Life Isn’t Fair

“Life isn’t fair,” my mom used to say, defusing whatever injustice I was whining about at the time. It’s the perfect conversation ender between parent and child. My mom wasn’t disagreeing with my perceived slight; she was calmly letting me know that all of life was like this. Don’t complain. Get used to it. Suck it up.

My mom was right, of course: Life isn’t fair. Sometimes — it’s more than fair, or what the kids these days like to call “privilege.” Two experiences recently highlighted how much this is so.

I went in for a vasectomy this month. Before the procedure could be administered, I had to go in for a “consultation.” I expected a grueling defense of my decision, but it simply consisted of a brochure I had to read and a few friendly questions. The doctor and myself joked back and forth (so easy to do in a room full of penis posters and ballsack bulletins). I was asked if I had kids, to which I said “no.” I was asked if I ever thought I’d want them, to which I said, “no.” The appointment was scheduled. It was that simple.

A very good friend of mine had an abortion a few years ago, and she still hasn’t gotten over the horror of that experience. It wasn’t the procedure, or the gravity of the choice that haunt her still, it was the treatment she received from everyone that stood between her and the abortion. Like me, this friend has never wanted kids. She has even asked to have her uterus taken out, so she no longer has to endure her menstrual cycle. Since she is in her mid-20s, she is told that this procedure can’t be done, because she might change her mind one day.

That’s right: We know her future self better than she knows her present one. We know what’s better for her. The kids call this “mansplaining,” except that it was mostly women badgering her about her decision. Twice a year, she has to get permission to take a pill, and her insurance makes covering this a nightmare. My medical insurance covered my procedure without hesitation.

I never felt an ounce of judgement from anyone about my vasectomy. When I posted on Facebook about the surgery, I was given kudos by men and women alike who saw my decision as a sound one, even a generous one to my partner. So why are women crazy to choose not to have kids, and why do we make it so difficult for them to make that choice, but men are waved right through to the operating table? The entirety of my procedure couldn’t have gone more smoothly. My mom was right: Life isn’t fair.

My second experience in the world of unfairness took place just this past week, here in Wilmington, North Carolina. I’m back in the state that birthed me, but it seems like a foreign land. The same bathing suit and blue toenails that rarely drew a second glance in the islands, or Florida, brings forth murderous glares here. I’m not kidding. Grown men, sitting in small clusters, stare and chew their lips. They spit. Some even yell insults. They all try to prove to their friends that they are suitably homophobic. Yesterday, I got a blast of TV nostalgia as one guy began singing the Nair jingle about “short shorts,” with a round of laughter from his friends. That was the nicest thing I heard.

When I walked Carolina Beach with my friend Scott a few days prior, we were for all intents and purposes a gay couple. We might as well had held hands. I wish I’d recorded the anger on so many faces so that you, dear reader, could witness and be amazed. Now, I know the hatred is there, with the insanity of recent laws passed and having grown up with a gay uncle in this state and gay friends who find themselves torn between their hearts and their families and churches. But it’s not often you feel it directed toward you, as a straight male. Yesterday, I kept telling myself that no one would dare beat me up in such a public place. And they wouldn’t follow me to my car and beat me up there. At least, I was pretty sure they wouldn’t. The fact that I wasn’t wholly sure was scary in a way that sailing across the Atlantic wasn’t.

My gay friends feel this? Often? I mean, I know they do. I wrote about it in my short piece The Automated Ones. But I have always used my imagination to comment on these things. I’ve tried to pretend what it would feel like. It isn’t the same, pretending. Not by a long shot.

I used to talk with an ex about the unfair fear women have to feel while walking alone in the dark, and she confessed to feeling it in daylight, even in crowds. The feeling of being potential prey at any time. I tried to empathize. It’s not until now that I think I can even begin to grasp what that must feel like.

A girl at a restaurant the other night asked me about my toenails as well. She kept asking and asking, unable to grasp my answers, wondering what in the world I was thinking, refusing to wrap her mind around something that she does to her very own feet. If I’m not gay, then why? I remember the same question as a kid when boys started getting earrings. We get used to one thing, and then move to another to judge. The tendrils of a tattoo spiraled out of this girl’s left sleeve. I imagined her having a similar conversation with her mom or dad, but from the other side, explaining what to them might seem indefensible.

Why would I risk looking gay if I’m not? Why invite sneers of derision by wearing a bathing suit that makes me feel comfortable, instead of fitting in with the limited worldview of those around me? Prior to this week, it was because I didn’t care what people thought. Not in a mean way of not-caring, but in the sense that it didn’t occur to me to dwell on it. Here in North Carolina, feeling how much people care, it makes me glad I dress the way I do. Maybe it’s a feeling of solidarity. Or defiance. Or an attempt to help normalize what feels downright normal to me, like that tattoo must feel normal on that girl’s skin.

Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s because I know my mom was right: Life isn’t fair.

But we could all strive to make it more fairy.

 

 

 

COMMENTS (62)

I’ve lived in NC my entire life. I grew up in Greenville. I lived there for 25 years before I escaped to Charlotte for five years. Leaving Greenville was a wonderful experience. It opened my eyes and my mind to a lot of other things – some great, some not so great. Every time I go back “home” to Greenville, I am disgusted. Everyone looks the same and they all have that same, small town thought process that if someone looks different, then they are different and not welcome. It really does bother me. I don’t go “home” often. I don’t really consider it “home” anymore other than for the reason that’s where I’ve spent most of my life so far.

There are many days I’m afraid to even admit I’m a North Carolinian lately. You can’t teach a closed mind anything.

I’m sorry you had to experience that. As you already know – I hope – all of NC and its people aren’t like that. Just go visit Chapel Hill/Carrboro. Just be sure to bring some of that blue nail polish to share.

-Amber

I, too, grew up in NC. I left 27 years ago and it was the best decision. I hold fond memories of Carolina Beach (Britt’s Donuts!), and often think of going back to live there. But, it is stories like this that make me realize I can’t. I could never safely be myself there. The hatred and judgement is very real, and very scary. I’m a school teacher, and probably one of the nicest and most honest people ever, but I am covered in tattoos. My generosity, loving heart, and all of that won’t matter. And that makes me sad. Not just that I won’t be able to return, but for the people who never left. Most don’t even realize how much hate and judgment they have in them.

Thank you for this. You are not only a great author, but a good man. If more men would go through a couple days of discomfort and get vasectomy, there wouldn’t be so many woman needing birth control!!

I totally agree with you about NC too. Why these people think it is ok to stick their heads in anyone’s private business, is beyond my comprehension.

I don’t get the blue toenails myself and to me it screams ‘Hey look at me I’m not afraid to do it!” It’s almost as if you are waving your hand for some attention. But in the end, and like you, I simply don’t care. And also like you I don’t say that in a mean way. Cut the damn toes off if you want. They’re yours. Do as you please, my man. It doesn’t affect me in the least. I will continue to read and enjoy your books, whether your nails are blue, pink, or unpainted.

Joe Anderson, here’s a question: Do you think that women who wear blue nail polish on their toes are doing it for attention or do you think they are doing it because they think it is pretty? I’m guessing the latter. (I have almost the same color on my pedicure. My husband doesn’t “get” blue nail polish, but because of the color, not because it’s male/female. I point out to him that red isn’t any more natural. It’s just what he’s used to seeing.)

I understand, Leslie. And your guess is correct. It’s just interesting that Hugh never painted his toenails prior to his success and fame. Only now does he choose to do so. Sure, people have the right to be different and change whenever they like. Again, to me, it just screams of ‘Hey everyone! Look! I’m different and done care!’ I’d me more inclined to think it was a normal thing for Hugh had he been doing it previously. Like I said, in the end, it really doesn’t matter what I think. If Hugh is happy, that’s all that matters.

???

I’ve been weird a lot longer than I’ve been a writer. Very rude thing to suggest here. You don’t know me.

For hugh: ?????

So it’s weird to paint your toe nails? Or normal? Which one, Hugh? You can’t have it both ways, bud. But when you paint the nails and promptly post the pic to facebook, or use it to headline a story, I think it’s clearly my original point has been made – you’re doing it for the attention. On that note, I’ll see myself to the door. Clearly disrespect has been shown and that wasn’t really my intent.

Im wondering why my first thought is confused…joe then joey. Are you ok with hugh’s form of expressing himself, his choice to do so with blue toenails. I feel he was pondering why he liked to be different, by going through possible antecedents. Normalizing, isnt sayings its normal, i believe. It may be just trying to find a balance within oneself. If these expressions draw attention, whether we want it or not, is also not anyones business. I think to make a negative presumption why someone expresses themselves a certain way, should be kept to themselves. Or own that they do have a judgement.

This article goes deeper than inequality. It brings to the fore the question of why vast swathes of the intelligent and morally good, productive members of western society are increasingly choosing not to have children. This scares decision makers and conservative types because society always needs a next generation, and they are fully aware of that fact. The conservative element will instinctively pull back from the idea of making abortion even easier and more accessible – because of course, they recognise the fact that an entire generation of people opting out of reproduction will have disastrous consequences. They also recognise the fact that female human eggs are probably the most valuable commodity that’s ever existed on this planet.

Personally though, I agree that freedom of choice should belong to both men and women. Abortions are crucial in enabling men and women to wait until the time is right and the partner is right.

