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  1. Chapter 1 Wedding Day It was a hot, steamy, sultry mid-August day in South Georgia. One could see the waves of heat coming off the black asphalt in the parking lot of the local Ramada Inn motel. I was nervous. The heat and humidity just aggravated my nerves even more. I liked cool, dry climates, and this South Georgia heat and humidity was suffocating. The Ramada Inn motel was the only place in town where there were enough rooms to house all the family and out of town guests who had come from Atlanta and other places throughout the South to attend our wedding. I had proposed marriage to Jane only eight months before after a two-year courtship. I could not grasp the fact that I was actually getting married today, August 5, 1972. I secretly hoped that this event would be a positive step toward resolving the inner struggle I had suffered since I was a six-year old boy. I had worked very hard to hide my true nature from myself, my family and from the rest of my world for as long as I could remember. My self- denial had seemed to be working for me until now. Today was a milestone in this inner struggle. It was by far the biggest step I had taken toward my resolve to make myself “normal.” The fear I felt this morning was overwhelming. I took a deep breath, told myself to gain control and go on as I had done many times before as if nothing was wrong. I knew I could not risk having my truth come out today of all days! I really believed I could change my truth by simply resolving to act and to think differently, and by continuing to have faith in God. I had prayed to God every day of my life to make me “normal,” but that had yet to work. The church was small. It stood on a patch of sandy, black dirt covered with crab grass which had been freshly mowed that morning. The only foliage was the green boxwood that surrounded the foundation of the building. Each shrub had been neatly trimmed into the shape of a large ball. The cinnamon brown long needle pine straw indigenous to South Georgia covered the bed underneath the shrubbery. The red brick structure had been the old school building when Jane, my fiancé, was of elementary age. She, her brother and sister had attended school here until the county and city school systems combined, and everyone had to attend school in the town ten miles up the road. The former cafetorium of the school had been transformed into a church sanctuary. The two wings of classrooms that jutted out from each side of the cafetorium were now Sunday school classrooms and a fellowship hall for church social gatherings. A white, pre-fabricated steeple sat atop the main entrance. The interior walls were painted “hospital green.” The windows were tinted an amber color so the sunlight coming into the room had a golden hue as it lit up the lightly stained pews and green carpeting. A small choir loft, pulpit riser and baptismal pool had been built at the front end of the room where the stage had been formerly located. There were two, small “backstage” rooms on either side of the choir loft. I stopped by the church in the early morning that day to be sure the air conditioning thermostat was set on the coolest setting possible. I knew the small sanctuary would be standing room only for the wedding ceremony. I wanted the room to be cold and comfortable for all the wedding guests, and especially for me. Later that afternoon my best man, Dyke, my best friend and college roommate, and I arrived early at the church. We entered the sanctuary, which was a cold and welcoming relief from the stifling heat outside. We sequestered ourselves in the backstage room to the right of the choir loft in advance of any arriving guests. The bridesmaids, Jane, her mother and aunt, who was filling the role of wedding coordinator, gathered in a room just to the right of the vestibule as one entered the church. The seven groomsmen, five fraternity brothers of mine plus Jane’s brother and a close friend of ours, were gathered in their formal tailcoats at the front of the church waiting to escort female guests to a seat as they arrived. Dyke and the minister waited patiently with me in the backstage room until the organ music signaled it was our time to walk out and stand at the front of the sanctuary as the procession began. All was progressing just as we had rehearsed it the night before. The three of us lined up in single file as the time for the appropriate music drew near. The minister was first, followed by me and then Dyke, my best man. As we heard the organist begin to play the first bars of the processional music, the minister opened the door of the backstage room so we could proceed to our assigned spots in the front of the pulpit. The very moment the door to the backstage room opened, I was overcome with a wall of suffocating heat. The backstage room had been so comfortably cool with just the three of us there, but the sanctuary had become a stifling oven as the large number of guests filled the small space with a standing room only crowd. All the body heat emanating from the crowd was no match for the air conditioning system in the sanctuary, and as I walked from the door of the backstage room to my assigned spot in the front of the pulpit, I began to perspire profusely. I quickly became very uncomfortable and irritated from the debilitating heat. “So much for lowering the thermostat,” I thought to myself. The procession went as planned without a hitch. The music began with the processional march. I stood there and watched with pride, fear, hope and excitement as I saw our friends come down the aisle one at a time. Once the last two groomsmen and bridesmaids were in place, the “Wedding