My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within by Jon Derek CroteauMy Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within by Jon Derek Croteau

My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within

byJon Derek Croteau

Paperback | August 5, 2014

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Jon Derek Croteau brings a heady mixture of raw emotion, pathos, and humor to his powerful journey from self-hatred and punishment to self-affirmation and healing as a gay man in My Thinning Years.

As a child, Jon tried desperately to be his father’s version of the all-American boy, denying his gayness in a futile attempt to earn the love and respect of an abusive man. With this he built a deep, internalized homophobia that made him want to disappear rather than live with the truth about himself. That denial played out in the forms of anorexia, bulimia, and obsessive running, which consumed him as an adolescent and young adult.It wasn’t until a grueling yet transformative Outward Bound experience that Jon began to face his sexual identity. This exploration continued as he entered college and started the serious work of sorting through years of repressed anger to separate from his father’s control and condemnation.My Thinning Years is an inspiring story of courage, creativity, and the will to live--and of recreating the definition of family to include friends, relatives, and teachers who support you in realizing your true self.In 1996, Jon wrote a song dreaming about finding a love and being able to live openly and freely. The song lyrics are in My Thinning Years and he recorded the song this summer with Broadway great Miguel Cervantes for others to hear. The song is available on iTunes and Spotify and profits will benefit The Trevor Project.
Jon Derek Croteau, Ed.D., is on a mission to make a difference and help those who are in need, disenfranchised, or impacted by discrimination. A senior partner at a leadership consultancy for higher education and healthcare clients across the globe, he is also deeply involved in several foundations and nonprofits, where he champions fo...
Title:My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay WithinFormat:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 9 × 5.95 × 0.7 inPublished:August 5, 2014Publisher:Hazelden PublishingLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:161649509X

