I am so sensitive.
Seriously, I have a very thin skin and it doesn’t take much to make me tear up. However, Capital Pride is an emotional thing for me, anyway. It is awe-inspiring to stand in front of the Capitol Building and see all the rainbow flags. I came out to myself in 1987, and to the world in 1992. I was so young. I was ten in 1987, at a slumber party with all the girls in my class. One of them looked so perfect, so serene in her sleep that I held her hand. I will let your mind ponder the scene as to what happened when she woke up. It was not pretty.
Actually, I’ll call them out. Statute of limitations and all that. She and her best friend offered me a Coke and when I took a big sip, I realized they’d put suntan lotion in it. They laughed and called me queer as if it was a bad word, and then, it was (we’ve taken it back). To add insult to injury, they called me “Fat and Flat Lanagan” for the rest of the year. I was neither, but I believed them anyway and eating became a battle of will. It still is when I feel insecure, but it somehow is comforting that I know the root cause- exactly how it started… drops of fear that turned into a raging river when I realized I was never going to fit in. There was nothing flat about me except the denial that I wasn’t gay, because I just wanted to have friends.
Walking down the street with thousands of other gay people is a future I never could have imagined back then. As I have said before, the best I thought it would get is having a girlfriend and not freaking the fuck out that someone would call my house and another woman answered my phone, because that would mean that I’d been “caught.” Gay marriage was as foreign a concept as sex with ducks.
Worthlessness and shame kept building in me. My weight went up and down as I went on long hunger strikes and then remembered, “oh, I have to eat or I’ll faint.” Not eating is easy to hide, and I did it very well for years.
Now, I’m not shy about it. My parents and friends know I don’t have a block against drinking, so I just switch to protein shakes and life goes on until my body reminds me that it’s ok. No one is going to judge you for eating a hamburger. But then? Oh, then. Worthlessness, just like grief, makes its own room… you feel you can’t do anything about it, so in the words of Dexter Morgan, you develop a dark passenger. It’s a place inside yourself that you can go to have someone to talk to, someone that will commiserate with you because she knows exactly what you’re going through… and no one else does. It is isolation and darkness that breeds… and then it bleeds.
It comes out in behaviors that you don’t know are abnormal. They just are. I could talk about emotional abuse from others, but in terms of gay pride, it has to begin with the abuse I inflicted on myself because I couldn’t notice the wonderful things happening around me.
I didn’t want to marry Dana; it won’t be a shock to her to read this, because she knows that I’m not talking about being faithful to her for the rest of my life. I’m talking about the fear that made me short of breath when I thought of having a wedding. As I told Argo, it was that little girl fear of “what if we planned a wedding and no one came?” It wasn’t reality. But facts are hard to face when your emotions fight against you in one bloody battle after another. After a while, you don’t even notice you’re walking in Culloden field.
The English slaughter was twofold.
First, there was a night between Dana and me where she could have said, “I have a headache…” She didn’t. She said I was being aggressive. She shot an RPG when she could have used a flyswatter and as I told Argo, “my marriage fell apart in one word.” I should have listened to that still, small voice telling me to leave, but I didn’t. We patched things up and a few weeks later, the real fight began. We both said ugly, ugly words to each other. I know I said things that were just as awful to Dana, but the ones that stick in my head night after night after night are “let me go or I’m going to break your arm.” Why was I so determined? Why couldn’t I back down? Why couldn’t I admit that it was better to let her go cool off than to try and steer her back into conversation?
Because I couldn’t lose gracefully. My king was not going to fall. She was not going to bully me out of talking about money or Argo or anything else. I “needed” to stand my ground. I own my part that it kept the situation escalated. I could have let her walk away… but she was famous for it. Our relationship died over everything Dana wouldn’t tell me. One line in a letter to Argo sticks out… that “if Dana and I do break up, it will be because she’s pushed me away so many times that I can’t reach her.” I didn’t want her to wriggle away. I wanted accountability. Argo was not an action but a response. Dana used Argo unmercilessly while she hid things from me and called me psychotic because it was so much easier than facing the music head on.
There is nothing on God’s green earth that would excuse emotional infidelity, and I make none. I am shamed beyond belief that I let it happen, especially because I didn’t trigger Argo in the same way; there was no reciprocity and I needed it to be so… because yes, my heart was entangled, but there were no bad Jack and Coke decisions, either.
Just me, alone in my deserved silence and shame.
Second, Dana said that I would never amount to anything, the line that her parents have used to trigger me for years. I thought, “it’s time to go. They’ve won.” I thought Dana had individuated enough to see me for who I was, but she did not notice when money and praise and respect and honor and all of those things started to roll in because of this web site. When the light bulb turned on, she said, “I think you have the possibility to reach millions, and I’m kind of jealous. But I also believe that it won’t happen (and I’m paraphrasing to condense) because you’re ADHD.”
When I objected to that comment, she said, “I believed in you when no one else did.”
There has never been one day in my entire life that only Dana believed in me, but she definitely made me believe that was true…… and that’s when I finally said, “no more.” I don’t want her friendship, I don’t want her energy, and I for damn sure don’t want to fight anymore. I am leaving the door open to changing my mind on friendship because I don’t know if I’m just angry right now, or if it will take a lifetime to undo the damage I experienced at her hand.
And because shit rolls downhill, I am living in hell because I lashed out at one of the great loves of my life, no matter what role she plays. Emotional intimacy between us turned into unparalleled enmity, because we are both as mean as we are kind. We got to a point where there was no home base, no place either of us could stand without being attacked.
There’s no pride in what happened with either woman, and that’s the story I told Prianka as we were walking down the parade route.
She said, “Leslie, it’s bullshit that you won’t amount to anything. You’ve just got to see that this is all for you. All of it. People are cheering and whooping and hollering and it’s all for you. Take it in.”
My chest swelled and my eyes teared up and I saw the parade for the first time, even though I’d been attending for years. I’d made it. I’d made it through teasing as a child, through a horrible teenage experience all the way around, through thinking that living with a woman was wrong, through an abusive marriage all the way around (because I will never be the only victim), through hurting the one person I thought would be the INFJ companion that the description of my personality said I would receive.
I made it. I am on my way. In the space of the time that I’ve been here, I’ve found a church, a ministry I want to help grow in downtown Silver Spring that helps homeless people reenter society a little easier….. and I’ve applied to go back to school.
I once was lost, but now I’m found……… and what I found is that it’s all for me. I just didn’t know it.