Fort Ord, California, September, 1991
I was in the final year of my four-year stint in our nation’s Army and things were going pretty well. I saw the ETS light at the end of the tunnel (i.e. my date of getting the fuck out the Army was drawing ever nearer), I had just finished a year and a half in Korea and Saudi, and kept my schlong in my pants, releasing it only for intermittent, strictly hetero encounters, since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” wasn’t even a remote option at this point in our nation’s glorious, non-discriminatory history.
I had settled into a familiar routine at Fort Ord – PT (physical training) at 6 a.m., work at 9, mail call at 5, TV and bed by 11. This, with the exception of my off-post job at the local comic book store on the weekends, was my life for the last year of my enlistment. Part of this comfortable routine was dealing with our mail clerk six days a week – the most disinterested, foul-dispositioned, blank slate of a woman known as Specialist Carter.
Specialist Carter was an older, African-American woman, probably in her late 20’s (which was considerably older than my then-21 year old ass). She was heavy-set, which I never understood – after all, we all had to run four miles five days a week, perform a set number of sit ups and push ups to pass our physical fitness tests once a quarter, and keep our body fat percentage at an acceptable level, or be tossed out of the service. How did she stay so fat and keep enlisted? Specialist Carter was also very brusque…I’m a fairly friendly guy and would make it a point to say “Hello” and “Thank you” to her every day as she tossed my mail at me. Never a response, not even a snort or a grunt.
One cool Monterey autumn day in 1991, though, that changed.
That fall evening, I went to get my mail as usual. Specialist Carter asked my name, which she did EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR AND A HALF, turned and pulled my mail out of its pre-assigned slot. She tossed it down on the ledge of the half-door separating me from the mail room and her and stood there, waiting.
It was a pile of credit card bills, junk mail, the latest issue of Rolling Stone or Spin, the usual mail I got. But resting on the top of today’s pile was something that was arranged specially to lie there by Specialist Carter. She had taken great pains to go thru my mail and shuffle it in such a matter so that this piece would be on the top when I came to pick it up.
It was the latest catalog from International Male.
I have never purchased anything from International Male. I even lived in San Diego, IM’s headquarters, for three years, where they had a retail store across the fucking street from the gym I worked out in daily and still never purchased anything. International Male clothing is hideous, an outdated notion from the days when the closet ran rampant and this thinly-disguised stroke mag for frustrated “straights” was the only option. With my many magazine subscriptions at the time, they must have gotten my name from a mailing list.
On the cover of this catalog, staring me in the face, was a completely shaven, plucked and coiffed white twink, modeling a pristine white thong bikini, a white lace shawl (I guess) wrapped around his bony, Nicole Ritchie-like (2005 edition) shoulders. It was, quite simply, the faggiest picture I had ever seen in my life.
I stood there, staring at my glossy outing for a beat, not quite sure what to do or say. I looked up to see Specialist Carter staring at me, waiting for me to react, a sassy smirk on her lips.
Before I could look away or say anything, Specialist Carter said the first, last and only thing I ever heard her say to anyone in the year and a half I knew her: