Friday, May 20, 2011

Open Forum Friday: Little Sissies

A couple of weeks back, in one of my Friday open forums, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek entry about The Game—an exercise that some of my gay and lesbian elementary and middle-school teacher friends play in which they predict which kids in their class are going eventually to start showing up to all the local gay bars and pride events. I did mean the entry somewhat facetiously, even if some humorless readers privately accused me of smugness, or worse, of reducing gay behavior into an oversimplified feminine mold.

That wasn’t really my intent. In fact, my friends who play The Game insist that it can’t be reduced to figuring out which boys love Britney and Gaga best, or which little girls are handiest with an allen wrench. Often, they’ll say, it’s a matter of noticing which kids carry a spark of apartness from the others, and which seem to have a sense of self-awareness and self-editing that other kids might not. It’s the youths who already seem aware of how different they are from their peers, they tell me, that become objects of focus in The Game.

But, you know. The kid who’s memorized all the dance moves from “Judas” the day after it hit the internet is probably a candidate, too.

One of the themes that came up in many of the comments, however, mirrors a response I get in real life when I’m discussing the topic with real-life gay friends. There’s usually a moment in which someone shares something so stereotypically gay about his childhood that it causes him to throw up his hands and exclaim, “How could my parents not have known?!”

One dear friend of mine recalls from time to time, with hot cheeks, how fascinated he was with the little vials, tubes, and trays of tint atop his mother’s dresser. He will confide how, on the occasional day when his parents were out, he would secretly experiment, covering his face with makeup, admiring the amateur results, and then scrubbing himself clean before they returned home. He didn’t become a drag queen as an adult. He’s not especially effeminate. The fascination with makeup happened even before he was aware of his own sexuality—or even had a concept of what sexuality was.

I’ve had acquaintances who’ve confessed that they were more interested in their sisters’ Barbies than in their own G.I. Joes, and some who’ve told me how they longed to dress up as a princess for Halloween. When I was growing up, these weren’t mere quirks; crossing the line from approved activities for boys into the the toys and activities for girls would be accompanied not only by taunts from other kids, but from adults as well. I recall very clearly being taken aside by my second-grade teacher during recess and told that if I continued to side in the shade with the girls and make god’s eyes out of yarn and popsicle sticks instead of playing touch football with the boys, that everyone was going to think I was, and these were her exact words, a little sissy.

For the record, I stuck with the god’s eyes, thank you. I shunned competitive sports as a kid. Despite my father’s best attempts to teach me, I never was able to absorb the rules of football. I resisted being put into a Little League team. I hated basketball despite having the height for it. Later on I learned how to play lacrosse, but hated every moment of it—the same with tennis. I enjoyed swimming and biking and hiking and other physical solitary pursuits. But when it came to all the noisy competitive sports that boys were supposed to relish? I would rather have been sitting with the girls on the sidelines, thanks.

I’ll share two other “How could they not have known?!” moments from my childhood. As a five-year-old, I used to like to carry a purse. My mother discarded a black leather handbag when I was a little boy. It was an ugly, boxy thing with rigid metal jaws that opened with a snap at the top, carried with a small hand strap. And I loved it. For several months I carried it with me everywhere (which, for a five-year-old, means around the house and into the playground). Admittedly, it looked more like an old-fashioned doctor’s bag to me than the height of chic accessories. Plus I was mostly using it to transport hoarded cookies, my penny collection, and a massive amount of plastic dinosaurs and miniature Beefeaters, the two armies of which I’d send into battle against each other in the local sandbox.

The second is perhaps more telling. My parents—both of them—were big fans of the musical when I was growing up. There wasn’t any particular shame in it, in the fifties and sixties; the Broadway cast album and the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was a part of the popular music soundscape, and both my mom and dad loved a good show tune. (As long as it wasn’t from West Side Story, to which they’d both been overexposed in their teens.) I grew up with my mother playing selections from The Fantasticks and Carnival on the piano, while my dad hummed tunes from Bye Bye Birdie and Oliver!

I would’ve been four or five the first time I saw Thoroughly Modern Millie in the movie theater. My parents loved Julie Andrews after My Fair Lady, and I loved her for Mary Poppins, of course. While I didn’t understand a lick of the white slavery subplot and found Beatrice Lillie’s presence in the film frankly as terrifying as Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz, I enjoyed the rest of the movie so much that it’s been a lifelong favorite since. I was especially enchanted by Carol Channing, though. Her characterization of Muzzy van Hossmere in the movie is so bubble-headed, fizzy, and sophisticated that to a little kid like me it was like taking a first hit of champagne.

