Halloween 1984

You may have seen a link making its way around Facebook titled, “My Son is Gay,” by a mother whose 5-year-old son wanted to dress as Daphne from “Scooby Doo” for his school Halloween party.  It’s a wonderful, inspirational story about a mother’s understanding of her son’s own gender identity and the repercussions of society on her allowing him to express himself freely.

I just read that post, and was suddenly reminded of my own experience with a similar situation.

I was in 8th grade.  It was around Halloween and my school– a very conservative Catholic school— was holding its Halloween Party for the school kids.  Keep in mind that at that time, 8th grade was considered part of the elementary school, so this party would be for grades 1-8.

The year was 1984– Michael Jackson and Madonna were hot costume ideas.  But I decided that I wanted to something a little different, albeit a bit less current.  I put on one of my mom’s old wigs, an old dress (or it might have been a caftan, I don’t remember exactly), and then put on makeup.  I was no artist, but I did the best I could.  I found a pair of nylons and a pair of her shoes.  Then I found some of her “costume” jewelry and completed the look.  I wanted to go as “Tootsie,” the 1981 Dustin Hoffman character.

I showed my mom what I had done.  And do you know what she did?

She said, “I think it’d be fun!”  I asked her, “Do you think the kids would make fun of me?”  She replied, “It’s Halloween.  You can go as whatever you want.  It doesn’t mean anything… it’s just for fun.”

So then we showed my dad.

That didn’t go so well.  Aside from his surprised reaction, and maybe a little bit of yelling, he didn’t have a massive tantrum (as I expected).  He was definitely shocked by my appearance, but he was more gravely concerned about what would happen if I went to the party dressed this way.  You see, only a few years prior, I had left my original grade school because of incessant teasing from the other kids.  I don’t think the teasing was ever about my being gay (or the possibility thereof, as I certainly hadn’t come out yet); but because I had such a rough time at the first school, I think he was worried that this would set off a lot of problems for me at this school.  Granted, I was in 8th grade and we were going to be graduating soon anyway– but I understood why he was so concerned.

He didn’t say that I COULDN’T dress as “Tootsie,” but he encouraged me to reconsider my choice– for my own sake.

So after some long talks about it, we decided that I would change courses and go as a greaser.  (“The Outsiders” was also a popular movie and book at the time– so instead of going as a woman, I pretended I was Rob Lowe.  Or Tom Cruise.  Or Tommy Howell.  Because I had a crush on each one of them.

In any case, I nearly became that kid in the recent blog post.  I just didn’t have the guts to follow through with it.  My choice had nothing to do with my sexuality, or even my gender identity.  I have never considered myself feminine, and to this day I think I make one hell of an ugly drag queen! (Which is why I’ve only done it once.)  I just was playing around with my mom’s stuff, came up with a funny costume, and thought it’d be fun to go as that character.

What touches me most, as I recall that day, is how bravely my parents dealt with it.  There were no knock-down, drag-out fights like I expected.  Just some serious discussions about whether or not it was best for me to do it.  And I especially love my mom for encouraging me to do whatever I wanted.  She never said no.  And she still doesn’t to this day.

 

 

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Winter Blahs

Sunset shadows

This happens every winter.

We get to the last week of January or the first week in February, and the blahs hit.  The weather is stuck in freezer mode, the skies are perpetually gray, and the days get monotonous.  So it is for me right now.

I know I need to get out of here for a while.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had a vacation of any kind, and I really could benefit from the recharge.  I have a few ideas in mind– just weekend trips, nothing that would last a full week — but I’m definitely exploring the options.

There are a few fun things ahead, however.  Next weekend my friends and I are traveling to Whitewater, WI to go skiing.  I’ve never gone skiing before (which may shock some of you), but the idea of just getting away from the city for a while sounds really exciting.  We’ll be staying at our friend Jeff’s family cottage which is not far from Alpine Valley, where the resort is.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to even attempt skiing or just sit in the lodge and drink cocoa or hot toddies and wave.  Either way, I’m really looking forward to the trip.

This weekend is my nieces’ 2nd birthday, so of course a party is planned.  I’m looking forward to seeing them, as I always do.  I can hardly believe they’re already 2 years old.   Time sure flies quickly around here.

In the meantime, I will keep wrapping myself like a mummy and braving the elements.  Each day that passes means that spring is coming closer.  I can’t wait for that first 50 degree day, when runners hit the paths and the city comes alive.  From there, everything will get better.  That’s the glory of seasons, right?

2009: The Year In Review

2009. What a year.

In many ways, this was probably the most tumultuous year of my life.  I’ve had some harrowing experiences in previous years, but this one just kept ’em coming, one after the other.  I’m amazed I got through it with my sanity somewhat intact!

