Thursday, December 11, 2008

Never-ending phase?



Two nights ago I was sitting at the kitchen counter with my teenage daughter and we were discussing dating. She was particularly open and talked about her "friend" who was a "boy" and how some of their friends in high school consider the two of them as a couple - they eat lunch together, they've gone to dances together, etc. and how she and he don't want to be considered a couple, but "just friends". I thought it was cute and endearing...

She talked about other kids in school who are "married" to each other and how she felt that it was way too soon to feel this way about another person. (At this point, I thought what a great job I've done as a parent to help raise such a mature and level-headed daughter). Then, she mentioned some girls in school who have a serious new boyfriend every other week and how much they are in love with the next cute guy that smiles at them... We talked about it just being part of the adolescent process of growing up and discovering ourselves, and who we really are.(Then at this point, I kind of got uncomfortable with myself for it sounded for a minute like she was describing me!)

Here I am trying to carry on a conversation with me teenage daughter about her feelings and understanding her peers and herself through the excitement of dating and being a "friend" to a "boy", and I'm playing the experienced and all-knowing father, when really I seem to know very little... I've lived in the hetero world for so long that I get what they go through, but I have a hard time transitioning that knowledge to the gay world.

I mean, one minute I'm in love with Tim and his sweetness, and the next it's with Will and his exuberance for life, and then the next it's with Thomas and his warmth and tenderness and rekindled interest in me, and then it's with the newest MOHO who is emailing me and I get all giddy inside that he wants to discuss so many things with me, and then it's the young, fit blond pony-tail construction worker with piercing blue eyes and a smile that melts me right there on the construction site, and I totally fall apart inside... Now if that isn't the story of my adolescent ridiculousness then I really don't get what's going on...

This comment got me thinking about something I've read recently about the coming out process of a gay person and coming to terms with that and how that affects behavior and how this self-awareness process goes through a similar adolescent phase:

During this phase there is often a replication of adolescence which was never allowed, and the person needs the support of someone with whom he or she can talk. This listener need not have had the same experiences. If this works well, the individual will get what they need out of the adolescent phase, which is curiosity, new experience, a sense of self, growth that is exciting and interesting, without some of the harmful things that can happen. They learn they can think. They learn they can have a good time as well as work. They learn they are loved, they learn to flirt, they learn the erotic process. These things are crucial for later adult development. We tend to give this phase a short shrift because we fear the dangers, but it need not be dangerous. (Marybeth Raynes - Clinical Social Worker, Adjunct Instructor -University of Utah).


This blog has helped me to at least understand that I'm still very juvenile in my coming out process and my sexual awareness. I tend to be more romantic and heavy on infatuation than a mature person would be. I tend to connect very quickly and desire connections to the point of smothering the relationship. I tend to be naive about sex, particularly gay sex, and get caught in the fantasy of it verses the reality of it. I tend to want to feel erotic in experimenting with clothing changes, hair styles, fitness and work outs to "look good", etc. instead of just being happy and healthy. I tend to lose sight of the important for the thrill of the moment. I tend to flirt as I try to understand the erotic process inside me. I tend to think too much. I tend to be stuck in this process.
It is good to experiment with these new feelings, be curious of this new world, be aware of myself, grow in new and exciting ways, and even be a bit edgy or flirting with danger without harming myself or placing me or others in real danger. I'm trying to do this, consciously and most likely subconsciously.


Ms. Raynes emphasizes that this is an important process to go through and allow the "coming- out" person to have adequate time for the process of adolescences and self-discovery to occur, leading to crucial adult development that may be more healthy. A dialogue with others, including my wife, can be good as we move through this process together, accepting it for what it is, and what it isn't... I'm really NOT going off in an adult relationship with Tim, or Will, or Thomas, or new MOHO, or Ponytail Beauty. I'm really NOT. (Those of you who are in the "adult world" seem to make the jump that I'm more mature than I really am - not just in years but in true maturity - and that I am you and you would go off and make that adult decision - but I'm not you...) I'm still sexually stunted and irrevocable damaged in my growth as a sexual and emotional man from having lived nearly five decades deep in the darkness of the closet. I'm just the girl my daughter sees in high school hallways hanging on the next pretty face to walk by my locker.


