A 22-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Mid-March, 1974
by Richard Grayson
Monday, March 11, 1974
When I arrived at Richmond tonight, I saw my friend Lorelei, who’s director of placement at Staten Island Community College. She told me that Cooley was absent and class was canceled.
Pat McGiniss filled me in on the fight for day care facilities and urged me to sit in on a meeting of the Graduate History Club, but I demurred. For a while I went to the library to study, then came home, where I found Marc staring off into space in the kitchen.
Pam, Bruce’s sister, called Marc from New Jersey today to ask if Marc would take her to her senior prom. Marc’s not sure he’s into that type of thing, and anyway, he already feels guilty about seeing Rita when he’s supposed to be going out with Fern.
When I said I was surprised Marc was so strait-laced, he said, “I can’t help it: I have a conscience!”
Dad told him he should say yes to Pam only if he’s sure he wants to go, because once Dad agreed to take a girl to a prom and ended up standing her up, saying he’d hurt his leg playing ball. That’s shameful.
At noon today I saw my first live streaking. I went to the college ostensibly to get something xeroxed (a measure of my sincerity inthat venture was the fact that I never did get it done).
Susan and Felicia and Spencer (who’d obviously also just come for the streaking) called me over; the girls were standing on a bench.
Never – not for any peace rally or athletic event or any speaker save at graduation – have I seen so many people out on the quadrangle, overflowing to the Bedford overpass steps.
The fun started when one naked guy bicycled around the quadrangle, waving to the crowd who “oohed” and cheered and followed him about.
He was followed after some interval by some guy in a cap who did somersaults, John Bucalo (whom I’ve already seen naked, along with Skip in that Kingsman ad for the election two years ago) running by in sneakers and sweat socks, and a few more streakers wearing ski masks.
It was great fun. Some went into LaGuardia, where they’d stashed their clothes in the Student Government office. Felicia realized one young Adonis was none other than her brother Mark – that was funny.
Mike said he’d spoken to Capt. Greenwald of the 63rd Precinct, who said as long as everyone stayed on campus, there’d be no arrests. The streaking was all very non-sexual; the absurdity of it was what generated the enthusiasm.
Ronna joined the crowd, and also there were Hilary and John Scacalossi, director of campus security, who looked a bit anxious, as well as Dick Wright, Alan Karpoff and a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while.
Shira suggested we go over to SUBO to hear Donald Barthelme read from his stories, and Ronna and I followed, as the entertainment petered out into stopping cars on Bedford Avenue: stupidity is not the same thing as silliness.
We arrived late and sat on the floor. Barthelme, a thirtyish man with a pointy reddish beard, was reading some of his beautifully constructed, marvelously off-the-wall prose. I really enjoyed it, and so did Ronna.
Prof. Baumbach was there, as were other English teachers like the poet Jill Hoffman (Ronna’s sister has her for English 1.2) and Martha Fodaski-Black. There were questions afterwards, and it was good to see an author in the flesh.
I dropped Ronna off at her house to watch Billy, who’s sick again. Seeing her today was like a bonus prize.
Then I hurried home, where I managed to complete my paper onJude the Obscure for Cooley; I think it’s a pretty good piece of work. So I drove out to Staten Island in a good mood and felt real (if not intense) disappointment when I learned Cooley was absent.
Back at home, I called Gary, who’s recovering nicely from his flu. He’s off from Columbia this week for spring break.
Friday, March 15, 1974
4 PM. Today I went to Cutting Crib by a haircut from Joey. We chatted breezily as he cut my hair into a “summer cut,” pretty short. I’m not used to it yet, but I felt a need to change something.
When I arrived at Mrs. Ehrlich’s later, I told her I felt peculiar with my long locks shorn, but then realized that everyone is hypersensitive about their appearance. Today we got the photos from the bar mitzvah back, and each of us in the family thought we came out the worst.
I told Mrs. Ehrlich that last night, because of Cooley’s absence, I got to watch that TV show, Free to Be . . . You and Me. There were songs and animation showing that “Parents are people, too,” “Mommies and Daddies can have any job,” and even the hulking football star Rosie Grier singing, “It’s all right to cry.”
And cry I did, very spontaneously, after a watching a bit about a five-year-old boy who wanted a doll and was taunted by his friends and who worried his parents, who proceeded to shower him with sports equipment. He got his doll in the end (from a wise grandma) and I started crying.
Mrs. Ehrlich wanted to know what was going on inside me, and I told her I was thinking about my own childhood and how I couldn’t be permitted to express my feelings. I didn’t want a doll, but I often wished I were a girl.
