Andrew Calimach’s sexual awakening came at a queer time: while at amuseum with his parents.
The family had fled communist Romania and found themselves in Rome, where the 13-ish Calimach felt his first gay pang:
I remember standing in a museum in Rome, maybe the Villa Borghese, staring at this ancient bronze statue of a boy about my own age, naked, pulling a thorn from his foot. I remember my parents trying to drag me away, and me staring and staring, desiring that naked boy.
Hungry for more, the lustful Calimach soon heard murmurs of homo-flavored Greek myths, which only fueled his pubescent curiosity. But, alas, those myths were buried, censored or simply destroyed. It was around that time, Calimach tells our editor, that he decided to dig up the long-lost tales of love and spread the love. And, after about forty years and inmeasurable determination, Calimach published Lovers’ Legends: The Gay Greek Myths.
More than just ancient masturbatory material, Calimach found romantic tutorials. The 55-year old historian tells our editor, “The more I study these myths, the more I see in them the Greek’s loving guidance: how to love, how to be loved, how not to hurt your lover…” Calimach also gives us the scoop on communism’s positive attributes, why he never came out to his parents and how pederasty still exists. After the jump, of course…
[Image: Lovers Zeus and Ganymede sleep while Prometheus, that bastard, steals the Gods’ fire.]
Andrew Belonsky: First, Mr. Calimach, can you describe growing up in communist Romania?
Andrew Calimach: For a child, communism was not such a bad thing. There was no crime because police were everywhere, so I could go everywhere alone. Another plus was being politically conscious at a young age. It made me more aware of injustice, hearing all the government lies and propaganda.
That consciousness also helped me cut through a lot of trips, like patriotism, or sports fandom. And the state atheism helped free me of religion, as did my parents. You might say that I grew up free of myths, in the bad sense of the word. In exchange, I read a lot of the “regular” Greek myths – and anything else I could get my hands on, especially folk tales.
We did lack one thing – freedom. People told political jokes like, “They say that capitalism is on the edge of the precipice.” “What is it doing there?” “Looking down at communism.” But you had to tell them in secret – if you got caught your parents could go to jail. I remember one day the teacher was late for class and we were all sitting around with nothing to do. One kid in the back piped up: “I know a political joke!” Everybody in the class turned around and went “Shhhhhh!” We left the country just in time, when I was twelve. There comes a time when you do not want to be shushed any more.
AB: What was the transition like for you? Moving to America, that is?
AC: It was not as abrupt as you might think. We spent half a year in Italy before coming here. That was a very liberating time – all that ancient art pouring into me, together with my budding adolescence, definitely began to open my eyes to my own sexuality. I remember standing in a museum in Rome, maybe the Villa Borghese, staring at this ancient bronze statue of a boy about my own age, naked, pulling a thorn from his foot. I remember my parents trying to drag me away, and me staring and staring, desiring that naked boy.
Then, when we came here, I started getting these crushes on other boys, but nothing ever came of it, I was too afraid, I did not know what to do, how to do it.
AB: And how old were you when you came out?
AC: I was in college, that was the first time I ever mentioned to anybody else that I liked other boys. I held that secret in for so many years, it almost drove me crazy. Not being able to be who I was, or to live out my desires was a kind of living death. When I remember that, I can understand why so many gay kids try to kill themselves.
AB: How did your parents take your coming out?
AC: My father died when I was still young, so he and I never had a chance to work that through. With my mother I never discussed homosexuality until quite late, a year or so before her death. I remember her saying something homophobic, and my retorting that the Greeks thought highly of it. Her reply, “I don’t care what the Greeks did, it still is an ugly thing.” I left it at that. It was not my business to convert my seventy-year old mother, and I did not need her approval to have a fulfilling erotic life. She had done enough good things for me already.