I confess: when I first kissed a boy, I didn’t like it – at all! In fact, the truth is that I was so disenchanted with that initial, long anticipated, man-to-man lip lock that in the aftermath I was resolutely convinced that I could not possibly be in the least bit queer. And I remember feeling relieved. No – beyond relieved – I was elated.
The fact that I found the entire experience to be so distasteful was cause for great celebration. Huzzah! I mean, now I could live a normal life, right? Yes. As a straight person, the happily ever after, boy meets girl love story that was being glorified in every romantic narrative that I was being exposed to suddenly became available to me. Me. I could now expect to have a long and happy marriage to the perfect little woman, kids, and grandkids. Perhaps a secret mistress along the way, and even a divorce or two – hey, I’m a straight dude. Stuff happens, yo. And after all of that I would undoubtedly live long and contentedly into my geriatric decay as a red, white, and blue-blooded; butt scratching; sports-obsessed; hooter-loving member of my male-dominated, homo hating, hetero-centric society. And most importantly, after death I would not be damned to the flaming, torturous, fag-roasting fires of hell for all of eternity.
Whew! All that revelation packed into the backfire of one, awkward, semi-drunken dalliance with a high school buddy.
Yes, for clarification, this soul-saving realization about my surprising aversion to physical relations with members of the same sex came upon me while I was still very young, and far less self-aware than I am right now – which, with any luck, is far less self-aware than I will be in another thirty-five years. In any case, it was at some point during a certain high school party that I found myself sitting in a Jacuzzi between one of my male buddies and a girl that I was dating. This girl and I were already developing into some sort of an item at that time, so when her hand gently landed on my left knee beneath the watery shroud of steam and bubbles, I was not surprised. It was the hand that subsequently came to rest on my right knee shortly after that, that caught me a little off guard.
My buddy, who happened to live in the house where this particular party was taking place, continued to behave like the perfect host from his dry shoulders up. He coolly laughed and chatted with the other guests who were lounging in and around the simmering spa, while in the heated water below his hand began to move slowly up my thigh like a lascivious starfish creeping toward the bottom edge of my Ocean Pacific shorts. I quickly placed my right hand on his wandering claw and pushed it back down toward my knee. And then, for safety sake, I grabbed the girl’s hand in my left to be sure that the two interloping groperes did not unintentionally discover each other while reaching for the suddenly highly coveted and now extremely waterlogged treasure hidden inside my swim trunks.
And so there I sat – both literally and figuratively – percolating. In that Jacuzzi, with a girl in one hand and a boy in the other, for the first time I was in a physical conflict with something that up until that moment had been a battle waged only in my psyche. I was well aware by then of my peculiar emotional and sexual attraction to other males – an inclination that I knew had long been deemed unnatural by both my Christian God and American society. But again, at that time there had been no alternative model for me. As a child, all that I had been exposed to clearly informed me that if you were longing for a prince, you must be a princess. Which now gives me some insight into why – as a young boy – I felt the desire to put on women’s clothes. It also explains to some degree why in the movie theater I found myself aligning more with Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty than with any of the male characters. You see there was no one resembling me in lands created by the likes of Disney, so I was forced to choose between two very limited and well-defined leading roles. And because the handsome men on white horses carried off only damsels, my choice back then was clear. But now here I was – a confused teenage guy in a hot tub sandwiched between Lady and the Tramp, and a definitive choice had to be made. Somehow my buddy had been able to recognize the feelings I’d been working so long to suppress and he was reaching out to me – big time.
I managed to keep the respective underwater hand-holding both respectable and segregated, and then as the party began to die down my buddy suggested that I stay over on his den couch, rather than try to make my way home after drinking. I knew I was fine, but his invitation seemed plausible to others and I really didn’t need much convincing.
My body began to shake slightly as I heard him make his way through the dark house to where I was laid out on the sofa like a poisoned princess on a bier. I did not move much during the encounter. I simply lay there on my back, trying to control my nervous shuddering, and allowed him to touch me. When it was over, he leaned in over my face and pressed his lips hard against mine. His thin but well manicured mustache tickled and scratched the sides of my mouth. And very quickly after that kiss he disappeared – gone again into the darkness.
It was awful, I thought. Nothing about it felt or tasted right. It was not at all like I had so long imagined that it would be. For whatever reason the entire experience seemed altogether wrong for me, and I actually thanked God that I was not gay. I thought in that moment, and for some time thereafter, that I would take the shameful secret of this solitary, misguided, homosexual escapade to my grave. I spent the following days and weeks trying to avoid any private or prolonged interactions with my buddy, and focused my attentions instead on nurturing my new-found straightness.
To this day I am not exactly sure why I found my first experience kissing a boy to be so disagreeable. By any standards my hot tub, high school buddy was handsome and charming. In addition, we clearly shared a deep and unspeakable kinship. Looking back, I suppose I might simply chalk it up to the wrong boy, or the wrong time. In the months and years that followed, however, I continued to lap back and forth from one side of the sexual pool to the other in search of my true identity. In that regard my long evolution into the openly, proud, prince loving prince that I am today is not unlike many of my gay brothers and sisters. It makes sense that we would have worked very hard to fit into the world around us in an acceptable way – to assimilate – rather than face the possibility of judgment, or even hostility.
I hope that by the time my son is old enough to read this account that he will be reclined somewhere in the sun looking out on a world that is vastly improved over the one in which I am reclined in the sun writing it. Yes, there is movement. I recognize progress on fronts like marriage equality, and temper my gratitude for forward movement here at home with a new and increased resolve to fight for a more sweeping proliferation of human rights in places like Russia and around the globe. My devout prayer is that a world exists for all of us someday very soon where every child, straight, queer, or questioning – in shameless self-reflection – only thinks to thank a loving God for exactly who they were created to be.