The Problem With Love, Simon

It’s rather painful to write this because I actually did and do adore Love, Simon. It’s a brilliant story that I hope helps and brings comfort to those going through a similar predicament. However, this isn’t a review of the film, if you want that then you can go here. This is sort of a review of the impact it had on my mental health.

As we know I struggle with jealousy and so advanced screenings, journalist screenings, private screenings, celebrity interviews and other such media benefits have had me sort of unsure as to whether life is worth it recently. I’ve been such a huge fan of the book and the film since I saw the trailer that it actually caused me to have a mental breakdown seeing other people getting these benefits. (Fun story, I actually had to leave work early because of a mental breakdown after seeing Riyadh Khalaf post on twitter an excerpt from his interview with Nick Robinson and Katherine Langford).

My first thought of this film was about how old it made me feel. I’m not a teenager anymore, pushing close to my thirties if we’re being honest, and I struggle with the idea of life not having as much opportunity as it does when we’re teenagers. Simon talks about how everything will be different when he goes off to University and can live as himself, I miss having this optimism because I certainly don’t see a lot of hope in my future.

Along with feeling old, this made me feel like my best days are behind me. My time to achieve anything has gone and the cast of this film is primarily younger than me and so they’ve already achieved more in their life than I ever will. I struggle with not blaming my parents for this because of the way I was raised and the singular focus on traditional masculine pursuits (mainly sports because acting was not a consideration of my parents).

And do you ever get nostalgic for your teenage years? Not just the blind optimism that comes with them but that almost total lack of responsibility you have? I still don’t know how to be an adult properly and I don’t feel I properly progressed from being a teenager to being an adult so now I just feel like a broken adult.

As much as I miss my teenage years, I’m also quite sad that they weren’t as entertaining. Like, my first kiss wasn’t until I was twenty-one, I never went to high-school dances, I’ve never had a boyfriend, and never got invited to parties and it’s these sort of “firsts” (the cliche ones you see in all teenage movies) that I just somehow feel like I missed out on. I never did the usual teenage thing of just cutting loose and having fun and so when Simon gets drunk and sings Karaoke at a party it made me wish I had days like that as a teenager. Or when he gets a kiss on the Ferris Wheel. Or when he kisses Blue when they get into the car. It’s all just that teenage feeling that I’m nostalgic for, although can you be nostalgic for something you’ve only ever seen in movies and never experienced?

As you’ve probably guessed by the title of the film Love, Simon is a love story. I find it very difficult to swallow because it’s an uplifting, positive gay love story and I just don’t feel that same positivity towards my own love life. Not only do I miss the idea of a hopeful future but I also feel that I will be eternally single and so the idea of somebody else having a happy love story is a difficult idea for me to accept. Let’s also not mention about how I had to go to the cinema on my own to see this film because I have basically zero friends at this time.

Okay and let’s be honest, Nick Robinson is hot. I get this feeling with hot guys all the time. I love seeing them (because let’s face it, who doesn’t?) but at the same time I feel my crippling ugliness and insignificance just reinforced by their beauty. And so the inevitable beauty I see in them soon just turns into hatred for myself and it becomes very difficult to see them (this happens with real people too, not just celebrities) without feeling like dirt on their shoe.

And let’s talk about the teachers in the film. The teachers jump on any hint of homophobia and try to stomp it out immediately. This isn’t real life. I went through years of bullying and the teachers, despite numerous complaints, did absolutely nothing about it. This is why I don’t get a very positive mental attitude whenever school situations are portrayed. Also the classmates rally around Simon and support him when he needs it. Something else that wasn’t realistic for me. Sure, I had friends who supported me (I argue that maybe that shouldn’t be plural) but never did I receive the kind of support from other students or teachers that Simon does.

My depression is also a product of my own daydreams too. For a while I’ve had this idea that Charley, a guy who comes into my workplace and is openly gay, would be at the screening. He’d see me, recognise me from work and then, after the film, would come up to me and talk to me. Yeah, my brain really just sets me up for disappointment because realistically I know the chances of that happening are very low but there’s a tiny bit of my brain that believes there’s a possibility and that part seems to have priority. So you can imagine the onset of depression when I’m sat in a room with not only no Charley but no gay guys in general, and instead it’s full of teenage girls and their mums.

