Reflections of a Rock Lobster: a story about growing up gay by Aaron Fricke was a quick read about a young gay man’s childhood and adolescence in Rhode Island. This book, originally published in 1981, has become a groundbreaking work in gay youth autobiography. I bought the book years ago yet it was one of many books I have waited until close to two decades to read.
I will start off by saying that while I do appreciate the author’s uninhibited candor, I don’t buy that he was an oversexed first-grader. “I lived a busy homosexual childhood”, Fricke writes, where “a small group of us regularly met in the grammar school lavatory to perform fellatio on one another”. Fricke may have known that he was gay from as young as six, but his stories of giving blowjobs to boys in some sort of blowjob club does not ring true.
The focus of this book is his court case where he sued his high school principal for the right to take another boy to his prom. I remember the unspoken ban on gay couples at the time of my very own formal. (We do not use the word “prom” in my area of southern Ontario yet in the past few years I have heard it more often in place of “formal”.) I graduated from grade thirteen in 1985, and during the announcements in June at the beginning of the high school day, appended to all the talk about how to buy formal tickets and the formal rules was the sniggered code that “all guests must be of the opposite sex”. This was not an isolated Rhode Island restriction; in the early to mid-eighties, same-sex couples were not welcome at my own high school.
Fricke won his case and brought his gay friend, who in fact was not his boyfriend. During Fricke’s high school years he was constantly taunted and beaten, and it is amazing that he never upped and quit school, took to drugs or attempted suicide. Fricke did, however, suffer depression and found solace in food. In spite of all this he remained out of the closet, and used his openness to teach his fellow students about tolerance and by the time of the prom, he and his friend Paul were congratulated and accepted, even by some who had taunted him years before.
Reflections of a Rock Lobster has a quick pace that you burn through. Compared to the printed molasses that was Prick Up Your Ears (which had smaller pages and fewer words on each page), I welcomed the speedy read.