It is one of those few words that we all know, and we all understand. Everybody I know can associate some experience, some memory with this feeling. And we all know how entirely inadequate the word is in expressing the moment that one feels it. Shame; it is far too small, easily said and easily forgotten and we only know the reality of it when we are reminded of its existence. And that doesn't happen with the word, but only with experience. Five letters is nothing. Shame is everything.
Tonight I had an experience of shame, developing out of extreme confusion and anger. Intense shame, that has lead me to this bottle of Millers Genuine Draft.
I received an e-mail from a close friend; a man that I love a great deal. I admire him for his love of humanity, of people, or the possibility of hope - he is a man of inspiration. In the e-mail were contained the following words:
"Do you really think I didn’t know?
I’ve known for a very long time and I’ve been waiting for you to tell me."
My 8-hour response process has involved intense shame. I have asked myself so many times what gave me away. Was it a glance? I glitter in my eye, revealing something that my mouth would never admit? Was he uncomfortable, and did he want to confront me on it? Did it distract him? Did he enter every dialogue with me as frustrated as I entered them with him, wondering if the time of confession had arrived?
Most of my shame developed out of a sense that I made this friend immensely uncomfortable with my dishonesty and my lacking integrity. I was ashamed that perhaps he felt, in any way imaginable, even remotely violated by me - had I ever "checked him out", and had he ever caught me doing it? Had he ever seen me admire other men, been urged to ask me, and then stopped himself?
How many times did I deny him of a conversation he may have wanted to have?
Who else am I doing this to?
Is this why people want to talk about homosexuality around me? Do they want me to step out of a dream and stop pretending?
Are they actually ok with it, or are they just accepting the idea of it?
Maybe that is a question I need to ask myself more often.
My parents don't know. But they do. They are just waiting to be told.