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November 9th, 2018

Compatibility Is Not About How Much You Like Each Other

Facebook sometimes torments me with that See Your Memories thing…

That was posted back in 2009, shortly after I’d started visiting Walt Disney World, which is significant and I almost grasped how significant even then. I should apologize to the boyfriend because it turned out not to be him after all. It was my first crush, posting under an alias, trying just then to get me to stay away from crush #3, and then some years later trying to get me to go somewhere else besides WDW on my vacations/road trips because (I’m making a wild guess here…) my presence in his life was causing him some closet angst. And nobody does angst better than Germans.

Hell…they invented the word. 

I figured out who the anonymous commenter here was after he used an odd turn of phrase that he’d also used in comments to my blogposts (there were several) and I pegged him on it and I reckon he got pissed. But by that time we were pretty much pissing each other off. When we weren’t getting all sweetness and light and touchy feely. When there is no middle ground it’s a sign that compatibility may not be within your grasp. Here’s why: 

I’m not an angry kinda guy, and neither is he, but pushing back we tended to amplify each other’s annoyance. Instead of making me take a step back his barbed edged teasing would bring out my inner brat…which would only piss him off more, which would only make my inner brat more bratty. At the end he said I was creeping him out and if I could I’d have laughed right in his face instead of via emails and blog posts and hey are you still using that AOL account and were you this closeted on GeoCities too? It was Boys In The Band level bitchiness. And if he could read this now he’d tell me I was still living in the past and I’d throw back at him that he was still running away from his.

It’s not how two people get along with each other that matters, it’s how they don’t get along. Is the chemistry to retreat to separate corners and cool off or does it hoist the Jolly Roger and get out the knives. Different combinations behave differently in the fire.

Life imitates soap operas sometimes. But I have those comments he posted under an alias in my blog to look at whenever I get to thinking I should have handled it differently. No… I handled it exactly right. If the only way you can speak your mind is behind a mask you are not right for me.

And there is the eternal problem for gay guys of our generation. We couldn’t talk it out with our friends, let alone our families…especially your Bavarian families…

Of course, I couldn’t exactly come out with it to my Baptist folks either…

 

But what all that meant was gay kids back in 1971 couldn’t date. You might be able to manage a secret angst ridden tryst or two, but all that tells you is how compatible your libidos are and a teenager is all hormones and hot blood in an instant anyway. Gay kids need to be able to date just like anyone else, because it’s dating where you find out who is right for you…and who isn’t. Two people can both be good, decent, trustworthy people (the inner damage ex-gay therapy later inflicts on a person notwithstanding…), thoroughly twitterpated, thoroughly hot for each other, and still not be right for each other. And where you really see it isn’t so much in how fondly they gaze into each other’s eyes or how combustible the sex is, but in how combustible their tempers are.  

Wish I’d seen that back in ‘71 what I see now. If gay kids could have dated back then I might have saved myself a lot of…well…angst…

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 29th, 2018

The Loneliness Of Older Gay Men

This came across my Facebook news stream yesterday…

Study shows gay men over the age of 45 are more likely to be single

There’s an obvious take on this…that the gay club scene, much like the general pop culture scene, is mostly youth oriented and there are few opportunities for older gay men to have fun and socialize.

But there is a less obvious, until you look at the history of the gay civil rights struggle, reason for this. Probably the biggest reason. Us older gay men lived out most of our young adult lives in a climate of nearly pure unadulterated hate. When our peers could begin taking their own tentative steps into the dating and mating cycle, our hopes and dreams of love were routinely dashed on other people’s fear and loathing. We couldn’t date. Our love lives had to be paced out in the shadows. While the other kids got their proms, we got a few seedy bars and hookup spots. While the other kids got their songs and stories of love and romance and happily ever afters, we got every filthy lie people could think up about homosexuality.

By the time gay liberation made enough difference that a gay kid could ask his first crush to the prom, and dream a realistic dream of going steady, and even marriage, we were middle aged, weighed down and heart weary from all the wounds dug into us when we were young, many of us still too afraid to peek out of the closet for enough time to find a boyfriend. Even those of us who managed to avoid being trapped in a cycle of self loathing and bitterness, still had to find partners from the same peer group that had suffered so much damage.

I could tell you my stories, in fact I have. Most years around Valentine’s Day I repost them here on my blog. Stories of guys I met when I was younger, who made my heart skip a beat.  And they either broke it off with me because they were afraid their families would hate them, or that god would hate them, or hostile heterosexuals would see what was developing between us and sabotaged it because our hopes and dreams had to be their stepping stones to heaven.

So I’m single. I’ve never so much as had a steady boyfriend in my entire life. And I reckon now I’m done with it. I accept it. I will die a solitary gay male. I think I could have been good for somebody, but I will never know. I don’t blame youth culture. I blame the cloud of fear and loathing we all had to live under back then, and which many of my generational peers are still living under.

Below are few links to some of those Valentine’s Day stories I’ve posted here about being a young gay man in the 1970s and 80s looking for love. Read them and don’t wonder why so many older gay males are single.