My parents had bought the Millie soundtrack for themselves, but it was I who wore out the LP on their turntable. I learned—and can still sing—every song. But I also decided, for some reason, that the Carol Channing songs I had to learn in Carol Channing’s own voice. Eccentric diction, broad vibrato, and all. So there I was, before first grade had even commenced, the youngest Carol Channing imitator in existence. I could do a gravel-throated rendition of “Jazz Baby” at the drop of a hat.

I didn’t grow up to be a particularly effeminate guy—or even a guy who particularly cares about effeminacy or masculinity. I still don’t know the rules of football. I still love musicals. I can still do Carol Channing. And I have a certain fondness for my messenger bag. But jeez. Stumbling around the house with a purse full of dinosaurs and beefeaters warbling about how my daddy was a wagtime chombone playah . . . well. How could they not have known?

I’m opening today’s Friday forum to my readers because I’m curious. Did you cross those lines of gender stereotyping in your youth? Were you chastised for it, or did you blaze your own fabulous trail? Did you have any of those “How could they not have known?!” moments?

Share them in the comments. Let’s learn from our pasts.


  1. Ah, another MILLIEphile! :-)

    And how nice that you grew up to hear so many guys moaning, "Ohhhhhh, do it again...."

    John in Atlanta

  2. John,

    And they do say "Oh, oh, oh, oh, OH!", too.

  3. Well,

    I was THE stereotypical little, effeminiate, sport-hating, limp-wristed, Barbra-worshiping (it's just not Christmas in my house until the Jewish girl belts out, "Guuuuuuuurls in white dressaaaaaaas, with bloooooooo satin sashezzzz.") little boy. I was in love with Susan Troy in 1st grade, because she looked like Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music.

    To butch me up, mom dressed me in plaid shirts and Sears Toughskin jeans (the ones with the guarunteed knees - how did she know I'd wear them out so quickly?). I looked more like a lesbian.



  4. my parents kept a blind eye to me and what i was to become in life. i played baseball and was never good at it i also played with dolls ad my idol was Paul Lynde i grew up discarded and teased often times beaten by my brother and dad for being a sissy but i struggled through. My outside family as well as aunts knew i was differnt and tried to tell my parents but of course they we not having it. i learned sex on the streets since my parents wouldnt tell me anything about it. i was at 8 a curious boy becoming more attracted to the Bad Assed types like bikers truckers etc.,, at 11 i started to seek them out having bjs and touching as a young boy i grew up seeking these men. and now that i am older i still seek the Redneck types that like to play rough.
    it wasnt till 1995 that i got in touch with my bisexual side and met my future wife. its funny how life throws a ball and then You catch it You have no idea what to do with it or what hit you
    Still to this day i seek the warmth and nasty things two or more Men share. i have never been in a closet even now my wife knows i like Men and have sex with Men shes okay with it. does that make me unusual perhaps but im human inside and out and if others have to have a closet i respect that.
    this was a great blog Sir brought back some memories for me.
    Sorry if i went on...i look forward to reading Your blogs.
    You have my deepest respect
    PJBOYTOY on twitter

  5. H' middle school I was told I carried my books the "wrong" way...

    And--In the livingroom of the farmhouse I grew up in, near the record player, was a foot stool. I used it as my own private stage to perform along with whatever original cast album was handy. I know I did "I Gotta Crow" flawlessly.

    I don't really remember it, but it was one of those stories my Mother told of her walking in to find me singing a capella (complete with gestures) my 5 year old version of "A Sadder But Wiser Girl..."

  6. Bubbinga,

    Those Toughskin jeans made EVERY LITTLE BOY look like lesbians. I don't know how Sears did it. That and the bowl cuts....

    I'm trying to resist really hard from my seasonal rant about how "My Favorite Things" is not by any stretch of the imagination a Christmas song, brown paper packages and snow on my lashes notwithstanding. For one thing, this isn't the proper season for that rant.

  7. BBPig,

    Oh dear, having Paul Lynde as an idol should've been a telling point. I used to be an Ernie Kovacs fan and loved his Percy Dovetonsils character as a kid.

