Gloria... Hi Rosalind! if you thought Chapter 13
was weird, this Chapter is a strange one. My popularity
with the gay crowd results in finding a mistress.
Written by Rick Archer
THE NIGHTLY RITUAL
As September rolled around, I had put three months between Colorado
State and me. I was
alive, but I wasn't happy.
I still did not have a single friend.
My co-workers were all married, so we didn't have much in common. Living by myself,
a real problem.
I realized I was going to have to
make a friend sooner or later.
I went to a
dance club one night
just to have a look around.
My mediocre dancing in Disco Dave's
class made me painfully aware that I had no business getting out on
the dance floor. So I stayed in the shadows. Gee, just
like old times! Thanks to my rejection phobia, there was no way
to find the courage
to ask a lady to dance. However, my time
was not wasted. It helped to watch the women smile
and laugh out on the dance floor. One of these days, that
would be me out there dancing with them.
Based on my struggles in David's class, I accepted that my dance
project was going to be a long-term venture. That meant Dancing wasn't
going to help fight my loneliness in the short term. So I
turned to basketball. Ever since the acne years in high school,
basketball had been my best solution for pent-up
aggression. Lately I had added volleyball as well.
Alternating between volleyball and basketball, I could play one
sport or the other six days out of seven. And so I did.
Sports remained my only source of self-esteem. At least I was good at something.
after work I would head over to
the Jewish Community Center.
I never took a night off. This was my entire social life. Because the Clarks, my adopted family, lived next
door to the JCC, I
bought a membership there. Practically every
night I would
stop by the Clark house to pay my respects and get a
hug, then head over to the JCC for
My week consisted of basketball
on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Although Saturday
morning was reserved for dance class, I would find a pick-up
basketball game at the JCC later in
Thursday was pick-up volleyball. On Sunday
morning I played in the JCC
volleyball league. Due
to my height, I was a spiker. Pounding the volleyball was
exactly the kind of
cathartic experience I needed. I loved to
crush that ball. Vanessa's face was typically
There was one obvious problem
with playing sports every night. This was
hardly any way to meet girls. I didn't need to
read The Courtesan to figure that much out. I told myself
to wait. I had to improve my dancing quite a bit before I was
ready to make my move on the dance floor.
So I forced myself to be patient. If college had
taught me anything, it was the value of delayed
gratification. I was going about my Dance Project with
My nightly dance practice in the mirror remained the key piece in
the road to recovering my feelings of attractiveness.
I developed a
nightly ritual. First came the
Clarks. Then came sports.
Then came my late night date with the
Magic Mirror. While I practiced, I fantasized about the day
when I would
feel good enough
to ask a lady to
dance. In my dreams, she would
smile and say yes, of course. We would go out on the
floor and I would bust a move. Her eyes would
grow wide when she discovered what a great dancer I was.
She would fall instantly in love with me
and we would live happily ever after.
Only one problem - I would
eventually return from my fantasy and the
loneliness would come floating back in. Chip, my
aggressive side, was impatient. Chip wanted me
to start my search for a
girlfriend now. Phobia would remind me I wasn't ready yet.
Phobia played dirty. Anytime Chip gained
traction, Phobia would whisper 'Vanessa' in
my ear and I would recoil in terror. Phobia
used my fear of another betrayal to hold me back.
Until I could learn how to protect myself from
deception and hurt, I would much safer avoiding women.
- CURING MY
I returned to
Disco Dave's class every Saturday without fail.
Thanks to my dead end job, my lack of friends, and
my fear of rejection, right now my Dance Project had
the main event in my life. I continued to
obsess over the presence of River Oaks Seven in my
dance class. It never ceased to amaze me how
effortlessly those seven beautiful woman upset me.
The moment we made eye contact, my blood began to
boil. Watching them move fluidly to the music
irritated me. Why could they dance and I
couldn't? But that wasn't what bothered me the
most. Watching them laugh and joke as
if I wasn't there made it clear how utterly
unimportant I was. Faced with their unceasing
Seven-Headed Hydra monster managed to
get under my skin every time I saw them.
felt like this class belonged to them and made it
clear they did not appreciate having me crash their
party. I could tell these women were just as
determined to run me off as I was to stay. One
of us had to go; that was clear to everybody.
Although not one word was ever spoken, both sides
knew we were locked in a fierce custody battle for
possession of the dance class.
Each week was
more of the same. No one new ever appeared to
disrupt our power struggle. Caught in the middle, David
understood that he could not show any respect to me
or speak to me in class. Without these women,
he wouldn't have a class. So he did not dare
offend them. We always kept the
same formation. David was in front. The
seven women danced side by side in a row right
behind him. I went to the back corner. I
liked being in back. I knew my presence upset
these women, especially with their backs turned.
