Friday, August 5, 2016
Fred and the Teenager Downstairs
In the spring of 1980, during my sophomore year at Augustana College, my boyfriend Fred the Ministerial Student ended his internship and landed a job as a youth minister at a church in Omaha -- actually Gretna, a small town about 20 miles south.
Great -- my first boyfriend who knew that he was gay, and after five months, he vanishes!
But what if I moved with him? We could rent an apartment together. I could transfer to the University of Nebraska to finish my degree, and meanwhile get a job to help out with the expenses.
It doesn't sound like a great idea, in retrospect, but I was 19 years old, and getting my own place with "my lover" sounded very grown-up and romantic.
Fred agreed, but with some ground rules. He was closeted -- Methodists were more liberal than Nazarenes, but they still found being gay "incompatible with Christian practice." So:
1. I was to introduce myself as his "cousin" staying with him while going to college.
2. I couldn't go to the gay organizations in Omaha, where someone might identify me and it would get back to the church.
I told my parents that Fred found me a summer job, and on June 7th, 1980, packed two suitcases and a box of books and drove out to join him.
We lived together for about six weeks, until July 20th, 1980.
There were lots of problems:
1. My job, Assistant District Circulation Manager at the Omaha World-Herald: a glorified paperboy
2. College: I would have to live in Nebraska for a year to get in-state tuition.
3. Fred had never had a live-in boyfriend before, and he soon became controlling and weird. He cooked occasionally, but he never did any cleaning or laundry. As the "preacher's wife," that was my job.
4. The small town on the prairie, with a Watermelon Feed, a Fourth of July Parade, and a Town Dance. Do you have any idea what a Watermelon Feed is? It doesn't often involve high school jocks.
5. The high school boy who lived downstairs, who Fred took under his wing, always inviting him to tag along when we went to dinners or movies. I found some shirtless photos of the kid, which made me think that they were sleeping together (years later, Fred admitted that I was right).
The only bright spot was Michael, a high school boy from Fred's youth group who came over for my first three-way.
Then my friend Tom, called. "You know, Omaha is halfway to Los Angeles. You might as well come the rest of the way and pay me a visit."
So that Sunday, July 20th, I waited for Fred to go to church. I packed while he was gone, got into my car, and drove cross country 24 hours to Los Angeles.
Nearly the minute I left, Fred found a new lover, a University of Nebraska freshman. They were together for two years, introduced to parishioners as a "college kid I'm helping out." Then Fred moved to Kansas, and met Matt, his partner for the next eight years. They got along better.
Fred and I stayed friends. Eventually he moved to California.
See also A Ginger Boy for Christmas; My First Three-Way