It was 1951.
The boy next door and I went to the local town beach.
He was a year older than me. I was five.
It was when I first became physically close to someone outside of my immediate family.
Our bodies touched, and we put our arms around each other.
I liked the boy next door simply because he liked me back.
It’s 1955. I’m nine years old. I might have been the only nine year old on the planet who did not know a thing about the birds and the bees. All I remember was walking towards the center of town, and passing a much thinner version of the “Fonz” leaning on a picket fence.
With a look of utter hatred, he began yelling: “QUEER” over and over again.
When I got home, I asked my dad what a queer was. He said, “A QUEER is a boy who likes other boys” . His face had that twisted and contorted look of someone who was about ready to THROW UP.
With that successful effort on his part of non-verbal communications, I decided not to pursue the matter any further. From that day until the day he died, the subject of homosexuality was never brought up again.
A “homonym” is a word that is spelled the same way, pronounced the same way; and yet, can have two entirely different meanings. Such then, is the homonym of “LIKE”.
Today, if I were to tell a nine year old boy that: “You can like another boy without liking another boy”, might there be just the slightest bit of confusion? ……. Well – maybe; and then again, maybe not. I don’t know.
Is the cognitive void of sexuality being filled at an earlier age than it was almost sixty years ago? Or was I that “super sheltered” child , reared by “over protective” parents? I’m guessing the latter.
In either case, I knew an eight year old boy in the mid 1970’s who could accurately describe (as only an eight year old could) the technique involved in sexual intercourse. – ME? – I discovered THAT bit of information quite by “accident”…………………….
It was December of 1960. I’m fourteen and a half years old!
……… I was at a Catholic Men’s Retreat with my dad, in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. A “Retreat” is where Catholics stand-down – ie: “retreat” from the rigors and routine of daily life to reflect upon and reinvigorate their spiritual health . It was to be three days of reclusive self-examination in the monastic silence and peacefulness that embodies the very core of a Retreat.
Saturday afternoon, we gathered at the front of the old building at the back courtyard facing the blue and chilly waters of Narragansett Bay.We lined up in the traditional fashion of class, category and height to have our official Retreat Photograph taken. My dad is in the front row, and I am in the back row.
However, let’s go back to the previous evening.
……… on FRIDAY night, after a hearty dinner, we all gathered in the meeting room around a record player. The guest moderator – a priest whose Order identifies with a large cross in front of his cassock – inserted a record into the player, and announced that it was a tutorial on how Catholic parents were to talk to their Catholic kids about ……… SEX!
Now up to this time, I was taught by the Sisters of Mercy at Catholic School that the word “sex” was found in forms and questionnaires asking for one’s gender – as in “male” or “female”, with a space for a check mark by each. My curiosity about “sex” was satisfied; although I still pondered what the Church referred to as the “miracle of birth”; in that God creates Life, and one should be “married” before carrying on with any shenanigans. Why, all it took was one prolonged french kiss; and “WHAMMO”, another unwed teen pregnancy – because God saw them kissing, and assumed they were married.
So much for “God knows all things”, eh ? The drama begins as the LP spins .
Here is the perfect Catholic family, sitting in the living room with their two children, a boy and a girl . During the quiet conversation with religious overtones, one of the children pops THE Question – “Where do babies come from ?”.
My wandering mind is now locked on that Victrola. Finally, an answer to a question that has been forever deferred to a time when “I’m old enough“.
Is is the Stork ? the Teenage Prolonged Poison Kiss? Or is it some other scenario that triggers Jesus to wave His magic wand and create a new life. I am about to find out, as the conversation begins. Although not word-for-word, all of the basic concepts are there – as I remember them, including the abundance of religious overtones ………..
The father speaks :
….. ” Well son, only God can create a new life; and in His infinite wisdom, he allows Man to assist Him in the co-creation of another human life by joining one man and one woman in the holy Sacrament of Matrimony. You see, Jesus guided your mother and I in our younger days to be together, fall in love and join with Him in the Holy Union of Marriage. Because of this Union, the Lord God has allowed us to help Him co-create a new life by a process known as INTERCOURSE.
“Gee Dad, what’s that?”
“I had a funny feeling you were going to ask me that, son. You see, when the Lord is ready to create a new member of our holy Roman Catholic family, He sends us a sign – a ‘signal’, if you will – that He is asking us to help Him create a new life. It is a varied and complex sign; but one that is instantly recognized, and a special bond between God, your mother and I makes its presence known (so to speak); for, it is in the most hallowed place within our home, that daddy’s blood-engorged penis is placed, ever so gently, into your Mother’s vagina; whereupon a series of hallowed thrusting movements in unison are climaxed with an ejaculation of sperm from the penis into the vagina; upon which thereunto billions upon billions of sperm swim frantically amongst the billions and billions of eggs until such time as one sperm successfully penetrates the wall of one egg, which the Lord God breathed unto it a soul, thereupon commencing the beginning of life that He bestowed upon our family.”
At THAT moment, I was shocked and bewildered. If looks could kill, my father would have been dead. Looking at him from across the room, I said in my loudest thought: “YOU DID WHAT TO MY MOM ?”. My father bowed his head, with a look of rejection combined with a slight smirk; as if to say to himself’: “Better that damn record player than ME !!!”.
That night, my Dad said not one word – nothing. Neither did I.
FINALLY, this made total sense. It was real, and it took a religious organization to tell me through a piece of vinyl spinning at 33 1/3 RPM’s.
All the next day, the confusion and bewilderment persisted. The thought of life emanating from a body part through which I urinate ran contrary to what the adults in my life have been telling me all along – that this “thing” in the middle of your body is a dirty embarrassment that needs to be cleaned often and cloaked from visibility.