The Malibu name replaced the Chevelle name on all mid-sized Chevrolets for the 1978 model year. After OPEC, this was the down-sized version in comparison to previous mid-sized Chevrolets, only two trim levels were available, Malibu and Malibu Classic. This 1979 model was the second year for a complete redesign when all American cars had downsized to appear more fuel efficient. The engines were smaller, the interiors had shrunk by making the dashboards and the rear shelf narrower. There was no room for any extra unneeded space. The front console was like a narrow box that had been attached to the dashboard. The car ran smooth, was comfortable, and since the redesign, it was very modern!
The Malibu became symbolic of many things that were about to happen in my life.
Just one year after we were married we had the fortune, with the help of my dad, to buy our first house. Costing only $20,000 we moved in and began to make it our own. Working on remodeling an older home was both fun, and challenging. I had a next door neighbor, Dean, who was a retired carpenter from the old school. He taught me now to fit windows, scribe cabinets to uneven walls, hang drywall, and so many other things. He was a great neighbor. I learned the habit of eating ice cream EVERY night around 10:00 from Dean and his wife. They invited me to their house virtually every night for “icy-dicy time”. For all intents and purposes, I was an active young husband and dad. Everyone knew me for being conservative and committed to my family.
I was so committed that working a part time job to make ends meet was the norm. Kristy was taking care of our children while doing some of her own odd jobs to help. I kept thinking about my goals in life and it seemed to be time to fulfill them.
In 1978, We discussed building a new home and found just the right place and just the right builder. Our new home would be built in a modern designed suburb. It was developed with smaller lots and a common greenway behind each of the homes that was intended to become a park. I wanted it to be custom so that it was unique and had all of the things we wanted in it. We began to build our “dream home” in the suburbs. We got a great price and at the time they were offering special “buy down” FHA interest rates to it seemed to be the best thing for our family.
The home was finished and moving day came. I was really excited and we began to extend our credit to fill the home with new things. My part time job was at a furniture store, so we got some good deals on new furniture. Goal two was accomplished, new custom home and all new furniture in it. The yard and fence were done and I began working on the inside to finish out the basement family room.
As I looked up and down the street we lived on, I felt alone, strange, and disconnected from the other men along the block. Questions about who they were, and what they were all about didn’t seem to find answers. One guy was pretty friendly and it seemed we got along pretty well.
We got together when our wives went bowling or shopping and would play cards together. That was good for me, but we never really talked about much or got close. We just talked about surface things and enjoyed a game or two.
I felt cold and distant from Kristy and I was feeling pretty desperate to somehow make our marriage relationship better. It seemed that I didn’t know how to make it better and I could only think of using material things. After our move to the new home I felt desirous to find a way to work this out. In my small mind and closed off emotions I thought it might help to become extravagant with a Christmas gift for Kristy. She liked to sew and had an older machine to work with. So I decided to get the latest “Singer” electronic machine for her. We were trying to curb our credit card spending but in this case, I opened up a charge account to purchase the machine on time payments. I was hopeful she would be thrilled with the way I wanted to show her attention.
One day I returned from work and she had opened up the mail from the Singer store which included a credit card. She asked me why we got that in the mail. In my extreme reaction of disappointment that my secret had been uncovered, I told her what I had done. Now that the surprise was ruined, I felt determined to make this happen.
So, I thought maybe if I could ask others to not buy me anything for Christmas but to just give me money I could put it toward a gift for Kristy. I wanted to buy her the latest electronic micro-wave oven. In 1978, that was a pretty extreme idea! So I bought one through a 90-day charge paying the down payment with the money I had gotten from others. I knew this would certainly blow her mind, not only a new sewing machine, but the ultra modern, GE Touchmatic Microwave Oven would surely work to show her how I cared for her.
“John, I retrieved this from the mailbox today.” Kristy’s sister came out to meet me in the driveway after work one day. She handed an envelope to me before I went in. I opened it and found the payment card from the store where I bought the oven. Phew! She saved me on this one.
Christmas day after all of our gifts were opened and the main events had finished I opened up and said, “Kristy, I have one more surprise for you.” Carrying the huge wrapped box into the room. “I HAVE A SURPRISE FOR YOU!” She opened it but didn’t seem overly excited, but seemed to show a contrived sense of surprise. After everyone left she disclosed to me that the envelope wasn’t found by her sister, but rather she had seen it. She told me that she and her sister arranged to cover the fact that she had seen it.