I think the women had begun to realize I hated their
guts. I also think my intensity unnerved them. Fearing Sasquatch might go berserk at
any moment, I caught the women using the mirror to
check on me constantly.
enough, I had developed a begrudging respect for
my opponents. Every time I saw them, I could
not help but marvel at their determination to run me
off. From their perspective, these seven
imperious women had gotten their way their entire
lives. Why should things be any different in
this dance class? By focusing their hostility on me and
making the climate unpleasant, they expected I would eventually
get discouraged and quit. Sure they upset me, but
not to extent they hoped for. What they did
not know was that I had nine years of practice
dealing with snobs back at St. John's. These women had no idea I
had developed at least some immunity to their meanness.
In fact, they actually believed they were going to
win this power struggle. This thought amused
me. These soft, pampered women were going up
against an angry barbarian. Sooner or later,
the Gates of Rome would fall.
No, they were
not going to win. I had failed my challenge
with Fujimoto. I had failed my challenge with
Vanessa. I would never allow myself to fail my
latest test. To me, this dance class continued
overshadowed by some of strange mystical element. I was
absolutely convinced these women were put here
deliberately by the Universe to toughen me up.
And it was working. Already I was
seeing the rewards. My dancing was improving
and I noticed that each week
their power over me diminished slightly.
Here is what I
found amazing. I now recognized that under
normal circumstances I would have quit this class.
I was barely able to talk myself into showing up for
the first class to begin with. Once I
discovered how pathetic my dancing was, I doubt
seriously I would have returned the following week.
More likely, I would have concluded there was no
point in taking up a hobby for which I was so
Universe paired me with the River Oaks Seven, the
most powerful nemesis anyone could have
possibly conjured up. These women had 'Mortal
Enemy' written all over them. They say the
Western doesn't start till the Bad Guy shows up.
Well, the moment I saw these women, things got interesting. The anger I
felt towards them was Richter Scale intense.
So I stayed.
Saturday morning became a meditation of sorts. All morning long, I was forced to face my
biggest fear - attractive women who reject me - and my related fear of
women who laugh at my dancing. One day I finally understood why
these women upset me so much. It wasn't their bad manners.
No, the real reason I hated them is that they reminded me of my
Helplessness during high school.
The River Oaks
Seven were the grown-up versions of the high school
girls I had yearned to be accepted by. These
women made me realize with every fiber of my soul
how much I had wanted to be accepted as an equal by my
peers at St. John's. My blind eye had kept me out of sports
and my acne had turned me into an outcast.
That was then, this was now. This was my
Rematch, my second chance. I had to prove to
these women I was their equal.
One morning the
reason why I was obsessed with these women became
crystal clear. Although they were much older
than me, these women were still very attractive.
Well-dressed, polished and poised, their confidence
radiated throughout the room. I suddenly
understood that these women were older versions of
the girls who had ignored me back at St. John's.
No wonder I disliked them so much. They
reminded me of how helpless and inferior I had felt
around my beautiful female classmates.
For nine long years, I stared daily at the beautiful,
intelligent, and confident young ladies of St. John's. Due to my scars, my low social standing, and my lack of confidence,
these girls were unattainable, out of my league. I can safely say
this attitude was not my imagination. Due to
class differences, I had the stacked the cards
against me to begin with, and then acne removed what little
remaining chance I had. In a very
dramatic sense, this was the 'Learned
Helplessness' stage of my life. During High School Hell, I
learned that no matter what I did, these girls were
out of my reach.
Now, in a very
weird way, I was in Stage Two of my own personal 'Learned
Helplessness' experiment. As we recall, Stage Two placed the
dogs in a two-sided box. All the dogs had to
do to escape the electrified box was jump, something
dogs ordinarily do reflexively. Instead, these
dogs had been trained to give up immediately when
they heard the buzzer. Although one in three
dogs did manage to escape, two out of three dogs gave up on the spot
despite a sure-fire escape route. Like the
elephant bound by a flimsy chain, their minds told them not
to bother struggling. After all, it was
With a frown, I
understood that I too had been trained to give up
back at St. John's.
However, unlike the dogs, I had a mind. Right
now I was actively
searching for a way out of my own mental trap. The healthy part of my mind knew I was reasonably
attractive and that I had every right to pursue
pretty girls my own age. But the healthy part
was counter-balanced by ten years of failure with
How do I cure my fear of rejection?
riveted on the final
feature of that 'Learned Helplessness'
experiment. After Martin
Seligman had ruined his dogs, he wanted to see if
there was some way to cure
worked. Coaxing, using food as a lure,
whistling. Nope. Didn't work. Time
to try something else.
Seligman put the dog in the box without the shock
and told the dog to jump. The dog jumped
But when the dog heard the buzzer and felt the
shock, the same dog gave up on the spot. Seligman was
Now Seligman tried lifting the dog over the barrier
once the shock began to show the dog what to do. Then he put the dog back in the
box on his own. To Seligman's consternation, the dog gave up
again when it heard the buzzer.
