Being kinder to the memory of the kid I was

Me as a high school graduate, 1987.*record scratch, freeze frame*

Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got into this situation.

(Sorry, I’ve always wanted to do that.)

For some reason, this version of me has been on my mind a bit lately. Maybe that’s because I’m revising a young adult novel and trying to tap into the feeling I had at that time of life. Maybe it’s also because I’m reading Maggie & Me, a memoir by the wonderful Damian Barr about growing up in Scotland under Thatcher, and it reminds me of the time, if not the place, and it also reminds me of the feelings I have about that period in my life: nostalgia, sometimes, but mostly anxiety, and a lot of avoidance.

I don’t like thinking about that time because I wasn’t a happy kid. Growing up gay in the 1980s—well, it sucked, okay? Most of the time, I didn’t want to be there. And I figured I probably wouldn’t be there much longer and would either die in a nuclear war or get sick and die.

Somehow, neither of those things happened. That kid found somewhere else to be, things got worse, then he went somewhere else, then things got dull, then they got, kind of, better. He got through it.

Even though I’m talking about him as if he were a different person, I know that kid was me, is me. It’s still easy to think of me at that age as someone else, because so much has changed in the meantime. And to be completely uncomfortably honest (ugh, who does that on the internet?), thinking about who I was at that age is kind of embarrassing.


I wouldn’t have gotten where I am now without him. He was the one who had to deal with the tough stuff that looks easy to me now precisely because he went through it. Far from being embarrassed by him, I owe almost everything to him.

Be kind to who you were back then. You’re not as different now as you think.