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Coming out of the woods with my hands up

There have been reports in the media this week detailing the findings of a YouGov poll on sexual preferences released last weekend – including the fact that almost a quarter of Brits (23%) would not regard themselves as exclusively heterosexual, a figure rising to 49% amongst those aged between 18 and 24.

The survey was conducted within a group of more than 1,600 adults and based on Kinsey’s theory that, for most people, human sexuality is not exclusively heterosexual or homosexual but falls somewhere along a spectrum than runs at its extremes to one or the other.

In her piece in The Guardian Hannah Jane Parkinson commented upon the apparent growth in homosexuality to the effect that, the more visible and open that people are, the greater the likelihood that others with hidden same-sex leanings will come to believe that this is acceptable and ‘come out’ themselves.

She regarded it as ‘heartening’ that, of those across the age spectrum who define themselves as heterosexual agreed that it was conceivable that ‘if the right person came along’ they could be attracted to someone of the same sex at some point in the future.

Buoyed by the freedom of realising that this is the 21st Century when nothing is considered beyond the pale, I have decided to ‘come out’ and admit that, in my mid-sixties, I have been prey to ‘man crushes’ at various points in my life.

As I make this daring move, I remain somewhat unclear as to what extent these leanings are sexual, at least in the sense that – as I type – I cannot recall whether I have ever wished to do something about them in a physical sense.

For the most part the subjects of my admiration – or is it attraction – have been sporting superstars.

Having been gifted by God or Nature with a certain facility for sport, I am also all too aware that my abilities are limited. You know the sort of thing – every time I’ve walked onto the pitch (in a team game) or a court (tennis), or a cross-country course, for example, I’ve been immediately conscious that there are fellow participants on view with greater talents than mine.

That’s the story of my life, as I keep thinking to myself. If ambition, drive, indeed any form of willingness to go that extra mile in the quest to better oneself can count for anything, I have been blessed with the perfect basic tools to become an all-time sporting great.

My greatest tragedy is that I never had the skill. That’s why I used to get frustrated every time I have observed a pal, or someone I had never personally met, who was infinitely more skilled than me and yet did not have the wherewithal – specifically the mental strength and drive – to take those talents to the top of the pile.

Some of them were simply born as classic ‘amateurs’, the kind of person who could pick up a cricket bat, or a squash or tennis racket, and (apparently with little effort) wipe the floor with 75% of the rest of us.

Let me give an example. Way back when I used to play with a park soccer side which played for the sheer hell and fun of it. One of our number, a humble, unassuming type – a priest’s son as it happens – seemed in every way no different to the rest of us until he walked onto the pitch. There he could trap a high-speed ball in an instant, turn a defender (or even several in close attendance) inside-out upon a sixpence and dribble down the pitch in a stroll with the football seemingly attached to either boot (at his election) by an invisible string.

He was a different class to the rest of us. He wore his skill extremely lightly and often gifted the scoring shot to one of us lesser mortals, to the point where on occasions one secretly wished the twerp would be seriously more selfish and thereby take us to greater sporting victory and glory. But he rarely did. He was happy just being one of the team, playing just for the joy of each other’s company and the opportunity to spend time on the football field when (unusually, but inevitably in our games) the result didn’t actually matter.

I’d hesitate to report here that I ever fancied him, but I hope I’ve made the point I was trying to get across!

And so, let me list those who have been, at some time or another, the subject of one of my ‘man crushes’:

From the world of boxing, Muhammad Ali – nothing more needed be said.

From tennis, Bjorn Borg – sort-of ditto.

From cricket, Garry Sobers and Viv Richards – who both strolled onto the field with a laconic majesty, dripping in charisma, confidence and an inner certainty that, whatever any opposition was going to throw at them, they would not only prevail but do so with consummate style, power and sometimes baffling technical brilliance.

From rugby union, David Campese.

The above are but a few examples plucked in ten minutes from the air in front of my computer this morning. If I had more time, I suspect there’d be many more.

I guess the kind of guy I go for is the great sportsmen – perhaps touched, despite the cliché of even using the word, by genius – who are unrelentingly ‘cool’ and therefor to be admired to the point of worship by fans of both genders alike (or should that be ‘all genders alike’ now that we have transgender, transsexual and whatever those other orientations or manifestations are).

They’re the kind of athlete that I’d have loved to be. Thinking about it now – and this probably says volumes about my sexuality – I’ve never really wanted to be a female athlete or sporting superstar.

Well okay, maybe Steffi Graf at a pinch if you tied me to a rack and held my feet to the fire. Mind you, I’d love to have bonked a few. (How is Gabriella Sabatini these days?).

Anyway, welcome to the new world, people! I feel a great rush of relief mixed with joy and celebration at finally getting this huge weight off my chest. When is the next Gay Pride march in Hyde Park?


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About Arthur Nelson

Looking forward to his retirement in 2015, Arthur has written poetry since childhood and regularly takes part in poetry workshops and ‘open mike’ evenings. More Posts