Do You Believe In Love?

No Rescue For The Rescuers…

The Boy I Met In Church…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Loneliness Of Older Gay Men

July 18th, 2018

Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…
 
I resumed dieting again a couple weeks ago. It’s not the painful thing for me that it is for others. By sticking to a basically bland food intake and no sugary treats I can get back down to a weight and shape I feel good about, and which my body seems to naturally like anyway. Just today managed to get the hourglass is back. It feels nice. Now I need to stick to the plan for at least another couple weeks, but seeing this reappear is a big ego boost and encouragement because I can start feeling good about my appearance again. The age lines in my face notwithstanding. It’s important to me, solitary though I am. Maybe more so precisely because that. 
 
So…from the neck down anyway (people who look like that…) it’s…pretty good again. Gay otter body though it is. I need to stick to the plan for a while longer so it takes for the rest of the summer and autumn. You get to a point where your body is accustomed to a summer intake and then I’m always apologizing to the servers when I go out to eat for all the food I left on the plate, unless I remember to ask for small portions ahead of time. I can maintain a 148-150 weight and the hourglass pretty easily through the summer and fall. It’s when the holidays come around and everyone is waving cupcakes and cookies at me that it all comes unraveled. The past decade or so I’ve been in a cycle of gaining waistline during the winter holidays and shedding it in the spring. This year I just didn’t feel like it…for some reason. But somehow…somehow…I managed to roust myself out of it and decide liking how I look was worthwhile again, even if only to myself. 
 
I’m really not a very big guy and I never needed a lot of calories. What happened was I started making a good income and suddenly I could escape the bland diet of my youth. And then the waistline grew, the hourglass vanished, and appallingly my chin started disappearing along with it. I’ve written before about how I was at 160 heading for 170 and 33 inch bluejeans heading for 34s. I just put it down to middle age…mom was a thin little thing herself until she hit her 40s and I figured that was my fate too. But then I reconnected with my high school crush and he asked for a photo of me, and I started looking at what I was eating and adding up the calories and it shocked me. 
 
Call it empty vanity if you like, but being single and at the end of any possibility of dating at my age, it matters that I can still look in a mirror and like what I see. 
by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Getting Back Into My Summer Clothes…Finally Wanting To Look Nice Again…

July 6th, 2018

A Hug From Beyond The Grave…

Something to understand about the relationship between mom and I, that I need to get out here, before I go into what I just discovered digging through the stuff of hers’ I bought home after the funeral. After she passed away, people in the small western Virginia town she retired to, folks I didn’t know from Adam, would see me walking along, come up to me, and tell me what a ray of sunshine she was, and how sad they were to have her gone. It really helped.

And it was no act. I grew up with it. That was her. And I never doubted that she loved me. She really was a ray of sunshine everywhere she went. So whenever I misbehaved, and she got angry, and the ray of sunshine got all dark and stormy, it was Scary. Because you kept forgetting that was in there.

Mom knew her only child was gay, long before she retired, decades probably, before she passed away. But we never spoke of it. Partly that was reticence on both our parts to discuss anything related to sex. There’s a Monty Python routine that begins “Are you embarrassed easily? I am. But don’t worry, it’s all part of growing up, and being British.” Also part of being an American Yankee Baptist. Easily embarrassed would be an understatement. In my old age I can just let it slide. But in my adolescence, just when a boy needs to talk these things out with the parent unit(s), neither mom nor I could come anywhere near the subject without getting the terminal squeamishes and running the hell away.

But there was also this: she could see it coming. I did an episode of A Coming Out Story about this. With Bruce, it was always about the other boys. You might have thought there were no girls at all in his world. Well of course there were…his friends all had, or were looking for girlfriends. But Bruce was oblivious. Mom would comment later that she knew the names of all my male friends, but I never once mentioned any of the girls unless prompted.

She knew. In my mid thirties mom had to go into the hospital for gallbladder surgery. Back then it was a very invasive procedure, unlike today. A patient had to recover for at least a day, maybe two, after surgery. One afternoon I went to visit mom in her hospital room. She had another women as a roommate, I think they were also there for the same procedure. As I walked in I was greeted by the other woman, and her visiter, a female friend. A few moments of conversation and I could tell both women were friendly, intelligent, and liberal. Mom was getting along well with them both.

Somehow, a conversation about the torrent of political junk mail started. Reagan was running for his second term, and I, a staunch democrat by then, was baffled that I was getting so much mail from the GOP asking for donations. I related one of them…a flyer allegedly from George Shultz saying he and Reagan “need you Bruce” to fight off the democrats.

The two ladies burst into hysterical laughter. I wasn’t getting why the joke was That funny…but yes, it Was a bit hilarious they’d send that to a democrat. Then the roommate managed, between laughs, to get out “…and they sent that to a homosexual…they Need Him…they Need Him…” Uproarious laughter ensued, while mom and I sat next to each other, smiling back at them amicably and pretending we didn’t hear that.

