If I knew then…

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This is me when I was about 5 or 6 years old. While I do not wish to live my life over, I often wonder if I knew what I know now would my life be the same? At this young age, I didn’t really know what “gay” was, but I was aware that I was different. Nearly all my friends were girls. I had a baby brother, Joe, but I didn’t like him much…. My mom told me I was getting a baby brother to play with, and babies do NOT play, so he was useless to me.  I remember trying to run away once, but never left the yard because of wasn’t allowed to cross the street by myself.
If I knew what I know now, I would have known that as long as I looked both ways I’d have been fine. It was a small, one stoplight town (still is), traffic wasn’t really a huge problem. My mom has told me I used to play in the closet all the time, as if it were a fort. Ironic since in about 15 years I’d be coming out of one.
I remember we had HBO back then and for a while I’d get up every morning and Beastmaster would be on. I always liked that movie back then. I thought it was for the adorable ferrets. Looking back now, it was probably the scantily clad man in the loin cloth.
I was obsessed with The Smurfs. Even had their album of songs on an actual record (those are big vinyl discs that play music on both sides…for you younger readers). I always watched the cartoon. It was my favorite. Thinking about it now, it was probably because it was a community of all men (who never wore shirts) and one drag queen-ish looking female. I’m not sure how I never picked up on this.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have learned more as a child. I wasn’t dumb by any means, but I wasn’t great with the common sense. That’s a struggle I always had until later in life.
We later moved to the family farm and I had another brother. I hated farm living growing up but I miss it now.

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Fast forward about 12 years. This is me in high school. I’m a senior in high school here. At this time I knew I was gay, but had told no one (at school anyway). I wasn’t the best student, but I was slightly above average. I wasn’t in the honor society, but was in advance placement classes. I wanted to be a country music singer (hence those snazzy boots). I wasn’t the most popular guy, but wasn’t a loner either. Again, most of my friends were girls. I wish I could have been more open about who I was inside, but being the mid-nineties, it was so different time and being openly gay just wasn’t heard of. I don’t regret being who I was at this time.
I do regret the few “dating” opportunities I had back then. A few people, outside of school, did know that I was gay and I met a few guys that way. I did hook up with a guy at my school several times over a three year period. He was the older brother of one of my friends. I consider him my first boyfriend, even though I can’t say we ever put a label on anything. I was just the guy he hung out with that occasionally sexually satisfied him.  Looking back, I wish that things had been different. I wish I could have openly told people how I felt about him, as I was young and in love (I won’t presume to express his feelings as I don’t know them). I also wish I had more opportunities to broaden the dating pool. I dated his sister (non-sexually of course) in junior high, him in high school, and after school I slept with two of his cousins…I know, I know I should have been on Jerry Springer.
After high school, like most people, I went to college. I attended Ball State University, majoring in music. Here’s where a few bad life choices started to kick in (yes, this blog will get to a point!).  I lived with a random guy who was no where near my intellectual equal, and was in college on a baseball scholarship. Needless to say, I found him ignorant, boring, and extremely hot. We rarely saw each other, and after a few weeks, I met other friends and can’t remember much about him.
In late high school, and continuing into my college years, I developed both a drug and an alcohol problem. Most of the memories I have of the one semester I managed to stay at Ball U, I am either drunk or drinking. Me and Jack Daniels were very good friends….I remember me and a high school friend, Amy, walking around campus chugging straight from the bottle. I missed a lot of classes, was hung over nearly every morning, and attended a lot of parties. Being a poor college kid, I didn’t have money for drugs really, but if they were flowing at a party, I never said no.
I met a few guys for hook ups, and this is where I felt sexually free for the first time. I wasn’t around my parents, and college just seemed like free time to do as I pleased.
I probably shouldn’t have gotten my first, and only, credit card during this time. I did not use it wisely, and set me on a downward slope of bad credit. But it was a lesson I needed to learn.
Knowing what I know now, I would have actually went to class, stayed in college and maybe scaled back on the drugs and alcohol. I do NOT regret doing the drugs and the drinking, as I think that it helped shape the person I am today, but I definitely would have moderated it more.  Case in point, my 19th birthday. My friends in college, Leslie and Keith, through me a party…Leslie was fortunate enough to live in a coed dorm and had no roommate. I remember a group of us were there drinking, partying, smoking and having a good time. I remember a bottle of tequila and playing strip poker. After that, it’s a bit fuzzy. Apparently, I had Leslie’s bathrobe on, and little to nothing else and went upstairs to the boys floor to find out why someone I knew wasn’t there, I had to be shooed back in the room. I remember waking up the next morning on the top bunk (I’m afraid of heights) of the bunk beds between the guy I was sleeping with and the guy I wanted to sleep with, while the guy I was actually dating was across the room (again, this is fuzzy). If only I had known enough to not be a teenage whore.

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After leaving Ball State, I moved back home, had a full time job, and enrolled in community college.  I hung out with my friend Amanda a lot, and her mother Carol. This is the perfect picture of us, as we laughed A LOT. We were always laughing about something. This is about 1997 or 1998. I thank her for keeping me out of a lot of trouble I could have been getting into. Not that I was “innocent” during this time, but more well behaved than I had been at university. We would often hang out during the day, then I would leave her house and go randomly hook up with some random guy and tell my parents I was at her house the whole time.  She often covered for me, when she really got nothing out of it. Blessed be, my dear.
Around this time is when I met the first guy I lived with. We met and moved in together shortly after. He was nine years older than me, and as it turned out, not a great person. I quit my job to work where he worked, he needed to know where I was every minute of the day and controlled everything from where we lived to what we ate. We were only together about ten months, after which I decided that no one would every have that effect over me again.
Shortly after, I met a new friend. He was older, and I thought he might want more, but we talked for hours. Just talked. I still consider this man my friend, nearly twenty years later. He took me to my first gay club. And there ends any shred of innocence I may have still had.
I don’t regret meeting David, nor anything I may have done afterward (I don’t regret anything, for future reference), but looking back maybe I shouldn’t have went out EVERY weekend.
Knowing what I know now, I probably shouldn’t have gotten blowed on cocaine and drove across state lines to clubs I could get into. I probably should have had some random sex in the bathroom, or some guy’s car, or accepted drugs and drinks from strangers. But, you only live once, right?
I had a car accident in the blizzard we had in 1998 or 1999. Totalled my car, but was uninjured. That put a stop to my going out for a while. Fortunately, I was sober when my parents had to drive over an hour to pick me up in a little town in Ohio (we lived in Indiana) and was safe even though my car was not. They took me home, and about a month later I moved in with a friend and took up residence in Richmond, Indiana. While I didn’t drive for a long time after that, living as an adult away from any parental supervision made me feel freer than I ever had. I was old enough to get into bars in Indiana by then and I started working at the only gay bar in town.

Tune in next time as I recall some more bad life choices, and several good ones…but never any regrets!

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