A Not So Little – BIG Thing
Go to your high school reunion.
When I was doing research about creating this blog, everywhere I read said you have to be real. Be honest. Open up your life to your readers. Give them something to connect to. Hmmm, not sure about that. Then I went to my 40th high school reunion last September and it has had a huge impact on me so I wanted to share my experience with you. I started writing this back in September but it is finally ready to share. That said, my heart is racing and I can feel that lump in my throat. I hope that everyone can take something positive from my experiences.
Last fall, I went to my 40th high school reunion. I had never been to any of the past reunions and while at one point I considered going to this one, I thought I had ultimately decided against it. It was a twelve hour drive (or a $400+ flight) from where I live now to my former home town so not going was always my conscious self providing me with an “out” or an excuse.
So much of not going back to any of my high school reunions stemmed from some dark and painful memories that I remembered from my youth. For decades those memories clouded over all of the great friends, classmates, incredible teachers and fun times that I had. I may never understand why I remember the negatives that completely clouded over the more prevalent positives. I guess it is just the way it is or should I say the way it was.
The Background: At School
I was a “high school musical and choir geek”. Not very “studious” and got average grades. I had no interest in sports and was not athletic in the least. While I
had not verbalized or acknowledged it at the time, I was/am gay. The jocks and popular crowd seemed to know it or at least saw me as “weaker” and some took advantage of that. The torment and name calling that started in junior high continued to a lesser, but still impactful degree during high school and that bullying definitely tarnished my memories of all of the positive experiences and friendships that I had.
One incident still haunts me to this day when I was picked up – desk and all – and physically dumped out of my desk by the football quarterback in 9th grade English class. I sat in the front row for protection and he usually sat in the back row but on this day he wanted to show his “manhood” and my seat. There was no teacher in the room so that gave him power. I remember falling to the floor and sheepishly walking to the back of the class.
His face is burned into my brain. I can hear the class laughing. That pain and humiliation has stayed with me. That single incident impacted the rest of my high school experience. Once a sophomore (our high school had only three grades) in a new school, I was not targeted at the same level. But the damage was done.
The ever present fear was always around the corner when I would hear the word “fag” or “homo” directed at me or someone else as the jocks, tough guys and their entourage walked the hall. A good day was one when I was not noticed by them. My way of hiding was to surround myself with choir and theater friends so the taunts would be directed at others. I remember being glad when the hate was directed at an underclassman who had what some would call a more effeminate demeanor . I hated myself for that but I guess it was self-preservation. My classmates could not have known the pain I was going through because I hid it well with comedy, jokes and laughter.
The Background: Home Life
At home, I didn’t quite fit in either. I knew that my parents loved me and only wanted what they thought was best for me but we were polar opposites. My parents were big sports fans and there was always the pressure to be an athlete. A game was always on the TV and I was encouraged to watch and hopefully play one day. I’m sure they also hoped it would toughen me up. I tried out for football in 9th grade in hopes of gaining their approval but I was miserable, not very good and ended up quitting. Banging my head against others for the sake of a ball just was not in my DNA. I am sure that was not a surprise to my parents but they had to feel disappointed nonetheless.
My dad was also a huge outdoorsman who loved camping, hunting and fishing. The requirement to join him was constant from age 6 to age 13. At thirteen I asked him to stop asking me. While he did continue to ask, he finally accepted it when I said no. While this persisted throughout my childhood, I was lucky enough to make a new friend in 9th grade junior high that changed the trajectory of my life.
This friend and his family opened their home and heart to me. I spent a lot of time including many overnights, turning into many entire weekends and several consecutive days in the summers. No sports on the TV and no one hunted or fished, it was a sanctuary. I could not be there enough. I was even invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with this family for several years. I was accepted and always had lots of fun. By not being with my family, I got out of hunting with my dad and my cousins. I also did not need to find sanctuary in the kitchen with all the women instead of being in the living room watching football and scream at the TV like I cared.
During this time in my life, I spent many nights at home in bed planning my suicide. Praying and hoping that I could gather the courage to just end it all. Fortunately, my few attempts were not very well thought out. While the internal voices of sadness and anxiety seemed relentless, I clearly had a stronger will to survive. And I had them, this “other” family. This family did not know at the time but I strongly believe that they saved my life. They relieved the pressure I felt at home and school. They opened my eyes to new ideas and opportunities. After high school my friend and I went our separate ways but those years were so important to me. I am forever indebted to him and I am especially indebted to the love and support his parents shared with me.
