Letters In Search of Love
and other essays
About the Book
I wrote most of the essays specifically for this book although some of them have appeared elsewhere. All of them are from experiences I had during a period in my life from about 1987 through 1991, which began with what I thought of as my greatest loss in life and ended with what I now consider my greatest gain. In a way, this period was the darkest of my life. I think I was clinically depressed, although I never went to a psychologist to find out. Yet strangely enough, given my chronic depression, this was one of the very best times of my life, as well.
This period of years has a definite beginning. My lover of fourteen years came to me one night in January of 1987 and said that he wanted to break up, because he said he was heterosexual. Three months later, I ended up in Las Cruces, New Mexico living in a motel room, with a part-time job, without a car, and with the usual emotional baggage. An essay about that experience is not included, because I did not want to inflict on the reader the morose self-pity I engaged in and, at times, grimly enjoyed. But I do mention this breakup in several of the essays, since getting over it is, in a sense, a thread that ties all the essays in this collection together; the emotional fallout from it was partially responsible for the paths I took during that five-year period.
At the beginning of this period, I felt old (in the gay male queen's sense of being old) at thirty-eight. At the end of this period, I was forty-three and feeling as if life was just beginning, feeling young and stronger than ever. In the beginning, I was fat and weak with a terrible self-concept; by the end, I could get behind a shovel in my garden and chunk dirt for hours without tiring. It was certainly the first time in my adult life when I was proud of my body, when I felt wonderful in a T-shirt and cutoffs. Even as a teenager, I'd never felt so confident about my appearance. In short, it took five years for me to cast off the previous fourteen. The struggle with anger and hurt made this period difficult, but by the end of it, I looked ahead with relish.
In "Part One: Letters in Search of Love," the essays deal with my search for a new lover. In a clinical sense, I suppose the reason for this search has some fancy name; ordinary people, or country-western singers, however, would just say I was "on the rebound." It probably would have been a disaster had I "married" another man too soon, because I still did not know what my weaknesses or my strengths were. Although I did not find a lover through this exchange of letters, the process of the search was part of the healing necessary to bury my fourteen-year relationship. In all, I exchanged letters with at least two dozen men over a year-long period.
From those letters, I discovered that my pain was not unique. Nor my loneliness. I also discovered that gay men accommodate adversity and their sexuality in surprisingly different ways. Letters from prisoners sometimes amused me, sometimes scared the Hell out of me, and gave me a safe peak into prison life. Other men who wrote were even more self-pitying than I was, which had a wonderful curative effect on my own self-pity.
The most perplexing, maddening, and insulting letters came from a widower (age around seventy) whose wife of a thousand years had died and, now, he was answering ads from gay menat least I know that he answered my letter, which appeared in RFD. I say it was maddening because, in one of his letters, he sent a seven-page, single-spaced type-written document, stamped CONFIDENTIAL in which he laid down the law by which I would abide if I decided to become his plaything. There would be no discussion, no objections, and no input from me. He obviously hadn't bothered to read what I'd written in my letter for RFD or, like the plantation sla
About the Author
Author of COMMON SONS a coming-of-age novel about gay teens and the problems they face in their small town. Essays in John Preston's HOMETOWNS and MEMBER OF THE FAMILY (Dutton, 1990 and 1991); essay in THE DEMING SIX ("AIDS in Paradise") Other published books include THE SALVATION MONGERS, a sequel to COMMON SONS (Writer's Club Press, July 2000) and MY YEAR OF LIVING HETEROSEXUALLY, an autobiography about being openly gay in the US Military during the Vietnam era (Writer's Club Press, June 2000) I was born May 6, 1948, third in the birth order of six children, the eldest of two boys. I grew up on a farm in Deming, New Mexico where I learned self-sufficiency through the example set by my father and mother. Farmers have to be Jacks-of-all-trades. For example, knowing a little chemistry in the mixing of fertilizers, veterinary for cattle and other livestock, in treating pink-eye, wounds, and even the birthing of calves and piglets; learning along the way a little plumbing, welding, carpentry, and even being an electrician. And so, for the first 18 years of my life, I learned a little bit of everything which, of course, also involved farming. But farm life can also be lonely, and I found the greatest escape in reading. From an early age, I enjoyed writing, and was soon filling spiral notebooks with extensions of the stories I read, trying to create new scenes for the characters that I loved. I graduated from Deming High School in 1966, and went on to college at New Mexico State University, where I became State President of the Student National Education Association. This organization gave me my first real opportunity to travel to other American cities, to meet other college students, and to get a larger perspective of my world. Although I "came out of the closet" about my sexual orientation in 1969 on one of the trips to Washington, DC, I got married in 1970 and, a year later, distraught over this mistake, I joined the United States Air Force, during the waning days of the Viet Nam War. It was during my time in service that I realized I was really gay and not only that, "came out" and lived openly as a gay man in the Air Force, from which I was honorably discharged. I have written an autobiographical novel about that experience, which I will be marketing soon. I graduated from Southwest Texas State University in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in literature and philosophy; then I did post-graduate work there, where I received Excellence in English and Philosophy awards from the graduate school. The rest of my formal education includes post graduate work at New Mexico State University in technical writing and computer science. In 1980, I took my first technical writing job and continue to this day in that field, though my current job is about 80% office management. Along the way, during my professional career, I began to write fiction, harking back to my younger days in Deming. In 1989, my first novel was published (an early version of Common Sons published by Banned Books/Edward William publishing company—now out of business). This novel did glean me invitations from the late John Preston to submit essays to two anthologies published by Dutton (New York) in 1991 and 1992, Hometowns: Gay Men Write About Where They Belong and A Member of the Family, the latter winning the Lambda Literary Award. My essays dealt with both my hometown and my family. Then in 1995 another of my essays, "Aids in Paradise" was published in an anthology called The Deming Six: Voices of the Chihuahuan Desert. A revised edition of Common Sons was published by Commonwealth Publications in 1997 and went on to become a best seller in several U.S. cities. Other completed novels include The Salvation Mongers (this book is a sequel, in a way, to Common Sons) and Cinátis (a novel of fantasy). Another novel, now in the revision stage is one called The Blind Season and is a sequel to Common Sons and stands second in chronological order of the stories in the other two novels. I have also written a collection of essays, which I will be marketing as Letters in Search of Love. The military autobiographical novel about being gay in the Air Force is tentatively entitled Full Circle and is available for marketing. Finally, in the works is a novel of horror entitled Under the Skin. These are interesting times to be alive and writing. I am especially grateful to my parents for instilling in me the knowledge that I have a right to be myself and to express that. For me, self-expression is best realized in writing. For more information about me, please visit my website at: http://www.zianet.com/schlothaue/ron1.html