Flying the friendly skies

My mind’s made up. I will celebrate my 51st birthday in late April by going hang gliding for the first time.

If all goes according to plan, I will be joined in this little adventure by my friend Chris Davis. Chris and I grew up together in Chattanooga, Tennessee and his childhood home is on Lookout Mountain not far from what will be our jumping off point.

Chris is interested in jumping off the mountain because he is working on research for his second novel in which one of the characters is a hang glider.

I am interested in jumping off the mountain because I am working on a perpetual adolescence. This makes Chris the perfect partner for a couple of reasons. We spent our adolescence together, and it won’t be the first time we’ve stood side by side staring down at the unknown.  

Chris and I ran with the same crowd in high school and we went to most of the high school dances together. He was one of the few teenage boys who was not afraid to move to a beat and those were fun nights.

We never “dated.” We went on dates. The irresistible force that pulled our friends together into inseparable, sometimes manic, sometimes miserable teenage couples, did not pull us toward one another. We were clear on that. What we weren’t clear on at the time (at least I wasn’t) was why. It’s perfectly clear now, thirty some-odd years later. Chris and his partner Greg live in Minneapolis with their two teenage sons. Amy and I are in Nashville and our daughter is finishing her sophomore year of college.

I didn’t talk to Chris or anyone else about being gay during my Catholic high school days in the mid-1970s. It would be easy at this point to blame my silence on fire and brimstone talk by the nuns and priests warning us that homosexuality was a one-way ticket to hell. But they didn’t. They didn’t talk about it at all. It just didn’t exist. As a result I didn’t have a framework or language I could use to solve the puzzle of why I felt so different from other girls, even my own sisters. This was pre-Curve, Advocate, and Out Magazines, pre-The L Word. There was no Katy Perry out there singing about kissing girls and liking it. At that point in my life, I, literally, had no clue.

It was what I imagine hang gliding will be like. Floating disconnected. Lifted on the updrafts. Back then those updrafts were not air, but fleeting sexually charged exchanges that I never saw coming or going and had no idea how to navigate. Looking down and seeing “regular” people going about their lives, but it all being muted and far, far away.

I hope my landing from my actual hang gliding will be a little softer and more graceful than my landing into the reality of my sexuality. And I am hoping that my friend Chris will float up there with me for a while. It won’t be the first time.

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