It would be so much easier, I thought, to be protected and able to sit around not have to go out for sports – I was lousy at everything – and one day get married and be taken care of by a husband and not having to worry about being successful myself.
But then I looked at the debit side. Girls are judged by their looks and they’re treated as oddballs if they don’t marry and go for a career instead. Being a girl certainly isn’t as good as I thought. And I definitely am happy having a penis rather than a vagina.
Maybe I just want to be a baby – Mrs. Ehrlich said, “Neither a man nor a woman” – and just be taken care of, getting all my desires met by other people.
Mrs. Ehrlich suggested I have a problem seeing myself as a man and that is why I tend to say “right on!” to TV programs that attempt to show a blurring of sex roles.
Obviously things like showing emotion and having any job you want are important, but I’ve tried to face down the masculine role for myself. I told Mrs. Ehrlich about my fear of losing control when I had that terrific orgasm on Sunday with Ronna. I’m also scared of losing a vital part of me, a creative essence.
Mentioning the story about Mara and Phyllis, I told Mrs. Ehrlich that I just tried to flow along with my emotions, and she agreed that I was justifiably angry at Phyllis.
Mrs. Ehrlich also suggested the same thing that Ronna did: that Mara is jealous of Phyllis and used me as a vehicle through which she could act destructively but still look like Phyllis’ “true friend,” when she told her I said, “I can’t believe Phyllis got into all those law schools.” (Of course didn’t mean literally that I didn’t believe it; it was just an expression of surprise.)
I told her of the similar incident with Ivan and Shelli, when Shelli told me that Ivan said I sounded like Truman Capote. Mrs. Ehrlich asked me what sounding like Capote meant to me, and of course I said it meant I was homosexual.
(In tenth grade at Franklin School, the headmaster, Dr. Spahn, said I reminded him of another “troubled student”: Truman Capote, which I guess was a half-compliment, since In Cold Blood had just come out.)
We talked about my voice: telephone operators still call me “Ma’am” but it bothers me less and less; my voice is part of who I am, it’s what makes me special.
(Last night I told Ronna that everyone has to be different: “If you weren’t you special,” I said, “I wouldn’t want to see you.” Ronna replied, “Then you could spend time with a skinny person” – showing where her hangup is.)
The fact that Ivan acknowledges my masculinity now because he knows me better or even because I’ve got the love of his old girlfriend: that cannot give me true satisfaction because it doesn’t come from within.
Mrs. Ehrlich said that for months I’ve been bringing up sexual matters – like disturbing masturbation fantasies – and then quickly withdrawing from the subject.
“I’d like to explore it with you,” I said. “But it’s so hard.”
She asked if part of the fear of talking about sex may be because I’ll discover I’m homosexual. “Because,” she said, “from everything I can see, you’re not. You have impulses, like a lot of people do.”
“Perhaps I’m afraid I’ll find out that I’m not gay,” I said.
She smiled. “That’s a different problem.”
And we ended the session.
Saturday, March 16, 1974
I’m again feeling positive about my relationship with Ronna. Last night we went out, and we seem to be working out our problems. It’s not that everything’s perfection and hearts and flowers, but there’s so much more vitality in a realrelationship with faults than in trying for that illusory and probably imaginary kind of love wherein nothing goes wrong.
I was nervous before I picked her up, as if it was our first date, but when I saw her on the stairwell and hugged her tightly, the flutters in my stomach soothed down.
Her mother was in the living room, trying to tell this married refugee butcher whom she interviewed for work that she didn’t want to have an affair with him. Ronna says this guy has been bothering Mrs. C all week.
We drove out to the theater by Grandma Ethel’s house in Rockaway, to see Friends. The audience was obnoxious and the film was an immensely bad print, but parts of the movie were good.
It was about two young teenagers who run away together, live together, and eventually sleep together and have a child. The film was very lyrical, with music by Elton John.
It was too cold for a walk on the beach, so we returned to my house, where we ate oranges and watched TV. We talked until late and listened to records and started to make love but Ronna didn’t feel like it.
She was still upset that she was giving me only half of what I wanted, but I told her I didn’t feel that way and it didn’t matter to me if we didn’t do anything at the moment, as I was not especially horny.
But I did like just holding her. Somehow I feel that late at night, she becomes very beautiful and I see glimpses of the woman she will later be. We are more friends than anything else – and Ronna has been the finest friend I have ever had.