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Represent!

My family is a bit like the American Military circa 1995; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

I have two nephews; Lucas, who is five, and Milo, who turned two today. For Milo’s birthday I decided to buy him some new books (having grown exceptionally tired of reading the same ones a hundred times), and I knew about Olly Pike and his LGBT+ and diverse children’s books. And so I bought three; Jamie, Prince Henry and Princess Penny and The Pea.

Growing up I always assumed my family to be quite liberal and open but since coming out I’ve realised that’s not exactly the case. My family has never been completely comfortable with the “political correctness gone mad” that the world seems to be embracing. My mother has even said the brilliant phrase “I don’t have a problem with gay people, I just don’t want the media shoving it down my throat” which she thought was an innocent enough comment to make. But that was also why I wanted to buy the books, as an education for them as well.

My brother didn’t exactly welcome the books with open arms. In fact his tone was quite accusatory and I believe he thought I was doing something rather insidious by buying the books. Like the indoctrination of the Hitler Youth, I think my brother thought I was trying to brainwash his children into believing “Gay Is The Way”.

At first glance my brother saw Princess Penny and The Pea and proclaimed “Is she in a wheelchair? Oh god.” He then went on to at least open the book titled Jamie before shaking his head and exclaiming “Oh god, they don’t have wicked step-sisters anymore, it’s step-brother’s now.” With an eye-roll and an audible sigh.

I tried to explain to my brother that they were supposed to be books to help Lucas and Milo realise that people are different and that there’s nothing wrong with it and they shouldn’t be treated any differently, but he didn’t buy it. “Why do they have to be gay? Or disabled? Or anything like that?” Because, as I tried to explain to him, there are too many books written about straight, able-bodied, cis men and women. But, once again, I was accused of pushing an agenda onto his children. Even when you try and explain that Princess Penny’s disability is never explicitly stated in the story, he replied with “why put her in a wheelchair then?” Because she’s a person and some people are in wheelchairs.

“If you had kids,” He began saying, “would you be comfortable with me buying them books about football players and stuff like that?” What he failed to see was the difference in representation between the two; you cannot for one moment believe LGBT+ people are as represented in the media as professional football players. You can pick up a children’s book about football in pretty much any shop you go into, you have to specially search for LGBT+ inclusive literature. But, yes, I’d be fine if I had children and he wanted to buy them a book about football. If he wanted to open their eyes to a world they didn’t know existed and teach them about a subject they knew nothing about, then yes, go ahead.

“But they’re too young to understand that sort of thing.” A child is never too young for understanding acceptance and tolerance of other people. I don’t know what age he thinks is appropriate for children to learn about LGBT issues and diversity because you see straight relationships portrayed in children’s media all the time.

You see I’ve written before about my nephews and about how sometimes my family doesn’t realise what they’re saying, like when they say “pink is for girls” or “only girls paint their nails” (to the point that Lucas told me the other day that boys painting their nails is disgusting).

I think I’m sort of treating the kids how I would have liked to have been treated. Not in a “living vicariously through them” sort of way, but more in the way that I wish I had somebody in my family who was open enough for me to talk to when I was feeling alone and scared. I also know the implications that growing up in a very binary gender household, with no alternatives to the stereotypical masculine hobbies and past-times, can have on a person’s mental health.

I’m not asking for them to specifically sit down and explain to them the ins and outs of the LGBT+ society and explain what every single letter means, or even the many ways in which a person can end up disabled, but by including books featuring these people it allows them to ask questions when they’re ready. Just put the books into the list of books you already read to them and it’ll be fine.

My Queer Eye Profile

I have spent the last two days binge watching the newest season of Queer Eye. One of the things I love is that since the original they have dropped the “For The Straight Guy” from the title because now it’s about makeovers and not about the gay/straight divide. There’s still some issues to be explored but it doesn’t primarily focus on that anymore, it’s now about helping people more than anything.

