Monday, January 02, 2006

The Dead End Road

“That path only leads to a dead end road.” These were words once spoken to me by a priest at a Catholic church that I used to attend. I was twenty years old and just recently met Madelene. I also recently just came out of the closet, so I had a lot of conflicting issues to deal with. Twelve years ago, I was out of control. Madelene had to put up with a lot. (More than she does now.) Usually, when someone first comes out of the closet, they seem to have no direction whatsoever—and if they do, they’re lucky.

I had none. No direction. I was dating two women at one time. I think there was an ex-boyfriend lingering in there somewhere as well. I wasn’t promiscuous--however, I wasn’t a saint as well. This was all new to me, yet, I knew all my life that I was gay—I just never acted on it.

To protect the innocent, I must use ‘anonymous names here’. I remember dating “Tammy”. She was thirteen years older than me. I was only twenty and she was thirty-three years old. She was straight from Texas, and had a sense of humor like no other. After working at the office in New Jersey, my friend Jimmy and I would swing by the local pub for happy hour. There she was--this beautiful “Marilyn Monroe look-alike” tending bar.

“You know she’s gay, right?”
I said, in disbelief.
“Yeah, she’s gay, she lives with her partner down the road.” Jimmy said, with a sparkle in his eye.

I couldn’t believe this woman was a lesbian. I stereotyped lesbians to posses certain traits; a look that would say, “Hey, I’m gay!” Yep, I was one of those people I detest ‘now’. I just sat there and stared at her in awe. Her platinum blonde hair, those big blue eyes that almost look right past your soul, and her perfect teeth smiled at you as she walked over to ask what you were having.

“Hi darling, whaddya’ have?” She asked, as she lit my cigarette before I could even glance at my lighter.
“Oh…Thank you…Umm…Just an Amstel please.”
“Oh, Tammy, this is Debbie, I work with her at my office.”
Jimmy said, hoping to see if any connection would be made. But…she was already taken.
“Oh really? Why Miss Debbie, it sure is a pleasure to meet you.”
She said, with her sexy Texan accent. She shook my hand---with her left hand. She was washing a glass at the time, and only had her left hand available, but for some reason, I never forgot that handshake.

We became instant friends. We hung out all the time. I found myself sitting at her bar plenty times watching her unique bartending techniques---which later on I used myself. The only thing I didn’t have going for me were her double D cups. Oh yeah- she was a bit hit with all the men that lined up for drinks at that bar.

Tammy was still living with Paula. They were going through a rough patch at the time. Paula was planning to move out. Paula worked the night shifts, and of course, Tammy always invited me over for cocktails and dinner, while Paula was at work. Why I felt no guilt about this---I have not one clue. It was over, right? My immature and newly ‘outed’ mind said it was “okay”. What did I know about love and other people’s feelings? I was selfish back then, and didn’t realize I was actually hurting someone else. I was hurting Paula.

Madelene knew that I was seeing Tammy. I didn’t want a monogamous relationship at the time. Madelene being ten years older than me, wanted an exclusive relationship, but I couldn’t offer her one back then. I drove Madelene crazy. I remember once bumping into Madelene while I was with Tammy. This was most uncomfortable. Both knew I was seeing the two of them, and both knew I was ‘confused’. Tammy didn’t care—because she didn’t want an exclusive relationship either. She just got out of a relationship, and wanted to just ‘see people’.

“Well Miss Maddie, sure is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance.” Tammy said, as she extended her arm out to shake Madelene’s hand. She said this in a belittling type of tone. It definitely wasn't sincere. Madelene just shook her hand and stared at her—as though she was plotting her death. Tammy glanced over at me with these eyes that watched every emotion that flowed through my veins. She was wiser beyond her years---and perceptive to other people’s reactions. My mother used to call her, ‘the old broad’, because she acted as though she was some fifty year old white trash broad, with absolutely no couth. Her ability to down five martinis without slurring a word was a talent all in itself.

As Tammy sat there along with Madelene, I had to end this meeting quickly.
“Tammy, let’s go…” I was already driving Tammy around in my car, and had no other option but to take her home. I wasn’t even able to talk to Madelene alone, because she was there by herself, and it was just the three of us awkward birds sitting there trying to pretend there wasn’t anything wrong with this screwed up predicament.

