Sep 6, 2013

Dan and I Escape to Saudi Arabia

Dan and I were boyfriends for about two years, from 7th grade to 9th grade (1973-75).  Our bond was more passionate and more physical than my bond with Bill, but not as instinctive.  It took work to maintain, with the distractions of Spanish club, French club, wrestling, orchestra, and other boys, not to mention the constant "what girl do you like?" interrogations.  Everyone insisted that the "discovery of girls" was inevitable, that one day soon we would abandon childish things, like boys, and spend the rest of our lives obsessed with feminine curves and smiles.

Every class and school activity began with the assumption that all boys were girl-crazy, or soon would be.

In English, we watched old black and white films that taught boys the proper technique for asking girls out on dates.

In Wood Shop, the purpose of every project, from bird houses to hat racks, was to “impress girls with.”

In Gym, if we failed to climb the rope or do enough push-ups, the coach bellowed that we’d have the strength if we would just cut back on the girl-kissing and get some sleep.

At home, there were advantages to the assumption that the Discovery had come. Mom and Dad doubled my allowance, reasoning that I would need cash to finance my upcoming avalanche of dates. I could get permission to go anywhere, even across the Mississippi into Iowa, if they found out that there would be girls there.  I could get away with almost any misdeed, from staying out after curfew to losing my new jacket, because they assumed that I had been trying to meet girls or impress a girl.

But the advantages were outweighed by the constant interrogation of  “what girl do you like. . .what girl. . .what girl. . . .”  When I tried to explain that I didn’t like girls in that way, Mom just smiled, and Dad refused to believe me: “I’ll bet you don’t! What’s her name?”

So I decided to pretend. At school, I taped a picture of Raquel Welch to my locker door, and imitated my friends’ comments: “She’s bitchin!”; “She’s hot!”; “I wish she would take her clothes off!”  At home and at church, I invented a ghostly spectacle of girls who walked in slow motion across a silent schoolyard, their long hair blowing in the wind. I found a poem about a girl’s “long blonde beauty” and copied it into my notebook and left it open for Mom and Dad to find.

But I could relax with Dan, and talk about Donny Osmond, and Barry Williams from The Brady Bunch, and what boys at school were cute.  Every once in a while I would nudge him and whisper"Girls are gross!", a secret message that only the two of us shared.

"They sure are!" he would answer.  

But how could we survive in a world where every boy longed for girls, every man longed for women?  We decided to escape.  We began looking for a "good place," where boys could walk hand in hand, and kiss, and live together through all their lives.  We discussed Greece, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia, England, and many other countries and regions.

The Middle East had never been on my list of "good places," but Dan argued that the desert was clean and free, almost empty, and practical: Dan's father, an engineer, said that Americans were needed in Saudi Arabia to drill for oil and help civilize the nomadic Bedouin.

So it was settled: after high school we would move to Saudi Arabia, the only place in the world where same-sex love was celebrated, and live in the holy city of Mecca.  

In retrospect, I can think of several problems with that plan.

The story of Dan continues here, with a phone call to a girl.

Years later, I visited the Middle East.