12 February 2010

Normal Childhoods

Today I stopped in Keith's shop again. I really do need to get a new vacuum cleaner soon. I could probably borrow one for one or two cleanings, but after that, I'll need to have my own. I was almost ready to buy one that was more expensive than what I had originally planned to get: It seemed better-made and has features that would make it usable even if I were to live in a place with a floor made of exotic hardwoods--or shag carpets. And it seems like it would be very good at picking up pet hairs.

But then I saw another model I hadn't noticed last week. It doesn't have some of the features of the other model I'm considering. But it's German-made, with a Siemens motor.

I was about to buy that one, but Keith suggested that I think about it for another day. Well...it means that I'll go to his store again and we'll have another conversation. Hmm...is that what he wants? I'm sure that, like any other businessman, he wants to make money. But he really seems to enjoy the social aspects of having a store, too.

And that's been half the fun of going to his shop. But today I did something I promised myself I wouldn't do: I talked about my recent changes. It came about rather accidentally, when we were talking about the music we grew up with. (He's maybe a couple of years older than I am.) That, of course, got us to talking about crazy things we did when we were young. I mentioned something--it's a long story, so I won't get into it here--I did with an old girlfriend.

There was a long pause. His face didn't change expression, but I could see that he was a bit surprised. "Yes, I was living as a guy in those days," I explained.

Then he became more curious about my early life. Of course, I only told him a little bit, but he seemed rather astonished at how "normal" it was. Yes, I played sports, drank and got high with the guys and did all sorts of "macho" things. But, I explained, that was all part of a facade I was keeping up. Jokingly, I said, "But they should have known something was up when they gave me a box of Crayolas and the first color I picked was magenta."

Yes, I liked "girly" things, even if I kept my wishes to myself. I wanted to play with dolls and to wear purple or pink or red. Although I tried to project as masculine an image as I could, some people, like my mother, knew that I wasn't that way, deep down.

So I was normal on the outside...and inside I was a train wreck waiting to happen. What's even more shocking to me now than what a seemingly-normal childhood I had was the fact that I survived the conflict between it and what was going on within me.

Yes, it is a wonder that I survived it. Other people I knew didn't. I don't know what it says about me: Some people say I'm courageous. Others, like Keith, say I'm strong. Whatever it says, I know I did the best I could.