Years ago, back when I’d first delved into the world of online SSA friendships, I got to talking with another SSA guy in my area. We commented on each other’s blogs, we friended each other on Facebook, and we traded phone numbers, too.

He intimidated me, this guy: attractive and charming and, most of all, interested in friendship with me. Those combinations in a man just didn’t happen upon a guy like me.

We talked about meeting up one day, a notion that both excited and unnerved me, and one day we did. We met at a pizza place, and he proved more attractive in person than his digital images showed: shaggy brown hair and bold, brown eyes.

I wondered what in the world I was doing in the same zip code as this guy, let alone across from him over pepperoni pizza.

But things got less awkward throughout the afternoon. Also, more awkward.

We went to a nearby park and shared more of our stories, walking and talking until we found a bench. We sat down side by side.

He reached for my hand and held it. It was the first time another guy had ever held my hand.

His boldness caught me off-guard, and his touch sent energy rushes all over. I’d never felt this before: holding hands with another man. In public, no less.

It was nothing, and it was everything. Harmless and devastating. Affirming and shaming.

My erection meant holding hands with another man was sinful. Right?

To complicate matters, the guy shared his increasing doubts on the Bible’s stance on homosexuality. It wasn’t “official” yet, but he was starting to lean more toward “Side A” than “Side B” — that he didn’t believe the Bible condemned same-sex monogamous relationships.

Looking back on this moment, his physical gesture felt less like masculine affirmation and more like his first dipping into romantic waters.

And yet I couldn’t help ignoring the latter for more of the former.

Later that afternoon, we drove to another park to play frisbee golf, one of his favorite activities. I’d never played, so he taught me the ropes and proper technique.

We had the whole park to ourselves, and somewhere around Hole 4 or 5, he initiated a “tradition” of hugging me before the start of the next hole. His hugs started innocently enough, a five- or ten-second hold before we launched our discs to the next hole.

He was such a good hugger.

But then the hugs turned into something else entirely. Five or ten seconds turned to thirty or sixty, and I didn’t want to let go of him.

Midway through our game, a summer drizzle turned to a torrential downpour; trapped in the middle of the woods, we held onto each other for minutes at a time, our shirts drenched and sticking together.

It felt like a scene from a film. To this day, I’ve never felt so frigid and so warm at the same time.

He looked me in the eyes after our longest embrace yet. I could tell he wanted something else. Something more.

I did too. But deep down I didn’t.

To be continued . . .

Have you ever held hands with another man or experienced a prolonged hug? Did you experience guilt or shame from such physical touch? Did this initial touch lead to more regrettable touch? Where do you draw the line between male-affirming and boundary-crossing?

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