CHANGES

12 august 2005
In considering the difficulties I have created for myself I have recalled the persona that I built up in my early twenties. Some personae may well be beneficial, but mine was not. I concocted a version of myself as the resolute man, perhaps with a tinge of the adolescent romantic loner fantasy, with a bogus masculinity. I became aggressive for no reason whatever, perhaps because I couldn’t think of anything else. When I met people I hardened all the muscles of my forearm to create a strong masculine handshake. I blush to remember all this. Several people asked sarcastically if they could have their hand back. I took this to be a tribute to my resolute masculinity! I made strong pronouncements about things I knew nothing about. I cannot imagine how people were able to put up with me.

All this because during childhood I gradually developed curvature of the spine. First this was called bifeta, then scoliosis. In fact it’s plain old curvature. At fifteen I saw myself in two mirrors and realized that I was not made like other guys. It was a bad time for a discovery like this. Growing into an increasing skewing of my body, I felt isolated, cut off from `normal’ people.

By the time I was in art school this bogus persona had blinded me to what was plainly in front of my nose: I had good intelligent friends, some of whom remained with me as long as they were alive. Women responded to me sexually. The truth was, nobody who mattered to me cared about the configuration of my spinal column. I was not cut off, I was not isolated, and allowing this persona to take place distorted my entire life.

I realized this morning that I have to become a child again. What an extraordinary idea! I laughed out loud. Not at the absurdity of it but with relief at finally coming to it. I wept a little, but mostly laughed, suddenly felt lighter. Though I do not know how it can be managed.

5 September
Today I realize what prolonged the reign of this ersatz persona: I never talked to anyone about the curvature of my spine which had become quite obvious by then. In all those years I never talked to a single person outside of medical people, not to my wife, not to my children, not to friends—to no-one.

I ask myself: how can I not have talked about it?

On the other hand, how could I talk about a shame so deep?

But I will now talk about it. Perhaps to talk about it the closest I can ever come to being a child again.