I have been a big brother to one sibling since 1962, a little brother to four others (well, three now) since 1961, first read George Orwell’s 1984 around 1971-72 and in the summer of 2000 I watched the American premiere season of Big Brother while living a life that now seems even longer ago and further away and farther removed from my current reality than the life I led in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
I have since been voted out of any number of houses while suffering through my every move and breath having been hawk-watched and judged. Thus it feels poetic in a bitter Dorothy Parker-esque way that after many years of eschewing the reality-TV-version of Big Brother, I’m mesmerized by season 16. In particular, I am obsessed with the GayBoy/StraightBoy-Bro-maybe-RO-mance of Frankie and Zach, sobriquet-ed and portmanteau-ed into Zankie. I’m not alone.
Just one example is this from Greg In Hollywood (click headline below to read): ”
My fascination extends beyond just the sure-to-be-a-heartbreak-trainwreck slash SO-MUCH-LIKE-MY-OWN-LIFE-EXPERIENCE faux-bro-mance of Zankie – which I am hoping is at least partly calculated on both their parts to garner airtime, and which I suspect is exacerbated by forced close contact without other outlet. I repeatedly had faux-flings like this with males who actually had zero interest in me but during rehearsals and runs of shows it FELT like we had something in common. Usually what we had in common was my power in those very small, incestuous theatrical milieus and their desire to wield some share of that power – being close to me made them feel or seem important – and that was coupled with my desire to Dorian Gray my way into vampiring some portion of their youth and beauty. Life.
I am heartened by the way all the members of the house are open to the faux-bro-homo-mance and the way the world has changed since I first watched this show in 2000 and NONE of this cuddling and snuggling and such would have been possible, let alone BROADCAST and become a social-media thing. Sadly, what hasn’t much changed is that there are few people of color EVER in the house and even FEWER who are “older”. The one person in the house over 40, Donny, refers to himself and positioned himself as “the old guy.” Wow.
I thought, long ago, in 2000, “I would be good at this game because I have spent my life reading people and finding balance among groups and my family, fitting in.” HA. What an ass. Since then I have learned the hard way just how little gift I have for fitting or balancing. And, again, I am not alone.
This morning my friend the novelist, columnist, cultural critic and editor, Mary McCarthy, published a column on SpliceToday called Breaking Up With Family Members (Click HERE). The first two paragraphs struck me with playground-age falling down so hard the breath is knocked out of you force. Listen:
If there’s one thing you should never write about, it’s family members. Seriously, your personal life has boundaries, and you should respect the privacy of people who have the misfortune of being related to you.
Unfortunately for them, I write about my life for a living. And I’ve always been lousy at any kind of boundaries. This has been weighing on my mind for a long time, so out it comes, in that emotional way writers have of preferring things to hurl out rather than stay in and fester.
Amen. A few years ago, in order to save and salvage it, I had to change my life yet another time. In doing so, I made a conscious choice not to ever write about it or talk about it with anyone, not to answer the inevitable questions, not to explain myself, and most difficult of all, not to rebut the rumors, gossip, and outright falsehoods told by others about the situations leading to the upending.
It wasn’t easy. My natural inclination is to frame life events into short-story-chapter-size; beginnings, middles, endings, and somewhere along the way, an eleven o’clock ballad. Even more natural to me: The desire to tell the story in a way that proves I am both right and somehow, always, a little bit martyred, stoic in the face of long-suffering.
Things went badly. I had expected people who did not know me well and people who knew me only as far as they needed to know me to fulfill their needs would drink the Kool-Aid I knew would be poured. Which was fine. What I had not expected was that some people to whom I was intimately connected, who I had trusted with my truth and my soul, would abandon me and, in essence, pour Kool-Aid of their own by doing so.
People shock you. People you have loved for a long time, forever even, can do terrible things, can hurt you, can eviscerate you in ways that are beyond repair; and they can feel perfectly justified while doing so. And the most difficult lesson I learned from having such things happen is that if you choose NOT to argue the point, not to rebut the stories or actions or gossip, some people who should know better, who know your heart, will use your silence as excuse to abandon you as well.
I never did fight much, but, I don’t fight at all now. I am emotional/spiritual Gandhi. I sit and allow whatever someone else wants to do, to be done. I know my heart. I know my truth. And while I am FAR FROM SAYING I was blameless in the hurts resulting from my life-or-death need to alter my reality, I am saying, I am clear that I NEVER acted with bad intention — and HARDEST LESSON OF ALL – despite what seems overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I refuse to believe anyone else acted with bad intention either.
However, that doesn’t mean I can ever let them back into the place in my heart they once held. They abdicated that place by their actions — however well or bad intended, guilty or innocent they were. Which is why I worry for Zankie. Is Frankie playing Zach? Or Zach playing Frankie? Or, both? Eventually, one will end up voting the other out of the house and what will then be said?
I know what was said about me after I was voted out of the house, and, I don’t think I’ll ever quite fully recover from the hurt of it, even though I should have known it would happen. You want to believe that a person who has held you, told you they loved you, told you they’ve never before and will never again love anyone that way, has rubbed your arm in that sort of thoughtless, careless, own you sort of way, you want to believe they meant it. Even after they don’t.
You also want to believe that being a big (or little) brother means something; something permanent and sacred and … you want NOT to be voted out.
But, you know what, you almost always are. And that, my friends, is life.