Monday, May 3, 2021


 I remember I was in junior high when this happened. I'd been visiting my dad in Vegas, and there was something playing on TV. I think it was a Gay Pride Parade. Or maybe it was a protest. I don't remember exactly, but one way or the other it was about gay people trying to be accepted and treated fairly.

My dad looked at me, pointing to the screen. "You believe this? All these gays want rights. Kind of stupid, isn't it?"

At the time I was no longer being physically abused by my stepfather, but it was still fresh in my mind. If I disagreed with him, that earned me a beating. It was seared into me to the point where I did everything possible to avoid that beating. I did that with every adult because I thought that would keep me the safest. So that's what I did with my dad that day. Though I firmly believed in their cause, I lied to my dad and agreed with him.

"You don't really believe that, do you?" he asked.

I hesitated, and I felt suddenly like I'd been caught in a trap. I should have taken into consideration that my own father had only ever struck me twice, and both times I deserved it. And they weren't like the beatings I got on a regular basis at home. Each time it was one swat to the butt, more shameful than anything that really hurt. But I should have thought about that. Sometimes it was OK to trust adults. And because of my self-preserving deep distrust I got caught in the trap.

I told him no, I didn't believe that. Much to his relief. I think he was testing me. He wanted to see what kind of a person his flesh and blood was becoming. He didn't really know me all that well, after all. When he still lived near Chicago he had custody on a regular basis, and what I remembered most were the times we hung out and watched Three Stooges and monster movies and read MAD Magazine and Tales From the Crypt and, one of the more formative things in my life, watching movies that had the occasional nudity in them. Everyone else always made me turn my head or close my eyes, but Dad never did. I was always grateful to him for that.

Then he moved out west, and our connection faded a bit. Now puberty was hitting pretty bad, and that's the point where people start to decide who they're going to be for the rest of their lives. Dad probably wanted to get a read on me.

And I learned this lesson pretty well, I think. Throughout the rest of my childhood I was still wary of some adults, but I was a bit more trusting when I thought I could be. And I never lied about a social belief again. I'm pretty sure that if I was faced with an ass-kicking now for daring to say gays should have rights, I'd probably not back down. Then again, I'm a lot bigger and stronger now than I was when I was a kid.

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