“You hate men and I hate that”. I was taken aback. The Lady and I were walking our usual trail. I had just commented on how annoying it is when men think that a dick is a requirement for turning on a faucet or lifting a heavy box. Do I find most men mildly annoying? Sure. Do I go out of my way to make misogynists kiss my ass? Definitely. But, I love men. I’ve always loved men. My father and grandfather were my first great loves. Even now, I carry them in my heart and wear them close to my skin like gloves. They were the first people with whom I could truly be myself.
My PawPaw was a tall, slim fella with smooth cocoa skin. He taught me to whittle, shoot, sew leather and make keys. Together, we shingled roofs and cleared gutters. We watched Rifleman and Gunsmoke. There was an ease about him, a gentleness. With him, I too was easy. Occasionally, we would stare at one another and smile until it hurt. That's what happens in the rapture of love. That's what happens when love let's itself go. I once asked him for a pack of boys underwear. Spiderman, I think. They were cute, colorful and they looked like me. My grandmother was horrified and refused to let me wear them. Because, even then, she saw what I couldn’t see. Even then, she tried to keep it at bay. My queerness dripped off me like a leaky faucet. Slow, steady and unyielding. And while I knew I was different, I had no idea how powerful that difference could be.
I remember my first real cognizance of differing gender. My best friend was the boy next door. JJ was sensitive, loquacious and tremendously nerdy. We’d play with action figures, Barbies and watercolors. We'd play in the dirt and we'd play with each other's hair. There was never any judgment, never any shame. One sunny afternoon, while we sat on the daybed watching Rick Flair on WWE, JJ asked if I ever touched myself. I wasn’t sure what he meant. He pointed to his boy bits and told me he had started touching. He insisted that I try it. There was nothing salacious in his suggestion, it was as if he were telling me to try the new He-Man. I told him I wasn’t sure how and he offered to show me. We went to the back room to hide and he pulled down his pants. When I pulled down mine he was perplexed. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. It's a look that I've come to know quite well. He told me he wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. He told me that I should still try, but that he couldn’t help me. We went back to Rick.
I've written volumes on my relationship with my father but the sum of it all is that, we were besties, BFFs. He took me to my first movie. He took me on my first date. He took me to jr. prom. We'd make late night runs to the corner store for Snickers bars and Coca-Cola. Though he had to push the pedals, sometimes he even let me drive. He too was easy. We shared secrets and inside jokes. We shared victories and defeats. We shared ourselves. That's what happens when the fear let's itself go. Love requires no filter.
Cancer claimed PawPaw. Mental illness marred JJ. Murder chose my father. I lost these men and with them, that ease. I dropped it somewhere but I didn't hear it fall. I spent years in the pit of pull through. I picked up prudence and perseverance and I never considered how my armor might reflect the light. I never gave myself a second thought. That's what happens when you hold grief if your mouth and forget to swallow.
I do not hate men. I hate heartbreak.