ISBN - 13:9781616495091

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Read from the Book

Prologue In my mind, it was this glob of fat making its way around my digestive system, looking for a place on my body to deposit itself, and it had to be stopped. I was alternately speed-walking and lightly jogging around Boston in the wee hours of the morning, obsessing over what I’d done. (I would have been straight running if I weren’t still in my Khakis, button-down, sweater, and loafers from the evening before.) Oh my god, thought, I can’t believe I gave in. My life is over. I’m disgusting. I hate myself. And for all I know, semen has as many grams of fat as CREAM CHEESE. I need to burn this off now! For a while I’d been limiting myself a maximum of five grams of fat a day, but lately I felt more at ease, safer, when I kept it closer to zero. Consume more than that, and I wouldn’t be able to stand myself, like how I felt right then, frantically wandering around Boston in the early morning light. I vowed to run again, more heavily, when I returned home to Andover later that day. Maybe I’d keep it up for two hours this time, in the mid-day sun, and really sweat. Anything to keep that fat glob from finding a home on my belly. At seven in the morning, I’d moved on to berating myself for the dietary consequences of my transgression after first rehashing the graver implications for a solid hour. When I’d woken, startled, at six, with my skin literally sticking to Paul’s naked body, I could no longer escape the ugly truth: At nineteen, in the wake of my first sexual encounter ever, I was now without question what my father had most feared and strictly forbidden – a faggot. If he found out – when he found out - he was going to kick my ass.I was paralyzed, haunted by the paranoid fantasy that my father - big, imposing, a volunteer athletic coach in my hometown - was somehow there in the room with us, under the bed. Or outside in the hallway. Maybe the lobby. I knew, in my head, that he was safely in his bed thirty minutes away, at home in Andover and obviously not anywhere near the neighborhood of the college I was visiting, – I knew it, but I still didn’t trust it.Surely my father could telepathically detect that his youngest son had finally succumbed to the impure, un-Catholic urges he’d resisted for so long. At any instant, Dad might burst into the room, breaking the door off its hinges as he had at our house that one night, in a fit of rage. “You disgusting little faggot!” he’d shout before slugging me, or dragging me away from Paul’s bed by my hair. He’d be sure to throw in a verbal dig about my physique. “Nice tire around your waist, you fairy. Now give me a hundred push-ups.”My father was a scary man. He stood about 5' 11', with a sizeable belly. He held most of his weight in his torso. He was a meaty guy, with chunky Italian hands that always frightened me. He always kept his finger nails buffed and impeccably manicured though, which I always thought strange for a “man’s man” like him, along with the flashy pinky ring he wore - gold with diamonds. He wore two gold chains that he never took off, one that was snug around his thick lower neck, and another that hung to the middle of his chest that held two gold pendants. You could hear the Jesus Christ medal hitting the cross when he moved, mean and fast. He was meticulous about his clothes, too, and his thinning light brown hair, which was always perfectly combed over. Honestly, I hated the mere sight of him. I would look in the mirror, and pray that I would not see his pronounced nose or his double chin on my face. The fantasy horror scene of my father barging into Paul’s room flickered before my eyes as I stared at the ceiling. I replayed it again and again; I even checked under the bed a few times to make sure. When it was clear my heart was not about to stop racing, I threw on my clothes and bolted, leaving Paul as he slept. On the way out, I caught a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror behind his door. I still looked the same – same preppy, medium-height guy with a strawberry blonde Buster Brown haircut and a faint glow from tanning. But inside, I was completely changed.It would be a couple of hours before I could reasonably tiptoe back into my close high school friend Bianca’s dorm room. I was supposed to be visiting her for a simple college weekend tour. It was supposed to be all so innocent, so normal. What happened? How did I allow myself to sin? I’m going straight to hell. I focused on the fat globule. I just kept moving, weaving in and out of one street then another, alternately walking and running, obsessing about burning it, getting rid of the indiscretion that was sitting in my stomach. It has to go, I said to myself, and sooner than later, so do I. Chapter One: Sex Change for a Toddler?I’d always gravitated toward my mom and admired everything about her. I loved the way she looked and smelled, even after she had just smoked a cigarette. She and I seemed to be connected from as early as I can remember.My father, on the other hand, was oil to my water. I found him repellant. My earliest memories