i'll bet if you asked any Italian man, gay, straight, bi, whatever...what his biggest fault is, it's his neurotic behavior brought on by none other than, his family. and yes, the church also plays a major part in the demise of our souls, but it pales in comparison to the overbearing attention, love and coddling we received as young boys.
me, being the first born in a house where, before me, was eight miscarriages, made it more impossible for me to be anything but what i turned out as. a spoiled rotten brat. not only did my mother worship, adore and praise me every second of every day...and not one of those days, to this day, has gone by without the same thing happening, she made me believe that the world would be the same way towards me, forever. i was perfect. i was chosen. i was great.
that being said, the pressure that that entails is tremendous. it weighs on your brain like a burden that you, no matter how hard you try, cannot shake. you walk down the street assuming that the world views you the way your mother does. it's actually quite shocking to one day, realize that your entire life has been a sham, and not only are you not the center of the universe, but, in fact, you are below average...on a scale of one to ten, you are maybe a four. "hmmm, that isn't what my mother told me" i remember saying to myself one day. it made my mind rush, my heart race, my body hurt. wasn't i told, since birth, that i was THE center of the entire universe? what happened? who took this title away from me, how? why?
and then, as your mind goes back, back back back to your earliest memory, you recall the instant it all started. you were in diapers, you were not yet even eating real food yet, when you recall a whisper in your ear...it sounded like your mother, but it's probably was God, for they are one in the same, and it told you that you were the greatest gift ever. you lit up the world with your smile, you were the only person that could save society from it's hideous fate, for you were the golden child, and from that moment on, you walked with your head a little higher. your nose a little raised, your shoulders back, your attitude adjusted, your perception altered, your mind, warped. because from then on, every other word was how wonderful you were. how great, smart, funny, sweet and talented you were. surely no one else was hearing these things, because they weren't me, and they weren't the best. they'd never be as funny, as smart, sweet, or talented as me, because i am the chosen one...
never before has anyone been as perfect as me...
so you buy into the crap that you will inherit the earth. you will always be wonderful, nothing will ever go wrong, and you were put on this earth to save it. God himself sent you here, and for this alone, i was, and always will be, the one everyone else would be compared to. i would be the example to live up to, and the one to watch, learn from, and be like.
my mother would bake a loaf of bread every day for me, timing it to pop out of the over, hot, fresh and soaked in a stick of butter, just as i was walking down the steps from the school bus. mind you, on the school bus and all day at school, i was miserable, not understanding why all the other kids kept calling me fat pig, blimp and loser. didn't they know who i was? it never crossed my mind that these underprivileged children who brought only a sandwich and a piece of fruit to lunch, really didn't like me. of course they didn't, i was an obnoxious and overweight kid with wiry hair and a greasy forehead that seeped olive oil. but, i was also, as i was told, wonderful, funny and important...so it didn't make sense, and i'd question it briefly as i devoured my loaf of bread while watching cartoons and having my head rubbed every afternoon, but i'd forget all about it by 5:00. only two more hours till dinner would be put on the table, and nothing else but how much of this delicious food i could stuff into my mouth and down my throat...even crossed my mind.
to further emphasis my Godlike perception, i was told, every day after dinner, to go lay down, rest...school work could wait, i was too good to help with dishes, i was too important to mow the lawn, i was too above it to do anything around the house...that's what my father was for. i should just lay down in front of the couch and let those three thousand calories digest as slowly as possible in my already too big belly. i was encouraged to be lazy, pushed to relax. it was, i thought, a charmed life, i thought, the way it was always going to be, i thought, very wrong...
