Playgrounds, as evolutionary survival, teach the necessary fact that it is important to be like everyone else, to find acceptance into the group dynamic. From pre-historic to ancient-times, and beyond, avoiding being ostracized meant avoiding death. This evolutionary hold-over pushed stagnation in the formation of an authentic identity from others, keeping interests, past-times, and loves from friends and families. Unsurprisingly, children are acutely aware of the differences amongst each other, particularly when there’s one who doesn’t participate in the same activities and games.
Feeling distant from classmates and peers, particularly the boys, began in elementary school when I wasn’t naturally inclined to want to participate in the same games and activities. While I could rough house and play with the best of them, my over-exuberance must’ve rung inauthentic to those around me. The thing I had that other boys did not have was my father’s Playboy magazines, which he kept openly in the living room on the end table near where he sat. The other boys would accept invitations to play or have sleep-overs in the living room, allowing free perusal of the Playboys. They were in awe that the nudity was on display so openly. I explained that my parents thought it was better to see healthy relationships than to see violence as natural solutions; when I turned thirteen I still hadn’t seen Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but had seen 9 & ½ Weeks.
Middle school was a complicated time – while other boys discovered girls, I had no interest in them. What I found more appealing were the boys, who became the subject of fantasy and infatuation. In middle school. there were no boys to roleplay intimacy or boundaries; everyone’s burgeoning masculinity was too fragile. Other students’ sexual exploration didn’t have many venturing far from home, but my search had me travelling far into the realm of gay-other, which at that time was predominately found in the character Jodie Dallas, from Soap reruns on Comedy Central. Jodie Dallas was ridiculed and dismissed every time he came out. He was a sad sack that never was taken seriously by his family, and was unable to find happiness with another person that was similar, whom to divulge his thoughts and feelings to. Jodie was constantly alone, single, and friendless because homosexuality separated him from his family. This was a typical portrayal of homosexuality in the early & mid-1990s, and Soap was from the late 1970s.
In middle school, ‘gay’ was a pejorative for ‘stupid,’ ‘sissy,’ ‘girly,’ or ‘less than.’ With group acceptance as the primary goal being labeled the outsider was unacceptable, so I steered far from the homosexual labels. I was intimidated. I wasn’t ready to be placed in any box, let alone the wrong one. kept any suspicious ‘gay’ buried through comic books. A lack of interest in sports was chalked up to geek, safely hiding within the group. I ignored the adventure of exploring a gay identity, and embraced the descriptions that avoided me being ostracized into the group with the more flamboyant homosexual boys – the ones labeled “sissy.” So, when a girl asked me to be their boyfriend I said yes, lacking the vocabulary and experiences to know that it would be an ill-fit. I withdrew and couldn’t muster the interest to mimic boyfriends I saw modeled on TV, and waited for the inevitable implosion. When she did call to break-up I didn’t feel relieved, or even numb – I simply went about my afternoon watching cartoons.