July 1998

On Growing Up. . .

Well, folks, it's been nearly a year since I've written my first [rather pathetic] article, and what a year it's been! Since then, my life has gone through a whole slough of changes, both positive and negative, and I only regret I hadn't documented the past 10 months of my life through Oasis. But have no fear, for in this nifty little article, I plan on providing you, the reader, with a brief (did I say brief?) synopsis of my freshman year in College (oh joy). Ambition pending, I'll try my darnedest to pump out more articles for Oasis, hopefully one every month (woo-hoo). But I digress. Let's move on to the past 10 months of my exciting life. . .

Dartmouth College (därt´muth käl´ij) n. preppy, WASP-y, jock school at which discernibly gay people are virtually non-existent.

I came. I saw. I went. What more can I say? While my freshman year at Dartmouth wasn't exactly the most positive of experiences, I'm glad I decided to go there. In one simple description, Dartmouth is homogenous; ethnically, socio-economically, and sexually. . .or so it seemed to me. Many times throughout the year, I found myself wondering, "Is everyone here rich, white, and hetero?" I myself am neither rich nor [completely] white nor hetero, and in light of that, I stuck out from the quiescent norm like a sore thumb (internally, at least). On the outside, of course, I tried my very best to "appear" to fit in. I joined one of those all-male a capella groups, bought one of those expensive North Face winter jackets (which everyone there wears...it's a sort of a status symbol I guess), and essentially feigned my sexuality, all for the sake of fitting in. Well, if anything, "fitting in" did me more harm than good. . .or didn't it?

Coming Out (kum´ihn out) v. to tear off one's paper mask facade and openly acknowledge to loved ones his true self; usually involves a helluva lot of courage and guts. n. cathartic, validating event in every gay man's life, oftentimes the crux of his sexuality.

So there I am at Dartmouth-- lonely, miserable, and freezing cold. Sure I had a number of acquaintances, but no real true-blue friends. If anything, I discovered that solitude brings enlightenment, and amidst that solitude, I had no one to face but myself. I began struggling with issues I had buried deep within myself since forever, and by Winter Break, I was overwhelmed with a sense of urgency to *release* all of my pent up emotions and anxiety and break free from the closeted harness which had bound me since adolescence.

Throughout the first three weeks of my Winter Break back home, I teetered on the brink of coming out to my mother. Rather than enjoying my vacation from school, I mentally went through a number of different scenarios each day, all of which involved that dreadful topic of "How to Tell Mom." Whether I was in the kitchen busily preparing dinner with her or strolling beside her in the mall amidst the flurry of last minute Christmas shoppers, those three, simple words sat right on the tip of my blasted tongue? "Mom, I'm gay!" Finally, after eons of mental and emotional preparation, a part of me which I had kept hidden from my loved ones came full circle. . .

I will always remember that slightly overcast Monday afternoon. It was December 29, 1997, and the day had finally arrived. Having seen and been inspired by Titanic the night before (*stop rolling your eyes! It was a good movie!*), I began thinking about how precious life is and especially how at any moment, any one of us could easily drown in some sinking boat in the middle of the freezing Atlantic Ocean (what are the odds, but hey, it happens!!) or die in some other fatal, unexpected accident. I became fed up with living a lie and hiding my true self from the one person whom I love most in my life; my mom. So. . .after four or five shots of vodka, I told her.

To make a long story short, we did a lot of crying. In my slightly inebriated state, I cried because I was embarrassed and apprehensive; my mom cried because I was crying. She told me she already knew I was gay and was simply waiting for me to tell her all these years. She expressed her unconditional love for me and emphasized how being gay was "no big deal," and so I hugged her. She hugged me. I cried some more. And then I cried. And then she cried. And then we cried together while hugging each other. "And then they lived happily ever after. . ."

In the subsequent months following my fairy-tale coming out experience, my mom and I eventually told my two other brothers and my grandmother. My brothers were rather apathetic towards the whole thing. In their mind, it was no big deal, and they still loved me for who I was. On the other hand, my grandmother didn't quite take the news with a spoon full of sugar. She feigned her shock and coated her words with sugary "I still love you, and being gay is no big deal. . . . .as long as your mommy and I are the only ones who know" remarks, but deep down inside, I know she's still a bit disappointed. It'll take her some time to adjust, but all-in-all, she'll survive. Things are pretty much don't-ask-don't-tell with my grandmother as far as being "that way," as she put it, is concerned, but I'm sure she'll eventually grow to embrace homosexuality. Hehe...

Summer Vacation (sum´r vaka´shun) n. temporary hiatus from thinking; usually involves a lot of sun, sand, and occasionally, a part time job.

So, thus was my freshman year at Dartmouth. Despite the fact that I was absolutely miserable there, my time away from my family and all things familiar did serve as a catalyst to many positive things, especially coming to terms with my sexuality. Perhaps it wasn't so much the school as it was my own internal struggle which made for a rather unenjoyable experience, and I'm hoping I'll return to New Hampshire in the Fall re-energized, better focused, and more open with my sexuality. Summer's here, and I'm going to take advantage of my time away from the Wonderful World 'o Academia and just have fun! Seeing as I neglected to leave any sort of e-mail address in my last article (August, 1997), feel free to write me this time at kesslen@geocities.com and let me know what you think. I'll be sure to respond to all of your comments, good or bad, and keep your eyes peeled for more of my upcoming articles. I promise I'll start submitting something once a month, not once a year! Over and Out!

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