The watershed point in Carol's journey comes when she returns to graduate school and discovers the feminist movement, which emboldens her sense of personal power and the freedom to love whom she chooses. But this sense of self-possession comes too late for honesty with her father. His unexpected death before she can tell him the truth brings the full cost of Carol's secret crashing in compelling her to come out to her mother before it is too late. Candid and poignant, You Can't Buy Love Like That reveals the complex invisible dynamics that arise for gay people who are forced to hide their true selves in order to survive, and celebrates the hard-won rewards of finding one's courageous heart and achieving self-acceptance and self-love.
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just as i am
My parents' radical faith in God persisted through hard financial times and even the illness that befell my father when I was a child — devotion they expressed by attending church services every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening, and, often, prayer meeting on Wednesday night. If you looked up Baptist fundamentalism in the dictionary, the definition would probably start with, "Thou shalt not," as it related to any form of physical pleasure, or even the occasional delight in a sideways glance at the beauty of the human form. There was no drinking, no dancing, no smoking, no card playing, and certainly no touching of another person by anyone for any reason other than by accident, maybe in an elevator.
Our pastor, Reverend Mitchell, was in his early fifties, and his snow-white hair (flowing back in waves, parting in the middle like the Red Sea) made him look to my young eyes like God himself in a business suit. He was a handsome man of average stature, with a booming voice that rose to the ceiling, bounced off the rafters, and reverberated down the aisles as he bellowed from behind the solid oak pulpit. His consistent message included three main themes: Christ died for your sins and would be back to reclaim his own; you had a choice between heaven and hell; and you should accept Jesus today to wash your sins away. Each point was hammered home with a force that made me fear God might strike me dead before the service was over. I wondered how it was possible to be in this much trouble just for being born.
This view made it hard to reconcile stories of a loving God with someone who would have you burn in hell just because you snuck out of the house to see Bambi at the Atlas Theater with the neighbor kids or put a blotch of ink on the back of Annie Stanel's sweater when you sat behind her in fourth grade. I remember my nervousness when I went home that night after the sweater blotch, fearful that God would call the principal himself, resulting in my banishment from Coolidge Elementary School forever. In the Baptist church, it seemed that every unfortunate thing that happened to you was linked to sin — my father's illness, losing my favorite ring, coming in second in the Bible School poster contest. Anything that didn't work out the way I had hoped was most likely due to a moral failing on my part.
Those damning images seared their way into me and became a part of my religious DNA.
Reverend Mitchell ended every service by imploring people to repent. "Now is the time to accept Jesus," he would say softly as the organ music played "Just as I Am" in the background. I hated this part; staring at my best patent leather shoes, my toes tapping impatiently inside my best Sunday footwear, I wanted to dart down the aisle in the opposite direction and bolt from the building.
A hush would come over the congregation, and heads would bow as the music director led us in this closing hymn — a final entreaty for lost souls to come to Jesus. "Who wants to be saved today?"
Once in a while a couple of people would make their way to the front of the church.
"Yes, yes," the reverend would say, raising his Bible in his right hand and greeting the sinner, then putting his left arm around him.
I wanted to be saved. Saved from the endless threat of punishment and a life of fear and anxiety.
As I entered fifth grade, I considered the Catholic religion. They seemed to have more personal freedom around things like smoking, drinking, and dancing. But they had the nuns to contend with, who were pretty scary themselves.
My friend Michelle Davies went to Our Lady Gate of Heaven parochial school, and she asked me to come with her one Saturday to help Sister Mary Martha Caprice catch up on her paperwork. I was elated, and I dressed up in my favorite red Scottish plaid skirt with the oversize decorative gold pin, my cream-colored sweater, and my black-and-white saddle oxfords. I felt bad that they were scuffed on the toes and that the laces were dirty, and I tried to shine them by spitting on my fingers and rubbing the toes while riding in the back seat on the way to the school. My efforts only made things worse, leaving just dark wet spots behind.