The main thing I like is how they break a life down into five categories and a specialist comes in to help you fix that aspect of your life, or at least teaches you how to maintain it.

In this post I am going to try and construct a Queer Eye Profile for myself.

Basics

Age – 27

Height – 6’2

Weight – 216 lbs

Design

I still live with my parents where I have a single room that has never been decorated since I moved in. It has beige walls with a beige carpet and the only thing design aspect I put my opinion into are the numerous black cabinets stocked full of movies and books. I spend 90% of my time in one single corner of my room where the computer is and it’s only two foot away from where my bed is, making it easy to roll out of bed and just sit on the computer all day. It’s not a bachelor pad, it’s not an elegantly designed room, it always just feels like it’s unfinished and in the middle of change. I also have my own bathroom, although the bath doesn’t work and it doesn’t have a shower so I have to use the one over my parents side of the house which is rather inconvenient at times.

Food

I can’t remember a time when I have actually cooked a meal. My parents prepare dinner for me all the time and when I’m going to be at work in the evening then I just usually have a bowl of cereal for dinner. Even at University I lived on SuperNoodles and pasta but nothing fancy, just pasta in a bowl with some barbecue sauce and cheese. I’m very fussy when it comes to food and textures so my diet fluctuates between diet shakes and porridge to pizza and chips. The food is usually beige and has often been described as “kids food” because it’s processed and unhealthy. Don’t even get me started on vegetables. Yuck. I eat a lot of sweets as well, because I have a huge sweet-tooth. So on the times when I’m not trying to diet and lose weight I can munch through dozens of packets of sweets without even noticing I’m doing it.

Grooming

By far probably the easiest to describe because it’s virtually non-existent. I spend less than a minute on my appearance when I’m going out and if I’m not leaving the house then all I do is brush my hair and not care how awful it looks. My hair regime consists of sticking my head under some water and then brushing it across so I have the hairstyle of a 1920s gangster, or Hitler. I lock it in place with a huge amount of hairspray so it doesn’t move. I’ve been at a loss with what to do with my hair since I cut it short (having used to have shoulder length hair which everybody hated) and I’m still undecided as to whether I want it long or short. I shave once a week and only because I have to go to work, if I have time off work then I just don’t shave until I have to go back and I end up looking homeless.

Wardrobe

At this moment, typing this, I do not currently own a wardrobe. I own a sort of display stand with sections for different types of clothes although I pretty much wear the same things day-in and day-out. I’ve only ever bought a handful of my clothes with 99% of my stuff having been bought by my mother or being gifts for Christmas or Birthdays. A lot of my clothes are black and I’m not a huge lover of colour just because I feel it draws attention to me and I’m not prepared for that. I hate shopping for clothes because I hate being on the larger side of things and it always makes me depressed, plus my mother has instilled the idea that spending more than £3 on a t-shirt is a horrific waste of money.

I have basically no self-style. And I live in tracksuit bottoms when I’m at home or my one pair of jeans when I leave the house.

Culture

I’ve never been in a relationship. I’m on numerous dating websites and stuff but I lack the self-confidence to send any messages to guys I match with or like. I have a slight distrust of the LGBT community because I had a drastically bad experience with the society at University and since then I’ve distanced myself from the crowd. I also consider myself “too old” for the whole “gay scene” and don’t know where else to find love.

I also suffer with depression and anxiety (stemming from a lot of things such as body image issues and bullying) and so I work a dead-end job in retail, fifteen hours a week, four days a week, and end up hating myself because I’m not following my dream of journalism. I enjoy raising awareness of mental health issues and mental health is a huge part of my life because it’s affected me so much, I just haven’t found a platform for myself yet. I tried YouTube but my self-confidence doesn’t always get on well with YouTube, especially when I don’t get the view count I want. As such I sort of stick to just this blog.

The anxiety and depression also leads me to practically never leaving the house. I go to work and the gym once a week (sometimes) but apart from that I basically never go outside. I have practically zero friends (I have colleagues and acquaintances, but nobody I know socially on a regular basis).

