Dec 27, 2014

Fall 2006: My Two Closeted Boyfriends

In 2005, after 20 years in gay neighborhoods, I moved to the Straight World of Dayton, Ohio. There were some gay people around, of course, but they adopted an aggressively heterosexual public life.

They appeared at events alone or in groups, never in pairs.
They dropped pronouns when answering the question "What did you do this weekend?"
They had no gay friends, just hookups and romantic partners.
Whom they never discussed with their heterosexual friends.
Who obeyed an unspoken rule to pretend not to know.

In June 2006, I began going out with Paul (not his real name), who I met in a chatroom. He was in his 20s, a recent graduate of Ohio Dominican University who was doing some sort of lower-level office drone work while trying to become a writer.  He had four of the characteristics I find attractive: short, husky (actually tending to fat),  religious (devout Catholic), and gifted beneath the belt (not the fifth -- he was a pale blond).  

Since gay men in the Straight World would rarely agree to being seen in public in pairs, Paul and I mostly had Chinese food and watched DVD movies in my apartment (I never saw his apartment, because he wasn't out to his straight roommate.) 

When we wanted to do something public, we drove into Columbus, for dinner at La Fogata, or a gay-themed movie, or the theater.

In gay neighborhoods, you dated one guy at a time.  You became romantic partners on the second date; from that point onward, it was taboo to date or hook up with anyone else (except for "sharing" the boyfriends of one's friends and roommates).  But in the Straight World, it was acceptable, even expected, to date several guys at once.

I think the reason was the aggressively heterosexual public life.  Your boyfriend could not give you all of his attention; he couldn't take you to office parties, or to family functions, or even to street fairs.  So you needed several boyfriends to be assured of a date on Saturday night.

(That must be why the Episcopal priest who I met in Omaha had three boyfriends.)

So I kept on cruising and dating, and met another guy in another chatroom: Charlie (again, not his real name), a high school football coach and physical education teacher.  He was in his 20s, extremely muscular, with nice biceps and a thick, hairy chest.

Unfortuantely, he also had 4 of the my Top 10 Turn-Offs:  taller than me; a sports nut; an outdoor nut; and an affinity for drinking beer.  

But in the Straight World, there are so few gay men to choose from that if he likes you and he's not completely repulsive, he's worth a shot.

Like Paul, Charlie led an aggressively heterosexual public life.  His roommate was straight and "wouldn't understand."  He even had a "beard," a female friend who agreed to go with him to games and events, to help hide his gayness.

There was one nice thing about being closeted: Charlie never asked me to go to any football game.  We went hiking, deep in the wilderness of John Bryan State Park, where no one would notice us.  We went jogging at RiversEdge park in Dayton, early in the morning when no one would notice us. We drove into Columbus to go cruising at the Exile.  

Things were going great -- I had two regular boyfriends, Paul and Charlie, one artistic, one athletic.  Of course, they insisted that our relationship be strictly secret, described in only the vaguest terms to gay people, and never mentioned at all to heterosexuals.  But it was easy to adapt to the new rules.

See if you can guess which statement I would say to heterosexuals, and which to gay people:

"Saturday night, one of my boyfriends took me to dinner at La Fogata"
"Saturday night, I had dinner at La Fogata."'

"The guy I'm dating swears by bicep exhaustion sets."
"A friend of mine swears by bicep exhaustion sets."

"My date and I went cruising at the Exile in Columbus."
"I went to Columbus."

Besides, I could continue cruising, in search of a third, fourth, or fifth boyfriend -- maybe, eventually, one for each night of the week!

In December, shortly after my birthday, Paul came down with a cold, so I decided to play the role of the thoughtful boyfriend and surprise him with some chicken soup.  I never got his address, so I had to call him for it.

"Sure, come on over," he said in a stuffed-up voice.  "But my roommate's here, so play it cool.  Say you're my cousin or something."

I drove out to his apartment in a rather nice complex in Huber Heights, a northern suburb in Ohio, and dialed the security code.  The door immediately buzzed open -- I was expected.

I walked to the second floor and knocked.

By now you've probably guessed what happened next:  

Charlie answered!

I was dating roommates!  

Paul and Charlie had been living together for over a year, but each thought other was straight and stayed strictly closeted.  Neither had any idea that the other knew me, or any gay people.  They had different interests, so their paths never crossed.

You may think that, when the smoke cleared, the three of us settled down into a cozy romantic triad.  In fact, they were extremely embarrassed over the year of closeting.  Charlie broke up with me on the spot (not because I had another boyfriend -- because someone else "knew").  He soon moved out.   

Paul and I continued to date.  But, when he was advertising for a new roommate, I insisted that he tell all prospects that he was gay.