks ago, I had a conversation-by-numbers with a 21-year-old Argentine into which he dropped exactly one zinger. It was his coming-out story. At 12 years old, he told his parents that he was gay, and when his dad, predictably, flipped out, his son issued a stern warning: Accept it, or not, but if not, you won’t be a part of my life.

Bravo!

I had a similar conversation with my mother after coming out at the age of 23, but I’m pretty certain that despite the fact that I was living on my own at the time and 11 years older, I minced words considerably more than this guy did.

Nine years later, his folks have obviously come around. His father is now comfortable bonding and spending quality time with him and his boyfriends, one of whom actually lived with him and his family for a period of time. While I firmly believe that we must all come out in our own way and in our own time, this much I know is true: Life doesn’t begin at 30. Or at 40. Life begins when you gather up the courage to stop living the way other people expect you to and begin living the way you want to live.

My sister used to say, “Most people live lives of quiet desperation.” And I can’t imagine anything more desperate than living someone else’s life, which, in essence, is precisely what you are doing when, for fear, for lack of guts, for whatever, you live a lie — or in silence. My ex boyfriend recently told me that over the last few years, he’s managed to form a remarkable bond with his once-homophobic father. During the year that we were together, he avoided introducing me to his dad because he didn’t want to expose me to the kind of hate that he feared his father might direct towards me. I’m not much of a meet-the-parents kind of guy, so I was relieved. I also admired him for his sensitivity and for not backing down against his dad. Now, I applaud him for mending what at one time may have seemed like an inextricably broken relationship.

But sometimes you have to extricate yourself from people — yes, even mom and dad — to make things right with them. And even then, there’s no guarantee that things will turn out for the best. Life is messy, and spending it upholding the status quo, walking on eggshells in order to ensure your physical comfort and keep the peace, might make life nice, clean and neat, but I’ve never known anyone who was happy living that way.

As the soap opera says, you’ve got one life to live. Why not live it?

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