Tell us about a time you made a false assumption about a person or a place — how did they prove you wrong?
I had a huge crush on a man who turned out to be homosexual and I had no idea, even ignoring things that later seemed obvious.
In my younger years I was a caver. My husband and I would go down to West Virginia several times a year to join a cave trip. We wanted to branch out and heard about a man who organized cave trips in a newly found cave called Blue Springs In Tennessee. We organized our own trip with a few other cavers and went to his historic house built before the Civil War. It was right on the Trail of Tears Highway just outside of Nashville.
He showed us around his house and told us how he had restored it as authentically as he could, even using square nails like they used to. Upstairs he was working on decorating the rooms with antiques he picked up at swap meets.
“Would y’all like to see my queeeaalts?” he asked in low, slow, sexy southern drawl.
“queeaalts…. ?” he opened a cedar chest filled with antique quilts and lovingly took them out one by one, explaining what each pattern represented.
I was smitten. He wasn’t good-looking; he looked like a hobbit version of Albert Einstein but he had a nice body and was very graceful.
There was a young man living with him. A very young man whom he’d met as a troubled teenager and took him in. ‘What a kind and generous guy” I thought. They had been living together for quite a few years.
“You guys fight like an old married couple!” I joked once; still not even entering my mind. These were tough, southern, manly men.
We caved with them for a few days as Blue Springs turned out to be fantastic and too much to see in one day. The second day I was getting tired and he offered to take me out as the others wanted to go much deeper into the cave. His friend would stay with them. Outside we changed from our cave suits into dry clothes while the sun set. He was very respectful about my privacy while changing and didn’t try to sneak a peek.
The sky was still orange behind dark blue hills when he said softly; “come here, I want to show you something” We walked across a gravel road and into a field filled with fireflies. I’ve never seen so many. They twinkled like stars below while the stars above were starting to appear in the sky. It was a magical moment and I was high on love.
Then it all went weird. His young friend had come out by himself, leaving the others in the cave. They were competent cavers and had maps but it was still a surprising and reckless thing for him to do. He was standing there with the top half of his cave suit down to almost his privates and was ‘strutting his stuff’ like a rooster. He seemed really irritated, even angry. I couldn’t understand what his problem was at all.
Then there was the drive to where people meet under a certain bridge. It was night-time; he was taking my husband and I around to ‘see the sights’. I thought it was for antique car lovers until he informed us it was for another kind of lovers. It was sort of a sex swap meet. We both wondered later, ‘why did he take us there?’
We kept in touch with him so I was very excited to be seeing him again at a caving convention. I was expecting to hang out with him but he seemed very uneasy at my presence; completely different to what I had experienced at his home. He seemed very uncomfortable and didn’t introduce me to his friends who weren’t very friendly, anyway. A group of teenagers came over and were showing off all the fancy cave things they had “scored”; expensive stuff. I asked one of them a question and he completely ignored me. I thought maybe he didn’t hear me and repeated my question but he was ignoring me. They were starting to talk in low voices about going to the hot tubs. Why wasn’t he going to the hot tubs? I overheard my friend say, “I don’t now how to get rid of her”
Ouch, I was so humiliated and I went to my tent.
One of my caving friends, a young, good-looking long-haired guy that had been on the trip with us and was also at the convention, laughed at my naivety. He’d know as soon as he walked into the house the first time!
I did continue to have a crush on him until I started to hear things I wish I’d never heard. He didn’t just like men; he liked boys.
So I learned you not only can’t stereotype homosexuals but also child molesters. They are not the creepy cretins we imagine. They can seem like nice, caring people who ‘love’ children and really believe that about themselves.
Sadly, this happens everyday. Molestation is done by those who no one suspects and the children don’t understand they are being exploited until it’s too late.
These days we always have to ‘think again’.