However, I can also see the opposite side to the debate. Conservatives correctly recognise the fact that there is in a sense an innate obligation involved with being alive, biologically, psychologically, toward the society you grew up in economically, towards the millennia of organisms that fought and struggled to reproduce yourself into existence, and towards the millennia of organisms that will come after, for you to reproduce.
Unless culture once again becomes more life-loving, thriving with a booming birthrate and huge amounts of the female population choosing life-long motherhood, a conservative element will ironically always exist to limit the freedom of those who wish to opt out. China with it’s one-child policy is a great example of this in action, where the metaphorical pendulum swung the other way.

An additional argument against abortion, which is perfectly valid, is that legalised abortions in combination with socialised medicine is not a particularly sound option economically. Pay for the service privately though, and I’m sure the majority of people would be supportive.

Matt,
“Conservatives correctly recognise the fact that there is in a sense an innate obligation involved with being alive, biologically, psychologically, toward the society you grew up in economically, towards the millennia of organisms that fought and struggled to reproduce yourself into existence, and towards the millennia of organisms that will come after, for you to reproduce.”

The above is quite a paragraph. Did you really mean that everyone alive has an obligation to reproduce?

I feel quite the opposite. As a school teacher the number of children whose parents either didn’t think before they had kids or did it because it was expected of them and then resent the children for taking away their freedom are far too numerous.

I had my first at 17 and believe that my child has already changed the world for the better, but I do not in anyway expect that anyone should reproduce other than for the reason that they are passionately interested in raising children enough to be willing to place that child’s welfare ahead of their own regularly.

Thanks,
Rob

I grew up in a small farm town in eastern Washington. As a kid, I was bullied for being overweight and gay. I was called every name you could think of. It was miserable. I moved away to Seattle in my early 20s. I dropped the weight, and got myself some self-esteem. I used to think that all these years later, I would go back to that town and see these guys – sad, old and doughy. I imagined the moment when I would finally stand in front of them and say “who’s got the last laugh now?”

When that opportunity presented itself, I just stood there weighed down in my own emptiness. We were all empty. Standing on my self-made soap box shouting proverbs about karma wouldn’t give me back those childhood years. And it wouldn’t make me feel better about myself.

No. Life wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair in my childhood. Life wasn’t fair when I had the opportunity to confront my enemies. And life isn’t fair now. The only thing that’s fair is what I choose to do with that baggage. Carry it or bury it?

Rene,
That is an awesome reflection. IN the end the winners, the ones who get to live–really live–are the ones who move on and bury [or burn or face in some other way] the baggage.
Rob

Agree with what Robert said, “awesome reflection”, and thanks for sharing Rene.

Kudos to you Rene. Sorry you had to go through that kind of ignorance around you. Seems you’ve got your head on your shoulders. We all have baggage. Hope yours lightens over time.

I know this wasn’t the main subject of this piece, but it relates to your vasectomy and is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Have you considered adoption? I know previously you’d mentioned in passing that children had been on your mind before, but now with the surgery, biological is no longer possible. I think you should. Snag a kid or two and show them the world. Instill these wonderful teachings you’ve passed onto us. I think you’d make an incredible dad

Hate to say this but I get stared at and taunted all the time, and it’s something I can fix with how I dress. I walk through restaurants and people stop eating with their fork halfway to their mouth. I lot of people look at me with fear. Often, men get aggressive around me. I see it on their face, in their eyes, and in their body language. They do this not because of how I dress, but because I am very tall – six foot nine and four hundred fifty pounds. I can’t go anywhere without being stared at,,, worse still, people keep their distance from me. I have to act nice all the time out of fear of making people even more afraid of me. Some people see the gentle giant in me and they are wonderful to find, but most will always keep a distance.

I have the opposite problem from Thomas. Little, female, sickly, and look over a decade younger than I am. People look at me and think “Kid who doesn’t know anything” and/or “Easy prey.”

Some folks get angry when they realize I’m not what they thought I was. And then when I don’t respond how they want me to, they get even angrier.

I rarely get physically manhandled, these days. I suspect that’s partially due to how I carry and present myself, but another factor is probably that I keep my head in emergencies. That’s too dangerous of a target for most bullies.

What an interesting and thoughtful piece, and sad, too, for all those you mention who get it in the neck for not being what “society” (read “all of those who can’t cope with individuality) wants of them. People are so afraid of living, aren’t they, of letting people just be; of allowing themselves the freedom to connect rather than to stand aloof, protected and judgmental. How afraid must they be of themselves. How little permission they give themselves to be who they really want to be. How much energy do they waste, bringing other people down to what they feel comfortable with, rather than looking at the glory and wonder of simply being alive on this planet, in all our shapes, sizes, mindets, biologies and beliefs.

I bet you annoy the hell out of those guys, though, with your physique. Haha!

