Kip Jones, (2017) (final draft) “True confessions: why I left a traditional liberal arts college for the sins of the Big City", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 17 Iss: 1, pp. xx-43-51.
Why I left a traditional liberal arts college
for the sins of the Big City"
for the sins of the Big City"
“At the end of that summer, I went off to a bucolic country college—to please my father more than me. But then, I mysteriously left it all behind for the sins of the big city”.
After several hours of drinking, smoking, joking around, we literally landed on the bed, laughing. Shortly thereafter, in complete silence, fumbles, then fondles, began. Then, with a certain amount of misplaced aggressiveness, we got each other off. We zipped up and sheepishly went our separate ways, neither of us saying a thing.
For the next few days I remained riddled with guilt. This was a fraternity brother. Would others find out? It wasn’t an act that I was likely to repeat surely, but still I needed a way to be certain that, for both if us, it was just a drunken folly. I finally asked Freddie if we could meet up for a chat. He said, “Sure. Let’s go for a drive in my car tonight”.
We got together that evening and got into the old coupe banger that he had brought to college from home in Philadelphia. He drove us outside this small central Pennsylvania college town to a country lane shimmering in twilight. Then, at a crook in the road, Freddie pulled the car over into a lay-by, a few bushes and scrubs separating us from the road. He turned off the motor.
Just about to begin my awkward speech about ‘What a mistake that was/It should never have happened/We were so drunk!/It will certainly never happen again”, Freddie reached over and started rubbing my cock through my jeans. My head shot backwards, and I said nothing at all, just a short, sharp moan emanated from my throat.
Within seconds, all of my misgivings and guilt evaporated. We began, once again, our mutually beneficial physical release. It was over quickly, as these things often are for young men just entering maturity. Freddie said nothing, just started the car. The fact that he ground the gears transferring power to the crankshaft did say to me that he was also somewhat unhinged by the strange turn our relationship was taking.
A silent bargain was made between us that night. If it remained unsaid, it didn’t happen. If we spoke about it, we would break the spell, admitting to the self-loathing engendered by our encounters. Breaching this strange vow would mean the impossible task of justifying our actions in a very restrictive heterosexual world, the only world either of us knew. This world had taught us this response, this disgust, in a subtle manner, but obviously, had educated us very well. The silence itself from the very outset became the contract between the two of us. This was Brokeback Mountain before it ever existed as a reference point. Ironically, it happened in the very same era of that tragic story. The only word for what we were experiencing was found in medical books and considered a mental illness. Disgust and longing, nonetheless, became our personally intertwined dissonance.
Nothing stays the same. Nothing, except our expectations.
I had always wanted to go to art school, not “real” college, but my parents insisted. Was going to an art college in the city now a way of getting away from that small town college and the impossible situation with Freddie at the same time? Was this move meant to resolve the conflict that our relationship created in my diminutive world? Perhaps I was yearning to go to the big city to pursue my creative instincts at last? Or was I really just headed to a 'den of iniquity' hoping to “discover” my sexuality somehow, all the while pretending that the relocation was for all those other reasons? Over that summer at home, I convinced my father finally that art school was the only education for me. He eventually agreed and off I went to the big city.
Another summer came, the one following my first year at Art College. As it turned out, I wasn’t very good at it, art school. The other students were so talented, so sophisticated and me, a hopeless country bumpkin. At least I had started growing my hair so that I would look more like an art student. Or at least I thought so.
Through the school, I met Albert, another student and a local guy with much more artistic talent than me. We rented an apartment together and began a lifelong friendship. That summer, I didn’t particularly want to return to my country home and family, and when he said, “I am going to stay with friends in the outskirts of the city for a week or two, wanna come along?” I said, “Yes”. I didn’t know at the time that I would end up staying for the whole summer at this house of the parents of two of his friends.
1964 was a summer of love whose soundtrack was Bossa Nova by Morgana King. [i] I slept that summer in an attic room just under the widow’s watch of this large grey Victorian house. A veranda wrapped itself around the ground floor like an embrace. A large standard poodle bounced freely in and out of the veranda’s floor to ceiling open windows with their tattered curtains. The family’s “open-door” relaxed style made the house a gathering spot for local youth of social standing, mostly in their late teens and early twenties.
I t was during this time that I became overwhelmingly attracted to a sixteen-year-old boy who lived nearby. We swam together daily in the overgrown garden’s pool behind the house, drank beer, listened to music and talked for hours. Our platonic relationship grew daily, as did our desire to spend every possible moment with each other. When his parents questioned this, he innocently told them that he loved me. His mother responded by threatening to come after the family and me with a kitchen knife. Our reverie ended abruptly and we never saw each other again. My social position and pretence coupled with my romantic outlook had convinced me in my naïveté that anything was possible, even this platonic love. The painful lesson learned that summer was that this was not the case, and never would be. It was’ A Taste of Honey” (King,, M. 1965) . It was a summer of beginnings, and an end.
