“gay, as in happy?”
I can’t remember when I first realized sex did not involve a stork. I don’t even remember who told me. Certainly not my parents. I probably learned through osmosis, guessing the rest, the same way I taught myself to swim watching others.
It’s like riding a bike, right?
What I do remember of the concept was feeling repulsed at the sight of a naked man in a “Playgirl” centerfold, all that pubic hair I felt certain was only for grown women and that long ugly thing with a helmet at the tip. Yuck. At first, I assumed the man only had to place the penis on any part of the lady, and voila! instant baby in the knapsack carried by a flying stork. Then, I got the bright idea that the man and the lady had to kiss, with tongue, then a baby came.
When I found out, somehow, way after I should’ve (like maybe into high school), that the long ugly thing with the helmet tip had to be pushed inside the lady’s hole, I got real scared. That would hurt! Worse than a tampon! I think I’ll just kiss and leave it at that.
Can I have some cherry-flavored Kool-Aid, too?
Kids aren’t as innocent nowadays. Last Thursday, I sat on a bench at a beach-park playground, watching the little kids run around on the slides and play their made-up games of tag and mermaids when this eight-year-old girl pipes up with, “Okay, what happens see, is if a man likes a man, he’s gay, and if a woman likes a woman, she’s gay too. But if a man and a woman like each other, they’re okay.”
When I was eight, the concept of gay remained the domain of happy. Four years later, while running around the neighborhood with the other kids, playing tetherball, making eyes at Bobby down the street and William behind my backyard, someone, I think it was Regina Dobbs, came to me with a sly grin on her face, followed by James Elseth and a couple other kids. Come to think of it, William lurked in the background, looking strangely grim and anticipatory.
Regina asked me in her high-pitched Southern belle phony-baloney manner, “Carol, are you gay?”
“Yeah, I am right now.”
“You’re gay? Hey, Carol’s gay just like you William!” Regina chortled, skipping around like a dumb fool in a semi-circle in front of me.
“Hey, I meant happy! What did you mean?”
“Look it up in the dictionary.” And with that, she trounced off. Something to that extent. (If you’re reading this, Regina, up yours. I found a great guy who loves and married me, so nyah!)
I don’t know what kind of parenting or sex education classes in school these kids are learning from today, but it’s amazing what they know. What they should know, is another story.
What kind of parental heart-to-heart or sex-ed could tell these knowing kids that it doesn’t matter who or how you love, so long as the capacity to love is never harmed or jeopardized?... that labels, however cool-sounding and savvy to the reputation on a playground, damages everyone, even the so-called hip crowd? ... that life is way too short to be playing games about gay, straight and how babies are made?
Cut to my retrospective. William is gay. He hid it well from me, but badly with every other kid in the neighborhood. He probably had a crush on Bobby, same as me, but used me as a fag hag cover. In high school, I fell in love with Mark, after being friends for the first year. I couldn’t believe he fell in love with me, or so he said. Perhaps if he’d been born straight, he’d have meant it with his loins as well as his heart and I’d be writing this to you readers, c/o Carol Banks Jensen, who knows. But in his sophomore year, he stopped kidding himself and went public, with me at least, dropped his Campus Life Christian Youth group affiliation (seemed kinda pointless) and dropped his regular dates with me, going for the older, Asian, married man, stolen tongue kisses behind the Aiea Public Library, where I used to work as a student helper.
I remember, right before he disavowed the bisexual angle—the less to disappoint me with—a phone conversation with Mark, 15, me, 17, where he hurt me like no other man ever has since. He might as well have taken a sharp blade and cut my vagina out.
The gist of the conversation went something like this:
“Look, I wish I could change, but I am not at all remotely attracted to you. Physically, you repulse me. I don’t want to hurt you, but I can’t think of any other way to make you understand. When I kiss you, I feel nothing. The thought of going down on you, down there, ugh...”
“What if I got a sex change?” I could barely get this out, I was blubbering and slobbering so hard.
“Carol, that’s not going to work. You have to be yourself, and you don’t want to be a man.”
“Would you be with me if I were a man? Would we be married like you said?”
“Yes, but that’s never gonna happen. I told [what’s his face, the guy he was seeing at the time] that if I were heterosexual, I’d marry you as soon as we graduated from high school.”
The last words he ever told me, before he disappeared, I think he might’ve died before his 10-year high school reunion. “I do love you, Carol. You’re the only girl I thought about marrying before I faced the fact that I’m gay. But...”
For the longest time, I assumed my role was nothing more or less than that of a fag hag, that somehow, I only attracted gay men into my life, or bisexual men who were fooling themselves, that maybe I really did look like a man, acted assertive, loud, and forceful like a man, and that’s what they were attracted to.
When I met Eddie, a very straight, very into chicks, jazz, computers and Clint Eastwood movies kinda guy, you could hear a sigh of relief from Honolulu to Garden Terrace, Ft. Dix.
I’m still not sure what the mysteries of sex, sexuality and gender roles are supposed to be in real life, what’s right or wrong, moral or sinful. There are days, to be quite frank, where I question the ingrained assumption of homosexuality as natural, and other days, where I want to give up and assume we’re all gay and off the bender by sheer force of will and peer pressure. I try to steer clear of the gay legislation and activism debates, because I don’t know the answers, I tend toward completely understanding what it’s like to horndog after both sexes (you should see me in some of my dreams), and yet...
... there’s a huge part of me that yearns for the chaste purity of love outside boundaries of the flesh, that feels a knee-jerk embarrassment and disgust in sex being sexy, a biological imperative, which, outside of children, is a complete waste of energy, ... an eight-year-old girl again, who assumed love, marriage and children began and ended with just a kiss.
The rest of it, penetration, insertion, ejaculation... seems a lot more complicated, messy than I’d like.
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