Despite having been shown how to escape the trap,
for some reason the buzzer remained all powerful. Buzz
The dogs simply
collapsed and whimpered when the buzzer sounded and
the shock began.
exasperated. How could he train these dogs to start
trying again? Someone suggested tying a rope
around the body of the dog ahead of time, then try dragging the dog across
the barrier when the buzzer/shock phase began.
To Seligman's delight, this worked. He did not
cure all the dogs, but he cured some of them of this
conclusion was the only way to cure the dog's fear
was to drag the animal kicking and screaming over
the barrier while the buzzer was in effect.
I traced a
connection to Dr. Hilton's 'tied to a tree'
theory. Seligman's cure only worked while the
dog was in its Fear Stage. The dog had to
learn how to escape while the buzzer and the shock
Now it dawned on me...
this dance class was a very good start, but it was
not enough. The only way to truly conquer my
fear was to ask a stranger to dance. In
addition, the stranger had to be pretty just like
the St. John's girls. The very thought of it
made me shudder.
absolutely terrified of asking a girl to dance.
Just like Connie who avoided the swimming pool, I
would avoid the dance floor.
The Courtesan had a section which
explained a concept known as Territory.
Put a rock star on
his stage and watch the girls scream. Put the same rock
star on a beach where no one knows who he is and watch
the girls ignore the pale, skinny kid who passes by in
search of some much-needed shade from the sun.
Put a lifeguard at
the swimming pool and watch the girls congregate at his
Put the lifeguard on the karaoke stand and watch the
girls cover their ears.
Put the skier on
the slopes and watch the girls mob him by the fireplace
in the lodge. Put the skier on a surfboard and see
him risk drowning.
Every man needs to
identify his Territory, the place where he shines.
A man is always impressive on his Territory, but fades
when he leaves the limelight. The Piano Man is a
nobody without his piano, the basketball player is a
dumb jock off the court. The place to meet women
is any venue where a man looks his best doing what he is
doing. His confidence and ability will make him very
thought this idea made complete sense. But it didn't
work for me. The place I looked
the best was on the basketball court. However, since no
woman would ever see me there, that spot was a waste of
dance floor was my best hope.
The fact that I was working on a skill I could use to meet
women someday made me feel I was headed in the right
direction. The Magic Mirror would surely come through
for me. Unfortunately, I had one problem I
could never find an answer to.
I called it
The Dilemma. Here is how The Dilemma worked
Due to my fear of rejection, I did not want to
risk getting out on the dance floor until I
was already a good dancer.
How could I become a good
dancer without getting out on a dance floor to
I had the
same dilemma with Dating.
I needed more
experience with women before I started Dating.
get experience with women without
I simply cannot risk getting hurt again.
Obviously The Dilemma was an offshoot
of my Rejection Phobia.
I did not have an
answer for either problem.
I did not want to start dating
again until I understood women better. But how
was I going to get experience with women if I was
too afraid to date them? And how would I
ever get a date if I was afraid to approach
attractive women I didn't know?
I did not know
how to overcome my faint heart.
My Rejection Phobia was just too intense. I
could not think of a gradual way to ask a girl to
dance or a gradual way to ask a girl out on a date. You either ask
them out for a date or you don't. You either
ask them to dance or you don't. There was no
middle ground, no sticking a toe in the water to
test the temperature.
I either jumped in the water or stayed on the
sidelines. As I have said repeatedly, it was easier
not to approach a woman at all than to risk the anxiety involved.
Noting the scorn I drew from the River Oaks women,
my dancing wasn't ready yet. I could not bear the thought of getting shot down, so I stayed on the sidelines.
I spent my entire September unable
to figure out a solution to my Dilemma.
Meanwhile I had that sinking feeling. Chip
yelled at me. 'Rick, you have spent ten
years avoiding women and now you are starting to do
the same thing. When will this ever end?
You have to do something!'
up. 'Rick, don't listen to Chip. You are certain to get
hurt again. Listen to me instead. You are improving at
dancing. All you have to do is be patient. You are not
mediocre dancer any more. Look at all the progress you've made.
Unfortunately, you are no more than
average at best. You need to keep
practicing until you are so good no woman would dream of refusing you.'
And so the
argument went back and forth. The argument left me too paralyzed
to take action. In the meantime I just kept getting lonelier.
I refused to
face the anxiety involved with approaching a pretty girl and trying
to talk to her. I decided the
best thing to do was to keep practicing in the mirror, go to dance class
and hope for the best. In other words, I would postpone
facing my fears just like I always did.
One day late
in September, Disco
Dave was nice enough to ask me to wait outside
for him. After the women had gone, he found me. He wanted to
tell me how much I
had improved, but did not dare do so in front
of the River Oaks Seven.
I appreciated the compliment. I also agreed with him. I had been practicing
my dancing in the Magic Mirror every night for two solid months
could see the work was paying off.
I still had yet to dance in
public thanks to my Dilemma.
The thought of
getting out on the floor and have some pretty woman frown at me
or laugh at my clumsy moves still left me paralyzed with doubt.
