Through These Eyes: I Don’t Belong Here

By Justin Jones August 9, 2012

Categories: Dating & Relationships, Our Lives

“You think you’re so fucking special,” the Man with No Face tells me. He’s wearing a Freddy Krueger mask. I don’t know who he is. It’s Halloween, five years ago. “Go to hell,” he tells me, but follows me around a costume party for the rest of the night. I feel accepted by everyone at this party but him, and I choose to leave because of it. I feel unwelcome, like I don’t belong here.

I’m wearing the stereotypical 21-year-old gay boy Halloween get-up at the time: underwear and glitter with little left to the imagination, an at-the-time signature vulgar-vanity combo. My outfit no doubt displeases the Man with No Face. There are others at that party in similar outfits, of course, but they’re muscular, and he admires them from a distance. I, on the other hand, am skinny, twinkish, unfit, in his eyes, for such a costume. To him, I am squashable, and my insecurities let him squash away…

I recalled this memory recently while suffering one of those particularly introspective hangovers with which you might be acquainted. I often listen to somber music when I’m in such a state and by myself, maybe in some way to commiserate with the singer. My choice this go-around: Radiohead’s early-90s anthem “Creep.”

As I lay on my couch, somewhere between napping and re-hydrating, I listened to Thom Yorke’s haunting, resonating words: “I wish I was special. You’re so fucking special. But I’m a creep…What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.”

The lyrics fit my 21st Halloween experience with one exception: the Man with No Face inverted the scenario. He wasn’t telling me that I was special and that he felt like a creep. No. He was telling me that I falsely ASSUMED I was special, evidenced by my reveling, unreasonably, in my own vanity. He’d surely seen this paradox before: a twink who tans too much, wears too little, and shows off his body—not because he thinks he’s beautiful, but because he’s after compliments, stares, cat calls—he’s after validation. The Man with No Face saw me in this moment as a narcissist with no confidence. And he was right. I dare say that anyone with such blood lust would easily find his fill in the hearts of many an unclothed desperate.

This happens too frequently among our gay brethren: a barrage of put-downs and bullying toward those who don’t meet our social standards, in-your-face and behind-your-back.

I think back to my mindset at 21. I walked around that party with my head held high, feeding off the superficial energy of those around me. To some, like the Man with No Face, I gave the air of a narcissist. And, by some measure, I suppose I was. I wanted everyone looking at ME. Telling me how cute I was. But not because I thought I was a beauty—

What I thought of myself then really didn’t matter so much. I needed the validation of everyone else. I needed to feel wanted. This, in my mind, was love.

But the Man with No Face did then what we have always done to each other, and what we’re doing with increasing intensity in parts of the gay community (particularly the club scene). He judged me harshly based on what he saw, hiding behind his mask and frumpy striped Freddy sweater, rather than seeing that possibly, maybe, my weakness—my immature craving for superficial acceptance—was behind my flagrant vanity. Maybe had he taken a few seconds to think about this, he would’ve seen me with sympathy, or maybe with pity. Either would’ve spared me a hard and haunting memory.

Of course, it might also be true that the Man with No Face was me: at one time himself a boy in glitter and underwear, living for himself and for others’ approval, who was burned by a previous version of himself, who then became a cynic.

If the latter is true, I can’t imagine he’s passed the torch to me. But just in case, I’ll keep away from the Freddy Krueger costumes.

23 Responses to Through These Eyes: I Don’t Belong Here

  1. Jacob Woods says:

    I guess this is the reason I never go to too many queer related get togethers. I always get a sense of not belonging in one way or another. The narcissistic condescending feelings I get. The feelings of some unknown inferiority. I don’t think some people are aware of how pretentious they really are – this story is a little more blatant.

    A lot of the time, I’m more comfortable with my straight affirming allies. But, at the same time, a part of me wants to connect with those who have gone through similar trials and tribulations that I have gone through. But, that conversation never seemed opened with the exception of one time at a Q-Unity gathering at my college.

    I hear of these things, but I don’t experience them that often as I just get turned off by that type of environment. – Great article as always. Gets me thinking.

  2. Chris says:

    Great column, Justin, and great comment, Jacob Owens. That kind of encounter keeps me away from the gay community pretty much all the time. I need to work on standing my ground.

    I wonder what would have changed in your memory of this situation if you’d stood your ground and told Mr. Krueger, “Hey, you know what? I’m a bit insecure and want compliments and want to be loved. And don’t tell me you’re not exactly the same way. So let’s cut the crap here and enjoy the rest of the evening.” Hindsight is 20/20 on these things. But I wonder at what happens when we call people on their BS and don’t let them apply it to us. Maybe even love the broken part of them that makes them lash out.

    I ask, with Jacob above: How can we who have experienced this sort of thing, and see it happening all the time, help each other stand our ground in the community and grow our sense of belonging? “Respect Posses” that go around and call people on their bullying in the moment? A “Respect Night” at a bar that partners with a local org (say with an anti-violence focus) to raise awareness that these kinds of encounters hurt people and keep them away? There’s gotta be something that can make it better for the community through the community.

  3. Chris says:

    Sorry, Jacob Woods!

