I was in high school when Ellen Degeneres' sitcom was on television. Shockingly, it was one of my favorite things to watch. (In retrospect, this is yet one more glaring signs my parents missed. I always think about that scene in But I'm a Cheerleader when Megan's family confronts her about her kd Lang posters and vegetarianism. If my family had just been a tiny bit more savvy, I'm sure there would have been an intervention where they confronted me with my love of Ellen and softball.) Anyway, I remember thinking the show was hilarious and making an effort to watch it every week. And for the first few seasons, my whole family watched and enjoyed it.
And then...we all know what happened. Rumors started circling that not only was Ellen gay in real life, but that she was going to out herself on the show. There was outrage and a whole lot of name-calling in my house (the oh-so witty "Ellen Degenerate was -- and remains -- a family favorite). And, of course, I was forbidden to watch the show from then on out.
So I never saw the infamous "puppy episode".
Thankfully, the Oxygen network has been rerunning the series in its entirety. And Thursday and Friday, they aired the two-part episode. So, only a decade after the rest of the world, I finally saw Ellen Morgan come out to her friends.
I was just a few months shy of my seventeenth birthday when this aired the originally. And by that time, let me tell you, I had already been struggling with my sexuality for years. I knew what I was feeling "wasn't normal" and seeing how my family reacted to a perfect stranger's coming out, reaffirmed to me that it was not something I should discuss or contemplate personally. So I stuffed those feelings down deep inside and didn't deal with them until years later when I was in college and out from under the thumb of my family and our oppressive community.
So I watched this episode on two levels: On one, it was pure fun. The dialogue and situational irony was snappy and amusing as always. I laughed, I cringed, I rolled my eyes. It was a very enjoyable hour, and I'm glad I finally got a chance to watch it. On the other hand, I watched it imagining what it would have been like to see this as a teenager. And on that level, it was bittersweet. Because I can only imagine how much it would have helped. I can only imagine how wonderful it would have felt to know I wasn't alone and that I wasn't evil or sick for feeling the way I did. If only I hadn't been "sheltered" from this, my journey might have been that much easier. I hope there were others out there in my position who didn't have to wait a decade to see this. So, to Ellen, I say: "Thank you. And I'm sorry it took me ten years to say it."