The decision to write an honest and candid memoir about "coming out" and living life authentically should be accompanied by a list of side effects similar to that of the antidepressant Lexapro: confusion, headaches and sleeping problems. The achievement of having a piece of extremely frank non-fiction published is not itself the root of such maladies; rather, it's the judgment and finger-wagging of those who effort to keep the people, behaviors and events that shape our lives trapped in air-tight containers that paralyze emotional growth and evolution.
Having been bullied because of my homosexuality from the time I was seven years-old, I was weighed down by the shame and low self-esteem that came part-and-parcel with being so horribly marginalized. Writing a balls-out book about my experiences and my tumultuous Hollywood lifestyle - timed to coincide with my 40th birthday - allowed me to put a narrative thread through my personal unfolding and leave much of the pain in the past. It was the perfect beginning to Part 2 of my life.
What I didn't anticipate, however, was the fallout that would come in the form of a disingenuous "friend" who attempted to shade my truth by becoming an overgrown mean girl. She attempted to push my psyche back to the school playgrounds of the 1980s, even using social media to create an exclusionary club that I was no longer welcome to enjoy.
"I hate that you're writing this book," the friend announced. "There is never a reason to write anything about anyone other than yourself."
"So, only a hermit should write a memoir?" I asked, scratching my head over how one could possibly write his testimony without acknowledging the influences of the people whom he had loved, lost or both. The catch, though, was that this particular buddy had been married to a famous comedic actor whose career stalled after their divorce. Her logic was that she had been unwittingly tossed into the spotlight during her own marriage and that, in a way, my book could similarly "expose" a handful of other people's private lives.
"Most of the famous people I acknowledge in my story have been disguised," I explained, hopeful that I would quell her concerns. "But, regardless, is a celebrity who behaves badly somehow excused because of his or her fame, unlike antagonists in other memoirs that don't include celebrities?"
"Am I in that chapter?" she asked, with a serious tone.
"Um, actually no, you're not," I said. She was, at best, famous adjacent. It was funny to me that, because she was now sitting on a hefty portion of her ex-husband's bank account - and maintained close friendships with a striking number of celebrity pals - she fancied herself a star. "And, I am writing only about individuals whose influences have gotten me to this point. It's not a tell-all. This is my life; my story. We're all entitled to own and relay our experiences."
Interestingly, the poor treatment I received from some of the people highlighted in my book never concerned her (she knew a few of them personally), even when it was happening - but the fact that I chose to tell the truth about it was such a knife in her stomach. I likened it to criminals who don't regret their crimes but are upset about being caught.
To drive her point home, she unfriended, unfollowed and un-whatevered me from every social media platform - as would be in line with the thinking of any 12 year-old. Except she was 60. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given birth to cyber cliques, exclusive clubs that many still use as yardsticks of acceptance. Often times, I have heard celebrity friends and executives comment on associates who have not "followed" them or who haven't "accepted a friend request." I see flashes of my high school and its social structure when I hear privileged adults talk about these perceived slights from their "worldwide wenemies." I can't say that I wasn't guilty of falling into the trap myself on occasion, having been pushed headfirst into the online social sphere as a studio mandate when working as an entertainment marketer. At the beginning, when it was all new, I paid very close attention to those friends who didn't follow me back, maintaining their status as "special." They tended to keep their networks exclusive: famous followed famous. I was good enough to keep their deepest secrets but not dazzling enough to matter when it wasn't all about them.
As someone whose self worth was crushed by so many people growing up, there was definitely a sting to being excommunicated from the "group" by my "famous-in-her-head" friend. A louder voice in my brain, however, eclipsed the immature slight from someone who was clearly never really in my corner - a voice that told me never to apologize for telling the truth.
I'm glad that I told my story, the good, the bad and the ugly, and I am grateful for every moment and person that passed through. Whether they were positively or negatively impactful, they got me to a healthy place that is my springboard to the second half of my life. It's fine if other so-called friends don't care to "follow" me on the journey.