The Invisible Class

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Now, before we begin, I have to say that I don’t really know a lot about Chrissy Teigen (I’m sorry, female models aren’t exactly in my wheelhouse), but I do remember seeing her on a television show and thinking she was quite cool.

Also, I grew up on WWE and it was no secret that I wanted to be the Billion Dollar Princess and so my admiration for Stephanie McMahon goes far beyond anything I could write on a blog.

With that being said, I want everybody to keep in mind that nothing personal is meant towards either of these people. This, once again, is a blog post that explains how sometimes things can be taken badly and why they might be taken that way.

So, as you can see, Chrissy Teigen gets an official invitation to Wrestlemania 34 simply because she tweeted out about how she once attended a show and had to leave early. I’ve done my research and found out she didn’t really want to be there to start with (she spent weeks making fun of it) and then once her husband had performed he decided to leave and she had changed her mind at that point and didn’t want to leave. However, she did.

But this isn’t an issue with Chrissy’s actions at all. Whether she stayed or left the arena at Wrestlemania 24 (I believe it was), is completely irrelevant. This boils down to a class issue.

Let’s look at it this way. Chrissy Teigen is a well known female model, married to John Legend who has fame in his own right. They are both famous for their own things, not just for who they are married to, and so they both have their fortunes. They are considerably higher paid than the average family and have probably had their fair share of what most people would consider “once in a lifetime” things. (Simply going to America once was considered a “once in a lifetime event” for my family), Given this it’s unsurprising that people get their backs up when she’s getting official personal invitations to an event that she didn’t particularly want to be at originally. Contrast that with the hundreds of thousands of people who have admired wrestling for most of their lives, it’s something most people would kill to have. But, and now here’s the kicker for most people, why does she get it? Because she’s Chrissy Teigen. Her name has weight behind it, how much weight is irrelevant because it’s clearly more than Average Joe. Good publicity for the WWE too. But this is the rich benefiting from being rich. This is rich people helping each other out and hooking each other up with things.

I must concede that the WWE do a lot for charity. They have a Be A Star campaign, the Make A Wish moments that they do and Tributes To The Troops to name just a few. This I am not knocking, it’s a fair amount more than most companies do.

But, and here’s where my issue with things in life sit, what about the invisible upper-working class or the lower-middle class? This may seem absurd to a lot of people, in fact the only people who will probably understand this are those that fit into either of those categories because we know what it’s like to feel invisible.

WWE was my life for a very, very long time. Where I grew up it wasn’t socially acceptable to admit you liked it. Being British and liking Wrestling is sometimes viewed as a bit odd and I got bullied for liking it. And this didn’t stop when I went home. I had three older brothers who all thought Wrestling was a waste of time and my parents asked me pretty much everyday whether I had “grown out of it yet”. So I never got a reprise from the suggestion that wrestling was for children. And yet I pushed through.

But I was never an under-privileged kid, I always had food on the table and a roof over my head. Money was sometimes difficult but never “when will we eat again” difficult. I’ll happily admit that financially my family didn’t have it the worst. We didn’t have it the best either. We weren’t First Class passengers on planes and we had to look for cheap deals for holidays. Not awful but we couldn’t drop money like celebrities and we certainly weren’t jetting off to Wrestlemania anytime soon.

And so with my families disdain for WWE I was never going to go to a wrestling event. I still, to this day, have never been to one. My parents weren’t going to take me or even pay for me to go to one. (This is also the reason I don’t know a lot about British wrestling, I was barely allowed to watch RAW and Smackdown so they weren’t likely to take me to a local wrestling show).

But people like me apparently don’t have a right to complain. Why? Well, because our financial situation was good. Forget everything else in the world, if your financial situation is good then you’re viewed a certain way. It didn’t matter that even if my parents did have the money I wasn’t going to get to go. My parents wouldn’t even pay for Pay-Per-Views.

