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The ’80s were a decade of confusion for me as I tried to find my way to manhood.

Was I straight? What if I were really gay? The notion that I might be some of each never occurred to me. For a while, I even joined a monastic community to try figure out my identity. I prayed a lot.

Holding a degree from a fancy journalism school, was I going to work as a full-fledged journalist? Having unexpectedly received a Fulbright scholarship, I decided to continue my studies in Austria where I gained the experience of a lifetime as an embassy speechwriter. I also, though, wrote as a freelancer. I even made it onto one masthead for a national publication as a Contributing Editor. I was overjoyed!

But back to the confusion: living in Austria as a young man of Bavarian heritage, I grew close to the branch of the family that chose to remain in the “Old World.” Then one day a cousin asked if I were gay. For a young man climbing out of his teens, for that matter any man, that was a terrifying question in the ’80s.

So I avoided the question as best I could: I went out on a total of five dates for the entire decade! The rest of the time I worked, studied, read, went to movies, slept, played a ton of tennis, and lived most of my life in German!

Consequently, I never knew how Ronald Reagan actually sounded when he was president! Nor, for that matter, did I even know movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off existed.

I wish I could live in another universe where I didn’t have to know what Donald Trump’s voice sounds like. Much as I try, I’m not always as quick as I want to be in hitting the mute button. When I’m not near the television but I still hear his voice, or Mike Pence’s, or Kellyanne Conway’s in my head, I run to the computer and turn on Swiss Radio. It’s not quite the escapism I had in the ’80s, but it helps in this new era of confusion!

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