Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wearing Purple

7th grade, pre-algebra class ...
As I worked out a problem on the board, the boy whispered loud enough so I could hear, but the teacher couldn't, "Steven Gay-vis.  Steven Gay-vis."  My ears burned.
8th grade, homeroom ...
"Are you going to take your boyfriend to the Spring Dance," the girl taunted me in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear. I flushed and sank lower in my seat.
The first day of 9th grade ...
"Aren't you the one everyone thought was gay in middle school," the guy asked me as I sat at the high school cafeteria table full of students from another middle school with whom I was trying to make friends.  I said nothing.
Three small instances.  Simple sentences.  Not-so-innocent questions.  30 years later I still remember them as the tiny pieces of grit that got under my skin.  Oyster-like, I built up layers of protection, coating the grit until it no longer hurt.   But, at the core of my sparkly fabulousness, they are still there.
Was I bullied in school?  Some.  What did I do to get through it?  I made friends.  It wasn't easy. In seventh grade, in a new town, at a new school (and one in which no one I met over the summer attended), I made three friends.  Three.  A guy down the street who never looked clean and cursed like a sailor. A girl from a poorer part of town who was in most of my classes.  And, an 8th grader who would sit beside me on the bus in the mornings and talk to me.  Three friends are better than none.  Three friends provided refuge against being alone.  Three friends who made each day bearable.  Three friends who probably kept me alive.
Middle school was hard.  High school wasn't as bad.  The consolidation of several schools in our county meant that I could have a fresh start.  Until that incidence in the cafeteria, I believed that was true.  I coped the only way I knew how.  I avoided contact with people from my middle school.  I made friends with students from the other schools.  In a school of 1600, the boy who never looked clean and the girl from the poorer part of town disappeared in the masses of bodies changing classes.  Still, I was sometimes bullied, but I made a group of friends who wouldn't tease me ... and that's all I needed.  Smart kids who were ostracized for being smart and band geeks. The Island of Misfit Toys. That's where I found my safety net. 
At the beginning of the Fall of my 11th grade year, the band director said to me, "You need to come out of your shell."  I nodded, but I don't think he realized my shell was what was keeping me from falling to pieces. 
It's taken me a long, long time to become comfortable with who I am and how I look.  Bullying didn't make it easier, but it also helped shape me into the person I am today (who I love.  I love me!  Yay!). So, today I'm wearing purple in support of all those kids who are being bullied and teased in school. 
Hang in there, kittens.  I close with the rapidly becoming schmaltzy "It Gets Better."  It does get better (even if you aren't a fabulously wealthy, exceedingly handsome famous actor/designer/writer).  It even gets better if you are a vicious unrepentant bitter old queen.


  1. Ohmygod VUBOQ, this is an awesome story. Well, a sad one yes, but one with a happy, fabulous ending! Thanks for sharing.

    And I'mhonestly a bit surprised at the subduedness of your purpleness. But you look really classy (as always).

    Have a great day, man.


  2. Anonymous9:22 AM

    And I read your blog because of your sassy ass FUN. And the fact that your different-ness takes me out of my boring mountain home sameness.
    Wear that purple proudly!


  3. Love your purple tie.

    Your story was very touching. I'm thankful you had those friends to get you through the tough times. I really don't remember hearing teasing about kids being gay when I was in school. Other things yes, but not that. You are indeed sparky and fabulous.

    Last night I was trying to figure out what to wear and my only purple item seemed to be a shirt from Old Navy with writing all over it. Not exactly work friendly. So this morning I started digging thinking I MUST have something and found a plain purple t-shirt I'm wearing under a white blouse so, whew. Seems I must buy more purple. My wardrobe is boring black and grey with the odd red thrown in.

    My kidlet wore a puprle sweater and socks (and black pants) without any prompting from me I might add. :-)

  4. You are wonderful, VUBOQ! And cute! I am firmly on team VUBOQ, and I will be wearing purple today (once I get out of my pajamas - working from home makes one lazy). :)

    Have a fabulous day with your fabulous self!

  5. Anonymous9:42 AM

    Dear Vuboq,

    If I weren't already at work, I'd find something purple to wear! I loved your story. Such immediate, stark details. Kids in middle school especially are such ogres about the gayz and it's totally their parents' fault (per my own observation). If I ever have kids I can promise you they will be wearing purple on days like this, if I have anything to do with it. Thanks for sharing your story. I loved the sea motifs -- grit to pearls, shells, etc. It gets better (my day, that is) every time I read your blog!

    SCGB's S

  6. rn terri10:36 AM

    OMG! What a fabulous story. I have tears in my eyes! I pray for my kids every day, I work in a school and see how mean these kids can be. You are fabulous!

  7. Wonderful bit of writing there, Steven - really moving and raw. Thank you for sharing it...If I owned anything purple, I'd be wearing it today, but seeing as I won't even be leaving my house, most likely, I'll just send you and anyone else who needs it extra purple sparkly fabulousness karma...

  8. Anonymous11:21 AM

    You made my eyes teary:-( You should send this story to "It Gets Better." It will help many many kids.


  9. I am so sorry that they put you through that, and so happy that you came through it and I got to meet you. Your description of the shell holding you together is so painful.

    I have purple on today, too, both for work clothes AND workout clothes.

  10. Bravo! Thank you for sharing!

  11. Mike D7:01 PM

    I'm guessing that it didn't help to have a clueless older brother. Sorry, Pal. Love ya, mean it.

  12. I would wear purple every day if it would help anyone to not have to go through what you did. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Love the tie!

  13. you are absolutely 100% amazing and fabulous and wonderful and beautiful and valuable and none of that has to do with your sexuality. It has everything to do with who you are inside and out. From the tip of your platinum head to the hem of your purple jeans.

    I love you. Today and every day.

  14. Anonymous7:13 PM

    "I nodded, but I don't think he realized my shell was what was keeping me from falling to pieces" I love that line.

    -- Nida

  15. Wait, how can *you* relate to not being a fabulously wealthy, exceeding handsome famous actor/designer/writer?

    Okay, okay. I'm not sure about your acting skills. But fabulous? check. Wealthy? New interest rate, anyone? Exceedingly handsome? check and CHECK. Famous? Oh, yes. Designer/writer? You forgot to add talented.