The Ten Most Memorable Events of My Twenties(written December 17-26, 2003)
I wrote these over the course of the ten days leading up to my 30th birthday. I'd been trying to find some way to quantify my twenties, to look back on them, take stock of them -- some way to metaphorically pinch myself and say, "Yes, they actually happened. I really did stuff. It wasn't all a big waste of time."
The events are a mix of milestones, personal accomplishments, happy moments, a sad moment or two, but they're all things that, for me, epitomized some part of my twenties. I've listed them from least to most important. Taken together, I hope they'll paint a broad portrait of me in my twenties.
10. The Virginia Glee Club Tour of the Northeast
March 10-19, 1994
In the fall of my third year of college at the University of Virginia, I finally joined the Virginia Glee Club. I'd seen the group's Christmas Concert the previous winter, and I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of them. But when I came back from winter break, I didn't audition because I thought I'd be too busy with my classwork. Big mistake. I learned my lesson, though, and the following fall, I finally tried out.
Being in the 50-man Glee Club was a life-changing experience for me; it was the first time I'd ever felt like one of the guys. I'd never rushed any fraternities at UVa, but the all-male Glee Club had a house, threw parties, went on "rolls" (road trips), and sang amazing music to boot. I truly felt like I belonged there.
During my first year in the group, we went on a spring break tour of the Northeast. It was my first extended tour with the Glee Club. We left Charlottesville the Thursday night before break and came back the following Saturday night. First we went to Knoxville, Tennessee (uh, technically not in the Northeast), to sing at the American Choral Directors' Association's annual convention. From there we went up to South Hadley, Massachusetts to sing with Mount Holyoke, and then on to Stamford, Hartford, Boston, Torrington, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. We travelled everywhere on a chartered bus; it was owned by Luxury United Vacations, so we called it the Luv Bus.
It was only a 10-day tour, but it felt like a month. We spent nearly every waking hour together; we spent endless hours on the bus, playing spades, getting drunk, sleeping, watching movies, causing mayhem. We sang beautiful concerts in some acoustically sublime venues. We made fun of Mt. Holyoke's choral conductor, who looked like Ned Flanders. We streaked Harvard Yard in the snow.
When we finally returned to Charlottesville the following Saturday night, I wasn't sure how much time had passed. It felt like ages since I'd had a care in the world. Because for that week and a half, real life had ceased to exist. These men had become my life.
More importantly, they had become my brothers.
9. I Write a Screenplay
In late February/early March 2002, shortly after I began my blog hiatus, I suddenly got my ass in gear. Everything came into focus. I finally knew what I wanted to do: write a movie. So I signed up for a 10-week screenwriting class at the Gotham Writers' Workshop. I already knew what my script was going to be about -- it was a story I'd wanted to tell, and had tried putting into various formats, for almost 10 years.
I was determined to write this thing, and I was determined to finish it by the end of the course. I knew that if I didn't, I might never finish it at all. So over the next two and a half months, I promised myself I'd write at least two pages of my script per day. It was a number small enough to be nonthreatening, and in fact I often found myself writing more than that self-imposed minimum. But it was that small number that got me to the keyboard every day.
The week after I turned in my first 20 pages, my teacher returned it to me with comments scrawled on the back. They began: "This is terrific. Really terrific." I was so excited.
On the night of the last class, I came in and told my teacher that I'd finished my first draft. She gaped at me and offered her congratulations. She'd never had a student actually finish a first draft during the 10-week course before. I was the first.
I eventually wrote a second draft of my script, and this fall I entered it in a gay screenplay contest. I didn't win; I wasn't even one of the finalists. My script needs work, but I'm not sure how motivated I am to improve it. I've become interested in other stuff lately. We'll see.
At any rate, it's the first extended creative writing project I've ever completed. I'm proud of myself for that. And I did it in my twenties.
8. The Summer Before Law School
This was the best summer of my life. I'd been accepted into UVa Law in the spring, so now I could relax; after so much drifting, a secure future finally lay ahead of me. Even better, I didn't actually have to do any work yet.
I'd spent the year after college working a couple of different jobs at UVa. Since February, I'd been a full-time staff member at the UVa music library, a wonderful job because 1) the music department had been my second home as an undergrad, 2) I didn't have to work too hard, 3) I liked my boss, and 4) I got to interact with students, many of whom I already knew.
