While gay guys are supposed to identify more with their mothers and I guess that was true in my case too, my confidence in being the gay man I am today came from my Dad.
No, I never had sex with my dad nor did my Dad want sex with me. But there were moments during my adolescence that I wish he had.
Though plain featured Eastern European in the looks department (my grandparents were from Slovakia), not a giant of man at 5-7, not very interested in sports, a high school drop-out, and not very demonstrative, he nonetheless impressed me with his naturally masculine demeanor and hirsute, stocky – not sloppy – physique in the days when gyms were reserved for bodybuilders.
It was that body – seeing my dad naked as he emerged from the shower – that awakened my sexuality and gave me my first hard-ons when I turned 12 and I began to see him emerging in me, particularly the fur. Then, I felt self-conscious, but years later as I entered gay life, I wore it like a badge of honor for it was my fur – much like my dad’s in texture and abundance – that separated me from other guys, taller guys, handsomer guys and, even as I got older, placed me in a sought after league of my own.
Again my father was not the typical sports freak dad and I must lay blame for my disinterest in competitive sports at his doorstep. True, not having those skills so associated with being male in American society caused me grief in high school – had my high school featured gymnastics or wrestling I would have excelled – but that failing was more than compensated by other, far more important virtues he instilled and cultivated in me – patience and imagination.
From my slightly psychotic mother, Russian in background (yes, I’m a Slavic pedigree), I inherited my wildness, short temper, and, yes, cynicism about people and life. Ah, but from my father I learned that listening got you further than shouting, a trait that served me well in my decades in public relations where learning how to get and give was paramount to success.
And while he never graduated high school and was a factory laborer all his life, with a brief stint in the Air Force where he bailed out over Nazi Europe and became a World War II hero in the process, I think if he had had the benefit of an education, he would have become an architect or engineer, someone destined to build things. He often helped me with those “hands-on” school projects where that knack to think outside the box was needed, and my curiosity about things and visual sense ( I still assemble thinks looking at the pictures, not reading the directions) blended well with my interest in reading I inherited by osmosis from my mother, an avid reader all her life.
Unlike with my mother, I rarely quarreled with my father – he was just not the quarreling kind – and I often wonder if his patience and holding back his frustrations with his wife, an unsettled and unsettling personality who often berated him, led to his early demise at 74 from a stroke. I blamed her for his death throughout the fourteen years she survived him, but now both of them are gone, lying side by side for eternity, and there is no use in crying over spilled milk.
I never discussed being gay with either of them nor did they ever really bring the subject up despite my disinterest in women. But I often wonder to this day how he would have reacted had he known or I placed whatever he might have thought squarely on the table.
Maybe, he might have just listened.
All I can tell you, incestuous as it may sound, I still subliminally remember my first sexual awakenings with my Dad every time I kiss a man.