Monday, May 26, 2014

Setting the Stage Part 3

This is Part 3 in a multi-part blog post.  If you've stumbled across the page without reading Part 1, click the link below to go to Part 1.
Setting the Stage Part 1

Recovering from the car accident took me out of any kind of social activity for most of the summer.  One perk that came from this is that, since I couldn’t be subjected to any kind of physical activity, my younger brother assumed the duties of mowing the lawn, and my hands haven’t touched a lawn mower of any kind since.  Small consolation for nearly dying and being laid up all summer, but you take the positives you can get, right?  Additionally, feeling badly that I had to spend most of my summer laying around and not wanting me to not be able to get back and forth to work or enjoy all the things that come with being a senior, my parents surprised me buy buying me another car.

Upon returning to high school, at the beginning of my senior year, I discovered that I did, in fact, still have friends.  For someone who had spent most of his life feeling like he had none or only very few and constantly living with the anxiety of being singled out to be bullied or picked on by those who were higher up on the high school social hierarchy, this was quite a relief.  I think I was constantly fearing that I would wake up and find out it was a dream.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I was never in any kind of position that could be confused as popular, but I did finally have a circle of friends that I felt I had a place within, and I got picked on a lot less.  From that perspective, for me, it was like winning the social lottery.

I continued balancing school along with the writing responsibilities of my job.  I went to parties and continued to hang out with friends.  My fun would experience another interruption however.  One night when I was driving to a party with some friends in the backseat, one of them decided to open a beer in the backseat.  Something happened, and the beer ended up getting spilled on the floor of my car.  I was furious.  They, of course, laughed and told me to lighten up.  Early that next week, it snowed.  We lived some distance from the high school, and my parents wouldn’t let me drive when the roads were bad.  That meant that I had to ride the bus.  While I was in the shower being pissed off about that, my parents also decided that my mom shouldn’t drive her car that morning because it didn’t handle very well in the snow.  The conclusion that they arrived at was that she should drive my car.  Well, in order to drive my car, she would need my keys.  This led them to my varsity jacket where they found the keys and…the cigarettes.  My dad took the keys out to start the car for my mom where he smelled the beer from where it had been spilled on the floor of the backseat.  Still being in the shower, my first hint that anything was wrong was when my mom knocked on the bathroom door and say that they needed to talk to me.  Something in her tone gave it the weight of a death sentence.  It didn’t matter how much hot water was coming out of the shower head.  I felt the cold dread of certain doom flow through me.

After that incident, except for going to work and school, I was not allowed to use my car until I turned 18.  My father made it a point to show up at work one day just to let the owners of the newspaper know that I was grounded from using the car outside of those two purposes and why.  That way I wouldn’t even have opportunity to sneak anything by them.  I was allowed to go to sporting events as long as I went with my parents.  This ruled out any kind of alcohol consumption before or afterwards.  In retrospect, it shouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  I barely drink now, and, when I do, I hardly ever drink more than a couple of drinks, but, to a high school student who was newly discovering the joys of alcohol and being a bit rebellious, this was the end of the world.

I turned 18 that April, shortly before graduation.  One regret that I do have from high school was that I didn’t attend either of my high school proms.  Again, I just wasn’t very popular, and I didn’t see a way to secure a girl to take as a date.  Although I knew that I was gay, we were years away from that even being tentatively okay.  I did, of course, have guys that I was involved with sexually, but I maintained a clear division between those that I was involved with in a sexual manner and those that I considered my friends.  As I look back on it, I was kind of an asshole, but I was not will to risk even the small modicum of social acceptance that I was enjoying.  If I had come out then, the result would have been far worse than anything that I had experienced previously.  I would have been putting myself and those I was involved with in very real danger.  

In the next post, we’ll go beyond high school and explore the final steps that led me to embark on my life as an ex-gay.  Please keep coming back.  Please comment, input your e-mail address to follow me, or shoot me an e-mail.  If you share your story with me, please let me know if you are comfortable with me sharing all or parts of it on the blog.  If you aren’t comfortable with that at all, I totally understand.  I’d still like to connect with you whether your a supportive ally, someone who is struggling with accepting themselves was LGBTQ, or an ex-gay survivor yourself.

© Joshua Culbertson 2014

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