Jun 8, 2014

Spring 1965: The Book of Cute Boys

I love books.  Who cares about Kindles and Scribds and .pdfs?  I love browsing through used bookstores, driving home from the mall with a Barnes and Noble bag beside me, checking my recommendations on Amazon.

And reading every night before turning out the light.

Whenever I'm depressed, I rearrange my books.




I have a lot of them.  I've been buying at least 2 per week since I moved out of my parents' house in 1985.  That adds up to over 3,000, but actually I have only about 1,000.  Every time I move, I pare down my collection to 30 boxes.

Where did this bibliomania start?  Maybe with my parents, who disapproved of books.  They were at best a waste of time, and more likely sinful.  The only way I could get away with reading was to claim that it was a school assignment (evidently my teachers assigned a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels).

Or maybe it's all due to a traumatic incident that happened when I was about four years old, when we were still living on Randolph Street in Garrett,  Indiana.

 I had a Little Golden Book  I couldn't read most of the words yet, but the front cover showed two boys hugging and waving.  So I called it my Book of Cute Boys.

I think it was this adaptation of the Disney movie The Swiss Family Robinson, about a family shipwrecked on a desert island.  The publication date is right.

One day in the spring of 1965, around the time that I chased the Boy with the Guitar, we were driving somewhere on a scary country road, and I was reading in the back seat (this was before car seats, or even seatbelts).  Dad yelled back, "Don't read in the car!"


But the book was too beautiful to look away.  Look at this man hugging a muscular blond boy.  He's wearing girls' shoes. They have v's of skin visible where their shirts are unbuttoned to their chests.

I said something like "I wanna see the cute boys."

"Dammit, Skeezix, do you want to get sick?"

I kept reading...







Look at blond boy now: he's much bigger and taller. The elephant is trying to unbutton his shirt, while the boy in purple pants looks on, his hand jauntily on his hip.

Dad always got mad easily while driving.  He may have warned me a few more times.  Then, sucking his lower lip  in his look of pure fury, he reached back, grabbed The Book of Cute Boys from my hands, and threw it out the car window.

It was lost forever!

There's a lot of gay symbolism in that distant memory:

Was Dad worried that I would get motion sickness from reading in the car, or that I would get sick from looking at cute boys?

(He only called me Skeezix when I was subverting gender expectations, as when Bill and I wanted to become a "Mama" and a "Papa.")

When he threw away the book, was he trying to expel my same-sex desire in a sort of exorcism?

From that day on, my same-sex desire would be denied, suppressed, challenged, explained as something else, criticized, excoriated, qualified, discussed, or tolerated.

It would never again be allowed to just exist.

I've spent my life buying that book over and over again, but nothing will bring that innocence back.  

See also: The Boy with the Guitar; The Swiss Family Robinson.