April 23, 2007

"I'm always the winner. Game over."

Let’s get this out of the way first: I am not a vengeful person. I don’t say this to brag: in an essay on revenge, this fact has implications. I’m not some sort of urban Gandhi, walking the streets preaching equality, nonviolence, and biopics costarring Candice Bergen. I’m no saint. I am an egomaniac, and egomaniacs don’t care about revenge. See, when scorned, maligned, or mistreated, a person with a normal-sized ego feels like a loser. And for this person, the best way to become a winner again is to seek revenge. Revenge makes someone else the loser. Egomaniacs skip this step; as far as I’m concerned, I’m always the winner. Game over. You can try to make me feel bad about myself, but it will only make me judge you more harshly.

There are two people in my life, though, on whom I have taken revenge: my mother and father. I think it’s only natural to seek vengeance against one’s parents; they are always in a position of power by the nature of their relation to us, and thus beg for retribution to be exacted upon them.

I came out of the closet during my junior year of high school. (That’s not the revenge, though looking back I see this as a missed opportunity.) Having a gay son was, for a long time, a difficult thing for my parents. They’re OK with it now, but during the initial few years of adjustment, they got a little kooky. For instance, I was asked obscene questions at random intervals–- you haven’t lived until you’ve heard your father say, “So you want another man to put his penis in your anus?” (For the record, Dad: yes.) Mom had a second phone line installed and used it to run a counseling service, and while I was at school, she coached other parents on how not to accidentally homosexualize their children. Dad would turn conversations about potato chips or cat hair into awkward, thinly veiled dissertations on the unnaturalness of my lifestyle choice.

But mostly they took solace in the numbers. The internet (probably godhatesfags.com) provided my parents with an arsenal of statistics to hurl my way whenever I looked like I might be enjoying myself too much. They were careful to regularly remind me that, like so many gays before me, I would sleep with hundreds of men but never know the joy of a committed, loving relationship. I would drift from low-paying job to low-paying job, never making enough to support my raging drug habit. And of course I would get AIDS and die early. “And when you do,” Dad would say imperiously, “your friends won’t be there for you. Your mother and I will be.” In their eyes, I had become a different person–a bad person–and they told me as much.

My revenge has been to prove them wrong. I have never ingested an illegal substance, not even one puff from a joint. I did not drink my first alcoholic beverage until college, and to this day average about one drink every three months. I am a serial monogamist, and have been since my first boyfriend; I could lose a couple fingers and still count my sexual partners on both hands. That’s not to say that I haven’t had a little casual sex here and there–- sometimes a friendly blow job is the only way to make sure you’ll get a ride home before “American Idol” starts-– but it’s been rare and it’s been safe. I’ve never had an STD and I’m pretty sure I never will.

The point of all this is that Mom and Dad were wrong. If I had grown up to be a slut or a junkie or an HIV patient or Christina Aguilera, they would have felt vindicated for their behavior. The air would be thick with unspoken “I told you so.” Now I’ve never called them on it, but I always have it in my back pocket, just in case: they were wrong. My parents raised a son who is intelligent, successful, and a fucking Puritan, and they have to live with the fact that they had no cause to treat me like they did. They fucked up, plain and simple. No matter how much I love them, I will always be a little angry inside, and if they take some guilt with them to the grave, then I guess I got my revenge.

Contributed by Chris Kelly

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I can totally relate to this! But instead of being emotionally attacked for being gay, I was attacked for wanting to go outside. Quite literally. My foreign father was convinced that the American culture “out there” would transform his perfect children (collectively his 2nd opportunity at life) into a promiscuous, drug addicted, murderous, thieving, and yes homosexual, family disgrace. In response to my wanting to cross the street to watch my same-age neighbor play the Are You Afraid of the Dark computer game, or years later, drive 5 miles to meet my Chemistry group for 3 hours, my dad would relay graphic tales of rape and murder in incredibly traumatizing detail. At the end of these horrifying stories he would always chastise me for preferring a fate like that over heeding advice given to me by YOUR OWN FATHER, which is simply DESIGNED to KEEP YOU SAFE! Every mention of the weather or progress in school was an ideal segue into such a conversation.

Well, after the all the homeless wanderings and shows in the bars with "vagabonds of society" (my beloved bandmates) and (gasp) unauthorized airplane travels, my track record is much like yours.

It's one thing to encourage your child to be safe or to be straight because you genuinely feel that it would make them happier. Even if you’re ultimately wrong, at least your intention was noble. It is quite another thing when you almost hope that their decision brings them pain just so that you stand in victorious unquestionable authority.

I'm just starting to reach the point where I'm no longer bound to ensuring that he never gets that satisfaction.