A little while ago I was at a diner party where people began swapping stories about their very first sexual thoughts. As always it was kind of weird and fun to hear people think back to early (or mid or late) middle school when they were definitely feeling some urges, but had no idea what was going on. I’ve had these sorts of conversations quite a lot because they are very closely tied in with “when you first knew you were gay” stories which comes up from time to time.
I have one friend at this party who claims that he knew he was gay from a very early age, somewhere around the age of 6. How could you ever know that you were gay from the age of 6? (At 6 you don’t even know what sex is, right?) My experience was one with a series of odd infatuations which looking back can be viewed as the seeds of homosexuality.
I think my first objects of lust it was probably workout magazines in the checkout aisle . I remember being at the grocery store with my aunt after she had picked me up from school and struggling to explaining that the guy on the cover of a workout magazine was really cool- I couldn’t place why, but I thought he was just great. Who knows what she thought was going on, but she told me that although it’s probably very nice to be that strong she wouldn’t want to give up the flexibility that you lost from being so bulky. I think I agreed vocally, but internally had decided she was nuts. Mr. Muscle and Fitness was A-OK by me.
Far weirder than magazine covers was an obsession I developed in school. At some point in my early early adolescence I had a history class in which we studied tall tales. I have always like tall tales. I love story telling and I love oral traditions so I being in class hearing about Paul Bunyan or Pecos bill was a fun time. But I was not prepared to get all hot and bothered by the stories about a particular tall tale: Mike Fink.
For those that do not know him: Mike Fink was a Keelboat man. Way back when American wild was still being conquered keelboats become the chief vessels of commerce on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The men who worked the keelboats were stereotypically strong because they had to push the boats against the current.
Of all of the keelboat men, Mike Fink was supposedly the strongest, most masculine, most crazed SOB in the west. In one of his many literary appearances he announces: “I’m a he-bull and a he-rattlesnake and a he-alligator all in one! I’ve beat up so many flatboatmen and thrown them in the river I haven’t kept a count since the food, and I’m a lover of the women like you’ll never see again. I can outrun, outhop, outjump, throw down, drag out, and lick any man in the country!”
I remember sitting in class and hearing the teach read:
Mike’s weight was about one hundred and eighty pounds; height about five feet nine inches; pleasant features, brown skin, tanned by sun and rain; blue, but very expressive eyes; and square brawny form, well proportioned, and every muscle of the arms, thighs and legs, were fully developed, indicating the greatest strength and activity. When he doubled up his fists the muscles rippled up and down his arms as slow as molasses. His person, taken altogether, was a model for a Hercules.
Guh! What was happening inside my 12 year old self! Good grief. Here in class even! this was the best story time ever.
Then it only got worse. Turns out Mike meets companions on his journeys: one named Carpenter and the other Talbot. All three of them were keelboat men and met on the river competing to see who was the toughest and buffest. So my teacher just continues reading about how after Mike met Carpenter and they were traveling Talbot jumped down from a tree and flexed so that his “muscles bunched up like thunder clouds.” My teacher keeps reading about how they wrestled on the river’s shore. My teach just keeps reading oblivious to the fact that I am experiencing a very un-formed gang-bang fantasy at the age of twelve.
I recently spent a long time shifting through Mike Fink articles and texts on trying to re-find some of the specific sections and quotes that I remember (in preparation for this post, of course.) I’ve come across scattered descriptions that that a little sexual in nature. I actually began reading one out loud to the boy one night until he interrupted me to ask if i was reading him erotica.
And to be honest it’s all very erotic. He’s a masculine braggart in situations are unreal, larger than life and designed to entertain. It’s just odd that with no social programming to be attracted to these stories I was, invariably, smitten with them. The older I’ve gotten I keep coming back to one truth: sometimes sex makes no sense at all.
But perhaps a better discovery than that is Mike Fink’s Myspace page. He’s a single Gemini. Perhaps I have a chance.