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    Drew Payne
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Case Studies in Modern Life - 16. The Boy from Bootle

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As soon as I walked in the door, I saw that Joel had dyed his hair purple. He was slouching on the sofa, watching some music video on the television, but all I saw was his bright purple hair. It didn’t suit him; the loud colour made his face seem even paler than usual, unhealthily pale.

When I’d left for work that morning, Joel’s hair had been a sandy brown. He might not have been the most outstandingly handsome young man, but neither had he been a plain wallflower. Now all I could see was that bright purple hair, which put the rest of him into shade and clashed horribly with the orange tee-shirt he was wearing.

“Hi Tom,” Joel said as soon as he saw me stood there.

“Hello,” I replied.

“You’re home early.”

“Friday, I’m owed time back,” I said, but my mind was screaming about that horrible purple hair.

“Do you like my new style?” he said as he pushed his hand through that hair.

“It’s very striking,” I said. The shock had pushed out any other comments from my mind.

“I think it’ll get me noticed,” he said.

“I’m sure it will,” I replied. “Where’s Frank?”

“He’s out in the garden,” Joel told me as he fell back onto the sofa.

Not bothering to go and change out of my suit, I rushed through the house’s kitchen and out into our garden. There I found my husband, Frank, throwing a ball for our dog Buster. I walked straight up to Frank and demanded, keeping my voice low so that there was no chance I was overheard: “Have you seen what he’s done to his hair?”

“It’s purple, not my first choice,” Frank said, throwing the ball for Buster, who ran off in the wrong direction.

“It’s horrible,” I hissed.

“He’s seventeen; he’s exploring his own image. You dyed your hair blond when you were his age.”

“It was different. I was nineteen.”

“Joel is making his own fashion mistakes. The dye will grow out.”

“I wish he wouldn’t dress so much like a rent boy, with all those skinny jeans and tight tee-shirts,” I protested.

“He dresses like that because that boy band he likes does,” Frank replied.

“I bet they’re all rent boys; none of them can sing.”

“Ah, are we having a midlife crisis?” Frank leant over and kissed me on the forehead.

“I just want him to be happy.”

“And he is and will be. He’s not living with your bloody sister now. Don’t worry. The dye will grow out, he’ll find a boyfriend, get a job he likes. He’ll calm down. He’s only seventeen; let him be a normal seventeen-year-old. God, we never had the chance to be teenagers when we were seventeen,” Frank said.

“I just worry about him.”

“Which is normal,” Frank said. “Go and have a shower and read your emails. I’ll start dinner in a minute.”

Buster ran up to us then, carrying in his mouth a red ball I’d never seen before.

As I showered, the hot water easing my tense muscles, I knew that Frank was right, he was the Mental Health Nurse, but I still worried about Joel. I couldn’t stop myself.

My sister is an Evangelical Christian, living in the Liverpool suburb of Bootle, and her whole life seems to be filled with her Christian beliefs. Her husband left her when Joel was three, which she blamed on the Devil “tempting” him. She allows her church to make up her mind for her on everything; she’s certainly adopted their homophobia. Ever since I came out to her, nearly twenty years ago, she’s been telling me that she’s praying for me to become “normal.” Even meeting Frank and us two getting married hasn’t stopped her wanting me to “change,” but I stopped listening to her years ago because she only ever says the same thing. I never thought her homophobia would go this far, though.

Six months ago, on a wet Sunday morning, I got a call from Joel. Very nervously he asked me if he could come and stay with Frank and I. Of course I said yes, and that’s when he told me he was already at Euston Station, he’d caught the first down to London from Liverpool that morning. The night before, his mother had thrown him out for being gay. She’d gone on his laptop, the one I bought him, and found gay links and gay pictures and emails to gay groups on it. She’d confronted him, and to his credit, Joel hadn’t denied being gay, but my ignorant sister had thrown him out of her home for it. He turned up at our house looking like a lost soul and broke down into tears as soon as he was safely in our sitting room. There was no question but that he would move in with us.

Since then he’s barely said anything about it. Instead he’d thrown himself into being gay. The handful of new friends he’s made are all gay, he only goes to gay places, even the part-time job he’s found is gay (working in the warehouse of a gay online store). He hasn’t found a boyfriend, nor seemed interested in finding one, but he isn’t celibate. He’s slept with many different young men, most only once. He is almost the stereotype of the shallow gay man, only interested in partying and sex. When I’d asked him about his mother he’d just shrugged it off, as if she no longer exists. It worries me.

Frank is right too, Joel is only seventeen, but I worry about him because my sister is such a fuck-up

I dried myself off after my shower, put on a pair of sweatpants and a tee-shirt, before going into the kitchen to read my emails on my laptop

As I watched the emails falling into my inbox, the one from my sister stood out like a sore thumb. She always writes in all capitals, like she’s shouting at me from her email.

This one was a long and badly written message all about how marriage equality, or GAY MARRIAGE, as she called it, was destroying “REAL” marriage, threatening society and would see all Christians being thrown into prison just for their beliefs. It was her usual bullshit. I’d stopped answering her years ago.

“Fuck off, you bitch,” I muttered as I deleted it.

Even with his purple hair and skinny jeans, I knew Joel was better off away from that woman.

Bootle is a suburb of Liverpool, a city in the north of England. It is a very working-class area, and very rundown. It is where I grow up, but this story isn’t about me.

 

A big thank you to Brian Holiday (brian_holliday@charter.net) for his excellent editing and proofreading of this story

Copyright © 2018 Drew Payne; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Whatever else may be true about Joel, he isn’t the devil’s child, and deserves the love of his mother. While the uncle is right to worry, it’s the worry one has for someone he cares about. This was very well written. Thank you. 

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On 3/28/2019 at 1:05 PM, Parker Owens said:

Whatever else may be true about Joel, he isn’t the devil’s child, and deserves the love of his mother. While the uncle is right to worry, it’s the worry one has for someone he cares about. This was very well written. Thank you. 

 

Thank you for your feedback, it means a lot to me and is very helpful.

I grew up in an environment that told me the most important relationship you can have is that with your family (Even when your family was as dysfunctional as mine). As an adult, my most important relationships aren't with my family members, they're with people I have no blood relationship with, it is with the people I have chosen to call friends and my husband.  For so many LGBT people, the people we gather to us are far more important than our blood relationships. That was one of the things I wanted to write about here, plus being a "parent" to someone and you don't even know you're doing it (Such as Tom and Joel's relationship).

When I was slightly older than Joel, I was told the Devil had possessed me that was why I was gay. Now I'd say, what bullshit!

Edited by Drew Payne
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Drew I'm right there with you. My family is distant at best and I'm good with that. I don't have to hear their religious rantings. 

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2 hours ago, LD Stratton said:

Drew I'm right there with you. My family is distant at best and I'm good with that. I don't have to hear their religious rantings. 

I grew up in that environment. I felt like dropping a great weight off my shoulders when I left it.

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