Anthology: A Collection of Flowers Home
I was sixteen and experiencing all the insecurities that most teenagers go through. During this time I had one really good friend, Larry.
Larry and I did everything together. Our main interest of course was girls, but my shyness kept this topic mainly at the discussion level.
Bill was a boy I only knew in passing. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but he was not among my close circle of friends.
One day Larry came up to me and said, "Boy! I just got through talking to Bill and he thinks you are gay!"
I was shocked that my machismo was in question. I asked Larry how he responded to this accusation.
"I told him to not spread it around or you might kiss him", he laughed.
I was mortified! My best friend hadn't defended me in what I considered to be an appropriate manner.
A few days later Larry and I were walking down the street discussing the Majorettes in our High School Band. I played trombone and marched in the front line of the band. "Bambi", the head Majorette, strutted right in front of me during all the parades. She really had a swing. As Larry and I were laughing and discussing this, I started to sway my hips and march the way Bambi did. Larry laughed and reached over and pinched me on the butt.
Then I happened to look over my shoulder and there was Bill walking about a half a block behind me! He had this look on his face that told me that where there might have been doubts before, now there were none!
As the days went by it almost became an obsession for me to prove to Bill that I was not gay! At last I resolved to confront him and force him to communicate with me. Then he would see that I was not gay.
I cornered Bill as he was getting his books out of his locker at school. I walked right up to him and in my best macho stride and struck up a conversation about Friday night's football game. Things seemed to be going well.
As we talked, I felt that I had something caught between my teeth. I raised my hand and scratched my teeth with my little finger. Then my eye brow started to itch. I raised my hand from my teeth and, using the same little finger, scratched my brow.
I noticed that Bill started to turn pale. He then turned and walked away in the middle of a sentence. Then I realized that I had just completed a notorious gesture that gays used! I was devastated!
I realized that there was nothing I could do to change his mind. I took a real good look at myself and saw that I simply was not gay. I liked girls! My problem was in trying to change Bill's perception of me. I realized that the more I tried, the worse it got. Finally I said to hell with him! From that moment on I just let him think whatever he wanted to. It didn't impact me in any way.
Several months later at a party, Bill came up to me and said, "You want to hear something funny? For the longest time I thought you were gay!"
"Better not spread that around or I might kiss you," I laughed.
"Bill's Perception" Commentary:
Bill was a great teacher for me. He taught me that I had no control over what other people thought about me. In fact, if I placed undue importance on their estimation of me, I lost myself. There was nothing I could do to change him. The more I tried, the worse it got.
I realized that I could not live my life in a self reflection of other peoples' points of view.
I can only live my life for me. Shakespeare said, "To thine own self be true". This lesson was a hard one for me to learn. Thank you Bill and all those other people in my life who continually force me to get to the core of my being, fight my way through their perceptions of me, and discover the truth about myself.