Monday, March 14, 2005

Look Sook

.... or "My First Vivid Memory That I'm Simply Not Like Other Boys."

I don't remember when it all began. The closest I can come to pinpointing it was the time I found a second grade friend of mine attractive. He was so slender and fit. Of course, I had no idea what sex was, let alone homosexual, so I convinced myself that what I was thinking wasn't gross or anything; really it was just that I, a not-quite-so-in-shape kid, wanted to look like this sleek thin guy in front of me. I told myself that what I was thinking was aspirational, not sexual.

Of course, by the time I was seven, my (older) cousins were talking about naked women. One afternoon, we found a stash of Playboy magazines somewhere in my uncle's house – why does every family everywhere seem to have a "secret" stash like this? And why is it that said stashes are never as "secret" as the stashers seem to believe? – so we started going through them. I knew I was supposed to find those images appealing, but, frankly, they really weren't appealing at all. I found myself looking through them with a detached disinterest, like it was a science experiment or something. Big boobs weren't making me all hot and bothered. (Truth be told, there's also the fact that I was seven at the time; there wasn't a lot that would get me all hot and bothered). Even stranger was the "between-the-legs" area: sometimes shaved, sometimes not, but definitely missing something, and thus incredibly funny-looking, goofy even, perhaps even unnatural in appearance due to the conspicuous absence "down there."

As we were flipping through the pages, my cousin John asked me (in his typical oh-so-subtle fashion) "So is your dick hard?"

"No," I responded, "but show me more, and I'll get there!" (I was well-schooled in how I was supposed to react. Confused, I was. Stupid, I was not.) He explained to me that it was called a "boner" and that's what happened to guys when they saw naked hot chicks.

I never did get a "boner" that day.

But the bigger event, the truly gargantuan misstep, took place at the tender age of eight, at my grandmother's house. My family, including some extended family, were there for dinner. As usual, I finished my dinner early and began horsing around in the living room. After a short while, my Uncle Stewart, having also finished his dinner already, approached me and asked me a few questions pointedly calculated to pointing out my fagginess.

"Do you know how to use a dictionary?" he asked.

"Yes," I cheerily responded, for I was a smart kid, and one of the reasons I knew I was smart was that I was adept at using a dictionary when few of my peers were. I was ahead of the dictionary curve for my age group. (Trust me, I'm not bragging -- my elementary school peers really weren't the sharpest knives in the drawers.)

"Do this for me," he suggested. "Go to 'm' and look up the word 'MASK-yoo-lin.'"

I dutifully took up the dictionary (a bigger tome than the kiddie versions I was used to using at school) and sounded out how to spell the word. After a false start at mask-, I had little trouble finding the masculine in the right place. I read the definition: "Of or relating to men." I ignored the rest of the definitions because, frankly, they didn't make sense to me. Heck, I barely understood the "of or relating to" definition structure I had already come across so many times, so the fact that masculine also related to the final stressed syllable (huh?) meant nothing whatsoever to me.

"Okay," continued Stewart. "Now you know what that means, right?" I dutifully told him I did. Of course, I didn't; not really. It was just a little white lie, but I didn't want to look stupid. I had just looked the word up. When you've done that, you're supposed to get it already. So I said I got it.

"Now go to 'f' and look up another word for me."

Of course, Uncle Stewart led me to the word feminine: "Of or relating to women." Again with that "of or relating to" thing. Just a little confusing. I prepared myself to fake it in case there was a pop quiz. How would I fenagle "of or related to"? I truly didn't know what the heck that definition structure meant.

"Now," Uncle Stewart asked me triumphantly, "now that you know what those words mean, here's the question: Do you want to be more like the 'm'-word, or more like the 'f'-word?"

I was confused. Was this a trick question?

Thoughts were racing through my mind in rapid fire, like a automatic weapon unloading the entire nine yards. I was a boy, and eventually I would (presumably) become a man; I knew that much. So what exactly was he asking me? Did I misunderstand the definitions I had just read? Did I want to be "of" men, or did I want to be "of" women? Did I prefer to "relate to" men, or did I want to "relate to" women? I wasn't sure I understood.

Thinking quickly (because this obviously wasn't one of those questions where thinking it through too much was a good idea), I decided that every boy, every man, every male person wants to be with a woman. They most definitely want to be "of or relating to women," because men and women were meant to be together. So of course men wanted to be "relating to" women, right? "The 'f'-word," I responded.

Even at that tender age, I knew that there was supposed to be a "right" and a "wrong" answer to this question. But I was confident that I had provided the "right" answer.

"The 'f'-word?" Uncle Stewart was incredulous. After all, I had understood the definitions I had just read, had I not? I had told him so! And yet I responded in all honesty and with minimal hesitation that I strove be a feminine little boy. It had been a 50-50 shot, and I had blown it.

My uncle's reaction was more powerful than the BZZZZT! sound from Family Feud or, more time-appropriate, the big bad "lightning" from the gameshow Bullseye. I had given the "wrong" answer. My instinct for survival (and acceptance and approval) kicked into high gear, and I immediately attempted to backtrack furiously from my position: "No! No, no, the 'm'-word!" I cried. "I meant the 'm'-word! Really! I was just confused just now, that's all!"

It was, of course, too late. I couldn't take it back. I had just professed my desire to be a nancy-boy, an Abba-esque dancing queen, a rubber-wristed fairy. And I was eight years old. I had, with a prescience theretofore unknown, stated categorically that I related more to Wonder Woman than to The Fall Guy; that I was more Charlie's Angels (mostly Sabrina) than T.J. Hooker; that I wanted to be Jaime Sommers more than I wanted to be Steve Austin. I had effectively come out of the closet before I even knew what the closet was, or even what sex was all about.

It's no wonder that he was not terribly surprised that I eventually came to realize that I like men and I'm a homoqueerfag type.

Ah, family. The ties that bind. Not unlike a noose. Or that receptor site on a red blood cell where oxygen should bind to get itself transported to the vital organs of the body, but where carbon dioxide sticks instead, resulting in CO2 poisoning.


Matthew said...


This is a very heartfelt post. I can totally relate, as can probably a lot of other gays and lesbians. You wrote about this very well.

Oh, and hope this isn't too offensive, but your Uncle Stewart sounds like a dick.

Take care.

SB said...

I second that part about your Uncle. Christ, you were 8 years old! Not that it would have been an appropriate exercise at any age, but geez. I'm not sure that at 8 I would have faired any better under such an examination. Jerk.

Dennis! said...

I gotta say, even though my uncle comes across as a jerk in this post, I have to say he's one of my better uncles. He's kind of the maverick who won't play stupid family politics games; won't get involved in lame-ass petty arguments that threatens to tear the rest of the family apart; marches the beat of his own drum and happily takes a "I really don't care if you don't approve" attitude.

Recently, while we were both visiting home at the same time, he called out my annoying-ass parents on my behalf ("Geez, leave him alone, he knows what he's doing!") and later suggested I should stick up for myself, even to my parents (which I admit I have never been very good at).

So while this event makes him look bad, I have to say he's still one of my favorite uncles. And the fact that he hasn't reacted negatively to the whole gay thing is pretty cool too.

p.p. said...

Dennis, my initial reaction was similar to that of Matthew and Sam. But, since he stuck up for you, that changes some things.