Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Cannot Tell a Lie?

Honesty may be “the best policy,” but it’s not as easy as it’s made out to be.  At least for me.

I come from a family where “white lies” were told to avoid conflict of any kind, even the most minor.

I was a closeted gay man until I was 40, and, during my closet tenure, I mastered the art of being someone I wasn’t. . . the biggest lie of all.

I have used “white lies” to disguise what I felt were my inadequacies, to keep people from being mad at or disappointed in me, to make myself look more like the person I wish I were.  I lied sometimes when the truth would have been every bit as acceptable as the lie I told.  Insecurity?  Basic personality flaw?  Pathology?

I believe that I came out because staying in the closet took so much energy and, by the time I was 40, I had run out of the energy I needed to maintain my facade.   Similarly, as I moved into my 50s and 60s, I’ve realized that all lying takes a huge amount of emotional, and even physical energy, and I just don’t have it in me any more.

So now I am more and more honest with each passing day.

I wish I could say that this change is a result of increased personal morality and wisdom.  It isn’t though.  It’s simply that I don’t want to be bothered trying to keep up with the fictions I’ve used throughout my life to “protect” myself from the dangerous world around me.

“What will people think?” has been a governing mantra for me throughout a good portion of my life.  My mother, who is 93, still lives her life with that question always at the forefront of her mind.  In the last decade or so of my life, I’ve started answering that question, in my internal dialogue, with the counter–question, “Who gives a flying fuck?”

I’ve been watching a lot of videos on YouTube recently, videos made as part of the “It Gets Better” campaign.  That effort is in support of gay youth who are bullied and who may be thinking about suicide.  What I find so amazing about the advice in most of those videos is that these vulnerable kids aren’t told to lie about who they are.  They’re told instead to acknowledge the truth of who they are and to be proud of it.  Amazing advice under any circumstances, but especially in the circumstances addressed by these videos.

“The truth of who you are” isn’t just about whether I am gay or straight.  It’s also about my families, my personal history, my physical appearance, my many failures, my occasional successes, my finances. . . everything.

It’s not easy for me, with my life–long habits of deception, to speak and act honestly all the time, and there are times when old habits prevail.  But those times are getting to be rare.  And what I’ve discovered is that people generally respond to my truth in much the same way they’ve responded to my lies.  Most people are accepting and trusting and basically good.  And most people, if they are interested in me at all, just want the facts.  Not to judge me or reject me or bully me, but to know me.

I wish I had known all this when I was 14, but better late than never.

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