These things happen

TheseThings HappenI don’t know if someone straight and cis could be as moved as I am by These things happen, by Richard Kramer. A gay man says that being gay is gay, in the offensive teenager’s sense. It’s a bit crap, a bit below par. We know we’re “born that way” because no-one would ever choose this. This book is sufficiently well written, and shocking, to elicit sympathy from the straight people, and has me-

It is alien to me. A boy at an elite school is being hothoused for an elite university: at one point, though he is 15, he uses “existentially” and “epistemologically” in the same sentence. He loves the things he does, “Soccer” and tae kwon do, and hates the way he will be asked to list them, in interviews in those universities. Intelligent, sophisticated and witty people feel the pressure of the need always to say sophisticated things- there I can relate.

There are two particularly shocking moments of homophobia. These things happenAfter the second, the woman, who is liberal, wonders:

What have I done? How could I ever have done that?

How could I ever even believe that? It’s not possible. That’s not me.

But I always know what I think. I have to, it matters to me. It’s what civilized people do.

I’m bigger than whoever that person who’d think that is, or say it.
I always thought I was safe from that. I
assumed it. That could never be me.

Richard KramerAnd yet it was.

Here am I, a valued member of my community, where my idiosyncrasy is not loaded. It is a thing about me people know, like I know S and S are teachers. Is there something like that, underneath anywhere? If you are straight, however empathetic you are, will you feel with George as I do?

At the end there is a Proustian section where two people talk, and after each speech we hear what each of them thinks and feels about it. Telling not showing is justified, here, because of the depth of understanding I have of the interaction. They grow in trust and understanding of each other and themselves.

I loved it. I love the characters, and I feel wrung out by it. So how could I read the actual experiences of an actual person whom I know and love? I fear this sort of reaction, it is a loss of control and how could that be other than eternal? Though I have survived it.

8 thoughts on “These things happen

  1. Pingback: Religion: Wishing us the fantasy rather than the reality? | The Pink Agendist

  2. I also loved the book, which kept me thinking for weeks after. Having taught New York Prep School kids (and been one), I can vouch for the verisimilitude of language. My students spoke like little thirty year old Assistant Professors.


      • It’s embarrassing to admit, but teaching my sophomores at what is considered to be the best school in the country was a challenge … they spoke so articulately, and at such an advanced level that occasionally I struggled to keep up with them. Most teachers simply couldn’t teach in one of the top Prep schools here … it’s like throwing a piece of meat into a dog run and then refereeing the fight.

        Most interestingly to me, and I have to remember that I was one of them once myself, I could turn to the class and say, “How does one express hope in French?” Five hands would go up. Same with Latin and Greek. One time I had a student burble away to me before class about her wonderful day and evening and I said, more as a way to get her to simmer down, “Mais qu’estce que tu fais toi demain?” AND … off she went in French, telling me what she’d be doing tomorrow.


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