Category Archives: The Early Years

I’m a victim.

I’m a victim. Yeah, yeah…I know everyone thinks that they are a victim. But, seriously, I am a victim. Jesus. There, I said it. I feel soooo much better. Wait…actually, now that I said it, it doesn’t sound quite right–I am a survivor. There. I like that much better.

I am a youth choir survivor. This may not initially sound like a big deal, but, it is. You know, youth choirs…think cheesy music and choreography. Sort of like Up With People, just not as “polished.” My first (that’s right, there was more than one!) choir was called Harmony, Inc. It was a youth choir that got together for a month every summer to rehearse and tour and evangelize the vastly pagan area of our country called the Midwest. Of course, we had thousands of converts. 😉

It was during one of these tours that I met a brassy soprano named Laura. Laura was everything a young gay boy could hope for in a “girlfriend.” She was big, both in size and personality. She styled her overly-curled blonde hair so that the back of her hair was hanging over her forehead. She was sort of like an early 80s version of Madonna, only on steroids. Clearly from the moment we met, we were destined to be together. In many ways, she was one of the most bizarre looking people I had ever seen. Laura was a misfit–truly, one of my peeps. So, of course, we instantly hit it off. Most important to this story, however, Laura was a drama queen. Literally. She was the president of her Thespian troupe. So, it is no surprise that our whirlwind relationship had all the workings of a Shakespearean tragedy. Our love was not to be…

Following a particularly emotional choir rehearsal, she approached me and said, “We’ve lost our spark.”

“Huh?” (I was like totally articulate in high school)

“You know, when we first met, there was a spark between the two of us…well, it’s gone.”

“Are we breaking up?”

“Let’s just be friends.”

It was at this point that I first mastered the fine art of holding a grudge. I also learned how to so completely ignore someone that it caused them acute pain. At least, in my head, that was the case. I continue, to this day, to excel at both of these skills.

If Laura wanted to “just be friends,” I would kill her with my glares or lack thereof. I’d teach her a real life lesson: Don’t mess with a confused gay teenage boy. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one to teach her that lesson. Somehow, I managed to survive the following weeks by pouring my angst into the music. I could force the tears out at the height of a song. Unfortunately, so could my ex-girlfriend. It became a weeping contest. All would see that I was truly a spiritual person who had been through a lot–more than Laura. It all was really great drama. At least, until the director approached us after one of our concerts and asked if we could “control our emotions” just a little bit. How embarrassing for him–trying to stifle our pain. I’d direct my venom at him.

That would free me from being mad at Laura. We bonded over our hatred of the choir director. Of course, we became best friends.

The Long Road to Where I Am–Part 3

I tell you what: I can hold a grudge. And, not just the kind of grudge where you dislike someone, but can still be “friends.” I’m talkin’ ’bout the kind of grudge where it is impossible to even look at the person, much less, talk to them. For example, when I was in high school, I didn’t talk to my “best friend” Danny for over a year because of a fight we had over a piece of gum and a girl. Not my most mature moment, but come on, I was a teenager.

Forgiveness has not really ever been something that came naturally for me. I can hold a grudge for so long that I forget the most important part of a grudge–the why. I just know that I am mad at you, and that’s that. So there it is, just put on your big girl panties and deal with it. I will forget this, but I sure as hell won’t forgive it.

But, as difficult as it is for me to do, I just have to do it. Because as long as you don’t forgive, you hold onto all of that shit. And, my mind is crowded enough as is, so, I can’t afford to be a pack rat. I believe that a good mental spring cleaning begins with forgiveness.

For me, this process starts by not allowing silly situations to escalate to the point where they need forgiveness. My mantra these days really has become: be kind, be generous, be honest…be kind, be generous, be honest… And, I have been using it often. I tend to need a lot of reminders. So, when someone is acting like a real jackass I start chanting the mantra (…to myself, of course. I don’t want to come across as the head case I really am…) And, it really works! Instead of my usual gut reaction of holding a grudge and not talking, I press through and communicate. Nine times out of ten I discover that they are not a real jackass at all. They were just giving their gut reaction to the situation. One out of ten people really are jackasses, which is fine. I just don’t have room for them in my life.

