Writes of Passage: Michael Matson

By: Michael Matson
9.7.2011

Dear Michael,

It was quite a challenge getting this letter to you, not only because you are currently living out of your car in different parts of Hollywood, but also because of the whole time travel aspect. But I won’t go into that.

Let me begin by saying, “Hi, I’m you from the year 2010.” I know you think this is totally weird, but imagine this letter as something like the Land of the Lost episode where Holly meets her future self, who assures her everything will be OK.

Michael, everything will be OK.

I know it doesn’t seem like it now, and that’s why you ran away from home. You think you’ve got everything figured out, but you don’t. You’re only sixteen. You’re not supposed to know everything at sixteen. The world doesn’t suck and people don’t suck. You are just a very creative and effeminate gay kid stuck in a dull and intolerant suburb populated with people who have no point of reference for someone like you. But you won’t be there forever. I promise.

The verbal and physical abuse you encounter daily will end eventually. And many of the things you daydream about as soothing mental escapes—all the fashion magazines you collect, the photos you tear out of those magazines and arrange so precisely on your bedroom walls, your obsessions with Brooke Shields, publishing, and New York City—will ultimately be the foundation that paves the way for your future career in media. In the years to come, you will be many things: a photographer whose images are published in Newsweek and The Face, a fine artist whose work is sold in New York, the photo director for a Francesco Scavullo fashion shoot (really!), and even a writer for premier gay magazines and websites (you’ll learn what a website is in the ‘90s).

Unfortunately, there is more pain and torment to come before then.

The next year will be one of your most challenging, which is why I am writing you now, to let you know that you are strong enough to get through it. And somewhere deep down, you know I’m right. But you will be called a faggot nearly every day, rocks will be thrown at you on campus, and you will even get beaten unconscious. But you will survive all of these things—even the beating—which will hurt your self-esteem more than your physical self in the long run.

Your suicide attempt at twelve will not be your last. There will be one more serious attempt as an adult, where you come even closer to succeeding than you did four years ago. The pain you feel in that moment will be the most unbearable of your life. But you will survive that, too. And there will be so much good that follows.

One day you will live in Manhattan. One day you will walk through a snow-covered Central Park after a blizzard. One day you will go to Coney Island and stick your bare feet in the Atlantic Ocean. One day you will visit the Vogue offices for a job interview (it’s true!). And to answer the question you are dying to know most right now, yes—you’ll meet Brooke Shields. Not only that, but you are going to work with her on a magazine cover shoot. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I’ll let you know that on the day of that shoot, you will be totally and completely present, which is something I wish you (we) were more often.

I know you have so many questions, but giving away too much would spoil the journey. I do want to let you know that you will have the most beautiful and delightful niece named Faith, who will be born three days before you work with Brooke. You will be able to ease into your niece's world so effortlessly that sometimes Mom and Dad will look at you baffled, but not disapprovingly so. Mom will even tell people proudly that you are “really good with her.” There will be an instant bond between the two of you that you’ll never completely understand, but will also never question, because it will bring you more joy than you’ve ever known.

One day, when Faith is three years old, you’ll be riding with her in the backseat of Mom and Dad’s car on the way to your brother’s house. You and Faith will be playing, and you’ll be making the silly faces that she always giggles at. There will then be a moment when Faith just stops and looks at you with her big brown eyes, and they will be totally filled with love.

The emotion of the moment will catch you off guard and you’ll quickly look away so she doesn’t see your tears. She wouldn’t understand them. In that moment, you’ll realize that this little person whom you love so much needs nothing from you, wants nothing from you, asks for nothing of you. She hasn’t been taught by the world to judge people or be fearful of people or hate people. Her feelings are organic and pure. And she loves you. She loves you because you are worth loving.

In that moment, you’ll feel like someone finally saw you. Not a sissy. Not a sinner. Not a faggot. Not a disappointment. Not an embarrassment. Not a threat to the American family. Not a cause of the country’s moral decline. Not a reason for hurricanes and earthquakes. You’re just NewMatsyfun Uncle Mike.

In that moment, you’ll step completely outside of your fantasy world and will be totally present in your own body. For the first time in decades, you will feel completely safe and have no need to escape. After being told otherwise by so many for so long, you will be assured from the most trustworthy source possible (a child), that you are as worthy of love as everyone else.

You have to survive Michael. You have to, so you can be in that moment. It will be worth going through everything else that comes before.

Now, please go call Mom and Dad and tell them you want to come home.

Love,
Me (You)

Michael Matson is an editor for Gay.net.

 

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