Oct 1, 2013

Spring 1978: Getting Down with a Dude

My brother Ken wasn't the only one who seemed to "know" in the winter and spring of 1978, my senior year at Rocky High, as I studied for AP exams and filled out college applications.  It seemed that I spent the whole semester protesting "No way am I a Swish!"

1. Darry (below), who explored the ghost of Davenport House with me, gave me a portable chess set for Christmas, with the card saying: "You'll need this for your honeymoon with Xaviera Hollander."

Xaviera Hollander was a New York City madame who told about her exclusive brothel in an autobiography, The Happy Hooker.  She was widely recognized as the most beautiful woman in the world.  Why would I need a chess set for my honeymoon with her?  Obviously because we wouldn't be having sex!

2. My Career Planning teacher assigned the Strong Interest Inventory, which matched you to jobs based on a series of Zen paradoxes: would you prefer to draw maps or feed zebras,  solve people’s problems or drive race cars, chop wood or program computers? When the results came, I was a good match for journalist, chemist, historian, and astronomer.

And female lawyer.  But not male lawyer.

Hot with rage, I stormed up to the teacher.  “This test thinks I’m a Swish!” I yelled.

With the offending score under his nose, he stumbled around for a few moments and finally came up with an excuse:  "Male and female lawyers draw on different sets of skills. The men are more aggressive,  and the ladies are more nurturing."  He looked up at me with watery wounded eyes.  "It doesn't mean that you have homo...homosexual tendencies or anything."

3. After the Sunday evenings service, the teens gathered for "Afterglow," a sort of party with games, Gospel music, and snacks.  Since it counted as a date, the ten or fifteen minutes between altar call and Afterglow was filled with preening, evaluating, and drama.

Church royalty usually had many invitations to choose from, especially Debbie, who was spoiled, snooty, and arrogant.  So I was surprised when she approached me with three of her cronies in tow, pressed her flat palm hard against my chest, and commanded, “You’re taking me to Afterglow.” When I refused, she stared open-mouthed for a moment, as if she had never heard such nonsense, and then said "Figures.  I knew he was a Swish."  Her cronies giggled with delight.

4. For a skit in Spanish class, my female partner and I pretended to be parked at a lover’s lane. I took her in my arms, and an accomplice cut the lights, giving us time to muss our hair and clothes as if we had been necking. It wasn’t supposed to be funny, but the class roared.

Later my friend Tom, who would invite me to visit him in Los Angeles two years later, explained: “It was just the idea of you with a girl!” I thought he meant a Nazarene, forbidden anything past first base, but now I realized that he thought I didn't like girls, so the sight of me pretending to kiss one was hilarious.

5. Craig, who went streaking with me in junior high, invited me to his graduation party.  "There'll be mattresses in the basement," he said, "In case you want to get down with. . .um. . .anybody."

Surely he meant "with a girl." He would be shocked and outraged if I used the mattress to get down with a dude.

Wouldn't he?

No way was I a Swish!

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