Monday, July 15, 2013

My Story -Part 6

When I last left off in the "My Story" series, I had gotten up to the age of ten. In this post, I will cover another few years of my life. If you have not read the previous posts in this series, I have included links at the bottom of this post.

I continued to do well in school for fifth and sixth grades. Both years I had the same teacher for a fifth/sixth grade split class (meaning half the students in the class were in fifth grade, while the other half were in sixth grade). I continued to be shy, and was still slow to make new friends, though with the friends I did have I got along rather well.

By this time the school had converted to a year-round program to accommodate more students without having to build more schools or bring in more portable classrooms. There were four different "tracks," three of which would be in session at any given time. We would typically attend for about nine or so weeks, and then have three weeks off school. When we came back, we'd be in a different classroom. I remember at first how it felt different attending school during the summer, though it was nice to have breaks from school during the middle of the year.

I also continued to be a very avid reader. Our school was involved in a program called Book-It at the time, which rewarded students for reading outside of class. I was so far beyond the other students in the class, that at one point my teacher got permission from my parents to take me to lunch as a reward during an off-track period.

When I started junior high school, I continued to do well overall in school. It was during seventh grade that I stopped taking Ritalin for my ADD. There is some irony in the fact that I stopped taking it mostly due to forgetting to take it. Though because I was still doing well in school, and because some of my symptoms of ADD had dissipated, my doctor and my parents didn't see a strong need to keep me medicated.

The one exception to me doing well in school was P.E. (Physical Education or Gym class). While I maintained As and Bs in all of my other classes, P.E. was the one class where my grades dropped to the C range. It's not that I didn't participate, because I did, but I was not very well coordinated, athletically or otherwise, and had never had a whole lot of interest in sports. These factors came together to affect my grade.

P.E. in junior high school is also when I can first distinctly remember starting to notice my attractions to other boys and men. Though there was almost never any full nudity in the locker room while I was in junior high school, and I can only remember a handful of times that we were required to shower, being in daily situations of seeing other boys shirtless in the locker room, as well as when we'd differentiate teams by "shirts" and "skins," I was definitely getting more exposure to seeing other boys in states of undress. With this added to swimming activities in Boy Scouts, I started to notice that my curiosity about what others' bodies looked like was developing into something more. Over the first couple of years of puberty, this curiosity turned definitively into attraction.

The more I became aware of the attractions, the more I tried to hide and suppress them. I also hoped that this was some sort of phase that would soon pass. Obviously it didn't. I did not think of myself as gay, as that was a rather abstract term for me at the time, and from what I had heard from those around me, was full of lots of negative connotations and stereotypes that didn't fit me. I also didn't think of myself as bisexual at the time; while I did have some interest and attraction to girls, I was not familiar with the term bisexual at the time.

I also noticed early on that I seemed to be alone in my attractions to other boys and men. I remember some sleepovers with my scout troop in a leader's backyard (in which our leader and his family were sleeping inside) or other sleepovers with groups of friends in which we'd get into games of truth or dare. Though nothing overtly sexual happened with these dares, some of them did involve flashing, mooning or stripping. I quickly noticed that I seemed to be the only one that was interested in closely watching in dares that involved nudity, and I remember the embarrassment and shame I felt when others noticed me looking much more intently than others during these dares. I tried to play it off when I got teased about it, but in reality, I was horrified at being found out. The teasing, while fairly mild in nature at this time, reinforced the sense of feeling different and pushed me to further suppress and hide my attractions from others.

During the summer after I finished 7th grade, my scout troop went on a week-long scout camp. It was during this time that I first developed an infatuation or crush on another boy. The camp counselor assigned to our troop was about a year or two older than me. I quickly found myself drawn to him. Though I did see him as physically attractive, it was his personality that drew me in more than anything else. He was outgoing and friendly (and in particular, he was friendly toward me). I just found myself always wanting to be with him or around him. Though I never saw him again after the camp, I definitely thought about him a lot in the weeks after I got home.

When I was in 8th grade, my parents sold their home in Kearns and we moved. As it took them some time to find a house that they liked, my family ended up living with my mom's parents for about seven or eight months. During this time, my youngest brother was born. So for most of that time, we had eleven people living in one house. There was little privacy, and me and my brothers and sisters alternated between the one bedroom set aside for the children and sleeping on couches, sofa-beds, and love sacks.

I was able to deal with the living conditions without much problem. What did become difficult for me was when we started attending church in my grandparents' ward and I started attending school in the neighborhood. As was common for me, I was rather shy, and slow to make friends. That in itself was something I'd learned to accept and deal with about myself.

What was difficult for me was that I wasn't well accepted by the other boys my age in the neighborhood. Several of them I had met before, as they were my grandparents' neighbors' kids. But as far as most of them were concerned, I was just the new kid in the neighborhood and therefore an object of teasing and ridicule. What made it worse for me was that on the surface they acted like they accepted me. It gave me a false sense of acceptance and comfort at first. Afterwards I felt as if I had been lured in, only so they had someone they could tease and make the butt of their jokes. It would have been easier for me if they rejected me outright. Instead, they pretended to be my friends.

There was one boy that I was able to form a tenuous friendship with. When we were hanging out one-on-one, we got along fine. But whenever he was with the group, he reverted back to the group mentality and teased me just as much as the others.

As I'd already learned to hide my attractions, I continued to do so around this group. In fact, one could almost say that I over-compensated. I remember one instance when we were walking home from school in which several of them mooned me, and I responded by covering my eyes and acting disgusted.

But the real lesson I learned from this experience was that not only did I need to hide my attractions, I also needed to hide my feelings, because the teasing wasn't nearly so bad when they couldn't see that they were getting to me.

It was much to my relief when the end of the school year came and my family moved into our new house in Murray. I saw it both as an escape from the incessant teasing that bordered on bullying, and an opportunity to have a new start with new friends.

* * * * *

My Story -Part 1
My Story -Part 2
My Story -Part 3
My Story -Part 4
My Story -Part 5

I am now up to the age of fourteen, and once again feel that I have reached a good stopping point. As always, I appreciate your comments and your feedback.

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