I am afflicted with that most awful of mental conditions: self-loathing. On top of all the stress and guilt that comes with forcing your mom to give you what little money she can every week--still, still too spoiled for my own good, still not ready for authentic independence--because I can't find a job, I have a habit of magnifying the bad things in my life while ignoring the good.
My high school psychology teacher said this is a normal thing for people to do: according to him, Kristi Yamaguchi once said she could perform nine perfect routines and screw up once, but all she'd remember afterwards was the one low score, the one missed turn, the one slip on the ice because she didn't bend her knees before the salchow jump. I guess I'm a lot like Kristi Yamaguchi that way.
Because you know that when I bitch about something, I'm leaving things out; it's nothing intentional, but since all I see in myself is room for improvement, I focus on what needed improvement, on what went wrong. It's like constantly adjusting the picture on the wall, trying to get it level. It always looks a little crooked.
The picture: a hip party in Chinatown. It's a "gay party," so I already feel inadequate. I've always felt inadequate around my gay friends, who dress better, who tell stories funnier, who date men and give perfect blow jobs and can manage to do their hair in the morning even when they're hungover. And the ones who "aren't like that" just seem so happy with themselves for being exceptions to the rule that heteronormative men bequeathed the gay community after they learned they had to tolerate everyone; it's my legacy to wear skinny jeans, because I'm different, the legacy that maybe left the stage after the AIDS crisis and Rent brought gayness to the straight world's attention, the legacy that despite having left sticks to me anyway like flypaper.
And all the people at this party--all the guys, anyway--are exactly what you'd expect them to be. Perfect. Popular, fashionable, confident, and all of a sudden I feel like I'm back in high school, secretly praying for some stranger's admiration but really just trying not to get laughed at, and the drinks were too expensive and the music was a little too twee and the two friends with whom I'd arrived are having a great time and man, am I bringing them down. I drag them to a booth in the back. I shouldn't drink so much while taking antidepressants, my psychiatrist tells me, and I don't believe her until I start to feel sad--really sad--way sadder than is called for, even at the most tragic of parties. And I'm sad and stirring my drink with the slice of lime and playing with my phone and wishing I'd stayed home and I keep hearing: "What's wrong? Are you okay?" Those are the worst questions to hear when something's actually wrong, because how can I tell my friends what I'm feeling, everything, that I feel like my history is slithering up my body like a snake and it's going to poison my smile with the kind of sadness usually reserved for old people who've lost something, like a loved one in a war.
I excuse myself; I have to use the bathroom, yes, right now; I walk to the first deserted hallway I find and cry, not even tear up but actually start sobbing like they do in romance novels, because I'm a broken little toy whose owner never cared enough to fix him, which is what I feel like every time I say something wrong, I trip over a crack in the sidewalk, I hurt my friend's feelings, I'm ignored by stupid guys at a dumb party that I've placed on a pedestal because if I can't compare myself with anyone then I can't feel inferior, and feeling inferior is what I'm all about, man, and as long as I can keep feeling inferior and keep trying to improve myself then I won't have to reach...wholeness, which frightens me with its finality and resolution more than any growling bouncer ever could.
Did you know I used to have social anxiety? Yes, of course you knew that, you have to have known, and maybe it was just too much time stuffed in the closet or being the only kid in my sixth-grade class who gave a fuck about the presidents or the chemicals in my brain knocking against themselves like bumper cars, little electric shocks bouncing off my nerves and making my limbs move towards the corner of the room, the exit door, my bed where I can masturbate and feel in control of my idealized love life, which has always just been in my head anyway.
When I say anxiety, I mean the kind of thing for which they give medication, and the fact that I never took pills for my issues as a kid is either a sad testament to my weakening spirit or evidence of the increasing influence of the pharmaceutical industry. I remember being at my aunt's house in Florida and sitting at a long table in her backyard and the air felt like syrup and I was sweating so much beneath my cargo shorts and I kept squeezing my aunt's hand under the table because she knew how uncomfortable I felt. There was nothing she could do but keep squeezing my hand and asking me if I was feeling better, which only made things worse, and when dinner was over I ran into the room I was staying in to play with my Game Boy and pretend I'd won everyone over with my charisma--me, in my ridiculous Abercrombie t-shirt that I'd picked out specially for the occasion and cargo shorts and sneakers with mismatching socks--and nothing's ever changed, not a damn thing, because I still rely on my family members to squeeze my hand and give me money and argue with me so I have something to be mad about, and on the walk home from the sad tragic hip party I could have sworn I'd been noticed and liked even though I was never technically invited in the first place.
As we were leaving I made eye contact with a Facebook friend. You know the deal, we saw each other, meekly waved, we'd never met in real life, he'd friended me, and it was a nice moment because that probably means he has a crush on me until I realized: he was sitting in a booth with a bunch of friends, and I was leaving while trying to keep my head down so nobody could see my tear-stained eyes. I'd wanted to leave a while before but my friends would've left with me because they're too nice and I didn't want to ruin anyone's good time more than I'd probably already had so I just stayed and sat there and drank too much and took off my jacket dramatically--as if to say, hello party, I have arrived--and then I started wondering who the hell these people thought they were anyway, because that's the path: insecurity, sadness, anger, a path I've tread so often that they've practically named it after me by now. Who the hell are these people and why do I want to impress them so badly? It's so difficult for me to feel grateful for the amazing friends I have, friends who are more perfect than the most handsomely dressed boy's shoeshine eyes and ironed shirt, perfect not because they're perfect people--nobody's perfect, in case you didn't know--but because they allow me to keep coming back to them even after I fuck up over and over and over again, and all I want to do is apologize, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry Sam and Dhani if I brought down your mood at the party, I'm sorry Jason for ignoring all your offers for dates because my standards are too high, I'm sorry Stephanie that I stopped talking to you in high school after prom and I told you I didn't want to be your friend anymore in a letter written with a mechanical pencil, I'm sorry Allison who was a fairy in our senior play that I allowed my friends to cut you out of our lives even though I always really liked you, I'm sorry Marc that I made you uncomfortable all those years by copping occasional feels and staring at you too long when we were in our swimsuits but you have to understand that I was just so desperate and lonely and didn't know how to handle my homosexuality as a child, I'm sorry Zach for not being a better brother when I lived at home, and I'm sorry Aunt Mady for squeezing your hand so hard.