Just fragments. There are only a few fragments of memory that I have of him all these years on. It was so long ago. – back when I was the age of Craig, Harry, Avery, Ryan, Peter, Neil and Cooper. These were the leads in Levithan’s offering, ‘Two Boys Kissing’. I’ll call the character in my tale George – just in case I am wrong. I don’t think I am – and in any case there is no right or wrong in all this, despite the homophobic neolith we now have running this country.
George was a friend I kept in a separate box. He was a ‘me’ friend – someone to be with away from my matey mates – the guys I mucked around with most of the time. The ones I went to the footy with, played tennis with and later, shared a university hall of residence with.
I have no recall of how George an I came to be pals – it is lost in the ether of time. Did he attend the high school on the hill where I completed Years 9 and 10, or the secondary institution by the sea through my two matriculation years? He had a surfie hair cut – although I cannot remember him being one of the set that lived on West Beach during the summer months. He may have been there, waxing down his surfboard and ‘hangin’ ten’. He had an eagle’s beak of a nose, was thin and scrawy with acne but, nonetheless, was strangely handsome. There was a sheen to him – his skin seemed softer, shinier than that of the bronzed/ruddy lads who were my ‘other’ cobbers. All this seemed to set him apart and made him somewhat attractive to me – no, I don’t mean in that sense. Whilst my friendship with him was happening, I was also discovering the wonders of the opposite gender. He lived down the hill from me, in a small house in the same street as the fire station. I remember his father – he seemed to me to be unusually old – of George’s stature, but bald. I have no recollection of a mother.
He told me he was gay – at least I think he did. I laughed it off – thought he was just joking around. It may have been a big thing for him to admit that to me, but I immediately changed the subject. I am sorry I did that – even now. I had no experience of what he was trying to tell me. In my world there was nothing of boys liking boys. ‘Faggots’ – disgusting term, but that was their collective noun in the parlance of the times – just did not exist for my other mates and I. I just assumed, with hormones exploding through our capillaries at that time, that sex, when it came time to attain it, would be between myself and a girl.
My ‘usual’ friends and I went to university down south, spreading ourselves through the dorms of the three men’s colleges. I can’t remember if George actually went to the university as well – he may have done for a while, then dropped out. He shared a house with two older guys and I was invited to come to stay for a while during a uni vac, The house smelt odd – not unpleasantly so – a bit like a curry, I seem to recall. Perhaps that is what it was – as curries, apart from those made with Keen’s, were alien to me then. I remember George and one of the older residents of the abode – a very dapper, well groomed guy – being intimate in some minor way or other, that again, the exact nature of which has been deleted from my synapses. It made me think back then that I should have been more ‘humane’ with his ‘coming out’ to me, if that is what it was. After that, I have no knowledge if our paths ever crossed again. Shame that. I would like the opportunity to apologise to him.
My daughter encouraged me to read this book. She said she shed tears at the end. I didn’t. That is unusual for she and I as we are generally symbiotic in that regard. It is a well written and beautifully structured tome – a given. After all, it is by Levithan! My beautiful daughter will possibly be shocked with what I am about to write from here on in. She does know me well enough to know I am a strong supporter of equal rights – especially the right for any person to be able to marry the one he/she loves. If my island’s Legislative Assembly hadn’t been so jelly-livered my state may have been the first in the country to grant what I regard to be long overdue. I have had wonderful gay friends and taught students who, if not gay, were very confused about their sexuality. I had always beseeched my classes to have tolerance of those who differ from the white bread heterosexual majority – easier said that done when so many of their parents were Deliverance style red-necks. Whereas sex between two women is the stuff of male fantasy; that between two men, I find, is something I’d rather not think about – although I support their right to have it – just not anywhere near where I can see it. Even if I espy men kissing on the tele, or on film, I have to look the other way. I know – it’s pathetic – but there you are. A publication based on the premise of two young men openly trying to break the world record for continuous kissing, of my own volition, is something I would not choose to read about – but I gave it a go. And, of course, the novel is about far more than just that. Sadly, because of their sexual persuasion, I found it difficult to care about the aforementioned characters as much as I knew I should; as my talented offspring obviously did – and I love her for that.
That being said, I am sad that I cannot imagine the school I taught in for twenty years prior to retirement would have tolerated being the venue for such an attempt to change the record books – despite working under some very broad-minded, but nonetheless community conscious, principals. I supported the right of two openly gay women to have a relationship and continuing to work in that school. I like to think that would have been no different had they been men.
No,’Two Boys Kissing’ is a fine book and should be in every high school library. Levithan is to be commended for tackling the subject of boys in love with each other, even if in saying that, it indicates that in many schools relationships of that hue are still not regarded as mainstream – as they so should be. That it is ‘not my cup of tea’ should not diminish the novel’s worth.
David Levithan’s web-site = http://www.davidlevithan.com/