Monday, June 03, 2013

The Hickey Story

My first sexual experiences in my late teens and early twenties with men were conducted with the secrecy and planning of a top secret military operation. I made sure that I protected my anonymity, even though others knew my preferences and my type before I even put one foot in the door. I learned that one of the unwritten rules of a gay club, bar, or private establishment is that secrecy will be respected. If you don't talk, I won't either.

The medium-sized city where I grew up was far too small for sexual exploration. I would have been swimming in a very small pond, no doubt soon to have accrued a history and a legacy that spanned the whole metropolitan area. I did not want to date others who had, at most, two degrees of separation from past relationship partners. I was not yet comfortable being known in that way.

This is why I drove to Atlanta, two and a half hours away. The boring car trip was over soon enough. Meanwhile, I'd already made my inquiries. I knew where to go and where to avoid going. I met men in person, usually complete strangers, and also I met partners online. I began to learn the area well and to recognize what sorts of men found me attractive.

This is the same work other queer men were hard at work establishing for themselves. Had I been less anxious and fearful, I might have looked around and noticed others hard at work in their own struggles for identity. After a while, I knew who would find my masculine presentation appealing, and who would keep their distance. Those lessons were difficult at times.

I took a chance on a man who had located me online. I don't remember how our paths crossed; I've forgotten most of the details entirely over the years. He'd taken a look at the picture of myself I'd e-mailed him. After a few minutes of contemplation, he replied back to me that he loved tough guys. The funny thing is that I've never considered myself a tough guy, either by personality or intent.

There had been instances where I pursued men who were smaller of stature than me, but often they were completely terrified. I'd try to be playful and flirtatious, but they'd take leave of my company as fast as possible. Some literally ran away from me, already fifteen paces across the room before I even knew what had happened. I never understood their rationale and their terror in my company, but had to accept it.

The guy turned out to be into rough play. Before long, I found myself accruing carpet burns as the two of us slid aggressively from corner to corner of the bedroom. I was too overwhelmed by everything that was going on to recognize why he was focusing particular attention on kissing my neck. If it happened now, I'd know to tell him that I didn't like hickeys and insist that he stop immediately.

I returned home, not recognizing how incriminating the hickey would be. My mother saw it and asked me about its existence, assuming a woman had been the culprit. I dodged the issue as best I could. My alibi was that I couldn't remember the identity of the person who'd given it to me because I'd been far too drunk. Mom bought it, but my little sister wasn't fooled.

Downstairs on my computer desk, I'd left a letter someone had written me. The writer was a pen pal/e-mail pal from New Zealand. She'd asked me in the letter if I was still sleeping with both men and women. She enjoyed attention from men, but considered me her favorite correspondent. A couple times she called me at 3 am, forgetting the massive time change, and waking up my grumpy parents in the process.

With my friends, I was entirely honest about my bisexuality, in a way that I was not with almost everyone else. The motivation of her inquiry was likely because, even with the thousands of miles that separated us, she felt romantic feelings towards me. She even felt slightly threatened by it, even though we both knew that it wasn't likely we'd ever meet in person.

She wrote her letters large and always in black ink. It would be difficult not to read every word from a single glance. Even with illness and dysfunction, my sisters have always seen me as the head of the family. I think the sister who read my private correspondence was doing so out of a curiosity to know more about me.

Fortunately, she was supportive of my sexual orientation, though I felt that my personal life had been broached a bit. I suppose siblings have been known to read each others' diaries. I always spoke about very adult, very emotionally loaded issues in my written correspondence. I never have shied away from difficult, even contentious topics. I don't hold much back.

I was in the middle of the process of coming out. It took a few more years to make lasting progress, though I concede I haven't reached the final stage yet. At first, I enjoyed playing peekaboo with the closet, compartmentalizing behavior that could always be denied later. If I received a hickey today from another man, I'd probably be honest about who gave it to me.

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