OK, OK. I admit it. My spring chicken years have long gone by and some of my friends even joke that I belong to a time when dinosaurs still roamed this sorry planet of ours. I may be old but not THAT old. I am still months away from getting a permanent ID card, one that no longer needs to be renewed every five years.
Like anyone who can boast "extensive experience" gained through the years, and who readily equates age with wisdom, I also have the tendency to be quick in dispensing gratuitous advice, tips, comments, criticism and whatnots, whether asked or not.
And in my case, this dispensing of comments and criticism has even taken an obsessive tone. It is no secret that for People Like Us (PLU), as some of us like to call ourselves, bitching has reached the stature of national sport and for some, it is a highly honed skill.
This propensity to magnanimously and readily comment and criticize is also further exacerbated by another skill that – it just so quite happens – is quite well developed among PLU. The skill of pitilessly scrutinizing anyone haplessly passing within shooting range, to look for flaws or shortcomings, on which we can zoom in and comment.
But lately, my attention has not been caught by passerby. Or anyone wearing absurdly uncool garments, or someone ostentatiously armed to the teeth with the latest gadgetries.
Rather, it has been caught by something that keeps creeping up again and again in my mind whenever I waste some of the precious remaining time in this life, surfing the waves of information overload that is the Internet – something that I and my generation did not have the luxury to enjoy, at a time when we needed it the most.
What an exhilarating tool the Internet was, I thought, when I was first exposed to it, long after I had already managed to establish who I really was and no longer cared what others would say.
For a generation that had to grope in the dark and rely on books, magazines and hearsay, to try to understand why we are different from others and also to find and reach out to these brothers in plight, the advent of the Internet was like a cold shower on a steaming hot day. It gushed with freshness and opportunities.
Now, the world and all its secrets are there, at the tip of your finger. One no longer has to scale the vertiginous heights of mountains to reach the lone wise man who illuminate the mysteries of his life. One no longer has to go through pages and pages of books at the library or in the confines of his bedroom, to find an answer. Or seek the elusive older person with whom you can entrust your query, and thus also confide your “condition.”
The Internet allows us to find and reach, to share our problems and anxieties. It helps us find a listening ear, and a lot more, good or bad. Wink, wink. And all this, from the full safety and privacy of one's home, or an Internet cafe booth. Without having to fear being discovered, without fear of having to take risks or make the first bold move. Without even having to disclose your real identity, at least initially. And the list is endless.
But as I skim past blogs, communication fora, social rants and other social media forms, what I found is that the same complaints and longing my generation had, are still finding their way into the Internet.
It seems like the young generation, including those who started their life with a keyboard or a tablet in their hands – instead of the proverbial silver spoon – have mostly been unable to really make use of what the Internet can offer. Or maybe they are relying too much on it and ignoring that going solely into cyberspace can only deliver virtual solutions too.
While older generations spent their nights biting their nails into pitiful stumps pondering on what was wrong with them, you have the fantastic opportunity to quickly realize that not only are you not alone in the universe, but there is actually nothing wrong with you.
When I say look around you, you may be surprised to find that some people would not judge you by your sexual preference, but for what you are.
Consequently, I cannot help but feel a deep urge to smack the poor young sod who still writes in his rants that he feels lonely, or that he has no one to confide in or that he has no group of friends of the same inclination to hang out with.
Wake up! Those are the very same problems that had faced a generation that still had to live in a closeted world a long time ago. With the Internet, these should no longer be on the menu of problems for digital natives.
One should realize that while the Internet gives you the answers, or at least show you how to get the answers, one also needs to act on them. In the real world.
You, the lonely one. Muster a bit of courage and go reach out to someone to your liking, but in the real world, not in cyberspace. If he turns out not to be the man you imagined him to be, then say goodbye and go and repeat the experience until you finally stumble upon the ultimate one.
You, the one complaining of not having anyone to talk to. If you keep yourself cloistered in a world that is virtual and loathe to confront the cold reality of the world, then how will you find that elusive someone? You should realize that you have, at your disposal, a means to quickly select a pool of individuals who more or less suit the range of characteristics you wish for. This saves you a hell of a load of time and bad experiences that others in the pre-Internet era had to go through in the search for a soul to unload our burdens on.
And you, the one complaining of having plenty of heterosexual friends but no herd of friends of the same inclination. Trust me, going around doing things only with a gaggle of friends of the same inclination, after a while, will not only bore you to death, but the inherent bitchiness we all share usually manages to cause more problems than pleasure.
To all those youngsters, I would say: look around you. Venture out. Get the information and the lead you need from the Internet, but then go out and seek what you want in the real world. Trials and errors are quintessential to growing up and failure should not deter anyone from trying again.
When I say look around you, you may be surprised to find that some people would not judge you by your sexual preference, but for what you are. That is, of course, unless you flaunt it to point of annoying others, or you have a dour, unfriendly character that even being heterosexual would not get you company either. You would be surprised at how close you can get to other souls regardless of their penchant.
Limiting one's company to only one's kind, actually goes against the very grain of what gays are actually striving for. Excluding others from your company is certainly a discrimination that you yourself would not like to be the subject of.
Regardless of your gender, sexual preferences, expand your horizons, expand your circles. In my own experience, a true friendship not based on one's sexual preferences last way much longer than one based on the same inclination. My partner who has shared my life for years has been the exception that confirms the rule. Only a few of my best friends are actually gay.
Thinking back on what I have personally gone through, I see that although I had to go through all those difficult periods and situations, I had come out a much stronger person. Having to go seek answers myself has made me much more apt in seeking ways out. The ability to hide one's true identity sharpens your sensitivity. Exposure to others, taught me that friendship can come from anyone and is much stronger and lasting than mere physical attraction.
So go out, and take risks.
Bhimanto Suwastoyo likes it when people call him a veteran journalist. It makes it sound like his some 30 years in journalism can be packaged into a badge that he can wear at parties. He lives a tranquil unconventional life with two other men.