Eventually the ladies noticed we weren’t laughing along with them…gathered themselves together…and decided it was time for them to take a nice refreshing walk. As the roommate passed me on her way out, she put a reassuring hand on my shoulder, as if to say “It’ll be alright kid…”

After they were gone, mom and I immediately changed the subject.

Mom…what sort of conversations have you been having with your roommate about me…that you won’t have with me…? 

Time passes…the universe expands… One day mom retired, and moved to a place in south western Virginia, to be near her cousin and their family, and to live in mountains much like the Pennsylvania ones she grew up in. For reasons I still don’t completely grok, that Pennsylvania side of the family held some kind of grudge against her all her adult life, after she married dad.

By then I was very much the out and proud gay American, but I still couldn’t talk about it with mom. Several times just before she moved away I tried to broach the subject. And the ray of sunshine would get all dark and stormy and I’d back the hell off. So I thought to try a different tack. I subscribed her to the PFLAG newsletter. A thing I’m certain lots of gay kids have done over the decades, as a way of laying the groundwork for officially coming out to a parent. Some months later I went for a visit, and after the usual joyful greetings and catching up on the news, mom pulled out a copy of the PFLAG newsletter, showed it to me, and asked if I knew why she was getting it.

Well…she knew damn well why. But the ray of sunshine was all dark and stormy just then and I wimped out and said I didn’t know. And she very ostentatiously put it in the trash.

Time passess…the universe expands… Here I am in my basement going through things of hers, deciding what to keep and what to discard. It’s one of the tasks I’ve set for myself this stay at home vacation, in an effort to reduce the amount of Stuff I have in the house, preparing myself for old age, when I might have to rent part of my house out, or move to a cheaper part of the country to live, like mom did. But I can’t be moving to somewhere they hate Teh Gay.

I have her diaries now…I know that she knew…I know that she stressed over it considerably. To her dying day she was a deeply religious woman. In the Baptist way she never tried to force me to go back to church, but I always knew she wanted me to and was sad I didn’t believe anymore. I tried in every way I could to make her proud of me, but there were some places I could not go. To church was one of them. Into the arms of a woman was another. Just a few days before she passed away we shared our last phone conversation, and she asked if I was coming for a visit soon. I said I would try, but I didn’t like being on the road by myself much anymore. “I know…” she replied. “I wish you weren’t so lonely. I wish you had someone…” A pause. “It doesn’t have to be a girl…”

And of course we both immediately changed the subject.

And here I am going through her things. Much of it I just simply stuffed into these Rubbermaid storage containers and brought back with me, and I haven’t really gone through any of it in detail, except for what I needed to dig up to settle her affairs.

And I found this.

It’s the issue with the “Mother Talks Back to the Bigots” text that was flying around the Internet in the Spring of 2000 when the election was starting to heat up, and GOP antigay flyers were flooding the mail in the swing states. I’m certain the pulpits were thumping down there in Southwestern Virginia…and the talk radio screamers. Mom didn’t want her boy to be gay, but she loved him very much nonetheless. And this was what she would have read, and didn’t throw in the trash but kept in her files, for me to find all these years later…

“I don’t know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn’t put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse…”

Glad I decided to go through this stuff finally, instead of just putting it off until I was in my grave too, and it fell to someone else to throw it all away.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Hug From Beyond The Grave…

June 22nd, 2018

The Paradox Of Gay Visibility

This, from The Washington Blade, came across my newsfeed this morning…

EJ Johnson recalls crying with dad Magic Johnson after coming out

There’s a passage in it, where EJ’s mom relates how she figured it out…

“We went to Hawaii once and I’m sitting behind him and his friend,” Cookie says.”The girls go by in their bathing suits and the guys go by and when the guys go by, they were like, ‘Whoa! Hey!’ and then girls go by and nothing. So I was like, okay, we need to have a talk.”

This was something about me mom noticed all the time during my teen years. I did an episode about that in A Coming Out Story. But that was artistic license: we never had a talk about it when I was a teenager. We couldn’t. Not in the late 1960s and early 70s. After mom passed away I inherited her diaries and it was only then that I saw the extent to which she’d figured it out…and kept avoiding knowing what she’d figured out.

But there was a reason she didn’t get too alarmed about it either, back when I was a teenage boy, and even more so back when mom was a teenage girl. A fact which may escape most folks today. Back then, the trope in movies and TV, juvenile books and magazines, was boys didn’t have any interest in girls until they were almost adults. Then suddenly all their hormones activated and they started dating girls. But until that sudden change happened, a boy’s interests were in hanging out with the other boys. And your best friend was someone you stuck with through thick and thin, always stood up for, shoulder to shoulder…

