Sharing Lives, Not Secrets

It was the turn of the millennia and I was lonely.

So begins the story of how I watched my first season of reality TV. I had recently graduated from college and found myself in an apartment with three other guys and a cable subscription. I didn’t yet know these guys and all my college friends had spread themselves across the country.

Thus, I found myself watching MTV’s Real World—which, as I quickly found out, was nothing like any real world I’d ever known. In the first episode, we’re introduced to the “characters” as they arrive at the home where they’ll be staying for that season of the show. It’s here we’re introduced to a young man with a “secret.”

He’s quite intent on telling his housemates that he has a “secret” in spite of the fact not one of them knows him or shows an interest in hearing this secret. Seeing this tactic isn’t advancing his mission, he starts sharing the secret (you guessed it)—he’s gay.

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From Couch to Far Country

couch-to-countryI first told someone about my sexuality while sitting in a dorm room at a Christian college in Middle America. The couch on which we sat had seen better days—frayed along the edges of its arms and missing its feet so we had to sink quite low, almost to the ground, to finally meet the seat cushions.

I can’t remember why I chose that night to tell someone after 19 years of silence. Perhaps I felt particularly lonely or maybe my spirit was as low as that couch. I also can’t recall the words I used to share this secret part of me. I imagine they were halting and slightly evasive—just enough to set the scene, but not give away too much of the back story.

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Cold Hands, Warming Heart

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My body has a capillary condition which results in my having constantly cold hands. In the winter, I have a particularly difficult time keeping them warm—especially if I’m outside for any period of time. In talking with my doctor about the condition, he suggested wearing mittens instead of gloves so that the collective warmth of my fingers would help them fight off the cold. But I challenge you to find an attractive pair of mittens for a man. Or, perhaps I mean to say, I feel unman-like while wearing mittens.

Whatever the case, I don’t wear them. So here’s what happens when I’m outside during winter: my hands get numb. It starts in my pinky fingers and then slowly moves across them from the outside in. If you’ve ever had numb hands, you know it’s a strange sensation. There is a certain level of pain to it, but you get used to it because you stop feeling your fingers after a time.

The real pain begins when you come indoors. As your fingers start to warm up, it’s like a thousand little needles being jammed in every nerve ending. The more numb your fingers, the more excruciating the pain when they begin to thaw.

In my last post, I described my experience of trying to let feelings enter my life again. I hinted at the challenge of this process, but didn’t dwell on the pain involved in it. I’d like to try to describe that further here.

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