Resident guest author, Tim, continues his series about China Dolls.
I wonder if this will be my last piece on China Dolls?
So far I’ve talked about the smashing of the imperfect China Dolls, and the tainting of the perfect ones. As you are no doubt becoming aware, I use me as an example a lot here, though the previous post was about my three friends. I use me as an example because I know me best, and because I have enough things I’m angry about to fill a library. I’m angry about the way my three friends were treated by their parents, too.
I’m the perfect China Doll, remember? I’m the one that had to be perfect or he would have been smashed. In Plastic-Doll-World I would be Ken, Barbie’s friend. I would have the perfect hair, the perfect clothes, the perfect life, and be paired with a leggy glamour model with disproportionately enormous breasts, and a gazillionaire lifestyle, though I do expect we’d have had a pre-nuptial agreement, Barbie and I, for the inevitable celebrity divorce.
I’m not sure, now, whether you’re relieved that I’m back to my usual style or wonder, yet again, if I am going off on one! As an aside, what is the ‘one’ upon which one goes off? Please send the answer on a £20 note to a charity of your choice. They won’t mind the writing on the note.
I think I am going off on one. I can feel it coming along.I'm back to child raising, but the raising of me by my unusual parents. #parenting Click To Tweet
I’ve told you how, to my horror and not a little despair, I discovered that I was falling, had fallen hook, line and sinker in romantic and erotic love with a male schoolmate my own age. I find I have to mention the age thing because people in my life somehow expect him to be older or younger by some years. There’s nowt so queer as folk.
Well, at 13 I thought there was probably nowt so queer as me. I expect that’s bad grammar. I was educated in grammar, so I can get persnickety about it.
I’m getting off the point. There is a point, really.
I think there are two points, so one I will deal with right away. About 20 years ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were watching ‘As Good As It Gets‘ a rather fluffy road trip movie. We were watching it with her father and his militant fundamentalist christianist white supremacist Little Englander, BNP apologist second wife. At the scene where the heroine is in the bath and the homosexual gentleman in the movie notices her…
(Sadly this was the only clip we could find and it’s out of sync – but it’s worth it!)
… a highly ambiguous and somewhat erotic scene, second wife pipes up “Oh look, she’s going to cure him!”
I asked her as mildly as I was able, “Do you think the love of a good woman can cure homosexuality?”
“Of course,” she answered.
I was still in hiding in my closet then, except to SWMBO, so I stayed hidden, but it was intolerable, feeling put down like that. I regressed to being a child. I started to gibber in my head. How could I be polite to my father in law’s current wife in order not to upset him while expressing the huge hurt she had just perpetrated.
SWMBO grabbed and squeezed my hand to try to ensure I did not jump at the foul woman and strangle her. Surprisingly she succeeded.
The point is that my wife is gorgeous in all respects and I love her deeply. At that time we had been married for about 20 years. Her love of me, my love of her, our making love physically, happily and often, these things had not, have not cured me, for I am, I remain, I will likely always be, homosexual.
I am not unwell. There is no cure.
I raise this now because it has a direct correlation with my teenage angst and the way I was handled by my parents. Your teenage angst and the way you were handled will be different. This is thus an allegory. This allegory, it has teeth.
That is so not what I meant!
Back in the dark ages, well, actually 30 years or so before the wicked christianist woman spoke with such deep conviction about the love of a good woman curing homosexuality, I was a very angst ridden 17 or so year old boy. My every waking moment seemed to be filled with the object of my affections. My conversation included his name so often I knew it was obvious to everyone, probably him included, that I was fixated on him.
I was also fixated on not being fixated on him, nor on any other boy. I wanted this phase, if it was a phase, to pass. We’re told it’s a phase for growing boys to be attracted to other boys, after all.
As an adult I researched that phase concept. Here are the results:
Looks like the jury is out on that one. 55% plays 45% that this attraction phase thing exists.
Teenage Tim fully expected it to be a phase, though, and wanted to hasten the phase’s conclusion. He, I, wanted to actually meet a real live girl.
Remember my education? The Great British Public School has only recently become pretty much universally co-educational. Mine was robust in its all-maleness. I studied with boys, played sport with boys, showered with boys, which was a heady and glorious torture, and socialised with boys, only boys, exclusively boys.
I did have girls in my life.
I have two female cousins, stout-hearted lasses, stout of heart and frame, who were older than me and who were very much into roller skating and roller skate dancing. Here, you may have to wash your brain to remove the image of hippos in tutus on wheels.
The brain wash is in the bathroom, third shelf, just above the loo, in the aggravating child-proof container that they can open and we just can’t.
My cousins, for all their virtues, were not the creatures of teenage erotic fantasy. I mean not anyone’s. I think we can safely say I was not attracted to my lady cousins.
What I wanted, needed, was to meet girls of my own age, and to do the usual teenage boy thing of standing on the other side of the room not daring to approach them while they wondered why no boys came over and danced round their handbags. I hope you realise that it was the girls dancing round the handbags, there? My Upper Class mother (she who was born in St Reatham, one of the minor Saint towns like St Evenage) prevented that.
“Please may I go to the church hall on Saturday night? There’s a dance there?” I had no idea how to talk to girls, had no experience of girls, needed to learn about them. I was hoping, you see, that dancing with girls, being with girls, and yes, snogging with girls, would bring this phase of adoring another lad to an end, and that I could get on with being a model little heterosexual.
“No. Church hall dances are common!”
“Aren’t we common?”
