Wednesday, August 24, 2011
This Is For All the Lonely People
We’ve all been there!
I heard that Dan Peek died the other day. Now, I have to be honest, I had no idea who Dan Peek was. But he was one of the members of the folk rock group, America. I liked their music, but I was never really a big fan. I don’t own any of their albums and I never saw them “live.” But if you grew up in the 70’s as I did, then the music of America was part of the AM radio soundtrack of your life.
I knew the songs, but I knew none of the players until Peek passed away. I probably wouldn’t have even finished reading his obit, until I came upon the fact that he had written the song, “Lonely People.” “Lonely People” was a hit song for America – but it doesn’t seem to have had the staying power of some of their other songs like “Ventura Highway” or “A Horse with No Name.”
But it sure meant a lot to me.
“Lonely People” did reach the Top Ten back in 1975. That was the year that I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school. Those were pretty interesting times for me. I’d always been a fairly popular kid in elementary school. But something went off track in junior high. All of a sudden all of the boys – who had previously hated girls – were now interested in them. Very interested. I was great at kickball and dodge ball and hide-and-go-seek. But when it came to girls, I was lost. The whole dating/flirting scene in junior high caught me completely off guard. And I was totally overwhelmed by it.
It seemed that everything I did was wrong. Or, at the very least, awkward. I was quiet when I should have spoken up. I spoke up when I should have held my tongue. I was bold when I should have hung back. And I hung back when I should have gone for it. I knew all the rules and strategies to kickball. But when it came to girls, it seemed like there were no rules. And I was completely oblivious to any strategy.
By the time I reached high school and my freshman year, I was paralyzed. Literally. I was so afraid that I might do or say the wrong thing, that I just didn’t do anything. I stopped trying. In kickball terms, I took myself out of the game and I sat myself on the bench.
Ironically, to most people, it probably seemed that I did okay in high school. I got good grades. I did well in sports. It was just in social situations that I froze up. On one occasion, I remember literally running away from a situation where I knew I was going to have to talk to a girl. All of that sports training came in handy. I ran really fast.
So while others may remember me as a pretty normal kid, I remember myself as a kid who was dying inside. A bundle of nerves. Petrified. I spent a lot of time surrounded by friends, and yet, I remember feeling very alone… and lonely.
And that’s where Dan Peek comes in. Or, at least, that’s where Dan Peek’s song comes in:
“This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by.
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup.
You never know until you try.”
Now if you’re expecting me to now write about how I heard that song and it changed my life and I began to exude a confidence and a charisma that transformed me into a regular high school Romeo, well that’s not my story. I didn’t transform. I pretty much left high school the same way I went in. Awkward. Shy. Confused. And Lonely.
But that doesn’t mean that the song didn’t help. It let me know that even though I was lonely, I wasn’t alone. That there were others like me. (And yes, even at age 14, I was already strangely feeling as though life had passed me by!)
Fortunately, I started to gain more confidence when I got to college. And when CiCi finally came around as I was turning 40 (talk about feeling as though life had passed me by!) -- my confidence really started to blossom. CiCi basically helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin – where I had once felt awkward. She helped me to speak my mind – where I once felt shy. And she somehow helped me to feel comfortable around both men and women – the same way I felt in the pre-adolescent days of my kickball youth.
So that has me wondering. Where CiCi was when I was in junior high? Or high school? Where was she hiding? Was she deep inside me? Repressed? Suppressed? And, if so, then what kind of effect did she have on me during those years? Did I already know on some level that I was gay? (I was a pretty naïve kid. I knew nothing about heterosexual sex back then. Forget about homosexual sex. I honestly don’t think I knew what “gay” really meant.)
And transgender feelings? I know I had them. Fleeting thoughts. Exciting visions. Like the other young boys I liked to look at the cute junior high school girls in their trendy fashions. It’s just that now, looking back, I realize that the other boys wanted to date those girls, while I wanted to be one of those girls. (A pretty big difference.)
Now, I have to be honest. I was talking with a few good friends of mine in the tgirl scene about our developing years. And one of my friends basically called me out. “Everyone felt awkward in junior high,” she said – maintaining that my problems weren’t caused by my transgendered nature – they were caused by my human nature. And that every kid goes through an awkward stage. Heck, many of them never grow out of them!
On some level, I suppose she was right. There aren’t too many adults running around wishing that they were 13 or 14 again. Sixteen maybe. Eighteen definitely. But not thirteen. Thirteen was tough for everyone. Transgendered or not.
So I guess I could be wrong. But I still think there was something more going on with me. More than just typical adolescent angst. It could have been a lot of things. But in my heart of hearts, I think that the prospect of facing romantic or even sexual encounters just felt wrong to me. Not because I was too young. Or too naïve. (And I was both of those.) It was like I was playing kickball again, but I didn’t know which team I was supposed to be playing for. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be rooting for.
As I write this, 36 years after “Lonely People” hit the Top Ten, I find myself in touch with tgirls all over the world. Thanks to the internet, we have an online community that would have been impossible in the 1970’s. And yet, as I chat with many of the girls, I can see that one thing from those days hasn’t changed – despite worldwide connectivity – a lot of us are still lonely.
It’s kind of ironic. A few years ago I wrote a blog called “High School 2.0.” In that blog I wrote about the parallels I saw between tgirl life and high school life. The cliques. The focus on fashion. The excitement of flirting and new romance. But when I wrote that, I don’t think I mentioned the loneliness (one of the most prevailing themes of high school life). And I must say, if you thought loneliness was bad at age 13 or 14, let me warn you. It isn’t any easier at 46. Or 53. Or 62.
Many of the girls that I have befriended – both in person and online – are older entries into the tgirl life. In other words, like me, they didn’t accept or embrace their feminine side until later in life – their late 30’s or early 40’s. Or for some, even later. And while that acceptance has been, for the most part, a positive step. It’s not without its dilemmas and difficulties. Wives or families who don’t understand. Confused sexual feelings. Mind-blowing shake-ups in our personal sense of self.
And loneliness. Once again feeling as though no one understands. Or cares. Or wants to get close to us crossdressers. And btw… just because you’re having a lot of sex, and touching a lot of people, that doesn’t mean you’re actually getting close to them. Or allowing them to get close to you. (Just ask any teenager.)
So what are we all to do, all of us lonely people? And what if there is no cure? What if loneliness is as much a part of middle age as it was a part of adolescence? There’s a scary thought for you.
When I was a kid I used to ponder that one line: “Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup.” And I always wondered what that meant. I always wondered what was in the cup.
For Dan, the songwriter, I get the feeling it was his faith. Dan Peek left America at the height of their fame in the late 1970’s. He was apparently having trouble justifying the rock-and-roll lifestyle with his developing faith. And he went on to become one of the leaders of the Christian music scene. As I understand it, he even recorded a Christian version of “Lonely People.”
Now I’m not a religious person but I have to hand it to Dan. He found something that would sustain him – even in the darkest of days. And he had the courage to claim it. To own it. And he gave up a lot of fame and money in order to fully embrace it.
Dan Peek’s silver cup was full of faith. I wonder what mine is full of? And I wonder what’s in yours.
Please don’t give up until you find out.
Take care out there.
Be safe. Be smart. Be sexy.