So, there is a time element to this process, and experts say that this time element needs to be appreciated and respected. But how much time? Good grief - I've been out to myself over four years! I've lived with myself for eternity! How long does it take? I've watched some in this community come out, accept things, and move on in a fairly quick sequence of events - maybe a year, maybe even a few months. For some of us, this seems like a never-ending phase - an eternity already! Without getting really serious with another man in a gay relationship, how else do I get through this and move on to a more mature and stable level? Without real "adult knowledge", how does one move into the adult world? How do I enjoy the ride of self-discovery and yet stop being a hideous, giddy, silly high school girl whose head turns so quickly she sprains her neck?

16 comments:

Philip said...

Beck,

I am not feeling well so this post might sound a little off or repetitive or something.

The process, of course, is different for everyone so how long it takes depends on the individual and his/her circumstances.

However, I think the process speeds up the more open and honest the person can be with others and, conversely, the process is impeded or stopped all together the less open and honest the person can be with others.

I may sound like a broken record but the most important things about the coming out process has nothing to do with sex. It has to do with self discovery.

Here is what I think is most important to remember...many things about oneself can only be learned through open and honest interactions with others.

I think the day one steps into the closet this process of self discovery ceases or, at least, is slowed way down because the person is no longer focused like his peers on discovering him/herself but instead on hiding him/herself.

I say it took me two years but then my wife was very threatened by my exploration.

Regards,
Philip

Kengo Biddles said...

I think that Philip's right that it's about self-discovery, understanding yourself.

I think that if you talked to straight guys your age, in utter honesty, many of them would admit to these "coup de foudre" happen to them, too, they just don't talk about them much.

I know that I have them -- but I don't let myself linger on them, I force myself to move on, or, if they're something that won't go away, I push them into a friendship arena. I wish I could tell you how I've learned over time to do this--I have, so it's hopefully possible for others.

Have I thoroughly muddied the waters? I hope not.

Beck said...

PHILIP said: "I may sound like a broken record but the most important things about the coming out process has nothing to do with sex. It has to do with self discovery."

Okay, so it isn't the sex, it's the self-discovery. Can one fully develop out of this phase without the sex? And if so, is this nothing but honesty and authenticity and I'm back full circle to the same thing? And the longer I delay the full coming out, the longer the process?

"...I think the day one steps into the closet this process of self discovery ceases or, at least, is slowed way down because the person is no longer focused like his peers on discovering him/herself but instead on hiding him/herself..."

So, to speed it up, I need to be more open with my wife, and help her to realize this is just a process of experimentation, living dangerously, curiosity run-rampant, but not to excess of harm... and how do I do with without her feeling "threatened"?

"...I say it took me two years but then my wife was very threatened by my exploration."

Okay, so HOW were you able to deal with her feeling very threatened by your exploration? And you did you survive those periods while you were exploring?

I'm sorry you're not feeling well - I hope you get better soon, and don't worry about being a "bit off" - I think you're right on!

Beck said...

KENGO said: "...many of them would admit to these "coup de foudre" happen to them, too..."

Thanks for the definition of "coup de foudre", which has brought to mind that even my attraction to my wife occurred this way. I've told others that it was "love at first sight". I was instantly attracted to her - heads over heels and there I was falling in love within the first hours of knowing her!

This has never happened before or since with a woman, but it happens frequently with men.

Are you saying my marriage is based on an adolescent fling that I was willing to linger on enough to get engaged and eventually married?

And what does that say about me? That I am so easily swayed by such coup de foundre?

Don't linger, huh? Is that the answer? Maybe I linger too much... feed these feelings too much.

Scott said...

So... when does this gay adolescence thing start? Have I started mine? Am I in the middle of it? Have I finished it?

I've wondered about this myself at least a couple times over the last month or two, and wondered what I should expect the near future to bring if I am supposed to experience this adolescent phase.

But Philip's comments about openness and honesty have me wondering... Did I just breeze right through it?

I look back to the first month, maybe two, after I had come to terms with my orientation. During that time I was a sponge, thirstily soaking up every scrap of "gayness" that I could get my hands on. I read half a dozen books. I added 80 or so blogs to my feed reader, and actually went through and read all of the old posts on fifteen or twenty of them. I joined four mailing lists. I started my own blog. I talked about the gay thing incessantly with Sarah. I emailed several people privately to discuss views and philosophies on various subjects. I found several movies with gay characters or a gay theme that had been well reviewed and made Sarah watch them with me. I read half a dozen novels that were recommended on various websites that had gay characters in them. I started watching Will and Grace and Brothers and Sisters and other TV shows with gay characters (as well as How I Met Your Mother, because while the character Neil Patrick Harris plays in the show isn't gay, he is in real life, and he's kind of cute).