“Teenage boys are wild about girls.When their hormones kick in at puberty, they can think of nothing else, and that”s the way it has always been– right? Wrong. Before World War II, only sissies liked girls. Masculine, red-blooded, all-American boys were supposed to ignore girls until they were 18 or 19. Instead, parents, teachers, psychiatrists, and especially the mass media encouraged them to form passionate, intense, romantic bonds with each other. This book explores romantic relationships between teenage boys as they were portrayed before, during, and immediately after World War II. The author takes the reader through a rich landscape of media — sci fi pulps, comics, adventure stories, tales of teen sleuths, boys’ serial novels, wartime bestsellers, and movies populated by many types of male adolescents: Boys Next Door, Adventure Boys, Jungle Boys, and Lost Boys. In Hollywood movies, Boys Next Door like Jackie Cooper, Ronald Sinclair, and Jimmy Lydon were constantly falling in love, but not with girls. In serial novels, Jungle Boys like Bomba, Sorak, and Og Son of Fire swung through the trees to rescue teenage boys, not teenage girls. In comic strips and on the radio, Adventure Boys like Don Study, Jack Armstrong, and Tim Tyler formed lasting romantic partnerships with other boys or men. Lost Boys like Frankie Darro, Leo Gorcey, and Billy Halop starred in dozens of movies about pairs of poor urban teenagers sticking together, with never a girl in sight…”

We Boys Together: Teenagers in Love Before Girl-Craziness, by Jeffery Dennis, 2007

That’s the boyhood I remember. And if you think all that is exaggerated, or a case of the author seeing homosexuality where there is none, what you have to remember about that period of time is that in the movies and TV sex simply didn’t exist, let alone homosexuals. Married couples slept in separate beds. When Lucy Ricardo got pregnant they couldn’t even say the word pregnant on TV. You got the feeling movie and TV characters had no genitals at all…especially in movies and TV shows created for kids and teenagers…and babies when they happened really were delivered by the stork to unsuspecting but very happy couples. Now how did that happen? And nobody saw anything out of place in two boys having a passionate friendship. In fact, it was thought to be good for them. Builds character. teaches the importance of trust and loyalty. The steadfast friends who always stick together through thick and thin. I watched those movies on the TV, and the old TV shows, read the sci fi pulps, and the comics, adventure stories, tales of teen sleuths, best friends forever, even as Hollywood was setting out to change all that, and recognize the existence of teenage hormones. At least, the heterosexual ones.  

It was something mom could tell herself as I kept getting older and older and still showing no signs of an interest in girls, even to the point of getting my heart broken over some other boy who broke up with me, or moved away. I remember crying my 8th grade heart out in when a friend I’d known since elementary school moved out of state, and I knew I’d never see him anymore, and mom just giving me that boys will be boys sigh. Looking back on it I can just picture her thinking to herself, just wait until it’s a girl that breaks your heart… 

So I was a little late with it. Some boys were. Not to worry…one of these days Bruce will discover girls and he’ll get with the program. Plus, we were Baptists and I wasn’t supposed to be having any sinful thoughts about girls until I was older and those thoughts could be directed toward marriage. Mom could feel good that I wasn’t tempted into sinful lust just yet.

Which meant I never had the pressure at home to start dating and questions weren’t asked about why I had no interest in girls until much, Much later. and by that time I’d made my peace with my sexual orientation, even if mom and I still couldn’t talk about it. I had a few years of breathing room. I don’t think gay kids these days have that. The paradox of gay visibility is it’s making the world safer for us, even as it exposes gay kids to pressure about their identity they might not be ready to face for a while. They can’t hide from themselves or their peers the way I could.

But at least the world they eventually come out to isn’t as hostile as mine was. Even in red state America they can at least think about taking the one that stole their heart to the prom…maybe even imagine marrying them. How I wish. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gladly traded that safe cocoon, and having The Talk with mom, for a boyfriend.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Paradox Of Gay Visibility

April 18th, 2018

What A Wonderful World I Missed Being A Teenager In…

In my newsfeed this morning…

Story Here.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What A Wonderful World I Missed Being A Teenager In…

April 14th, 2018

Greetings From Uncle Sam!

I was going through the stuff in my fireproof safes to sort things into the new fireproof file safe I had to buy, because the older you get the more paperwork you seem to accumulate that you just can’t loose. Things like the deed to my house for instance, and my will. I found a folder of paperwork that went way back to my teen years and let the contents take me back to another time.

Nixon was president, and the Vietnam war was still going strong, when I got this in the mail…

It’s the thing that sets a sharp and unbridgeable divide between us Kennedy era baby boomers and the Reagan era ones. They never felt the touch of the draft. We lived under its shadow the moment we turned 18 and by law had to register at our local draft office. Mine was in the old Rockville post office. I still distinctly remember the sign inside, hanging above the door where we could see it as we sat and filled out our form, Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here. Draft office humor. Ha Ha.

On the day above I went to the address in the letter, which was not the old post office but another nearby place where two buses were waiting to take us to Fort Mead for processing. I remember sitting there among all the other scared teenage boys as soldiers from the Navy, Marines and Air Force came aboard and tried to talk us into enlisting because, as they said, we’d get a better deal from them than from the Army. Some took the bait and walked off the bus with them. I stayed.