of him are entangled with fear and anxiety. I think he resented how close I was with my mother. Or he was afraid of it. He blamed her for everything I appeared to be, and was to become.Most mornings before noontime pre-school, Mom and I went to Mary and Ted's restaurant in the center of town, where we’d sit in the same booth every time. I had a cheese omelet and she had Frosted Flakes with whole milk and an English muffin smothered with butter and grape jelly. From the picture window beside our booth, I could see the kids from my nursery school’s morning session playing in the church's yard. I wondered what it was like to play on the swings and to climb on the tires. I never went outside during recess. Our breakfasts were some of my favorite times in Hudson, Ohio. Everyone at Mary and Ted’s knew us by our first names and my mom would chat with Jo, our waitress, about the tornado sightings from the spring before and about the chill in the air, signs of the coming winter. After our late morning feasts, Mom would drop me off in her oversized, brown, Chevy station wagon. The car seemed giant to me and felt like it could fit dozens of people. On many hot summer days, when I didn’t have school, we would load the wagon full of towels, chairs, tennis rackets, and our neighbors, the Vildans, and go to Redwood Swim Club. Every time we got into that wagon, I insisted that I sit on the "hump," the armrest in between the driver and passenger seats, and she let me. (What a different world then; no mandatory car seats strapped in with seatbelts.) Around noontime, she’d drive me across the town green to the church and I would jump out after receiving a Winston 100-scented, maroon lipstick kiss on my cheek. I spent the rest of the afternoon at Hudson Country Day. Hudson Country Day was located in the basement of a very small church in the center of town. Its white paint had been rotted by many mid-western downpours. It had green doors and a bell tower that rung every day at noon. We actually got to pull the bell's rope one day at school as part of a lesson. The dong of the bell was deafening from where we stood. School was held in the church basement. The floor’s concrete was covered with a worn, blue, industrial rug and the room had oversized chests filled with overflowing toys, games, costumes, Etch-a-Sketches, and abacuses. Scattered throughout were beanbags, pillows, and metal folding chairs. In one corner of the classroom there was an old cherry wood vanity. It had a mirror that had been stained with rust and six drawers on either side of the pushed-in chair. Next to it was a floor-to-ceiling mirror. In the drawers were faux pearls and diamonds, hair clips, broaches, pins, feathered hats, boas, scarves, dresses and other dress-up items. Draped on the mirror were faux fur stoles and old fashioned umbrellas and yellowed, white lace parasols. Not many of the boys in my class were drawn to the vanity. But I was. Whenever Miss Turley read to us, I’d imagine myself over by the vanity coming up with the next outfit for the girls to wear. At recess, the boys would run outside to play on the hard top, but I’d run to the vanity. My mom picked me up every afternoon at three o'clock, after the end-of-day snack and story-time. Usually our snacks were graham crackers, dates, raisins, peanuts, or peanut butter and crackers with pink plastic juice bottles or pint-sized milk cartons. Once or maybe twice, when my father wasn’t away on business, my mom and dad would pick me up together in his fancy company car. Mr. Coffee, for whom my dad worked, gave him a brand new Buick and because it was a company car, we were rarely allowed to go in it. It was brown with a beige, imitation, convertible top and it had silver spoke wheels. The interior dash and doors were covered in shiny wood and the seats were made of crushed amber velour. I loved stroking the seats in the back with my hand, changing the color from dark to light, depending on which way I rubbed them. One of the rare occasions when my dad joined my mom in picking me up after school happened to be a movie day. I’d stuffed myself with two bags of yellow, buttered movie popcorn and so I didn't feel very well. I didn’t say anything at first. My dad didn’t like it when I “whined like a girl.” When I came to the car, I groveled to sit on the soft hump, like I always did. “Okay,” my mother said. “It’s a special occasion.” We were going out for dinner to a nice restaurant in Cleveland, as a family. Jared and Julie were getting ready at home and we were on our way to pick them up. My mom was already dressed for dinner and she looked beautiful. She had on a black dress, ruby earrings, and a matching ruby and gold necklace. She always wore rubies; they were her birthstone. She was also wearing her diamond pinky ring. It was my favorite ring of hers because it was shaped like a heart. Inside the heart were what seemed to be hundreds of tiny, white diamonds. The gold of the ring wrapped around her finger like a snake. She wore it on the same hand as her wedding and engagement rings, but only when she dressed in out-to-dinner clothes. Because it was late fall and our