Now I don’t look down on those that benefit from the charity of the WWE. In fact I admire the charity work that the WWE does, it’s amazing and I love hearing the stories. But sometimes, and here’s where it gets a little bit bleak, I prayed to be in a position to receive it. Whether this meant, as a child, losing a limb or possibly being diagnosed with something terminal, for me they had benefits. Now I’ve spoken about this in my self-harm post but some days I don’t see the negatives of negative things and so my mind only sees the benefits of them. For me, on these days, my brain would only see that my chances of meeting WWE superstars were increased. It’s fairly difficult as a teenager not to self-mutilate when there only seems to be positives to doing it. But I have mental health problems, I’m not for one moment stating that’s the common mindset of everybody. All I can do is speak for myself.

And then, as you get older, you realise your chances dwindle with each passing year. The WWE do a lot of their work with children and so once you’re an adult you can basically kiss away your chances of meeting any of them. (Unless you join the US military but I’m British and the WWE doesn’t get involved with British military often, that I know of).

So I hope you can see how invisible we feel sometimes. Stuck in the middle with nobody really hearing our voices. We’re expected to be able to do stuff because we’re better off than some but we can’t do certain things because we’re not as well off as others. And then you see offers going to celebrities who, if they REALLY wanted to, could afford to go to every single Wrestlemania ever held. In fact the offers go to those in positions above and below you, but never to somebody like you. This is why it’s sometimes hard to stomach things like this, because I sometimes feel like I’m living in the invisible class and as much as I need help people won’t give it to me because they expect me to be able to help myself, even when I readily admit I can’t.

If I Ran The School

So it’s probably no secret that I had a hard time at school. The environment at my school, at least through my eyes, was toxic. By the time it came for me to leave secondary school the place had gone downhill with teachers either too afraid or flat out refusing to do anything about any sort of bullying. I once had a chair thrown at me in a classroom where the teacher was watching and all he did was tell the student to “sit down”. That was the extent of the punishment in my school.

We did have these things called conduct marks. Basically you had ten conduct marks each week and every time you misbehaved or broke the rules the teacher could take one away from you (I can’t remember if they gave them out or took them away, but either way it was a tally system). At the end of the week, when you got your Planner signed by your tutor, the amount of conduct marks you had (or had lost) would indicate your punishment; detention or meeting with headteacher usually. The problems here were that tutors were far too lazy to check Planners and so a lot of people got away with misbehaving and no repercussions.

So this is where the title comes in. If I ran the school I would make some changes.

First and foremost everybody would be treated equally. I know teachers try to do this but I’m talking on a wider scale. The drama kids are treated the same as the sporty kids, the same as the arty kids or the DIY kids. It’s all the same. If any achievements are to be celebrated then all of them will. At my school it was far too obvious that sports were favoured over anything else. The assemblies always had sports awards and sports news and stuff about the school sports teams. It was horrific for anybody who wasn’t interested in sports. Do away with that and make everything fair. You talk about the local sport success in assembly? Then you also talk about the viewing for students’ artwork or the auditions for a school play.

The major change I would make is to discipline.

You have three chances in the first phase basically. If somebody puts in a complaint about you misbehaving, breaking rules or bullying then they need to be investigated. If the investigation proves you have misbehaved or broken rules then these are the three-step punishments to be followed.

Step 1 – You receive a warning. (If a severe punishment is needed then you receive detention). (Offer help if the infraction may have been due to a mental health issue or biological problem).

Step 2 – You receive a detention (If a more severe punishment is needed then you receive a suspension).

Step 3 – Suspension.

When you return to school after your suspension then your three chances turn into two.

Step 1 – Detention.

Step 2 – Expelled.

These cover most of the infractions within school boundaries. Bunking off school? Refusing to listen to a teacher? Non-Physical bullying? They are all classed under this scheme.

However, there is an alternate scheme for serious infractions. This category is for use in the case of physical violence (of any sort) or carrying a weapon and other serious issues.

Step 1 – Expelled. The Police will be involved if it would be considered a criminal offence, had it been outside of school property.

Zero tolerance. This is what zero tolerance looks like. It’s expelling people when they need to be expelled.

Follow these rules and the school will be a much better place for those that do want to be there.