Sister Mary Martha Caprice swung open the large-paneled cherry door and greeted us. She wore a black habit with a stiffly starched white cloth that framed her face and squished all the extra flesh toward the center of her forehead, making her wince, even when she smiled.
She welcomed Michelle and her dad and asked if I was there to help too. Suddenly I had the urge to flee across the graveled playground and down the grassy slope onto the sidewalk and fly the eight blocks back home to my own frightening God. But before I could act on that fleeting thought, I was encircled by the long arm draped in black and guided down the hall with Michelle in silence.
The floors glistened, and thin slivers of light streamed in through high windows and bounced off of the linoleum, casting long shadows as Sister Mary Martha Caprice floated down the hall in her costume of black and white — two small figures scurrying behind her. I glanced at my shoes with dried spit on the toes and hoped that Sister Mary Martha Caprice wouldn't notice. The whole time I was there I was worried she would ask me if I was Catholic or make me say a Hail Mary if I didn't do things correctly. I didn't really know what a Hail Mary was, except Michelle said they had to say it in school sometimes when they were bad. Jesus was hanging on a cross in every room, flesh pierced with nails and red paint dripping down his side. I wondered if they didn't know he had risen from the dead, but I wasn't about to ask. I couldn't wait to get out of there and was glad when our work was finished and we glided back down the darkened hallway through the ominous black gate out into the sunshine. Becoming a Catholic didn't appeal to me either.
Reverend Mitchell's Sunday condemnations were intermixed with daily thoughtful messages from my parents, whose passionate belief in God helped them see practical miracles in regular life. For instance, they would give generously to the church by tithing but would never ask for help from others. Instead, they would pray — especially when my father made repeated trips to the hospital with unexpected seizures. Insurance always fell short of covering the bills, and he could not be released without full payment.
On one occasion my mother needed more than two hundred dollars to get him out. She relied on God to provide and didn't tell a soul. A few days later, an envelope arrived from a friend with a heartfelt message and a hundred-dollar check. Then one of the men from the steel mill where my dad had been a supervisor showed up at the door with a large piece of butcher paper folded like an oversize envelope. In it, along with messages of hope for my father, was a stack of bills that added up to $127. This was proof for them that God was real and that he was listening. I wasn't so sure, but I thought I had better get myself saved just in case. My brother, Jim, who was two years older, had already accepted Christ and been baptized; so if we all died in a car crash on the way home, I would end up in hell by myself while they all floated off to heaven. With that thought as motivation, I marched myself down to the front of the church during one of those agonizing closing ceremonies and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I was twelve years old and I was fine, mostly, until I developed my first crush.
I first noticed Gina in the hall at school when I was fifteen. She was hard to miss at five foot ten with her blond ponytail; crisp, white short-sleeved shirts with the collar turned up; and spotless white tennis shoes. The sweet smell of Jean Naté perfume floated behind her and made me want to follow the scent. I introduced myself at O'Shea Park, where we both were wandering around with softball gloves, hoping the boys would let us play. It was the summer of 1963, and for the first time the director of the recreation center announced they would sponsor an official girls' softball team. Gina played first base and could stretch halfway to second to catch a wild throw from the shortstop or race far outside the foul line to grab a ball on the fly. She made me look good at third base, snatching balls in the dirt or ones that flew far above her head. We quickly became a twosome and hung out much of that summer and the next. Most days I would walk down to the park in the late morning and meet Gina. Our ritual was to wear sleeveless shirts and Bermuda shorts, slather ourselves with baby oil laced with iodine, and lie out on picnic tables to tan for a couple of hours before going down to the recreation center to play a few rounds of handball until softball practice at 5:00 p.m.
Lying side by side, the sun beating down on our skin, we talked about high schoolers we knew, about plans after graduation. She wanted to get a job and buy a Corvette. I said I did too, hoping she'd think I was cool like her. Something about being with Gina was special. I'd always had friends, but she seemed different — older, worldly, which wasn't that surprising given my sheltered existence. Being around her gave me feelings I didn't have with anyone else, feelings that made my stomach flutter and that sometimes made me feel self-conscious.