As always, I was overly sensitive
towards a woman's low opinion of me.
One night I skipped the Magic Mirror Ritual. Instead I went
to a dance club on my way
home from volleyball. There at the Second Office Club
on Bissonnet and Weslayan, I saw
men who were average dancers no better than
get out on the floor and
dance all night long.
I was sure I could move as well as they could. However, they could
ask girls to dance and I couldn't. Cursing my cowardice, I
remained glued to my seat. My fear of getting shot down or having
a woman laugh at my dancing again was just too powerful.
Phobia kept insisting I
had to improve my dancing some more.
Chip said my dancing would improve a lot faster
if I got out on the floor. But I couldn't make myself do it. My fear of
so crippling that I could not find a way to ask a woman to dance. It was easier just to go home and
feel sorry for myself. Consequently I was
stuck with no solution in sight.
that someone needed to drag me kicking and screaming over my barrier.
Fat chance of that, right?
Ten years and counting...
It was now October 1974.
all of June on Couch Catatonia following my CSU
dismissal, in July I had decided to get on my
life. I was hired on the spot when I applied for
my Child Welfare job. The main office was located at the corner
of Garrett and Branard in the Montrose area.
By coincidence, I had lived on Branard Street during my
1972-1973 Interlude year. Recalling the good
times I had spent there with Arlene, I decided to
drive past my old garage apartment. On the
way, I spotted a small apartment project with a 'for
rent' sign'. Ten minutes later I had
my new home. One week after that, I ended up in
the arms of a drag queen.
Now I was in
for another surprise. It took a while for it
to sink in, but eventually I realized this
apartment project was 90% gay. Flabbergasted,
I did my best to wrap
my mind around this new reality. My dance
teacher was gay. A large portion of the
Welfare Department was gay. My neighborhood was gay. And now
I realized my apartment
project was gay.
My entire world had turned Gay.
I think I have
already established beyond a shadow of a doubt that
I was stupid about a lot of things back
in those days. I was a young man whose biggest problem was meeting
women. My fear of rejection
was so great that I was unable to go to bars and
strike up a conversation with women I didn't know.
Furthermore, I had not found a venue
single women was effortless.
Would my life
have been different if I had moved into an apartment project populated with single women?
One would assume by the
laws of random encounter, I would have had countless
opportunities to bump into my next
girlfriend. The clubhouse, the laundry room,
the mailbox, the swimming pool, the girl next door,
the sand volleyball court, Saturday Night Beer
Bust parties by the pool... the list goes on.
For crying out loud, even
someone as hopeless as me would have found a way to
speak to a woman!! And even if I failed,
some woman would have taken the initiative.
After all, now that I had cut my hair, I actually
looked pretty good.
By the way,
these were the Seventies. Right now there was a
Sexual Revolution going on out there. Had I moved into one of
the many Houston apartment projects teeming with
single women, I suppose my issues with women would
have taken a much different life track.
instead I had
moved into a gay apartment project. I
had inadvertently moved into the only part of town where meeting
women was virtually impossible. Therefore, meeting women continued to be my biggest issue.
I was so
preoccupied with my problems, I never spoke to
anyone I did not know. That explains why it took
me two months to figure out that
was the only heterosexual male in the entire
complex. As it turned out, the center
of all social activity revolved around the swimming
pool area in the middle of our courtyard. In
order to get from the parking lot to any apartment,
one would have to pass by the swimming pool.
I would guess there were two dozen gay
men living in the various apartments. On any
given evening, several of them would get together by the poolside to drink and socialize.
ignored me for the first month. They were
content just to eye me. No doubt my perpetual
frown played a role. However, one day
someone said hello and I said hello back. Now
that they realized I did not bite, these men got a
little friendlier. From that point on, every day after work I was greeted by
the gay men at the swimming pool.
I would be greeted again when I left for
basketball or volleyball. Then I would be greeted again when I
returned home around 10 pm. No
matter what time
I came home, there was invariably a greeting
committee. Sometimes it might just be two men,
other times as many as ten. There was always
someone out there and they always had a word for me.
I was a real
mystery to these guys at first. From what I
later gathered, there was
intense curiosity about me. They
began to invite me to join them, but I would
politely refuse and keep moving. Then one
Friday I decided to accept their offer. Friday
was the only night of the week when nothing was
going on at the JCC, so I had nothing to do.
Figuring I was going to have to deal with these men
sooner or later, tonight was as good a night as any.
This took place in late August. Over a beer, I
answered their questions and listened to their
jokes. I soon realized these men were good-natured and
gentle. Unlike those monsters who had molested
me in swimming pools back when I was a child, these men seemed harmless
It didn't take long for me to make friends
with them. In fact, I began to enjoy their
company because they were fun to be around.
