Out on a dike

Out on a dike phr. [mid 19-C] (US) going out in one's best clothes. [DIKED DOWN] I'm out as a dyke, occasionally out with a dyke. What I do when I'm out on a dike can become your business once I write about it here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A nod, A kiss, A remembering

Dressed to impressA-level results came out today, and for the first time in 19 years I cared about those results again - this time, for another. When I got my results I pretty much stopped writing a diary that I had been keeping over a period of four years. There were a few more entries, but nothing significant once I had my gateway to a new life. I didn't have time to keep a diary once I was at university. I didn't have time to be so self-obsessed. Or maybe I just got self-obsessed in new ways. This is very possible. Being self-obsessed is certainly not the domain of the young.

A good example of self-absorption is this passage, from the summer of my first outing, those 20 years ago. True love never did run a smooth course. The most intriguing aspect of this story, perhaps, is that I was dressed as in the photo during the party events described below. The moustache was painted on and didn't last the night - but I write about that elsewhere. These are the details from the diary, where it's interesting to note that a description of the costume doesn't even feature. You'd have thought I could have looked into the future and given a nod to my Out on a dike self, wouldn't you?

August 17th 1986

When I think I've got everything sorted in my mind something happens to send me reeling once more. Last night N had a party at Greyfriars - her going-away party before she goes to work in France. I spent the second half of the party in the company of A. I didn't want to, though - what I wanted above all was to have R [the young woman I was in love with] there so that I could talk to her and have fun with her - but, of course, she wasn't there and so I was afraid of not enjoying myself by having no-one to talk to. So, I sat down and talked to A and some others and it was obvious that A wanted to be with me. We were just talking and he took my hands.

What I'm trying to say is that it wasn't important to me that I was with him, that it was A and he was male - I wanted company of some sort, just to be held so I wouldn't feel lonely. I didn't have any strong feelings for A (not like the last time I got off with him) - it wasn't like that at all. He's just a friend and I suppose perhaps we used each other - both wanted someone to show us attention. Therefore it was extremely relaxed - neither of us are looking for a relationship - A isn't one for long-term relationships and I certainly don't want a boy/girl relationship. I don't feel anything for him - nothing more than a friend. What we did most was talk - about L and K [the same friends I was on holiday with] and their problems over G and S [their boyfriends].

K hasn't been going out with S for a couple of months now, but she hadn't been able to forget him, still went on and on about how much she loved him. Finally, last night, she realised that he is not what she needs, and as B has asked her out she is now going to turn her attention to him, although B doesn't know yet that K will accept him because he asked her out a week ago when she was still wrapped up with S. L and G are constantly falling out. They split up for a while last week and in this period apart G and H got off with each other, so now L and K hate H. L and G are back together (but I don't know how long for) - they were definitely not too happy with each other last night.

So, you see, things are very difficult at the moment. At least K shouldn't be so depressed from now on - I hope B is really the person she likes. She kept telling me last night how lovely she thinks he is - and he is a very caring, considerate person. They should be good for each other just as long as K has totally given up on S, as she says she has.

Back to A: it's awful to say this but when we kissed I wasn't really thinking of him. It wasn't important to me who I was with - although it was insomuch as I'm glad it was A, someone I know and like - not some unknown greasy bod whom I might have thought detestful. But, what I'm trying to say is, it didn't matter what sex he was. I was thinking of R a lot more than I was thinking of A. I enjoyed being with him and having the company and comfort of his arm around me, and I'm so glad I was with him and not alone. I suppose I feel awful because I didn't want contact with a male, but it had to be because A expected it of me. I think I just shut my mind off to what I was really doing. I kept wanting to explain to L and K that what I'd said about me being gay was important and not something I'd said just at that particular time. [Dear Reader, let's be clear - all I did was snog him!]

K asked me if I'd enjoyed myself last night, if I was happy - and she understood when I said I was confused. She has offered herself if I need someone to talk to about my 'problem' and I told her that I would probably be requiring her counselling services pretty soon. I'm confused because I think I am gay, and it's R I love and want to be with - yet it was A I ended up with. Sometimes it seems to me that it's conformity and relationships with boys or loneliness. I don't want loneliness, but women mean more to me. This is my difficulty, my struggle.

Maybe something good has come out of last night - there was no real physical attraction or attachment on my part to A. It was nice just to be able to give him a peck, and walk away saying 'See you' without having to be thinking of him and worrying when I will see him next. This fact helps me to realise that thinking and feeling like a homosexual is not just my fantasy but a real part of me. Perhaps I have tested my feelings and come out on the side I desired. But, such a lack of attachment can be frightening if I am not going to be able to develop my homosexuality - for it means I might find it hard to be happy.

