Sunday, April 26, 2015

My Date Must Be a Boy

Rock Island, Fall 1973

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, heterosexual desire was assumed a constant, a universal of human experience.  Same-sex desire was not only never mentioned, it could not be mentioned.

It not only didn't exist, it could not be conceived of.

It wasn't just a certainty that no boy on Earth had ever longed for the touch of another boy, not once in the history of the world.

We were unable to even imagine the possibility.

Boys who obviously longed for boys?

They were looking for a buddy or a role model.

Boys who obviously didn't care for girls?

They were shy, or immature, or hadn't found the right girl yet.

Boys who were derided as "fairies" and "fags"?

Their interest in art and ballet, their inability to catch a ball, obviously represented deficient masculinity, but they desired girls as heartily as every other boy.

Desire for the same sex was simply beyond the boundaries of our imagination.

It was easier to conceive of hobbits.

But there were hints, mysteries to mull over, to contemplate like zen koans, to puzzle out like cryptograms.

Men on tv or in movies who cared for each other, fought for each other, and walked side by side into the future.

Men who didn't marry, who lived alone or with other men.

Men who hugged.

Who smiled at me, or touched me on the shoulder.

The sight of a muscular frame that filled me with inexplicable joy.

Small subtle signs.

Through the looking glass.
Take the red pill.
With a bit of a mind flip, you're into the time slip.

Sometime in junior high, I read an one-page story in an Archie comic book.  Big Ethel's friends criticize her for being indiscriminate, accuse her of accepting dates with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

On the contrary, Ethel says, she has very exacting standards.
1. Her date must be a boy.
2. He must be breathing.
3. He must be a slow runner (so she can catch him as he's fleeing in terror).

It was just a throwaway joke with the punch line of "slow runner."  But I was mesmerized.  There was something -- a logical fallacy -- a paradox -- a hint.

Slowly it dawned on me: Ethel has a rule about dating only boys.

Such a rule is necessary only if there are other groups of people whom she could date.

Does she only date teenage boys, and not adult men?
Or only date boys, and not girls?

Could a girl date a girl?
Could a boy date a boy?

It's not raining upstairs.

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