  4. Charlie says:

    I have noticed a trend with these columns…. whining insecure dribble about gay on gay bullying in the club scene or wherever gay men gather because you certainly don’t count lesbians in all of this…. waaaaa waaaaa what an insecure, self induglent, self involved cry baby you’ve become or were you always like this? Man up for crying out loud and write something of significance next month.

  5. L. L. Artz says:

    A well written article. Not all gays are young and pretty boys. Some of us grow old, bald and fat. Thankfully I found my love 33 years ago because we now rarely go any place “gay”. Why, because gay seniors experience few avenues for mixing with other senior gays and never any interacting with younger gays. If we interact with younger gays we are immediately viewed as predators.

  6. Tammy says:

    I agree with Charlie. There is a pattern of low self-esteem coupled with insecurity in your articles. You project this on to the topic and it turns sour. You use the terms “vanity” and “insecure” a lot. This is overkill.

  7. Nathan says:

    I agree with Charlie and Tammy.

    Sometimes I wonder if YOU are truly comfortable being gay.

    Why? You seem to struggle with your relationships. For example, you wrote about a wealthy codger wining and dining you at a party in which you concluded that he wasn’t worth it because he teeter-tottered no being a public alcoholic. Then there was the cowboy (in the closet) lover. You feared that he was texting a boy and that you were not good enough which is salient pattern in many of the macabre articles you write. Then we had to read about a private issue in my opinion which was this: losing your backdoor virginity in Florida and then you flesh it out for three paragraphs in regards to your instability. Furthermore, I often wonder, what is the point of your article(s)? It seems like you are using LAVENDER for a personal catharsis and/or you are venting about your sexual encounters.

    ONE: If you are trying to provide advice to others you fall short.

    TWO: If you are trying to look at yourself in the mirror it is cracked.

    THREE: If you are trying to be grandiose you succeed.

  8. Nathan says:

    What happened to Tammy’s Post?

  9. Nathan says:

    I agree with Charlie and Tammy.

    Sometimes I wonder if YOU are truly comfortable being gay.

    Why? You seem to struggle with your relationships. For example, you wrote about a wealthy codger wining and dining you at a party in which you concluded that he wasn’t worth it because he teeter-tottered no being a public alcoholic. Then there was the cowboy (in the closet) lover. You feared that he was texting a boy and that you were not good enough which is salient pattern in many of the macabre articles you write. Then we had to read about a private issue in my opinion which was this: losing your backdoor virginity in Florida and then you flesh it out for three paragraphs in regards to your instability. Furthermore, I often wonder, what is the point of your article(s)? It seems like you are using LAVENDER for a personal catharsis and/or you are venting about your sexual encounters.
    ONE: If you are trying to provide advice to others you fall short.
    TWO: If you are trying to look at yourself in the mirror it is cracked.
    THREE: If you are trying to be grandiose you succeed.

  10. Becky says:

    I think that you are trying to compensate for inner lack.

    Your try to write like Dorothy Parker but in the end it smacks of a wishy-washy version of Linus in Charlie Brown always wining or bragging like Charlie wrote.

    I also doubt the credibility of some of your content. It seems concocted or contrived which is indicative of someone who is insecure, trying to lure in a fan base, or pushy.

    WISE UP!

  11. Justin Jones says:

    Thanks for the comment, Charlie. To give a little more context to this piece and others: my column is called “Through These Eyes,” with indicates that my reflections are on my own experiences–my triumphs, my failures, my heartbreaks, etc. But they are never mine alone. I convey MY experiences, but the themes, the emotions, the lessons–even the content–are universal. Will they always resonate with everyone? Of course not. But “These Eyes” are not mine alone. To your point about lesbians, you’re right: I don’t write much about lesbians because my formative experiences haven’t been with them. That doesn’t mean my writing excludes them, however. Again, I seek here universal themes and conclusions. Without a personal narrative to simply and anchor such things, I wouldn’t have a very interesting story. I have wonderful friends and readers who are lesbian, and my not mentioning them explicitly has nothing to do with my attitude. In fact, I’m in the process of writing the interesting dichotomy that often exists between the gay male and lesbian community. I hope you’ll read it and give me your thoughts. As always, I appreciate your feedback and readership. Please reach out to me when you have more. I never want anyone to feel like I’m disenfranchising or leaving out any part of our community.

  12. Justin Jones says:

    I fear I had a few typos in my previous comment. Forgive them–I’m sending this via phone message because I have no computer with me here in Georgia! Hope you had a great weekend!

  13. Frannie says:

    TO: JJ
    Gee whizz! You certainly seem stuck on your looks one minute and then you put yourself down the next. This flip-flopping is odd. Next, you put on the shy insecure act routine which nobody is buying at all! You date a variety of men for your self-seeking pleasure and we are stuck reading about the lousy outcomes.

    I think that you are chalk full of sexual idiosyncrasies. I think that you need sex counseling. I think that you are a sex addict and you are trying to write like Dan Savage. Give it up before you are FIRED!

