Coming out in Carolina: A journey through my journal

TEN YEARS ago, I was entering my junior year at the University of South Carolina, having just returned from a semester in Los Angeles - the city that made me gay. Actually, it was my Asian roommate, with her plump lips and cashmere sweaters, who made me gay. After our brief and sordid romp in the City of Angels, she promptly wiped the tryst clean from her mind, chalking it up to a rare form of dementia that afflicts sorority girls. For me, it was the catalyst for my coming out and a kind of pain that my young, tender heart had yet to endure.

In honor of Stuff@night's 10th anniversary, I decided to dust off an old journal from 10 years ago to see if I've made any emotional progress in the last decade. Considering how wise and contemplative I was back then, I'm not sure my callous adult mind could ever compete.

(This is best read with dramatic flair and a suicidal soundtrack playing in the background.)

 

THEN
"I felt my life come to a new low today. I went to bed crying last night, woke up crying this morning, cried all day, and will probably go to bed crying tonight. Last night I was crying at the thought of not knowing where she was, why she hadn't come home, who was she with, what was she doing. This morning I cried at the confirmation of all of these thoughts."

NOW
I've learned that crying over a lost love is a big old waste of time. The last time I did it was sometime around the Fourth of July, and my friends still affectionately refer to it as "my emotion." You wind up looking like you've been beaten in a dark alley, all puffy-faced and blotchy. And now who the hell wants to date that hideous face staring back at you in the mirror?

 

THEN
"I'm driving myself crazy and I'm sure I'm doing the same to those around me. Unfortunately I can't tell anyone what I'm thinking and can't even begin to explain what I'm not sure I understand myself. The only thing I am sure of is that I am sure I am in love. I've never had these feelings of hate, lust, nausea, and disgust all balled up together into something that is so beautifully miserable."

NOW
Isn't it sweet how I make "love" sound like a list of the side effects of an intestinal medication? Apparently I forgot "diarrhea," "heartburn," "occasional night sweats," "tremors," "vomiting," and "hair loss."

 

THEN
"Everyone says to write down what you are feeling as if you were saying it to the person and then just keep it for your own good. ‘It will make you feel better!' Well, I think I'm going to make a first attempt at this. But I might actually give it to the person if in the end I feel it will do any good. So I'm going to start a fresh page. If later this page is followed by frayed pages then I guess that will determine how my first attempt went." [Frayed pages here.] "Well, I guess the binding of this book answers the question."

NOW
Fuck a stranger. That's the advice I'd offer to people today. This whole faux-letter-writing thing is a psychological trap. You spew all these pathetic, sappy thoughts that are meant to be kept private. Then you fancy yourself a romantic scribe and send the thing. Madness! One-night stands open up a whole different world of neuroses and problems. And you're so busy worrying about that new bump on your labia, you don't even have time to obsess over what's her name.

 

THEN
"We went out for coffee and I asked her if she read my letter and she said she had read it several times. And? Between the silence and stares into watery eyes I finally understood the finality of her words. ‘I just don't have those feelings anymore.' I guess that was it, that was what I had asked for, that was what I needed. I didn't want to hear it but I needed to, for my own sanity, for my own state of mind - to move on."

NOW
Thank goodness for e-mail. Imagine if we actually had to have these humiliating conversations today? Now closure is just a click away. Instead of worrying your mind, you can leave it to your opposable thumbs as they write off lovers for five cents per text message. You spare your feelings and your wallet - because you know that if she dumps you in public, you're still going to pick up the tab to prove you're the bigger person.

 

THEN
"I guess now it is time to cherish the past, to appreciate what the two of us once had, to love her for what she gave me, to know deep down how much I gave her, to remember the comfort, to think back on the sweet kisses, to reminisce on the days that we would go to bed in each other's arms and wake up beside each other."

NOW
My parents really should have encouraged me not to attend a state school. Three years of college and this English major was still using the words "sweet kisses."

 

THEN
". . . I have to move on. I guess this is one thing in my life that will help me in struggling toward a happy future. I guess the main thing that is inhibiting me from being my happy self is all the confusion. The twisted concepts of man and woman, femininity and masculinity. I feel like I'm struggling with two polar identities: one that loves the softness, the neatness, and allure of woman; the other feeling a tie to the comfort, the roughness, and power that is man. When I'm one way I don't feel as if I fit in, and when I'm the other I feel as if others sense my difference."

NOW
The "power that is man"???

 

THEN
"Me, Casey, and Homan did mushrooms the other night and I began to have this weird feeling that I was someone else, that I was my true self, that I was trapped inside of a body that didn't belong to me."

NOW
Phew. Drugs. Okay, that explains it.

 

THEN
"Much of the problem is that I can't define what I'm looking for and I have a hard time defining myself from day to day. Sometimes I feel like I shed my identity with the change of clothes, assuming a new and different person with each outfit."

NOW
You were a big goddamn homo. Of course you changed your identity with each outfit. How do you think they would have reacted in rhetoric class if you had worn those assless chaps and the feather headdress?

 

THEN
"Psychiatry! Is that the answer? Maybe I need someone else to tell me what is wrong with me. Or maybe it will make me feel better to spill all of my thoughts to someone who has no clue, who doesn't know my past, who doesn't know me as Jeannie Greeley. I think the important thing is my perception of myself. Unfortunately I have no idea what I think anymore, and most of the time I don't know who I am!"

NOW
Here's a good idea: write down your thoughts, Jeannie. But don't send them. Read them and see if they're any good. Then publish them for an unknown audience that might actually identify with that sad shell of the person you once were. Screw the shrink: nothing but wasted money that could be spent drinking away your sorrows. Your pen is your therapist, Jeannie. And no, it doesn't want to have sex with you, either. @

Jeannie Greeley is a freelance writer who has fully recovered from all that Cock at the University of South Carolina. She can be reached at jeannieg@comcast.net.

[Illustration by Corey Smigliani]