I felt such guilt about that evening; leaving Madelene there, sad and upset to see me leave with another woman. I loved the both of them. I was confused. I had fun with Tammy, however, she was heavily into drugs and alcohol. Sometimes she would even forget my name. With Madelene, we were a lot alike, but we had enough differences to keep it interesting.

Feeling torn and confused, I went to confession. I was raised Catholic, and didn’t seek out other churches or religions. I thought I was stuck ‘being Catholic’. I didn’t know I had options. I remember walking through the huge church doors into the foyer. The church we have here is almost as big as the St. Patrick’s church in NYC. It’s so big and so beautiful—you’d think you were in heaven itself.

I had to wait on a line to get into confession. It was a Wednesday afternoon at 4pm. It looked like a half off sale at Macy’s. There were only women standing on line. As soon as I walked in, their eyes glanced at me. Were they relating to me? Or were they already judging me? I felt as though they knew I was in there to tell the priest behind the gate I was gay. I could just hear their thoughts, “Oh would you look at the dyke who just walked in?” Paranoia got the best of me, and my mind went frantic trying to ‘hear their thoughts’ as I waited there in line---with the rest of the sinners, ironically enough.

Soon enough, it was my turn. It reminded me of my psychiatrist. I’m always the last one to talk to these guys. They’re already drained listening to other people’s problems, and then I come strolling in to talk about my lesbian issues.

“Father it’s been…ummm….quite a while since I’ve been to confession…” I said, not knowing the ‘procedure’ of confessing and the proper prayers or words to say as a ‘good Catholic’ should.
“Child, tell me your sins.” He says, in this authoritative voice.
“Well, I’m confused. I’m dating women, and I don’t want God to be upset with me.”
“What do you do with these women?”
He asked in a creepy sort of way. He didn’t even make it clear of what he was referring to.
“Well what do you do with these women in order for you to think it’s a sin?”
“Well, I’m intimate with them. I’m dating women, and I’m confused.”
“You know that this path only leads to a dead end road, right?”
He says. What nerve! The man “in the closet” is telling me that my life was a dead end road. Even in the bible it clearly states that it’s sometimes better to be ‘alone’…and not partnered up with someone—regardless of sexual preference.

Here’s a scripture that tells us how marriage can actually put us on a ‘dead end road’—so to speak:

Now let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short, so husbands should not let marriage be their major concern. Happiness or sadness or wealth should not keep anyone from doing God’s work. Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away. In everything you do, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man can’t do that so well. He has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be more devoted to the Lord in body and in spirit, while the married woman must be concerned about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. ~1 Corinthians 7:29-35

Three years later, I converted to Christianity. The judgments of the church and the ‘you’re doomed’ attitudes left a bad taste in my mouth. God loves all of us—regardless of who we love. God knows our hearts and motives. What right does any human have, telling us that we’re going to have a life that leads into a ‘dead end road’? I was really discouraged hearing this come out of a priest’s mouth; most of all, hearing the priest inquire of the ‘activities’ that were done behind closed doors with the people I was intimate with. I’ll never forget that. He almost sounded aroused as he asked me these horrifying questions. I do believe, whether you’re a priest, nun, pope or anyone on that level of ‘respect’---they are just ‘people’. If you rely on people’s judgments, you will always be disappointed. I had to learn this the hard way. I made many mistakes down the road relying on what other people thought. The only thing that matters to me, is what God thinks of me. And I know he loves me unconditionally. Can a human love unconditionally I wonder?

Needless to say, my relationship with Tammy ended due to the extreme lifestyle she led that conflicted with mine. She did get help, and went into a rehabilitation program. I was proud of her for doing this. We left off as friends. I never thought bad of her due to her life choices, I just know she was going through a very hard time. She was one of the most amazing women I have ever met in my life. She had the ability to make you laugh, even if you were crying hysterically. She had a talent for people—she was intuitive and almost knew what you were feeling. This is what made her an incredible bartender---as well as an incredible person all around. Her drug problem didn’t have a reflection on what I thought of her. In fact, she had to go through that, in order to learn things—as we all do. We all have different crosses to bear, and who am I to judge? I’m just happy I came across such a unique person. I miss her--and would love to see how she’s doing ‘today’. She moved back to Texas, and I believe she got married to a very nice man.

