Thursday, January 7, 2010

Craigslist, Circa 1982

Once upon a time, whenever a person desired knowledge, she or he would go to a "library." Libraries were wonderful places because they were filled with a multitude of books. Books were prized because of the vast, varied and detailed information they contained.

Libraries are quaint antiques now that they have been replaced by the Google search box, but I thought many of you would like to know why any sane 15 year old when leave his home to go a library: that WAS the internet! At least for me.
In the early 1980's gay culture was not underground but it certainly wasn't a part of main-stream culture like it is now. When the movie "Making Love" was broadly released in theaters in 1982 it was fairly controversial. There are actual big-name movie stars (Micheal Ontkean and Harry Hamlin) who KISS in the movie!! So, unlike today where any 15 year old american kid can post an ad to meet for sex on Craigslist, it just wasn't that easy in 1982.
Use that context to imagine how thrilled I was to discover a healthy selection of gay-related books at my local library. I skimmed or read every one of them. One of my favorites was a nice fat volume of "case histories." Really, this book was soft porn. It was such a rush to read about the first gay sexual experiences of other teenagers. And you can guess how much my imagination was expanded after I read those stories, not to mention how horny they made me.
By the end of June in the summer between Sophomore and Junior years of high school, I was on the prowl. But how could I safely meet another guy near my age?
Did I mention that the library was my internet? Eventually I learned that the bathroom stalls at the library could be used to post my very own Craigslist ad. I specifically wanted to meet guys near my age so I wrote "15 year old looking for similar age. 415-490-3592. Ask for Cameron."
No, my name is not Cameron.
After a few weeks of racing to the phone every time it rang (it was usually for me anyway) I finally got my first call. He had a southern accent, a Texas accent actually, and he seemed to be intelligent and pleasant. But he definitely wasn't 15. When I asked him about his age he said "over 18 but not by much." I was trembling with nervousness the whole time we spoke and when he pressed me to set a time and place to meet him I panicked a little. The guy did not sound like my romantic ideal but no one else had called and I was still kicking myself for shutting down the kid who nervously asked if I was "the one who wrote Shawn Morris a note." After debating whether I was about to meet a serial killer, I bit my lip with anxiety and decided to be bold and not a fearful whiner. I picked a time (7pm the next night) and a place (a park within walking distance of my house) to meet.
Of course I was shaking with nervous anticipation at 6:50 when I began my walk to the park. But all during the walk I gave myself a pep talk. "You can do this." "If you don't like the look of him you can just say that something came up and you have to go." "Stop being nervous! You need to be in control." "I wonder what he'll be like?" "I wonder what he'll want to talk about?"
Tex, as I now think of him, was a little late.

When the silver Datsun 280z first turned into the parking lot, I knew the driver was my man. There was something in the way the car moved; it was like a feline searching for prey, crouched and creeping slowly, ready to pounce.

Tex knew I was his boy, I'm sure, because I was obviously waiting for someone and obviously nervous as hell. As the 280z pulled near me, Tex leaned over to roll down the passenger window. He motioned with his hand to come to him, then said "Hey" as I came near. "You're Cameron, right?"


"Want to hop in and we can go somewhere and talk?"

I never saw Tex outside of his car. However, from what I could tell looked to be in his mid 30s. He was tall with a medium build, a wide, soft face and a shaved head. He was not a stud nor was he completely unattractive. If I had passed him on the sidewalk I wouldn't have noticed him.

Although I was nervous about getting into his car, I trusted his look enough to open the door and slide into the low bucket seat. At worst, I knew I could out-run him and although he was bigger than me I felt confident that a hard kick to his nuts would be enough to get away from him if I needed to.

The car smelled faintly like both cigarettes and cologne. "We can't park here," he said. "Do you know a place to go?"

"Um. No..." I thought this was a weird question. We agreed to meet at the park...if we were going to go somewhere else, wouldn't we have met there??

He drove out of the park and turned right onto a main road. I was nervous that someone might see me in the car, so I sunk even lower into the seat. As he drove, he asked me some basic questions, several that he had already asked on the phone like: "how old are you?" and "Have you ever done anything with a man before?" I answered truthfully that I was fifteen and that I never done anything with anyone.

"I'll bet you jack-off a lot?" I blushed a little and said "Yea."

We had driven a few blocks past the park before he made a U-turn and said, "That looks like a good place." It was an empty church parking lot. He pulled into the center of the lot, somewhat away from both the road and the entrance of the church. I was not raised in a church-going family but nevertheless, sitting alone with Tex in that parking lot made me uncomfortable. It seemed disrespectful. As a southerner I would have thought it would weird him out too, but I guess not.