I remember getting to Fort Mead, having to strip down to my underwear and line up with the others to be processed like cattle. Not even that first group shower in Jr. High made me feel so humiliated. This wasn’t about hygiene…a point was being made. From now on we were not to even think of ourselves as human: we were government property, to be used and disposed of as the military wanted. We were poked and prodded, told to cough, told to drop our pants and bend over…I still have no idea what the doctors were looking for as they peered at our butt holes other than maybe evidence of sodomy. That was still illegal in the state of Maryland and in the military, and as I sat in my underwear in a room with the others, answering questions on a form, I debated being honest about my sexual orientation because I reckoned that would get me out of it. But at what cost? In addition to asking about medical and family history (Has anyone in your family been confined to a mental institution?) the form listed dozens of organizations and asked if you belonged to any of them. I reckoned answering yes would put me on a list of suspected communists and at that moment I wasn’t sure which was more dangerous. When I came to the are you a homosexual question I lied and said no because I was afraid of getting put on a list of known sexual deviants. And if you think that’s being paranoid you were not a homosexual in 1972.

At the end of it all they said I didn’t measure up, being eleven pounds under the minimum weight for getting drafted. I think I was 5’9″ and 112 pounds back then, which was about typical for me. I was a scrawny thin as a rail boy all through grade school, and a favorite story of mine is when I went to visit a classmate at his home and the next day at school he tells me his mom asked if I was a heroin addict. So I was spared becoming Vietnam cannon fodder. I got a letter temporarily excusing me and was told I’d be called back in six months to see if I’d improved any. Before that could happen however, Nixon turned off the draft. Not that I was in any mind to gain weight after that.

If I can point to any one thing that fueled the counter culture and the protests of the 60s it is that war and the draft that gave it tens of thousands of young men like me, full of life’s hopes and dreams, to eat. So much human potential that was lost to this country, to humanity, that we will never even know.

And it scares me to think that had I been recruitment bait when Al Qaeda attacked us on 9-11, I’d have probably gone right down to enlist, lied again about my sexual orientation to get myself into the fight, and been promptly turned into Iraq cannon fodder, or maybe Somalia cannon fodder, or some other place where we are fighting pointless needless wars so politicians can thump their chests for angry old white votes. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Greetings From Uncle Sam!

March 26th, 2018

Back To Work On A Coming Out Story…

Back home from Florida, with renewed energy and determination to complete A Coming Out Story, and to tell it like it was. Funny how that always happens lately. 

I’m not naming any actual names except my own (well…and one teacher who was amazing), and I’ve made it clear repeatedly that the story is one third things that actually happened to me, one third artistic license (time compression, reordering / relocating certain events) and one third pure fantasy (such as my libido didn’t actually materialize as a naked but for fig leaf me). Hopefully this allows my classmates some plausible deniability. Teenagers do things that adults wouldn’t necessarily want on their resumes.

Tom Clancy once said that the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense. This story is me trying to make sense of what happened to me back in high school when, as the subtitle says, the first person you come out to is yourself. I’ve a new story arc to start soon, A Conversation With God, that’s mostly me trying desperately to figure out why I’m getting myself all tied up in knots over a certain someone, especially when he smiles at me. After that story arc things start getting…interesting.

It was a different world. The best of times, the worst of times, as the saying goes…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Back To Work On A Coming Out Story…

March 15th, 2018

Please…No More Doomed Gay Couples…Okay?

Call Me By Your Name DVDs are for sale now, and I’m not at all sure anymore that I want to see this movie. So, like Brokeback Mountain I may end up giving it a pass.

Like Brokeback, and frustratingly, once again we have the tragically doomed homosexual relationship. A tale as old as time you might say. Or as old as Hollywood at any rate. As far as we’ve come and we still get told our love affairs are doomed. But that’s not the worst of it, at least for me. Spoiler Ahead for those who haven’t already seen the movie or read any of the reviews that go into Timothée Chalamet’s stunning performance, particularly in the final scene.

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Time has passed, and Oliver has told Elio over the phone that he’s getting married. To a woman (the story is set in 1983). So the last scene is the poor kid sitting in front of the household fireplace crying but still trying to keep his shit together while the rest of the family goes on about their business behind him. His first love dumped him, not so much for a woman as for respectability. So really…what was he to Oliver?

Just…a little too close to the bone. I just can’t watch this.

I don’t know that I can ever get to the point where I can watch this movie. I haven’t watched Brokeback either, though I did read the Annie Proulx short story. That was difficult enough. I’m not wanting some superficial junk food romance. I don’t want to be told sweet lies about the inevitability of love, or True Romance Comics stories of how perfect it is. It’s just as false. Heterosexuals get their tragedies, but also their triumphs, because their relationships are seen as legitimate, complex, multifaceted. Ours, as Vito Russo once said, are just about sex. What I’m seeing here is that even when Hollywood grasps that it’s more than that, it still can’t fathom it being more than a summer affair. Well at least it’s not the tire iron.

