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?