Nov 26, 2014
Summer 1979: Cute Nerd or Creepy Old Guy?
There were no gay organizations in town, no gay books in the library, no gay dating sites on the internet. There was a gay bar, but I was only 18 years old, and you had to be 21 to get in.
There was no way to meet gay men -- or straight men on the downlow -- except randomly, in the course of your daily activities. Of course, neither of you would come out, for fear of violent reprisal. So you played a game.
You made eye contact for a little longer than usual.
He glanced at your crotch, and made sure that you noticed.
You glanced at a hot guy passing by, and made sure that he noticed.
He asked if you had a girlfriend.
You asked if he lived in the dorm or with his parents.
When you were quite sure, you got him alone and made an undeniable move: you touched his face or his basket, or leaned in for a kiss. But you were never completely sure.
He might jump away and yell "Whoa, man! That's not my thing!"
Or call the Dean and have you expelled.
Or kill you.
During my four years at Augustana, I only met two or three guys that way.
One was a cute nerd. Or maybe a creepy old guy. I couldn't decide which.
In the main reading room of the Augustana Library, there was a bookcase filled with discards and donations. You could get a hardback for fifty cents and a paperback for a dime. Many students browsed there, sometimes a faculty member, but rarely anyone from the community.
When he came up to the circulation desk to pay, we made eye contact for a little longer than usual. I glanced at his crotch, and made sure that he noticed. He glanced at a hot guy, and made sure that I noticed. I asked if he lived in the dorm, and he said, "Oh, no, I'm not a student. I live in town."
I, not we. Not married. Maybe gay, maybe interested.
But there was only one way to be sure.
One day he found a treasure: a ten-volume set of the works of Martin Luther in German (the library had just received a new edition). "I'll take the first five volumes now, and come back for the others."
"I'll be happy to help you carry them to your car."
"I don't have a car. But don't worry -- it's just five blocks."
I thought for a moment. "Hey, we're running a special for our best customers -- free taxi service. My car's parked out back."
"It's 90 degrees out there. You can pay me back with a bottle of pop."
The rest of the story is on Tales of West Hollywood.