His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely.
This is my lover, this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
— Song of Songs 5:16
All the brothers here send you greetings.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
— First Corinthians 16:20
The congregation may be seated. You have not had an opportunity to get to know one another as a congregation. Half of you are straight. Half of you are gay. To my straight friends: You are not aware of what a privilege it is for you to walk in a park with your husband or wife holding hands, or in a rare moment of romance kiss your spouse spontaneously in public. As a gay man it is something I can do but it comes with risk and fear.
Dear Ann Landers:
I am a 35-year-old lesbian who has recently come out of the closet. I told my family and close friends about my sexual orientation when I met the love of my life. “Alice” and I are now living together. My family seemed supportive when I told them, but things haven’t been going as smoothly as I had hoped. My nephew had a birthday party a few weeks ago, and Alice and I were invited. We sat next to each other on the sofa, and I rested my hand on her leg. My sister was appalled. She said I am no longer welcome in her home.
I didn’t realize that simple gesture would be so offensive. I have apologized and promised to avoid public displays of affection toward Alice at future family gatherings, but it has made no difference. My entire family is in turmoil, and everyone is fighting. Please help us resolve this.
— Hurting in Ohio
For openers, you should keep your hands off Alice’s leg. The public display of affection did not sit well with the family, as you now know only too well. I suggest you reiterate your apology, and I hope for the sake of all involved that it will be accepted.
Dear Ann Landers:
Your response to Hurting in Ohio was horrid! She simply had her hand resting on the leg of her lover; she was not groping her breasts or French kissing her in the kitchen. My advice to Ohio is to retract your apology and let the members of your family know that you will be awaiting an apology from each one of them individually. Not all public displays of affection are appropriate in all settings, but simply resting your hand upon the leg of a friend let alone the love of your life was entirely appropriate. How sad that your family could not have embraced Alice and said, “Welcome!” But I forgot your family is not into public displays of affection. Well, give Alice a kiss for me … a deep, wet, warm one!
— Dave Jenkins, Portland OR
My Public Displays of Affection Diary …
Monday, June 18
I stop by the florist to buy Keith a rose. Keith is the Assistant Costume Manager for the road show of Cinderella that just arrived in town. I bring the rose home and attach a miniature bear to it with some red ribbon. What is it about men in beards with me? He opens the door and he is much more handsome than the picture we had exchanged on line. I hand him the rose and he smiles and gives me a kiss. “You’re much shorter than I imagined,” he says. “Is that a problem?” I ask. “Not at all,” he responds. We head for the elevator of the Mark Spencer Hotel. Once in the elevator he gives me another kiss, a simple, chaste kiss and a smile.
We have a wonderful dinner at the Newport Bay Restaurant. Keith has shrimp-stuffed salmon and I have blackened salmon. Halfway through dinner Keith says, “I am having a wonderful time.” At the end of dinner we decide to share a crème Brule. I offer a brief teasing spoon fight over the last bit of custard left in the bowl. He wins, only because I am a nice guy.
Tuesday, June 19
Keith has plans and I grudgingly go to Scrabble Club.
Wednesday, June 20
Keith surprises me by telling me that he has purchased a ticket for me to see the production of Cinderella. Since there was an afternoon matinee I am to meet him at the backstage door at 5:00 PM. I break into a smile when I see him coming. Just before we leave the building he gives me a kiss and says, “How was your day?”
We have dinner at the Veritable Quandary. We have an excellent table by large windows that overlook the patio and beyond to the park. It is a bright, sunny day. I order a pasta dish and he orders veal. More conversation. I rest my hand on his knee underneath the table.
He goes backstage and I find my place in the audience. He had bought a wonderful seat, down front and center. The production was lovely. Eartha Kitt as the Fairy Godmother … what a hoot.
Another kiss in the Mark Spencer Hotel elevator. Fade to black …
Thursday, June 21
Keith has plans and I begrudgingly go to my Men’s Spirituality Group.
Friday, June 22
This is Keith’s day off. He does not have to report to work until 6:00 PM. He asks me if I would like to play tourist today and show him the city. I pick him up for breakfast and we go to the Cadillac Cafe. He has an omelet and I have French toast.
Then we drive to Multnomah Falls on the Old Highway. I rest my hand on his leg as I drive. And sometimes he would rest his hand on top of mine. Occasionally I would scratch the back of his neck and find the ticklish place that would make him act mock-annoyed. Before we reached the Falls we stopped at Crown Point. He was awestruck with the beauty of the Columbia Gorge. Around us were many straight couples walking hand-in-hand, we resisted the temptation. We arrived at Multnomah Falls and again Keith was taken with the beauty of Oregon. We hiked up to the bridge and stood side-by-side looking at the power of the surging water, feeling the mist spray our faces. His hand slid over and rested on top of mine.
Our next stop was the Washington Park and the Rose Garden. The roses were in bloom and we walked among them, amazed at the variations in color. All the couples were walking hand in hand through the rows of roses. We did not.
We made the trek up the hill to the Japanese Garden. It had been some time since I had been there. I had forgotten how “holy quiet” the place could be. We really enjoyed the simplicity of the garden and how it unfolded as we walked through it. We walked past the waterfall and koi pond. We walked on little bridges that let us to a bench where we sat in silence and watched the sunlight emerge from behind clouds. I placed my arm around his shoulder. We sat there for the longest time with little or no words being exchanged. Later, we would both agree that that had been our best time together.
We explored a part of the Japanese Garden that was a little more arduous to navigate. I was climbing up some stone steps when Keith placed his hand on my back and said, “Sweetheart, your shoelace is untied.” I tried to keep him from noticing that I had begun crying. No one had ever called me “sweetheart” before.
We finally reach the Sand Garden. Very simple. Raked sand. Stones placed randomly. And a single bench. Keith sat on the bench. I looked around. The coast was clear; I gave him a simple kiss.
We stopped by the Goose Hollow Inn for sandwiches. He had pastrami and I had roast beef. We returned to the Mark Spencer Hotel. A kiss in the elevator. A nap before taking him to work.
After work I was to meet him a gay bar called CC Slaughters, it was Country Western Dancing night. He brought Tom with him from work. Tom was a local man who was working as a dresser for the show. Tom teaches drama at a local Catholic High School. We had a great time that night. Keith made it very clear to everyone in the bar that he was with me. We joked about who we thought were the cutest dancers and I introduced Tom and Keith to some of my friends. Towards the end of the night I told Keith that I might be brave enough to try a waltz. When the waltz began he took my hand and led me to the dance floor. I was an abysmal dancer, even with a simple waltz. But he wouldn’t let me stop. I looked at his feet the whole time so I could which direction we were going. And even then I step on his toes far too often. When we were done he said, “That was fun.”
Another kiss in the elevator of the Mark Spencer Hotel. Fade to black …
Saturday, March 23
Keith had a Saturday Matinee and an evening performance. Four of us were meeting at Scandals, a gay bar across the street from the Mark Spencer Hotel. I did not enjoy Scandals. It had a small raised platform that circled the bar and lonely gay men would perch on stools with drinks in hand looking longingly onto the main floor. Their faces contained studied detachment with a side of desperation. Tom and his friend were tired. Keith was very tired. The bar music was very loud. Shortly after drinks Keith and I walked across the street. A kiss in the elevator of the Mark Spencer Hotel. Fade to black …
Sunday, March 24
Keith is a preacher’s kid. His father is a Church of Christ Pastor on the east coast. I was a bit surprised when he said that he and Everett wanted to attend church with me on Sunday morning. Everett is a famous New York actor who plays the evil stepmother in Cinderella. Keith had made it to MCC before me. I met him at the pew and he greeted me with a kiss and hug. The service consisted of what Keith called “four camp songs and roller rink organ music.” But I didn’t notice any of that because Keith wanted to hold my hand the entire service. We stood for the closing hymn. My arm encircled his waist. His arm encircled mine. I hoped he hadn’t noticed that I was crying.
Keith, Everett, and I ate breakfast at the Village Inn. Keith and I had omelets and Everett had a strawberry waffle. When Everett drank his orange juice he made a face and said, “This taste like god damn Tang!”
They had to rush to the theater for the final show of the week, a Sunday matinee. Following the matinee I met Keith and Tom at the backstage door. We headed to a trendy restaurant in Sellwood. Our last supper. It was a nice meal. Tom and I promised to try to get together for a movie. I rested my hand on Keith’s leg under the table. The three of us shared a dessert.
Later that evening, Keith and I browsed through Powell’s Bookstore. Keith makes quilts and was looking for a particular book on quilt making. However, he ended up buying two books on the history of the King James Bible. I thought one book on the subject would be plenty.
A final kiss in the elevator of the Mark Spencer Hotel. I had brought Keith a present: an antique teddy bear, a video tape of my final sermon as a pastor, and a mushy note telling him what a wonderful week I had had with him. Fade to black …
When I got ready to leave he gave me a kiss and said, “Until next time.” The door closed. I walked a few steps down the hall and then returned to knock on his door, “One more kiss … only this time with feeling!” Fade to black …
When my father and I arrived at the barbershop it was a very bright sunset. It was odd that he was taking me to barbershop following my piano lesson, instead of straight home. It was even more odd that he pulled the shade of the door down. My father looked very nervous, which made me nervous. A few weeks earlier he had given me a book called, Susie’s Babies. It was about a mama hamster giving birth to a group of cute baby hamsters. As I recall, it was not direct enough to help me make a correlation between how a hamster is impregnated and how a woman is impregnated. But the baby hamsters were cute enough that I had convinced my father to buy me a hamster. I called the hamster Deuteronomy after the book of the Bible by the same name. The hamster was later eaten by the Huntsman’s cat.
“David,” my father began in the darkened barbershop. “There are things that you are now old enough to know.” I sat frozen and saw where this was going. “You are soon going to start feeling feelings that you won’t understand. One day you may see a girl in a tight sweater and your weenie may start to get hard …” At that point I think I passed out … well, not actually passed out but my brain froze and it was like someone had hit the mute button on a remote control. My father’s mouth was moving but there were no words coming out.
Throughout Junior High I desperately wanted to tell my father that no “warm special feeling below happened with girls in tight sweaters.”(Not even with Cindy Hoffman who by eighth grade had the breasts of a stripper!) But there was this one boy in tight jeans…