You are alive and thriving, Hugh. Good luck to you.

Sex attitudes and gender roles seem to be the result of humans trying their darnedest to deny primal desires or, at the very least, repress them. God knows, we as “civilized humans” can’t just go around touching, masturbating, or copulating willy nilly – can we? I mean, really, who the hell really cares if someone is gay or not. Or wants a child or not. Or if two males hold hands in public. Or, worse yet, kiss passionately. Don’t worry, Hugh, when you reach close to my age you’ll be surrounded by enough friends of similar thought that confusing, often hateful, experiences like those you described will be mitigated. At least in more enlightened parts of this country,…. hopefully. Age on and find bluer places to live the majority of your life.

BobbieJoe Derhak

I have lived in Orlando for 15 years loving every minute of it. In the hospitality business, I meet so many people from all over the world. I am opened to new cultures and ways if life. We are as likely to see a man in a thong as in board shorts. There are no second glances. No judgement. My brother recently visited from the small town in upstate NY where i am originally from and where 99% of my extended family still lives. Coming from a small, very white, very conservetive (even in the North) town, i saw the judgement in his eyes. I heard the comments him and his wife made. Their 4 yr old son wanted to go swimming and all i had to offer them were pink water wings. They said “well he doesnt really want to go that bad”. I was appauled but not all that shocked. Those views are one of the reasons i ran far, far away from that area. When my brother mentioned wanting to move, I encouraged him becauce i thought, hopefully, maybe, if his kids are exposed to culture and open minded people maybe they wont garner the same prejudices my brother and his wife do. Its sad and simply inacceptable in this day amd age. Keep up with the toes!!

Orlonda Rosenquist

Everything you said I agreed with. Being a woman in a mans world we’ve had to grin and bear the sexist remarks and the less than equal status we have in this world. Although many woman use it to their advantage,(Kardashian syndrome).Why does a man need to act macho( which seems to mean ,without manners) to feel like a man? Like mom said ,life isn’t fair. I congratulate you on your decision not to have kids, I can think of many that should have done the same thing. You know your mind and know what you’d like your future to be. As far as a female goes I can understand a doctor not wanting to remove a uterus, it’s not reversible. At least with a vasectomy the possibility is there. Life moves on and I hope with time mens attitudes about women and equality changes for the better. I’ve said before if Hillary doesn’t win the election I believe a big part of the reason will be her sex. Not that many men or women will admit it. Kind of sad America, we’ve got a long way to go ladies and gentlemen.

As a Bahamian and huge fan of your books, (read ’em all!), I followed you trek through our islands with great interest. Lord knows we have our share of homophobics here in Nassau as the radio talk show hosts debate daily an upcoming referendum dealing with male/female issues and the fact that “dere ain’t nuttin’ in between, God ain’t make no gay sex change people, dem”………Fortunately, folks in the out islands are way less judgemental as long as you don’t do or say anything too outrageous……”don’t let ya mout’ carry ya where ya feets can’t bring ya back!” I sincerely hope that all your past experiences in my country have been pleasant, memorable ones. And I’ve gotta say that I was particularly thrilled to learn that your idea for “Beacon 23” came from the time you spent in the lighthouse at Hope Town……it is truly a magical place!
Anyway…….I can’t help but think that, (as I watch a certain republican nominee giving his endorsement speech at the NRA), should he become POTUS, that there’s a good chance that you would get the crap beaten out of you if you tried that “walk” some time in the future. As a species, we seem to be regressing……
I’m heading up to Spanish Wells tomorrow to look at a property so there’s a good chance I may be living there the next time you pass through….I’d love to buy you a beer or two at the Shipyard and talk scifi.

I’d love that. My time in the Bahamas has been amazing, most of it spent in the out islands.

Thank you for sharing this.

I am a trans woman, who transitioned in a small town near Atlanta about 25 years ago. It boggles my mind how much people are obsessed with my genitals and my birth certificate after all this time.

Women don’t use urinals. We pee behind closed doors. So if someone is obsessing about what I have between my legs and they’re not my wife or my doctor, they’re the creepy pervert everyone should be avoiding.

Life isn’t fair and to me those words are soul crushing. No truer or crueler words. We learn them as children when we think our small worlds are all encompassing, then as adults the all encompassing world restricts and binds us in fear and opposition. It seems impossible to improve a society, be it local or global, when individuals are hindered. If we can’t be our own true selves without fear, how can we be a society. Present situations prove we can’t.