It was raining when I dropped her off at 2 AM: we chatted softly in the car, she kissed my neck and went upstairs.
This afternoon I awoke to a dismal, rainy day. I got a St. Patrick’s Day card from Mara that featured a leprechaun. She wrote:
Mr. G, the only thing I can say is I’m sorry. (Little people should be forgivable; after all, we are the chosen people and we are only human.) – Mara.– P.S. This is an official make-up card.
I do forgive her; my anger has dissipated and I sent her a card that stating, “All is forgiven.”
I got some work done today, starting another essay for Cooley, and I made several phone calls; there are so many people I have to catch up on.
Mikey said he’s involved with schoolwork but is thinking of becoming John Jay’s delegate to the University Student Senate. Wouldn’t that be wild, with me, Mike and Mikey together again?
His beard has grown in fully – Ronna told me it looks good – and he should be getting his car within two weeks. Mikey is such a nice, steady guy; I wish he had a better life and a girlfriend and was going to law school.
I phoned Maddy, who read me the letter she and Karen composed; I was delighted by it, but I’m afraid Elaine Taibi will have a heart attack. For we speak as “three token young alumni” and sort of sympathize with the apathy about the Association, knocking their tennis nights in Yonkers, Peter Nero concerts, and luxury trips.
But we say that joining the organization gets you into SUBO and the athletic facilities and that maybe we can change it if more kids join. I told Maddy that her idea was great, and I felt I could sign my name to it without feeling as if I’d been co-opted.
I called Spring to find out about the tickets for the Midwood play. Before I called, I was hesitant, but we ended up talking for an hour. I didn’t realize that she had broken up with Sean or I never would have asked him to ask her for the tickets.
They’re trying to remain friends, but Sean keeps telling her how she’ll one day realize how much she loves him. And Spring, like Teresa (who’s hoping to land a sales job with a pharmaceutical company; Spring is helping her) wants to avoid the Kingsmancrowd, especially Costas, who’s hurt them both, and Joy, whom Spring terms “a witch.”
Spring and I talked about her college plans (she hopes to go to Northwestern or Harpur), sibling rivalry (she hates her “dumb blonde” younger sister) and the difference between my Midwood High School and hers. It was the nicest conversation with a relative stranger I’ve had in some time.
Monday, March 18, 1974
I cannot get myself do any schoolwork this afternoon. I did complete two out of four papers for Cooley – all the requirements I need to get a P) and have been working half-assed on other things, including the thesis.
I suppose somehow it will all get done. I wish it were June and all over by now, and I could start hunting for a summer job; I’m sure employment will be a good experience for me.
This morning I went to BC, first to the Alumni office to give Elaine my signature so she can put it on the letter. Maddy didn’t give it to her yet, so she hadn’t blown her stack.
At the Admissions Office, Matt gave me letter of recommendation forms for grad school, and I put one in Jon Baumbach’s mailbox in the English Department, though I guess it’s weird to ask him to recommend me to himself as the MFA program director.
Then I headed for LaGuardia, to the Student Government office. Sid seemed nervous at the prospect of tonight’s Mugwump caucus; I think Ron may just beat him for the presidential nomination, although I hope not.
I called Dean Mary Ann Kingkard at the Grad Center about my appointment to the Chancellor’s Grant Fund Advisory Committee, but there’s some bureaucratic mess and I have to wait for Chancellor Kibbee to appoint me formally.
I was helping Cindy and Joy do a word-puzzle, and it was the first time Joy ever talked to me, calling me by name.
It was good to see Ronna, if only for a little while; we stood eye to eye, touching each other’s nose with our fingers, before she had to go off to cover the Gay Festival.
Last night I decided that I want to continue to see Ronna and use our relationship as a kind of workshop to learn about her, myself and our feelings.
That’s not to say I don’t love her and enjoy being with her; of course that’s the greatest part of it.
I saw Mara and we officially kissed and made up and will forget the whole incident with Phyllis and her law school acceptances.
I went to lunch at McDonald’s with Avis and Alan Karpoff, who used some of his father’s free passes for us. Avis called me yesterday while I was out, but she just wanted to say hello.
Avis has again decided to go to Germany after graduation. She seems to be taking a rational attitude, not expecting too much from her relationship with Helmut.
And Alan has organized a mountain-climbing expedition of the Bolivian Andes to last the whole summer. I’m going to try to explore myself if I must stay in the city.
Avis told me about her scuba diving class and how hard she’s been working at Hope Chest, and we all gossiped a lot.
