Jul 8, 2015

Heterosexuals Think Gay Men are Still Kids

With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, I'm going to be visiting relatives.  And once again, I'm going to notice something disturbing:

They think I'm a teenager.  Or 21 at the oldest.

The problem is, every kid was expected to go through a series of milestones of maturity on the way to adulthood.  There were many minor ones -- growing an inch, or moving from the kiddie pool to the big pool at Longview Park, being allowed to drink coffee -- but only 8 big, important ones, ones that the teenagers and adults talked about over and over, sometimes with joyful anticipation ("You'll be a man!"), sometimes with a nostalgic sadness: ("You won't be a little boy anymore.")

1. Your first date with a girl.
2. Your first kiss with a girl.
3. Your first girlfriend.
4. Your first part-time job.

5. Graduating from high school.
6. Your first full-time job.
7. Getting engaged to a woman.
8. Getting married to a woman.
9. Buying a house.

#1 and #2 happened, but not #3.

(The fact that I kissed five girls during high school, more than 30 years ago, caused me no end of headaches. Heterosexuals who find out always exclaim "See!  You kissed girls!  That means you're really straight!")

#4-6 happened, but #7-9 did not.

So, according to my parents and other relatives, I've never grown up.

This prejudice is called the "Peter Pan Syndrome":  "You're gay because you're afraid to accept adult responsibilities.  You want to just have fun all the time, and not settle down and raise a family."

No matter if you have kids: "Doesn't count, it's just playing house unless there's a man and a woman."

And who says that everyone, without exception, has to have kids?

The adults do.

Whenever I visit my parents, brother, sister, or other relatives, I face some annoying consequences to the belief that I have never grown up:

1. Birthday and Christmas presents tend to be things that college students would want.  A popcorn popper or a dorm refrigerator -- even though I haven't lived in a dorm since 1982.  A DVD set of Family Guy.  A t-shirt with the Angry Birds on it.  What the heck are the Angry Birds?

2. Money.  When adults are alone, they have discussions of income tax, bank loans, mortgages, fixed annuities, increasing the equity of their investments, the pros and cons of retirement plans, the deductible in their medical insurance policies.

Sounds dreary.  But even worse is the humiliation when I come in the room and they immediately clam up, like they've been discussing a big adult secret, and ask what my favorite tv programs are.

3. Cruising.  Adults expect you go to out partying every night. A few years ago, when I was living in Dayton, I spent Christmas with my sister and brother-in-law, and sure enough, Tammy said: "It's Saturday night -- aren't you going out to the bars?"

"Gee, I don't think so.  I'm 45 years old.  The music is too loud, the guys are too young, and I fall asleep by 10:00."

"Nonsense!  You're young -- go out and have a good time."

This from my baby sister.

4. College.  The adults know that I'm associated with a college, but they assume that I'm a student.  "Aren't you done with your education yet?" my uncle asked.  "It's about time you grew up and got a job!"

"Um...I have a job.  I'm a professor..."

"No, I mean a real job.  Something that pays enough for you to buy a house."

Don't get me started on why they think houses are the end-all of maturity, and everyone who lives in an apartment is by definition a kid.

5. Boyfriends.  Heterosexuals divulge their relationships to their relatives in a standard sequence, mentioning them casually, then discussing moving in together, then announcing an engagement and inviting them to a wedding.  Gay people don't: they typically don't mention their relationships until they've moved in together, and there's rarely an engagement or wedding.  It's "This is my boyfriend," period.  So they remain "someone you're casually dating" even after 10, 15, and 20 years.

6. The Disney Channel.  I like comic books, graphic novels, and juvenile tv  -- they're not nearly as heteronormative as media for adults.  But just let me try turning on the Disney Channel at my parents' house.  They'll smile at each other as if to say "What did I tell you?  Boomer is still a kid!"

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