As an aside, I was disappointed in your decision because of personal fantasy. Lol. I respect your decision wholeheartedly as I would want mine respected. My mind went to cooing over an intelligent attractive age appropriate man, though unattainable) and cried well why not, what about me? In reality I am usually happily married and unable to have children. It was just that my fantasy had been crushed. As with everyone who believes them self in charge of another persons body, it is fantasy. You be the best you possible and I will keep dreaming. :)

I’m sorry that coming back to North Carolina has to be such an unpleasant experience. We moved here in the 1970s when NC was the “enlightened” Southern state. When I’ve given school programs in Alabama, NC was the place Alabama teachers looked up to. I was already telling them several years ago that NC had changed, and they wouldn’t admire it long. I’ll looking north, but if the sane, educated people leave, the lunatics win.

Kevin Gyscek-Strauss

Keep being who you are my brother no matter what. Mark and I are headed to NC in Sept for our 31 st year together. My fondest memory on the Outer Banks is having our niece Heather paint my toe nails. Personal freedom is not having to explain yourself to anyone. Unfortunately it can cost you your life. Be well. Love for us both.

Hugh…as always you amaze me. I love that you open your mind to all positions and see things as they truly are. You don’t shy away from saying what’s not fair to women to be afraid during the day OR thenight…. or life in general isn’t fair to gay men…you’re not afraid to strut your stuff in a itsy bitsy teeny weeny polka dot bikini….you inspire me quite honestly. Your words have always been inspiring, but it’s more than that when I read these types of posts from you. YOU are inspiring. Stay true to yourself always, the world could do with quite a few more like you! Thank you.

My students had a similar eye opening event. I help co-lead the Gay-Straight Alliance at the school where I teach. The students that identify as gay or trans tend to not get much flak (we are a small population school), but when they participated on the Day of Silence, they found that some of the students who normally wouldn’t make cracks at them, felt freer to belittle them because the silent students couldn’t defend themselves verbally. The straight students who participated suddenly found themselves judged and ridiculed for their support of the cause. By the end of the day, the entire group felt more vulnerable and raw, an uncomfortable, scary feeling. However after much constructive conversations about it, we came out on the other side more fiery and empowered to find ways to help change the situation. ~ Vive la différence!

I’m a fan and fellow writer HH, nice post–just wondering WHY the toenail hue, Hugh?? Don’t matter to me, I’d probably try black myself–
Joe

My best mate is gay. I love him like a brother. One of my cousins is gay, and I have a bunch of friends who are lesbians. I’m told I project acceptance, if that makes sense. I go to bat for these guys every time equal rights comes up, and I would stand beside them if anything bad came along. And I’d stand beside you in that carpark.

Yet your toenails disturb me somewhere down deep. Not the swimmers, whatever. It’s something to do with how I’ve been conditioned to view a man, I suspect. It makes no sense to me, and I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. Well that’s my problem.

I just finished reading a terrific novel by Christopher Buckley called “The Relic Master.” It’s set in 16th century Europe. Some of the characters in the story were known as Landsknecht, aka mercenary soldiers. They were the toughest, meanest, most lethal guys around. They were also the biggest dandies — in terms of the way they dressed — of their time. No one messed with them, though, because they’d take your head off.

The lesson here, I think, is the farther you stray from the norm, the tougher you’d better be, in one way or another.

I’m sorry you had to experience that, but I’m glad that you were able to recognize it for what it was—and that you’re not letting it intimidate you. :)

Something else you might find good story fodder to mull on, as you’re extrapolating from your experience to how life is for folks who live with that daily… Imagine someone for whom how those strangers treated you vs. how your family treated you was flipped—where family were the cruel ones, and they were taught that everyone’s family was like that, that it was normal for family to be cruelest to each other, where their family insisted that something was wrong with that one person because they didn’t want to participate in the ridicule + that the family had to be right because they outnumbered that person.

It happens. And that kind of judgmental environment in the broader community enables and shields such environments in families.

Again, mainly pointing that out b/c it strikes me as an important part of that situation type that your muse might enjoy chewing on. If not, my apologies. :)

Pretty much, if you are a guy who woke up with blue toenails, either you fell asleep reallly drunk, or you are a fag?

I can relate to your post. I live in a small town in South Africa and I learned quickly that most people simply are judgmental. They want you, your personality and choices to fit neatly into a box. After all, how dare you be different? You have to conform and be just like everybody else. I think you are brave and wonderful for speaking about these issues. Perhaps it might help a few people to see that even though we are different, we are still human. I’m sorry you and your friends had to endure such unfair judgment. Life sure isn’t fair. But it shouldn’t be cruel to anyone either. Thank you for speaking up. Wishing you well.

Life is a trade off! And to me beauty is diversity. Though I cringe when reading about your friends dealings with the doctor, who by the sounds of things needs a jab with an empathy needle. These differing believes, views and behaviours can give us power and allow us to value the people we choose to surround ourselves with. Would nice still be nice if nasty didn’t exist?

