Saturday, March 28, 2015

WHY NOT?



Inhibition is a brake on liberation. Most human beings are not extroverts. The need to survive emotionally, economically or simply physically forms layers of restraint and conformity from an early age. Those who are lucky enough to be born to financial security or privilege are more likely to become intellectuals, artists, writers or actors.
 
As someone whose natural ability to draw and be open to people was squelched in my early childhood by a depressed mother, I have had to learn to swim back to the surface with my talents. The deep foundations of fear that were laid by physical and psychological abuse are not shaken easily.
 
I learned one technique soon after leaving the clutches of my childhood home. When I was out with friends in college, one of my regular pals offered to take me with him and another friend to Manhattan to see a theater production. He described a weekend in a luxury hotel on Central Park. Dining in posh restaurants and touring around. His father was an executive with an international corporation, based in Manhattan.
 
My head spun with reasons why I could not accept. I had no clothes suitable for New York. I might bungle table etiquette at a fancy restaurant. As a closeted gay boy of 17, I worried I might display some arousal while sharing a hotel suite with my friends. "I'm not sure," I mumbled, most likely looking like I had been slapped rather than offered a dream weekend.
 
"Why not?" My friend was very assertive and confident, since he was the oldest son of a wealthy family who had told him from an early age that he could be whatever he wished to be.
 
"Well, I don't really think I have the clothes for New York..." I started to share my prison walls.
 
"Why not?" He persisted. From then on, he repeated the question at every obstacle I threw up. It eventually dawned on my addled brain that he was going to do this as long as it would take. I broke out laughing when I got the lesson. "Why not, indeed?" I finally replied with resignation.
 
And what a trip it was. And, thanks to his lesson and others like it, what a trip is has been in the nearly half-century since.

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