Introspection and Love, Contractually

Stream this week’s playlist on Spotify (joke’s on you, I didn’t make this playlist just now – it’s my go to playlist when I’m having a shitty day!)

I think that one of the most disappointing things is being denied by people you truly expect to like you. We tend to find people who enjoy our appearance or our personality – the grand and monumental task of finding someone who enjoys both has always been considered life’s Herculean task. It’s difficult to be denied by someone who enjoys your personality and not your appearance because after all, they are letting you know that they don’t enjoy who you truly are. We are given our own bodies and people judge us by them, perhaps my face appears to look angry. Am I seen as an asshole just because I look angry when I’m really kind and gentle? This is perhaps the largest issue in terms of disjunction between the mind and the body. I can appear to be someone completely different from who I truly am. My mind represents who I am on the inside — my deepest secrets, insecurities, flaws, and weaknesses. We may bravely try to push the hair this way and that, or soften the appearance with the help of a slightly brighter sweater or some intrepid shoes or dab some kind of cream or powder here and there – but nothing can ever overcome the monumental injustice to which we appear to be subject. It isn’t merely that we feel unattractive: we feel something bigger: misrepresented – as if we have been forced go into the world as an ambassador for a country we don’t actually inhabit or identify with.

Psychologically, instead of interpreting and expressing ourselves through self-perception, quite the opposite tends to happen: our characters are liable to mold themselves to the personalities implied by our faces, as a result of years of other people assuming that this must be who we are, and treating us in the light of our appearance. The gentler sides of someone who looks gentle will thereby constantly be invited to the surface by the expectations and encouragement of others.

This mind-body problem leads us to understand some of what love, in its most generous, imaginative guises, should really involve: a commitment to remember that the other is not how they appear; that their body was imposed and not chosen and that there may be a very different character trapped within their physical envelope. I think that the greatest accomplishment of love is giving up on perfection. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it shouldn’t be its precondition. We cannot expect to find someone amazing and gorgeous and intelligent and all of these things, no matter how each fairy tale might end. We just have to write our own story. Perhaps your prince doesn’t have gorgeous blond hair and a muscled physique, but rather tight curls and a crooked front tooth.

I’ve come to realize that I can get a little pissy when I think about this – especially in relation to myself, and it makes for really difficult situations. Many of my friends and acquaintances, even if they read gay, they have an air about them: a confidence, a walk, a facial expression, a fashion sense, that commands respect. Without saying anything, they say “I am a person, not a joke about a person.” Sometimes I just want to take a deep breath and say what I mean. What I really mean to say is “It is worth fighting my instincts to let you be happy because you are one of my best friends and your journey is more important than my stalemate with myself. Your experience has nothing to do with mine and I am sorry for projecting mine onto yours anyway. Nothing about you has to crash and burn. Nothing about you needs to be “figured out.” I understand that you need the trial before the error, and I am sorry for expecting you to wallow with me.”

I look at people I know who have just come out and I feel fear- the sort of fear that is mothering and protective, but I did not give birth to them and they could probably fight off any predator a million times better than I could. But there is still so much out there, more than I could ever list, that I want so badly to warn them about.

I want to tell them that there will always be someone taller and blonder and otherwise more Aryan than you, and it’s never personal, but it almost always feels that way.

I want to tell them that they don’t have to like drag queens to be gay, even if a lot of people say so.

I want to tell them that just because a guy says he wants you to text him when you’re home safe doesn’t mean he’ll text you back, and maybe it just means he doesn’t want your dead body traced back to him.

I want to tell them that boys who only very recently were allowed to be themselves will never be ready to settle down when you are. That the TV makes it look like gay people are just like straight people, when in fact, they are very different, and that it’s unfair that we have to figure that out for ourselves.

I want to ask them if being like me makes him embarrassed. I want to ask them if they think I am embarrassing. And then I want to tell them that they aren’t like me. And that I was embarrassed to be like me for a long time.

I want to tell them that I heard the song “Beautiful Day” by Brett Every and it changed my life. He sang “of all my beliefs, I believe in love most,” and suddenly I wasn’t embarrassing- I was normal. And that’s all I could ask for.

I want to watch them as they figure it out and hope they find that song, that movie, that moment where it feels less like “experimenting,” less like an “alternative lifestyle,” and more like just living. I want to tell them that there’s a lot to like about being surprising.

But I know they aren’t me. And they will not have to try very hard to be a surprise. And they’ll probably never need that moment because we aren’t all me, and I don’t get to be mad about that. I do get to be there to show them that they can be as far from me as they want- because I wish someone had been there for me to shut the hell up, get off the couch, and watch me create the unexpected.