I also have been working on cleaning out the dusty corners of my mental attic. This requires forgiving people that didn’t even know I was holding a grudge–including myself. Doing all of this has freed me up to simply live in the now. It makes it easier to revisit the past when I don’t have all of these pent up negative emotions still attached to everything. I can start to enjoy the humor in it all.

So, this is the last in this series of serious posts. They may not have been the most exciting articles to read, but, I had to write them. If you’re gonna read my blog, you’re gonna get the good, the bad, and the ugly… 😉

My First Kiss…well, almost.

I love girls. In fact, I loved girls so much in grade school that I always had a gaggle of them surrounding me. I was totally in a chick clique. We played tag together and pretty much totally ignored all of the boys. This is how I met my first girlfriend Penny.

The girls and I were playing tag one day when this loud and brash vision of a third grader came at me hand outstretched. When I realized that I was her target, I dodged her tag. She missed me, but unfortunately, did not miss the window that was directly behind me. After crashing through the window, and subsequently receiving multiple stitches, Penny and I became best friends.

She was the first in a long series of “girlfriends.” Here’s how the progression usually went:

Step 1: Meet a girl who is funny and goofy, or loud and brash…not your typical “pretty girl.”

Step 2: Become “best friends” with the girl. Pass lots of notes to each other.

Step 3: Mutually decide to “go together.” (NOTE: I actually sent Penny a note that said, “Do you want to go together? Check yes__ or, no__” I liked clarity evidently.)

Step 4: After going together for a short while, get really uncomfortable and move on to the next victim…I mean best friend.

Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4.

Penny was different, being that she was the first. I almost made it halfway to first base with her. We were at a high school football game, running around with our gaggle of third-grade friends, when somehow we ended up behind this tractor that was parked off to the side of the field. Penny asked me to kiss her. The game was almost over, and we would have to leave soon. So, the pressure was on. The clock, or game timer, actually, was counting down…10, 9, 8, 7… and soon it was all over–both the game and my “relationship” with Penny.

She was also the first in a long line of girls that I loved, but not the way that they wanted me to. It wasn’t too long afterwards that I realized why it was that I didn’t want to kiss Penny…

4-H, 4-You! 4-America! 4-H!

Picture this. July, 1985. The height of the Reagan Era. “Like A Virgin” and “Careless Whisper” topped the pop music charts. The Marion County Fair was in its prime. And, it was the end of farming for yours truly.

I must say that as a gay kid growing up in rural Iowa, I did the best that I could. While I would have rather been in the house baking cookies and reorganizing my bedroom, I was out feeding the calves and “walking” the electric fence. (farming 101–the electric fence surrounded the pasture where the cattle grazed–we had to make sure no weeds were touching the fence…) I spent most of my chore time talking and singing to myself, unaware that anyone could possibly hear me. My point is, I would have rather been indoors.

Each summer me, my three siblings, and our “prize” heifers (farming 101a–heifers are young, female cows) would make the trip to the Marion County Fair. What a nightmare. I hated this time of year more than anything. It meant hours upon hours of washing, combing, training, feeding our “prize” heifers for the competition. And, I usually approached it with the excitement one usually reserves for root canals. That is, until the 1985 Marion County Fair.

I decided that for this year, I was done taking last place. I was a winner and the judges somehow continually misjudged me. Ok. I’m not fooling anybody. I was the least interested of my siblings in this bullshit (pun intended); and so, I always got the runt of the heifers. One year, I actually was given a deformed calf. Her name was Martha, and she was born with her head on sideways (seriously). Needless to say, Martha didn’t live long enough to even make it to the fair, but my point is clear.

However, there was one prize I could take: The Marion County Fair, Dairy Division, Livestock Showmanship Award. The title alone made me twirl and giggle with glee. And, the thought of that trophy in my bedroom simply made me gitty. I was already redecorating my bedroom around it. This award was given to the one individual who took the best care of their heifer during the week of the fair. I just had to do the best job of shoveling poop. It was as good as mine.