All year long I'd lived in a dimly-lit basement apartment in Charlottesville, about a mile away from UVa and far from my friends. I liked having my own space, but I felt isolated. In May, though, I learned that a friend's housemate was looking to sublet her bedroom out for the summer. I jumped at the opportunity -- the house was only a short walk from the music building, the bedroom was bright and sunny, and I'd be living with people I liked. I gave up my month-to-month lease on my basement apartment and moved into the house at the end of June.
So I had an enjoyable job for the summer and I could walk to work. But that wasn't the best part.
Summer in Charlottesville can be oppressively hot and humid, but it's also empty and quiet, and you wind up bonding with your few friends who are still around. Three of mine -- members of my old a cappella group -- were in town for the summer, and the four of us formed a little gang; we hung out almost every night, or at least it seemed that way. Sometimes, toward the end of the day, one or another of them would come into the music library and listen to something or play a keyboard while wearing headphones, so I didn't even feel like I was at work. Then, after the library closed at five or six, we'd walk up to the Lawn and throw a frisbee around. (I could barely throw a frisbee at the start of the summer, but I was very competent by the end.) At night, we'd grab some dinner, see a movie, or drink and watch a video.
That was the summer of the Atlanta Olympics: Kerri Strug's moment of fame (which we missed because we'd gone out to see "A Time to Kill," only to return to a house of yelling and cheering women who lectured us for missing such an exciting event), and the Olympic Park bombing. It was the summer of the TWA explosion, Bill Clinton's re-election campaign, "Independence Day," and the launching of MSNBC. It was the summer I discovered the "The X-Files." (I was instantly hooked.)
When I think about it, "the best summer of my life" lasted less than two months. I probably saw my friends less often than I recall, and I'm sure many boring days have been wiped from my memory. But what stands out from that summer are close friendship, fun, and the certainty of finally knowing where my life was headed, or so I thought. I'd never had a summer quite like that before, and I've never had one since. It was the last carefree summer I ever had.
7. September 11, 2001
I had to put this on the list. It's the only world event that's ever felt like an attack on me personally, that's shaken me to the core. (Not just me, of course, but this top ten list is about my life.) I didn't lose any family members that day, but I did lose a college friend, as well as a sense of safety and stability.
I'd rather not dwell on it, so that's all I'm going to say, but it does belong on this list.
6. Graduating From College
May 21, 1995
My whole life, my measurement of time was the semester. My measurement of success was the grade. My role in life was to learn. Growing up, I had this vague notion that someday it would all end, but when it would happen seemed far-off and indefinite. Surely I'd be ready, right? Surely I'd have undergone some internal transformation, just in time to graduate.
Graduating from college was pretty traumatic for me. I'd hated UVa when I'd first arrived, but by the end, I'd come to love it. I was a columnist for one of the school papers, and I wrote about these feelings in a little elegy a few weeks before graduating.
I had no idea what to do once college ended. I was a history major with no job lined up. I didn't even know where I wanted to live. I didn't want this day to come.
Springtime. Final exams. Final papers. One last Beach Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Friday, back up to UVa and my family arrives. Saturday afternoon, walking around the Grounds (as they call the campus there), seeing all these visitors in suits and flowered dresses. Saturday night, one last Glee Club concert. Sunday morning, a beautiful day, all us graduating fourth-years processing down the Lawn. Sunday evening, dinner with my family at the Boar's Head.
The next morning, my family comes to my dorm room. I've packed up everything, except my wall is covered in old Glee Club posters and flyers and I haven't been able to bring myself to take them down yet. My dad gets annoyed and starts taking them down, quickly. I'm heartbroken.
On Monday we drive back home to New Jersey separately: my family in one car, and a few hours later, me in my own car.
As I drive along Route 64 that afternoon, I listen to CDs of UVa singing groups and I start to cry. Everything's behind me now. I'm driving off a cliff.
And then, out of the blue, I envision a day in the distant future, when I've established a new life, a life with stability. Living in the present. Not having to feel this fear anymore, because I'm surrounded by a new structure, new things, and there's no need to miss UVa anymore. Driving along the highway, I have no idea when that day will come, but I know it will come someday.
