Thursday, 3 June 2010

Dear Jem

This is in response to a conversation I had with a friend of mine recently about what I would say if I could write a letter to the 18 year old me. I thought I would just try it.

Dear Jem

First things first. No-one knows better than me how confused you are generally about your life. You're sitting on a boat back from Guernsey to England and wondering why everything around you that gives you stability is falling apart. The fact is - and I won't sugar this pill because there's no point - Dad is going to leave Mum and he's going to do it within a week. There will be tears and there will be heartache. Home will not be a nice place to be. You'll wish you'd stayed in Guernsey away from it all, as you sit in your room and listen to The Fall and The Cure too loud, just to drown all the madness out. But it won't last forever and, every day, you will be one step closer to coming to terms with it. I promise.

Most of this is spoilers, of course, but I'm going to try to avoid telling you anything that will make you do things differently. Everything you do over the next 21 years leads you to the place that I am now. And that's a good place. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, so I have a vested interest in you doing all the things that fate has got lined up for you.

So let's answer the biggie. You are gay. It will take you a long time to come to terms with that fact once and for all - probably a bit too long. But I can't blame you for that. All things considered, in 2010 being gay is a pretty fantastic thing to be (more of that later), but I know that in 1989 it's anything but. You feel like you can't really tell anyone close to you about it and you know that you can't make it known to the wider world, because people are generally pretty vicious towards gay people still. I promise you that that's going to change forever over the next ten years. But here's something really fabulous (another spoiler, I'm afraid, but I think it's something you could do with hearing right now): in about four weeks time you are going to fall head over heels in love with someone wonderful. Someone wonderful who's a boy. I won't take all the wonder and excitement out of it by telling you who and when, but here's a snapshot. You will lie in his bed one night, it will be raining like the apocalypse outside, and he will read Adrian Henri poems to you while you stroke his thigh. You'll drink cheap wine and smoke spliffs and the you will kiss and, when you stop, you will realise that it's dawn and that that night felt 10 seconds long. Enjoy it while it lasts and don't be too sad when it ends.

There'll be some confusing times after that. You'll date a girl you've known for years because you don't want to lose her as a friend. It's okay, though - when you decide you have to be true to your real feelings and end it with her, you will deal with that trauma together. That will cement things - you and her will be friends for life. No-one in the world will have quite the same bond with you as she does and I doubt anyone ever will. A couple of months ago I went to visit her and her lovely, healthy, happy son. Remember that outcome.

The places you will go to and the things you will see. Wild Boars in your brother's back garden in France (yes, that's right, in France). New York City - you will actually walk around New York City and see some really famous people in the flesh who you will fall instantly in love with. Hamburg - you'll drink Warsteiner at bars in Hamburg and stare lovingly into the bright blue eyes of the American boy who will never want you the way you want him. Try not to worry about that when you realise it - a matter of weeks later something really quite wonderful will happen. Jersey - you will live in Jersey. I know that right now, on your way back from a summer in Guernsey, you're probably thinking "So what?" Well let me tell you this: you'll live on a house on the beach there. You've ALWAYS wanted that, right? You're going to get it - you're going to be able to step out of your front door and drink your morning coffee with your feet dangling in the sea. It won't last forever, but you will have done it. You'll write speeches for politicians that actually get shown on the news (never saw that coming, right?) You *will* own an accordion. You'll carry on buying everything They Might Be Giants release (and that's ongoing, you'll be glad to know) and you won't care what other people think of that.

There's going to be difficulties. Of course there are. You will have you heart broken several times, but I promise you it won't matter in the end.

I know you can't get along with technology right now. That's understandable - technology in 1989 is pretty crap. But that's all going to change. I can't tell you how (that's one spoiler too many) but technology is about to explode in a very big way and it's going to make sure that you never ever feel like the only gay in the village again.

A bit about me. I live in Manchester. I have many wonderful friends of all shapes, sizes, genders and colours who are there for me and who enrich my life more than I can thank them for. I have a wonderful boyfriend who I think I'm probably going to be with forever. I have a job I enjoy (not love, but who needs to love their job?) and a house full of art and music and poetry. I have pink china and rose petal tea. I love my life and it really is down to you to make sure I still get it. Don't let me down, buster.

Most importantly, I know you think you don't love yourself very much right now, but that will change. I love you. So it must.

Be brave


1 comment:

paulav said...

this is wonderful jim. thanks for sharing