“Is it the toilet or do you smell like shit?”
Jon asked while he was cleaning the toilet with the toilet brush, Don was cleaning the shower with shower brush, and I was brushing my teeth with the electronic toothbrush. I probably still smelled of alcohol, cigarette smoke, and sweat from dancing all night at Flavor, the biggest gay club in town. I spat out the minty toothpaste in the sink, making an awful gagging sound. When I told them where I went the night before, Jon had a big grin on this face and I can also feel Don smiling in the bathtub, which meant they knew the flavor of Flavor.
Jon and Don were middle-aged men-maids who cleaned my family’s house every other Wednesdays at 9 am and they were the very first people I came out to. Jon and Don (yes their names rhyme) have been together since high school and their story is soooo “It gets better.” Mine is still getting better.
When I was high school, I met my first boyfriend, Ethan, from the LGBTQ youth group. About a handful of gay teens from different high schools met weekly at a gay coffee shop to create a supportive environment when we felt not supported in our daily lives.
Ethan, a twink-ish white boy, was very clear about how he was attracted to me. – “I love your eyes. I love your skin. I love your face. I love your hair.”
“Do you love my personality too?” In order for me to develop some love of trust with him, I needed reassurance that he was interested in me as a person, and not just fascinated with my facial features. We spent time together every weekend and even skipped classes during the week to see each other, often exploring our sexualities. He was definitely a good kisser and I had that good-funny stomach turns upside-down feeling every time we kissed. However, I began to notice more and more negative aspects of Ethan which I overlooked because I liked him and enjoyed the fact that someone showed interested in me.
One night, I had a party at my house when my parents were out of town. While my friends and I were smoking pot in the back yard, Ethan stood in the kitchen in the dark with lights off staring at us through the window. This bizarre and creepy behavior was hysterically funny to my stoned friends but it frightened me. I went inside and asked if if he was ok.
“No, I am not ok. I want to go home, but if I was at home, I would be killing myself right now.”
He explained about growing up in an unstable family due to father’s alcoholism. All he wanted was to be with positive people who cared about him and me smoking pot felt the opposite of that. He was torn; he didn’t want to be with me and he didn’t want to go home.
Ethan and I did not have the same outcome as Jon and Don’s relationship, but we had similar childhoods of having alcoholic fathers. I wonder if Ethan felt any less isolated during the brief time we were together when we needed to explore our sexual orientation / identify. I never saw Ethan again, but few months after finishing high school, I heard from another LGBTQ youth group member that he was doing well.
After I came out of the closet to the people who clean closets, Jon gave me a big hug and told me how proud he was of me.
“Wear a condom!!” Don warned me by pointing the shower brush at me.
They were very much my father figures (no, no, no, not in a daddy-son way) and life did get little better knowing I had their support.