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Chapter 14: 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. 

 

 

DESTINY


CHAPTER FOURTEEN:

GLORIA

Written by Rick Archer
 

 


SUBCHAPTER 64
-
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, loneliness was 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.  Every night 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 sports. 

   

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 the afternoon.

Tuesday and 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 on it.

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 great deliberation.   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.  

 


SUBCHAPTER 65
- CURING MY PHOBIA

 

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 become 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 hostility, the Seven-Headed Hydra monster managed to get under my skin every time I saw them.

Those women 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.

Strangely 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 to be 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 ill-suited. 

Instead the 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. 

Now every 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 hopeless.

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 women. 

How do I cure my fear of rejection? 

My mind 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 them.  Nothing 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 effortlessly.

But when the dog heard the buzzer and felt the shock, the same dog gave up on the spot.  Seligman was bewildered. 

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 buzz buzz.  The dogs simply collapsed and whimpered when the buzzer sounded and the shock began.

Seligman was 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 way.

Seligman's 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 was active. 

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. 

I was absolutely terrified of asking a girl to dance.  Just like Connie who avoided the swimming pool, I would avoid the dance floor.

 


SUBCHAPTER 66
-
THE DILEMMA

 

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 lofty throne.  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 attractive. 

I 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 time.  I decided the 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 with Dancing:

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 practice?  


I had the same dilemma with Dating. 

I needed more experience with women before I started Dating. 

How do I get experience with women without Dating? 

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!'

Phobia spoke 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 a 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 and I could see the work was paying off.  However, 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 myself 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 rejection was 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. 

I concluded that someone needed to drag me kicking and screaming over my barrier.  Fat chance of that, right?  Ten years and counting... 

 


SUBCHAPTER 67
-
THE TROPHY

 

It was now October 1974.  After spending 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 where meeting 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. 

But no, instead I had moved into a gay apartment project.  I had inadvertently moved into the only part of town where meeting single 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 I 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. 

These men 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 enough.  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 first?

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 talk. 

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. 

Who would get me first??  How would they overcome my resistance??  I just rolled my eyes.  These guys were all talk, no action.  I knew they were bragging and showing off for each other.  Not 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 interested. 

It is 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 choosers. 

These guys were a little weird sometimes, but I got used to their ways.   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 ball.  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."

Fortunately 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?'

I 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 three 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.

There were insults... "I generally never forget a face, but in your case I will make an exception."

There were pickup lines... "Gee, you look like a Boy Scout.  You want to practice tying knots on me?"

There were pickup lines... "Quick, kiss me and blow air into my mouth.  You just took my breath away."

There were less than subtle hints... "I was going to tell you a joke about my dick, but it's too long."

There were 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.

"Hey, Rick, 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. 

"Is that the best line you can think of, Jim?  I bet your own hands wouldn't fall for that line..."

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 getting tonight.

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 everything. 

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 Colorado State.

However, our 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 couldn't 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 one's fears.

 


SUBCHAPTER 68
-
STRIP TEASE

 

One day 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 work.  He glanced inside and saw my pool table.  Chandler stopped to stare.  "Is that what I think it is, Rick??"

"Yes, that is a pool table.  You are welcome to have a look."

"Oh my, it is so beautiful.  Such an interesting choice of furniture."  Chandler smiled innocently enough and left.

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 who 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 left. 

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 royalty. 

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 table, I 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 big chest?"

The oddest 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?"

"Oh 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 reputations."

"You 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 dreams."

 

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.

"Oh my God, it's the statue of David in the flesh!"

"Don't stop there, Rick, Michelangelo surely had you in mind!"

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.   I 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 gym shorts.

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 rulers out!"

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 smiled back.

The entire time, the men were hooting and hollering.  They definitely appreciated my grand gesture. 

"Rick, you 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, guys, you have to hand me back my shorts.  And while you're at it, hand me that towel over there.  If I am to be your Prince, then treat me as one." 

Sure enough, 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.

 


SUBCHAPTER 69
-
GLORIA

 

After ten 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 nervous. 

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?"   

Sensing a challenge in her voice, I wanted to offer to some sort of 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 with me?

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 live here?"

"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 your name?"

"Rick."

"Well, Rick, 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. 

Shortly after 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 some company."

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. 

"Yes, please 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?"

"Actually, 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?"

"To be honest, I wonder about myself sometimes.  I think I'm straight, but these guys are trying their best to convince me otherwise."

"Well, in that case, maybe it's a good thing I came along when I did."

I smiled.  A good thing indeed.  I pulled Gloria to me.  God, it was good to have a woman in my arms again.

 


PART TWO: THE DANCE PROJECT

Chapter FIFTEEN:  MARK

 

  TIMELINE
   1959-1968   St. John's
   1968-1972   Johns Hopkins
   1972-1973   Interlude, Arlene
   1973-1974   Colorado State
  1973: October   I meet Vanessa
  1973: November   Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
   1973: December   Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jean reveals the truth about Vanessa
   1974: January   I begin five months of therapy with Dr. Hilton
   1974: April   Debbie and the Cow Eyes, Learned Helplessness, I teach a Psychology class
   1974: May   Dismissed from Graduate School, return to Houston
   1974: June   Couch Catatonia
   1974: July   Yolanda, Lynn, Child Welfare job, new apartment, Courtesan, Rock Bottom, Parking Lot Inferno
   1974: August   Magic Mirror: The Dance Project begins
   1974: September   Dilemma, Trophy
   1974: October   Gloria

 

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