Finally, that evening, I pull into the driveway of my parents' house, where I'll be living until I figure out what to do with myself. My parents come out onto the front steps and start applauding. I begin sobbing. I don't want to be here. I don't want to be with my family. I want to be back at school, in a place I've come to love, with my friends who won't judge me.
The punch line, of course, is that at the end of the summer I wind up going back to UVa, working there for a year, and then spending three more years there earning a law degree. I stay there until I'm 25 years old.
But I didn't know that at the time. Sitting in my car in the driveway in the dusk, my parents clapping for me on the front steps, all I felt was dread.
5. I Start Blogging
January 16, 2001
It feels a little odd to put the creation of a website on this list, but it belongs here. I had no idea when I began blogging how much it would wind up affecting my life. I went into it in great, great depth on my blog's first anniversary, so I won't bore you with too much detail here. Basically, it's made me a more confident writer, both technically and emotionally, while its greatest influence has been on my social life. I've met so many people through this blog -- I've made friends, I've been invited to parties, I've gone on dates, et cetera. This year, in fact, its influence on my social life has been quite large: the two guys who have most affected my life this year are guys I met through my blog.
It's hard to believe I actually took a year off from this thing. I'm glad I came back, and I trust that blogging will continue to enrich my life in ways I can't imagine.
4. My Uncle Dies of Cancer at 60
March 30, 1997
When I was growing up, my aunt, uncle and cousin lived just seven blocks away from us. I was lucky -- some people live far away from their extended families, but mine was in the neighborhood. We belonged to the same synagogue, my cousin and I went to the same schools, and although we travelled in different social circles, we knew lots of the same people. (She was six months older than me.) My aunt, uncle and cousin were not just members of the family, but also neighborhood friends. My grandparents -- my dad's and my aunt's parents -- lived in Queens, so we all used to get together for family occasions. We seemed like a stable, unchanging, eternal unit, the nine of us: my grandparents (the fulcrums), my aunt, my uncle, my mom, my dad, my cousin, my brother and me.
My uncle was born in the summer of 1936, shortly before FDR was reelected in a landslide, and he was named after the president. In contrast to my aunt, who can be quite reserved, my uncle was talkative and funny and charismatic. He lit up a room. He could be corny, and he'd tell the same jokes and stories over and over, but it was all part of his charm.
Sometime in 1995, he learned he had cancer. I think it was lymphoma, but I'm not sure. He tried lots of different treatments. He'd get better, and then he'd start to do poorly again. Throughout his illness I never heard him complain; if he was scared, he didn't show it. He always projected optimism.
During my first year of law school, his condition got worse. The last time I saw him -- I didn't know it was going to be the last time -- was when I was home for spring break. I went to my aunt and uncle's house to visit, and he seemed fine. We sat in the living room and talked. I'll always remember one thing he told me during that conversation: the New York Times crossword puzzle gets harder as the week goes on. I couldn't believe I'd never realized this before. It was such an elegant idea.
After spring break I went back to school. A couple of weeks later, on a Friday, my dad called to tell me that things weren't looking good. My uncle was in the hospital and he'd gotten much worse. I asked my dad if I should come home. He said I didn't have to -- he might pull through, after all, and my aunt didn't want it to seem like we were coming home to wait for him to die. So instead I called the hospital in New Jersey and talked to my uncle very briefly. He was somewhat out of it. The last thing he said to me was, "Have a good weekend."
The weekend continued. Friday night, Saturday. Then, on Sunday afternoon, my dad called again to tell me I should come home. My uncle didn't have much time left, probably less than a day. Maybe less that that.
I threw some clothes into a bag and tossed it in the trunk of my car. I tore up the Interstate from Charlottesville to New Jersey, faster than I'd ever driven before. It was a seven-hour trip, 400 miles. I didn't stop until after 300 miles, and that was only to get some gas and a candy bar before hopping back on the road.
I got to the hospital around 7:00 that night. It was Easter, and there weren't many people around. I went up to a reception desk and said, "I'm trying to find my uncle. He's a cancer patient."
Then my dad appeared in the lobby. He saw me, too. He came up to me and put his arm around me. "Uncle Frank died," he said. He'd died less than an hour earlier.
