Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Gay Perception

"I remember that you and dad went to a marriage counselor for a while," I said to my step-mother. "How did that go?"

"Oh, he thought it was all bullshit because he couldn't face his own shortcomings."

"That figures. So you stopped going?"

"Yes, no, I mean he stopped, buy I kept going for a while." She looked at me and paused, considering what she was about to tell me next. "Your dad wanted the counselor to test you to see if you were gay."

I was only in fifth grade at the time, ten years old. In today's world, kids that old have been exposed to sex on television, from their peers, internet porn and chat rooms. The age of innocence creeps down every year, but in those days, sex education was a hotly debated topic, and was only brought up as a lightly broached subject in our school that year. They told us about how dogs mate, hoping apparently that we would make the logical connection, but we didn't. I remember saying in my class that I would never stick my peter in a woman's vagina, and the whole class burst out laughing and the ridiculousness of the idea.

I certainly never got the "talk" from my dad. My step-mom thought sex was a duty she performed for her husband, not recreational, an experience to enjoy. I learned early thanks to my Catholic upbringing to keep "impure" thoughts to myself. It became part of me, and manifests itself even today in my marriage.

Amy Cottle. My first crush with an older woman. She was in sixth grade and I was in fifth, and she was best friends with my neighbor Cindy Miller. I confided in my friend Darin my feelings for her, and soon enough Amy knew.

For school lunch, you stood in line with a tray and collected your plate, silverware, food and drink, then sat in the next available seat at tables that spanned the length of a gymnasium, so that the people that sat across from you were random. I would always sit with Darin, and look around furtively for Amy, who reminded me of a country singer I had seen on Hee Haw, singing Lizzie and the Rainman, perhaps Tanya Tucker. One day however, to my absolute horror, Amy and Cindy sat directly across from us.

"Scott," Darin called playfully, long and drawn out, like you would call a hiding kid, "Amy's here."

My face flushed and I poked him in the ribs and said to the floor, "Stop."

Cindy added, "It's all right Scott, Amy knows."

I finished my meal quickly, without looking up. That night my dad found me in my room with my face buried in my hands.

"What's wrong?"

I spilled the whole story in a rush, except I didn't admit that I liked Amy: "I told Darin that I thought a girl at school was interesting, then he told Cindy, who told Amy, and now I'm accused of liking her!"

Dad tried to suppress a smile, and offered some parental guidance that blew through my head, then left me alone. But this is right before he and mom went to the counselor.

Mom continued, "He thought your were gay because you didn't want to play football anymore. And where was he? Out fucking some whore while I had to take you every day to practice and you were absolutely miserable."

"Yeah, I remember."

"Well, I finally had enough and asked you if you wanted to quit."

"And I said I did."

"That's right, and that was it. And boy was your dad ever mad at me."

"And me."

I decided on my own to play again in high school during my senior year, and was sorry that I hadn't played sooner. Dad was so happy that he volunteered as an assistant coach. The tough guy of my grade, our ferocious linebacker Dennis, once asked me, "That's your dad?" He motioned towards where he was taking a leak fifteen feet away from our huddle.

As I was about to leave for college, years of wondering had finally gotten the better of him, and he asked me outright.

"Son, I need to know something."

"Shoot dad."

"Are you gay?"

"Are you serious?"

"As a heart attack."

"No."

"Then why don't you ever bring any girls around for me to meet?"

Now there was a question that had many answers, none of which he would have liked. We lived in squalor, and I was ashamed. It's not that we lived in a trailer, although that was part of it. We had a St. Bernard whose water bowl was the toilet, that shook drool worms like schoolboy loogeys onto the walls and furniture, that dried and were rarely cleaned. We had no pride in ourselves, how we dressed and how we lived. To dad, women existed to wash our dishes, but what he got was a lazy, loud mouthed, barroom floozy that couldn't be bothered to get off the couch. Thank God we didn't have remote controls back then, or she never would have gotten any exercise. The tension between them was palpable, and their fights started promptly at eight. Everyone was miserable, and college was my glorious escape. I disagreed with almost everything dad believed in. He was old school from rural Ohio, where being a gay was second only to being black on the list of taboos. He never went to college, and was always surrounded by like minded people, but unlike his parents, he had a sense that his way was wrong, but was helpless and unwilling to fight it.

"I'm just private dad, what can I say?"

"There's nobody?"

"I think about Heather," I offered. "Would you come to my wedding if I married her?"

He laughed a little too loud, and replied with the most magnanimous and giving offer that his sheltered, monochrome upbringing could afford, "I'd even come to your wedding if you married a nigger."

18 comments:

jenbeauty said...

Very frank and up front about how you grew up. Were you able to leave those prejudices behind, with your father?

Beth said...

I grew up with a racist father. He was a bigot as well. Both his sons turned out to be gay. Go figure. =)

Scott said...

