In my novella Young and in Love? Hardy confesses to his friend Ronda of a man crush on his dad, with the sexual feelings only a gay guy can bring to a man crush. He wouldn’t mind watching his dad masturbate. Minutes later Ronda is still laughing, trying not to. Hardy decides his alter-ego Carrie Bradshaw’s next Sex and the City column will be about gay guys attracted to their drop-dead gorgeous straight dads.
How does this come to be in Young and in Love?, where Hardy doesn’t want for sex partners?
Simple. I was always attracted to my dad. Tall, lean, dark-haired. A good ballplayer, which I never was. I remember asking to feel his biceps, and another time, following him into the bathroom to watch him piss (afterward, he began closing the door), and occasionally slipping into my folks’ bedroom to look at the World War II soldier with his shirt open in the small picture frame on Mom’s vanity.
These and perhaps other signs of the direction things were heading led to my being kept home on a school day to go fishing with Dad, who worked weekends. Did they think a father-son outing would rub some manliness off on their gender-ambiguous son?
I once thought my attraction to him was singular. But then an Edmund White protagonist stood outside the bathroom door to listen to his father piss. I remembered the fact that for years I thought I was the only guy with homosexual feelings, although at that earlier time I wouldn’t have put the word “homosexual” to my bundle of feelings about guys.
I wasn’t attracted to other older men, only Dad. Perhaps because of trust? I knew he wouldn’t molest me. My lack of attraction to other older men as a young adult is harder to explain, but I never went with any “daddy.” Perhaps in my mind they couldn’t compete with the real thing?
Recently, I enjoyed a reference in David Leddick’s The Handsomest Man in the World: “What is it about the nature of love…There’s always something sordid about it. Some dark little secret; being in love with someone you shouldn’t be. Hankering after your father or a hired man.”
If boys want a girl just like the girl who married dear old Dad, can’t other boys want a boy just like the boy who married dear old Mom?
He was the more patient of my parents. Mom threw bric-a-brac, and he caught it or ducked. He was a self-effacing grocery clerk who rose as high as assistant manager but never made manager, who worked six days a week plus a Sunday job, while Mom took care of their five children. He dreamed of owning a small market, a corner store. A New Deal Democrat, when Watergate broke he smiled and reminded people he had voted for McGovern.
While I dated girls in college, he told me marriage wasn’t for everyone. “If you’re not in it for sex, I can’t imagine making it work.” By then, I’d said that I sometimes thought I was homosexual.
After six years as a husband, I separated from my wife and announced I was gay. I overheard Dad tell Mom, “Leave it alone.” They were talking about me. He was dying of lung cancer. She was distraught at winning a marriage-long argument. She’d always been after him to quit smoking.
“I’m happy all of you kids are happy” were his last words I heard.
I wore his corduroy sports coats in gay bars all over New York city, a place to which Californian Dad never made it. Mom and I agreed he’d be pleased that his jackets were on me on my nights out.
So in Young and in Love? Hardy wants a guy just like the guy who married dear old Mom. But don’t worry, Hardy wants many other guys too.
CHICKEN AND WAFFLES: BACK FROM THE 1930S
Noticing KFC ads for chicken and waffles, I remember Mildred Pierce opening her chicken and waffle restaurant in James N. Cain’s 1941 novel Mildred Pierce. I believe her second restaurant was in Laguna Beach.
Until a few years ago, I hadn’t seen chicken and waffles on a restaurant menu. When I read Mildred Pierce, in the 198os, I’d never before heard of chicken and waffles being served together. In food, art, literature, music, hair, and clothes, styles come, go, come again, go again. Never think what we’re doing is definitive.
Incidentally, Mildred Pierce, the book, is not a mystery, as the movie is and as are Cain’s classics Double Indemnity (1936) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934).