every night, from the couch, i'd get carried into bed. laid down, stretched out, had my head rubbed forehead kissed, was brought a glass of milk, and some leftover desert, of which there was always a ton of. the lights closed, as she left, turning the door, she'd tell me, one more time, how she was blessed with me choosing to be her child. of all the children, in all the world, i, a gift to humanity, was entrusted to her, and she was thrilled. i'd fall asleep every night, like a rock, stuffed and gassy, seeing myself as a king standing tall on a hilltop, my constituents below me, hailing my greatness, screaming my name, crying as if they were seeing Michael Jackson...(remember, this was the 80's), and he, Michael, was the greatest thing going. the biggest star ever, so of course, that's the level i saw myself. i would wake with a shake on my shoulders, open my eyes, and from blur i'd see her, my mother, beaming brightly, saying something about how happy she was that i didn't die in my sleep and how thrilled she was that i was still alive. she installed in my brain, a vision of myself that was so far from the truth, and so far from reality, that to this day, i still cringe when i think how far from anything i imagined i was, and how twisted and brainwashed i had been. no one else, not a soul, could compare to what i thought i was. but in all fairness, it wasn't really my fault. it wasn't even my mother's fault. it was just what she'd learned from her mother and her brother. he also could do nothing wrong, he was golden, he was special. and if i'd looked a little closer, id have seen that in reality, he was not the savior she professed him to be. it should have been a clue. it should have been a sign that something wasn't right. it coulda, shoulda, woulda been, but it wasn't, for i wouldn't allow myself to not believe my own hype. everyone else was jealous, they wanted to be everything i was, wanted to have everything i had, wanted to be me. it was obvious, it was clear. there were some who had everything, while the others had none. i was entrusted with powers and greatness that surpassed mere humans. i was different, i stood alone. i had already accepted the fact that i would probably never find a woman good enough for me. there would never be one that was pretty enough, smart enough, or as interesting as me, to keep me excited. i was too important for love, i had other things in life that i was supposed to do, take care of, and conquer. for this reason alone, i felt i was misunderstood, that's the reason i had no friends, it was because they couldn't understand me, didn't get me, for i was at such a higher level than the rest, i wasn't expected to mingle with them...so, i found myself always hanging around with adults, especially the women, usually in the kitchen. they'd tell tales of the old country, although none of them were actually born there. second generation, they longed for the acceptance of "white" people, never speaking in Italian. the italian they spoke was so much of it, dialect, and english words were replaced by their italian slang name. so, i was taught to speak italian, but it's italian thats so far from what actual italians speak, that it can't even be understood. but they'd gossip, they'd scream, we'd eat as i'd sit, glued to their stories, chiming in where i thought necessary, giving my take on the situation, like they needed my input, for it was the word of the lord. then my mother would shake my hair and say how wonderfully sweet i was to care so much, give me a peck on the cheek, and keep me quiet by putting more desert in my dish. "would you like ice cream on that?" she would say, "yes please!" was always my answer. i never said no, to this day, that's a flaw.
my poor sister has a different perspective of our youth, as she wasn't the first, nor a boy. she was born three years later, and she of course, was loved to death, but i still got all the attention. her memories show her doing dishes, mopping floors, cleaning, etc., etc., while i'd lay on the couch. i was now a young man, and young men didn't work in the house! that's what girls did, and well, if they expected to ever get a descent husband! who would want her if she was considered lazy. the man worked all day, brought home money, was the one who prospered, her job was to keep him happy, keep him fed, keep his home nice and tidy, keep him satisfied in bed. i recall laying there, on the couch, with the remote flipping channels as she crossed in front of the t.v., making the remote not work. i screamed, as i was missing, two seconds of Land of the Lost. my mother ran in, screaming at my sister, for interrupting my peace, and causing me to be upset. how did she dare make me miss even a second of my favorite show that i wasn't even really watching...it's evident the different ways we were brought up by the number of photographs we each have in our photo albums. mine is a leather bound book, inscribed with pure gold, it's filled, from beginning to end, with snapshot after snapshot of every last second of my first few years. the day they brought me home, the next day, that whole week, my first birthday, my first christmas, my first easter, my first new year, first communion, first whatever, it was documented, and it was celebrated as if being celebrated for a prince, as you can see in the photos. everyone is dressed in a suit or a gown, there are millions of gifts, and i'm giggling as i sit on the lap of my mother, who beams rays of light that in some shots, i swear, look like a halo.