    I know, how could they not know, right?

  8. FelchingPisser,

    You just triggered a memory in me, too. There definitely was a right way for boys to carry books (at the side, arms rigid) as opposed to the wrong way (cradled, or hugged at the chest, which is how girls were allowed to do it). I also now have definite memories of being scolded in school for incorrectly crossing my legs at the knees when I was sitting, as opposed to ankle on knee, which was the manly way.

    I wish I could've seen that "Sadder But Wiser Girl" performance. I'm snickering at it right now in my head.

  9. I guess I have always liked them used by someone else first....

  10. Jeez...I didn't really do anything unusual as a kid. I'm honestly trying to remember. I played baseball and basketball as well as swimming right up until High School when I decided to stop baseball because the guys on the team were stuck-up assholes and basketball because the coach had anger issues which made playing no fun. I hung out with guys about as much as girls growing up. In fact, I was the guy who all the tomboys would hang with because I did the most exciting things like climbing trees and exploring in the woods. I never played with makeup and only put on women's clothes once, to discover I didn't like them. My parents liked musicals, but it took me until middle school when I was in band to start to appreciate music of any kind, much less musicals. I did carry books close to my chest and crossed my legs at the knees, but so did all the men in my family and a lot of the boys at my school, so that wasn't really an issue.

    Now I'm wondering how the hell I ended up loving cock as much as I do.


  11. I can't remember doing anything out of the ordinary, except the time in sixth grade that my Halloween costume was drag. But there was a good reason for it. My family was very religious and my father didn't like doing things like Halloween, or Easter eggs, or Christmas trees. Those were pagan things and we were not supposed to do them.

    We partook a little bit (I remember painting eggs once or twice) but we kept a religious house.

    I wanted to do a costume and going in one of my sister's old dresses and and her old shoes was about as good as I could get. We had nothing else from which to make a costume.

    I liked competitive sports, I just wasn't very good at them. I ended up doing more singular sports activities, like biking.

    I have never been much of a show tunes person. I sang religious music a lot (I used to sing solo/duet/quartet/choir in church) and I like just about all music except most show music and rap (I can snore better than those guys sing).

    Am I gay? That is a difficult one to answer.


  12. What is it about Millie? I came from a very Christian family, which didn't allow for nearly any movies, yet somehow Millie snuck in. I guess it was because it had Mary Tyler Moore AND Julie Andrews in it, so how could it be bad?

    The answer is of course that it was incredibly naughty. Did my mother somehow not see that Carol Channing was doing all of her 'instructors'? Sheesh.

    It does remind me that one of my favorite romantic lines ever in a movie is "While I really truly DOOO prefer emeralds, we coulda made it on green glass"

  13. Ah - the original cast albums... I grew up (and tall, and strong) on Cabaret, West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie (and even now, I wish I could replicate Ann-Margaret's opening and closing reditions of the title song - those little wrist shakes!) and the like - with Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Short and Lionel Hampton as important counter-weights. A little later, I discovered my older brother's left-behind stash of stuff, including a 78 of Bille Holiday's "Gloomy Sunday", which sent me on an entirely different direction, a course I've never veered from since.

    And then there was the Judy At Carnegie Hall double album - I did stay up and sing 'em all. In James McCourt's flawless and densely-packed book, "Time Remaining", the narrator says "I would like to hear the Carnegie recording again because I can pinpoint the groove in which the engineers bleeped out Hank's voice as he stampeded down the middle aisle screaming Juuuudy - sit on my faaace!!!" My mother, a big Garland fan, took me to Campbell's funeral home to see her lying in state, which even at that early age I found a bit disturbing, and I was well away on the Upper East Side when the drag queen threw her drink at the cop's face and said "That's for Judy!", although I've been reaping the rewards (as have we all) ever since.

    I had no interest in makeup, purses or dolls - although I did find myself strangely aroused by the molded ass, with just a hint of a butt crack, on my G.I. Joe figure (and my mother, a single parent, suddenly entered the room and found me strangely aroused - I think that's when she started schemeing for a way to afford sending me to boarding school). I was also excited by a squat little jar of glycerine suppositories I found under the sink, and well before I was taught how to masturbate by a boy named Craig, found a certain satisfaction in shoving them into my tight little pucker. Craig, by the way, shared his knowledge and demonstrated his technique only after I had acceeded to his demand that I suck his cock in a pup tent in his back yard, an effort I was amply rewarded for by my first sight of cum spurting from a hard cock.