It took me a
while to catch on to why they were so unusually
friendly, but I eventually figured it out. And what was
the secret of my popularity? I had been named
'The Trophy'. Who would get me into bed
Once I told them I was
straight, that blew their mind. A straight gay
in this place? Unbelievable. I suppose
that put some kind of bull's eye on my back because I became
irresistible. They could not wait
to see who would bag me first. I kid you not.
Gay men in the Seventies had to be the horniest
creatures on earth. Sex was all they ever
seemed to talk about.
I was a
rock star to these men. Please forgive my
immodesty, but they couldn't get enough of me.
To them, I was the most interesting man in the
world. The thought of scoring with the
only straight guy in the complex was a topic of
neverending fascination to these guys. From
what I gathered, even when I wasn't around, my name
came up frequently. I was their prime target.
One night over
perhaps a few martinis too many, one of the men
explained my Trophy status to me. He thought
it was funny, but I just rolled my eyes. Good
grief. At that point, I had two choices. I could
either tell them to go fuck themselves or I could
play along and let them have their fun. Amused
by the attention, I decided it was easier to be a
good sport about it. And
that's how I became the reigning sex symbol with the
Branard Street swimming pool crowd. From this
point on, these guys bugged me endlessly with sex
As the men talked incessantly
about sex, one night the topic was guessing who
would be the winner of the competition. This
took place with me actually sitting there. I
was incredulous at how bold they were. I guess
they just wanted to see how I would react.
would get me first?? How would they overcome
I just rolled my eyes. These guys were all
talk, no action. I knew they
were bragging and showing off for each
one man ever actually propositioned me. Not once.
Oh sure, I got offers all the time, but the offers always
came out in the open here by the pool with other men
watching. It was
sport to these guys. I think
they sensed I had an immunity
to their charms. They were right... I wasn't
embarrassing to admit the truth, but the reason I
hung around was that I enjoyed being the center of
attention. Considering how low my self-esteem
was, this was the first hint of popularity I had
ever experienced. Granted I would have
preferred receiving this kind of flattery from a
coterie of pretty girls, but beggars can't be
were a little weird sometimes, but I got used to
It helped that I was the
youngest guy there. That made teasing me even easier. It was an amusing time because they treated me like
some sort of debutante or the belle of the
They propositioned me practically
every time I walked by, but always in a joking way. A group would be sitting at
the pool having a beer in the evening. I would walk past them in
my basketball shorts and they would whistle in appreciation. Such
long legs! Such big, broad shoulders! Such a stud!
I would always
reply in some manner. I found sarcasm worked
the best. "Not tonight, boys, I have to go
lift weights so you will desire me more."
these gay guys were light-hearted about their neverending
disappointment. Whatever they said, it always
made me laugh. I began to linger a little
longer and soak up the adulation. That turned out
to be a pretty good move. Eventually they
accepted me as a friend in addition to being their
Beauty Queen. Now I began to learn
something about a world that I previously knew
nothing about. One thing that fascinated me
was their fondness for talking about sex. I
learned more about talking dirty in September than
all my previous 24 years combined.
Suggesting I jump in the pool
naked was usually a major part of the greeting
ritual. 'Oh, Rick,' they would say,
'You are so
irresistible and you have such an athletic body. Why not strip
down for us and jump in the pool? Didn't you want to cool off?
Why not give us all the thrill of a lifetime?'
would just laugh. I said that
if I was short and fat, they would simply change their pitch.
The men would grin and begin to protest. Not true! Fortunately,
since I was a good sport about the flirting, we all got along fine.
I never felt threatened. Besides, I enjoyed the compliments, but
don't tell anyone.
I appreciated the flirting
for a very unusual reason. If I listened to these
guys long enough, maybe I could learn how to talk to
women. Seriously, these gay guys were
pros at flirting. Since I was receptive to any coaching I
could get, there were times I would pull up a chair
and just listen. Gay banter was pretty
incredible. It was catty, bitchy, nasty, and
funny all at the same time. Thanks to my
sheltered life, I had never heard people talk this
way before. I just grinned. I couldn't get
enough of it.
Teasing, sarcasm, sexual innuendos, and good
natured put-downs dominated the conversation.
And bragging too. Lots of bragging about
countless conquests and their giant penises.
A guy named
Fred told me a joke. "Three big cowboys
were drinking in a bar. They laid their dicks on the
bar to see which one had the longest. A gay
guy walked in and did a double-take. 'Oh gosh, Bud Lite, bartender, and
I will definitely take the buffet!!'"
So much sex talk. Constantly!
I swear I heard someone proposition someone every
minutes. Some would suggest jokingly that so and so should
stop talking about it and just make a move for a
change. Let's go to the bedroom and continue this
line of conversation in private. To
my surprise, every now and then two men would get up
from their seats and do just that. I guess all
that sex talk got them worked up. Maybe that
was the idea all along.
insults... "I generally never forget a
face, but in your case I will make an exception."
pickup lines... "Gee, you look like a Boy Scout.
You want to practice tying knots on me?"
pickup lines... "Quick, kiss me and blow air into my mouth.
