Free To Be You And Me

Last week I watched The Greatest Showman. I had heard from several people that it was very good and that I would love it, so when I went home to Virginia Beach last week my family made me sit down and finally watch it. I enjoyed it about as much as I thought I would- the musical numbers were fun, and it was just as cheesy as I figured. But one thing about it stuck with me in a way that really took me by surprise.

In the movie Zendaya and Zac Efron are in love, but their romance is hindered because she’s black and he’s white. Other people disapprove, and since he’s a trust fund guy he’s afraid to be with her. There’s a scene in the movie where they’re at a show watching a woman sing, and they start holding hands. Then some people see them and Zac Efron takes his hand away and Zendaya looks at him, hurt. Something about that really hit home to me.

My first boyfriend in high school was named Sebastian. We started dating my junior year of high school, about 5 months after I came out. He was the only other gay kid that I knew, and he came out shortly after I did. I remember I asked him why he came out when he did, and he said that he thought, “If you can do it, I can do it.” That really meant something to me. We went on a date to see the movie “Fame”. I remember sitting there in the theater, wanting to hold his hand, until finally I just looked at him and said, “My hand is cold.” He rolled his eyes, smiled, and then held my hand. My heart was beating so fast- my first time holding hands with another boy, albeit in the dark. I felt so happy.

On our second date, we watched an episode of Glee at my place. We were lying on my couch, when in the show Rachel said to Finn, “You know you can kiss me if you want to.” I looked at Sebastian and said, “Do you want to?” (God I had some great lines). Then I had my first kiss. I drove him home later that night, and hoped he would kiss me again. But when I dropped him off, he kissed me on the cheek and rushed out the door.

We dated for a very brief period of time. He hadn’t yet told his parents he was gay, and he was very self conscious about showing me affection. Me being 5 months out of the closet, I didn’t care who knew what- I was ready to shout it from the mountaintops! But he wasn’t. He didn’t feel comfortable holding my hand in public, and he didn’t want to come out to his parents. Finally one night on the phone he broke up with me. It hurt, feeling like I was with someone who was ashamed to be with me. Looking back, of course I know it had nothing to do with me. But back then, that’s not how it felt. After that, he got very involved in a certain church, and started telling people he was straight. A friend of mine told me that he had said dating me was “a phase”. A few years ago he married a woman. I haven’t spoken to him since my junior year of high school. I truly hope he is doing well.

My second year of college, I met a boy named Paul. We met at a party the night before Groundhog’s Day. I was drunk, and sat next to him on a couch. It was a Glee club party, so there were plenty of gays there. We started talking about me being gay, and he told me that he was bisexual. He told me he hadn’t told anyone before. I took that as an invitation to hit on him. We ended up hooking up that night, and I gave him some of the worst hickeys I’ve ever seen.

The next morning, he drove me home and told me he wanted to see me again. I told him I’d like that. I was smitten with him- he was nice, handsome, and looked like a cute version of Sid the sloth from “Ice Age”. We went out again, and he took me out for dinner on my birthday later that week. That night we decided to start dating (apparently I used to move very fast).

But beneath all of the infatuation, there was strain. Paul also wasn’t out- to anyone. I think he told one or two friends while we were dating, but no one else knew, and he certainly was not in any hurry to tell anyone. He wouldn’t hold my hand in public (that felt familiar). I remember vividly leaving my apartment, holding hands. We would walk for about thirty seconds, just the two of us. When we got to the end of the street, where other people were walking by, he would let go of my hand. We’d walk to class, just two people walking next to each other, no one the wiser.

The morning after my birthday, he took me on a drive to a lookout up in the mountains. We drove for over half an hour to get to this isolated lookout, and once we got there, we got out of the car and looked at the view together. For a minute, he held me, and I felt so happy. Then, another car pulled up and two people got out to see the view. I didn’t recognize them, but Paul moved away from me. We stayed there for another minute, standing a few feet away from each other. Then he took me home.

About a week later, on Valentine’s Day, he told me he loved me. I was very taken aback. I really liked him, and while I could see myself falling for him, I’d known him all of two weeks. But still, being with him was so exciting. I had a real boyfriend. He put on Facebook that he was “In a relationship”, but made it so that only he could see it. A couple of weeks after that, I asked Paul if he wanted to hang out the next night, which was a Friday. He told me he didn’t know. I told him that I’d love to hang out, but that it was a Friday night, so if he wasn’t sure, then I was going to make other plans. He told me he was going through something, but that he’d talk to me tomorrow.