Eventually the furor died down a bit, and now the only "gay" thing that consumes an inordinate amount of my time is the blogging. We still have a bunch of TV shows on our media center system to get through, but we're watching them because we're into the series now, not for the gay stuff.

So... Was that a 2 month gay adolescence? If the adolescent phase is about self discovery, I think that maybe it was. I don't know if I can actually articulate what I discovered in that time, but I do know that I'm a lot more put together now than I was a few months ago.

... and none of this really helps you, does it? I imagine that the journey (and the means by which we progress to its end) differs for everyone, so I'm not sure that doing everything that I listed above will get you where you want to be any faster (though it might).

But I will agree with Philip's suggestion that openness is a key. If I hadn't been able to talk about everything I was reading and to share the movies and TV shows with Sarah--if I had felt like I had to do all of that discovery in secret, in the dark--I very much doubt that I would be the person I am today. I think that I would be considerably more confused and considerably less put together and, quite frankly, not very happy.

Find someone to share with and be open with, and queerosphere MoHos don't count because we only know Beck, and the person who's going to help you through this needs to know the whole you. That's why your wife is a perfect candidate--because there's probably nobody else in the world who knows you as well as she does.

Imagine yourself mired in quicksand, with your wife standing nearby, but unaware of your plight. You face a decision. You could probably slowly and painstakingly work your own way out, hoping all the while that you don't get sucked under but allowing your wife to remain unaware and unaffected by your situation. Or you could call to her for help, and with her assistance and some concerted efforts you could be out of the muck much more quickly, though she may get a little dirty in the process.

Seems like an easy decision to me.

Kengo Biddles said...

Beck, I think more than just a "coup-de-foudre" with your wife, it may have started that way, but you built on that initial spark into a romantic relationship.

I think we all go through little "coups-de-foudre" when we initial meet people -- it's the "click" that we feel with some people.

It's just how we move on to develop that relationship. Does that make sense?

Beck said...

SCOTT: I can't believe you've made it through the adolescent process so unscathed, even if you did it in an open matter. Reading books, watching movies, blogging like a mad man - that can't be it... unless you are so much more mature than I. And I don't doubt that as I'm pretty immature. Where is your angst? Where is your experimentation? Where is your neck-wrenching crushes? Where is your flirtation? Did you skip all those because you're past all that?

I like your quicksand analogy. A little dirt verses survival... what a decision!

Beck said...

KENGO: Yes, it makes sense... but I've got a lot of "clicking" going on and I want lots of "relationships" and I need to see through these clicks as just enjoying that the click even happened and not lose my head over it.

playasinmar said...

The second picture "Hunks" redeems the first one "Eww... ribs."

Scott said...

unless you are so much more mature than I

I doubt that it's a question of maturity. I think it's more a matter of different personalities. I'm pretty laid back and easy-going. You're a bit more passionate. My perspective allows me to avoid some of the angst and heartache that you seem to be so good at cultivating, but it may also be that I'll never feel or experience the joy and love that life has to offer in quite the same way that you do. When you're stressing about what to do with your situation I think I've definitely got it better than you do, but when you describe your passion for life, for your wife, for Thomas, I get just a little bit jealous, because I think you're feeling more deeply than I ever have.

Don't compare your journey to anyone else's. I am me, they are them, and you are you. Everyone is going to "find himself" in a different place and in a different way. It's okay to ask for pointers and advice that might help you on your way, but when you start to compare someone else's journey with your own, and especially when you start to feel like you are falling short in the comparison, you're hindering your progress rather than helping it.

This just popped into my head... take it or leave it as you please: I wonder if the reason you're having such a hard time finding yourself is that there's no single "you" to be found? You've fractured yourself into "Beck" and "_____" and separated the pieces so thoroughly that when you try to figure out who you are you can't look at more than one piece of you at a time so you can't see the whole picture. Maybe putting the pieces back together into a unified whole will give you the framework, and then it will just be a matter of filling it in.

(In other words, maybe you're approaching this from the wrong side? I think you're trying to figure out who you are so that you can put the pieces together, but maybe you really need to put the pieces together so that you can figure out who you are?)

Just a thought.

Philip said...