    I suppose my mother figured it out at some point, but we never discussed it - until I was in my 30s, and had fallen in love with a lovely man in New York. During a phone call, she noted that I seemed especially bubbly, and when asked why, I took a very deep breath and said "I'm in love with a 50 year old Puerto Rican named Louis Rodriguez". There was a generous pause, and then she said, "Oh - I'm so glad! Older men are much more stable." (And he was, and I wasn't, but that's an entirely different post, better suited to a discussion of love, not lust.)

  14. When i was young, between 10 -12, me and my brother and sister always played cowboy and indians and i always play an indian because they didn't wear a lot of clothing and also, we do staging and i almost always put a towel around my waist and fold it very short like a mini skirt. My parents were not at home when we did that. When i got a little older, i was not allowed to play sport with the other becaiuse i had to help my mom with the shores in the house, my two sisters were always gone right after lunch and i had to do the dishes all by myself, we were 10 kids in the house and when i had some times left, i had to do other thing to help my mom. When i wsa around 16, my father told me, just like that, that if i was gay, he'd kill me and it stays stuck in my mind for a long time and i had to hide myself from that. I got out with a female co-worker for 7 yeras but nothing happend because she was a lesbian herself, we talk about marrige but my mother told me to really think about that and we split up not far after that. I start going out in gay bar with my best friend when i was 40 because of what my father tolg me before. Now, i'm a little better with my life but still not enjoying fully but it's better than before.
    You're the first one that i say those things and i thank you for listening to me my friend. It help me with the healing man.


  15. I feel like I could fill a book with the short version of my response to this topic. So I'll just hit some of the first-to-mind highlights.

    I too adored the Broadway and movie musical soundtracks. Throughout my adolescence (and before), I'd save up my allowances and any other money I could get my hands on in order to rush to the record store and purchase another album. It was indescribably exciting to me to stand in front of the right record bin and leaf through the options availble. Unfortunately, I've still never heard many of the most "important" soundtracks because the man who ran the store would often insist on trying to help me pick out the "right one." He would urge me toward the big name shows like "Carousel" and "South Pacific," and - true New Englander that I am - I would immediately boomerang against all his suggestions and pick the most obscure albums I could find. Anybody else out there ever heard of "I Do, I Do!" or "Fade Out, Fade In"? I still have them - plus some of the original show posters..... (And "Millie" ranks high on my list also - "Jimmy" and "The Tapioca" are particular favorites - every scene that Millie's cute boyish love interest appeared in was my favorite).

    No sports. Or rather, only when forced to stand in the field by one sadistic gym teacher or another. I never understood the rules of any of them, never understood what I was expected to do, and still curse the coaches who assumed that all the boys "already knew the rules" and needed no teaching.

    But my single greatest contribution to this conversation has to be my childhood obsession with beauty pageants. On Saturday nights, when my parents would go out for their weekly "date," my grandmother would baby sit for us - a steady television diet of Lawrence Welk, wrestling (I really liked that!), and Miss Anything Pageants. I delighted in wrapping a sheet around my body and enacting the role of my favorite contestant of that particular night. And my gram never said a word to stop me.....which I appreciate immensely today. Then I started to organize beauty/talent in my neighborhood, starring myself as the emcee and coach-mentor of ALL the girls I talked into competing in them. It's amazing what great costumes I created for them out of old clothes and curtains.

    In Junior High, I told a friend that I had gotten a role in a "Christmas play" - and he ran around telling everybody that I was in a "Princess play." That became my nickname for the next couple of years, much to my chagrin (shame) then - one more rite of passage.

    Over the years, I learned how to look straight, walk straight, talk straight, and create a very effective shell to shield myself with. Now, people who newly learn that I'm gay often say, "Oh - I never would have guessed." And I find myself increasingly impatient with that reaction. Impatient with them for holding on to the stereotypes. Impatient with myself for wearing the shell so consistently and so well. Impatient with my continuing tendency all too often to hide and rewrite and revise and rework my own history and my own present in order to make "them" continue to "not know." There's a limbo world between the back of the closet and the bright light of Truty - and it has many shades of gray in it.

