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When it feels authentic… You love it forever…
40 plus years down the line from the first things that I loved that told me maybe, just maybe, there was another world outside the farm. So I still believe Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves is the greatest pop song ever recorded. It carried me away from the narrow walls of my bedroom, away from the disapproving looks of my father. On to my feet I would slide my incredible black clogs – clogs that no one else had. Clogs I had seen in a mall window and had miraculously made my own. Dangling my feet over the bed, I would put on my big black headphones, drape one of my mom’s scarves over the light bulb for ‘mood’, and turn on my music. With the headphones over my ears, I could escape all the pressures of trying to be the perfect boy for my family.
It took so much energy to bury my true self – and I had buried that true self so deep that I didn’t even recognize it. But in 2 minutes and 36 seconds of pop perfection, I was far away, sitting in the wagon of a traveling show. And in putting on those headphones and knowing every word, I was being my true self. That was the true Eddie. If your a child of the 70’s- admit it – you know every word, and sing along every time you hear it. You rode along in that wagon, too. I dare you to not smile.
And if I could truly turn back time – well, I’d tell that little boy whose father told him he’d have a lifetime of misery if he continued down the path of just being himself – I’d tell that little boy to hang on. I’d tell him a change is coming. I’d tell him he would have a happy ending. But even more, I’d tell him he’d find a happy beginning.
That 45 meant so much to me. Cher’s throaty and androgynous voice was a new kind of exotic – dark, mysterious, and filled with the promise of escape. Her sound was like truth coming over the record player – there was world that wasn’t about conformity. A world that didn’t need another perfect little boy – it needed truth and honesty and celebration in all its forms. It needed me to be myself. I needed me to be myself.
I brought that 45 to a church youth group party once. We had been told we could bring any music we wanted. When my turn came to play ‘my music’ I suddenly sensed that my 45 might not be welcome. I felt the mood among the adults shift and change. And there it was – the disapproving look that I saw so often. Reverend Bierce came over to me and said sternly “That music isn’t appropriate.” I took the record off the player, got my coat and left. Off I went to Ma-Maw’s where I could play that song to my heart’s content.
Sometimes the things you love come back around in unexpected ways. Alger House, New York City, March 31st, 2012. My wedding day. The music trio begins to play a slow, haunting, and melodic version of Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves. I smile to myself. One of my girlfriends turns to me and says, “What is that song? I love it!” She’s just young enough to not recognize it – a different generation. I tell her the name of the song and am immediately transported to my own younger days, listening to it in my room, never imagining it playing at my own wedding. It was now truly a different world.
And I’m happy to know what happiness is, and can be. Early on, Jeff told me to ‘stop trying to be perfect! Put that energy into being happy!”. What better advice could there be? Thanks, Honey….
Being tolerated is for toothaches. Instead, surround yourself with people who celebrate you for being authentic. For being you. And in turn, you celebrate them for the same reason.
So I celebrate what I love. I celebrate the continuity and surprise in all things. I saw an older gentleman on the subway recently in a pair of black clogs. They looked so familiar. They would look good on someone from a traveling show. And they made me smile.
What you wear doesn’t define you… Isn’t the cure for anything… Doesn’t make you better than others… But when it makes you feel authentic-you love it forever…
Growing up, I loved Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. They were men in black. Although they were outsiders, they showed me that black didn’t have to be dark, dank & horrible. Through their elegance and presence, I saw that it could be beautiful, humorous, and poetic. I didn’t look like Price or Lugosi, and with my seemingly all-American fair looks, no one would ever suspect that I identified with them. I didn’t look like them, but I felt like them. And through them I saw that as an outsider, I too could be a man in black.
They always predicted I’d be tall like my Uncle Larry and play basketball. That seemed to make things ok for me. That meant I’d be at least eye level with the kitchen counter top. Able to see Mom’s beautiful hands work her yeast rolls and pie dough. Able to exhibit an acceptable family trait, be recognizable as one of them. “He’s tall just like Larry.”
But soon I was outgrowing my favorite pj’s – the ones Mamaw made for me from her turquoise nightgown with the rhinestone buttons. Not being able to wear those pj’s changed the notion of being tall like Uncle Larry. In fact, the thought of being taller lost all its appeal.
But grow I did, and years later, I remembered Lugosi and Price and the black capes they wore. Dignified, elegant, distinctive. And in Vincent Price’s case, tall. Being tall turned out to be an assett for me after all. I found that outgrowing those pj’s didn’t mean outgrowing what they meant to me. There was a thread from that turquoise cloth to a flowing black cape. I’m now a man in black myself, a tall man in a cape. With elegance, with distinction? Maybe. But as an outsider? Definitely. And sometimes with rhinestone buttons.
I wanted my father to love me. Every boy wants that. And in everyone’s life good and bad things happen. We all have people in our lives that sometimes don’t love us. My father saw something in me – a difference – that he believed could be extinguished, if he only exerted enough negative effort. He wanted to bore into that difference and wear it down until it disappeared.
Today that kind of relationship can be called being bullied. Is that what it was? At the time, I didn’t think of it that way. I thought of it as something I didn’t quite understand. But it was the status quo; just my father treating me the way he felt I should be treated. What was it in me? I would spend long periods of time in front of the bathroom mirror trying to see what it was that my father saw. And looking at myself closely, all I wanted to do was to try to be the perfect boy. For him, and perhaps even for myself.
Being bullied is something you can never forget. I felt my father’s negativity for years. And it’s taken years of hard work to push forward and leave that bully behind me. Although words matter, it can be more than just words. Casting shame and sending the message that invisibility is a way to get by is just another form of being bullied. We all have more power than we know – both positive and negative. Whether we agree with one another or not, we all deserve respect and tolerance. And love. We all deserve love and to celebrate who we are.
I wanted my father to love me. I can’t remember a time I didn’t crave it, and although I felt love from others, not receiving his somehow overshadowed everything. He never really saw me. I was invisible. But not any more.
Saying goodbye to summer.A beautiful day in Rhode Island celebrating a beautiful couple, Lara and Colin getting married. Time to put that summer suit away Jeff. Finding comfort in the fact that your never too old to Toss Glitter.