Ever watch kids with their friends? I mean really little kids, like maybe first or second grade. At that age, having a friend means having someone who is around the same height as you, and doesn’t try to take your food. Or anyway doesn’t hit you when he takes it. Or anyway not too often.

We grow up and things are different. Better, mostly, because there’s nothing like making contact with someone who sees the world as you do, hears the same music at the same time. Someone who’s flawed in some of the same ways you are flawed, which means you can laugh about it together instead of agonizing over it alone.

First graders don’t have that kind of friendship; they can’t, because they don’t know what flaws are and their ears aren’t developed enough to hear the music, much less share it. But they also don’t put up the same walls we do. By adolescence, our heads are already filled with stories about everyone we see, even if we’ve just met them. I can’t be friends with him, because he’s different; or he won’t like me; or we’ll have nothing in common. Look at the clothes he wears! I can tell already, we’ll never be friends.

My default stance with men my age is one of deference. Put me one on one with a man my age and I’ll feel six or ten or twenty years younger than I am: he’s a man of almost thirty, but I’m a boy, and a shy one at that. But for just a moment today, joking around with a coworker my age before a meeting, the walls came down and I smelled the green grass on the other side.

I remembered what it was like, just being with someone without a thought in my head. I saw the two of us from the outside: same height, same build (matter of fact, he’s skinnier). Who would guess one of us wasn’t a man — or felt like he wasn’t? I saw myself the way you see yourself in a triple mirror: just some guy. The sort of guy I might be scared of, or might want to be.

Well. It was just a moment, but it affected the rest of my day. Is it possible to see myself that way all the time? I think so. Maybe not for a while yet. But it’s good to remember what I’m moving towards.

16 thoughts on “The Smell of Grass

  1. Dan Hogan

    Just discovered you thru the OSV articles… where have you been all my life??? At 80 years young, I’m still trying to find my place! Perhaps your vocation will be to continue to write, to inspire young SSAs with the possibility of living a good life in spite of the difficulties. Just giving the rising youngsters the hope that there is indeed a way to live – to accept the trials – to relish God’s gifts: is this your vocation??? With your writing talent, and your obvious ability to keep both feet on the ground and firmly placed on the path God gave you, keep on trying… and above all, keep on sharing!!!

    Reply
  2. Dante

    “…there’s nothing like making contact with someone who sees the world as you do, hears the same music at the same time. Someone who’s flawed in some of the same ways you are flawed, which means you can laugh about it together instead of agonizing over it alone…”

    Excellent description of why having a gay Catholic buddy is such a blessing. It’s so difficult to travel that Christian path alone.

    Reply
  3. John

    If you could read our minds, you might find that the rest of us are as full of insecurities as you. As far as I can tell, being an adult means knowing how to fake it.

    Reply
  4. Mark from PA

    Another interesting post, Steve. But hey man, you are a man. We men are all masculine but in our own individual ways. I agree with you, John. I wish that I didn’t feel insecure too. A nice lottery win would help. Dante, you are so right, having a gay buddy, (Catholic or otherwise) is a blessing. Our friends help us make it through. Group hug folks and blessings to all.

    Reply
  5. dylan

    Good heavens, Mr Gershom, you too? I still perceive some 25-to-30-year-olders as infinitely more mature or adult or “together” than myself, and I just turned 30. In 1999!

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  6. Vanessa

    Thank you, Steve! You beautifully worded the moments in life I wish I could always achieve. The moments of when I don’t have “a thought in my head” and I feel completely me.

    Vanessa

    Reply
  7. Art

    Being married over 40 years with loving wife, children, grandchildren, I recently discovered that a long time friend in similar situation also has SSA. We have both been dealing with this hidden conflict all of our lives. What a blessing to have finally found another man to share the struggle with. We have shared years of each dealing with this struggle and now are able to openly laugh and cry about this together. It makes me feel as if I were 30 again!

    Reply
  8. Mark from PA

    Steve, Happy Veteran’s Day. I just wanted to tell you about an excellent article by Thomas C. Fox in the National Catholic Reporter, “LGBTQ: Gifts from God.” The author writes that we are all gifts from God.

    Reply
  9. Ruth

    As someone who still feels like the awkward 13 year-old I was every time I am in an unfamiliar social situation, I think I would agree that we are all “faking it.” Good post!

    Reply
  10. Gabriel

    Hey thar,

    Right there with you as usual :) . My circle of closest friends contains two men out of six (all heterosexuals) that are even one year older than me — the others are one or two or three years my juniors — and I always feel like the smallest, youngest, and shyest one. Yet just recently, talking with one of them, I found out that he had experienced something of the same pain, isolation, and uncertainty that I had. Straight guys suffer too (who knew?), and I was a little ashamed of how I’d assumed he and my other friends were fine and I was the only one who felt like he was faking it. Nothing like being put in your place to, uh, make you feel better, apparently.

    Reply
  11. Justin

    Sorta related is my experience that I have trouble thinking of myself a man (at 41). The word seems so foreign when applied to me, like a glove that doesn’t fit. Sometimes I want to say, “Who me?” when someone lobs it my way. There are adolescent things I have never outgrown: I still haven’t gotten over that my dad has never in my mind bestowed on me his approval. It doesn’t necessarily express itself in the same way it does with you but still it’s a similar issue.

    Reply
  12. Keith

    Mark from PA:

    With respect, this post to which you refer makes the mistake of going too far in the opposite direction. Yes, I think it is wrong minded to suggest that SSA’s are directly an act of the devil. However, to suggest, as Fox does, that all people are gifts from God (and thus that SSAs are not objectively disordered as the Church DOES TEACH), opens a real logical can of worms.

    For if, indeed, we are all fine the way we are, and if desires contrary to nature are simply “the way God made us,” then the Ted Bundys and Jeffery Dahmers of the world are simply “the way God made them.”

    Satan does corrupt our natural tendencies for the good in many ways. I believe our human desire for the body and blood of Christ, for example, can be corrupted into gluttony and alcoholism. Out natural desire to procreate can lead to libertinism. Our natural desire for affection from members of both sexes can be corrupted into either promiscuity or SSAs.

    It is important to remember that yes, those who struggle with SSAs are still human beings in then image and likeness of God. They have inherent dignity that can never be taken away. However, their actions, if they follow actions against nature, are sinful and lead them away from God. That’s from the inspired Word in Scripture and from the Church.

    “God made you (or me) this way (or that way)” is a very dangerous statement that can (and is) used to excuse away our failure to obey His word. Ultimately, one could argue, “I am prone to sin. This propensity to sin was given to me by my parents. Therefore, I didn’t choose the propensity to sin. Therefore, none of my sin is my fault.”

    Whether people with SSAs are strictly born with them, strictly develop them or a combination of the two is beyond my knowledge or understanding. But when we start excusing the SIN in a wrong headed attempt to ease the pain of the sinner, we merely promote more sin, and drive the sinner further away from God.

    In this modern world, we don’t tell those with treatable cancer, “God made you this way, it’s a gift. Go forth and live with it.” the dignity of persons with SSAs demands that we tell them the difficult truths.

    Reply

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