Plains, January 2016
Out here on the Plains, there are very few gay guys my age: they all fled to Minneapolis, Chicago, or West Hollywood during the Great Gay Migration of the 1970s, leaving a few shut-ins and down-low closet cases.
Shortly after moving here, I realized that if I wanted to socialize with someone my own age, it would have to be a heterosexual!
A daunting prospect: in gay neighborhoods, all of your friends and neighbors were gay. You might have some straight acquaintances, at school or at work, but you kept them at arm's length. They were the enemy, the oppressors.
I started striking up conversations with heterosexuals at work, at the gym, and at church. I started going to my friend's vegan potlucks, which were about 50% gay, 50% straight. And last weekend I went to a totally heterosexual party!
It was held by Arthur, an ex-hippie vegetarian in his 50s who often leads services at the Unitarian Church, and his wife Joanne. They are apparently quite affluent: they have a a formal living room, a separate dining room, a gigantic kitchen, a family room, and a patio that looks out onto the cold wilderness.
Eight heterosexuals and me sat around the gigantic dining room table, eating a potato casserole, cheese tamales, a green salad, and jello squares, then adjourned to the living room for dessert and coffee.
Here's my evaluation of heterosexual parties:
1. Everything is male-female. Gay parties were exclusively male, with very occasionally a lesbian, but at straight parties, the seating arrangements, the conversations, even the coats are strictly divided into "him" and "her."
2. They are age-segregated. Gay parties had every age, from young twink to geezer, but straight people invite only their own age group. Everyone was in their 40s and 50s.
3. They are elderly. Maybe it's because they they only go to the gym during the first week of January, but most straight men in their 40s and 50s are flabby and sagging or wrinkled and decrepit, with creaking joints and aching backs.
4. They are boring. Discussions of additions to the house, variations in health insurance, who just got out of the hospital, which kid just got a promotion at work, which stock is doing well, and how good the food tastes. A lot of how good the food tastes.
5. They end with a whimper. Gay parties ended with everyone going out to the bars, or else going off in pairs and groups to the bedroom. Straight parties end with women saying "Can I help you clean up?" and men saying "I have to get up early tomorrow."
During dessert-and-coffee, the back door opened, and a boy burst in: teenage or early twenties, shorter than me, thick brown hair, handsome square face, thick eyebrows, prominent ears.
He tore off his sweater, revealing an Adventure Time t-shirt. Thick, hard chest, nice biceps.
I wasn't planning to cruise, but it was impossible to not be overwhelmed by the contrast. Hardness, strength, vitality, energy! In a room full of sagging, tired people.
"How was the exhibit?"Arthur asked.
"Great! I met a guy who throws pots with Aztec designs."
There were no other explanations or introductions. The boy tore into the kitchen, grabbed a plate, and piled it high. He put a knife and fork in his pocket, grabbed a can of soda, and ran out of the room.
"Isn't he joining us?" I asked.
"Oh, Dustin doesn't want to hang around us old folks."
Maybe not, but I wanted to hang around with him.
I asked about the bathroom, and was pointed to the same direction that Dustin went. I found him on a couch in a study off the family room, shoveling food into his mouth and watching a music video.
He grinned at me, perhaps astonished that a guy my age knew the show. "Maybe not canonical, but that's definitely the writers' intent."
Dustin was an undergrad at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, home for winter break. He was mainly interested in animation. We talked about Adventure Time, Regular Show, The Simpsons, and the 1960s French sci-fi animated movie Fantastic Planet. I didn't do any obvious cruising, but there was a definite connection.
Then Arthur was standing in the doorway. "Here you are! I thought you got lost. Dustin isn't boring you to death with his animation stories, is he?"
"Not at all. I'm a big fan."
He looked at me with an odd smirk. "Well, when you're ready to join the grownups, we're playing mad libs."
After he left, Dustin laughed and touched me on the shoulder. "Hey, bro, if being an adult means playing mad libs, I'll give it a pass."
He paused. "I have some gorg cels from the Lord of the Rings, the Ralph Bakshi animated version, up in my room, if you'd like to see them."
The full story, with nude photos,is on Tales of West Hollywood.