Today, mid morning while driving to the laundromat I cut on a song that my girlfriend has unsuccessfully attempted to have me listen to for some time now. This listen made the second go round. On the first go round it gave me a lump in my throat. There I was, driving down the streets of Atlanta, listening and all of a sudden I couldn’t keep my eyes open. They were filled with water. My throat was sitting on the back of my tongue. I laughed at the scenario because I knew what came next. Several seconds later, John 11:35. Stephen wept. It was a hard, moan inducing, snot running weep too. Think this guy ——————————->
I felt like the song spoke directly to me and to my life experiences. The song paints the imagery of a woman dancing around a lion’s cage, teasing the lion. Beckoning the lion to be less “lion-y” so that he could be free and be with her. Oh the levels of my life that this relates to. Let’s dig into it shall we.
First and foremost let me relate the imagery in the song to my life. The direct message that I received from the song was that the Lion did everything in his power to be accepted/loved by the woman. Despite all of his efforts, which included the lion getting rid of everything that made him a lion like his claws and mane, the woman did not accept him. I have been this lion all through out my life. Trying my best to be accepted by everyone around me but never quite making it there. When I was in grade school I was picked on every day. Every single day from 1st grade up until about the 10th grade. That’s a long time. I was never accepted by my peers for various reasons. Every attempt I made to get them to like me only resulting in them “pulling my tail” more.
In college and in the military I was the lion again. I pledged while in college. As a member of a fraternity we were expected to act and be a certain way to further the persona of the fraternity, which I did for the most part. But the more that I was myself in the fraternity, the less the other members identified with me and so I was “caged”. Most recently my girlfriend and I ran across a drag queen show by happenstance. While at the show I took a photo with, and posted to my social media pages, a picture of one of the queens and I. The picture was in good fun. But I learned a few days later that the picture had been passed around among the “brothers” as proof that “Fresh is funny”. They claim to not pass judgement, but they did. And I let them have their moment. They will be as they always have been; hyper-masculine, overbearing, homophobes. So I’m not upset about it. I’m just surprised that grown men still act in that fashion.
In the military everyone is the lion to some extent. Everyone has to be who/what their superiors want them to be. Before I went into the Air Force I knew that I would not like conforming to their “standards”. But it was and still is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I learned a lot and gained a lot of experience that I still use. I just know that I can never go back to that extreme form of conforming. One of the things that I still enjoy about being away from the military is being able to grow a beard. I just like how I look with one. For 6 years I cut all of the hair off of my face even though I hated it.
Lastly, I was the lion in my love life. In all of my past serious relationships, women said that they cared about who/what I was but they never accepted me. They would tolerate me in an attempt to change me and make me something different. And sometimes I would “cut my mane” to make the women happy but I could never keep up the charade because at the core of me I was a lion. Once the women realized that all I would ever be was me, they would lose interest. This happened over and over again until I met Karen. I truly believe that Karen accepts me for who/what I am and that feeling is like nothing else in this world. I think they call it love…
I was reading through my old articles and came across this one. I was moved by my own words again, in light of an interaction that I had with my family this past weekend. It surprised me that I hadn’t mentioned my family the first go round. Nevertheless, I will write about it for me, and for someone out there that may feel the same. I have always had a struggling relationship with my family. I have never fit in per se. On top of all the previously mentioned, I have always had my family in the back of my mind. They have always wanted so much for me, except for what they should want for me, which is what I want for me, if that makes sense. They want me to be what they want me to be, not what I want to be. This past weekend my mother held a gathering at her house. I went, and enjoyed myself for the most part. The thing that got to me was my families mindset. They are so indoctrinated. Everything has to be a certain way, or fit into their social norms. Anything outside of that is “the devil”. When I went to the military my grandmother cursed me like a junkie on the street. Called me everything out of the book and told me not to ever contact the family for anything ever again. But when I graduated from basic training she, along with my mother and aunt, who also disapproved of me joining the armed forces, were right there basking in the pride that they, no more than three months prior, had all but disowned me over. I will never forget that. It’s something that I know I need to let go of, but I can’t. No one ever apologized. We just dilly about like it never happened. Back to this past weekend. My mother, and both of my aunts are “deeply” religious. I, on the other hand, am a born again atheist/humanist. I also believe that monogamy is a system of control set up by men to control women and their sexuality. That being said, I am also a polyamorous/swinger/relationship anarchist. As always, my “lifestyle” came up in conversation with one of my aunts. It came up because my mom and her sisters named their monthly event “My Sister’s Place” and I thought it would be funny to mention that there is a pretty popular gay bar in Atlanta called “My Sister’s Room”. That began the short lived conversation topic of homosexuality. My intelligent quips were met with sing song recitation of paraphrased bible verses like “Any man that lay with another man shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven” and “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess”. I’m not gay, but the contradictory mindset that homosexuality is so much worse than any other sin, when the bible that they “live and breathe” by clearly states that no sin is greater than another, just takes me “there” so easily. This led to me walking away and being approached by the previously mentioned aunt who offered her words of advice about my lifestyle saying “if you didn’t live that way you wouldn’t have to worry about so much”. Instead of defending myself and my life choices yet again, I just said “Look, you live your life the way you want to live yours and let me live mines. Can we just have a good family get together please…” It’s tiring defending who you are. I know that my life choices and lifestyle will never be met with approval, but it would be nice for a brother to get some acceptance from the people that are SUPPOSED to love him the most out of everyone on this green earth. I once made the mistake of trying to help them understand who I am religiously, or lack there of, speaking. The fall out from that has never ended. My aunt’s husband, who I have lost all respect for and refuse to refer to as an uncle ever again, and I have gotten into huge religious debates several times. Each time my truths that I hold self evident have been dismissed as youthful ignorance. Funny enough, I see his “aged wisdom” as hard stained stupidity. The entire family feels the same way he does. He’s the only one that has the sacks to confront me about it. My counter culture sexuality and lack of faith are going on three years now. You would think that they would understand that I’m not going to change by now. I limit my interactions with them in order to keep my sanity. Enter the lion in a cage imagery. They have always, and will always try to persuade me to be something other than myself. I have come to terms with this. I get more respect from people that I don’t know; as my family believes they know me and have no idea who I am. That is with the exception of my uncle on my mother’s side and my entire father’s side of my family, who I didn’t grow up with and don’t have a typical familiar relationship with. So there’s that…
We live in a world where no one cares about who/what you really are. The world only cares about who/what they want you to be and how they can make you into that; their customer, their benefactor, their “cut buddy”, their personal assistant, their ear to listen to their problems without reciprocating, a believer of their beliefs, their follower, their employee etc. So, just imagine the sudden realization of all that, in vivid detail, unexpectedly flashing through your mind, being brought on by a beautifully performed and written song, while driving down the streets of Atlanta. I was moved to say the least. Luckily, there was no one else on the street and the thought of my predicament made me laugh inside enough for me to get to a stop light, so that I could pull myself together. There is nothing like hearing your new favorite song for the first time. You never know when you will be touched by something. I am grateful for Mr. Porter’s talent today. I had a break through. It felt great to cry about all of that stuff, and to get it off my chest. I realized that the only true acceptance that I should ever seek is the acceptance of myself. If you haven’t done so already, give the song a listen. Maybe you will make a connection of your own.
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