Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hey Hey We're The Monkees

My heart froze in my chest.

It was breakfast.

Joe and I were just finishing up.

A grandfather and grandson came downstairs and sat at the table next to us. Grandson loved Grandpa, that was clear. Grandfather was bragging to someone at the next table, obviously a family friend, about his grandson. How brave he'd been going down the slide in the pool. How strong he was and how much he liked to wrestle and play around. 'No worry this one's gonna be a queer,' he said laughing.

Time stopped.

Suddenly I was again little, again feeling the disappointment that my disinterest in sports, my less than masculine manner, my preference for words over fists brought with them. Disappointment never stated - the slow shake of the head, the grim set to the mouth, the sense of desperation in the hope that I'd be a little less interested in Davy Jones on the Monkees. Disappointment that told me that I'd not made the grade, that there was something about my make up that was wrong - it was out of my control, but I was blamed as if I had had something to do with it.

Time started.

Little boy was looking at grandpa curiously. There was a message in those words. A message that he needed to worry about how he was in the world, who he'd be in the world, a message that Grandpa's love could be lost. And if love could be lost, could it be trusted.

Grandpa didn't notice.

But I did.

But Joe did.

But we don't matter.

His grandson did. I don't think he'll be sure of his grandfathers love, ever, truly again. There are costs to the things we say. There are consequences to the attitudes we hold. We got up to leave and the little boy was back to playing, jumping around, no longer thinking about what he heard. But I know. If anyone knows, I know. He'll remember.

And thus, was the morning of 'Family Day' ... I'd already written yesterdays blog, and, if I'd have had access to the computer right then, I would have erased the post.




Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

sorry for me your message almost got lost in translation because while reading your post fort the first time I thought that granpa was happy that this grandson might be "queer" one day...

After reading further I took it, that he was afraid of him becoming homosexuel.

Hm, some thoughts are now crwoding my head:

- some members of my family, even though they supported me through my childhood and in adulthood somtimes hurt me with their words and thoughts and deads:

- when my cousin, to whom I am really close since childhood, knew his wife was pregnant, voiced the very relieved sentence, that after testing "the baby is not like Julia" - has not congenital heart defect

- my aunt even though childless herself, talking about the pregnancy said during a family reunion "well we dont have to expect anything (a child) from Julia"

It is hard to still love them after getting hurt so deeply.

Maybe in 10 or 20 years the variety of human beings, like different bodily variations or different ways to live together will seen as usual and not prone to such comments.

My Granny could have said the sentence the Grandfather said. She is not yet adapted and I doubt that she will ever get to the point.

And I have to admit, that in my own head I sometimes have those boarders. My psychotherapist lives with a man for 38 years now. They married 10 years ago. Whenever he referres to "my husband" two things inside my head happen. The first one: I am the best friend of a homosexuel man I know since we studied togheter, he moved into a house with his man two years ago and that is totaly normal for me. The second thought: hi, hi, hi, he did say "my husband" hi, hi, hi

Because my brain doesnt work with the idea of husband and husband yet. Usually it is husband and wife. And therefore sometimes even rational I know that it is okay and nothing to laugh about it still happens.

Okay. Maybe that was a very crazy comment. But I hope you and Joe and the readers will understand it.


Shan said...

That is depressing. Poor kid. Thanks a lot, Gramps - thanks for laying the groundrules for your acceptance and love. Installing hangups in your kids - mission accomplished!

Anonymous said...

We must be tolerant of the opinions of others. It obviously was the grandfather's desire that his grandson wouldn't be gay. Who knows gramps background - or what he has witnessed or experienced. Perhaps he has seen the hardships of those who were gay during his time. Or perhaps he is "over compensating". No matter what the reason - it is his reason and should be respected. You don't have to agree with it - but we need to respect one another.

I doubt little grandson is going to doubt his grandfather's love over this - or loose his trust. As obvious as the granson's love for his granpa was - so was the grandpa's love for his grandson.

There is a danger in reflecting your past and opinions into every situation. Perhaps the curious look from the grandson to the grandpa was because he didn't know what queer was/meant.

If you live with your hurt on your sleeve - everything will be a trigger. As long as there are people, there are going to be opinions. And who knows...the joke may be on grandpa yet!!!

Janet said...

Anon, so we are to respect Nazis? I get a little tired of tolerance. I also get a little tired of someone, when expressing pain, like Dave is here being lectured about his need to be tolerant of someone who publicaly exposes homophobia. Women need to be tolerant of sexist men because, poor dears they grew up that way, black people have to be tolerant of racist comments because, 'it wasn't meant that way'. Dave here was openly hurt and there is rawness to the expression of what happened. Maybe, for once, people could affirm him, not attack him. I wonder why he is so honest when so often when he expresses something about bigotry there is always at least one person who assures him that prejudice doesn't exist and that he needs to be more understanding and tolerant. Sometimes I think maybe he could use some understanding and tolerance.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason to tolerate intolerance, Anon.

-- A different Anonymous

Bubbles said...

I'm sorry that that happened to you Dave... on Family Day of all days :(

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I hope that little boy has someone else in his life who lets him know that he is loved for who he is - the whole package. I hope that Dave the little boy had that too. I think that is what family is supposed to be all about.


Anonymous said...