Avis said she thought she saw Stacy wearing men’s clothing around school, that at first she thought Stacy was a male. I wonder how Allan Cooper will react when she sees Stacy, if he does, when he comes up from Florida.
After not seeing Shelli and Jerry on their last visit to the city, Avis says she’s given up on them as friends; they are friendly only with Mark and Consuelo (who Avis said regrets having a child so young) and Skip (after Jerry had characteristically pontificated against tripping to Avis, Jerry and Shelli took LSD at Skip’s “family’s” house on their last visit).
I asked how Shelli and Jerry are surviving financially, and Avis said they’re living off money loaned to them by Shelli’s witch of an Aunt Mae.
Somehow we got to talking about Ivan, and Avis and I both asked Alan what Vicky was like since she was so quiet when Avis and I met her and Ivan at the movies in Kings Plaza. Alan said she was very bright, and they spent a summer in Israel together on a scholarship from their synagogue.
Teresa told Avis that after talking about it for years, Elspeth finally got her own apartment, and apparently she enjoys her job with the Police Department. Good for Elspeth. In other news, Carl and Libby are going to New Paltz for a weekend together.
We sat in McDonald’s for over an hour, bullshitting, before I got on the bus for home and Alan went over to Avis’s apartment to smoke. I’m glad their friendship is going well.
Avis reminded me that Sheila, Scott’s girlfriend from England, must have arrived in New York by now.
Tuesday, March 19, 1974
After sleeping until noon, I took a walk around the neighborhood earlier. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and remembering things half-buried in my mind; that’s why I was awake most of the night.
As I walked today, I was reminded of a March day eight years ago. I was playing hooky from tenth grade at Franklin School and took buses places, feeling the start of spring.
I remember I went into a candy store on Kings Highway to buy a comic book: the radio was on, and I heard the first exhibition baseball game of the year.
When I came home last night, a baseball game was on TV: it’s a sign of spring, like the Good Humor man.
Oddly enough, I’d been thinking of applying for a job as a Good Humor man in Rockaway this summer.
All this I told Mrs. Ehrlich when I went to see her today. I was ten minutes late, a first for me, and I think it was because I feel free enough with her to know that I can be late and she won’t be angry. As she said, “It’s no big deal.”
Occasionally I feel that I’ve entered the periphery of a new, exciting way of life, one in which the pain still remains and is very real, but now I can deal with it and use it to learn about myself and the world.
That way, the whole of life becomes a kind of workshop, a term I used yesterday to describe my relationship with Ronna. And it’s funny, for when I spoke to her last night, she had just come back from a Bisexuality Workshop, led by John Bucalo, at the Gay Festival.
Ronna said she participated in the discussion and John took into account her suggestion to have a straight and bisexual dance rather than labeling it as purely a bisexual dance because more people might come.
John said that sexuality includes more than sex; such things as tenderness between men also pay a part. I’m proud of my friend Ronna for being such an open person, and it also means she can accept me. (And she did have to endure a kiss on the mouth from Pablo.)
Anyway, I told Mrs. Ehrlich of my diarrhea last week and the unwillingness I feel at the idea of giving up my concept of myself as gay. As a homosexual, I could afford to fail with women, because I wasn’t doing what I really wanted – but as a hetero- or bisexual, I put myself on the line.
I went into the incidents on Sunday at Ronna’s house and Aunt Sydelle’s, and Mrs. Ehrlich suggested that I still identify mostly with males: with my grandfather, with whom I have a great rapport (Grandpa Nat and I discussed Friends, which he saw on Saturday night); with my father – at Ronna’s house, I took over the paternal role and even found myself mimicking my father’s actions with his family (liking walking out, albeit temporarily, when things get tough).
It doesn’t matter if I like these unconscious echoes of Dad in me; it still probably means that my primary orientation is heterosexual. And I’ve begun to understand my attraction to the muscular male body and even the embarrassing fantasies about getting beaten up.
By hitting me in the face, a “masculine” figure is giving me the essence of his virility; hence I feel more masculine. It’s a difficult concept to understand, but perhaps when I come to terms with my self-image relating to my manhood, I’ll no longer need the crutchof these fantasies and can feel masculine by being me.
In a very real way, I’d like to “play hooky” again and explore the world within and without men. (Freudian slip: that was supposed to read “within and without me”).
I know I will do my best to get my schoolwork done, but I know now that my self-esteem will not depend on my success in academia. I feel free and happy with myself and a bit tired after all these mental gymnastics.