Oct 28, 2014

Dad STILL Thinks I Like to Look at Girls

People keep asking, and I keep asking myself, how could my parents and relatives and friends have had no clue?   How could I have had no clue, until the summer after my high school graduation? 

I mean, it seems pretty obvious, after the Book of Cute boys, the bodybuilder on the beach, marrying the boy next door, crying because the President's not cute, my date with a boy, Bill and I becoming a Mama and a Papa, wanting to see muscles at A Little Bit O'Heaven, asking for a naked man for Christmas,  planning to escape to Arabia with Dan, having a crush on Giovanni, dancing with a Swedish leatherboy, deciding to go to college to be with Verne...and on and on.



How many clues do you need?

But it was a different world, where gay people were never, ever mentioned.  Many heterosexuals were not aware that gay people existed, and those who did thought only of drag queens. If you didn't wear dresses and sashay and call people "Mary," then you were heterosexual, and the things you did were, by definition, things that heterosexuals did.

I didn't wear dresses, sashay, or call people "Mary."  Therefore:

My interest in guys was merely buddy-bonding, or so trivial as to go unnoticed.
My lack of interest in girls was merely shyness.
Or I was just being a smart aleck, trying to stir things up by pretending to not be interested.

And by the way, those drag queens were only about dresses and makeup.  They had no erotic or romantic interest in men.  Same-sex desire absolutely did not exist.

So even though I was quite aware of my interest in men, even though I was intimate with two guys during high school, I never connected that interest to "gay."

Even when they figured it out, my parents and relatives still thought of me as heterosexual most of the time.  They had to make a mental shift, add some information, to conclude "Right, Boomer will be bringing a guy to the party," or "No, Boomer won't want to be fixed up with the boss's daughter."  Sometimes it didn't work.

Get this:

Summer 1989: Back from my semester in Turkey, I go home to Rock Island to visit my parents and brother and sister. At JR's, Rock Island's gay bar, I run into a woman I knew in high school.  Of course, I didn't know then that she was a lesbian!  We make plans to have dinner tomorrow night.

I go home, and tell my mother about my dinner plans.  Later, I overhear her telling my father: "Boomer is wild about a girl he met today."

Wild about a girl? Really?  

I've just started dating Lane, so they've heard me praising him in about 6 of our weekly phone conversations.  Before that, they heard about Alan, Raoul, my celebrity boyfriend, Jimmy the Bodybuilder on Crutches, my date with Richard Dreyfuss, the Bulgarian bodybuilder who was jealous of Michael J. Fox.  They've met Fred, Brian, the Priest with the Pushy Mom, and Viju.

Did she just forget?

It gets worse:

Summer 2002: Mom and Dad have retired and moved to Franklin, Indiana.  I fly up from Florida to visit them.  It's a nice, bright, sunny day, and my father suggests that I go jogging in the park, where I can "look at all the pretty girls."

WTF?

I should say something like: Dad, I'm 41 years old.  I haven't been on a date with a girl, or even mentioned a girl, for over twenty years.  But I've said a lot about Jaan, Yuri, Blake the Opera Buff, my date with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Hottest Guy in the World, Matt the Security Guard, Jim the Baseball Player.  I'm living in Florida with 2 guys.  Doesn't that give you a clue?

But instead I just repeat, weakly, "Look at all the pretty girls..."

"Well, sure.  You're a guy, aren't you?"

I begin to understand.   He made an instant, instinctive connection:  Boomer is a guy, and all guys like to look at pretty girls.

He could have thought for a moment, and reasoned: no, wait, Boomer would rather look at guys.  But he didn't think, heteronormativity was just too strong, and 41 years of evidence vanished in the face of an "obvious" truth.

See also: Why My Parents Kept So Many Shirtless Pictures; and My Father Explains the Facts of Life.