On Acceptance 5/17/23

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

They told me to just be myself.  My friend in high school started dating a young lady from another school.  I, myself, have never had any luck dating.  I’ve never known how to attract or interact with women, especially if I find them attractive.  To “help me out”, they set me up on a date with one of her friends.  But, they said, don’t wear your hat.  Or your cowboy boots.  Or that coat.  And don’t tell any jokes.  And don’t talk about science. 

In graduate school, we had a student from another student who seemed to show interest in me.  One night, a friend of mine asked me to join him at a party.  I told him that I wasn’t invited, but he assured me that it would be okay because I’ll be there as his guest.  I sat, uncomfortable, on a couch, with pretty much nobody talking with me.  Eventually, she walked in, and with a huge smile she sat down next to me.  We started chatting, but almost immediately, three women from the party asked her to help them in the kitchen.  I have no idea what they said to her, but when she came back out, she looked very unhappy, didn’t sit with me, and actively avoided interacting with me.  She wouldn’t even look at me for the rest of the night.  To this day, I have no idea what they said to her, or the reason.  But, clearly, I was not accepted even there.

Acceptance has been in short supply in my life.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an easy person to understand.  I’m an introvert, my interests lie outside of the norm, I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs, or in short, I’m just strange.  I still believe in holding doors for ladies, not because they cannot open doors for themselves, but because they deserve to have somebody open the door for them.  I try to be supportive of my partners, I listen, and I have a romantic streak a mile wide.

And, yes, I tell dad jokes.  I always have.  To say that I look at the world differently than most would be a dramatic understatement, but shouldn’t that be seen as a strength?

My mother once told me that she didn’t understand until I was in school that I was telling jokes.  Growing up I would, apparently, make absurd comments and she just never understood that it was dry humor. 

We have a problem in our society with acceptance.  It’s not new, mind you.  When I was in school and learning to write, the teacher would tell us to pick up our pencils in our right hand, and if we picked it up in our left hand, the teacher would walk around and “correct us”.  They would literally remove the pencil from our left hands and place them in our right. 

Today, acceptance is in short supply for anybody with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, anybody who is female, and anybody who is not white.  What’s worse is that people seem to be celebrating intolerance. 

I read about a group today with the title “liberty” in the title.  This particular group is trying to limit the books available in schools and libraries.  Apparently, it’s liberty to limit free speech.  I find it interesting that many of the restricted books were required reading when I was in school. 

A recent survey seemed to indicate that roughly 2/3 of our school children with alternative sexuality have contemplated suicide, many of them stating recent legislation and politics as a reason.  I have never felt accepted, but I cannot imagine what it must have an alternative lifestyle. 

Lack of acceptance is painful.  I’ve lived with a taste of it, but I understand that I have never experienced the type of depth that it can reach.  I recently wrote about asking myself the kind of person that I want to be, and as I read about voter suppression, homophobic policies and laws, restrictions to women’s and voter’s rights, I wonder how many of those behind those movements have ever considered the consequence of making people feel as if they are not, and cannot be, accepted. 

Everybody wants to feel accepted for who they are.  Everybody wants to belong.  Ultimately, we are all social creatures, not meant to live alone.  We are supposed to live in packs, just as I am not right now.  Anything that isolates any portion of us is, I believe, inherently evil.  It’s time for acceptance and love.


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