Whenever a new boyfriend is admitted to a social group, he always has to tell his coming out story. It's a rite of passage.
But in the five years we've known Matt, Fred's boyfriend, he hasn't told his. "I'm like Topsy," he claims. "I didn't have no birthin'. I just growed."
One night in spring of 1993, at a party at Will the Bondage Boy's apartment, he finally gives in: "Oh, all right! But you have to tell it, Fred, mon étalon. Tell about the chevalier blanc, the white knight who rescued me from the two dragons of Kansas City."
Kansas City, May 1987
Matt graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in French Literature and a thesis on Raymond Radiguet, the beautiful and fabulously well-hung novelist who amassed an incredible list of lovers -- Picasso, Hemingway, Jean Cocteau, Coco Chanel -- before he died of typhus at age of 20.
"Forget your coming out story!" Will the Bondage Boy exclaims. "I want to hear about this Raymond Radiguet. How hung was he?"
Matt smiles. "That would be telling. But back to the horrors of May 1987: Great Caesar's Bust is on the shelf, and I don't feel so well myself."
After eight years of bliss, first at the Phillips Academy and then at Harvard, Matt had to go back home, to that awful castle that his parents stole from his grandmother, to the most jejune, ennuyeux, bourgeois neighborhood in the most stuffy, obnoxious, hébété, redneck city in Kansas. That's right, Kansas.
"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas, anymore."
"But ya are, Blanche! Ya are!"
Back to his big brute Dad, who spent half his time in India, selling widgets and wocks to Brahmins and the other half hurlant, saississant, pressant: "Play football! Change carburetors! Don't be a fairy!"
The only member of his family he could stomach was his older brother Buzz, a shaggy blond haired hipster who used to give him wedgies and nipple-twists when they were kids. Then one summer he and an Italian buddy drove their Fiat off an embankment on the SP325 outside of Bologna and sped off to the afterlife together.
"Was he gay?" Lane asks.
"I don't know. Mom and Dad won't tell me, and he won't tell me. He says it's irrelevant in the afterlife."
Buzz followed Matt to Harvard, where he hovered over his bed in the dead of night, scaring his tricks to death and offering unwanted advice: "You're doing it wrong! Use your tongue more!"
"Just what you need!" I exclaim. "A big brother ghost butting in."
Mom and Dad didn't know that Matt was gay, but he was going to change all that now, and end all interrogations altogether.
"Coming out to parents is always a nightmare," Lane says sympathetically.
"There are scrambled eggs and L'Eggos in the kitchen," Mom said.
L'Eggos? Good Lord! "Mom and Dad, you're probably wondering why I haven't been on a date with a girl since fifth grade, why I sent away for an autographed picture of Gregory Harrison, and why I wander through the house singing 'I'm Coming Out.' C'est incroyable, I know, but I'm gay."
They stared for a long moment. Then Mama Pajama began the pick-pick-picking. "Are you sure? Are they sure? Who's your doctor? Did you get a second opinion?"
Big Daddy stood, brusque, all business. "You're too old for that sissy stuff. You're a grownup now."
"Well, not quite a grownup yet," Matt said. "I've never driven a car. I've never gotten a paycheck. I've never had a boyfriend. Oh, I've had sex -- I know my way around a penis, let me tell you that -- but no boyfriend."
"Not the best strategy!" I say. "Parents really don't want to know what you do in bed, any more than you want to know what they do."
"Bien sur. But, as you may have noticed, I tend to speak first, contemplate my errors later."
For the next hour, Mom and Dad yelled, argued, recriminated, and spat like wet cats, mostly at each other, blaming Matt's "problem" on toilet training and male babysitters and that unfortunate trip to Spain, and finally on Buzz's death, until Matt couldn't take it anymore and ran up to his room. Buzz was hovering over the bed.
"Prairie Ridge Children's Hospital," Matt clarifies. "For teenage Looney Toons, mixed nuts, and assorted cinglés."
"What's wrong with that?" Matt asked Buzz in consternation. "The walls were orange. Very cheerful."
When he went back downstairs, Mom was still pick-pick-picking. "Won't you see a psychiatrist? They're doing marvelous things now with psychiatric drugs. If you can't be cured, at least you can keep your impulses in check."
And Dad was cogitating. "He just needs a stable job to keep his mind occupied. I'm bringing him back to India. He can manage the branch office in Hyderabad. Better drop the Francais and brush up on your Telugu, boy!"
"The boy don't need a shrink, he needs a useful career!" Will says, quoting from West Side Story.
More yelling, more plans, more co-option, until Matt ran out of the house and kept running through the nameless suburbs, hoping to be grabbed by flying monkeys and taken to the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. Oh, right, he just came from there. Running, running, running.
Where could he go? He knew absolutely no one in Kansas City, he had no old hangouts. He had $38 in his pocket, enough for a night in a cheap hotel.
Finally he slowed to a walk. He recognized this neighborhood, in the rocky hills northwest of town. Sortor Drive...he was on the way to Prairie Ridge!
Well, any port in a storm.
He didn't know exactly what he was going to do. Ask to be admitted? But he burst into the bright orange reception room, and saw the Knight.
"Are you ok?" he asked. "You look out of breath."
His name was Fred, he was from a small town in Illinois, he was a mental health counselor with a degree in theology -- but who cared about the details? He was Matt's chevalier blanc.
They went out to dinner, and Matt spent the night in Fred's apartment. Buzz hovered over the bed, saying "Man, what a whopper! This guy is amazing! How can you take all that?"
"Buzz most certainly did not comment on your size!" Matt exclaims. "He merely said that you were attractive. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, mon étalon and I are comparable in circumference, if not in length."
In the morning they paid Mom and Dad a visit. Fred explained about the psychological, sociological, legal, and religious aspects of gayness.
The next day they returned with a U-Haul to collect Matt's things.
Not to worry, Mom and Dad eventually came around. When it' a choice between a gay son and no son, most parents come around.
"Let's hear more about Buzz," Will says. "Was he cute? Was he hung? Did you ever see him naked?"
Matt smiles. "That would be telling."
See also: Fred and the Cute Young Thing.; The White Knight and the Jester; Matt's Black and White Ball