Jewish funerals are supposed to happen within 24 hours of death, but my uncle had died in the evening and there wasn't time to prepare for a funeral the next day. So instead we did it the following day, April 1. It snowed on the day of his funeral. I thought to myself, wouldn't it be funny if this were all an elaborate April Fool's Joke? Imagine if we'd invited all these family members and friends and members of two congregations (my aunt and uncle had since joined a different synagogue) and assembled them all here, all of these sad, teary people, and then my uncle jumped up out of his coffin? I wonder how everyone would react.
I wonder if they'd all hate us.
I'd lost a grandfather before, but I'd never seen him all that much. My uncle, on the other hand, had been a regular part of my life. Forever. My aunt and uncle were inseparable in my mind -- auntmarianandunclefrank. But not anymore. Our group of nine was broken. No more stability. No more balance.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. In fact, it wasn't supposed to happen. Some things weren't supposed to change. Right?
My family structure developed a crack that day. Sicne then, it's only gotten messier: my cousin had a baby out of wedlock, then got married, then divorced. Last year my other grandfather died, and we've just put my grandmother in a nursing home. There are all these holes in my family now. Scars of people who are missing.
That's how life works, I guess.
I just didn't realize it until my uncle died.
3. My New York City Life Begins
I was born in Manhattan, and I grew up about half an hour outside the city. My parents took me there all the time. But I never really explored it much on my own. Then, when I was 14, we moved to Tokyo, and after finishing high school there, I wound up spending most of the next eight years in Virginia. I'd occasionally see Broadway matines by myself during breaks from college and law school, but when I did, I rarely ventured outside midtown.
When I graduated from law school in 1999 at age 25, my plan was to get a job in Manhattan and move there. But things took a strange turn, and I wound up working and living in central New Jersey for almost a year instead. I was perhaps a 75-minute train ride from Manhattan, which meant that I could only visit the city on weekends. And I didn't even go every weekend, so New York remained on the periphery of my boring life -- some distant Emerald City that was close enough to entice me but too far away to be convenient.
And then in May 2000, I received a call from the New Jersey court system, to which I'd sent my resumé the previous August. I'd never heard from them, and I'd completely forgotten about it. But then out of the blue they called with to interview for a clerkship up in Newark. I interviewed and I got the clerkship, which was to start in August 2000. I was thrilled -- I could finally move back up to New York again. For the clerkship, I had to remain a New Jersey resident, but I'd heard that parts of Jersey City had become popular, and it was right across the Hudson from Manhattan, so it seemed like a good place to live.
I didn't actually get to move into my first apartment there until October 30, but my life began to change once I began working in Newark. From Newark it was worlds easier to get to Manhattan on a weeknight. In September I attended my first Twentysomething meeting and promptly made a good friend.
Once I moved to Jersey City, things got even easier. I could now take spontaneous trips across the river via the 24-hour PATH, so I was in Manhattan all the time, sometimes even more than once a day; I never had to worry about catching a "last train" home; I finally figured out the subway system. I became familiar with more and more neighborhoods. I started going out, going on dates, making new friends, meeting lots of people. I even got myself a therapist in the Village.
My new Twentysomething friend told me I should keep a journal of my "first year in New York," but that statement puzzled me. It wasn't my first year in New York. Was it? Hadn't I grown up around here? Hadn't I always enjoyed feeling so cultured and so superior to my Virginia friends because of where I was from?
But perhaps I hadn't been as familiar with the city as I'd thought. Sure, I'd always known the theater district, and I'd gone into the city with my parents all the time. But it had never really been my city. And yet my feelings of superiority had always kept me from admitting that I didn't know New York as well I'd thought. It had kept me from exploring New York, from seeing it as a newcomer. I was afraid I'd look like a tourist.
But when my friend referred to my "first year in New York," I realized he was right. This really was, in a way, my first year in New York. (Even if I technically lived in Jersey City.)
I love New York. I love it. It's where I was born, it's where my parents grew up, it's where my grandparents lived. I love the theater, the restaurants, the parks, the diversity, the vitality, the spontaneity of the streets, the chaos and convenience, the skyscrapers and the subway, the lack of history and the history hidden in plain sight, the extreme gayness and the straightness and the sexual confusion, the unwavering avenues that let you see Times Square and Central Park from 30 blocks away, the disorienting patchwork quilt of streets in the Village.
I love New York. It's my city. I've learned so much here. And there's so much more to learn -- about the city, and about myself. I hope it never stops.
