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You Don't Seem...
By C. Brian Smith

I was in the seventh grade when I began realizing that there was a decent chance I might be gay.

What a fucking bummer.

When you are a potentially homosexual twelve-year-old living in Fairfield, Connecticut -- built like a middle linebacker, son of devout Irish Catholic parents -- concepts like "just going through a phase" and "normal adolescent experimentation" become remarkably comforting. Unfortunately, other concepts are even more comforting, like "penis."

It didn't help my confusion that, as a child, my only interaction with a gay man came once a month when my mother would take me to get my haircut at her beauty salon in Westport called "Richards." Richard, the owner, was what you'd expect from a "Richard" who owned a beauty salon in Westport, CT called "Richard's." A steady stream of Andrew Lloyd Webber flooded the lavender room and Richard's chest hair would often "tickle" the back of my neck while he trimmed my bangs. One night, after his boyfriend left him and opened a competing salon across the street called "Bobby's", Richard, sobbing uncontrollably on my mother's shoulder, turned to me and said, "You're so lucky you're not a fag, Brian. Everything about a gay man is sticky and messy."

On the way home that night, I remember asking Mom how Richard knew I wasn't gay.

"Honey, it's just obvious. And besides, if you were gay, you wouldn't have that stack of magazines under your bed. Now get inside…I have to hem your Technicolor Dreamcoat for opening night."

What Mom didn't realize was that I had actually won the collection of glossy porn mags in a circle jerk contest with some kids from the country club the previous summer. "Dude, you are quick," Justin said, as he relinquished ownership to his father's assortment of Ebony Lips.

And there those Lips remained, under my bed, gathering dust, like batteries and duct tape in a post-9/11-red-state-ranch-house bomb shelter. I couldn't break my mother's heart and explain that they'd…never been…"used". I'm pretty sure she still checks under my bed when I come home for the holidays, desperately seeking a sign that this dreaded phase has come to an end. Eagerly awaiting the cable bill for years, on the off chance that a $3.00 Playboy Channel charge might appear. Longingly yearning for a normal, horny, adolescent son who beats off to her Victoria's Secret catalog.

A solvable world so she could sleep at night.

But she had a right to be confused, because my sexuality didn't really make a whole lot of sense. And for some, it still doesn't.

When I tell people I'm gay, the most common response is one that, for a long time, I took as a compliment.

"You're gay? No fucking way!"

"No you don't understand... I really am a homosexual."

"Really? Whoa."

(Then) "Well at least you're not all queeny like…y'know…Richard Simmons."

Which is reassuring at first. But after a while it begins to sound a lot like:

"At least you're a light-skinned nigger!"

My Uncle Bob, upon hearing the news, said: "I'm fine with it, just don't go turning into some sort of flight attendant on me...okay, Shirley?!"

Okay, Uncle Bob, I'll try not to turn into some sort of flight attendant on you. And don't call me Shirley.

But I pardon these fools, since, for many years I took solace in the same logic. I psychologically marked an asterisk next to my sexuality, preserving the opportunity to appeal the verdict at a later date.

Of course I'm not the only gay man in the world with straight man tendencies… it just really seemed that way when I was thirteen. I mean, I didn't see all the fuss about rainbows. I was Alex P. Keaton for Halloween. I washed my face with Dial Antibacterial soap and only recently began waxing my back… and on, and on and on, ridiculously masking the unmaskable reality that I, Brian Smith, longed for a phallic presence in my… life. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. (But it might be fun to know who is blowing the weatherman…)

Regardless, I wasn't ready to pick out curtains just yet. As I neared my seventeenth birthday, I concocted one last-ditch Hail Mary to try and ditch the gay.

I was a virgin. If I could somehow manage to bed a woman, the sheer magnificence (and normalcy) of her vagina might heal my sinful, loathsome ways. Jesus would stop hating me. Uncle Bob would stop calling me Shirley. And I'd stop getting boners at urinals.

So I found myself a lady.

Kelly Quinn was smart, much smarter than I. She was tough, much tougher than I. And she was horny. Much, much, hornier than I. We'd sneak out of study hall (I went to one of those fancy boarding schools with a lake and a golf course and a black student). We'd go outside and grope at each other's privates for a bit. She'd say really scary things like, "I could do this all night." But luckily for me the bell would ring, and call us all back into the dorms.

While my friends would return blue-balled and frustrated, I was thrilled to have survived another rehabilitation session. Sure it was unpleasant. Sure it made me a little nauseous. But so does wheatgrass.

If you're an alcoholic, a six-pack will just piss you off. The same could be said for how Kelly was finding our twenty minutes of light petting each night. So, at the end of the year she invited a group of us down to her parents' beach house in Old Lyme, CT, where she promised we'd be able to make "all sorts of noise".

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