Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Rapper and the Grabby Male Nurse

Upstate, September 2008

In the fall of 2008, I was living in Upstate New York, dating guys from the Gang of Twelve, who had all known each other for years and talked to each other about everything.  Especially their hookups, dates, and boyfriends.

The Rich Kid set me up with the Truck Driver, and then, without telling me, his ex-boyfriend, the Rapper. Days after they broke up.

Date #3: The Rapper.   The photos he sent with his introductory email were amazing.  He was in his 20s, African-American, short, muscular but tending to fat, and super-sized beneath the belt.  Exactly my type!

He grew up in the City, and came Upstate to study music management at SUNY Cooperstown.  Now he was working in an insurance agency, but hoped to launch a rap career.

On our date, the Rapper took me to a program of African dance and music at the university, and then back to his apartment, where he performed one of his rap numbers

.I hate rap, but I politely said "You're very talented.  You should have no trouble getting a record contract."

Of course, I spent the night.  In the morning, over breakfast, I told him about my dates with the Rich Kid and the Truck Driver.

"The Truck Driver!" he exclaimed.  "That's my ex!  Figures that the Rich Kid would fix you up with both of us, and wait to see the fireworks!"

I stared, feeling stupid.  How could I have gone through dates with both of them and not noticed?  

"He was exactly my type, " the Rapper continued.  "I'm into tall white dudes with muscles and an extra-big package. Man, he had everything!"

"Well, I don't like to brag, but..."

He grinned.  "Don't get jealous on me, man. You have everything, too."

"Do you think the Truck Driver will mind us dating?" I asked.

"Well, it's kind of soon after the breakup, so don't tell him, ok?  Or the Rich Kid.  Not for awhile, anyway."

But there were only a small number of gay-friendly venues Upstate, and the guys in the Gang of Twelve. all talked to each other.

For our second date, the Rapper and I drove into Cooperstown to the Fenimore Museum and dinner at Alex and Ika's -- where one of the Gang of 12 saw us and made some phone calls.

The next morning we were getting ready to go to breakfast, when the Truck Driver banged on the door.

"You don't waste any time, do you?" he yelled in his cute British accent.  "How long did you wait before cruising the New Kid?  Twenty minutes?"

"You had a date with him before I did!" the Rapper exclaimed.

"But nothing happened!  We just talked. But not you -- you sent him X-rated pictures before you even met!"

"How did you find out about that?"  He glared at me.  "Not much for keeping secrets, are you, New Kid?"

"I didn't say anything!"

No third date.  But other members of the Gang of Twelve were waiting for their turn.

Date #4: The Grabby Male Nurse.  In his 40s, formerly muscular but now a little paunchy.  On our date, we went shopping at some of the antique shops in town.

For all his interest in secrecy, the Rapper gossiped as much as everyone else in the Gang of Twelve. He gave the Nurse notes: "can't keep a secret"; plus moment-by-moment accounts of our two nights together.

So the Grabby Male Nurse was expecting a porn star.

He was a sleazoid, one of those obnoxious guys in the clubs who keep leering and groping regardless of how much Attitude you display.  Of course, in public, he had to leer and grope subtly, when no one was looking.  Which made it all the more annoying.

Plus he turned everything I said into a sexual reference.

"I taught in Dayton for three years."
Wow, hot college boys!  How many of them did you offer a credit in your office?  Leer, leer.

"I grew up in Illinois."
Ooh, Chicago!  I bet you got a lot of action there!   Leer, leer.

"My grandmother studied art."
I see -- Grandma liked painting those nude male models, did she?" Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more!

We had dinner at the Neptune Cafe, one of those East Coast diners with a 30-page menu, everything from moussaka to tacos. The owner was gay-friendly, so lots of the Gang of Twelve hung out there.  But it was still a straight place.

Yet the Nurse acted like he was in a cruise bar, trying to grope me, leering at the male patrons.  He knew the waiter -- an Asian guy named Chad -- and openly flirted with him, even asking him an inappropriate question about the size of the Asian penis. I gave him an extra big tip to make up for the embarrassment.

Then the Nurse suggested that we go back to his apartment.

I was done.  " favorite tv show is on."

"You can watch it at my place."  He grabbed my crotch. "Or we can watch porn.  Your choice."