Gina was raised a Catholic, and where my mother was Doris Day, Gina's was a Mae West who smoked, drank, played cards, and even went dancing. She had dyed blond hair that she wore pulled tightly back in a French twist, revealing deep lines on her forehead that she filled with pancake makeup. Large oval clip-on earrings framed her face and made her look like a walking cameo. Bright red lipstick accentuated her mouth, and she wore flamboyant colors that surely got her the attention she was seeking. She also wore stiletto heels with straps that criss-crossed her feet — shoes I could never imagine my own mother wearing. Her hands, though thick and rough from her hard days' work, sported polished nails in shades that matched her lipstick. Gina's dad didn't seem to mind her going out with girlfriends. He was bald, stout, and handy with tools — an introvert who seemed to find greater joy in fixing the gutters on the house or trading out the storm windows for screens in the summer than going barhopping with his wife and her pals in their black 1960 Plymouth Fury that resembled a Batmobile.
Gina went to church occasionally and to confession when she felt like it. It seemed that if you could already drink, dance, smoke, and play cards, there weren't many sins left to confess. Religion was not a big part of Gina's life, but having fun was. One day when we were out at the park, she casually pulled out a pack of unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes and offered me one. I had no idea how to smoke and wasn't quite sure what type of punishment God would mete out for taking a few puffs, but it was the most exciting moment of my adolescence, and I wasn't about to miss it. She carefully unwrapped the cellophane around the package and unfolded the foil on top. Then she slapped the pack against the edge of the picnic table until a couple of cigarettes jutted out. She offered me one first. I pulled one out of the pack; then she took one and provided instructions.
"Put it between your teeth like this," she demonstrated. "Then, when I light it, suck in on the end of the cigarette." Gina lit the match and pulled it up next to the cigarette while she cupped her hands around the tip to keep the match from blowing out. Then she inhaled and effortlessly blew a thin stream of smoke out of her mouth as though she had been smoking all her life.
I sat on the edge of the picnic table and crossed my legs, trying to look sophisticated. I followed her directions, first watching her, then trying it myself. I failed to notice she had inhaled lightly, and when it was my turn, I sucked on it like it was a straw bringing me the last few drops of a delicious milk shake.
As I gasped for air I acted like I enjoyed this new activity though my throat stung all the way to my navel. I secretly hoped this was not going to be a regular part of our ritual, as I was sure it would kill me. I asked if she smoked all the time, and she confessed she had stolen this pack from her mom's carton, assuring me they wouldn't be missed. I couldn't imagine stealing from my mother. I was pretty sure she would know and that there wouldn't be a happy ending to that story.
Gina handed me another cigarette, and in spite of my fear that I would choke to death, I lit up again, struggling less this time, but surely not enjoying it. Thankfully we stopped after a couple, and she promised to save them for the next day.
On another occasion, she talked the maintenance guy at the recreation center into doing her a favor. I was stunned when Stanley waved us over to the tool shed at the back of the parking lot one day and invited us into the musty tin building. Stan- ley was a soft-spoken black man with graying hair and sweet eyes. He was always friendly and nice to the teenagers who hung out at the center, unlike the gruff older white guy, Ralph. Most neighborhoods in Detroit were segregated, and Stanley was the only black man I had met at that point in my life.
He glanced both ways to make sure no one was watching, then hurried us inside. It was clear he wanted us to hustle, and we obliged. Quickly he closed the door behind us.
The room was lit by the power of a single overhead light bulb that dangled in the center of the shed. He searched for something under the workbench as we stood looking at each other. When he rose and turned toward us, we saw he had a six-pack of Budweiser beer in his hands. I'm sure my wide-eyed expression revealed my shock, though I tried to contain my disbelief. I loved the racy feeling of doing something out of bounds, despite my concern that the cops would burst into the shack and arrest us. For a moment, an image of Reverend Mitchell flashed before me, his wavy hair curling away from the sides of his face, his brow furrowed. I pushed him from my mind before he could speak and concentrated on the scene before me.
