Two of my best friends around this time was a couple, both named Michael, with whom I had worked. I had known them both before they got together as a couple and, as is often the case, I didn’t see them as much after they became a couple. At that time, though, they were members or Metropolitan Community Church on Eureka Street in the City and following my therapists advise about getting involved with gay people in non-sexual. non-alcohol related environments, I came to the church a couple of times. I enjoyed singing the hymns and the ritual but didn’t feel comfortable with taking communion or becoming more active in the church. One Sunday in which I did not go to church, one of the Michaels told me that there had been a cute black man there that he thought I would have been interested in. That motivated me to go the following Sunday which was Labor Day weekend, 1981..
In church, we were several rows behind the black guy that I was there to cruise. I don’t remember too much about what happened in the church but I do remember following him out of the church for a few blocks until he was on Castro. I don’t remember if he turned around or what exactly happened, but somehow I must have got his attention and I invited him for coffee. Although he was polite, he pretty much brushed me off, saying that he was in a relationship.
I don’t remember whether I was particularly disappointed. I know that I didn’t continue to visit M.C.C. much and saw less and less of Michael and Michael as they became more withdrawn into their relationship.
At some point around this time, I had decided to go back to school to get my Registered Nurse license. I had been working as a Licensed Psychiatric Technician for some years and it seemed that I worked a lot harder and had far less say in what I did, for less money than the R.N.’s. Because I was a fairly big guy, when a patient was difficult to manage, I would be called upon to manage the patient. This was often decided by petite women and it seemed to be no problem for them to put me in harm’s way. It was a pretty good motivator to get me back in school!
One day, close to the Christmas break in 1981, while riding the streetcar from City College, I saw somone that looked familiar and we both got off at Castro Street. We struck up a conversation and it was the same guy, Milton, that I had followed out of church some weeks or months before. Apparently the relationship he had been in had deteriorated and he was more amenable to having coffee with me and even coming home with me. He had a heavy Southern accent and he explained he was from Texas. He also seemed to have a bit of a stutter and ended almost every sentence with “…and all that there.” Conversation really wasn’t my interest, though, since I had not really developed many social skills myself other than what was needed to get someone to go to bed with me. I got him to my house and had my way and then thought up a lie to get rid of him as quickly as I could. Even though I deeply longed for a meaningful relationship, my habit was to treat men like disposable paper cups and to toss them as soon as I had used them.
For some reason, the little Southern bumpkin asked me for my phone number. I gave him one of my “trick” cards that had the phrase “availability subject to change without notice,” so he would be clear that repeats were not always welcome. I told him I had to go to Safeway and he walked me down to the supermarket and we said good bye and as soon as he was out of sight, I turned around to walk home. I didn’t really need anything from the store at all. I just knew how to politely get rid of guy when I was done with them.
Surprisngly, Milton called me either a few days later or a week later. I think I was on my way to Washington State to visit family and I told him I would be back in another week or two, never expecting him to keep my number that long and certainly not expecting him to actually use it! Life was fast back then and nobody waited around a couple of weeks for anybody. There were men everywhere ready to satisfy any need one might have… as long as it didn’t take more than an hour or so. Kissing and sqeezing bodies together could almost feel like intimacy sometimes… without the bother of haiving to remember anybody’s name.
“Milton?” I think I must have asked when the phone rang after I returned fromWashington. “Oh yea!” I might have said when I heard the thick Southern accent and the “…and all that there.” But he WAS cute and I probably WAS horney. Why not have a repeat? Why not use him again for a few more minutes of pleasure? It was easier than having to go out and actually find someone and having to play all the preliminary games of pretending to be interested in their name and working the conversation around to sex. This guy was ready and available. Why not?
The problem was that the next time I saw Milton, something happened. Even though I didn’t really know him at all, there was something about him that felt so familiar… and comfortable… when I looked at him, I felt like I had known him forever. I felt like I could see deep into his soul and our souls felt connected somehow. What was that? Something was happening and I wasn’t sure what it was and it was disturbing. On the one hand, this seemed like such a sweet man, but on the other hand, such sweetness made me suspicious. I thought to myself that it must be a veneer and that underneath this veneer was just another jaded, social barfly looking for the next trick. And if he was for real, then he was really just too nice for me anyway!
In the late seventies and early eighties, I guess I had aspired to be a “Castro clone.” As a young man, before I realized I was gay, I never really fit in with any male groups. I never fit on any team and in fact would usually have been the last person chosen when choosing up any team. Before I realized I was gay, I had always felt like an outsider, looking for my people and an identity. Being a hippie satisfied that need to some extent but those days had gone by. Gay people in San Francisco had taken the sterotype of the Marlboro man and made it our own. We didn’t identify with the swishing sissy stereotypes of the past. We were macho men and the Village People told us so. We could be whoever we wanted to be. Identities were like “drag,” -something you could put on. The Castro clone wore a shorter hairstyle than hippies had and usually had a mustache. A Pendleton shirt and tight levi’s with butch boots completed the look.