You just took my breath away."
less than subtle hints... "I was going to tell you a joke about my
dick, but it's too long."
putdowns... "Jack be nimble, jack be quick,
you promised a candlestick, but all I got was a toothpick."
It took me a
while, but I started to warm up. I turned into a giant tease. Always
careful not to cross the line, sometimes I
flirted, sometimes I provoked. It was all part
of the Game. One day I figured out what I was
missing was the art of the put-down. They say
flattery will get you anywhere with women, but not
these guys. They wanted to be insulted.
They wanted to be told how hopeless they were, that
not in a million years would I ever consider letting
them touch me. These guys were so twisted that
they were practically begging for me to
put them in their place. Unfortunately, I had
no experience with this type of humor. You
know me, Mr. Nice Guy, always be polite, always show
respect. Deliberately saying mean things, even
in jest, was out of character for me.
However, I was
starting to catch on. Gay men
prized comebacks, especially if they were
spontaneous and not some canned answer out of a joke
book. Some of those guys had the sharpest wit. They could come up with
some real zingers. Unfortunately, I
didn't think I was
witty enough to think of a good comeback on the spot. So I
made one up and waited my chance. I didn't
have long to wait. Sure enough, one evening as I passed the
committee sitting by the pool, a guy
named Jim spoke up.
you big stud, where ya goin'? Why not come
up to my bedroom and discover your true nature?"
I stopped to
acknowledge my admirer. Jim was perfect... he
was always begging for put-downs. So I
grinned and raised both palms for everyone to see.
that the best line you can think of, Jim? I bet your own hands wouldn't fall for that
Then I placed
two fingers inside the other hand to simulate
masturbation. "... and that's too bad
because that's the only sex you'll be
I knew I was
taking a chance, so I remembered
to smile as I told it. Thank goodness it was
taken in the spirit in which it was given. That was my favorite
moment because every guy there cracked up, even Jim. It
was part of the Game to see the Trophy remain elusive. To be honest, I think they would
have been disappointed if I had ever given in.
I think everyone
would prefer to talk about the
hunt than the conquest. Think about
it... only one person gets to talk about the
conquest. To give in would have ruined
I heard a
rumor that some gay men can't stand effeminate men.
They prefer viral, masculine men. Perhaps that
was part of my attraction. Not that I was
viral, but compared to these guys I guess I was. Thanks to
playing sports six days a week, I was a very powerful young man.
Now thanks to all their encouragement, I was
developing a mouth to match my body. Once I found my
stride and gave free rein to my sarcastic nature, their
appreciation grew. I swear these men
were a much-needed tonic for me. Fujimoto had
made me doubt myself and turned
me into a eunuch. These men made me feel
attractive again and helped me become more outgoing.
Pretty soon I was exchanging barbs just like
everyone else and laughing in the process.
Say what you
will about my strange walk on the wild side, these
men were bringing me out of my shell and I
appreciated them for it no end. I believe these
men got a kick out of the fact that I was
making an effort to fit in. Every time they
teased me, I teased them right back. Back and
forth. I came to realize this
clever repartee was as natural to me as breathing.
I liked the gay style of humor. It was fun and it
kept me on my toes. Best of all, they helped
me become 'me' again. Good riddance to
flirtatious exchanges did make me wonder. Why could I trade
jokes and insults with these crazy men and yet be so totally terrified
around women? It just didn't make sense. If I could talk
this freely around women, my loneliness problem would be solved. I knew I had a personality
hidden in there somewhere, but I just didn't have the courage to
use it around women. For that matter, I
even get close enough to try. Phobia is irrational.
How much sense does it make for a grown woman to
fear a little wading pool just because she nearly drowned
as a child? That is how I behaved. I avoided women because I was
sure I would end up getting hurt again. I
needed to get tougher, but how would I get tougher if I
was too afraid to even try? That is the nature
of phobia. No one ever gets better because it
is easier to avoid
the problem than deal with anxiety and confront
in early October I had
some bad luck. A older man named Chandler passed by my
apartment just as I opened the door to leave for
He glanced inside and saw my pool table. Chandler
stopped to stare. "Is that
what I think it is, Rick??"
is a pool table. You are welcome to have a look."
"Oh my, it
so beautiful. Such an interesting choice of
furniture." Chandler smiled innocently enough
I should have
known better. That night after basketball,
there were a dozen men by the pool. This was
the largest group I had ever seen, so I suppose I
should have been suspicious. Nevertheless, as
always, I stopped by to chat and pass inspection.
Big mistake. I should have kept walking.
That was the night I learned that allusions to
shooting pool are a popular metaphor for sexual
activity in the gay world. I had opened the
door to a new and much more pointed line of teasing.
"Oh Rick, we
hear you have a pool table in your living room.
That is so exciting! Can we come over and
watch you play? Are you any good with your cue
stick? You can shoot at my corner pocket any
time you want. Or better yet, will you
put some English on my balls?"
Clever comments seemed to be coming from every direction.
