I spent the fall of 1991 in Nashville, studying Biblical Hebrew at Vanderbilt Divinity School and dating country-western stars.
I also met Larry, one of the "lost souls" that I'm always drawn to.
He was 35 years old, with dark hair, a respectable physique (he worked out every day) -- and not bad beneath the belt.
But he grew up in a Bible-belt fundamentalist church -- nearly as bad as the Nazarenes -- and didn't come out until two years ago. During that time, he had five dates. And never a second date.
He had so many personal quirks that he turned everyone off.
His life was regimented to the point of obsession. He got up at the same time every morning, went to bed at the same time every evening, and had the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.
His only off-work passion was opera. He bought all of the operas on cd that he could find, and had season tickets to both the Nashville and Memphis Operas. Once a year he drove all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for their opera festival (which he considered the best in the world).
With all of the expenditures on opera, Larry had little money for anything else. He never went to a movie, or out to dinner.
If all that wasn't enough to scare guys off, Larry had many more quirks:
1. He did not own a television.
2. He changed his sheets and towels every day.
3. No food or beverages could be consumed in his apartment, except while sitting at the kitchen table.
4. He frequently said "yum" while eating.
5. He kept an exact count of every penny he spent in a little notebook.
6. He showered, and insisted that his partner shower, both before and after sexual intimacy.
No wonder he had only been on five dates.
"You have to get out into the gay community," I told him. "Find guys who share your interests."
"I hate gay guys!" he exclaimed. "All they're into is sex and dancing."
"That's just the party crowd. There are plenty of other gay activities."
So I took him on a grand tour of Nashville's Gay Scene.
1. The Metropolitan Community Church
"Reminds me too much of my childhood church!"
2. Black and White Men Together
"What will I do if I'm into a white guy?"
"Ugh! Country-Western music!"
4. Nashville AIDS Network
5. The Imperial Court
"I'm not into drag queens!"
6. A gay soccer team
"I hate sports!"
8. Gay nudists
"I'm too shy!"
9.-15. Politics? Gay Pride Planning Committee? Gay fathers? Gardening? Chubby chasers? Board games? Motorcycle club?
"I'm not into pain! Well...maybe we could try it."
So we tried various configurations. Top, bottom, ropes, chains, clamps clothes pins, gags, blindfolds, vibrators, whipping, flogging, spanking....
It makes sense: his life was all about control, so his fetish was about giving up control.
Larry soon found his way into the gay leather world. In 1993 he was a participant in the International Mr. Leather competition. 1994 he became one of the founders of the Tennessee Leather Tribe.
It's all about finding your niche. Or in Larry's case, your fetish.
See also: Finding Larry's New Fetish