But, I hear some people say, these people who were expelled will suffer down the line when they leave school with no qualifications. To that I say “So?” If you cannot be a civilised human being in school towards other students then I have very little sympathy for you. What school doesn’t do now is reinforce consequences. Nowhere will take you if you’ve been expelled from every school in the area because, and rightfully so, you will be seen as trouble.

This is brought on by the fact that I witnessed an awful lot of physical bullying in my school. Not just towards me, although that is the stuff I remember most vividly, but across the entirety of the school. And guess what? Probably only between 1 and 5% of these cases were ever treated seriously. Some of them weren’t reported because they knew teachers wouldn’t do anything and those that were reported were mostly just dismissed after a meeting with parents (which is considerably unhelpful for everybody involved).

Parents don’t currently take it seriously. If this rigid guideline were in place then you know the severity of the infraction because it relates to the punishment. Parents would have to take it seriously when physical violence is seeing their child kicked out of all schools within the area. They will need to take action instead of claiming excuses for their child. Because that’s what we need more of, more action and less talk.

A school needs to start being treated like a workplace. I know that the rules I have suggested are the rules that my company obeys. As such we have zero physical violence, I’m not afraid to go in there in fear of being assaulted and because we understand there are consequences to actions. If we seriously broke rules then we would be looking for another place to work, the same should be said for a school.

Body Image Issues

Now it’s probably no secret, after the previous post, that I have body image issues. I was going to address this as an eating disorder and the signs and struggles of it but on reflection I didn’t want to diagnose myself with something I personally don’t know much about in fear of misrepresenting those that do suffer with it. Instead I decided I would talk about my body image issues and the story behind them.

As far back as I can remember food has always been a problem for me. I was a fussy eater from a very young age. Now I know people will be reading this thinking “you just haven’t tried the foods enough” or thinking I gave up after one mouthful. No, I went through the whole “you’re not getting down from the table until you clear your plate” thing as a child and it lasted a long time into childhood. So let’s just admit that I knew from a young age that food wasn’t going to be my friend.

One of my earliest memories is my mother bringing home some clothes and asking me to try them on. I couldn’t have been very old, probably only about seven or eight. So, as I was getting changed to try these t-shirts on, my mother says the words “put your belly away, you look like a pregnant duck.” Not offensively and not chastising me for anything, just in a jokey way, but jokes still mean things. I’ve never forgotten those words and they do still echo in my head whenever I try on clothes or try to find a comfortable outfit.

Let’s move on to school. Hold tight because this is where it gets personal and difficult for me to talk about (given that the only person I’ve mentioned this to before is the school counsellor). My group of “friends” at the time were awful. You can read about them in other posts I’ve made but trust me, they weren’t nice people. I only hung around with them because I had nobody else and sometimes being ridiculed and mocked was somewhat preferable to being known as the kid with no friends. But anyway, these taunts took aim at my appearance. Let’s take a look at some of the things on that list;

  • “Mushroom” hair – because apparently my hair resembled that of a mushroom.
  • Fat/big lips
  • Big feet
  • Overweight – coupled with as many chins as they could count to that day
  • Too big/tall

All these things might not seem like a big deal but there wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t reminded of every single one of these things by the people who were supposed to be my friends. I would even find little pictures passed to me depicting me as some sort of giant fat ogre with a big round head, grotesque fish lips, huge clown feet and wild/unkempt hair.

Let’s mention here that my way of dealing with the bullying was to basically eat my feelings. I may not have liked vegetables but I can put away chocolate and donuts quicker than most. Especially since I have an addictive personalty in itself and so good food means a good mood which resonates in my head next time I’m feeling down or next time I see a box of donuts in the shop.

I lost a lot of the weight going through puberty which I’ve been told about but I’ve never personally noticed myself. Whenever I look at my reflection I still see that overweight kid staring back at me, the one with the big paunchy belly who is too tall with double chins.

Let’s add on top of this that the body shaming doesn’t stop there. Through the ages of sixteen to twenty-five I had long hair; various lengths but primarily shoulder length. I loved having long hair (which I have talked about before) but I was about the only one who did. My brother’s hated my hair and nicknamed me Worzel Gummidge and every member of my family would question when I would get it cut and say that it looks dead and lifeless and has no style to it.