I felt totally embarrassed, and humiliated that I had acted so excited to surprise her, when everyone knew that Kristy already knew about the surprise. Much like six years earlier, something that was beginning to open up inside me was slammed shut once again. I truly believe it was that day that my heart finally closed towards Kristy. I just couldn’t muster up enough trust to go that place in my heart again.
Maybe a new car will help? It was time to go for another life goal. Since we lived in the suburbs and now had two kids we needed a station wagon. For those of you who are younger, that would have been the vehicle of choice for a family at that time. Mini-vans hadn’t been created yet and SUV’s were for business.
So, I went out on a Saturday, by myself I might add, and found a beautiful 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Wagon. It was metallic chocolate brown with nice tan interior. I remember vividly standing in my garage polishing the pretty finish to keep it pristine! Now I had a custom built home, a brand new station wagon, two kids and I had reached my life goals. I don’t remember any fuss about me getting a new car without Kristy going with me. I traded in the 1974 Datsun B-210 and this car was much bigger and more practical for the kids so I guess it was an improvement for her as well.
We only had one car now and I rode a commuter bus to work or carpooled with a friend. It was practical with high gas prices. I walked across the street to a shopping center to pick up the bus with other commuters.
With a closed heart, confused emotions, loneliness, and deep needs for connection, I began to develop a fantasy life during my daily travels. On the bus there were some handsome men that rode it each day and I would look at them and wonder what it would be like to know them, I mean really know them. What did they think, how did they feel about life, would they want to know me?
Churning inside me was something greater than a benign sense of curiosity towards men. I now actually wanted more of a relational exchange. Something deeper was in my heart with a curiosity of what it would be like to intimately know another man. I wanted something reciprocal, something meaningful.
As all of this grew deep inside me. One day during a conversation that I was listening to at work the word “homosexual” came into the discussion. “Oh! That must be what is going on here. I may be a homosexual!” I didn’t take it much further because this was a very strange concept to me. I had never known one of those, but began to ponder this in my heart with a sense of desire. Maybe that is what my curiosity is all about on the bus, and with others I had known.
I worked in a large office building where we talked a lot with each other and built relationships. We had a sports team that I was a part of and as I got to know the others, one man stood out to me. He was a little older than I was and had always been single. For many reasons I got to a place where I assumed he was probably gay. In my new frame of mind this brought some hope to me that maybe I could talk with someone else who might relate to my questions.
I stopped him one day and said, “Ken, I would like to talk with you about something personal.” He said “sure.” No more was said until one Friday evening. My wife was bowling and I was with the kids. The phone rang and Ken asked if I could meet him at the bar across the street from where I lived. When my wife came home I proceeded to tell her he had called and she asked if I was going to go over and meet with him. She knew him from work parties and events so it didn’t seem strange to her that I might do that. It was very strange to me since I virtually never did anything without her. But I was internally excited to go and talk through this with him.
After some light conversation and a couple of drinks, I disclosed to him what I had been experiencing. His response was, “John, I knew you were gay.” I felt somewhat offended and at the same time, curious. He mentioned that we might go to another place where some gay people hung out. Without a hitch, I wanted to go. He had peaked my curiosity after we had shared some common ground. We drove some distance away to a bar/restaurant. I began perusing all of the men, women, couples and whoever else walked into the place. I felt totally out of my own skin and yet, even more stimulated at the potential of knowing others like me. Ken assured me he would introduce me to others that he knew.
Several drinks later….
When the bar was about to close, Ken asked me to go with him to his father’s apartment to talk more. I didn’t want this new connection to end so I agreed to go with him. We got to the apartment and talked some more. With a lot of curiosity about this new piece of my life being exposed and a lot of alcohol, Ken proceeded to initiate a sexual encounter with me. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing something that I had only dreamed of and really had never known could happen. I was not thinking at all about whether or not this was wrong.
Hung over from drinking, and blurred from what I had just done, I went home at 3:00 AM and slid into my usual place in bed. The next day, nothing was said between my wife and I about the late arrival. The entire event was hidden inside my heart.
Something huge had changed within me and I could hardly believe that I had just broken one of my most solid convictions. I certainly would never commit adultery! But was this adultery? Actually it didn’t seem to be what I considered to be adultery. It was two men, not with a woman.
After about two weeks of virtual silence from me, Kristy knew something big was up. “John, what is wrong with you. You haven’t spoken for two weeks.” After a tremendous amount of thought on my part I just blurted out: