to all the bros I loved before

Justin Bieber goes for a jog with his PosseWhy is it that the people who push you around, the ones who beat you up and the guys you don’t wanna run into are also the ones you wanna impress the most? Okay, not you. You’re probably pretty healthy. I’m sorry to put this shit on you. I meant me. Why am I like this? Why do I know in the pit of my soul that these men are garbage fires of individuals but I want them to approve of me anyway? Child. This is a deep thing that I’ve been paying a professional to talk about for over a year. There’s binder full of notes somewhere and a large conspiracy theory type of wall map that we could pull together to try to unravel this. The short answer is that my self-esteem was nonexistent for most of my life so I just wanted these dudes, these bros, theses assholes to like me. They usually never did and what’s more guys like this are the kind of guys who bullied me in school, pushed me in the hallway, threw things at me and mocked me. Painful? Sure, but not impossible to overcome. For the ones who hurt me when I was young, through the hours of work, therapy and 12-Step Meetings I’ve been able to reach a place of “Fuck ‘Em” in the most spiritual way possible.

I’m thinking about all of this right now for lots of reasons but chief among them being because asshole dudes who get away with whatever they want are kind of in fashion. We want to put them in power. We still want to give them things. We want to look the other way at the sheer fact of how much they suck. And here I do mean we.  You are guilty too. I listened to that weird dude cry, sniffle and yell during a job interview for a position on the highest court in the land, all the while knowing that even his inherent shittiness wouldn’t sink him from getting the job. Jerks like him always win. Life isn’t an 80’s movie. Wimpy Ralph Macchio in a headband won’t save us. The Biffs, the Johnnies, the Chads– they run this world and we don’t get a redemption storyline. Just ask Anita HIll or anybody bullied by guys like this. The victims of guys like this get to say their piece and put their necks on the line, only to have their lives ruined all over again. There’s no prom or trophies. Yet what we do get to walk away with is a rebuilt version of ourselves that’s stronger and capable of amazing things like even being able to love these jerks, these dudes, these bros.

Whoever is the head writer for the primetime drama that is my life deserves an Emmy because they can really come up with a plot twist. Little did I know that when I got sober in 2009 that my life would be filled with straight guys, ones that even looked like my tormenters from the past. For years, groups of white men would give me a panic attack and now here I was sitting next to them in meetings. The amazing thing about being in a room of addicts and alcoholics is that whoever you were or where you come from doesn’t matter. There have been too many times to count where I see someone who does not look or sound like me start to open their mouths and I think, “Oh this is gonna put me to sleep” only to have my brain blown open and my heart melted because they said exactly how I felt. I now considered myself blessed to have a network of straight men friends who are sober and who I can count on. Oh and it goes deeper than that.

In my professional world I work with a lot of guys right from jail, from rural and not exactly gay friendly neighborhoods and basically guys who in a different time and place who would kick my ass. Yet meeting them addict-to-addict and from a place of support, where we come from really doesn’t matter. I’ve had burly dudes that people might even describe as scary tell me they love me. Not only do I believe them but I love them too. It’s oddly profound and perfect that the types of guys I thought I hated and who hated and tortured me are the very ones I get to help and get the honor of being a person they can lean on. See? I told you it was a good plot twist. If this was a movie from the creators of This Is Us, you’d be crying right now.

The last reason these bros are on my mind is because one that I loved who didn’t love me back recently left this realm. I got news the other day a guy I used to hang out with was killed in an accident. We were friends when I was 20. It’s a gay story as old as time. We met on ecstasy, went to raves, hung out constantly, I fell in love with him but he didn’t love me back becuase he liked vaginas and I don’t have one of those, he fucked my best girlfriend, I did more drugs and cut them both out of my life. You know. These things just happened in the 1990’s. The impact of this non-romance was powerful though. We were never the same as friends, although the meth might have had something to do with that. Nevertheless, we drifted and over the years I wondered about him. I would see posts from mutual friends on Facebook or hear news of him when I’d return home to Denver over the holidays. By not loving me the way I wanted him to he taught me something too: he taught me I deserve more. He taught me that I shouldn’t chase things that aren’t meant for me. He taught me that I could be loveable. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. I mourned him because he was actually one of the good ones. I also mourned for that 20-year-old drug addict version of myself with the painfully low self-esteem.

Sadly, this will be one of those essays that maybe doesn’t answer the questions posed at the top. The fact of the matter is, I don’t know why we loves these dudes, these jerks, these bros. I don’t know why we love people who hurt us or push us around or who are simply unvailable. And I sure the fuck don’t know why our culture is obsessed with rewarding bullies, rapists and misogynists. This also will not end with me saying that we should try to love and understand straight white males more. God no. Eww. I mean, yes they are not all rapist, bully assholes but that’s the best you’ll get out of me right now.

What I do know is this: the men who’ve hurt me, the ones who’ve bullied me and the ones who couldn’t love me back have only made me tougher, more compassionate and even able to love more. For that alone, I’m grateful for their bro asses.