But there were a lot of really great moments, too.  They were special moments that I never could have planned for.  I started the year in a bad place, and I ended the year in a pretty damn good place.  So 2010 is starting out on a better note than 2009 started.  I think that’s progress.

So here’s a timeline-based review of the year, with a little rating system, just for fun.

January

Barack Obama Inaugurated as the 44th President. After all that hubbub in 2008, our next President was now official.  Everyone waited with bated breath to see what would happen next. A year later… well… we’re still waiting.  I’m not saying I’m 100% disappointed, but I would like to have seen a few more  tangible results.  The economy is improving, and that is probably the best thing to happen since last January… but we’re still at war, we still haven’t passed health care reform, and the rights of LGBT people are still being infringed upon.  Let’s hope 2010 sees some more of that change.  I’m still hopeful.

Rating: Thumbs up for the change… Thumbs down for the progress.

February

RcktMan’s Launching Pad shuts down… for a while. I was really ready at the time to just say goodbye and let that be it.  I talked about going out with “dignity,” but what I didn’t express was how much stress I was already under.  I knew I had to move out of my apartment, but I was afraid of how that was going to go, and I didn’t know how to deal with that fear.  So I started to shut down.  And I wasn’t just doing on the blog… I was doing it elsewhere, too.  Eventually I formed a plan.  I thought it would work.  I would be wrong.

Rating: Thumbs down for jumping the gun entirely too early.


Plans to move are made. Things were looking pretty good with the moving situation in February.  I found a roommate and we started to explore options for our new living situation.  I was getting more and more excited about moving.  I started to pack and make plans.  Little did I know what lurked around the corner to dash all those hopes and dreams.  I couldn’t have written the story any better than it actually played out… and it was playing out like a souped-up melodrama.

Rating: Thumbs up for the initial good news.

March

Moving Plans dashed, panic sets in. Here is where things started really going to hell, and fast.  On March 1, I received an Email from my potential roommate, saying he was backing out of the plan.  My moving date was April 1.  In that moment, everything went sour.  I never felt such panic.  I knew my financial situation was bad, and my prospects of finding another roommate was even worse.  I blanketed every possible connection with Emails, looking for possibilities.   A few came in, but none of them worked out.  Finally, toward the end of the month, when my stress levels were at their absolute highest, I decided to go it alone.  I looked at some of the most dreadful apartments I have seen in years, and the ones that looked hopeful were way out of my price range.  I settled on a place I hated, just for the sake of having something.. and that went sour, too.  I was at the end of my rope, and finally asked for an extension to stay another month.  It was the best thing I could have done.

Rating: Thumbs down… WAY down… for a lot of really bad bullshit.

April

Blog resurrected… for the sake of my sanity. After a tumultuous March, I was a wreck.  My stress levels were unbelievably high. I wasn’t eating.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  But I did need to vent… so I resurrected the blog.  By now any semblance of a readership that I had probably left because they thought I was cuckoo.  They were probably right.  I was cuckoo at the time.  I needed to pour out all of my thoughts, and I did just that.  It was the best thing I could have done.  I formulated a plan, and stuck to it.  And then… good luck finally struck.

Rating: Thumbs up, for doing what I should have done two months earlier.

Apartment FOUND! Thanks to a chorus friend on Facebook, I found a place.  It meant moving further away than I had hoped, but I couldn’t pass it up.  It had everything I needed and much more… including more room… for less.  In addition, the neighborhood was nice, attractive and quiet.  I couldn’t be happier with how things ended up.  After some dealings with the landlords and lots of questions and answers, I signed a lease.  All of the panic I had felt instantaneously vanished.  Next step… moving day!

Rating: Thumbs up, for the kindness of friends and good fortune.

May

Moving Day! The weather really blew… and rained… and blew… and rained… but I really didn’t care.  I was moving, and that’s all that mattered.  Thanks again to incredible friends and a couple guys I hired, we finally got everything– well, almost everything– in.  OK I lost my sofa, but I didn’t care.  It was just good to be moved into a new place.  A new beginning.  I never felt so optimistic.

Rating: Thumbs up, for finally feeling settled.

June

I meet a boy! All the while everything was going on at home, I was still active with the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, attending rehearsals and serving on the Membership Council.  In February I was elected Membership Council President, which was a good thing… but added even more work to an already-full plate.  I was concerned how things would go, considering everything else that was happening… but once everything got figured out, I settled into the job.

In May the chorus started rehearsing for our Pride show, “Over the Rainbow,” and we decided to take new members, which we don’t normally do for that show.  There was one in particular I thought was really cute, but I didn’t really think anything more of it… until he made a move on ME!  Talk about unexpected.  So we started dating.  And it was really quite wonderful.  It was especially fun being with him at the Pride Parade.  June was definitely busting out all over… and I was having a really great time.

Rating: Thumbs up, of course.