I can't imagine living anywhere else. It's good to be home.
2. I Come Out to My Parents
August 19, 1999
I actually had to come out to my parents twice. The first time was when I was 19, two days before returning to school for my third year of college. It was an impulsive action; I realized that I wanted to tell them in person, and that if I didn't do it now, I'd have to wait until Thanksgiving. So around midnight, I knocked on their bedroom door, sat down on their bed, and told them. They were stunned and not happy. The following evening my mom asked me to go for a walk with her, and she told me that she couldn't accept this.
It wasn't that I was unprepared for my parents' negative reaction, but I was unprepared for the intensity of it, and more than that, I was unprepared for the discomfort I myself felt at upsetting them. I wanted them to love me. I wanted them to be happy. Would they hate me now? I wished I hadn't told them. So I resolved not to be gay. On that evening walk, I told my mom that I was probably mistaken, that I'd go back to school and see how things went. This was easy; when I returned to school, I was already going to be moving into a dorm on the other side of campus. Not too many people knew about me anyway, and after making new friends I rarely saw those people again. From then on, I was alternately asexual or confused, and I hid this from everyone I knew.
Almost five years later, during the summer after my second year of law school, my confusion finally disappeared and I realized I was gay. I came out to everyone I knew at school -- I spent my entire last year of law school out of the closet -- but I still didn't tell my parents.
I ended law school with no job lined up, because I didn't know what I wanted to do. I remained at UVa through the summer to study for the New York Bar Exam; my plan was to take the exam in August, then temporarily move back into my parents' house in New Jersey and look for a job in New York.
That summer I decided I was ready to come out to my parents again. I'd resolved my confusion, I'd been living an active and open gay life for a year, and I didn't want to deal with the hassle of hiding it from them anymore. I'd already told my brother several months earlier, and he was totally fine with it. I thought about writing my parents a letter that summer -- I even drafted it -- but then I decided they deserved to find out in person.
When I moved back home in August, however, I kept putting it off. I felt guilty enough about living at home without a job, and I knew it irritated my parents, too; coming out to them might just make things worse. And I wasn't yet financially independent; what if they reacted badly?
While beginning the job-hunting process at home, though, I made a new friend. I met him in a chat room. I fell for him, and I was spending lots of time with him and some of his friends. My parents must have thought there was something funny going on, because everyone I knew back home had moved away, and I didn't have any friends left, and yet now I was going out all the time. They must have wondered who this guy was and how I'd met him.
One Thursday afternoon, while getting ready to go out to meet my friend, my mom came up to me in the dining room. We talked about my evening plans, and then, almost casually, she asked how I'd met this guy. "He's just a friend of mine," I said. She asked me a few more questions and I continued being evasive. "Okay," she said, and walked into the kitchen. I could feel so much tension between us.
I went into the den and sat there. She knew. She had to know. Fine, we may as well talk about it. So I walked back into the kitchen.
My mom was pouring herself a glass of soda. I stood there and looked at her.
Suddenly she turned to me and spoke, angrily. "What? You're gay. That's what you want to tell me, right?"
"Yes," I said.
We went into the den and talked. She didn't like this. Her eyes got wet. But this time, unlike six years earlier, I was ready. I knew who I was now. I wasn't turning back this time. I told her I'd tried to change, that it hadn't worked, and that I was happy now. I'm your son, I said. Don't you want me to be happy?
She told me that she was happy for me, that she was glad I was happy, but that she wasn't happy for herself.
Soon after that, I went out to meet my friend. I knew my mom would tell my dad that night. I dreaded the next time I'd have to see him. I was scared of him. It was bad enough that I was living at home without a job, but on top of that, I was gay?
I managed to avoid my parents for three days. I'd leave the house early in the day and come back late at night. Finally, on Sunday night, I decided it was time to stop avoiding it. I'd been at a bookstore. I came home, walked in the door. My parents were in the den. "Hi," my dad said, before I could run again. So I went in and sat down with them. I asked him how he felt about all of this. "I'm crushed," I remember him saying.
The three of us talked for a long time. My dad said I was just confused. He mentioned something about the "homosexual lobby." I didn't know how to keep arguing with them -- I knew I was right. Eventually my brother came home, and he saw us there. He knew what was going on. My mom said he could come in, but he said he didn't want to. He said he didn't see what the big deal was or why they had such a problem with me being gay. Bless him.
