just because you can
Love me some Dolly. I love the persona and the artist. She's funny, creative, smart and not at all what her looks would betray her to be. In any case, listening to this version of her song, and hearing not a buxom blonde but a guy singing those lyrics, I thought about the whole straight man adoration that some gay guys feel. When the single for this song is played in 33 RPM, Dolly's high soprano becomes more of a Luther Vandross croon and the song takes on the haunting plead of a guy asking a girl not to take his man. The man he loves. It's a gay guy's nightmare: in love with a man who's in love with a woman. Funny, don't you think, how a song can so radically change in meaning when a man seems to sing it?
And then I remembered I had my straight man period. I kind of got infatuated with a guy who was, as far as his friends and everybody I knew said, straight. It happened when I was a freshman in college. I remember the first time I saw him I could not take my eyes off him. He did have a magnetic personality and moved in that slow, easy way that some men have that makes them seem like they're not in a hurry for anything or anybody. He had long legs and wide shoulders and a dazzling smile. I think that his laissez-faire was not just his personality but also a byproduct of the pot he smoked with his friends in the back of the stadium, near the pool. He seemed to be pretty mellow and was a little older than me and the group of people I hang around with, and to top things off, we had the same name. So I discovered I was basically infatuated with a straight version of myself.
Kidding! He looked nothing like me. He looked more like Chad Douglas, the uber-daddy from classic gay porn movies who gives Kevin Wiles and a bunch of blondes from those long gone days of the golden age of gay porn a run for their perky bottoms. Yep, he looked just like that, bushy mustache and hairy chest and small waist and long legs and all that jazz. He even had the same hairstyle, a little long and a little wild. I swooned. He was an engineering student, I learned, through some of the kids from Poli-Sci, and he used to hang out in the same cafeteria where my friends and I used to have lunch.
So I would basically kind of stalk him every day for like, three hours. And we would exchange long, lingering looks while pretending we didn't see each other, always circling each other's group of friends in a very elaborate and convoluted dance. I had no idea what we were doing. It was some stupid game we played. I know he kew I fancied him. But it was a fun game. I was always hanging out with my friends, all freshmen and absolutely green, talking about music and plays and where we wanted to go during spring break and he would be hanging out with his friends, talking games and pot and girls and whatever it was that engineering students talked about. We were twenty feet away from each other but lived in two absolutely different worlds.
I never saw him with an official girlfriend, though. There was no Jolene in my college freshman song. Girls were always fluttering around him and he'd smile and flirt with them, grab them by the waist and tell them they were pretty, but come to think of it, I never really saw him with one girl. Even when we 'did not see' each other when we happened to be in the same club or bar near the university on Fridays, when we went out with our friends. Because I discovered that we had some common friends: some girls I knew who took classes in the Arts and Sciences buildings knew some of his girlfriends. And I would go out with them and I'd see him. Again, circling each other like two crazy planets in different orbits. We were always about seven degrees of separation away from each other. But we never talked. I just knew that he gave me butterflies. I imagine I was infatuated with the image I had of him. He was handsome and popular and I see now that the fact that he presented as straight made him a safe target to the romantic idea I had of a man. So I could crush on him hardcore and be on the safe side. I had nothing lo lose.
I discovered years after I had graduated that his friends would tease him mercilessly when they saw me and told him he should ask me out. You know, usual macho posturing from hyper-caffeinated frat boys. Apparently I checked all the 'cute' boxes in their list and they didn't mind I was a guy. But yeah, I never exchanged a word with him. He was the unattainable, impossibly cool straight guy that I thought was super hot. It never crossed my mind that I could have him. He was there for me to giggle stupidly and act dumb with my friends. Maybe he was just an exercise on flirting. Nothing more, nothing less. I don't think I ever considered talking to him during one of those late nights when everybody was a little drunk and many things could happen and then he'd have that 'boy-was-I-drunk-last-night excuse. Never, really. And soon I moved on and got with a guy who was my boyfriend for three years and whom I proceeded to forget once we graduated. He was also an engineer. Go figure. I imagine something did come out of those silly cafeteria days.
I learned much later that my crush had passed away. I was already living in another city and I heard that from one of the theater girls. He was on some kind of accident. Motorcycle, I think. And I remembered him. all black hair, and nice mustache and strong arms and smoldering looks. And I remembered when I had crushed on a straight guy. See what a song played at a slower speed can do to your head?