I disentangled myself and ran home and hid.

The Nurse sent notes to the rest of the Gang of Twelve: Nice guy, but all he can think about is sex.

I saw Chad again during Date #5: The Satyr and his Boy Toy.

The Rich Kid and the Crying Truck Driver

Upstate, September 2008

In 2008, my "visiting" position in Dayton was coming to an end, and I had to find a new job.  I only applied to colleges in Blue States.  First just in gay neighborhoods.

As January and February passed and the best jobs were taken, I expanded to an hour away from gay neighborhoods.

Then three hours.

Just as I was about to start searching in Red States, I was offered a job in New York!

Well, Upstate New York, about six hours by car from the gay neighborhoods of Manhattan, Boston, and Montreal.

I figured I would be driving to one or the other every weekend.  Maybe even renting a second apartment there.

But snow, car wear and tear, the expense, and being busy limited my weekend jaunts to once every couple of months.

So 98% of my life happened in the Straight World, in a small town Upstate with no gay bars, just one gay-friendly church, and no gay organizations except PFLAG.

Just like in Dayton, most adult gay men had fled to gay neighborhoods elsewhere,  Most of the others were living aggressively heterosexual public lives: they escorted women to events; they had no gay friends; they took their same-sex dates into the next town over to avoid being spotted at home.

But there was a coterie of gay men, a Gang of Twelve, who were out and open.

They were mostly in their 40s and 50s, one or two older or younger.  Most had lived their whole lives Upstate, so they knew the towns and the people: the restaurants where they could be served without a fuss, the stores where they could shop without rude stares, the clubs where no women would hit on them.

So, except for a few basic precautions like not holding hands on the street, they were not closeted.

The New Guy in Town is always popular, but Upstate, my social calendar filled up astonishingly fast.  All I had to do was meet one of the Twelve, and he told his friends, who told their friends. Phone calls were made, emails sent, meetings arranged.  By Christmas, I had been out on dates with five of the twelve.  By summer, nine (the others were involved or not interested).

Date #1: The Rich Kid (top photo) got "dibs": he was first in line for everything in the county.  He and his sister and parents owned most of the county, sat on every board of directors, donated to every charity.

I was impressed by his physique: short, compact, and quite buffed for someone in his 40s.

He took me to Alex and Ika's, a very expensive restaurant in Cooperstown, for sesame-encrusted wild salmon and a plantain and goat cheese salad.  Then back to his family's summer home -- a gigantic wood-lodge on Lake Otesaga, decorated in a weirdly incongruous Southwestern motif.

The Rich Kid was a bit on the domineering side, but he had two of the five traits I find attractive, and he was well-educated, articulate, and generous.  I would have gone on a second date, except before we got around to it, he ordered me to attend the Glimmerglass Opera Festival next Tuesday night  He was on the board of directors, and they needed ushers.

Drive 30 miles to be an usher at a production of Madame Butterfly? No, thanks.

One simple didn't say "no" to the Rich Kid.  He cancelled our second date, and sent out memos to the other 11 that I was "cute but stubborn."

Date #2: The Crying Truck Driver.  A tall, thin white guy with expressive hands and a cute British accent.  He invited me to his apartment for a "traditional Zambian dinner": a chicken breast, some kind of corn gruel, and mushrooms in peanut sauce.  I was still hungry afterwards.

Then he suggested that we watch a DVD from his collection of every British sitcom ever made.  I selected Are You Being Served.  But when I invited him to sit down next to me on the couch, Truck Driver hesitated and then yelled: "But I don't want to have sex with you!"

"Um...since when does sitting on the couch count as sex?  I've sat next to my brother lots of times!"

He ran into the bedroom, collapsed onto the bed, and started crying.

"I'm sorry," he sobbed.  'I just broke up with the Love of my Life.  My friends thought I should start dating again, but I'm not ready...I'm just not ready..."

He then told me all about the Love of His Life.  The relationship, from start to finish.  His faults, fetishes, faux-pas, and favorite foods.  What he should have said that time.  What happened at the Rich Kid's Christmas party.  Did I think there was any chance of them getting back together?

This turned out to be commonplace: most of the Gang of Twelve had dated most of the others, so on most dates, I got an earful of the others' problems with jobs and relatives, triumphs and defeats in cruising, and scandals from a decade ago.

And, since they all talked to each other, my size, shape, pecadillos, and preferences were soon common knowledge.

But this breakup was new, raw, and still painful.

I didn't realize at the time that the Truck Driver was describing the next guy on my social calendar!  Apparently the ex-boyfriend was also being advised to start dating again, and the Rich Kid gave him my email address.  We had a date tomorrow night!

See also: Picked Up by a Boy and His Dog.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ari, the Linguist on My Sausage List

Columbus, Ohio, September 2007

People who hear about the various languages I've studied always ask "Why didn't you become a linguist?"

Because linguistics is not about world languages.  It's about phonetics, phonology, morphology, and syntax, how ui changes to eu in some dialects of Farsi, but only before glottal consonants.

But that doesn't stop people from trying to fix me up with translators and polyglots of various ilks.

The latest, when I was in Dayton, was Ari, a professor of linguistics at Ohio State, about an hour away.

"He's got four of the five traits you find attractive," my friend enthused.  "He's a gym rat, religious, a swarthy Mediterranean, and gifted where it counts!"

So we exchanged a few emails and photographs.  Ari was muscular, in his mid-30s, dark-skinned, with curly black hair.  He said he was born in Israel, and moved to the U.S. when he was five years old.  He was a lapsed Orthodox Jew.  And a linguist!

Sounds perfect.

One Saturday afternoon, I drove into Columbus and met Ari at, of all places, an upscale hot dog place -- Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace.

"So Hebrew must be your first language," I began.  "It's fascinating that an extinct language was revived..."

"I don't remember much Hebrew," Ari said.  "I did my dissertation on Tlingit, a Na-Dene language of British Columbia and Alaska.  It has fifteen pronomials, which vary depending on the locative.  For instance, if you're going out to sea, it's dak-dei for a n-dei locative, but daki-naa for an n-naa locative."

"Many of the Native American tribes had third genders..." I began, hopefully.

"No, Tlingit doesn't have gender categories.  But it does have telic punctuals..."

"It's very important for your telics to be punctual."

He stared.  "Um...I just finished a paper on Jingulu, an Australian aboriginal language with six cases."

"I'm interested in Australian aboriginals, too" I said.  "They have a culture dating back thousands of years...."

But Ari wasn't interested in culture.  "Jingulu has four genders: masculine, feminine, neutral, and vegetable, but everything rounded is masculine, like kiyinarra, which means vagina."

This was probably the first time that I ever heard the term vagina on a date.  It didn't increase my amorous expectations.

"The Basque word for man is gizon, which is similar to the phrase big penis in ancient Sumerian," I tried.

He frowned.  "You're not trying to suggest a Basque-Sumerian link, are you?"

", I was just...."

"The interesting thing about Basque is its compound benefactive case.  Have you ever heard of a compound benefactive before?"

And it went on like that, through dinner, through browsing upscale clothing at Torso, through "a beer" at the Exile, and back to Ari's apartment.

"Not a problem," I thought.  "Being gifted beneath the belt can more than make up for a few hours of boredom."

He was.  My friend who set us up hadn't exaggerated.


He wasn't.  He spent every moment of our time together with his mouth open.  Talking!  Directing, exhorting, commenting, murmuring.

I tried a variety of ways to shut him up, but to no avail.  He kept talking.

I'm going to resist the temptation to make a dirty joke about linguists using their mouths.

We dated a few more times -- he was nicely muscular, and very gifted beneath the belt (#6 on my Sausage List).  But I could never get Ari to shut up

See also: Getting the Chinese Food Delivery Boy into my Bed; 8 Harvard Yard Hookups

The Student Who Had Erotic Daydreams in Class

Dayton, November 2007

There's a secret that all college professors know, but students don't.

We can see what they are doing in class.

We're standing, and they're sitting, so we always have an excellent view of the first row.  In small classes, or classrooms arranged in tiers, we have an excellent view of everyone.

So we know when they're trying to type a text message, or sneak a peek at their notes during an exam.

And other things.

College students don't check their erotic desires at the lecture hall door, and 21-year olds don't even need an erotic stimulus -- things just happen.

Bulging and tenting.  And hands moving down there, trying to cover it.  Sometimes even helping it along.