anyway, back to me, see it's now a dysfunction. all those years that i spent being fed an illusion, sometimes make me forget and become the reason for my confusion. it's sometimes hard to imagine, that i'm not where i should be. it's insane that i'm not, all that i could be. as hard as i try to remember the fact that until i was eighteen, i was taught, that i wasn't like others, that i had a place on a higher ground, somehow, i was better than. but then, when i'd look around, i'd see everyone else, had friends, and were thin...that i wasn't the same, and it wasn't that i was actually better than, it wasn't that at all. it happened like on t.v. when a character realizes something major...it's bigger than the reaction when a lightbul goes off over your head, it's more like in the Wizard of Oz when the tornado comes and pushes you back, knocking you down, it swirls around and around, and you get sucked up into the vortex, and when you wake, you're in a completely different world. it's not even black and white anymore, but technicolor! that's how i felt the moment it became clear...and i opened my eyes, looked around, and shook myself. a chill ran up my spine, and my forehead started sweating. i looked down at my fat gut, my bad clothes, and i realized...it's not them who are less than...it's me! i'm the one. i sit home with my mom everyday after school, no one calls no one plays, i'm a loser...
as it came into focus, i remember the very second, i was in the movie theater with my dad, my other only friend, watching Grease. i had begged to see it, and eventually won the battle. i remember the instant, because of course as i watched, and i saw Olivia Newton John sing "look at Me I'm Sandra Dee" at the end of the film. it's right before she goes from Sandy to Sandy! and i knew i had to do what she did. change myself, become like them, clone myself, and try and fit in with the crowd. no more would i think i was better than these other kids, from now on, i'd be humble, sincere, i'd reach out, i'd be cool...i'd dress in Izod and Wranglers, you know, designer clothing. i would lose weight, and transform myself, i'd get skinny, i'd play sports! and it actually happened.
it was the summer of my twelfth year, there's no way i can forget. i lost thirty pounds in three months by every morning waking up, putting the Village People on my turntable and playing Macho Man, and i did sit ups, push ups, and jogged in place for ten to twelve minutes until my head would get dizzy, i'd fall down, and breath heavy. but i did it. all myself, and it was hard, but only made worse, because my mother, protective and neurotic, always thinking i was on the verge of death and insane as she was, brought me, daily, to the doctor because she was convinced i had leukemia. i would die before her, her worst fear. as she cried every afternoon, in the car on the way to the doctor, she'd ask how and why God could do this to her. what had she done to deserve this? i was her life! what about all those bad kids that would surely never be missed! who placed such a curse on our name? why me! i'd turn my wrist over so they could draw out more blood, and i'd cringe as they'd jab another needle in me. day after day, the doctor would tell her that i didn't have leukemia. i wasn't sick. but again, she'd cry...what could be wrong? he doesn't eat! he's so skinny! why!!
one morning, at about 3am, it all became, again, perfectly clear. i was going through puberty, which, how they didn't think of that in the first place, i'll never understand...but nevertheless, relieved that i wasn't going to die, my mother was also upset at me for putting her through it, not eating her cooking, and insisting that it was only a matter of time before i'd leave her one way or another, and she'd be crushed and probably die alone. drama. always.
after losing weight, returning to school, as i walked in for tenth grade, i had no idea my whole world was about to change. all of a sudden, i saw girls check me out. i had guys come to me and say hi, tell me to join them, laugh and tell jokes, tease the girls, and be part of the games they would play. i even got invited to one of the guys birthday parties. i was thrilled, as i had never been to a "friends" birthday party. cousins, aunts, uncles, my sister, yes, but someone i didn't really know!? never. when i told my mother, she told me to get into the car, and we drove to the strip mall to the men's store, and she bought me a suit. it was tan, with shoulder pads, had a shine to it, like sharkskin, when you moved, it caught the light and made you glisten, and it had pants that didn't match. it was trendy at that moment to wear darker pants, and so this "suit" was actually two pieces. because i was apperently, now, that i'd matured, so goddamn handsome, almost as handsome as the guys in that GQ magazine i couldn't stop looking at, that i deserved and was expected to walk in a room, turn all heads, and make a fashion statement. let them talk, my mother would say, they are all just jealous of you, you could be a model! or a movie star! so when i walked into the party a week and a half later, bearing gifts and sporting a corsage, which my mother bought and pinned on me right before she drove me to the party, i was not prepared or expecting the catastrophe that was about to happen, and change me, i think, forever.
