Dec 1, 2013

Fall 1983: Is Professor Singer Gay?

In my second year at Indiana University (1983-84), I had to choose two historical eras for my Comprehensive Exams.  I decided on the Romantic Era (1770-1830), mostly because of the homoromantic exuberance of the Frankenstein monsters, vampires, and dying poets, and the Restoration-Augustan Era (1660-1770), mostly because of Dr. Singer (not his real name).

He was a new professor of Restoration Literature, a Wunderkind with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and a book coming out, though he was only 26 years old (I was 22).  Tall, thick hair, broad shoulders, nice biceps, a smooth muscular chest peeking up through the casually-unbuttoned top buttons of his shirt.  He used his hands a lot while lecturing, said "apposite" more in one class session than most people in a lifetime, and criticized; my; use; of; semicolons.



Both Viju and I got major gaydar from Dr. Singer; flamboyant, precise, and not averse to gay content, such as Lord Rochester's "Love a Woman? You're an Ass!", about how gay sex is better than hetero sex.  When we got to John Milton: he showed us an illustration from William Blake's allegorical biography, and quipped: "I'll bet you didn't know that Milton looked like that!"

We had two goals during the semester.  First, to determine if Dr. Singer was gay.

Viju's strategy: He got some confederates, male and female, to invite Dr. Singer out for "a beer" after our Tuesday-night seminar, and checked to see whether he spent more time gazing at men or women.  My boyfriend Jimmy, the Bodybuilder on Crutches, tagged along.

Dr. Singer deliberately made eye contact with each student in turn, and didn't gaze at anyone else.

My strategy: I wrote a paper on the gay subtexts in Paradise Lostnaked Satan, etc.  I got a B (a failing grade in grad school, where everyone gets an A on everything).

Ok, so the "gay" test was inconclusive.  Our next goal: to determine if Dr. Singer was available. We waited until the spring semester, when I was single again after dating Jimmy the bodybuilder on crutches.

Viju's strategy: He went to Dr. Singer's office in Ballantine Hall and said he was having a crisis.  He was attracted to guys!  Did that make him gay?  But his parents back in India would be scandalized -- they would cut off their support, and he would have to drop out of college!  His career plans would be ruined!  He began to cry.  Dr. Singer offered him hand-on-shoulder sympathy, but didn't reveal anything (a student used the same tactic on me in Texas a year later).


My strategy: I found out that Dr. Singer went to the campus gym to lift weights every morning at 7:00 am.  I went in and timed my workout so we would end up in the shower together.  I complemented him on his physique.

"You really know how to work on those abs," I said.  "Maybe we could work out together sometime?"

"Um...er...I'm sort of busy."

"Well, it doesn't have to be at the gym," I said, soaping myself suggestively.  "I've had some of my best workouts at home."

That did the trick.

Moral: When all else fails, try nudity.