I have gay friends whose couplehood made it possible for most of my adult life to believe that it is even possible to have that kind of deeply felt, body and soul relationship, not just something I read once in a Mary Renault novel. But I’m in my middle 60s now and all I have to look back on is one strikeout after another after another after another, usually via the agency of some hostile third party that needed a righteousness boost. But I can at least live it vicariously in art, if not in life. It gives me a reason to keep getting out of bed and contributing, in a small way, to the work I do at Space Telescope. It allows me to keep pursuing my little efforts at art while sitting at the drafting table, or walking about with my cameras. But the suspicion keeps nagging at me: what does it really matter? Was I really the kid that was never meant to be born? Is this why I always feel like I’m on the outside of life looking in? I don’t need to be told love fails, my entire life keeps telling me that every waking moment of my day. I need art that reminds me the struggle is worth it, even so.

I don’t think anybody who knows me knows how badly I need those reminders. 

Maybe when I’m ready to watch Brokeback I’ll watch this one. In the meantime what I’ve read of the father’s speech was good. I’ll keep that much of it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Please…No More Doomed Gay Couples…Okay?

February 12th, 2018

So Much Of My Own Life I See In The Stories Of Other Gay Lives

The Internet Tubes have been singing with Adam Rippon’s bronze medal win. Mostly the stories have been inspiring, uplifting, in ways many of us thought we’d never know back when we were his age, and younger. Adam’s own story of how coming out publicly made it possible for him to find his inner place of strength, unadulterated, which was necessary if he was going to have any chance of getting to the Olympics, let alone winning a medal, is especially soul satisfying.

What I didn’t expect reading these stories, was chancing across one that hit me in the gut, deep down in a place still so late in my life, very raw, very tender. This one…

The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon – How much an out gay Olympian could mean to a kid now—or to a 34-year-old who’s been waiting for it his whole life.

It’s from Vanity Fair, online but not in the current issue. I hope it makes it to the next, because there is something in it heterosexuals need, really need to understand about our lives, and the knife homophobia drives deep into gay hearts. The author, Richard Lawson, writes about his discovery of and fascination about Olympic figure skating with his sister, who was also into it but not in the same passionate way he was. But he had a close friend who was…

We spent what I remember being a whole winter deciding which skater was our favorite (only the women, never the men; even at that age, there was something perhaps too intriguing about them) and gliding around on his hardwood living-room floor in our socks—pretending to do triple axels and salchows, awkwardly mimicking Kerrigan’s beguiling spins—two silly little boys with an appreciation for the graceful things in this rough world.

Time passes…the universe expands…the friends separate as boyhood friends sometimes do…and the boy who loved figure skating grows into an out and proud gay man. Eventually he tracks down his boyhood friend, only to discover he has also come out and proud. I was surprised, and told him as much. He replied, “Surprised? Richard, we used to do figure-skating routines in my living room.”

Heh. It’s a sweet story, especially so in the context of how gay athletes competing openly as the people they actually are, not only makes them stronger as athletes, but how it changes how we all see ourselves, gives us a vision of the possible that lets us find our own places of inner strength. But there was more to it.

On a visit to his parent’s house with some friends, Lawson finds himself talking with his mom about this and that, and she asks about his boyhood friend, and did he ever get married. Lawson tells her his friend is gay. “You’re kidding,” she said. “He’s gay? And to think his father said you two couldn’t see each other anymore because he thought you were gay.”

So the friends hadn’t just drifted apart after all. They were separated, never knowing exactly why, just assuming it was random happenchance, and it wasn’t. It was deliberate.

I am certain nearly all of us, except for the very very lucky, have similar stories to tell of how homophobia took a wrecking ball to what might have become a beautiful thing if it had been left alone. Every Valentine’s Day week for the past several years, I’ve been telling mine. The boy I met in church. The guy I met working in a catalogue warehouse. The guy who helped me try to rescue an injured cat in Rock Creek Park. There may likely be many more that, like Lawson, I had no way of knowing about at the time…gay guys who passed into and out of my life before I even had a chance to notice them, because some hostile bigot noticed them noticing me first.

Most tormenting of all, the guy who was my first schoolboy crush, a thing that felt so wonderful when I finally admitted it to myself, that it allowed me to come out to myself without fear or shame. It was all so amazing…right up to the day we arranged to go on a photography hike together at Great Falls, and that I would call him that morning before I started over to his house. Someone else answered the phone, asked who was calling, and when he finally came to the phone he made it clear that we weren’t going anywhere together, and after that he kept me at arm’s length for the rest of the school year. Like Lawson and his friend, we drifted apart. At the time I was baffled. What had I done to make him angry? Now I understand it better. 

