The Trouble with Happy Endings



COMMENTARY: This morning, I was greeted with an e-mail subject line every writer has ever wished for: “David Michael, this is your book.” For a moment, I thought that I must have, in an act of blind passion, finally finished my thesis novel, found an agent, secured a publishing deal, and reviewed galley after galley…and here it was — my book! At long last. And then about .002 seconds later, I realized, oh, someone’s selling me something.

“Tomorrow,” the e-mail read, “the book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living goes on sale wherever books are sold. It includes essays and new material from more than 100 contributors, including celebrities, religious leaders, politicians, parents, educators, youth just out of high school, and many more.”

One part of me thought, this is great. Where was this book when I was in high school?

The other part of me thought, this is not my book. I never came out because I was never in to begin with. I’m still coping with bullying and the physical scars of my adolescent years. And a life worth living, well…I am one month from turning 33 years old and on my best days I do think my life is worth living; on most days, I don’t.

A few weeks ago, I was invited, as a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, to attend an event called Straight Talk put on by a group I’d never heard of, dot 429. It looked like an exciting event, with panelists to include Dan Choi, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Andy Cohen, Simon Doonan, and former Washington, D.C. Advocate correspondent Kerry Eleveld. I really wanted to go, but the event was in New York City, and I live in Washington, D.C. I have an unrelated day job and I am no longer being paid for LGBT-related freelance writing, so it seemed like an unreasonable expense. I asked an online-only acquaintance for advice; the modelesque early 20-something works for a major LGBT lobbying group in the District — he calls himself a “professional gay.” Should I go? I asked. His advice: Stay local. You’re not part of the in crowd, and no one will talk to you. It would be embarrassing, expensive, and exhausting.

I took a chance and went anyway, taking the 7:00 a.m. Acela and returning to D.C. at midnight. At the (again, online) urging of a journalist whose career I admire greatly, I made a great effort to overcome my extreme social anxiety and talk to people. It was a good Thursday. Three days later, without much thought, I downed (small) handful after (small) handful of Benadryl, Tylenol PM, Dramamine, and hydrocodone leftover from the dentist, followed by quarter bottle of triple sec. The next morning was miserable, but I woke up with the same thought I have every time I wake up: not another morning.

This is a private melodrama that I’ve repeated too many times in my little studio apartment where I spend nearly all my time alone. But there is a point. I live in the gayest neighborhood in one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, and I don’t know a soul outside of work and some friends from graduate school. I have tried to meet people, primarily online, but nearly all dismiss me immediately after running through the checklist: If anyone can get past the fact that I am over 30, then they want to know if I am straight-acting (no), if I am out (yes), if I am athletic (kind of?), if I like football (uh, no). If I pass muster, a person might meet me here or there—but they never meet me more than twice. Why? It could be my skin—my face is pocked and marred with acne scars. It could be my mannerisms—I’m gay and I don’t try to butch it up. I am even willing to accept that it could be my attitude—I’m snarkastic and always on the defense.

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