Beck,

I may be talking about myself below but I think what happened to me is true of a lot of gay people coming out.

I'm afraid this is one of those things that can't be short cut. Regardless of what age you are when you start this process, it takes time. It doesn't matter if you are 12, 22, 32 or 72.

Before coming out my life was like one big puzzle with a lot of missing pieces. It wasn't until I started interacting openly and honestly with others that I started finding those pieces. It wasn't until I had enough pieces in place that the puzzle started to make sense.

So what takes all that time is finding the pieces, putting the pieces in place and making sense of it all.

I thought what I was going through was unique to me. Well, I found out later watching others go through it and talking to them that there was nothing uncommon about what I went through.

I was obsessed. I was self centered. Much more self centered than I had ever been in my life. Sort of like the self centered I saw in my teenage years happening to my friends and fellow students.

What was happening was that there was so much going on with me and I was discovering so many new often fundamental things about myself that I had to be self centered just to take it all in; to process all of it.

You asked me how did I did it so my wife didn't feel threatened. The answer is that there was nothing that I could do to ease her fear. She basically threw as many obstacles in my path as she could to prevent me from exploring my sexuality.

Unfortunately, I couldn't explain to her what was going on because I didn't understand it myself. Both she and I thought it was just about my wanting to have sex with other men.

What I am trying to say is that it was a real mix bag of things.

Yes, there was the need for sex with other men but there was also a yearning for something I didn't understand.

Later on only after I unleash my feelings; stopped hating myself and others like me; allowed myself to trust my feelings; stopped questioning my humanity and stopped doubting my goodness did I begin to understand what the yearning was for.

For the first time in my life I was interacting openly and honestly with others; not hiding; not pretending; not being someone I was not and that interaction was teaching me all sorts of things about myself that I hadn't known.

I made very little progress the first years. Finally, only after separating from my wife and using that time apart to focus primarily on my sexuality did I start the process and begin to heal from all that self-hatred and self-doubt.

Ironically, in my quest to go from married to divorced; from straight life to gay life, I was able to exorcise so many of the demons that had made it so difficult to be married that I was eventually able to ask my wife if I could return home to try again, this time as a more integrated gay man. I promised to be monogamous and I have kept that promise but not without some difficulty.

So now my wife is not so threatened anymore because she has seen how much more at peace I am with myself; how much more comfortable I am in my own skin and because I have earned her trust by staying monogamous.

In my last post I said it took two years to process it all but I was wrong. It took me much longer than that.

Hopefully, having the blog and friends to help you along the way and this being a different world when it comes to homosexuality then it was when I came out twenty some years years ago will shorten your journey dramatically.

Regards,
Philip

duck said...

Beck, I left a comment on one of your previous posts, "A letter to JG." While I am a gay woman in the Church and you are a gay man, our stories are very parallel. I inivte you to read some of my story on my blog post titled "Thesis". Maybe it will help you. For safety reasons, I neither list my e-mail address nor do I take comments on my posts. It is nothing personal. Good luck in your quest for answers. Stay safe. Duck

Bravone said...

What great advice from people who truly care for you Beck. To summarize what I learned from their posts: 1) We are all different and while others experiences may help us understand various ways of making peace with ourselves and spouses, measuring ourselves against their yardstick is not healthy or helpful.
2) Don't walk the path alone. Open up your inner feelings to your wife. She is your eternal companion and is at least as interested in your eternal well being as you are. She is your help mate. I suggest praying and working toward that goal. (I love Scott's quicksand analogy) Call me sometime and I will tell you how my wife and I are making it work. I am more open and at peace than I have ever been. It is because of her love and support.
3) Mesh Beck with "_____" You cannot serve two masters, even if they are both you. Another great idea Scott. It makes so much sense. Thank you.

Love you Beck"_____"

playasinmar said...

For the record:

Humans are less dense than earth.
Humans are less dense than earth mixed with water.

Nobody sinks in quicksand.

Beck said...

PLAYA: We may not be capable of sinking out of sight in quicksand, but we are physically able to get "stuck" and need help to be pulled out...

I'm stuck. I need help. My head and arms may still be above the sand, but what good are they if my feet are wedged in place?

Beck said...

Thank you Scott, Philip, Duck and Bravone for your examples. I see you doing it and see it is possible to move on with life. I see how I can move beyond this phase. But I don't see me doing it anytime quickly... I'm stuck.