Jordan’s dad showed up and, after dinner, he and Jordan went down into the basement so they could talk privately. Jordan seemed very calm when he returned upstairs afterwards, and he told me when we were in my room that the divorce would be final—no backing out, no reconciliation—but whether he could stay here or have to go back to his village to live was undecided at this point. It would depend on his dad finding work here. If he did, he’d relocate here. If that happened, Jordan said he was determined to live here, too, no matter what judgment came down.
Jordan also said he’d told his dad he was gay and that he was trying to convince me that I was. When he saw how I reacted to that, he told me I didn’t have to worry, his dad wouldn’t say a word to my parents or anyone else about it.
That was a lot to swallow in one gulp, but it all sounded pretty good, except for the possibly leaving part. He didn’t think he’d have to live with his mom, but the courts always gave that as a first priority, didn’t they? Seemed that way. It was an old-fashioned view, that the mother would be the best single custodial parent, but old habits linger and courts don’t change historical positions quickly.
Yeah, Jordan was right, I was still a little undecided about my being gay, but not about my feelings for Jordan. He said he loved me, and as I spent time with him, my feelings for him seemed to be resolving in the same direction. I didn’t want him to leave, and the hell with the repercussions.
That of course was my ego, my personality talking. At fifteen, I wasn’t ready to abandon my family. I was confident they wouldn’t abandon me, either, and would adjust their thinking to me being a gay boy instead of a straight one. But that didn’t mean I was ready to shout it to the treetops yet. Especially since I wasn’t even sure about what I was.
I had the thought, while pondering this, that it really wasn’t that important a thing to worry about. Gay was a label people put on a person. Just like other labels: manager or janitor or grocery bagger or king. But those labels didn’t define the people stuck with them. It described one element of them. Everyone had multiple elements that combined to make them who they were. Whether I could be labeled gay or not didn’t really matter. What was important was my relationships with people, how I interacted with them; the only one to whom the gay label should matter was Jordan. With everyone else, I was the same as I’d always been. So, why should I be so involved trying to figure out if I were gay? I should only be thinking about how Jordan and I fit together.
Realizing that took some weight off my shoulders. It might have been overly simplistic, perhaps even naive, but it seemed right to me. No one I played soccer with or ate lunch at school with or talked to in study hall ever wondered if I were gay or straight. I was just David and judged on my behavior. That’s how it worked. My sexuality was no one’s business. I didn’t need to tell people I was gay or try to explain the complexity of it.
I did need to let several people know that I was going to date Jordan to see how that relationship would play itself out. They’d then ask if I were gay, and I’d answer I had strong, even intimate feelings for Jordan but not for anyone else, and they were free to label me in their minds anyway they wanted. Then it would become their problem, if a problem it was to be, but not mine.
Okay, this made sense to me and made me start thinking about telling my family. If I wanted to date Jordan and not hide the fact I was doing so, I needed to talk to Mom and Dad. And the time to do it was while Jeff was away. Jeff would have to be told, but I wanted to do that face to face, and it just seemed proper to do that after I’d told my parents.
Jordan’s dad went for a job interview the next Monday and found a job working at Dad’s bank! Jordan was ecstatic. This meant Matthew, his dad, would stay here and most likely be able to keep Jordan here as well. Jordan confessed to me that one of the reasons he so wanted to be away from his mom was that she despised gays. He said that would work in his favor, because if the court decided to assign her custody of him, he’d tell her he was gay and wanted to come here to live with Matthew, and she’d be glad to see the back of him.
The perfect time to talk to my parents was when Jordan and his dad were off apartment hunting. Jeff was still away, we had the house to ourselves while the twins were off for a scheduled play date that morning, and so I asked Dad over breakfast if he could be a little late to work that Tuesday morning, not more than an hour, probably less. I guess he heard something in my voice because he promptly agreed.
I grabbed my mom out of her office and brought her into the family room, too. We sat, both of them on a couch, me on a straight-backed chair I pulled up to face them.
“Dad, Mom, I need to let you know what’s happening. Jordan and I have developed feelings for each other. He agrees with me that we should start dating. We don’t want to be doing everything behind everyone’s back. We want to become a couple. Not for the world to see. We’re not ready to be that obvious yet. Still early days, and we want to see what it’s like, being a couple. But I’d feel it deceitful not to let you know what I’m feeling and what’s happening.”
They both turned to look at each other. Then Mom asked, “Are you telling us you’re gay?”
I smiled. Already, just as I guessed. Labels.
