Sunday, 8 August 2010

The ups and downs of being different

“You're not like other boys are you William?”

I can’t now remember who said that to me, it might have been my Gran who still today in her dementia isn’t certain about me. She sometimes asks me if I’m married, and then another time will give me a wry look, and say ‘you’re not really interested in girls are you’.

But in answer - well no, as a matter of fact I’m not, and thank the Lordy Lord for that!

I don't mind being different, and if I were the same as everyone else it would probably make me want to go into a maximum security twilight home for the bewildered even more than the vagaries of everyday life does already.

My most recent experience of being different took place in a cafe on England's glorious east coast.

People were talking about me, looking, muttering, they were confused, I had confused them by being different.

What had I done?

Well I'd ordered the all day vegetarian breakfast. They'd never heard of such a thing. I was so obviously different, I was an outsider. No one had ever had the 'meatless' breakfast before. It caused a stir.  I wasn't in a mobility scooter, I wasn't wearing velour for comfort only, my legs weren't the same thickness from start to finish etc.; I was certainly and obviously different. Thank God!

As a veggie, liberal, middle class, graduate, homosexual (yes Ladies it's true) Londoner, I quite often tick the different box. I don’t want to always be the same though (apart from when you're all having bangers and mash) so am quite happy with that.

At different times in my life I have been different for different reasons, for example in primary school I had specs so I was four eyes, my Dad was a Doctor and I didn't say 'ain't' so I was posh, I was shit at football and so I was kicked.

In secondary school, I wasn't so different to everyone else, we were all laid back trendies, but perhaps if I'd been a hot blooded straight it would have made life easier - so I was a bit different, although I didn't really know. Mum always used to say that I had a long line of gorgeous girls at the door, and I did to some extent, I was only friendly with the bright and the beautiful - school allowed that. Even though never properly in lust, I was certainly in interest with some and in love (in my own way) with a couple and one in particular.

And I had some great friendships, which I am sure were facilitated by my being different. If I'd been straight I wouldn't have been able to get as close to some of the wonderful women that I did, they wouldn't have let me in. For even though I didn't quite get it right in my head until I was about 19, most of them knew from when I was 13 that I wasn't strictly the marrying type.

Even as a young Gay man I was different. I didn't sleep around, I wasn't too wild about drugs, I had a 'strange' some said, liking for monogamy, and I didn't really like clubbing 'til dawn - I was a bit different.

The joy of finally becoming middle aged when I was allowed to just say no to nonsense and say 'this is me take it or leave it' was very liberating. I used it wisely to remind myself that it is me who decides when I am the same and when I am different, and ultimately defines what that means for me and those I love.

And I realised that we shouldn't let anyone else decry our position or try to influence what we should or should not be doing, and when it is ok for us to be the same or different. We are never going to match each other exactly and that is fine, and good – we love those close to us for who they are, our differences and our similarities, our links to the past and the joy at continuing to share the same and different paths. We understand that we will drive each other spare from time to time – that's good, that's ok.

Thank god for being different.

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