Shavings From My Head: A New Year’s Eve Reprieve

January 20th, 2014 | by Will Dean | Comments
Illustration by Robert Best.

Illustration by Robert Best

By J. Corbett Holmes

Before you read this, take a moment to reflect back to your childhood, to a less tolerant moment from your past. Or perhaps to a more prejudiced place than Palm Springs — where gay men and lesbians make up a large part of the community, something that I’ve come to discover is a draw for many I speak with.

Now, take a moment to consider your personal behavior, and look inward to our community, to your fellow gays.

Over the holidays, were you naughty or were you nice? Did you say kind things, or serve gossipy helpings of harsh?

Bullying is something, as a gay community, that we talk about a lot. And (generally) we look outside of our kinship, usually with youth in mind: the high school kid who suffers the wrath of hateful name-calling; the adolescent who stems from an intolerant family tree.

As youth, many of us gay men and lesbians have endured a tumultuous childhood rife with taunting at the hands of narrow-minded outsiders. Once we learn we are different, we also learn to manage that difference. We do that by lying, concealing, blending into the background, or like me, becoming an observer — who acquired deft skills for accessing then adapting to each new social situation that arose.

While attending several parties over the holidays, in between holiday cheer, the social banter seemed to morph in and out of discussions about various men in our (very small) community. The commentary tended to focus on things that were, well, unkind: a members’ only bitchfest over the size of one man’s member, or the questionable validity of another’s resume. Size or experience, true or false, big or small, it became mean.

That being said, by even mentioning something of this elk, I am immediately fraught with the risk of suffering at the hands of you, dear reader, for me, dear writer, presenting the topic of intercommunity bullying. So let me just say this in my defense: I do not live a life of Pollyannaish behavior; I too have my moments of mean girlness. I also want to note that the aforementioned situations, although the banter was mean-spirited, came from men who I know to also do many kind things.

So why bring it up?

Because for many, like myself, my gay community is my family. And nothing can sting worse, or feel scarier, than taunts from my peers. The heightened expectations layered on around the holidays only seemed to magnify those feelings.
So, I want to share this with you:

“Auld Lang Syne” is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well-known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world — its traditional use being to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions. The international Boy Scouts youth movement (interestingly enough), in many countries, uses it as a close to jamborees and other functions.

The Scots song “Auld Lang Syne,” translated as “for (the sake of) old times,” is traditionally sung at the conclusion of New Year gatherings, at the stroke of midnight — closing one year and beginning anew.

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

The true purpose of the song, its words, the time for which we (generally) sing it — New Year’s Eve — is to remind us of times, experiences, memories gone by. It is a reminder to not forget.

When I reflect back on not only the past year, but to my childhood, my conservative catholic upbringing as a budding gay boy forced to be silent because I was surrounded by those who didn’t understand my differences — having no grasp yet that there might be a community of other people just like me.

And now I wonder if, although adolescence is a necessary time for support and tolerance, shouldn’t we strive for the same — once we’ve found our community?
Shouldn’t tolerance start at home? Home sweet Homo-sexual?

So as we embark on another new year, I will close with this: We are all unique to each other, yet we are all part of a small, extraordinary community made up of quite a few men, like myself, who were drawn to Palm Springs because of the gay community — among other admirable attributes.

So take care when you encounter someone or something that is different. Because so are you. Our differences are our gifts — especially in our gay community. So take a cup of kindness, drink it in. And then share it with someone in this new year … for old times’ sake, for auld lang syne.

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