Blërg. I hate moving. I hate the nuisance of packing up the contents of one’s life and transporting them to a new place. On the one hand, it’s a good exercise in taking stock of what one owns and how much one actually needs. On the other, it’s just annoying.
This past weekend was CONsole Room, the long-awaited (at least for some) return of a Doctor Who convention to Minneapolis. The last dedicated Doctor Who convention in Minnesota was over twenty years ago. There were over 500 attendees, which is a fantastic turnout for a first convention!
As an introvert, I struggle with large events like these. While I enjoy being around members of my Whovian tribe, it’s also exhausting. Three consecutive days of other human beings left me drained of energy. Last night, after a brief stop by my apartment to check mail and box up a few books, I headed home, crawled into bed, and promptly passed out.
Something I wasn’t expecting to deal with at the convention was the number of gay couples that I saw there. On Saturday night, a friend of mine pointed out the karaoke DJ, a cute guy in one of those checkered shirts often seen on gay boys and metrosexuals.
Naturally, he was there with his boyfriend.
Needless to say, this activated all of my insecurities about being thirty-one and single, so I spent most of the evening feeling like a crazy person.
Lately, I’ve been working on analyzing my emotional responses when in the presence of couples. As anyone who has read this blog in the past couple months will know this is a frequent subject. Being around couples makes me more keenly aware of my own singleness, my past relationship failures, and all of the qualities about myself that I consider lacking or downright undesirable.
On Saturday, my housemates had another couple, Mark and Nick, over for dinner in celebration of their recent marriage (seeing as it’s now legal in Minnesota). Before I left for the convention that morning, I was asked to proofread the menu for the evening. As expected, it was perfect. But in reading it over, I had to swallow feelings of jealousy and overwhelming otherness that rose up. I wondered—would they ever have occasion to throw such a celebration for me, at what feels like my late stage in life (at least, late for a gay man)?
I got home around midnight, my emotional energy already drained after a day of being around people, and being surrounded by couples at karaoke—or at least, being hyper aware of the presence of couples in the room… the DJ and his boyfriend, Jason and Chaz, and others whose names I didn’t know. The house was dark, and Mark and Nick’s shiny car was in the driveway, where I usually park, clearly crashing at the house for the night. In my mind, that became a metaphor for how invisible and peripheral I often view myself as being. I still joke that when my now brother-in-law started dating my sister, my parents found the son they never had.
Mark and Nick have a fairly new car. Mark is a doctor. I’m not totally sure what Nick does, but he also does well for himself. Pulling up behind their car, in my own car, with a side mirror held on with duck tape and non-functioning wipers, it felt like another metaphor for how shabby and barely-held-together my own life seems to be. Every area of my life looked like an abject failure.
Earlier this month, there was an entry posted to a blog that I follow that started me thinking about the negative (and toxic) way that I view my own life, and relate to others. He wrote:
Having grown up in a very patriarchal environment, I internalized the notion that being gay meant being other. In turn, “other” was translated to mean being “less than.” Oddly enough the effects were two-fold. I set off on a quest to mentally justify my being less than by using every situation I encountered to validate and reinforce those beliefs. Conversely, and this was my saving grace, I took the compensatory route in an effort to correct the (my own) perceived imbalance of worth. In practice, this meant I had an overwhelming (not to say borderline psycho) urge to compete and succeed.
The combination of the two meant intense turmoil, an inclination to depression every time something didn’t go to plan and emotional loss no matter what the result was. If I succeeded I was incapable of internally accepting credit (no matter how much I outwardly announced my credit). If I failed to achieve the standard I was aiming for, that simply reinforced my negative outlook. Lose, lose, lose.
These paragraphs really resonated with me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve compared myself to others, rating my own self-worth against my perception of theirs. I almost always come up short. Even in success, someone else is always just ahead of me. Consequently, I’ve always viewed myself as in direct competition with virtually everyone. It probably goes without saying how exhausting this is.
My rational brain knows how irrational this is, how silly and wasteful. I know my perceptions of others are fairly warped, that my assumptions about their social status are probably overblown. Yet my lizard brain is wrapped up in anxiety over someone having advantages over me, that people are looking down on me, finding me wanting. Everyone else has more financial success, more emotional stability, more sex, more intimacy, more happiness.
I have nothing.
The horrible thing is that part of me hates everyone who I perceive as having the things that I don’t. I’m driven by jealousy of the people around me, obsessed with my inadequacies. And this keeps me isolated from other people, holds me back from connecting, from being accepted.
What bothers me most is that I’m aware of all this, but feel unable to do anything about it…