Today is my birthday. If you want to know which birthday, let’s just say that I am the only prime number less than 60 and greater than 54, okay? When I was a kid, my birthday was early enough in the school year that I often seemed to catch teachers by surprise. It was late enough in September that, under the rules of the school district we lived in when I turned five years old, I wasn’t allowed to be enrolled until the next year. So I was usually older than the rest of the kids in my class. There were some downsides to that, but also a few upsides.
The other thing that used to be more of an annoyance when I was younger was how crowded the birthdays were among my extended family. I was born 39 days after my Mom’s 17th birthday, and only 6 days before my Dad’s 18th birthday (yes, my parents were 16 years old when they got married!). I was also born 8 days after one of my cousins (the one that has been called my almost twin since we were infants, because when Grandma was babysitting both of us strangers would think we were twins). I was born two weeks before one grandmother’s 38th birthday and ten days after one grandfather’s 40th birthday. Also within a few weeks of my birthday were the birthdays or two uncles, and a whole bunch of other cousins (and demi-cousins, and step-cousins, and cousins-once-removed and so on).
During my teen years, when we lived in the same community as most of my mom’s siblings and other extended family members on her side, from the middle of August through Christmas there were one or two birthdays every single week. And my grandmother on that side (who was emphatically the ruling matriarch of the clan) insisted that everyone needed to show up and celebrate everyone else’s special day. Which didn’t really feel all that special when it was the 6th or 9th extended family get-together of that month, you know? Not that I have a right to complain. My one cousin whose birthday is two days after Christmas would be the first to point out that there are worse times to have one’s birthday than late September.
Which is sort of a convoluted way to say that while I have always enjoyed those times that we have gotten together with a bunch of friends to have a blow-out birthday, I’m also perfectly happy to spend the day lazing around the house, reading, and enjoying the well-wishes from friends; and then celebrating with a dinner with my husband.
But to get back to the cluster of family birthdays and why I mention being a homo in the title of this post: one of the step-cousins I mentioned in passing above had his birthday just a couple of days before mine. He was the step-son of one of my dad’s siblings, and therefore didn’t join the family until I was about 11 years old. When I was in middle school he was in college, and whenever we were visiting his family, or if his family came to visit the grandparents (and therefore we all had to show up for at least part of the visit), he always found a way to tell me that I was a freak.
By which I mean he would literally say, “You are such a freak!” or “God, you really are an over-educated freak, aren’t you?” He only called me a faggot to my face once that I recall, but years later I learned that my aunt (his step-mother at the time) was constantly admonishing him for calling me a faggot while talking about me with other family members. And I want to emphasize here, he was 20 years old and when I was 13—so this wasn’t a child being cruel to another child, but rather someone who supposedly was an adult being cruel to a child. Anyway, it should come as no surprise that I didn’t shed any tears when said aunt divorced his father when I was in high school. I thought I would never have to deal with his nonsense for the rest of my life, right?
Well, now we live in a world that includes Facebook. I typically log in to Facebook no more than about once or twice a month, and only then because for some family members I care about, Facebook is the only way to reliably get news about what’s happening in their lives. And so a couple weeks back when I logged in to ping some of my fellow Seahawks fans, what did I find but a friend request from this jerk…
Now, to be fair, he wasn’t the only person during my childhood who found ways to point out that I didn’t conform to societal expectations. I spent most of my childhood trying to figure out why so many of my classmates, public school teachers, Sunday School teachers, and pastors thought that there was something wrong with me. Specifically, why so many classmates, teachers, adult relatives, and at least one pastor kept calling me a “pussy,” “sissy,” “homo,” “faggot,” “weirdo,” et al. Once puberty hit in full force, I finally knew and all of that energy was redirected to trying to convince myself that I wasn’t gay, but that somehow I could thread the needle between my sexual orientation and the expectations of both society at large and the evangelical church in specific.
So, he wasn’t really that much of an outlier among the folks I had to deal with back then, but still, I look at that friend request and have to ask, “Why?” Because when I look at his timeline, it is all pro-NRA and pro-Trump memes. Therefore I can’t imagine that he is reaching out to apologize and say that he wishes he had been more supportive of my non-conformities when I was a kid. Maybe he is, but even looking at his current photos all that comes to mind is all of those times he called me a freak and how he used to disparage me to other family members. So, no, I am not going to accept his friend request.
I spent too much time as a child, teen, and young adult trying to accommodate haters like him. As an adult, I’ve forged a life with friends who love me and accept me (even though I am far from perfect) for who I am. I don’t feel any need to make time for people who couldn’t do that when they had the chance.
I usually end my birthday posts with some words of wisdom about some lesson I have learned. This year I’ve going to paraphrase/mangle Harvey Fierstein:
There is nothing you need more from other people than love and respect. Anyone who couldn’t give you that when they had a chance, doesn’t deserve a place in your life.