Saturday, February 23, 2013

Abandoned Memoir Chapter 3 Part 1

Here is the first couple of pages of Chapter 3 of that abandoned theological memoir, (which never had even a solid working title). It's a fairly long chapter and will be broken into 3 or 4 blog posts. This is a fairly frank discussion of my sex education and may contain words not everyone wants to read, at least on a religious blog. Others of you will wonder why I'm warning about such a mild post. But if you're the type to be offended by certain words, this is your warning that those words are used below.

Chapter 3: Coming Around, Coming Out

So I was always the good boy, the pleaser, the one quick to learn the right answer. I always wanted the right answer.

My sex education was not, shall we say, formal. I received it early, in elementary school, when my older brother, in junior high, somehow scored some paperback porn novels. He let me read them so long as I promised not to tell Mama and Daddy about them. I can say it was a stimulating, if incomplete, education.

I‛ve often joked that I learned about sex before I knew where babies came from. I mean, I knew women became pregnant and babies came out of them. I grew up on a farm, after all. Cows got fat and had calves, pigs got fat and had piglets, cats got fat and had kittens. I just didn‛t know the mechanics of how that happened. To be honest, I just thought God decided these things. When my oldest brother‛s wife had babies, I just assumed it was God saying it was time for them to have children. I‛m not making this up. My childhood God was just that intimately involved in our lives.

So this sex thing, these acts described in these books (no pictures, by the way) sounded really quite interesting and fun but completely separate from any reproductive function. By that time, I‛d experienced erections, but all I knew of them was that it was this funny, silly thing that happened sometimes and I associated it with having to pee. I certainly wasn‛t old enough to be producing semen.

These books, with their stories of men using this silly thing to put inside women, fascinated me. By all accounts, it also felt really good. I know I wondered (and I may have even asked my brother) if Mama and Daddy knew about this "fucking" thing. A really funny question coming from the youngest of seven children, eh?

(I pause for another silly bit of my sexual education. Since there were no pictures in these books, I had a really misguided notion of what a vagina looked like. I pictured something like a second, lower, much deeper belly button.)

I was also introduced to man-on-man sex in one book. This book was about a couple of swingers and their adventures. In one scene, one guy went down on the other. It was clear that the other characters considered this really unusual and maybe a little crazy. The first man assured everyone else that he was really okay, this was just something he liked to do now and then, but not as a regular thing.

I thought, What‛s the big deal? Why wouldn‛t two guys, after everything else described in the book, not consider it? I suppose that might have been an early clue that I was gay.

Even as those books were entertaining and, uh, stimulating my imagination, I soon picked up at church that they were dirty and made God angry. Not the books in particular, just the general notion that sex was dirty. You know the old line. Sex is dirty and disgusting and you save it for someone you love. I don‛t recall telling anyone about these porn novels, but it dawned on me that they were definitely not the right answer.

In a fit of piety and concern for my brother‛s soul, I burned those books. Yes, that‛s right, the future writer was a pre-teen book burner.

I was first called "gay" in junior high. I didn‛t understand. My best friend and I were artistic and musical, hated sports, preferred playing with the girls, and maybe got sillier and giggled more than most of the boys in our class, but it‛s not like we were having sex or anything. That was my working definition of "gay" at the time—having men having sex with other men. I wasn‛t having sex with anyone and besides, I‛d also long since figured out that "gay" was the wrong answer, even if no one really talked about homosexuality, not in any explicit, neutral terms. In my rural setting, sex was for marriage and men married women, period. That was the right answer.

These accusations followed me into high school. In some ways, they hurt and hindered me, in other ways, I defiantly did what I wanted to do anyway. I felt the rumors inhibited my social life somewhat. There were girls who I definitely wanted to date—more out of a desire to have a normal high school life than out of, well, desire—and I felt that my friendships with other guys were colored by how it looked to be friends with me. Probably both the girls and the guys sensed something different in my interest in them, even if I couldn‛t name it at the time. On the other hand, my interest in the arts continued unhindered by charges of queer interests. It was, after all the 1970s and even in small town Texas gender roles and definitions of masculinity were being questioned (or at least on tv they were). The first and most regrettable time I let being called queer hinder my creative impulse was in college, when I took some dance classes to fulfill my PE requirements. I didn‛t declare a dance minor mostly because of the derision I felt from all the jocks in the gym, where the dance studios were, as I walked through the halls in my university-issued black tights. Of course, by that time, it was the 80s and a noticeable sea change in social and political thinking had occurred, despite Boy George (or maybe because of?) being on MTV.

From junior high to college, however, it amazes me now that all those cowboys and jocks seemed to know more about me than I did.

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