The topic was not for discussion, though I tried hard to make it a rational discussion. I tried a final “But I want to meet some girls…” before I was sent to my room as a punishment for arguing. And for being common, of course. When I came down I was asked why meeting girls was so important. I absolutely could not answer. If I’d told the truth I was heading for being strapped down and electrocuted ‘for my own good’ until I was cured of being a nasty little pervert. I was 17. At 64 today, I can still feel the feelings that coursed through me then.
Suddenly Cold Comfort Farm has come into my head, where Ada Doom complains of having “seen something nasty in the woodshed” a something which has affected her whole life and the lives of all who surround her.
My woodshed was in my parental home, and the something nasty was… was… was… Hmm… Was inside my own head, reinforced by my parents’ attitudes, reinforced by my being raised as a perfect China Doll where imperfection must be smashed.
[As an aside, I think our editor put a picture of Alfred E Neuman from Mad Magazine in that piece as the first picture. Sorry, that’s just distracted me now. You are made of sterner stuff, though. You are not distracted.]
Where was I?
Ah yes – But… perception is reality. I perceived that I would be smashed for imperfections.
It was not until the early twenty hundreds when I discovered that my perception was correct, that I was to be sent to be cured had I confessed the slightest hint of homosexuality.
I’m not painting this picture so you can say, “Gosh, Tim, what an awful life you had. Come here and let me wrap you in warm towels and keep you safe.” I have no interest at all in your sympathy, far less your pity. You can, if you wish, despise me. That’s absolutely ok. What I’d prefer, though, is for you to be empathetic.
I want you to show, or to learn empathy. It’s not for me, but it’s because of me.I'd like you to place yourself, first in my position, and then in your child's position. #parents Click To Tweet
Probably I mean ‘Why?’
I’d like you to do it in order to learn a different view from your own – mine. And then, I’d like you to look at the child you brought into the world because you wanted a child, and to consider everything about their viewpoint and how they feel about the things in their lives that are important to them.
Not important to you, important to them.
My important things were to feel loved, and safe and accepted and told I was loved from people who meant it properly and understood what it meant to love and feel loved.
What do you think your child might find important?
How about your partner? What might they find important?
Give some thought to yourself, too. What is important for you?
Did I say there were two points, way back up there? The problem is that I started to write this about three weeks ago and set it aside to think, and I’ve come back to it today absolutely confident in Point One. I’ve lost track of Point Two. I wonder if it’ll come back?
I was angry about something, I know that. I write when I’m angry. It gets it out of my system to a great extent. I’m angry now that I put this aside three weeks ago without finishing it. You deserve better than that. I’m wittering now, in the hope that Point Two returns with trumpets blaring.
While we’re all waiting for Point Two to come back let me tell you what Point One is not about.
Point One is not about homosexuality.
“Come off it, Tim,” I hear you say. “Homosexuality is all you’ve blethered on about for ages. You’re obsessed by it.” I could be. I’m obsessive. I know that. But, while it’s an important part of me it isn’t all of me. It’s just a part that a rather strange upbringing gave far too much importance to.
“Ok, then. If Point One isn’t about homosexuality what is it about? What have I missed?” That was you again, by the way. What you’ve missed is the subtext.
You’ve missed that while my issue when growing up was being not classically heterosexual(!) other folk have different issues and all I’m doing is using me as an example to try to act as a guide for you and your efforts to identify and resolve your own issues. I did say it was an allegory.
I think that’s the start of Point Two.
…or to start to put your own into perspective, or to open the door, just a crack, and look out of the prison you’ve built for yourself inside your head.
At the start I gave this a title; ‘The China Doll That Resisted Being Smashed‘ is what I chose. I resisted so hard I very nearly smashed myself.
In 1965 I fell in love, saw him last in 1970, created a pedestal to place him on and carved him as pure perfection. I then set about deifying him and worshipping him. This is 2017! In between I obsessed, idolised, tried to forget, thought that falling in love with my wife would also cure me, realised I loved two people, knew one was a useless, fruitless obsession but could not shake it, almost lost the true love of my life over my obsessive and frankly weird behaviour, and never kept a job past the five year anniversary.
I was brash, brittle, selfish, obsessive, and quite unlovely. No wonder I was unable to keep a job. It beats me that my wife and I married in 1979 and we’re still deeply in love in 2017, except that we truly love each other. We don’t always like each other, but we love deeply. We are soulmates. And no, the love of a good woman has not cured me.
During all but the past very few years I have lived inside a self created set of high prison walls. I imprisoned myself by my need to hide who I am from myself, something I started to stop doing in 1998, and am increasingly comfortable in doing today. I do not mean the gay part. Yes, I’m out to anyone who matters, but that isn’t it.
I started to acknowledge, first to myself, and then to others, that I have emotional health issues.
Then I “grew a pair” and acknowledged that I have had mental health issues, probably still have. That was more recent.
I prised open my self-imposed cell door, just a little, and saw that the world was better outside than inside. I had to work out how to leave my prison. I did it with the help of strangers. I did it with the help of my wife, making her exasperated with me. That was an error, that part was.
I’m not special. If I can do it, so can you.
The effort took all of me, though. Your effort will take all of you, too. Climbing out of a self created prison cell is hard work.
You know what? If you don’t like the world outside it – you can always go back in. So there’s nothing to lose by making the effort. Except walls, and a cell door, and a very high window you can’t quite see out of, that is.
Yup. I resisted being smashed. I nearly smashed myself with my resistance. I didn’t do it right. But I still came out into the light, into the sun. I have had mental health issues. I may still have them. I have loads to blame them on. I am not Ada Doom. My woodshed only has the nasty things in it that I put there.
I think that was Point Two. I have a feeling there were more than two points in here, though. I reckon three. Or possibly four. What do you reckon?
To find out more about 13-year-old Tim, his older self has published Queer Me! Halfway between Flying and Crying