Lately I’ve been noticing that too many people put an emphasis on ‘being with someone’. They’re afraid to be alone. They think if they’re not married by a certain age, that they’ll always have an unhappy life. In my beliefs, if we rely on God, and make Him number one in our lives, we’ll always be headed in the right direction.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” ~Psalm 32:8

Is it that we don’t believe what God promises? I was guilty of this too. That’s why I walked into confession. I wanted the priest to give me those magic words of wisdom to make my homosexuality go away—so that I can live the ‘normal life’, and get married with children. Did I really want this though? If I went down that path, would my life be better? Would I have ever been able to write? Would I have to run after my kids before spitting a word out into my book or blog? Do you think I would have any time at all for the things I love? Personally, ‘for me’, my life would be very unhappy if I did go that route. For others—that’s “their passion” in life; to raise a family. Everyone has a different path. We don’t have to all cram onto one little walkway.

Never regret your past. It’s what makes you who you are today. I love this next scripture—which helped to remind me that the present time is what we need to focus on:

Don’t long for “the good old days,” for you don’t know whether they were any better than today. ~Ecclesiastes 7:10

Sure we can sit and reminisce about the good ol’ days, but if we can try to enjoy our journey and look forward to what God has planned for us, we’ll probably have a better outlook on life. That was a huge problem for me. I always looked at the past. “What ifs” went through my mind like a roaring fire. I couldn’t get rid of those constant obsessive thought patterns. They flooded my mind and threw me into a hole of depression. Our minds are sometimes our worst enemies.

Back when I was twenty years old, I was very insecure—about everything. I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t thin enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and I didn’t ‘have enough’. Today, it’s much different. Of course I have insecurities that are normal, but I don’t torture myself with thoughts of, “Why don’t I look like her? How come I’m not skinny and a size four? Why don’t I have more money?” It’s immaterial to me.

I used to let what other people said, affect my way of looking at things. I needed to get married by the time I was thirty, I needed to have kids by the time I was forty and I needed to have enough money for my future. Everything focused around money and relationships. I lost touch with God and focused way too much on what ‘everyone else’ thought was most important. I failed, because I didn’t have a passion for other people’s goals.

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from what we believe; they will follow lying spirits and teachings that come from demons. These teachers are hypocrites and liars. They pretend to be religious, but their consciences are dead. ~1 Timothy 4:1-2

People—mere humans we rely on. We value their opinions and judgments as if they were God Himself. I’ve been to churches where they would say, “Well God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.” God hates? This is news to me. Meanwhile, they have their own demons to contend with. Hypocrites of the church will sit in those pews every Sunday like clockwork and yet not have one clue about what unconditional love is—and how God is “all love.”

Did I have the perfect life? No! Do I regret not having the perfect life? Not at all. If I didn’t go through all that I did when I was younger, I wouldn’t have learned all I know today. Don’t ever regret your past---whatever it is you went through. If God brought you to it---He’ll get you ~through~ it. There’s a reason for everything that happens to us. We just need to realize that relying on other people’s judgment and approval will drive us insane.

Remember the priest I went to confession to? Well he was charged with sexual molestation. He molested young boys in his parish. The whole town was stunned at the news that they heard. My family was shocked to hear that our own priest was among the many Catholic priests that committed this crime. All the people in our town were talking amongst themselves of the horrible sin that the priest committed. “How awful for our priest to do this terrible act on our children!” the people said as new ears caught word of this news. It made headlines in the news, and soon enough, more and more spotlights have shown upon other priests that committed the same crime. More families came out in the open accusing other priests of doing the same thing. The ripple affect had taken center stage. All of the priests, who had taken part of these sad crimes, confessed and apologized on numerous occasions. People all over were throwing every stone they can get their hands on. Remember, no sin is greater than another. We all sin, whether we think it is big or small, a sin is a sin. We're human--and that means we have weaknesses.

Jesus goes on to say about casting the first stone, and judging others based on the sins in their life. I’m sure most of you know this story, but those of you who are not familiar with it; I want to share this with you from the book of John in the bible.

“A Woman Caught In Adultery”

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees brought a woman they had caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” ~John 8:1-11

My point is, we’re all human. We all judge to some extent sometimes. Everyone falls short. I know I do, and it’s just sad when people have to remind us of it. Let’s focus on our own crosses to bear and stop the judgments that are passed around so freely. Let’s start loving one another more and being more open-minded to different ways of living.

If we continue to judge and criticize others---then this quote would be appropriate…As the priest said to me in ‘his closet’,

"That path only leads to a dead end road.”