I want to make a confession. It’s nothing terrible. It’s nothing tabloid worthy. It’s kind of embarrassing to think about it now. But in order for you to appreciate the confession and what’s behind it, I need to give you some background and context.
I know that you know that there was a time before satellite TV. Our phones were tied to the wall with wires. Our movies weren’t on demand; we had to rent them on VHS or Beta tapes at the local video rental place, usually at a mall. And believe me if your parents were anything like mine there was definitely no “demand” about movies. (Oh, yeah — we shopped at malls. Amazon wasn’t around back then.) Our music was on cassette tapes and MTV actually was Music Television. And all the wonders of the internet had yet to be dreamed of. In fact, computers were just become “a thing” in school when I was in fifth grade. Some of you might recognize one of these if your parents or partners drag you around to antique shops.
Not having the internet complicated life in the closet. It wasn’t just the isolation that we experienced at a time in which tolerance for LGBT people was ever fluctuating. The advent of the internet also made it easier for LGBT people of all ages to appreciate, in relative privacy, the attributes of their attractions. I’m not just talking about the ease and availability of porn, but I’m talking about being able to “fanboy” and “fangirl” in secret as well. Today it’s nothing to pull out your smart phone and look up facts and photos of that movie star or lead singer. Back in the day it was a little more complicated than that.
So, now, my confession.
When I was a teenager I had a HUGE crush on Corey Haim.
In 1986 the movie The Lost Boys was released. It was one of a flurry of Corey Haim/Cory Feldman cinematic team ups that came out in the 80’s. The best one of if you ask me. Though, I suppose, Dream a Little Dream comes in a close second. The Lost Boys had all the big names of the time: The two Cory’s, Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Jami Gertz. Beautiful people, dressed fashionably (for the time — don’t laugh), and gyrating to one of the best soundtracks of all time. But at the center of it all, for me, was Corey Haim.
So, picture it. It’s the 80’s and you live in one of the most conservative pockets in the region. You’re surrounded by the small town mentality of “traditional” values, where deviation from the time honored norm resulted in bullying and harassment and even violence. You know you’re gay; you have no interest in girls and panic regularly in the locker room before and after phy ed. You watch a movie and become enamored by one of the lead actors. What do you do?
You get creative and you get sneaky.
It wasn’t long after The Lost Boys came out that I was able to talk my dad into buying the family a VCR. Shortly after that the VCR migrated from the family room to my bedroom where I connected it to my little 12” black and white TV. Somehow I got my hands on a copy of The Lost Boys and voila! My crush was in my bedroom. To this day I’m not sure how I didn’t wear out that video tape.
Let me pause for a moment and make an important point. My crush on Corey Haim wasn’t just teenage lust provoking the typical reaction from a teenage boy. Even back then I was more relationship oriented than “sex” oriented. I would rather connect with a person than hook up with a person. I just don’t want you going away with the wrong idea.
So, I had “my Corey” on the huge 12” black and white television. But there was more to feed my crush.
If you were like me, growing up in the 80’s from the safety of a closet, you may have had a sister. Somewhere in that sister’s bedroom would be a collection. Sometimes this collection would be proudly displayed. Sometimes it would be tucked away for safe keeping. Sometimes this collection would be inconveniently gutted and plastered all of the walls. I’m talking about magazines. But not just any magazines. I’m talking about THE magazines filled with beautiful teenage boys, occasionally flashing some skin, smiling boldly. In that smile was an unspoken message: “So what if you’re gay. I’m here for you. Let’s talk about how hot I am.”
Occasionally one or two of these magazines would come to visit me in my bedroom. They would bring New Kids on the Block with them along with Johnny Depp, Jonathan Brandis, Ralph Macchio, and Jay R. Ferguson of the dreamy eyes who I recently blogged about.
You see, we didn’t have YouTube to watch clips of our crushes dorking around or sending greetings to their fans. We didn’t have Instagram or twitter. Time spent with our crushes was planned out, two dimensional, and required considerable imagination. And if you were like me, isolated and afraid that the real you would be discovered, a certain amount of calculating resourcefulness was also required.
So, I had a crush on Corey Haim (for obvious reasons) and in order to feed that crush I obsessed over a movie on a little black and white TV and snuck teen magazines from my sister’s bedroom. There. That’s my confession. I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing before I continue.
Got it out of your system yet?
And now a disclaimer: The tone of my thoughts from here on might sound judgmental. I think it could be easy to relegate them to the “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!” category. I hope you don’t do that because my goal isn’t to be preachy here. I just have a thought and, honestly, I’m curious what all of you have to say about it.
I admit that my opinion might be formed by a sense of nostalgia but I almost wonder if, at least where the idea of crushing and fanboying and fangirling is concerned, things were better before the internet. I know that might be strange to hear. It’s strange for me to say. And it’s definitely not in keeping with the opinion I’ve shared in previous blog entriesin which I celebrate the freedom LGBT people find through technology. But bear with me and let me explain.
I think that there’s something to be said about mystery. Mystery fuels the imagination. Mystery fills in the blanks when reality fails or answers are evasive. Mystery drives us to discovery, channeling us through a labyrinth of experience that helps develop identity and character.
On the opposite end of this spectrum is everything that comes with internet: Constantly flowing information, more than we can possibly consume and, sometimes, more than we want to know. I had to laugh recently when singer/songwriter Sia made an appearance on James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” sketch. Sia talked about wanting to maintain a sense of privacy in an era where stars have no problem tweeting out pictures of themselves from the dentist. Just this past week Kim Kardashian West tweeted a picture that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. A few months ago a photographer managed to “sneak” a picture of Justin Bieber sans clothes, finally showing obsessed fans around the world a side of the Biebster they’ve been wanting to see for years.
I’m not saying these things are bad. They just are. I don’t think it’s possible to ascribe them a value apart from a subjective appraisal and those, I think, I pretty much useless in our culture today.
I just wonder where the mystery is anymore when anything and everything you could possibly know is instantly available literally in the palm of your hand. Music doesn’t dance around a topic anymore — it comes right out and says it. Anyone with an internet connection, regardless of age, can watch total strangers have sex. Heck, according to certain studies (which, admittedly, are problematic in their methodology), teenagers are having sex younger and younger, leaving absolutely no room for mystery and wonder.
Do you know what I mean?
I think where I’m going with this can be summed up in this thought: Everything we receive comes with a cost. I think there is no better example of this than the internet. Information flows, educating people, connecting people, creating community, liberating not just LGBT people but people who struggle with abuse, addiction, racism, sexism, and so on. But when the information gate is opened we can’t pick and choose what information flows lest we make judgments about what information is “acceptable” and what information is “dangerous.”
I’m not a luddite. I’m not only fond of technology but I’ve grown quite dependent upon it. Even if we could rewind time and figure out how to keep the “good things” technology does and eliminate the “bad things” that technology brings with it, I wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to meddle with that history any more than I would want to meddle with the history of my life and take “missed opportunities” to come out. Time is. History is. We are at this moment in time, with all its good and with all its challenge. The question isn’t “What should we have done differently?” but rather “What can we do now?”
I don’t know if you agree with me. Maybe it’s just an observation made by someone who likes to think about things like this. Maybe it’s something similar to what people who came before me thought about “my time” just like you will think of people who come after “your time.” It might just be the nature of the universe, to see these positives bring their negatives, leaving people with way too much time on their hands to ask these kinds of questions.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with my thoughts on the internet destroying mystery and imagination when it comes to the development of sexual identity and the feeding of that curiosity (whether straight or LGBT), I hope we can agree on two things. First, I hope that we can agree that talking about these things doesn’t hurt anything. I hope we can agree that coming together and having conversations about things that we either see ourselves or things that others see and bring to our attention can only benefit everyone involved. Conversation is always good as long as all parties are listening andengaging.
I also hope we can agree on something very important.
I hope we can agree that Corey Haim was so hot!