My first boyfriend Fred had many different jobs, cities, friends, and relationships. In trying to make sense of his life, I decided to go with his lovers.
1. The Farmboy. Fred was born on a farm in rural Western Illinois in November 1952. Growing up, he milked cows and fed pigs, but he was not isolated from the social ferment of the 1960s. He watched The Smothers Brothers and listened to Jefferson Airplane.
In high school, Fred was a clean-cut all-American, lettering in football, taking girls to school dances, leading Sunday school classes at the United Methodist church, respected by his parents and the oldsters, who thought he was the exception to a generation full of "draft dodgers and hippies."
No one talked about gay people. He was not aware that they existed, certainly not aware that he was himself gay.
He had no same-sex experiences except with the Farmboy, his girlfriend's brother, who lived about a mile down the road. After his dates, he dropped off the girl with a chaste kiss on the cheek and then met the Farmboy behind the barn for moments of homoerotic joy.
He majored in psychology, because he wanted to understand his desires better, and in Classics, because he was in love with his Greek professor: a Harvard Ph.D. in his fifties with a thick beard, a hairy chest, a little belly, and a Bratwurst beneath the belt. The Greek Professor mentioned the gay loves of Zeus and Apollo -- the first time Fred ever heard gay people discussed in public.
Incidentally, he also initiated Fred into bottoming, which in those days was called "Greek passive."
Among his more memorable hookups was Ron Reagan, son of the future president, who he topped in his first Greek active experience.
His most memorable relationship was with Thomas, an Episcopal priest from Des Moines, who was certain that it was ok to be gay and Christian. They remained friends for the rest of Fred's life.
See: The Priest with Three Boyfriends and Fred Hooks Up with the President's Son
At the end of his internship, in the summer of 1980, Fred found a job as a youth minister at a United Methodist church in Gretna, Nebraska. He convinced Boomer to drop out of college and follow him.
Neither was prepared for the daily routine of a live-in relationship. Fred became controlling and argumentative, Boomer surly and jealous, certain that Fred was cheating with the teenager downstairs (and perhaps he was). After five weeks, Boomer left, to return to college.
But, like the Episcopal priest, they remained friends. Fred tried his best to keep his old loves in his life.
See: My First Date, with Fred the Ministerial Student and Fred and the Teenager Downstairs
I don't know why they broke up -- I suspect that the Nephew graduated and moved somewhere for a job.
In 1982, Fred left Gretna to become senior pastor of the United Methodist Church in Horrible Small-Town Kansas. He was pressured to date, and in fact had several lady friends, keeping his same-sex activity strictly on the downlow.
6. Matt. In 1985, Fred decided that he couldn't take the closeting anymore, so he left the ministry altogether for a job as a mental health counselor in Kansas City. In May 1987 he met Matt, a recent Harvard graduate who was elitist, sarcastic, and all kinds of crazy, but had a good heart. They were together for ten years.
In 1988 the moved to Claremont, California, where Fred studied for his D.Min degree. Afterwards Fred got a job as a youth pastor in San Bernardino, then a family counselor in Fresno. Matt, who had never had a job, stayed home to cook and clean, becoming a veritable "housewife."
Fred believed in monogamy, staying faithful to one guy forever. He was never comfortable with the West Hollywood custom of sharing, or of going down on guys as entertainment at a party. Yet there were so many Cute Young Things around, a kaleidoscope of biceps and bulges. It was impossible to resist. He began a pattern of hookups and even full-fledged affairs without telling Matt.
In 1996, Matt discovered that Fred had been cheating, and left him. But they stayed friends, of course.
See: Matt's First Night with Fred and His Brother; and How Matt Began Renting Himself Out
He immediately began dating Jester, a college student, later history teacher, blind, with an upbeat attitude and a footlog beneath the belt.
They were together for five years, finally breaking up in 2002. The breakup was rough, with accusations and rage on both sides. They didn't stay friends afterwards.
See: The Blind Boy with the 12" Penis and The Blind Boy Finds His Way into Fred's Bed.
Why didn't he commit to anyone in particular? Maybe he was afraid of losing his heart -- and soul -- yet again.
Maybe it was difficult for a guy in his 50s to form permanent relationships with 20-year olds he found most attractive.
Or maybe, after so many years of monogamy, Fred wanted to sit back and enjoy the ride, enjoy all the fun of a relationship with none of the responsibilities.
The only relationship that stands out in the blur is the Icelandic Photographer, who I met in 2001, when they had just begun dating. An art student at Bemidji State University, with long hair, a moustache, a hard smooth chest, and a Kielbasa beneath the belt. He had an Icelandic flag tattooed on his hand.
"This is it!" Fred told me. "I've never met anyone like him before! We're going to be together for the rest of our lives!"
Fred never mentioned him again.
After hooking up with a 26-year old chef named Tyler, Fred moved in with him, as a roommate. He became close to Tyler's mother, Georgina, and a surrogate father to his brothers, Rusty and Max. They even took family portraits together.
Fred and Tyler were Platonic friends, a stepfather and stepson. After that first night, they never slept together, not even for "sharing," and each sought out other lovers. But it was Tyler who took care of him when he got sick in 2016, who helped him into and out of his wheelchair and drove him to his doctor appointments, and who was holding his hand that last day in the hospice.
Maybe, at the end of his life, Fred finally found his soulmate.
See: I Spend the Night with Fred's Son