Someday…someday…the knife will lose its power to cut, and hearts won’t bleed anymore, and won’t be imprisoned by closets and loneliness, but will be free at last to sing out their joy, to each other, and to the world. Someday.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on So Much Of My Own Life I See In The Stories Of Other Gay Lives

January 17th, 2018

I Could Stop Living In The Past If The Past Could Stop Living In Me…

The past is never completely put to rest within us. It taps us on the shoulder from time to time, often when we least expect or want it to. I was participating in a diversity workshop last week at the 2018 American Astronomical Society conference, bringing to it my experiences growing up gay in 1970s America, sharing what I’d learned since then about the culture that shaped me. I have my moments of nostalgia for certain things…favorite TV shows…the music of my times…even some of the technology: after all, we did go to the moon back then. But don’t ask me if I ever want to go back to those days when forty-six out of fifty states still had their sodomy laws on the books, and the pop culture screamed it’s disgust at your very existence at you from every direction. No…that is not hyperbole.

Favorite TV shows. In November 1972, some months after I graduated from high school, still grieving deeply over the sudden disappearance of my first crush and his family for parts unknown (I wouldn’t set eyes on him again for 33 years…), CBS network aired the second episode in a two part Hawaii Five-O story, V for Vashon. I’ve no idea what I was doing that night but it wasn’t watching Hawaii Five-O or I’d have remembered this one. Even then the show was in the category of Good, but not Must Watch. I liked the combination of action and detective work, as opposed to the plodding cadence of the Dragnet episodes. I picked up a copy of the Five-O soundtrack LP at one point, as I did with many TV shows and movies I watched back then. It’s interesting how the passing of years somehow distills away everything you hated about the times reflected in the TV shows you used to watch, and leaves only a pleasant sense of enjoyment.

I can pick up MeTV on the household antenna and tonight, since the weather is still too damn cold for a nightly walk, I lounged on the sofa and watched Hawaii Five-O again, and for the first time viewed V for Vashon – The Patriarch. Even though I was walking in on the middle of the story it caught my interest. In it, a crime family boss works a clever plot to frame McGarrett for putting his son in jail and killing his grandson. They arrange a hit on McGarrett in a parking garage. But unbeknownst to the hit man his gun only has blanks and when McGarrett returns fire the hit man is killed, but no gun is found and McGarrett is prosecuted for murder 2. His only witness who could verify the hit man fired a gun is the most respected attorney in the state (so we are told), an absolutely unimpeachable witness. But on the witness stand he mysteriously recants. So McGarrett is convicted and stripped of his police powers while the case goes on appeal.

So the search is on, for the missing gun, but also to solve the mystery of why this eminently respected attorney would give false testimony in what had all the signs of a setup orchestrated by the crime family boss as revenge. Clearly the boss had some sort of blackmail to hold over the attorney. But what could it have been?

Oh…oh…I Know…I Know…! Or I should have known. But time passes, and sometimes you forget how it was. Mysterious phone calls made to the attorney’s office that were uncharacteristically not returned, tweak the attention of one of the Five-O team. They trace it to a young man convicted of buying pot and sentenced to a prison term. Are we getting warmer? It seemed he was trying to get the eminently respectable attorney to represent him at his trial. Now he’s in the same prison block as the son of the crime family boss. Perhaps he was passing messages from the crime boss’s son to the attorney. But why would they use him to get to the eminently respectable attorney? What could Possibly have been the connection between such an eminently respectable attorney, a crime family, and a young guy whose only conviction was a pot offence? Getting warmer? They go to his last known place of residence to look for clues. It turns out to be a Very Upscale apartment…something this young guy could not possibly afford on his own. Warmer? It was being rented by the attorney. Getting hot are we?

Yes, yes…the big reveal at the end was that the eminently respectable attorney was having a homosexual affair, which of course led to his being blackmailed by the crime boss, because homosexuality and blackmail go together like apple and pie! 

The producers trotted out this Very Good Looking (to my eyes anyway) longhaired blond guy…

 

…who I swear they must have voice coached for hours to get that faggoty voice down Just Right: not too campy, but just enough for the audience to catch on to what is going on even before he calls the eminently respectable attorney an old queen. Because that’s how the homos talk to each other, just ask Joe Leland (aka Frank Sinatra) in The Detective. And of course everyone knew back then that those longhaired hippy freaks were all homos too because what Real Man would wear his hair like a girl. Do you know, says beautiful young gay guy, what happens to people Like Me inside? You need friends, protection…I had to do it. What, audition for the part? Cue the actor playing the district attorney to say “Get Him Out Of Here” with just the right amount of masculine disgust on his face and in his voice. And of course the words Gay, let alone Homosexual, were never actually uttered. This is family friendly TV. Emmys For Everyone!

Well thank You for taking me back to the happier simpler days of my youth MeTV. Or at least reminding me to be more careful what I watch on the temporally displaced airwaves. Not everything on MeTV is memorable.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Could Stop Living In The Past If The Past Could Stop Living In Me…

December 9th, 2017

A Coming Out Story, Episode 23: Consulting The Oracle

…in which our hero consults with a world renown and highly respected seer to learn what the F*** is going on with him!

Episode 23 of A Coming Out Story…Here.

A Coming Out Story – Main Page…Here.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story, Episode 23: Consulting The Oracle

October 9th, 2017

I Don’t Want To Hate The World…I Really Don’t….

