Nothing Pink by Mark Hardy

(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

The opening of this book reminds me of my teenage years and a Don SummerNPs (Billy Graham evangelist-type) Crusade where there was an altar call with the song ‘Just as I am’, the organ playing tremulant to whip up a devotional atmosphere and nobody comes forward. I am an adolescent who is scared that an involuntary erection might make my journey embarrassing. Nobody comes forward so the preacher prolongs the altar call, claiming to have been told by god that there are those in the audience who are intending to come if given some injury time.  There, the similarity stops. The preacher in the book is a Baptist pastor. Then reluctant convert is his gay son who looks at the men’s underwear in mail order catalogues in the days before there was easily available pornography of a more graphic nature. His parents only allow him two hours of watching television today (as did my Godson’s parents!)

I can also relate to his nicking a magazine from a shop and then worrying that the checkout assistant might get his wages docked for the discrepancy in the till’s record.

Poor son – he is given loads of chores to do which he would be lucky to accomplish ‘before Jesus comes back.’ He is Vincent, the narrator, whose mum dresses him in pink until somebody mistakes him for a girl.

What a dysfunctional family this guy comes from. He notices that his first boyfriend and he have a time of not talking and silence but that is very different from the silence between his parents.

The climax of the book is his mother’s finding a gay pornographic magazine. His parents pray for him to be healed: ‘I’m afraid. Scared their prayers won’t work; scared they will. But Momma and Daddy are more scared than I am. That’s what I hear now, in Daddy’s praying: how scared they are. And I know they’ll keep praying over me until they get a sign I’m delivered, until I get slain in the Spirit or speak in tongues.’

Their prayers don’t work or, at least, they don’t get the ‘answer’ they seek: ‘God’s loving arms are wrapped tight around my shoulders. He has built an invisible shield between me and the prayers of my parents. Daddy sags like a flat tire. He pushes his glasses up on his nose and kisses me on the forehead. He’s all the way on the other side of the den, getting ready to go upstairs, before he turns back and says, “God loves you, son.” Momma kisses my forehead too. Her lips stay pressed tight there for an eternity before pulling back……”Pray your heart out,” I say, not even under my breath. I can’t believe the words that just jumped out of my own mouth, but I keep going. “The Bible says, ‘Ask and it shall be given,’ Momma ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ But God’s got to be bigger than the Bible. Because you and me, we’re asking for opposites.’

An interesting word association; ‘commit’ might go with ‘suicide’ or ‘’murder’ but with ‘an homosexual act’ which the teenager has not yet committed?

There are some inaccuracies: would a Baptist church have candles and confirmation classes? And would the pastor/father wear Brut? Well, yes, we are all guilty of fashion mistakes.

Talking of fashion mistakes, this guy liked Barry Manilow. But, fair enough, he hears an insistent voice just as strong as an altar call, urging him to come out and be true to himself.

Some slight innuendos – ‘riding bareback’ is an unsafe sexual activity but here it refers to riding a horse.

The book ends as it begins: with an altar call but: ‘Every other year, I have been the first person confessing and repenting. But tonight, no matter what the Bible says, I know things between God and me are okay… Somehow I can’t bring myself to do it. I used to think God would save me from my homosexuality, but after the laying on of hands, after spending the night in Robert’s bed and almost every day of that week with him, I realize God did hear me pray to be delivered. He didn’t answer the way I thought he would, but He did answer….. I know what’s written in the Bible and what my Daddy preaches about homosexuality. All have sinned. I have many sins. But in this moment, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that being gay is not one of them.

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