But this wasn’t saved when coming into my sexuality and guys would tell me “you’d look better if you cut your hair” or how some people would laugh and compare me to Nana Mouskouri which I had to just brush off as “banter” but really was quite hurtful. At University, where my hair was a main hatred of pretty much everybody I encountered, somebody else managed to find something else to bring to my attention. When talking to him about guys and how I don’t seem to get noticed by guys he suggested “try losing the glasses” which then just made me paranoid about how awful my glasses looked.

But this is actually a major point. Not the glasses thing, that guy was a dick (although I do still hate my glasses), but the idea of getting attention. Never have I been approached by anybody who thought I was attractive. The only attention I get on online dating websites are from men who are usually 50+ and that doesn’t help my self-esteem when they’re not entirely picky (seriously, I feel like a name on a mailing list). But I can count on one hand the number of times I received compliments about my appearance and they are always from friends who say it when I’m feeling rather self-pitying and down. I’ve never been the kind of guy who people find attractive, I’ve always been the kind of guy that people find “interesting” which is just what they say to ugly people to make them feel better (like telling the fat kid he plays with a lot of heart, I got that a lot too at school).

(Oh and don’t get me started on the gay community who looked down on me whenever I went to a gay club because I wasn’t 5’11 with tanned skin, Toni & Guy coiffed hair, designer shirts and tight abs. Or because I wasn’t ultra skinny. Seriously, being considered “plus size” and unattractive for it is the only thing that makes me wish I could change my sexuality.)

The Things We Don’t Say

Today was my grandmother’s funeral.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer and then it was only a week or two before she could barely lift her head and wasn’t eating or drinking anything. My dad would tell me that when he went down to visit her all she would have would be three half tablespoons of tomato soup and a sip or two of water to keep her going for the entire day. Despite having spent a couple of years on an oxygen tank I didn’t expect her to go so quickly after her diagnosis.

I had never doubted that my grandmother loved me. I never for a moment believed that she thought anything but positive thoughts about me and the rest of my family. She was a woman who would fight staunchly for her family and loved us with all of her heart. This was no secret and we all knew how proud she was of us. She never played favourites and made sure that everybody was always treated equally and fairly. She is actually one of the few people I can say that I felt never judged me. I knew she would accept me regardless of who I turned out to be. If I succeeded she would always be there with a congratulations and if I failed she would always be there with helpful words to try and pick me up out of the funk. To me she didn’t have a mean bone in her body.

But over the majority of my life I have been struggling with unemployment, depression, anxiety, trust and acceptance issues and my motivation to leave the house had slowly been dwindling to almost non-existent quantities. When my parents and I moved away in 2012 it became increasingly difficult for me to spend time with those people I cared for because now they lived so far away. For these reasons I didn’t get back to my old hometown as much as I would have liked. I didn’t get to visit my grandmother as much as I wanted because my brain wouldn’t allow me to make the two and a half hour drive (including motorway driving) down to my old hometown.

Now I bring this to light because of something somebody said to me at the wake. I hadn’t visited my grandmother for a few years and simply remarked that a picture on the front of the Order of Service book didn’t look like the grandmother I knew. She had gained weight from inactivity and I simply remarked that I never saw her like that. This prompted somebody else to comment “You didn’t visit her? That’s awkward. You probably don’t want to be saying that too loud around here.” This simple comment hit me harder than a full-speed truck.

I suddenly felt like I had let her down. This was woman who had shown nothing but unconditional love for me and now I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called her grandson. I felt like a fraud, a failure and a horrible human being. I still do. But that’s why I write this, because I missed my opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me.

This was the third funeral in my lifetime and I have never felt emotion like this before. The other two funerals I had been to – my grandfather and my other grandmother’s – didn’t leave me devastated like this one because I had no doubt that they both knew how much I loved them. Even if we didn’t always agree on things, even if we argued, there was no doubt that they knew I loved them and I knew they loved me too. This one doesn’t feel the same. This funeral felt like I didn’t belong because I felt like she didn’t know I loved her. I feel like she left this world thinking me ungrateful and disrespectful and she won’t ever know how far from the truth that is.

