Monday, April 12, 2004

I'm Straight and I'm Great!
OK, here goes! I've told my family, I've told my friends and now I'm going to tell you: I am a heterosexual man. There. I said it. You cannot imagine how good it feels to get that off my chest. After I post this, I think I'll go out and celebrate with a six-pack of Keystone Light and a couple of Slim Jims.

I know it's difficult for some people to accept the very idea of two members of the opposite sex engaging in sexual relations. Well, all I have to say is if you have a problem with that, it's your problem, not mine. If two people love each other, what difference does it make that one's a man and one's a woman? Oh, I'm not kidding myself. I know there will be tough times ahead. But thanks to the compassion and understanding of my friends and family, I know I'll be just fine whatever the future brings.

Deep down, I've always known that I was straight. I can remember once when I was still very young and all the other boys were excited about a dance recital or some new guacamole recipe they found in Redbook, and all I could think was "Puh-leeze." I couldn't wait to sneak away and play with the Hot Wheels cars I kept hidden between my mattress and box springs. That same year, when Tommy Cooper dared me to jump off the garage and I did it, I knew there was something different about me: I was straight.

Of course, I later went through the usual problems kids face growing up straight: I wasn't romantically interested in other boys, so the gay kids made fun of me. "Hetero!" they all sneered when I walked past. And I got beaten up when a bunch of the guys broke into my locker in high school and found a straight-porn magazine. Even the teachers didn't come to my defense. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why -- considering the way our society is -- but even the straight teachers kept mum. I guess they couldn't risk being outted, but -- helLO? -- Mr. Talamini? I don't care how bad your straightdar is -- you should be able to tell that guy is a flaming hetero from a mile away.

For awhile, I tried to be gay. I guess I just wanted to fit in. I feigned interest in my bed linen's thread count and acted excited about shopping for a new duvet, but that was just so Mom didn't catch on. But no matter how many mimosas I drank or how many romantic comedies I saw on TV (where EVERYbody was gay back then) or how many "Allguy" centerfolds I looked at, I just couldn't find men attractive. Maybe that's how God intended all people to be, but it just never appealed to me. In tenth grade, I always found myself daydreaming about the fantastic way Julie Ross' hips curved up into her tiny waist and the... well, not to be crass, but the rack on Connie Westerberg. There was no denying it: I was a boob man. I'm sorry if that grosses you out. No! I'm not sorry!

For awhile I thought, "What is wrong with me?!" but I guess I began to feel pretty comfortable being this way. I can remember one day when I thought, "They could put a gun to my head and fire to my feet and I still would not find Denny Shumate hot." That was an epiphany for me. After that, I embraced my heterosexuality. But I still wasn't ready to make it public.

Things were much better in college, where people weren't so heterophobic. Oh, sure, there were the occasional taunts. And once I got my GTO keyed. But, for the most part, I had good, tolerant friends who probably knew that I was straight. And, of course, the straight community stuck together. That's where I found my first true love. Now that I'm out, it angers me a little bit to think back about the way Cindy Maguire and I had to sneak around. If I could do it all over again, I'd walk right out on the quad, holding hands with her!

Aw, who am I kidding? That would have been foolish. Plus, I have to admit I sometimes relished the clandestine nature of our relationship. It was us against the world.

OK, that's enough nostalgia. Sorry to bore you with that trip down memory lane. The future is here and the past is past and I am a straight man! I'm proud of it. Get used to it.

So why am I doing this now? I'm not really sure. It was pretty comfortable there in the closet. And it's sometimes cold and scary on the outside. But I guess I just got tired of living a secret life. Always making a big deal out of browsing the Nordstrom windows. Laughing along when uncouth people made hurtful straight jokes. Pretending to care about wallpaper and flatware, for crying out loud. Yes, it was time.

And, yes, there will be tough times ahead. For instance, my wife (we're married, dammit, whether the government and the insurance companies recognize it or not) is having the same struggle I am, just being open about it after all these years. There will probably be awkward moments when I'll become suddenly insecure at a party wondering whether her boss knows and I'll nervously order an Absolut crantini instead of the Johnny Walker straight up I really want and I'll probably just let people wonder. And, of course, we're going to tell the kids that they're not adopted. That won't be easy.

But we'll get past those hurdles. And do you know why? Because I'm straight and I'm great! That's why!