These famous words that everybody knows and cites have now another meaning for me and it’s not about Shakespeare.
I just finished reading the novel “In One Person” from John Irving.
In the library he meets the librarian Ms. Frost, a middle aged lady, who understands his troubled mind and suggests him some classical readings starting with Jane Austen. He reads many books until he gets to his main topic “crushes on the wrong people”. Billy feels especially attracted to her and they start meeting after the library’s opening hours. Billy isn’t sure about his sexuality. He hopes to find answers first in literature, then in Ms. Frost and also in his schoolfriend Elaine.
Leaving school and knowing that he likes boys and girls as well, he decides to continue his studies and hopes to find inspiration for his writing in Europe where everything should be more open. He lives for a while with an opera student, an attractive woman, in Vienna and he also meets another male American writer like himself.
He stays in contact with his school friend Elaine who had also had a crush on the wrong person. They meet again twenty or more years later and talk about their lives, common friends and crushes. At the end of the novel they have both lost some gay friends to AIDS and even visit some of them together. Billy is happy to have survived the devastation in the 80‘s and would have been even happier, if homosexuality and bi-sexuality wouldn’t have been tabu.
I had never really lost thoughts about anyone being bi-sexual and I think that most of us have heard that it is weird and that it is just like being gay. Following Billy’s steps you realize that it is not that way. Bisexuals simply like to be intimate with both sexes. They may have a preference for one or the other and they don’t have to look especially different. Of course, being bisexual doesn’t mean that they are automatically promiscuous, this is a separate category that may apply to all sexual preferences and genders.
The novel confronts us with this controversial topic starting in the ‘50s and going to the 21st century. It’s a topic that is rarely discussed openly and it is not easy to imagine someone just talking about it as if they were talking about their favorite ice-cream. It’s not “to be or not to be”, bisexuals simply like both are both. Being bi-sexual, gay or lesbian is definitely not being weird.
Just to finish, when I was young, it was impossible to mention the word “homo” or “gay” in a “decent” conversation and the term “lesbian” wouldn’t be in a dictionary (exaggerating…). Nowadays you can talk quite open about it and I’m very glad for everybody who can simply live the way they prefer. I’m also proud of having friends with all preferences. Yes, with all. Oh, and don’t start guessing 😉
Nevertheless, I was quite shocked to know that there are still parents in my age or even younger who cannot accept to have a child who isn’t “straight” or as they say “normal”. They prefer to have them out of their homes and out of their lives, if they don’t “change”. I thought that in Germany, this wouldn’t happen anymore, but now I really wonder…
I still hope that we can contribute a little with our thoughts and actions to help others accept their children and, of course, friends and everybody the way they are.