On the joys of little league

 This is an image of baseball, basketball, tennis ball and soccer ball.

Yes, it’s a complete cliché that the wall-eyed kid sucks at sports. Enough said, right? Well, no. I’ve got an axe to grind.

When I was in third grade, my mom suggested that my twin brother and I sign up for Little League. I insisted that I hated baseball but my mom encouraged me in her way saying, “You’re going to LOVE this! Just try it–what do you have to lose?” 

After the first game–where I managed to strike out twice and miss catching every single ball that made it to right field–I told my mom that I knew now for sure that I didn’t like softball, but I appreciated her taking an interest in my development. 

She replied, “Shirley’s are not quitters.”

On being an identical twin

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Growing up as an identical twin is absolutely everything it’s cracked up to be. You’re an instant celebrity the moment you clear the birth canal. 

My brother and I were known as “The Shirley Twins” and our notoriety stretched throughout all of Butler County, Alabama. We were invited to practically every birthday and Christmas party, and I bet I went to eight different proms–and that was just my junior year.

Of course, there were superficial differences like the mole on his foot and the fact that I was wall-eyed, but these differences were easily overlooked. 

The big differences didn’t surface until junior high. That’s when I started listening to pop music while my twin, Craig, went for rock ‘n roll. I developed a sharp tongue while he worked at being cool. He also started hanging out with some–let’s just say–interesting characters while my friends were all very nice. They also happened to be girls. 100%.

In high school, my brother suddenly became interested in these girls and the feeling was often mutual. Time and again, the very friends I’d spent years helping with their math homework would swoon when my brother was anywhere within spitting distance. One girl summed it up like this—she pointed at me and said, “you just want to take me to dinner” then she looked my brother up and down like he was Michelangelo’s David or something and said, “you just want to take me parking.” 

How did she know?

This was all very confusing to me. We were identical twins so surely my brother had the same feelings for guys that I did, right?  But the sparkle in his eyes when looking at these girls seemed absolutely genuine. He clearly wasn’t acting. (My brother is many things but an actor he is not. He once played Joseph at a Christmas pageant and was completely upstaged by a stuffed goat.) 

One day, I got up the courage to ask him about this…issue. Well, not exactly. I was real casual about it. I said, “You know, sometimes when I think about guys, I get sort of, well, worked up.”  

He cocked his head at me like we’d only just met. He finally patted my arm and said, “I wouldn’t worry about it. That’s probably normal.”  

A few weeks later, I was ribbing him about something in front of a cousin. Without a retort at hand, my brother just said, “Yeah, well, Chris likes guys.”

I completely denied it but knew right then that I was in this alone. 

For the next ten years, I threw myself into engineering school, then management consulting and later, business school. Church too. I never touched a guy or a girl for that matter (at least nothing below the collar bone). I watched my friends fall in love and get married, then have kids. Only then did I finally accept that I wasn’t going to change. 

I was living in New York City by then and my best friend was a Ford model. After yet another big evening on the town, she asked me, “Chris, we love each other, we make each other laugh, and we’re attracted to each other. Why aren’t we getting married?” 

I thought about it for a second, then looked her square in the face and said, “Because I’m gay.”

She just nodded and said, “Wow. The thought had crossed my mind. A few times, actually. Okay. Well, I guess that settles that.”

She left and I spent the next three days in bed, sucking on a bottle of Mylanta. It was awful, but she has remained supportive and I’m now the godfather to her son and she even starred in my movie, Plus.

I’ve told perhaps thousands of people since then. Most were accepting but others, not so much. What I’ve learned through all this is that we’re only as sick as our deepest, darkest secret. Once I started telling people, that secret had no power over me. 

For much of my life, there were two parts of me–the part that was acceptable and the part that was not. After I came out, those two parts began to knit together, and now there’s just me. 

On being wall-eyed

 This is a image of a person with strabismus, also known as "wall-eyed."

Growing up, my classmates often commented that I was a great friend and a gifted canoer, but they never knew which eye to engage. 

To say I had a lazy eye didn’t really cover it, since I actually used both eyes–just not at the same time. Mid-sentence, the eye you were addressing could dart to the wall while the other one went on active duty. People would casually scan the bridge of my nose to the eye now peering at them, which is the only way I knew of the shift myself. 

In another time, I might’ve been knighted for my superior peripheral vision—the lone sentinel who could take in half the world without even moving his head. But in the modern age, with our skies teeming with spy satellites, this gift is no longer celebrated. In fact, my nickname amongst my less-informed classmates was “Cyclops.”