After a year as an exchange student in Sweden and then living on campus during college, I could not get away from my home town fast enough. At this time while continuing to be “the life of the party” on the outside I was deeply tormented on the inside. Always hiding was frightening and exhausting. Being different in the eye’s of others was frightening but not knowing how to deal with those feelings is downright terrifying. As a result I spent years in introspection trying to come to terms with who I was. That lead to years of depression, shame and self-hatred. During college I went to a university sanctioned psychotherapist who told me that he could use electro-shock therapy to cure me of being gay.
Thank God I said no to that offer but I still struggled. In my late 20’s living in Chicago, I had what I guess would be called a type of nervous breakdown. My roommate encouraged to get into therapy that was healthy for me. This gay positive therapy led me out of the closet and surrounded by people that I felt I no longer needed to hide from. Life got so much better and I got so much happier.
So now at the deep end of the 50’s with a husband of 28 years, and the love of my family and friends, my life is and has been completely fulfilled for the past thirty years. So why not go to the reunion.
What did I have to lose? If it’s already been 40 years….what’s the hurry. Besides I had not seen or even thought much about my classmates for most of my adult life. Well… until Facebook changed the world and I reconnected with some of my former classmates. It started out nothing more than a “like” here or a “happy birthday or congrats” there but I was also able to stalk their life as presented on Facebook. Slowly but surely reached out a little more and began reconnecting through the safety of Facebook.
When the reunion was first posted on FB, my first thought was… I should go, yet quickly changed my mind. So much time had passed and I would be just returning from an annual vacation to Provincetown, MA the week before the reunion. So I told myself I really needed to get back to work…. I had clients depending on me.
Then, back in my home town, my uncle died and his funeral was to be the same day as the reunion. I could not imagine not being there for my aunt. My sisters and I were all going to the funeral. It was to be a morning funeral, then to my aunt’s house for comfort food and reminiscing. That evening there were no funeral activities and my sisters would be watching the OSU football game. So after flip-flopping and many emails with the committee, I finally decided to attend my first class reunion.
About an hour before it was time to leave for the reunion I started getting anxious. So much so, that my older sister reminded me that I did not have to go. What if I did not recognize people?, What would we talk about? Certainly, my life without children or grandchildren was going to be so different from theirs. Socially, I HATE walking into rooms by myself filled with people I do not know. This is how I felt even though these folks were not “true” strangers.
I did not plan to drive since I would be partaking in adult beverages, so my sister suggested I have a glass of wine before I leave to “calm my nerves”. Still anxious and nervous, but I stayed the course and went.
As I walk up the stairs there is a man walking ahead of me… I have no idea who he is. He says hello and introduces himself. We shake hands and I say ”Good to see you again. I am Rick Dean.” To which he replies, “I know, I recognize you!”. Crap…. I am not even in the room yet and it’s happening, I am not going to recognize anyone.
I entered the room and I hear a woman exclaim, “Yea! Rick Dean is here. Rick is here.” and the next 8 hours was a whirlwind of mind blowing proportion. People came up to me with fond memories that I did not recall but we laughed and smiled and got reacquainted. A few walked up to me with their name tag covered and I had no idea who they were. Others with the name tag exposed I was still clueless. Of course those that I had friended on FB as well a some others were immediately recognizable. But all that anxiety and trepidation disappeared and I was having a great time.
Many of my closest high school gang of friends were there and even though 40 years has passed, it was so comfortable and felt great to be in their company again. Classmates from my old neighborhood subdivision were there too and the stories came flooding back. One classmate who was not part of my circle of friends in school came up to me shared how he grew up with a gay dad and what his life was like back then and how it made him a better person today. At dinner along with a few classmates, I sat with two of my former teachers that came because they loved our class. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their stories as they reflected back to my days in high school.
Next thing I know I am pulling together a group from the choir to get the karaoke going. When it’s time to do a group picture I took the mic and started giving directions using my skills as a wedding photographer to herd this massive group into some semblance of order that somehow turned into a mini stand up comedy routine calling out various classmates and telling jokes while we got the group all set up for the picture.