“Maybe. I certainly feel a sexual attraction to him. But not with other boys. Or, well, maybe I had in the past. You know, just a little, like crushes. Jordan and I’ve discussed this quite a bit, really. He thinks I’ve been repressing my feelings for a long time, not wanting to be gay even when my body was telling me I could be. He could be right. This is all so new to me that I don’t have a lot of answers yet. But I do know I feel strongly about Jordan, much more so than for anyone I’ve ever met before.”
Dad sort of fidgeted. He wanted to say something, that was clear. He looked like he was trying to figure out how to say it. I smiled at him. “What, Dad?”
He smiled back. That was reassuring. It was the first smile I’d seen since I’d begun this conversation. But he also looked very uncomfortable; that just wasn’t my dad.
“David, can I ask? How far have you two taken this, physically? And how often?”
He looked so fidgety and uncertain when asking that, not wanting to do so but feeling he had to, that I couldn’t help myself; I laughed. How I managed to do that, I wasn’t sure, but it came from seeing something I’d never seen before. He was calm and collected in every situation; that was one of his great strengths. This was so unlike him; I couldn’t help but react.
So, I laughed, then answered him. We didn’t have secrets in our family, not important ones. Our parents trusted us, and we them. We were pretty much open books to each other. “As I said, it’s early days. We made out with each other on that hike we took. That was the first time, the first time I allowed myself to act on the feelings that were growing in me about Jordan. We’ve only kissed a couple of times since. But we both want more. You probably remember being fifteen.”
Dad smiled. “David, if you’re gay, or bi, or simply in lust with Jordan, I have no problem with that. I couldn’t be prouder of anyone than I am of you. It’s your life to live. We’ve tried hard to prepare you for it, and we love what we’ve seen of how you behave. So, you have our full support and love and . . . well, I’m going to talk to both of you together when Jordan’s back. Set some ground rules. But I’m on your side.”
“I feel just the way your dad does. In fact, we’ve speculated on your being gay.”
“Really?” This was shocking. “I was dating Jessica! How could you think that?”
“I heard the way you spoke of her. I didn’t hear any real attachment. I also saw how you often managed to not go out with her when Mike wanted you to. That, plus the fact you’d never talked about any girls you liked at school, well . . . even Jeff talks about girls, and he’s eleven. So, we thought it possible.”
“Wow! I didn’t think it possible. You guys are always two steps ahead of me.”
They stood up, so I did, too, and we joined in a three-way hug. I was so happy I had them as parents.
Jordan came back from apartment hunting saying they’d be going out again tomorrow, that they’d found possibilities but weren’t done looking yet.
“I need to tell you something,” I said, and, wanting more privacy than we had upstairs, took him down into the basement.
There, I said, “I told my parents about us. They said that they didn’t mind my being gay, but that I sure had poor taste in men. That I should choose a better partner.”
He gave me a look, then grabbed me and kissed me and made it last long enough that I was glad we were in the basement with no one was there to see us, because I had boned up.
He glanced down, saw what he’d done, and said, “Whoever you find, make sure he can kiss as good as that!” Then he laughed. He wasn’t buying my tease for a moment.
I was still recovering from the kiss when I heard the door to the basement above us open, and then Dad calling down, “Hey, can I come down and talk to you guys?”
I called back, “Sure,” and promptly rearranged myself. What I couldn’t do in the time it took for him to walk down the stairs was hide my blush, but he didn’t remark on it. Tactful, diplomatic and poised, that was Dad.
“Let’s sit down and talk. This shouldn’t be too embarrassing. We’re all adults here. Well, one of us is.” He chuckled. I think he was trying to reduce any tension. He wasn’t entirely successful in that, but it did help.
“Guys,” he started when we were all comfortably seated, “we need to talk about this so we’re all on the same page. David, you asked if I remember being fifteen. I sure do. I suppose you guys are much the same, thinking about sex all the time. I didn’t have a partner back then, only my right hand. You guys each have a partner, so real couples’ sex is much more available. This is what I think we should discuss.”
He stopped to give us both a chance to say something. Neither of us did.
“Here’s the thing. This is what I worry about. Sex can become too big a thing in your life if you allow that. If you’re having a lot of sex, you tend to want even more. It can be like a narcotic that way and have the same effect on your life. It can be become too disruptive. It takes away time that at your age should be more productive. You need to be associating with other people so you cement your interpersonal skills. You should be playing soccer and other sports, other non-athletic games, too, so you master teamwork and keep yourselves physically fit and exercise your mind as well. You should be studying and keeping your minds on your lessons. There’s a vast world out there you know nothing about, and you need to be interested in it. Sex, too much sex, can be overwhelming and get in the way of all of this.”
He stopped again. I didn’t have anything to say. Neither did Jordan.