Things remained tense after that night. Two weeks later, on a Friday night, my mom confronted me again. Earlier that day, she'd had to listen to one of her unknowing friends refer to someone as a "flaming queen," and she decided to take it out on me again. She couldn't deal with this. She told me she was sick of looking at me. Well, fine. I took some clothes, went to my car, and drove to my best friend's apartment nearby. I was near suicidal. I had no job, no future, and my parents hated me. I slept on my friend's couch overnight.
The next day I decided to drive down to Princeton, where my best friend's parents lived. They'd known me since I was three years old, and I was practically their own son. When I found them that afternoon, it turned out they already knew I was gay -- my friend had apparently told them months earlier. And they didn't care at all. They said I was welcome to stay at their house for a couple of nights if I wanted. So I did. I slept in their guest room, I watched movies from their movie collection. A couple of nights later I went back to my parents' house.
Things with my parents slowly got better. Apparently my friend's mom talked to them, which must have helped. My dad made a point of telling me that he still loved me. A couple of months later I finally moved out, having gotten a job. The night before I moved, my mom made us some sandwiches for dinner. She said she'd miss having me around.
My parents have made so much progress. A couple of years ago my mom told me she wants me to find someone and be happy, and that if I were dating someone he'd be welcome at family events. She went back to school for a master's degree in art and one of her best friends in the program was gay. A couple of weeks ago my parents came to my Gay Gotham Chorus concert. I'm sure deep down my parents still wish I were straight, but they've accepted that this is who I am, and they want me to be happy. My relationship with them today is the best it's ever been.
I can't imagine what it's like to bring a new human life into the world, to raise a son, to teach him things, and then to see him turn around and teach you right back.
Coming out to my parents was something I'd dreaded for years, as far back as adolescence. Even when I wasn't thinking about it, it was always there. I always knew I'd have to deal with it someday; it loomed over my life like this big mountain.
And then I finally told them, and the mountain disappeared. I'd lived with it for so long -- and then it was gone. It was one of the most momentous events of my life.
I'm so glad it's behind me.
1. I Finally Accept That I'm Gay
It took me forever.
I'd known I was attracted to males at least as far back as sixth grade, if not sooner. I started middle school that year. As fifth graders, we'd been the oldest kids in our elementary school; in sixth grade, we moved onto middle school and reunited with the kids who were one year older than us. I remember they looked different. I especially noticed the boys. Some of them had deeper voices now. They seemed somehow older. And I wasn't sure why, or how, but I was strangely fascinated by them, drawn to them.
Middle schools crushes. High school crushes. Not just on boys, though -- on some girls, too. Some girls in high school were absolutely beautiful, and I feel in deep romantic love with some of them -- except it was all above-the-neck love. I loved their faces. It was different with boys, though. I developed these intense crushes, these obsessions with certain guys. Something surged inside me when I thought about them, when I saw them. I tried not to let it bother me, though -- I figured (and hoped) it would eventually go away. And if it wouldn't go away on its own, I'd figure out how to make it go away.
After graduating high school in Japan, my family spent a week in New York before I was to start college in Virginia. I felt like I was at a pivot point in my life; I had no past or future; I was without history. One night during that week in New York, I finally wrote the words in my diary: I'm gay.
But that was only the beginning.
During my first year in college, I met Kirk Read. He was my first gay friend and the first person I ever came out to. Except I didn't know if I was gay -- I only knew that I was attracted to guys. Maybe I was bisexual or scared of women. Or maybe I was scared of liking men. I was so confused.
That summer I filled my diary with Hamlettesque entries. I'm gay. I'm not gay. I like women. I like men. I'm scared of men. I'm scared of women. Gaaaah.
During my second year of college, I told a handful of friends that I liked men. I never had sex or dated anyone, though.
Then, right before my third year, I came out to my parents (which I wrote about yesterday). That impulsive action set me back about five years. I went back to school, I moved into a different dorm, I broke contact with Kirk and any other gay people I knew, I lived an asexual life.
But it never really went away, of course. I was still checking out guys all the time, jacking off to fantasies about guys, thinking about guys. And there was an incident at Myrtle Beach. But I still ignored everything that I was feeling. Time moved on.
