Velvet Heart

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It’s been said that looking in retrospect often affords a sharper clarity. Reading The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs certainly puts me in sharp perspective of how I grew up being he little boy with the bug secret. I was lucky that the other boys never bullied me or called me names, but at a very early age, I knew I was different. This “different-ness” is not a preference for a ice cream flavor, but more intrinsic, something that will cause me to lose the love and affection of my parents. So in a way I grew up “disabled”, because I was trying to avoid situations that would invoke shame but to solicit validation. Unfortunately, validation for boys came from where I dreaded the most—the playground and sport field. It is on the playground that I probably first began to consciously think about how I was different from other boys. I didn’t want to play the same games as other boys. I was ignored (at least not taunted) by the more athletic, aggressive boys who always seemed to win the positive attention of their classmates and even the teachers. Unbeknowst to me at the time of course, I was operating on a defense mechanism that ensured survival. Perhaps I learned that I could win approval by becoming more sensitive than the other boys. What caused all this? The answer is often embarrassing: The fear that there was something about me that made me unlovable. This is exactly what Alan Downs addresses. The book really hits the spot. As I read, I keep bumping into my self, hopefully my old shelf.

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2 Responses

  1. It’s amazing how many of us can find ourselves in such descriptions.

  2. I think gay men share a lot of the stigma growing up. The lack of aptitude in sports is so right on about me. I was also nerdy, geeky, chubby, and evasive. Luckily I was not a target of bullying.

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