An ongoing journey...

I began writing from some of my earliest memories of thoughts and emotions, so each new entry builds upon the one before it. And each new entry represents an evolution at that
particular point in time.
Thank you for reading and hopefully sharing.

Time capsule...

My father was a hard-working, conservative man born and raised in Texas. His German parents were stoic, no nonsense working-class people with a depression-era mentality. Together with his sister, my father and his parents remained living in the same town they were born, went to school in, and worked. My father worked on a farm, as most young men who lived in the area did, which served to shape his unpretentious country-boy personality. He later would graduate from Texas A&M and then serve in the army and fight in Korea. He was respected and successful in his business life, and was a friendly, sincere, and open-minded individual who is still one of my heroes today.

My mother's personality was literally the polar opposite of my father's. She was outspoken and fiery tempered, a volatile blending of German and Irish blood. She was raised in a gritty, blue-collar neighborhood in Des Moines, where the cultures and races blended... and clashed. Her parent's lives were made very difficult due to the depression of the 30's, and their standard of living would remain low well after my mother and her three brothers were born. My mother left school early to start working and bring in extra money for the family, but since she was never really interested in school, she was not aware of the loss. She was however, extremely intelligent and a fervent reader, and was fascinated with science, history, and art. My mother was married four times (the last being my father) and had one boy from each marriage. She was incredibly talented and would have done well in business had she the true drive and interest to do so. She passed away in 2007 and there is not a single day that goes by that I wish I could talk to her at least one more time.

I am blessed to have had such loving parents, and grateful I was provided with a stable and secure childhood. But of course, my home-life and parent's marriage was far from perfect. My parents often argued, and my mother threatened to leave my father on several occasions. My mother suffered from depression at a time when therapy was viewed with skepticism and the drug options were crude. It was also a time when you would have said that a clinically depressed person was just "moody" or "had the blues" frequently. In any case, we all made sure to do our best not to upset her and keep her happy, which was emotionally exhausting. But she could be incredibly patient, very funny, and there was never a question she loved us all.

When I was a child growing up in the 60's and 70's, social attitudes were changing quickly. America seemed stuck between a no-nonsense, post-war mentality and the idea that people were supposed to feel safe questioning authority. All sorts of barriers were being broken through, or crashed down completely. An increasing number of women and minorities were getting college degrees, holding higher management positions, being elected to government offices, and generally being taken more seriously. Women had more of a choice over their sexuality by taking a contraceptive simply (and ominously) known as "The Pill". One of my brothers, who lived nearby, and his wife were known as being liberal (the word seemed to be used more as a noun, than a adjective). They would get into heated discussions with my family about “the establishment”, “feminism”, the use of “grass”, and how police were corrupt, brutal, and racists, and were known as "pigs" by those who were suspicious of them. It was actually a very interesting time to be an adolescent, but it was a time full of conflicting ideas and upsetting for many people. Things were changing fast and not everyone was very happy about it.

When I was a boy growing up in the 70's, stereotypes were constantly being used. My parents, kids at school, and television shows at the time seemed to rely on stereotypes to make sense of cultures they didn't understand. While the stereotypes weren't always cruel, they were almost always a distortion with a negative connotation. Looking back at the way things were, I think one of the reasons people used them was so they could feel more comfortable in a world they couldn't completely control. In my own mind, I know that all of the categorizing did irreparable harm to the way I looked at the world and other people. And since I was already confused about my sexuality, it made something that was already traumatic even worse.

My parents had an idea of what a homosexual was. Unfortunately it was a very narrow-minded idea, but you couldn’t really blame them because many people thought the same thing. Homosexuals were rare… unusual… sometimes bizarre… most of them lived in San Francisco… or Hollywood. And they were easy to pick out in a crowd by the way they spoke and dressed.

Homosexual men were feminine, spoke with a lisp, and wore flamboyant clothing… like women.

Because, after all, they wanted to be women.

Lesbians were angry, masculine, spoke with a deep voice, and dressed in denim and wore blue-jeans… like men.

Because they wanted to be men.

I was told that homosexuals got the way were because their fathers were too passive and
weren’t aggressive enough, and their mothers were overbearing and "wore the pants" in their family. The common story at the time was that any mother who took the dominant role in the marriage confused the children and skewed their perception of typical male/female roles, and, under the right conditions, could alter the child's gender development. So the idea was; you could minimize the incidence of homosexuality by making sure the children had strong male and female role models. (Many men were already threatened by women advancing in every area of society, so I really think this was just a way of keeping women “in their place” by telling them if they weren’t submissive, then their sons might turn out to be afraid of girls and hate contact sports.) If not mom, someone was to blame.


1 comment:

  1. How refreshing to read good writing. Truly enjoyable and memorable, surely not written in vain.
    Ulla from DS