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My whole life, I’ve hated yelling. Specifically, I hate when men yell. I hate the anger, the gravel, the violence in their voices and I hate how often they do it. As a child, slight chastisement from a teacher was enough to bring me to the brink of tears. But I’m not afraid of yelling anymore.


My father yells. Constantly. Every day probably. About dirty dishes, lost socks, and spilled milk. To family, in front of friends, in public. As an ex-Marine, his vocal chords have the astounding capability to grind into a crushing roar. Growing up, I could never tell if a playful poke would warrant a laugh and a tickle fight or a quick explosion of anger. But by the time I was fourteen the type of screaming that would cause the unaccustomed to quake with fear barely raised my blood pressure. Now I just roll my eyes.


I remember reading a line in a book once that said when a yeller gets quiet, that’s how you know there’s real trouble.


Around the age of nine I went to the beach with my parents and a friend. My friend and I jubilantly asked permission to go play on the sandhill a few yards away. My parents consented so long as we came right back. We agreed. We ran up and down the hill over and over until we tired of the game and returned to the water to swim.


In the midst of our splashing, the lifeguards blew their shill whistles in unison for everyone to exit the water. As we emerged from the lake, we heard murmurs of lost little girls. We looked at each other questionably, but shook our heads. No, that couldn’t be us. And yet when we located my mother, her mixture of relief and anger confirmed our silent theory. We felt horrible. Her reprimanding went on forever. They were worried sick, they hadn’t heard from us in over an hour, they thought we got lost in the woods, or worse, that strange men had found us. Once we found our beach blanket and my father, we immediately packed up to go home.


My father didn’t say a word. He couldn’t even look at me. I vaguely remember one explosion of anger as we entered the car, but afterwards it was nothing but deafening silence. During the ride home the car was brimming with tangible vibrations of rage—a self-contained tempest. Despite his muteness, the utter fury radiating off of my father penetrated my skin and caused a salty, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.


I worry this is how we’ll live when I come out to you. I no longer fear the yelling because that would show that you care. I can handle that, I’m used to it. I know it’s the only way you (and many other men) were socialized to express emotion. What I worry about most is that if I can’t manage to look you in the eye when I say the words “I’m gay”, you’ll never be able to make eye contact with me again. And I worry that if I can scrounge up the courage to look you square in the face, I’ll see your eyes glaze over the moment you register those words. I worry your eyes will dullen every time you look at me afterwards. I worry your love for me will dullen. I worry that the same shame-inducing wall of thick, suffocating silence of that car ride will enshroud every room we cohabitate thereafter. I’ve realized that I’m not afraid of yelling anymore. I fear silence.


When I come out to him there will be no tearful sobs or “I-love-you-no-matter-what”’s. I know I’ll be met with a clenched jaw and avoidance. I imagine it will be like putting a seashell to your ear expecting to listen to the incessant, crashing waves, but hearing them die on impact instead.


I now pray for yelling, but I know there won’t be any.


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