I had a colleague who used to walk up to tenting students and ask "Do you need to be excused to take care of that?"

But I won't say anything to the student -- to acknowledge that I have noticed would be terribly embarrassing for both of us.

So I just enjoy the spectacle.

I have only mentioned it to the student once, when I was teaching in Dayton.  The student -- I'll call him Raheem -- sat in a tier where his lap was exactly at my eye level.

And he wasn't just trying to cover an occasional tent. Two or three times per class, he slid his his hand all the way down into his pants, felt around for a few moments to make sure everything was arranged properly, and slid his hand out again.

It was very distracting, to me and no doubt to the students around him.

I asked my faculty mentor what to do.  He said "Raheem is obviously a homophobe, trying to get a rise out of you so he can claim sexual harassment,  You should confront him and tell him that his behavior is inappropriate."

But Raheem wasn't looking at me during his beneath-the-belt explorations.  He was staring into space, bored by the lecture and letting his mind wander. No doubt to erotic thoughts.

So I sent him an email:

"I'm sure you don't realize it, but from my position in the front of the class, I'm looking directly at your lap.  So be careful not to sneak a text message or do anything else that you don't want me to know about."

How would Raheem respond?  Would he not understand what I meant?  Would he angrily deny doing anything?  Would he say "I was hoping to get your attention!"

He didn't respond to my email, but the next day after class, he came up to my desk and wordlessly handed me an envelope.  It contained a beautiful "Thank You" card with the inscription "Thanks for the heads-up!  I'll be more careful!"

The beneath-the-belt explorations stopped.  But soon I discovered the reason for them -- when Raheem didn't rearrange himself, he spent most of the class sessions tenting.

That was even more distracting.

See also: My Student Gets Naked in Class; and The Theater Major with a Professor Fetish.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My Relatives Never Figure It Out

Rome City, Indiana, November 2005

When I was a kid, we visited my relatives in Indiana at least once a year, sometimes more often.  But in high school and college, I often had other things to do, and my visits became infrequent.  After I moved to West Hollywood, I flew home once or twice a year to visit my parents and brother and sister, with little time to spare for an additional six-hour drive to Indiana.

Then I moved to New York, then to Florida, and the years passed, and I hadn't seen Aunt Nora for over a decade, and some of my cousins, not for 20 years.  They had families of their own, with husbands and wives and children that I heard about often through conversations with my mother and brother and sister, but had never met.

In 2005, I got a job in Dayton, Ohio, a 2 1/2 hour drive from Rome City, close enough to visit again.  So I went to Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt Nora's house. And I found out something disturbing.

I wasn't out to them.

Not one, except for my parents, brother, sister, and Cousin Joe.

Aunt Nora's new husband says, “You must have to fight off the ladies with a stick!”

Cousin Joe's teenage son asks me to evaluate the breasts of a female celebrity on tv.

Cousin Eva gets right to the point: “Do you have a girlfriend?”

Why did every one of them think that I was straight? Even though I hadn't seen or heard from them for many years, I heard about them: every visit and telephone conversation with my family consisted primarily of discussions of these relatives,their job prospects, medical problems, and straight romances. Surely the next day, when they got on the phone, they mentioned my job prospects, honors, medical problems, and same-sex romances.

Well, all but that last thing.  My extended family members said things like “I hear you’re a schoolteacher”; “I hear you’re a writer”; and “How do you like it in Ohio?” One even knew that I threw my back out, an injury that happened five months ago, and was incapacitating for only a few days.

But that last thing, the people I was dating, in love with, sharing my apartment with, sharing my life with: no information.

My mother, brother, sister, and Cousin Joe failed to tell those other relatives anything about it. In conversation after conversation, year after year, they had forced me to pass. No one should know.

It would take too long to come out to fifteen people, and besides, I don't believe in pronouncements, as if I were revealing a secret, so I simply answered the questions as they arose.

To Aunt Nora's new husband: “If a lady tried anything with me, I would run into the nearest gay bar and hide until she went away, or until I got lucky.”

To Cousin Joe's teenage son: “I wouldn’t know about women’s breasts, I’m too busy looking at guys.”

To Cousin Eva: “No, I don’t have a girlfriend. My boyfriend would get jealous.”