Then someone called me 'The Big Ball Buster'. I
didn't like that one. This was a reference to someone
teases but not pleases. I
could see they were taking their gloves
off and testing me.
"Sorry, guys, you have me all worked up. I think
I will go and stroke my pool stick for a while."
ha ha ha. Feeling outnumbered, I
Fortunately, the teasing soon resumed being good-natured,
but I continued to hear pool table references. Every
night my arrival ratcheted up the excitement because now
they could use their newest pool table lines on me.
Oh gee, wasn't I lucky? The pool table
incident seemed to elevate my Trophy status to a new level.
I guess the pool table stoked their fantasies. Who knows? All I know is from that
point on, whenever I came home, I was met with an
appreciation generally reserved for visiting
It was all so ironic. My new-found popularity left me shaking my head. Damn
that pool table anyway. If they only knew the truth.
I was so bad at shooting pool I couldn't even beat a girl.
Maybe I should let Yolanda come talk to them and reassure
them I wasn't nearly the man they thought I was. Damn
Yolanda anyway. I had not
had a date since she worked me over three months ago.
Strangely enough, the ongoing
pool table banter set the
stage for one of the most unusual moments of my life.
About two weeks after Chandler noticed my pool
came home from a night of volleyball all hot and sweaty.
Thanks to daylight savings time, there still some
twilight left. As usual, a big group was
gathered round the pool. It was a very
pleasant evening. The gang saw
me coming and raised their glasses to me. I
nodded appreciatively. Let the flirting begin.
"Oh Rick, what a shame, there are no
chairs. Why not sit on my lap? If you whisper something
in my ear, I might even grant you a wish!"
"Oh Rick, you've had such a
heavy workout. You are all sweaty. Why don't
you take off that nasty tee-shirt and show us your
feeling came over me. I had heard that women
in New Orleans love to flash their breasts at Mardi
Gras. Right now, the only flattery I was
receiving was coming from these crazy
gay men. I suddenly
understood why women enter wet tee-shirt contests...
if you got it, flaunt it. A funny idea popped
into my head. Oh hell, why not?
So I made a suggestion. "You guys call me a
tease all the time and I am getting a little tired
of it. If I take off my shirt, are you
going to behave better from now on?"
my God, Rick, absolutely!
We will be the best behaved boyfriends you ever had.
If you take off your tee-shirt, we promise
we will never tease you again!"
"How can I
trust you? You all have such terrible
have the body of a Greek God. Let
us worship you. If you strip
down for us, Rick, we will treat you as the Adonis of our
So with that I
turned my back, took off my shirt, then turned back
around and smiled. Good grief, big
mistake. They went nuts, absolutely nuts. Now I couldn't
shut them up.
my God, it's the statue of David in the flesh!"
stop there, Rick, Michelangelo surely had you in
I don't know
what came over me. These guys were
completely full of shit, but I guess flattery does get
you somewhere. I stood at the swimming pool
where they all could see me.
slowly took off one shoe. Then the other.
Next came my socks.
I laughed because the men were absolutely
mesmerized. I only wished I had more clothing
to tease them with. Now all I had left were my
As I stood there with my
hands on my hips in defiance, they began to clap and cheer.
The applause was deafening.
Now came the
pleas and demands to continue. "Oh,
Rick, don't stop there!
You have us all worked up. You have to finish
us off with your naked glory. We all have our
I drew the line at
removing my gym
shorts. But the cheering and jeering didn't
stop. They were egging me on.
Something inside me snapped. Ordinarily I am
extremely modest about my body. But not
tonight. I decided to stop now would be the
wrong move. It was getting pretty dark, so I
threw caution to the winds. I jumped in
the water and removed my gym shorts, then threw them
on a chair. When the
men saw what I was doing, they erupted with laughter
and clapping. To wolf whistles and cat calls, I
did my best Esther Williams impersonation and began
to swim around the pool. In the gloom of the 9
pm summer evening, I doubt seriously they could see much,
but I didn't really care one way or the other.
All I can say is that I was in a very odd mood.
The men went
absolutely nuts. I mean it, they went
absolutely nuts. They thought this was the funniest thing
in ages. Their Trophy had stripped naked
before their very eyes. My cool factor went
off the charts.
As I swam
around in the pool, I had no idea what had
come over me. This was highly out of character.
I had never done anything like this in my life.
Yeah, I had gone streaking one night back at Colorado State
at 2 am, but big deal. How much courage
does it take to run naked with no one looking?
However, there was something about the way they
dared me to strip that made me want to show I
wasn't afraid of them. If they wanted to look,
let them look. After all, my equipment was no
different than theirs.
As I dog paddled around
the pool to wild applause, at the far end of the
pool I caught the smell of cigarette smoke. As
I looked up, to my
surprise, I realized there was a woman sitting at a
table. In the darkness, I had not previously
noticed her. She was an older Hispanic woman
sitting by herself having a glass of wine. I had never
seen this woman before. I assumed she
had been watching the hoopla, so I was immediately
embarrassed, especially when I saw the strange
wide-eyed expression on her face. On the next lap, I
noticed she was still staring at me intently.
