In the past few weeks, my son has asked me to tell him a made-up “silly story” on the days I put him to bed. I’ve been telling him all kinds of weird and silly stories. They always have elements of the truths in them, as I drawn these stories from real-life experiences. But then I exaggerate the parts that are funny, or laugh at inappropriate times to make Noah laugh, or demonstrate with sounds and smacks how funny something is — especially when it’s actually not funny. Noah’s none the wiser, though.
One of the people I’ve incorporated in these stories is my father Jimme. It’s hard to take actual events involving an inebriated man in his mid-forties and make them sound funny when he’s your father. Especially when he was calling me a “faggat” (his pronunciation) because I hadn’t gotten my “dict wet.” I’ve learned how to poke fun at the guy, but I didn’t want him to come off as a complete buffoon in my stories. So I made up a few things to exaggerate, like his drinking problem as one of volume rather than because of alcohol. I made Noah a part of these stories as a spectator who could occasionally turn into Ben 10 (see Cartoon Network series) and defend me and my older brother Darren when Jimme started sounding like he lost it. I cleaned up all of the foul language. And I of course remind my son and myself that my father isn’t as silly at I might make him seem in these stories. At least I hope he gets it.
One story I won’t be able to tell Noah anytime soon about his grandfather involves his most extreme attempt to make a man out of me and end my virginity. It was December ’86, my senior year and the month of my seventeenth birthday. Darren and me went through our usual Friday evening routine of tracking him down, only to find that he was already home. We went upstairs to his attic room, and there she was, a prostitute not much older than me. She looked like someone I remembered seeing at MVHS a year or two ago. I couldn’t remember if she graduated.
“Man, I got a girl fo’ you! Look at dis bit’! Dis yo’ chance to git yo’ dict wet,” Jimme said.
I looked just long enough to get angry. I walked out of his room, embarrassed, asked for $50, which he gave me, and started to leave.
“What I s’posed to do wit’ her? I paid her $50,” Jimme said.
“Then you sleep with her!,” I yelled.
“You’re A FAGGAT!,” he yelled over and over again as we left.
Jimme didn’t even bother to offer Darren his rented pleasures. I assumed that Jimme went ahead and got his money’s worth. “Maybe I should’ve gotten it over with,” I thought. “Who’d it hurt if I’d gotten laid for the first time at Jimme’s?” Whatever. The bottom line was that I was scared, scared of disease, especially AIDS, and scared that I’d get someone pregnant. With our family’s luck, I’d bust a condom and end up getting a girl pregnant on the first try.
It would be another three years before I gave up my not-so-precious or pristine virginity. What I experienced that evening and that fall in terms of my exposure to lust and romance was in so much conflict with my pressure cooker home life and how as saw myself as a Christian. So much so that I coped by separating love and lust in my mind. I wasn’t fully conscious of it. But what it meant was that those I may well have been interested in dating were larger than life at times in my mind. Others whom I felt lust for, well, let’s just say that they weren’t dating material for me. I know for sure that my second K-12 crush got caught up in my mental contradiction. And I’m sure that this affected my relationships or semi-relationships with women I hung out with between ’87 and ’91.
It took another crush, a weird infatuation and friendship that pushed my relationship learning curve into high gear. At that point I was far away enough from my past and from Mount Vernon to realize that I could experience both in one person and still be a Christian. That it was entirely up to me as to how to see and treat other women in ways that respected them as the complex human beings that they are and not as holy beauties to sit on a pedestal or as simple women to sleep with. Luckily I didn’t need a prostitute to make me realize how idiotic separating lust and romantic love was. There weren’t too many in Pittsburgh to pick from anyway.
As for Jimme, I’m certain that he doesn’t remember his drunken attempt to end my sexual repression. Even with Boy At The Window, there are literally dozens of Jimme stories I’ve left out because of their lack of relevance to the main story or because the stories that I’ve chronicled are likely embarrassing enough. He knows about the book and that I’m writing about what I went through with him, and he’s been okay with it so far. My father knows that I’m not writing about these events to spite him or for some perverse pleasure. If I wanted to do that, I’d just take my “A” material and go to a comedy club and do my Jimme act.