first frost was due that evening, my mom also had on her rabbit fur coat. I was enamored with her coat of many colors; white, brown, gold, and grey. The fur was so silky; I would bury my face in it and move my hands all over it before she went out to business dinners with my father. It smelled like her and her Charlie perfume. Sometimes when my dad was away, my mom would let me wrap myself in it and walk around the house. She’d laugh with me as I’d pretend to be a king or a queen. I was mesmerized by my mother's loveliness. People said she looked like a taller, thinner Geraldine Ferraro. Her hair was perfectly frosted, her figure was fit, and her face had many wrinkles, an acknowledgment of her absorbing the sun’s rays most of her life without sun-block. I never understood why my father told her that her wrinkles embarrassed him. I found them to be glamorous. I remember many nights when they’d come home from business dinners and he’d yell at her, screaming that she made a fool of herself and of him, and that her wrinkles were ugly. He’d say that she should get a facelift because her wrinkles were so bad from smoking so many cigarettes. Her smoking bothered me, too, but it was something that I grew accustomed to. Her every-day-clothes smelled like a mixture of her perfume and stale smoke, a scent that told me she was near, even if she wasn't in the room.I also knew she was close by when I’d hear her snapping her Wrigley’s Spearmint gum that she’d buy by the fat pack and chew on one stick after another, sometimes while she smoked. The frosty mint smell of the many open packs of gum wafted from her pocket book on car rides. Dad would snap back at her, “Judy, would you stop snapping that gum!” I think she did it just to drive him crazy. As my father pulled out of the nursery school driveway and began to accelerate, my stomach lurched. “I don’t feel very well,” I reluctantly moaned. I was convinced I had to throw-up. He immediately pulled over and pushed me out of my mom's side of the car. I leaned over on the side of the road for about five minutes until the cramping in my bloated belly passed. “You sure you’re okay now?” he asked. “Because I don‘t want you getting sick in this car.” I got back on the hump of the car and my dad accelerated once again. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with nausea, worse than before, and I began to cry, "I'm going to throw-up,” I warned him. “I'm going to puke!" It was Bit-O-Honey brown and had what appeared to be popcorn kernels in it. It came up so fast I hurled all over my mom's fur coat and my dad's prized Buick. My dad had barely finished pulling over the car before he started screaming at me. "What the Christ did you do?!" I didn't know what to say; I thought it was obvious. He turned red. “You are so stupid, Jon. Do you know how much it is going to cost me to get this fixed? Do you? Do you? You stupid kid.” My mom was visibly upset, but she didn't yell at me. She urged him to hurry home so they could clean up. It wasn’t going to be easy; it was everywhere. My father sped through our tiny town like a madman. We pulled into our driveway, the car bouncing over the bump at the end. The car stunk. My mom appeared overtaken by the heavy stench of the vomit. She rolled the window down, but it didn't make a difference. I wanted to help clean up the mess, but my father yelled at me and told me to go to my room and not to come out until he said so. "You ruined the night, you ruined everything!" I didn't get dinner that night and I didn't get to come out of my room until the next morning. A few weeks later, my friend, Katie and I found ourselves giddily playing at recess, donning flowing scarves and clip-on earrings, play-spraying empty bottles of perfume onto ourselves when I heard laughter. I looked over and there was a circle of mostly boys and a few girls pointing at my outfit. “Sissy!” they took turns saying. My dad had angrily called me that, so I knew it wasn’t a good thing. I looked at Katie and she didn't seem to care about what they were saying. She linked her arm into mine and pulled me closer to the vanity's mirror. Looking at our reflection she said, "I think you look pretty, Jon." Even though I agreed with Katie and thought the high-heeled shoes I had on were perfect with the red hat on my head, I was bothered by the kids laughing at me. I took off the hat and put it back into the chest that I’d pulled it from. Slowly, I removed the earrings, the necklaces, and the scarves that had made a perfect wrap-like dress. I slid out of the shoes and looked downward, feeling so plain in my white and red striped tube socks, corduroy shorts, and grey and green stripped Izod shirt. I asked Miss Turley if I could be excused to use the bathroom and she obliged. When I closed the door, I locked it and checked it. I turned toward the sink and the mirror above it and looked at myself and wondered why I was different than the other boys. They made me feel so bad. I grabbed a bunch of toilet paper and stopped my running nose and sat on top of the toilet's cover until Miss Turley knocked on the door. “You okay in there, Jon? Come on out now.”