The artist Grayson Perry just did a phenomenal series on masculinity for Channel 4 in the UK–worth seeing if you get the chance. Several of the things you wrote here made me think of it.

Hats off to you, Hugh, for being the change, as they say.

My guess on the vasectomy is because it’s out patient and reversible so not as big of a deal.

But no one should be able to tell a woman she can’t take out her own uterus. That’s just crap.

I’ve always hated the stereotypes. A woman can wear any color, wear a dress or jeans, play with any toy (although apparently not the main character from star wars because ‘girls don’t buy toys’)
But a girl is not as likely to be put in a box if she likes to build things with legos.
If you’re a guy you better not ever think about wearing a dress. Apparently you are still a deviant because you like to wear flowy material… even if it has nothing to do with sex. You just have different preference than the gender norms.

It wasn’t so long ago that you couldn’t wear pink as a guy.

I went to a social event at a job i had in my 20s. The ceo or whatever of the company told his party joke about how women should not be paid as much as men. Apparently he tells that one alot

It was a table full of women and I was the only woman there who wasn’t a single mom.

I was staring angry lasers at him the rest of the dinner. He laughed and commented about how my outrage was funny.

I love that it is a known fact that more women than men read but trad pub ‘requires/strongly encourages’ you to have a male main character and use initials to hide your gender

The reasoning that boys won’t read about girls but girls will just take whatever they can get.

So they won’t make toys for girls because it’s assumed they won’t sell. But don’t let there be a chance the precious boy doesn’t have a full selection of books to read

Men do make more money for same job. They also get special privileges and somehow mange to work it so they don’t have to work the same number of hours.
And typically the man skips from job to job looking for better pay jump and the woman settlles in for the security of the job.

But whatever you do pay the guy. He might leave us otherwise…

Also love the toenails.

I just moved to North Carolina. I was worried because my husband and I are interracial couple but so far no problems.

I hope you will keep it up with the toenails. It would be best if more guys would do it. Then it would be like the pink shirt that guys can wear now- no big deal.

My biggest wish is that men would start wearing dresses if they wanted to and it wasn’t labeled anymore.

A guy i worked with recently would wear his family’s plaid kilt on Halloween (his heritage’s pattern/whatever it’s called) at work

He was asked to stop because it made people uncomfortable. … On Halloween.

Hugh has some experience wearing dresses, also on Halloween. I’ve always been jealous of women’s clothes… so much more to play with. And I love skirts. Always would have preferred to hike in skirts.

Good! I am glad.

I’ve always hated — and never understood — the rush to put people in boxes.

I have some comments on this blog:
I grew up and still live on a beach an hour south of Wilmington. Here’s the thing about the beaches in the Carolinas during the spring, summer and fall months of the year; most of the people on the beaches in those months ARE NOT LOCALS. They are tourists. The demographics of the vacationers to these beaches suggest that the people that harassed you, Hugh, were not from Wilmington and were probably not even from North Carolina. They might have been, but most likely they were from Ohio, New Jersey, West Virginia, or some other northeastern state. You don’t say that you confirmed where your antagonists were from in your blog so the reader infers that they were from Wilmington. I doubt they were.
I visited Wilmington a couple of years ago. I stayed downtown on the river. I found the people there to be quite diverse and different from the lower middle class vacationers who come to the beaches of the Carolinas on their vacation. Wilmington has a thriving film industry and it attracts some of the most colorful and dynamic people I have ever met or watched. (I love to people watch). Did you stand in your bathing suit and blue toenails on the streets of downtown Wilmington? I doubt that you did. If you did, I think you would be looked upon, not with condemnation, but with a puzzled expression and perhaps a point of the finger in the direction of the beach (after all you’re standing in the city in your swimsuit). But no one there would think much, one way or the other, about how you are dressed.
I live in an area with great people as neighbors that is close to the beach where your incident occurred. I (we) have put up with our visitor’s sh*t since before I can remember as a young child. But they are not us and we are not them.
Right now about a half million of them are riding up and down our streets on motorcycles and having the time of their lives. As for the locals? Not so much in the way of a good time. In fact, I can empathize with anyone plagued by locusts even though I’ve never experienced their ordeal. These bikers aren’t from here; they are tourists. The last thing I would do though, is go into one of the clubs or bars that caters to them wearing a small tight bathing suit with my toenails painted blue. Not safe, not smart. There is a bigoted confidence that comes with large numbers of same minded people and it tends toward mob law(lessness). Trying to assert your right to dress in a way that goes against their bias in this situation can only lead to personal hardship. Best not to do it.
But here is the thing. I live here. I KNOW my neighbors. Here is an example of the other side how a related matter is handled on a beach near WILMINGTON: My teenage daughter’s best friend has told her that he has something to tell her. He’s been hinting to her for the last several months about it. She already knows what he’s going to say. She’s suspected it since her maturity and intellect began to grasp that he was different from her other male friends. Yes, he’s going to tell her that he is gay.
Like she ever did care. Or myself or anyone else in our neighborhood who has watched him grow up for that matter. My daughter holds an intense interest in his wellbeing. He is her friend and she wants him to be happy in his own skin. As my daughter’s father and his father’s friend, I do the same. It isn’t something that concerns us (my daughter and I) personally. We have no need to judge how he was born or who he is. And we are from the same area that you are bashing! And our friends and neighbors? They see him in the same unbigoted light–he is one of us, from a beach community that you make out to be darkened by lack of tolerance.
Your blog sounds closed minded to me. And dark. Sorry, that’s just how it strikes me. I have loved reading your thoughts for a long time now, this though, it caught me by surprise.