Everybody thinks they left it behind. For me it was a lot of work, with the help of a few good friends that pointed out my shortcomings. I moved to San Francisco and lived there for twelve years, and was exposed to great diversity, which widened the chasm between me and my father.

Scott said...

Knitter, how often does that situation play out in life, huh? It's such a waste of time hating people you don't even know. I base how I feel about someone on what I know about them.

jenbeauty said...

Scott it takes a lot to admit short comings. Glad to hear you were able to open yourself up to diversity.

I still get pretty appalled at prejudices that happen. I have a brother in law that can be pretty racist as well as an uncle. It really drives me batty and I let them know I will not listen to it.

Judging people by who there are as a person is the most important.

Angelle said...

I like your story here. Very down to earth and I can feel the main character's crush with other girls, etc. I also find the ending a bit shocking (the N word), but at the same time very fitting and illuminating because it says so much about your characters and the world they live in.

magnetbabe said...

Scott-
You're absolutely right that it's a waste of time to hate people you don't know. The more hateful people are the more isolated they become. I've noticed that similar to your story, a lot of parents who teach their kids to hate end up having kids that aren't very impressed with their parents. I'm glad you went out into the world and exposed yourself to different cultures causing you to form your own opinions despite the ones your parents tried to impose upon you.

Scott said...

Jen - Thanks! I thought maybe you we're a little peeved.

Angelle - I thought about leaving the N word out. It actually hurts to say it or type it, so it was a real risk on my part to include it. I don't want to be branded a racist, it's simply where I came from, and the word was thrown about quite liberally, as many, and I would venture to say a majority of midwesterners have probably experienced.

MB - Yeah, growing up with that kind of talk and thinking has a repulsive effect, and parents forget that we have minds too, that we can think on our own. Eventually we have to get away.

Mrs.T said...

I sometimes fantasize about having my kids turn out gay so neither of them ended up getting a girl or becoming pregnant. I'd never feel like a failure if they were gay... but if they started doing drugs and started making babies, I'd think I went terribly wrong.

I told my mom I was gay once... She didn't really care and told me it may just be a phase but that at least a girl wouldn't knock me up so go for it. LOL.. She was doing drugs at the time I'm sure or may have been drinking..

jenbeauty said...

*smiles* that is one of the things about me, honesty. I hate intolerence and will call on it if I see it. I had to ask the question and you answered.

Racism is a fact of life and will not go away. Trying to understand where it comes from is almost futile. But if there are people like yourself Scott that can open up and change their course and upbringing, then there is hope. The hope that you are raising your children to be diverse and well educated. It appears to me, from all of your entries and stories, that you do not take life lightly and have learned from the past. Not peeved but just a bit surprised at the pure honesty of this post.

Scott said...

Mrs T - I'm glad that your mom didn't freak out, and let you be the person you were inside, but hopefully for the right reasons, other than drug induced apathy, right?

Jen - That's why I named my blog Hard to Want. I wanted to tell some of these kinds of stories. I'm glad that you have your beliefs and that you would call me out if necessary. That's the spice of life.

mr. schprock said...

"I thought about leaving the N word out."

Glad you didn't. I don't think anyone would have been offended by your use of it. I thought it was an awesome line to end the story.

Scott said...

Thanks Mr. Schrock - I've left out inflammatory words before, and here I pulled the trigger. Otherwise, the flavor is lost.

Tee said...

That's awesome that you were able to form your own opinions. I feel badly for people who are ignorant - they just don't know better because that's how they were raised. I have really good parents and I'm thankful everyday.

That was an excellent story!

Scott said...

Tee - Congrats, good parents seem to be hard to come by these days. I think this generation is better than the last in that regard. We seem to empathise more with the kids.

Mr. T said...

You know when did being gay become a concern for parents... When did it become something on par with a disease or something that "happens" to people. "Did you hear about toby... yeah, he got gay." "Well I hope he had clean underwear on"

I worry about it but only because of the stigmata it carries. I'm certainly entertaining Mrs T's idea that it would take the worry of pregnancies but that's not a good reason to hope for. It would be better to just raise the children up proper and let the cards fall where they may because at the end of the day, thats about all I can do. I tell my kids this all the time.. "I can't make you do anything, I can only guide you to be decent human beings... its up to you to CHOOSE to the right path." And its the truth.. I could beat them, and brainwash them all I wanted.. ultimately its their decisions that will make them who they are. And as we read about Scott's life we found out how true that is. Despite your father, Scott, you made the better choices that made you the man you are now.

Thanks for another glimpse into Scott.

Dixie Belle said...

Another excellent story, Scott. You need to print off your blog and keep it so if something happens to this server, your stuff won't be lost.

Scott said...

You're right Mr T, we can only guide, and at some point we take the leap of faith. I just want my children to be happy, I just hope I don't decide how for them.

Dixie - Thanks for the advice. I've been writing my most recent entries in the journalling section of Writer's Cafe, then transferring it over so that I have a copy. But some of the older stuff could still get lost.