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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

White Pickups, Conversations: Charles Ball and Max Wright


Charles: This isn’t what I’d expect as a venue. Blank white room?

Why is it a white room? I’m in my bedroom. Wall panels some weird grey/green color, dirty white carpet…

Max: Well, if you don’t mind having two gay men with you in your bedroom… I’m sure you wouldn’t have any trouble explaining that to Mrs. Fetched —

Then again, the bedroom is a major mess. Blank white room it is. ;-)

Max: Haha, gotcha!

Charles: The banter is amusing, but maybe we should get started?

Sure. Is it Dr. Ball, or what?

Charles: Professor Ball. I had my Ph.D., but it wasn’t a formal environment. “Charles” is fine now. Standing on ceremony is last week’s news.

Max: Literally!

Right. So what is you guys’ relationship?

Max: Best friends, mostly. When Charles came out, all hell broke loose in his home life. Someone else at the campus sort of referred him to me.

Charles: Yeah. He counseled me, in a way.

Max: Nothing formal, I don’t have any kind of certificate or anything. But short answer: no, we never slept together. Suits us both just fine.

Charles: Max introduced me to some other people going through a lot of the same thing — it’s rough, just coming out to yourself when you’re nearly 40. Maybe you can imagine what it’s like dealing honestly with other people for the first time. We called it the “Coming Out Party.” Gallows humor, but it fit.

What was the catalyst for you?

Charles: To come out? I don’t think it was any one thing. Tina had her career, and I had mine, and we both stayed involved in Kelly’s life as much as we could — but we let our own relationship dry up. Over time, I started looking for more than what I had — but the strange thing to me at the time was, the people I was attracted to weren’t women. That’s when I started really thinking about all the things I’d taken for granted about myself.

Self-examination can be tough.

Charles: Tell me about it. Tina noticed something, put two and two together, and confronted me — she asked me if I was seeing another woman. I could honestly tell her “no,” and that bought me a little time. In fact, I went on for six more months, trying to decide first whether I really was gay or just having a midlife crisis; second what I should do about it. Kelly was twelve when I finally couldn’t hide from myself anymore. I went to her first, told her I loved her and would always be there for her, but I was gay and I had no idea what her mom would do when I told her. She cried a little, but then said she been wondering about that for a while and I was still her dad. That meant a lot to me.

Then I went to Tina… that didn’t go so well. Tina told you about her parents, they raised her with certain assumptions about the world and a person’s role in it. She rejected a lot of their teachings, but sometimes even the rejection is only skin-deep. I said I was willing to stay married to her, and not have a relationship outside the marriage, but she wasn’t listening at that point. I ended up grabbing some essentials and bailing to a hotel for the night. After she went to work, I rented a pickup truck — it wasn’t white, though — then came back and got the rest of my things. After she cooled off, we got a no-fault divorce and agreed to joint custody of Kelly, but Tina really didn’t want to have much to do with me.

Max: She thinks she made you gay, on some level, you know.

Charles: That’s… well, it’s silly. And Tina doesn’t do silly well.

Max, what’s your story?

Max: In some ways, I had it easier than Charles. I always knew I was different, even when I was in kindergarten. I was always a pretty big kid though, so even if the other kids didn’t like me being different they didn’t bother me too much. I realized what kind of different I was in middle school… when most boys start thinking about girls, I thought about boys. I had some relationships through high school, but Georgia being Georgia we had to keep them under the table. I hated that. I wanted to be able to show off my boyfriend like they showed off their girlfriends.

College was a lot more tolerant, and that’s when I joined the fight for equal rights. You know how some people are: they have to have someone they can feel superior to. Fifty years ago, that was blacks. Now — or until last week, anyway — it was the GLBT folks. So I was working to make the hate go away. The haters drove off instead… well, most of them did.

So Sondra was dating your nephew… sounds like you guys had some friction there.

Max: I won’t try to say everything was wonderful between Philip and me, but he respected me personally even if he didn’t like “the gay” in general. He was like any high schooler — really sensitive about his identity — so I tried to cut him a little slack in return. He lived up in Marietta, she was in Druid Hills, and I’m really not sure how he met Sondra. Maybe it was online. He brought her over, and they ended up spending a lot of time with me, so I got to know her pretty well. She also got along well with the neighbors, so she was still coming around to visit even after she stopped seeing Philip. She’s not a bad person at all, even if she did break up with Philip over nothing… then again, Philip was known to shade the truth a bit if it would make him look better. Maybe I ought to get Sondra’s side of the story.

So do you think it’s her fault he drove off?

Max: No. My sister called me Wednesday night, asking if he was here, and he wasn’t. By late Friday, it was a reasonable assumption that he’d driven off — his parents stopped answering the phone early Friday evening too. But grief is a funny thing sometimes — Sondra was around, and Philip wasn’t, and I put two and two together…

And got 22?

Max: Something like that. Her aunt and uncle drove off some time Friday afternoon, we think, and she came over here because we were easier to reach. Her grandmother probably drove off too, but Sondra wasn’t too sure about that.

Charles: I think we’re digressing a bit here.

Yeah. So what do you think happened?

Max: Maybe the Rapture didn’t turn out quite the way they expected.

Charles: I’m not sure. I’ve never been much of a spiritual person, but this suggests the supernatural. If Scotty beamed them up, what’s with the pickups?

Max: Good point. All the cars turning into pickups and people disappearing… yeah, supernatural.

Now what?

Max: What do you mean?

What do you think you’ll do now?

Charles: Live. Try to build something better than we used to have.

Max: I guess we’ll end up taking one for the team.


Max: We’ll need to contribute to the gene pool, there’s not enough people left for us to stay with our preferences. One-nighters, whatever.

You say that like it’s a bad thing. ;-) Do you think it’ll be socially unacceptable to be gay in the future, just because of the population issue?

Charles: I for one can’t have a long-term sexual relationship with a woman. Believe me, I tried already. But things being how they are, I suspect that reproductive arrangements might be a bit loose for a few generations. We’ll cope. It’s our grandchildren I’m worried about, assuming we have any.

Back to Episode 19…


  1. Very interesting, Far. Having to step outside of our roles for humanity. I guess that some gay women will be having to do the same.

    Looking forward to the next one.

  2. Hi, Boran… yup, I think the gene pool is going to be a major concern over the next few generations. For Charles's sake, I hope he's right about arrangements being loose for a while.

  3. Hi Liz, welcome to the free-range insane asylum!


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