Great post, and absolutely correct. My mother in law lived in Sunset Beach. Many people this time of year were definitely not from North Carolina. My husband and I would often stop in Wilmington on our way there. I found I liked it enough that I’ve considered moving to the area. Lots of nursing jobs, near the water, and a lovely city. Once again, lots of the people there now are tourists, not locals.

It’s titled “Life Isn’t Fair”, and you’re surprised it has a “dark” tone?

Granted, downtown Wilmington has a completely different feel to that of the drive-on part of Carolina Beach. But don’t claim the open and progressive people of NC and reject the racist, bigoted and intolerant ones. Both are representative of NC. One of the first things I saw driving on to the beach was a NC flag flying along with the Confederate flag. I’m assuming they weren’t from NJ or some other northeastern state. I only saw NC plates. They might not have been your immediate neighbors or residents of downtown Wilmington, but they were mostly North Carolinians. No, this swath of beach has been claimed by locals, just not the ones you or I hang with. I grew up in NC and currently live in SC, I know what’s here and there, so I’ve learned not to take the jabs towards the Carolinas personally, because much of it is true if not put as generalizations, and I certainly wouldn’t try to blame things on tourists.

And “closed minded”? This insult takes nerve. Hugh shares an experience that tells about empathizing with the inequalities towards women and the LGBTs, and because this one experience took place near your home you take offence, throw out an anecdotal story about you and some friends and neighbors, and he’s closed minded? Besides the fact that you’re in denial about your “neighbors” and wrongfully blaming tourists, I think you might have missed the point of the blog just as inaccurately as you defended your area.

Hi Scott,
I never said Hugh was closed minded, I said his post sounded closed minded. Big difference. And for Hugh to imply that it is the locals of Wilmington that are intolerant of his dress IS being closed minded to the fact that there are many people who live in this area who just don’t care what either he or you wear on the beach. In fact, I’d say that anyone that treated the two of you the way they did are an extreme minority here.
For the record, I like to wear tight, retro, Birdcall Beach Britches to the beach. They are far smaller and tighter than what is normally worn by men on the beach today. I might get a look every now and then but my wife likes them and that is really all that matters to me. So consider me on board with the tight fitting suits.
I’ve grown up on these beaches. I’ve seen anything and everything out there over the last few decades. I’ve never seen anyone taunted for what they were wearing or how they act. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened here, but Hugh’s post implies that a gay man isn’t safe here or the beaches of the Carolinas and that isn’t true.
I stand by what I wrote. I agree that there are people in this world who hate. But they come from all places, and to imply that Wilmington is a hotbed of activity for homophobic behavior is not something I can let slide.
Hugh isn’t closed minded, he’s so far from it, but to say that the beaches of my home “seem like a foreign land” pisses me off. Why? Because I live here and I know that, like all places in this country, there live people with preconceived biases that are dangerous and offensive, but to say that we here in the Carolinas are like a foreign land (and this brings to the mind of Hugh’s readers some remote, backward country that is governed by hate mongers) is not something I’m going to let go without putting up a defense.
What the two of you experienced can happen anywhere. It happened here and that’s sad, but then there are laws against this and they are in force on the beaches around this foreign land…whoops, I mean Wilmington, as much as they are anywhere else in the United States.
Perhaps the two of you should have contacted the police about this. They are all over the beaches here, protecting and defending; it’s what they do. Hate crimes are unacceptable. Next time point out the perpetrators, even if you don’t press charges, and it will surely give them pause to consider doing it again.
I like Hugh. I love his books and his blog. I don’t consider him closed minded. I find him to be on the forefront of many issues in this country regarding writing, publishing, sailing, health, and lifestyles. He has the country’s ear. People listen to him. Therefore, when he says something about my home that I consider incorrect on a public blog, I will point out the part I consider to be incorrect.
By the way, I like you too, Scott. You seem like an incredibly good friend to Hugh. I’m sure Hugh considers himself blessed to have a friend like you in his life. You have his back, he has yours and that’s a good thing. It is also rare today. Just based on that I can admire both of you.
I also like the beaches and the people of my home and I consider us to be a thriving part of this great country. Not a foreign land. We have our issues here sure, but so do all the other communities within our country, and I reiterate that there are many, many people here in the Wilmington and surrounding beaches that ARE NOT LIKE the men that accosted you. And I still think there is a significant chance they were not from here to begin with.
You take care, Scott, and I hope all of your days are full of peace, acceptance for who you are, and joy.