Facebook helpfully sends you these little notices to look back on your Facebook past. You click on the link and get a feed of every post you’ve made on that particular day, going back through the years. Often it’s fun and enlightening. Sometimes it reminds you of things you’d rather forget. Like the day the best cat to ever come into my life got run over by a car in front of my house.

Today it was this, from October 9, 2011…

Of all the life experiences I’ve had that I could absolutely have done without, getting lectured by a guy I loved very much and thought of very fondly for 40 years about how I need to look elsewhere because life in the closet has damaged him too much is probably right at the top of that list.

When I told you that it was falling in love with you when we were both young that freed me forever from any possibility of living in the closet, I thought you’d feel proud. But I was twisting the knife in your heart wasn’t I?

I don’t want to hate the world. I really don’t. But some days I really do.

Further down in Facebook memory lane, there was this on October 9, 2008…

[Bruce Garrett] …is still reeling from a conversation he had yesterday with his first crush…

That would have been the “It’ll happen…things are better than you know…” conversation. Wow…full circle, almost, on October 9.

Here on the blog, but not Facebook, on October 6 2006 it was this

So for years now…34 years to be exact…I’ve been throwing these little messages in a bottle out into the world, where, hopefully, they would eventually find there way to a certain someone.  So what happened between us back when we were both teenagers is pretty central to who I am today.  So I finally got a reply.  After 34 years of searching for him I finally found him.  So we talked.  For just over an hour we talked.  You have to expect that 34 years is a lot of time for things to happen.  And things did happen.  Many things he told me about.  And many things I can only guess at from what he would only allude to.  He sounds just like he always did.  It was like picking up the phone and talking to him back in 1972.  It was eerie.  It was wonderful.  It was thrilling.  It was disturbing.  He’s the same guy he was back then.  And he’s different.  And things have happened in 34 years.  Many things. 

And I feel like…a gently whirling dust devil just suddenly smacked into me and threw parts of me that no one has ever touched or disturbed in 34 years reeling into the air, scattered across the sky, and now I’m just standing here becalmed, watching it all lazily settle back down, and I know it will still be me when it does, but different, and I don’t know what will happen next because those parts of me ran so old and so deep and so still…

It’s all there, gathered by these quick little online notes across the years of October.  It was December of 1971 he first put his arm around me and my heart shot into the stratosphere and later that evening, that I was able to finally come out to myself because of it. It was March of 2016 we spoke our final, angry words at each other. 

Life goes on…you take your hits and you get back up, dust yourself off, move on and get back to work. Because there is no growing up, there is only growing. And the opposite of that is dying. And dying isn’t something you want to waste your life doing. Yeah it hurts. Sometimes it hurts like a sonofabitch. You can let it beat you down, or you can take it as proof that you’re still alive, still growing, still moving forward. Eventually you get use to it. Eventually you move beyond it. Eventually.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Don’t Want To Hate The World…I Really Don’t….


The Rain, The Park, And Other Kids…

Posted to Misc Cartoons.  What it’s like growing up in a world where you don’t exist…

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

July 17th, 2017

Having The Prom You Never Had

Wow…so many conflicting feelings about this…

At prom for gay adults, a second chance at a night worth remembering

Leland Gray, a 30-year-old manager at a local HVAC company, dreamed up the event and organized it in his spare time. So many of his gay friends had shared similar stories of regretting prom, just like he had. They’d been scared or confused or trying to be something they weren’t to please their parents.

“Doing it our way this time around.” That’s what Leland had written on the online page he created to promote the event a couple months ago.

He’d expected a few dozen people to come.

He had to cut off ticket sales at 250.

I’m not conflicted for the grownups still aching for their inner teenager to finally have their prom night. I’m happy for them. But who would I have asked…who would have gone with me…those are deep waters I might not want to disturb.

Had I lived in a time when gay kids could be open about it and figure out amongst ourselves who was a good match for whom, the dates we would have actually taken to a prom might surprise the adults we later became. But we did not grow up in that world, and my school was a small one. We had to hide, often even from ourselves because knowing could be fatal. It was survival. And that meant you couldn’t date, couldn’t even talk about it among your friends let alone your family, and couldn’t tell who was right for you, and who was not.

In a different world it might more likely have been some kid from another school that I met at the church Coffee Shop in Rockville, or elsewhere…maybe some gay teen social event organized by some caring supervising adults who just want to make sure that every kid gets a chance at that first magical romance. When you are few you have to network in ways others don’t. And it’s something else that grieves me to think about, so I try not to very much, that in that other imaginary better world I might have met that one special teenage heart that I never got a chance to meet in the world I that did grow up in, and now will never know.

There was no prom for me, and I don’t think there ever will be. But it’s good that some of us are reclaiming that ground now, while there is still time left. If you lucked out and settled in with The One, and the two of you didn’t have your prom, you should go organize one. It’s never too late to dance that one magical night.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Having The Prom You Never Had

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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