In the spring of my first year of law school, I came out to three good friends. I didn't tell them I was gay, though, because I still didn't quite know what I was; I just told each of them that I was attracted to guys -- maybe attracted to women, too, I wasn't sure, but I definitely liked guys. Why didn't I want to call myself gay? Partly because of my confusion about women, and partly because of the word "gay" -- it seemed so confining, this label. It meant being instead of feeling. Not your actions, but your entire identity.
Second year of law school. I started therapy again with a new therapist, hoping to not be gay anymore. He didn't help me too much. I remained confused.
At the end of winter break, I drove one of my friends, a female to whom I'd become close, back to Virginia from New Jersey. We watched a movie in my room that night, and somehow we wound up making out, half-naked. It was... exciting, but only because I'd never done it before. I was just exploring new territory. I wouldn't say that I felt sparks.
I rejoined the Virginia Glee Club. That spring, we went on a weeklong tour of the South. I realized I was in love with one of the guys in the group, a totally cute straight guy. I decided I needed to talk to someone about this. When our charter bus stopped off at a rest area for a break, just off the highway on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, I decided to talk to one of my friends in the group, who was gay. I told Jim I liked guys. He was totally surprised but gave me a high-five.
After spring break, Jim and I talked occasionally. He was the first gay friend since Kirk whom I was able to confide in, with whom I could share all these thoughts and feelings. I decided to read Edmund White's The Beautiful Room is Empty.
And yet... still. I still didn't know what to call myself. I was still confused. I either didn't want to admit it, or I was scared of repercussions, or I don't know what.
Finally, in July, before my last year of law school began, something changed. I don't know why. I guess some critical mass of events occurred. Jim and I were both living in the Glee Club house that summer, and one night Jim was talking with me and a straight Club guy about being gay. I couldn't say anything, because nobody but Jim knew about me. And I was frustrated by this.
A couple of nights later I was working through The Artist's Way, a book about creativity. I did an exercise in which you're supposed to write about your ideal day. I began writing, and I suddenly found myself including a boyfriend in my ideal day.
It hit me. It fucking hit me. Epiphanies are so elegantly simple. This is going to make me happy. I didn't need to prove that I was gay. I didn't need to worry about what other people might think. It didn't matter that I wasn't a pure Kinsey 6. I liked guys, I wanted to date guys, I wanted to have sex with guys, I wanted a boyfriend. This is going to make me happy. This. Me. Happy. The whole web of qualifiers and cautionary points and pseudo-logic in which I'd entangled myself for seven years just disintegrated. Almost instantly.
I bought and read Michelangelo Signorile's Outing Yourself. I discovered chat rooms. Chat rooms! I started meeting guys. Toward the end of the summer I came out to everyone in the Glee Club house, one by one. I met a guy online who lived in Richmond, an hour away. He became the first guy I dated. At the end of August I met him for the first time -- and for the first time I had real, honest-to-God, all-the-way gay sex. I was 24.
That fall I told everyone whom I wanted to tell personally (except my family). Then Matthew Shepard was killed in October, and I wrote a piece for one of the UVa newspapers in which I outed myself in a participial phrase buried in the middle of a paragraph.
I was off and running. I made gay friends. I dated three guys during that final year of law school. The last of those was the first person I considered a boyfriend.
Since that epiphany at 24, I've never looked back. At the time, I worried that I was coming out too late. I was sad that I'd missed out on so much. But in the last five and a half years, so much has happened. It wasn't too late. It's never too late.
For anything, really.
There's an ongoing debate among gay people about how important one's sexual identity is. Some say we're just like everyone else except that we happen to like people of the same sex. That's partly true. For some gay people, being gay itself isn't a big part of their lives. Okay. For me, it's different -- but only because I fought against it for so long. If I'd accepted it sooner, maybe it wouldn't have been such a big deal. I'm the one who made it a big deal.
Accepting that I'm gay was the most life-changing experience of my twenties. The pivot point. It was both the culmination and the end of years of angst and confusion, and ever since then, my life has been different, both internally and externally. Thank god.
So, there you have it. The most memorable events of my twenties. In the last 10 years I've grown, I've changed, and I've learned.
Yes, my twenties actually happened. I really did stuff. It wasn't all a big waste of time.
On to the next decade, as I continue to grow, and change, and learn.