    Come on now…

  14. Justin Jones says:

    I’m sorry you feel that way, Frannie. Yes, I’m full of contradictions… I think we all are. I am sorry if you feel here the air of self indulgence–this isn’t my intention. My goal is to resonate with people, to give insight to those who might find themselves in a similar situation, or to those who may find such a situation simply egregious, pitiful, fascinating, or in some way interesting (the situation in this article, for example, is not uncommon), or (if I am ever so successful), to inspire someone to reflect on their own experiences. But I appreciate your candor.

    For the record, I did once have a sordid sex life, but not one like you’re thinking. It was a particularly painful time in my life, and one that helped shape who I am. It’s hard to look back at it sometimes, but always worth it. This influences much of my writing, not always because it’s therapeutic, but because I know I’m not alone.

    Also, I readily admit that my thoughts then (as a boozed, superficial twink) were not commendable. I was full of myself, and I was full of shit. Most of the time, I find, people who seem the most confident or cocky are the most insecure–an idea I attempted exploring in this column. My columns explore reality–I do not sugar-coat (despite my sappiness), regardless of whether it embarrasses or pains me to do so. This results in sometimes contradictory, but honest, ways of thinking. All of us carry two sets of books… it makes us human, no? 🙂

    Again, I appreciate your thoughts. Please continue to share them. And I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

  15. Jeff says:

    Geesh, Frannie, Charlie, Nathan, Becky, and Tammy…lighten up on the guy, eh? IF there is a problem with JJ’s writing here it’s merely that he dived into a very deep subject, and one that troubles many in the community, and had to keep the commentary short. I, for one, appreciate his insight-fulness and believe he’s delved into some subjects that need to be aired within our community. How many of us have gone through various life challenges thinking we’re the only one who has, or wondered why we are so different, when in reality each and everyone of us has gone through the same or similar? For me it’s healing to read JJ’s words and come to realize that all those years ago, I wasn’t really ‘so different’. Lighten up and give the guy a break. If you want to be critical go get a job somewhere writing your own column.

  16. Kyle M. says:

    Why should we lighten up on JJ?

    After all, he is clearly not imparting any sagacity.

    I feel like I am reading his sex diary and not an article in the end.

    Are we to be impressed that he has had multiple lovers?

    Why does he repeat his age multiple times?

    In addition, he spends an inordinate amount of time disclosing memories of foreplay.

    I often wonder, why?

    It is clear that he is out to be seduced and score.

    Have fun on the way to your TOUCHDOWN!

    It isn’t proper to use LAVENDER for your sexual archive, however.

    Think about it…

    I will conclude with the wisdom of SAPPHO:

    With his venom
    irresistible
    and bittersweet
    that loosener
    of limbs, Love
    reptile-like
    strikes me down

  17. Becky says:

    TO: JJ

    I think that you are a totally cool writer.

    I wish I could rope in those ***studs*** just like you do.

    Maybe I should be gay.

  18. Jeff says:

    Kyke….Kyle….Kyle….it would seem you have an axe to grind. Did Lavender turn you down for your column? JJ has editors and has a job to do. If he wasn’t doing what was expected he wouldn’t be published. Go be angry somewhere else. If you don’t like the column turn the page and quit your bitchin.

  19. Kyle says:

    Jeff: It is clear that you are an advocate of Mr. Jones.

    I am not a writer. I am a financial analyst.

    Therefore, your conjecture about my submission rejection to Lavender is off base. If was was rejected, it would not lead to a failure neurosis in which I would need to deflect anger on a web page.

    End of story.

    On top of this, I am not angry.

    Mr. Jones may be doing his job but he isn’t doing it accurately or maturely.

    Thus, I remain hungry for a new style and new content and a new attitude.

  20. Stephanie R. says:

    TO: JJ

    Here is a link that could help you out-

    https://www.facebook.com/1ML2012?ref=stream

    Hey, I’m just sayin…

  21. Stephanie R. says:

    To: JJ

    Perhaps this could inspire you.

    http://lesbianlife.about.com/cs/wedding/a/marriage.htm

  22. Justin Jones says:

    Hi Kyle: Thanks for the feedback. Your point is well taken. What I write is not intended to impart wisdom or advice of any kind–I am in no place to offer such things, and if I tried, my advice wouldn’t be the stuff to follow. I try to vary my writing style and my topics, but I mainly focus on a documentary-style, confessional writing in which, “through these eyes” (name of my column), I intend to write about personal experiences I believe will resonate with others. Of course, my experiences aren’t unbiquitous–not everything will resonate with everyone. I believe, in my defense, and forgive me if I am inartful in my appeal, that I convey through my work experiences and thoughts that are not uncommon to our community. My embarrassing, funny, sometimes painful, and sometimes downright stupid past informs these writings, which is why many of my writings are about the very criticism you describe.

    Stephanie: Many thanks for the articles. I SHOULD pay more mind to the lesbian community. I have never explicitly excluded them from my writing, please understand–I try to write things that transcend gay-lesbian, gay-straight, etc.–but because my writings are mainly personal experiences, my writings aren’t gender-neutral. Nevertheless, I concede that I have a responsibility to explicitly include this community as well, and I have neglected doing so. I appreciate you calling me out:)

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