I don’t know where the time went but it flew by and next thing I knew the party was over but the after party continued at a bar down the road. A classmate who lived near where I was staying volunteered to be my “Uber” and drove me home at 3am. I was reeling with adrenaline and could have stayed up all night.
As the days after the reunion ticked by, the reunion Facebook page exploded. A classmate said how much fun she had and thoroughly enjoyed seeing me again. But I was taken aback when she said, I was just as funny, crazy and energetic now as I was back in high school.
Damn! How it is that I remembered the anxiety, and pain and torment (both internal and external) and she remembers ….the funny…. crazy….and energetic.
Without Facebook, I probably never would have gone to this reunion. As a result of going, I got my happy, crazy, fun and cheerful high school years back. While classmates and the specific memories are clouded with age… I have the rest of my life to clear away those clouds and remember that same kid that everyone else remembered.
Thank you to the committee who made this happen. And thanks to Facebook.
Spicy Molten Blue Cheese Dip
Last Friday, we had a few friends over for happy hour out on the porch. I wanted to try something new. So I found this recipe on the New York Times Cooking email a few weeks ago and had to give it a try. It is not spicy in my humble opinion. It still tasted great!
Spicy Molten Blue Cheese Dip
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch kosher salt
¼ cup heavy cream or half and half
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon hot sauce, more for serving if desired
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces blue cheese (about 1 cup, crumbled)
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Celery sticks, chips or chicken wings, for serving
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place cream cheese in bowl of a food processor and pulse to soften.
Place paste in food processor along with cream, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and pepper. Run motor until mixture is smooth. Add blue cheese and chives and pulse just to combine.
Scrape mixture into a small (1-quart or smaller) gratin dish. The pie pan I used is too big. Bake until dip is melted and bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle extra hot sauce on top, if desired, and serve hot or warm, with celery sticks and chips or chicken wings if you like.
PDF to download: SpicyMoltenBlueCheeseDip
2016 French Rosé Wines Are Arriving
And not a moment too soon. Rosé wines are typically the first wines of the year to be released. Light in color varying from a pale peach or salmon to a light or medium pink to pinkish-red. The red/purple/black grapes are crushed. Leaving the skins in contact with the grape juice for a short period of time. Some for mere hours while others a couple days. The first french rosé wines were made 26 centuries ago by the Greeks in a colony near Marseille, Provence, France. To this day some of the world’s best rosés continue to come from this region. In addition to Provence, the neighboring region of Languedoc Roussillon is also known for producing some fantastic rosés.
Not White Zinfandel
Yes – all White Zinfandel is rosé but all rosés are NOT White Zinfandel. And Thank Gaud for that! Actually, Sutter Home, a California “grocery store quality” Winemaker made White Zinfandel ny accident in the 1970s. Today, this wine retails from $3.97 to $6.99. A classic rosé generally sells for around $11.00 to $15.00 at the low end. However you will also find many great wines in the $16.00 to $25.00 range and if you want to go crazy $50 to $100.00.
Vive la difference
Let’s look at the difference. White Zinfandel uses the juice from the Zinfandel grape. This is not a grape typically used for making rosé wine. White Zinfandel is sweeter (think fruit punch) and darker in color while a traditional rosé is typically a blend of two or more varieties of grapes including but not limited to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault. A classic rosé tends to be dry, is much lighter in color and can be quite complex. Honestly, I look at white zinfandel as a non-wine drinkers beverage or a beginner wine. So if you use this as your measure of rosé, we have to reintroduce you to these great wines.
A Lady’s Summer Wine? I think not!
Historically, rosé wine was s are thought to be a summer wine and “just for women”. Holy Cow! How 1950’s of us? Not sure where or why this was so, although I suspect that the “pink” color was not manly enough for a man’s man. I am so glad that our society has evolved for many reasons with the added benefit that rosé is now a drink for everyone. And as far as it being a summer wine… if you drink white wine all year round, why not a rosé. We do and we have turned many friends on to rosé that never drank it before.
So as the rosé 2016 releases start pouring in (pun intended), we will be sure to check them out and share our thoughts. First up will be our favorite from last year, Moulin De Gassac, Guilhem Rosé. Stay tuned.