A Chain Is Only As Strong As It’s Weakest Link

Recently I’ve been thinking about some of the many social blunders I’ve done. In college I avoided certain people that I felt would incriminated me by association. My social circle consisted of some buddies who were manly men. One of my best friends was a high school all star football player (and the reason he didn’t play college ball was because of his ambitions to rise the corporate ladder). My buddies were not effeminate by any means, even when they jokingly imitated their girlfriends or the sorority gals who drooled when they flexed their muscles.

I was extremely afraid that a small gesture or action would cause them to question my sexual orientation. It had never been brought up. I had been accepted into their group without question because of an alphabetical seating chart that positioned me beside one of their roommates. So I had been introduced at first as a lab partner, a study partner which then led to a few beers on Friday and finally to become a roommate. I was a Homo In The Mist. If they had known I was gay, they gave no indication of knowing.

One year, an acquaintance of mine came out. I had only known him through several biology classes, but I remember being told by another classmate that he had come out. The thing was, when he came out, he did it with sparklers and by jumping through a hoop of fire. When the “outing” had been whispered to me over lunch, a little bit of paranoia had set in. My first thought was this messenger was trying to get a confession from me. I asked her why she was telling me and then I said “I don’t even really know him. How would this affect me?”. She smiled and said, “I just had to tell someone”.

Later that year, this same guy was walking across campus on his way to some sort of costume party. He was dressed in a toga (but was using a gold sparkly belt and a sparkly gold leaf crown).I was on my way to quarter beers with my buddy at a nearby pub. I immediately tried to engage one of my buddies in conversation, so that they wouldn’t notice this guy’s outfit. I don’t know why I didn’t want them to notice him. And I was also trying to avoid him seeing me. He was a social butterfly and always said hello to anyone he knew.

Of course, he noticed me immediately and yelled my name–running through traffic to get to me and my friends. One of my buddies jaw dropped and he literally came flitting through a crowd to get to us. He elaborately used his hands to talk to us and even asked us “How do I look? Fantastic right?”. I told him that he needed to change his clothes. I said that we had some beers to gulp and excused all of us. I did it quite rudely.

My buddy turned around to get one more look at the guy and then said “What the heck was that thing?”.

I said “A freak in mine and Chris’s class”.

The conversation moved onto who was meeting us at the pub. And I breathed a sigh of relief that I could remain undetected in the closet. Today I breathe a sigh of exhaust. Having to pretend, having been rude, and knowing that when I do get the courage to come out the closet that I’ll be the person avoided and cut off from conversation. I also hope that wherever this guy is, he’s happy because he gets to live life the way he wants to live it.

I think about how in this situation I was the weak link. Instead of standing up for another gay man, I showed weakness, a lack of backbone. I think our group can only be strong if people like me won’t be afraid to say everyone should be able to live their lives. If I only had a strong enough character to accept myself, then I wouldn’t project this lack of acceptance on anyone else. I don’t like being that bendable link in this social chain.

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12 Responses to “A Chain Is Only As Strong As It’s Weakest Link”

  1. Lemuel Says:

    Don’t beat yourself up over the past. Move forward into the future as a better person, having learned something about yourself from this memory.

  2. Steven Says:

    Think of that bendable link from the past as your bones at adolesence. With time, you will turn out to be a very strong link; and perhaps unknowingly helping someone who has a “bendable link.” Forward is the direction to continue toward.

  3. urspo Says:

    ah well
    apply the lesson learned and do more next time.

  4. matty03 Says:

    It’s so hard to let go of past errors — but you must. And, try to avoid making them as you move forward. But, moving forward is so very important.

    You are not a weak link now.

    …and, that is what matters.

    NOW.

  5. BruceCleveland Says:

    You can’t move forward if you are always in looking the past. Learn from your mistakes, that’s what makes the future stronger…so that next time someone in a gold glittery belt or worse a guy in a dress comes to talk to you in front of straight friends…you can stand up, learn from your past, and when asked…say oh just a really cool guy I met a couple of days ago…and move on.

    If you want to hide in the closet to your friends and family…you can still admit to knowing gay guys without people knowing you are one yourself. Heck it’s almost the every day accessory for a straight guy to know at least one gay guy. It’s best to educate straight people know while they have questions…than to wait until one of them is told lies and does something bad.

  6. Steven Says:

    John I think most of us did the same things when we were younger, I know I certainly did. Times were much different then, very few straight guys would accept a gay friend. We did not even really understand ourselves at that time. You can’t beat yourself up over this, forgive yourself, your different now as we saw with the post about the man in the gym where you stopped him from saying things about the gay couple.

  7. "Joe" Says:

    John, I know I’ve done the same kind of thing and feel a lot of shame for it. But I was fighting so hard to convince MYSELF I wasn’t gay.

    Of course, it didn’t work. So now, out we come. My journey out has not seem to affect my taste in clothing. (I still can’t match things).

    We know that coming out will mean some rejections. i’m fearing that myself. But I don’t want to go back. ever.

  8. Jim Says:

    You’ve come a long way since that day, and that you should make you proud!

  9. Doug Says:

    John, you’re not the weakest link. The weakest link doesn’t see his own mistakes and doesn’t learn from them. The weakest link doesn’t try to improve his way of living and be more true to himself. You are changing for the better, and this kind of change takes time.

  10. Zachary Says:

    In college, I was a bit of both of you two. At first I was afraid of even watching Will & Grace in front of my roommate for fear that somehow watching the show would give away my secret gaydentity. But then that fear wears off. Perhaps it’s more that the effort to watch every movement and word just becomes too enormous for you to bear.

    Regardless, I soon grew up and for Halloween one year a friend of mine gave me fairy wings and I wore them around to the parties for the evening. Most of the reception was amused, but a very small few were jerks about it. As a big, hulking football player passed me on the sidewalk that night and gave me a dirty look, I, in my semi-drunken state, followed his gaze with my arms wide open and yelled, “You wanna piece of me?!” Thankfully he didn’t, but that’s when I knew I was free at last.

    I hope as you look back at this time that you can see yourself as being free at last, or at the very least on your way to being free. I think you’ve made great progress.

  11. Kris Says:

    John, as the others have said, try not to beat up yourself over it. I’m sure I did the same when I was in the mil, and just remember thinking “If only you knew” when they would make comments about gay folks and I kept my mouth shut about it. It can be hard sometimes due to circumstances. I still do it from time to time, though mostly as far as telling folks about C-. I have a hard time telling people that I have a bf or whatevs in fear that they won’t see me the same way.

    It’ll always be a work in progress but you seem to be doing really well 🙂 Chin up and try to forgive John okayyyy!? He seems like a really great guy, and he might have made mistakes, but I think he’s learned from them.

    xoxo

  12. Sam Says:

    It’s good to remember where you’ve been John. Wherever you go, you know you won’t go there again. Love reading your posts because of how acutely aware you are of how you’ve changed, and how candid you are in writing about it. Thanks.

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