Table of Contents




Chapter One: Sex Change for a Toddler
Chapter Two: Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Chapter Three: The Greatest Love of All
Chapter Four: Life with Father
Chapter Five: And Then There Was Chad
Chapter Six: Running over the Creek
Chapter Seven Mr. Andover High School
Chapter Eight: The Unearthing
Chapter Nine: Suicide is Painless
Chapter Ten: To Bates and Back
Chapter Eleven: Soup for Lunch
Chapter Twelve: He’s under the Bed
Chapter Thirteen: The Mornings After
Chapter Fourteen: Going Outward to Go Inward
Chapter Fifteen: Letter from a Castle
Chapter Sixteen: Laxatives, and the Moment of Truth
Chapter Seventeen: Holidays on Ice
Chapter Eighteen: Boystown
Chapter Nineteen: An Ocean Away
Chapter Twenty: Risking It All
Chapter Twenty-one: The Guy in the Photo
Chapter Twenty-two: Finding Home
Chapter Twenty-three: Saying Goodbye



Editorial Reviews

“Croteau’s courageous disclosure of his arduous journey toward self-acceptance is especially relevant for many gay men who have been disenfranchised from their families of origin. This book also illuminates the realities of male eating disorders, adding considerably to the literature on anorexia, still wrongly perceived a solely a female disease.”--John Killacky, “The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide”“I canceled plans to finish this book, and you will, too. Alternately riveting, heartfelt and horrifying, Jon Derek Croteau's descent into anorexia and obsessive running as a means to deny his true self is spellbinding.”--Eric Poole, author of Where's My Wand"Jon Derek Croteau's powerful new book is a beacon shining on the puzzle of life."--Bob Dotson, New York Times bestselling author of American Story, a Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things "My Thinning Years is a triumphant, reassuring and intelligent examination of ability, strength and resilience for all to admire. Much like life, not everything works out as planned for the narrator, but he leaves the reader with a resounding sense of peace.”--Christopher Verleger,“Jon Derek Croteau writes with unstinting honesty, and courageously explores the harmful effects of bullies long after they’ve left the scene. But he also reveals the plain fact that the greatest bully we have to win over is often the one within us.”--James Lecesne, co-founder, The Trevor Project“A fantastic and harrowing story, told deeply and honestlyan emotional reada generous, hopeful book I dearly hope gets into the hands of the many people who face similar hardships and desperately need to hear Jon Derek Croteau’s story.”--Randy Harrison, actor, Queer As Folk“My Thinning Years is a powerful story about overcoming adversity. Jon Derek Croteau’s courage, honesty, and unfailing passion are sure to both inspire and keep the pages turning!”--Jenni Schaefer, co-author of Almost Anorexic, author of Life Without Ed and Goodbye Ed, Hello Me“My Thinning Years is not just a labor of love but a love-letter to those who are struggling silently and suffering deeply with an eating disorder. Jon Derek Croteau sheds incredible insight and a heartfelt vision for surviving and thriving in your life.”--Jess Weiner, author of A Very Hungry Girl and Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds from Now, and CEO of Talk to Jess, a social messaging brand consulting firm"This inspiring true story proves that people can learn to embrace who they are and have the happy endings they deserve."“My Thinning Years is an inspiring story of one man’s struggle with anorexia, with sexual identity, and his struggle for selfhood.”--Betsy Lerner, author of Food and Loathing“My Thinning Years is an emotional journey through Jon Derek Croteau’s struggle with eating disorders and accepting his identity as a gay man. In his struggle to accept his sexuality, Croteau attempts to erase his pain through trying to erase himself. Men’s experiences of anorexia and bulimia are underrepresented in media, medical and personal accounts. This is an honest, powerful and raw insight into the self-punishing, self-harming and consuming force of eating disorders.”--Grace Bowman, author of Thin“My Thinning Years is the story of all of us as we come to terms with who we are. As I raced through these pages like the runner within them, I was reminded of my own trials as a straight man learning to love who I am and not fear life's spotlight. It takes courage to tell your story, to come out, to remove yourself from an abusive relationship. These pages help usher in our more tolerant present and our ever-evolving hearts.”--Award-winning recording artist, Will Dailey"Written in such a way that you really do feel how deep the pain went as well as feel such joy for the author when he has successes."--Jill Will Run Blog"A wonderful read. Such a beautiful book about the power of acceptance--of yourself and others. I would definitely recommend this book"--Knowing the Difference Blog"My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within is a compelling memoir and it is wonderful to see the evolution of a life of pain transformed into a life of honesty and purpose." Blog“At one point in my career I was working with a group of teens as a counselor – all had eating issues, identity issues and food issues. Four of the males in the group were anorexic and I wished I had had a copy of this book to share with them all; they were not alone it was a struggle for many.”--Patricia’"Jon is a really incredible writer. The way he shared his story - his battle with himself - his body - his mind - his father - his heart - my goodness. It was phenomenal. Intense. Real. Raw. Heartbreaking."--"The author writes with an honesty so blunt and open - by the end of the book I felt as though I knew him on a personal level and had gone through all of his struggles, defeats, acceptance, and love right along with him. The book is an emotional roller coaster the entire way through. I don't have visceral reactions (like crying) to books very often, but this one had me sobbing."-- A Dream Within Dream Blog"The author hopes his candid memoir will help others to stop punishing themselves and to accept themselves as they are. My Thinning Years is a thoroughly engaging, touching, and sometimes funny memoir, which presents a portrait of a sensitive and gifted young man growing up with a quick-tempered, abusive, and homophobic father...Jon's story is gripping, honest, and well-written, and it's also a hopeful, inspiring story about success.""By sharing his story, Jon has reaffirmed that an honest life is worth living, being true to yourself is the worthiest life goal there is."--wordsmithonia.blogspotcom"Jon Derek Croteau is a very talented writer as well as someone who takes emotional risks when it comes to writing this story."--