  16. Stupid typos! Of course, I meant to say "bright light of Truth." But the compulsion to correct that gives me the opportunity to add two things: (1) despite what my previous post sounds like, I'm currently "out" to far more people than I'm "in" to, and (2) Ingulphus' story of the drag queen throwing the drink in the cop's face while asserting "This is for Judy!" brings tears to my eyes. Incidentally, the record album my parents ever went out and bought for me was "Judy Garland's Greatest Hits." Maybe they did know, even then....

  17. When I was young I used to play with my sister and her dolls. I loved working with the flowering plants and ferns in the yard and I took a keen interest in paint, fabric and wallpaper swatches when Mom decorated part of the house. Although I was ambidextrous, I had zero interest in sports which disappointed my father terribly. However my sister (the lesbian) LOVED softball, basketball and golf.

    I remember being fascinated with the male form but not realizing that there was anything unusual about that. Apparently my eyes lingered a little too long in the boy's locker room in middle school because I was nicknamed "Homo" by my classmates. Their opinion of me was quite different from their parents who invariably thought I was an "A" student and who called me "a nice young man". They held me up to their children as an example to follow.

    Not knowing what "homo" meant, I didn't fight the nickname, so of course it spread. Let me tell you, the night we were talking about nicknames at the dinner table and I proudly told them what mine was.....well.....that didn't go over very well with the parents let me tell you!

    On the other hand I loved cars vintage cars and muscle cars, I had a paper route and I washed and detailed cars and boats to earn money. I was the first one to chip in and help when hard work was involved - I wasn't afraid to get dirty and sweaty. So I guess maybe I threw out conflicting signals.

  18. It's odd form me to look back and see how many gender-bent things I did as a kid, to the total indulgence of my parents. Even as the youngest of six kids, no one even seemed to try and shame me for doing things like going out for a haloween party as little red riding hood, or the time I went as a fairy, complete with white sparkley wings and white dress. I remember my mom and older sister trying to may the wings stay up, and working to make sure the costume looked great.

    Despite having three older brothers, I have no memories of any G.I. Joes, just of playing Barbies with one of my sisters. And no memory of anyone staying is wasn't perfectly ok.

    And lets not start on learning every song from the My Fair Lady and Sound of Music soundtracks!

    It makes it sound like I was growing up in some gender-neutral ashram or something, but this was middle-class montreal, and I am the same age as The Breeder. Perhaps, seings as most of my sibs were heavily involved in local drama clubs, and my oldest sister was famous for her brilliant leading-man roles, my light gender bending was the closest thing we had to "normal."

  19. Spoke at 1. Loved some girlie things by 3 or 4, but never makeup/drag. Still love scented flowers. Never sang, but later learned the flute. Well. Couldn't stand popular music by 14.

    Loved tumbling, bicycling too. Liked frogs, toads from 7 till 11/12. Disliked model airplanes, toy soldiers. Born too early for GI Joe. Hated boy scouts.

    Explored woods, meadows, swamps to learn the plants. Not many went there -- half rural. No sex. Would've run if yes.

    Played with girls and boys. Got into trouble around 9 for drawing pictures of half-naked women. Saw something comic in them. Felt boys were vulgar but didn't know the word then. Played war with them a few times anyway. Teacher told Ma, "I'm worried about him. He's so bright that he doesn't need his peers to amuse himself."

    Hated, hate, will hate sports. Shunned what seemed boring, rough, vulgar. Male parent was abusive. Threw me into a window once, picked me up and threw me onto the carpet another time, etc. He abused mentally, too. Used to call me a sissy and other male insults. Oh, and he beat me after he overheard me tell a playmate, "Imagine a vagina that's green and flabby!" Was 8, just playing with words. Always thought I hated sports because of the abuse. Didn't think the beatings abnormal till maybe middle school, tho, when I had to lie about a knot on my forehead. Got clobbered with my briefcase, you see.

    Teachers never called me sissy, but Ma got after me about being "sissified". She was trying to help, probably did -- at least compared to Abuser, who used to beat her too.

    Felt a tad more different first time I saw a man's butt in a jock. 11th birthday, at a lake for swimming. Dear Ol Dad and I went to the john, so it's good I wasn't rapt. Just wondered why it wasn't funny. That September, first saw naked athletes with pubic hair. Their butts now wickedly beautiful, I tried not to stare, filled with guilt. First "wet dream": alone in the woods with puddles of melted snow. Felt nothing, woke up to something gross. Almost 14, found how to jack off one year after a friend said, "I know someone who makes his sperm come out by rubbing his penis with soap." Secrets told in the woods on a field trip. Sex in the woods? No interest, ever. S/M? Just the leather, thanks. Never had anyone till near 22. Any wonder?

