Saturday, March 26, 2011

Being Who One Is

I am reading a biography of Truman Capote ("Capote: A Biography " by Gerald Clarke Carroll & Graf:1988), and I am in the first third of the book. It is a wonderful and readable book about a difficult and gifted writer that generated a wonderful film, "Capote", a few years ago. It was obvious to many people that Capote was a gifted writer but just as obvious it was noted that he was a homosexual. It was in the early years of this country and being homosexual was not accepted during the years after World War II. It was hidden and people wanted to hide Capote who was not ashamed of who he was although even his mother was. She battled him all his life and he won his battle with his mother. All battles to be free sometimes start at home.

Some people can conceal certain aspects of themselves. Capote with his looks could not nor did he attempt to stay in the closet as so many did during those years although it would have been difficult. He had charm and many people liked him and many disliked him for that very reason. He was portrayed in the movie very accurately by the actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman. The author describes many of the people Capote knew in his early years and the price they paid for living double lives.

Sexual orientation identity is not the only thing that people can hide. There are books out there by people who hid their race and even their sex in order to fit in the population and to obtain the freedom to do what they wanted to do without hindrance. Of course, there are the con men and women who pretend to be people they aren't for criminal reasons, but there are people who pretend to be from families they are not because they don't want anyone to know they are from families that are not socially acceptable. In the USA, it is possible to move up the social ladder with success in certain fields especially if it results in great financial rewards. In some societies that is not always possible. In the past, a Western peasant would be hard pressed to move up the ranks into the aristocracy without some really rare occurrence such as a direct intervention from a king or emperor. Now, this can be done with the simple act of marriage.

On a smaller scale, people often pretend to be people they are not. If you work with the public, you smile when facing rude people and not say what is on your mind. You can lose your job for that. I have seen many public employees face incredibly rude behavior with just silence and a tight smile. I have been there many times. I have been called names and could not say anything back but continue doing my job. It would have been nice to have been backed by a supervisor but I wasn't.

In social situations, it is the same. Although sexual orientation is not hidden away as it once was it still depends on where you are. I live in Redding and a very popular and friendly couple were murdered in their home because they were gay a few years ago. It is still not safe to be openly gay here but certainly it would be in some of the larger cities. The majority of the churches in Redding are not open and affirming or you can come to their church as long as you are not practicing who you are and this is after the horrible example of murder was committed in their midst. Oh well.

Women must play a role that is acceptable and it is very difficult to divert from the prescribed role in most societies including this one. This year in the US House of Representatives instead of dealing with the real issues of lack of jobs this body dealt with the medical issues having to do with women and their wombs and same sex marriage.

So, one is wondering where I am going here. I am saying that to play different roles in one life is not a healthy thing. Capote accepted who he was and never was ashamed of who he was. He also knew he had tremendous gifts as a writer. He never went to college but learned his craft on his own. He was a quick study. Accepting who you are and not pretending otherwise is a very healthy thing to do although in some situations it can be dangerous.Pretending can be very stressful. He lived in the big cities and he did become successful early in his life. When the press hounded him, he just enjoyed it. He wasn't always was happy in his life, but he was most happy when he didn't hide who he was.

I have had to hide who I am all of my life although not for sexual orientation. Most of us do. I remember being told by the head of a state office that I was too masculine when I told her as a representative of the union that she could not do what she was proposing to do. It was against the contract. I was suppose to demur and giggle and say something feminine and call the representative who was a man and he was suppose to tell her that she could not do that. I looked around the room at the others sitting there. It was a very sexist thing to say but they were not going to protest. I told her she was out of line. I was representative of the union and not speaking as an employee of the agency.

Growing up, I affected the feminine act and knew I was doing it. It was what was expected. I learned early in my family of origin that if I didn't I could earn a slap in the face from my father. As it is I got my jaw broken once. I learned not to be direct and never to express anger and to never say what was really on my mind. Not every girl and woman has this extreme situation but many do.

It is important to be who you really are. Somehow you have to do this in the context of where you live and with the people that mean the most to you. Sometimes it means taking chances with those people that they will accept the real you and if they don't then you have to let them go. This is a new lesson for me. Freedom to be me is one of the things I have learned of late and it is one of the most precious things I know. I need to be safe, but as in all things there must be balance. People are fighting all over the world for freedom and what I am fighting for is not the same as what others are fighting for. It is always personal and individual, but it is still important.

Right now the arena of freedom is solely in my family. I have two sons who feel that I must do what they tell me to do. No, that is not the name of my game. I am still in charge of my own life. Again, it is different for each of us and it is very difficult for me. It won't be for some and too difficult for others.

A case in point: My son saw me carrying two salad plates to my room where I live from the kitchen. He rose up off the couch and in a commanding voice said: "You are not to take salad plates into your room. You will use saucer plates. "

I turned to him: "Dave, you are in charge of your family. You are not in charge of me. This house is my house. These dishes are my dishes. I will do what I want to do with them. "

He answered: "You have too many dishes in your room. I am tired of it. They are disappearing into your room. "

I said nothing and went into my room. I did not answer because I did not know how many dishes I had in there. I looked and saw three. I used those three for my grandsons. I bought some additional dishes lately for my tea and the three I use for coffee I bought recently as well and clean them in here. They were just in here looking for dishes to wash. I said I clean all of the dishes in here and said "no dishes to wash".

I went back out there and said: "I could not believe you said that to me. I will run my area and you run yours. I do my own wash, clean my own room and I suggest you do the same."

It make seems as if I am making a mountain out of molehill but I have never talked back to my son Dave. I would have just gone into my room and locked the door. I do pay the mortgage and taxes of this house. All Dave has to do is pay the utilities and he has the run of the house which is very large. I have this room and my own bath. I only use the kitchen ever so often since I have my own icebox and microwave in here. It really upset me to do it. It is not exactly a riot in Egypt or Tunisia or even in Wisconsin. Most of the time, I take off, but it is raining and I am tired of going to the lake and sitting in the car. My room is also my office. He often criticizes me on other issues as my other son does and I try and defend myself. I usually freeze when they do that.

In order to be me and to carve out freedom for myself I have to learn to stand up for myself and not just run and hide. When I lived alone, I would hide in my house. I don't live alone so I would hide in my car. I am done hiding. No one is going to hit me. No one is taking my money. All of the bad behavior that has taken place in the past is just that, in the past. In order to free, you have to get up and demand it and take the consequences of your actions. It might be a small battle but some battles start at home.

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