(Everything You Wanted To Know About Keith But Were Afraid to Ask)
by Keith Hoffman
Author’s Note: Some names have been changed in order to protect those who hath not sinned
My mother must have sensed something was different about me.
Let’s just say I remember exactly where I was when I heard Judy Garland died.
I was watching an episode of Batman with my favorite villain Catwoman (played by Julie Newmar not those cheap imitators Lee Meriwether or Eartha Kitt).
Progressive and daring casting choice but no
I immediately leapt up from in front of our new color TV and ran out to the front yard where my mother was weeding in her two-piece bathing suit.
“Mother! Mother! Judy Garland! She’s dead!” I screamed as I ran into her arms and wept.
“Oh, Mother,” I blurted between sobs. “If only I had met her, I could have helped her be happy!”
At the age of eight I was a child prodigy at being codependent.
Perhaps my mom hadn’t quite figured it out. Maybe she told herself that lots of little boys loved Judy Garland. She was in The Wizard of Oz for Pete’s sake–nothing alternative life-stylish about that.
But that evening when I belted “Smile, Though Your Heart is Aching” using my sister’s curling iron as a microphone, she must have deep down suspected I was a member of a brotherhood of men that I didn’t even yet know existed–the same brothers who would historically rebel at The Stonewall Inn in New York City only six days later changing the course of my life.
It’s not like she didn’t have other clues:
- While other boys my age followed the careers of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose from my city’s beloved Reds team, I pretended our mop was Cher doing one of her solo numbers wearing a stunning Bob Mackie gown.
- I once stood up and screamed “YES!” accompanied by a fist pump when Mitzi Gaynor, the actress/singer/dancer from the movies South Pacific and White Christmas executed an impossibly high kick while over the age of 50 on her annual variety special.
My role model on how to age with pizazz
- I often twirled around our back yard for hours playing Maria from Sound of Music singing that the hills were alive for all our neighbors to see from behind their curtains.
- And finally this question during my pre-pubescence: “Mother, do you ever worry Liza will follow the same tragic path as Judy?”
Maybe my mom was so preoccupied with supporting and raising her entire brood of five kids by herself—the majority of whom were in their turbulent teenage years—that she found it difficult to focus on any one of our specific issues.
Plus she no clue about Bobby Summers.
Bobby Summers was one of the coolest kids in my 8th Grade class.
Bobby Summers was so cool he got to play Jesus in our Catholic school’s Passion Play.
That’s how cool Bobby Summers was.
I was jealous of Bobby Summers at first. I was sure I would be a better Jesus than he could ever be. But instead I was cast as the Good Thief.
The Good Thief hung on the cross to Jesus’ left and defended him from the Bad Thief hanging to his right. I was Jesus’ second banana— the Ethel to his Lucy; the Rhoda to his Mary; the Louise to his Thelma.
I got to know Bobby Summers as we rehearsed carrying our heavy wooden crosses up the school auditorium aisle while classmates playing the angry crowd jeered and taunted us (personally this was not very different from my daily experience on the playground so I felt right at home). I couldn’t ignore how cute Bobby Summers looked in his crown of thorns—and when I defended him as we hung from our crosses—deep in my soul I really, really meant it.
“Leave him alone. Can’t you see he’s in pain?” I bellowed with dramatic intensity as if I were Meryl Streep proclaiming I was the French Lieutenant’s whore.
I was Jesus’ savior and I would have been Bobby Summers guy forever if he had only asked me.
Yet I still somehow didn’t associate these feelings with sex.
I had read about the homosexual lifestyle and wanted no part of it.
One night I had crept downstairs and snuck my mother’s copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) from the back of her bookcase up to my bedroom since there was a lot I wanted to know about sex but was afraid to ask.
And I paid close attention to the chapter on homosexuality.
According to the book, miserable men picked up other miserable men in bowling alley restrooms when they weren’t busy living sad pathetic lonely frustrated lives.
My heart sank and my stomach twisted and knotted.
This was horrible news.
This was not what I wanted for myself at all.
The original copy stolen from the bookcase–and what did my mom want to know about sex anyway?
This explains why it’s so hard to keep the weight off.
We’re here! We’re clubfooted! Get used to it!
Will I have to rent the tacky shoes?
I told myself these feelings for Bobby Summers were just a phase like when I used to sit in the big green chair in our living and hit the back of my head repeatedly against the cushion for hours at time (medicating children was not in vogue yet).
I was going marry Cindy Hall and have four kids.
And we would only go to bowling alleys to bowl.
I was going to be normal just like everyone else.
Nothing abnormal happening here!
And yet …
…it was hard to forget how cute Bobby Summers looked as he hung from the cross dying for my sins.
Keith Hoffman will be performing his pieces at Western Bowl every Thursday at 8pm in August.