I had been a “Castro Clone” for several years when I met a guy named Randy at my job in the adult psychiatric unit. We were both psychiatric technicians and about the same age. He was good with patients and I had respect for others that were compassionate toward the patients and took their jobs seriously as there were so many in mental health that did not. Randy was not really a “Castro Clone.” Randy was more of a “Pacific Heights” gay man which eseentially meant that he was a little more upscale, spending more money on clothes and hair products than the clones. He had beautifully styled blond hair and had a great personality and was somewhat more sophisticated than me. We were both taking prerequisites for the City College R.N. program which I eventually got into but for some reason, Randy did not get in, and ended up going to a private college.
I think my mom had always aspired to a higher social status than she was born into. Essentially she was a poor country girl from a family that had migrated from Texas to the Pacific Northwest. I know she finished grade school and I am pretty sure she went to high school but I am not absolutely positive that she graduated from high school although she self educated herself throughout her life. My dad had a third grade Arkansas education. My mom taught us good manners and sometimes would even seem to put on “airs” as they say. I have pictures of her where I think she must be way over dressed for any ocassion that could have ever taken place in our lives. She had a forehead lift in her forties and a facelift in her late sixties or early seventies. She wanted us to be educated and act like we had some sense. She often talked about how people didn’t know how to “think” and she wanted us to be able to think and analyze various perspectives of a subject and not just blindly follow others. From what I know about her background, I do think she rose above her background and I suppose that my stepfather, George, might be given some of the credit for that, as he did have an Associate Degree and did make fairly decent money and was from the northern big city of Chicago.
My pedigree was more “rural country” than big city sophisticate and ever since I realized I was gay and had arrived in the big city of San Francisco, I was always impressed with big city culture and the perceived sophistication of others. I was impressed with people that could mix a cocktail and carry on superficial chit chat as I had mastered neither. Randy had crystal glasses in which he would serve champagne at his sophisticated parties in Pacific Heights. He had trendy sweaters that he carried on his back with the arms loosely tied around his neck just in case he got cold and needed to put it on. I learned to be as pretentious as possible so I could fit in with him and his friends when he invited me to his home for a cocktail party in which he served champagne in real Waterford crystal. I brought my new boyfriend, Milton, and the whole time, I felt awkward as Milton was the only person of color there and had such a thick black, country, Texas accent. It was embarrassing to some extent.
“How could this guy be MY boyfriend,” I asked myself? How is this ever going to work? I thought of myself as so sophisticated or at least aspiring to be sophisticated, and Milton just didn’t fit into my life at all, but yet, when we were alone, he was everything I needed and wanted. I found myself in a dilemma. I was falling deeply in love with a guy who seemed totally wrong for me. He was the wrong height, for instance. I much preferred men shorter than me and Milton was the same height and could even wear the same clothes as me! I much preferred “bad boys” that had a bit of an edge to them that tended to also be the kind of narcissists that treated others like crap. Milton was too “nice!” He treated me respectfully and was actually sweet!
Milton might have had his qualms about the relationship too. He often reminds me that when he first met me, my apartment was always a mess. He reminds me of dishes piled up on the sink for days even though I did have a dishwasher. He was brought up to make the bed in the morning after he got out of it and I never cared to do so since I usually planned to get back into it anyway. He was not sure if I was right for him and I was certainly not sure if he was right for me. Every sentence seemed to end with “all that there” and I started sounding like my mom did when she nagged us about our English, nagging Milton about his English, grammer and pronunciation.
I was still seeing my therapist, Jim, at the time and discussed my dilemma. I struggled with ambivalence toward Milton. He didn’t fit into the Pacific Heights sophisticated gay life I was then aspiring to but yet he felt like my soulmate. I even brought Milton to therapy a couple of sessions so Jim could see what I meant.
Jim’s insight was a revelation for me. In one session, he started out asking about my father and mother and their backgrounds and helped me see that my aspirations to jaded sophisticated Pacific Heights gay person, was not really who I was at my core. From my parents I had inherited a bit of “country” even though I may have travelled away from that inheritance and had buried it as much as I could. It was still there, though. I was still a sweet, small town, unsophisticated country boy at my core and that was why I felt such a connection with Milton. In the big city sea of sophisticated bad boys, I had connected with my roots. Milton was my roots and would become my rock. He was my essence and my soul. Once I came to terms with this, it didn’t take long before I invited Milton to move in with me.
In the many years since those early days with Milton I have known people that told me about someone they felt an attraction to, but then they rejected because they didn’t feel like that person was their “type” or would fit in with their friends. I always want to tell them how I felt initially about Milton and how wrong I was. I always see these young women attracted to “bad boys” because they are hot and sexy and then expect them to be “good boys,” or worse than that, they expect the bad boys suddently be like their girlfriends, after they get involved. Men are always going to be men. Bad boys are going to stay bad boys. They don’t change after you get involved with them. You can’t fix them. Don’t dismiss those people that come into your life that don’t seem to be your type. Type is sometimes just a delusional fantasy you have created. Don’t dismiss someone if they don’t seem to fit in with your friends. Friends can’t ever give you what a life partner, a soulmate can give you. It isn’t all about just chemistry or hotness or height or weight or other superficial things. I see so many lonely people out there that have these fantasy partners that will never exist.