July

Apartment broken into, computer, camera stolen. Yeah there were a few too many green, happy thumbs for a while there.  July was a very rough month for me.  If you have never been burglarized, it’s hard to describe what it’s like to discover that a stranger has been through your things; been in your house; and taken things that belonged to you.  It’s one of the most awful feelings one can feel.  I don’t want to necessarily equate it to being raped, but that’s as close as I can come to that violated feeling.  Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and everything taken was replaceable… but that feeling of safety can never be replaced.

Rating: Thumbs down for assholes making other people’s lives miserable.

August

Rebuilding begins, while other things fall apart. August was a very transitional month for me.  I replaced the computer with a laptop that was generously donated (and soon to be purchased from) a friend, and I got back on track with everything else in life.  I wasn’t going to let the situation at hand break me.  I’d been through too much and was too happy with things to let that happen.  I did, however, re-secure my apartment, and became much more aware of my surroundings.  I wasn’t going to let what happened in July happen again.

But some things were not meant to be, and I once again became a single man.

Up until the last week, I thought things were going great.  But then I noticed the silence on the other end of the line.  Phone calls weren’t returned, Emails and texts were not responded to… I knew something was up.  To make matters worse, I was nearing the point where I was either going to totally fall for the guy or end it; and I realized I was totally falling for him.  So when I finally got in touch with him, I told him we had to talk, and I didn’t care that it was on the phone.  You see, we never officially said anything about our dating situation.  We weren’t boyfriends, and we certainly weren’t in a relationship.  We were just… dating.  And that’s how we both wanted it.  But after all that had happened and as wonderful as it had all been, I knew I wanted more.  He didn’t.  And we talked about it and agreed that it was for the best.  No harm was done, no bridges were burned.  And we remained friends, which makes things even better.  In the end, while it still hurt, I am glad we went about things the way we did.

Rating: Thumbs up, for the rebuilding; and Thumbs down, for the ending.  Final rating: A wash.

September-October

Chorus starts up again. The beginning of the chorus season is always a positive thing in my life, because it means I get to see all my friends at least once a week and I can get back to singing again, which is always a positive thing.  September was a busy month, particularly in terms of the chorus, because of my position on their Membership Council.  But I always have said that I like being busy… so that was a good thing, too.

Rating: Thumbs up, for a continually positive force in my life.

Also during September, I finally let my account lapse with DreamHost and The Launching Pad was gone for good. Although I had already copied all of the posts to this site on WordPress.com, I still hadn’t transferred my domain name, rcktman.com.  So I kept the blog quiet until everything was in place.  That wouldn’t come for another two months.  So I took that time away and paid attention to everything else for a while.

November

Rick’s Launching Pad Opens. It seemed like it took forever– and it took the better part of 2009– but by November I finally got my domain transferred and the new blog was officially open and online once again.  I still had a few bugs to clear up (like that crazy ping echo… thank goodness I figured that one out), but getting rid of that hosted account was worth the wait.  It would have costed me $140 to renew that site, and that was money I simply did not have; and it just wasn’t worth it when I looked at the small amount of traffic it generated in the first place.  So I transferred my domain to Network Solutions for a much smaller fee and applied it here.. and viola, rcktman.com now leads you here.  And if you read this paragraph and cared about what it said, you are obviously a blogger, too. 🙂

Rating: Thumbs up, for one more thing falling into place.

December

A crappy year ends on a high note. December is always a very busy month for me.  Of course there’s always Christmas to contend with, and that’s usually enough for any one person, but I also have my birthday, my annual holiday/birthday party, and a chorus show.  I read a post from a few years ago where I also had ANOTHER chorus show to prepare for in addition to the CGMC show and I almost died all over again just thinking about what a crazy year that was.  I don’t know I survived it.  Thank the Lord I came to my senses and cut a few things out!

But all those things are good things, and they helped me realize that no matter how bad things get, my family and friends are there to help me through it all.  I can’t help but think how lucky I am to have those people in my life.  They are truly the best.

Other good things– I replaced my stolen camera; the first stolen item to be fully replaced since the burglary.  Finally, it seemed, I was on the road to recovery from that nightmare.

As 2009 rolled to an end and I looked back on the year (and I started writing this post, which has now officially taken me three weeks to complete, and probably took YOU three weeks to read!), I realized that 2009 wasn’t as bad as I thought.  Sure, the bad moments were REALLY bad… so bad that I almost resorted to prescription medications to deal with the stress… but in the end, things came together, and all was well with the world.

So what’s ahead for 2010?  Well… keep reading and find out!

Rating: Thumbs up, for looking ahead and keeping things positive.

Holiday Giving

Each year at the holidays, we are encouraged to give.  Because giving is better than receiving.

I believe in this mantra.  I think it’s noble and just.

