In the past week I watched the new Wham! Documentary out on Netflix. That was an emotional trip. I’m not sure exactly when I became aware of Wham! Until recently I had all but forgotten that before MTV came to our cable line-up in my high school years, Nickelodeon had Nick Rocks which played some selected videos in a half hour time slot from 1984 to 1989. I have vivid memories of Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go being on there when I was in Junior High.
I’m not sure when I first saw “Wake me up..” but the band played their last show when I was only 14 years old. I keep thinking I saw parts of that final concert? Maybe MTV aired it back in the day? I’m not sure. I’ve come to realize how imperfect memory is. At any rate, I was probably 12 or 13 when I first saw the band. And now I realize that more than a little of my fondness for the band was probably down to infatuation for George Michael.
Regardless I did love their music. There’s not a lot of 80’s music that still wanders into my life today but I owned all the of the Wham! albums on cassette tape way back then and I wore those tapes out. So this documentary pulled up some happy memories. And getting to hear both Andrew (who is still living) and George through recorded audio tell the story of the band was great. When the credits rolled I was fully in tears. Mostly happy tears but a mixture of happy memories, sadness that George is not with us anymore, and the whole thing brought back some of my memories of my teen years.
I Was Definitely Crushing
Until watching the documentary I had forgotten so much of this. I don’t know if I purposefully shoved them into the memory hole or if it’s just plain old getting old? I was 15 heading for 16 when George Michael started his solo career. If you’re close to my age you remember the furor that arose over the first release from Faith!
I don’t remember being crazy for “I Want Your Sex,” but it delivered some titillating scenes for before the internet times. For whatever reason, I have far more vivid memories of the title track Faith which was the second release.
Watching that video, I remember that I recorded it and would play it back over and over. I think on some level I knew I was magnetically attracted to George Michael but I am not sure 15 year old Mark really understood the implications. I watch it now and I totally get that George, who was incredibly talented, was also hot in all the right ways. However, I find it very hard to put myself back in my own mind in that time and space. I think I knew it was more than liking his music, but I was so naive about the world, I’m just not sure I fully comprehended same-sex attraction yet.
Somewhere around this time, I got a George Michael tshirt that I naively wore to school one day. Oh my… the bullies came out in force. It was crushing to deal with so much abuse in one school day. Even now, I find it difficult to summon up specific memories but I know the day featured gay slurs. Sometime to my own detriment, I’m stubborn and that was a trait that was already baked in by that point. The last thing I wanted to do was let anyone think they had won. So it wasn’t the last time I wore the shirt to school. I know that I wore it several times after. I don’t know if the bullying ever stopped entirely, if I got less bothered by it, or if the school year ended or what exactly. I honestly don’t remember being bullied much in school otherwise but that simple tshirt certainly was my ticket to experience it.
Not The Best years Of My Life
First I should say I had basically no social life in high school. I didn’t go to any outside school events that didn’t have some sort of academic connection. No dating at all. No football games, no dances or proms. By my senior year I had a small mixed circle of friends that would occasionally get together with after school but very much just friends.
I have several good K-12 friends that I’ve stayed in touch with all these years but really high school itself was a wasteland to me and the reason I’ve never had a strong desire to go to a reunion. I don’t have the positive memories that some of my classmates have. When I look back I see loneliness and feeling very much an outsider.
On three separate occasions in high school I was directly asked if I was gay. Two of those times it was by, in a broad sense, well-meaning people. Both explained that it wouldn’t change our friendship. By contrast, the third person who asked, when I said I wasn’t his reply was “well, that’s good to hear.”
I do remember thinking that those words felt more crushing than the question itself. I was still a very confused kid but I think even if I wasn’t open to it, at the very least I had inklings that I had same sex attraction and hearing someone I considered a friend say that they would not be okay with that was not what I needed. To be fair, neither was being asked in the first place.
I wish I had kept a journal or something when I was younger. I would like to read what was on my mind then. When I think back, I’m not sure I understood entirely what gay even meant. In the late 80’s, what did I see? Death from AIDS? A reason to be bullied? There were no role models for anything but being straight in my every day life at that age. I think to degrees I must have known I was different but the first time I really remember taking it seriously I was well into my 20’s which I discussed previously.
Still A Little Conflicted To Be Honest
As I’ve mentioned before, my first genuine crush on someone I knew was a woman. She was a college classmate who was married so there was nothing other than feelings/fantasy. But since it never went farther, it’s kind of hard to know what it really meant.
Speaking of fantasies, another point of confusion. While I recall very few sex dreams in my life, I do vividly remember two explicit dreams. The first was early in high school so basically the flush of youth type things and it was a hetero dream. The next was several years later in college and was a homosexual dream. I was, to be honest, a little more shocked by the second dream at the time. Now weirdly it’s the first one that leaves me with more question marks.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the reason I have been more comfortable with saying I’m queer is not wanting to box myself in. At the same time, there’s a part of me that longs for a clearer sense of who I am. I have zero question that I’m attracted to men. I mean, that’s the only thing I am positive about at this point in my life. I find a wide variety of men attractive, not one specific type. Women by contrast it’s much harder for me to pinpoint. It’s far less frequent but every so often it happens. If I’m using the Kinsey Scale, I would place myself around #5.
Technically I suppose that would be bi regardless of rarity but at the moment, I feel more kinship with gay men. It feels vaguely like saying I love doughnuts and then eating one every five years. Do I really love doughnuts or do I just dabble in pastry infrequently?
Still part of me likes the queer label because it leaves room. Yet part of me doesn’t love the ambiguity of it all and wishes for something more concrete. On the bright side I love that I’m becoming more open to the fact I find men attractive. After being afraid to embrace that never mind admit it to others for so much of my life, it’s goddamn liberating as hell.
And it’s kind of ironic that the thing that I’m conflicted about isn’t my same sex attraction. I accept that now with no remorse. I have no question that part of me is true and valid. My whole question mark revolves around whether my opposite-sex attraction is a factor. Isn’t that quite the reversal? And if anything hits me now is that maybe I’m concentrating on the wrong thing. I know I like guys. Run with that certainty. If in a year, five years, ten years, etc. I meet a woman who rings my bells and I’m not with someone, then there’s no reason I can be just as open to explore that, too. I think the concrete thing to hold on to here is that I am attracted to guys whether or not women are part of the deal or not.
I think introspection is great, but I also am afraid that I’ve been getting too lost in my own head trying to inspect my past with a microscope. Simultaneously I’ve been psychoanalyzing my every feeling as if I’m a scientist that needs to write a research paper on it. Am I bi? Gay? Does this thing fit me? What about Y? I think I should find it in myself to enjoy 2023 not choose to dwell and write a thesis on how I felt in 1987.
All that said, the documentary was great. If you liked Wham! and you have Netflix, it’s a beautiful trip down memory lane. Just don’t get stuck in the past while you’re there.