There was no room to sit down, so we stood leaning against the workbench. Stanley pulled out a bottle opener, popped the tops, and handed each of us a brew. So unschooled in the truth about alcohol, while being completely indoctrinated into its dangers, I had no idea how much you had to drink to get drunk. I took one sip and waited. The stuff tasted awful, but I swallowed instead of following my urge to spit it out. The way the Baptists talked, surely a small bit of this potent juice would send me reeling. Nothing happened. So I just kept going forward, taking another sip and then waiting — still no effect. Three sips, four sips — still nothing. I wondered what the big deal was. This was like drinking water. Except water tasted much better. Maybe the effects would take hold later, I thought, so I had better not overdo it.
Gina bragged about how she liked different kinds of beer as I listened, shocked she had drunk any beer before, let alone enough to know the difference between one and another. I said nothing, not wanting to expose my lack of knowledge on the matter. I just leaned against the workbench and held the bottle to my lips long enough to appear that I was taking a big swig, when I was just sipping a little. Stanley sat his beer on the work- bench and pulled out a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes from his shirt pocket, unwrapping the cellophane and ripping open the end of the pack. With one good slap against his hand, a few popped out. He took one, lit up, and then offered the pack to us. Gina reached over casually and took one, put it between her lips, and leaned toward Stanley, who held a match to light it. I didn't really want one but didn't want to be left out, so I reached for one too, put it between my lips, and waited for Stanley to light it, trying to remember not to suck on it like a straw, but to inhale gently.
I kept sipping my drink and taking a few puffs. I was beginning to learn how not to inhale, and it became easier to look cool without seriously harming myself. By the time we left, I had probably finished a third of a bottle of beer; Stanley no doubt ended up drinking the rest of the six-pack himself. I was not remotely aware of the incredible risk Stanley was taking — buying beer for two underage white girls and drinking it with them, the three of us alone in a toolshed in the middle of the afternoon in the 1960s.
I made sure no one was in the living room as I slipped through the front door and back to my bedroom, where I took off all my smoke-filled clothes and put on fresh shorts and a clean shirt. I could feel my face turn red as my dad rounded the corner in the hallway, all the guilt racing from my heart up to my head in flashes. I went directly to the bathroom and brushed my teeth three times before my mother got home and then washed my arms and legs with soap and a washcloth. In spite of the anxiety they created, I reveled in the secrets Gina and I shared. Hanging out with her was like flying on the wing of an airplane.
Excerpted from "You Can't Buy Love Like That"
Copyright © 2017 Carol E. Anderson.
Excerpted by permission of She Writes Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
chapter 1 just as i am, 9,
chapter 2 the diet, 23,
chapter 3 first broken heart, 31,
chapter 4 the blood drive, 41,
chapter 5 over my head, 51,
chapter 6 pain, pleasure and confrontation, 61,
chapter 7 in the wilderness, 77,
chapter 8 will you marry me?, 90,
chapter 9 road trip, 104,
chapter 10 crossroads, 113,
chapter 11 women's liberation, 131,
chapter 12 white lilacs for the soul, 141,
chapter 13 breakfast at big boys, 151,
chapter 14 finding freedom, 160,
chapter 15 who wants to be normal?, 168,
chapter 16 belonging, 179,
chapter 17 the struggle, 184,
chapter 18 alone and free, 197,
epilogue you can't buy love like that, 207,
about the author, 215,
selected titles from she writes press, 217,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is perhaps the best autobiography I’ve ever read. The very powerful start to the book immediately captured me. If you have the slightest ability to feel empathy from someone different from you, it will immediately get you to understand what it is like to live in a society of judgment and prejudice, for any reason. In Carol’s case, the reason was an automatic tendency to be feel romantic love for other women instead of for men, but she points out that skin color, nationality, religious beliefs are other examples of attracting irrational hate. As she continues her story, she holds nothing back. Never does the account slip into the mundane, which is all too easy with a biography. It is full of emotion -- emotion she induces me as reader to feel with her. Perhaps the strongest lesson of this entertaining yet philosophical book is the terrible damage hell and damnation evangelical “Christianity” can do. Carol contrasts the God of Love with such a debased version, which uses fear and guilt as forms of control. Some people are simply born so that they are sexually attracted to their own sex. This is not a choice for them. As Carol’s story shows, many struggle for years, doing their best to fit into heterosexual relationships, but this is at best a pretense, at worst a form of self-torture. If you want to understand how a homosexual person thinks and feels, read this book. And if you don’t want to understand that, the book should be obligatory reading for you.