They just stared, thinking that I was a wise guy making a silly joke, or not comprehending at all. But even if they concluded that I must be gay, would word get around, as uncle called cousin, cousin called aunt, brother called brother?

Six months later, at a Fourth of July barbecue, I went through the same thing all over again, with them or with other members of the extended family.

Cousin Eva's daughter's boyfriend: “Are the girls in Ohio hot?”

Aunt Nora's new husband's brother: “You must be a real devil with the ladies!”

Cousin Ed:  “Do you have a girlfriend?”

Why do family members who know that you are gay keep so aggressively silent? Perhaps they are used to not thinking about it themselves, except when absolutely necessary.

If I do not have my arm around a lover at that moment, if I am not discussing a Gay Pride parade at that moment, then they can forget. I return, in their mind, to the default: male, therefore interested in women.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Dayton Friend with Benefits

Dayton, February 2006

In the fall of 2005, I moved to Fairborn, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, to take a job at the University of Dayton.  After 20 years in gay neighborhoods, it was a shock.  Dayton had only a tiny gay presence: a bar, two welcoming churches, a gift shop with gay-themed cards, and two organizations, one with the oddly closeted name “Friends of the Italian Opera” (“we do not go to the opera or discuss the opera”).

There was a gay neighborhood in Columbus, about an hour away by car.  But I could spend only about 10 hours per week in a gay neighborhood. 95% of my life took place in the Straight World, where everyone and everything was heterosexist.  Most people were completely unable to understand that gay people exist:

Grocery Store Clerk: "Here's your Super-Valu Discount Card.  Do you need another one for your wife?"
Me: "I'm gay, so I don't have a wife.  Can I get one for my partner?"
Clerk: "Anybody in your household.  Just tell her to sign it on the bottom."

Sexual Harassment Trainer: "Sometimes students of the opposite sex will approach you for dates, but you should refuse."
Me: "Could I date a student of the same sex if he was not taking any of my classes?"
Trainer: "No.  She might enroll in your classes in the future."

Me: "Could you have my car finished by 5:00?"
Auto Mechanic: "Hot date, huh?  Is she cute?"
Me: "As a matter of fact, he is quite attractive."
Auto Mechanic: "Yeah, I'll bet she's cute."

And my classes!

My apartment in Fairborn
Mostly to soldiers from the nearby air force base, who were studying criminology for the purpose of catching pedophiles and terrorists?

Classrooms full of muscular soldiers may be visually appealing, especially while it's still warm enough for chest-hugging t-shirts, but the opinions they expressed were uniformly 1950s conservative: “homosexuals” are very sick, too sick to enlist in the military, most likely conspiring with the pedophiles and terrorists to take away our freedom.

I burrowed into the womb of my apartment.  I didn't go into Columbus.  I didn't go to gay venues in Dayton.  I taught my classes and went to the gym.  On weekends I ordered Chinese food, watched Seinfeld, and hung out in internet chatrooms.

My only social life came from Chuck, a "friend with benefits": one of those guys who visit you for awhile and then leave, with only minimal contact information and no personal biographies.

Chuck was in his early 30s,  very muscular, with short brown hair and a round, appealing face.  He visited every couple of weeks -- I would call him, or he would call me.

It wasn't much of a social life.  We never left the apartment.  We didn't talk much.  Chuck never volunteered information, and he responded to questions with a noncommital grunt.  After six months of regular visits, all I knew about him was that he coached a Little League Baseball Team, he liked folk dancing and Seinfeld, he hated Chinese food, and he visited his mother on Christmas Day.  And he was "straight."

One Thursday morning in the spring of 2006, I went to the gym as usual and tried to run on the treadmill, but for some reason it was too difficult.  I walked about a mile, then went to my office to wait for my Juvenile Delinquency class at 11:00.

Soon I started feeling light headed.  Ok, I was getting sick.  I would go home right after Juvenile Delinquency.

At about 10:00 am, I realized that I would never make it to class.  In fact, I would never be able to drive home.  I stumbled down to the department office and told the secretary, "I'm not feeling well.  Can you find someone to give me a ride home?"  While she was on the phone, I collapsed.