    Always carried my books, crossed my legs per guy code. Gay men called me butch not long after I hit the bars. Women have pursued me. Maybe a deep voice helps. Still a bit of siss into my twenties, tho. Sipped liqueurs when college peers gulped beer. Learned French cooking when they did sports. Listened to Classical, not Rock. Always felt different, always will. How changed with time.

    Bottom line: Parents had to know. But they needed to deny. Was how they lived.

  20. This rings so true. I'm 55 years old and still don't undertand football or basketball, and the only thing I enjoyed about gym class was being naked with the other boys and seeing how their penises looked (no brothers) -- 40 years later I can still tell you what their individual cocks looked like. I memorized the cast album for Finian's Rainbow in seventh grade and, yes,know every song on Millie, including the Jewish wedding song (in Julie's voice) and Jazz Baby in Carol's. "Razzzberries," Mr. Steed. Keep writing for those of us who share your experience but are unable to write about it.

  21. I thought about this question all day today and finally asked my Mon if there had been any signs that my sexuality was different then my peers. She said no and that she was surprised when I came out to her as pansexual, though she quickly accepted it. She said that she always viewed me as a very open person and that she saw my ability to love and lust after people regardless of gender as just another wonderful aspect of my personality. I thought that her answer was very interesting and totally worth sharing.


  22. Oh, Rob... you struck a chord. I, too, grew up on a home in which my parents often played the soundtracks to all the big musicals of the '50s, '60s and '70s. And I loved Millie... After Cabaret came out, I loved Liza (still do, but she's lost her fabulous voice). In fact, my mother used to say, "Liza eats HER lima beans," and so I would eat them.

    I was terrible at team/competitive sports, and hated swimming (even at six I was self-conscious about being skinny). I did much better at skiing and running. Heck, I had to run fast - it kept me from getting beaten up. I was always the last one picked when choosing teams.

    I didn't play with girls, but I wanted to. They seemed to be having a much better time at recess. I had GI Joe which I loved, and would build him bunkers in the ground and tree houses. And once in a while... I convinced Linda Cohen, from across the street, to loan me her Ken doll, so that he and Joe could have a sleep-over party. They had fun. :)

    Speaking of Linda Cohen, I also lusted after her Easy-Bake oven. I SO wanted one, and just "knew" that I couldn't even ask for one. Such were the times. Like you, I was born in '64, so we are the same age. As it happens, I'm now a pastry chef, so perhaps getting me the Easy Bake oven would have gotten me off to an earlier start - lol

    My parents knew I was different. I was quiet, creative, polite, and found conversing with adults far more interesting than with my peers. The neighbors, knew too. Eventually, when I came out at 19, no one was really shocked.

    Jonathan in Israel (but grew up in suburban Boston)

  23. PK,

    I find it intriguing, I guess, that some people have reacted very strongly with responses that indicate they did so-called girly things as little boys, while others didn't have anything at all of the sort in their lives. I suspect that the answers here aren't as cut-and-dried as outsiders would like to think.

  24. Saab,

    I know, when you have two virgins in a film, it basically counteracts all the gigolos, white slavery, opium dens, and loose flappers, right?

  25. Ingulphus,

    Not only did I love your Judy Garland encounters, but that was the most singularly sweet coming-out story I've ever heard. It honestly brought a smile to my face. Thank you.

  26. Yves,

    It always pains me when the people who are supposed to love and protect us the most, hurt us as your father did. I'm so sorry, my friend. You're a good man in spite of it, though, and that's what's most important.

  27. Dear Jon "Princess Play" King,

    I like the obscurities, too. My college did "Fade Out, Fade In" when I was there, so I know that one (and have the CD). My favorite musical score is of "The Grass Harp," so that ought to tell you how I skew.

    The stereotypes are unfortunate because they steer people away from things that are sheerly pleasurable, like show tunes, or Judy Garland movies, or hell, even Lady Gaga, if you're young and are afraid to admit you like her. I find it's most liberating when men don't really give a rip in proving how masculine they are and just enjoy the shit they want to enjoy.

