Friday, May 7, 2010

Life on Your Own Terms!

I happened to catch part of an interview on the news the other night. They were talking to country music star Chely Wright. She was discussing finally coming out of the closet regarding her sexual preferences. There is an obvious worry about her career and her future in country music, where conservatism and family values reign.

I admire her courage and the strength required to make that decision. I believe we all have to live our lives on our own terms. Those who live by the courage of their convictions rather than according to the expectations of others are happier people. We could certainly benefit from being surrounded by happier people, could we not?

This is not a declaration in the battle of pro-gay versus anti-gay. Sexuality is not the issue. I’m just pro-people. It has been my experience that when people are not true to themselves, when they pretend to be something or someone they are not, they hurt not only themselves but those around them as well.

Flash back to Betsy’s Life Archives! I graduated from high school a totally naïve Catholic school girl. I had never dated or had a boyfriend. The topic of sex was NEVER discussed in our house. I will never live down the humiliation of not going to see “Romeo and Juliet” with my senior English class because my parents wouldn’t sign the permission slip. (The movie had nudity, according to my parents. It was a 15-second camera shot of Romeo’s bare behind…truly scandalous!)

When I got to college, I started dating a cute guy named Chuck. We went out for 6 or 8 weeks. Then he disappeared from school without a word, not even a phone call. When I finally contacted his roomie, I was told that Chuck had admitted himself to the University’s psych ward with thoughts of suicide because he was gay and couldn’t reconcile his feelings for me. I was totally confused. Why would Chuck bother asking me out if he knew he was gay?

The other guy I dated in college was Don. Our relationship lasted the rest of the school year and into the summer. I was “in love” and blind to any reality. I would have walked on fire for that boy. Then, out of the blue, he broke it off. He confessed that he was gay and told me that he just couldn’t keep up the façade any longer.

I was devastated. I never saw it coming, and it hit me like a 10-ton garbage truck at full speed. I was a mental and emotional wreck for months afterward. I worried that only gay men would find me appealing. I wondered what I had done to “send them” over to the “other” side (remember, I was totally clueless at the time). I scared many legitimate suitors away by asking them outright if they were gay and pretending.

Worst of all, decisions I made during that time of extreme emotional upheaval have had long-term repercussions that haunt me to this day.

All of that heartache and heartbreak was the result of two young men hiding their true selves and trying to be what other people expected them to be. When I consider the pain, anguish, and bad decisions that resulted from those encounters, theirs as well as mine, I know that the only way to live life it to be true to who you are on the inside, regardless of what others may think.

And so I applaud all the Chely Wrights of this world. It’s not always easy to be yourself, but it is certainly a better way to live your life.