Monday, February 14, 2005

Love Bytes For Valentine's Day

Don't think I've ever had a Valentine's card. Or, if I have, I don't remember. Yet as you grow older you remember your early life quite clearly.
For example, the photo that currently illustrates this blog brings back memories of early, unspoken and unrequited love. It was taken on holiday when I was 13. I look as if I haven't a care in the world. Yet I was madly in love with a boy who collected the fees for deckchairs on the beach.

This wasn't some juvenile version of Death in Venice with me gazing at my own private Tadzio, enraptured by a vision of platonic beauty. My voice had just started to break, the testosterone had kicked in and it was normal teenage lust. I use the word 'normal' deliberately. It felt normal to me. It was normal for me.
But it would be many years before it felt normal again because it must have been soon after that that I discovered what society thought of same-sex attraction and I would be 21 before giving expression to that attraction became legal. I was about to enter the darkest years of my life. I could easily have ended my life as so many other teenage boys have done. But I didn't know that then. That's why I'm smiling on the photo.

My love for the deckchair boy may have been both unrequited and pure fantasy - romantic, physical and sexual fantasy - but it held the promise of exciting and wonderful possibilities to come. I remember him so vividly because he represents a curious synthesis of innocence and sexual desire, the joy of the natural and instinctive before it was crushed by social convention and prejudice, an almost pre-lapsarian moment before society wiped that smile off my face and plunged me into several years of teenage despair and loneliness. I returned from the dark side of the moon battered and bruised and eventually that fantasy of romance, love and sex first experienced on an English beach became reality. But I'm not sure I ever smiled so broadly, sincerely or unselfconsciously again.


As you'd expect, it's more common for people to think gay men are straight than vice versa and that's often happened to me. I've had the even greater misfortune of often being mistaken for a Conservative.
It's partly my own fault. I've never felt the need to express either my sexuality or my politics in the image I present to the world. Sometimes life would have been simpler if I had.

A French girl, impatient with waiting for me to make the first move, once invited me to spend a Sunday afternoon with her at London Zoo. I've been puzzling over this for 30 years.
Was it a 'meet the relatives' gambit?
Did she think that seeing the monkeys doing unspeakable things with each other would give me ideas and lead to a Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsborough scenario behind the ice cream kiosk with breathless je t'aime's over a Walls 69?
Or was she hoping that the English love of animals would break down my reserve and my upper lip would lose its monopoly on stiffness?
Alas, I shall never know because I said I was washing my hair or finishing the final chapters of Moore's Principia Ethica.
Heartbroken, she threw herself under a lorry driver, became knowledgeable on double de-clutching and the price of diesel and grew fat on Yorkie bars.

A more alarming experience happened at a university party. I was having an interesting conversation with a girl but nobody had warned me that the her nymph-like looks were complemented by the Irish surname O'Maniac.
I innocently invited her into my room to show her my books on political philosophy but soon became aware that she was standing much too close and gazing into my eyes rather than at the bookshelves. It dawned on me that there was nothing Platonic about her intentions and that I had towed the Trojan Horse of Heterosexuality into my bedchamber.
I swiftly interposed a hardback copy of Russell's History of Western Philosophy between myself and her heaving bosom and edged backwards towards the door, pleading a sudden craving for another slice of quiche.

I got off lightly. A flatmate told me this same woman had come round to borrow a book and in the few seconds that he was finding it on the bookshelf she had undressed and draped herself on his bed. Since he had often told me that she looked like the back of a bus I assumed he had told her to put her clothes back on before she caught a cold.
But no. "A shag's a shag", he said. And: "you don't stare a gift horse in the mouth." And: "any port in a storm."
Heterosexuals are so disgusting like that.
Worse than animals.
At least I usually put on a Pet Shop Boys album and make coffee. I might even say "God, you're beautiful!" One boy even took his glasses off and replied dreamily "Nobody's ever said that to me before."
They haven't seen as many B movies as I have, I thought, as I undid his jeans.
Who said romance is dead?


At 2:51 PM, Blogger twinky said...

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At 9:58 AM, Blogger peter said...

Yum. Wish I could do stuff like that. *Jealous*. (But of course thank you also.)

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I'll have to pass on the BAFTAs because I wouldn't recognise most of the guests. Saw Bruce Willis for the first time this week, on Parkinson. Looked as though he should have a pit bull terrier and Union Jack T shirt.

Peter, you're very kind. But of course I can't do your stuff either and you sometimes write sentences to kill for. That's why they call blogging 'the beautiful game'. Or is that football?

At 10:37 PM, Blogger Cut-Rate Parasite said...

Excellent Valentine's Day post. The boy at the beach sounds like something from Death in Venice, but in a more age-appropriate sense.

How, by the way, were the final chapters of Moore's Principia Ethica?

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Yes, but there was no Mahler soundtrack. To be honest, I haven't finished the first chapters of Moore yet. But I have read Russell's History of Western Philosophy at least twice. Beautifully written but too many characters and only a rudimentary plot.
Coincidentally, I bookmarked your blog yesterday. Will blogroll you but that's the kiss of death. People I link to have a tendency to stop blogging.

At 12:17 AM, Blogger Cut-Rate Parasite said...

Thanks for the blogroll. I blogrolled you the other day.

I don't think I'll be in the ranks of those who stops blogging, at least not as a result of being blogrolled. (And some might have gone from anonymous blogging to thinly veiled pseudonymous blogging, by the way). But your concern is touching.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Blogroll is such a horrible term. Probably because over here a toilet roll is sometimes called a 'bog roll'.
I suppose any connection between yourself and a recently extinct American academic anonymous blogger is just me putting two and two together and making five.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Cut-Rate Parasite said...

No, you'd get 4. I had a strangely overwhelming need to extinguish my other blog. Sorry about taking French leave (I believe the French call it "English leave"), but that one was for figuring some thing out, which I did, one of them being that I really couldn't stand the blog anymore.

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was reminded of your blog as I read this -

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

The artist formerly known as 'Uncoerced...': That's the first sum I've ever got right.
Don't apologise. It's quite possible that one day I'll also vanish into the dark matter of cyberspace. But glad you're still around.

To Anon: many thanks for that interesting link. Although the NYT is on my sidebar I seldom have time to read it properly.


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