I am currently a mess of tears and tissues because I’m trying to find the words to explain why I didn’t visit her. Some people don’t understand the crippling pain of anxiety or the inability to do anything when faced with depression. It’s paralysing. I didn’t want to visit her because in my mind I thought she didn’t want to see me. On clearer days I could see how stupid this was but in the midst of depression you don’t see or think clearly. I also thought I had more time with her. She wasn’t seriously ill until she was and then she very quickly deteriorated until we got the phone call telling us she had died.

But there’s nothing I can do anymore. I understand the ultimate-ness that is death. I know that however much I cry or pray she isn’t going to come back just so I can tell her all the things I wish I had told her. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. It doesn’t stop me from finally understanding all those songs where people wish for just another day or just another hour, or even just a minute. I finally get it. Because now I feel like she won’t ever know.

I don’t often find myself looking for solace in religion. I have never considered myself a man who would turn to religion for anything. But during the service the Reverend would talk about a day when my grandmother would be reunited with everybody once again. I don’t know if I believe it but I know I want to believe it. I want to have another chance to apologise to her. I want to have a chance to tell her all the things I wish I could have told her and how much I respected her both as a person, a woman, a mother and a grandmother.

I also want her to be reunited with my grandfather in whatever afterlife there may be because I know how badly she hurt when he died.

One of the last things I remember my mum telling me my grandmother had said was how she wished she could see the sky and the trees again before she died because from her hospital bed she couldn’t see anything. The bed she died in had a clear view of both the sky and the trees.

Not Until You’re Thirty

So do you ever have those days where you feel like your best years are all gone? I’m 27 and to a lot of people that isn’t that old, but to me it’s getting on past my prime. In fact it seems that with every day that goes past there are younger and younger celebrities. You know how they say fifty is the new forty or whatever? Yeah, I’m starting to feel that 27 is the new 87. I feel old, past it and done with. I’m not even sure if this is a mental health thing or whether it’s just a general thing that most people will feel at some point in their lifetime.

I think it’s because I haven’t reached where I wanted to be when I got close to thirty. I thought I’d already have something published, I thought I’d have already achieved some sort of fame and success. Perhaps these were just the innocent boyish dreams of a teenage boy who hadn’t quite seen adulthood and it’s responsibilities yet.

So here is something that I occasionally like to do to make me feel a little bit better. A brief list of well known people who didn’t achieve their huge success until after certain ages.

30 – 40

Hugh Jackman – Was aged 31 when he starred as Wolverine in the X-Men films.

Jon Hamm – Was 36 when he starred in Mad Men.

Sean Connery – Was aged 32 when he starred as James Bond in the Bond franchise.

Oprah Winfrey – Was 32 when her television show went National.

Alan Rickman – Was 32 when he appeared in Die Hard.

40 – 50

Simon Cowell – Didn’t receive mainstream attention until he was 43 and created American Idol.

Vera Wang – Opened her first design studio at the age of 41.

Steve Carrell – Was 43 when he landed his role on the American version of The Office.

Samuel L. Jackson – Was 41 when he appeared in Do The Right Thing.

Julia Child – Was 49 when she published her first cookbook.

50 – 60

Betty White – Was 51 when she appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Morgan Freeman – Was 52 when he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy.

Richard Adams – Was 52 when he published Watership Down

Regis Philbin – Was 57 when Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee was syndicated.

Kathryn Joosten – Was 56 when she began her acting career.

60+

Colonel Sanders – Was 62 when the first KFC was franchised.

Frank McCourt – Was 66 when he published Angela’s Ashes.

Laura Ingalls Wilder – In her 60s when the Little House series was first published.

Daniel Defoe – Was 60 when he wrote Robinson Crusoe.

Dame Judi Dench – Appeared in theatre before but not on screen until her 60s.

 

(I am still also searching for any well known people or professionals – of various fields (YouTube, Country Music, Gaming, Mental Health) – who would be interested in conducting an interview with me about their lives. Please share).