2005, with the endless drumbeat of 'the attack on Christianity', the spin-off 'War On Christmas', 'religious leaders' calling for an assassination of a foreign leader, denouncing the right of an entire city to ask for God's help should they need it, pointing to the 'behavior' of a city's residents (often out-of-town visitors) for the reason it drowned, terror at the thought of gay marriage, and other matters purportedly related to religion picked at the scab of a memory I'd tried to suppress.
All I could do was hope for a better year ahead. But 2006, with the kickoff of Pat Robertson's remarks about Sharon and the spectacle of another 'Justice Sunday', seems to be shaping up the same as 2005.
Until that day, only my closest friends really knew my secret. I really made a point of not talking about it or giving any hint about it away. They took it in stride. To them, I was just a guy to have a beer with or work out with. But that day I slipped.
Maybe it was the whole post-election religious right talk that made me drop my guard.
The memory I lived with through much of 2005 is about the day, back in 2001, when I was publicly 'outed' by a complete stranger. I know why she spotted me. It was the way I looked on that day.
Not by my physique. After recovering from an illness, I'd returned to my workout regimen and was benching 425 pounds again. My 'California tan' and bleached-blonde hair (from the sun and surf) might have been a hint- but they certainly weren't what gave me away.
That whole combination meant what it always has meant- I might be or might not be... well... 'different' from what is expected by some.
It broke down to what I was wearing. The problem was that I had on a yellow 'muscle tank-top' that was a gift from my 'better- half'.
That's what gave me away on that fateful summer day of 2001 or, rather, that's what assisted in exposing me.
On that day, upon returning from the grocery store, my 'better- half' informed me I'd bought the wrong toilet paper. Having spent the first 6 years of my life (when basic lessons are learned and lifelong imprints are made) in a place where outhouses were considered luxuries, I didn't quite seem to be able to grasp the different sensitivities of the rear region- particularly when it came to something called 'soft and scented paper'.
I offered to (was gently ordered to) return to the store and, once returning, fell victim to my brain-block on toilet paper again. I drew a blank on the name brand. I blame that on O.S. (Outhouse Syndrome)- the inability to understand the difference between Charmin, Scott's, or any other 'brand'.
I thought a trip down the aisle containing household paper products would jog my memory as I was not about to call home to say I couldn't remember something relayed to me just moments before (the pride thing before the fall- akin to the 'asking for directions' thing).
I wish I had.
My 'outer' was in that aisle. I mistook her for my savior (toilet paper- wise). She was 60 something, dressed nicely, and so 'American grandmotherly' that, from a distance, one could imagine her dabbing 'eau-de apple pie' behind each ear in the morning. I decided to ask for her help.
After explaining what I thought my 'better-half' wanted, she smiled understandingly and pointed to the lower shelf behind me and told me which brand was the most desirable.