He turned the ignition off and turned toward me. He gave me a small smile and said "you're a cute kid."


"So what do you think about when you jack off?"

"Mostly certain guys at school."

"What do you think about exactly?"

"Just, you know, being close to them and making out and stuff."

"What kind of stuff?"

"I don't know. Nothing in particular. I just think about being with them."

I was too naive to understand that I was not providing the right answers. Tex just looked at me for a minute then said, "Do you think you'd like to make out with me?"

I guess I knew that this moment would come, the moment when I would be forced to decide whether to touch him or not, but I still didn't feel prepared to answer. He did not make me feel exactly comfortable, yet I didn't feel endangered by him either. I didn't want to be rude so I said in a clear, adult-like voice "Yes."

He leaned his now-large looking torso toward me and wrapped his long arms completely around me. As he leaned his face in toward mine, I smelled a strong cigarette odor. Little did Tex know that there was no bigger turn-off for me than that particular smell. Instantly a mental picture of my father popped into my head. Between Tex's age and the cigarette smell, I suddenly felt like I was about to make out with my father, a truly revolting idea.

As our lips touched and his taste was slightly minty, I closed my eyes and relaxed a little. This is NOT your father. There is no reason to panic.

Before too long the kissing turned into groping. Tex would lead and I would follow. After a little while, Tex pulled away and said, "Have you ever seen a man's cock?"


Tex smiled. Then he undid the huge, silver buckle of his belt. His was a belt any Texan would be proud to wear.

His belt undone, he unzipped his fly and pushed back with his shoulders into his seat and slid his pants down. I watched, mesmerized.

"Go ahead, take it out and touch it."

I leaned in close and rubbed my hand across his boxer-clad crotch. I was entranced by the firmness just beneath the material. I leaned closer to enable a firm grip.


Before Tex dropped me back at the park he said, "I'll call you and we can do this again soon. Maybe we can take a bubble bath together."

"Ok, that might be fun." But even as I said it I knew I didn't want to see Tex again.

Between the park and home I had to cross through the fields of my high school. Once I was certain I was alone near the middle of the fields, I said aloud to myself in a most congratulatory voice, "Fifteen and not a virgin! Woot!"

I felt exhilirated by my first sexual experience. I felt free and I felt much more mature. I was on a natural high as I relished the idea that being gay no longer meant being alone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Seriously Suicidal

November of my sophomore year of high school was a private hell.

While I was sad when I realized that my crush would never be interested in me, the bloody "FAG" written on my locker hit me really hard. Seeing those three letters directed so hatefully at me pushed me deeper into the closet. And the deeper in I was, the more lonely I felt. As each day of November came and went, I slowly spiraled from feeling lonely to being depressed to feeling that I could never feel any emotion again.

As anyone who has fought depression knows, the suffering feeds on itself and can become a sink-hole that is impossible to escape. The over-powering gloom ultimately renders you completely powerless. Anyone or anything that had previously brought happiness becomes joyless and empty. Then, when you realize that you've lost the ability to enjoy anything, you become certain that you will never feel happy again. You feel like the walking dead. You go through the motions of each day but you don't experience any of it. You become an observer in your own life. And then you ask yourself: what's the point? Why continue to live?

During my very worst week in November I spent most of my time daydreaming about how to create the biggest spectacle I could when I killed myself. I ultimately decided that if I was found life-less and hanging from a tree in the central courtyard of my high school then I would at least have made a statement. As I finalized my plans I came to the point where I felt I had to do it. Or not.

After a really horrible two days I realized that I was too chicken to kill myself. Once I knew I didn't have the guts to do it, I decided that I needed to make something positive out of my life. That realization marked my turning point. Although there was a period a few months later when I was pretty depressed, once I had successfully overcome the demons of suicide, I have never had to battle significant depression again. I know that lots of people take meds to cope and/or spend their lives in an on-again off-again fight with depression. I am thankful that I am not one of them. As an adult I feel generally positive and I feel like I can cope with just about anything. And I have never been to therapy or taken anti-depressants. I say this to give others hope. It *IS* possible to permanently put all the dark days behind you and move forward.

My serious flirtation with suicide has made me both forever thankful for life and forever aware of the special pain that being closeted and gay can cause. It's no surprise to me that gay teens have a high suicide rate.

I grew up a lot during my sophomore year of high school and by the late spring I was comfortable enough with myself to get serious about meeting other gay teens. I was somewhat, but not entirely, successful.