A couple posts ago I listed several events in my life that, having survived them, provided a kind of “afterlife” that I would not have experienced in an earlier age, e.g. when medical procedures were not available to solve a ruptured appendix or blocked coronary arteries.
The third I mentioned was actually something different: I misssed getting hit by a car running a red light, that might easily have T-boned my car and killed me.
That was more of a dodging of the bullet. Nothing but chance. I suspect everyone experiences a few of those in their lives. (And those who don’t dodge them, die.)
So here’s something I’ve never talked or written about before. The biggest bullet I’ve dodged in my life.
Which is that, being gay, I survived the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s, when many others did not.
And the explanation is easy enough. I was a bit slow.
As discussed elsewhere (in my memoirs), I did not have close friends growing up, at least not outside of school. In high school I did not date, did not have girlfriends (let alone boyfriends), as I gather others did. I didn’t socialize at all; never went to parties, never hung out with friends.
I was past 20 before I *realized* I was gay. It was like a light-bulb went off in my head — ah ah, that’s that answer! But what to do about it?
Even then I was a solitary person, not at all sociable. I attended UCLA as I had high school, attending classes during the day and then going home at night, staying home on weekends.
The standard, perhaps cliche, scenario of how gays meet each other is at bars. There are lots of such bars in big cities, few in smaller cities, none in small towns, which is why those who realize they are gay move away from the small towns they grew up in for the big city. In New York City, it’s Chelsea; in Los Angeles, it’s West Hollywood; in San Francisco, it’s the Castro.
But even once I had my own car, in 1982 (when I was not quite 27), I was not inclined to visit gay bars. I did a handful of times, in WeHo. But — in those days everyone smoked, which I hated; the bars were very noisy, which I hated (being a notch or two along the spectrum); and I could not hold a conversation with anyone, because of the noise and perhaps being a bit hard-of-hearing (which is why I don’t like to talk on the telephone).
So in the ’80s I avoided the gay social scene, and thus likely saved my life. I did not get AIDS. I joined a couple social groups (gay bicyclers, gay scientists, a group of gay friends who skied at Mammoth), and met a number of guys via classified ads in the gay newspaper of the era, THE ADVOCATE. But the guys I met that way were similar to me, not the sociable, more promiscuous guys who did the bar scene.
And so I survived. Major bullet dodged.