“Why I’m Choosing Heterosexuality”
by Michael Fowler
Now that I’ve reached my junior year in high school, I’m pretty sure I’m choosing heterosexuality for myself. Nothing against those who wish to choose differently, to snuggle up to guys if they are guys, or girls if they are girls, and it’s fine by me too if folks decide to marry in their own gender. It isn’t unnatural and won’t bring the world to an end. One of the art teachers here, Miss Ball, came out last spring, and it only took a few weeks for things to settle back to normal. A girl I know says a bunch of male teachers at her school showed solidarity by wearing red t-shirts, and no one paid any attention except to give them raises. And Coach Hurley, who once played semi-pro basketball, tells me that going the opposite way is a choice, so I want to be sure and give it some thought, which I guess is what coach means. And what I think so far is this: heterosexuality fits the guy I am, and it’s starting to amount to a conviction.
As part of my careful decision-making process, I’ve looked at girls in their jeans and also bare-legged as they lie around the pool or do their cheerleading. And I’ve compared that to the way dudes look in their jeans and barelegged around the pool or in the gym shower, and it’s no contest. The idea of rubbing suntan lotion on class treasurer Tim Singleton’s hairy back or thighs sends a signal through my system that warns me not to try it, or if I do, I might be slightly ill the rest of my life, not to mention that Tim would probably pound me in the chest hard enough to change my shirt size and jack my jaw so that I need to wear a facebow again. It’s not worth it, even if I’m curious to see how it feels, which I’m not.
Rubbing warm oil on Beth Sawyer’s tanned legs or smooth back, though, is something I could devote a whole afternoon to. I sense I could get lost in that activity even though I haven’t yet laid a finger on her, and don’t know if Beth would allow any guy to touch her unless he’s a doctor or the owner of a licensed tanning spa. So that’s where I’m coming from.
I give Beth Sawyer a lot of credit for helping me give the nod to hetero, in fact. It goes all the way back to grade 9, so you can see I’ve been traveling the straight path a long time, largely I think thanks to Beth. The way it started was, Beth and I were in the same biology class, and our table had to fill four test tubes with saliva so we could test the properties of its enzymes. Beth and I, with a certain look at each other, volunteered to be spitters along with two boys, and in a minute were giggling while watching white, frothy spit flow out of each other’s mouth and collect in a tube. Man, if I ever felt I might be attracted to the stuff coming out of Martin Freelander’s nasty, cracked lips, that afternoon was an eye-opener. I knew right away I could watch Beth Sawyer spit a gallon before I lost interest, but Martin could hack up his pink, living lungs before I felt any warmth or compassion toward him.
But likely I had made up my mind well before then, if not consciously, in grade 6. For boys’ and girls’ phys ed class back then, we all had to change our clothes on opposite sides of the auditorium stage, since our elementary school had no locker room. All that separated the boys from the girls was a stage curtain hung between them. Well, one period the curtain collapsed and Ingrid Metcalf and I caught clear glimpses of each other in our skivvies. We didn’t look much different at that age, just two gawky kids in clean white undies, though Ingrid wore one of those pre-bras or whatever they’re called, to support her pre-chest. And the feeling I got, well, it surprised me. As I say, I could have been looking at my own image in the mirror except for that pre-bra, but my heart swelled up in my chest like it was Christmas morning and I knew I was getting that new train or bike. No other comparison I can think of does justice to that staggering sensation. And it was nothing like what I experienced minutes later on seeing John Tompkins, that showoff, inverted on the still rings with a massive wedgie dividing his private particulars, which almost made me gag. Tracie Carr, standing next to me and like me forced to look deep into that wedge, nearly lost her breakfast. Tracie was probably leaning hetero up until that moment, as was I. I don’t know which side of the fence she ended up on, but I do know where I landed.
Naturally college will offer many new experiences, and as I continue my education it will pay me to keep an open mind about my sexual orientation. I could meet some really interesting professors and graduate students who with reasoned arguments and convincing weekend parties make me rethink things. Who knows but that a certain soft-spoken and well-educated teaching assistant, wearing the kind of cologne and velour pants I like, might look into my very soul and tell me things I hardly suspected about myself and the world, things that mean more to me than Beth Sawyer’s spit and Ingrid Metcalf’s drawers.
But honestly, I put the chance of that happening at less than one in a gazillion.