This memoir opens with a quotation from David Whyte that calls us to be more than we've ever imagined: "If you can see your life laid out before you, that's how you know it's not your life." Carol E. Anderson takes us on a personal journey of discovering this truth and inspires us to do the same with whatever limitations or circumstances we face. Her fears and her bravery, her struggles and her triumphs, her confusion and her confidence all spur us to move in the direction of our own deepest truths. Beautiful accounts of profound and mundane moments bring the complexity of Anderson’s experience to light. Equally compelling are the care and thought she put into describing the family members, friends, and lovers who struggled with their own challenges and complexities as they shaped her journey. Anderson’s raw emotion, matter-of-fact observations, deep reflections, poignant prose, and wry humor intermix to create a captivating story of vulnerability and authenticity that is nearly impossible to put down and only becomes richer upon subsequent readings. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (10/17) “You Can’t Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties” is a memoir by Carol E. Anderson. It is a captivating story of her struggle with self-acceptance and her journey toward empowerment and self-love. Raised by Baptist parents in the sixties, Carol Anderson had a tough time accepting that she was gay. An innocent crush on a female friend left Carol sure that something was wrong with her. Fearing that she was damned, she tried to suppress these feelings by dating men. She even became engaged to a wonderful man, but found it difficult to develop feelings that went beyond affection for him. She slowly began to accept who she was when an attraction to a female college classmate went deeper than her attraction to this man. Because of the times, these feelings left her ashamed and secretive because homosexuality was still taboo. Her secret left her unable to fully allow herself to be close to others, especially her parents, because she feared their judgment and ultimate rejection. As Carol evolves, she spends a lot of time focusing on continuing her education and forwarding her career. As other intimate relationships come into her life, she starts moving forward by finally starting to accept herself. Things are changing during this time as well, the feminist movement is gaining ground and people are becoming more accepting of alternative lifestyles. Not everyone is accepting, but Carol is able to develop relationships with people who are. In time, she becomes empowered and no longer has to hide her true nature. I found myself totally engrossed as I read Carol’s story. I related much of what I learned from her experience to those of my friends who had difficulties emerging from their isolation because of the fear of rejection from others. It gave me a more rounded view of why they feared not being accepted. One friend waited until she was in her 50s to come out. Even then, her mother told her that she was damned. Things have changed a lot since the sixties and I believe that Carol played a positive role during that time, but society still has some moving forward to do. I highly recommend “You Can’t Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties” by Carol E. Anderson to people who are struggling with accepting their sexuality, and for those who want to gain a greater understanding of what they are experiencing. Plus, it is a beautiful memoir, well written, and a great book to read!
Reviewed by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite If you are anything like me, you must have wondered how much mental and emotional stress gays go through since they are considered "not normal." You Can't Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties by Carol E. Anderson is an insight into the mind of a person who went through all that. Since the day Carol Elaine discovered her inclination towards girls, her Christian beliefs started making her believe that she was committing a sin. She began dating guys only to assure herself that she was "normal." When she found herself attracted to a guy named Charlie, she was overjoyed because it created an illusion that she was straight. Although she always knew that her relationships with girls were more significant and precious to her, she was afraid to accept this truth. There was a depth in her relationships with girls. However, her strong beliefs in the society-created image of religion, God, and what's right and what's not made her pack and leave any time she felt that her bond was getting deeper with a girl. Society has a definition of normal that may or may not be based on facts. Unknown is scary to most and when we are forced to stand and face this unknown, we tend to discard its existence or begin finding ways to change it to fit into our definition of normalcy. The attraction of people of the same sex towards each other was this sort of unknown in the sixties. Some people labeled it a sin, while others declared that it was a mental disorder which could be treated. Considering these conditions, it's not hard to imagine why Carol tried to deny her attraction towards girls. Reading her honest memoir, which is filled with various emotions and confessions, I couldn't help but cheer the author for her courage. Her life is definitely an inspiration for people who are finding the path of self-acceptance rough. After all, before finding the approval of society, one must accept themselves. I am extremely glad that I came across You Can't Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties by Carol E. Anderson.
Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers' Favorite You Can't Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties by Carol E. Anderson is an autobiography about growing up and living as a lesbian in America. You Can't Buy Love Like That is a detailed account of Carol’s life as a child of the '60s and '70s which was the age of the sexual revolution and women’s revolution. Carol details her life in a more or less chronological order from her upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian Baptist white family, her school years and her first crush on a girl, her feelings for both boys and girls, and how she came to automatically hide and even be ashamed of her sexuality, the feminist movement of the '70s and its influences on her, and finally her coming out to her friends and later on her family, and discovering a sense of acceptance and belonging. Carol writes the book in a candid and genuine voice. Her writing is polished, engaging, and it is obvious that it comes from a person who has learned the technical craft of writing. It is a pleasure to read a very lucid and engaging account of her life and the daily struggles and challenges of living in America as part of the LGBT community. Her struggles of the previous decades are real, but unfortunately the same can be said about the present era where, as a society, we still have a long way to go toward complete acceptance and normalization of being gay. Hopefully, a book like this that very eloquently presents this subject will enable us to eventually move toward a less judgmental perspective toward everyone. Overall, this is a great read!
Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite In her sensitive and poignant memoir, You Can't Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties, Carol E. Anderson bares her heart and soul to readers so beautifully and intelligently that even if you aren’t gay and weren’t born into a Fundamentalist Christian family in the sixties, you will be deeply moved. The reason you will be moved is because of the basic truths Anderson explores about the social, cultural and religious issues faced by so many of us, regardless of where we live or how we were raised. What human being, regardless of what struggle with their faith they may have been facing, who has dared to question the teachings of their family’s religion, hasn’t at some point felt, as Anderson did when she recognized her gayness, that “To agree with the church was to defy my soul. To trust myself was to let go of the only God I knew. Either choice was a bad one.” In trying to be what her family and church deemed acceptable i.e. a “normal” female who would love and marry a male, she felt she was fighting a battle she couldn’t win: “The Church was Goliath, and I had no David within me." Anderson tried more than once to have a regular, loving relationship with men, even coming close to marriage. But she could never feel with a man what she felt with a woman i.e. an “emotional intimacy”. After finally finding and identifying with a group of women who weren’t raised in a similarly strict, religious environment, she began to accept that what she felt wasn’t so abnormal or unusual after all. But still, it took years to share how she felt with her family. Sadly, by the time she did, her wonderful father had passed away, but fortunately for Anderson, her mother, who had always been a pillar of strength, took the news surprisingly well and by doing so showed Carol a love that money can’t buy. Readers will find themselves identifying with the author on various levels, not just that of religion or sexual orientation. When Anderson tells us how much her father loved her and appreciated her “kindness, compassion and determination”, she speaks for every person when she states: "I want you to love me for who I really am, not for who you want me to be.” Is this not what human beings all over would want from their family, friends and associates? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we all loved each other for who we are and not for who others want us to be? How much easier it would be to get along, communicate with and love each other. Sadly, that isn’t how human beings, conditioned by generations of religious, cultural and social teachings and expectations, interact. And hence, as Anderson rightly concludes: “Rather than listening to the voice within, people courted the voices outside of themselves, and in doing so lost touch with what most families claimed to be the most important thing: a sense of love and belonging.” You Can't Buy Love Like That: Growing Up Gay in the Sixties by Carol E. Anderson is a brilliant book that deserves your attention. Readers will be enriched by reading it.