Remember that this man came into a public space and said aloud that a gay grandchild would not be welcome. It's that kind of assumption that there would be no gay people within his hearing which bothers me. Gay people are always in some other place eating a different breakfast probably pink pancakes, not at the next table. Bigotry abounds in this story. I'm sorry Dave and Joe had to be there.

Belinda said...

So "Archie Bunker."

We laugh at him, but it isn't funny.

Like everyone else I grew up in a home with dysfunction, but my brother got the worse of it with our father, (who we loved most of the time "in spite of"...) making his measure of "manhood" how much he could drink and being ridiculed for any softness in his character.

My brother isn't gay, but he was damaged by his upbringing (again, as we all are to some degree,) and although we loved our dad, we still shake our heads at the hurt.

My guess is that this boy, always assuming he isn't gay, will grow up to love his grandfather "in spite of" his bigotry, but will not be proud of it.

Anonymous said...

My first thought when reading that was: at least the child was small enough that he probably didn't know what queer means.

But then I thought: that's even worse. How horrible for a child to grow up knowing that there's something he could do or be that his grandfather would be ashamed of, but not be able to do anything about it, or even know what it is.

Another different Anon

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

A sobering moment, indeed. Two sentences leapt out of this post, for me:

There are costs to the things we say.

There are consequences to the attitudes we hold.

These are the nuggets of truth we should be carrying away from this story - THIS is the lesson, for all of us.

Thank you, Dave.

ivanova said...

This sucks.

As far as anonymous number one, I don't feel tolerant of people when they use slurs to refer to groups of people, especially in front of kids.

This reminds me of the Ali Forney Center public service ad that shows a father cuddling his baby, with the caption, "Would you stop loving him if you know he's gay?"

Anonymous said...

To Anon (the one posting right after Shan at 3:35 am who thinks we ought to "tolerate" the grandpa):

If Grandpa was just worried about whether a gay grandson would be safe and happy, he wouldn't be turning his speculated sexual orientation into a joke and laughing about it. And he also wouldn't be using a term that, at the time the grandpa was growing up, was used only as a slur. (I know today younger GLBT people have reclaimed it as their own, but many older GLBT people still have negative connotations with the word "queer"--and probably the same for older straight people like the grandfather).

I also find it offensive that you seem to essentially blame Dave for "wearing his hurt on his sleeve". Your last paragraph comes across as if you're saying it's a bad thing that he happens to be a sensitive man: Well, I happen to disagree. I also don't think a person needs to be overly sensitive to be disturbed by what this grandpa said. *I* find it pretty disturbing also: it makes me worry for the boy if he turns out gay. I did not experience the things Dave has.

Andrea S

Anonymous said...

I've wanted to comment on this all day, but I don't really know how to. I think that all I can say is that I know very well the feeling that who you are is unacceptable, and that some of those feelings came from early childhood for me too, and that some of them were throwaway comments that I bet the adults never even knew I would hear or remember.

In relation to being gay or not and gender roles, I think perhaps girls and boys are judged differently. Perhaps a little like the grandfather, my partner's dad was a bit concerned when his son didn't like to play sports etc but was proud of his 'tomboy' daughter. Turned out he was concerned about the wrong child...

Defying Gravity

Kristin said...

Dave, I'm so sorry you had such a crappy start to Family Day.

And, Anon 2 (the one without the guts to sign his name, I refuse to be tolerant of opinions that rank a person as less in any way just because of their sexual orientation.

Kristine said...

While I doubt that ONE moment will live in the child's memory forever, especially when he sounds like he's too young to even understand the word, I also doubt that this was just ONE moment. If such a comment is made in an easy, joking manner, then I feel like it's safe to assume that similar things are spoken regularly.

It sounds like my own family. I don't remember one specific incident, but I remember years of conversations that confused me, before I finally figured out an accepted family truth--my aunt was gay, and that meant we should avoid association with her as much as possible. With that understanding, came, as you said, Dave, the understanding that my family's love was conditional. If one family member can be so easily dismissed and treated with disgust, then who's to say that any of us couldn't end up on the same list? By now, there's quite a list in my head of things I could potentially do/be/share with my parents, that would probably lose their love. It's not a good feeling.


Anonymous said...

Wow...what a thread. It strikes me that everyone wants everyone to be tolerant yet are intolerant of those who aren't.

We make choices and some choices are more comfortable than others. Some are more acceptable than others. The grand thing is - it is your choice!

Words hurt...good lesson for us all.

Anonymous said...

Anon, I would absolutely defend Grandpa's right to hold his opinion that if his grandson grew up like me it would be a tragedy. But that's different to accepting it as a true/right opinion and also different from affirming behaviour that results from that belief. All things are not morally equal or equally factually true, and we have to be able to argue that some things (including how people treat each other) are more or less right.

Defying gravity

Nathan Dawthorne said...

Grandpa's comment was hate speech - illegal by law. His comment and those of countless others are part of the reason we see queer kids deciding that its better to kill themselves than to be gay; or other kids doing what they did to Matthew Shepard; and why I have to take anxiety/depression meds. Constantly bombarded by heteronormativity and homophobia from an early age does this to people. Not to mention all of those "straight" boys who are discouraged from being who they want to be by not being allowed to play with a barbie, or taking ballet instead of football or not allowed to wear the pink shoes... in fear of it making them a "sissy queer". Frankly - difference is around us and always has been.

At what point do we cross the line from being tolerant of others intolerance, to accepting what this intolerance does to others.