So, during the fair, when I would have normally been spending every waking moment on the carnival rides, allowing my heifer to starve; I went crazy shoveling poop. If my heifer even looked like she was going to poop, I was there waiting to catch it in my shovel. I was a farming rockstar.

It was no surprise that I took last place in the actual competition. But, my showmanship trophy would be given to me on Friday at the end of the fair. When I wasn’t hovering behind my heifer, waiting for her to defecate; I was practicing my surprised reactions for when I was announced as the winner. I also was taking note of my competition. There wasn’t any. Simply no one was spending nearly the amount of time with their heifer that I was. No one.

The moment finally arrived for me to accept my award. The 4-H Superintendant of the Dairy Barn gathered everyone together to make the big announcement. After making the standard announcements, she finally got to the point. “The Marion County Fair, Dairy Division, Livestock Showmanship Award” goes to… I could feel myself get light-headed. And, I think that I actually blacked-out for a few moments, because I didn’t hear her say my name. I didn’t hear her say anyone’s name. I just saw some dumb-ass loser kid walking up to take my trophy.

What happened next will go down in the Marion County 4-H program history books. It was also when I learned how to make a dramatic exit. I couldn’t control what happened next. It just happened. I wailed. Literally. This shriek of horror escaped my lungs as I turned and ran. Straight to our fold-down camper. I cried so hard and for so long that my parents actually had to get the Dairy Superintendant to come to the camper and console me. She gave me some lame reason why we are all winners…but, it didn’t matter, though, it was just confirmation of what I already knew…I was not a farmer.

I don’t know if it was from embarassment or pity, but, my parents never really pushed me to do anything 4-H-related again. And, when my parents sold our dairy operation several years later, I knew it was because I was secretly willing all of those cows to break out through the electric fence and never return.

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My entire family lives in Iowa. Mostly around Pleasantville. And you guessed it… the name says it all! I think that still is the town of 1,500’s motto. Go Trojans! Anyway, that’s what it was 15 years ago when I left.

As much as I like to poke fun at my hometown, it is an essential part of my story. You can’t really know me until you know that I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Iowa. And, really, it explains a lot. For instance, growing up on the farm explains why I can curse like a farmer. I heard words from my frustrated, farmer father that would shock sailors.

To take this a step further, I think that farmers are much more creative in their swearing. For instance, while your average cusser might say, “You fucking bastard,” which does have a nice punch to it; a farmer would say, “You pencil-dicked fuckwad.” Much more creative. Sometimes, a situation would require simply a list of all the curse words one could think of; for instance, when a cow would step on a farmer’s foot you might hear: “Fuck, you mother-fuckin’, son of a bitchin’, bastardless, chickenshit…shithead, damn it, shitfaced cow!” I’m not sure what some of that even means. I just knew to clear the area once the cursing list started.

My mother, on the other hand, was a patriotic swearer. Her favorite phrase was, “Shit! Blessed America!” or just “Blessed America!” Me, however–I have taken to using biblical references such as: “Son of a bitch, Zaccheus, and all the Apostles, too. Damn it.” I have been known to also give Jesus Christ several various middle initials. (i.e. H. F. T.) I guess the middle initial just takes it up a notch. Which initial I give just depends on how pissed off I am.

I have always been curious about cuss words. True story. When I was about 10, I was still a cussing virgin. So, I went into the bathroom, locked the door, stared into the mirror, and said, “fuck.” Scandalous. I had essentially popped my cursing cherry. And, it was all over. I was a closeted swearer from then on. I have always been well-behaved in public. It is the other side of growing up on a farm–learning manners. But, when alone, I practiced it intensely.

I do think that I have a thorough curse word vocabulary. However, I am always interested in adding new phrases to my repertoire. I also like the funny phrases that people have created to use as alternatives. Like saying, “Shut the front door!” instead of “Shut the fuck up!”

So, if you haven’t been too offended to read this far and are willing to share some of your most creative phrases… fuck it…let’s hear ’em. Come on, I know you want to share…leave a comment. Let’s see who has the most creative cursing vocabulary!