March” began, and there at the far end of the aisle, stood Jane on the arm of her father. She looked beautiful in the gorgeous wedding dress she had designed and made herself as her senior college home economics project. Her face was radiant. Jane had a beautiful, porcelain-like complexion and sparkling green-gray eyes. I had fallen in love with her on our very first date. She was pretty, fun, very smart, talented, loved home-cooked Southern food, loved ice-cream, and she was from a family farm background in a small town in South Georgia. These were all qualities I had been looking for in a girlfriend. I had dated several girls in college but none of them had had the charisma and charm I saw in Jane. I was from the “big city” of Atlanta, and I wanted to find a girl from a small Georgia town. I thought to myself, “here is a beautiful girl who must have wonderful, down-to-earth small- town values.” I was “smitten” on the very first date. I even returned to the fraternity house after the first date with Jane and remarked to everyone that I had met the girl I was going to marry! Jane, however, did not have the same initial impression of me that I had of her. She admitted years later that it took many dates with me for her to come around that I might be the kind of guy that would make a good husband for her. I would also discover after several years of marriage, that Jane was not one to make quick decisions about anything, whereas I was always spontaneous and tended to make quick decisions based on first impressions of not only people, but situations as well. We were both still very young. People in the early 1970s got married right out of college. If I had it to do all over again, I would have waited. I now know that I did not know enough about Jane’s life values, nor did I know enough about her background and home life growing up in South Georgia. I also know that she did not know enough about me either. I knew that I was gay, but I also knew in my heart of hearts that I could not admit that to Jane or to anyone else as it would be the ruination of me as a person, as well as the ruination of my wonderful family. This is the way I believed. I wish to this day that the idea of living together before marriage was as accepted then as it is now. If Jane and I had chosen to live together before marriage, I am convinced that one or both of us would have come to the realization that we were not compatible in several ways, especially sexually. However, I did know that I loved her, but I did not “desire” her. I was incapable of desiring any woman, and that was the one area that I truly believed would change with God’s help. The moment arrived in the ceremony where vows were to be exchanged. Jane and I had decided to write and memorize our vows. I heard the minister pronounce us “man and wife”. The recessional music began to play and the wedding party all marched down the aisle back to the small gathering room just off the vestibule of the church. As I walked down the aisle with my new bride on my arm, I caught the eyes of so many of my family’s friends who had driven the three hours from Atlanta to witness the blessed event. I nodded and smiled to acknowledge them, and to indicate my appreciation for their attendance. During the entire event, I felt as if it was not really me getting married. It was like an out- of-body experience. I felt I was just going through the motions that were expected of me. The fear that gripped me earlier that day had subsided as I focused on playing the part of a happy groom who was thrilled to be getting married, and who was excited about building a life with the woman he loved. The real truth was that I was trembling with fear not knowing how I was going to get through married life as a man who had had absolutely no physical attraction to women since the time I was able to be sexually attracted to anyone. I reminded myself that this was something I had to do. It was a duty. I did not feel I had any other choice in life, but to marry a woman, and therefore, I would have to figure out a way to make this work. I also reminded myself that I firmly believed that God was leading me into this marriage and that God would make it work. I didn’t want to think about that right now, though. I just wanted to be in the moment and wanted to try to enjoy the reception that was to come. I wanted to enjoy chatting and visiting with all my college friends who had come to celebrate with me. Once the wedding photos had all been taken at the church, the wedding party proceeded to drive to the home of Jane’s parents. It was only a half mile from the church and was located just past a large peanut farm in an area of tall, South Georgia pine trees. My new mother- in-law had worked for months getting the back yard planted and manicured for the big event. She had a green thumb, and her flower beds were her pride and joy. The back yard was dotted with beautifully skirted tables containing all sorts of tasty wedding food placed upon silver serving trays. One large, round table showcased the tall wedding cake that had been baked and decorated by one of Jane’s best friends. Next to it was another round table containing a silver punch bowl with glass punch cups surrounding the bowl’s silver under tray. Jane had made all the food herself, and had worked for days getting it all finished. She was a most talented girl. In addition to making all the food for her own wedding, she designed and made herwedding dress and all the 8 bridesmaids’ dresses as well. Everything was decorated in a very subtle, pale pink, and the back yard had never looked so grand. My mother-in-law was very pleased and proud as she moved through the crowd of guests