257. torschlusspanik

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flo-WIT

“Torschlusspanik.”

This is one of those supposedly untranslatable German words. The definition from Wiktionary seems to capture the essence, though: “the feeling that medieval peasants had when the castle gates were closing for an upcoming onslaught by enemies.”

I like that there are concise words for complex concepts like this.

In way of advance warning, this post might be a tad ranty in a hopefully measured way. Also: this post is not about you or your relationship. It’s about the way in which religion and the way it influenced my upbringing has completely fucked over my life and the lives of so many other people. Trauma manifests itself in different ways for everyone, and with this recent foray into EMDR, I’m noticing more about the way my trauma expresses itself.

Okay. Deep breath, everyone.


First, an Alanis Morissette lyric:

And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away.
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me.
You oughta know.

For a long time post 2011, I often listened to this song with Seth in mind. Someone at karaoke once opined that I wasn’t singing it “orgasmically” enough. After reminding myself that it’s not acceptable to rip people’s faces off, I explained that it’s not a song about sex.

It’s a song about being fucking pissed off while simultaneously a complete wreck.

This describes me from about 2011-2013, a time when I was dealing with both the loss of my faith and catastrophic heartbreak.

However, it hit me the other day that I can also contextualize that song about my parents.

A few weeks ago my EMDR therapist asked if I’d forgiven my parents. I wasn’t sure if I was still angry at them, because it feels like they died a long time ago.

I mostly just feel sad.

But I am still angry: outraged at how they lied to me, how the emotional and psychological abuse my sisters and I suffered at their hands was couched in such “loving” language. Of course, they believed (and still believe) that they were doing right by us. After all…

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

They truly believed that a religious upbringing was the best possible thing for us. So long as you don’t think too hard about it and spend your entire life in the evangelical Christian bubble, it might be fine. But if you find yourself an outlier at all within that community (figuring out that you’re gay at age fifteen, for example), it takes an incredible amount of self-delusion to not question or doubt.


Yeah, it’s never gonna happen, is it? No, sir.
No, we’re never gonna get the prize—are we?
No, it doesn’t make a bit of difference—does it?
Didn’t.
Ever.
Fuck it!
– Sondheim, S. (1990). Another national anthem. On Assassins (2004 Broadway Revival Cast) [CD]. Bronxville, NY: P.S. Classics.

One of the things my EMDR therapist had me do last month was write out short- and long-term goals for myself. Where do I want to be next month, in six months, etc.

One of my near-future goals is to start dating again, which simply seems unfeasible right now because I appear to live in the land of Lost Boys gay men who are stuck in an eternal boyhood, while I’m a somewhat gruff (but amicable) misanthrope.

And what I keep running into is this fear that it’s never going to happen for me, and that I’ll end up like the character of Vivian from Margaret Edson’s Wit: highly respected but utterly alone and without a partner to support her in an extreme crisis. As it is, I have friends, but their allegiances are to their significant others. And how long can I sleep on their proverbial couch before overstaying my welcome on their time and attention?

The sense I’ve become more aware of lately is that of indignation. I’ve watched (and even helped) countless couples fall into relationships (sometimes serial relationships, one after another) with relative ease and nonchalance. I can’t help feeling they don’t deserve any of it, that they can’t truly appreciate their blithe happiness without having experienced the abject despair and loneliness that has been my existence for the past twenty years.

Of course, everyone’s story and struggle is there own. I’m not privy to volumes.

It’s not just dating. I recently received another rejection letter, this one for a scholarship. There was the internship this summer; before that the graduate assistant library job that someone else got. It seems that my life is this constant, uphill battle where I have to fight for every scrap and crumb while others seem to have things virtually handed to them.

When’s it going to be my turn?

So it’s really difficult not to feel that other people don’t deserve the relationships and the opportunities that they have when I feel that I’ve worked twice as hard with no results. Of course I don’t know their stories and struggles. But I’m tired of my life seeming marked and defined by failure and disappointment.

Sure, I could simply keep redefining “success” and adjust my expectations. But at what point does one say, “This just isn’t working”?

Because it’s infuriating watching silly, flirty, vapid gay boys find long-term boyfriends (who they’ll probably dump in a year), realizing that the guys I’m attracted to are never attracted to me, or recognizing that the reason most of my hetero friends are partnered is because their pool is that much bigger.

When I say “It’s probably never going to happen,” it’s out of fear of further dashed hopes.


Even though I don’t believe in the supernatural, there’s this feeling that all the rejection and disappointment is somehow part of my penance for 28 years as a fundie Christian. I didn’t know any better, but I’m still going to be punished.

Yes, I know.

It’s bonkers.

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8 thoughts on “257. torschlusspanik

  1. I identify all too well. I find myself dating guys I’m not really interested in because I’m flattered by their attention (how pathetic is that?)

    I don’t have the answers you seek, but I can share my approach to life: I’ve decided to stop (actively) looking for Mr Right & start trying to become Mr Right…it hasn’t been successful, yet…but who knows?

    By the way, you will never out stay your welcome on my proverbial couch.

    • David

      That’s about where I’m at too—focusing less on finding a guy right now and more on becoming the kind of guy someone would want to date. (Let’s be real though—no one would want to marry this hot mess.)

        • David

          I’m sure there are! To draw an analogy from the periodic table, most gay men I’ve met seem to resemble elements like carbon or hydrogen that will bond with just about anything, whereas I am more like elements like Krypton or Helium that bonds rarely and under specific circumstances.

  2. Paul Douglas

    I always like your posts David, because you are so refreshingly honest. Fundagelicalism does leave scars and some people seem to suffer the sequelae more than others. Probably a function of personality type and the serendipity of the people in one’s world.
    It certainly doesn’t seem fair at all! I’m so sorry about the professional roadblocks you are encountering. I think that it is nothing personal: we now live in über-competitive times decent where jobs a scarce and a lot of folks are looking for them. But of course it feels very personal and I would be reacting the exact same way, I know.

    • David

      I think some of it is that I’m a deeply empathetic person who has always internalized things. It’s a greater depth and range of feeling, like tetrachromacy for emotion. If I’d been any less like that, the slings and arrows might’ve just slid off instead of sinking deeper into my psyche.

  3. It’s all perfectly reasonable. It’s okay to still be angry at your parents and to worry about relationship dynamics. To a certain degree trauma shapes the psyche. For example, a dog who was deprived of food in its first months of life will spend the rest of its existence taking food whenever and wherever it’s available. A dog who never starved has a completely different reaction to food.
    I also found dating incredibly difficult. There’s no way around that for unconventional people. What you want will invariably be different from what the majority believe they want/pursue. The best you can do to improve your chances is to look for your niche- but even more so, be upfront about who you are and what you’re looking for from the beginning. People have a tendency to pretend to be much more flexible than they actually are while dating and that can only end badly.

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