  28. 7:23 Anonymous,

    It's entirely possible you were both a nice young man AND a homo. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

    I did laugh at your ignorance of your nickname's import, I'm afraid. Not maliciously, but with understanding. It's significant that at one point in our lives, words are just words. It's not until they're loaded with shame and guilt that they have any sway. Getting back to the point of total innocence may be impossible, but I like to think I'm working on getting the words to be at least neutral of negativity, in my head.

  29. Buddy,

    In what roles was your sister a leading man? I'm used to seeing that at a friend's all-girl Catholic school drama club.

    You know, there was never any judgment against me for the so-called girly things in which I indulged, as a kid. My parents didn't care if I liked show tunes. They didn't get me to try to play with trucks instead of my mom's purse. (Since I shortly thereafter turned to science-related toys like chemistry sets and geology kits and anything that made me feel remotely investigative, it was only a passing phase.) My dad tried to teach me football, and when I hated it, he was fine that I was willing to swim or bike or play tennis instead.

    There was a certain awareness among a certain type of parents in our day, and of a certain level of education, that enforced gender roles were just silly. And they are. But it's still quite possible to run up against them.

  30. 9:19 Anonymous,

    I get what you say about your parents. It's a fucking shame how it caused your dad to react to you, though. A man who takes out his own insecurities on a boy is both a monster and pitiable.

  31. 9:25 Anonymous,

    I can fake my way through a basketball game. Football, however, I couldn't fathom if I tried. Plus my main complaint has always been about how slow it is. It'd be much more interesting to me if they just played right through, instead of taking four hours for twelve minutes of action.

  32. Ace,

    You have a very sweet and special mom.

  33. Jonathan,

    "Liza eats her lima beans" is the funniest thing I've read in weeks. I may steal it.

    I really wanted an Easy-Bake Oven, too! So badly! Not so much because it was a girl thing, but because I was a hungry little pig and those tiny cakes looked so delicious. However, my parents would not buy one because they were supposedly dangerous. All because some careless little bitch stuck her fingers in there and electrocuted herself and ruined the fun for the rest of us.

    My mom let me observe and help her with the cooking, however, so I was learning good kitchen techniques in my elementary school years. I assayed my first solo kitchen experiment at the age of ten when my parents left me alone and I followed the recipe in the checkered Betty Crocker Cookbook for cream puffs. I was pretty ambitious. But you know, those cream puffs turned out perfectly and my parents were gobsmacked when they came home and I had a bunch of them set out on proud display. ON A DOILY, no less.

    I was cooking dinner for the family twice a week by the time I was twelve, so I didn't need that Easy Bake Oven in the end.

  34. Thanks for the forum/support. Just want to add that it took decades to pity Monster -- a little. Don't have to forgive, which you didn't imply, natch.

    Thank whatever I didn't become a monster or make more. BTW: Got into Ma's Julia Child and made her decent crepes, with custard, at 12. For Mother's Day. Hadn't done much cooking before. Loved chemistry sets too.


  35. Hey Rob,

    Well my sister was in a catholic school (all the public schools in Quebec are either catholic or protestant, or were when I was growing up) but it was co-ed. My sister just found she preferred the meatier male roles to the delicate flower female roles, and performed in completely convincing drag. One season of arsenic and old lace figures prominently in my memory, since, always in character as Teddy, she would blow a bugle and yell "charge!" every time she went up a staircase.

    It was a long season.

    As for me, I recall having a couple of easy bake ovens. I think I melted the first one, but was trusted enough to get a second one for Christmas.

  36. 9:19,

    No, I don't think I'd forgive, either. That is, I might come to a certain peace with the incidents, just as as feel I'm at peace with my own encounter with assault from years back. But I wouldn't necessarily forgive it, or explain it away with justifications.

    Living well despite him is the best way to pay back that kind of treatment.

    I never attempted a crepe. I think you win the culinary award!

  37. Buddy,

    I think I love your sister.

  38. I think my parents did know. I was the one who played with the girls, dressed up in a neighbor's old dresses (with the girls). And had no interest in drag as an adult. I wasn't fond of team sports, but did like tennis and track (sports where I could stay on my own). I did play with the trucks and collected Hot Wheels, too; built model cars/plans/ships and kept myself apart quite a bit. In a big family, I think that last was probably their tip-off.