dressed in her red sequined gown highlighted with turquoise beading. She had searched through all the dress shops in Atlanta and Macon until she found this dress which she thought made her look like a movie star. She had always wanted to feel important, and this night was hers. She began to gather Jane, me, my parents and my father-in-law into a line in order to receive all the guests. Dyke had hidden my car earlier in the day so all of our college buddies could not create havoc with it. The sun had long set and the evening was coming to an end. The plan was that Dyke would drive us from Jane’s home to the location of my car, and the two of us would then depart from there. It was time for Jane and me to change clothes in preparation to leave for our honeymoon and our wedding night. The fear began to creep back into my mind now, and I felt the shutter of adrenaline run through my veins as the realization that the imminence of my wedding night that I had tried to ignore for months was now upon me. The moment of truth was actually here, and I knew that I would somehow have to deal with having sex with a woman for the first time in my life that very night. I resolved there was nothing I could do at that point but go on and hope that I would be able to be the man I had worked so hard at pretending to be all my life. Acting and pretending had become second nature to me. The fear never left me completely from that moment, but I was able to repress it as I had done so many times before. I changed my clothes and got into Dyke’s car with Jane. I kissed her and smiled as we both waved to all of our family and friends as the car pulled out of the driveway. I felt the guilt of my pretense at that moment, but once again, I repressed that feeling, ignored it and pressed on as if it wasn’t even there. This method of continual denial was what I had done throughout my life, and I was determined that I could live this way until the day I died. I knew in my heart and mind there was no other choice. I knew that this was what God wanted. After all, wasn’t that the most important thing? To do what God wanted and not what I wanted? Dyke had parked my car at Jane’s aunt’s house five miles away. It was close to the interstate and none of our college friends were familiar with this location, so it was a perfect hiding place for the car. Jane and I hugged and kissed Dyke as we got into our getaway car and began a life journey together that would last 31 years. I certainly wasn’t thinking that far ahead at this point. I was thinking about the motel where I had made a reservation for our first night together. The motel was only 25 miles south of Jane’s family home on I-75 in Tifton, GA. I was thinking again about the fact that I would be expected to have sex with Jane for the first time. The fear of this thought gripped me now stronger than it had ever gripped me before. I would have to cope. I knew that somehow, I would have to do it. I would figure out something. I signed the register at the Howard Johnson Motel as “Mr. and Mrs. Don Tomlinson.” The front desk clerk gave me a key and explained how to get to the room. As I opened the door, I could see the queen size bed. No king bed had been available. The chill of fear ran through me again, but I smiled and said, “Well, here we are. Our very first night together.” It really was our very first night to sleep together. I had never had any desire to be sexual with a woman. The thought of sex with a woman was actually not attractive to me. I could not imagine what other men thought was so exciting about it. I knew that would have to change somehow. I remembered the verse from the Bible: “All things are possible to him that believeth in me.” I went straight for the window air conditioner. I wanted to turn it on so it would start cooling the room. We put down our luggage and took separate showers. Then we plopped down on the bed. We were both very exhausted from all the stress and excitement of the day’s activities along with the heat and humidity. I climbed into the bed next to Jane, and we talked for a while about the wedding and all our friends and family who were in attendance. I put my arms around her and gave her a kiss. “I am terribly exhausted,” I said as I got up to go to the bathroom. She said that she was very tired too. “Let’s just get a good night’s sleep so we can be all rested for our long drive to Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow.” She agreed, which was a relief to me. I could tell there was no way I could have tried to make love that night. We kissed goodnight and closed our eyes. I tried to sleep, but my mind would not allow it. I was worried. Worried that I would not be able to hide my truth, and that it would show itself and embarrass me. I worried that my truth would be found out, and that I would be ridiculed and mocked for who I really was inside. For 16 years (since the age of 6), I had worked at presenting an acceptable image of myself to the outside world, and now I feared everyone would find out that my life was mostly a sham and that I was a sad and despicable fraud. I had always had the luxury of escaping at the end of each day into my own private room with my own thoughts and fears. Now, I had nowhere to escape. I was with someone all the time, and all I could think about was that I would have to be on my guard at every moment, not just during the daytime. As I lay there, my mind began to wander as I thought about my life up to this point. These thoughts kept me from sleeping soundly. I remembered back to my childhood and my earliest memories ran over and over in my mind as they had done many times before.
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