When I show our film, RUFUS STONE (2011) (a story of about the youth of two gay men even older than me) to Millennials (and lately Gen Z’s), there is always a bit of squeamishness and shuffling, certainly signs of some kind or recognition and/or unease at the conundrum presented by the film’s story. In discussions following screenings, this present generation seems to me to be a sexually ambivalent one, more comfortable with multiple choices or no choice at all. Nonetheless, these young people do identify with the complexity of feelings presented by youth within the film. They are also particularly aware of the societal pressures around sexual positioning that are now seen as on a continuum by their generation, if not by society as a whole. The ever-present cultural pressure is to make a choice (is there really one?), but this demand is complicated by their entrenched ambivalence.
I read recently that Prince Harry has actually said, (light-heartedly admittedly). that if it doesn’t work out with his current girlfriend, he wouldn’t be put off by maybe dating a guy. What is coming back to me, flowing back from these teen and early-twenties audiences—a generation with a very amorphous feeling about gender and sexuality which is very much on continuum—is that they are much more accepting about the idea of change of gender (transgender) than their predecessors. This generation and the way that they often think about sexuality seems very different in its way to my generation’s thinking and previous generations following me. Yet, much of the angst and fear of rejection, even scorn, within the processes of discovery of sexualities, remain very much the same.
In a recent report on sexuality of American high school students by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2016), researchers found that
some students identify themselves as heterosexual but report having sexual contact with only persons of the same sex, whereas some students who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual have not had sexual contact or have had sexual contact with only persons of the opposite sex. This dissonance is well documented in other research and can be a normal part of the developmental process that occurs during adolescence.
The report goes on to say that
although ‘many sexual minority youth cope with the transition from childhood to adulthood successfully and become healthy and productive adults, others struggle as a result of challenges such as stigma, discrimination, family disapproval, social rejection, and violence.
With the progress made in supposed acceptance of the equal rights of gay and lesbian citizens, particularly in Western cultures over the last half-century, it is easy to assume that feelings of unease, even ‘dissonance’ around issues of sexuality have been left behind us. Nonetheless, it seems from not only the CDC study, but also my personal experience discussing sexuality with youth following screenings of RUFUS STONE, that this is not the case. Both during the collection of stories from older gay and lesbian citizens, and then in writing the story for the film, the assumption was made (by me at least) that this was a story very much entrenched in the past and that society has moved on. But then in writing the line for RUFUS STONE, “We all knew, but we didn’t like to say” it was brought home for me that I needed to admit that it remains a contemporary problem—a lack of genuine acceptance.
This surprising identification of a present-day attitude regarding sexuality that I had always assumed as a historical one continues to befuddle me. I find certain solidarity with youth, nonetheless, in stories of both insecurities around sexualities and fear of rejection of these important rites of passage. This is why I am writing the next film script. This time, the story takes us back to the 1960s, the time of “free love” gay liberation, and the “sexual revolution” ... or was it?
Tag: A gullible youth on a roller coaster ride of loss of innocence and coming out in the flux and instability of 1960s hippy America
"Copacetica" is the working title of a script currently in development for a feature-length film. The story expands an earlier A/V production, which has been viewed internationally and written about in academic journals and books.
Set in the 1960s, Copacetica's themes include being different, the celebration of being an outsider, seeing oneself from outside of the “norm”, and the interior conflicts of “coming out” within a continuum as a (gay) male in a straight world. These observations are set within the flux and instability of a period of great social change, but which are often viewed in retrospect as consistent and definable. Being straight or being gay can also be viewed in a similar way within the wider culture’s need to set up a sexual binary and force sexual “choice” decision-making for the benefit of the majority culture. Through the device of the fleeting moment, the story interrogates the certainties and uncertainties of the “norms” of modernity.
To end this essay, I take us back to the beginning. The following is an excerpt from Copacetica’s working script. By doing so I hope to intrigue you, convincing you to continue to develop this conversation.
“There are no truths. Only stories.” ― King, T. 1994.
Scene 3. INT. - KYLE'S APARTMENT - NIGHT.
Kyle's apartment, which he shares with his art-school roommate, Albert, is small. A kitchen unit is at one end of the main room, which is also Kyle's bedroom. Kyle's single mattress rests on a piece of plywood cut to size and raised off the floor in the corner by plastic milk crates. Albert has the small bedroom in the back of the apartment. Kyle has created a photomontage of black and white clippings, mostly from fashion magazines, Bailey and Avedon, etc. and glued them to the walls surrounding his bed. Some student art work in frames cover the other walls. Stacked bricks and wood planks form a bookshelf filled with LP's, a cheap stereo and books. A small dinette table with two unmatched chairs is near the kitchen unit. The flooring is cheap charcoal grey wall-to-wall carpet.
We see the room in monochrome with the same swimming pool green tone we have seen earlier.
