20 August, 2011

It Gets Better

Would you like a cupcake, It Gets Better?

If you haven't run across it already, The It Gets Better Project was started in response to the startling number of teen suicides and bullying in the LGBT community. Which is horrible.There shouldn't be a startling number, because those teens? They are my friends. And they deserve a break.

This project invites everybody to take a pledge to speak out against bullying, and to reach out to at-risk youth to A) actually make things better. and B) let them know that things do get better. It is probably perfect. But it is not the message that actually worked for me.

I'm really having trouble striking the tone I'm looking for here, so I'll just stumble around like normal, and pretend that a lot of these things are funny, ok? You'll forgive me if I'm awkward and bufoonish, pretty please?

Now, most people are against teen suicide, even if they find LGBT community members scary or wrong or, I dunno, different. Which I have always found hard to understand, because people, you people, all people, are ALWAYS just like other people. And they are just like me, because I am a people too.

In Harold and Maude, a troubled, suicidal kid meets a kooky old lady with a zest for life. And a set of car key masters. She has self respect, and respect for all life, but she has, unfortunately, set herself an expiration date.

She is a suicidal old lady. 

She is serving as a lesson to all the Harolds in life. Her theory was simply the opposite of the It Gets Better message. Her theory was that it is going to get worse. She might have been right. And she might have been very, very very wrong. But she will never find out which. And neither will anyone else.

Back to LGBT people. I LOVE them, if they've stood up to be counted as members of that community. You know, that scary, dangerous, other. I also love them if they are living a lie out of fear, of course, but I don't admire them as much. Because I admire risk-takers. 

Not in the medical-risk sense. But everyone is taking medical-risks every day, if they come in contact with other human beings who come in contact with other human beings. 

The risk I'm talking about, my friends, the risk that I admire? 

It is, as ABBA would say, is to take a chance on love. 

And it is a risk I personally have been very skittish about, since way WAY back. 

In middle school. When puberty hit me before I really noticed. But not before the boys did. I was sexually harassed twice in middle school. Both times a boy came up to me, and did something I totally was not expecting. He put his hand on me in one of my very personal places.  

A different boy, both times. And a different place. And I can't say that they had much conscious awareness of what was going on either. But just a tip for all you curious young men out there? If you haven't managed to hold her hand, don't go for the gold.

The problem I have with this personal history is not primarily that someone touched me. It's mostly that they sort of had a hit-and-run thing going. I didn't have time to figure out what I might think about it before the boys were gone, long gone, and I was standing there alone, and confused. 

Betrayed. Because that kind of curiosity and interest? It needs to be brave enough to stand around and be there for me, and look me straight in the eyes, so I can see some of man's love for his fellow man. For me.

And rarely has someone laid an unexpected hand on me since, I can tell you. I've been very vigilant. And very jumpy. And as soon as I could arrange it, although quite, quite unconsciously, very fat. So I could have my own, all-natural suit of armor and camouflage kit in one. Because fat helps you avoid notice. And I no longer wanted to be noticed.

I may still get nervous when everybody or in the room or at the table looks at me at once, but I also totally enjoy it now, in a way I haven't for years. I can totally tell a good story now, where I used to fumble around and shift focus and unconsciously sabotage my delivery to disrupt that perfect focus that a good story earns from an audience.

Because I was way more comfortable with half of your attention than all of it.

But back to the subject of teen suicide. yay.

I might or might not have been a big risk. I know I toyed around with the idea, and I know I had one "attempt" that was so halfhearted that there was no actual danger. I was totally fumbling around, and lucky for me. 

And I put the sweater pill-shaver back together. And went on to find some better reasons to live, because suicide is too embarrassing for me. 

My problem is, I feel, much like that of the members of any outcast community, that I am a misfit. I have plenty of capacity, but I totally don't understand the system, and I didn't start paying attention to things other than words until far too late in life.

I love words. LOVE. But words, my friend, are a latecomer to the human condition, and they are a tool we are still fumbling with. 

For almost all the vast ages of man, my friend, life was like a silent movie. Non-verbal communication only.

And any really satisfying movie I have ever seen? Totally works, for me, as a silent movie. Because my early man component understands that part, and she is more firmly and thoroughly a part of me than this talking and writing part.

What actually makes it better? Trying something new. Change. If you don't like what you've got, change something. If you're a teen, you probably feel trapped, unless you want to assume the risks of becoming a runaway, which I seriously considered and don't recommend. Unless it's the only change you're willing to try.

And if you're a teen? That change of place will probably be thrust upon you in just a very few years whether you participate in finding your own bliss or not. So yes, almost certainly, it gets better.

Because change of place is change. And you will definitely find new things. And hopefully much nicer people.

But even small changes of place are valuable. Trying any new thing, or trying again something you have never really liked. It's the keep on trying attitude that will help you find what works for you, and will carry you into a life you feel you can live with. And I'm totally going to town on this now. 

But it's not what worked for me. 

What worked for me was the pessimistic, niggling suspicion, that it might. get. worse. 

And I'm not talking about a religious idea of hell, of getting what you 'deserve'. I'm talking about you know, a world kind of like this one, maybe. But even worse. 

I could easily and readily imagine much worse tortures than the one I was living through. It's really not hard, if you read the paper. And if, like me, your tortures are all self-inflicted. Because adding someone else's idea of a bad time? So. Much. Worse.

A movie that came out about 5 years ago, Wristcutters, doesn't even go that far. In that afterlife everything is just so much harder to do. And so much dirtier. And you can't even smile.

I was all about the horror show of Riverworld, by Philip Jose Farmer. Where they give you endless chances to get it "right". And it is SO hard. And creepy. And that system? Reincarnation without loss of identity? It might work. But if you hate your job, not even having the option of quitting is sort of depressing. 

But I try to find it very freeing, whenever I feel low. If you've got nothing to lose, there is no longer any risk.

And I don't allow myself the option of quitting.

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