That time I was young and desparate

Growing up, I was incredibly shy and quiet.  You young’uns, please recall a time when no one had a cell phone or access to the internet.  Incredible as it may seem, many of us grew up like that.  All you knew was what you saw on TV, read in books or magazines, or what your friends and family told you.  And when that’s all you have, and you’re struggling with the fact you may be gay in a world where no one else ever says the word gay, it’s a very confusing time.

By my late teens, I was beginning to realize I was probably gay, but still very unsure how to act upon it.  I was too young for the club/bar scene (not that I would have even known it existed at that point), so just the idea of meeting another guy, added to the fact that I was painfully shy, was nearly overwhelming.

At this time, I entered a surf store in Huntington Beach, an area I didn’t get to often.  I was not a surfer by any means, but the clothes were the fashion then, and I did need some clothes.  While shopping, this very hot, probably early to mid twenties (but very twink looking) guy who worked at the store came up to help me and then began a conversation.  Floppy blonde hair, which was my weakness then as now.  Looked very much like these James Paxton pics (from the US version of the show Eyewitness) I’m posting here.  That first pic is almost exactly how I remember him, it’s a bit uncanny.

Put yourself in my shoes… it was flattering, hot, and nerve-wreaking all at the same time.  But the guy was very at ease, striking up a conversation (the store was not crowded at the time), and before I knew it, the topics were going into our own lives.  We probably talked for about 15-20 minutes.  I was trying some performing classes at the time, and shared that with him to sort of feel him out (my gaydar was very dysfunctional then as now, lol).   To my surprise, he said that was cool, and that he actually played the cello.  I thought that was very cool personally (and also remember “cool” was the word du jour back then, haha), but in terms of gaydar, I had no idea where that put him.

I don’t remember quite how the conversation ended, but I do remember that I didn’t end up buying anything, and I left wondering if I really missed some sort of chance with him.  I didn’t get a phone number or anything from him, but we had chatted so long… that had to count for something, right?  I came home really pining for what I may have missed.

It was at that moment I took a pretty huge and very uncharacteristic gamble.  Remembering his name was James (it wasn’t, but it seems fitting now to call him that), I decided to actually call the store back and ask for him.  For someone like me, it was an incredibly gutsy move.  But I figured even if I was wrong, the worst that would happen is he’d say no.

I still have a very vivid memory of how it went.  Remember, I was calling this store maybe an hour after I was just there.  When they picked up, it was a woman.  I asked for James.  “James?” she said.  On retrospect, she had a tone that may have known exactly what I was doing, and knew it was about to end badly.  But she said, “Hold on,” and put the phone down to get him.  When he picked up, I explained I was they guy just in the store talking to him, if he remembered me.  He said “Yeah,” but in a very offhanded and dismissive tone that already sank at my heart.  But I had already come so far, I figured there was no going back, so I asked him if he wanted to grab a coffee or something.  That’s when he very abruptly and irritably said, “Man, I don’t do that,” and hung up.

I was pretty crushed, but at the same time, proud that I had the courage to try it.  It’s not exactly my most shining moment, but it was one in which I grew up emotionally.  I didn’t really lose anything, but I did gain some confidence about myself.

A strange coda to this story… many, many years later, I was performing in a show (those classes paid off, go figure).  In the final rehearsals, we had a cast of live musicians, and lo and behold… I’m convinced James was the cello player. 

I’m quite sure he did not recognize me, and I never got to talk to him, but I knew him almost immediately on sight.  Small world, right?  Although this time, I had the sense not to hit on him.  But boy, that was a very surreal moment.  And I had to say, he still looked pretty damn hot.

Leave a Reply