The next day, he texted and asked if he could come over. I said yes. I knew what was going to happen. He came into my room, and sat down on my bed. He told me that he couldn’t accept his bisexuality. He said that he still felt so uncomfortable with it, and that he wasn’t ready to be open about it. He said that he couldn’t be with me anymore, even though he really liked me. “That’s funny that you like me,” I thought, “since you told me you loved me.”

It took me so long to get to a point where I really loved myself. Where I really felt like I was someone deserving of love. I was so desperate to be wanted that I put up with people who were ashamed of even being with me. And I wish, I wish I could go back and convince myself that I should be with someone who’s proud to be with me. But that was something I had to learn through experience. I had to learn what I wanted in a relationship. I had to learn that I was valuable, and that I deserved better. For so long I had this subconscious mentality of, “I might as well settle, because who’s gonna love me?”

When I thought about my dream man, I thought, “Where would I find someone like that? That’s one in a million.” And then I realized that I am one in a million as well. I’m proud of who I am. No one can take that away from me.

-Theodore Dandy

Thoughts On Service

A major part of the program I work to stay sober is the act of being of service to other people. Being of service is something that has always been important to me, and has been the undercurrent of what I want to do with my life. My favorite quote has always been, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.”

I’ve taken that to mean that the best way I can help other people is by being true to myself and living a wholly authentic life. It’s interesting how the act of helping other people really does so much more to help yourself than it does for them. I think that’s why it’s always been easy for me to say that I want to help others, because secretly I know that I’m going to benefit from any good deed I do. That balance between selflessness and selfishness has been something that I’ve gone back and forth with through the years.

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be liked more than anything else. And I quickly learned that people liked me when I had something to offer. So I tried for a long time to get people to like me by doing things for them. I had that mindset of “If I give you a dollar, will you be my friend?” The problem was, I didn’t particularly have a whole lot to give. My parents would get annoyed when I would treat my friends to lunch, with their credit card. It’s easy to be generous with someone else’s money. I quickly found when I became self-sufficient that it is a lot harder to be generous with your own money.

I still struggle with the balance between taking care of others and taking care of yourself. It’s true that when I am feeling stressed or resentful, the best thing for me to do is help another person. But sometimes I can go too far, and cause myself to be stressed by feeling beholden to others. I’ll offer my help with something, but then when my help is requested again, I feel suffocated. So I go back and forth with generosity and miserliness, because I still haven’t quite learned how to say no. I’ll either say yes to everything, or I’ll come up with a million excuses as to why I can’t.

I signed up for this volunteer service where I’d go to Juvenile facilities, which I thought would be really cool. The trouble was, I had to drive an hour away to get clearance for it, and I don’t have a car. So I asked a friend to drive me there last week, and on the way there we got in a car accident. It was nothing major, a minor fender bender, but it rattled me. “Come on, God,” I thought. “I’m trying to be of service here!” Cue me as Elpheba singing “No Good Deed” from Wicked.

Then at work I was making a bank run to get quarters, and along the way I lost the $100 cash I had taken from the safe at work in order to get the quarters. I retraced my steps 3 times and couldn’t find it anywhere. It felt like God was putting roadblocks in my path to make me want to say, “Screw other people, I’m just gonna go home and isolate.”

But I know that’s not how life works. I know that bad things don’t stop happening just because you’re trying to do something nice. And I know that my life is not about the things that happen to me- it’s about the things that I do. It’s about my response to what happens. And I still want to be of service, because I still want to feel good and I know that that’s what makes me feel that way. And just because I can’t be of service in some of the ways I’d like, doesn’t mean that I can’t be of service at all.

It’s funny, I’ll say that I wanna help people and then an opportunity will present itself and I’ll be like, “Eh, not that one.” I work with customers, and instead of looking at my job as being of service, I’ve been looking at it as something to get through. But I don’t want to “get through” 50% of my life, I wanna live it to the fullest. So maybe I can adopt that service mindset at work, and apply these tools to every area of my life. Because if I’m thinking about other people, then that’s less time for me to obsess about my own life.

-Theodore Dandy