But times get hard.  Money gets tight.  And no matter how much we scrimp and save and try to make ends meet, we sometimes come up short.  And sometimes we come up short more often than we come out ahead.  Especially the way things have been going lately.

So this year, I’m going to set up my own Holiday Giving plan.

Yep, that’s right.  I’m officially declaring myself a Charity Case.

Hey, it’s been a rough year.  I had a hellish move, where I lost my sofa; I had a break-in and lost most of my stuff; and even though I have tried to cut costs and make things easier for myself, I still can’t seem to catch a break.

So, hey, can ya help a brother out?

OK OK I know this is pathetic.  It’s also totally tongue-in-cheek.

But in reality, how many of us are putting up a brave front this year in the face of adversity?  How many of us are just one bounced check, one lost paycheck away from total devastation?  I bet it’s more of us than we really think.

I have to admit (and here’s where I’m being serious), I’m really very, very lucky.

With everything that happened in the last year– and believe me, there’s more than I’m even mentioning here — I have still managed to stay both sane and afloat.  That horrible move turned out to be an incredible lucky break for me, because I now have a really great place (despite the break-in).  I still have my job.  I still have my friends and the chorus.  And of course I still have my family.

Things could have been a hell of a lot worse.

But I can’t help but wonder about those who have had it a lot worse.  Do they really and truly need the help, but are too proud to ask for it?

And if they did ask for it, would any of us lend a hand?

Maybe that’s what the Holiday Spirit is really all about.

Resolution (Conclusion)

When last I left you, I had signed a lease for my new apartment, and things were looking up.  And for the most part, they kept looking up.  Minus a few setbacks, of course.  

But instead of rehashing all the drama step by step, I’ll just summarize and say that I am all moved in and settled.  I love my new apartment.  It’s spacious, clean, and there is actually more room here than I even guessed.  Of course, that has a lot to do with how much crap I purged before I moved — and believe me, I purged a LOT of crap.  

So how did I get to this point?  Here’s the summary….

1. My deal with the old apartment – The rental company kept my check and cashed it, even though I asked them not to, which set off a domino effect of problems.  It created a ton of stress for me, but it all got worked out in the end.  Especially since I had already signed a lease for my new apartment by then.  

2. Moving Day – I ended up hiring a U-Haul, and also hired two guys to help move, in addition to the wonderful help I received from four friends of mine.  I don’t know what would have done without them.  The day itself was as bad as it could possibly have been.  It was pouring rain almost all day long, and when I woke up in the morning that day (I barely slept as it was), I still didn’t know where to pick up my truck.  I called U-Haul at about 7:30 in the morning and they told me I had to pick it up at 7am and bring it back by 1pm.  HA.  Fat chance.  They didn’t see the mound of boxes I had stacked up and the number of furniture items I had.  

So I picked up the truck in the pouring rain and drove it back home.  One by one my friends arrived, and then the movers arrived.  I tell you, these guys were amazing.  They strapped so much stuff on their backs it made MY back hurt.  And they just kept going and going.  

At one point, my friend Bradley looked at me and said, “Rick, you really need to dump some of this stuff.”  I knew it, too.  And so I started throwing things away.  I didn’t even look inside boxes or crates– I just dumped it.  You see, in my family, we are, by nature, pack rats.  So it’s hard to part with stuff.  Well when push comes to shove, that trait goes out the window.  And in the end, I’m very glad that it did.  

I finally got all moved into my new place– save for a few more things left behind that I would pick up the next day.  Another friend called after everyone had gone home and asked if I needed help, so he came by and we set up my bedroom so I could sleep that night. And once we were done and had unloaded and unpacked a few more things, I had a bed to sleep on at last.  

I had one major casualty in the move: my sofa.  It would not fit in either door, no matter how hard we tried.  But it was pretty well destroyed anyway, (the cats had done their work on it over the years, both as a scratching post and, at one bad point in time, as a litter box!) so I was not exactly sad to see it go.  

3. The cats – My friend Rafael watched the cats for me while the move happened, so they didn’t have to be around for all the craziness.  When I took them back home, I wasn’t quite sure how they would react to the new surroundings, but they have absolutely LOVED it right from the start.  I think being away from their “things”  for so long made them very happy to be back, no matter where it was.  They are loving seeing new and exciting things out the windows, and finding new places to run and hide.  

So overall, the move went well, and I am very happy here.  I finally took some pictures the other day, and they are below.  From here, new adventures begin.  We’ll see where this all leads me.  Thanks for all of your support and encouragement through all of this — It was a really awful experience at the beginning, but it turned out to be a wonderful outcome in the end.

Bedroom from door

The Pink Bathroom - Sink

Kitchen - from hall

Living Room - From Entry

Dining Area

Living Room - Shelves

Living Room - Desk