At the emergency room, the doctor told me that I was severely dehydrated from the flu, I should stay in bed a few days, and could I get my girlfriend to come pick me up?
"You mean my boyfriend?"
"When can she pick you up?"
"Well, actually, I don't have a boyfriend."
"A friend or relative, then?  Somebody has to pick you up. You can't drive yourself."

I checked my cell phone.  Friends and relatives from California, New York, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, plus Austria, Belgium, England, France, and Estonia.  They wouldn't do much good.

I couldn't admit to the doctor that I had lived in Dayton for almost a year, and hadn't made any friends.

My only Dayton number was for Chuck.  But he wasn't actually a friend....

Well, any port in a storm. I called and said "I'm in emergency room.  Severe dehydration -- it's not contagious. I just have to stay off my feet for a few days, and I can't drive.  Can you come over and pick me up?"

"Why me?" he asked, understandably.

"Um..all of my other friends are at work, and I don't have their work numbers."

"Um...I guess, ok.  Sure."

It took him over an hour to show up.  "Sorry, I made a couple of stops first.  Got you some get-well presents."  He handed me a bouquet of flowers and the Seinfeld Season One DVD set.

We drove back to my apartment, and Chuck helped me inside -- I was still shaky -- and into my bathrobe.  By this time, it was 3:00 pm, and I hadn't had any lunch.  "Could you get me some soup?" I asked.

"Soup?  I think we can do better than that!"  He went on a grocery run, and returned to make gumbo, garlic bread, a salad, and bread pudding.  We ate on tv trays and watched my Seinfeld dvd, and then Everybody Hates Chris and My Name is Earl.  

"Well, thanks for staying with me," I said, "But I'm really tired.  I want to go to bed."

"Ok, no problem.  Let's go."  He helped me into the bedroom, pulled down the covers, and started unbuttoning his shirt.

"Oh...sorry, but I'm not really in the mood to do anything tonight."

"Not a problem.  Tonight you're a patient, and it's my job to deliver TLC.  We can just cuddle."

So he held me in his arms all night.

In the morning I felt well enough to walk around by myself, and Chuck went to work.  He returned in the evening to make cheese burritos and a taco salad, with flan, and we watched a DVD of Murder on the Orient Express.  

As we were preparing for another night of cuddling, he said, "When you're feeling better, maybe you would like to go to a ball game.  I have season tickets to the Columbus Clippers."

"You a date?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Well, for the last six months, you haven't wanted to do anything know."

"Yeah, know, my whole life has been devoted to my family.  My parents, my sister and her kids.  I thought gay guys were only about sex.  Until you called from the emergency room."

"You didn't know that gay guys got sick?"

"If you asked me, intellectually, I would have said, 'sure, gay guys must get sick sometime.'  They must watch tv, and eat dinner, and go to ball games.  But I never realized..."

"That gay people exist outside of bedrooms?"

"Right!  Exactly!" He clapped me on the back.  "I bet they even go on dates!" 

Gay People Absolutely Do Not Exist

Heterosexual Soldier

Dayton, September 2005

In the spring of 2005, after twenty years in the gay neighborhoods of California, New York, and Florida, the only academic job I could find was in Dayton, Ohio, an hour's drive from the nearest gay neighborhood.  Too far to come home to every night.

So, for the first time in twenty years, the first time in my adult life, I would be living and working, buying groceries and going to the gym, finding friends and lovers, falling asleep every night and waking up every morning in the Straight World.

My friends advised me to stay home, find another temporary position at a college in Florida, or give up academe altogether.  I had forgotten what the Straight World was like, they said.  The heterosexuals who lived among us had learned to be civil, so they merely asked “Are you the boy or the girl?” instead of screaming “Got AIDS yet?”  But in the factory towns and farming villages of the Straight World, they were all screamers.

I would be spat on, called names, harassed by the police, refused medical care, kicked out of my apartment. My car’s tires would be slashed. Rocks would be hurled through my kitchen window.  One day I would be murdered, no doubt about it, and my assassin would get the lightest possible sentence, as the judge declared, “It’s a pity that ridding the world of an abomination must be punished at all.” Why did we all flee from our birth towns in the first place?  To stay alive.

