Last of a series of posts about my 14-year-old Great Nephew (who is young for being a junior in high school. This kid is smart!) I invited him to dinner at our home last night and made my partner act on his best behavior. (giggle.)
I also invited a senior pal to join us. She was a professional school counselor before she retired a few years ago. I invited my senior pal for two reasons: 1) I value her advice; and 2) though I love my Great Nephew and his parents trust us, I am not going to be in a position of having two adult gay men alone with a minor. Even if we are related — it’s still a major concern. (I wish I didn’t have to worry like that, but I have read far too many horror stories.)
Over burgers and grilled veggies, we discussed what was going on. I had another “ah-ha” moment when my Great Nephew told me that about two months ago, several (male) classmates asked him who he was going to take to the prom. My Great Nephew didn’t want to go to the prom because (gosh, he is SO MUCH like me) he doesn’t like to dance, he doesn’t like to dress up, and he didn’t want to go through all the formalities dictated by tradition (rent a tux, limo to girl’s house, frivolity over pictures, limo to dinner, dance, limo to after-dance event, then home. Yuck.)
Because my GN told his classmates that he didn’t want to go, the taunts about him being gay started again. First it was not getting a spot on the community baseball team, then it was not wanting to go to the prom. The verbal bullying was rampant and getting worse. No wonder my GN was so upset!
I told my GN my story about my prom experience. Like him, I didn’t want to go to the prom. However, I was class President and couldn’t avoid it. But what I did was something that became “classic me.” I asked a female friend who I knew did not like to dance to be my “date.” We dressed in Hawaiian flowered shirts (and I got her a lei from a florist to match); I wore a pair of white jeans with a pair of light-colored Frye boots. While everyone else went through (the torture of) the pre-prom shenanigans, my friend and I enjoyed a casual dinner at a favorite restaurant. Then we showed up at the prom dressed as we were. I gave a short pep-speech as was expected, then we left. My friend and I drove to the beach and stayed at my sister’s condo. We had a great weekend playing on the beach with my nieces and nephews. (Funny… it is this same branch of the family that is involved — a niece who was among those that my friend and I played with during our post-prom beach visit is this Great Nephew’s mother.)
The reactions to our dress and behavior were (mostly) amusement. As I said, my mother (who was the only one of my parents alive at the time I was in high school) did not question or judge. She let me be me. My twin brother did the whole prom bit — tux, limo, dinner, dance, after-dinner party, etc. I did something unique to me and my quirky personality. Mom let us decided. She told me later that she didn’t think it would work, and that I might have learned a hard lesson. But that’s how she raised us: let us try and sometimes fail, and learn from our experiences.
I was not the subject of ridicule about the prom when I was in school. I attended it, and took a girl. We decided, however, to enjoy it in a unique way that was fun for both of us. In fact, this female friend of mine and I enjoy a close friendship to this day. You should have seen some of our exchanges on [another social network] over the last few weeks about “our prom” and reminiscing about it. It was a hoot!
Most of the other guys in my class thought I was strange, but they gave me kudos for doing something so unique and fun. Most of them laughed along with me. Those who did not understand pretty much left me alone. They found what I did so unusual that it left them speechless (either that, or they were jealous and were secretly wishing that they had done the same thing!) Those who knew me better thought that I was courageous and complimented me.
In retrospect, what made this work for me is that my parents always taught us to be ourselves, and to have the courage of our convictions (even if we were wrong.) I knew that if my scheme blew up and I made a big mess of things, that my family would back me up regardless. They always were, and always are, my “rocks.”
Back to my Great Nephew — prom this year has passed for him, but perhaps he has some ideas about how to cope with it next year. Find out how to “be” himself, and stand up and do it. I’ll be there cheering him on, supporting him all the way. My senior pal friend also provided some good suggestions about how to be more confident in being “himself,” and “not a lemming.”
If he doesn’t want to go to his prom next year, perhaps he can find alternate things to do, that he enjoys. Sure, Mom and Dad enjoy the ritual of traditions, but perhaps he can teach them some new “traditions” to enjoy.
Life is short: find ways to enjoy challenges in new ways!