He nodded. “That’s the gist of what I wanted to say. You’re going to have sex. I don’t even want you not to. Sex is wonderful. I just don’t want it to become the focus of your life or even of your relationship at fifteen. That would be a huge mistake, perhaps even a tragedy. You need to spend time apart, too, not be smothering each other. Distance creates perspective.
“So, what should you two do? How do you put sex into proper proportions in your relationship? How do you retain independence but still be together? Any suggestions?”
He smiled. I glanced at Jordan. His eyes looked dazed. I’m sure he didn’t have the open relationship with either of his parents I had with mine; he couldn’t imagine having this conversation with those two. He was listening to my dad, not sure this was real. This was horribly unsettling for him. He was keeping his mouth shut. I decided that was the best way to fly and kept mine closed, too.
“Okay. This is what I’m thinking, but it’s just that, and I welcome your thoughts. I’d like this to be more a discussion than a lecture. But here goes. David, you said this was early days. You two know each other now, but not intimately. I don’t mean sexually intimate, but socially. You have the beginnings of that relationship. I think you’d be well off to expand on that.
“You hit the nail on the head, David, when you said you wanted to date Jordan. That’s exactly what young couples do. It’s how they get to know each other in various situations and decide if they fit together, or if maybe little things begin to annoy each other, if just by being themselves does that. So, I think you guys should do what you said, David: date. Do the things couples do on dates.
“You’re lucky that you’re fifteen. If you were much older, two guys always hanging together would eventually grab people’s attention. At fifteen, you won’t. So, you can date without people suspecting that there’s a romantic element in your being together.”
He rushed on. I think our silence was alerting him to the tension we were feeling and our desire for this to be over. “As far as sex goes, I’m not setting any boundaries. It’s much better if you do that yourselves. If you do stuff here, it’s important no one knows about it. But as far as frequency goes, my preference is not more than once a week for heavy make-out sessions. At fifteen, that’s enough. You have the same right hand I had at that age, and that can suffice the other six days.
“Some kissing is okay, I guess.”
He had the presence of mind to blush after saying that. Then he finished. “That’s all I have. I trust both of you to be discreet and practical. I’ve said what I wanted to say, and I hope you’ll ponder it.
“I’ll only step in and talk more about this if I see warning signs that are scary enough to warrant my involvement. David, I’m sure you want to discuss this with Jeff yourself, and I’ll let you do that. The twins, of course, shouldn’t be involved at all, even to see you kiss. Now, any questions or comments? No? Then I’m going upstairs and getting a stiff drink!”
We looked at each other, and Jordan forced a smile. “Well, that went well.”
I laughed. “Actually, I think it did, and it cleared the air. We know where he stands, and to me, it’s apparent he’s entirely behind us. He likes you, Jordan, and he has no problem with us dating or even having sex. And I like his idea about dating. Well, my idea, too. I mean, think about it. By dating we can see if there are things we find annoying about each other, and see if they’re fixable. Dating will add maturity to what we have together. Uh . . . what do you think?”
He grinned at me. “I think you’re so lucky, having parents like that. My dad’s fine, but he’s always been way too busy, working long hours when he had that job where he used to work. Then on his own. I’ve never been as close to him as you and your dad are because he was rarely home. I know he loves me, but we just aren’t as close as I wish we were. My mom, well, I’ve steered clear of her as much as possible since almost forever. She’s a homophobe and a control freak, two things I can’t stand. You’re just lucky.”
I leaned over and kissed him. He kissed me back hungrily. That led to much more. Since the lake, we’d only kissed. Now, we were alone in the basement, Mom was in her office making calls, Jeff was away, Dad had left—I knew, because I’d heard the car start up—and the twins never came down into the basement unless Dad or Mom was bringing them. We had the basement to ourselves, and the hunger, fueled by the kiss, was with us.
When we were through, I had a glimmer of what Dad was talking about: this certainly could become an obsession.
Afterwards, feeling a glow, we talked about the dating thing. We both liked the idea. This way we’d be around other kids that Jordan would need to meet, and meeting them a few at a time before school started seemed the best way to do it. We’d have to come up with some ideas of where to go on these dates, but I was good with lists. Shouldn’t be a problem.
I thought of something else that should be done. Jordan was an above-average soccer player, and I wanted him on our school team. But practices began with the school year, and games started soon after. It would be much better if the coach knew about Jordan and had seen him play before that first practice. I had to work out how to do that. Coaches aren’t allowed to work with players out of season.
Jordan had a place to stay now other than my room. Rats! I think we both were unhappy about that, but it did lend itself to what my dad had gone on about. Setting some distance, not being on top of each other all day every day, not being the only thing in each other’s life.
Their apartment was close to our house, however, and I was sure I’d still see him often, if not every day. I had no problem with that.