Heterosexual Bear
I thought my friends were exaggerating.  An entire generation had grown up since Stonewall.  Surely some heterosexuals were gay-friendly, even in the Straight World, and most of the rest were simply polite bigots, keeping their hatred well concealed.  Surely screamers were rare, even in the Straight World, and actual murders rarer still, occurring only when a preacher incited bloodlust with a cry of “God wills it!”

Besides, the Straight World could not possibly be empty of gay people.  Not everyone moved to a gay neighborhood.  10% of the population would never fit.  Not even 5%.  For every gay person who fled to gay neighborhoods, there must be a dozen who stayed home, and now flew rainbow flags from their porches, strolled down the street hand-in-hand with their partners, created spaces of freedom in spite of the screams.

So I loaded my car with suitcases and books and left the Gay World for the first time in my adult life, to go into exile in western Ohio.

After checking into my hotel, I made my way up the hill to the campus, to a flat brick building with a cornerstone stating that it was constructed in 1969, the year of Stonewall.  A good sign, I thought. Maybe the Straight World wasn’t so dark and savage after all.  

When I arrived at my new office, its former occupant, a fat, sweating political scientist named Dr. Dean, was busily clearing out so I could move in.  We chatted while he knelt on the floor, taping up the last of his boxes.  He asked how I liked Ohio.  I liked it fine so far, I said.  Then, preoccupied with masking tape, not looking up, he asked: “Did your wife come with you?”

Heterosexual Captain Crunch
My wife?  Gay men had partners, spouses, lovers, never wives. Why would Dr. Dean think that I was heterosexual?  I hadn’t mentioned a woman.  I hadn’t kissed a woman in his presence.  I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.  But Dr. Dean showed no sign of looking for evidence.  He asked  by rote, with utter nonchalance, as if “Did your wife come with you?” was small talk, the precise equivalent of “How do you like Ohio?"

 I had quick, witty, withering responses prepared for the polite bigot who asked “Why are gay men so obsessed with fashion?” and for the screamer who ranted “Why do you molest little boys?”, but I had no response prepared for this nonchalance, this blithe confidence that every man has a wife, and presumably every woman a husband, that heterosexual experience is undoubtedly universal human experience.

“Uh. . .I’m not. . .I don’t. . . .”  I stammered.

Dr. Dean looked up, frowning, surprised at my hesitation.  “Or haven’t you met the right woman yet?” he offered in a kindly tone.

Finally collecting my wits, I said, “There is no right woman. I am not interested in women. I haven’t been on a date with a girl since high school.”

He stared, mouth gaping, utterly taken aback.  Was he so surprised to discover that gay people existed?  "Don’t give up,” he said after a long moment.  He returned in embarrassment to the box that he was taping. “Everyone has a soulmate somewhere.  I didn’t get married until I was thirty-six.”

Now it was my turn to stare.  Dr. Dean was not shocked about meeting a gay person  – he still thought I was heterosexual.  Saying I was not interested in women did not tell him that I was interested in men, but that I had given up on finding the “right” woman!  Saying that I hadn’t dated a girl since high school did not tell him that I dated boys, but that I never dated at all!

I stood upright and turned back toward the bright wood-framed hall where the doorways of heterosexual professors were marked with office hours from semesters past and yellowing Dilbert comics.  I wanted to scream “I exist!”  I wanted to drag Dr. Dean up by his shirt collar and force him to wake up from his smug heterosexual fantasy.  But instead I asked: “Is there a soda machine nearby?”  My first encounter with a resident of the Straight World ended in ignominious defeat.

Heterosexual Supermarket
Dr. Dean was not unique. During my first weeks in Ohio, I heard about “my wife” and “my girlfriend” constantly.  The assistant manager who signed me up for a membership at the Better Bodies Fitness Center said that she could work out with me for free.

A parishioner at Unitarian Church mentioned the Women’s Breakfast she might be interested in.

The clerk who gave me a Super Value Discount Card at Kroger's Supermarket offered me a second card to take home for her.

The DMV employee who issued my new driver’s license asked how she liked Ohio.

One professor who asked about my wife ironically had a “LGBT Safe Space” sticker affixed to her office door.

