A couple of things happened this week. 1) I was talking to someone about steroids since they’re starting a regimen of prednisone and 2) I saw Chasing Amy all the way through for the first time in years. After I talked to my buddy, I found a picture of me with “moonface” from four or five years ago and compared it to a pic from that day and was amazed by the difference. I was still disgusted by the moon face picture as I usually am when I see it, but happy to see things have mostly gone back to normal.
I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I realized that while I will acknowledge I have a short-coming, I don’t always evaluate how it impacts me, the people around me or how large the problem is. I’ve always admitted that I have self-esteem issues, that I felt I was un-loveable, etc., but it took decades to realize how much that stuff was sucking me down and how vital it was for me to try to start turning that around. This was a pretty good example of how bad it got.
Four of five years ago, while I was on the prednisone and when my face looked like I’d been hit with a frying-pan in a cartoon and it had flattened out, I was dating a woman. To be honest, it was supposed to have started out as just having fun and I was surprised when deep feelings developed. I didn’t know what to do with those feelings because I didn’t want to tank the relationship too much by admitting how real it had gotten, but with them came jealousy and insecurity. That woman had a LOT more experience than I did, had had a history of sleeping with friends and maintained her friendships with them.
I started to watch Chasing Amy part way through our relationship and had to stop it. I hadn’t seen it since it came out on VHS a decade before and while I had a vague idea of how it ended, watching the main character try and stumble through what I was going through was way, way to uncomfortable and I stopped watching it. What I should’ve done was go through the painful process of evaluating why that made me so uncomfortable and addressing the fears and concerns at the time. Instead I just walled that stuff off.
Now, in my defense, in this particular area she didn’t behave very well. Early in our relationship she tried to hook up with one of these guys when I wasn’t around and he shot her down, saying that while he would love to play with her, he wasn’t going to do that while she was dating someone. A year or so after that, when she’d told me she wasn’t hanging out with guys she’d slept with before she snuck around and had one join her and another male friend in a hotel room and got high with them and shared a hotel room with another guy she’d slept with when she was out of town after specifically telling me she’d had no contact with him. After the fact, she claimed that nothing sexual happened with her and any of those guys, but who knows. The fact that she snuck around with them in the first place and lied about it was damaging enough.
Watching Chasing Amy and seeing the guy struggle with feeling inadequate and boring and wondering how he could possibly keep her attention was bad enough. Obviously I couldn’t, or she wouldn’t have snuck around with them. But because of the timing with the prednisone talk I reminded of how hideous I felt while on all the drugs. I always laughed that off and shut it down because it equated to vanity in my mind, something I wasn’t supposed to be. But thinking about it now. Wow. I felt so ugly and unappealing, and then inexperienced and terrified of being unable to satisfy her. Not just sexually, although that was obviously a huge part of it. But I wasn’t exciting or creative like those guys were. I was just a boring, small town computer nerd who looked like a freak of nature.
I showed the comparison pic to the boy today and immediately he noticed how much more Asian I looked. I told him about the “monkey boy” thing from grade school and at first he laughed, because that’s what we do. But then he talked about how that must’ve sucked to be token the Asian minority and have everyone point and laugh the first time someone called me that and wanted me to dance on the desk like a monkey for a banana and we talked about getting beat up back then. I always disliked that photo, but I hate it more now, not just because of how I looked and how the drugs took a toll on my body, but because of how it represents how bad I felt at that time, how ugly that jealousy and insecurity got. What a mess it was, between my embarrassment over my physical appearance, my fears of the disease and feeling cheated by my body, my jealousy and fear that she was going to leave me at any minute because of how ugly I was, how boring, how square, how inadequate, how unlovable from childhood, how I was the hairy little chink monkey, how I was a failure at relationships as my divorce proved (and being cheated on by my ex sure didn’t help me feel any more loveable or attractive), a failure as a soldier because I couldn’t retire. How much I pushed her and others away to protect myself. All of that on top of the PTSD and TBI and just normal life stuff. And how I reacted to that stuff. How I responded to attention from other people because I craved the attention and the reassurance that I was attractive. How that grew into my desire to need “a win”.
The flip side is the other picture. How with so much hard work I’ve made changes. Changes that I feel on the inside and that can be seen from the outside. In finally watching Chasing Amy again I heard some things. Alyssa’s speech to Holden about how she chose him. Holden’s figuring it all out at the end. Holden’s screwing everything up with everybody. Silent Bob’s monologue. Some of it was trite. Some was stupid. But there were some good kernels in there. Unfortunately the end didn’t look too promising for Holden.
Funny, with time and perspective and work realizing just how everything was interconnected back then. I’m honestly surprised I managed to get out of bed with all that weight, that I survived that period at all some days. It was the perfect storm of a ton of really, really bad stuff coming to light. I wish I could say I was all better now. But still struggle with all of the bad stuff, almost daily. But I’m working on it. It’s kind of like the pictures. I look a lot better, but not like I was. Time has passed. And that age and the scars I’ve developed show.