This time I smiled and waved at her. She
time, the men were
hooting and hollering. They definitely
appreciated my grand gesture.
have such a beautiful body! Come sit with us
so we can admire your glory."
I was ready to
get out, but
someone had removed my gym shorts from the
pool's edge. I assumed they were hoping I might just climb out bare
naked without it. No way. Not with these
sex fiends. So I grabbed onto the edge of the pool
and spoke up. "Okay,
have to hand me back my shorts. And while
you're at it, hand me that towel over there. If I am to be
Prince, then treat me as one."
one of the men threw me the towel along with an
offer to help me dry off. I politely declined.
While I was in the water, I pulled my shorts back
on. I got out of the pool and wrapped the towel around my
shorts. Then I
pulled up a seat and prepared to face the music. Instantly a beer appeared in
my hand followed by an appreciative salute to my boldness.
Everyone raised a glass. "To our Prince!"
It was fun having them make
such a big fuss over me.
I had taken a pretty big risk, but it had paid off.
Yeah, I might be a tease, but at least I had a sense of
humor about it. My stunt had actually turned out better
than I expected.
Maybe I should take chances more often.
minutes of silliness,
the fuss began to die down. At this point,
the Hispanic woman walked over to me as I sat in
the chair. It was dark now, but she looked
pretty good. Too good. My Phobia kicked
in and I was immediately
Standing before me, she introduced herself. "Hello, my
name is Gloria. That was quite a show you put
on. Do you do that every night?"
challenge in her voice, I wanted to offer to some
smart ass retort, but not a word came out.
I was startled at my silence. It defied
understanding... this woman had just given me
an opening, but I
couldn't say a word! What was wrong
Based on her
smirk, this woman was curious about me. I had stripped naked for
these men because I couldn't care less what they
thought, but now I couldn't respond to a woman
who had seemingly just made the first move. It made no sense
why I was so tongue-tied around women. I didn't
know how to respond, so I stuttered, "Uh, hi, do you
"Yes, I am up
in Apartment 16." Gloria pointed directly to her
apartment on the second floor just in case I was too
stupid to count. "And what is
that's interesting. That's also the name of my son.
He's your age. Well, Rick, I
guess I will see you around. In case you have
your clothes on and I don't
recognize you, be sure to say hello." Gloria touched me lightly
on my hand, smiled faintly and left.
I could not
take my eyes off Gloria as she climbed the steps.
Watching her move those hips, I felt that stirring
sensation. Gloria moved well. Too well. I took a deep breath.
Gloria left, I went to my apartment. As I showered,
I thought about Gloria in Apartment 16 upstairs.
I had the distinct impression her touch had been an
invitation. With all those men milling about,
it had been very discrete. However, to me, the
touch had been electric. Gloria was twice my age
and I felt intimidated. Did I dare??
The moment I dried off, I decided to act on that hunch.
My heart was in my throat. This was the boldest move I
had ever made towards a woman. I would die if I
guessed wrong. I would throw myself off the
balcony and die young. It was 10:30 pm. I opened
the door to look around. After checking
to make sure there were no men around the
pool to spy on me, I went
upstairs and knocked softly on
Gloria's door. My heart was thumping so hard I
thought I was going to have a heart attack.
Gloria opened the door.
"Hi, Gloria, I wondered if you would be interested in
To my dismay,
Gloria didn't say a word. She just stood there sizing me up with a poker face. Oh my God,
please tell me I didn't guess wrong.
10 seconds passed. Those were the longest 10
seconds of my life. Did I misread her signals?
What was she thinking? I was almost certain she was
going to shoot me down, so I was full of panic. What is
it about women who can drive me up a wall?
Without warning, Gloria broke into a grin.
She opened the door wider and I
nearly died with relief.
come in. May I pour you a
glass of wine?"
Later as we
talked in bed, I asked Gloria a question. "How
did you know I was straight?"
I had no idea. But I liked your stunt.
You made me laugh. I figured if you were straight, you
would find your way up here. And if you
weren't straight, what did I have to lose?"
honest, I wonder about myself sometimes. I
think I'm straight, but these guys are trying their
best to convince me otherwise."
that case, maybe it's a good thing I came along
when I did."
I smiled. A good thing
I pulled Gloria to me. God, it was good to have a
woman in my arms again.
PART TWO: THE DANCE PROJECT
I meet Vanessa
Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jean
reveals the truth about Vanessa
I begin five months of therapy with Dr. Hilton
Debbie and the Cow Eyes, Learned Helplessness, I teach a
Dismissed from Graduate School, return to Houston
Yolanda, Lynn, Child Welfare job, new apartment, Courtesan, Rock Bottom,
Parking Lot Inferno
Magic Mirror: The Dance Project begins