Great post Chris! Thank you for sharing.
I’ve found the same since I’ve moved here.

Great post, Hugh. I admire your courage and openness. A gift to your readers.

I’m 5′ and 95 lbs, look good for my age and have a feisty fun personality. Yet, I’m always saying—“Hey, look at me”! I get overlooked at the deli counter, the bank, any line.

I could care less what color any girl or guy or it-person paints their nails. By biggest concern right now is for the rights of conservative, Christian beliefs. I promise not to step on your blue toes if you promise not to step on mine!

Ha, the only thing conservative Christians are losing is their political power to enforce their religious beliefs on others and legally persecute. Other than that you haven’t lost any rights, that’s a myth you’ve bought in to. http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/persecution-complex-religious-right-s-deceptive-rallying-cry

Born and raised in North Carolina. I get that there are a lot of closed minded people in this beautiful state. But there are also a lot of accepting, and open minded people too. I sorta feel like we’ve all been lumped together and judged since HB2 passed, and I really don’t think it’s fair. I do not like Pat McCrory or anything he stands for, but it seems all of North Carolina is getting a bad rap because of him.

Yes- I think it’s true! I’ve had so many positive experiences here. This post had made me concerned- was I missing this bigotry all around me? Where have I moved to?

But Wilmington is a high tourist area (as Chris mentions above) and it’s wrong to lump all of NC or even just Wilmington in this way.

I am so glad I came back to see new comments.
I won’t be ashamed anymore! I love my adopted state.

There are a lot of really good, kind, wonderful people here!

“More Fairy!” I love it. Thank you. My brother is openly gay and the only thing that gave my family pause about it was fear for him that he might encounter people who see him as a target for their incomprehensible rage.

Back in the late 60s, early 70s as an early teen in suburban NY I had my hair long as was starting, just starting, to be the trend on the east coast. I was a skinny wimpy looking kid and I got pick on constantly and beat up on a couple of occasions. Why did I grow it? Because for some reason it felt right.

Hugh: my father used to paint his toenails/fingernails. I loved him for it, among his other wonderful little joys. When I saw your toes, it reminded me of him. Thank you for always sharing. Keep doing what makes you happy.

This is an amazing post, Hugh. Thank you.

No, life isn’t fair. I just hope that one day people would work a little harder to make life a little better for everyone, to make life a little less unfair.

Life is certainly not fair. I lived in Japan for 11 years, and I saw the unfairness of life there. It’s such a patriarchal society. Women have a difficult time getting paid well, and many employers are reluctant to hire married women because they could have children. Employers ask women in their interviews if they have children or plan on having any children. They’ll pass on someone simply because they may be a mother.

Not only that, foreign staff are held to a different standard. We were used to going home when our shift ended, so we did. No problem. But if Japanese staff attempted to do that, they were berated and punished for being lazy, even if they’d finished all of their work. In Japan, the boss goes home first. All workers must stay and close up after the boss has left. And if the boss says you’re going to a drinking party, you better go, or else you can say your raise or promotion good-bye.

One good example of unfairness happened about three years ago when my area’s Area Manager went on a one week holiday in Taiwan, and when she came back, she was demoted for taking a holiday. Japanese workers are often overworked, expected to never take their holidays, and if they do, expect to face the consequences for being selfish. No wonder the suicide rate is so high in Japan.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard that women in the US need to have a permission from someone else to use the pill – I think it was the permission from one’s employer (really?? If that is true, it is simply insane). I live in a country where no one else but the woman herself makes that decision. No husband, employer, priest, or social worker can deny them the right not to have children. They do not face the third degree, it is their life and their decision. They decide about their own bodies. It is so demeaning for women to be forced to justify their own deeply felt life decisions. In today’s “developed” countries no one should be forced to do so.

Grew up knowing that. Taught that don’t expect anything and everything good becomes a pleasant surprise and bad things never surprise you.

A nicely turned article, very brave, honest and compassionate.

I too choose not to have kids. Yes, reproducing really is the purpose of life, but I choose to be a selfish failure. I’m sorry about that nonsense you had to endure, the mere fact that nobody makes it out from life alive should bind us together, instead we find new trivial ways to hate each other. Life isn’t fair.