Ah well, it seems none of us are without problems.

Ah well, indeed!

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  • At 9:44 pm, August 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I AM very relieved she did so well, but don’t tell her that! A Levels for me were easy because I was totally oblivious to their import. Finals the reverse was true because I’d just got engaged to the love of my life and I was starting to take an interest in the OED under M; words such as mortgage and marriage and, gawd help us, money.

    Your continuing 1986 is captivating, not least because of the multiplicity of characters enticingly represented by single letters. What is it like to snog an “A” I wonder! Which reminds me of what M said in your diary the other day about everyone being a bit bisexual or something - this is so true I think - it’s complex though and also applies to “oddness” (hear that Eloise?) and any other aspect of character perhaps. For after all who sets the yardsticks in these things?


    A very Normal Rob!

  • At 5:47 am, August 18, 2006, Blogger Eloise said…


    It's funny to think that people I have never met and who don't know me at all care about my silly exam results. Nice though, thanks.

    I'm a Kinseyian with regards to sexuality: it seems a huge over-simplification to think that you can't fall in love with someone because they are the 'wrong' gender. But maybe I'm just odd (and you can talk, Rob).

    It's funny to read your diary, and weird to think that I am the same age and quite probably more self-absorbed. It's all very familiar but also totally alien. I just had to deal with my denial rather than with actually working anything out. That was always certain.

    I'm watching a couple of friends at the moment inch towards coming out. Everyone knows and no one cares and we all hope that they will realise that soon (I hope they realise in about 3 months, because I've got a tenner on it). I think that is what has changed: my lot have only their own fears to deal with, society has (for the most part) got over it being 'a problem'.

    I really shouldn't try and be deep and meaningful at half 5 after an entire day's worth of drinking. Please excuse me.


  • At 6:38 pm, August 18, 2006, Blogger Nicki Hastie said…


    I think Eloise has discovered us here talking about her results.

    I can understand Finals looming large if you had all of that other stuff going on. Such responsibility at such a young age! But how exciting to know you had met the love of your life!! Love can help overcome everything, even Finals, don't you think?

    Yes, sexuality certainly is complex. Snogging an 'A' wasn't too bad. It could have been a lot worse. But I wanted to be further down the alphabet, snogging an 'R'. You of all people (those passing through the blog right now, anyway) will understand why 'Rs' can be snoggable ;-)

    And Eloise,

    Sexuality seemed far more complex in 1986, especially growing up in a small town where I had no known contact with anyone identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Homophobia was rife and everyone seemed fervently intent on proving their heterosexuality at all times. AIDS was still considered the 'gay plague'.

    So, that's more what I had to work through. How I could cope with the world, and how it might cope with me. You are right: society doesn't care so much any more; but it still cares more than it should which is why coming out is still a significant step.

    I think you're amazingly lucid for someone who spent the day and half the night drinking. But that's why I had such faith in your results.

    I know, who am I to care about your results? It is true, I don't know you at all. But that's the internet for you - it draws people together in odd ways (I'll use that word seeing as the subject of 'oddness' has already been raised), meeting in odd places to comment on each other.

    I think it's great!


  • At 9:10 pm, August 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nicki and Eloise

    Why care? Look at Dylan and Pamela and countless others who communicated with the pen. The internet is potentially much more powerful that ink, paper and stamps. Many of the problems associated with relationships, could I feel be mitigated by less fixation on how he/she moves and more on why. Rapid exchanges of ideas without the distractions of scent, sight and touch certainly allow you to "get to know" someone (I mean just a random example here, a small for instance: I know stuff about Eloise that would make your ...* well never mind about that. Heh). Obviously there are elements missing, obviously there are caveats regarding dishonesty, but you can know someone, and when you know them, caring often follows.


    You are of course absolutely right about the intense love experienced at the start of a relationship that is destined to survive many decades "overcoming" every hurdle. I found it did so however by making everything else in life seem wan. And so for a period of perhaps three years we went about remembering to breathe and eat and to kiss kisses (snoggable "R") which were meant to last 2 minutes when somehow 5 hours "got lost", but did little else of note. The result was a string of disgruntled friends, parents and failed exams.

