Sunday, November 13, 2011
That Hippie Free School, and the Rigid Position
I strongly advise reading the whole comment thread to the previous post. Lots of wonderful thoughtful stuff.
This made me laugh: Or, you could just become gay. Solves the "ugly sex" problem! Creates others ... from Jarrett.
During the the years at my boarding school -- what I fondly refer to as "my hippie free school" -- one of the many wonderful things that happened to me was encountering openly gay men. That was not so common, in the early 70s, as it is now. I barely knew homosexuals existed: I certainly had no clue that I actually knew any of them.
But my room mate was gay, and our school was one of the few safe places in Spokane, Washington, at the time. Gay boys and men were in the house a lot. So it was my very good fortune to meet the people before I met the stereotypes. There were, of course, people I liked and people I didn't. But I was on my home ground, surrounded by friends, so I felt entirely safe. I could absorb the culture without any fear of getting lost in it; I could flirt without committing myself to any identity.
My orientation was obvious to me. I liked girls. I've always liked girls. The supposed latency period that Freud mentions, when boys purport not to like girls? I skipped that. There has never been a time in my life, since first grade, when I haven't had a serious crush on someone female. I am, as an old friend of mine once put it (in mild exasperation), "heterosexual to a fault."
So the wonderfulness of being around gay men had nothing to do with discovering my orientation. It had to do with being an object of admiration. I was a weird kid, in middle school. A dork. I read books all the time. My hair was too long. I am congenitally incapable of following a party line, any party line: I was out of place even among the weird kids and the outcasts. Being associated with me in any way was a social death sentence.
And then -- there I was at my hippie free school, fourteen years old, plump and inarticulate, with gorgeous flowing blond hair -- and I was the toast of the town. People admired me. They sought me out and chatted me up.
I blossomed. I suddenly found that I could talk. One of the longstanding reasons for my stumbling, almost stammering speech, was that I always dumbed it down. You didn't want to be using fancy words, if you were a teenager in Springfield, Oregon. You didn't want to let a word such as "inadvertent" or "malevolent" fall from your lips. You didn't want to get too clever.
But among these people, clever was a good thing. Words came pouring out of my mouth. I had, it turned out, lots and lots to say. (No doubt much of it was tiresome, but much is forgiven in a glowing teenager.) My hands came to life: I could gesture. I could throw my head back and laugh. I could unlock my wrists and hips and ribs, and let them sway. I could brush my hair out of my face, rapidly or languidly. My words and my body, for the first time, were free. The experience was transformative. I no longer had to hold myself like R. Crumb's Whiteman. I could be someone else.