as i walked up the steps of the house, i felt good. i thought i looked so handsome, felt so secure, was really excited to be part of this group of guys who, up until this past week, never said anything but "faggot" to me. when his mom answered the door, my mind questioned her attire, for she was in a pair of shorts, and her head in a kerchief, sunglasses on her head and her blouse was tied in the middle. was i at the wrong address? my mother honked the horn, for she thought i had the wrong place too, as this woman was not in a gown...she was not possibly hosting a party...she invited me in, and then asked me if i had just come from church. when i said no, she looked puzzled, and asked if i had brought my bathing suit, as this was a pool party, which, as i looked past her, i noticed, but more shocking than that, was the fact, i saw girls...this was a mixed party...co-ed, oh my god....i was not at all prepared to be seen half naked in front of guys, let alone girls.....i panicked. started sweating, and said no. so she walked me to the pool, where all the kids were. they all stopped, turned and giggled. who was this geek? so i put down the gifts and walked calmly into the house with a smile, i didn't want them to know i was upset. i asked his mom where the restroom was, and then when i found it, locked the door behind me, and sat on the toilet, desperate for time to fly by, praying for an earthquake, something, anything to get me out of this awkward party...until literally, about an hour later, his mother came knocking, screaming for me to get out. i had a bloody nose, i exclaimed, and she banged even harder, open up! she yelled back, and then i heard my friend scream to open the door. it was done, i had done it, made a mess, caused a stir. when i opened the door, my heart sank again, as i saw all the kids from the party, circled around the door, laughing and pointing at the crazy italian boy dressed in a suit on a ninety degree day, at a pool party. when i looked up at the clock on the wall my heart sank again. what had seemed like two hours turned out to be only ten minutes...and so i asked to borrow the phone, and i called up my mother, begging her to pick me up, crying. she said no, she said that they would realize, how they should look at me for advise, for i was obviously more mature, definitely more handsome, and talented and wise. then she hung up the phone, and my brow started to sweat, when i looked up i saw that my friend was standing there. he looked confused, and bewildered, he didn't know what he should do. so he asked me, real sweet, if i wanted to play a game with the "gang", i said sure...and followed him to the living room where everyone was sitting in a circle, and in the center of that circle was a bottle...spinning. now, i had heard of this game, and knew that what i had heard told me that this game was bad news...again, my brow poured down sweat, as i realized this was a boy/girl party, and this was a SEX game....i almost, literally, shit my pants. as i tried desperately to remain calm as the bottle spun and spun in front of me, i prayed as hard as i could that the bottle never stopped on me. and i was safe for about three minutes, until my friends sister, who had been rolling her eyes at me and giggling everytime i said something, spun the bottle, and it slowed down and stopped before me...and my heart started racing, i thought i'd piss my pants, she screamed "oh no, not him!" and the kids laughed and laughed. but as if this wasn't enough, it got worse, because my friend started screaming at his sister to shut up and go! she got up from the circle, crossed it, and grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the closet, where she threw me in, and shut the door behind us. what's going on? i mean, really, i was about to die, this was the worst thing hat ever happened in the history of the world...and she kept quiet, then without warning she said "i'm not kissing yo, your gross". that at least was some relief, and when she opened the door and let us out, she made it clear that we did NOT make out. i decided to sit the rest of this game out, and returned to the bathroom, where they let me sit, alone for the next three hours until my mothers car was heard beeping outside on the driveway.
to be continued...