Since reading “Great Expectations” by Dickens, the character Miss Havisham has represented a person who can’t let go of the past, nor the grievances they engender. She’d been left at the altar by a devious fraud that forever haunted her feelings on love. She left everything as it was on the day of her nuptial, including her wedding cake. Spiders and mice eventually ruled her home.
What cobwebs hang in my heart? In writing “A Prince of a Boy” I had to take a hard look at who I was when I was disappointed or emotionally scarred by love. But I grew heartier as I aged, and I’ve been surrounded by such goodness for so long that it would be embarrassing to hold on to old dramas.
We all have stories to tell. It’s probable that for many of us our heart has been broken by our spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, sibling, child, parent, friend, or another. Some of us spend our lives asking “Why?” “Why did they betray me?” “Why won’t they talk to me?” “Why was dad so emotionally unavailable?” Our recollection of the details of our stories remains quite clear, and friends have probably heard them over and over again.
The choice is ours to relive our horror of disappointment or to move on. Some people feel they can’t move on because what happened to them is their life story. They can’t imagine what identity they might have if they didn’t re-tell new and old friends the sordid details. To do so would mean they’d no longer have access to the understanding and sympathy they need from others. A very serious injustice occurred, and someone needs to pay, even if the other party is unaware of the wounding and the role they played.
Often, it’s the sons who wait for the topic of “Fathers” to arise, knowing they can one-up the shock of the story. “You think that’s bad, wait until I tell you about my father.” None of this is to say that we haven’t had emotional challenges in our lives. In my own life, I’ve opted not to dwell on the dramas of the past. “Oh sure,” you might say. “Haven’t you made your living by telling your horror stories? Isn’t that what your memoir is about?”
It’s true that I’ve worked to help change the world by putting a face on what it means to be gay, but I got out of the moth-ridden wedding dress and opened the shades a long time ago. Initially, I looked to members of the audience for understanding and healing, but then I didn’t. I hoped to open their eyes to the lives of LGBTQ people, but I didn’t seek comfort.
The stories of injustices we face will continue to accumulate. There is no cut-off point for human suffering, but we needn’t seek to survive by sharing with others our decayed wedding cake.