This is not going to be the kind of decently written, well-reasoned, analytical post for which I’m becoming known. No, this is simply a real, raw reflection on rejection. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Even as I sit down to start typing this, I know it’s going to be well nigh impossible to write something both succinct and comprehensible.
But here goes nothing . . .
A Lonely Little Boy
My whole life, I’ve struggled to connect with other men. It’s a tired and worn-out narrative: the sensitive, artsy boy who always feels like he’s on the outside, looking in at how easy it is for other boys to connect with each other but feeling like it’s utterly impossible for him. Then he grows up to be gay. Surprise, surprise . . . I hate being a cliché.
I had a few guy friends through the years but, to be honest, it always felt like whatever connection we shared came from being fellow members in the Losers Club. I feel awful saying such a thing, because all these guys seem to be leading happy and fulfilled lives now; my judgment that they were a “loser”—like me—was harsh and unfair.
But I was happy for the connection, however flimsy its foundation.
Then I met Bradley in 2008. The first thing I noticed about him was how good-looking he was. And he was an athlete on a varsity team at our college. And he was constantly surrounded by the “in” crowd—what I previously ridiculed as the “beautiful people’s club.” But we connected (a story for another time). And, for the first time in my adult life—no, the first time in my life, period—I began to feel like “one of the guys.”
I became addicted to that feeling and to the accompanying affirmation and validation that came with being Bradley’s friend. But addictions, even to good things, are never healthy. I wanted so much more from our friendship than Bradley was able to give; my emotional dependency suffocated him and he abandoned me.
And when that happened, the thing I feared all along was proved true: I’m unlovable.
Fast forward five years and I meet Seth for the first time. Again, I noticed how good-looking he was and I was attracted to his confidence, his talent, his intellect (all of which were staggering). I desperately wanted to know him, but I was determined this time not to mess it up. I was determined to put into practice the lessons I learned with Bradley.
Seth and I became incredibly close. I became grateful for the pain Bradley had caused because it had prepared me to do better this time around. In my mind, the relationship Seth and I shared was epic—the kind of friendship I’d always yearned for. The little boy inside me began to feel like I was no longer an outsider looking in but rather that I was now an insider, looking out onto the world through new eyes—the eyes of someone who was accepted and loved by a man I loved and admired.
But things fell apart again. Again, the man I called my best friend decided that our relationship had become too important to me, that he didn’t want to be so important in my life, that the pressure was too much. He called me on the phone, told me, “Every time I told you I loved you, I was lying,” and with that severed all contact. I haven’t heard from him since.
And again, the person I’d loved more than any other drove home the truth of my worst fear: I’m unlovable. What other interpretation makes sense? Maybe this could happen once and I could settle on another explanation, but for the same scenario basically to play itself out twice? Anyone who knows the real me could never possibly love me. I’d better erect walls so high around my heart that no one could get in. I believed these things; in many ways, I still do. These are the lessons rejection teaches you.
Summing It Up
There are two conclusions to this post competing to be included. Rather than choose one like a better writer would, I offer both:
First, you may ask why. Why this topic at this time? The answer is that I wrote this in response to a mini-rejection I experienced this week. Most single adults find it much harder to connect with new friends now than it was when they were in school, and I can’t begin to describe how true that is for me. This week, I reached out to a casual acquaintance in the hope that maybe he’d want to get coffee or something, and he made it obvious that he definitely wasn’t interested in getting to know me. Again—rejection.
Second, since this is a blog mostly devoted to negotiating orthodox Christian faith with same-sex attraction, you might be asking how the rejection stories above and my sexuality are related. Although it isn’t clear from the very cursory overview I wrote, my sexuality and the theme of rejection are practically inseparable. I feel this to be true and I’ve thought quite a bit about the ways in which it is true. But now is simply not the time to explain exactly how.
Thank you, dear reader, for making it all the way through this jagged and meandering post. I really do appreciate it.
1. Not his real name. ↩
2. Also not his real name. ↩
3. In both of these cases, I’m not saying that either Bradley or Seth was entirely to blame. Of course I was at least partly (mostly?) at fault; but neither was blameless, that’s for sure. ↩
4. Also not my real name. ↩