    When finals arrived fortunately feminine pragmatism prevailed (geez, what's with me and alliteration at the moment!) over what we liked at the time to think of as romance, but which was probably mainly lust, and I was dragged kissing and moaning (as it were) to a sort of respectable pass. In the few days leading up to the results I learned to revise my hitherto cynical dismissal of stress as an indulgence for wimps, when, for unfathomable reason connected no doubt with either Deity or Darwin, I suddenly woke up to "the fact of the rest of my life". And panicked.

    A lot.


    * That was a lie in a feeble attempt to be funny btw.

  • At 11:21 pm, August 18, 2006, Blogger Nicki Hastie said…

    Ah Rob,

    You should know (and I'm pretty sure that you do - although,of course, I don't claim to know you - a subject I will return to later) that alliteration is vital to life. Alliteration is vital to the lover's life, and also the poet's life.

    The pen and the internet not only vitalise my days; they are essential. The internet even more than the pen these days. I have a number of very good friends whom I have never met. We are strings of words - and very occasionally, heard voices - over the internet. But I do know so much about these other lives through their words and choice of expression, and their responses to me convey an intense knowingness. You certainly can 'get to know' someone through their words alone. And if we didn't choose to care, wouldn't that be the sad thing?

    Stress and worry and panic - those are all about caring, too, I'd say. Kisses are only an anaesthetic for a short while, but we need them, again and again. From someone we care for.


  • At 1:37 pm, August 19, 2006, Blogger Eloise said…

    I feel a post coming on...

  • At 3:52 pm, August 21, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hallo Nicki
    It's nice to hear you waxing eloquent. If we didn't care, yes, that would be the sad thing. Now I'm almost ready to close this page and forget about leaving a comment. It's taking me a while to adjust to this leaving a comment business. You're so free with your innermost feelings, it makes me feel like being free, too, and I could go on and on about alliteration, A-levels, alcohol, England, and the internet, but this time, anyway, I won't. Just wanted to say hallo.

  • At 7:21 pm, August 21, 2006, Blogger Nicki Hastie said…

    And hallo to you, too, Mary!

    It's good to bump into you here. We could say plenty about the internet, couldn't we? The internet encourages me to be free; life teaches me to be generous. Or something like that.

    I always wanted to write for readers, even when I was keeping the diary. Of course, I'd have been outraged if anyone had come across the diary and read it then. But I liked to think it might be read one day. I have a whole project stored on my computer which is all about what I would have written - and who would have responded - if the internet existed when I was first coming out. [Do you hear that, Eloise?]

    I think these comments are becoming longer than my posts :-) I'm certainly not complaining.


  • At 1:48 am, August 22, 2006, Blogger Eloise said…

    In the pub tonight I was talking to the barman who was 27, and he was saying how different it was 10 years ago coming out to how it is now, and how no one cares anymore, and how in 10 years people won't even need to (wouldn't that be great?).

    Perhaps it is the internet? To know that even if in real life it is difficult or still painful, you can find people who, no matter what you are interested in, have similar interests to you; that someone is out there, can be very comforting.

    My aunt is 60, and has been with her partner for like 30 years and the first time I ever heard anyone in my family mention it was last week. I've always wanted to talk to her about it, about how it might have been back then but I haven't got the guts--sometimes we can be a little too English.

    I find life much easier on the internet--you can choose exactly how much you disclose, and you can redraft your conversations until you are happy with them. I know people all over the world, and that (I think) gives me a far broader range of experience than many of the people I know, which I hope will help me in the future.

    It's also nice to be able to chat about poetry in depth with people who give a toss, as 99% of my friends still laugh hysterically whenever I mention the P-word.

    Must stop rambling, but I would love to read that project Nicki.


  • At 7:19 pm, August 22, 2006, Blogger Nicki Hastie said…


    The world is certainly changing, and at a faster pace than ever. You should speak to your aunt. Wow! - fancy having a resource like her in your family - and hardly anyone speaks of it!!

    What if I told you that my partner (of 11 years) is aged 58? She won't mind me telling you that fact, I'm sure. We often talk about the pace of change and how - politically, and culturally, and generally in an all that's involved in how-we-learn-to-understand-the-world kind of way - Andrea and I have far more in common (certainly in our experience of sexuality) than I probably have with that barman aged 27, or you, at 18. Perhaps a whole generational change does come about in as little as 10 years now.

    Sometimes I think I manage to straddle generations; perhaps sometimes it is a faint hope.

    Thank you for taking an interest in the project I mentioned. See how amazing the internet is. I have many unfinished projects, and you may inspire me to return to the one I always wished to complete, exactly because I hoped that, one day, someone like you would be interested.

    Let me rummage in my archives, and then ... I think I feel a post coming on ...



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