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Brobia

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Dudes. Buddies. Bros. However you identify them, this eternal flip-flop wearing, high-fiving, beer drinking generation of men is so easy to make fun of but even harder to love. Truth is groups of white guys with cargo shorts and backwards baseball caps were my torturers back in my day. Screw gang members or terrorists. I was deathly afraid of large flocks of white guys wherein one or more was named Todd or Chad. With persistence and precision, these first class a-holes made things like walking down the hall or speaking in class a total nightmare. They relentlessly made fun of my big gay teenage self. Although, it should be mentioned I’m pretty sure I hung out with way more girls than they did and they, as meathead mutant jocks, most certainly saw a ton more naked teenage boys than I ever did. Thanks to the combination of getting as old as fuck and getting sober, I’ve forgiven that pack of suburban dickheads (and I say dickhead from a place of love and spirituality, of course). Nevertheless, big groups of loud straight guys still scared the crap out of me for a really long time

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We’ll call what I had “brobia”. I suffered from an acute fear of groups of bros. By the way, what do you call a group of bros? A gaggle? A herd? A pile? Please discuss. Anyway, my suffering around this group was pretty real. I went to meet my husband in a very bro-centric neighborhood (which in Denver could be all of them but more on that in a minute). It was dark. I was alone but then I wasn’t. A large group of white guys who were loud and presumably wasted (Again, Denver. We just know these things.) I all of a sudden was panic-stricken and my heart raced. I crossed the street, kept my head down and did whatever you call a version of walk-running for people who despise running. It was in that moment that I realized that my brobia was real. Call it asshole-induced PTSD. Call it brobia. But whatever I had I needed to get over and fast. After all, I lived in Denver now and these dudes were everywhere.

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Nicknamed by some blogger somewhere, “Menver” is chockfull of bros. If Colorado was to have a state type of person, it would be bros. Denver is called the Napa Valley of Beer therefore it’s the Holy Land for bros. Add in an overtly fanatic sports culture coupled with several man-filled colleges and universities and you’ve got yourself a bronado. So bros were unavoidable (unavoidabro? yeah. I’ll stop with those puns now) It would be like having a fear of spiders and moving to the Amazon. You better learn to live with them or perish. Thankfully, not only had I changed, the little city I left fifteen years earlier had changed too. Yes there were now more bros than ever thanks in large to a pot-induced population explosion. But this generation of bros was little more gay friendly or maybe just more self-involved enough so that I wasn’t on the radar. Still, I was a tad cagey around these types. Two miraculous things happened, though. Theatre & recovery.

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When my husband and I were running a theatre company we worked with straight guys all of the time. No really! A lot of actors are straight. Crazy right? More than that they were really cool. I soon ended up with a bunch of goofy type A personality brothers who were very talented and extremely loveable.Soon big groups of these guys were ones I was happy to see and not ones that sent me running across the street. Another set of straight guys that helped me ( and continue to on the daily, btw) are the ones I met in recovery. At 2 years of sobriety when I moved back, my exposure to sober straight guys was limited. See, I got sober in Los Angeles where they have like a billion gay meetings a week and even the “straight Meetings” weren’t all that straight. And the cool thing about recovery is that you’re immediately bonded together with other people who tried unsuccessfully to kill themselves with drugs and alcohol so it doesn’t matter if they’re gay, straight or whatever. (Lots of people who fall into the whatever category in recovery, by the way.)  In Denver, though, recovery was decidedly more heterosexual and more male. Still, it wasn’t long until I found my people and many of them straight men. We speak the same language so much so that the externals of who we are and where we come from just melt away.

This new place and new age in recovery also helped me see some not cute things about myself too. It has been pointed out to me more than once (slowlearner.com) that I can’t really bitch about intolerance and prejudice if I myself practice those same things. Fucking ow but true. This meant all the religious groups and groups of people (bros included) whom I thought wronged me needed to be let off the hook, forgiven and released if I wanted to live free of resentment and not like a big, annoying asshole. Ugh.Tall goddamn order but by now I’m willing to give anything a shot to hang onto my sobriety. The other thing that’s come up doing the work? I, Sean Paul Mahoney, have a major seeking the approval of straight men issue. Granted, I pretty much seek approval from everything from potted plants to anonymous coffee shop waitresses but when it comes to getting men to like me, it’s problematic. From falling in love with unavailable straight men in my early 20’s to doing drugs with hideous dudes who I just wanted to be friends with, the issues are deep, honey child. Oh! And it turns out, my issues don’t have anything to do with groups of straight men!

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The issues are mine and mine alone. Thus this love boat of dysfunction turns right back around and docks in the harbor of forgiveness (we’ve moved on from bro puns and segued right into nautical metaphors. be excited.) Sure, there’s a lot of guys who said and did shitty things to me in high school. And yes I’ve been harassed by straight guys out in the world. It sucks but does it give me a free pass to fear and hate a whole group of people? Hell to the no. Plus hanging on to old shit is kind of the worst thing ever that an alcoholic can do, so I’ve had to let a lot of things go. Now does this mean I’ve abandoned making fun of bros? Absolutely not. As I mentioned, it’s too easy and they’re everywhere and most importantly it’s still funny. But I am working on loving them (in a non-sexual, non-creepy way), one bro at a time.