Thursday, December 16, 2010


Over the past year, I have been privileged to get to know a man who calls himself an exhibitionist.  Strictly speaking, I guess, he is an exhibitionist, but not the kind of exhibitionist who wears a long overcoat in July or sits in a car waiting for women to look in on him.  He is his own kind of exhibitionist, and a perfectly good and healthy man.  Let’s call him Tony.

Tony lives in the Southeast.  He works hard.  He is gay and has a partner with whom he has made his life for 17 years.  He is just starting his 40's so he's still young.  He is physically very good–looking, but more beautiful is his spirit, his soul.  He is as honest as any person I have ever known, and more honest than just about anyone I have known.  He never hides who he is, where he came from, or what he’s done.  He is proud of his life overall, and he works hard to forgive himself for the parts of his life that he regrets.  He is a role model for me.

I did a bad thing to Tony.  I certainly meant no harm, but I knew as it happened that what I was doing would hurt him.  I deceived him big-time in an attempt to get to be friends with him.  In other words, I was selfish.  When Tony discovered my deceptions, I assumed that my time with him – time that I had valued highly – was over.  I had no right to expect his continued good will.  I had every right to expect a harsh rebuke and then permanent silence.

Instead, I got forgiveness.

One Latin word for “to forgive” is pardonare.  It means “by means of a gift.”  Tony’s forgiveness of me has been a great gift.  Since all this went down with Tony, I have changed my thinking about some very basic things.  Tony made me think that, even when I do bad things, there might still be something of value in me.  His forgiveness has made me think that, even at my age, there still may be hope for friendship, better self-acceptance, personal growth.

Tony's life hasn't been an easy one.  His childhood was marred by several very, very difficult experiences, including the tragic death during his High School years of his best friend.  He has had health problems and financial hassles.  He works hard at a very hard job and he does it well.

I could understand his looking at me and seeing a spoiled old man who played with his feelings.  I could understand his seeing me as the antithesis of all that he has striven to be as a man, all of the values that make up his personal ethics.  I could understand, and I actually expected, his total rejection.

Instead, he offers me acceptance, tolerance, and friendship.

As each year ends, I automatically think back over the past year and list the good and bad things that have happened to me.  This year there have been many good things in my life, and many good people.  This year, the best thing that happened to me was getting to know and appreciate this funny exhibitionist from the South.  Thank you, Tony, for being who you are and for having the guts to show so many people all the many parts of your beautiful self, inside and out.  Thanks most of all for forgiving me.  I love you, man.

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