[Personal notes recorded for posterity. Feel free to skip]
Taking a break from the future to write about the past, to capture thoughts of an ordinary life…probably repeating myself…
When I was 12 years old, I attended a summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina. I, along with about a dozen campers (six boys and six girls) and two camp leaders, spent five days in a rustic campsite, which meant we slept in bunkbeds housed in wooden sheds and ate in an outdoor eating area with fireplace and picnic tables. We hiked, swam, canoed and went “tubing” (riding inner tubes down a river).
Like any situation where you spend time with kids your own age, I discovered I liked being outdoors with some of the kids but not all of them.
I had a crush on one girl and she liked me but she was more enamored with the fellow camper who was the son of the camp manager, well-liked and popular.
Thus, I was left to “pair up” with another girl (funny, how many of us naturally paired up with members of the opposite sex; however, one summer another boy was interested in me (I didn’t understand the word “gay” back then) and we corresponded afterward just like any boy and girl would). She was outgoing in the sense that she tended to blurt out sarcastic, funny responses to things people said, sometimes defensively; thus, I took notice of her when others were a bit turned off.
She was the underdog, a bit awkward socially and easy to talk with, once I overlooked her social faux pas with me, sensing that it was her way of flirting.
She tended to hike a little slower than the rest of the kids, getting blisters on her feet and making excuses about being slow.
Made her even more attractive to me for some reason.
Was it the “rescue the damsel in distress” syndrome in me?
We corresponded, which gave rise to my writing career, wanting to entertain her (and other correspondents) with short stories I’d include with the regular letters we exchanged.
Two years later, she approached me about the prospect of us meeting for the same week at summer camp, in this case hiking five days on the Appalachian Trail.
Thrilled that a girl would be so forward as to ask me for a five-day long “date” at age 14, I acquiesced.
I had forgotten about her slow hiking rate.
The camp leaders saw the two of us at the rational, well-behaved campers and were used in unusual ways.
For instance, the camp leaders did not want boys and girls sleeping together in tents or in AT shelters, with either camp leader sleeping between the boys and girls; however, they trusted the girl and me to sleep next to each other, with the two of us sharing a pillow more than once. We were also used to act as barriers between rambunctious boys in four-person tents, the girl and me sleeping in the middle with two misbehaving boys relegated to the outside, colder part of the tent.
The girl and I never kissed or even faced each other when we slept, making sure we were “appropriate” children.
We continued to correspond throughout junior high and high school, visiting each other twice during our high school years (we lived in east Tennessee towns about 30 miles apart).
We had our first official romantic date during spring break of our freshman year in college (she attended Tennessee Tech and I attended Georgia Tech at the time).
I had had a regular female friend in high school, with whom I attended both of our senior proms — we were a regular fixture and people assumed we were boyfriend and girlfriend but we never kissed, despite three-plus years of being together (she now lives in Tokyo with her husband; they have two grown-up children) — we also attended sorority/fraternity social events together after I transferred to the University of Tennessee; people assumed we were going to get married.
Instead, somewhere along the way, I fell in love with the girl from summer camp and, despite reservations from my sister about my maturity (and opposition from my high school female friend), and six years of on-again/off-again dating, I showed up, during one of our off-again stages, at her apartment door one evening with a dozen red roses and an engagement ring.
I moved in with her a day or two later, in April, and we got married that August at age 24.
Fast forward 30 years. I turn 54 tomorrow.
Where has the time gone?
Better yet, what happened to my dreams of being a free writer living in a cottage exploring dreams and Big Ideas?
I stood at the front of the church on our wedding day, seeing all the people looking at me, wondering if I was really ready for so big a commitment, basically something I had long opposed myself, the institution of marriage.
When we were on our honeymoon, out on a catamaran off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, I remembered something else about marriage that bothered me, something I had kept to myself since I was five years old:
My genderlessness, which sometimes fluctuated into bisexuality and attracted people of varying sexual orientation.
I had seen it time and again while growing up but did not understand what it meant to be attractive to people who didn’t always subscribe to the heterosexual lifestyle we were taught to perpetuate, especially at summer camp, which was sponsored/run by a Christian religion organisation, where we daily prayed, sang Christian songs and read out loud passages of the Bible.
So, from my honeymoon forward to recently, I kept up the sometimes difficult appearance of a heterosexual male in a monogamous relationship with a heterosexual female.
I had let myself get painted into a corner a few times over my hidden sexuality, wanting more than once to kill myself, almost a daily routine of thinking, “Well, I can kill myself tomorrow.”
Then, thanks to a dear, close friend of mine, I achieved a level of self-awareness that I could no longer ignore.
At first I identified myself as genderless, due to the fact that my marriage has been pretty much a celibate one for the past nine years, my sexual desires as strong as ever but not for the woman I lived with (I have rationalised “why” over and over to the point I don’t have any one reason why we’ve been abstinent this long).
My desires, they change from moment to moment and day to day.
I can flirt with a guy or gal any day of the week.
But, am I just a flirt?
As the 30 year mark arrives, I ask myself, is the security of my marriage worth it anymore?
If I stay married, the world stays the same, even though I announced myself to several close friends, including my sister. Financially, my life is much easier in this marriage than outside it.
If I get out of this marriage, my world will change quite a bit, could be better or worse.
Before I make that change, I ask myself what is it that I really want?
After all, there are important parts of my life that having financial security helps out, including a social dancing group that could use funding assistance.
But if I was a single man, I could also devote more time to activities that I’d no longer have to coordinate with my wife’s need of my time with her, which is never high demand but still ones that I’m not much into, like going out to eat and seeing movies or sitting in front of the TV at home while she plays a computer game and I text friends.
I’ve known my wife for 42 years, or 78% of my life. Does that mean anything?
Would I publicly give up all that my life has been to start a new uncertain one?
Would I want to be at home alone?
Meanwhile, I’m going to explore the future with my Martian buddy!