Colleagues, student assistants, new neighbors, church parishioners, and random strangers always asked about my wife within a sentence or two of “Hello.”  It was simply how one made conversation in the Straight World,

18 Heterosexuals
No one in the Straight World ever asked, “How does your partner like it here?”  No assistant manager who signed me up for a gym membership told me that “my girlfriend or boyfriend” could work out for free, no church parishioner mentioned the clubs “my significant other” might be interested in, and no grocery store clerk gave me a second Super Value Discount Card for my “spouse.”

Regardless of whether they were young or old, uneducated or educated, screamer or polite bigot or gay-friendly, they were absolutely certain, without the slightest doubt, that gay people did not exist.

What Rod the Pharmacist Was Doing Upstairs

Dayton, June 2006

When I was living in the gay neighborhoods of West Hollywood and Wilton Manors, you never dated more than one guy at a time.  If you went on a second date, you were a couple, and "abandoned all others" until you broke up.  ("Sharing" the boyfriends of your friends didn't count.)

But when I moved to Dayton in 2005, I found that juggling several boyfriends was perfectly acceptable, even expected.

Among straight men, it was a badge of honor to date several women at once.  Those who were most adept at it became folk heroes, like Don Juan, Casanova, or Fonzie of Happy Days.

Still, I was surprised by the guy upstairs.

It was a garden apartment, opening directly onto a patio and then the parking lot.  The stairway to the second floor apartment was right next to my kitchen window, so I could see and hear everyone coming and going.

Not to worry, the landlord said.  The guy who lives there is very quiet, no loud music or wild parties.

He was right.  No loud music or wild parties. An occasional door slamming, the muffled sound of a vacuum cleaner, a voice on the telephone.

And something else.

I usually went to bed at 10:00 pm in order to get up at 6:00.  But on the nights I couldn't sleep, or woke up to go to the bathroom, I heard a rhythmic creak-creak-creak.



It took me awhile to realize what I was hearing.

The guy upstairs was entertaining visitors.  For two hours or more, several times a week.

Most mornings, as I sat in the kitchen eating my cereal, I saw his visitors leave.

Girls.  Two, three, four different girls.

Who was this  guy, with his Don Juan-Casanova-Fonzie ability to date many women at once, and the stamina for hours of creak-creak-creak almost every night?

In my imagination, he became a Superman, endowed with every characteristic I find attractive: short, muscular, dark-skinned, religious, and gifted beneath the belt.

And maybe he was straight but curved around the edges, open to same-sex experiences on his nights off from creak-creak-creak with girls!

But I never saw him leave the apartment.

One day in the spring of 2006,  I was filling a prescription, and when the pharmacist checked my i.d., he exclaimed "Hey, we're neighbors.  I live in the apartment upstairs! Rod Perkins."

Very disappointing: a mild-mannered pharmacist, tall, blond, rather pale, and not particularly muscular (this isn't him).

Apparently our paths never crossed because he worked the 3:00 pm - midnight shift.  No doubt he then met one of his numerous girlfriends, had a late dinner date, and then returned to his apartment.

But if he had a nondescript physique, how did he get so many girls to agree to a creak-creak-creak?

And more importantly, were some of them guys?

In gay neighborhoods, you couldn't get dates based on wit, charm, humor, or knowledge of old movies.  That might keep the guy interested, but in order for him to agree to see you in the first place, you needed a face, biceps, or a basket, preferably all three.  Some guys who didn't have baskets of their own improvised by shoving some socks down there.

Rod didn't have a face or physique.  He must be gifted beneath the belt!

In order to find out, I went back to the pharmacy and gave him a guest pass to the Better Bodies Fitness Center, as a "thank you."

"I used to work as a personal trainer, down in Florida" I told him.  "We can really get you toned up."

The next Wednesday afternoon, Rod came to the gym, and we tried basic weight training and then showered down.

Nope. Not particularly impressive.  And he never glanced at a guy.

I was no longer interested in seeing Rod's bedroom, but I was curious: how did he convince so many women to see it?

Could it be that heterosexuals were not into the physical, but focused solely on wit, charm, and strength of character?

Certainly not -- back in high school, the heterosexual girls I knew all wanted jocks. Without exception. But if no jocks were available, they might settle for a guy with a car.

So I checked Rod's assigned parking space.  Sure enough: a late-model red Jaguar that must have cost a fortune.

Apparently heterosexual men don't shove socks down there.  They compensate for their unimpressive baskets with a killer phallic car.


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