Long before the Internet put countless images of beautiful men in various stages of undress at our fingertips with the simple click of a mouse, we young gay boys had to be much more creative in our search for homoerotic visual stimulation. For me, like many gay men my age, my first secret peek of what lay behind the silver zipper of a pair of man’s slacks was found in the Sears Catalog.
In these semiannual catalogs from the late 70s and early 80s, handsome sexy men with wide chests and chiseled V-shaped torsos would stand close together in intimate twosomes and threesomes smiling or laughing in their underpants, while, if one looked closely, a hand or elbows would wander seductively to the shoulder of the other men standing beside them.
These men seemed to be saying to me: “It’s fun to stand around with other men without your pants on.”
And it looked like an awful lot of fun to me.
I loved looking at men in their underpants. Their packages, although looking somewhat confined and constricted in their white briefs (I suppose as not to offend the housewives who were buying underpants for their husbands), did provide a little gay boy like me the hint that something exciting and was hidden beneath the bulges of those white, yellow, green, blue or even leopard and python print undies (it was the 70s).
To the young Gay Groom, it seemed that in these little catalog photos, I was seeing a snapshot of a steamy sensual moment that was occurring either just after the instant when these men had stood together naked – or the second just before they were about to strip down entirely. Though I was unsure what they would do when they did rip off those colourful shorts in wonderful grinning unison – I do know that I really wanted to watch them do – whatever it was they did. The Sears catalog was my first book of gay erotica.
Early each autumn, Sears would deliver their annual Christmas Wish Book to our door. The Sears Wish Book was a beautiful and magical glossy catalog full of Christmas gift ideas for mom, grandpa and aunt Doris and then the last half of the catalog was devoted to toys – lots and lots of toys (Stretch Armstrong, Dancerella, Ants In The Pants or Hugo – Man Of A Thousand Faces). But for me, the little gay boy, I would turn to the pages that contained the photos of men in their Christmas robes, plaid flannel pajamas and long winter underwear.
Alone on the sofa, pretending to be looking at GI Joe With The Kung Fu Grip, I would instead moon over these attractive half-naked men. Then, with my overactive (and underdeveloped) writer’s imagination, I would create an entire back-story for each of the good-looking men in the photographs. In my invented story, I would tell myself that these three men (I would name them something like Bob, Tom, and Sebastian) were spending Christmas together because Tom had been thrown out on Christmas Eve by his shrewish and clinging wife, Helga. Fortunately, Bob and his roommate Sebastian were happy to share their home with their buddy for the holiday. I could tell by the wide grins on their faces that these men liked being together a lot.
I imagined that in their fluffy velour robes, these three attractive men would enjoy Christmas morning together without women, drinking hot chocolate out of big red mugs, opening Christmas presents, patting each other on the back, laughing, joking, and trying on all the different colored long underwear in the Sears Wish Book catalog for one another in front of the tree:
“How do I look in these blue drawers, Bob?”
“You look really good, Tom – but you better take em off and try on these red ones!”
“Here, let me help you out of those, Sebastian!”
“Oops, my velour robe fell open!”
“Hey, whatcha got going on under that nightshirt?”
I didn’t know what “Perma-Prest” flannel was – but it sounded sexy.
It was these men of the Sears Wish Book, standing together by a fireplace or in a decorated paneled living room on Christmas morning, which gave me the impression that (somewhere) there were men living happily together – sleeping together, getting up together, dressing together, eating together, celebrating holidays together – and I wanted to be one of those happy men when I grew up.
So, I guess there must have been some magic in that old Sears Wish Book, because eventually I did.
Jeffrey, The Gay Groom