We hear muffled sounds, the panting sounds of sex. We tour the photographs and artwork, but then move to
KYLE, his jeans around his ankles, on top of someone.
We ARE VIEWING Kyle's body from above.
At first we don't know who he is fucking. Slowly we see that it is BILLIE. Billie's mini-dress is around her breasts.
KYLE lets out a moan, then rolls off of Billie. There isn't much room on the single mattress. It is uncomfortable, so he stands and pulls his Y-fronts and jeans up over his ass and cock. In the meantime, BILLIE has pulled down her dress. They've been fucking in the dark.
KYLE walks to the kitchen area. His naked chest and torso gleam in the dim glow from the streetlight coming through a small window in the kitchen area.
KYLE then moves to the wall and turns on an overhead florescent light fixture. The lighting makes the scene greener and even more garish.
BILLIE feels around the floor next to the mattress for her panties. She pulls them on.
BILLIE then props herself up, head on one hand. The bed sheets are swimming pool green.
You don't like doing that very much, do you?
Wha'? Whoa! (Pacing) Where did that come from? I never said that!
Yeah, but you don't have to tell me; you act like it,
It's just that this sack is so cramped. Aren't you uncomfortable? (Beat) Christ, Billie.
(Hurt) What a shit thing to say. (Turns away from her)
KYLE then turns on the stereo and lights a joint.
begin song: Eric Anderson "Foolish Like the Flowers"
I dunno. (Beat) (Sitting straight up now) Maybe it's this fucking business all together.
(Joking now, seeing Kyle is hurt and trying to make light of her remark)
Let's take 'fucking' lessons! They have love-ins, how about we organise a fuck-in! (Beat)
I guess that's just an orgy, huh?
(Angry) Maybe you just need to be a little less of a snap case, eh?
(He still is not over his embarrassment because of her initial question. His ego has been crushed)
KYLE paces nervously, putting on a white T-shirt.
(Beat) (Almost talking to himself)
Is there more beer in the fridge?
KYLE moves to fridge and opens it. The light from inside bathes his frame in a flattering light. KYLE grabs two cans of beer, opens them with a church key, moves back to Billie, giving her a beer. She is still lying on the mattress, propped up on a pillow.
Billie is half dressed now. The greenish lighting makes her look older, a bit like a circus performer. Her pancake white make-up and smudged coal black eyes, which earlier looked so "mod", now appear ghoulish. She is an Egon Schiele painting.
KYLE takes another drag on his joint.
You wanna stay over? Albert is away for the weekend; we could sleep in his double without him ever sussing.
BILLIE gets up from the mattress and adjusts her mini-dress. She looks at her reflection in a nearby round, distressed cobalt blue glass mirror, but it emphasizes the ghoulishness of her appearance.
Nah. I promised my mother I'd spend some time with her tomorrow.
KYLE hands Billie his joint. BILLIE takes a toke and hands it back.
Hey! Don't forget your eyelashes! There on the table there.
BILLIE moves to the table and picks up the two false eyelashes. They look like two gigantic black caterpillars crawling across the table. She forces them on to her eyelids, counting on the glue that was already on them to hold them in place.
Hey! Maybe next time you can give me a blow job!
Yeah, right. I'd blow you then you'd blow me off. Not cool and you know it! You sad dudes all alike that way.
Awe, c'mon! It wouldn't be like that. Sock it to me! That would really turn me on! What do ya say? Pa-lease??
BILLIE slips on her shoes, straightens her dress and looks in the mirror one last time.
BILLIE throws Kyle a distasteful look.
You're such a dude. You're more into getting yourself off than into
getting it on. (Beat)
Love ya, anyhow, "Dude".
BILLIE, moves to the door, blows him a kiss, dramatically.
See ya! (Beat) Probably at Frank's tomorrow night?
KYLE has moved to the bed and is lying with his hands behind his head, somewhat more relaxed now, toking on the joint.
(Is this because Billie is leaving?)
Okay, Billie. See you there.
begin song: Eric Andersen "Is It Really Love at All"
Love. Is it really
love at all?
Or something that I heard love called
Something that I heard love called.
BILLIE starts to exit.
(From the bed)
BILLIE at the door, turns back
Do you think we should get married?
CDC (Centers for Disease Control). 2016. |”Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)”.
Date Accessed: 11 Jan. 2017. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm
King, M. 1965. “A Taste of Honey” (song). Date Accessed: 11 Jan. 2017. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLS2l6QxuuY
King, T. 1994. Green Grass, Running Water. New York: Bantam Publishers.
RUFUS STONE. 2011. (film). Josh Appignanesi, Director. Kip Jones, Executive Producer & Author. London: Parkville Films.
[i] An expanded version of this story appeared as “Infusing Biography with the Personal: Writing Rufus Stone”, published in Creative Approaches to Research, 2013: vol. 6. no. 2, pp.6–23.