After my first boyfriend broke up with me, I was devastated. I was 18, I thought I was in love at the time, and I did not know how I was going to get through it. I believed, as many have at one time or another, that I would never be able to get past the pain or to love someone else again. I was young, I was devastated, I was desperate for guidance; I did not have many gay friends at that point, nor many close ones, and the (ex) boyfriend and I shared many of the same friends at the time of our break-up, so there weren’t may people I could turn to for support.
In an act of desperation, I called my mother. My Mom was still dealing with my coming out, and although she never shunned me or gave me anything but support, I knew she was still uncomfortable and struggling with my sexuality, especially with the actual idea of me having feelings for another man. Still, I was young, I was in pain, and I needed wisdom, and she was my mother.
True to form for a Mother struggling to show unconditional love for her son and be the font of wisdom I often relied on her to be, my Mom put her own issues aside, remained calm, talked me through my crying jag, reassured me that I was valuable and loveable and tried to convince me that this was not “the one” and I would be better off waiting for the right guy to come along. As I continued to cling to my “never going to survive this or love again” status, as teenage boys and girls (and, truth be told, many adults) are wont to do, my Mom shared with me this euphemism that his served me well throughout my life:
“Imagine someone holding a fork out to you and asking you to touch it, assuring you that it is safe to touch. You have no reason to hesitate, so you reach out and grab it and you burn your fingers because the fork was too hot to touch. What have you learned? That you cannot trust someone who offers you a fork. Some people will continue to offer you a fork; and, for a while you will not reach out, afraid it will burn your fingers, as your experience has taught you. And that is normal. Eventually, someone will convince you to reach for a fork again and you will, this time with a little more hesitation and caution. You will approach it slowly, trying to detect any heat and touching it ever so slightly. Some will still be hot, but your experience will prevent you from grabbing too much too quickly and you will not get burned as much or for as long. Sooner or later, you will reach for a fork and it won’t burn you.”
This parable did, and continues to, serve me well throughout life. It may seem corny, but it made a lot of sense to me and I held onto that idea and got through my first break up and (unfortunately) many more after that, as well as several failures at various ventures, loss of friends, and troubled times.
I’ve had my fair share of “burning forks” but I’ve learned to approach situations and people with a tad more caution, trying to avoid getting too burned for too long and definitely wanting to avoid getting burned a second time by the same fork.
Of course, l suppose life could have been a lot easier if I just switched to using spoons…