Grappling with Identity or, How David Rose taught me to stop hating myself.

David Rose Schitts Creek GIF - DavidRose SchittsCreek Hi GIFs

~ This isn’t really about the show Schitt’s Creek, but it does contain spoilers for those who want to watch the program. ~

To break my addiction to parasocial interactions on social media, I have decided to write occasional blog posts sharing my thoughts and process my many, many feelings. This is mainly an exercise for me, I find informal writing to be a grounding exercise as I work through bipolar treatment, but if you’re interested in what I have to say, thank you for your time.

Growing up in Orlando, FL I was able to skip Elementary and most of Middle School to be an actor in local theatre productions instead. I took tests, submitted worksheets, but was mostly focused on memorizing lines. I loved attention, I loved being on stage, but most of all I loved rehearsals. I loved being in a room with “adults” (as my child-brain saw the UCF theatre students I was around). I loved feeling special, but I also loved how ~cool~ everyone was. I now realize what I was seeing as cool was the freedom to be yourself. In a green room, no one cared how you acted, there was no policing of your identity, people just who they were, wholeheartedly. I didn’t know what the word queer meant at 11 years old, but I had an innate comfort around LGBTQ theatre people even if I couldn’t yet name them as such.

Then puberty hit, and I became confused about who I wanted to be, what I wanted, and who I was attracted to. Starting around 8th grade, as I stopped being a child actor and began attending school regularly at a High School for the Arts. But High School, even a High School for the Arts, was not a green room. There was a tacit policing of identity, heteronormative standards seeped into even that niche for ~creative~ kids. Thus, I met my first girlfriend in 9th grade, but was unsure why it never felt quite right. By 12th grade, when I kissed a guy from my Spanish class, things started to make sense.

In my first semester of college, I labeled myself as bisexual and began to explore my attraction to guys. This leads me to apps and a culture of “masc” / “fem” relationship dynamics. Yet again, I found myself confused, I was unable to identify with either label. I had internalized society’s messages about feminine men, seen everywhere from children’s media to adult shows and sitcoms. I tried (poorly) to make myself fit into a “masc” label, but (ironically) I quickly became tired of performing. I was also kinda bad at it. So I wasn’t a “masc 4 masc” torso on an app, but I didn’t fit into 2013 Grindr’s definition of “fem” either.

I didn’t fit into one of these binary roles, and was quickly burnt out from the hookup app’s culture, but wound up beginning my first long-term relationship around this time. Looking back on it, I think a subconscious reason why I was attracted to being with a partner exhibiting more “fem” or androgynous features like long hair and slick fashion choices was my own internalized fear of appearing too feminine, by being with them, I could be the “masc” one. This heteronormative understanding of relationships was slowly recognized and unlearned, largely through my graduate studies as I applied new critical lenses of looking at texts, and at the world around me. By this point, I had used the label gay and, once I learned more about the term as an identity label, I liked the label Queer.

Fast-forward to February 2020, right before a global pandemic hit, I ended my first long-term relationship. Heartbroken from the messy breakup, I moved out of the house I lived in for years and had shared with my ex. I was staying on a friend’s couch in Queens, NY watching Schitt’s Creek as refrigerated trucks began parking outside hospitals. I needed an escape from reality, and binge-watching this show was a perfect antidote to the scary reality of February 2020. Schitt’s Creek is a sitcom about the Roses, a rich family, losing all their wealth and being forced to move to a small town to live in a motel. The Rose family start as unlikeable but throughout six seasons become good people to root for as they grow closer to each other and with the town, becoming better people and part of a community.

My family began watching the show too, and I was struck by how many different members of my family would sent me clips or gifs of one of the main characters, David Rose, and say something along the lines of “This is so you.” As I watched the show I realized they were right. There was something about David, about the way he walked and talked, his expressions and mannerisms that struck those who know me best as being similar to my own.

As I continued to watch the show, I saw more parallels. David struggle with anxiety (this was before my bipolar diagnosis). We watch him stumble as he builds his first strong friendship (as I did in college and law school). As David Rose began finding his place in the small town, I ultimately saw him claim the power within himself. He becomes more comfortable being himself, builds friendships, and trusts others. Then, his life is changed again by a relationship with Patrick, someone loving him for who he is. But I don’t see David’s character arc as being “saved” by Patrick. I see his arc as being one of self-acceptance. He gets his happy ending when he finally stops caring about what others think of him. When he stops building himself up against other’s feelings, he is finally, truly, happy.

The take-aways to apply to my own life are clear. I’m hoping David’s journey of self-acceptance, not just his mannerisms and freak-outs, can be “so me” as well.

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