Nov 21, 2014

Spring 1971: Two Men Can't Live Together

Ever since I moved away from gay neighborhoods in 2006, I've heard a constant drone of "Buy a house!  Buy a house!  Buy a house!"

In the straight world, you have to live in a house.  Apartments signify immaturity, irresponsibility, or poverty.  They mean that something has gone seriously wrong with your life.

But I don't like houses.  I like apartments.

1. Someone else does all of the mowing, shoveling, grouting, tiling, and repairing, things that I hate with a passion.
2. Apartments are near the shops, theaters, bars, and gym.  In houses you have to drive.
3. You can hear other people, voices through the wall, footsteps from upstairs.  Who could ever be lonely?
4. Houses are scary, with attics and basements and crawlspaces.
5. It takes 30 years to pay off a house.  Who wants to live in the same place for 30 years?
6. Houses are occupied by heterosexual nuclear families.  Gay people live in apartments.

When I was a kid, I didn't know that apartments existed.  I thought that everyone lived in a small square house with a living room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a basement.

My first shock came in the third grade, when my friend Bill invited me to his house: there were four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a separate "family room"!

Around that same time, there was a game show called Dream House, in which couples competed to win rooms full of furniture.  Rooms I had never heard of before: dens, studies, game rooms, rec rooms, breakfast nooks.

I was hooked!  Whenever Mom went to the store, I asked her to pick me up a "House Book," a magazine featuring floor plans for people looking to build houses.

So many styles!  Gothic, Tudor, Princess Anne, Ranch, A-frame, Federal, French Colonial, Art Deco, neo-Classical!

And filled with such a clutter of rooms!  Drawing rooms, conservatories, parlors, pantries!  Rooms for sitting, for listening to music, for watching tv, for reading books, for just sitting in the sun!

Why did you need a separate room just for mud?

I got a ruler and some graph paper and started drawing my own floor plans.  Big houses, small houses,bungalows, mansions.

 A foyer with a statue of a naked man in it.

A sunken living room where my boyfriend and I could entertain guests.

A kitchen with a center island where we could cook.

A library of 30,000 comic books.

Not surprisingly, my parents never suggested that this newfound passion might lead to a career as an architect.  My future career was already decided: lineman at the factory.  Instead, Mom played the Wife card.

One Saturday afternoon in January 1971, during the Christmas break, I was sitting alone in the living room, working on a floorplan on a clipboard.  Walking through, Mom happened to glance over my shoulder.  "Don't forget a nursery!  Your kids will need a place to play!"

"There won't be any kids living there," I answered, preoccupied.

"Well, won't your wife be lonely?"

"No wife either."

"You certainly don't want to live in that big house all by yourself!"

"No.  Bill will be there, too.  We'll sleep in the master bedroom.  And we'll have two dogs and two cats."

Now my mother became firm and somber.  "Two men can't live in a house together."

"Sure they can.  What about My Favorite Martian?"  

"They live in an apartment -- you know, where a house is divided into a lot of little rooms?"  She sat down next to me, as if she was about to share a sad truth of adulthood.  "Sometimes, when they're just starting out, two men will share an apartment.  But only until they find the right girl and get married.   Then each one gets a house of his own."

"Why can't two men buy a house, if they want to?" I asked.

"If they tried, they'd be arrested!  Houses are just for married couples."

Some local ordinances did indeed prohibit landlords from renting to "known homosexuals" through the 1970s.

I looked down at my floorplan.  Suddenly it looked vast and cold and empty.   There could never be a cute boy waiting there when I came home, only a wife.  I thrust it aside.

"What if they never meet the right woman and get married? Then they could live in an apartment forever, right?"

Mom laughed.  "The things you worry about!  That never happens! Sooner or later, you'll meet the girl of your dreams, and get married.  Then you'll go to work in the factory so you can support her, and pay for the house."

So the three Big Events of my future were linked -- marrying a woman, working in a factory, buying a house -- three aspects of the same heteronormative prison.

Maybe if I escaped just one, the others would fade away.

I never went to work in the factory, "discovered" girls, or lived in a house.  Except for a few years of renting rooms from Derek in West Hollywood and Barney in Wilton Manors, which hardly counts.

 I refuse to buy, rent, or live in a house, in spite of everyone around thinking that there is something seriously wrong with me.

I like apartments.

See also: Dad Takes Me to See Naked Men