[Click here for Part One.]
Shortly after arriving, participants were divided into teams and assigned (surprisingly comfortable) cabins. I don’t know if the staff just did their homework or ran background checks or drugged us and made us take Myers-Briggs tests while we were blacked out or what, but the members of the individual teams got along eerily well, which I honestly did not expect. Everyone on my team was sober, for example, and even during the more stressful group activities, we were able to get shit done without disagreements or tension. So that was pretty cool.
There were a few spontaneous dance parties throughout the weekend, and while part of me wanted to join in, most of me was still coming down from Friday night’s panic attacks. Plus, as a general rule, I don’t dance when people can actually see me. However, whenever I found myself stuck in that mindset, I’d look over and see my teammates — Fast Cat, Fearless Mongoose, Flying Black Dog, One-eyed Falcon, Patient Fox, Prowling Wolf, and Young Buck — huddled against a wall in a tight-knit group, muttering to each other and glaring at the men who were throwing themselves into the music.
As it turns out, it’s really hard to isolate when there’s a pack of interesting introverts to go isolate with.
Emotional check-ins are a big part of New Warrior training, so teams sometimes served as facilitated process groups. My first check-in was something along the lines of “I am feeling ANGRY and VICTIMIZED, and I don’t want to PARTICIPATE or CONNECT or TALK ABOUT IT.” And what threw me off was… nobody tried to make me talk about it. I mean, a couple of the staffers kind of touched base with me a few times on Saturday, but it was just, “Hey, doing okay? Okay, good.” For the most part, they left me have my space until I was ready to
stop pouting interact with my fellows.
When it was my turn to share during an exercise that evening, I mentioned that I work in a gay bar, and how much it bothers me when straight girls treat the place like a petting zoo. That statement led to the following conversation back in our cabin.
Prowling Wolf: “So hey, why do you spend so much time in gay bars?”
Me: “On account of the homosexuality.”
Prowling Wolf: “…”
Patient Fox: “WELL PLAYED.”
Which is how I became Prowling Wolf’s First Gay Friend™.
Prowling Wolf is currently on probation, and earlier in the day, he’d told me that that the weekend had better not involve any nudity, because “I don’t do that gay shit.” But he also wandered into our cabin when I thought no one was around and caught me with that contraband item (see previous post) and went, “How do you still have that? Did you bribe someone?” So I explained how I’d panicked, and how furious I was with that friend of mine, and he was like, “Huh. Well, I think you should forgive him,” and wandered back out. He didn’t say anything about me being gay after the surprise wore off, but he did spend the next day and a half going, “Have you talked to your friend yet? Go talk to your friend. Your friend needs to know how you feel.”
I will admit that I have not yet talked to my friend. But I will also admit that 24 hours of encouragement from a dude who was initially as enthusiastic about being trapped in the woods as I was — and who could easily throw me through a plate glass window — has dramatically softened my perspective.
I don’t have that many straight male friends, and in the times of my life when I did, I often felt marked as the official fag of the group. So it was an unusual experience to be surrounded by straight men like Prowling Wolf who weren’t like, “Oh, don’t worry: We don’t think of you as gay,” or “We don’t care that you’re gay, just don’t hit on us.” Instead, they saw all of me, and they accepted all of me as an equal part of the “tribe,” without disclaimers or qualification.
I got a text from Prowling Wolf last night, asking when I’m going to take him to a gay bar. Before I could respond, he sent another text that was like, “Oh! We should definitely take Young Buck with us.” My next New Warrior Adventure is apparently going down much closer to home than the last one.