I’ve been thinking about the time before I came out, when I was still in denial about who I was despite ample evidence to the contrary. How did I not know? I mean, there was evidence there. In fact, here are five "tells" that shoulda (but didn’t) let me know that I was queer before I “knew”.
#5 – Sam. We didn’t have TV for a lot of years growing up, but when we did, Quincy, ME, was one of my ma’s favorite shows and one of the few we got to watch. Sam Fujiyama, Quincy’s medical assistant, played by Canadian Robert Ito (right), was a very handsome man who brought an unlikely bit of color into our very white corner of 1970s America. He was my first Asian crush. Got me thinking.
#4 – Mark Hammill. Yes, I was a Luke Skywalker guy, not a Han Solo guy. I liked blondes. Well, blondes and Robert Ito. I remember thinking that I liked him so much because he was a farm kid living in the ass-end of the universe and he got tapped for a mission to save the galaxy. Maybe. Maybe I just liked him because he was blond and I thought he was hot. Got me thinking some more. (I saw Star Wars over 15 times.)
#3 – Tim and Kelly. No, not a couple, Tim and Kelly were two lifeguards at the town pool where I grew up. There must have been female lifeguards – in fact I’m sure there were, because my brother was trying to impress one of them by seeing how big of a splash he could make from the high dive when he misjudged and landed partially on the concrete breaking three bones – but I don’t remember any of them. Tim and Kelly, them I remember. They were impossibly beautiful. I couldn’t understand my fascination with them as I’d tread water under their chairs for as long as I could, looking up at them as they sat there in their red Speedos, twirling their whistles and trying not to be bored. I realize now that they were 16 and 17, but since I was 8 they were fully grown men – beautiful, long limbed, unblemished, sunkissed, men – well, gods, really. Both were over 6’3”, both had the 8% body fat that you’d expect from teenage lifeguards who were members of the swim team. Both were nice to me whenever they saw me around the pool or at church or in town, and they’d say hi – Kelly, in spite of his stutter. I was often dumbstruck in reply. Tim now lives in San Diego with his partner, and Kelly moved back to Fowler after a few years in SoCal trying to make an entertainment career for himself. How did I not know?
# 2 – Is #44, actually. That’s the number worn by Doug G-- , a blond, bow-legged hunk of a post-player (3-spot) on the high school basketball team. He was in my sister’s class, four years older than me, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was a solid player on a good team, but he wasn’t the best player on the court, ever (probably 8 pts, 7 rebounds, 2 assists kinda guy), but I still would watch him every trip down the floor. I think I told myself something like “I’m watching him to see what offense we’re running” but since we always ran the UCLA offense, I don’t think that was it – and I don’t think I believed it at the time. He was dreamy, with his floppy hair and his taciturn demeanor. I’m sure if I’d ever met him I would have had a dork attack and been unable to speak. (His teammate, Tige Smith, could also be on this list. He was a guard, wore #10. His name was “Tige”, so what was an admiring 7th grader to do but have a crush on him? But Tige seemed super urban with his feathered hair and his suede boots; Doug was all guy.)
|George Michael (top?) and Andrew Ridgely, circa 1983.|
#1 – George Michael. Yes, the first album I ever bought was “Vacation” by the Go-Go’s, and maybe that was its own tell if you buy the “queer culture” theory, but it was Wham!’s “Make it Big” that I went apeshit for. I’d play the LP over and over and over, and then when I’d go over to a friend’s house who had cable and they’d play the “Wake Me Up (Before you Go-Go)” video I’d, literally, curl my toes as George crossed his hands and beckoned playfully – and let’s just say it, gay-ly – into the camera. I had a little routine worked out to dance to it. I am sure – 100% sure – that I was 100% fey when I took the dance floor to that song at the high school dances (which I never missed). Why did no one tell me? C’mon, that’s surely a tell. I told myself that he was singing to women, so therefore I could love the song (and the whole album. To round out the catalog I backed up and bought “Music from the Edge of Heaven” and the extended cassette single of “Everything She Wants” and, and, and…) and it was fine. It was fine, of course. It just wasn’t particularly heterosexual.
For a recent birthday my friends presented me with beer cozies that have my name and birthday on one side, and “Mo Established” on the other side with the year I came out. I love them! But maybe if I’d been a little more self-aware the dates wouldn’a been so far apart. Oh, well. It makes for great memories, too.